I’m Shocked, Just Shocked…

Yeah, I’m shocked too that the NYT has called for surrender and genocide in Iraq.

There’s not much I can add to the able criticism from many quarters – Jules Crittendon, Dave Price at Dean’s World, Sean Hackbarth, or dozens of other “bitter dead-endeders” like the Iraqi Foreign Minister – so I’ll make some indirect comments.One of the main arguments supporting the claim that we should leave now is the obvious and real collapse of public support for the war – a collapse that is shocking, just shocking, given the years of media spin on the war – media spin that bloggers have been pointing out continually. There’s something to say about the media and antiwar left beating on public opinion for four years, and then using that collapse of public opinion as an argument for their position.

There’s a bigger argument here about the failure of the Bush Administration to make it strategic case – a failure I argued here in 2003 with Trent Telenko over this post on Statfor:

The Bush administration’s continued unwillingness to enunciate a coherent picture of the strategy behind the war against al Qaeda — which explains the war in Iraq — could produce a dangerous domino effect. Lurking in the shadows is the not fully articulated perception that the Iraq war not only began in deception but that planning for the Iraq war was incompetent — a perception driven by the realization that the United States is engaged in a long-term occupation and guerrilla war in Iraq, and the belief that the United States neither expected nor was prepared for this. Ultimately, this perception could erode Bush’s support base, cost him the presidency and, most seriously, lead to defeat in the war against al Qaeda.

On one hand, I’d like to say that Bush and the leadership should simply ignore this and push on. On the other, it’s obviously impossible for them to, and more seriously, it’s impossible for the troops to.

At least the Times has the courage to admit what will follow:

That conversation must be candid and focused. Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.

They claim that we can mitigate the impacts by allying with the Kurds – which will enrage the Turks, BTW – and why in the world would the Kurds – or anyone else for that matter – accept us as a reliable ally in the face of this withdrawal?

We will have helped train a new generation of jihadis to believe that if they kill several thousand troops, we will surrender. The last time we taught them this lesson was in Somalia, which in Bin Laden’s words

But your most disgraceful case was in Somalia; where- after vigorous propaganda about the power of the USA and its post cold war leadership of the new world order- you moved tens of thousands of international force, including twenty eight thousands American solders into Somalia. However, when tens of your solders were killed in minor battles and one American Pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you. Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge , but these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal. You have been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew; the extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the “heart” of every Muslim and a remedy to the “chests” of believing nations to see you defeated in the three Islamic cities of Beirut , Aden and Mogadishu.

I can’t wait to see what he says – and more importantly, does – in response to our pullout from Iraq.

Fortunately, the leadership of the country – the leading candidates on both the Democratic and Republican sides – haven’t yet drunk this Kool-Aid.

It’s time to see what can be done about it.

138 thoughts on “I’m Shocked, Just Shocked…”

  1. A.L., first of all, let me say that it was a genuine pleasure meeting you last week. I’m sorry I couldn’t stay longer…but next time, for sure.

    second of all, let me say, that I think you are mischaratcerizing the Time’s editorial when you say that “One of the main arguments supporting the claim that we should leave now is the obvious and real collapse of public support for the war…”

    The Times is arguing against the continuation of the war on its own terms, not because of the shift in public opinion. These are the “main” reasons given by the NYT for withdrawal, not public opinion:

    “The political leaders Washington has backed are incapable of putting national interests ahead of sectarian score settling. The security forces Washington has trained behave more like partisan militias. Additional military forces poured into the Baghdad region have failed to change anything.

    Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong. The war is sapping the strength of the nation’s alliances and its military forces. It is a dangerous diversion from the life-and-death struggle against terrorists. It is an increasing burden on American taxpayers, and it is a betrayal of a world that needs the wise application of American power and principles.”

    (As for the shift in opinion being the result of media spin rather than a sober conclusion drawn by honest, well-intentioned americans who have a decent grasp of the basic facts, I think that in making this claim you do a disservice to most people. I also think that you would have a difficult time gathering evidence for this claim.)

  2. mark, that’s actually fair; I didn’t engage the Times piece on it’s own terms but meant to do so as a part of a larger trend that I see which is really based on the ‘collapse of faith’ issue. I should have made that clearer.

    I think there are genuine disagreements to have over the impact of the surge and state of the war; the problem of course is that the common perception is that the surge is a failure and the war a disaster.

    The root of that common perception is worth pursuing as well…

    …and I do also look forward to seeing you again in NYC and enjoying some good argument over equally good food and drink.

    A.L.

  3. It’s Bush’s fault. He didn’t make the case for the war.

    It’s understandable that he didn’t make that case beforehand. He thought it would be quick and easy and cheap, and the iraqis would welcome us and welcome Chalabi, and there was nothing to explain. Increased iraqi oil revenues (from expansions financed by western oil companies) would pay for everything needed including a full restoration of iraqi society. People who felt rich compared to Saddam under sanctions would feel no need to revolt.

    The way I remember it, that changed soon after we took Baghdad. There was looting everywhere and we protected the oil ministry and we were franticly looking at the books, and then Bush announced it would be a long hard struggle.

    And of course it took a long time to figure out that there really was a serious insurgency. For awhile there wasn’t one. To some extent we created it by switching troops from full-combat to occupation. Usually you bring in fresh troops for the occupation. The guys who’ve just had the experience of surviving by hair-trigger reflexes aren’t the best to keep civilians calm. You want fresh troops who don’t really expect people to shoot at them. You might take a few more casualties when people do shoot at them, but they won’t kill as many civilians and won’t stir up so much trouble. But we didn’t have the fresh troops ready because we didn’t have a plan ready to occupy iraq. So we improvidised.

    Still, at some point Bush should have figured out what was happening and leveled with us. It should probably have been sometime around September 2004.

    Bush should have explained that we were facing a long-term struggle. It would take at least 10 years, and we’d need at least double the number of combat troops we had. If we couldn’t get that many combat guys to volunteer we’d need a draft. We could expect it to cost at least $200 million a year for ten years. We might lose as many as 1000 dead soldiers a year and maybe 10,000 seriously wounded, many of them with brain damage.

    And he should have explained very clearly why it was worth it, and why it was necessary.

    If Bush had done that in September 2004 we wouldn’t be facing these problems now.

  4. Baloney. It is very wrong for the NYT or anyone else to simplify a lack of support for the war.

    They think that the US public supports a quick withdrawal, even if genocide follows. This is not true.

    The US public, in truth, wants to WIN THW WAR, and is frustrated that this has not happened yet. This is what the ‘disapproval’ is.

    This is NOT the same thing as supporting a retreat. Even if anti-war leftists support this, most of the US public is smart enough to know that the cost of staying in Iraq, though high, is still less than the cost of leaving.

    If we withdraw, and things become worse than the Cambodian killing fields and Rwandan genocide combined, it will cost the Democrats the WH for another generation.

  5. Oops, I said the war, done right, would cost at least $200 million a year for ten years. Slip of the finger, I meant $200 billion a year for ten years.

    It’s easy to get things like that off by 100,000%. Like Senator Dirksen used to say, a billion here, a billion there, after awhile it starts to add up to real money.

  6. I don’t give a crap about what bin Laden says about our involvement in Iraq or anywhere else in the world.

    I didn’t see a single sentence on Iraq in your previous post on a hypothetical Dem campaign speech.

    I don’t see any indication that you are willing to consider even the possibility that pulling out of Iraq is a better alternative than staying, as far as America’s interests are concerned.

    Nor that the situation there is as bad or worse than the (government influenced) media reports.

    Nor that the “case” wasn’t made because there is no case to be made for attacking a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 or the type of international jihadist terrorism you seem to fear. In fact, Iraq was a point of containment if anything.

    Now look.

    Pull out, stay, whatever, it was and will always and forever be easy to recognize that the outcome of this fiasco either way is on the Bush administrations head, and to a lesser but no less important degree on those like you who continue to hold America hostage to their warped and paranoid view of the world and callous disregard for the well-being of your fellow man.

  7. Capitol C

    ” a country that had nothing to do with 9/11″

    Are you still this ignorant?

    1) Was 9/11 the only terrorist attack against the US ever? Don’t you know about the 1993 WTC, the 1998 Embassy bombings, the 1983 Marine Barracks, the 1996 Khobar towers, and the 2000 USS Cole?

    2) What about, post-9/11, the attacks in London, Bali, Beslan (Russia), Bombay, Jordan, Turkey, Morocco, etc?

    3) Why did Clinton attack Saddam twice, and in 1998, specifically for Saddam’s WMD programs? 1998 was before 9/11, and before GWB, by the way.

    Technically, Afghanistan also had ‘nothing to do with 9/11′, as the existence of OBL in Afghanistan does not justify an invasion of the full country that affects the civilians there. That is why you fools look stupid when you pretend to be hawkish on Afghanistan, yet anti-war on Iraq.

    God, you people are so ignorant, that it is stunning.

  8. AL

    You are just plain wrong. Iraq is Lost because not only did Bush not make the strategic case, if he had one, he did not execute a post arm conflict w/ state forces plan that was flexible enough to keep an artifical nation state cohesive. As a consequence the actors of Iraq did just that they acted out for their pure self interest.

    The result of that pure self interest is a non functioning state. A state that could not be put together again w/ the entire committment of the Marines and Us Army(because only boots on the ground control the ground).

    As to helping the KURDS they remember Bush I.

    It is going to ugly and bloody and not possibly worse for any strategic outlook and influence the US HAS/HAD when we pull out. You only have Bush to blame and for some reason you will not look at this fact and take responsibility upon yourself for your continued support. Even good ideas do not pan out.

  9. GK, you have to admit the US public is slowly getting less ignorant. A couple of years ago a very large minority thought that iraq did have something to do with 9/11.

    Technically, Afghanistan also had ‘nothing to do with 9/11′, as the existence of OBL in Afghanistan does not justify an invasion of the full country that affects the civilians there.

    They weren’t doing anything about OBL or al qaeda, though. Since OBL wasn’t exactly denying 9/11 I think we might have done better to give them a few more months to work out the implications. Likely they’d have pushed al qaeda out and let us go after them wherever they set up next. Likely the next place would have given us better logistics.

    But of course the public was demanding that we had to attack *somebody* right away. It’s understandable the politicians went along.

    We’d have done better to show more self-control, though it’s completely understandable that we didn’t. Give the muslims time to think it out. They in fact agree 99%+ that it’s wrong to attack the innocent. They agree 99%+ that 9/11 attacked the innocent. If we’d given them time, they’d decide that OBL was no good. As it was, before they had time to get it settled we started doing airstrikes that killed lots of innocent people.

    When it’s your friend doing bad things and his enemy doing the same bad things, who do you side with?

  10. _”It’s Bush’s fault. He didn’t make the case for the war.”_

    I think this is largely true- Bush has spent too much time trying to sell the war to Congress directly, which never works. You can either strong arm these politicos or you cant, appeals to reason or patriotism simply arent going to cut it for long. Bush has needed to take the argument directly to the people, and that should be his number 1 priority. Not a ‘listening tour’, a leadership tour.

    Its funny because the Times actually lays out a pretty good case for why it will be disasterous to pull out of Iraq- and then goes ahead and demands we do it anyway without so much as a shamed face.

    But laying out that case is ultimately the presidents job. Its not that tough, the case practically makes itself. If we leave, Iraq will collapse into several armed camps heavilly funded by by their sponsor nations of choice and one of those camps will be run by Al Qaeda.
    The amount of blood letting and ethnic cleansing that will occur in order to establish and purify these regions of autonomy will be staggering even by todays standards. The idea that we can wade in and out of that morass and pick off particularly dangerous actors is absolutely idiotic- we cant even do that now with our army on the ground and some reasonably friendly (or at least motivated) Iraqis will to work with us. There wont be any special forces raiding into Iraq after we run away, its just not politically or militarilly feasable. And we know well the limits of air power by now.

    Thats the future if the Times and others get their way. Until they address in a realistic manner how they will mitigate these facts, or why they arent that bad, they are silly and unserious in this debate. But the President and his allies HAVE to present that picture to the American people. Talk radio and the blogosphere cant do it alone.

    Bush should be out in every city and town in America explaining why _this_ is the most important decision our country has made since the Cold War. This is a signal turning point in the power of the United States. If 3500 American deaths in 4 years can convince us to mutilate our regional respect and authority, as well as establish a haven for our enemies that have shown the ability to reach into our very heartland, we are in serious, deadly trouble as a nation and civilization. The funny thing about turning points is they dont often seem that serious until its far too late. This is a turning point. if we cant muster the will to see this through, we are done as a world power anyone particularly fears or respects. Thats whats at stake. Sadly the NYT and a whole lot of others are perfectly ok with that outcome. Be careful what you wish for.

  11. Well, A.L.: since you seem so incensed over the New York Times’ call for, as you put it: “surrender and genocide” – why don’t you articulate (rather than just the usual overheated carping) an alternative policy?

    In other words, please tell us just how many billions of American dollars, and (more importantly) how many thousands of American lives you are willing to see thrown down the rathole of Iraq? And for what aim?

    To save face for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their delusionary neocon warmonger cabal?

    To bring “freedom and democracy” to a people to whom these concepts are (at best!) alien nonsense? (to be exploited in pursuit of ancient power-struggles)

    To “secure” the Middle East by the establishment of a permanent military presence whose very existence will almost inevitably guarantee insecurity?

    It’s all very well and good to sit behind one’s keyboard and blog out carloads of chest-thumping rhetoric about “victory” – but in a conflict where that very term is fatally undefined (and, thanks to the policies of the Administration you still support, has been for many years) – ranting on with bellicose “win-win-win” cheerleading is eventually (if it hasn’t already) going to wear a whole lot thin. C’mon, Marc: we deserve better!

  12. _”Well, A.L.: since you seem so incensed over the New York Times’ call for, as you put it: “surrender and genocide” – why don’t you articulate (rather than just the usual overheated carping) an alternative policy?”_

    I’ll jump in and make the obvious argument- the status quo is a superior outcome. Even were it to remain as it is indefinately. Better for Iraqis, and better for America.

    Do I expect the status quo to linger? No, i think Patreus is very likely to create an important impact in the next six months to a year. Remember how a lot of people pointed out (often in dismay) that it usually takes about a decade to put down an insurgency? Well we’re about half way there already, and the later years grow progressively easier, historically speaking. The real question is are things likely to get worse? Not unless we leave- all the signs point positive now, _at worst_ things will be as they are.

    So the question is, considering what we’ve already invested in blood and treasure, is it wise to throw all that away knowing full well we will be paying that blood and treasure elsewhere as a result of our failure. Or do we see this through, believing in our generals and in our troops to rise the current wave of progress.

    We are already fighting Iranian and Syrian proxies as well as AQ in Iraq. Is anyone naive enough to believe those actively enemy nations wont ride their bets and sting us elsewhere? The question isnt whether we bring our troops to safety, its whether we send them somewhere else where the bombers will follow. Even if that somewhere has a US zip code.

  13. the status quo is a superior outcome.

    You might suggest to your favorite presidential candidate to make that case for the US public.

    Around half a billion dollars a day in borrowed money.

    Averaging 4 soldiers killed and maybe 40 wounded, some with permanent brain damage.

    The army tied down in iraq and not ready to respond to challenges elsewhere.

    To continue indefinitely because the status quo is a superior outcome.

    Definitely, your preferred candidate should make that case to the voters.

  14. Do I expect the status quo to linger? No, i think Patreus is very likely to create an important impact in the next six months to a year.

    He’d better. We’re going to have a great big troop drawdown by April or so because we can’t not do it. The army is getting worn out and we have to reduce the tempo. So if Petraeus doesn’t get his results by then, he isn’t going to.

    Remember how a lot of people pointed out (often in dismay) that it usually takes about a decade to put down an insurgency? Well we’re about half way there already, and the later years grow progressively easier, historically speaking.

    We’d be halfway there if we’d started out with a decent strategy and applied it for 5 years. But we didn’t.

    The real question is are things likely to get worse? Not unless we leave- all the signs point positive now, at worst things will be as they are.

    Did you hear that the iraqi government has demanded we give them a timetable for leaving? How do you think we should respond to that?

    I think if we liquidate the iraqi government we’ll get a worse result than we have now. Maybe we could just ignore them, you figure things won’t get worse then? Or we give them a timetable, and we’ll be facing all the problems we’ll have after we withdraw.

  15. Sure, GK, me and “my people” are ignorant. For example, I know it may shock someone “like you”, but I don’t believe in the tooth fairy or that the moon is made out of cheese either.

  16. _”You might suggest to your favorite presidential candidate to make that case for the US public.”_

    Like I said- that is a worst case scenario, which i am at least willing to address. On the other hand, you and those who want to play the miracle card only consider the best possible scenario when you talk about consequences at all. Iraq _might_ turn into Oz post wicked witch with happy little people dancy in the candy lined streets. But will you address the _likely_ scenario, which happens to be damned close to the worst case scenario?

    I’d be proud to see my candidate lay out exactly what is going to happen if we yank our troops out of Iraq precipitously, compared to what _could_ happen at worst. The argument makes itself. Doing what you want is almost certain to produce an outcome unnacceptable to the security of our nation, but what I suggest _at worst_ leaves us no worse off than we already are (but quite likely better off, and possibly victorious in our aims).

    _”Did you hear that the iraqi government has demanded we give them a timetable for leaving? How do you think we should respond to that?”_

    We should give them a timetable for leaving.

    _”I think if we liquidate the iraqi government we’ll get a worse result than we have now. Maybe we could just ignore them, you figure things won’t get worse then? Or we give them a timetable, and we’ll be facing all the problems we’ll have after we withdraw.”_

    Who has ever suggested liquidating the Iraqi government except for you as a demagogue?

    You are incorrectly comparing abruptly pulling our troops from with establishing a metrics based timetable for troops drawdown. The two things have nothing to do with each other.

  17. My estimable co-traitors have already pointed out the obvious: public sentiment for the war collapsed as it became evident that we were meeting none of the nominal goals beyond the removal of Saddam. It hasn’t even dawned on most of the country yet how mendacious was the run-up to this insane decision, which stands a good chance of going into history in the same chapter as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (an operation on much the same scale, you know), Operation Barbarossa, and Croesus’ invasion of Greece.

    As I pointed out many threads ago, look at what counts now as success. Alliance of convenience with Sunni tribal leaders who are basically Saddam’s uncles and cousins, minus the appeal of secularism.

    I read this weekend that our mega-embassy, the largest in the world, is bigger than the entire Vatican City. What do you suppose that was for? The benefit of Iraqis?!

    The jihadis have already learned that when George Bush is president of the United States, great victories will be handed to them on platters. Whether we see fit to cut our losses or decide to create many more thousand furious anti-American fanatics is completely secondary to the damage inflicted upon us by millennialist neo-cons, authoritarian Banana Republicans, and their enablers in the media.

  18. “Did you hear that the iraqi government has demanded we give them a timetable for leaving? How do you think we should respond to that?”

    We should give them a timetable for leaving.

    Umm, Mark: does this mean that you think we (the U.S.) should give the Iraqi government a timetable for US leaving, or a timetable for THEM leaving?

    (‘cuz either option has supporters!)

  19. Capotal C —

    It is a matter of public record (9/11 Commission): Saddam gave Zawahari in a personal meeting 200K, two months before the Cole; and Saddam’s ISI personally escorted a key 9/11 participant and plotter through Malaysian customs and attended the planning meeting.

    So yes, Saddam as a matter of sworn testimony was involved deeply with Osama and 9/11.

    You may find those facts inconvenient, but there they are.

    As for Iraq, handing over that nation to Osama and Ahmadinejad would be my idea of a disaster. A secure operating base in the heart of the Muslim world, with all that oil revenue, and showing that:

    It takes only about 3-4K US dead to make us surrender.
    The US is a paper-tiger and a bad ally.
    The US can be beaten by anyone willing to kill enough Americans (and not that many either).

    Withdrawing from Iraq puts a giant “NUKE ME” sign on US cities.

    At a time when Musharraf teeters on the brink of surrendering to the Red Mosque in Islamabad, and much of the NWF has been turned over to the Taliban, it is VITAL TO AMERICA’S CITIES not to show ANY WEAKNESS.

    WEAKNESS GETS US CITIES NUKED.

    It’s as simple as that.

    You may argue: “I don’t want this fight. I didn’t sign up for it. It’s ugly and disgusting.” Which are all true. But irrelevant. You may not be interested in AQ but AQ is interested in you. Iran is of course another menace, but it’s likely we will have at least six months to a year before they have a good supply of nukes. Pakistan could any day fall under Osama and Mullah Omar’s control.

    I for one don’t want to be provocatively weak to have LA or NYC or Chicago nuked. Don’t think for one second this isn’t what we’re playing for.

    Dems and Media idiots put moralizing and moral superiority over National Security, wishing and hoping to go back to 9/10, which likely they will get (since the media and political consensus in the beltway tilts that way). I DO think we will get a surrender/pullout in Iraq (and Afghanistan as Dems like Maxine Waters and the CBC are demanding).

