Iraq, August 2007

The elephant in the room in political discourse these days is, of course, Iraq.

It’s a combination of who to blame for the current situation, and what to do going forward. It’s made far more complex by the fact that Iraq is as much an internal political issue as it is an external issue; a consequence, I think of our somewhat foolish belief that internal arrangements of power matter far more than our circumstances in the world.

But that’s the reality we face, and to deny it is as stupid as to deny that the tides will come in whether or not we whip them.

I’ve been wrestling for months with my own position, trying to find a position where I didn’t feel like a fool and waiting to see whether events would clarify things for me.

I haven’t and they haven’t.To be blunt, all of the significant positions seem somewhat foolish to me.

The “stay the course regardless” position is foolish, first and foremost because those playing that hand don’t have the chips to stay in the game. There is not today enough political commitment in the US to see another three years of the war as it is through, and I can’t imagine the war as it is lasting less than three years. It is also foolish because the rationale behind the war has lost its strategic heart – the reason to do it – and no one has yet come up with a meaningful replacement. So we’re playing Irish sit-down except with guns and bombs.

The “get the hell out now” position is more foolish, because it – first and foremost – implies that the world is really a hall of mirrors where all the motion and action is simply a reflection of our own. If we come home and sit quietly, this position says at root, then things will be OK. There is a variant, which I call the ‘magic underpants’ model, in which we will pull out quickly and then – SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN – and then all will be better. What, exactly, is something? And while I’ve acknowledged that the current war is a strategic failure, it may not be the worst failure we can have strategically – and while it is not a tactical success, there are tactical outcomes I can readily imagine that are a lot worse for the Iraqi people and for us.

Then there is the “walk a tightrope” position, which somehow believes there is a variant – a twist to the left with the fingers crossed behind the back and an over-the horizon force ready to bomb the crap out of people and fastrope out of helicopters and Do Some Damage – kind of withdrawal which is not really a withdrawal. I was in high school, trying to convince reluctant girls to have sex with me the last time I used arguments like that. “Yeah, it’s sort of like sex, but not really, because…we have most of our clothes on!!”

Look, the people taking those positions are serious people; I’m not choosing Djerejian or Lind as punching bags, because they are no one’s punching bags.

This last position is close to, but sadly too far from the honorable position, which is to look at what we’re doing in Iraq, see that it’s a part of a larger conflict, and set out a clear discussion of what exactly it is that we mean to accomplish, how we’ll do it, and how we’ll know it’s working. It’s a different path that doesn’t involve threats we can’t back up, total abdication of responsibility, or lying to the world and to ourselves about what we’re really doing. It’s the place I’d really like to be, and a political movement I’d like to be a part of.

And the real problem is, if you’re just a random citizen like me, that you need to go stand with someone else to have any say in what happens in a situation like this. Where I want to stand is with some sensible people; people who don’t give a damn about domestic politics and who care deeply about how this plays out in the world more than they care about how it plays out in their own careers in the commentariat, academe or politics.

If anyone has found those people, please point them out to me in the comments.

So I’ve got to pick a position, and pick a group to stand with.

Bluntly, after a whole lot of thought, I’ll stand with the “stay the course” folks. Yeah, not a deep shock, but not a gimme decision either. Why do I take that position? There are a few reasons.

First, and foremost, the other side is evil – I have no other word for people who slice people’s necks and videotape it as a boast and a threat. What’s our military might for if not to occasionally kill evil people, and make other people wonder about the evolutionary advantage of choosing evil over good? If you listen to the troops in Iraq, the sheer badness of the people we’re fighting over there – the ones who set off truck bombs in marketplaces crowded with women and children – is one of their main motivations to keep going. I see no reason to disagree with that. I do recognize that we’re fighting a bunch of factions there, and when we’re just fighting the one that fights us, as opposed to the one that sets off bombs in laden gasoline tanker trucks in the middle of neighborhoods, I’ll be happy to reconsider.

Secondly, because while the other positions I know of – ‘quit’ and ‘kind of quit’ – are really hard to back away from (it’s really hard to convince a retreating army to attack), it’ll be a lot easier to back away from “we’ve decided to win” when and if someone comes up with a better plan that gets us to where we want to go and costs a lot less in lives and treasure.

Third, because who knows – we just might win while we’re figuring out what else we’d like to do.

Fourth, because as a negotiating position “we’re going to win, thank you very much” is pretty much impossible to beat. Try negotiating with someone while telling them “My wife says I can only stay and negotiate with you for fifteen minutes, and if we can’t make a deal, I have to give you what you want.” Almost all wars are won at the negotiating table. the desired outcome of this war is a negotiated settlement. How the hell do people think they can make a successful negotiation out of “you have until September and then we quit”??

Fifth and last, because I look at the people on different sides of the argument, and I just can’t stand with most of them. The ones I can stand tend – almost entirely – to be the Victor Hansens, the Blackfives, the Norm Gerases. There are good people struggling with the issue on the other side – Phil Carter comes to mind immediately – but you know, most of the people beating the drums for withdrawal are just doing it for reasons that I can’t make sense of. Yes, they want to save lives, but I don’t see a historic awareness that goes past Howard Zinn. When I talk to them about the likely consequences of withdrawal, their response tends to be Bush broke it, it’s his problem. Well, I helped him, I guess, and fixing it is partly my problem as well.

And I honestly can’t see either of the Standard Positions as leading Iraq – or the Middle East, or the Islamist/western conflict – any closer to resolution.

So we stand here with our finger in the leak – in the bloody wound – and we try and keep the bleeding to a level where the patient doesn’t die while we look for a better plan.

And I have no illusions about the condition of the patient – as Iraqis continue to vote with their feet (one thing I will give the antiwar commentariat props for is their push to open the doors to Iraqi refugees. As much as I wish they would and could stay and fight, I am the last person – from the safety of my pricey New York hotel room – to block the door).

But as long as every other position looks worse, the position to take is the best one available to you. And so I’ll take a stand, and start doing something about it.

Because one other reason for my taking this position is that it is fundamentally the only one where some of the facts on the ground can be changed. American public opinion – which is the strongest card the opponents of the war have to play – is volatile right now. And maybe a large enough chorus of small voices could help shift the needle enough to matter.

So it’s time to start singing, I guess.

There are some other things we need to do, as well. We need to look at how we can make this war far less expensive – less expensive in lives – ours and Iraqi noncombatants – and treasure. While we are doing far better on the ground in much of Iraq, we’re doing a horrible job here. One thing I’d love to see would be some Truman Committee hearings here; here’s someplace where John McCain could spend some his remaining political capital, and maybe build the place he deserves in history. Something else for the vets to request while they are in Washington.

Meanwhile, I’ll go stand behind them, as I stand behind them in almost all things.

141 thoughts on “Iraq, August 2007”

  1. AL: …waiting to see whether events would clarify things for me. I haven’t and they haven’t.

    Don’t feel bad. I went to Iraq looking for clarity and didn’t find it…except in Anbar Province.

    I don’t know if what happened there can happen in Baghdad. Maybe not. But we won in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, and that isn’t nothing.

  2. bq. This last position is close to, but sadly too far from the honorable position, which is to look at what we’re doing in Iraq, see that it’s a part of a larger conflict, and set out a clear discussion of what exactly it is that we mean to accomplish, how we’ll do it, and how we’ll know it’s working. It’s a different path that doesn’t involve threats we can’t back up, total abdication of responsibility, or lying to the world and to ourselves about what we’re really doing. It’s the place I’d really like to be, and a political movement I’d like to be a part of.

    Why do you think this is so far from what GWB has done? He has told the truth as far as I can tell and I do not swallow the Left’s koolaid as I once did. There is a larger conflict, really. It is not the pipe dreams of some kind of cabal like the folks at Kos and MoveOn would have you think. See this and really get into it – “read the whole thing (as they say).”:http://www.islamistwatch.org/ OBL & Co. really do want us all to either Submit or Die – to them there is no other choice. We are in the millenial stuggle for the right to continue living.

    The Hobo

  3. A good part of:

    “Fifth and last, because I look at the people on different sides of the argument, and I just can’t stand with most of them. The ones I can stand tend – almost entirely – to be the Victor Hansens, the Blackfives, the Norm Gerases. There are good people struggling with the issue on the other side – Phil Carter comes to mind immediately – but you know, most of the people beating the drums for withdrawal are just doing it for reasons that I can’t make sense of. Yes, they want to save lives, but I don’t see a historic awareness that goes past Howard Zinn. When I talk to them about the likely consequences of withdrawal, their response tends to be Bush broke it, it’s his problem. Well, I helped him, I guess, and fixing it is partly my problem as well.”

    might come from the fact that you’ve been in general agreement with these folks for the last five years. On the other hand the people arguing for withdrawal have been generally shooting holes in your ideas for that same period of time.

    As far as the rest of the post goes it mostly seems like a mess. It puts the onus of some magical change occuring on the pro-pullout people without pointing out that something major needs to change for stay the course to matter. Unless something happens which reverses the downward trends in civil services in Iraq and political disintegration, the situation will simply get worse and worse. You’ll be able to make the same exact post in three years except more people will be dead and we’ll have wasted more money.

  4. It is indeed “not nothing” to wind the hearts of the Sunni triangle, and we all applaud your valiant efforts, but the issue of training Iraqi’s “to do it themselves” is the critical element that is largely missing in Iraq. It is missing because, Iraqi society is divided along tribal and sectarian lines, and while there may be a unified desire among Iraq’s of all religious and political flavors to excoriate al Quaida in Iraq, or other jihadi’s, or even American occuppiers from Iraq, – the unity ends there fiercely.

    The Iraqi police and military the Bush government continues hoping, and attempting to train are divided along the same tribal and sectarian lines.

    There is no unity in Iraq.

    There are no good options in Iraq, and the horrorshow cannot be won militarily. Without getting overthetop with all the deceptions, failures, and incompetence that led to this horrorshow, – the best of several bad options is a an cessession of major combat operations, and an orderly redeployment of forces to those 14 enduring bases, and gradual reduction in the American face and footprint in Iraq.

    Will Iraq devolve into civil war? Maybe. But Iraq this already ongoing conflict is certain to continue, only sans the American firepower.

    Holding the hope that Iraqi’s will someday standup a unified government is a fast evaporating pipedream. From my perspective, this concept never had any validity or veracity, but many people including more and more republicans view the war as unwinnable, or not worth the terrible cost in blood, treasure, and lost credibility of holding onto the hope of winning.

    The America miliary will never completely decamp from Iraq, but the military face, footprint but be significantly reduced, and the dim hope of democracy aborning in ME, or a shining example of a unified government in the land of the two rivers is dead on arrival

    The “recent NYT op-ed”:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/19/opinion/19jayamaha.html?ei=5090&en=5a8349a0e944e61b&ex=1345176000&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=print potrays a much darker picture of the Iraqi’s general perception of America.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

    [Corrected bare URL –NM]

  5. Tony, please be advised that bare URLs, especially long ones, are deprecated here. One reason is that they mess up the formatting of Movable Type. The recommended method of including a link is with link text in double quotes followed by a colon followed by the http://… link, with no spaces separating.

    Also, everything including and after the “?” in your link is probably specific to your browser/query and might be considered extraneous.

  6. Robohobo at #2
    “It’s a different path that doesn’t involve threats we can’t back up, total abdication of responsibility, or lying to the world and to ourselves about what we’re really doing.”
    “Why do you think this is so far from what GWB has done? He has told the truth as far as I can tell”
    You’re kidding, right? We abdicated responsibility for with the CPA, we continue to threaten Iran, we have near-permanent bases in Iraq, and he has chosen not to tell Americans about how many more years we are likely to have to go on. Let alone not recognizing or admitting to the civil war that has been going on, or the many connections drawn between Iraq and 9/11, or the numerous attacks on Democrats throughout all of last year, using Iraq as a political wedge, and funding the Iraq was through emergency budget requests so it doesn’t look bad on his true budget. His choicest words of ‘Bring it on’ were the worst of his career – and he wasn’t prepared to back it up. I came up with that in 30 seconds.

    “I do not swallow the Left’s koolaid as I once did.”
    I don’t like personal attacks at all – but this just seems like such a false statement. Nothing like building yourself up by appearing as a convert.

  7. More words, but not much has “changed in a month”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/009704.php#comments . Then again, I’m not sure it should have.

    We have 3 responsibilities in Iraq we must meet, no matter what else.
    1) Defend the borders
    2) Train the Army
    3) Make sure a proper(ish) patrol route between the Airport and the Green zone exists.
    Outside of that – patrols, escorting conveys, air strikes/support – are good to have. This is the most likely way it will go, if not in 2008, then in 2009. I hate the idea of having most of our forces stand off – but I think it has to happen before we will get more help(foreign or Iraqi), which is what we need.

    If Bush was able to come out and admit what a monumental screwup this has been, and ask for international help – that could change things as well. He will not do this, however much it makes sense. His pride is hurting the country.

    “Check out this”:http://www.forbes.com/afxnewslimited/feeds/afx/2007/08/27/afx4055546.html . Nothing like Sarkozy saying that he’ll stand up as we stand down. Well, stand up in talking.

    “The ones I can stand tend – almost entirely – to be the Victor Hansens, the Blackfives, the Norm Gerases”
    I would be more impressed with what any of these say if they could go without the daily slurs of their political or idealogical opponents. They are incapable of going for long periods of time without it – and that is not a way to win over 60%+ of the country who disagrees with you, however reasonable or right your opinion is. And, they are reflected in the (ugh) news shows as well.

    “what we’re doing in Iraq, see that it’s a part of a larger conflict, and set out a clear discussion of what exactly it is that we mean to accomplish”
    I (now) believe we went into Iraq to establish a military hegemony, if for no other reason then the past year of “can we bomb iran yet?” stories. I also believe we are creating more terrorists (worldwide) than stopping them.

  8. Not to take anything away from the feelings that obviously underpin your thoughts here, but, aside from the fact that its workability is debatable, this ultimately strikes me as basically waiting around until something better shows up. Maybe that’s an ok strategy, maybe not. Note, however, that it hasn’t exactly worked yet. But I do strongly object to the notion that those who want to pull out now are indifferent to the consequences of what that means. Now, I don’t know if I’m in that camp–I could make an argument that sticking around in Kurdistan might be a good idea. But there also is an argument to be made that the US is no longer in control of events, that its continued presence there will make things worse, and that a complete withdrawal will simply just save US troops from being cannon fodder. I think reducing the position of those who favor immediate withdrawal as being motivated by “everything will be ok” simplifies things a bit too much, but it does make it easier to end up where you end up. Of course it won’t be ok. But it still might be better than what the result might be if the US keeps doing what it’s currently doing, even if we could afford to, manpowerwise or otherwise, and even if the political leadership behind all this were even minimally competent.
    Like you, I don’t have a good frame of reference for this at this point, but framing it as a question of who to stand with is an interesting idea. With the vets, sure. I’m a vet, so I’m all in favor of that. But that’s an easy call. Who, aside from those who don’t really want to be one, isn’t in favor of helping the vets? How about something a bit bolder? Like standing with the Iraqis? Who didn’t exactly ask to end up in the postion they’re in at the moment, many of whom aren’t aware of “the broader ideological struggle” the neocons put such faith in, millions of whom have been displaced as a result of our actions, an indeterminate number of whom have been killed, and who in poll after poll express the strong desire that we would just go home?

  9. But wufnick, in a bad situation good survival advice is exactly don;t do anything until you’re sure it’s better than what you’re doing right now. We’re in an uncomfortable – even extremely painful – position. The temptation do just do something is incredibly high. And the reality is that until we have some calm likelihood that whatever we do next will be better that what we’re doing now, “…waiting around until something better shows up” seems like exactly the right strategy.

    It’s not “free” as in costless – but none of the presented alternatives are costless either; that’s the core of my argument.

    A.L.

  10. Armed Liberal:

    “Where I want to stand is with some sensible people; people who don’t give a damn about domestic politics and who care deeply about how this plays out in the world more than they care about how it plays out in their own careers in the commentariat, academe or politics.”

    “If anyone has found those people, please point them out to me in the comments.”

    This doesn’t do you any good, because I know you won’t move to her position, which is also mine, Robert Spencer’s, Hugh Fitzgerald’s and so on … but why is Diana West not playing this game as straight as it can be played? Who’s paying her off, and how? She’s gone completely off the reservation as far as the pro-war conservative crowd is concerned, and she couldn’t be further from (or less interested in) picking up new friends on the Left to compensate.

    Of course, she doesn’t count, because you list all the positions you regard as significant, meaning that hers isn’t.

    I’ve noticed that the pro-war die-hards like Charles Krauthammer – who I respect – do this a lot. They hold their hands over their ears and deny that there is any other proposal on the table than theirs or the usual partisan stuff. That leaves then free to say they’re the only ones seriously contemplating consequences and focused on The Big Picture … which is a rhetorically strong position, unless you know it’s bogus.

    This has been going on for years. Seasons come and go, and they still don’t show they’ve got a better answer than “la la la I can’t hear you.”

  11. No, sorry, I didn’t make myself clear. Staying the course, or whatever we want to call it, is indeed “doing something,” and may be worse than another “doing something,” pulling US troops out. Determining (or guessing, actually) which of these alternatives is better or worse (if these are the only alternatives) is an empirical issue, but we won’t have an answer until time passes. But we can base our judgments of what is likely to happen on any number of things–personal experience, knowledge of history, whatever. And granted that none of the presented options are costless, I suspect (based on my own interpretation of the world, which is all we can bring to these things) that you’re understating the costs of your preferred option, and overstating others. This just falls out naturally from what we bring to this, by the way–we may just see the world in different ways. But that’s where we differ, I think. Now, I’m only guessing here, and I could be wrong, but your presentation of the options is a pretty general one–but it’s that generality that invites comments like this one.

    I’ve made this point before, in comments on other posts on this site, but it never brings any kind of response. So I’ll make it again–any proposal about “what to do” that does not take into account (a) Bush’s absolute refusal to wind anything down during the remainder of his term in office, and (b) the resulting strain on US military infrastructure that results from (a), needs to deal with how to fix (b) once (a) no longer applies. Especially since the political and military environment in Iraq is unlikely to have improved measureably during that period (and yes, I have been reading Totten’s stuff). What you’re proposing does not, sadly, reflect these points. Just saying “other options are worse” doesn’t tell me (aside from how the others are worse) how to keep the army and national guard from breaking during this period. Nor, for that matter, does it convnce me that other options are indeed worse.

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that we adopt this as our policy (actually, we have no choice for the next 18 months, but let’s ignore that). So how are you going to do this? The army is hitting its recruiting targets by offer “$20 grand to anyone who will sign up that week”:http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/world/view_article.php?article_id=85098/. Recruits with moral waivers made up nearly 12% of those who enlisted in the Army in 2006. Last month Casey suggested that 15-month tours “can’t be guaranteed”:http://www.armytimes.com/news/2007/07/ap_casey15month_070711/. Wow–is there someone out there actually seriously suggesting that tours be extended beyond 15 months? Apparently.

    So if you’re going to propose keeping on keeping on, some practical specifics about how to do this would be helpful.

  12. _”If Bush was able to come out and admit what a monumental screwup this has been, and ask for international help”_

    This is a great example of the red herrings that infest the anti-Bush arguments. The idea that there is a wellspring of international help just waiting for Bush to bend his neck is not only absurd but demonstrably antifactual. One bomb drove the UN running for the hills within weeks. Another drove out Spain just as quickly. Aside from being able to shake your head sadly when international forces fail to materialize (Bush was just too evil to redeem) we all know there is no upside as far as any other forces coming to help with America on the verge of running away.

    To add another facet to ALs post- the pull em out faction is just maddeningly too fast and loose with counterfactuals.

    IE- Bush has been mean to Syria and Iran, and therefore if we are now nice to Syria and Iran they will help us in Iraq instead of actively wrecking the place and killing our people. This type of thinking effectively makes other nations into either idiots or automotons that dont act out of their perceived self interest, but only respond to George W Bush. Ironic, considering these are the same people claiming that these nations need to be ‘respected’ diplomatically. Acting as though the approval or disdain of Bush is their greatest motivation in life is the deepest level of disrespect.

    Either that is really what these guys believe (which is honestly a little frightening) or its simply an easy out. Talking is free, after all, and nobody can PROVE that cowtowing to the Mullahs wont cause them to suddenly abandon their supreme self interest in establishing a fundamentalist Shiia satelite in Iraq.

    I think there is a tenable ‘tight rope’ argument that announcing our withdrawal and slowly drawing down troops in order to motivate political reform can work. I disagree with it, but it is a respectable position. But there is a much more insidious and dangerous (and sadly popular) set of arguments that seem to rely on the primary idea that anything Bush has done or is doing is wrong, and therefor the opposite must be right. The Costanza Doctrine, if you will.

  13. AL: _First, and foremost, the other side is evil_

    When we’re talking about Al Queda and terrorism, I’m with you. The problem is that in addition to all the Al Queda off-shoots is two additonal sides that are fighting each other. Whenever we make headway with the one, we seem to lose headway with the other. Right now the Sunni appear to be working with us (my understanding is that many sunni groups see life without america in the worst terms). Unfortunately, the Shia groups appear to be using this oportunity to stonewall further reconciliation. Obviously, if the fighting continues & the US leaves, they stand in a position to control most of the country.

    Whatever the case, it seems as though the reasonable voices have already fled Iraq, or are so scared that they bunker at home and don’t make waves. The Unreasonable voices, the Maghdi armies/the Sunni Militias/ the mafia cartels… they seem to own the country, and all pollitical movement.

    Until we find a way to fix these problems, or weed out the corruption and loyalty to these terrorist groups, the country is not going to get better.

    And make no mistake, we are on a timeline. Wether it’s the pollitical timeline, or the military timeline. How long can the army go under this strain? There is already talk of extending soldiers deployed past 15 months.

  14. wufnik –

    The implementation issues you raise (once you decide on a policy you have to implement it) are absolutely legitimate. There are a bunch of things we need to do better in order to make any policy, including this one, stick.

    First, we need a bigger army. I’ve said that for four years, and I’m genuinely puzzled at what the Bush team was drinking that they did not make that Job #1 in 2002. How do we get it? Well, lots of ways. You say one of them shouldn’t be moral waivers – except that watching my son do his paperwork for enlistment, they were deeply, deeply concerned about whether he’d smoked pot in high school – had he done so, he would have required a moral waiver. So let’s figure out what issues matter and which ones maybe not so much.

    We’re going to have to write checks to make enlistment more worthwhile as well.

    And we’re going to have to knock down some of the barriers to recruitment that elite colleges and high schools put up.

    Next, we need to stop pissing money away in corrupt or incompetent procurement. Note my comment about a Truman Committee. Let’s put a couple of defense contractors and their political enablers in jail for a while.

    These are off-my head as I drink my morning Jamba Juice. I think it’s a topic well worth a better look, and I’ll both try to take one and to point out people who I think have and are doing so.

    A.L.

  15. “This last position is close to, but sadly too far from the honorable position, which is to look at what we’re doing in Iraq, see that it’s a part of a larger conflict, and set out a clear discussion of what exactly it is that we mean to accomplish, how we’ll do it, and how we’ll know it’s working.”

    Not only not honorable but, as a matter of policy, it doesn’t look to me to even be possible. The “mean to accomplish” and “how we’ll know it’s working” parts should be fairly straightforward as the second can be just an empirical measure of the first. Did we accomplish our goal or didn’t we? It’s that middle part that strikes me as impossible because our present methods of prosecuting the “how we’ll do it” demands the “What” remain a static target. Unfortunately, what we mean to accomplish changes because the “How” has an enormous impact on that “What”. Sort of a quantum physics situation. The test changes the thing being tested. The required very dynamic adaptation is done all the time in business (I have no expertise about the military but maybe there too) but unfortunately that doesn’t look likely to happen in our current political climate. Determining that “how” part in an inhearently ponderous democracy demands a dynamism that just isn’t there. And I’m not so sure it ever will be.

