Living On The Slopes of a Volcano

Ted Barlow extends the arguments I believe JC and Chris were making (guys, if I’m wrong, I apologize and would be very interested in where your argument branches from Ted’s) in their comments to this post criticizing Frank Rich.

Ted’s (long, worth reading the whole thing) post breaks down as follows:

1) There are 4 likely outcomes in Iraq, 3 of them bad and one unlikely.

2) Things in Iraq are not going well; they may be going horribly – the data isn’t great – but at core, the level of violence isn’t declining, public order isn’t increasing, the political process is moving in the wrong direction.

3) Declaring victory and coming home leads to a certain bad outcome. But that has to be balanced against the reality of our situation.
He sets out a metaphor:

Imagine a village living in the shadow of a live volcano. Serenity is not an appropriate response to the threat of an eruption, but neither is a program of virgin sacrifice. Neither steely-eyed resolve nor spine-stiffening prose poems about the nobility and admirable selflesness of the virgins will do much good.

(This metaphor breaks down quickly, of course. No amount of virgin sacrifice could possibly stop a volcano, whereas there’s still hope that we might be able to prevent catastrophe in Iraq. And I hope that I am not misinterpreted- I mean no criticism of the members of our military, who really do exhibit nobility and selflessness. My brother is a Captain in the Army, and I’m immensely proud of him. However, I’d guess that the themes of pro-sacrifice pundits would sound awfully familiar. “Would you tell the mother of one of our brave virgins that her child died in vain?” “If these anti-sacrifice elites have a plan, let’s hear it.” “This talk of pulling out does nothing but anger the volcano god.” “Anti-sacrifice activists, it saddens me to say, are objectively pro-eruption.”)

4) The only way out – given current troop levels – is a draft, which isn’t going to happen.

So he’s stuck looking for a positive outcome, which brings us back to “may as well pull out now since we’re going to lose anyway.”

I mean, who wants to be the last soldier to die in Iraq?

Somehow, I still see things very differently (what a surprise).

First, I have a somewhat different interpretation of the expectations going into the war.

I always expected – even before I decided that I supported this war – that it would be long and hard, and that the one significant risk we took wasn’t military, but political – that:

We don’t get to ‘declare victory and go home’ when the going gets tough, elections are near, or TV shows pictures of the inevitable suffering that war causes. The Marshall Plan is a bad example, because the Europe that had been devastated by war had the commercial and entrepreneurial culture that simply needed stuff and money to get restarted. And while we’re damn good with stuff and money, this is going to take much more, and we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves, work, and be willing to sweat with this for some time.

(January 17, 2003)

And I’m genuinely puzzled how educated, intelligent folks – folks like Ted – who have read and understand history look at the inevitable muddles committed by our troops, their officers, our political leadership, and the President and weigh them so heavily. Here’s Ted:

The folks I’m quoting above are very critical at Donald Rumsfeld, who has amply earned it. Rumsfeld should have lost his job much earlier for his role in prisoner abuse scandals, for his lack of planning, and for his unsuitable arrogance…

I’d be perfectly happy if Rumsfeld was kicked out and made the scapegoat that allowed the Administration to admit error. I’ll believe it when I see it.

The litany of error – bad planning, prisoner abuse, military arrogance, political timidity – wraps much of the opposition to the war. It is to say that “It’s not that I’m against the war; I’m just against this war, because it’s being so badly prosecuted.

But as I’ve asked before, compared to what?

I’ve read moderately deeply in history, including the history of wars from the Peloponnesian through Vietnam.

Lincoln’s leading general (McClellan) wanted to settle the war, and undermined his strategic direction in the hope that he could make room for negotiation.

The first American battle with the German army in World War II (Kasserine Pass) was a rout – we were routed.

War is, above all, the providence of error. People seem to make a lot of mistakes in war, and because these mistakes are written in blood, they are more visible than the mistakes we inevitably make as city council members setting policies for side yard variances.

Let’s make it simple – we’ve all read Catch-22 with it’s deadly accurate descriptions of the lunacy, folly, and avarice that were part of the U.S. military in World War II. Most veterans of the war that I knew found a core of truth in that book.

Does that mean we were fated to lose? Obviously not.

Does that mean we shouldn’t have fought the war? Obviously not.

If, at the beginning of the war, you had said that it would take ten thousand casualties to take Baghdad, do you think the reaction of the American public would have been vastly different?

I have two sons over 18, one of whom continues to plan on a path through the military. I’m deeply aware of what those casualties mean.

Will we solve the problem of having enough troops? We have to. We should have started three years ago, and the failure to do that – the failure to make it clear to the American people that this was more than a war we’d watch on CNN (until the series comes out) while we went about our daily lives – remains the stupidest thing that the Bush Administration has done.

Can we solve it?

Here I’ll point out that Ted is disingenuous when he says that we supporters of the war blame the media overmuch. He calls it “flailing against a stab in the back from the press.” Well, you know, it’s funny.

There is such a thing as public sentiment, and it is both innate and actively shaped.

After two years of a media-driven picture of the war as immoral and hopeless, somehow we find that et lá! The public support for the war is declining! After two years of demonstrations at high schools and colleges against military recruitment, military recruitment is hard.

I’m not surprised that the media has shaped public sentiment, I’m surprised that it has been so ineffective at shaping it. I’m surprised that anyone is enlisting, and that every member of the House isn’t demanding immediate withdrawal lest they face the wrath of the voters in fifteen months.

Yes, this is going to go on being hard and unpleasant. But again, compared to what?

Compared to letting sanctions collapse? (And I’ll skip over the cheap but satisfying shot of pointing out how many of those who bitterly oppose the war also opposed sanctions – which they now point back to as a perfectly good way to keep Saddam from getting too belligerent)

Compared to watching as Saddam allied himself more deeply with fanatic Islamists who really do believe they can conquer the West?

There’s a simple difference between Ted’s position and mine; he sees this war as living on the slopes of a volcano – as facing a situation where we are helpless (he does acknowledge that sacrificing soldiers in wars sometimes wins them, while sacrificing virgins to volcanoes doesn’t guarantee protection from lava – but in writing, that’s called “having it both ways” – he makes his point, and then in an aside, sets it down and explains that he really didn’t mean it).

I’ll suggest that he Google Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland.

Sometimes even people living on the slopes of volcanoes fight hard enough to win.

We can too.

So when JC accuses me of ignoring the litany of bad news, no I’m not. And while I’m sometimes tempted to wade in and talk about what I think is being done wrong in Iraq (and there is a fair amount), I’d rather use the limited attention granted me to try and get us to do the one right thing. Stay.

Oh, forgot to mention this.

Ted points out (in his litany of disaster) that “The mayor of Baghdad was deposed by an armed Shiite militia, and we just shrugged.” Let’s go to Juan Cole (yes, I do read him, his analysis is usually silly, but he does present info that I don’t see elsewhere):

Meanwhile, Jaafari has thrown his support behind the ousting of Baghdad mayor Alaa al-Tamimi by SCIRI. SCIRI won the Baghdad provincial council elections last January and therefore has the right to appoint its own mayor. Often in contemporary Iraq, incumbents put there by the United States or its proxy interim government have refused to leave when ordered to do so by the winners at the ballot box, and Tamimi was one of those who had ensconced himself, apparently with a private guard. The change of mayor therefore had to be accomplished by the elected governing council through a kind of coup whereby Badr Corps (the paramilitary of SCIRI) occupied the mayor’s office.

Heh. As they say…

64 thoughts on “Living On The Slopes of a Volcano”

  1. Armed Liberal,

    Thanks for addressing this again, as you said you would.

    Taking from your first point –

    “But as I’ve asked before, compared to what?”. This is imporant as it is a point that you raise again and again, that somehow all the criticisms are based on an unrealistic understanding of reality – that war should be “perfect”.

    But here’s the answer – “compared to the conduct, execution, and operations ofGulf War I, and compared to the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan”.

    In both of the above circumstances:

    a. The United States worked from a clear, plain, and honest plan, that was understood by the US populace .
    b. The goals were clear.
    c. U.N. resolutions for the objectives were granted.
    d. Multi-lateral forces were engaged in a much larger manner.
    e. A much larger contribution from “the liberal order” of nations that can contribute, contributed to both Gulf War I, and also contributed to Afghanistan.
    f. The move into both was done with the reluctant (and in many cases active) assent of the neighboring countries.

    So – guess what? There IS quite a difference in competency in the execution of Gulf War II.

    For Gulf War II

    a. The hyped objective was that Hussein was a threat to the United States and we needed to deal with the “weapons of mass destruction”.
    b. The goals were clear – except for that “weapons of mass destruction”. But again, the goals were unrealistic – Bush I’s reasons to not continue into Baghdad – why did that turn into Wolfowitz’s “a few billion” cost? Why did Rumsfeld say “I can’t imagine that the costs after the invasion would cost more than the invasion” (something like this…) Why, when there was the clear example of the ratio ofpeacekeeping troops necessary to actually keep the peace – as mentioned by Shinseki – why was this belittled?
    c. No UN resolution
    d. Coalition of US, Britian, and Italy. Nothing like previous coalitions.
    e. Compared to contributions of troops from other nations, pretty weak.

    Not to mention, the administration cynically using the War and preparations for the war to divide americans.

    So it is simply dishonest to say “look at the history of war – mistakes happen”. We had a clear examples of forming coalitions to deal with threats against the world – and we didn’t follow it.

    Your “mistakes happen” is simply a granting of license, without accountability.

    That’s the first point.

    Back to the question of my original post – What does winning look like, to you? What does losing look like, to you?

    Seriously. I’ve asked this twice before, and you’ve said “good question”, but what are your PARAMETERS for a win? Your parameters for a loss? No vague stuff – hard numbers. When you work on managing an IT project, there are deliverables you are responsible for, right?

    I have to ask again – what does “win” mean? Specifics, please.

  2. A.L.-

    Well, I wasn’t necessarily thinking along the lines Ted lays down, but I don’t have a whole lot to argue about with what he says (with the sole exception of the “mayor of Bagdhad” thing, which you did a fine job of correcting.)

    That said, I’m more or less in agreement with JC’s response above regarding your “compared to what” question. I’ll also try my own spin on an answer, which goes as follows:

    Yes, every war in history, and damn near every major and minor human endevor since the dawn of time, has seen mistakes. Mistakes happen, mistakes are inevitable, even with the best of intentions.

    But the thing about mistakes is, you can keep making them over and over again, or you can learn from ‘em, and stop repeating them. And thus far I’ve seen more of the former from the Bush admin than the latter.

    You point out mistakes – big ones – that the US made in the Civil War and WW2. However, what came to mind when I thought about those mistakes was that those errors were relatively near the beginning of the respective wars, where the US started at a strategic disadvantage, then learned, adapted, and made up ground until it was able to end things decisively. In comparison, the war in Iraq has happened in reverse – we started from a position of strength, but we’ve been worn down since, and the end of conflict has gotten progressively more muddled.

    And while it’s true that we have learned some lessons in Iraq, and implemented some new strategies, our enemies seem to be learning and adapting faster than we are. That’s the wrong side of the learning curve for us to be on, and while you can certainly excuse Bush for any _individual_ mistakes that happened on his watch, this kind of big picture problem is absolutely something that the President should be working hard to fix, or should have fixed already. Again, I see no evidence of either.

    As for your complaints against the media, I’m unconvinced, partially because of this argument Kevin Drum made recently, and partially because, even assuming the media is a fifth column (which, again, I don’t buy) Bush should be able to counter it much more effectively than he has been using the power of the bully pulpit. But we may not be able to productively argue much more about this than we already have.

    And as for your repeated assertions that “we have to” find a way out of this… I dunno. If I honestly believed, as you’ve repeatedly said you do, that we only have the choice between wholeheartedly supporting the Iraq war and inevitably moving towards a middle-Eastern genocide, then I suppose I’d be a die-hard Bush supporter too. But I don’t believe those are our only options, and what’s more, I know that sometimes a positive, can-do attitude _doesn’t_ solve all problems; sometimes you just can’t get there from here, no matter how hard you try. I think Hilzoy’s recent post on defeatism (specifically the anecdote about the insurance stuff) over at Obsidian Wings provides some useful perspective on this, too.