    Result? No one in Pakistan or Iran will feel any constraint (fear) and supply Osama with nukes to destroy major American cities. After all, if they can run us out of Iraq with 3-4K dead, why not make us surrender to Islam and Osama by killing 4-10 Million?

  20. _”While leaders from the Iraq’s rival Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish camps disagree bitterly about many of the issues fuelling the conflict, most are clear on one thing: The Iraqi security forces are not ready to fight on alone.”_

    _Most begin their responses to the question of the troops’ US presence with an obligatory nod to Iraqi national pride; no-one here wants the “occupier” to stay on forever. Nevertheless, it’s far too soon for them to leave._

    _”Most of those in the Iraqi House of Representatives would like to see the presence of the US forces over for good,” said Amira al-Baldawi, a Shiite member of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s ruling coalition._

    _”Everybody wishes them to leave, even the US forces themselves, but this initiative would be catastrophic if carried out before Iraq manages to set up its security forces,” she told AFP_

    “Iraqi leaders warn of catastrophe if US goes”:http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=070709153249.bzbi8lyd&show_article=1

  21. Jim, I’m sick and tired of listening to your nuclear blackmail arguments. I am not wholly unconvinced you and other such militaristic paranoids would like nothing more than to see a nuke go off within the US just so you could say “Told you so”. I also wouldn’t be surprised if told that you were a clever Islamic terrorist sympathizer who considers his job in the “Great Global Struggle” to be goading the US into pointless and un-winnable military actions that serve the purposes of increasing anti-Americanism and US terrorism to a much greater (and measurable) extent than the opposite.

  22. Capotal, the fact that I’m tired of worrying about the impact of AIDS in Africa doesn’t make that impact any less real. Frustration and attempts to delegitimize those who see things differently than you hurt your credibility more than Jim’s.

    Want to try again? Jim is worried – and I’m concerned – that we’ll face a nuclear weapon detonated by a deniable terrorist country in the US in the medium term. We think things are worth doing to prevent that.

    I’m wide open to discussing what’s worth doing and what is likely or not likely to work, or how real – or not – the concern may be.

    A.L.

  23. So yes, Saddam as a matter of sworn testimony was involved deeply with Osama and 9/11.

    This is kind of a dead issue now, with Saddam and most of the AQ guys from that time dead, but still do you have any evidence for this?

    Just because Bush et al came up with a bunch of lies about iraq, doesn’t mean they were lying all the time. There might actually be some sort of credible evidence for this one. Somebody ought to look at it and see if it’s believable.

    It shouldn’t hurt national security to reveal it now. Our enemies have surely found out about the technologies we were using 7 years ago, and again most of the participants we’re talking about are already dead.

  24. WEAKNESS GETS US CITIES NUKED.

    It’s as simple as that.

    Well there you have it folks. It’s as simple as that.

  25. Marc, its one thing to see the NYT editorialize on a subject where I think that they are clearly wrong. It is also a problem that this editorial seems founded on a amorality that is disturbing. But I think that another almost as frightening part of this op-ed is that the NYT would think that such a vacuous, risible and even incoherent editorial ought to be published on such an important topic.

  26. Well, why not nuke a US city?

    What percentage of Americans, let alone the rest of the world, think the US government was behind 9/11? And Bin Laden even took responsibility for that one.

    If someone nukes Seattle tomorrow, and everyone claims, nope wasn’t us…but you had it coming for policies x, y and z…

    What are we going to retaliate with? Nuke them back? On the basis of some arcane, impossible to prove radiological samples? That a horde of conspiracy theorists will claim are ‘faked’. Undoubtedly by those evil neo-cons of course…

    Invade them, well, we’ve shown how we deal with that…run away…

    Sorry, what’s the downside that’s deterring the benefits?

    Heck, if I were a crazed jihadi, it’s exactly what I’d do. Steal a couple paki nukes in the general confusion in Pakistan. Nuke one US city. Deny all responsibility. Blame the Jews/Zionists/Neo-cons. Blame US foreign policy. An expected weak US meddling in Pakistan to ‘secure loose nukes’ would only strengthen my hand. And probably result in more of the nukes falling into my hands. And if the US does hit back hard, well, more martyrs for the cause.

    The US can either surrender or turn into an isolationist police state, either way, the US is out of the picture.

    Not like getting a nuke into the US is hard. Insulate the inside of the shipping container in lead to mute the radiological signature and detonate it in the harbor, before it even hits customs. Way easier than smuggling drugs in.

  27. Jim is worried – and I’m concerned – that we’ll face a nuclear weapon detonated by a deniable terrorist country in the US in the medium term. We think things are worth doing to prevent that.

    I don’t see that Jim is worried. It looks like he considers this argument a trump card for staying in iraq. But to me it’s the opposite. If we have a serious concern about getting nuked, let’s put our resources into things that have might keep us from getting nuked. Sending our army out to play lethal tag with iraqi nationalists has nothing to do with that.

    I’m wide open to discussing what’s worth doing and what is likely or not likely to work, or how real – or not – the concern may be.

    I wrote about that recently in the “OK, here’s what Sorenson” thread. I think a central problem is that it makes a certain sense to lie to the world about our defenses against smuggled nukes. If we have an effective way to catch nukes in container ships, we should tell the world we don’t so that people who want to smuggle a nuke will do it in a container ship instead of smuggling it inside a bale of marijuana. Similarly, if we are very good at catching people who try to smuggle russian nukes we should pretend we aren’t so we can catch them trying.

    It follows that if you know what’s going on about this you’re obligated not to talk about it. And if you can do an effective job of finding out, you shouldn’t post it in public. So for example I know a way to smuggle a bomb into a US port that — given everything I know about our defenses — ought to work, and work quite cheaply. I hope that our defenses are better than they look. But it would be irresponsible to talk about the method in public.

    We can in theory test 100% of container ships, and it needn’t be all that expensive. If we’re doing that, it makes sense to lie about it.

    So how does this relate to iraq? The argument appears to be that once we assume we’re doing an incompetent job of keeping nukes away from terrorists and keeping terrorist nukes out of the USA, then somehow we should keep terrorist nukes out of the USA by leaving our troops in iraq….

    I get the impression there are several chains of reasoning left out of these arguments.

  28. Capitol C

    “Sure, GK, me and “my people” are ignorant. For example, I know it may shock someone “like you”, but I don’t believe in the tooth fairy or that the moon is made out of cheese either. ”

    I see you could not debate my points. This is a retreat (and a clumsy one at that) that ensures you lost this debate before it started. As Sun-Tzu says, the pinnacle of excellence is when your opponent retreats without even daring to fight.

    This shows how anti-war people have no knowledge beyond bumper-sticker one-liners. No wonder your ideology is so intellectually empty.

  29. Well, why not nuke a US city?

    Sorry, what’s the downside that’s deterring the benefits?

    What benefits?

    We’re a declining power. We get weaker each year. If the rest of the world can just wait, we’ll do ourselves in and only mangle a few third world countries in the process, and they won’t have to get too much involved. But if they attract our attention too much they could be the last country to get mangled by the USA.

    What possible benefit do they get by nuking one (1) US city and stirring us up?

    The US can either surrender or turn into an isolationist police state, either way, the US is out of the picture.

    Surrender to who? The whole idea here is we don’t know who did it. If somebody shows up and says “I did it, surrender or I’ll do it again” I hate to think what we’d do. Not surrender, I’m sure about that much.

    I’m having some trouble following your reasoning.

  30. ‘What possible benefit do they get by nuking one (1) US city and stirring us up?’

    We’re the only remaining projective military power. The Europeans don’t have a military and neither the Russians nor the Chinese can project enough to threaten.

    If we get pushed out of the picture, nothing prevents any of these regimes from

    1) Launching aggressive wars (start snapping up smaller neighbors).
    2) Oil price games (triple the cost of oil to Western Europe for example?)
    3) Exterminating unwelcome minorities (with the US out of the picture, is anybody even going to peep?)
    4) Getting rid of Israel (Correct or not, the assumption is that only the US is propping up Israel, and that with the US out of the way, they can get on with 1967 properly this time).
    5) Playing nuclear blackmail against Western Europe/neighbors.

    The formalisms of the cold war kept a lid on a lot of nastiness, and the following Pax Americana did the same. Would be empire builders, especially those who dream of a Caliphate need us out of the way to proceed.

    Without us in the way, Iran could easily pincer Iraq between themselves and their Syrian allies (lackies?) and then swing south taking the weak gulf states, just as one example. Who’d stop them?

    I agree with you that it would be dumb to stir us up, but it’s not our perception that matters, it’s theirs. And one thing history is full of is people who completely misread American will and intentions. We tend to signal weakness and then jump to the other extreme when provoked. It confuses people. See WWI and WWII (especially the entire Imperial Japanese war plan) for the most recent examples.

  31. nothing prevents any of these regimes from

    1) Launching aggressive wars (start snapping up smaller neighbors).

    We’re busy with iraq and afghanistan. Now’s the time if they want to.

    2) Oil price games (triple the cost of oil to Western Europe for example?)

    That will happen regardless.

    3) Exterminating unwelcome minorities (with the US out of the picture, is anybody even going to peep?)

    What does one nuked US city have to do with that? If anything it would make us more aggressive. Now, if they can get us to blame it on somebody else then we’ll be busy with iraq and afghanistan and somebody else instead of just iraq and afghanistan. But if we go after *them* then it doesn’t bear thinking about. Real real risky, for not that much gain.

    4) Getting rid of Israel (Correct or not, the assumption is that only the US is propping up Israel, and that with the US out of the way, they can get on with 1967 properly this time).

    Again, would one bombed US city make us decline that much faster?

    5) Playing nuclear blackmail against Western Europe/neighbors.

    ?? Somebody *secretly* nukes a US city. Then they threaten to nuke western europe, and the europeans don’t nuke them (which they can do) and they don’t tell us who’s threatening them, they just do as they’re told? I don’t get it.

    I’m getting over a sinus condition, maybe I’m a little slow today. I’m missing some links in the reasoning here.

  32. Without us in the way, Iran could easily pincer Iraq between themselves and their Syrian allies (lackies?) and then swing south taking the weak gulf states, just as one example. Who’d stop them?

    What stopped them when they won the iraq-iran war? They settled for restoring the old border that time.

    They have a little trouble now with minorities who want things their own way. Do they want to expand that trouble forty-fold? Establish their domination over a whole lot of crazy sunnis? Maybe. I can’t be sure what they want.

    Do they want to control the oil? The oil that’s going to be running out in 20 years or so? Looks like a bad bargain to me. Hard to be sure what they want, though.

    Suppose that iran does conquer some other muslim nations. They’ll run out of steam pretty fast — they aren’t real good at projecting power. They’d do better to look after their people. Get power sources so that in 20 years or so when their oil is gone they still have energy sources better than oxen. Do what they can to feed themselves and also make high-value exports that will pay for what they need to import — with expensive energy there will be less trade across oceans, less long-distance trade overland. Hey, they have uranium! What’s the very highest-value export? Reactor fuel….

    If they have any sense they won’t be wasting their resources invading their neighbors. But then, we can’t really expect them to have more sense than we do.

    So what will they do when we leave? I just don’t know. We’ll find out when it happens.

    We’ll start our drawdown this April if not sooner. Whether we’re out before November depends a lot on how threatened GOP legislators feel.

    I hope you’re wrong about what happens. We’ll probably find out well before 2010.

  33. Just as a side issue, as its certainly not a primary concern, but imagine the political chaos after the detonation of a nuclear device in an American city and Rosie O’Donnell speculates on national television ( between segments of audience members guessing the retail price of a dishwasher ) that the Republican administration had arranged for the weapon’s destruction of a city.

  34. ‘We’re busy with iraq and afghanistan. Now’s the time if they want to.’

    Not that busy, we may not have enough capacity to invade someone, not without shifting some forces around, but we do have enough to beat anyone’s military from a defensive stance. And in particular we have enough air power to rip the guts out of an offensive attack. Syria could invade Lebanon and beat the Lebanese army with ease. On the other hand, add the US Air Force to the Lebanese army and Syria loses badly.

    ‘2) Oil price games (triple the cost of oil to Western Europe for example?)

    That will happen regardless.’

    Only to a degree. There’s always been a tacit understanding that if the oil producers push too far, to the point of causing economic collapse, we’d carve them up like turkeys. I remember during the OPEC fun in the 70’s it was often tossed around that the Soviets and US ought to just draw a line down the middle of the ME and help ourselves.

    Without us though, what exactly are the Europeans going to do if the OPEC cartel does decide to charge extortionately high prices?

    As for 3 & 4, I agree with your theory that we’d get more aggressive, but then we both understand the US. For an outside observer, particularly one of a wishful thinking bent, the theory that it would make us extremely isolationist instead is very attractive, and not all that far fetched.

    Diminishing or defeating us isn’t the goal, the object is simply to make us surrender our world leadership duties, and turn us inwards instead. Turn the US into one big turtle that doesn’t meddle anymore in world affairs.

    5

    Sorry, that wasn’t clear. What I meant was that the US got nuked for meddling where ‘we don’t belong’ and therefore the same blackmail threat is implied against everyone else. Meddle and you might go boom.

    Against the neighbors obviously wouldn’t be anonymous, but who’s to say it had anything to do with what happened to the US? Iran forces Egypt into a subservient alliance treaty based on nuclear blackmail. They can credibly claim they had nothing to do with the US nuke. Heck, if they can claim that the US protective nuclear umbrellas has been withdrawn, everyone will claim they need nukes for defense…and pursue them.

    You’re not slow, I’m not communicating well. My original point was that, from the theoretical viewpoint of an aggressive tyrant or utopianist terrorist, if you think the US can be backed off by a little violence, wouldn’t using a lot a violence, with appropriate plausible deniability, be very appealing?

    That was the connection to the thread, if killing a few americans in Iraq gets us out of the middle east, than surely nuking a US city would keep us out forever?

    Big potential gain, little risk (worst case scenario from their point of view? the US trashes say Pakistan, more martyrs for the cause).

  35. ‘What stopped them when they won the iraq-iran war? They settled for restoring the old border that time.’

    Both sides bled themselves dry and didn’t go anywhere.

    If we pull out of Iraq now, their won’t be an Iraqi army to speak of, and Iran will already control large sections of the Shiite areas. Taking Iraq won’t be hard, and I don’t think the insurgency would stand up against sheer terror tactics, even assuming the Iranians actually faced one, which I doubt they would.

    Conquest of Iraq would actually lessen internal dissent against the regime, and the usual excuses about wartime footing would dampen economic complaints. The Iranian military, bolstered with Syrian forces wouldn’t have problems sweeping up Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the gulf states.

    Iran now declares the Caliphate reestablished, with control over Mecca and a string of victories, I suspect they’ll gain enormous popular support in remaining Muslim nations. A combination of diplomacy, threats, and popular uprisings would do to sweep Egypt and Jordan into line, likely as subservient ‘allied nations’. Pakistan and North Africa would follow. Now we’re looking at an Islamic Empire rivaling the borders of the historic empires, controlling an awful large chunk of the world’s energy supply.

    Not saying it would happen, it’s just one possibility the US has been sitting on. And remember the original Iraq/Iran war was fought because both sides wanted to be the one to gain primacy over the Islamic world.

    Wise or not, history’s full of people launching grand schemes of conquest for various ends. Some worked out, most failed spectacularly (and bloodily).

    I think we tend to forget how much crap the US negates simply by existing.

  36. #22–Ok, so you’re asking me to explain to everyone why I think Jim’s “argument” that we either stay in Iraq OR ELSE a nuke will go off in a US city is ridiculous, illogical, paranoid, and counterproductive to national security?

    Why do I get the impression that you see your role here as the head of a school full of special ed children?

  37. Capotal – there are so many places I could go with that comment…

    But let’s take it straight. There are certainly some things not worth arguing about: gravity works except at relativistic or quantum scales; the Who were better than Led Zeppelin. But for many issues we talk about here, the trust is – wicked, as they say. And when that’s the case, we argue – we talk – we have dialog between peers.

    You’re welcome to take your ball and go home; there’s nothing mandatory about being here. But if you want to more than chestbeat and eventually become annoying and ignored, it’d be good if you brought some argument to the party.

    So yeah, I am asking you that.

    A.L.

  38. we may not have enough capacity to invade someone, not without shifting some forces around, but we do have enough to beat anyone’s military from a defensive stance. And in particular we have enough air power to rip the guts out of an offensive attack.

    Traditionally, air power didn’t stop offensives, it made them more expensive. In WWII china, our air support annoyed the japanese so they moved forward until we had to move our airbases back. Then when we kept annoying them they’d advance and make us move the airbases again. Without an adequate ground force we couldn’t do much. We tried to interdict NVA supplies and failed — we stopped lots of supplies but since they had the initiative they could wait until enough supplies did get through.

    It may be different now. Even if it isn’t, you have a point. Our airforce may not be enough to determine the issue by itself, but lots of times it would tip the balance.

    ‘2) Oil price games (triple the cost of oil to Western Europe for example?)

    That will happen regardless.’

    Only to a degree. There’s always been a tacit understanding that if the oil producers push too far, to the point of causing economic collapse, we’d carve them up like turkeys.

    If they make an effective cartel and put prices ruinously high then we would presumably do something. What if there just isn’t enough oil and we bid the prices ruinously high? Invading them won’t drop the free-market price. It would just get oil wells blown up and temporarily reduce capacity. Demand is going up, supply is going down. It makes sound economic sense for the saudis, say, to keep their oil off the market now since it will be more valuable later. But if they tried that we’d do something drastic. So they pump oil as fast as they can, and they can’t pump as much as they could a few years ago, and the quality is declining….

    Diminishing or defeating us isn’t the goal, the object is simply to make us surrender our world leadership duties, and turn us inwards instead.

    We’re heading for that regardless. Simple logistics. An up-armored HUMV gets somewhere between 2 mpg and 0.5 mpg. As oil goes over $100/bbl, how many of those are we going to field? An F22 carries maybe 2500 gallons of fuel, with an optional 2400 gallons extra in 4 external fuel tanks that eliminate the stealth. How fast does it use that fuel? Well the mean time between maintenance is 3 hours…. It’s understandable it would guzzle fuel. It weighs half as much as a main battle tank and it flies at Mach 3. I’m wondering how many F22 missions we’ll be able to afford 10 years from now.

    Nobody but us is even considering taking on our “world leadership duties”. It isn’t affordable. When we “project power” we burn many many many barrels of oil. Nobody but us can afford it. We can’t afford it either.

    So we will quit whether anybody tries to make us quit or not. Unless we develop innovative low-power approaches to warfare.

  39. Iran would be ruined by getting into a shooting war with us, simply because we could destroy their oil infastructure and wreck what little of their industrial and armanent infastructure there is. We’d smash their ballistic missile arsenal they spent so much on, and we’d have the perfect excuse to hit the nuclear sites we suspect.

    Iran only wins this game by not starting a shooting war with us. Running us out of Iraq and letting them run half the middle east through their proxies until they can deploy their nuclear weapon trump card is their game.

  40. You have no evidence that we can’t monetarily afford the POL requirements of offensive / power projection operations. That’s really a ridiculous “limitation” on our power projection capability.

    Despite a refrain that we are “stretched”, there are plenty of combat formations available for any military requirements. The US Army is only stretched in current circumstances because our nation’s commitment level to the GWOT is a quasi-peacetime level. We are tiring out our military personnnel in that sense that they are at the edge of conducting the Iraq operation, the Kosovo operations, Afghanistan, our other deployments and maintaining a quasi-peacetime tempo.

    In a full wartime commitment level of nation and military, we have plenty of capability available.

  41. Mark, I agree. Iran has nothing to gain by a shooting war with us. Maybe they could make a war expensive for us. We could definitely make a war very very expensive for them.

    I don’t see that nukes would be a trump card for them, except that they’re then hard to invade. We’ve been cautious about invading nuclear powers.

  42. A.L.

    You still haven’t answered a question that was put forward, one that is quite reasonable. Would you be willing to come out and state how many more years, how many more lives, and how much more money you are willing to spend in Iraq? Are you willing to ask your Rep/Senator to do the same?

    Until any politician does that – come out and say they are willing to put in 5 years, for another 600billion dollars, and 5000 deaths and 20000 seriously wounded – none can get my support. The best any have come – including the President – have been open ended “as long as it takes” and nonsensical WWII comparisons. As long as they refuse to confront reality, and bring it to the American people, I don’t see how failure can be avoided. Every honest person knows this should be done – and the politicians know it would torpedo their campaign if they were to do so.

    If you’re curious about my answer – none. I don’t believe that President Bush can lead us to success in Iraq(or even put us on a path to it), and I’m not willing to give him my support for another thousand US deaths, 5k wounded, and $150B to get us to someone who can.

  43. J. Thomas (#3):

    You’re not going to get me to claim that Bush is eloquent, not in the slightest. But look at these quotes, all the same.

    From the 2002 State of the Union Address:

    Our discoveries in Afghanistan confirmed our worst fears, and showed us the true scope of the task ahead…What we have found in Afghanistan confirms that, far from ending there, our war against terror is only beginning.