  16. _”The army is hitting its recruiting targets by offer $20 grand to anyone who will sign up that week. Recruits with moral waivers made up nearly 12% of those who enlisted in the Army in 2006″_

    I also agree this is a legitimate and important topic. We maintained a much larger standing army during the Cold War- often posted overseas, and in fact our training casualties were disturbingly high.

    On the other hand, i dont see upping enlistment bonuses as some sort of bribe that will only pull in the least common denominator (by that logic we should not pay soldiers at all to ensure only the most purely intentioned recruits would join). There will always be a economic incentives (positive and negative) that keep people in or out of the military. Young people do have responsibilities, and if an enlistment bonus allows them to support their family while they defend their nation there is nothing inherintly wrong with that.

    Now if we start seeing effectiveness fall off, obviously something is wrong and MUST be addressed. But until that time I think there is a level of chicken littling with the imminent collapse of our military.

    Although I too am at a loss for why we didnt add _at least_ two additional divisions after 911, much less in recent years. That would still leave us well short of the manpower we had in the 80s. I assume our population hasnt shrunk since then.

  17. A.L.,

    Enjoyed, as always, your thoughtful take. Here’s where I think you went wrong, however:

    “The “stay the course regardless” position is foolish, first and foremost because those playing that hand don’t have the chips to stay in the game. ”

    This is essentially the only argument you offer against the option you eventually come to chose (although I’d suspect you made your choice before you set down the options and argument agaisnt them).

    What if lack of chips — troops and public support — were not the first and foremost reasons this option were foolish? What if there were other reasons?

    For example, suppose that on its very face the idea that having US combat troops in the Middle East, without sufficient support within the Middle East, could have a beneficial effect upon US interests is a deeply flawed one.

    Suppose the argument against staying the course includes that belief that any US-held-up government in Iraq will never have sufficient support from the Iraqi public to be viable and that any popularly elected and functioning government of Iraq is likely to be more sympathetic to Iran, and some of its satellite organizations, such as Hezbolah, than to US interests.

    Suppose, too, that the argument against staying the course includes the belief that US military presence in the Middle East is an aggrevating factor that daily increases the pool of potential jihadists and that, as Rumsfield once feared, we are creating more terrorists than we are killing.

    Suppose that staying the course is a form of what Bush once described as slow failure and that whatever the end result in Iraq will be, it will be whether we leave next year or in 5 years.

    I’ve never argued that a withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq will magically make Iraq a better place. (An irony in your description of the magical underpants argument you say is employed by withdrawal supporters is that it was exactly such an argument that prompted the war to begin with: i.e., “Let’s shake things up in the middle east with an invasion. pick Iraq’s name out of a hat. Show a little american muscle..break that logjam…anything’s better than the status quo”). I do argue that US combat troops in Iraq will not alter the inevitable outcome of a pro-Iranian Shiia gov’t and an independent Kurdistan, the later of which will be an ally in the war on terror and the former a foe. This outcome is inevitable, IMHO, and is one of several reasons why the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. A mistake is an event that has negative consequences. The sooner we accept those consequences and learn to live with them, the better. Only then can we set about mitigating them.

  18. mark – there’s actually interesting (and recent) historical precedent for the “shake the Middle East” model, which I’ll bet too-heavily weighed the decisions. It’s the next post in the queue…

    But I’ll also suggest that – as an example – “…having US combat troops in the Middle East, without sufficient support within the Middle East, could have a beneficial effect upon US interests is a deeply flawed one.” implies that ‘support within the Middle east’ is a fixed entity, and that we’re in essence acting in a world of natural forces, not people who can and often do change their minds.

    The reaction to our actions wasn’t predetermined – to be blunt, Bush lost the information war early on, and that’s the disaster I hang around his neck without reservation (note that I’ve been tooting that horn for a number of years, even in the face of opposition from other bloggers here).

    There are other arguments, as an example, against your suggestion that if the US would only leave the ME, opposition to the US would suddenly calm. The reality, to me, is that as long as Britney Spears makes videos, and as long as Nike makes sneakers,and as long as Israel persists in not letting the Jews die or flee, we’ll have problems with the Middle East.

    So I don’t dismiss your arguments – they are serious ones, and in my view, one’s view on just those arguments determines a lot of what side of the issue people take.

    Which means I should write about it at more length…

    A.L.

  19. AL,

    I have only one quibble with your post, but I think it is a big one.

    “bq.”Almost all wars are won at the negotiating table. the desired outcome of this war is a negotiated settlement.

    I have to disagree. If you want lasting peace you have to win an unconditional surrender of your enemy. Our biggest problem is we have been unable to do this thus far. With the implementation of a COIN strategy we are enlisting the locals in our side of the fight. When AQI, and their allies, find they are out of options, then we will have won. If we have won the hearts and minds, or at least the cooperation, of the of the folks in Anbar province then a win is possible. We simply have to find the political will to win at home.

  20. I mostly wanted to second Chris P’s post (#3) above.

    That said, AL’s disparaging those who care so much about “internal arrangements of power” and longing for “people who don’t give a damn about domestic politics” is interesting in light of his numerous posts over the past several years, complaining how the Democratic party was doomed unless they followed his ideas.

    Sour grapes, I suppose – if he couldn’t win the fight the way he wants, then he pretends he was never interested in the fight at all, and that he’s now somehow above it.

  21. AL, agreed and understood…up to a point. Note that I do not claim there will be a sudden calm should the US pull out militarily from the ME. (And, for what’s it’s worth, I could not agree more with your Nike/Spears essential problematic–it’s right on the money.) I do claim that there will be a slow improvement in overall conditions over the long haul.

    I do think, too, that reactions to a US invasion of Iraqi not only were predetermined (human nature being what it is) but also quite predictible.

    I don’t believe that support within the mid east is a fixed entity but, at the same time, there ARE natural and historical forces at work here. One of them is human nature. Let’s say you are an average middle eastener and have serious concerns about the encroachment of western culture on islamic traditions. If one of the chief exponnents of western culture starts sending large armed forces into traditionally islamic areas, do you think you are going to be more or less alarmed and more or less likely to consider armed resistence to such an encroachment? in other words, are extremest calls to jihad more or less likely to be listened to.

    The alternative view is that since the Spears/Nike spread is inevitable and that conflict is inevitable, we should back up the spread with as much force as we can muster, although to what ends, I’m sure I fully understand. I just don’t see where this gets us in the end.

  22. One of the most frustrating parts of the current situation is that it feels like success is defined in terms of an Iraqi political situation that’s beyond our control, regardless of ineffectual jawboning of Maliki by both Bush and Congress. I wonder if that’s really true, and whether/how things might change.

    Part of this is brought on by observing the effects of the ‘surge’, which is mostly a shift in doctrine towards reasonably well understood COIN principles. To be sure there’s a timing element – faced with a choice between AQI and JAM, the US Army now looks pretty good to many Iraqis – but one has to wonder where we’d be if that change was made a lot earlier.

    And here’s my uncomfortable point – how many of us ‘pro-wars’ understood that too many of our troops were lagered up rather than out in the neighborhoods? That didn’t come through in the reporting of the MSM, which probably didn’t even know the questions to ask. At least for me, it also didn’t come through in the embed or warblogger writing, perhaps because it was so close to the situation in particular geographies, and because stories of interaction with the Iraqis made great anecdotes and so were highlighted. The MSM had no analysis on these lines, the new media had a crazy quilt of inconsistency. That latter may have been the real story in plain sight – inconsistency betokening no strong doctrine, i.e., a command failure. At any rate, if such a doctrinal shift makes such a quck difference, it’s a reasonable hypothesis.

    So then we’ve got to ask: What if our perception of the political situation is just as buggered, and potentially our doctrine in that regard just as flawed? Are there any stories lurking in plain sight there?

    I can’t claim to be any sort of expert, but here’s one observation that suggest it might be so: Read over the embed and warblogger coverage since the surge began. Plenty of tales of interaction with local leaders, IA officers, police chiefs. Did you see ANY coverage in which a local was described (and validated) in terms of their role in the national government and parties? I haven’t. They are all leaders due to their traditional societal roles, or command over armed force on the ground.

    That could simply mean the national government is broken and everyone knows it. It could also mean that security and trust are being defined locally. (Hmm, that sounds rather familiar.) It might also mean that we are in the middle of another, less discussed doctrinal shift to create political stability locally and see how far it can be pushed up, rather than try to build top down. That might just be a very good thing, since it lets us at least observe success one mayor or NCO at a time.

    It does beg the shape of the national government, if any. It’s still not clear that the three parts of Iraq want to be a country or even a federation. Our ‘doctrine’ at that level assumes a conclusion, which might not be freely chosen. That’s a strategic flaw for our enemies to peck at.

    And another problem comes through in the recent reporting: Iraq is still in many regards a socialist state. ‘Free’ (and underproduced) electric utilities. Central food distribution and rationing. Educational and medical establishment employed by the state. Probably more. Each a source of corruption and distortion of the economy. Certainly we and the Iraqis have enough deep problems without lumbering ourselves with remnants of a system known to kill economies and societies. What’s with that after 4+ years? Put it this way: When the government has the power of life and death, then it becomes a life and death fight to control that power. Maybe we should be trying to unbuild part of Iraqi politics?

  23. There is so many deceptions and intertwining lies relating to Iraq, that it is almost impossoble to decipher any clear understanding of where we, how we got here, and what options are available now. Many of us who were suspect of the Bush government war pimping and false justifications before the war, warned of exactly this kind of quagmirelike wherein the American military would be percieved negatively as an occupation force.

    Staying the course is no option. We have been listening and enduring this insanity for three years, and while there may be some small military gains in Iraq, – the ultimate security situation, the reconstruction process, the terrilbe costs in blood, treasure, and lost credibility, the lack of stability in the socalled Iraqi government, the support for and power of the various sectarian militia’s all provide mountains of evidence proving the mission is a catastrophic failure. We must find alternate solutions. Staying the course is insane.

    There is no possible way to rapidly withdraw 160,000 troops and all the hardware from Iraq. It would take 6 months at least if the order was given today. And that rapid withdraw would expose troops to attacks that would not be possible otherwise.

    Iran won Iraq. It is now in America, Europes, and several other Sunni allies best interests to check Iran, and prevent Iran from establishing dominance in the region. This does not mean we foolishly attack Iran based on the same kind of deceptive mass marketing and disinformation warfare campaign the Bush government used to pimp the Iraq horrorshow, – but we must keep a capable military force in the region to deteer Iran from making any grand military moves, on say Saudi Arabia. Here is where the dishonesty becomes truly obvious.

    America’s military, and unknown unknown of contractors are never leaving Iraq. The region is critical politically, militarily, and economically, and Iran must be held in check.

    America must redeploy our forces in Iraq. First we must quit the ghoulish roaming of Iraqi streets like legionaires, and let Iraqi’s resolve the territorial and political conflicts on their own. A radically reduced US military redeployed to the hardened and enduring bases outside the major population centers could provide rapid response force to protect allied leadership, respond to humanitarian crisis, protect our oil interests, and provide and deterance to Iran making any overt military move on Iraq.

    Again Iran won Iraq. Irans regional power, their oil wealth, their standing in the muslim world, their stategic ability to push back threats from even the worlds hypersuperior military have all increased significantly as a direct result of the Bush government catastrophic deceptions, failures, incompetence, and wanton profiteering in Iraq.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  24. Iran won Iraq. It is now in America, Europes, and several other Sunni allies best interests to check Iran, and prevent Iran from establishing dominance in the region. This does not mean we foolishly attack Iran based on the same kind of deceptive mass marketing and disinformation warfare campaign the Bush government used to pimp the Iraq horrorshow, – but we must keep a capable military force in the region to deteer Iran from making any grand military moves, on say Saudi Arabia.

    Iran is at war with us and so is Saudi Arabia is at war with us.Why should American soldiers continue to risk and lose their lives to protect the enemy that attacked us on 9/11?

    Our foreign policy has been following the Michael Vick model for years. We’ve been fighting the fading remains of the cold war by using the Sauds as our pit bull. The Russians had their pit bull, Iran. The Europeans and the UN had their pit bull, Saddam, the weakest of the bunch, and China had whatever mangy dog they could throw in, (right now, it’s the Sudan). This pit bull strategy worked against the Soviets in Afghanistan. We thought it was maintaining the status quo in the Middle East, but we were wrong.

    9/11 should have been our cue that our Saudi pit bull was too rabid to manage. The spread of Iran, Syria and general Islamist-sponsored terrorism worldwide should have been everyone’s cue that the Middle East dogfight games were both dangerous and stupid. It was time to stop the games and put the dogs down – all of them, not just the runt.

    We didn’t. Instead, we continue to feed and pamper our rabid dogs. We let them roam wherever they want. There isn’t a government in the world that doesn’t call the Sauds a ‘crucial ally’. There isn’t a government in the world that doesn’t cater to Iran. No government questions the need to keep playing these games.

    “Checking” Iran, staying the course, and running away are all a continuation of the same futile, expensive, wasteful dogfight. If we stay the course or if we leave Iraq, the results will be expensive, time-consuming and bloody. In all cases, we’ll rely on our Saudi enemy/allies to maintain the peace in the area. We’ll borrow more money from the Chinese, we’ll sink deeper into debt and the economy will suffer. Iran is hated in the Middle East but the Saudis are hated more – their influence will continue to wane. As Saudi influence wanes, their al Qaeda branch will launch more terrorist attacks.

    The only way I can see out of the Iraq mess is to end the dogfight games. We, the Russians and the Chinese need Middle East oil, but no one needs the Mullahs or the Sauds. If we’re going to use diplomacy, we should use it to form an alliance with our former commie enemies. We owe them money, we share the same goals, and together we would be the 800 lb. gorilla who can sit wherever it pleases. We may not get along very well, but the ex-commies didn’t sponsor the 9/11 attacks. We can’t win the war until we realize that alliances change.

  25. I join you in condenming America’s twisted relationship with SA mary. In fact a few years ago, I published an essay on this site entitled “Saudi Arabia is Not Our Friend” making many of the same points. Yet, in practical terms, and despite the obvious perils of this relationship, America is dependent on Saudi oil, and as you point out the House of Saud owns close to trillion dollars in US treasury notes. Saudi Arabia is no friend of America, despite multi hundred million dollar Baker Botts PR efforts to the contrary pimped by the Bush government.

    Iran is a more clearly defined enemy. But the sad reality is the Bush government foolishly and deceptively redirected America’s attention and the bulk of our financial, military, and intelligence resources to the failed, catastrophic horrorshow in Iraq. The catastrophic failure in Iraq has empowered Iran, and all the oil producting nations who were profitable when oil was $35.00 a barrel in 2003. Now this enormous oil wealth only compounds America’s difficulties in managing these various thorny strategic, economic, and political issues in the region.

    Future leadership will confront these daunting challenges with America greatly weekend by the Bush government horrific abuses, deceptions, failures, and wanton profiteering in Iraq. America is hated through out the world, even my many of our former allies. Jihadist threats, and actual jihadists have radically increased, not decreased. Iran is strengthened by US failures in Iraq, and by the radical increase in the cost of oil.

    America must walk a delicate line now, and work toward deterance and intelligently managing our strategic interests for the time being until the myriad nighmarish conflicts and intertwining issue in the ME reach some kind crisis, or hopefully a state of relative equalibrium.

    Short of a regional conflageration, which would uncork a Pandora’s box of furries and unknown unknown threats globally, not to mention economic disruptions globally that could cripple and severly damage most of the worlds oil dependent economies, American leadership must intelligently manage a complex array of intepenetrating issues and make the best of a very bad situation, compounded in manifold ways by the deceptions, abuses, failures, and wanton profiteering of the fascists in the Bush goverment. On top of that, we still have al Quaida and other jihadist threats that are safe entrenched in hardened redoubts in the Peshawar, (where US forces are not allowed) planning, training for, and financing the sequel to 9/11.

    The stategies now should focus on stability, and not on neverendingwar. The latter option may be inevitable anyway, but if we seek solutions that temper the potentially explosive realities we all must now confront in the ME in the near term, – there may be ways to prevent, or at least delay the kind of armagedon all the worlds prophets have warned humanity will hazard and endure.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  26. To address the politically dimension of Iraq- this seems to be the new line of argument for the pull the plug folks since the surge seems to be fairly effective from a military standpoint. I’m not arguing its not a problem (it certainly is), but i would warn the opposition trying to suddenly change limbs that the this particular limb can change faster than any of the rest.

    A couple of years ago the Iraq government was the GOOD part of the reconstruction effort. Now its the dog. But that can change as fast as a man can change his mind. Thats a positive and a negative.

    This issue is once again one of those playing against type- the left has long railed against the Western history of coersion of 2nd and 3rd world leaders, and argued that our refusal to understand their cultural needs and procedures was both insulting and counter productive. They were largely right.

    Yet now we have a majority of democrats in Congress demanding all sorts of different pressures and demands to make on the Iraqi government. I’m not sayin they are wrong- i am saying its an ironic turn.

    I happen to think there is a middle ground here- we DO need to pressure the Iraqis, but we DO need to do it in smart ways that play in their culture. Humiliating the leadership on CNN might not be wise. While we require progress on their front, there are more effective ways of getting it done. This needs to be seriously taken into account by our grandstanding Congress (both sides of the aisle).

  27. AL,

    bq. Fifth and last, because I look at the people on different sides of the argument, and I just can’t stand with most of them. The ones I can stand tend – almost entirely – to be the Victor Hansens, the Blackfives, the Norm Gerases.

    Speaking for the Blackfivers, thank you for the kind words.

    #7:

    bq. I would be more impressed with what any of these say if they could go without the daily slurs of their political or idealogical opponents. They are incapable of going for long periods of time without it – and that is not a way to win over 60%+ of the country who disagrees with you, however reasonable or right your opinion is.

    This is an important point — directed partially at us at Blackfive, I notice — and one I agree on. It strikes me that whatever option we settle on in Iraq, we are going to need to come together as a nation to make it work. Staying the course means building a political will. Withdrawal will create a power vacuum that could draw in Iran, Saudia Arabia, and Turkey, creating a potential regional war. All potential solutions are going to require a lot from us.

    We’re asking a lot of the Iraqis in demanding reconciliation from them, after all the years of Saddam and these last several years of war. We ought to be able to pursue it ourselves. We need to be able to do so.

    Since at least the Clinton administration, our political culture has become poisonous. Personally, I blame the political operatives above all — the ones who figured out that demonizing your opponents not only wins elections, but also brings in huge cash donations. This is true not just for the politicians themselves, but for lobbying organizations who want money for pushing their agendas. They’ve been turning up the nastiness for more than a decade, and we’ve learned to accept it. We’ve being swimming in that sea so long I doubt there’s anyone left who hasn’t made angry attacks on ideological opponents at one time or another. I don’t claim to be perfect, certainly. I do recognize that we need to start treating each other better.

    Probably nobody’s going to snap their fingers and — abracadabra — never again make an ideological attack. There are going to be days when somebody says something that drives you nuts, and you see you’ve lashed out. What we all have to work on is forgiveness, though, letting it go and getting back to trying to work together, or at least hear each other out reasonably. It’s not easy trying to reach out to people you’ve been mad at for a while, and say, “Can we forget it, and start over?”

    If we can ask it of the Iraqis, we can ask it of ourselves.

  28. Re #13 from Mark
    _”Aside from being able to shake your head sadly when international forces fail to materialize”…”we all know there is no upside as far as any other forces coming to help with America on the verge of running away._”
    Not to cloud your crystal ‘red white and blue’ vision on this, but if you check the numbers on Afghanistan (the real AQ stronghold) you will find that there is at least one country paying a *steeper* per capita price (based on about a 10 to 1 ratio of the US to Cdn population base, and total casualties to date of about 434 to 69 respectively) to pursue that bit of international police work. My guess is that a lot of Brits might take exception to your implications as well.

  29. _”Not to cloud your crystal ‘red white and blue’ vision on this, but if you check the numbers on Afghanistan (the real AQ stronghold) you will find that there is at least one country paying a steeper per capita price (based on about a 10 to 1 ratio of the US to Cdn population base, and total casualties to date of about 434 to 69 respectively) to pursue that bit of international police work. My guess is that a lot of Brits might take exception to your implications as well.”_

    I acknowledge i failed to show proper respect to the current multi-national forces in Iraq- but on the other hand i dont have a single dellusion that Canada nor anybody else not already there is going to send troops into Iraq any time soon. If you have some reason to believe there is a method for inducing further international forces to deploy in Iraq, please do share.

  30. Re #28 Grim
    _”our political culture has become poisonous. Personally, I blame the political operatives above all — the ones who figured out that demonizing your opponents not only wins elections, but also brings in huge cash donations._”
    I can agree with a lot of what you say in your comment, but not with who to blame. As long as as one resides in a democracy the citizens get to wear the resulting laurels, or goat horns.

  31. We probably are incapable of a complete military victory without adding another fifteen or so brigades into the mix. That is just not gonna happen.

    Therefore, I’m gonna stick my neck out and state that there is a tremendous potential advantage to a “stay the course” approach. It is this:

    If an effective strong man emerges within the next two years or so — one who will not only tolerate, but encourage lower level democracy, as well as maintain a nominally democratic national government — we’ll probably be able to pull most of our troops out. “Stay the course” provides time for such a man to work his way to the top of the existing system.

    That sort of Iraq will not be Switzerland, but it should function reasonably well and — with nominal American assistance — should make an acceptable counterweight to Iranian ambitions in the region, as well as provide halfway decent security and acceptable infrastructure development for the populace.

    With or without an effective Iraqi strong man the US will probably be able to stymie Iran’s regional ambitions (Kuwait and the Saudi oil fields) with as few as two divisions somewhere out in the Sahra al Hijrah, and a carrier group in the Arabian Sea.

    Our primary goals in the region have always been (once Saddam was removed) to deny Iraq as a base of operations for both Iran and Al Qaeda. Those goals remain within reach if we “stay the course.”

  32. RE #30 from Mark
    _”If you have some reason to believe there is a method for inducing further international forces to deploy in Iraq, please do share._”
    Only to the degree that you can make a convincing argument that an external invasion will solve, not create problems in Iraq and elsewhere… its been tried, it was a non-starter last time even with imaginary WMD’s.

  33. Bart, if this strong man emerges and he’s Shiia, he’ll be more likely to lean toward Iran than against it. If he’s Sunni, in order to rule the majority effectively, he’ll have to be a strong man ala Saddam Hussein, who was an effective bulwark against AQ and Iran.

    Option a means we replaced Saddam with a pro-Iranian Mubarak. Option b means we replaced Saddam with a double. Either one worth it?

  34. _”Only to the degree that you can make a convincing argument that an external invasion will solve, not create problems in Iraq and elsewhere… its been tried, it was a non-starter last time even with imaginary WMD’s. “_

    Is someone contemplating an external invasion at this point? Of what nation?

  35. Actually, Mark, most Iraqi Shi’a aren’t all that thrilled about Iran, which has been used primarily as a tool in their hands to kick some Sunni ass and settle a generation of old scores.

    Shi’a does not necessarily mean “puppet of Iran” any more than a Polish Lutheran would automatically be a puppet of Germany. Not a lot of love to lose in either situation.

  36. Iran is a more clearly defined enemy.

    Iran is a clearly defined enemy, but where would Iran (and Iran’s nuclear ambitions) be without Russia’s help?

    Al Sadr, Syria and Hezbollah are clearly defined enemies, but where would they be without Iran/Russia’s help?

    Saudi Arabia is powerful, but where would the Saudi royals be without our help?