    While I’m at it, I suppose I should go beyond just carping at the Bush admin, and give my own thoughts on how I hope this’ll all turn out. I’m actually heartened by indications that Bush is starting to back off of the idea of a classically liberal, secular democracy running a unified Iraq – if I actually believed it was in the power of the US military to create such a thing, I’d be arguing “stay” too, but I don’t.

    I think there’s an excellent chance that Iraq will fracture into Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite zones, each of which’ll have varying degrees of democracy and stability, and I hope that we’ll be able to gradually withdraw while still lending enough military, economic, and political support to Iraq to prevent the inevitable friction between those zones from becoming an outright bloodbath. That configuration of events would have its own problems, but I think it’s politically and logistically feasible, better than having Saddam still around, and about as good a victory as we can currently get.

    And that’s all I got for now. Thanks for a hearfelt response to my earlier comments, AL.

  3. If you look at the predictions for utter chaos, defeat, and “quagmire” … right before the fall of the Taliban by ALL the major media including Sy Hersh, you’ll see that Afghanistan is not that different than Iraq.

    No nation other than the US contributed significantly to Afghanistan, and no nation today has done much. The French famously mocked a US request for more helicopters by (in a meeting with the French Foreign minister) offering a toy one.

    NATO dug in it’s heels and demanded “conflict resolution” and “proof” that Osama bin Laden was mastermind of 9/11. As a practical matter even if NATO wanted to help there they had no men, arms, or supplies, and no means to move them to Afghanistan.

    Internally, ANSWER, Moveon, Joe Biden, Michael Moore, most of Hollywood opposed the Afghan War as did the media, and nightly stories about impending disaster were the norm until Kabul fell.

    Afghanistan is not that different from Iraq. It still remains today what it was before (and as Iraq remains): a violent, primitive, superstitious, pre-modern, tribal hell-hole where women and minorities of all kinds are brutally oppressed by social custom and tribalism if nothing else.

    Bush 1’s refusal to move into Baghdad and depose Saddam left an aftermath where those who could have asserted leadership and progress in a post-Saddam world were killed. Iraq is such a brutal mess precisely because Powell and Bush 1 preferred “realpolitik” and wanted to kick the can down the road to later generations of Americans. Well, that bill for deferred problem solving has come due. Saddam killed most of the people who could have stopped or at least lessened the violence. While Bush 1 and Powell and Scowcroft and Baker and the rest of the Wise Men nodded approvingly.

    As for now, I refer you to bin Laden’s 1996 declaration of War:

    You can find it Reply

  4. OK, thanks for the clarifications…I’ll have a window to answer at more length later today, but here’s a gloss:

    1) I think our policies in Afghanistan were brilliant,in that they avoided the ‘big footprint’ which the Russians used and which triggers the visceral reaction from the territorial and hardened tribes.

    It’s not a policy that would have worked in Iraq, both because there was a powerful state apparatus (army, security forces), and because a substantial portion of Iraqis don’t live underthe control of tribal authorities with whom we could bargain.

    2) GW I was a simple army-on-army war – all we had to do was defeat his army and kick it out of Kuwait. I’ve wondered on and off for a year what conditions would have been like if we had gone all the way to Baghdad – would they be as they are now (don’t think so) or would it have been much, much easier (today, that’s what I think).

    I think we are learning in Iraq, from the folks I talk to in the military over there. The question is whether the overall ‘high-level’ strategy – to buy space and time for the formation of Iraqi government and military forces, and to persist along that path in the face of stumbles – is the right one. I think it is; I don’t think major changes in course in that regard are useful.

    But it’s something I ought to chew over and maybe write a bit about.

    How’s that?

    A.L.

  5. There are two particularly vile arguments that keep coming up around this war, and every other war since Vietnam (yes, including Afghanistan).

    The first vile argument is that the cause is lost, and we must therefore withdraw and save what we can. By presuming a lost cause, and counseling retreat, the arguer seeks to make certain that the cause is lost. Since we have not won (yet), we must be losing, and since we must be losing, we must already have lost, and since we have lost, we must withdraw now. But just because we don’t see the victory already accomplished does not imply that the victory will not be accomplished. The Union, for example, was not winning in 1863, after three years of war. The Allies were not winning in mid-1918, though by avoiding defeat in the German summer offensives, they ended up winning in late 1918.

    The second vile argument is that “no one should be the last soldier to die in a lost cause”. This is in some ways worse than the “lost cause” argument. Once there has been one soldier’s death, there must logically be a last soldier to die. Retreating, embracing defeat, does not change that, it merely renders the deaths of all of the soldiers meaningless. It is for the living to make meaningful the sacrifices of the dead, and were we to simply withdraw, as we did in Vietnam, we would be making their sacrifices meaningless to the nation, meaningful only to those whose primary goal is to hobble America, to defeat America, or to drive the Republicans out of office. And unlike in Vietnam, this would be compounded by the fact that the jihadis can come here to fight us – they already have; that’s how we got into this war in the first place.

    On the point about the media, I do not see how anyone can conclude other than two possibilities: the media don’t care if we win or lose, or the media prefer that George Bush lose even if that means the US losing as well. By their own statements, many of the most influential journalists and editors are strongly against the war, or strongly against President Bush. The media’s coverage is almost unceasingly negative, often seeking out the most negative interpretation of events – to the extent of ignoring stronger counter-evidence in favor of (in some cases) invented supporting evidence – and consistently tolling the bells of doom. It was, what, the day before the fall of Kabul that we were told we were destined to lose? A week before the fall of Baghdad that we were told we were destined to lose?

    The media is a constant refrain of loss, doom, failure and horror – with little to no coverage of positive events, positive trends, stories of heroism by our soldiers or by Iraqi or Afghani civilians, troops or police. As AL said, it’s remarkable that under such a sustained and consistent propaganda campaign we have any support left for the war.

  6. “You point out mistakes – big ones – that the US made in the Civil War and WW2. However, what came to mind when I thought about those mistakes was that those errors were relatively near the beginning of the respective wars, where the US started at a strategic disadvantage, then learned, adapted, and made up ground until it was able to end things decisively”

    Civil War:
    Cold Harbor- May 1864, 108,000 union troops 62,000 CSA troops. 13,000 union casualties (1844 killed), 2500 CSA casualties (83 killed).

    The Crater- July 1864, 5300 union casualties, 1100 CSA

    Brice’s Crossroads- June 1864, 2610 union casualties, 495 CSA

    WW2
    Operation Tiger- April 1944, 749 allied deaths in d-day training exercise

    Market Garden- Sept 1944, 18,200 allied casualties (more than 10,000 KIA)

    Note that most of these disasters occurred in _one day_ and managed to rival the casualties inflicted during the entire occupation of Iraq has in 2.5 years. A bad day in WW2 meant 800 men drowning in a training exercise, a bad day in Iraq means a dozen marines killed. Horrible either way, but hardly comparable.
    In other words, lets get some perspective here.

  7. The “Volcano” analogy is a fine example of lazy thinking.

    There are no intelligent, responsive adversaries to consider when confronting natural phenomena. No feedback or OODA loops. The volcano is; it will do what it will do.

    In contrast, the situation in Iraq doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and our civilization’s opponents aren’t remotely comparable to pumice. Jihadis have long-term objectives; they will continue to modify their plans as circumstances evolve. For them, the crucial circumstances are the results of what we do. For us, the same thing, in reverse.

    Fortunately, we have clear insight into jihadi plans. Their inspirational texts are published, e.g. Sayyid Qutb’s books. And jihadi success depends on mobilizing the sympathy and support of the ummah, meaning that their leadership wants to, and has to, clearly explain their philosophy, strategy, and tactics. See, for example, Jim Rockford’s quote of OBL in #3, above. In his WoC posts, Dan Darling provides extensive quotes from, and commentary on, other International Islamic Front material.

    But to Ted, our enemies are an unstoppable force (volcano), and our polity are akin to feckless idjits (virgin-sacrificing villagers). I am sure Ted is familiar with Sun Tzu’s work, but he shows no appreciation of the principals discussed in “The Art of War.”:http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/taoism/suntext.htm

    An analogy of my own: discussing Mideast Strategy according to Ted’s framework is like allowing a Chamberlain back-bencher to set the terms for a debate:

    bq. “The new appeasement was a mood of fear, Hobbesian in its insistence upon swallowing the bad in order to preserve some remnant of the good, pessimistic in its belief that Nazism was there to stay and, however horrible it might be, should be accepted as a way of life with which Britain ought to deal.”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeasement

    The Crooked Timber post that A.L. is reflecting on quotes Greg Djerejian, Orin Kerr, Frederick Kagan, and other critics of the Bush war effort. The heft and rigor of their concerns are better appreciated in the absence of the cited post’s context.

  8. Some excellent points. Some I disagree with.

    And sorry to have to say it, but some serious fantasy. Especially..

    “After two years of a media-driven picture of the war as immoral and hopeless, somehow we find that….”

    Is Al Jazeera suddenly “the media”?

    Are you referring to news or editorials?

  9. I’ve just noticed this, but I’ve got a bit of a busy morning. I’ll try hard to respond to your thoughtful criticism soon. If I don’t, feel free to email, AL.

  10. Looking at Gulf War I through rose-coloured glasses.

    _a. The United States worked from a clear, plain, and honest plan, that was understood by the US populace._

    The war was initially sold to the American People as a war necessary to preserve American’s strategic oil interests and partnership with Saudi Arabia. This incited cries of “No Blood for Oil!” Popular support for the war only came about after Kuwait staged a p.r. campaign around the lie that Iraqi trooops were pulling babies out of incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals and letting them die on the floor. At this point, the justification for war shifted to human rights abuses and the threat of WMD. Quick success papered over these issues.

    _b. The goals were clear._

    See above. The reason the public supported the war was not the reason for the war. Note that the outcome of the war addressed the strategic concerns, not the humanitarian ones.

    _c. U.N. resolutions for the objectives were granted._

    True.

    _d. Multi-lateral forces were engaged in a much larger manner._

    75% of the forces were American (compared with 85% today). Some nations were offered economic aid or debt relief to join. Arab support for the coalition began to weaken as soon as the conflict was joined.

    _e. A much larger contribution from “the liberal order” of nations that can contribute, contributed . . ._

    True. But is this much more than saying France (and perhaps Canada) didn’t join?

    _f. The move into both was done with the reluctant (and in many cases active) assent of the neighboring countries._

    The only real difference is Turkey. Jordan supported Saddam. Syrian support waivered after it got what it wanted (Lebannon). Iran gave Iraq assistance.

    What this really appears to come down to is that the U.S. was unable to obtain U.N. support, French (and perhaps Canadian) support and the support of Turkey. Is that a reason not to go to war?

  11. It would also be well to remember the revisionists have been hard at work ever since GW1 claiming that Hussein was surrendering and that the fighting was unnecessary etc. The apologists will always go out of their way to assign the best intentions to the bad guys and the worst motivations to America.

  12. From AL’s Normblog interview:
    What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > An unwillingness by any of us to pay – not necessarily financially – for what we get.

    Here’s my take: the enemy in Iraq is impatience.

    People seem to think that because as time goes on, and they see more splintering and fracturing of parties and other representative groups in Iraq, and violence not coming down, it’s a lost cause. I was there in March, and I was there in July. In March, the mood of the place was downright peaceful for the most part (please don’t quote me stats for casualties in March, I was there, I have a brother in law serving in Ramadi, and I have Iraqis that I work with, I’m well aware). Everyone was still riding high off from January elections, there was a great sense of unity in the country. While not so in July, (a mere 3 and a half months difference) I think we have to keep it in perspective. What did people expect? Anyone who knows the culture and what they’ve been dealt knows that this one was going to take a LOT of time. The question really comes down to, what are we willing to risk, and what do we believe is at stake? And that’s where I see people split.