    Our war on terror is well begun, but it is only begun. This campaign may not be finished on our watch — yet it must be and it will be waged on our watch.

    From the 2003 SOTU address:

    Our war against terror is a contest of will in which perseverance is power. In the ruins of two towers, at the western wall of the Pentagon, on a field in Pennsylvania, this nation made a pledge, and we renew that pledge tonight: Whatever the duration of this struggle, and whatever the difficulties, we will not permit the triumph of violence in the affairs of men — free people will set the course of history.

    From the 2004 address:

    Twenty-eight months have passed since September 11th, 2001 — over two years without an attack on American soil. And it is tempting to believe that the danger is behind us. That hope is understandable, comforting — and false. The killing has continued in Bali, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Mombasa, Jerusalem, Istanbul, and Baghdad. The terrorists continue to plot against America and the civilized world.

    Maybe–just maybe–you weren’t listening as carefully as some of us were?

    Robin Roberts (#33), if the government did nothing to her in that scenario, I seriously expect some freelancer might do so.

    And Capitol C, if you do get around to responding as AL has asked, please note that Jim R.’s argument is not solely about Iraq but really addresses the more-general question of our assuming a posture of strength rather than weakness.

  44. Capotal C — I care not if you are sick and tired. Sensible people such as Sam Nunn and others have predicted in 2005 that within ten years a nuke would obliterate a Western City. Just as Pentagon planners predicted in 1989 that terrorists would use planes to strike buildings. It’s so obvious that your failure to see this is indicative of a delusional world view in my opinion. Osama and Khameni have said over and over again they want to destroy America. BELIEVE THEM. Only an idiot would turn them into gentle kite-flyers. [Sam Nunn’s Nuclear Threat Initiative is at http://www.nti.org ]

    Pakistan teeters on the brink, with perhaps Musharraf having won this round (maybe) against the Red Mosque against jihad being proclaimed against him in the NWF and his plane nearly brought down by a missile. Iran is racing towards nukes. Lil Kim will sell to ANYONE. The world is DANGEROUS. You may rely on the goodwill of brutal killers. I prefer deterrence.

    Iran has been waging war against us unchecked and unanswered since 1979: the Hostages, Beirut Barracks bombings, Khobar Towers, the other Saudi Bombing that killed 9 soldiers, the Buenos Aires bombings (recall the Monroe Doctrine?) plus of course the head of MNF-Iraq publicly stating that Iranians led (Qods Force) the raid that killed 9 soldiers and captured five. MNF-I spokesman said that Khameni had to know, since Qods reports directly to him (and laid out the satellite evidence including an exact duplicate in Karbala of the US compound). The head of NATO in Afghanistan said that Iranian forces are attacking NATO troops directly. The capture of British sailors is another act of war.

    At every turn, Iran has made WAR on the US and the US has pretended it didn’t happen, or run away.

    WHY WOULDN’T IRAN think they could nuke us through Hezbollah and have us collapse. If we run away in Iraq after 3-4K casualties, why wouldn’t we just collapse and surrender if we lose LA, Chicago, and NYC? WHAT YOU REWARD YOU GET MORE OF. Reward killing us out of Iraq and you’ll encourage us to be killed at home to destroy us / make us submit.

    WEAKNESS provokes aggression. We have been weak against Iran, since 1979, under Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush again.

    If you want to pull out of Iran (and Afghanistan and the CBC and Maxine Waters demand) then the only way to avoid fatal weakness (think back to Spain and the Condor Legion) is to on the way out bomb the hell out of Iran’s nuclear facilities and everything that feeds it, including all sorts of infrastructure. Along with a public threatening to nuke Pakistan out of existence if Islamists take over. And even then we might have to nuke someone or something to make our deterrence point. The Peace Movement has been disastrous because it encourages more terrorism by making us weak and helpless. The way the Peace Movements of the 20s and 30s encouraged Mussolini, Tojo, and Hitler’s aggressions.

    Deterrence only works if people think you will use it. We have taught Iran under FIVE Presidents of BOTH PARTIES that we will NOT act against them. The Peace Movement like in the 1930’s encourages dangerous aggressors (Iran, Osama, coup-minded Islamist Generals in Pakistan). That Ahmadnutjob and Rafsanjani (the “moderate”) both pledge to wipe out Israel and destroy the US should concern all thinking Americans.

    For the Poster who asked for the Saddam-Osama cites:

    *Clinton’s indictment in 1998 that Saddam and Osama were co-operating in WMD aimed at killing Americans. Clinton made much of it at the time. Perhaps he was lying, for the War-monger GWB, who was then Gov. of Texas. Or perhaps Clinton was reasonably accurate in his indictment (not that a toothless indictment is good for more than a laugh by the hard boys). But there you go.
    *Saddam meeting Zawhari publicly in his Office and handing him a check for $200K months before the Cole. With pictures and everything.
    *Sworn testimony in Front of the 9/11 Commission by the CIA that they’d followed a key 9/11 planner and participant to Kuala Lumpur, where he was escorted through Malaysian Customs by the head of Saddam’s intelligence there, and who later drove him to and attended a planning meeting with the other conspirators. Shortly afterwards, the CIA lost track of the plotters, two of whom acted as pilots slamming into the WTC. Oh yes Saddam was just a gentle kite flyer.

    Of course, the Iranians were also involved, they did not stamp the muscle hijackers passports as they transited Iran, per order of Qods Force head who REPORTS DIRECTLY TO KHAMENI. This also according to sworn testimony before the 9/11 Commission. Perhaps they were also flying kites at the time.

    It is clear to any reasonable person that both Saddam and Khameni knew of the general plot outlines (kill Americans) and helped Osama with his goal. Perhaps it’s very wise to turn over Iraq to Osama and Iran so they can repeat the process, I would not think so. But perhaps moral purity and posturing, status is more important to you than the security of the nation. It seems that way with most Liberals, who care more about what terrorists think of us and harsh words at Davos from kleptocratic dictators than security for us ordinary working people.

    It is ten times of stupid, laced with idiotic, with a side order of moron, to simply pull out of Iraq and not do anything to convince Iran and Pakistan that not just “deniable” nukes going off in several cities but even the thought of it would lead to hair-trigger destruction, by actions so obvious they cannot be denied by their hard boys who want war and conquest and action. Which boiled down to it’s essentials means killing millions of people. One way or another.

    I would rather spend US lives and money and time to avoid that. Even if it meant staying in Iraq for a century at these casualty levels. But however, Liberals and the Media will likely have their way. So we will be weak and lose any deterrence. Get several cities nuked. Lose millions. Tens of millions even. And have to kill half a billion to save the rest of our cities.

    The tragedy is that but for the constant need of Liberals to show their upscale social status and moral preening this train wreck (not the least of which is the loss of several US cities) could have been avoided. But hey, Father Coughlin, Lindbergh, and Pete Seeger (Stay out of Mr. Roosevelt’s War for the Jews!) all opposed any involvement. Seeger even wrote songs and sold an album about it. [Though he changed his mind when his patron Joe Stalin got double-crossed by ally Hitler]

  45. Capotal C (Would you explain the reference of your handle? Or is it merely a spelling error? I really am interested.)

    And after wading thru all of your ‘arguments’ – what Armed and Jim R. say – in spades. Make the argument or don’t, they make sense. For Heaven’s sake, Man, read the words of bin Laden yourself. He has said in so many words that he feels it is okay to kill 10 million, yes, MILLION, Americans, up to 4 million of them children. That is what his moon god tells hi is okay to do, according to him. Him, not me. And how do you suppose that he will propose to kill, en mass, that many without nukes?

    “Go here – Islamist Watch”:http://www.islamistwatch.org/

    Get busy, you have homework to do.

    I am punchy after being in airplanes for hours and hours. Time to find some food and go sleep, for tomorrow takes me to the hinterlands of Japan.

    Oh, and lastly, bin Laden has predicted that by killing enough of us Americans that we will do exactly as he says we will – cut and run. And we are preparing to do just that. Western Civ. may be dying as someone said above – that may be true – but I plan on going down clawing and fighting. And I dare anyone to play DD214 p*ker with me, so don’t you dare drag out the chickenhawk argument on me, I am a grumpy old fart who still can hold my own.

    The Hobo

  46. _”I don’t see that nukes would be a trump card for them, except that they’re then hard to invade. We’ve been cautious about invading nuclear powers.”_

    Actually two nuclear powers have never engaged in a shooting war- for pretty obvious reasons. Thats why nukes _are_ a trump card. Once you have them, you are in the big boys club. Forget invasion, the risk of escalation alone makes even playing air force chicken a deadly dangerous game.

    The games theory is well established- the only stable war between 2 nuclear powers is a total stalemate, and nobody goes to war hoping for a stalemate. Once one side starts losing their incentive to use their nuclear arsenal while they still can becomes paramount.

    The 2nd most critical reason Iran cant be allowed to have nukes is that it instantly means a conventional war against them is out of the question. Think about how brazenly Iran arms and forments terrorism worldwide _now._ Imagine when they dont have any fear of reprisal.

    (The 1st most critical reason is that once Iran has a nuclear arsenal, it becomes a primary American and Western interest to keep its regime stable and in power, no matter how hideous. The risk of an ousted Mullah running for his life with access to nuclear weapons and terrorist phone numbers on speed dial is one of the scariest things i can think of, and perhaps the most likely scenario of nuclear weapons being used next in world history.)

  47. Dave, I think we keep spending there until a better plan comes along.

    One thing that is supposed to be done in the environmental impact report is to research the “no project” alternative at the same level of scrutiny as the proposed project.

    In this case we’re in a bad situation – but until an alternate plan can be shown to get us into a better one, I’d say we stay.

    As I wrote a long time ago, “the other side gets tired, too.”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/008709.php and sometimes you just have to persist to win.

    A.L.

  48. _”As I wrote a long time ago, the other side gets tired, too. and sometimes you just have to persist to win.”_

    I think this is a very important point- and i would just amend by saying you _always_ have to persist to win. Its an old truism of war that both sides often think they are losing, and the one that believes it more ends up being right.

    It should occur to us that Bush’s poll numbers are lower than any president since Harry Truman. In the midst of the Korean War.

    _”The Chicago Tribune called for immediate impeachment proceedings against Truman: President Truman must be impeached and convicted. His hasty and vindictive removal of Gen. MacArthur is the culmination of series of acts which have shown that he is unfit, morally and mentally, for his high office…The American nation has never been in greater danger. It is led by a fool who is surrounded by knaves…[90]_

    _Fierce criticism from virtually all quarters accused Truman of refusing to shoulder the blame for a war gone sour and blaming his generals instead.”_

    _”In February 1952, Truman’s approval mark stood at 22% according to Gallup polls, the all-time lowest approval mark for an active American President.”_

    “wiki”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_S._Truman#Korean_conflict

    Any of that sound familiar? Should we have abandoned South Korea to the tender ministrations of the North? How would Asia, and SK in particular look today if Truman had listened to the polls and abandoned South Korea?

    And that war left 50,000 Americans dead.

    Just maybe Iraq isnt such an unprecidented disaster, and just maybe a lot of us are being immensely short sighted.

  49. #43: Let’s not talk about the general War on Terror. Let’s talk about the War in Iraq and Americans being tired of that. How many “Mission Accomplished” and “In the next six months we anticipate a reduction in American troops” quotes would you like me to find?

    May 2003!: The Bush administration is planning to withdraw most United States combat forces from Iraq over the next several months and wants to shrink the American military presence to less than two divisions by the fall, senior allied officials said today.

    November 2003:General Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon would be announcing “a very specific laydown” on Thursday. Pace also told the House of Representatives Armed Services committee that the Pentagon plans to reduce U.S. troop strength in Iraq to about 100,000 by May 2003 as new units are rotated in.

    April 2005: Two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the American-led military campaign in Iraq is making enough progress in fighting insurgents and training Iraqi security forces to allow the Pentagon to plan for significant troop reductions by early next year, senior commanders and Pentagon officials say.

    June 2006: The top American commander in Iraq has drafted a plan that projects sharp reductions in the United States military presence there by the end of 2007, with the first cuts coming this September, American officials say.

    The Bush Administration repeatedly counted its unhatched chickens that have now come home to roost. No one can be inspired when they realize the navigators can’t see what’s in front of their faces.

    More later.

  50. *Clinton’s indictment in 1998 that Saddam and Osama were co-operating in WMD aimed at killing Americans. Clinton made much of it at the time.”

    I hate to trouble you, but since you have all this handy could you perhaps provide links? I tried to google this one and didn’t find it. What I did find were two references to it by obviously-unreliable redstate bloggers.

    *Saddam meeting Zawhari publicly in his Office and handing him a check for $200K months before the Cole. With pictures and everything.

    When I looked for this I got this link
    “$200,000″:http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/03/26/iraq/main546287.shtml

    Maybe a better link is available.

    *Sworn testimony in Front of the 9/11 Commission by the CIA that they’d followed a key 9/11 planner and participant to Kuala Lumpur, where he was escorted through Malaysian Customs by the head of Saddam’s intelligence there, and who later drove him to and attended a planning meeting with the other conspirators. Shortly afterwards, the CIA lost track of the plotters, two of whom acted as pilots slamming into the WTC. Oh yes Saddam was just a gentle kite flyer.

    Lots of lies in sworn testimony to congress have no consequences whatsoever, unfortunately. I think I could find this one in the 9/11 report, but if you have convenient links that would be very nice. I remember seeing claims this had been debunked but I don’t know whether to believe them.

    Of course, the Iranians were also involved

    Oh yes, of course.

  51. _”#43: Let’s not talk about the general War on Terror. Let’s talk about the War in Iraq and Americans being tired of that.”_

    Andrew, dont you have to seperate that from what we should be doing going forward? Undeniably we are engaged against Al Qaeda in Iraq now, regardless of what happened in the past. It is extremely likely that yanking our troops out of Iraq at this point will give AQ a powerful sanctuary and platform in Sunni and mixed areas of Iraq going forward.

    So lets talk about the War on Terror. Does it really make sense to throw our security under the bus and hand our enemies a major victory because you are pissed at the president? Rightly or wrongly?

    Why cant we have thing conversation without instantly veering back in time (and this applies to both sides of the argument)?

  52. Mark B., But many of us are arguing and have been arguing for some time that our presence in Iraq–which was unnecessary to begin with, and a mistake to being with–is continually strengthening AQ and, to use your term, handing our enemies a major victory. AQ in Iraq is growing BECAUSE we are in Iraq. Without US presence there, AQ in Iraq would never have formed, would have no foundation, no cause, no recruits, no enemey.

    AQ, like the wider Jihadist movement, is just that: a movement. It grows through recruitment. Terrorism is clearly spreading, not only in Iraq, but around the world. The chief fuel for this fire has been US involvement in Iraq. The longer we stay, the stronger AQ will grow.

    The argument that we need to stay in Iraq to demonstrate that we have the will to stay in Iraq is circular, self-supporting and without foundation UNLESS we have some necessary business in being there in the first place, especially given that our being there is the principle draw toward jihad for those who choose to join.

    Unjustifiable military action by the US in a middle eastern country is going to have consequences. One of those consequences is going to be an increase in recruitment for movements, such as AQ, and a growth in terrorism and support for terrorist organizations. This why it matters so much how the US became invovled in the first place. It matters to those millions of people who are potential recruits for jihadist movements.

  53. _”is continually strengthening AQ and, to use your term, handing our enemies a major victory.”_

    You may be arguing that, but you arent presenting much evidence. Right now Sunnis have largely turned against AQ and are actively hunting them in Anbar and elsewhere. AQ attrocities have demonstrated to the Muslim world and ME in particular what they are all about:

    _”Last year’s poll also directly shows little support for Al-Qaida’s global goals. When asked what aspects of Al-Qaida they sympathized with most, if any, only 6 percent of Arabs polled identified its advocacy of a puritanical Islamic state, while 7 percent identified its methods. (A plurality identified Al-Qaida’s fight with the United States as the strongest aspect.) This trend was confirmed in a recent Pew Global Attitudes Project poll, which showed that confidence in bin Laden has eroded in several Muslim countries in recent years — in some cases dramatically”_
    “source”:http://www.brookings.edu/views/op-ed/telhami/20060730.htm

    “_AQ in Iraq is growing BECAUSE we are in Iraq. Without US presence there, AQ in Iraq would never have formed, would have no foundation, no cause, no recruits, no enemey._”

    That _may_ be true of Iraqi indigenous AQ, but it is the foriegn components that is the great enemy and has been committing the atrocities. These are the only major actors _trying_ to forment chaos and civil war for its own sake. Were these just quiet farmers from Egypt and Syria? Or were they jihadis looking for a fight? How do you know they wouldnt be in Afghanistan right now (or wont go there in the future if we leave), or Kuwait, or Lebanon?

    _”AQ, like the wider Jihadist movement, is just that: a movement. It grows through recruitment.”_

    So our abandoning of Iraq to AQ will damper their recruitment or increase it?

    _”Terrorism is clearly spreading, not only in Iraq, but around the world. The chief fuel for this fire has been US involvement in Iraq. The longer we stay, the stronger AQ will grow.”_

    Thats your assessment. But Islamic terrorism has been growing leaps and bounds before we ever went to Iraq. Now we have a chance to prove that it ‘doesnt pay’ so to speak, but what you are suggesting strongly says that it DOES indeed work. So we move our troops to Kuwait or Qatar? You think maybe the jihadis will follow with their battle proven strategy?

    _”The argument that we need to stay in Iraq to demonstrate that we have the will to stay in Iraq is circular, self-supporting and without foundation UNLESS we have some necessary business in being there in the first place,_”

    Our necessary business is keeping AQ from ruling a good chunk of territory in the heart of the ME. Our business is proving to our friends that we keep our committments and our enemies that we dont make idle threats. Are these goals not worthwhile? How does a shattered Iraq with potentially Cambodian levels of genocide and ethnic cleansing and a large faction of it run by AQ _not_ fly in the face of our self interest (not to mention Iraqis)?

    _”Unjustifiable military action by the US in a middle eastern country is going to have consequences._”

    That ship has sailed. Assumedly we have been and will continue to pay the price. My problem is that you are suggesting leaving the merchandise even though payment is nonnegotiable. Whats the sense in that? Too many arguments are STILL based in what we _should_ have done. That is as illogical as it is dangerous.

    _” This why it matters so much how the US became invovled in the first place. It matters to those millions of people who are potential recruits for jihadist movements.”_

    Again, barring a time machine there is nothing we can do about that. How does the US looking weak and running away deter AQ recruitment? Its a ludicrious idea. What about OBLs famous strong horse/weak horse theory? You guys are somehow suggesting unscrambling an egg. You know (even admit) full well that we cant, but you seem to think self flagellation will somehow improve our situation (or at least let you say I told you So).

    Simple question to address your point- will our abandonment of Iraq help or hurt AQ?

  54. Mark B., Simple answer: my belief is that US withdrawal of military forces from Iraq will weaken AQ. Foreign figthers and indigenious fighters will most likely not join up to fight vs. Iraqi gov’t or forces in same numbers as join up or fight vs. US forces.

    I’m not looking for self-flaggelation or political embarrassment. I’m not seeking to go back in time or trying to unscramble an egg. I’m pointing out one of the reasons I believe people join the fight on the other side. We need to have an independent, credible reason to be in Iraq other than that leaving Iraq will be perceived as a sign of weakness. I don’t think AQ is capable of ruling large chunks of territory in Iraq. I think that scenario is largely an invention of this adminstration in order to justify their continuation of a policy that was and continues to be a bad idea.

    As far as bin Laden is concerned, I would make argue that much of his public pronouncements should be treated as propoganda and not as accurate reflections of his thinking.

    You are correct that it is my assessment that Iraq has spurned world-wide terrorism. I understand that it has been growing over some time. However, my assessment is that are actions are fueling it, not slowing it down. Here is an excerpt from the column to which you provide a link:

    “Americans should also be troubled that most Arabs surveyed now see the United States as one of the greatest threats to them (second only to Israel), in large part because of the Iraq war and the deep mistrust of U.S. intentions there, according to my poll with Zogby.”

    One of the reasons that the initial justifcations for the war continue to matter is that if we had a good reason for being there, I wouldn’t argue for withdrawal. But the only argument for staying seems to be that, once there, we must stay, else our enemies win. We are, in effect, staying against our will because our enemies don’t want us to stay. Our fear of their perceptions is controlling our actions.

    Basically, in Iraq, I think we are fighting an enemy that is created by our presence in Iraq.

  55. Stay the course ???
    When the Iraqis stand up we will stand down ??
    Operation Together Forward ???
    The surge is working !! ??

    Look what we really need now is a NEW SLOGAN
    the old ones don’t work anymore.