    Saudi al Qaeda, sunni insurgents and the worldwide mujahideen network are powerful, but where would they be without Saudi/American help?

    ..and don’t you think that helping our enemies makes us look kind of dumb to the rest of the world?

    Our not-so-cold war with Russia/Iran, China/the Sudan and our insistence of fighting this war by allying with the Saudi sponsors of 9/11 is causing our problems in Iraq. Continuing to ally with our enemies has already been proven to be a bad strategy. It will only cause more nighmarish conflicts and more terrorism.

    We share the same goals as Russia, China, Europe – we need oil, we want our economies to grow, we’d like our transportation and our trade to function freely without the need for too much security and fear of terrorism. Instead of allying with unstable regimes that are actively trying to kill us, we should ally with the other 5/6ths of the planet that shares out goals.

    America is hated through out the world, even my many of our former allies.

    America is hated by Europe and by the elites of the UN because they were profiting from their deals with Saddam Hussein. I’m not surprised that they hate us for killing their golden goose, but I’m not going to stay up at night worrying about it.

  37. America has lost 74 soldiers this month in Iraq. Our military has been informing us for more than a year, (despite the deceptive disinformation, propaganda, and slime operations and efforts of Karl Rove, the Rendon Group, Baker Botts, and Barbour Griffith & Rogers) our soldiers are strained, the military stress, and that the “wheels are about to come off the cart.”

    The only Americans who will benefit in any way, so any longorshortterm gains “staying the course” in the costly, bloody, failing horrorshow and excuse for wanton profiteering in Iraq, are the fascist warmongers, profiteers, and pathological liars in, or beholden to the Bush government.

    Iraq is a failed mission. America must muster the courage to recognize and admit this sad and terrible fact. Recriminations and accountability can, and will come in due time, – but the imperative now is managing a massive reduction of America’s military face, footprint, and resources in Iraq. Some element of American military, intelligence, construction, and energy forces will always remain in Irag, but the overall US commitment of warfighters, and warfighting equipment must be significantly reduced, rested, repaired, and redirected toward confronting the real threats to America’s security in SA, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan primarily.

    Only then can America, (based on the current state of our military) adequately contain Iran, return in earnest to stomping out al Quaida and talibani shaitans in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and work in concert with our old and new allies through-out the world on relentlessly hunting, capturing, or killing every jihadist mass murderer, and all those who aid and abet them on the planet.

    The socalled waronterror is a Bush government parable and myth, having no more validity, substance, or veracity than a shout. Police actions, intelligence, covert and blackworld operations are the tactics that must be employed to defeat these stateless massmurderers. Large land forces, our soldier roaming the streets of foreign lands like legionares in uniforms are impotent, wasteful, and fruitless tactics applied to 4th generation warfare threats.

    The “probably” in your assertion is the flaw. All the Bush government mantra’s pitch the hollow promise of some better day in the unknown unknown future where some unseen duex ex machina will descend from the heavens and save the day, and America will triumph. These assertions are empty naked lies.

    Six years, 3700 plus dead US soldiers, untold numbers of contractors, many thousands of innocent Iraqi’s, countless maimed, greivously injured, millions displaced and terrorized, half a trillion dollar of the peoples treasury – and America has gained nothing in Iraq.

    America’s deceptive involvement in Iraq was, is, and always will be a catastrophic failure because it is a crime scene.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  38. bq. I can agree with a lot of what you say in your comment, but not with who to blame. As long as as one resides in a democracy the citizens get to wear the resulting laurels, or goat horns.

    That’s right, to a degree. I think we will have to forgive each other for personal affronts, and accept responsibility for the ones we’ve given. In that sense, we each bear personal responsibility.

    That said, it’s also important to recognize that the problem is being intentionally worsened by people who expect to gain from the poisonous process. We need to recognize that, so we can avoid being manipulated by those on our own side of the aisle who engage in it. The NRA, for example: I’m a longstanding NRA member, and I agree with their legislative program and basic goals. I have come to deeply dislike their magazine, however, which is constantly seeking to sow paranoia in order to prod me (and other NRA members) into donating to their political action fund.

    That doesn’t mean I’m one bit less committed to gun rights. I remain deeply committed to them. Others have other issues that they are deeply committed to, and I think most of these groups are engaged in rhetoric of this type. Everyone worries, I suspect, that the hate is what is making them strong enough to resist their opponents — the hate that fills coffers, buys advertisements, lobbys Congressmen. If they back off before their opponents do, the money will dry up somewhat, and they may find their deeply-felt beliefs suffering reverses in the law.

    I understand all that, but it can’t go on. Someone has to be the first to stop, or the nation will tear itself apart.

  39. Tony- its good to see you utilizing your free speech rights. But here is all that I see when i come across your posts:

    _deceptive disinformation, propaganda, and slime operations Karl Rove, the Rendon Group, Baker Botts, and Barbour Griffith & Rogers)
    costly, bloody, failing horrorshow and excuse for wanton profiteering fascist warmongers, profiteers, and pathological liars in, or beholden to the Bush government._

    _Recriminations and accountability can, and will come in due time,_

    Oh, obviously!

  40. Bart, I agree that Iraq may not become an Iranian puppet, which is why I said “more likely to lean toward Iran than against it.” I don’t consider Canada, say, a puppet of the U.S. I think it unrealistic to expect a shiia-dominated government in Iraq to be US ally vs. Iranian interests.

  41. Tony, you make one of the classic antiwar statements:

    “The socalled waronterror is a Bush government parable and myth, having no more validity, substance, or veracity than a shout. Police actions, intelligence, covert and blackworld operations are the tactics that must be employed to defeat these stateless massmurderers.”

    But the problem is that this implies that we’ll have assassins wandering the streets of other sovereign countries – without the consent of the country. Are you really ready to do that?

    A.L.

  42. bq. But the problem is that this implies that we’ll have assassins wandering the streets of other sovereign countries – without the consent of the country. Are you really ready to do that?

    False dichotomy, AL. It seems likely, thanks to covert CIA operations in places like Germany and Italy, that the Bush admin already has such stuff, or at least isn’t ideologically opposed to it. Pretending like such things would come into being only if we didn’t fight in Iraq is disingenuous at best.

    That said, are there problems with covert attacks on foriegn soil? Sure, from both the practical and ideological dimensions. Is it a better alternative than “stay the course and hope things magically get better”? Almost certainly.

  43. For all the arguments and counter arguments about staying the course or cutting and running I see that no one, no one catches the strategic implication of Iraq. It sits between:

    Iran – Avowed enemy, in their own words. (What don’t you get about ‘Death to America’ every Friday at noon local time as an answering chant to whatever the mullahs is saying that day. Yeah, they really mean it and have been working to that end since 1979.)

    Saudi Arabia – Could fall to al Queda any day. What would we do if we were not in Iraq or somewhere close and they did fall to say an Iran based coup? Hmm?)

    Kuwait – Sorta friendly but just waiting really to see how things shake out.

    Syria – Avowed enemy. And an Iranian puppet I must add.

    Jordan – Just an Islamic coup away from being a puppet of Iran. Apparently not feeling all that friendly these days.

    I think you get the idea. If we make Iraq work and have a solid presence there, we can keep the ME open to world trade and just maybe they will come into the world community in some sort of reasonable way one of these years. (And, yes, there are assumptions in there. So what?) Or we can run away a la indochina and leave those who have worked with us to make a better world to the sword and the death camps.

    As for the military being broken, I won’t even go there. I watched it being decimated in the ’90’s under the guise of a Peace Dividend. BS. Just internationalist elites trying to kill our way of life some other way. I may be a right wing death beast but I will not go to the sword without a fight. I will not go quietly like too many seem ready to do. If it gets me banned here, that is okay too. Someone has got to shout that the enemy is coming. Revere knew that.

    /rant off

    Bah!

  44. bq. But the problem is that this implies that we’ll have assassins wandering the streets of other sovereign countries – without the consent of the country. Are you really ready to do that?

    Chris – We do have that already BUT they are not OUR assassins and death squads. They are THEIRS! And they may be on the streets of YOUR town!

    Go check out the Islamic rape gangs in Malmo and south of Paris in the banlieu’s. Not much said about them on CBS or NBC or ABC or CNN or FOX. Go read Fjordman over to GoV. Look to what happened to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

    In this age of almost infinite information I am always gobsmacked by how lightly informed so many are about the rest of the world. GB is pretty much toast. They have given in to political correctness and multiculturalism. There are ‘hate speech’ laws on the books of most EU countries and it looks like they are soon to come to a country near you!

    Bah! Nevermind – go back to sleep sheep.

  45. robohobo:

    _Saudi Arabia – Could fall to al Queda any day. What would we do if we were not in Iraq or somewhere close and they did fall to say an Iran based coup? Hmm?)_

    So, we’re staying in Iraq to invade Saudi Arabia. Well, I have to say at least such thinking is *original*. Look, when (not if) saudia arabia falls, it’s going to become totally anti-us. Radical Islamism has been seething there for generations, and is ready to take over.

    I don’t know what you hope to accomplish by invading at that point, but we certainly won’t be seen as ‘liberators’.

    _What don’t you get about ‘Death to America’ every Friday at noon local time as an answering chant to whatever the mullahs is saying that day._

    You do realize that this is goverment propaganda right? Some of these individuals do agree with ‘death to america’, but most are bribed, coerced or threatened into attending the ‘death to america’ rallys. I think you’d be surprised how middle-class and Pro-US much of the Iranian population is. Granted, the pro-american crowd has little sway in a tolitarian goverment. But even *they* don’t want an ‘american liberation’.

  46. _”That said, are there problems with covert attacks on foriegn soil? Sure, from both the practical and ideological dimensions.”_

    Classic blunder- considering the downside before evaluating the upside. Are covert attacks on foriegn soil _effective._ Thats the only point that is relevant. We cant even _find_ the people we need to kill. This tends to be important.

    The CIA is the most maligned, blundering, worthless organization this nation has ever seen. The idea that we need make them the point men for national security is crazy. Only in Washington do you punish failure with greater funding.

  47. if saudia arabia falls, it’s going to become totally anti-us. Radical Islamism has been seething there for generations, and is ready to take over

    The country is already totally anti-US. According to polls, more the 95% of educated Saudis agree with bin Laden’s goals. Radical Islamism is Wahhabism, and Wahhabism is Saudi Arabia. The difference between al Qaeda and the KSA is like the difference between Hamas and Fatah. Their words are different but their actions are similar.

    Compared to the Saudis and the Palestinians, the majority of Iranians are pretty pro-democracy. But the concept of war as ‘liberation’ is bizarre. The goal of war should be to defeat the enemy. After victory, we can talk about liberation and democracy. The Marshall plan would never have worked if we hadn’t gotten rid of the fascists first.

  48. robohobo:Go check out the Islamic rape gangs in Malmo and south of Paris in the banlieu’s.

    It has been argued (by many) that the difference between american immigration from the ME and European immigration is that american immigration tends to be mroe costly, and more difficult. As a result, the poorest immigrants (and usually, the more religous) immigrants go to europe.

    In many countries (such as france) these immigrant groups become trapped in deep poverty. They are basically moved into ghettos, with no way out, and no opportunities or possibilities on the horizon. This both fosters anti-western beliefs and encourages radical organizations. This is not so different from immigrant problems in New York city during the 1800’s.

    The Netherlands is also having quite a few problems, however, most studies show that the radical “islamic”:http://www.jcpa.org/brief/brief004-14.htm/ population there is generally much lower than it’s “neighbors”:http://www.ipcs.org/06-RP-Berenice2.pdf/
    For example, France’s incarceration rate is 50-80% muslim.

  49. alchemist – what about the old idea of going to the new country, working to assimilate, working to learn the language? you know – working. not sit around on your duff collecting the best available welfare. and that my man is what these supposed poor, beleagured immigrants look for. not chances to get to work but the best social parachute. that is why so many of them LOVE ireland.

    so, then what is your take on why “They are basically moved into ghettos, with no way out, and no opportunities or possibilities on the horizon.”???

    yes, it is harder to get to the US, it should be. but the rewards for hard work here are so much greater. i know some of these immigrants.

    and the ‘death to america’ chants, propaganda or not have to be answered at some point. if the realpolitic dictates that the populace does not really agree with this then why have they not done something to free their souls? i have heard this argument before and it does not hold up to the light of day. if they are too lazy to do something about it then they get what they deserve. ahmadinnerjacket is thought to be one of the student from tehran U.

    ‘nuf said

  50. Yes, AI and more. These “assasins” you mention are already on clock all over the world anyway, and the private military, and creepy massively funded private intelligence contractor issue deserve a thorough examination and discussion in another forum, – but the point, is if you have no problem projecting out military into foreign lands (Iraq, Afghanistan, and maybe Iran) based of fictions and myths, with all the enormous and terrible costs in blood and treasure – then why would you question sending smaller deepcover hunterkiller teams to dispose of specific threats anywhere on earth. You also ignore that the we are already utilizing many of these programs and assets as revealed in the NSA’s spying operations, the CIA’s and pentagon rendition operations and black sites, and that we also rely of alled governments to provide their own products, services, and assets to this shared mission.

    Neither Pakistan nor Saudi Arabia allow American military operations on their lands, (though the contractor dealings remain an unknown unknown), but that should not prevent America from striking at and rendering harmless any threat to America, America’s interests, or America’s allies.

    Theright holds to the fiction that theleft supports the “evildoers”, (excuse me while I laugh my ass off) which is a naked lie. Most Americans left, right, and center fully support hunting, capturiing, or killing jihadist mass murderers and all those who aid and abet them. We divide hard on however on invading and occupying soveriegn nations based on a festering litany deceptions, exaggerations, and blatant naked lies, for the exclusive and singular profits and Pax Americana pipedreams of fascists cabals and oligarchs in, or beholden to the Bush government.

    Theright is quick to regurgitate the hollow mantra proselytizing that if we don’t fight the “evildoers” in Iraq, the will invade our shores and Attack America. If this is possible, if evildoers can so easily breach our homeland security, and attack American cities, – then what have we been doing in Iraq, and with the various sundry pentagon, NSA, and private contractor spying, or tracking, or financial disruption operations for all these years? This myth is simply hollow.

    While, evildoers are intending to, and do desire to attack America again (which all the worlds intelligence services including our own clearly warn is a grim reality), our failed efforts and the Bush governments fascist machinations and wanton profiteering in Irag have no impact, and provides no deterance to the jihadist fiendish intentions, and desires.

    Part of working together is reaching common ground and accepting certain facts as facts, and recognizing myths, fictions, and naked lies as deception.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  51. Slime the CIA if you desire, – but the agency is only one of arm of very large intelligence industrial complex, which includes all the pentagon black ops “secret squirrels”, ninjas’, as well as the NSA, the DIA, the FBI, the ATF, INS, et al, and then there are private intelligence contractors. The massive US intelligence apparatus, 70% of which is now being jobbedoff to private contractors is already, or should be – hard at work hunting, capturing, or killing jihadist mass murderes and those that aid an abet them.

    Focusing on the failures of the CIA, ignoring the far more catastrophic failures of the Bush government is deceptive and false.

    The point is, defeating our jihadist enemies will require 4th generation warfare tactics and strategies. These endeavors will be primarily police, survellance, tracking, covert, and “special”, or blackworld operations. The US hypersuperior military will be utilized when necessary to buttress specific missions, (taking down a Taliban strong hold with a rapid response ground force, delivering hellfire or cruise missile on specific targets, air strikes utilizing our brilliant weapons on specific threats are some examples) but discovering, and targeting those threats will require the use of 4th generation warfare systems, assets, tactics and strategies. Our humint assets must look, act, and speak like our enemies, infiltrate their cells, and by whatever necessary means render them harmless, anywhere on earth, including Karachi, Tehran, Damascus, Nablus, Beruit, or Mecca, Medina, or Rhyadh.

    The Bush government has NEVER actually redressed jihadist threats, or worked in earnest to defeat al Quaida, or any jihadist mass murder gang, including Hamas, Hesbollah, Jamma Islamaya, blah, blah, blah, because our resource were NEVER applied to SAUDI ARABIA who was, and remain the primary funding and nurturing source of all the jihadist mass murder gangs. Fattening the offsheet accounts of cronies, cabal, klans, and oligarchs in, or beholden to the Bush government is the only, and singular and exclusive aim and machination in the Bush governments socalled neverendingwaronterror.

    American leadership must right this terrible wrong, extricate ourselves from major combat operations in Iraq, and resume in earnest hunting, capturing, or killing every single jihadist mass murderer and all those who aid and abet them on the planet.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  52. Re Mary #48
    _”According to polls, more the 95% of educated Saudis agree with bin Laden’s goals._”
    Sounds serious… can you provide us with a citation please.

  53. Well, it’s been quoted many times and published in the New York Times, but if you can’t google, it’s contained within this interview with the job-hopping ex-Ambassador to Britain, ex-chief of Saudi Intelligence and ex-Ambassador to the USA, Prince Turki al Faisal:

    ZAHN: But as it turns out, 15 of the 19 hijackers where of Saudi Arabian descent, and on FBI’s most-wanted list. You’ve got 50 Saudi residents, or at least people of Saudi descent. So how much support does Osama bin Laden actually have in Saudi Arabia?

    AL FAISAL: Well, I can tell you now much less than it was before. Having seen these tapes, the Saudi people have jointly and commonly come to regard bin Laden not just as a killer, but as someone who wallows in his work, and who gloats over the death of innocent people, and this has completely undermined whatever support, however minimal or great, that he may have had. Not just in the kingdom, but throughout the Islamic world and other countries as well.

    ZAHN: You say you believe there is less support for Osama bin Laden now in Saudi Arabia.

    AL FAISAL: Absolutely.

    ZAHN: Yet in “New York Times” piece, there was a suggestion that a classified American intelligence report taken from a Saudi intelligence survey in mid-October showed that of educated Saudis, between the ages of 25 and 41, there was a concussion that 95 percent of them supported bin Laden….

    …ZAHN: So what are we supposed to believe, what you say publicly or what you say privately, if you say it is the same thing that President Bush does?

    AL FAISAL: We have a longstanding relationship with the United States that does not require any backstabbing or any leaks to the press, or so on. We can talk frankly with each other. It’s a relationship that lasted more than 70 years with mutual benefit for the two peoples, so let us continue on that way.

    ZAHN: Your highness, we were delighted to have you on “American Morning.” Thank you for your time.

    AL FAISAL: And I am delighted to have been here. Thank you very much.
    .

  54. Re Mary #55
    _”ZAHN: Yet in “New York Times” piece, there was a suggestion that a classified American intelligence report taken from a Saudi intelligence survey in mid-October showed that of educated Saudis, between the ages of 25 and 41, there was a concussion that 95 percent of them supported bin Laden….”_

    Thanks for the hint about googling, although the only reference I could find with that approach was another “CNN piece on Saudi sentiments”:http://edition.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/06/08/poll.binladen/index.html which concludes that _”fewer than 5 percent thought it was a good idea for bin Laden to rule the Arabian Peninsula”_. Now I have no idea whether to go with your quoted _suggestion_ about the contents of a classified CIA report [there’s an agency we’ve never had reason to doubt before] or the actual poll results overseen by the Saudi national security consultant. Although if you say the 95% figure has been quoted many times and has been published in the Times that really ought to be confirmation enough.

  55. I apologize for arguing this way AL but I find your position at odd w/ the facts and impossible to achieve as long as people like this are in charge.I Am Alden Pyle
    President Bush’s Vietnam Fantasy

    President Bush recently attracted considerable attention and criticism by stating before the Veterans of Foreign Wars that the takeaway from Vietnam was that we cut and ran too soon, and we should not duplicate that mistake in Iraq.

    Actually, the president had advanced this line of reasoning last November during the APEC summit in Vietnam.

    My comment at the time is still, I think, on the mark:

    Asked if the experience in Vietnam offered lessons for Iraq, Bush said Friday, “We tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take awhile.”

    He said “it’s just going to take a long period of time” for “an ideology of freedom to overcome an ideology of hate. Yet, the world that we live in today is one where they want things to happen immediately.”

    We’ll succeed unless we quit,” the president said.

    It seems to me that the lesson of the Vietnam War is we screwed up, we got beat, tens of thousands of Americans and millions of Vietnamese died but, hey, the sun still rises in the East, things got better, and thirty years later our President is shaking hands with the political heir of the guys who kicked our ass.

    In other words, the emergence of a prosperous, peaceful Vietnam is a pretty strong argument for acknowledging the mistake we made in Iraq and, bluntly, succeeding by quitting.

    The new element in President Bush’s Vietnam reverie, one that attracted considerable headscratching and eyerolling from the cognoscenti, was his invocation of Alden Pyle, the blindly confident and profoundly destructive do-gooder in Graham Greene’s The Quiet American:

    “In 1955, long before the United States had entered the war, Graham Greene wrote a novel called ‘The Quiet American.’ It was set in Saigon and the main character was a young government agent named Alden Pyle. He was a symbol of American purpose and patriotism and dangerous naivete. Another character describes Alden this way: ‘I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused.’

    “After America entered the Vietnam War, Graham Greene — the Graham Greene argument gathered some steam. Matter of fact, many argued that if we pulled out, there would be no consequences for the Vietnamese people. In 1972, one anti-war senator put it this way: ‘What earthly difference does it make to nomadic tribes or uneducated subsistence farmers in Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos whether they have a military dictator, a royal prince or a socialist commissar in some distant capital that they’ve never seen and may never heard of?'”

    Hmmm.

    Contrary to the president’s assertion, the central lesson of Greene’s book is not that Pyle’s (read Bush’s) courage, energy, and idealism were betrayed by the lazy, ignoble disdain of lesser men (read Democrats) for a multi-decade crusade on behalf of Vietnamese (read Iraqi) freedom.

    Greene’s powerfully-argued theme is that Pyle sacrificed the moral high ground, doomed his venture at its inception, and sowed the seeds of his own destruction by orchestrating a terrorist bombing in a profoundly misguided and indecent attempt to advance a foolish, unrealistic, and catastrophic political agenda.

    Greene got it right in Vietnam and, I would say, in Iraq.

    President Bush gets it wrong.

    The thought that President Bush is perhaps relying on this fictional portrayal of a deluded naif to stoke personal fantasies of omniscience, moral clarity, and perhaps even (political) martyrdom in the face of widespread repudiation of his policies is, to say the least, disturbing.

    Who was Alden Pyle supposed to be?

    Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, the brilliant, driven general who was High Commissioner to Indo-China and the last, best hope of France’s desperate counterinsurgency effort against Ho Chi Minh, had this to say about Robert Blum, head of the US Economic Aid Mission to Indochina (Blum is sometimes cited as Greene’s model for Pyle):

    You are the most dangerous man in Indochina.

    And was the United States—represented in Greene’s fiction by Alden Pyle—dangerous enough to connive with a Vietnamese warlord in a terrorist attack in Saigon in 1951?

    That was the explosive allegation at the heart of The Quiet American.

    The Quiet American culminates with a bloody bombing in a square off the rue Catinat in central Saigon, precipitated by the naïve, bookish Pyle’s disastrous attempt to end-around the French and package a thuggish warlord, General The, as the leader of a nationalistic and democratic “Third Force”.

    In real life, as in the book, the blast was set off by a “General” The, a renegade officer who had left the private army of the Caodai sect to set up business for himself near Saigon. He had apparently attracted the interest of American, keen for a nationalist third force that would supplant both Communism and the French-backed Bao Dai regime.

    To make a splashy arrival on the political scene, The executed two bloody bombings in Saigon. Not only that, he took credit for them in a radio broadcast, despite initial attempts by the US to blame the Vietminh for the atrocities.

    The later on became a fixture in the US-backed Diem government.