    One of the travesties of Gulf War 1 in my mind is that it led the public to believe that we were, from then on, going to be able to fight wars with minimal sacrifice of life. In my mind, Gulf War 1 was about equivalent to the days of OIF/stage1. Storm Baghdad in record time, overthrow the regime……it’s what we didn’t do in 1991, sticking around, that is costing lives. It cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives when we didn’t do that. After Sept 11, we had a reason to believe that it could cost thousands of ours as well, if we didn’t stay when we went. I’m not referring to the WMD argument, I’m trying to make the “if we don’t back up what we start” argument. For decades now, we’ve been like the parent that says “you do that one more time….” and then says it again, with no consequences. That leads to certain expectations, and more “testing” of resolve.

    What happens if you had to get to “3” with littlest guy AL? Consequences, right?

    I listened to Michael Yon on WRKO radio from Mosul the other night. He said the only thing that angered the troops there is when they hear “they’re not winning”. Deuce Four says it simply isn’t true (and this is in one of the 3 top hot spots in the country). Progress is slow at times, but it IS being made. And it’s going to go through rough spots. That’s what progress is. A series of mistakes and ingenuity, hopefully we learn from the mistakes as we go, but we don’t just quit.

  13. My nephew, whom I held as a baby, cheered on in soccer, counseled in high school and have loved unconditionally for 22 years, has joined the marines. He has chosen to risk his life in the interests of our country. He understands those risks, he made his choice with eyes wide open. He was not hoping for tuition assistence and a signing bonus and he did not join expecting he could avoid combat. He joined the marines.
    I attended his graduation from boot camp. In a few short months he and his buddies grew from round faced kids into well mannered, confident men with the ramrod straight carriage peculiar to military heroes.
    My nephew is going to Iraq. We are planning a predeployment party for him. His parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and extended family are in agreement about something for the first time in our history. We are both immensely proud, and mind numbingly terrified. We are the typical military family.
    My nephew doesn’t understand a few things about the media coverage of this war. For instance: why does the media cover the deaths every day, but rarely covers the successes and achievements that are occurring every day as well. Why, when they report the death of a soldier, they dont tell the heroic stories of their buddies that survived the conflict and attempted a rescue. They dont talk at all about the bravery and resolve of the Afghan or Iraqui soldier to secure their country for freedom and you rarely hear from the millions of people who are grateful for what has been achieved so far. If the media is not trying to manipulate the outcome, then why is the reporting so narrow and skewed to predict failure and dishearten the American soldier? If the media cares some much about our troops, why so many headlines over the criminal acts of a few soldiers in a prison and so few stories in print about the daily generosity and bravery of the vast majority of our troops?
    My nephew is going into battle and I support his decision. The cut and run, admit defeat and slink home pundits do a diservice to our soldiers and threaten to make their sacrifices meaningless. They also fuel the misguided beliefs of our adversaries, that they can ultimately conquer the West.
    While those of you with the luxury, freedom and time to analyze history and politics and propose potential theorectical outcomes and solutions continue to blog without expecting to blow up any moment as they do in Isreal and Bagdad, it is my hope that you remember that the conflict you are debating is being fought by real people today, not chess pieces or long dead heroes. Honor them. The Afghans and Iraquis they are training to protect their people and manage their own society are showing tremendous courage and determination and deserve our help. Remember them.
    If this stream of conciousness seems off topic slightly, I apologize. These are the thoughts I had while enjoying your debate. I guess I needed to express them.
    Blog on….

  14. “And while it’s true that we have learned some lessons in Iraq, and implemented some new strategies, our enemies seem to be learning and adapting faster than we are. ”

    This is the kind of statement that I find bewildering, but at least here it’s thankfully couched as a possibility, as opposed to that I see elswhere.

    What evidence is there that our enemies are learning and adapting faster than we are? There’s no question that they HAVE adapted, and they HAVE learned – as anyone but the most naive would expect.

    But suggesting that the enemy is outperforming our forces – both militarily and politically – is to ignore some salient facts:

    — We’ve dealt subtly and effectively with the Shia uprising led by al Sadr
    — The political process of elections and constitution drafting have proceeded, even if in fits and starts; the effort hasn’t collapsed despite dark and alarming headlines of “impasses” every time the Iraqis stop to discuss policy matters
    — Our training of Iraqi forces continues in a slow but steady manner
    — Construction projects are proceeding apace, as are civilian/cultural projects

    And so on. The above items aren’t to say we’re tripping through daisies over there; they are to say that we’re accomplishing real, concrete things that matter. We couldn’t accomplish ANY of them of the enemy was truly quicker and more adaptable than we are. If the enemy were quicker and more adaptable, the entire country would be in open armed revolt. That obviously could still happen, but as far as I can tell, the momentum – as weak as it may be – is in the opposite direction.

    We should never underestimate an opposing force, but overestimating them is a mistake too, especially as it can lead to despair and fear.

    I trust our men and women to get the job done over the long haul – but only if they are allowed to do so. It won’t be perfect, but it has a chance to be good.

  15. Good point Steve. Its a major if common mistake to make out our enemies to be supermen. Every AQ dispatch we capture sounds about like our our MSM, negative and doom ridden. Our enemy has made mistakes and will continue to.

    Just in the past couple days AQ has changed tactics and started targetting Sunni leaders who are urging participation in voting and the new constitution. This is a major split in our adversaries that we can count on the MSM to miss the importance of. We’re not talking about coopted fringe Sunnis that are being attacked. Guys from the Brotherhood of Muslim Scholars were shot at and they are the biggest and most influential Sunni Islamist sect. Retataliation is certain. This may even spur a deal in the constitutional impass.

  16. There’s a lot of worthwhile comments to respond to, but most will have to wait for a later period of time, when I have more sources on which to draw upon.

    For now, a few thoughts.

    A.L., your counter-argument – re: Iraq I and Afghanistan, doesn’t really engages WHAT I am being critical about. I’ll throw another example at you – Kosovo. That particular conflict, while it also had its share of issues, was handled masterfully enough that there wasn’t ONE single american death as a result of conflict.

    I would have loved to have that type of mastery applied to Iraq, wouldn’t you? Don’t YOU agree that not one american death is something to aspire to, if you can both have no american deaths, AND meet your military objectives?

    At this point, however, this is only debating mistakes of the past. What matters now is the varius rumblings from a lot of Army experts (and certainly not all) that if we stay in Iraq, with current force levels and rotations, that the 3rd and 4th rotations of combat soldiers into Iraq will shred the Army’s effectiveness. That’s the important thing. If that is the case, well, we will withdraw significant forces by the end of next summer, no matter the effect in Iraq. I fully expect that by next summer there WILL be a reduction if forces – as much as possible to stave off the concerns of the Army experts, but leaving enough troops to have an impact.(I envision that if Iraq remains at a slow burn, that the plan is that 50K troops will be stationed there indefinitely. That level of force reduction, from what I’ve been reading, can be sustained with Army forces, without hurting the effectiveness of the troops.)

    Also, I’ll say again – I’ve asked for measurable deliverables, that are your criteria for success and failure, but like Hamlet, you seem afraid of committing yourself, so you continue to be “decisive” in the abstract, rather than the concrete.

    While I understand the attration – and even the need – to weave a heroic narrative, bereft of actually committing yourself to concrete deliverables, by doing so, your narrative runs the risk of turning from heroic to Panglossian.

    To those who disagree about the differences betweeen Iraq 2 – and Iraq I, Afghanistan, and Kosovo, I simply will leave you with this:

    The strategy of a tough liberal order – that is flexible, nuanced, tough, engages allies, listens to allies, and hammers out a policy that many nations can get on board with and support – THIS strategy – the creation and nurturance of a Liberal Order – has been THE successful strategic defense strategy of the last 60 years. And my claim is that Iraq I, Kosovo, Afghanistan falls within this spectrum, while Iraq 2 falls outside of it.

    Lastly – there are quite a lot of centrifugal forces at play in Iraq. Certainly the Kurds want a Kurdistan, long-term (which they have effectively had, in an undeclared manner, for 10 years anyway.) So you are left with the following trends –

    a. Kurds drifting towards their own state (undeclared or not.)
    b. Shiites looking out for their own interests in the south.
    c. Sunnis and the shared areas, in semi-chaos for years. An average of a bomb a day counts as chaos (imagine a bomb a day in the United States, a much larger country), and I don’t see that stopping for years, irregardless of constitutional progress.

    Again, I’ll ask – what trends are there that look to render a through c above untrue?

  17. There’s been some issues here I’ll just comment on briefly. First, the whole thing about the media putting down the war consistently for two years, that’s not what I’ve seen at all and the media here is mostly American. The embed process especially was deemed a huge success by the Pentagon and led to reporting MUCH more sympathetic than the Vietnam era. Also, as other have already stated, the Bush administration used the media very well in getting core *deceptive* messages accross, as did the Blair government. Both used word repetition and misdirection to convince a significant portion of their citizenry that Iraq was connected to terrorism and 9/11, had readily available WMDs they were willing to use against the US/UK civilian populations and were an active threat to do so. And two of the biggest cable news systems in the US, CNN and Fox seemed to be so “on message” with the administration you’d think they were getting teleprompter feeds directly from the west wing.

    The quote a responder put here was “No nation other than the US contributed significantly to Afghanistan, and no nation today has done much.”

    I’m sorry, on the Afganistan issue a lot of people put in a lot, militarily and economically. Granted the “no nation today has done as much” is probably fair, but when the US is the biggest developed economy on earth and the most affected by 9/11, being the key player in Afghanistan was a no-brainer.

    I’m a Canadian, and for me like many of our citizenry we were appalled and outraged by 9/11 and quite pleased our government sent what little is left our our military (after massive budget cuts and deployments all over the earth peacekeeping) over to help attack, police and rebuild Afghanistan. Canadians, especially our sniper teams, were very highly regarded in their work in combat. And Canadians are still there, most recently moving back into the more hostile Taliban-controlled territories of Afghanistan again. Canadians died in combat, not to mention by an overstimulated and triggerhappy USAF pilot who bombed thier night training area…

    Which I guess bring me to where many Canadians (and our Prime Minister) ran into problems with the Iraq war.

    1. The war in Afghanistan wasn’t over. Sure it was ANNOUNCED as over (sound familiar anyone?) but the country wasn’t even starting to be rebuilt and was not under any control in many many places (surviving Taliban and Al Quada elements having simple gone to ground to wait it out). Even now most money pledged by nations including the US to rebuild Afghanistan hasn’t been paid out. Instead we bombed them back into the stone age (not for the first time) then camped out in the the capital doing very little of lasting value in the rest of the country.

    2. We saw how little of what was supposed to happen in Afghanistan was delivered, and had our doubts about what was promised for Iraq. There is still a good part of Afghanistan owned by the Taliban, although a tad less formally than when they were considered the government. Promised reconstruction dollars were often not actually spent, and may never be now that Iraq is eating so much money. Afghanistan has gone back to being the Opium/Herion capital of the world, overturning about the only good thing those lunatics in the Taliban ever did for that country.

    3. Our government wasn’t prepared to lie to or deceive us about Iraq. So during the debate about joining GW II, when people asked about current threat MWDs or links to 9-11 (which we all heard about on US TV), our leaders answered with what we now know is the truth “well, actually we don’t have current information about WMDs and most experts believe chem/bio weapons are either hidden so deeply they can’t be deployed quickly, or are decommissioned. There’s no evidence of a functional nuclear program in Iraq since the Israelies bombed Iraq decades ago. And the proof coming out of Washington is that 9/11 was more likely sponsored and carried out by citizens of allied Arab countries rather than rogue states like Iraq”. Faced with the truth and nobody trying to sell us either way, many of the exact same people that wanted our troops on the next plane to Afghanistan after 9/11, and to stay until the work was gone, were having REAL big doubts about GW II.