  56. _”I’m pointing out one of the reasons I believe people join the fight on the other side. We need to have an independent, credible reason to be in Iraq other than that leaving Iraq will be perceived as a sign of weakness.”_

    Specifically? UN resolutions? Iraqi government begging us to stay? Killing AQ fighters? Keeping Iraq from spiraling into a genocidal civil war? Protecting the worlds energy supplies? Minimizing the influence of Iran? How much much credibility are you looking for? I dont see many people publically doubting what a disaster leaving would be (even the NYT acknowledges that much)

    _”I don’t think AQ is capable of ruling large chunks of territory in Iraq. I think that scenario is largely an invention of this adminstration in order to justify their continuation of a policy that was and continues to be a bad idea.”_

    Yet they _have_ ruled large chunks, city sized at least. There is another factor here- who do Sunni Al Qaeda hate almost as much as America? The Shiia. You think fellow Sunni terrorists arent going to stay and fight to keep the Shiia from overwhelming the Sunni Iraqis? You dont think the Sunni will accept the help when the alternative is being on the other end of what they put the Shiia through? Are you taking any of this into your calculations? The funny thing is the only actor trusted (to an extent) by both sides to be a fair arbiter is the Americans. The idea that we’re the catalyst and not the lid on this pot at this point is just farcicle, and seems to me nothing but wishful thinking built to justify doing what you want to do.

    _”One of the reasons that the initial justifcations for the war continue to matter is that if we had a good reason for being there, I wouldn’t argue for withdrawal.”_

    Do you really need more reasons? Lets keep it simple, is preventing Iraq from becoming a Rwandan style bloodletting a good enough reason? One of the arguments for why we were fools to get involved was the Saddam was the only thing keeping the Sunni-Shiia plot from boiling over in Iraq. Does that not hold true?

    _”Basically, in Iraq, I think we are fighting an enemy that is created by our presence in Iraq.”_

    And I think there is far too much evidence to the contrary. This is maybe the crux of disagreement- do Jihadists and AQ in particular simply have specific, even addressable grievances against the US and the West. Or should we take WHAT THEY SAY seriously and consider that their goal is to establish a Caliphate, destroy infadels and apostates, and rule Islamdom via Sharia law?

    You claim our presence is firing all this, but its just not so. It ignores the very trends you urge us to consider. Iraq is a stepping stone for the Jihadist movement. I defy anyone to offer evidence to the contrary. These guys chopping off childrens heads and blowing up crowded mosques _are not going to go back to camel herding_ if the US leaves Iraq.

    Isnt this an argument based wholy on appeasement? Arent you exactly suggesting we _appease_ the jihadis by evacuating Iraq?

  57. _”Mark B., Simple answer: my belief is that US withdrawal of military forces from Iraq will weaken AQ.”_

    And not to overcomplicate things, but i think you’re going to have trouble finding support for that point of view. Either in the ‘experts’, the commentariat, much less the public. It flies too much in the face of common sense.

    Doesnt Napeleon’s maxim hold true, “It is an approved maxim in war, never to do what the enemy wishes you to do, for this reason alone, that he desires it.”?

  58. Mark B., No I don’t think you can successfully twist my argument for US withdrawal from Iraq into an appeasement policy. (After all, if dozens of people who were clever enough to get themselves elected to public office have failed at that game, it seems unlikely that you will succeed.)

    You might have a case for the withdrawal = appeasement argument if you weren’t willing to admit that the initial invasion was a mistake. I’m not arguing that we withdraw from Iraq because the jihadist want us to. I am arguing that we withdraw from Iraq because we never should have invaded in the first place; that the current conditions are the direct result and consequence of our invasion and of our continued presence; that our continued presence has the effect of increasing terrorism worldwide, not of diminishing it.

    “UN resolutions? Iraqi government begging us to stay? Killing AQ fighters? Keeping Iraq from spiraling into a genocidal civil war? Protecting the worlds energy supplies? Minimizing the influence of Iran? ”

    We asked for the current applicable resolutions to be passed. I’m reasonably sure that if we were to seek withdrawal we could get the security council to pass a resolution okaying it.

    The Iraq gov’t is begging us to stay because it is in their interest for us to stay. Our presence allows the Shia gov’t to increase its power and gain advantage for the civil war that will follow once we do leave, whenever that occurs in five years, tomorrow, ten years, next year.

    Killing AQ fighters. If there were a finite # of AQ fighters and we killed more than are created, that might be a reasonable argument. However, my argument says that AQ fighters come from a pool of potential recruits and that pool is enlarged as a result of our presence.

    Keeping Iraq from spiraling into a genocidal civil war. What is it now? Why do you assume it will get worse? Perhaps the sooner the inevitable occurs, the better. Since no measures are being taken to prevent genocidal civil war in the future, or any progress is being made toward this goal, this particular reason dooms us to staying there forever out of fear that things will get worse; that our policies have painted us into a corner that will never dry.

    Protecting the worlds energy supply. Is that it? Is this why we are in Iraq? Oil? I think this is the kind of thinking that got us into this mess to begin with.

    Minimizing Iranian influence. Are you kidding? We’re doing the opposite. We’re propping up a pro-Iranian gov’t. We’ve created the chaotic conditions Iran can exploit. We’ve demonstrated our inability to quell Iraq and shown how extended our forces are. We’ve basically given Iran free reign over the next 10 years…and you want us to stay in Iraq to minimize their influence. That’s like a sick, cruel joke. The Iraq war has been a boon to Iran.

    No good can come of a war policy that is based upon a series of mistakes and miscalculations. We are just playing into the jihadists hands.

  59. mark:

    It seems your argument is directly applicable to Afghanistan as well. Doesn’t the US presence there also generate recruits for Al Qaeda (as it surely did when the Soviets were there)? Do you also argue for a US withdrawl from Afghanistan? Why or why not?

  60. Mark B., I’m not sure Napoleon is the best person from whom to draw foriegn policy advice. As I recall, he badly overextended his policy beyond what his resources were capable of maintaining, and did so in pursuit of unreasonable and unnessecary foreign domination. As I further recall, he wasn’t all that successful. He won many battles on the field, but he did not manage an empire very well. I’m sure Hitler had his share of maxims, too.

  61. SG, I don’t feel that my argument is directly applicable to Afghanistan. I think that our original justification for invading Afghanistan was much sounder than the one for invading Iraq. Certainly, it had a great deal more international support and I think you could argue that such support was an indicator of how most of the world felt about it, i.e., that it was justified.

    As a result, I think that attraction it offered to potential jihadist recruits is much much weaker than that offered by the Iraq invasion.

    If, as the link that Mark B. provided suggests is true, that there is a large, growing number of Arabs who view the US as a threat because of Iraq, then we can expect that some of those Arabs will join in the fight against that threat, just as many US young men and women join up to fight against perceived threats. I don’t think that we enlarged the pool of enemies by going into Afghanistan to the same extent that we have by going into Iraq.

  62. mark:

    I don’t believe your argument holds. I don’t see how Europeans attitudes toward the respective conflicts have any bearing on how the average Achmed thinks or acts. There’s an existence proof (the Soviets and the Mujahadeen), that an occupation of Afghanistan will generate Arab recruits to go fight. We know this to be true. Furthermore, if your proposal is followed, that historical fact will be compounded by the fact that Al Qaeda could point to Iraq as proof that they can defeat the US. It seems like you are putting forth the best case recruiting scenario Al Qaeda could dream of: An active conflict to go fight on the heels of a victory.

    As I understand it, the difference you draw seems to be that you supported invading Afghanistan but not Iraq. I can understand how, being opposed to the invasion in the first place, you don’t support the continuation of the operation and, with the luxury of hindsight, I would agree that the invasion of Iraq was not a good idea. But even if the invasion was a mistake, that doesn’t mean that leaving Iraq resolves it. It seems like it just compounds the error. Your proposal strikes me as possibly the worst case scenario imaginable.

    Unless your proposal is to leave Iraq the way the Romans left Carthage. That I might be able to get behind…

  63. You guys are arguing at cross purposes.

    For the moment, I want to restrict it to iraq like Mark. Mark is correct that most of the insurgents are iraqis, and most of them attack us because we’re there. If we weren’t there they might reach a settlement with each other and the other iraqis, or they might not. Most people do, eventually. Usually sooner than later. Xugoslavia it seems like they never did except under Tito. I don’t know how to predict how long it will take iraqis to work things out and I think neither does anybody else.

    Sunnis have the problem that white south africans did and lebanese christians did and israelis do — they spent some time oppressing a majority that might oppress them if there was a representative government. It’s worked out fairly well in south africa and lebanon, it tends to work out, but it takes a leap of faith. Easier to try to hold onto power and hope for the best. It really matters whether the shia:sunni ration is 3:1 or less than 2:1. The more important sunnis would be in a peace, the more likely they’ll accept it. Similarly, Sadr and Sistani both talk about reconciliation and peace, but what would they really do if they had the chance? No way to tell until it happens.

    So it just isn’t clear how well iraqis would work out their differences if we weren’t there to keep them from working out their differences. No way to find out except try it and see.

    Separate from that there’s AQI. Al qaeda tends to get along with salafis. Here’s a sort of analogy — Fundamentalist christians in the USA who want to make everybody else live like fundamentalist christians are like salafis. And abortion bombers are like al qaeda. Abortion bombers get some support from fundamentalist christians when they wouldn’t get much help from anybody else. Persuade the fundamentalists they have a fair chance to enforce their will with democracy, and they’ll stop supporting terrorists. But maybe they have to believe they can win — if they think the majority is firmly against them they might want to keep fighting.

    So anyway, al qaeda tends to act kind of like foreign fundamentalist christians — they offend people right and left and wear out their welcome even with people who tend to agree with them. For awhile sunnis tended to shield them because we were attacking sunnis and they thought they needed all the help they could get. If sunnis don’t *need* al qaeda are they going to put up with it? We’re finding that out now. Sunnis are at least pretending to roll up AQI groups when we give sunnis weapons etc and stop attacking them. This evidence provided by Mark B supports Mark’s claim.

    There’s a reasonably strong chance we can win against al qaeda in iraq whether we stay or leave. They’re starting to look even worse than us — to their friends.

    So it looks plausible to me that we don’t need to stay in iraq to beat AQI. They’re losing worse than we are. There could be other reasons why we should stay, but that isn’t one of them.

    So we have two separate issues. One is whether we should keep our forces in iraq for the indefinite future, until things get measurably better in ways we have absolutely no reason to expect any time soon. And reasons for this should not this year involve al qaeda. It’s predictable that al qaeda in iraq will continue to get weaker whatever we do. If, say, 5 or 10 years from now AQI revives then we might think about it as a reason to continue the occupation. Not now.

    The other issue is what to do about international terrorism directed at us. It’s possible somebody might make a reasonable argument that we should stay in iraq because of iraq’s effect on international terrorism, apart from AQI. The arguments I’ve heard about that are mostly based on intangibles. Like “Oh, what would the terrorists think of us if we chickened out in iraq?! They’d be so emboldened they’d do terrible things that they’re too afraid to do now!” But this is idiotic. We’re talking about people who plan to die making attacks on us. They aren’t afraid of us because we’re in iraq.

    Most of the international terrorists are suffering from an absolute sense of right and wrong. They think we’re wrong so it’s right for them to kill us or die trying. If we win in iraq that will enrage them. If we get driven back it will reduce their sense of urgency. That doesn’t say we should avoid a win if we can get one, but it refutes the argument that any retreat will have horrendous consequences because of what it makes terrorists think.

    Probably the best thing we could do about terrorists is to infect them with moral relativism. Second best would be to persuade them that OBL etc are also wrong. If we could be at least morally ambiguous, that would help a lot. Almost all of arab society is against OBL just now, except in places where they have big grievances and AQ is the closest they have to a capable alternative. AQ attacks the innocent. That’s wrong. Their only excuse is that we attack the innocent too.

    This is a war that takes place largely inside arab and muslim heads. If they all decide to join AQ then we get far far bigger problems. If they give AQ 0.01% suppport instead of 0.1% support then we’ve 90% won compared to where we are now. So — in iraq and everywhere else — the most important thing we could do is to stop giving the world the impression that we attack the innocent. Give up air strikes except in very specific circumstances. Call for surrender, in each case where we find bad guys negotiate to let the innocent leave, offer clear surrender terms with fair trials.

  64. The sagacious SG said “…with the luxury of hindsight, I would agree that the invasion of Iraq was not a good idea. But even if the invasion was a mistake, that doesn’t mean that leaving Iraq resolves it. It seems like it just compounds the error. Your proposal strikes me as possibly the worst case scenario imaginable.”

    Many of us don’t need to have our vision corrected by hindsight, SG; we knew from the outset, and beforehand, that it was by far the most likely outcome (false premises+incompetent corrupt leadership+volatile region = recipe for disaster).

    I’m glad that some of you have come around, but pardon me if I’m somewhat skeptical of your ability to see the reality of the current situation or make predictions about its outcome. So, you can argue all you like, but your track record on this and other situations relating to global stability or terrorism is already so abysmal as to make your current diagnoses laughable.

    So you think leaving Iraq will be worse than staying? That’s gotta be the best predictor that I can think of that it won’t turn out that way.

  65. _”For awhile sunnis tended to shield them because we were attacking sunnis and they thought they needed all the help they could get. If sunnis don’t need al qaeda are they going to put up with it? We’re finding that out now.”_

    Again, you are pretending that Iraqis are going to magically come to a peaceful solution if we leave- when they cant come to one now. It just doesnt pass the laugh test.

    One thing is certain- Sunnis trust Shiia less than they trust Americans and vice-versa. For me there is a damned high level of skepticism to overcome if you want to convince me that even though American troops are the only thing preventing a full scale civil war between Sunnis and Shiia, mysteriously this wont be the case if we’re not there. As far as im concerned this is about like the claim that innoculations cause disease. And unless that argument is addressed in a way more thorough than ‘well we just dont know _for sure_’ i cant take it seriously and the rest of the house of cards you guys are building on collapses.

    Starting with the AQ argument. If its a question of Sunnis being run over by a Shiia juggernaught, or tolerating AQ running things, well guess what? They will pick AQ.

    So _if_ the Iraqis don’t magically come to terms without us there (and with Sadr, Iran, AQ, and god knows who else redoubling their efforts to wrest control without Americans to worry about), and _if_ the Sunnis decide its better to be slaves to the Sadr than live with AQ pulling their strings, _then_ maybe you guys have an argument. But those two conditions simply fly in the face of everything we see happening. Is Sadr going to disapear? Are Sunni Shieks going to stop getting blown up for defying AQ (without American support no less)? Are mosques going to stop being bombed? Are neighborhoods going to stop being ethnic cleansed? Are the death squads going to go into retirement? Are the fights over the oil revenues going to magically be solved? Are the Kurds going to put up with this nonsense?

    Those are serious questions are all you guys have to answer is, ‘we’ll, we dont know unless we try’. Not good enough. It sounds incrediably self-absorved to assume the US is the catalyst for _all_ those things, and they will (by some unknown and unstated mechanism) repair themselves to any degree that will prevent what looks exactly like the verge of a total meltdown.

    What do you think happens day 1 when the US is gone and a Shiia army unit rolls into Ramadi btw? Please describe.

    What happens when the first half dozen Sunni bodies show up in a mixed neighborhood without the US there to at least hold machine guns and keep people indoors instead of kicking their neighbors doors in? Please describe your vision for how this plays out.

    Worse the idea that we will maintain a significant force in country as Reid and the Dems are suggestion must be the absolute WORST of both worlds. We concede defeat but maintain our provocation. How do you guys feel about that plan?

  66. _”So — in iraq and everywhere else — the most important thing we could do is to stop giving the world the impression that we attack the innocent. Give up air strikes except in very specific circumstances. Call for surrender, in each case where we find bad guys negotiate to let the innocent leave, offer clear surrender terms with fair trials.”_

    Sadly our enemies intentionally make it impossible to go after them without endangering the innocent. What you are suggesting is equivalent in practice to stop going after the bad guys altogether. Unless they are stupid enough to have a bad guy convention we come across and employ their own help.

    All you guys are suggesting sounds suspiciously like leave them alone and hope they go away.

  67. mark, i can’t understand why you think you cant seperate what happened in the past from what is happening now. If i broke into someone’s house, thats a bad thing. If i broke in and came across a rapist, should i leave because i dont belong there? I’m, having trouble following that line of reasoning. We have ample excellent reasons (both selfish and benevolent) for staying at this point. Leaving will cause great suffering, and whatever the case it surely wont make up for invading in the first place (if penance is needed). Isnt this two wrongs trying to make a right? More importantly, and certainly more pragmatically, shouldn’t we look at what our responsibilities and interests are NOW and make a decision? I dont understand how what happened in the past can govern what our current situation is, aside from insight. But insight isnt policy. If you base all your policies on trying to somehow revert past mistakes or crimes, are you really helping anyone including yourself?

    And mark, none of you you said explains why the Sunni want us to remain in Iraq for the moment as well. The clear answer is because they are caught between the vastly larger Shiia supported by Iran and siding with AQ out of sheer self-preservation. The Sunni have quickly realized the Americans are the closest thing to a friend they have left.

    As far as Napoleon’s maxim goes- forget who said it, doesnt it stand on its own two feet? I dont want to let go this argument that us leaving Iraq hurts Al Qaeda. I’d love for it to be true, but i disagree with it 100% and since this is the first time i’ve heard it stated i’d like to hear more.

  68. Mark B., “that even though American troops are the only thing preventing a full scale civil war between Sunnis and Shiia,”

    If you believe that (& what is the belief based upon?), then what makes you think American troops can EVER leave? Furthermore, WHY should American troops be used to prevent a full scale civil war if they are the only thing preventing one? Your view is that the US should tie up 150,000 troops for years to prevent a full scale civil war between Sunnis and Shiia and that without these troops, the full scale civil war is inevitable?

  69. Mark B., our comments just crossed in the mail.

    My argument isn’t simply that we should leave Iraq because it was a bad idea in the first place. my argument is 2fold. 1…because it was a bad idea in the first place, our continuing presence there has certain consequences, specifically, that of fomenting anti-US feeling and transforming it into active resistance.

    2. that our continuing presence there is wreaking havoc on Iraq and is damaging to our self-interests in a number of ways.

    I think that AQ is a movement and it needs to be stopped. Military action in other countries has the effect of spreading the movement, not stopping it. People who see the US as a threat are not going to roll over and say “you win” because we take military action. some of them are more likely to sign up as fighters to oppose the threat. our willingness to invadea and then stay in arab/muslim countries is seen by many arabs and muslims as a threat. one way of combating that threat is to join a jihadist movement. we, are in short, handing them a cause.

    I’m not saying that after US withdrawal from Iraq, AQ will wither and die, but I do believe much of its vitality is dependent upon an active cause…western military in middle eastern nations is a big big cause.

  70. _”If you believe that (& what is the belief based upon?), then what makes you think American troops can EVER leave?”_

    Because there are legitimate interests that can be addressed that will prevent it (oil revenues, power sharing, etc). Because despite what you claim historically insurgencies lose steam over time as the fanatical get killed off and the remainder start to question whether dying for no impact whatsoever is a good idea. Because if we can create the space for a true coalition government with a strong and independent military, the Iraqis have a chance to do it themselves (as other nations have managed). Because if we can bring the violence down to a reasonable level at some point, an internation force _could_ be realistically contemplated (as we’ve also seen elsewhere). None of this can happen without US forces there to engage, occupy, and hopefully defeat the actors that are dead set against reconcilliation.

    “_Furthermore, WHY should American troops be used to prevent a full scale civil war if they are the only thing preventing one? Your view is that the US should tie up 150,000 troops for years to prevent a full scale civil war between Sunnis and Shiia and that without these troops, the full scale civil war is inevitable?”_

    Inevitable is a strong word, but extremely likely I would venture. Why? Because it is against our interest. Because from a humanitarian standpoint it is the right thing to do. Because that kind of chaos would be beneficial to our enemies, and anything our enemies benefit from I oppose.

  71. _”I’m not saying that after US withdrawal from Iraq, AQ will wither and die, but I do believe much of its vitality is dependent upon an active cause…western military in middle eastern nations is a big big cause.”_

    But even before our action there was 911, and the Cole, and on and on. What about Afghanistan? Should we withdraw our military completely from the region? The logical conclusion to what you are suggesting is essentially appeasement indeed. Should we withdraw out support of Israel? How far do we go with complying with the wishes of those who show no signs of being appeasable?

    Al Qaeda is indeed a movement, like you said. But movements arent born of initiatives like Iraq, they are born of ideas. Radical Islam is the idea, thats what is missing from your argument. You think that the jihadis have come out because we are in Iraq (and some have), but what you are missing is that if not Iraq, there is always Israel, or Kuwait, or Jordan, or Spain. This is a battle of ideas, and while sometimes force isnt the way to win, other times its the only way.

    In this case i think it is imperative that we prove that their ideas of how to use force arent going to chase us away. By any measure that should be encouraging to them! I dont see how hundreds of Jihadis being mowed down or blowing themselves up in Iraq and achieving no discernable impact would be to AQ benefit, while chasing the worlds great power away and carving out a base in the MEs heartland would be a detriment. Ideas matter. Winning matters. Momentum matters. Going to fight with the force that sent the Americans packing sounds much more glamourous than strapping on the suicide belt for another trip to the market that will be forgotten tomorrow by everyone but the families.