    The Quiet American infuriated Americans when it came out. New Yorker writer A.J. Leibling, fresh from liberating the wine cellars of Paris and flush with the self-regard born of the good war, excoriated Greene in a famous review.

    Not surprisingly, the current Vietnamese government loves the book for its depiction of a US intervention morally and strategically doomed from its inception.

    The Quiet American is apparently available all over the Vietnam and the government gave full support to the filming of Philip Noyce’s excellent adaptation, which was finally released in 2002 after much 9/11-related anguish.

    But the interesting and unanswered question is, what exactly did The get from the United States in 1950 and 1951?

    Most American histories of the Vietnam mess give relatively short shrift to the period before 1954. That was the year of Dienbienphu, Geneva, Diem, and all that, and Vietnam officially became America’s exclusive tar baby.

    That’s why Graham Greene’s The Quiet American and volume two of Norman Sherry’s authorized biography of Greene The Life of Graham Greene (Penguin, 2004) are such fascinating and important additions to the history of the period.

    Greene worked as a correspondent in Vietnam in the early 50s, and many of the characters and incidents are direct distillations of his experiences. He wrote “Perhaps there is more direct rapportage in The Quiet American than in any other novel I have written”. Sherry’s diligence in retracing Greene’s steps and providing context for his work and life have become legendary.

    It appears highly likely that in 1950-51 the US aid mission, actually a hive of CIA spooks, was chafing at the limited role and information the French were willing to grant them in the effort against the Vietminh.

    The survival of the French presence in Vietnam and its Bao Dai regime was clearly a matter of no more than a year or two. The US had no qualms about pursuing Third Force options independently and displayed little sympathy for French objections or the destabilizing and demoralizing effects that their actions had on the desperate French effort to stabilize Vietnam.

    Greene, himself a MI6 officer in the Second World War and sympathetic to the French view, undoubtedly learned of America’s playing footsie with people like The from indignant sources in the French Surete.

    Did The, as Greene alleges in his book, get explosives, know-how, and direction from the CIA? And did the US have prior knowledge of the attacks and, instead of stopping them, encouraged them and planned around them and exploited them for propaganda purposes?

    Norman Sherry is extremely cautious and circumspect in weighing the evidence for the more sensational allegations.

    Greene was clearly hearing Gallic tittle-tattle as suspicious French intelligence, military, and diplomatic personnel monitored the growing and increasingly assertive U.S. presence in Saigon.

    The most damning was information from the French No. 1 in Vietnam, General Salan, that he had arrested an American consular officer on the Dakow Bridge (where Alden Pyle meets his end in the book) with plastic explosives in the trunk of his car.

    However, Mr. Sherry did not uncover any whistleblowers within the ranks of Americans stationed in Saigon in ‘50/’51 who supported Greene’s story that the Catinat bombing was carried out by The with guilty American foreknowledge, assistance, and approval—or even that the US had any serious contacts with The prior to 1954.

    Case not proven to legal standards is the conclusion I extracted from Chapter 29, which discusses the era and the events of the bombings in great detail.

    However, on artistic grounds the situation in Vietnam provided a suitable basis for Greene to depict the deaths in rue Catinat as the direct consequence of callous and overconfident American adventurism.

    Examining the historical context of The Quiet American provides an illuminating picture of the creeping American intervention and sidelining of the French, which came into the open only in 1955, when the US sided with Ngo Van Diem—and General The—and closed the books on the French experience in Vietnam.

    The French struggle to regain control of Vietnam after World War II was a political, human, and financial catastrophe for the French homeland.

    No question that the French needed American help, which Truman and Eisenhower provided. By the time the French packed it in after Dien Bien Phu, America had underwritten 80% the cost of the failed French effort.

    Nevertheless, the United States was an unenthusiastic and suspicious partner. Truman’s anti-communism had replaced Roosevelt’s support for self-determination in the liberated countries of Southeast Asia as America’s guiding ideology, but the US was never able to look upon French aims, methods, or capabilities in Vietnam with any enthusiasm.

    The corrosive distrust and dislike between the French and the Americans is fully documented in Greene’s book.

    The takeaway from Greene’s book is not that he was wrong about the nature of US engagement in the brief period when Vietnam was slipping from French control. It was that he was profoundly right about the twenty-year nightmare that the US and Vietnam were embarking on together.

    Greene’s life and art were nourished by a stew of self-loathing and self-knowledge. France’s doomed, disgusted struggle for Vietnam resonated with Greene’s sense of sin and cynical despondency.

    On the other hand, he took the blithe, assertive ignorance of the Americans—symbolized by Alden Pyle—as a personal affront.

    In 1951, to indicate the disastrous consequences of virtue blindly asserted without awareness of personal sin and weakness, Greene makes the naïve Pyle knowingly complicit in a horrific crime: the terror bombing of a square filled with innocent civilians in the center of Saigon.

    Later on, American errors in Vietnam would be characterized more by sins of omission by the intentionally blind and willfully ignorant, and all-too-knowing sins of commission by people who harbored no illusions about the decency of their own methods.

    People like Edward Lansdale.

    Thankfully, Sherry’s book lays to rest the canard, repeated in Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam and countless other works—and promoted by Landsdale himself–that Edward Lansdale was the model for Alden Pyle.

    Lansdale was the antithesis of Pyle: an egomaniacal blowhard, grandstander, and loose cannon whose eccentricity bordered on the pathological.

    He famously put one over on Graham Greene, conspiring with director Joseph Manckiewicz to shoot the first version of The Quiet American, in 1959, in direct contradiction to the book and Greene’s intentions. When the movie appeared, Alden Pyle—played by Audie Murphy—was the hero; and Greene’s alter-ego—the jaded English journalist Fowler—is the dangerous naïf who precipitates the carnage in the square.

    In explaining why his version would prevail, Lansdale wrote to Manckiewicz:

    ” [no] more than one or two Vietnamese now alive know the real truth of the matter, and they certainly aren’t going to tell it to anyone.”

    Landsdale did not officially enter the Vietnam arena until 1954, when he appeared as Diem’s minder. Greene wrote his book in 1952.

    But that doesn’t mean that Lansdale’s shadow isn’t over the events in rue Catinat.

    Before Lansdale gained notoriety as John Kennedy’s go-to guy for spectacular failures, first in Vietnam and then Operation Mongoose—the increasingly harebrained strategies for destabilizing Cuba and assassinating Castro that attracted the attention of the Church Committee–he presided over one of the greatest successes in post-world war II US foreign policy—the crushing of the Philippine insurrection.

    He did it in alliance with an energetic, talented, and compliant military office, Ramon Magsaysay.

    Tactics included enlarging and upgrading the army, limiting abuses against the population by state military forces, aggressive irregular counterinsurgency operations, lots of psyops, and some land reform. Also highly trained hunter-killer squads and unreliable paramilitaries.

    Amazingly, everything worked , at least against the isolated Huk movement, which at its height claimed 15,000 troops and only drew on the population of Luzon—1.5 million—for support.

    The Philippines is still the acme of American counterinsurgency, and one thinks it would be cited in the same breath with British suppression of the Malay Uprising, which seems to get all the positive ink as the only truly successful counterinsurgency operation in the modern period.

    According to Lansdale, in 1954 he was ordered to Vietnam “to do there what you did in the Philippines.”

    An academic at the University of the Philippines, Roland Simbulan, stated:

    So successful was the CIA in pulling the strings thru Lansdale that in 1954, a high-level US committee reported that, “American policy in Southeast Asia was most effectively represented in the Philippines, where any expanded program of Western influence may best be launched.”

    …
    The CIA’s success in crushing the peasant-based Huk rebellion in the 1950s made this operation the model for future counterinsurgency operations in Vietnam and Latin America. Colonel Lansdale and his Filipino sidekick, Col. Napoleon Valeriano were later to use their counterguerrilla experience in the Philippines for training covert operatives in Vietnam and in the US-administered School of the Americas, which trained counterguerrilla assassins for Latin America. Thus, the Philippines had become the CIA’s prototype in successful covert operations and psychological warfare.

    After his stint in the Philippines using propaganda, psywar and deception against the Huk movement, Lansdale was then assigned in Vietnam to wage military, political and psychological warfare.

    When the Americans looked at Vietnam, they believed the French had a formula for failure, and America had the recipe for success.

    During World War II, Roosevelt had already touted America’s policy supporting Philippine independence as a template for Vietnam.

    The Pentagon Papers record that President Roosevelt offered the De Gaulle Filipino advisors to help them out in Vietnam.

    De Gaulle’s response to the astounding suggestion that the banner of European civilization and French honor could best be shouldered with the help of brown folks from the Philippines was “pensive silence”.

    The Americans—like Alden Pyle—were too impatient of success and confident in their methods to work with the French.

    Once the French were left, the American magic would work in Vietnam as it had in the Philippines. All it required was U.S. prestige and aid, an innovative and ruthless cadre of advisors, and a seamless coordination between the American patron and the Vietnamese client, all constellated around a charismatic, competent leader.

    But the differences turned out to be more important than the similarities.

    Instead of Magsaysay, a dynamic man on horseback, we put our money on Diem, a (literally) cloistered Catholic and out of touch egoist.

    Instead of the hapless, isolated Huks, we got iron-hard NVA soldiers with an impregnable base in North Vietnam, safe-haven borders, and Russian and Chinese assistance.

    We got a counterinsurgency operation fatally compromised from its outset by excessive American reliance on political and military violence.

    And of course, we got defeat instead of victory.

    That’s the tragedy Graham Greene foresaw in the rue Catinat.

    I think I’ll let Philip Noyce, director of the 2002 film adaptation of The Quiet American, have the last word. From a Salon interview in early 2003, as America teetered on the brink of the Iraq invasion:

    Alden Pyle is alive and well today. And that’s either a mark of Greene’s brilliance, or the fact that some things just never change. ..In theory, you’ve got a White House full of Alden Pyles. [Laughter] And that’s scary…

    …Well, George Bush is the ultimate Alden Pyle! He’s hardly been out of the country, he’s steeped in good intentions, believes he has the answer, is very naive, ultimately not that bright, and extremely dangerous.

    Labels: Edward Lansdale, Graham Greene, The Quiet American

    Permalink posted by China Hand @ 11:22 PM 0 comments > – Trackback

  56. “This last position is close to, but sadly too far from the honorable position, which is to look at what we’re doing in Iraq, see that it’s a part of a larger conflict, and set out a clear discussion of what exactly it is that we mean to accomplish, how we’ll do it, and how we’ll know it’s working. It’s a different path that doesn’t involve threats we can’t back up, total abdication of responsibility, or lying to the world and to ourselves about what we’re really doing. It’s the place I’d really like to be, and a political movement I’d like to be a part of.”

    Also interesting, your final argument for the war, that you linked to:

    “have a few friends who are Iraqi and Iranian immigrants; while they do not constitute a broad enough sample to talk with any statistical validity, and they are self-selected as people who chose to emigrate to the U.S., they consistently point out to me that I don’t understand the depth of anger – at the U.S. particularly – in the population. One friend described it as “the anger of a jilted boyfriend” because it is leavened with strong strains of attraction and desire, and cycles between a kind of hopeful desire and frustrated rage.”

    I see the overarching point you are making. What I don’t understand is, how in the WORLD you believed that invading Iraq – of all places – would in any way help solve the problem you identified on the intransigence of the Middle East to being a functioning member of the connected world, and instead being dangerous, bathed in resentment.

    Your solution – YOUR SOLUTION – was to invade Iraq?????

    That is simply demented.

    Let’s say you have a headache. You’ve been taking aspirin as the solution, and it isn’t working. As you point out, in the Middle East, the problem is the “realist position”, that had been the functioning U.S. stand over the last 50 years at least – give us easy access to oil, we will support and be friends with your corrupt governments. And yes, that hasn’t worked so well, for a variety of reasons.

    But the decision to invade Iraq, is like the decision, if aspirin isn’t working for your headache,, to take a hammer to your ear!

    It had NOTHING TO DO with solving the problem you identify.

    Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Bupkis. Null. Void.

    All it did was – like a hammer to the ear – cause even more problems for the head!!

    You can see these problems now –

    a. Iran moved to a pre-eminent position in the Middle East.
    b. Much more hatred and resentment of the U.S. NOW, more than before (that you referenced for your friends.)
    c. Dead troops, for no good reason.
    d. Huge amounts of expenditure, with No End In Sight.
    e. A wobbly post Iraq balance of forces, with still a potential of a greater regional conflict, to add to the civil war.

    In any case, the lack of forces will dictate the script. As you say, there isn’t the political will – not to mention, the troop strength – to continue to make our people sitting ducks, while Iraq soft partitions itself (without much interference from us), as the Sunnis and at least a couple of different Shiite factions continue to steal U.S. arms (and buy others), in the race to be armed to the teeth, once the inevitable does happen, and the U.S. draws down.

    So you can continue to hold to the “stay the course” position, even though you are honest enough to admit, the U.S. doesn’t have enough “chips in the game”, to prevent what will happen anyway in Iraq, without us. But your wished and hoped for pony isn’t showing up, outside of what will happen in Iraq anyway, because of the INTERNAL interests. (As more partition happens, actually, more peace will happen, but that’s because of the civil war and the displacement, not because of the U.S. Don’t think though, this will be a validation of your proposed strategy.)

    So, violence in internally pacified cities, will lessen (those cities with one power base calling the shots), except for the occasional ruptures, and the potshots at U.S. forces taken by one finger of that region or city power, while the rest “cooperate” with U.S. forces. There will still be violence in the conflicted cities, that will occur sporadically. Probably at some point, a city like Kirkuk will go through a cleansing, and be a focus of fighting.

    But the idea of a whole Iraq is completely dead. The death of the electricity grid confirms it, as well as the dissolution and paralysis of the current government.

    I imagine that a lot of city lords – and even neighborhood lords – will work out some deal with the U.S. forces, and lay claim – and be happy – with being king of their small slice of hell.

    But not all – thus indefinite violence in Iraq, for a decade or two to come.

    And your initial reason for the war? The issue of a backwards Middle East?

    Not addressed at all, by taking a hammer to the ear.

  57. I’ve been gone for more than a year from this blog — thought I would pop over to see what has changed.

    Sadly, not much. It’s not the fault of WoC however — it’s that the world situation has not changed.

    I supported the war in Iraq for a lot of reasons, mostly the need for compliance with binding UN resolutions and the breach of the truce. But I also supported it for humanitarian reasons: at the end of the day I saw less people dying overall if we took action than if we did not.

    I stand by that decision. Not only was it a good call, any kind of post pull-out I can foresee involves us sitting by while tens or hundreds of thousands die in total chaos around the second largest oil reserve on the planet. Somewhere in there should be enough to compel anybody with either compassion or cold-heartedness to leave some troops around.

    My belief is that any generalization about Iraq is false. Everybody — since the war began — wants to call it one way or the other. It’s a failure, it’s a change for the region. It’s Bush’s war (my favorite, as it denies the commenter even participating in a democracy as a citizen) yadda yadda.

    The GWOT is going to be COIN-based, my friends. That means small units, in with the population, trying to help and persuade. We’re already doing it everywhere else worldwide without a hitch. There are just going to be a few places that are hotter than others. Those are the places where it’s more important to keep slogging along, in my opinion.

    Or we could quit. To me, that’s a bad idea because of what comes next. But lots of folks have been humbled by making predictions about Iraq. I’m comfortable knowing that I voted and I did the best I could to ensure we fought the fight as long as we could. I think we learned a lot as we went along. If the other bunch wants to run things for a while, let them have at it.

    It’s not like it’s going to change the reality of the GWOT one way or another.

  58. Thanks for the hint about googling, although the only reference I could find with that approach was another CNN piece on Saudi sentiments which concludes that “fewer than 5 percent thought it was a good idea for bin Laden to rule the Arabian Peninsula”.

    Yes, and the title of the article you linked to was “Poll of Saudis shows wide support for bin Laden’s views”.

    They agree with him when he’s murdering Americans, Iraqis and every other form of human life on the planet, but they don’t agree with him when he hurts Saudis. Are we supposed to be surprised by that?

    Saudis and bin Laden share the same goals. They just express their supremacist, genocidal goals in different ways. Some want to kill us outright, some want to get as much cash from us as they can by while implausibly denying their support of terrorism. Either way, they’re not our allies.

  59. Armed Liberal:

    “David, I honestly don’t know Diana West – links?”

    Diana West posts columns for the Jewish World Review (link) and Town Hall (link).

    She’s worked out her ideas slowly, in public. Probably these two columns from 2006, What President Bush should say to us: Part 1 (link) and What President Bush should say to us: Part 2 (link), are where she summed up her position and nailed her colors to the mast.

    The keystone to her thinking is that she does not believe in a democratic offensive, she believes in an anti-sharia defensive.

    “So be it. What I mean by that is, it is neither in the national interest nor in the national will for the United States of America to attempt to reshape such a culture to conform to our notions of liberty and justice for all. It is neither in the national interest nor in the national will to attempt to reform the belief system that animates this culture to conform to our notions of freedom of worship.”

    “It is, however, in our national interest, and must become a part of our national will, to ensure that Islamic law does not come to our own shores, whether by means of violent jihad terrorism as practiced by the likes of al Qaeda or Hezbollah, or through peaceful patterns of migration, such as those that have already Islamized large parts of Europe.”

    “The shift I am describing-from a pro-democracy offensive to an anti-Shariah defensive — means a national course correction. Rather than continuing to emphasize the democratization of the Muslim Middle East as our key tool in the war on terror, I will henceforth emphasize the prevention of Shariah from reaching the West as our key tool in the war on terror.”

    “This will entail the immediate adoption of the following steps.”

    “To be continued … “

    In case it needs to be said: I don’t agree with every word she says. But she has a take on the war that relates to a big picture, not partisan advantage.

    Diana West has no claim to be a big Islam expert – nor do I of course – but the guys at Jihad Watch. In general Diana West has got the blessing. (I can provide links to laudatory mentions if need be.)

    “The blessing” is vital, because what we should do depends on what we are up against. If a system is fighting you, and you refuse to understand it or even acknowledge it, that’s bad. Since the Jihad Watch team know what they are talking about, I have polite interest in but no real use for theories on what we should do that ignore and / or are incoherent with the informed understanding of the Islamic threat that they provide.

    Armed Liberal:

    “And I’ve shared my Bloglines feeds before – do they look like I don’t read smart people who oppose the war?”

    Good point. And you were right to make it.

  60. bq. …is an image not just of defeat but of the shabby sell-outs necessary to accomplish it.

    From Mark Steyn:

    “They wait for us to run again”:http://www.ocregister.com/opinion/vietnam-people-america-1821074-times-new

    He hits it out the park one more time and says what I am not smart enough to say, better too. Some of the real reasons we MUST not fail another ally, one that did not choose us but one we forced with promises about how we could ‘Help’.

    Like it or not, there is an enemy out there that we MUST defeat. If we do not prevail we have two choices, submit or die. That is what they have told us. Why do you not believe them?

    The Hobo

  61. There is indeed an enemy out there we must defeat, and that enemy is NOT in Iraq. There are cells of that enemy all over the world including probably here in the land of Oz, and they are operational in Iraq now after the start of the Bush governments horrorshow and excuse for wanton profiteering in Iraq, – but the real enemy is abundantly funded and nurtured by wahabists in Saudi Arabia, and safe in their redoubts in the Peshawar planning, training for, and financing the sequel to 9/11. They are reconstituting, while we waste oceans of blood, treasure, and credibilty in Iraq.

    I also disagree with the predictions of thousands of slaughtered Iraqi’s when, or if America departs or ends combat operations. First, nothing pimped by anyone in the Bush government has any basis in fact, or truth, or reality. Second, there are already thousands of innocent Iraqi’s slaughtered every year, for six years now.

    After America reduces our face and footprint in Iraq, the land of the two rivers will quickly, (and it will be violent, and there will be slaughter) realign into to three autonomous nation states, Sunni, Shi’a, and Kurd. All America should worry about is securing a steady flow of oil, (which is now and always has been below prewar output) – and the Iraqi’s will have to reach agreements between these opposing sectarian societies on how that wealth is shared. The Sunni’s will force a settlement, or relentlessly disrupt the oil flow. Shia’a and Kurds will compromise in some way to allow for a period of peace and stability, and to strengthen the individuals positions and their societies.

    Iran will have strong influence in the southern Iran, but Iraqi’s even some shi’a particularly the Mahdi Army and Moktadr al Sadrs followers will not accept Iran dominance in Iraq. The Turks will not be happy about an even more autonomous Kurdistan. There will be a period of intense violence as the borders and agreements are worked out, and then Iraq and regional states will return to relative peace with each sectarian group seeking to enhance and entrench power in there repective regions. Americans obdurately imagine we can direct the course of events in Irag, when in fact and truth, Iraq is an advanced society, with nottodistant memories of relative comfort and stability. Iraqi’s (even Saddam) were not, and are not jihadists. Iraqi’s (even Saddam) did not force women to veil themselves or be beheaded, or condemn or exclude liquor or music from their society. Iraqi’s and Iraq is not now and never was jihadist. Theright falls into the Bush government mindwarp attempting to conflate 9/11 with Iraq, and Iraqi’s with the socalled “evildoers” (excuse me while I laugh my ass off)

    Bush started a poorly planned, woefully mismanaged, catastophically failing war against the wrong muslims.

    Now America must right the ghoulish wrongs of the fascists in the Bush government and resume confronting the real threats to America in safe entrenched and working feverishly on the sequel to 9/11 in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

  62. I also am skeptical of claims of post-pullout genocide.

    First, we are already tacit collaborators in genocide against non-Muslim minorities in Iraq. To work with our non-allies, we can’t contest their sacred values. These sacred values imply treatment for non-Muslim minorities that those communities often can’t survive. Practical Islam is just too horrible, and non-Muslim communities in Iraq have no future, or a very bad and limited one. (Like us, if we lose the low-intensity global war that our supposed allies are waging against us.)

    If there was post-pullout genocide in Iraq, which I do not believe, we would not be responsible for it. (Though the left would try forever to hang guilt around our necks, as always.) The losers, kicked off the battlefield, are not responsible for what happens next. The winners, those still in place in Iraq, would be responsible.

    But in the situation that already exists, we ought to feel guilty.

    Saudi Arabia and Iran are backing the slaughter in Iraq. (And they are both part of our enemy, no matter who says what.) It is part of the global war on unbelief. As long as there are infidels in Iraq whose necks are not bowed in subjection, the killing frenzy will be easy to stimulate, easy to pay for and get. After we go, it will be harder. And Iran and Saudi Arabia will lose a great part of their motivation to throw chum in the waters. I think reduced domestic killing is likely after we leave. In any case, I do not think a genocide of Muslims by Muslims is on the cards. A genocide of non-Muslims, by Muslims, just out of pious zeal and sheer wickedness – maybe. But, there’s hardly any of that left to do. The bulk of the work has been done while we turned our faces away.

    This is quite different from saying simply that red on red attrition is a Good Thing, and we ought not to get in the way of it. I do say that too. But it’s a different argument.

  63. Exceedingly erudite analysis China Hand. One thousand thanks.

    Your points are flawed on two counts Daniel Markham.

    The first is rooted in your assertion that “at the end of the day I saw less people dying overall if we took action than if we did not.” Since we will never know the “didnot” math in your calculus your position is an unknown unknown and therefore unprovable. We are left with your opinion, and nothing else.

    The second is the “what comes next” position which again is an unknown unknown regardless of the Bush government and gospel according to fox parables and scarepseak to the contrary, which is also flawed on its face because you deny, or somehow ignore the reality and facts of events in the field.

    Quoting hypocrisyrules above,

    “a. Iran moved to a pre-eminent position in the Middle East.
    b. Much more hatred and resentment of the U.S. NOW, more than before (that you referenced for your friends.)
    c. Dead troops, for no good reason.
    d. Huge amounts of expenditure, with No End In Sight.
    e. A wobbly post Iraq balance of forces, with still a potential of a greater regional conflict, to add to the civil war.”