    4. This is probably the telling one, although it’s Canadian only. Even when we stood up shoulder to shoulder with the US after 9/11, Bush forget to even mention us when giving international credit (yay Poland, I’m sure they put up thousands of US citizens in their own homes when flights were grounded, or sent hundreds of trained fire, rescue, trauma and civil affairs professionals to NTW within hours of the attacks) . Plus the Bush administration continued with some VERY nasty trade policies contrary to NAFTA that put many of our citizens out of work, and threatened the collapse of the economy of one of our larger provinces. All while they were building a “coalition of the willing” with foreign countries who needed in many cases to be bribed or co-erced to join. And while US politicians continued to imply to the American people (and again, remember we get US television so we saw this first hand) that Canada was feeding terrorists into the US, despite the clear evidence that not a single 9/11 terrorist entered through Canada, that most of the 9/11 terrorists had legitimate papers from the US government to be there and despite the fact that the only person we know of who has actually tried to launch an attack on the US from Canda (the millenium bomber) in the 21st century up until then was stopped at the border and failed utterly in his mission.

    This crazy partizan rambling I’ve been seeing in blogs and US news sites is scary. The left wing there are clearly nuts, but so is the right wing. Nobody is interested at all in the objective truth except to parcel it out in little pieces when a cherry-picked bit fits their larger agenda.

    But of course, I’m a citizen of “Soviet Canuckistan” (thanks Pat B. for that by the way) so everyone will ignore what I’m posting anyways, aside from a few libs who will moon about our health care system and a few righties torqued about our (admittedly) lax cannabis laws.

    Well, for anyone who is interested, the difference between the Afghan war and GW II is a textbook example of “how to alienate your friends and scare off potential allies”. It is frankly tragic that the Bush administration threw the big stupid mess in Iraq at a time when the whole world needed to be getting on side with a REAL war on terror, starting which countries we know to be huge problems and have WMD programs (Iran and N Korea anyone). Not to mention rebuilding the countries we blast to shit and occupy them long enough to shape their destiny a bit, so that they can turn out to be longer term peace partners like Germany and Japan rather than returning within a few years to their previous state (as Afghanistan threatens to do).

    BW

    So here’s the kicker. Instead of getting some credit

  18. Tracy #13:

    Thanks for those thoughts. As a proportion of the US population, the number of soldiers serving in Iraq is small, about 0.05% by my calculation (150K divided by 300M). However, the number of folks with loved ones who have gone, are there, or may soon go is much higher (say 20*1M/300M, or 7%). Thus, it’s not surprising that there are number of people, including bloggers, in situations that are somewhat similar to yours.

    JC #16:

    “The Enemy Gets A Vote.”

    I’m not sure it’s possible to answer your call for concrete and measurable deliverables, that are definite criteria for success or failure. Although it’s a demand that’s well worth making–the opposite of executing a plan that stems from a clear and realistic vision is likely to be “quagmire” or something equally bad.

    “Electrical generating capacity up to X MWh/day within 12 months” is a call for jihadis to blow up transmission lines, murder electrical engineers, etc. Which they have done, for these reasons.

    “X police brigades fully staffed” is a call for the enemy to focus car bombs at recruiting stations.

    “Polls reflecting a growing sense of physical security on the part of Baghdadis” is a call for car bombs in markets and at sewage plant opening ceremonies.

    The “definite metrics” line of reasoning leads to the proposition “don’t engage in a fight with an enemy that is wholly ruthless and inhumane, that has a nazi-like concept of morality, and that has access to explosives and weapons.”

    That might be (might have been) the “right” posture to take with respect to Iraq. It would be refreshing to see it discussed plainly, rather than elided.

    And the broader strategic implications of this stance are certainly not lost on the acolytes of Qutb and similar militant Islamists. While they shouldn’t come as a surprise to Westerners, either, I have the feeling that few among the anti-war movement have thought much about them.

  19. I would like to point out that there are those of us who are actually pro-war, but who think that Rumsfeld should resign….

    I feel that the war was the right thing to do. First, what intelligence we had indicated that Saddam did have WMDs and the desire and means to produce more. Second, his regime richly deserved destruction just from the human rights and anti-corruption point of view. Third, his “rejectionist” viewpoint was encouraging terrorism in the Middle East, both overtly and as an Islamic reaction to secular authoritarianism, which is what the Baathists were all about. Fourth, his defiance and corruption of UN resolutions was undermining what little international order there is in the world.

    That being said, Rumsfeld needs to go. Not because of tactical events on the ground. For instance, there have been several instances over the last couple years of marine squads essentially being overrun and wiped out. That’s not Rumsfeld’s fault, that has to do with marine doctrine and equipment.

    I don’t blame Secretary Rumsfeld for the various flaps over the lack of armored humvees or body armor. No organization has everything that it needs at every point in time. There is always a loose end somewhere. The fact is that the U.S. military is the best-equipped military in the world. That doesn’t make it perfectly equipped however.

    I don’t blame Secretary Rumsfeld for demobilizing the Iraqi Army, which lead to some members of that army joining the insurgency because they didn’t have much else to do. Demobilizing the army was a normal “de-Baathificaion” procedure, that as it turned out perhaps wasn’t the way to go. However, considering past reconstruction efforts (Post-war Japan and Germany for instance) this kind of demobilization was standard procedure.

    What I do hold against Rumsfeld is:

    1. Scrapping the State Department post-conflict reconstruction plan, and replacing it with next to nothing. I don’t know why the State Department plan was tossed, but if you toss an existing plan, you have to replace it with something concrete. Rumsfeld failed to do this.

    2. Silencing, or failing to discourage the silencing military leaders like General Shinseki who pointed out the numbers of forces that would be required for the mission at hand.

    3. Failing to learn the lessons of other authoritarian regimes in recent year. For example, pretty much all the collapses of the old Warsaw Pact governments were occasioned by an increase in overt crime, and a significant decrease in the effectiveness of security forces, as the old politicized leadership lost motivation, went into hiding or were forced out, and as existing authoritarian security doctrines had to be scrapped in the new environment. The DoD made no plans for these contingencies in Iraq.

    4. Failing to secure weapons dumps. This lead to a profusion of weapons early on in the insurgency. Again, given the irregular nature of the resistance that was found on the way to Baghdad, it should have been obvious that there were large numbers of irregulars in circulation that would probably try to loot these weapon dumps to sustain their resistance. I was personally pretty shocked when I found out that these sites were not being secured. If for no other reason, than to prevent Iraq’s various aggrieved ethnic factions from arming themselves prior to campaigns of revenge on their previous persecutors.

    5. Drift in the immediate post-war political system. From replacing the original transition organization with the CPA after about 1-2 months, to dithering about whether and when to hand sovereignity back to the the Iraqis, the first 6-9 months after the original invasion was badly disorganized.

    6. Lack of discipline on human rights issues. I don’t think that Secretary Rumsfeld had anything directly to do with Abu Ghraib. However, there are plenty of indications that on many levels the DoD did set up an atmosphere of being “above the law” on many of the human rights issues involved in the War on Terror. I think that this general atmosphere did contribute to what happened among the MPs and intelligence officers at places like Abu Ghraib.

    7. Failing to demand better intelligence on prewar Iraq. Either Rumsfeld and the rest of the DoD leadership failed to adequately demand quality intelligence, or they consciously or unconsciously distorted what intelligence they did have in order to mesh with an existing desire to invade Iraq. I personally think that the invasion was the right thing to do, but that the intelligence failure has badly dented U.S. credibility on security issues.

    Part of the responsiblity for that lies with the intelligence customers like Secretary Rumsfeld, who should have questioned and demanded more. For instance, the CIA has said that they had NO intelligence sources inside Iraq prior to the war. Considering the importance of Iraq in the previous 12 years before the invasion, this is pretty much unforgivable. And it is also unforgivable to present what was essentially second-hand information as being reliable intelligence providing a basis to go to war.

  20. Anyone insane enough to compare Kosovo and Iraq probably needs a nice padded cell to spend the duration of the war. Pipe in some nice cartoons and soothing lullabies. There now, isn’t that better?

  21. ” The embed process especially was deemed a huge success by the Pentagon and led to reporting MUCH more sympathetic than the Vietnam era.”

    True. When the media is actually on the scene we tend to get balanced reports. Unfortunately since the shooting war ended the MSM has confined itself to the Green Zone (hotel lobbies mostly) and gets its news from military and Iraqi press releases. They could do that from here. The best reporting continues to come from imbeds like Michael Yon.

    “Both used word repetition and misdirection to convince a significant portion of their citizenry that Iraq was connected to terrorism and 9/11, had readily available WMDs they were willing to use against the US/UK civilian populations and were an active threat to do so.”

    Translation: Our people are stupid and easy to fool. Not going to argue, simply disagree completely. Try selling that message next election, “you were too stupid and should have let us do the thinking for you”. And why was the NYT editorial page and the Clinton administration 5 years previously on the same page btw? Man Rove is good.

    “And two of the biggest cable news systems in the US, CNN and Fox seemed to be so “on message” with the administration you’d think they were getting teleprompter feeds directly from the west wing.”

    CNN? And what about NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, NPR, BBC, NYT, LAT, Wa-post, etc, etc, etc?

    “Canadians, especially our sniper teams, were very highly regarded in their work in combat. And Canadians are still there, most recently moving back into the more hostile Taliban-controlled territories of Afghanistan again.”

    Very true.

    “Canadians died in combat, not to mention by an overstimulated and triggerhappy USAF pilot who bombed thier night training area…”

    Thats a cheap shot. I expect Canadians have had blue on blue problems at some time in their well deservedly highly-regarded marshall history.

    “1. The war in Afghanistan wasn’t over. ”

    Of course. How were 150,000 extra troops going to help is the question? Or would they actually hurt the effort (the answer is yes, as the Russians could tell you)?

    “Instead we bombed them back into the stone age (not for the first time) then camped out in the the capital doing very little of lasting value in the rest of the country.”

    That is pointedly absurd, ignorant, and smacks of reliance on the MSM for information. Read Good News from Afghanistan on this very site some time. The allies have done tremendous things in Afghanistan. Just remember how low they started from. Does Democracy mean anything to you?!

    “2. We saw how little of what was supposed to happen in Afghanistan was delivered, and had our doubts about what was promised for Iraq. There is still a good part of Afghanistan owned by the Taliban, although a tad less formally than when they were considered the government.”

    Untrue. Link? If ‘own’ means they can hide in a cave and blow up a school once a year you may have a point however.

    “3. Our government wasn’t prepared to lie to or deceive us about Iraq.”

    Now you are arguing with yourself.

    “4. This is probably the telling one, although it’s Canadian only. Even when we stood up shoulder to shoulder with the US after 9/11, Bush forget to even mention us when giving international credit”

    Sorry you got your feelings hurt. I suppose the 25 millions Iraqis should suffer for it. Hey we brought back hockey though. Truce?

    “Well, for anyone who is interested, the difference between the Afghan war and GW II is a textbook example of “how to alienate your friends and scare off potential allies”.

    I thought how we handled Afghanistan was a disaster and alienated our allies? Make up your mind.

  22. Huh – I might as well give this up, actually, with the wingnuttery one has to deal with –

    “The Enemy Gets A Vote.” – good mind-reading skills I suppose – yes AMac, THAT’s what I was attempting to say. How’d you guess?

    “Comparing Kosovo to Iraq” – you might do better to think about WHAT was being compared, yes?

    And do you object to the fact that no american lives were lost in combat in Kosovo? Do you think I need a “padded cell” for pointing out that Clinton seemed to care more for american military lives than Bush does.