  72. #44: Jim “Chicken Little” Rockford missed the following:

    Al Qaeda Link To Iraq May Be Confusion Over Names
    Yesterday, the senior administration official said Lehman [on the 9/11 Commission] had probably confused two people who have similar-sounding names. One of them is Ahmad Hikmat Shakir Azzawi, identified as an al Qaeda “fixer” in Malaysia. Officials say he served as an airport greeter for al Qaeda in January 2000 in Kuala Lumpur, at a gathering for members who were to be involved in the attacks on the USS Cole, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Iraqi military documents, found last year, listed a similar name, Lt. Col. Hikmat Shakir Ahmad, on a roster of Hussein’s militia, Saddam’s Fedayeen. “By most reckoning that would be someone else” other than the airport greeter, said the administration official, who would speak only anonymously because of the matter’s sensitivity. He added that the identification issue is still being studied but “it doesn’t look like a match to most analysts.”

    This bogusness is still, AFAIK, being hyped over at the Weekly Standard, along with Atta in Prague, and the collection of keys to white girls’ bedrooms in the NAACP basement. (Ooops! Wrong conspiracy theory!)

    Actually, there is a nugget of psychological truthiness in Jim’s fact-challenged rants, that can be seen to a lesser extent in Armed Liberal, too. Since it’s clear that we have limited ability to impinge upon the terrorists’ operations—if perchance the heat is too high in one province they just amble over to another—and that intelligence estimates show their recruiting is booming, we redefine the war into some strange contest of “will”. Under the new rules, the sovereignty charade, the purple fingers, the establishment of the rule of law in Iraq, the creation of a national Iraqi Army, all that doesn’t matter (a good thing, because we can’t meet any of the milestones). Instead, as long as we keep our troops in harm’s way, we haven’t lost, all other matters aside. Certainly Bush has played by these rules. But these rules are stupid, the sort of dissociative thinking that anthropologists snicker at in “primitives”. The excruciatingly painful “Ghost Dance” was supposed to show will. But all the will in the world didn’t protect the Sioux. I don’t think there’s that much dispute here that whatever the significance the Front in Iraq has in the War on Terror, the Bush Administration has not understood the situation on that front for five minutes in the last five years. So the more important Iraq is, the more discouraged the American people should be by the cluelessness of the Worst President Ever. (Now, I know there’s now a theory that Bush’s low approval ratings indicate he’s really Harry S Truman, with vindication just a generation away. That puts me in the mind of Carl Sagan’s remark, “They laughed at Newton. They laughed at Einstein. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

  73. Mark B. “Because despite what you claim historically insurgencies lose steam over time as the fanatical get killed off and the remainder start to question whether dying for no impact whatsoever is a good idea”

    But we were talking about a full scale civil war, not about insurgencies.

    However, I am talking more about the need to face up to the repurcussions and the consequences of our foriegn military actions globally, not just in Iraq. I think that the course of action that you are advocating, that is roughly analagous to the course of action the administration is advocating, is making the very same mistakes that were made in contemplating the initial invasion, and that is a blindness to the impact US military ventures have upon other people, the people who actually live in the region, e.g., and the false belief that such ventures will not have negative consequences.

    Much of the chaos, much of the insurgency,much of the rise of AQ is attributable to the US presence in Iraq. Despite the warmhearted words of humanitarian vision, it is pretty clear to most of the world that the US is only interested in preventing civil war, stopping genocide etc., when its own interests (generally economic) are at stake. Bush has declared what is happening in Darfur to be genocide but does nothing to prevent it.

  74. _”I think that the course of action that you are advocating, that is roughly analagous to the course of action the administration is advocating, is making the very same mistakes that were made in contemplating the initial invasion, and that is a blindness to the impact US military ventures have upon other people, the people who actually live in the region, e.g., and the false belief that such ventures will not have negative consequences.”_

    I would argue that circumstances have changed so radically that the two are in no way analagous. Iraqi perceptions of American intent in particular. Iraqis _know_ Americans want desperately to leave, that in itself is a major change. If we can harness that good will by establishing certain metrics by which we _can_ draw down our forces, we can achieve our goals.

    _”Much of the chaos, much of the insurgency,much of the rise of AQ is attributable to the US presence in Iraq.”_

    In the sense that the rape is attributable to a short skirt, I suppose.

    _”Despite the warmhearted words of humanitarian vision, it is pretty clear to most of the world that the US is only interested in preventing civil war, stopping genocide etc., when its own interests (generally economic) are at stake.”_

    Perhaps so, although the Balkans and Haiti (to name a couple off the top of my hear) speak strongly against that. Even so, if our self interest happens to intersect with our humanitarian interests, so what? Is it required that our motives be unassailable? I’ve always found it odd that the new left reserves the use of military force _only_ for situations where we have no interests.

    And isnt it better to intercede where our interests do coincide, instead of NEVER, as the rest of the world genereally seems ok with?

    _”Bush has declared what is happening in Darfur to be genocide but does nothing to prevent it.”_

    We’re getting rather far afield here, but this supposed idea that we have to be utterly consistant to dare to claim any act of morality is an empty bag. Mindless consistancy is the least of virtues. If we can’t stop every evil in the world, it doesnt follow that we shouldnt try to stop any. Regardless, in this case the right thing to do is also the right thing for our country. I dont see how those thing coinciding should be viewed automatically as a negative.

  75. “Much of the chaos, much of the insurgency,much of the rise of AQ is attributable to the US presence in Iraq.”

    This is obviously false on its face, with respect to the sectarian violence, as the Sunni and the Shia were in conflict before the US invaded. If you are going to “attribute” to the US, that the Sunni no longer successfully dominate, that’s a dubious argument.

  76. Has it occurred to anybody that AQ is likely to get decimated in the bloodbath that follows. The Sunni as they establish their state are likely to end the friend of my enemy coalition. The Shia and the Kurds again doing every thing to create their own State have no longer any use for AQ either. For the Kurds their problem will be the Turks.

    We gain nothing by staying and are likely to lose are abilty to do anything else militarily for a long time. The primary reason for that being the argument of what type of war the USA will be fighting and against whom.

    As for democracy It took us over 250 years to get to where we are why does everybody expect everyone else to do it in less time w/ more variables? Until every national group in Asia and Africa forced into artifical states from the legacy of colonialism comes to some kind of rapprochment on their own any effort on our part to keep them from fragementing will be a waste of money men and effort.

    Stop the murdering of our soldiers, sailors and airman. Pull out NOW!!!!

  77. Also enjoyed getting to hang out with both Marks, and to meet Tenacious G, and hope to get the chance again.

    Bush made the case for the war over and over and over, more eloquently than the stereotypes about him suggest. If you ever actually read or watch his speeches you will see that. However, most people don’t see or read the actual speech, but pull-quotes and analysis from the media which often distort or simply lie about what he said.

    One example among many is a NYTimes editorial last year which repeated the lie that “after WMDs weren’t found Bush changed the rationale for the war to humanitarian ones.” All you have to do to correct that is read his speech before the UN in 2002, one of many which lay out all the reasons for the war. But the Paper of Record couldn’t be bothered to direct its army of factcheckers over to whitehouse.gov.

    If you don’t go to the source you have no idea what the man has actually said about anything. It’s shameful.

    However.

    Our media didn’t give our President a level playing field, but he made about as much effort as if they had. He should have faced the fact that he was going to have to work even harder to explain and explain and explain, and, by the way, to take the fight to those who were misquoting him and maligning him. Too often he just let things go.

  78. bq Much of the chaos, much of the insurgency,much of the rise of AQ is attributable to the US presence in Iraq.

    AQ predated our presence in Iraq by about 10 years. If you mean their presence in Iraq itself…. Saddam and AQ were putting out feelers to use each other to advance their separate agendas, so AQ was going to be in Iraq anyway, but furthering its aims, not having to defend its existence.

    AQ was not going to stay the same if we left it alone – it’s a power-hungry organization, with no opposition it would expand to fill whatever space is available. Now it is having to fight for its existence, wherever it is.

    bq Despite the warmhearted words of humanitarian vision, it is pretty clear to most of the world that the US is only interested in preventing civil war, stopping genocide etc., when its own interests (generally economic) are at stake. Bush has declared what is happening in Darfur to be genocide but does nothing to prevent it.

    When the rest of the world is even interested in preventing civil war, stopping genocide etc., AT ALL, then they and you can sneer at the US. Certainly the Chinese in Darfur, and previously Russia and France in Iraq, were acting in their economic interests in obstructing any change in the status quo.

    So what should Bush do to “prevent” Darfur?

  79. #66 from Mark Buehner: “What do you think happens day 1 when the US is gone and a Shiia army unit rolls into Ramadi btw? Please describe.”

    No non-Muslims are injured or killed, and no non-Muslim territories or other resources are lost or given to Islam: situation satisfactory.

    #66 from Mark Buehner: “What happens when the first half dozen Sunni bodies show up in a mixed neighborhood without the US there to at least hold machine guns and keep people indoors instead of kicking their neighbors doors in? Please describe your vision for how this plays out.”

    No non-Muslims are injured or killed, and no non-Muslim territories or other resources are lost or given to Islam: situation satisfactory.

    Alternately: red on red action follows: Bonus!

    #66 from Mark Buehner: “Worse the idea that we will maintain a significant force in country as Reid and the Dems are suggestion must be the absolute WORST of both worlds. We concede defeat but maintain our provocation. How do you guys feel about that plan?”

    I think it is folly.

    #69 from mark: “Furthermore, WHY should American troops be used to prevent a full scale civil war if they are the only thing preventing one?”

    We shouldn’t. Red on red attrition is our only chance. We must allow it.

    These are our enemies, and we need to be their enemies. They are not our friends. Their welfare is not our concern, except in a negative sense.

    There is a war on, and until they tear up the Koran and make a true end to all hostility between the house of Islam and the house of unbelief, that is how it is.

    #70 from mark: “our willingness to invadea and then stay in arab/muslim countries is seen by many arabs and muslims as a threat. one way of combating that threat is to join a jihadist movement.”

    I think that’s right. Muslims will continue to see our willingness to fight as something that ought to be done away with.

    We won’t get much credit for fighting for democracy, for humanitarian goals or whatever.

    The point is, for non-Muslims to be willing to fight Muslims is not right according to Islam. Therefore, Muslims will be inclined to use all means of pressure, including killing, so that Islam dominates, Muslims rule, and non-Muslims are reduced to an inferior condition without the means of defending themselves.

    I think Muslims are sufficiently prejudiced against non-Muslims and specifically the Great Satan that we have little chance of fighting within the Muslim world (while supporting Islam and not contesting the idea that this is and must remain Muslim territory) without creating more enemies than we kill.

    And, if we could “win”, which we do not seem able to do, the goals that we aim at would be useless and harmful to us anyway. We are trying to set up strong Muslim states. Both Afghanistan and Iraq have pro-Islamic constitutions, because that is what the people want. That means they are unfriendly.

    Since we define the system of Islam as a good thing, not as the enemy, we can’t stop setting counterproductive goals. We bleed. We spend, and pay for goodies for Muslims and for Islam. We lose, and make more enemies. We do nothing useful. And if we did get what we are trying to build it would only hurt us more.

    This is what comes of defining a serious war so badly that you are fighting to make the enemy stronger rather that to diminish the enemy.

    We can do much better than this. But we have to accept the reality of the situation that we are in. It would be much nicer if the system of Islam was friendly to us. But it isn’t. So we need to act with the utmost cold-blooded self-protectiveness, diminishishing Islam when and where we can, never stopping its fratricides, and holding it at a distance as much as we can.

    From this point of view, paying vast sums of money for the right to keep our forces in Iraq so they can keep getting killed and injured keeping Muslims form each others throats and providing everyone with a common (un-Islamic) enemy is folly, and the only thing we can get out of it is our soldiers, and I hope, as much war material as possible.

  80. “Saddam and AQ were putting out feelers to use each other to advance their separate agendas, so AQ was going to be in Iraq anyway, ”

    Do you really expect people to believe in made-up crap like this, Zionist? “Feelers”? That justifies an invasion, the killing of tens if not hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, and the expenditure of $12 BILLION DOLLARS of US TAXPAYER MONEY PER WEEK? Nice to get America to fight and fund your wars for you I guess. To you, I imagine they’re all dirty arab pigs that threaten the great Jewish state, so what’s a few lies between the like-minded when your homeland is at stake? Is that it?

    Unbelievable. Next time I’ll be at that bar as well, Yehudit. You I’d like to meet.

  81. I like the way Josh puts it:

    HE WANTS HIS PARADE
    According to Secretary Chertoff, we’re entering a new period of lurking terrorist danger this summer. In other words, a period of danger similar to every other summer since 2001 and like most periods of low popularity for the president and before elections as well. But perhaps it is a period of increased danger. It really well might be. We’ve known for some time a mix of sagging tide of the war in Afghanistan and the mounting impotence of the Musharraf regime in Pakistan has allowed jihadist groups a relative safe-haven in the lawless Pakistani borderlands like they have not had since prior to 9/11. And if they can train they can act.

    It all brings into a rather fierce relief the question of what the hell we are doing in Iraq, a conflict that has made the war we are fighting against jihadism vastly more intractable and dangerous. We can’t leave Iraq apparently because al Qaeda will be emboldened and will do much better at fundraising — a revealing perspective on the part of the White House. But al Qaeda is vastly emboldened in as much as they are actively regrouping in the Afghan-Pakistani border, where all the trouble came from the in the first place. And groups all over the Middle East, who have little if any actual connection to al Qaeda, are adopting the name al Qaeda in vicarious support or sympathy or, perhaps mostly and most damningly, because we’ve managed to make it a strong brand.

    And here we are, again, with the president introducing yet another new new direction in Iraq. Yes, the stakes of ‘defeat’ in Iraq are very high. And that’s why so many people are so upset with this president because the whole thing is quite obviously a disaster and we are going to pay a very big price for it on many levels. And it’s his fault. But let’s not pretend that these are grave hypotheticals off in the future. They’re here. It’s a disaster. And we have to deal with it. Not pretend.

    People ask what we’re doing in Iraq. And you can answer in a hundred ways and in a thousand shades of literalism to metaphor. But at some level we’re in Iraq because President Bush wanted a parade. It’s not hard to imagine how he must have imagined it. A withdrawal of most American troops from a staunchly allied pro-American Iraq. Waving flags. Heartfelt thanks and vindication for the president who had the guts and character to see it through.

    And that’s why we stay. Because somehow if he just keeps at it someday he might get his parade. Or rather if he just keeps us there forever he doesn’t have to really deal wtih what a disaster he’s created and fundamentally what a failure he is.

    He wants the parade.

  82. If Americans are tiring of protracted “cold war” against terrorists, why is Rudy Giuliani leading in the polls and Hillary trying to act more hawkish? A significant chunk of the electorate is not getting more dovish as a result of the Iraq war.

    “If we win in iraq that will enrage them. If we get driven back it will reduce their sense of urgency. That doesn’t say we should avoid a win if we can get one, but it refutes the argument that any retreat will have horrendous consequences because of what it makes terrorists think.”

    AQ & Co. are functionally bullies. That is their psychology. This is exactly the opposite of how bullies behave. If you retreat they are emboldened. You are arguing that the way to defeat bullies is to do whatever they say.

    “Stop the murdering of our soldiers, sailors and airman. Pull out NOW!!!!”

    Risking death in war is what soldiers, sailors and airmen do. (As Mark D is now having to personally contemplate…) That’s their job. This is like saying, “Stop the deaths of our firemen! Pull them out of burning buildings NOW!!!”

    You could make an argument that their deaths are wasted in this particular war, but that’s a different argument. Most of them don’t feel that way, nor do most of their families. I would at least let their opinions contribute to the debate.

  83. I’ll restrict it mostly to iraq for now.

    I’ve seen the claim that after the surge, we’re going to be drawing down troop strength starting at latest in april, and by october 2008 we’ll have fewer than 90,000 soldiers in iraq.

    Do you believe this? I can imagine ways to prevent it. For example, we can cancel rotations. At present troops stay in iraq for 15 months and come home for 12 months. We could change that. They could stay in iraq for 24 months and come home for 12 months. They could stay in iraq for 36 months and come home for 12 months. They could stay in iraq until we win or they’re wounded.

    Would we do that, or would we draw down the numbers and claim we have some sort of plan that lets us do it and win?

    My guess is that if we don’t get some political requirement to withdraw completely, we’ll try to get some sort of good news before the election and use it to justify the drawdown. We’ll say we’re winning now and because of that we don’t need as many US troops in iraq.

    Mark B., “that even though American troops are the only thing preventing a full scale civil war between Sunnis and Shiia,”

    I see no evidence for that. I see no evidence that american troops are doing anything effective to prevent full scale civil war. I see no evidence that there’s nothing else preventing full scale civil war. Is there evidence beside some sort of commentator making the claim?

    What do you think happens day 1 when the US is gone and a Shiia army unit rolls into Ramadi btw? Please describe.

    First there’s no particular reason to think this will happen. It might. It might not. It would be a stupid thing to do but people do stupid things all the time. I’ll tentatively give it a 30% chance of happening.

    So, a shia army starts rolling into “Ramadi”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramadi.

    We haven’t done a lot of good there ourselves. If the shia army tries to do tactics similar to ours, they can expect to mostly get blown up. They can blow up a lot of Ramadi in the process though. However, they might be able to persuade the ramadi-dwellers that they intend to bring in lots of artillery and just blow the whole place up from a distance. That might get most of the population to evacuate the city. Then the shia army can blow the whole place up, resulting in something like 400,000 refugees. Then, having won, they can go home.

    Was that what you had in mind?

    What about US air power? How would that affect it? Basicly not at all. We can’t use air power to keep the shia from getting sliced to bits in offensive operations. We can blow up Ramadi with air power, but they can do it far more cheaply with plain old artillery.

    The next question is whether a shia army with sufficient artillery will have the logistics to make such an attack. My guess is that no, it won’t. (For one thing, officially they don’t have any artillery.) The shia are better off to train and improve their logistics and hold out the possibility that they might make such an attack, than to actually try it and demonstrate failure.

    As planned, the “shia army”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Iraqi_Army will have 100 tanks — a quarter of them old T55s with no reactive armor, the rest of them old T77s apparently with no reactive armor. It will eventually have 800 other armored vehicles of a wide variety of types. No mobility by copter. No airstrikes, unless we supply them. That doesn’t sound real good for my plan. They have 100 tanks they can use as artillery pieces. Stand off at long distance and blast the city. Don’t move them close enough to lose them.

    Is this an attack that shias will want to risk? They may be better off to try to make a deal. Whether the sunnis will deal is unknown. Whether the shias will offer a deal is unknown. We don’t know what will happen.

    What happens when the first half dozen Sunni bodies show up in a mixed neighborhood without the US there to at least hold machine guns and keep people indoors instead of kicking their neighbors doors in?

    How many mixed neighborhoods do you think are left? If the ethnic cleansing is as bad as some reports imply, then it’s mostly a done deal. Sad if true. What’s left to do, if they go that route, is removing whole towns that are inconveniently located.

    Do you imagine that the US presence has somehow prevented much of this? Why would you think that? You figure whenever this scenario shows up we find out about it soon enough to send in the soldiers and force everybody indoors until — what, they calm down?

    I know this is going to sound ridiculous to you, but I believe the single thing that’s doing the most to restrain civil war is that a whole lot of sunnis and shias *both* believe that the incidents are getting sparked by zionists who want them to kill each other. However stupid you think that belief is, still it helps reduce their retaliation. Because they’re following that Napoleon quote which says don’t do what your enemy wants you to.

    Worse the idea that we will maintain a significant force in country as Reid and the Dems are suggestion must be the absolute WORST of both worlds. We concede defeat but maintain our provocation. How do you guys feel about that plan?

    I agree with you completely. Sounds real bad. How does that compare to a great big drawdown in 2008 as required by our troop fatigue levels? Either way sounds bad. We could get by that way if we’ve mostly won and we definitely don’t need any more troops than that. It doesn’t seem likely any time soon.

    On the other hand, if for some reason we wanted to … say we had a solid alliance with the shias. We could keep a bunch of troops in the shia south assuming they didn’t mind. We could have a bunch of troops that handled supply shipments and warehousing and resupply for shia military units farther north. They’d be reasonably safe as long as the shia wanted them there. They’d contribute a whole lot to the shia army, plus we could ship other things for the shia economy. I’m not sure we’d want to do this, it wouldn’t look to the world like us fighting until we won. But we might be able to do it if we wanted to, and it would have an effect on iraq.

    People talk about the shias getting dominated by iran. What does that mean? Sharing a religion makes them friendlier, like argentina and brazil both being catholic. Iran could send in their army, but that wouldn’t get them peace — iraqis would be angry about it for a long time. If it costs the USA half a billion dollars a day to occupy iraq how expensive would it be for iran to do it? Sure they’d be cheaper than us, but could they afford it? Well, in the short run iran can provide money and food and military supplies etc. All the things iraqis can’t provide for themselves until they get organised again. If iran controls the tap then iran has a whole lot of influence on shia iraq. But if we’re still there to give away goodies, iran doesn’t have nearly so much influence. We don’t even have to have soldiers doing it. Whatever we give to the iraqi government to give to their army or their public, is that much less the shias have to get from iran and that much less iranian influence.