    You either accept facts and the realities of the situation in Iraq or you don’t. If you don’t, then stayin the course is the preferred option, and with it all the bloody, costly, noendinsight horrors and excuses for wanton profiteering. If you do, then staying the course is the only option that with certainty, will NOT work.

    It’s not about quitting. It’s about righting a terrible wrong, and refocusing our efforts on confronting the real threats to America.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  64. Tony, do you think you can say what you have to say without the cant? “Horrorshow” and “pimp” (to name just two) are getting pretty worn, no matter how much joy they bring you through repetition.

    Just asking. I’m honestly curious how much space you could save (and consequent time).

  65. Tony, your position that the appropriate response to terrorist networks is black ops is a common one – and one of the handholds for the antiwar but wanting to be serious about responding to terrorism folks.

    I’m both doubtful that most people who propose it mean it, and adamantly opposed to it.

    First and foremost, it means we will be committing acts of war – individual assassinations by government agents, small-unit tactical strikes – in nations that almost certainly will not give us authority to take those actions. Those acts themselves are – wait for it – clear violations of the laws of war and themselves acts of war. So we’re going to risk war with thirty countries around the globe, while exposing our agents to arrest in countries where they transit and plan (see Germany and Italy).

    Next, it means we will be building a military designed for murder. Not death, but murder. Those kinds of armies are very hard to control. The boundary between assassinating a terrorist and assassinating a foreign political opponent is a thin one.

    Finally, it presumes a competence that is really only found in the movies. the Mossad went after the Munich killers and shot a waiter. I live in Los Angeles, know a lot of people in law enforcement, and here – where we control the ground and have every advantage – we can’t successfully infiltrate most street gangs or drug cartels. What in the Wide World of Sports leads you to think we will successfully be able to infiltrate a tribal, family-based network in a hostile country ten thousand miles away?

    A.L.

  66. I’m going on record to predict that this latest TonyForesta experiment will fail, just as the first one did 3-4 years ago.

    As a third experiment, let’s invite Raymond back so he and TonyForesta can participate in a death cage match.

  67. Tony,

    Yes. We are left with my opinion, nothing else. We’ll never know how many we would have lost had we not invaded Iraq, because we did. Likewise, we’ll never know how many servicemembers were saved by the nuclear bombing of Japan. This is the nature of such arguments.

    I also do not know what will come next. While we’re at it, I don’t know the winning lottery numbers, the weather for next week, or why they canceled that model-doing-the-news show down in Texas.

    You said “it’s about righting a terrible wrong”. I wonder why stabilizing a country in chaos is worse than leaving it alone. If this is the case, it undermines the reason for decades of multi-national efforts. It signals the beginning of a period where the United States is just going to sit by while secular cleansing happens and do nothing. From now on, arguments about Darfur, Rwanda, Somalia, etc, will ring on deaf ears. Because if we can pull out where we a) had some responsibility for what happened, b) were already there, and c) have a clear national interest in stability then we effectively have given up on the humanitarian/nation-building gig once and for all.

    I was not one of those who said Iraq would be easy. I did not say we should go in because of WMD. My opinion was, and still is, that if this nation makes the commitment to start using American lives in such an action, we should see it through until the end. I’m not picking the paper up everyday to see whether my opinion should change or not. I’m glad we’ve started learning some COIN institutionally. I would be happier if the JCS could start strategically allocating some resources for it. This many years into a war, not having enough manpower and having such an expensive footprint — it’s a scandal. That’s the thing we all should be peeved about — a lot more than the current administration or the politics of the month.

  68. Sorry, I know the conversation has moved on, but I had to answer this.

    robohobo:what about the old idea of going to the new country, working to assimilate, working to learn the language? you know – working. not sit around on your duff collecting the best available welfare.

    In America, most muslim populations have integrated nicely. I have met muslim populations in multiple cities who are working hard.. they’re buying restaurants and shops, they’re becoming citizens and their kids are going to regular american colleges.

    This is different in France, where a quasi-perminant immigrant status leaves many unable to get a job (largely due to the current socialist setup). Many are unable to get loans or attend good schools. Basically, they are blocked from anything that would create upward mobility. This creates anger, and anger needs a way to vent. I’m suggesting that the riots several years ago were largely due to these poverty-related problems (which also occurred in New York around the 1800’s). I’m also suggesting that the problems with high crime and violence in French ghettos is not unlike problems with high crime in violence in say… Baltimore.

    “if the realpolitic dictates that the populace does not really agree with this then why have they not done something to free their souls?”

    Actually, the Iranian goverment almost dramatically changed several years ago. Khatami, a secular progressive became president and was promising change. Progressives were winning elections easily. Thousands of students filled town squares and demanded freedom. And then most were arrested, many were thrown in jail and tortured. Others have been on closer surveillance. Newspapers that were anti-republic were shut down. In 2005, the Progressive party was banned from participation.

    Fear and also a feeling of hopelessness has prevented the progressive party from recreating it’s base.

    There is talk of anti-republic sentiment rising again. I’m not sure, getting news from inside Iran is difficult. However, blithely suggesting that it’s easy to just run out and topple a dictatorship is silly. It’s only happened a few times in history, and even more rarely since the dawn of tanks and machine guns.

  69. Finally, it presumes a competence that is really only found in the movies. the Mossad went after the Munich killers and shot a waiter.

    The British police went after a terrorist and killed an innocent Brazilian electrician. These mistakes are horrific, but they don’t prove that a tactic or form of training is dangerous or wrong.

    First and foremost, it means we will be committing acts of war – individual assassinations by government agents, small-unit tactical strikes – in nations that almost certainly will not give us authority to take those actions. Those acts themselves are – wait for it – clear violations of the laws of war and themselves acts of war. So we’re going to risk war with thirty countries around the globe, while exposing our agents to arrest in countries where they transit and plan (see Germany and Italy).

    If we were to redefine terrorists, their political supporters and their financial supporters as ‘enemies of all states’, then they would, under existing (and international) laws, have no civil rights or national rights. They would have fewer rights than enemy combatants, and would not have the protection of anyone’s civil or military laws.

    Under existing law, Individual assassinations, and small-unit tactical strikes could be carried out in any country. Of course, terror-supporting nations like Saudi Arabia, Libya, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen and the Sudan would not cooperate with these laws, and we shouldn’t expect them to, but there are a lot of terror-supporting bankers, politicians and ‘militants’ living abroad. Most of terrorism’s financial infrastructure is abroad. Hitting these weak points would severely weaken our enemies’ ability to fight.

    The biggest problem with enforcing these existing laws is, we need the cooperation of the 5/6ths of the planet that is threatened by terrorism. Instead of uniting and making rational plans for self defense, they (like us) are determined to ally with the enemies who want to kill us.

    Overcoming our irrational determination to ally with our enemies, and our misguided belief that we can somehow peacefully reform them is the biggest barrier to a victory in this war. Our enemy, like every aggressor, fights us because the want what we have – and we’re in their way.

  70. mary –

    These mistakes are horrific, but they don’t prove that a tactic or form of training is dangerous or wrong.

    No, but they do show that they are unreliable, and hence a poor primary strategy for winning the conflict.

    If we were to redefine terrorists, their political supporters and their financial supporters as ‘enemies of all states’, then they would, under existing (and international) laws, have no civil rights or national rights. They would have fewer rights than enemy combatants, and would not have the protection of anyone’s civil or military laws.

    And if my great-grandparents had bought Ventura County, I wouldn’t have to work.

    Look, in a world where weak states a) didn’t see terrorist groups as proxy armies; b) weren’t afraid of terrorist groups and their political constituencies; c) could be seen as publicly cooperating with the Great Satan; or d) had so little regard for their sovereignty that they’d let other militaries operate freely within their borders, your idea would make sense.

    We don’t live in that world, or one anything like it. So what’s Plan B?

    A.L.

  71. A.L.:

    How do you define Plan B? Or C?

    Plan B part 1: Remove any and all non-citizen Moslems from civilised nations – OK, America can only do this for itself, but setting an example? Let no more in – at all – except perhaps for accredited diplomats. Moslems, for this purpose, to be loosely defined as citizens of any nation with Islam as a state religion. To deal with those with no papers – simply send them back on the next plane to wherever the plane they arrived on came from.

    Part 2: Start proper risk profiling of, for example, airline travellers.

    Part 3: Make life as uncomfortable as possible for citizen Moslems; as examples, forbid the creation of Islamic faith schools, forbid the creation or conversion of new mosques, forbid halal slaughter, don’t recognise Moslem weddings as legal pairings, forbid the creation of special facilities such as prayer rooms for Moslems in industrial or public buildings. And, especially, forbid the employment of Moslems in any capacity by any public body. This could easily be justified of the grounds of security. And, most especially, start rigorously enforcing existing laws against incitement to murder, treason and sedition.

    Part 4: Start a crash programme for energy independence. There are many paths to this – try them all. If this level of commitment could be justified for the Manhattan project, then it can certainly be justified now.

    Part 5: This is the only one that has to be waited for. When Part 4 produces results, lay a minefield in the Persian Gulf outlet, pull out all Allied troops, blow up all pipelines leading out of Moslem countries – and let them rot.

    And if this doesn’t work? Plan C: For the answer to that Google “Three Conjectures”.

  72. _”The British police went after a terrorist and killed an innocent Brazilian electrician. These mistakes are horrific, but they don’t prove that a tactic or form of training is dangerous or wrong.”_

    EFFECTIVE. Whether they are right/wrong/red/blue/up/down/good/bad/indifferent is immaterial if they arent effective in achieving our goals.

    I find it ironic that the same people who claim our killing of tens of thousands of terrorists (including high level international ringleaders) in Iraq and elsewhere only turns them into martyrs and creates more recruits can also argue that ‘cleanly’ assassinating some ringleaders will solve our problems (if such a thing were even possible, which still hasnt been established).

    I happen to think this argument is simply an excuse to embrace what Bush is supposedly not doing. But the devil is in the details- had we been (or if we started) assassinating Saudi princes or Pakistani government leaders I feel quite sure these same voices would be screaming bloody murder _at least_ as loudly as they do about Iraq. AL has a point- assassination has always been held in an even dimmer view than warfare.

    But the main point is I still havent seen a coherant argument stated as to why this would actually work to achieve our security. Another irony of this position- for those that go on about ‘root causes’, this certainly does nothing for that. Say what you want about Iraq- establishing the first democracy in the ME at least _purported_ to address the underlying causes.

  73. #70 alchemist – yup, good points. many US muslims ARE assimilating. many are not. as far as fwanch goes – you said it – socialist *spit* set up – the system responsible for more deaths last century than any other and looking to continue it’s run into this century. socialist *spit* swine need to become extinct or marginalized out of existence. that still does not discount my point that the ‘immigrants’ go to the place that most suits their mindset – if they are looking for a free lunch they go to the EU and Ireland, if they are looking to bootstrap themselves they go to the US or somewhere where there is NO free lunch. (and remember the 2nd law of thermodynamics – there is no such thing as a free lunch)

    2nd point re: iran:

    bq. Fear and also a feeling of hopelessness has prevented the progressive party from recreating it’s base.

    time for them to push the reset button. yup, THAT one. maybe they need some help? or do they really care? hard to tell. it may be that this particular society NEEDS a strongman to lead it. i dunno.

    Tony Foresta – let me see if I can channel you….

    BUSH blah…blah…blah…blah…blah…BUSH blah…blah…blah…blah…

    Doesn’t it ever get tiring, Tony?

    Nortius – as far as Tony goes, i save lots of time, the scroll wheel on my mouse takes me past him rather quickly…../snark off

  74. Fletcher Christian – you do okay in #73, up to a point

    bq. Plan B part 1: Remove any and all non-citizen Moslems from civilised nations – OK, America can only do this for itself, but setting an example? Let no more in – at all – except perhaps for accredited diplomats. Moslems, for this purpose, to be loosely defined as citizens of any nation with Islam as a state religion. To deal with those with no papers – simply send them back on the next plane to wherever the plane they arrived on came from.

    1st section – NO! 2nd section – maybe, but ne careful here, you may find yourself on that plane flight or boat.

    bq. Part 2: Start proper risk profiling of, for example, airline travellers.

    Yup. Hate to say it and the Libertarians on the site are going to get their panties in a wad, but we need to quit searching 80 year old WWII vets and get the you guys looking furtive into the queue.

    bq. Part 3: Make life as uncomfortable as possible for citizen Moslems; as examples, forbid the creation of Islamic faith schools, forbid the creation or conversion of new mosques, forbid halal slaughter, don’t recognise Moslem weddings as legal pairings, forbid the creation of special facilities such as prayer rooms for Moslems in industrial or public buildings. …….

    not only NO! but HELL NO! unless you wish to put all religions in the same boat? is that the game? throw out the Constitution? this is f-cking scary man. NO! and i will fight you all the way on this one.

    bq. Part 4: Start a crash programme for energy independence. There are many paths to this – try them all. If this level of commitment could be justified for the Manhattan project, then it can certainly be justified now.

    here i agree with you 100%

    bq. Part 5: This is the only one that has to be waited for. When Part 4 produces results, lay a minefield in the Persian Gulf outlet, pull out all Allied troops, blow up all pipelines leading out of Moslem countries – and let them rot.

    nope, the money runs out, they are toast. no more being able to buy goodies from the West.

    bq. And if this doesn’t work? Plan C: For the answer to that Google “Three Conjectures”.

    this is already in play. it just has not come to fruition yet. AND the Ummah may beat us to this one unless we grow some to fight Iran with.

  75. Look, in a world where weak states a) didn’t see terrorist groups as proxy armies; b) weren’t afraid of terrorist groups and their political constituencies; c) could be seen as publicly cooperating with the Great Satan; or d) had so little regard for their sovereignty that they’d let other militaries operate freely within their borders, your idea would make sense.

    I wasn’t talking about the actions of weak, terror-supporting states. Nations like Iran and Saudi Arabia see proxy armies as a means of getting what they want. Their extensive, billion-dollar terrorist infrastructure has been successful so far. As long as it’s successful, they’ll keep using it. Their actions, though cruel, brutal and downright evil, are a rational way of achieving their goals.

    I was talking about the non-sensible actions of stronger states, like us. It’s in our best interests to eliminate the threat of terrorism. We know how to wage war, we know how to use assasination, covert ops and as a tool. (Well, we knew how to do that.

    Our country was won through the use of those tactics, we defeated piracy through their use. Why are we suddenly claiming that these tactics are wrong or ineffective?

    It’s our job to stop them from attacking us, to dismantle terrorism’s infrastructure, using every reasonable means at our disposal. Our enemies are much weaker than we are. ‘Total war’ against their weak military forces is about equivalent to attacking Grenada a couple of times. Since we’ve been ‘allied’ with these nations, we know who the bad guys and the terror supporters are. But refuse to wage an effective war against them. We’re not doing our job.

  76. _”We know how to wage war, we know how to use assasination, covert ops and as a tool. (Well, we knew how to do that.”_

    Can anyone point to an instance where our government sponsored assasination solved a national security issue? Maybe we should start there. I can think of several situations where it _exacerbated_ a crisis- particularly in the long term. Our handy work in Guatemala may have stymied a leftist government (freely elected) in that nation (to be replaced by a succession of brutal right wing thugs who massacred tens of thousands) but it surely inflamed just as many surrounding nations to fear and hate the US which continues to this day, likely _advancing_ many Marxist movements.

    _”Our country was won through the use of those tactics, we defeated piracy through their use. Why are we suddenly claiming that these tactics are wrong or ineffective?”_

    Lets start with effective- i still havent seen the data on that. We defeated piracy through the United States Navy and Marine Corp.

  77. Plan B part 1: Remove any and all non-citizen Moslems from civilised nations.

    While this would prevent acts of non-citizen muslim terrorism in the western world, it would not prevent citizen muslim terrorism or citizen non-muslim terrorism.

    I really think that having some open borders (through exchange students/ business exchange etc) is a GOOD thing. Throughout the world, people see the US as a conglomerate of coke comericals and britney spears videos. Millions more don’t even have exposure to that much americana. Instead, they hear stories and rumors passed from person to person. Sending doctors to help earthquake refugees in Pakistan was a great way to spread firsthand knowledge of the charitable america.

    Most (I would even say 99%) people who come to the US bear no ill will against us, and will likely leave with a fonder vision of us than before they came. If we’re ever going to win the war on terrorism, populations need to realize that it’s easier (and more beneficial) to work with the US rather than against it. The stick is important, but so is the carrot. Displaying zenophobia towards all muslim non-citizens isn’t going to make us any more desirable to work with.

  78. Can anyone point to an instance where our government sponsored assassination solved a national security issue?

    If it was successful, it would be difficult to point to. We usually hear about the unsuccessful ones. But, given the constraints of Mutually Assured Destruction, that was the way the Cold War had to be fought.

    We defeated piracy through the United States Navy and Marine Corp.

    We also defeated it by hanging or otherwise doing very nasty things to pirates. Lots of seashore towns around the world (and in the USA) have a ‘gallows point’.

    We certainly didn’t defeat piracy by liberating them, allying with them or by bringing them democracy.

  79. Also, can anyone point to an instance where allying with an enemy helped us win a war against that enemy?

    We have successfully allied with bad regimes in the past, like our alliance with Stalin in WWII, but our enemy at that time wasn’t communism.

    If we had allied with Japan in an effort to fight Germany during WWII, we probably wouldn’t have been successful.

  80. _”If it was successful, it would be difficult to point to. We usually hear about the unsuccessful ones. But, given the constraints of Mutually Assured Destruction, that was the way the Cold War had to be fought.”_

    Ah. And every time i close my fridge door the light stays on and the eggs have a party with the cheese. Have their been any mysterious murders that have suddenly ended a national security crisis?

    _”We also defeated it by hanging or otherwise doing very nasty things to pirates. Lots of seashore towns around the world (and in the USA) have a ‘gallows point’.”_

    Lets seperate piracy as an act from piracy as theft from piracy a tool of nations or powers.

    Towns dont capture or kill privateers- navies do. It was the guns of the British (and later American) fleets that ended piracy in most of the world- moreover considering the British themselves were funding many if not most of the privateers it was the eclipse of other sea-faring powers that caused piracy to become pointless. The British military defeats of the Spanish, for instance, did more to end piracy than any number of hangings in Bermuda.

    _”We certainly didn’t defeat piracy by liberating them, allying with them or by bringing them democracy.”_

    Heh. Jean Laffite might beg to differ. Or John Paul Jones.

  81. _”Also, can anyone point to an instance where allying with an enemy helped us win a war against that enemy?”_

    You badly need to define your terms. Are all Muslims now our enemies?

  82. Have their been any mysterious murders that have suddenly ended a national security crisis?

    I don’t personally know of any, but despite our incompetent assassinations that somehow increased the number of marxists worldwide – who won the cold war?

    The British military defeats of the Spanish, for instance, did more to end piracy than any number of hangings in Bermuda.

    True. If Britian hadn’t stopped funding privateers, or if we had allied with the pirates in Tripoli, the outcome wouldn’t have been as successful.

    The use of covert ops is an interesting option, but the fact that we aren’t extensively using it doesn’t cripple us in this war.

    The fact that we are allied with the sponsors of 9/11 and other nations that are in every logical sense our enemies does.

  83. You badly need to define your terms. Are all Muslims now our enemies?

    Absolutely not. Our enemies are, as Bush said, terrorists, their financial supporters and any nation that harbors or supports it.

    The terrorist infrastructure is a political, supremacist movement that uses religion as just one means of recruitment. Islam isn’t the enemy, just as all German culture wasn’t the enemy during WWII.

  84. _”I don’t personally know of any, but despite our incompetent assassinations that somehow increased the number of marxists worldwide – who won the cold war?”_

    Apparenly you dont know how and why the Cold War was won, but you feel comfortable giving credit to our assassination policy, which by your own admisission you only know the negative outcomes?

    Hey, our running back fumbled 3 times before he was pulled. But maybe fumbling won the game for us? We did win after all, game, set, match!

    _”True. If Britian hadn’t stopped funding privateers, or if we had allied with the pirates in Tripoli, the outcome wouldn’t have been as successful.”_

    Errr, successful for whom? It worked out fine for the British funding the Privateers. And the Tripoli corsairs were stopped by the USMC and US Navy, plain and simple.

  85. Hey, our running back fumbled 3 times before he was pulled.

    True, but that doesn’t mean that using the same running back again is a guarantee of losing the game.

    ..successful for whom?

    The eventual outcome was successful for those who wanted to put an end to piracy.

  86. I can’t conform to any specific language, but will attempt out of respect to minimize the terms that offend you Nortius Maximus. That said, if the darts are flung at me, as they are through out this thread, – I’ll respond in kind.

    While I accept some of your points and your basic positon AI, – that police actions and covert or special ops WON’T work in defeating our jihadist enemies, I challenge you on two issues.

    First, theright, and the Bush government are relentlessly pimping the fact that we are at war, there is an enemy out there who is trying to kill us, they have declared war, jihad against us, – so why would our actions in retaliation, or preemption be deemed as acts of war that is already declared by the enemies we target. Again, I do not see the legal or moral difference between using small hunterkiller teams to eradicate targets uninvited in soveriegn lands, and hurling 160,000 troops, the enormous support structures, and building 14 enduring bases uninvited on soveriegn lands.

    The second issue is you ignore the fact that as police actions, and to obtain actionable intelligence, the preferred action would be to capture our enemies, and the Germany, and Italy case you refer to are examples of how these kinds of actions are already operational. There is way to much focus on theright on the killing part, and not enough on the hunting and capturing elements.

    There are time however, as in the Zhakwari (sorry about spelling) is a good example, where a targeted assassination is just and necessary. Was that a legal action?

    Certainly if there was some hot intel that exposed the whereabouts with relative certainty of bin Laden most American, and most non-jihadists would support a strike, or an assassination attempt.

    Yours, is the position that is conflicted. You have no problem supporting using half a trillion dollars and bulk of the US military to project power, occupy soveriegn lands, erect puppet governments, slaughter many thousands of that nations innocent people, and maraud that nations resources, – but you somehow twist whacking a “high value” target as an act of war likely to lead to a nuclear holocaust. The entire logic is insideout, and upsidedown and flawed.

    By the same token imagining falsely that the Bush government hurled America into Iraq intent “stabilizing a country in chaos” ignores the fact that the Ameican people and cogress were deceptively sold the imminent threats of WMD, and Saddam links to Al Quaida, and would never have support the Iraq debacle if it was about “stabilizing a country in chaos”, and also that socalled chaos you imagine was a far more stable, much more peaceful, far less violent, far more effecient country before the war, than the chaos now as a direct result of the with horrific war.

    With regard to our competence, you may have a point. But I would argue that the war on drugs like to waronterror are not really being fought to win. Target little soldiers and the street, and locking up kids selling on the corner does nothing to alleviate the larger problem. The street soldiers, corner drug sellers, are almost irrelevent, and the bulk of our resouces should be applied to upper management, command and control, and determined to smote off the dragons head.

    My point is that we are already engaged in these missions, tactics, and strategies globally, only now we have the added massive drainage of blood, treasure, and credibility, against the wrong muslims in Iraq.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  87. Piracy was not ended in the Caribbean by attacking the colonies in which they were based. The British and Spanish navies expanded and attacked the pirates. The modern analogy would be for the U.S. to increase border security and attack the terrorists in the act, *but not necessarily before the act was committed.*

    Nor did the U.S. navy and marines end Barbary piracy. I would say that the U.S. set the blueprint for making piracy unprofitable which other states could follow, but it was the later European consensus that piracy could no longer be tolerated that was the end.