    But personally, “I think it is contemptible how Rumsfeld treated generals serving their country for 30 years”:http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?030407fa_fact1

    “Rumsfeld’s personal contempt for many of the senior generals and admirals who were promoted to top jobs during the Clinton Administration is widely known. He was especially critical of the Army, with its insistence on maintaining costly mechanized divisions. In his off-the-cuff memoranda, or “snowflakes,” as they’re called in the Pentagon, he chafed about generals having “the slows”—a reference to Lincoln’s characterization of General George McClellan. “In those conditions—an atmosphere of derision and challenge—the senior officers do not offer their best advice,” a high-ranking general who served for more than a year under Rumsfeld said. One witness to a meeting recalled Rumsfeld confronting General Eric Shinseki, the Army Chief of Staff, in front of many junior officers. “He was looking at the Chief and waving his hand,” the witness said, “saying, ‘Are you getting this yet? Are you getting this yet?’ ”

  23. Rumsfeld gets a bum rap. His ideas were revolutionary and correct in the main. They worked best when melded with dynamic but experienced leaders like Tommy Franks. Franks ‘got it’, he believed that speed was more deadly than fire power, and he proved himself correct twice. Rumselds ‘babies’ are just starting to come online, like the Stryker which was much derided but highly successful. Admittedly he has had to learn the value of boots on the ground, but just as obviously many of the Cold War generals needed to learn the value getting inside the enemies decision cycle as opposed to bringing overwhelming firepower as the answer to every question. We may recall a number of Ex-Generals who shall remain nameless bewailing the imminent disaster of Franks charge across Southern Iraq. Was Rumsfeld wrong for pushing perfumed princes like that out?
    Rumsfeld was not in charge of reconstruction. That was a failure of the civilian end of things and has to be traced back to Pennsylvania Avenue.

  24. JC #22:

    bq. “The Enemy Gets A Vote.” – good mind-reading skills I suppose – yes AMac, THAT’s what I was attempting to say. How’d you guess?

    Sorry, I guess I wasn’t clear. Not trying to impugn you or to mind-read, rather to point out that we (the US military/post-Saddam Iraq/The West; take your pick) are facing intelligent and resourceful Islamist adversaries. Unlike volcanoes, they consciously make plans and implement them in order to thwart our objectives. “The phrase is supposedly used in the US Army to illustrate that point.”:http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=the+enemy+gets+a+vote&btnG=Google+Search

    It seems evident to me that al Qaeda in Iraq is already visualizing what we see as “metrics of success” and allocating resources (e.g. car bombs) to lower them. The battlefield value of scores of maimed and dead Baghdad children is low–until one broadens “battlefield” to include American TV sets because one is banking on creating a sense of futility that will fuel the “bring the troops home” movement.

    So–no efforts at repelling you with wingnuttery. Perhaps my comment #18 makes more sense with this added context. Also, consider that there are voices across the political spectrum that find fault with Bush et al.; it’s as much a question of the context of their errors as anything else.

  25. Like JC said, too many good posts to deal with fully. That said:

    AL (#4): The problem with supporting the current “high level” strategy is that the math just doesn’t add up – Greg Djerejian seems convinced that the Iraqis aren’t anywhere near ready to “stand up”, but I haven’t heard anybody convincingly argue that we will be able to maintain troop strength more than a year out from now… which is, it seems to me, at least as long as it’d take to get the Iraqi security forces up to speed. And again, the guys who have repeatedly “stumbled” (Rumsfeld in particular) haven’t been booted out, nor is there much sign that there will be.

    I know you’ve said you don’t want to wade in and talk about the hard details on Iraq, but I think if you want us to keep hoping, you, personally, have to give us some concrete reasons to hope.

    Jeff (#5): I’m honestly not sure what to say here: you’ve put together a hermetic bubble of logic where it seems like proposing anything but staying the course, no matter what, is tantamount to wanting the US to lose. This is not high school football; the team that “wants it more” will not necessarily win.

    Again, trend lines are important. Your historic examples have some merit, but they’re a bit smudged: Gettysburg happened 2.5 years after Sumter, and the Union had some bright spots prior to that. And both sides were more or less in a stalemate through much of WWI, but the manpower trends favored the Allies, and the Germans knew it – that’s why they launched their spring offensive in the first place.

    And those were wars fought against real armies, where there was always the hope and possibility that a decisive battle could be won and things would suddenly change. In comparison, we’re fighting against bees in Iraq, against fog, and we _are_ being worn down, with little hope for relief that I can see. If you want to make an argument, argue concrete strategies as to how we can get out, or demonstrate how the Iraqi training process is going far better than is generally thought. Otherwise, railing against “vile arguments” may make you feel morally superior to the other side, but it won’t help anybody win this war.

    Mark (#6): Your points are well taken, but I still stand by the gist of my remarks, for many of the same reasons I gave Jeff above. Relative to the overall US mobilization in the Civil War and WW2, those casualties aren’t _that_ bad. Furthermore, the US had the momentum at all those points, which is not the case now. Nor can we hope for a single decisive battle to turn things around.

    I’m not running in terror because of a few casualties – if I honestly thought 10,000 US deaths would guarantee a democratic, unified Iraq, I’d say it was a worthy trade. But at the moment, I’m afraid we could lose 10k Americans in Iraq and it _still_ wouldn’t bring us any closer to beating the insurgency. That’s what I’d like to see addressed here.

    Steve (#14): I think you’re fudging the lines more than a little with the list you present. Even from hawks, I’ve seen far more complaints about our handling of Sadr than praise – it’s definitely stretching it to say we handled that “subtly and effectively.” What’s going on with the Iraqi Constitution right now is a much bigger deal than “stopping to discuss policy matters”, the training of Iraqi forces is moving forward far too slowly, and in reality, the construction projects you discuss seem to be at a standstill, especially in regards to oil and electricity production.

    Furthermore, it’s _not at all_ true that “we couldn’t accomplish ANY of them if the enemy was truly quicker and more adaptable than we are.” The US has the world’s finest army and billions of dollars – we’d have to be completely braindead not to have _something_ to point out as progress. The question is, as always, does the progress we’ve made indicate that we’ve wisely and correctly used our resources? The jury’s still out on that one.

    And BW (#17), I agree with you almost completely – for my money, the biggest warning sign in the world that the hawks were ODing on hubris was when Steven Den Beste declared Canada a “Level One enemy”. When I think of how things might have turned out if we hadn’t been so eager to swallow the “with us or against us” crap…

  26. “” The embed process especially was deemed a huge success by the Pentagon and led to reporting MUCH more sympathetic than the Vietnam era.”
    True. When the media is actually on the scene we tend to get balanced reports. Unfortunately since the shooting war ended the MSM has confined itself to the Green Zone (hotel lobbies mostly) and gets its news from military and Iraqi press releases. They could do that from here. The best reporting continues to come from imbeds like Michael Yon.”
    There’s no doubt on this one, gotta agree. I personally think the problem with the MSM though is much less liberal bias, and much more the same crap in Iraq and in north America. They won’t put out good news when there is bad news to put out. Thus crime and scandal, but that Habitat for Humanity house down the street doesn’t get covered.
    “”Both used word repetition and misdirection to convince a significant portion of their citizenry that Iraq was connected to terrorism and 9/11, had readily available WMDs they were willing to use against the US/UK civilian populations and were an active threat to do so.”
    Translation: Our people are stupid and easy to fool. Not going to argue, simply disagree completely. Try selling that message next election, “you were too stupid and should have let us do the thinking for you”. And why was the NYT editorial page and the Clinton administration 5 years previously on the same page btw? Man Rove is good.”
    Now now. Using “translation:” that way is a convenient way of putting words in my mouth. Repetition and misdirection work. Hell, just how you name something helps to sell it. Ask an adman. Overall though, the electorate is probably not smart enough to run the country. No offense, I’m not talking the US per se, it seems to be an issue in a lot of places including here. People want simple answers in a world that has few, and selling them that is often a winning proposition.
    “”And two of the biggest cable news systems in the US, CNN and Fox seemed to be so “on message” with the administration you’d think they were getting teleprompter feeds directly from the west wing.”
    CNN? And what about NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, NPR, BBC, NYT, LAT, Wa-post, etc, etc, etc? “
    It’s 24 hour news stations that people turn to, to get news on ongoing events. Not to say the networks you mentioned aren’t watched, but from a market share perspective CNN especially is what people around the world, including here, turn to for breaking news. I won’t deal with the newspapers, I have the impression (correct or not) that this administration works primarily on how it does on TV, and does pretty well.
    “”Canadians, especially our sniper teams, were very highly regarded in their work in combat. And Canadians are still there, most recently moving back into the more hostile Taliban-controlled territories of Afghanistan again.”
    Very true.”
    “”Canadians died in combat, not to mention by an overstimulated and triggerhappy USAF pilot who bombed thier night training area…”
    Thats a cheap shot. I expect Canadians have had blue on blue problems at some time in their well deservedly highly-regarded marshall history.”
    Not a ton since Korea, but then to be honest we depend on your lads for our air cover and usually don’t deploy arty overseas, so it hasn’t been a huge issue. I pressed the button relating to that hit to make a point because many Canadians (even the conservatives most likely to back Bush) felt this incident was handled poorly, especially initially. There certainly wasn’t enough answers as to why the pilot disobeyed an order not to engage, but personally I don’t so much blame him as wonder if his command had been demanding too many flight hours out of him in one of the highest pressure, split second jobs on earth. You may however trust me when I say that the incidenent, and how it was handled, was NOT good for the overall Canadian attitude towards our alliance in the war on terror.
    “”1. The war in Afghanistan wasn’t over. ”
    Of course. How were 150,000 extra troops going to help is the question? Or would they actually hurt the effort (the answer is yes, as the Russians could tell you)?”
    Well, first off, the Russians made more mistakes than just trying to pile in troops. And second, the Afghans might have fared much worse without US training and Stinger missiles. There were parts of Afghanistan pacified but never garrisoned. I assume we’re not arguing about that?
    “”Instead we bombed them back into the stone age (not for the first time) then camped out in the the capital doing very little of lasting value in the rest of the country.”
    That is pointedly absurd, ignorant, and smacks of reliance on the MSM for information. Read Good News from Afghanistan on this very site some time. The allies have done tremendous things in Afghanistan. Just remember how low they started from. Does Democracy mean anything to you?!”
    I have to admit I’m posting from the perspective of when the administration was trying to put together the GWII. Not to say nothing at all has been done there at all, nor that gains haven’t been made, especially in the last year. BUT at the time of GWII the Canadian gov’t (and people) were hearing from our military and NGOs that there was still a TON of work left to do in Afghanistan, so many folks felt it was premature to pick another target.
    As for that democracy crack (I’ll ignore the absurd, ignorant and related barbs) you’ll have to admit that the country’s democracy is far from what we enjoy in the west, and was not very far along at the time when the Bush administration started pushing for an Iraq war. I do rather like democracy, although I’m not a big fan of first-past-the-post as practiced here (governments can have 80% electoral majorities with 45% of the popular vote). Even as of the 2004 report (see link below where you demanded one), Amnesty indicates that a lot of the things I look for in a democracy were however still not in place in Afghanistan. They sure as heck weren’t in place when GWII was being ramped up to and the coalition of the willing was being formed.

    “”2. We saw how little of what was supposed to happen in Afghanistan was delivered, and had our doubts about what was promised for Iraq. There is still a good part of Afghanistan owned by the Taliban, although a tad less formally than when they were considered the government.”
    Untrue. Link? If ‘own’ means they can hide in a cave and blow up a school once a year you may have a point however.”
    “Here”:http://web.amnesty.org/report2004/afg-summary-eng
    Try that out.
    “Here”:http://www.msf.org/msfinternational/invoke.cfm?component=article&objectid=50EC5CB4-E018-0C72-091599C1C60C8D03&method=full_html
    This is one of the articles relating to Afghanistan that led to MSF pulling out of there as well.
    Granted owned may be a strong word, but “not in any sense rooted out” might be more accurate. Rooted out, totally eliminated, crushed. That’s what we wanted to do to the Taleban after 9/11. That still isn’t done yet.

    “”3. Our government wasn’t prepared to lie to or deceive us about Iraq.”
    Now you are arguing with yourself.”
    Um no. My government is the Canadian government. And they didn’t.