    Similarly, suppose we could supply sunnistan though jordan. The jordanians would probably like it. The more sunni needs we supply, the less dependent they are on syria or saudi arabia. We could help both sides be independent, if that’s worth doing. Then they make an agreement and become a unified iraq, or they stay split up. Either way we have an in with both of them, and their neighbors have less influence than they would otherwise. This costs but rather less than $120 billion a year.

    That wouldn’t stop the ethnic cleansing, but then the ethnic cleansing is going pretty fast already. If we’re actually slowing it down much that means it would probably be *over* by now if we weren’t there.

  84. “Do you really expect people to believe in made-up crap like this, Zionist? “Feelers”? That justifies an invasion, the killing of tens if not hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, and the expenditure of $12 BILLION DOLLARS of US TAXPAYER MONEY PER WEEK? Nice to get America to fight and fund your wars for you I guess. To you, I imagine they’re all dirty arab pigs that threaten the great Jewish state, so what’s a few lies between the like-minded when your homeland is at stake? Is that it?”

    Marshalls! Clean-up needed on Aisle 10.

    “Unbelievable. Next time I’ll be at that bar as well, Yehudit. You I’d like to meet.”

    Given your comments here, I consider that a threat and will respond accordingly if you make the slightest move towards implementing it.

    Eventually, the mask comes off. It always does.

  85. “I know this is going to sound ridiculous to you, but I believe the single thing that’s doing the most to restrain civil war is that a whole lot of sunnis and shias both believe that the incidents are getting sparked by zionists who want them to kill each other. ”

    They only think that because Capotal C tells them so……

  86. Does anybody here think there is a real possibility that in future the the unitary Muslim state of Iraq would not desire slaughter and expulsion for the Jews of Israel? Or does anybody here think there is a real possibility that it would not support jihad organizations such as Hezbollah?

    So why are we trying to build up a pro-jihad enemy state? It makes no sense.

    Is there any good thing that the West has to offer that is not in London? In London, there is freedom and democracy in mature and generous fullness. (And if you like monarchy, that too!) There are good traditions. There is law. There is admirable culture. There is prosperity for the earning of it, and security of property. (Give or take recent undesirable “reforms” and over-softness to criminals.) Every good thing that we are trying to give Muslims in Iraq, on the assumption that if only they could get these things they would love them as we do and become our friends, belongs to Muslims in London, and they remain our blood enemies.

    So why are we still trying to put expensive gifts into the hands of those who drop them or dash them to the ground, and who even if they could be persuaded to take and keep the very best made-in-London gifts would still be our blood enemies?

    What we are trying to do is crazy. We should stop it.

  87. It has proven impossible to contact Capotal C off list, after repeated requests. In view of this and other facts, I’ll be polling the assembled Marshal wisdom to see what measures ought to be taken.

    Nort, acting in formal capacity

  88. #87 from Yehudit:

    “I know this is going to sound ridiculous to you, but I believe the single thing that’s doing the most to restrain civil war is that a whole lot of sunnis and shias both believe that the incidents are getting sparked by zionists who want them to kill each other. ”

    They only think that because Capotal C tells them so…..

    I’m sorry, but that’s not so.

    They believe things like that (I don’t know about this exact story) because they are inclined to – and they’ll punish as much for the suspicion as for the fact.

    Which is a reason why we will no more make peace with Islam by trusting Muslims than Othello could make a true friend of Iago by trusting him.

  89. #80 Yehudit:

    You need to put a period (a “dot”) immediately after the bq .

    I usually also mark the blockquote off with an “italics” pair: open-angle i close-angle ….text…. open-angle slash i close-angle

  90. Of course you consider it a threat, Yehudit…you’ve demonstrated a mindset that is incapable of thinking otherwise. So thanks for the bald display of paranoia that underlies your entire presence here. Making up threats and reacting like the tough guys is your entire and complete, and effete, game.

  91. That was too long. I’ll try to say it short.

    1. We probably don’t have the troops to keep large numbers in iraq. We’ll have a drawdown whether we want to or not. A partial drawdown could be disastrous.

    2. A drawdown is OK if the remaining troops stay reasonably close to the borders and mostly do things like training and supply. Then it doesn’t matter whether they’re there or not, except they can probably do those jobs more efficiently than iraqis can. But that doesn’t leave us in control. It doesn’t leave us looking like we plan to win someday.

    3. Iraqi ethnic cleansing is going very quickly despite everything we do to stop it. We aren’t very effective at stopping it. By the time we move out (December 2007 at the very earliest, more likely June 2008 or September/October 2008) it will probably be mostly complete. Or maybe they’ll quit doing it, that would be nice. Not much our army can do to stop them, stay or leave.

    4. After the ethnic cleansing, will they have a conventional war? Maybe. Likely not. It looks to me like the weapons they have give too much advantage to the defense. I could be wrong.

    5. With or without leaving some troops in iraq, we could influence sunnis or shias or both by giving them various supplies. Shias through kuwait or the ports. Sunnis through jordan or possibly saudi arabia. We can’t control them that way because they could get stuff from others too. But nobody else can control them while they can get stuff from us too. Independent shias and sunnis would do whatever they wanted, uncontrolled by neighboring states. Far cheaper for us than keeping our army in iraq but maybe more than we’d want to pay.

    6. I didn’t mention the kurds. I don’t know what we can do for them. They’re landlocked, surrounded by enemies. iraq to the south, iran to the east, turkey to the north, syria to the west. Unless we get a deal with iraqis to let us supply kurdistan they’re fubar. Unless they can persuade the turks to leave them alone, or win without supplies. Maybe something will turn up. Maybe one of their enemies will be friendlier than usual. I hate for us to betray the kurds again, but I don’t see a good choice. Maybe we can make a deal with the iraqis or something. If they think of kurdistan as separate, iraq turns into the only neighbor that doesn’t have a disgruntled kurdish subject race. So they can afford to be friendlier than anybody else, maybe. Maybe something will come up.

  92. “I know this is going to sound ridiculous to you, but I believe the single thing that’s doing the most to restrain civil war is that a whole lot of sunnis and shias both believe that the incidents are getting sparked by zionists who want them to kill each other. ”

    They believe things like that (I don’t know about this exact story) because they are inclined to – and they’ll punish as much for the suspicion as for the fact.

    But see, David Blue, they aren’t in a position to punish zionist saboteurs for it. And their belief is helping to restrain civil war. Since holding back a civil war is one of our main remaining purposes in being in iraq, this belief is a *good* thing, right?

  93. Does anybody here think there is a real possibility that in future the the unitary Muslim state of Iraq would not desire slaughter and expulsion for the Jews of Israel? Or does anybody here think there is a real possibility that it would not support jihad organizations such as Hezbollah?

    Sure! All we need is to arrange a fair settlement between israelis and palestinians, and an easy settlement with syria, and what will iraq do? They won’t have a lot of excuse and they’ll have syrians, jordanians, and palestinians (not to mention egyptians and saudis) telling them to lay off if they do try something.

    So why are we trying to build up a pro-jihad enemy state? It makes no sense.

    Our rationale for the war has always been pretty confused. I can’t blame you for being confused about it too.

  94. “If we win in iraq that will enrage them. If we get driven back it will reduce their sense of urgency. That doesn’t say we should avoid a win if we can get one, but it refutes the argument that any retreat will have horrendous consequences because of what it makes terrorists think.”

    AQ & Co. are functionally bullies. That is their psychology. This is exactly the opposite of how bullies behave. If you retreat they are emboldened. You are arguing that the way to defeat bullies is to do whatever they say.

    Bush is the same sort of bully, so I can understand that you’d understand them. Now, what gives Bush and OBL power is that people choose to follow them. Americans scared spitless of terrorists are what gives Bush much of his power. He can gut the Constitution and they don’t care because they’re so scared. What would happen if the terrorists started looking very very weak? Like, imagine that muslims everywhere decided that terrorism was bad and they started turning in known terrorists to sharia courts that had them stoned etc. Bush’s power would dwindle.

    Similarly, AQ gets power — money and volunteers — partly because so many muslims are afraid of Bush. That isn’t the only reason but it’s a big one. If the USA looked like we weren’t an immediate threat, a lot of AQ’s support would dwindle. They would of course look for other causes, and they’d surely find some. Corrupt despotic muslim governments, for example, that stifle any overt reform but can’t catch groups as secretive as AQ. To our advantage to get reforms in, so AQ wouldn’t be the main good guys there.

    If we can reduce the causes that get regular people to support AQ, then it won’t matter whether OBL is a bully or not. He’ll be too weak to do much.

    It helped the saudis a lot when we got the visible troops out of saudi arabia. AQ didn’t drive us out, the saudi public didn’t want us there and the saudi government asked us to go and we left. If we had stayed because OBL told us to go, we might be fighting in saudi arabia now. Sometimes the idea that you have to do the opposite of whatever your enemy tells you to do, is plain stupid. If you can depend on your enemy to follow it, then you’re all set.

    “Hey you! Don’t surrender to me today! You hear me? Don’t you dare surrender!”

    “You think you can get away with telling me what to do? I surrender right this minute!”

  95. bq. Sure! All we need is to arrange a fair settlement between israelis and palestinians, and an easy settlement with syria, and what will iraq do? They won’t have a lot of excuse and they’ll have syrians, jordanians, and palestinians (not to mention egyptians and saudis) telling them to lay off if they do try something.

    Sure! That’s all we have to do! Let’s ignore the fact that it is not in the interest of the Arab world for there to be any settlement of the Palestinian problem, because then they would have to accept Israel’s right to exist, and without a scapegoat their citizens would have more attention for the failings of their rulers. And after a generation of propaganda about the evil Joooooos, if they did make peace with Israel their populations would feel very betrayed and would replace them by coup. Not to mention a host of UN functionaries would be out of a job and an entire UN bureaucracy would have no reason to continue.

    Settlement of the Palestinian problem is the end result of changes in the region, not the condition for anything else.

    Actually, someone recently made the case to me that Israel ought to call the Palestinian’s bluff in the West Bank like she did in Gaza. Just draw a border which lets Palestine be a big lump in the middle of the West Bank without any checkpoints or squiggles. No negotiations, just do it. Even if it gets taken over by Hamas, there is now some clarity about who is responsible for what.

    But what would be “an easy settlement with syria”? That it gets to absorb Lebanon? That it gets to continue to be Iran’s conduit to Hezbollah and Hamas? Since they and Syria are tools of Iran’s imperialist ambitions, they won’t dry up and fly away once there is an independent Palestine.

  96. #80, #90:

    Or, you could just use real html, where you write <blockquote> the quote </blockquote> to get

    the quote

  97. bq. What would happen if the terrorists started looking very very weak? Like, imagine that muslims everywhere decided that terrorism was bad and they started turning in known terrorists to sharia courts that had them stoned etc. Bush’s power would dwindle.

    That’s what we did in in Anbar. That’s what the surge is doing. I know you think Bush is equivalent to Osama (which severely undermines your credibility) but actually that’s what Bush wants. And he hasn’t gutted the Constitution. Geez….

    BTW not every sharia court is going to agree that terrorists are bad. (i.e the Taliban.)

    As someone pointed out, Muslims have it pretty good in many countries and some of them turn into jihadis anyway. Jihadism is a power trip. It’s like the mafia. There have always been outlaw gangs and sometimes they have had a rationale for their power trip and sometimes not. Even political revolutionaries, if they operate by creating strongmen and police states, it is about power, just cloaked in ideology. But they need foot soldiers, and the main divide in this debate is between those who think we are making more terrorists and those who think we are removing some of their incentives. So let’s look at some other possible factors:

    Where are the foot soldiers coming from? You can make a good case that this is a combination of demographics and culture – the foot soldiers are young single men who can’t get laid. (scroll down) In fact, someone did an experiment based on this theory and it worked. I can’t find the link right now, but I think it was in the Atlantic. This guy found wives for 4-5 low-level Palestinian terrorists of the 1970s, and they settled down and had kids and got jobs.

    Some think that terrorism is dying down because it just isn’t hip anymore. Rage Boy is an object of ridicule.

    I agree about the Saudis and us leaving there. Actually the Saudis play a double game. They help us catch AQ because they are afraid of AQ overthrowing their monarchy. Then they fund more terrorists to harass us. The princes are just trying to stay in power and are in reactive mode. People criticize Bush for accomodating them, but I don’t see any alternative right now.

  98. J Thomas, i was looking forward to answering your thread, but then you had to go and claim Bush is no different than OBL on the bully front. In another thread you’ve already accused our military leaders of being gutless puppets willing to lie to Congress and the American people, and our military itself of being willing to dispose of the elected Iraqi government and god knows what else. Your sophist views just arent open to debate.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not their own set of facts. I suggest you research some- starting with how US troops have disarmed, arrested, and kept Shiia death squads off the streets, as well as reintegrating many neighborhoods. You also have no clue what you are talking about in how many mixed areas there are (still) in Iraq. Baghdad itself is a giant mixed enclave. You seem to be ok for either the Sunni or the Shiia to take it and everything will be peachy. Thats not even worth debunking.

    I advise you to grow up, figure out who the people are chopping the heads off children and who is building hospitals and schools, and basically get a clue. You obviously believe the things you beleive because they are convenient to your argument. Enough (probably too much) said. Look to our friend mark for a way to express honest and intelligent opposition without looking like a total partisan lunatic.

  99. Your sophist views just arent open to debate.

    I hope our hosts will extend the same invitation to you that they did to Capotal C when he simply derided others’ ideas without attempting to address them.

  100. That’s what we did in in Anbar.

    Exactly! AQM was hard to live with, but sunnis felt like they needed all the help they could get. We offered truce or better to some non-AQM sunnis who could then afford to throw out AQM from their areas. And they did it quite promptly.

    So my guess is if the shias can give the sunnis generally a political deal they can live with, then AQM is going to evaporate, fast. Mostly, sunnis only put up with them while they’re threatened with something *worse*.

  101. Let’s ignore the fact that it is not in the interest of the Arab world for there to be any settlement of the Palestinian problem,

    Yes, let’s. Palestinians and israelis can work that out regardless of what the arab world thinks. If palestinians get an agreement and announce it’s fair, the arab world can object all it wants to in favor of the poor persecuted palestinians….

    And after a generation of propaganda about the evil Joooooos, if they did make peace with Israel their populations would feel very betrayed and would replace them by coup.

    Get an agreement the palestinian voters and israeli voters agree is fair, and who else gets to complain?

    Not to mention a host of UN functionaries would be out of a job and an entire UN bureaucracy would have no reason to continue.

    Too bad for them. They can’t prevent an agreement unless israelis and palestinians listen to them. The UN can find something else for them to do.

    But what would be “an easy settlement with syria”?

    Probably, return of the entire Golan, with a big demilitarised zone (and — why not — a demilitarised zone in militarily-worthless lowland northern israel). Israeli settlers can remain if they’re willing to be syrian citizens. Give Shabaa farms to syria or lebanon, let them decide which. If they can’t agree give it to the UN. Syria agrees to peace, trade negotiations. Arrangements for israeli tourists in syria. Etc.

    That it gets to absorb Lebanon?

    No, that isn’t on the table. If the lebanese government applies to join their nation to syria, then it’s between lebanon and syria.

    That it gets to continue to be Iran’s conduit to Hezbollah and Hamas?

    Why not? To get this far Hamas will have agreed to peace. So, imagine israel is at peace with all close neighbors but hisbullah. Hezballah’s official goals are getting rid of western colonialism in lebanon, justice for those who did atrocities in the lebanese civil war, and establishing an islamic state in lebanon. They’ve put the last aside as utterly impractical for the foreseeable future, and they’ve taken up providing social services and good government. They’re lebanese. They haven’t lost anything in israel. Make those last tiny border adjustments and stop the sonic booms and what do they have to complain about israel for?

    Say they make a raid and israel complains to the lebanese government and waits for a response before attacking. They don’t look so good then. They aren’t defending lebanon from the evil israelis, they’re attacking israel for no good reason. I can’t promise hisbollah would settle down but given peace with everybody else and not much israeli provocation, there’s a good chance they would. They want the israeli military to stay out of lebanon. And if they stay out of israel, what’s the harm in doing that? Who cares what iran ships to hesbollah, if they don’t use it?

    Since they and Syria are tools of Iran’s imperialist ambitions, they won’t dry up and fly away once there is an independent Palestine.

    Umm. They and syria see israel as a strong and implacable enemy. They need iran to help them survive — with a sufficient deterrent maybe israel won’t attack. Give them peace, and why should they be iran’s tools?

    There’s only one hard step here. The first one. A fair settlement with palestinians. Eerything else would be easy if you could get that one. Too bad that’s so hard.

  102. #101, and everyone:

    I encourage you to check the “comments policy”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/003367.php , which might be coming up for review soon. Administering the policy involves a dance of several heuristics, executed by fallible humans (is there any other kind?). Read the whole thing, please.

    Civility is, if I recall correctly, a part of Item Number 5.

    We don’t Marshal on a hair trigger here. First thing we do, when an Item Number 5 issue comes up, is ask people to play nice. Or nicer, when their manners seem to be slipping. Ideally, we’d do it off list. There are practical problems with that.

    I’ll go on record: you guys could be playing nicer, and I wish you would. Namecalling (even re: reasoning) is cheap.

    However: calling someone’s reasoning sophistry, or even sophomoric, while it might be impolitic, is not the same as questioning someone’s sanity — and the spectrum of incivility doesn’t end there.

    By the way, “[y]our…views [not being] open to debate” is a sand-throwing rhetorical trick. I’d call him on that if I were you. As for sophistry qua sophistry, it’s a claim like any other, and he seems to have simply said it bare, not detailing anything.

    Let me say what I’ve said elsewhere — we don’t enforce “fairness” and as far as I can tell, never have. We try to remind people that snark isn’t valuable, and we draw several sorts of lines.

    We also integrate over time. If a poster persists in comments of low overall value, eventually the gauge reads “E”. This determination is not necessarily objective. Bummer.

    If you have a desire to communicate with a Marshal, the most timely way of doing so is to send email using the mailto: link available in the right hand margin. Currently the most active Marshals appear to be AL and myself.

    And in case it isn’t obvious, talking about what the Marshal(s) ought to to on list can contribute to thread derailment. Thread derailment is something we seek to limit.

    “Ain’t nothin’ simple.”

  103. Oboy. Where do I start? If you want to understand the players in the region this is a good guide. You are assigning these players motives based on your own sense of rationality. That is not who they are.

    bq. Palestinians and israelis can work that out regardless of what the arab world thinks. If palestinians get an agreement and announce it’s fair, the arab world can object all it wants to in favor of the poor persecuted palestinians….

    If there arises a Palestinian government which actually wants a functioning civil state, that could happen. if that government could acquire a monopoly of force so that it isn’t destabilized by gangs like Hamas and Hezbollah and Fatah. Now. If you don’t think such is possible in Iraq why do you think it is possible in Palestinian Territories? It hasn’t happened yet in spite of mountains of cash, UN advisors, and successive installed leaders.

    it is in the interest of Iran and Saudi that this doesn’t happen, therefore they will continue to encourage the gangs. Just like they are doing in Iraq.

    Look at the last 20 years of Palestinian politics. Who is Israel supposed to negotiate with? Israel has been trying to do that – there’s no there there. How many times has Abbas been propped up? How much arms and cash have been given to Fatah and Hamas and the PLO year after year? what do they do with it?

    bq. Probably, return of the entire Golan, with a big demilitarised zone (and — why not — a demilitarised zone in militarily-worthless lowland northern israel).

    So Israel can’t defend itself if Syria decides to renege?

    Israel would be insane to give a militarily strategic mountaintop to one of its most hostile neighbors. Israel may have bad leaders right now but that dumb they ain’t.

    bq. Israeli settlers can remain if they’re willing to be syrian citizens.

    “Settlers”? Israelis living in the Golan are “settlers”? That’s a new one.

    Syrian Jews can tell you all about being Syrian citizens. There are very few of them left in Syria. Syria is a nasty police state. You have no understanding of who these people are or what they want.

    bq. Give Shabaa farms to syria or lebanon, let them decide which. If they can’t agree give it to the UN. Syria agrees to peace, trade negotiations. Arrangements for israeli tourists in syria. Etc.

    Since Syria has been trying to take over Lebanon for some years, there isn’t any universe in which Syria and Lebanon have any meaningful dialogue about anything. “Give it to the UN.” Which means what? How does the UN hold territory? They can’t even patrol their little swath of southern Lebanon without getting kidnapped, killed, co-opted.

    bq. to get this far Hamas will have agreed to peace.

    Well there goes your whole argument. Hamas is a terrorist gang. It’s a mafia. Why would it “agree to peace”? Peace is not what it does. This is like asking a hyena to become a vegetarian.

    Look I’m not trying to rain on your parade just for the hell of it. I’m the one still carrying a torch for a civil society in Iraq. I’m the one who doesn’t want us to give up there. But the Iraqis have made more of an effort to create a civil society in 5 years than the Palestinians have in 20. Syria and Saudi have made none at all. Egypt has made very little. Syria tries to destabilize Lebanon’s democracy.