    I do not think that such a consensus exists with respect to terrorism. It should. But I think the main problem with the analogy is that pirates are profit-seekers. Killing them is a good deterrent, but even interference renders the trade unprofitable.

  88. This is a complex thread on many lines. Part of the problem in discussing these issues is in the framing of basic parameters that divides wildly between theleft and theright. If we are engaged in a GWoT, then it is imperative that we know, and understand our enemy. It is critical to our defense, and the eventual defeat of that enemy that we know, or attempt to understand what exactly motivates our enemy, and what is the issue, or issues of conflict. Ignoring, or dismissing these core issues will leave openended our conflict. We have a situation of neverendingwar. If we don’t define our enemy, then how do we defeat them. This exactly where the Bush government succeeded in mangling the language in ways that intentionally decieved the people with regard to who exactly are our enemies, how exactly we intend to confront and defeat them, and what exactly would define victory in the process.

    The Bush government is expert in the blackarts of perception management, information domination, disinformation, and slime campaigns and have largely succeeded in diffusing, blurring, conflating, and distorting the realities and the facts to such an extreme sense, – that deciphering any solid or common ground is all but impossible. One side takes on postion based on one blurred vision, the other, another based on distortions.

    The “assassination” fixation represents only one aspect of our conflict. Defeating jihadist will require defeating the concept of jihad, and what I term the primitive, perverted, malignancy of wahabism particularly. This is a religion that teaches (conditions, mindcontrols)4yearold children into believing that it is allahs will to kill all Jews, Americans, and infidils, even their fellow muslims.

    Wahabism is no religion in the tradition sense, and is in fact a fascist pathology, not unlike that proselytized by the Klan and other fundamentalist judaic, kristian, hindu, maoist or whatever sects rooted in fascism.

    Defeating jihadists will require three concerted and determined efforts. The tip of the spear approach involved in hunting, capturing or killing jihadist mass murderers and those who aid and abet them, – just as any society would employ extraordinary resources to hunt, capture, or kill any mass murderer in the midst.

    The second approach is in cutting of the financial support, and disrupting networks, systems, and infrastructure. This a very hightech intensive effort.

    The third, and probably, the most difficult approach involves winning the message war, defeating the message of our enemy, tearing it to shreds, and condemning the enemies message to eternal damnation, an effort the world accomplished in defeating Nazi Germany.

    It’s not just about killing people. It IS about wnning hearts and minds, and here the critical determinant – with truth, not lies. – Because wars, and societies based on lies will always be doomed to fail.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  89. #83 Mark Buehner:

    *YES.* They always have been. Ask any Austrian. Ask any Israeli. Ask any Hindu. Ask any Filipino who isn’t one of them. Ask any Spaniard.

    Islam has been fighting the rest of the world for _twelve hundred years_. And it isn’t going to stop until there isn’t any Islam. Their most unholy book commands them to fight. And denial of this is another command.

  90. “But wufnick, in a bad situation good survival advice is exactly don;t do anything until you’re sure it’s better than what you’re doing right now. We’re in an uncomfortable – even extremely painful – position. The temptation to just do something is incredibly high. And the reality is that until we have some calm likelihood that whatever we do next will be better that what we’re doing now, “…waiting around until something better shows up” seems like exactly the right strategy.”

    Man – if only the Armed Liberal of today, who wrote that, could have said THE SAME EXACT FRACKIN THING to the Armed Liberal who 4 years ago wrote:

    “1) That invading Iraq is a good idea, and that the most likely consequences are good ones, and that the potential risks are themselves better than those which follow from taking no action;”

    Would have been one more voice against the biggest strategic mistake the U.S. has made, saved 3000 dead troops, saved 1 trillion dollars.

  91. Your position Christian Fletcher is the meat if the underlying policies many on theright actually seek, although they are in public discourse at least deceptive, or disingenuous by frame the conflict in terms of liberation, democratizing the ME. The Bush government itself goes to great lengths to tamp down any suggestin that their actions are in anyway an assault on, or an attempt to initiate another crusade and eradicate the muslims from the holyland, or the lands that happed to hold the bulk of the worlds oil resources.

    We need to be honest and frame this issues in language we all can agree upon. If our real objective is to eradicate islam, – then we need to be honest about that objective, and be even more honest with regard to processes necessary to achieve that objective. We cannot simply lie, and pretend that we want to democratize the ME, if our real goal is to destroy it.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  92. If our real objective is to eradicate islam, – then we need to be honest about that objective, and be even more honest with regard to processes necessary to achieve that objective. We cannot simply lie, and pretend that we want to democratize the ME, if our real goal is to destroy it.

    Ignoring for a moment the fact that the goal of ‘eradicating Islam’ is insane, we should note that many if not most Muslims live outside the Middle East.

  93. _”The modern analogy would be for the U.S. to increase border security and attack the terrorists in the act, but not necessarily before the act was committed.”_

    Problem- pirates generally wanted to survive to enjoy their booty. How do you deal with an enemy that _intends_ not to survive an attack? This is the crux of the entire huge debate:

    1.You wait until they attack, they die, you die.

    2.You try to catch them before they attack. This means either a machine gun on every corner (not very effective), a police state, or a massive change in our principles and lifestyle regarding immigrants, Muslims, and anyone that looks Muslim (brown people). This is impossible in the open and free nation of immigrants we pride ourselves on being.

    3.You try to kill them before they act.

    4.You try to stop them from wanting to kill you.

  94. Good point mary, and one I was trying to shine a hot light upon. If we really seek to destroy islam, – the practical realities of achieving such an monsterous endeavor are far more complex, and would require far greater economic, military, and blood commitments.

    My point is that we have to be honest about who, or what our enemies are, and what exactly our objectives are, or else we continue lying to ourselves, the world, and remain committed to neverendingwar, with no stated objective, no clearly defined enemy, and no way to claim victory.

    I personally do not support this kind of supremist thinking, and would challenge anyone who does support this kind of fascism on the practical realities of ever achieving this mad endeavor.

    The point is in framing the issue in terms we all can agree on, so we know in truth what exactly are our objectives. If our objectives our defeating or eradicating jihadists, – that’s one thing, and one thing that is theoretically achievable. If on the other hand, our objectives are to eliminate or destroy all of islam, – we must admit that our objectives here are fascist and predatory, and in practical military, political, economic, and moral terms UNACHIEVABLE.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  95. The problem with Iraq is the problem of the Democratic Party.

    And the problem of the Democratic Party is that the party itself exists to represent the interests of and is comprised of, upper-class elites who have semi-hereditary positions in government, corporations, the media, and Hollywood, along with favored minority groups.

    The Democratic Party exists mainly to thwart or retard the interests of the vast, mostly white, middle class. Therefore expecting the Democratic Party to pursue policies that would benefit instead of harm the middle class is foolish. Because the upper class elites benefit from policies that hurt the middle class, as do the minority groups.

    National defense is chief among them.

    The Army and Marine Corps is stressed by action in Iraq and Afghanistan. What therefore is the obvious solution? Why spend a heck of a lot more money to make each BIGGER. Given that we have half the military we had in 1991, this would appear to be a no-brainer, and give us the flexibility we need to WIN any confrontation with enemies such as Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. We currently spend about 3.4% of GDP, incredibly low, back to 1930’s levels of spending. In the 1980’s for example we spent about 6% of GDP on the military.

    Casualties are another thing. We lost 12,000 men in Okinawa in a few months. Over 50,000 in the Normandy hedgerows. We have in the elites an expectation that we will NOT (as if by some “magic”) have to pay in blood to protect our country. This is IMHO mostly due to the elites not really being interested in the “little people” since they can always jet off to Switzerland or wherever and probably enjoyed (if Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer are accurate guides and I think they are) the events of 9/11. Heck even Bill Maher celebrated the 9/11 hijackers. Democrats have simply no interest in defending the nation: witness both Obama and Hillary taking “nukes off the table” categorically and Obama’s “hug responders” and “hug a thug tour” as a serious option for national defense.

    Looking for national unity or blaming politicians for the disunity is IMHO pointless and wrong. We have to blame a class of people: wealthy elites and the minority allies (looking at you Will Smith and KRS-ONE) who have no interest or investment or concern for America or it’s people. Any more than say, Khomeni cared about the Iranian nation (he didn’t, he cared only for Islam).

    In that sense our road to victory is two-fold: destroy the elites politically by exposing their hatred of ordinary Americans and America; and as Belmont Club and others point out, build up Iraq from the bottom-up bypassing the failed national political culture.

    BOTH approaches (enemy at home and in Iraq) require slow, steady, unglamorous and tedious work to attack our enemies. And we should not kid ourselves either: Nancy Pelosi and Daily Kos are as much our enemies as Osama and Ahmadinejad. Since each is openly allied with each other.

    I am not kidding about this. It is impossible by definition for a woman like Nancy Pelosi, from a wealthy elitist family catering to wealthy anti-American elites hostile to every form of ordinary life and romanticizing our brutal enemies to be anything other than the open ally she is of our enemies. Her picture, scarf over her head, groveling before Assad, should be enough.

    [Right at 9/11, Will Smith made the statement that “no Black people were in the Towers” and he felt “nothing” towards the victims since “America oppressed black people.” A statement echoed by rapper KRS-ONE who thought 9/11 was a “victory against oppression.” These statements, along with Mailer and Sontag’s celebration of 9/11 speak for themselves.]

  96. Your proclamations are so overthetop, and so wildly innacurate Jim Rockford that there is no reason to respond. I will inform you however that you have no idea what motivates theleft, or the democratic party, and further that you are shamed for sliming your fellow Americans in such a reckless, unsubstantiated, and wildly innaccurate framework.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  97. Ok, the whole legal assasination, black ops squads thing is simply a no go.

    First, I can’t stop giggling over the fact that the same people who repeatedly accuse Bush of warmongering and crimes against humanity apparently have no problems with giving him blanket approval to designate people as terrorists and having them killed. Along with people with the same name, same face, and/or in the same place as the terrorist is at the time.

    Second, for those who want some kind of international cooperation on this to avoid the annoying issues of sovereignty and the whole killing their citizens being acts of war, well, you do realize that would have to be RECIPROCAL right?

    Do you seriously want Chinese, Russian, Iranian, Syrian, Pakistani, tactical squads wandering around the US arbitrarily killing whoever they designate as terrorists? Along with anyone else nearby?

    On the plus side, the 6 o’clock news would never be boring again…

  98. How do you deal with an enemy that intends not to survive an attack?

    You really shouldn’t believe the material in al Qaeda and Hezobllah’s press kit. Only a very minute percentage of terrorists are suicidal or even willing to risk death. Their financial supporters in the groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and CAIR are even less willing to take risks.

    We’re dealing with an enemy that uses plausible deniability and a well-funded paramilitary force to achieve its goals. They finance their war against us by selling drugs, committing other mob-type crimes, diverting charity money and spending their petrodollars. Otherwise, they’re just like any other supremacist aggressor – you defeat them by defeating their political and military organization and by showing them that they can’t win.

  99. My point is that we have to be honest about who, or what our enemies are, and what exactly our objectives are, or else we continue lying to ourselves, the world, and remain committed to neverendingwar, with no stated objective, no clearly defined enemy, and no way to claim victory.

    That’s another reason why shouldn’t ally with our enemies. If we are honest about what we’re fighting, we have to admit that our allies are our enemies.

  100. No one can give anyone in the Bush government “blanket approval” for anything. Bush and all the fascist cabals supporting the Bush government are pathological liars and cannot be trusted to act in America’s best interests.

    Again you focus on the killing, and ignore two glaring facts; – that the best way to obtain actionable intelligence is by capturing upper management jihadists, not killing them, and secondly that we are already engaged in these operations, respecting other nations boundaries most of the time, but do, and have hit highvaluetargets in foriegn lands when possible. No nations hit squads operate on American soil without our approval, but things do happen, like it or not. The point is targeting America’s jihadist enemies. China, Russian, and Pakistan may share these ends and we should and do welcome their help, – but Syria, and Iran certainly do not, most certainly would not be welcome, and would themselves be targeted.

    The Bush government is intent on staying the course, and nothing short of impeachment will stop them from puruing thier fascist machinations and designs in Iraq and beyond. Unless the democrats muster the courage and actually succeed in placing impeachment back on the table – you guys are going to get what you wish for, – but what is it really, and what will America have gained?

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  101. Again you focus on the killing, and ignore two glaring facts; – that the best way to obtain actionable intelligence is by capturing upper management jihadists, not killing them, and secondly that we are already engaged in these operations, respecting other nations boundaries most of the time, but do, and have hit highvaluetargets in foriegn lands when possible.

    Sorry, we’re supposed to insert teams into nations whose boundaries we respect, except of course when we don’t, to capture these high level terrorist functionaries (so designated by the fascist Bush government). Once captured we will retrieve these high level operatives to US soil where they will be…what, exactly?

    Can’t torture them. Can’t even get creative with loud music, sleep deprivation, or scantily clad women rubbing themselves on the suspect. They get lawyers and Red Cross observers and white glove treatment.

    Or else out comes the caterwauling about the Bush administration’s trampling of human rights.

    And again, all these other nations across the world are supposed to let us do this, but we won’t ever let them do that on our soil. How is this not unilateral imperialism exactly?

    If you expect the Pakistani government to let us, on a regular basis, call them up, tell them we’re going to kidnap some of their citizens and would like military access rights, have them give us those rights, without either taking so long the target will have long been gone or having someone on their side leak the information, you’re our of your mind.

  102. Tony:

    bq. {Y}ou are shamed for sliming your fellow Americans in such a reckless, unsubstantiated, and wildly innaccurate framework.

    Pot. Kettle. Starting with the repetitive trope “fascist machinations”.

    “Deliver us from awful!”

  103. BTW, my choice of “repetitive trope” was deliberate, befitting the level of redundancy in Mr Foresta’s communications.

    Thanks to everyone who chooses to engage him at greater depth than I do.

  104. TonyForesta –

    bq. Your proclamations are so overthetop, and so wildly innacurate Jim Rockford that there is no reason to respond. I will inform you however that you have no idea what motivates theleft, or the democratic party, and further that you are shamed for sliming your fellow Americans in such a reckless, unsubstantiated, and wildly innaccurate framework.

    bq. “Deliver us from evil!”

    I say deliver us from TonyForesta and his ilk. You are the one who is wildly overthetop and evil. The sad part is that you are so deluded that you do not know you have been made evil by your association with traitors.

    bq. Bush and all the fascist cabals supporting the Bush government are pathological liars and cannot be trusted to act in America’s best interests.

    Sorry to all the good people here who engage in good discussions, I apologize in advance.

    TonyBoy – Them’s fightin’ words, child. You do not call honorable people Fascists. I am one of those and I am NOT a Fascist, however, I would NOT be afraid to go MIDIEVAL on your ass. You are a punk of the worst sort. God back to the DailyKos, that cesspool of traitorous pussbuckets – you should feel right at home there.

    Like Nortius says to your sorry self – POT meet KETTLE.

  105. The Bush administration is finished. They have no more credibility, or legitimacy anywhere on earth outside of the kristian fascist circles, wingnutsia partisans, and redneck America. It will be the next leadership that must tackle, and remedy these thorny issues.

    Evidently, you don’t read much or you would know there are already notorious instances of these exact missions that are already operational by various US government organizations.

    With regard to torture, – America spends half a trillion dollars a year on defense, another few hundred billion on intelligence, and some $66bn in the blackworld, – and the Bush government chooses to resort to torture techniques from the middle ages, many of them perverted by any standards. Pathetic, and sad.

    Most experts assert that torture is a suspect option for extracting informaiton, or actionable intelligence. Obviously, for all the Bush government depravity and perversions in Abu Gharaib, Gitmo, Policharki, and whoknowswhereelse, we are not gathering the kind of intelligence that leads to the capture of bin Laden, or Zhawari, or Omar, or preventing the Mahdi militia, or Badr brigades, or even al Quaid in Iraq from slaughtering our soldiers, or taking down Hamas, or Hesbollah, or Jamaa Islamaya. With this massive expenditure, and all the great talents of American military, intelligence and science researchers we should be able to apply 21st Century techniques, that do not involve closet homosexuality, or sexually deviant behavior to extract actionable intelligence. The perverts and fascists in the Bush government shamed America.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  106. You might want to clean off your keyboard Robohobo with all that slime oozing out. That said, look up the word fascist, compare the definition of your choice with the Bush governments policies and machinations and get back to me. Then, we can meet anywhere anytime to discuss these issues in person if you so desire.

  107. Tony, as they say Lincoln said, calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg. I took some time to review your posts here from some years ago, and I can’t see you doing any better now than you did then.

    If Bush is a fascist, where’s his presidency-for-life? Where’s his rationalization/nationalization of all domestic industry? Etc., etc.

    As at least one other has recently told you, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    “Look it up in the dictionary and we’ll talk” is pure rhetoric. I’m talking to you now.

    Assume I looked it up. Assume I actually have a grounding in twentiethcenturypoliticalhistory and can manage to parse alltherunonprhasesyouliketouse forsomeincomprehensiblereason.

    I don’t see what you claim to see. I might see possible cronyism; I don’t see it rising anywhere near any level deserving the label “fascism”.

    I deny your label. You like to deny stuff too.

    Where do we go from here? Is communication beyond stridulent re-regurgitation of indignant fooraw possible?

  108. I’ve been through these charades before. Any definition I supply would be dismissed as some kind of lefty jargon, and we would never get to the discussion of the actual term and more tragically, the actual practice of fascism.

    For that reason, with all due respect, I request that you supply the definition, which will accept, and then defend my use of the term as perfectly applicable to, and as an accurate discription of the Bush governments policies, designs, and ideologies. No one on theright ever dares to provide this definition, for what I can only assume are obvious reasons. I have mountains of well documented evidence on my side, and you have the dim hope that the Bush government will somehow rise above these festering failues, deceptions, abuses, and wanton profiteering and redeem itself, somehow, someway, someday.

    Good luck.

    Many commentarians here choose to focus on me, or other opponents of the Bush government personally, because that allows them to ignore, or sidestep the issues involved.

    Iraq is the single most critical issue facing ALL Americans, left, right, and center. It is deserving our best efforts and our most intelligent examination.

    AI’s original post speaks to the anguish many of us share in what to do now with this nightmare, and what exactly is the best course for America and Americans going forward in securing our way of life, our children, and America.

    If you actually did review my past commentary, you will know, whether you admit it or not, that I am not anti-American, or unpatriotic in any sense. If fact it is precisely my faith in and abiding reverence for the Constitution, and our unique experiment in democracy that compels me to strike out at any threats to America, the Constitution, or the future my daughter will inherit foriegn or domestic.

    I see the Bush governmen as the greatest threat to America, and the Constition, and every principle we hold sacred as a nation, and to my daughter future in our turbulant history.

    Discussion along these lines will be painful to apologists, defenders, and supporters of the Bush government, because I am well informed on these issues and will not shirk my responsibilities as a citizen or as a father to protect, and defend the America I honor and revere. Attacking me personally may provide some semblence of brute satiation for individuals who do not want, or are incapable of discussing these matters in any serious way, but it does not in any way alter or change the reality of the Bush governments deceptions, failures, abuses, and wanton profiteering. My terms and language are harsh, because the Bush government machinations and the results of those machinations are harsh and ruthless, and the costs terrible and bloody.

    No one can deny that America is paying a terrible price for the Bush governments actions in Iraq. Most of America has grown weary of the Iraq war, not because of people like me, or our fellow Americans over at Kos who reject and repudiate the Bush government, – but because – there are simply no measurable gains in Iraq, and the costs in bloodan treasure, and lost credibility are so enormous, – and the Bush government promises and repetitive mantras have proven hollow and moot.

    Ultimately, what is America gaining, or what will America ever gain from the Iraq war?

    Hollow empty promises and visionary hopes of democratizing the ME, and a shining beacon of peace, liberty, and justice for all ever aborning in Iraq simply do not hold any credibility. It’s never going to happen. This sad reality is not a result of thelefts repudiation of the Bush government, but souly, and exclusively the result of the Bush governments deceptions, abuses, failures, and wanton profiteering in Iraq and beyond.

    I want to have a serious discussion, and to be able to raise these issue with theotherside in order to reach some common ground wherein we all can agree on at least a few basic issues. For example, – all of us, left, right, and center – all Americans want jihadist threats defeated, and soon. It is an arduous and painful process. The discussions all to quickly devolve into sliming escapades besmirching individual posters, and sadly the entire thread grows detached from the central issue involved and the core discussion. This is the purpose and intent of slime.

    I will always reject, renounce, and repudiate the Bush government in the most forceful terms, and for reasons I can, and will well defend, and for reason that are commonly raised all over the world, and that should be obvious to anyone who reads.

    The reality is the Bush government failed America. The Bush government failed America in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Palestine, in Iran, in NK, in Syria, in SA, and here in the land of Oz, (don’t get me started on Katrina). Now individuals can attempt to defend, excuse, or apologize for the Bush governments failures, – but I am prepared and determined to shine a hot light on the facts and reality of these many failures, deceptions, abuses, wanton profiteering, and fascist machinations and in the most forceful terms I can muster, because in the end – the fate of America really does hang in the balance.

    I can see a banning in the offing, because of the fury in the last several posts, but I challenge anyone here to examine these commentaries with an open and mind, and to decide for themselves who is attempting to discuss these issues in a serious manner, and who is resorting to personal attacks and slime to detour, or otherwise mangle the underlying issue. Slime is based on, or composed of a slurry of lies. My language may offend certain sensitivities, but I can well defend, and provide mountains of subtantiating evidence in support of the use of words like fascist with regard to the Bush goverment. No one can provide a single partical of evidence supporting claims that I or anyone at Kos support the evildoers, or is in anyway antiAmerican. There’s a big differnce.

    These issue will not go away, no matter what you do with me. You will all be facing these same issues in the future, and while you may take comfort in blindly agreeing with each other, the real problems and crisis facing America will not go away. I stand on every comment, and every claim. I also enjoyed much of this discussion, and learned from many of the great intelligent offerings in this thread. Yet, (and this is quite prevelent of sites pushing or defending theright) when posters devolve to casting personal insults or making hollow vapid threats, intelligent discourse has ended.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  109. Nort, Marc… could one of you kindly send me a back channel email and explain what Tony Foresta is doing here?

    I’ll add that Tony does seem to have stepped his game up a step in a positive direction. He doesn’t sound clinical, and he is better at laying out his positions coherently, for which I truly congratulate him as a person.

    But it’s just a step, and unless permission was granted that I don’t know about, he knows he is not supposed to be here in the first place. Our ban was more than justified, and unless I’m missing something important it has never been revoked.

    I’ll add, Tony, that if you want a responsible dialog in the places you frequent, you’re going to have to start using basic terms of discussion correctly, and proposing concrete solutions to the foreign policy problems you say you’re concerned about.

    That’s what responsible dialog entails – and neither of those things is in evidence here. If it was, I might have reconsidered the ban.

  110. bq. I am prepared and determined to shine a hot light on the facts and reality of these many failures, deceptions, abuses, wanton profiteering, and fascist machinations and in the most forceful terms I can muster

    …by repeating stridently that they exist. It’s overwhelming to me how you leave the matter at the level of declaration that way, Tony. It’s all true, because the evidence is overwhelming, because it’s all true.

    Here’s a specific series of questions I asked elsewhere, which you did not deem worthy of responding to. Please do respond, and kindly try to confine yourself to specifics.

    Who in the international community “attempted to arrest” the US prior to OIF? What means did they employ?

    And, most particularly,

    (1) do you claim that no financial interests in Paris, Russia, China and various financially-interested parties in Germany and the UN were making money hand-over-fist with Oil-for-Food and other shady deals?

    (2) can you not see that such interests might suffice to explain some of the equivocal communications from such agencies?