    “”4. This is probably the telling one, although it’s Canadian only. Even when we stood up shoulder to shoulder with the US after 9/11, Bush forget to even mention us when giving international credit”
    Sorry you got your feelings hurt. I suppose the 25 millions Iraqis should suffer for it. Hey we brought back hockey though. Truce?”
    It wasn’t being sold as a war to end Iraqi suffering remember? That was the new reason after the stated goals of the war didn’t pan out. I don’t begrudge the Iraqi people their well deserved freedom, not support the asshats waging their insurgency/terrorism/evildeathcult/whathaveyou. But if we’re going to start waging wars to end human suffering, we need to be a bit less selective on where they are, and we need a LOT more of them. Probably starting with North Korea given the lovely combination of mad dictator, confirmed and active nuclear program and OFC grave and terrible suffering of the general population. Also Africa would need rather a lot of invasions too. Perhaps topple Mugabe?
    In any case, I’m expressing mostly why we and others backed the Afghan campaign (and still do although not as strongly) but didn’t back the Iraq campaign. Afghanistan came right after 9/11, I guess everyone here thought it’d bring us closer together, it sure made us feel closer to the US. Didn’t seem to work out that way long term though.
    Oh, and while the hockey thing is popular here, BC would be a lot more appreciative about US softwood lumber policies actually obeying our international agreements (and tribunal decisions and appeals), and Alberta ranchers (and northern US meat packers I might add) would have appreciated a more measured response to mad cow more than the resolution of the hockey thing. Plus, I’m not clear on how the US can take credit for ending the hockey lockout. Did your president make some phone calls we don’t know about?
    “”Well, for anyone who is interested, the difference between the Afghan war and GW II is a textbook example of “how to alienate your friends and scare off potential allies”. “
    I thought how we handled Afghanistan was a disaster and alienated our allies? Make up your mind.
    My mind is made up. I certainly didn’t say Afganistan was a disaster (although admittedly some overblown rhetoric on my part sure implied it) My central point was that is was considered “over” much too soon, not enough was done to secure the outlying areas and the US administration moved on to the next war too soon. Imagine going right on into Poland and pushing on to Moscow in 1945 (we already knew they were the next big threat). What would Germany have turned out like? Would it even have worked?
    The START of the Afghan war was very different than its conduct and aftermath. The context of the war on Afghanistan fit very well into most people’s definitions of a just and needful war (plus hit the righteous payback button we all have inside us somewhere). GWII just didn’t, and the context of a job still not done in Afghanistan loomed over GWII in a significant way.
    I have to admit though your point made somewhere up above (and admittedly I didn’t comment on it where it was made) that Afghanistan wasn’t far from the stone age when the bombs started dropping either. That’s pretty fair. The country wasn’t in good shape before the Taleban, but was nearly an asylum under them. OFC somehow the one good thing they ever did (drastically reduce poppy production) was undone within months of the invasion of Afghanistan, that’s kinda disappointing.

    Anyways, the only thing I felt strongly about in my initial post was the commenter (not the original poster) that said no nation but the US contributed significantly in relation to Afghanistan. After that I just decided to blow some of my work time (boss won’t be pleased I’m sure) to share, if anyone cares, why some of the very same countries who backed the US in Afghanistan didn’t (and may never, who knows) back GWII/OIF. I probably went overboard in that area and got into aspects of the partisan debate there in the US that I’m best not to comment on. I’ve got no vote there and that’s not likely to change soon. My apologies for stepping on toes in that regard, I had intended more to just give an idea about what really happened here that led to us not joining, rather than some of the sensational/ignorant things we’ve heard quoted about us and our choice from US pols and commentators.

  27. Speaking of wingnuttery:

    Clinton seemed to care more for american military lives than Bush does.

    That’s just partisan crap and you know it. I will resist the temptation to reply in kind about what I think Clinton’s real motives were. Considering you’ve made some very good and important points here, you really didn’t need that.

    I do wish you’d flesh out the Kosovo comparison, some, and include Bosnia as well. These were rather different wars with different objectives against a different foe, no? We could do it with an air war because our goal was to drive the enemy out of a specific territory and back to his home, not to take over his home and put him on trial. Slobo was deposed by his own people, remember, not us. Was that a practical alternative for dealing with Saddam?

  28. “”And BW (#17), I agree with you almost completely – for my money, the biggest warning sign in the world that the hawks were ODing on hubris was when Steven Den Beste declared Canada a “Level One enemy”. When I think of how things might have turned out if we hadn’t been so eager to swallow the “with us or against us” crap…””

    yeah, thanks for that. I didn’t have a good link to point it out, but it was weird to go from ally (if not always acknowledged) to a perceived enemy. Your ambassador at that time was also a pretty high-handed guy and made it pretty clear we were expected to toe the line on that or we’d suffer. That put a lot of people’s back’s up. Personally I’m glad he’s gone. The new guy doesn’t know a heck of a lot about us given he’s not from a border state, but at least he doesn’t look at Canada as an unruly colony who needs to be kept in line.

    Anyway, it was totally weird when we actually had the majority of our available combat arms troops already deployed in Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia in roles supporting rebuilding, peacekeeping and peace support operations after past US/NATO campaigns, and then being told we were either not good friends, or in fact enemeies because we wouldn’t back the new war.

    I’m just glad I’m not French :P

    BW

  29. Er, and sorry for that big post up above. It looked FINE in word, but didn’t cut and paste well.

    /me makes a mental note to save as .txt before cutting and pasting next time

    BW

  30. “a. The hyped objective was that Hussein was a threat to the United States and we needed to deal with the “weapons of mass destruction”.

    This turned out to be true if you believe both Iraq Survey group reports and the 9-11 Commission. All stated that Hussein was doing his best to reconstitute his weapons programs, that sanctions were falling apart, and therefore Hussein would be able to do so. And after Saddam cam Uday and Qusay.

    b. The goals were clear – except for that “weapons of mass destruction”. But again, the goals were unrealistic – Bush I’s reasons to not continue into Baghdad – why did that turn into Wolfowitz’s “a few

    Bush I stopped because the UN told him to.

    “billion” cost? Why did Rumsfeld say “I can’t imagine that the costs after the invasion would cost more than the invasion” (something like this…) Why, when there was the clear example of the ratio”

    You are taking one statement out of many by all admin officials.

    ofpeacekeeping troops necessary to actually keep the peace – as mentioned by Shinseki – why was this belittled?

    Shinseki isn’t the only general there. franks was in charge of the effort and he said we had enough troops. Why listen to a retired general instead of the ones actually in ncharge of the war?

    c. No UN resolution

    Because Russia and China and France sold saddam 90% of his weapons and had lucrative backroom oil deals with him.

    d. Coalition of US, Britian, and Italy. Nothing like previous coalitions.

    Coalition of 60 countries. Including Japan, Poland, Australia, Spain. To name a few.

    e. Compared to contributions of troops from other nations, pretty weak.

    So what?

    Not to mention, the administration cynically using the War and preparations for the war to divide americans.”

    Anyone who can say this seriously has just rendered the rest of his argument not credible.

  31. bq. …the administration cynically using the War and preparations for the war to divide americans.”

    bq. Anyone who can say this seriously has just rendered the rest of his argument not credible.

    On the contrary, anyone who disagrees with BW’s statement has completely forgotten every bit of partisan wrangling over the Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland security, the 9/11 commission, etc.

  32. “Not a ton since Korea, but then to be honest we depend on your lads for our air cover and usually don’t deploy arty overseas, so it hasn’t been a huge issue. I pressed the button relating to that hit to make a point because many Canadians (even the conservatives most likely to back Bush) felt this incident was handled poorly, especially initially. There certainly wasn’t enough answers as to why the pilot disobeyed an order not to engage, but personally I don’t so much blame him as wonder if his command had been demanding too many flight hours out of him in one of the highest pressure, split second jobs on earth. You may however trust me when I say that the incidenent, and how it was handled, was NOT good for the overall Canadian attitude towards our alliance in the war on terror.”

    You seem like a respectable guy, but with all due respect, much of your country needs to get over itself. If a large portion of it hadn’t already been jumping at the bit to blame us stupid American hicks, it wouldn’t be nearly so much a problem.

    You made a serious effort in Afghanistan. OK, the only reason it was a serious effort is because your country spends the second lowest amount on defense in all of NATO, ahead of Luxembourg. Why? Because you are North of us, period. Forgive me for not jumping at the rails when your emaciated military struggles even to maintain this commitment, even as your citizens use one blue-on-blue incident to heap your traditional abuse on us.

    “”1. The war in Afghanistan wasn’t over. ”
    Of course. How were 150,000 extra troops going to help is the question? Or would they actually hurt the effort (the answer is yes, as the Russians could tell you)?”
    Well, first off, the Russians made more mistakes than just trying to pile in troops. And second, the Afghans might have fared much worse without US training and Stinger missiles. There were parts of Afghanistan pacified but never garrisoned. I assume we’re not arguing about that?”

    Trying to fully occupty Afghanistan was a losing and unnecessary proposition. The Russians lost because they were arrogant and over-ambitious. We wiped out the current leadership, replaced them with complacent politicians, and bought off the tribes. The alternative is exactly as Rockford describes, flooding the countryside with troops that alienate xenophobic Afghans and suck our Army dry for years. The military did exactly what they should have and kept our presence low.

    The rest of it I’ll let Rockford respond to.

  33. Piling assumption on assumption in a situation unfamiliar to those making all these assumptions can lead to lots of strange conclusions.

    One of the assumptions is that events in Iraq are not related to the war on terror. This results in “Garbage In – Garbage Out” reasoning.

    History is a process, not an event. Of course the outcome isn’t known save in rare situations, which this isn’t one of.

    But it is possible to know who will win if there are staggering disparities in raw power, and here that is the case.

    The United States has the raw power to reduce all the rest of the world to subsidence level economies and population levels even if they all gang up on us by surprise. That goes in spades for (a) the countries with majority Muslim populations and (b) Arab countries. Furthermore (a) and (b) lack the capability of inflicting significant damage on us even if they know we’re about to kill most of them.

    Those who were aware of the raw power of the U.S. economy on December 8, 1941, well understood that the outcome of World War Two was no longer in the slightest doubt. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was one of those.

    We are dealing with a greater disparity in raw power now – one greater by several orders of magnitude.

    We also know that our enemies won’t stop attacking us no matter what else happens save their death without descendants willing to carry on the fight. And they are limited to Islamic nutballs in terms of possible descendents.

    Furthermore those Islamic nutball descendents won’t come into being once Arab oil funding, almost entirely from the Saud clan, ceases. The consensus of opinion is that the Saud clan has no more than another five years of power left, at which point their continued oil income will cease. The events causing that will give us and the unhappy world many more problems, but continued Saud funding of Al Qaeda type groups and their “madrassa” type recruiting programs won’t be among those.

    So we really have only two plausible outcomes here.

    1) We hang on until the Saud clan’s departure from history (and hopefully this life) reduces terrorist recruiting and development by at least 90% (an order of magnitude for the math-impaired). At that point we’ll have problems which will make those in Iraq now a fond memory, but they’ll be different problems for the doomies to cry doom & gloom about. Their world is always falling, and whatever is going on at the moment that they don’t like is always America’s fault somehow.

    2) We are hit with a major WMD attack at home before the Saud clan joins the Nazis, Japanese militarists and Soviet Communists in deserved extinction. Then we’ll win the war on terror the old-fashioned way – with mass slaughter, genocide and a nuclear winter which will somehow offset global warming. So the doomies will suffer extreme cognitive dissonance causing their heads to explode.

    Get a grip. Look on the bright side of life. And show some imagination. There’s always a new way to find disaster looming, and it can be a worse one if you try hard enough.

    You can do better than that, A.L.

  34. “We hang on until the Saud clan’s departure from history (and hopefully this life) reduces terrorist recruiting and development by at least 90% (an order of magnitude for the math-impaired).”