    Apply your assumptions of rationality and innocence to the Iraqis, they’ve earned it much more than the people you want to give it to.

  104. Yes, there is a problem about how America will be seen by the world, and what sort of mess will be left behind, if America pulls out of Iraq now.

    There is an answer to this problem. Pull out, as soon as possible, leaving dust, ashes and rubble behind – no buildings, no crops, no irrigation ditches, basically none of the works of civilisation. And let it be known that any Moslem country that allows itself, in the future, to be used as a base for terrorism affecting America or any other Western country will be left in a similar state. As for the population – well, let their brothers in Islam help them.

  105. bq. my guess is if the shias can give the sunnis generally a political deal they can live with, then AQM is going to evaporate, fast. Mostly, sunnis only put up with them while they’re threatened with something worse.

    Close. Also good follow-up comments here.

  106. Hey, now, what’s this “can’t wait” stuff? Personally, I can wait till Hell freezes over for OBL to have the opportunity to crow about a withdrawal.

    I think you might have chosen a more suitable rhetorical device, there!

  107. Nortius: i’ve got to call out ‘fighting words’ on this one. I think i outlined the instances where J Thomas’s rhetoric veered off into what I consider beyond the pale. Comparing George Bush (or anyone in our government) to Bin Ladin in a serious manner is intentionally provocative, and considering it is US soldiers that carry out Bush’s policies its hard to seperate such a charge from the actions of our troops. Im not saying its in violation of the letter or spirit of the rules here, but I don’t apologize for being dismissive of that kind of talks.

    If claiming our President who has freed 20 million people from a brutal dictator and staked his presidency on bringing them security and self-government is equivalent to a terrorist who encourages the targetting and slaughter of civilians as the _first_ resort isnt sophistry, i may not understand the term. Lest we forget, we are at war with this man and his movement. I won’t apologize for being outraged by such a statement, or for pointing out how offhanded and glibbly it was introduced. If there is a contemporary equivalent of Godwin’s law, i would imagine comparing someone to OBL would foot the bill.

  108. There are so many false premises in AL’s reasoning it is breathtaking.

    First, AL condemns the NY Times for calling for “surrender” and “genocide” in Iraq. The “surrender” part is purely emotional rhetoric; it has no meaning whatsoever except what one attaches to it. Apparently, AL is deeply concerned that someone, somewhere might think the US has ‘surrendered’ in Iraq and, well, this is somehow bad for some unknown reason. And I bet LeBron James worries that somewhere there’s a basketball fan who thinks James’ game is weak.

    The “genocide” charge is also flawed. After all, what is presently happening in Iraq is a genocide. Up to 2 million Iraqis have fled the country and close to a million have lost their lives. Will the bloodshed continue if we leave? Sure. But it is the argument that we should contribute American lives to the violence that will exist with or without us that is absurd.

    In subsequent comments, AL pulls out most of the old arguments. He continues to bring up the AQ boogeyman. In fact, AQ’s presence in Iraq is very minor. In what is perhaps the only bright spot of this quagmire, various insurgent groups seem to be as eager to kill AQ types as they do to drive out American occupiers.

    We’re treated to the image that if we pull out of Iraq, US cities get nuked. This is, almost, completely backward. The fact the US continues to destabilize that entire region of the world, through our presence in Iraq, does nothing to make us safer–it probably makes us less safe for a variety of reasons. One, we’re devoting a lot of resources that could be better utilized to actually pursue and bring down real terrorists. Two, we’ve squandered away much of our credibility in the world; credibility which is a component of national security. Three, by destabilizing the ME , we’re almost asking for a miscaculation of enormous proportions to be triggered via Israel and its neighbors. Four, Iraq is recruiting tool for those groups who would harm us.

  109. Comparing George Bush (or anyone in our government) to Bin Ladin in a serious manner is intentionally provocative, and considering it is US soldiers that carry out Bush’s policies its hard to seperate such a charge from the actions of our troops.

    Mark B, you are doing illogical symbolism.

    I compared Bush to OBL in one particular aspect, one in which they are comparable. I did not at all imply there were no differences between them.

    So, suppose that OBL was bald, and that Cheney was bald, and I said they were both bald. Would that comparison be offensive? Would it in any way imply that the troops are bald? Sheesh.

    I can imagine you might take offense if I said that Bush intentionally created 9/11. Or that Bush and OBL created 9/11 together. You might project onto Bush attitudes of patriotism and kindness that would leave you feeling like he’d never do such a thing, and so you’d be offended at the thought that he might. But even in that case, it’a a giant leap from “Bush did 9/11″ to “The troops did 9/11″. You’re making a leap there that simply does not make sense.

    So, we were comparing Bush and OBL about their bullying behavior. If it was worth it, we could compare examples of Bush acting like a bully versus examples of Bush acting with kindness and chivalry and fair dealing, and perhaps reach some sort of respect for each other’s attitudes. I tend to think it isn’t worth it — Bush is the ultimate lame duck and he isn’t running for any office, ever again, and I can agree to disagree on this minor point. But you’re talking like you think everybody should agree that you’re right and I’m a no-goodnik just because you say you’re offended.

    If you’re willing to drop it, I’ll drop it. If you take it to email I’ll leave it there. If you defame me in offtopic comments I might possibly respond again.

  110. #109 mark Buehner:

    I never asked you to apologize. As for “fightin’ words”, if you kids don’t quiet down, the car is eventually going to pull over and I’m not the driver, AL is.

    Everybody:

    I think I talk too much. I think I’m not paying the right sort of attention.

    I think I’ve asked people to contact Marshals offlist too many times, to too little effect. I have mentioned how to do so. I’m sorry if the site design or human nature make it too hard to bother doing so. If it were easier, I’m not sure that would improve anything.

    I am taking a hiatus to write out my thoughts about my experiences here and organize them in some fashion. That work might or might not turn into a WoC entry.

    If you squawk on-list about Marshals, for at least the next week, I will not be answering it.

    Sorry about that.

    This is not a plea for attention or support; I just think you should know why you’ll be getting silence from me on-list. On-list discussions of Marshal policy are not what this blog is intended to foster. Get it? Good.

    Auf toodles,

    Nort

  111. Yehudit — let’s look at our immediate history.

    David Blue said
    bq. Does anybody here think there is a real possibility that in future the the unitary Muslim state of Iraq would not desire slaughter and expulsion for the Jews of Israel?

    I believe his implication here was that zionists should oppose real democracy for iraq, but should instead encourage them to kill each other off as much as possible. That is, he advocates precisely what many iraqis believe zionists are doing in iraq now, trying to start up the very same civil war that US troops are trying to stop.

    I responded
    bq. Sure! All we need is to arrange a fair settlement between israelis and palestinians, and an easy settlement with syria, and what will iraq do?

    I still think this is so, the caveat is in that “All we need” which might give the impression I think that would be trivial. There’s currently no possibility that israel would agree to a fair settlement, and they have reason — a fair settlement would put them at risk to people who are currently very angry at them. But the issue here isn’t iraq. Make peace with palestinians (very hard)and it isn’t iraq’s fight.

    If there was a real peace, iraqis mostly would have no further grievance — the way if there was a real peace americans wouldn’t have a grievance with palestinians. We get upset about suicide bombers because we care about israeli suffering. Make it right and we’d let that issue go pretty easily.

    You responded that peace for israel would be very hard. World muslims and foreign arabs don’t want it. UN bureaucrats don’t want it. And you don’t see how to get peace with syria.

    I replied that only the first step, peace with palestinians is hard. If you can do that, everything else falls into place. That step is *hard*. It’s risky. It goes like this: If you let palestinians have an economy, they can use their economy to make bombs to attack you with. The only safe path is to let them have nothing. If all they have is rocks then they can throw rocks at you, nothing more. Any power they get is power they can use to hurt you. So any fair settlement is risky, and it costs. The less you let palestinians have, the more is left for israelis, and the harder it is for palestinians to attack israelis. This is a *powerful* argument against peace.

    Even if israel was ready to offer a fair peace, there’s no guarantee palestinians would be ready to accept it. They might prefer to have nothing but rocks to throw. They might want to take the offer and then use their power to attack israelis, knowing they’d lose everything again. They might not get unified enough to make a deal.

    Never mind about the arab world or the UN bureaucrats or iran. It would be very hard for israel to agree to a fair peace. And who knows about palestinians. Would Hamas agree? You could argue they wouldn’t, but they have free will too. I don’t know and you don’t know either.

    If that one issue got settled the others all turn easy. Like, syria wants the golan back. You say it’s stupid to give it back because they can attack from it. But could syria make an *effective* attack? If syria had the golan back could they win a war? No. They’re straining to improve their economy and not be so poor, and if they started a war israel would bomb away their economy — like lebanon but worse, nobody wants to invest in syria — and for what? Not to get the golan back, which was why they attacked last time. Not to rescue the peaceful palestinians. Syria does a lot better with a real peace. Syria loses badly with a real war. But israel loses if syria has the golan is if it’s a phony war, where syria sends shells or rockets from the high places down into northern rural israel, and israel bombs places in syria, golan and otherwise, and it just drearily goes on that way. Bad for syria and bad for israel. And syria would want that because … because iran is in control and iran would make them?

    No. If syria could get peace then syria wouldn’t need iran. Peace. No US sanctions. Trade agreements. They can keep an army to stop an invasion from turkey or iraq and cut military costs. Why would they choose an unwinnable war instead? Well, if israel did give back the whole golan they’d risk the chance that syria would be stupid, and would require israel to do something innovative to win again. That’s the chance you take when you choose peace.

    Hisbollah wants an independent lebanon. Stay out of lebanon and chances are they don’t attack. But you need to attack lebanon because there are palestinians there, and hizbollah, and syrians want the chance to attack from lebanon or defend in lebanon. Make peace with palestinians and syrians and stay out of lebanon, and there’s a real strong chance hizbollah won’t want to start another unwinnable war. Of course they have free will.

    Iran? Iran wants to help shias, right? Shias in lebanon already get their fair share of political power. They don’t start fights with lebanese except the odd political assassination like everybody else does. If israel isn’t a threat, what excuse do they have to arm? Convince them you’ll stay out of lebanon and they can pack up their missiles and sell them to someplace people want them enough to pay for them.

    Back to the original point. Iraq isn’t really important for israel. Solve the real issues and iraq won’t be a problem. It isn’t necessary or even useful for zionists to work against the USA in iraq, as David Blue advocates.

  112. J Thomas,

    In your most recent, you state that you want to look at recent history, but your description of the Israel/Palestinian situation reads as though you actually have not been paying any attention to recent history.

    As an example, you state

    Even if israel was ready to offer a fair peace, there’s no guarantee palestinians would be ready to accept it. They might prefer to have nothing but rocks to throw. They might want to take the offer and then use their power to attack israelis, knowing they’d lose everything again. They might not get unified enough to make a deal.

    This reads as if you were unaware of past diplomatic efforts, unaware of the fact that Hamas has dominated in Palestinian electoral politics and that Hamas explicitly rejects even beginning on the path you describe. This kind of commentary that seems to float detached from past and current reality does not really lend credibility to the idea that you have any idea how to address the situation.

  113. For the record, i regret disrupting this thread, much less bestirring Nortius who i think does yeomans work keeping the car on the road. Particularly since i think there has been some oustanding discussion in this thread. Whatever issues i have with J’s characterizations notwithstanding.

    And back to your regularly scheduled argument-
    If any more reporting is useful, in Michael Yon’s latest “dispatch”:http://michaelyon-online.com/wp/al-qaeda-on-the-run-feasting-on-the-moveable-beast.htm he interviews a leader of the Sunni 1920s revolution brigade that was heretofor allied with Al Qaeda and fighting the US. Now they are fighting against AQ and allied with the US. I found this to be important:

    _Ali thought for a moment as some local people tried to interrupt him with greetings, and he said, “I ask one thing,” and now I paraphrase Ali’s words: “After the Iraqi Army and Police take hold and the security forces are ready, we want a schedule for the leaving of the American forces.”_

    There are so many interesting things in this statement. First, the concession that the IA and IP will be welcomed and control the district. This is hugely important. Second the consession that American troops can be tolerated not just through the battles, but for a negotiable period afterwords (in other words the guns dont instantly swing back at each other once AQ is defeated and chased away). Thirdly the necessity for a VALID drawdown plan that is understandable by everyone involved. Yes, a timetable.

    But not one built on arbitrary dates, one built on metrics (like many of us have been saying). This has long been a Sunni demand (a reasonable one) and has long been fudged by the Bush administration. If we had a very public, very transparent metric driven timetable it would help a lot of ills, in Iraq but also here. Its the openendedness of our current strategy that bothers a lot of people I think. If every time the opposition started screaming about pulling our troops out Bush could tap his chart and point to where we are in his ‘flowchart’, he’d have a much better position staked out. I still fail to understand why this hasnt become a reality.

  114. There are so many false premises in AL’s reasoning it is breathtaking.

    I’d call them unproven premises. Some of I’d hate to have to disprove.

    AL is deeply concerned that someone, somewhere might think the US has ‘surrendered’ in Iraq and, well, this is somehow bad for some unknown reason.

    Various people here have explained that at some length. It depends on assumptions about AQ’s mentality, and arab mentality, and rest-of-the-world mentality. I have very different opinions myself, but I’m not sure I can psychoanalyse AQ and arabs generally and the rest of the world all that much better than AL can. I can present arguments why I think I’m right and he’s wrong, but I have to admit they’re only reasonable arguments based on shaky assumptions.

    Will the bloodshed continue if we leave? Sure. But it is the argument that we should contribute American lives to the violence that will exist with or without us that is absurd.

    I can make the argument. In Xugoslavia it started with little groups of guerrillas causing trouble. But then it developed into armies that could actually hold territory. They shelled cities with real artillery, they made rape camps to demoralise the enemy’s women. Things they couldn’t have done if they had to stay in small groups that struck and ran and hid. So it’s *possible* that without us the civil war would expand into a bigger quicker ethnic cleansing. And with us there it stays slow. Terrorising the wrong sort of people one apartment building at a time.

    So there’s a chance the result without us is different. Which is better may depend on how pessimistic you are. If it’s inevitable they’re going to ethnic-cleanse until they’re living far enough apart from each other that they’re satisfied, then it may not help to do it slow. But then maybe we can actually help them past that, and they might decide to live together in peace.

    And maybe they can work things out for themselve better when we aren’t there to jog their elbows. When each politician definitely represents whichever militias back him, and the foreign USA doesn’t have all the trump cards, maybe they can actually make deals. I don’t know. When we pull out we’ll see. If they don’t hammer out a government that can mostly stop the fighting, I’ll be sad but I won’t be all that surprised. I’m pushing the possibility they do, because it’s the best chance I see. Not because I think it would inevitably work well.

    He continues to bring up the AQ boogeyman. In fact, AQ’s presence in Iraq is very minor.

    By the numbers AQ is minor. But AQ is one of the best red herrings to explain why we have to stay. And there could be something truly important about it, that we haven’t thought of.

    We’re treated to the image that if we pull out of Iraq, US cities get nuked. This is, almost, completely backward.

    I think the chance is very small either way, within the foreseeable future. For me the foreseeable future is — for lots of things — less than 5 years. I wish it was longer. If we lose a city 10 years from now and we’ve pulled out of iraq by then it will probably be very hard to tell whether it happened because we pulled out. And if we don’t pull out and 10 years from now we lose a city while the troops are still there, it will be very hard to tell whether it happened because we didn’t pull out.

    So I tend to look at the things that are easier to measure. The cost. The casualties. The PTSD.

    And against that I get to estimate how well we’re doing, when the real data is mostly secret and there’s a lot of disinformation. I don’t have to discount very much of the good news before it doesn’t look like it’s worth the known cost.

    But if I assumed we’re about to win, I’d hate to pull out now. I don’t see anything to base that assumption on, but what I’d need to base it on is secret. So there’s at least a chance they’re keeping the good news from us because if the bad guys heard about it, it would hurt the war effort. I can’t say that’s impossible.

  115. bq. In your most recent, you state that you want to look at recent history, but your description of the Israel/Palestinian situation reads as though you actually have not been paying any attention to recent history.

    Robin, I was talking about recent posting history here.

    That aside, what Hamas spokespersons say they’d do in a hypothetical case that they surely have no expectation of ever having to face, doesn’t tell us much about what they’d actually do.

    People generally aren’t very good at predicting what they’d do if things were very different.

  116. Mark B, back in #75, when I left computer-land for the day, you wrote:

    “And isnt it better to intercede where our interests do coincide, instead of NEVER, as the rest of the world genereally seems ok with?”

    and:

    “but this supposed idea that we have to be utterly consistant to dare to claim any act of morality is an empty bag. Mindless consistancy is the least of virtues.”

    in response to an earlier comment of mine. However, I wasn’t arguing that we need to be consistent or that we must stop all evil or none at all. The point I was making was that any claim that we are in Iraq on humanitarian grounds rings hollow. Humanitarian benefits, if any, are merely an unintended by-product of our actions. That’s fine. But it’s not why we are there. To illustrate this point, I brought up the example of Darfur.

    If you truly believe that preventing genocide is a sufficient reason to send US combat troops to Iraq then it ought to be sufficient reason to send them to Darfur, as well, or any where that there is a risk of genocide occurring. If not, then don’t use it as an argument to support the war in Iraq. It’s a disingenous argument.

  117. Mark B.,

    “If every time the opposition started screaming about pulling our troops out Bush could tap his chart and point to where we are in his ‘flowchart’, he’d have a much better position staked out.”

    To be fair to Bush, I think they did try that for a while. His version was “when they stand up, we’ll stand down.” This was accompanied by all manner of charts predicting when x number of brigades or divisions would be ready to “stand up.” But that was years ago and the metrics weren’t being met. So, I believe, they abandoned such rhetoric.

  118. If the debacle of Iraq has taught us anything, it is the limits of our power and that it should be used intelligently. The Neo Con delusion that we could invade Mesopotamia and start a series of democratic dominoes falling was just that a delusion.

    Here we are years later being told that we cannot abandoned this terribly wrong-headed policy and withdraw our troops or “lose” the war without inviting Armageddon.

    In business, you never make a deal that you can’t walk away from. If you do, you get killed financially. If you do the same thing in foreign relations, you just get killed, literally.

    Our problem is that the Neo-Cons and their ridiculous, naive view of the world, generally and the Middle East, in particular have gotten us in a position where we can’t stay and we can’t leave. Not good.

    I think we should accept that.

    What to do? Well, first, I think we should accept that we have unleashed a regional war. Its outbreak seems inevitable to me whether we stay or go. Our invasion of Iraq has re-Balkanized the area and all America’s horses and all America’s men won’t be able to put this Humpty Dumpty back together again. If this is the case, then our strategy should be built around how this New Middle East should be formed, not around losing or “winning” (which to my mind, no one has clearly defined)the War in Iraq.

    Continuing to play to win in Iraq is suicidal. How much energy will it take to hold Iraq together. Should our energies and our forces be spent in positioning ourselves better in the “new” Middle East which could wind up with a Shiastan in the south of Iraq and Khuzitan in Persia as a single state. An indpendent, Baluchistan in southern Pakistan and Iran?

    A ruthless divide and conquer strategy in a hopelessly divided region, followed by the setting up of client states seems to be the only logical path for us in the area. We will never be able to dictate our terms in the area unless we are willing to play by Hama rules.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hama_Massacre

    We must stop thinking of our leaving Iraq as a defeat, but rather see it as a strategic withdrawal. I don’t think it is a good idea to continually throw good money after bad.

    There is no doubt there will be terrible consequences in Iraq stemming from our withdrawal, but they will be trivial compared to what seems to be inevitable, a regional free for all with Turks, Kurds, Shia, Sunnis throughout the region, Iran the Gulf states, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Baluchistan and Al Queda in an all out free for all.

    We better be prepared for this one because it could come upon us literally overnight.

  119. _”The point I was making was that any claim that we are in Iraq on humanitarian grounds rings hollow. Humanitarian benefits, if any, are merely an unintended by-product of our actions. That’s fine. But it’s not why we are there. To illustrate this point, I brought up the example of Darfur.”_

    How often do you make a decision based on exactly one rational? Does that make all the others unintended by-products? What if you dont have 1 great reaons, but 3 or 4 really good ones?

    There is another huge difference. Darfur would force us to initiate a new action on our part, with all the unintended consequences indemic to that. However, what you are suggesting in Iraq is the opposite- for us to initiate a new action by abandonining the scene. IE, we are already there, the price has largely already been paid. The new action would be leaving. Its one thing to be at a crime scene and react to it, quite another to go looking for a crime to fight.

    _”If you truly believe that preventing genocide is a sufficient reason to send US combat troops to Iraq then it ought to be sufficient reason to send them to Darfur”_

    Its not a sufficient reason, by itself. But combined with our responsibilities we have to Iraq (break it, bought it), and our own security interests, the proponderance of the reasons adds up compellingly.