    Drop the bushfascistmachinations talk for one lousy moment, Tony. Convince me you can actually reason closely on the questions I’ve just asked.

    Pretty please. With sugar on top.

  111. Aside from Britain and the socalled “coalition of the willing” (which was always a false description of the feeble ragtag support group assemble for the Iraq war”, – the entire world, including old Europe nations Germany and France, the entire Arab world including many nations who fought with the US in Desert Storm such as Jordon, SA, Egypt, and Turkey, as well as Russia, China, India, most of South and Central America, and many concerned voices here in America.

    These nations attempted to arrest the Bush governments belligence and deceptions in Iraq through the UN, the various trade and financial agreements, through, the press, through the blogs and in every obviously futile way possilbe.

    Regarding question #1 – No. And so did the US, particularly Halliburton and other energy oligachs.
    Regarding question #2 – Of course I see, “that such interests might suffice to explain some of the equivocal communications from such agencies?

    Riddle me this if you dare Nortius Maximus – were there not Bush government cataclysmic failures in Iraq? I can provide pages of well documented examples.

    Were there not a festering litany of deceptions justifying the war, and even now framing the situation in Iraq in positive or “rosy” terms. I can provide pages of well documented examples.

    Were there not abuses in Abu Gharaib and through-out the conduct of the war? I can provide pages of well documented examples.

    Are there not well documented instances of wanton profiteeing in Iraq? I can provide volumes of pages of well documented examples.

    You are being disingenous to suggest that my claims are mere declarations.

    Lastly, – and this is the key question I have posed previously in this thread. What will America gain, or what benefits longorshorterm will America ever realize from the Bush governments bloody costly, noendinsight war in Iraq?

    And relating to that answer, – Are the real jihadist threats America increased or diminished as a result of the Iraq war?

  112. I read your piece with some interest. While I am far from a Liberal, I have always found A.L. to be intellectually honest and his points worth considering carefully. No Barking Moonbat, he. I put out a newsletter on military and political affairs. No, this is not link-whoring. My newsletter goes out by email, and while I have a pretty good circulation, including among deployed military, I am not findable on the Web. With that out of the way, I would like to offer two thoughts that underlay much of my writing. First, there is a quote I use as a close in each edition.

    _We are now in a world where the only calculation to be made is between rocks and hard
    places. There are no good options. The only sane course of action is the least worst option._
    [Melanie Phillips, author of Londinistan, 01-05-2007]

    No matter what we do, or not do; this is not going to be easy. It is going to hurt badly. And there are no guarantees of either victory or simply survival under any terms.

    Secondly, as hard as this war currently is [and it could be much harder]; it is essentially humanitarian in nature. I know that will get some attention. We are fighting this war the hard way, perhaps for reasons that most people don’t even want to think of.

    We are facing an existential threat, or rather a series of threats. The threat that comes from militant Islam is unique in that the conventional means of deterrence and relations between hostile nations do not apply. I do not know if you are familiar with the THREE CONJECTURES by Wretchard at *Belmont Club*? In short, the first is that there is [at the time of the writing, early 2002] no indication that Militant Islam has possession of WMD. I note that this may not apply currently as either Iran or Pakistan may be a source, and the recent outbreaks of both hoof and mouth and Legionnaire’s Disease from a high security bio-research lab in Britain could be indicative of co-option of Muslim employees. The second conjecture is that if such weapons DO become available to Jihadis, they will be used against the United States with mass casualties. Further, there is no way of negotiating an end to attacks, as there is no overall terrorist command. Thus attacks will continue. Third, in the absence of a way to negotiate an end to attacks, there is no way of inflicting countervailing losses on the Ummah that would convince them to stop. Therefore, the only rational response to an Islamic WMD attack on the United States is a massive strike to destroy the entire fabric of Islamic religion, culture, and politics.

    What we are doing now is trying to find a way of winning the larger war, or at least not losing it, without resorting to genocide. And have no doubt; if it comes down to a choice between accepting mass deaths at home, and committing genocide, we will commit genocide.

    And it can be done. Not many people immerse themselves in the detailed nuts and bolts of nuclear warfare. I do sometimes. Some time ago, I published a study of what Israel could do to destroy the Islamic world if it believed that it was about to be wiped out. Using even the minimum estimates of Israel’s nuclear arsenal and delivery vehicles ….. yeah, it can be done. I will not go into the exact modalities and targetting strategies, but it could be done easily. And if Israel survives, and has just a handful of their space launch boosters, they stand a chance of deterring even the retaliation of an enraged west. Hundreds of millions would die [most not from direct nuclear strikes, but from the sequalae] and Islam simply would cease to exist as a force in the world.

    The United States has the arsenal to do with the partial load of one ship, what it would take the entire Israeli arsenal to accomplish. It can be done, and if we are hit with a WMD terrorist attack or attacks, it will be done.

    There are implications then for the current political arguments over the war. Those who seek to bring about the end of the current war, with no realistic proposal for an alternative are, like it or not, leading us to the day when our only option is genocide.

    There are no easy answers.

    Subotai Bahadur

  113. I don’t comment on this site a whole lot, but from time to time I like to see what’s going on here, partly because the commentators here are usually a bit more knowledable than on other sites, and partly becacue they shout at each other at a higher intellectual level than most. I stopped posting on this thread very early as an experiment to see how long it would take to get off course. Not long. What started out as an attempt to figure out what to do next in Iraq has, as it often does here and elsewhere, devolved into a variety of conversations on the merits of elimanting Islam, what range of terrorist acts the US government should be encouraged to adopt, and other parallel universe talking points. Lots of displacement behavior, in other words. A lively discussion, certainly, but not one that gets us any closer to dealing with what AL’s original post was about. Of course, that’s actually _hard_, and requires making very unpleasant decisions no matter which way one decides. Much easier to handwave about the many more intersting ways we could be breaking international law. You should all run for the school board sometime.

  114. I’m wandering partly off topic in responding, Subotai Bahadur, but I will anyway.

    I think this talk of genocide is useless as the act will be politically impossible. Further, if it was possible, which it is not, it would be monstrous.

    If we are pushed to the limit, we’ll go another way. We have seen that the choice of Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig is possible. We have seen from the Mohammed cartoon jihad that the keepers of our holy principle of freedom of speech will buckle, from the free but not brave press to the booksellers. We have seen from the choice of policemen protecting Islamic incitement to murder and threatening infidels who objected to it with prison that this attitude is possible for our security forces. We have seen in the “frightened fifteen” clutching their “lucky bags” and in Chris Air putting on airs as a tough man and laying down the law – fighting back is not an option! – that the same attitude can be adopted by our armed forces. So we know that this, unlike nuclear genocide, is real.

    Our entire civilization can die. There are constant displays of what it will look like when we are pushed, and when we buckle. (And our jihadist mortal enemies can see this too.)

    So it mustn’t come to that.

    Obviously I am not a subscriber to the thinking of the “three conjectures” either.

    I think there are more optimistic perspectives open.

    However, for there to be hope for us, there must be no hope for the enemy. Only when Islam loses so badly, consistently, materially, morally and irreversibly that all hope of victory is crushed and to speak of Islam, the example of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) and struggle and success is to be mocked bitterly and with impunity by all and sundry may Islam go back into its state of latent, expectant bloody hostility.

    Would we have been able to see out the Cold War if we had officially adopted the idea that “Communism means peace”? If we had fought to establish states that constitutionally defined the Communist Manifesto and other key Communist texts as sources of law? If we had approved and supported centers of Communist indoctrination as we do mosques? If we officially lauded the Prophet Marx (pbuh)? And so on, and on, and on…

    No, that is not how the enemy’s hope of victory is to be crushed. That is not how a great ideological war is to be won.

    The policy that we have adopted after 11 September, 2001 is bad. Iraq is just one part of that. It’s all one big mistake, a refusal to identify and strive to overcome the actual enemy, the system of Islam.

    (I do not identify every Muslim as an enemy, any more than I identified the lovely people at the Communist book store as enemies. For the umpteenth time: the enemy is the system.)

    The last friendly to die in Iraq, as well as in many other places where we are also implementing radically flawed policies, will be dying for a mistake.

  115. wufnik, the reason it’s hard to avoid comment on the desirability of aiming for less Islam (not no Islam, which is an unattainable goal) is that some of us firmly believe that this this has to be our grand strategic objective, and policy and strategy for Iraq have to be in conformity with that, while others of us hold entirely different views.

    If you are really seeing Iraq in the context of a big picture, as Armed Liberal rightly wants, if you are seeing it in the wide world and in terms of consequences and not darkly through a glass hazed by partisan interest, then going right to the top of a hierarchy of military thinking isn’t irrelevant, it’s necessary.

  116. I’d also like to chip in to wufnik and say that one of the reasons these discussions tend to break down in the morass of ‘we should do that’ ‘we can’t do that’ etc, etc, is that there really are no rules, traditions, or policies in existence to govern any of this.

    Up until WWI the rule in terms of international relations could basically be summed up as ‘Make sure you win’.

    After WWI people started thinking that wasn’t a good idea. WWII rather cemented that. The spectre of a nuclear WWIII largely eliminated rational thought on the whole subject.

    Now we’re very much stuck on basic issues including ‘What are the boundaries on national self-defense?’ ‘What are the responsibilities of the powerful?’ ‘How and when can power be used to help the powerless?’ ‘What is national sovereignty and when is a nation sovereign?’

    etc, etc, etc. I could go on for quite a while. The old Westphalian system seems to be breaking down and there is nothing to replace it.

    We’re trying to argue calculus and we don’t agree on the algebraic rules.

    I don’t think the ideological extreme division is a bad thing in this case either. Let me explain.

    When you have basic disputes over the ground rules, with very little to no common ground, how do you resolve the dispute?

    Simple, you bang back and forth in a general free for all until ideological camps begin to form. When you are down to a few clearly distinct camps, then you apply the reality test (i.e. let history pick the winner).

    The winning camp then gets to set the ground rules that carry until eventually those ground rules fail.

    Thus all the ‘pointless’ banging back and forth actually does serve a purpose. Not so much to convince the convinced, but to appeal to the silent undecided audience (which is why the mouth foaming rhetoric is imbecilic) and to sharpen our own positions. That way when the reality test shows up, we’re in a better position to deal with it.

    Of course, at the current rate of progress, I think the silent undecided audience is likely to throw both the right and the left out and start making decisions via a random number generator…

  117. bq. If you are really seeing Iraq in the context of a big picture, as Armed Liberal rightly wants, if you are seeing it in the wide world and in terms of consequences and not darkly through a glass hazed by partisan interest….

    Personally, setting this up as a binary choice, with no other options, strikes me as dangerous. But, as you say, it seems to be what many clearly believe. And, of course, it necessarily leads to

    bq. going right to the top of a hierarchy of military thinking isn’t irrelevant, it’s necessary.

    Which is convenient, because it allows everyone to wax eloquent about geopolitical whatever without really having to get down and dirty figuring out how to keep military manpower up (and divorce and suicide rates down, stuff like that) when most of the country doesn’t necessarily share your geopolitical orientation. I find this bothersome because it seems to be how we got into the mess we’re currently in–the notion that if we have a grand design, implementation will somehow take care of itself. It doesn’t, and it hasn’t. I have no problem with people going on about what the grand design should look like. It’s the lack of interest in the mundane that I find offputting. (And forget the counterfactuals. As I recall, there were multiple posts and innumerable comments on Beuachamp, but not one word on the NY Times op-ed by enlisted men (including NCOs) that painted a much more worrisome picture than Beauchamp ever did. But that’s probably a different conversation.)

    What I find a bit distressing is AL’s assumption (which seems to be shared by many here) in his initial post that we can keep on keeping on without dealing extensively with exactly how we’re supposed to be doing that–the practical issues of an inept and petulant commander-in-chief, an erratically supplied military force, a military leadership of dubious veracity, a deteriorating political situation in Iraq, the exodus of the mid-level officer corps–you know, the boring stuff. Yes, he did say in response that this issue deserved a closer look. You bet. It should be part of the calculus of how we decide what to do next–not an afterthought. But at least he’s willing to think about it. Which is a good thing. Otherwise, it’s just hand-waving–lots of fun, I suppose, but not much help to anyone on the ground.

  118. wufnik –

    What I find a bit distressing is AL’s assumption (which seems to be shared by many here) in his initial post that we can keep on keeping on without dealing extensively with exactly how we’re supposed to be doing that–the practical issues of an inept and petulant commander-in-chief, an erratically supplied military force, a military leadership of dubious veracity, a deteriorating political situation in Iraq, the exodus of the mid-level officer corps–you know, the boring stuff.

    You left out a dishonest press, a feckless Congress, and a Democratic Party that can’t find a foreign policy stance with both hands.

    We are clearly writing checks with our military that are hitting the overdraft. That clearly has to change. A discussion of how is absolutely a fruitful discussion.

    But – one difference between war and other activities is that we have and often do demand that our military go into the overdraft. We don’t demand that DMV clerks “find a way” to get something done.

    A.L.

  119. A.L.

    “You left out a dishonest press, a feckless Congress, and a Democratic Party that can’t find a foreign policy stance with both hands.”

    Is it really legit to compare such decentralized groups that having opposing elements within their confines with a particular administration whose job is to oversee and execute a war it embarked upon? The press in general has no particular duty, obligation or mandate and includes such a wide range of free individuals and oranizations that to try to lay any blame for anything at its feet is, it seems to me, a perfectly useless task. Same, in this instance, for congress or the democratic party. Different members of each have differing views and to expect a coherent policy or vision in the same way you would expect a coherent policy or vision of an administration is to condemn yourself forever to dissapointment.

    Individual democrats and individual members of congress from either party DO have plans and ideas regarding what to do about Iraq. It simply makes little or no sense to expect all those various elements to cohere into one homogeneous whole. Sorry to go on about this, but I have never understood the complaint that the democrats have no answer. Sure they do. Dozens of them. Bidden, Murtha, Dodd, Lieberman, Pelosi, Clinton, they all have plans. Just as do Warner, McCain, Luger, etc…that differ from each other and that differ from Bush.

  120. Tony:

    OK, thanks for your response.

    Now permit me to lay out what I think I understand of your position as recently expressed here and elsewhere. I am not trying to make fun of you, I just want to create a capsule summary:

    ==

    Bush and a whole bunch of people need to be punished.

    Existing situation in the Middle East needs to be repudiated.

    US needs to leave Iraq and let the situation deteriorate to whatever its “natural level” is.

    US should adhere to all international law (assume we know what this is, though it seems clear there is fundamental disagreement).

    US should, simultaneously, while adhering to international law (based on the Treaty of Westphalia), engage in systematic assassination of bad guys.

    Wahhabism (I’d say “/salafism”) is the enemy, and the US should do whatever it can to reduce the power and influence of these factions in Islam.

    ==

    Is that it? That’s your plan for the future?

  121. Michael Yon just emailed Instapundit a link to this lengthy “Small Wars Journal blog post”:http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2007/08/anatomy-of-a-tribal-revolt/ by Dave Kilcullen, “Anatomy of a Tribal Revolt,” 8/29/07. Kilcullen describes the origins of the Anbar Awakening–the realignment of many Sunni tribes away from Al Qaeda in Iraq and into the Government’s orbit. He thinks this is the single most important aspect of the current security situation. He asserts that it has snuck up on the Coalition, Maliki, and–of course–AQI.

    The Awakening is changing the correlation of forces outside the “milestones” and “benchmarks” that formed the basis of the Surge. Many long-term effects may be good, and some are likely to pose problems for Iraq during the Coalition’s drawdown phase. It’s unclear how these developments will play in Petraeus’ pending September report.

    Well worth reading.

  122. In my earlier comment, I left something out. It possibly should have read “no more Islam as it now is”.

    We sometimes forget that Christianity was once as violent and bloodthirsty as Islam still is. (The difference is that a mediaeval Christian knight of the crusades was a very poor Christian, because the message of Christ was peace, but leave that aside.)

    There is a way out for Islam. It can grow up and become less violent and learn to coexist with others, as Christianity did, finishing perhaps four hundred years ago. But there is not much time at all left for this to happen – certainly much less than Christianity had – and I personally don’t think there is enough. And there is NOTHING that the West can do to influence this.

    The most likely scenario? A Talibanesque theocracy takes over Pakistan, and gives WMD to Al Qaeda or some similar bunch of nutters, or Iran develops nukes – and the recipients use them. And some city in the West, probably in America, goes up in smoke – and then Islam dies.

    There is still some time left, but not much. Where I differ from some is that if the above becomes inevitable, I would prefer a million or more Westerners not to have to die to make the rest feel better about it – in such a case it would be better to get our counterstroke in first.

    The thread above the Sword of Damocles is fraying.

  123. “The last friendly to die in Iraq, as well as in many other places where we are also implementing radically flawed policies, will be dying for a mistake.”

    On reflection, I take that back.

    I was trying to underline that I accept the logical consequences of my view as it relates to the prosecution of the war in Iraq, even when they are unpalatable. I couldn’t think of anything more unpalatable that John F. Kerry’s words, so I put in a reference to them.

    But the quote I referenced went a long way beyond accepting the logically unavoidable. It was mean, and meant to hurt those who did not deserve to be hurt, and it was empty-headed. If there is a last friendly who dies in Iraq, I have no idea what he or she will die for – quite likely to get their buddies out of danger. That is not dying for a mistake.

    So I was wrong to put in that reference, and I unsay what I said.

  124. bq. But – one difference between war and other activities is that we have and often do demand that our military go into the overdraft. We don’t demand that DMV clerks “find a way” to get something done.

    AL–this is unsatisfactory in so many ways that I don’t even know where to begin, and, given the differences in our assumptions coloring any further discussion on this, there’s probably no point. “Overdraft” indeed. As always, it’s been lively and entertaining, but fruitless. Thanks for having me, though.

  125. Though you may not have intended to make fun of me personally Nortius Maximus, your summary is funny.

    Yes, the Bush government needs to be held “accountable” and that process if it ever happens would naturally lead to punishment because of the seriousness of the crimes involved.

    Yes, our curret policies in the ME are failing. Attempting to change the world, and especially, the ME with the terrible swift sword of America’s hypersuperior military, – is tyranny, not liberation. Somewhere along the line, (largely because of the Bush governments mangling fact and fiction) the well justified and necessary objective of bringing to justice those who were responsible for the massmurder and mayhem of 9/11, majikly shapeshifted into democratizing the ME, and liberating downtrodden people. If democratizing the ME, and liberating downtrodden people is the real objective, – the Bush government should have attacked Saudi Arabia, where the funding, nurturing, and 15 of the 9/11 mass murderers originated from, where imams throughout the nation proselytize the psychotic malignancy that it is allahs will to kill all Jews, Americans and infidels, including fellow muslims, where slavery is practiced and supported, and where woman are publically beheaded for not wearing veils.

    Palestianian mass murder gangs, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hesbollah, Al Aqsa, blah blah, blah were always majikly remain immune from the Bush governments socalled neverendingwaronterror.

    Iran, Syria, (the wallmart of illicit weapons trade and mecca of mass murder gangs are significantly empowered, and swimming in abundant oil wealth.

    America must adopt new strategies in the ME, because the Bush governments mercurial misadventure through-out the ME are proven and quite obvious catastophic FAILURES.

    You obviously skipped over my commentaries, because nowhere do I say the US should or intends to leave Iraq. Rather, I contend and you will see this come to fruition like it or not, but the American military face and footprint in Iraq must be radically reduced. Our offensive military operations must refocus on the hunting, capturing, (perferred) or killing of jihadist mass murderers and all those who aid and abet them (more on that later) and cease roaming Iraqi streets like legionaires with soldiers wearing giant bulls eyes in the form of uniforms. The US military is NEVER leaving Iraq. (Please see previous posts.)

    You guys fixated on the international law issue. The US should adhere to our own laws and the Constitition, (the ruthless perversion, and betrayal of which is only one of many impeachable offenses relating to that punishment point way back). We need to respect the rule of law, and there are certain international laws, and certain forums where those laws are respected globally. (The Hague, the UN involving torture, rendition, habeas corpus, nuclear weapons development, economic santions, war profiteering, etc.)

    I never mention Westphalia, but you are being disingenuous by ignoring the fact that the US, and many of our allies are already involved in many of these operations. Secondly, as I have stated repeatedly and though you repeatedly ignore this fact, – the better option is capturing Highvalue Targets to glean actionable intelligence, but on certain occasions, if the situation warrants, and there is solid intel, I would support our government striking at and rendering harmless any high value target, anywhere on earth through covert means. This approach, my offend certain sensitivites, but again, as I have stated repeatedly before, – how is it possible to justify hurling 160,000 US troops to occupy a soveriegn nation, that did not attack America, or pose any legitimate threat to America, slaughtering many thousands of that nations innocent civilians, marauding that nations resourses, and profiteering wantonly in and from the process on one hand, and be so highly offended by taking out if possible a high value target or two? Your logic does not make any sense to me. Please explain.

    Finally, yes. America, the rest of the world, and particularly the rest of islam “should do whatever it can to reduce the power and influence of these factions (“wahabist/salafist) in Islam.” PLease see comment #90 & only then #93)

    That is my suggestion. Many of these tactics and strategies are already operational.

    The only tactics, strategies, and policies that are certain and obviously catastrophic failures are the Bush governments current actions, and “staying the course’ is a recipe for an even more bloody, costly, noendinsight disaster, and excuse for wanton profiteering.

    I appreciate your time, and the right to post on this vibrant site.

    That said –

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  126. Tony:

    I thank you for your most recent communications.

    No, _you_ didn’t mention Westphalia, but it the root of all the precedential interpretations of “international law”. I thought it fair to mention it specifically because the idea of not kidnapping foreigners is of a piece with several of the 60-odd pronouncements in that document. The modern conceptions of “national sovereignty”, “internal affairs” and “just (/juystififiable) war” grow directly from that single root.

    In passing: Those dictates came from a Pope who could excommunicate nonadherents to the Treaty in question, damning entire populations to eternal hell. The available resources nowadays are a bit less florid.

    Meta: More than once now you’ve announced that people “ignore” this or that. Where I come from, we call that “mind reading”. And you’re not scoring very highly at it. It’s also off point. The thrust in this thread’s original entry is “What should be done?”, not “Is Tony correct that people are disingenuous or ignoring things?”

  127. Well spoken Nortius Maximus. I have offered suggestions and countered, and at times agreed with other suggestions.

    Again, the anguish revealed in AI’s original post is one we all share. We all want to find or remedies, or discover some solutions to the Iraq situation. We are are seeking a balm in Gilead.

    Where many of you divide with me, is in the Bush government actions, – ALL OF WHICH I view (and I will defend this position fiercely) as CATASTROPHIC FAILURES. The key to me in effecting any change in Iraq, or in the socalled GWoT is defanging, and dethroning the Bush government. From my perspective, (and again I will defend this position fiercely based on volumes of well documented evidence, and the actual factbasedrealities today in Iraq an beyond) the Bush government is deceptive, abusive, incompetent, FAILING CATASTROPHICALLY on every front, and engaged in wanton profiteering to boot.

    Those who disagree with my commentary can and should challenge those positions on the merits, and that is exactly the discussion I seek. Simply dismissing any claim that questions, challenges, dissents with, opposes, or repudiates the Bush government and then flinging hollow threats or casting personal aspersions ignores the underlying issues, proves the weekness of the defense, and indicates the lack of good citizenship.