    Come now. While the Saudis and the Sauds certainly are part of the problem, this obsession with making them into the Barzini of the conflict is ill conceived. We could turn over the Sauds and run them out of the Middle East, freeze there bank accounts and do you seriously think terrorist acts would decrease significantly? 90%? Please. The Sauds are playing both ends, no question. They do wipe up a few AQ boys every couple of months, and thats a few less for us to deal with. Considering the alternative is almost certainly a full blown Taliban style government I find it hard to buy this argument. Yes we can pressure the Saudis more. No they are not the catalyst for anything like 90$ of terrorism.

  35. Yehudit,

    Not only do you have problems keeping your timeline straight, but right off the bat, you engage in, honestly or not, a falsehood.

    “This turned out to be true if you believe both Iraq Survey group reports and the 9-11 Commission. All stated that Hussein was doing his best to reconstitute his weapons programs, that sanctions were falling apart, and therefore Hussein would be able to do so. And after Saddam cam Uday and Qusay”

    “I would do yourself a favor, and read ALL the links from this post”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/007371.php#comments .

  36. Rob Lyman,

    That one statement does go too far, and I apologize. However, I do believe that Clinton doesn’t get enough credit for Kosovo and Bosnia, and doesn’t get enough credit for the team he put in place for that action.

    I’ll say again – not one american military death to armed conflict in Kosovo.

    If anyone wants to debate Kosovo, you START by acknowledging this, and acknowledging we met our objectives, AND kept the respect and good will of our allies (for the most part) in that situation. We can START from there. Otherwise, I’m not debating Kosovo.

    AMac – okay, thanks for clarifying. To the point of “no metrics” – since this is really the point of A.L.’s post. There’s a valid point there, but “no metric, no metrics” (and we’ve had this discussion before) is again – lack of accountability, “hope is not a plan”, “stay the course”, but no way to judge if the course is successful or not – thinking.

  37. JC — Rummy’s contempt for the go-along-get-along Clinton generals is well deserved. They went along with the Clinton ideological agenda of the “end of history” and focused on soft-imagery “nation building” instead of war-fighting. Thus the caving on Force Protection in Somalia for political reasons driven by Dick Morris polling, the disgraceful intimidation of the US Navy by Haitian mobs in Port Au Prince, and the catering to Clinton’s desire to have bloodless wars. Utopian nonsense, letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    More importantly, the Clinton era generals did not advance military theory, practice, and prepared endlessly for avoiding Vietnam, instead of the enemies we were likely to face: tribal gangs in failed states and the Chinese challenge in the Pacific conventionally.

    During the Clinton years, the Military as long as it went along with Clinton’s social engineering agenda, was left unsupervised. Of course Rummy made people unhappy and angry. Particularly since he cut gigantic and useless procurement programs (that sometimes thousands of military and post-military careers depend on), such as Crusader (designed to fight the Soviets in Europe) and tried to kill Osprey (designed for another European D-Day). Rummy has also tried to close bases that are not needed. Always a political storm.

    Rummy’s RMA (Revolution in Military Affairs) marries networked technology (such as the Landwarrior program) completely and redundantly, designed to reduce friendly fire incidents and multiply lethality by concentrating firepower where needed with precision. Essentially every rifleman the equivalent of a mortar brigade, with precision lethality and C and C plus cross-functional links everywhere (which has been the traditional American Army strength since WWII when a sarge with a radio could call in arty).

    BW — you missed my point. Not only was there considerable resistance politically within NATO to Afghanistan, the organization and Canada itself could provide no materially significant assistance. Yes Canadian soldiers are brave and well trained and have fought superbly. However they are so few and so totally dependent on the US that they have no significant military impact in Afghanistan. Canada contributes territory and radar stations to NORAD. That’s about it military wise. Let’s not forget, Canadian politicians aped Chirac in actively opposing US efforts in Iraq, which is not good for harmonious relations (particularly when the US pays the Canadian defense bill). The Canadian Navy effectively does not exist, and Canada depends on the US Navy.

    As for Iraq, post 1996 defection of Saddam’s son-in-laws, it was revealed that Saddam did INDEED have substantial nuclear elements, including Uranium refining equipment, carefully hidden. These were destroyed but it was thought that there were others, given how wrong (and how shocked Inspectors were in 1991-2 to find his various WMD efforts far more advanced than thought) the Western Intelligence agencies had been before (consistently pre-Gulf War 1, 91-92, and again the shocking 1996 revelations) awful in UNDERESTIMATING Saddam’s WMD efforts (which also btw included forbidden missile tech).

    In 1998 Saddam threw out the inspectors saying he was done. You might recall Bill Clinton’s response, he authorized Desert Fox 1998-99 which led to repeated air strikes against Saddam, and the formal 1998 Iraqi Regime Change Law (Act of Congress) setting forth regime change as US policy based on the belief that Saddam possessed WMD capacity and intent. This was shared during the run-up to the Iraq War by Putin, Schroeder, and Chirac publicly, they simply disagreed on the response. OBL cited above saw negotiation and lack of resolve in use of force as proof the West was/is weak and corrupt and easily cowed by mass terror.

    The fundamental conflict in finding a solution is between utopians and pragmatists. Pragmatists believe that a decent/good solution even if flawed is better than wanting a perfect solution or none at all. Afghanistan was tribal and primitive before the Taliban, and they remain so today. However, they have the space and time required to make progress, which under Mullah Omar’s rule they did not. Net? Positive for pragmatists, utopian rejectionists point out the many problems there and insist on a total withdrawal NOW.

    In Iraq, under Saddam the nation was a collection of a primitive set of tribes. Under the air cover in the extreme North, the Kurds have developed a society that more closely resembles say, the 18th Century instead of the sixth. The rest of Iraq particularly the very tribal Sunni center has not been so lucky. That society will not change over night. However, absent Saddam Iraqis have at least the opportunity to change for the better (sadly most of those who would have moved progress forward were slaughtered when Bush 1 stood by in 1991). Electricity for example had no new investment since the late sixties, and power was reserved for Baghdad alone leaving the rest of the nation to rot. New generation capacity has been brought online despite repeated sabotage, and electricity distributed fairly to other places. The same holds true for sewage, school construction, telecom, and other measurable things that make life better. Iraq will not resemble Sweden for a long long time if ever. However, things are better now even with the violence, much of non-political and simply criminal.

  38. Mark,

    I didn’t say that the 90% reduction would happen overnight. It would go down gradually. But after about ten years, IMO yes.

    And we’ll find out unless we’re nuked first.

  39. Chris:

    Even from hawks, I’ve seen far more complaints about our handling of Sadr than praise – it’s definitely stretching it to say we handled that “subtly and effectively.”

    I suppose I’m coming at it from a results standpoint. To this point, al Sadr has been effectively neutralized – at least to the point that he’s not roaming around southern Iraq fomenting open rebellion. Of course, he may simply be biding his time until he can make another power play, with Iran’s blessing and support.

    But we decimated his followers militarily; we helped keep the apparently more quietist Sistani alive and in high esteem; and we did it without leveling Najaf or Nasiriyah or the other holy sites in the south. We certainly showed more deference to various mosques and burial grounds than the Sadrists did themselves. And we did it without turning Sadr into a martyr. A side benefit is that Sadr City is one of the more stable areas around Baghdad these days. At the very least, it’s one less front we have to deal with as we attempt to bring the Sunnis in and reduce the more intractable elements.

    I’m not sure what the complaints you’re referring to are – maybe that we didn’t deal more ruthlessly with him and his adherents? I can see a case for that.

    Maybe it just comes down to how one defines success. I found the way we handled the Shia rebellion to be effective and without having to live down to our widespread reputation as a bunch of blundering, uncultured boobs. In fact, I see it as an example of the exact sort of adapting that you suggest we aren’t doing.

    I’m also not convinced that the construction projects have come to a standstill, nor that oil production has stagnated. I’ve seen conflicting reports. It’s difficult to get real reports on how the infrastructure is doing, since they are inherently incremental, dull and unlikely to be covered if they occur outside Baghdad (or, for that matter, within it). Certainly electricity production is lagging in the capital; is the same true in the rest of the country?

    The wrangling over the constitution appears to me to be the usual horse trading and brinksmanship you see in politics. Over here, it might be referred to as healthy debate (or rabid partisanship). Over there, I dunno. Maybe it is borderline catastrophic.

    As you say, though, time will tell. My optimism is perhaps misplaced.

  40. Jim,

    Correct me if I’m mistaken, but you think it’s okay for Rumsfeld to humilate generals in front of those of lesser rank? Does your blinders-Republicanism go that far??

    Another bit of your blinders-Republicanism – most of what Rumsfeld was arguing was pretty much straight out of what Gary Hart was advocating in the early 90’s. (And then of course in the late 90’s was the Hart-Rudman report). It might be good to get that timeline right.

    “Here is a taste of Rumsfeld wisdom, courtesy of Larry Diamond”:http://www.liberalsagainstterrorism.com/drupal/?q=node/1498.

    “ne story that really got me was the tale of former ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine suggesting to Rumsfeld in March of 2003 that it would behoove the Bush administration to develop a plan to pay Iraqi civil servants. Rumsfeld replied that American taxpayers would never go for it and that he was not concerned if they were paid for several weeks or even months; if they rioted in the streets in protest, he said, the US could use such an eventuality as leverage to get the Europeans to pick up the tab.”

    Yes, he is quite the visionary, isn’t he?

  41. In fact, our handling, with the British, of the Shia in general has been astoundingly good. Go back to 2003 and you’ll see an immense amount of whining and handwringing over how the Shia would be the biggest problem in Iraq.

    The reality is that the US has done an outstanding job of the top ten problems originally forecast for Iraq. Its been the next ten issues that the doom and gloom crowd has been latching onto.

  42. JC,

    I’m perfectly willing to acknowledge all of your points. And I’m not looking for a debate so much as your assesment: are not the differences between Kosovo and Iraq substantial? Does it make any sense to use one as the model for the other?

    We suffered no military casualties in the “Pig War,” either, and given that we own the San Juan Islands (thanks to an assist from Old Europe), you could say we “achieved our objectives.” But I certainly don’t think it a model of masterful military planning or suggest that Bush should be more like Buchanan.

  43. Robin,

    You may soon have cause to eat your words. Her Majesty’s Government has denied permission for Her Majesty’s forces to secure control of British-patrolled terroritory from Iranian-controlled militias. This was due to domestic political concerns of the Labor government.

    I predict we will lose control of vital supply routes through Iraqi ports and up the Tigris-Euphrates valley to Iranian-controlled Iraqi Shiite militias (not all, or even most, being nominally Sadr’s) when mullahs give the “go” word. It will then be necessary to go through a laborious and possibly horrific reconquest campaign, quite possibly during overt hostilities with Iran’s mullah regime.

  44. True, Tom, there have been some parts of British policy in Basra that I’ve been a bit concerned about. Perhaps some have been a bit too enthralled with British policies.

    But I think my comparison to early predictions is still valid.

  45. Chris –

    Go look here for some of the answers to the “hard digging question; it’s a current (march) table by DoD of troop deployments by country.

    Let’s look at three examples:

    US and territories = 1,110,805
    Germany = 74,717
    Italy = 12,551
    Japan = 34,928

    Now it’s likely that many of these are the wrong kinds of troops, troops in training, etc.

    But I’m hard pressed to believe that we can’t come up with 450,000 effectives (3 rotations) between 1.3 million troops.

    Do we need more? Absolutely. I’ve argued that we need another division, and that it will take eight years or more to get one. Meanwhile, I’m curious about why we’re keeping over 100,000 troops in Germany Italy and Japan when I’m pretty confident they aren’t threatened by the Soviets and will remain functioning democracies for the forseeable future.

    A.L.

  46. A.L.,

    Sure we can come up with another 100,000 in theater long term.

    At that point what kind of strategic reserve do we have? Are things so bad that we need to use all our reserves?

    I like the current plan better. Keep building the Iraqi Army of 200,000 or so. Keep training it.

    Since the army will be used in country no rotations will be required. All 200,000 will contribute to force effectiveness.

    Reports I have seen say the project is coming along. May take another year or two.

    OTOH should we get another 400,000 Americans into the services tomorrow it will be 2 years before they become effective.