    _”But that was years ago and the metrics weren’t being met. So, I believe, they abandoned such rhetoric.”_

    I think you are right, and i think it was a deadly mistake. They probably did rely to heavily on numbers alone, and if you are missing your metrics (or going backwards) that shouldnt be viewed as a warning sign to ignore your metrics, it should be viewed as a danger sign that something is going terribly wrong in execution of your policy.

    All this seemed to happen in the 04-05 ‘sleepy’ period of this administration, but until Patreus arrived on the scene i never had much confidence that anyone in particular was taking any responsibility for getting these big picture things done. Thats ultimately Bushs fault, heck its directly his fault. If it seemed like nobody was behind the wheel that last couple of years, its because nobody was.

  120. Mark B.

    “How often do you make a decision based on exactly one rational? ” Fair enough.
    However, including that particular rationale still rings hollow in this particular instance because it is about the only instance it is being used. It therefore strikes me as false. Particularly coming from a president who once claimed that US forces should not be used for nation building and humanitarian missions, like peace keeping. I do realize that Bush feels that the stakes are so high in Iraq that he is willing to forgoe the pledge against nation building–that this is an exception…but any humanitarian aid we provide Iraq is purely out of the need to create a desired end for other purposes, and were it not for those other purposes, we would not be involved. It is hypocritcal to claim a humanitarian rationale when the humanitirian aspect is a convenient and helpful by-product of actions that would be taken in any case.

    I also feel that the very presence of US troops in Iraq is one of the main causes of the current chaos and violence and that if the goal is to prevent genocide, this is counter productive. International troops or muslim troops from another nation might be more effective–because less incendiary–in preventing civil war or genocide.

    In the meantime, I feel we are training troops for one side of civil war to come, once we leave….and I am convinced that we will leave someday….so there’s another reason why I think our presence is counterproductive.

    I also believe that we don’t have suffient resources available to create the desired end. We are trying to defeat an insurgency, stave off a civil war, and defeat an international fundamentalist movement that is breeding in the chaos of the first two situations.

    There is no sign of overall progress, but rather of constant, steady deterioration.

    It’s a terrible terrible shame that we are in this situation but we are going to have to leave this mess we created for the Iraqis to sort out among themsevles.

  121. #113 from J Thomas: “Yehudit — let’s look at our immediate history.

    David Blue said

    Does anybody here think there is a real possibility that in future the the unitary Muslim state of Iraq would not desire slaughter and expulsion for the Jews of Israel?

    I believe his implication here was that zionists should oppose real democracy for iraq, but should instead encourage them to kill each other off as much as possible. That is, he advocates precisely what many iraqis believe zionists are doing in iraq now, trying to start up the very same civil war that US troops are trying to stop.”

    You believe wrong. That is your invention, not my implication.

  122. _There is no sign of overall progress, but rather of constant, steady deterioration._

    That’s not true. There are a number of metrics on violence that have decreased this year or in the last three months. A number of them are listed in the Brookings Institute “summary”:http://www.brookings.edu/fp/saban/iraq/index.pdf (pdf) You might argue that there has been minimal or insufficient progress, but I don’t see the situation deteriorating. I see real progress in al-Anbar.

    Though I agree that this summarizes the situation and the question:

    bq. _I also believe that we don’t have suffient resources available to create the desired end. We are trying to defeat an insurgency, stave off a civil war, and defeat an international fundamentalist movement that is breeding in the chaos of the first two situations._

    Though I think the desired end, a relatively stable Iraq that is not governed by a dictator is achievable and feasible.

  123. PD, perhaps I should have been more clear, but I was talking about overall progress over the last 4 and half years…the fact that this year violence in some sectors has dipped from 3 months ago, only highlights how bad things have become….we’ve endured a nascent, small insurgency turning into a huge force that required an influx of US troops; the birth of deadly miliitias, the birth and growth of AQI, the breakdown & failure of all infrastructure projects and rebuilding efforts, complete impotence of the new gov’t that is riddled with corruption. This deterioration has been steady since the fall of Baghdad. Yes, there have been minor improvements from time to time or from place to place, but the overall trend has been downward. The very fact that more US troops are required 4 and half years later is indicative of a situation that has deteriorated over time, not one that has improved over time, regardless of individiual instances of improvement here and there.

    If things have improved in one province, they have deteriorated elsewhere. I think the average has been a steady decline overall.

  124. Since the question appears to be still on the table:

    bq. _Does anybody here think there is a real possibility that in future the the unitary Muslim state of Iraq would not desire slaughter and expulsion for the Jews of Israel?_

    Yes. A non-despotic state in which industry was awarded would have far less interest in terrorizing Israel. The Iraqis did not appear pleased that Saddam spent the national treasury and gave special privileges to the Palestinians. I can’t see any Iraqi government that is at all accountable to its citizens sending money abroad.

  125. _”I also feel that the very presence of US troops in Iraq is one of the main causes of the current chaos and violence and that if the goal is to prevent genocide, this is counter productive.”_

    This is clearly the point of our contention and i acknowledge there is no real way to prove it one way or another.

    But here’s a question I think sheds light on it: Why was it when US forces withdrew into enclaves and let the Iraqis try to run the show, the level of violence against civilians escalated while the attacks on Americans dropped? Furthermore, when the US went back to policing the neighborhoods, the civilian casualties dropped precipitously while US casualties rose? Isnt this one indication that in fact US troops _are_ preventing a great deal of violence against Iraqi civilians? If the US left altogether, would’nt the situation simply be an extrapolation of what happened in 05-06?

    If you were right- one would think Iraqis would have stopped attacking each other and concentrated on engulfing the US bases and wrecking our supply lines. But the opposite is what happened.

    _”International troops or muslim troops from another nation might be more effective–because less incendiary–in preventing civil war or genocide.”_

    Probably so, but nobody is offering. Moreover international forces have a dismal record of keeping peace when peace doesnt exist.

  126. _”Does anybody here think there is a real possibility that in future the the unitary Muslim state of Iraq would not desire slaughter and expulsion for the Jews of Israel?”_

    Not to be a wag, but there are plenty of people in the West that desire expulsion of Jews from Israel (if not slaughter) but most of them thankfully don’t engage in terrorism. There are midterms to grade after all ;)

  127. Mark B., whether US troops are in enclaves or patrolling the streets, they are still in Iraq. Granted individual soldiers and individual patrols might stop individual acts of violence. But in the larger picture, the entire destabilization of Iraq is a direct result of the US invasion and subsequent occupation that continues to this day, albiet one transparently “hidden” behind a proxy puppet gov’t.

    I’m not suggesting that the moment US troops leave, all the violence will magically stop. I am suggesting that the overall situation of violence is one that is created by US military involvement. I also realize that there are a great many paradoxical situations involved here. US troops ARE protecting Iraqis from violence, but from violence unleashed by their very presence.

    Look at this way. Just because a lot of Americans think the war in Iraq is justified, is no reason to expect that a lot of Iraqis and other Arabs and Muslims think it is justified. And if millions of them think it is unjustified, it is reasonable to expect that thousands of them might take up arms against what they see as an occupation and attempt to resist it.

    In addition, it is reasonable to assume that in the power vacuum left by the Americans there will be a struggle among various self-identified factions for power…especially given the particular history of animosity and cruelty on the part of some factions against others.

    Right now we are training a shiia army and a shiia gov’t that, when it attempts to rule over kurdish or sunni provinces, is going to encounter resistance and there will be a civil war. To think that we are going to set up a “unity” gov’t that will prevent this from happening is such naive pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking that it is hard for me to imagine anyone actually believes it.

  128. “I believe his implication here was that zionists should oppose real democracy for iraq, but should instead encourage them to kill each other off as much as possible. That is, he advocates precisely what many iraqis believe zionists are doing in iraq now, trying to start up the very same civil war that US troops are trying to stop.”

    David Blue said:

    You believe wrong. That is your invention, not my implication.

    Interesting.

    From your #81:

    bq. #66 from Mark Buehner: “What happens when the first half dozen Sunni bodies show up in a mixed neighborhood without the US there to at least hold machine guns and keep people indoors instead of kicking their neighbors doors in? Please describe your vision for how this plays out.”

    No non-Muslims are injured or killed, and no non-Muslim territories or other resources are lost or given to Islam: situation satisfactory.

    Alternately: red on red action follows: Bonus!

    It appears you’re saying it’s good when muslims kill muslims.

    bq. #69 from mark: “Furthermore, WHY should American troops be used to prevent a full scale civil war if they are the only thing preventing one?”

    We shouldn’t. Red on red attrition is our only chance. We must allow it.

    These are our enemies, and we need to be their enemies. They are not our friends. Their welfare is not our concern, except in a negative sense.

    You say we should “allow” full scale civil war because “Red on red attrition is our only chance”. That seems to imply that we shouldn’t want them to have a peaceful democracy, we should want them dead.

    Can you see how it would seem plausible that you would want us to encourage iraqi civil war rather than merely do nothing to discourage it? The difference between the two stands may be a subtle one in practice. In fact, if “red on red attrition is our only chance” then it would irresponsible *not* to ensure it reaches its full potential. Trusting to luck would be wrong.

    At any rate, it appears I misunderstood you. Would you like to repeat your claims more clearly?

  129. I see what you are saying, but I think there is a paradox built into your argument. You are saying that the US is the proximal cause of the violence, but that the violence is likely inevitable. That seems to me like 2 different diagnosis for the same disease.

    Ok, US invasion was the catalyst for the current situation, no question there. But that doesnt mean the US was the underlying ultimate cause. I think we would agree that the Saddam cause a million blood feuds, the original partitioning of Iraq was screwy, and for that matter Sunni-vs-Shiia conflict goes back hundreds of years.

    So its too much to claim anyone ’caused’ the current violence (which i think speaks to your second point, that the violence is inevitable and long in coming). The invasion unleashed those forces and the US has done some things (including just being there) that have fueled them (and others such as setting up the only free elections in Iraqi history that have mitigated things to at least a small degree). But those forces existed no matter, and Saddam and his idiot sons werent going to live forever.

    So back to the million dollar question: does the US presense cause more or prevent more violence? My example showed that without US force in place, Iraqis are much more violent to each other. Ok, so if it were possible for Iraqis to overcome these obstacles without US refereeing, why cant they do it _with_ US help? And if its not possible, doesnt that strongly suggest US forces are indeed reducing the overall level of violence, even accounting for the amount the US presense adds to the mix?

    I think whether the war was justified or not means FAR less to most Iraqis at this point than you are supposing. Foriegn Arabs are a different story, but they dont get a veto on Iraqs future (or we shouldnt let them anyway). I mean, is it really reasonable to think Iraqis are intentionally wiping each other out and turning their homes into wasteland to stick it to the US? I think that we have to seperate their internacine power struggle (which we can perhaps manage and help strike a settlement) from the foriegn jihadi attempts to screw over Iraq by any means necessary. Better yet, the current Anbar Awakening is providing evidence that we can use the Jihadi problem to mitigate the inter-Iraqi conflict. Isnt that an avenue worth exploring before we pull the plug on these people (and ourselves)?

  130. Mark B., I agree completely…or 95%…though I come to a different conclusion. I am not suggesting our presence creates the civil-war-situation, though, as you say, our actions unleashed the present version of it; but the insurgency….the attempt to drive US troops out, is certrainly the result of our presence…and, I believe, the same is true for whatever extent of foreign AQ involvement exists in Iraq. They are drawn there because the target is there.

    So, of the 3 major sources of violence, one is inevitable and two are the result of our presence. (Raw criminality, taking advantage of the chaos…kidnapping and so forth is a 4th and, like the civil war, is the result of our destroying the power structure but not replacing it with anything adequate)

    However, I don’t see any signs that we can do any better in solving any of this in the next 4 years than we have done in the past 4. Leadership continues to turn a blind eye to the extent of the problem…often to the point of denying a problem exists. They are victims of their own happy talk, actually behaving as if their claims have any truth.

    I am with those republican senators who are saying that enough is enough. There is zero progress on the political front. The iraqi gov’t is using us troops while they arm and train and prepare for the civil war. I think Bush is Maliki’s dupe. I think we are being scammed…sucked in…fooled. This is no unity gov’t and doesn’t want to be a unity gov’t. they feel they won an election..they are the majority…power goes to them…and as soon as they are ready, it’ll be no time to be a sunni in Iraq. Kurds will separate, sunnis will be marginalized and Iraq will become a client state of Iran . The only way to prevent this happening is basically to colonize Iraq for a generation and station 300,000+ troops there and run the place oursevles. But that’s not going to happen.

  131. How often do you make a decision based on exactly one rational? ” Fair enough.

    Thank you for backing down on that one. It wasn’t up to your usual standards.

    When you go to the grocery store do you go for the bread, or the milk, or the eggs, or the ice cream, or the beer? Obviously the beer, but if you only want beer you could get it at the 7-11.

    We’re in iraq for the oil, but you don’t come out and tell everybody the beer is the most important thing. We also wanted to destroy the iraqi army which was not a military threat to israel but was the closest thing to a military threat to israel in the area. And we wanted to make sure iraq couldn’t nuke israel. And we wanted a good place to invade iran from. Of course we wanted to get rid of Saddam. Saddam had tried to turn iraq into a US client state — he invaded iran for us, with our material help, but then we double-crossed him with iran/contra and he’d never trust us again so we had to replace him. And if iraq turned into a liberal israel-loving democracy that would be fine. Or if it turned into a desert where the surviving savages try to kill each other over enough water to irrigate a beanfield that would be fine too.

    _I also feel that the very presence of US troops in Iraq is one of the main causes of the current chaos and violence and that if the goal is to prevent genocide, this is counter productive._

    I agree. It would be good for us to provide more resources and more opportunities for US troops to learn arabic. It sounds like the relative shortage of arabic women is slowing that down a lot. Usually we learn a lot of language from “horizontal dictionaries” but apparently a lot less this time around. And there were various things we could have done to reduce the US-on-iraqi violence in the early days, but it’s too late on that now.

    _International troops or muslim troops from another nation might be more effective–because less incendiary–in preventing civil war or genocide._

    I dunno. Looking back it was worth the gamble, but at the time I was seeing the risks.

    It might have been very very good if we’d paid the egyption government for lots of english-speaking egyptian soldiers. (And pay the soldiers a lot by egyptian standards too, of course.) But say we’d let a lot of egyptian soldiers run around unsupervised. That might have turned out a lot worse than US troops. Get a lot of egyptian young men far from home, armed, no social constraints except what their officers provide…. We’ve had a few atrocities, rape-murders and such. Egyptians might have a lot more.

    I’m saying egyptians because I don’t see anybody else we’d come close to trusting. None of iraq’s next-door neighbors. Maybe indonesians? A long way from home.

    Our army did pretty well given they weren’t allowed to plan for the occupation ahead of time, and had to transition from war to occupation kind of ad hoc, and at all steps had to use double-speak and PC talk in case their words got leaked and then taken out of context. Plus they got saddled with the incompetent and corrupt CPA. Considering what they were up against, they did far better than we had any right to expect.

  132. #132 from Mark Buehner at 11:05 pm on Jul 11, 2007

    Good post, but take it a little further
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    Ok, US invasion was the catalyst for the current situation, no question there.
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    Agreed

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    But that doesnt mean the US was the underlying ultimate cause. I think we would agree that the Saddam cause a million blood feuds, the original partitioning of Iraq was screwy, and for that matter Sunni-vs-Shiia conflict goes back hundreds of years.
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    Agreed

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    So its too much to claim anyone ’caused’ the current violence (which i think speaks to your second point, that the violence is inevitable and long in coming). The invasion unleashed those forces and the US has done some things (including just being there) that have fueled them (and others such as setting up the only free elections in Iraqi history that have mitigated things to at least a small degree). But those forces existed no matter, and Saddam and his idiot sons werent going to live forever.
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    Agreed
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    So back to the million dollar question: does the US presense cause more or prevent more violence? My example showed that without US force in place, Iraqis are much more violent to each other. Ok, so if it were possible for Iraqis to overcome these obstacles without US refereeing, why cant they do it with US help? And if its not possible, doesnt that strongly suggest US forces are indeed reducing the overall level of violence, even accounting for the amount the US presense adds to the mix?
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    Up until now, I was with you, but this is not even close to the Million dollar question. That question is what the hell are we doing there? Have we sent 150,00 troops for a period of five years and spent untold billions of dollars to referee a domestic? Because this is what you are saying.

    Do you really think we should try to not only fix up our mistakes, but Saddam’s, the Brit’s, the Sunnis and the Shias, etc., et al ad nauseum? Do you really think that we can? this is pure hubris. Why are we the ones that are the dedicated Sisyphus in this gruesome farce that the Neo-Cons called a Foreign Policy?
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    I think whether the war was justified or not means FAR less to most Iraqis at this point than you are supposing.
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    Agreed. I think most would rather have a country where they could send their children to the store for tomatoes without the fear of their being blown to kingdom come.

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    Foriegn Arabs are a different story, but they dont get a veto on Iraqs future (or we shouldnt let them anyway).
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    From what I see the Iraqis will have no problems in dealing with the foreigners. They seem to make things pretty uncomfortable for occupiers.

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    I mean, is it really reasonable to think Iraqis are intentionally wiping each other out and turning their homes into wasteland to stick it to the US?
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    Why does it have to be reasonable to be true. Why would you expect the Iraqis to act in a way we consider reasonable? With the number of suicide attacks that have been staged by Iraqis against one another, I would think that quite a few Iraqis think this is reasonable.
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    I think that we have to seperate their internacine power struggle (which we can perhaps manage and help strike a settlement)
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    Again, is this why we are in Iraq? I for one don’t think we have the ability to do this. If anything has been proven over the past 5 years is how totally ignorant we are of Iraqi culture. I would think, from the Iraqi viewpoint, we are pretty much irrelevant in this area.

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    from the foriegn jihadi attempts to screw over Iraq by any means necessary. Better yet, the current Anbar Awakening is providing evidence that we can use the Jihadi problem to mitigate the inter-Iraqi conflict. Isnt that an avenue worth exploring before we pull the plug on these people (and ourselves)?
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    After five years of running around in circles, aren’t you skeptical about these kind of Avenues? I think the time is past for grasping at straws.

    We have unleashed a regional war. I think our time would be better spent preparing for that eventuality and stop trying to do the Iraqis “favors”.

    This administration, in its dealings with the Middle East remand me of Walter’s with the Dude in the Big Lebowski. In the long run, everybody will be better off if we stop deluding ourselves into thinking we can solve these intractable problems. Nothing we have Accomplished in Iraq indicates that we can.

    Lets go back to a good old, cynical foreign policy that follows our interests not our delusions.

  133. #133 from mark at 11:21 pm on Jul 11, 2007

    I am with those republican senators who are saying that enough is enough. There is zero progress on the political front. The iraqi gov’t is using us troops while they arm and train and prepare for the civil war. I think Bush is Maliki’s dupe. I think we are being scammed…sucked in…fooled. This is no unity gov’t and doesn’t want to be a unity gov’t. they feel they won an election..they are the majority…power goes to them…and as soon as they are ready, it’ll be no time to be a sunni in Iraq. Kurds will separate, sunnis will be marginalized and Iraq will become a client state of Iran . The only way to prevent this happening is basically to colonize Iraq for a generation and station 300,000+ troops there and run the place oursevles. But that’s not going to happen.

    *****************************************************************
    Excellent, clear and succinct.

  134. Guys, this is frustrating. This an interesting and serious topic, and I love the idea of Winds being a place where this can be covered. But…

    …the level of personal heat has to come down.

    So I’m going to close this thread now, ask everyone to have a glass of water, sit down, and presume that the other folks in the thread are also honest and well-intentioned – if possibly wrong in their beliefs or basis in facts. The goal ought to be to convert others – either the people you’re arguing with or the general audience.

    So let’s cool off for a day or so and I’ll do a post that will be a decent base for it.

    A.L.

  135. Children (you know who you are):

    I’m not breaking a rule here, because I never said I wouldn’t continue to act as a Marshal while I’m offlist. Your recent behavior warrants mine.

    Read what AL posted (#137). Closed means CLOSED.

    The car has pulled over. We are letting the engine cool down. Have a drink, stretch your legs; compose stuff offline. But take a freaking hint. If the blog lets you post after a thread closure has been announced, that’s a bug, not a feature. Believe me, I’m looking into it to get it corrected.

    I will be deleting further comments in this thread out of hand for the next 24 hours, minimum, the only exception being posts by AL. I regret the inconvenience–for all of us. Save a copy if you want to. I won’t be doing so, nor returning them to you.

    Childish is as childish does. As the man said: chill out.

    Postscriptum/Addendum:

    One of the things that really knots my knickers is when people without an ounce of patience try to claim that a thread has been temporarily closed because “their side” was starting to score points.

    The thread might have cooled down since the kerfuffle that AL is reacting to; it might not have. Any conversation worth having is worth having just a little later.

    Or are you guys (especially the ones with bogus email addresses) so in need of reparenting or impulse control treatment that this sentiment is beyond you?

    See–I can accuse people of needing psychiatric care, too. In PUBLIC! Wow. I’m so proud of myself.

    Not.

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