    Until and unless the American people muster the courage to admit that the Bush government has ruthlessly decieved, abused, and FAILED all Americans, our troops, and the Iraqi people, and wantonly profiteered in and from the insidious process, – there will never be any resolution, or end to the horrorshow, and America will be doomed to stay the course and hazard and burden the enormous costs in blood, treasure, and lost credibility in Iraq for an unknown unknown time, – and still be not one step closer to defeating the very REAL jihadit threats America must confront.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  128. RE: #117 David Blue
    I think that we agree that our civilization could die. It could die either from being physically destroyed, or from collapsing and falling to Islam. That is something I have always considered in the wider war [of which Iraq is but a campaign and not the war itself]. I’m Chinese despite my Mongol nom d’ blog. I know that all dynasties fall, all civilizations die. And that what replaces them usually is neither as advanced nor as sophisticated as what is lost. That realization is in fact why I ponder that which most people consider imponderable.

    You may be right. We may submit, we may follow the examples you cited. But I think that perhaps the use of our own arsenal of WMD will indeed become politically possible when we are looking at the glowing crater that once was a vibrant American city, when we are mourning our dead in millions, and when we know that it _will_ be repeated at an enemy’s whim. Monstrous? Indeed. For this fight for survival will destroy something in the American soul if it has to go to such extremes. But if the choice is death [or an equivalent submission] or fighting back with all that we have, we may be willing to become monsters.

    The issue is finely balanced. Already Europe is lost in a determination to die rather than fight. The only concern with the French and British nuclear arsenals is whether they will be handed over to their new overlords for use against us. They will not use them to fight back, even if it is their last hope of survival.

    We are not yet as willing to go quietly into the long night. So, when the day comes that we are struck with WMD, it IS quite possible that those who have counseled and encouraged defeat in this war will find that they will have to change their tune, or else.

    The world, including our enemies, has become sure that while they can attack us with all their might, they will remain safe from a reaction in kind. They may be proven either right or wrong. But I wonder, will an American defeat in Iraq bring the test of that question closer, or delay it? And do we really want to learn the answer?

    If we are struck with WMD, at home, and fail to react massively; we are as doomed as the Europeans. If we retreat from confronting the enemy abroad, it will not bring peace but rather attacks closer to home. I, for one, would rather do everything I can to hold back that day and that test. For I do not care for the results whichever way it goes.

    Subotai Bahadur

  129. OK, A.L. I stayed up way past my bed-time reading this thread because you raise an important question that I fret about: What should we do now? Even knowing that our leaders have made bad decisions for foolish reasons, we still are citizens of this country, and we face the resulting mess. What should we do now?

    As you correctly observe, there may well be no good options.

    But let me put some suggestions on the table.

    – Why not create a crash program to teach Arabic in our colleges and high schools? Clearly we are in bad shape in Iraq partly for lack of Arabic speakers. Let’s start to fix this.

    – While we’re at it, how about programs to teach the languages and cultures of other parts of the world where American interests might be threatened? For example, Indonesia.

    – It appears that religious fanaticism is likely to be an increasingly large threat in the world over coming decades. Shouldn’t we be teaching our college and high school kids about those religions, including having them read the Q’uran and other holy books. (I explicitly include the Bible here. I think modern kids are often culturally deprived if they haven’t read the Bible and know a good number of Bible stories, whether they are Christians or Jews or not. I feel deprived myself that I know so little about the Q’uran, and foolish that I haven’t found the time to remedy that.)

    – Why not have our major public TV and radio outlets have even-handed documentaries and debates about the cultural and religious issues going in within Islam? And I want to hear all sides of that discussion, not just the folks who think that Islam is evil incarnate.

    Possibly more thoughts later about what do about the current mess.

  130. _ – Why not create a crash program to teach Arabic in our colleges and high schools? Clearly we are in bad shape in Iraq partly for lack of Arabic speakers. Let’s start to fix this._

    That’s a hard program to follow. You want increased arab-american cultural relations? The more arabic-speakers we create the more of them will turn muslim. And the more people who can talk to arabs the more their point of view will get out about israel/palestine. If there was a serious threat of a serious arabic program in this country we’d get a big lobbying effort against it.

    – While we’re at it, how about programs to teach the languages and cultures of other parts of the world where American interests might be threatened? For example, Indonesia._

    I’d consider spanish the first priority. And maybe portuguese. Within this generation we’re likely to become a regional power, and we might as well try to do a good job of it.

    Beyond that, it’s pretty much hopeless. There are so many languages. Chinese? There are lots of chinese languages, you might do better to learn written chinese so you can communicate with literate chinese people. Farsi? We have a million farsi-speakers in this country, if they’re loyal. For that matter we have a lot of arabic-speakers but there’s a question how many of them we want in our army.

    The problem is that as a world power we’ll face local languages wherever we go, and we can’t expect to have a lot of soldiers who can speak the local language. The DLI does a good job with small numbers of soldiers, but it takes 2 years to get a really good product, so with a 6 year term that leaves 4 years for them to listen to translate radio broadcasts or whatever. But that also gives us a buildup of veterans with extra languages, who could be called back in an emergency. But it doesn’t scale.

    _- It appears that religious fanaticism is likely to be an increasingly large threat in the world over coming decades. Shouldn’t we be teaching our college and high school kids about those religions, including having them read the Q’uran and other holy books. (I explicitly include the Bible here. I think modern kids are often culturally deprived if they haven’t read the Bible and know a good number of Bible stories, whether they are Christians or Jews or not. I feel deprived myself that I know so little about the Q’uran, and foolish that I haven’t found the time to remedy that.)_

    It doesn’t help much to read the books. Religious fanatics have their own interpretations, and they don’t like to hear foreigners recite the texts and give heretical meanings. “The devil can quote scripture.”

    It would be very interesting to read the texts along with the archeology and such. Give people a clear idea about how the folk were living when the religions formed. But there’s so much for students to learn, and so little time to do it. And there’s so much interesting stuff to do after school, far more interesting than homework. Given a choice between reading the bible and watching WoW, which….

    _- Why not have our major public TV and radio outlets have even-handed documentaries and debates about the cultural and religious issues going in within Islam?_

    1. The public is not very interested. It would get bad ratings.

    2. Even-handed? Who would bell that cat?

  131. Two pieces of advice:
    (1) “The truth shall make you free.”
    (2) “Trust the American people.”

    If we’re facing a threat from Islam, the more Americans understand about Islam, the safer we will be. The more that everyday Americans, graduating from high school, can watch and understand al Jezeera in Arabic, and compare it with what they are reading in the local newspaper, or even with the English version, the better off we will be. If those everyday Americans can log into Arabic blogs, we will be better off.

    You [J. Thomas, #134], said “_The more arabic-speakers we create the more of them will turn muslim._” If that’s what you believe, you have a pretty pessimistic view about American values.

    We are in a war here, but it’s not the war that some of you think (and that’s part of the problem). The real war is between multi-culturalism and toleration of differences, versus fundamentalism and destruction of differences. There are Muslims on both sides of this war, and Jews and Christians on both sides of this war. (You can certainly read the American fundamentalists here, advocating pre-emptive strikes to commit genocide. In the War on Terror, these guys are on the side of Terror, not on our side.)

    You say there’s a lot of languages and a lot of societies. Sure, but we’re a big country. We should invest a relatively modest amount of money in supporting people to become experts on each of those languages and societies. (This was done in the 1960s and 1970s, but decreased dramatically later.) When some horrible crisis arises in some country you never heard of, don’t you think it’s in the national interest to have a dozen experts at universities across the land, that you can call together to find out what’s going on in those countries, before you step into something you don’t understand? (Of course, you have to pay attention to what they say, which is part of what led to the Iraq quagmire.)

    Your suggestion seems to be: forget about investing in the knowledge and expertise that will be the real weapon when the problems come up, and play catch-up ball with whatever happens when it happens. Not good strategy.

    About learning about other religions. Sure, religious fanatics have their own interpretations. Does that make reading the book irrelevant? Don’t you think it would be helpful to know what schools of thought there are? What’s the difference between the fanatics and the non-fanatics that always make up the vast majority of any religion? Before we invaded Iraq, there were people saying that the differences between Sunnis and Shiites was going to make an important difference, but they didn’t seem to get listened to, much. Certainly not enough.

    How do we get even-handed presentations on TV and radio and elsewhere? Who will bell the cat, as you ask so rightly.

    This is why the manufactured reality of Karl Rove’s brand of politics has been so destructive to our interests. He’s been so successful on the Right that he’s got imitators on the Left, and they are both killing us.

    I teach and do science. I tell my students, “We have beliefs that underlie our approach, and specific hypotheses that we are testing, and that we hope turn out to be right. But if there is bad news to be had, I want to hear about it here, in our own lab, while we can still do something about it. Not during a presentation in front of our colleagues at the national meetings, or after the paper appears in a journal.”

    We have hard problems to solve in the world. Reality doesn’t care how much we hope and believe we are right, or even how many other people we can convince. We need to see the alternatives, evaluate them clearly and carefully, and work with the world as it really is, not as we hope it will be.

    The Founding Fathers believed in free speech and the free press for exactly this reason. We need to get all the points of view out there. We need leaders who say that we need the media to show all the people, all the points of view, so they can really understand it. Not Fox News showing only Republican-slanted news, or other sources showing only Democratic-slanted news.

    This is an idealistic position. But this is an idealistic country, too, and that has been our power over the past centuries. Don’t throw it away.

  132. _We should invest a relatively modest amount of money in supporting people to become experts on each of those languages and societies. (This was done in the 1960s and 1970s, but decreased dramatically later.) When some horrible crisis arises in some country you never heard of, don’t you think it’s in the national interest to have a dozen experts at universities across the land, that you can call together to find out what’s going on in those countries, before you step into something you don’t understand?_

    We do that. It isn’t a big deal to have a dozen experts. The problem comes when you need one translator per platoon, or ideally one translator per squad. That’s *expensive*. Spanish isn’t so hard, we have lots of hispanics already. French is harder, but still useful — you can find a lot of people who speak french in a lot of africa. Tribal languages are better and there are a lot of them. Swahili not so much. Russian would be useful if we need to talk to russians. A chinese language? Mandarin maybe? Korean would be nice since we’ve kept troops there so long. As japan re-arms we’ll probably want japanese. Malay for malaya and indonesian? Will we ever need many troops there? Arabic, of course. Farsi? Germany is pretty quiet these days, we probably don’t need that any more. Unless they start supplying more troops to NATO etc. Pushto? That might help with farsi the way spanish helps with french. Greek? Turkish? Albanian? Serbo-croatian? Vietnamese? Thai?

    Call it 18 languages. One translator per language per platoon gives us a lot of language specialists. And unless they practice they’ll get rusty.

    Maybe we can cut back. Russian can be used lots of places, everywhere the russian army spent much time. Similarly french. Of course when you use the language that previous imperial armies used you inherit other things…. Turkish would let us communicate with a lot of greeks. Chinese would let us communicate with chinese minorities in many countries, but we can’t depend on those locals to be our translators with other locals because they’ll have their own agenda.

    So limit it to russian, french, spanish, arabic, serbo-croatian, and a few others.

    Spanish gets us latin america and spain, and we’d get by in brazil and portugal. French gets us half of africa, lots of europe, and various islands. Russian gets us the XSSR and all of eastern europe. Arabic gets us the middle east west of iran and minorities lots of places. Chinese, since they’ll be our only important competitor. Malay since that’s likely where we’ll fight next. Don’t bother with pushto and farsi since we’ll pull out of both countries before we can get the program started. If only the japanese empire had lasted a few generations, we could communicate lots of places using japanese.

    There’s a pattern here. The languages that are most generally useful are the ones that people learned in the past so they could communicate with conquering armies. Maybe what we need isn’t so much to learn the local languages, but make it easy for them to learn ours.

    Say we set up a system to teach Basic English. About a thousand words, 800 or so general purpose words and a couple hundred more for dealing with soldiers. Present tense only. Simplified case. Also use a simplified alphabet, like the Shaw alphabet. Have lots of pictures with the phonetic spellings under them and transliterations into a local language under that.

    So for “prison” you’d have a picture of some barred windows with a small head framed in one of them, and under that you’d have the word “prison” spelled phoneticly and under that you’d have a transliteration.

    “sample”:http://ogden.basic-english.org/wordpic0.html

    When we’re occupying a foreign country, the easier they can learn to talk to us the easier they’ll have it. Why should we learn their languages? They need to learn english a lot more than we need to learn their languages — we’re the ones with the guns. And learning Basic English is completely adequate for them.

  133. J Thomas, it appears we are in different universes, so we are talking past each other.

    You are talking about language as a tool for a conquering army, as it garrisons an occupied country and dominates its population. I would think that our experience in Iraq, and Vietnam before that, has shown that this is not a viable scenario any more.

    Our task in Iraq is nation building. (Remember, “We will stand down as the Iraqi army stands up”?) And we are failing at it, in part because, until recently, we didn’t have a clue about what’s going on in the country whose nation we are trying to build. And in part because there are too many other stakeholders who don’t want the kind of nation we are trying to build, and who have succeeded in portraying us as invaders and occupiers, rather than helpers.

    I believe that, rather than needing a semi-skilled translator with every platoon or squad, to explain to terrified people why you have broken down their door, we actually need smaller numbers of people with much better language and cultural skills, who can work with local leaders to help build the nation, from the bottom up.

    And my primary suggestion is to mobilize the quite good educational system in the United States to provide a much better pool of people who know about the languages and cultures of the various places we might encounter problems. Not to be able to stock platoons with Farsi speakers at a moment’s notice, but so that we have a large population who understand the complexities of the different populations in Iran and elsewhere who speak Farsi, who do not act as a single unified block, and who have agendas with respect to each other that might be useful to us.

    At the risk of excessive irony, it’s so that when our people go into another country and say, “We’re from the (US) government, and we’re here to help”, the local people actually take that seriously, instead of thinking it’s a bad joke.

  134. Beard, I have misunderstood you.

    You started out talking about what to do about the current mess. You suggested a crash program to teach arabic in high schools and colleges so we’d have enough arabic speakers for the current mess. But this will not help. We have plenty of arabic speakers for lots of purposes. But it takes 2 years to get good arabic-speakers, after the program is already working. By the time we get any arabic speakers from your new program we will have left iraq and the current mess will have been transformed into something very different.

    In your next post you suggested that we have a war between multiculturalists versus fanatics supporting single cultures, and that we will be better off to have lots of americans who can read and listen to arabic so that lots of americans can see what’s going on in the arab world and recognise their allies there. For that to make a big difference, wouldn’t we need at least as many arabic-speakers as we’d need for platoons? And wouldn’t our monoculturalists oppose the idea tooth and nail? We’d be better off to pitch it for platoons.

    You said, “If we’re facing a threat from Islam, the[n]….”. But really we aren’t facing a significant threat from islam. The islamic threat is almost entirely hyped from 9/11. To invent a signicant islamic threat we have to do things like pretend their oil money will buy nukes from capitalists who want the money, and then give them to terrorists who’ll smuggle them into the USA and set them off. The entire islamic world is poor and weak, with a few thin clusters of tiny rich effete populations. For them to become a threat they have to carefully use our own strength against us, and we have to fall for it. It’s like, we all have this concept of the weak little judo expert who beats the guy who’s nearly twice his size. The big guy punches, and the little judo expert isn’t there, he’s off to the side and he pulls on the big guy’s fist making him go off balance and fall flat on his face. But there’s a reason the big bullies don’t learn that stuff. It takes a lot of practice to learn it, and it doesn’t work all that often. We weren’t paying attention on 9/11. Afterward we rolled up the AQ cells in the USA and mostly in the rest of the world, and they haven’t done anything real significant since. They’re now a _franchise_, they give people the inspiration to do low-tech suicide attacks on trains and subways. They aren’t particularly any threat at all when we’re ready. The only way they get to make us fall on our faces is for us to make an ill-advised attack that throws us off balance ourselves, and they sort of dodge and twist and we trip ourselves up going after them. Which is what we did in iraq and afghanistan. AQ saw what happened to the russians in afghanistan and they were happy to do the same thing to us. But we didn’t send in enough troops to have a full-scale debacle like the russians, we put our main attack on iraq and now we’re flailing around trying to get our footing back there. If we hadn’t done it, there wouldn’t be much AQ could do to us.

    In a relatively few years we’ll stop paying so much attention to the middle east. We’ll probably see china as the big enemy, and we’re likely to be in malaysia/indonesia minding our vital interests. The time our students spent studying arabic will be mostly irrelevant to the war effort, though it may provide them personal satisfaction and there are some people who speak arabic there.

    In your third comment you say our task in iraq is nation-building. But until recently our methods were almost entirely occupation. Until Bremer was gone we had no intention at all for nation-building. Now our budget for occupation is somewhere around half a billion dollars a day. Our budget for nation-building is approximately zero.

    You suggest that rather than translators for occupying armies we should have smaller numbers of well-trained people who can actually help other nations. I say we should revive the Peace Corps for that. We maybe get high school students who’re ready to graduate a year late who’ll go to other countries and learn the language and customs and generally be visiting firemen. Or spend a year before college. Then encourage them to spend a second year later, when they might be able to actually do a little good. Then later they can get involved in policy etc and they’ll have a sense of what the underclass in their particular country is facing. When they look at a big project they can sometimes check with their old poor friends, and see how it’s affecting them.

    But this doesn’t have much to do with the army. Basicly the army’s central mission involves killing people and blowing stuff up. The army doesn’t do nation-building, Or anyway they mostly do the part of nation-building that involves killing people and blowing stuff up. They can do other things but they’re amateurs at the other stuff. They’re professionals at killing people and blowing stuff up. So if we actually want to do nation-building we should be doing it through the State Department, or some new organization. And we can’t use the State Department for arab nation-building, because State Department guys who understand arab nations and like arabs are called “arabists” and are considered untrustworthy by each successive administration.

    I think you shouldn’t expect me to follow your ideas here, you’ve been all over the map. But I do tend to agree with many of your specific proposals, apart from the particular rationales you give for them. The USA would be better off with more americans who speak other languages. More than a few americans, and more than a few languages. We’d be better off with workable nation-building methods. We’d be better off with more translators for the army, and with easy methods for foreigners to learn enough english to talk to our soldiers. Yes, we have a conflict between multiculturalists versus monoculturalists, and right now the monoculturalists are winning hands down, to the point that initiatives that look like they might help the multiculturalist side are likely to get blocked simply becsause they might help multiculturalists. I’m not clear what to do about that.

    Best wishes and I hope you get some of what you want. I think there are important parallels between your universe and mine.

  135. J Thomas,

    In light of your most recent post, I believe that we are largely in agreement. You’re right to say that I have been all over the map. In my original post [#133], I was attempting to say that it wasn’t clear what to do right now about the current mess, but here are some ideas for longer-term help. On reviewing that post, that contrast didn’t come across.

    Some of the commentators here at WoC are not as sanguine as you are that the ME/Islamic threat will blow over soon. I do think we have a long-term problem, and that Islam has to figure out how to evolve into a modern religion, but (like you) I do not agree that we face an existential threat. Part of my discussion was aimed at those folks.

    You are exactly right that our army is trained in killing people and destroying things. The problem is, the “weapons” we need to win this conflict are the technologies of nation building, not of destruction. I believe that the military has known this for much longer than the civilian policy-makers (in the current administration), but the lessons have finally been sinking in. Nonetheless, when we invest huge amounts in occupation (which costs a lot and at best only slows the deterioration of our interests), and little in nation-building (which could actually advance our interests), we are not coming out ahead, on average.

    The key point, on which I think we agree, is that the genuine conflict is between the multi-culturalists and the mono-culturalists. In some sense, even mono-culturalists who are bent on wiping out each others’ groups are supporting a shared conceptual framework. Each side encourages the other’s recruiting efforts through their attacks. A world of endless war, where opposing mono-culturists are forever trying to eliminate each other, but seldom succeeding, is a clear and comprehensible place.

    Much more confusing is the multi-culturalist goal, which is a world made up of people who disagree with each other in various ways, but can get along without killing each other. The reason the United States is the Great Experiment is that it is a country founded on that principle. If the mono-culturists take over, whether they are Islamists or Republicanists, then the terrorists will have won.

  136. The core problem and most critical issue all humanity must eventually confront is not so much the disagreeing with each other, – but the proclivity of certain klans, (multiculturists or monoculturists in every society) to ruthlessly subjugate and/or slaughter those who dare to profer disagreements.

    The disagreements (which are bound to occur) should not automatically result in bloodletting or warmaking. Marginalizing, and ultimately repudiating the bloodletting warmaking broods in all the worlds societies is the first and most critical step in working towards resolviing disagreements peacefully, – or at least less violently. There are times when the disagreements are so intense, or so astronomically divded that violence, or warmaking is inevitable. But that kind of brute response should not be, and cannot be tolerated as the first and only response to disagreements.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  137. Tony, you are describing the multicultural ideal. There’s a question just how much intolerance to tolerate, and it certainly doesn’t work to tolerate ethnic cleansing. So ideally disputes would be resolved without violence, and when that fails then the theory is to apply enough violence from outside that the violent cultures agree to a nonviolent solution.

    However, multicultural equilibrium is an unstable balance. Somebody has to keep it balanced or it slides off into disputes that tend toward violence. And when most of the people who’re supposed to maintain that balance are themselves deeply immersed in their own cultures, it’s easy for them to get offtrack too. There are a fair number of people who aren’t intensely into any particular culture, who feel like multiculturalists, but they tend not to be fervent multiculturalists. So when the disputes start up, who’s going to bell the cat?

    So for example my father’s people were mostly welsh-irish who came over in the early 1800’s. They lived in the mountains, they distilled whiskey, etc. I don’t have very strong roots in all that, I can make a good spoonbread and play a dulcimer but I wouldn’t know how to butcher a hog. I learned distilling in an industrial microbiology class. I’m a christian but not part of any organised group, I live in a city and there’s no group of christian elders I have to obey for fear of getting shunned. That appalachian life is fading and mostly gone, and I don’t even have a good feel for it. I have even less feel for being welsh.

    There are people who have a strong cultural identity as being white american. Church. Football. Christmas. Fourth of July. Backyard barbeque. Etc. They feel like their culture is threatened when too many other cultures move in. Angsting about that is one way they express their culture. I don’t think there’s an adequate solution. It was too late in 1850, and it’s way too late now.

    Of my own neighbors, one family is korean, one chinese, two mexican, one bolivian, one vietnamese, three “whites”, and there’s a hispanic-looking girl who speaks flawless southern english who’s living with a black guy. We mostly all get along. We mostly have very little to do with each other. We say hello when we meet on the sidewalks. Every now and then I bake bread and give extra loaves to different neighbors. When I listen closely, most of the noise I hear from them is music and TV.

    If I was aware of cultural conflicts in my community I’d want them to be settled without violence. I’d prefer not to pull out weapons and try to force violence to stop, or threaten to violently intervene hoping to prevent violence. If it came to a serious problem I’d probably call the police and hope they didn’t mess up too bad. I don’t have a burning desire to force everybody else to get along.

    A whole lot of the USA is a pluralistic society. The one alternative I see is civil war, which looks pretty unpleasant. Some decades ago a bunch of liberals had the idea they wanted everybody to be tolerant, and it didn’t work. They couldn’t persuade everybody to be tolerant, which makes sense when you consider that one important ways that cultures define themselves is in opposition to other cultures.

    Now I figure the goal isn’t to make everybody do anything in particular. The goal is to get by. So for example I think we’d be better off if there were places that blacks weren’t allowed to live. No more than say 5% of the total residential space. The racist 5% of the population that most wants to avoid blacks could go there and rot, and things work smoother, and we’re all better off. I don’t have a whole lot of ideology about it all except that we need to avoid violence when we can, and we need to stop it quick when it does start. We need to make it easy for people to ignore each other when they want to. We can’t hope to make our different cultures like each other, except when they happen to. We need ways to let them work together when they need to and create minimal friction when they don’t absolutely have to interact.

    Sorry if this sounds incoherent. It’s stuff I don’t try to say very often.

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