    BTW the Congress has approved (or soon will) an increase in the American military of 80,000.

    Do we have the sitzfleish for it?

    Probably, but not certainly.

  47. Yep. Support for the war as it is being fought is declining.

    What does that mean?

    Many – like A.L. want to see more muscle applied.

    Some – like me want to see that muscle applied to Iran and Syria.

    So does such sentiment translate into Democrat cut and run votes?

    I don’t think so.

  48. A.L.

    Well, from a cursory examination of the chart you linked to, yeah, a lot of those guys _are_ the wrong kinds of troops. If nothing else, only half of those troops in the US are Army or Marines; I don’t know that Navy or Air Force troops are really applicable to the manpower shortage we’re facing in Iraq.

    Of the half-million or Army or Marine Corps troops in the US, you gotta figure at least a third (if not half or more) of them are already in the Iraq rotation cycle, and an awful lot of the remaining ones are logistics guys, training guys, JAG corps guys, medical guys, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re down to a skeleton crew of active military combat troops in the US as it is.

    There are probably force projection reasons that explain why we have the troop strength in the EU and Japan that we do, but I do agree that some restructuring of worldwide deployments wouldn’t be a bad thing. Would that get us the troops we need, though? Doesn’t look like it to me, numbers-wise.

    But I should note that I’m far from an expert on this stuff – if anybody who is comes along and definitively shows me to be dead wrong, I’ll go along with that.

    My question to you, AL, is this – assuming the extra troops can be found using the strategies you suggest, if Bush _doesn’t_ do that, or something similar, and the military has to draw down troops in a year or so because it simply has no other choice, would that be an example of one mistake too far?

    I understand you don’t agree with Ted Barlow, Kevin Drum, Liberals Against Terrorism, etc., that Bush is inexcusably incompetent. That’s your opinion, and it’s your right to have it. But I think it’s fair to ask: are there are _any_ mistakes Bush can make in running the war that, in your eyes, make him an unfit leader?

    Or do you believe, as many others here on this site seem to, that we need to support Bush as long as he’s President, simply because almost no matter what he does, he’s not as bad as the guys we’re fighting? Is this a deal where, as they say in the Navy, “The Captain’s always right, even when he’s wrong?” (And please note that I find that to be a perfectly reasonable idea, just not one that I think applies to US civilian politics, even in war time.)

    I’d really like an answer to those questions, but I understand if you either don’t have time to answer, or if you feel that doing so would move you too far away from the “stay” message that you’re committed to. Thanks for a civil and intelligent series of posts and replies thus far.

  49. To one extent or another, there is always some kind of shortage in military operations. Simply because it is impossible to build an army in advance knowing exactly what will occur.

    But I’m not convinced that there is really a manpower shortage in Iraq. I’m not convinced that a large number of increased troop levels would make significant differences in our capabilities without increasing the resentment of Iraq residents and providing too many targets.

  50. Chris – No, I don;t mind those questions at all…

    when you ask: “I understand you don’t agree with Ted Barlow, Kevin Drum, Liberals Against Terrorism, etc., that Bush is inexcusably incompetent. That’s your opinion, and it’s your right to have it. But I think it’s fair to ask: are there are any mistakes Bush can make in running the war that, in your eyes, make him an unfit leader?

    Or do you believe, as many others here on this site seem to, that we need to support Bush as long as he’s President, simply because almost no matter what he does, he’s not as bad as the guys we’re fighting? Is this a deal where, as they say in the Navy, “The Captain’s always right, even when he’s wrong?” (And please note that I find that to be a perfectly reasonable idea, just not one that I think applies to US civilian politics, even in war time.)”

    …the answer is simple (if repitious) – compared to who? John Kerry, who complained that we were building firhouses in Iraq but not here? Come on.

    I’d love – adore – appreciate – a Democratic candidate who stood up and said that Bush is damaging our chances of winning the war by a) b) c) and d). Hell, I’d even help fill in the list (and have to some extent).

    But what I get instead is the serious wing of my party – represented well by Kevin, Matt, and others – throwing up their hands and saying “we can’t win, let’s plan our retreat” – and compared to that, Bush looks like a strategic genius.

    A.L.

  51. A.L.,

    Anzio was a complete muck up. Yet it was a relatively minor episode in WW2. Hardly mentioned these days except for history buffs.

    It is possible that Iraq is Anzio. Or Tarawa. Or Iwo. Or Bull Run 1.

    Or it could be the Philipine insurgency of 1900. Black Jack Pershing was ruthless putting that one down. He buried Moslems with pigs. We are too PC for that these days.

    Any way I’m with you A.L., compared to cut and run Bush is a military genius.

    What your friends on the left do not understand is that war is a test of wills. And guerilla wars often last 10 years or more. Do they have the heart and will to prevail. Or do they feed their gay friends and women to the Islamic alligators first? Well after the Zionists anyway.

  52. A.L.-

    I guess I’m having a real problem following the logic of your thinking here – I’m not trying to be disrespectful, or suggesting that there isn’t any logic to your thinking just because I can’t see it, but the problem seems to go something like this:

    1. Some people think that, given our current trajectory, we can’t sustain our army in Iraq long enough to see a stable government take hold.

    2. There may be ways to maintain the army, but Bush seems unlikely – based on past performance – to implement them.

    3. That being the case, they argue, we’re better off pulling our military out sooner rather than later, before we completely exhaust it. If we’re headed down a dead-end road, better to turn around now than go all the way down to the other end and come all the way back again.

    (And folks, please note that I’m not trying to argue the above position, just pointing out that it _is_ what’s being argued by, say, Kevin Drum.)

    Now, it is the case that the above conclusion isn’t necessarily correct: if we can maintain our current troop levels as is, or if Bush will do something different to maintain troop levels, then, yes, we can and should stay. But if those preconditions are correct, then the logic itself seems pretty solid, even if it does lead us to a sucky conclusion.

    I’ve asked you for what your reasoning is on these two points, but – again, with all due respect – your response seems to have been “well, we can redeploy from our existing bases in other countries”, and “well, Bush is way better than any Democrat.”

    But based on the document you linked to, it’s not clear to me that redeployment will solve the problem. (Although if you wish to stand by your claim that it does look doable, I’m cool with that – I don’t know enough about the subject to be 100, or even 90% certain that I’m right.)

    And it doesn’t actually _matter_ if Bush is better or worse than the Democrats at this point – he won, he’s in office for the next 3-odd years, and he either takes steps to deal with the problems facing the army (perhaps by redeploying as you suggest), or he doesn’t. “Compared to who” just doesn’t make sense in this context – there is only one President, and we decide whether he’s going in the right direction or not. (Unless, like I said, you take the position that we follow him unconditionally.)

    So… what am I missing here?

    I realize you’re a huge fan of the idea of a democratic Iraq, and I agree it’s a noble goal. But no matter how noble, unless we have a plan to address the concrete issues before us, it just ain’t gonna happen no matter how much determination we show. I’d really like a million bucks; a drowning man at sea would really like not to drown. But unless I have a solid business plan, I’m almost certainly not gonna get my million bucks, and unless a rescuer shows up, the drowning man is almost certainly gonna die.

    So, what’s your business plan, AL? What – beyond hope, and beyond the stalwart resolution to stay – makes you think Iraq is still a doable situation? Is it the case, as Robin suggests, that the manpower shortage isn’t that bad, or do you have reason to think that Bush will make the changes you seek? Either one is a perfectly reasonable answer, but it’s not clear to me that you _are_ making either argument.

    And thanks again for engaging on this topic – I realize you must find it tedious by now, but I find it helpful to argue out things on my own terms.

    (And, for the record, I think Joe Biden’s been pretty detailed when it comes to detailing what he thinks is wrong with what Bush is doing, and also pretty vocal about calling for more troops, although I’ll also agree that his plans for doing so haven’t been the most concrete in the world.)

  53. As regards the Mayor of Baghdad, he was deposed by an armed militia as observed by Ted. The militia claimed, not surprisingly, that the election results had not been implemented by the authorities, and so their vigilante action was required. The putative Mayor claimed the opposite. The fact remains that the dispute was settled by armed force.

    There’s a pretty obvious analogy with a disputed election in Florida a few years back – if this had been settled by an armed militia, they would have been in much the same position as the Badr brigade.

  54. A.L.,

    I think Iraq is shaping into a stalemate. And as long as we keep doing what we are doing, and the terrrorists keep doing what they are doing, we will continue to have a stalemate. And a stalemate means America loses in Iraq because eventually we will lose domestic political support for a stalemate policy. That is unacceptable, which means the status quo is unacceptable.

    The problem with the media is not that they focus on the negative. There really is plenty of negative. A stalemate is negative. The problem is towards what end the media is pointing. The end towards which they point is that we cannot win and therefore, we must cut our losses and leave.

    The end towards which we and the media should be pointing is that we must stay until we achieve succes, and we must come up with a new strategy for success.

    So in my opinion, something has to change. We need a new strategy. And we need get rid of the current leadership that is too invested in the current strategy. I’m sorry to say this, but it is time for Rumsfeld to go.

  55. Chis #50 wrote:

    bq. Or do you believe, as many others here on this site seem to, that we need to support Bush as long as he’s President, simply because almost no matter what he does, he’s not as bad as the guys we’re fighting?

    Chris, thanks for the thoughtful and detailed critiques you’ve offered. Without derailing the conversation, a thought on the sentence quoted above.

    Its caricature is just snark. Yeah, you can find most anything in comments here, because they are open. Can you identify the many posters or even thoughtful ‘regulars’ who repeat “Support Bush Almost No Matter What” mantras, as you suggest? I didn’t think so. From the caliber of most of your writing, I take it you aren’t a teenager any more…

    On the substance of what you wrote (#50, #54):

    I have difficulty with the context of the “so we can preserve the effectiveness of our Armed Forces for more pressing matters that might arise (North Korea, Taiwan, Iran …).” As support for withdrawal from Iraq, I’d grant that use-of-force leftists (Hitchens) and neocons (Ledeen) using this line were being straight. But under what circumstances would those on the disengagement left support sustained US military intervention in these other trouble spots? Absolutely, this is a major and serious problem; Phil Carter and the other milbloggers (and you) are wise to raise it. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that leaving Iraq is the only or best solution. And as bin Ladeen has been at pains to remind us, this all plays out in the context of his “weak horse” claims.

    More generally, I’m dismayed at the disengagement Left’s crude understanding of tragedy as it has played out in history. Anyone who makes arguments akin to Ted’s the Allies’ mistakes were mostly made early in WW2 either hasn’t read military history (e.g. Keegan), or has misinterpreted it to suit his/her current-events politics.

    The history of Algeria in the nineties is especially apropos, and should be sobering (for different reasons) to the Bushies, to the decent Iraqis who are unwillingly reliving parts of it, and to the disengagement Left. From the point of view of Algerians who wanted to see their country develop as a country with human rights, the rule of law, and a decent economy, there were no easy or good answers. But there was the very real prospect of victory by the FIS, and then by GPSC and its descendants. As in Iraq today, the Islamofascists fought their civil war mainly by the application of terror tactics to civilians, with the machete rather than the car-bomb the preferred instrument of persuasion.

    In some situations, there is only bad and worse. That is not a moral release from being obliged to seek the least-bad. Although, sadly, the Bush Administration’s plans for the invasion’s aftermath show that in the world of politics, it can be a release in political terms. Many of us in the center see the eyes-averted stance of the disengagement Left as just as reprehensible in some respects, and worse in terms of the likely practical outcomes. This is why A.L.’s compared to who? response (#52) makes sense to me, in a real, and tragic, way.

  56. I suppose John Q. that if the US forces had by force decided the matter it would have resulted in a more legitimate mayor? Or, are you omitting to note for some reason that for lack of a constitution all such decisions are enforced by arms? Your argument, including it’s incoherent reference to Florida elections, is specious.

  57. JC –

    You point approvingly to the fact that not one American died from hostile action in Kosovo (although, I’ll bet that several did in accidents); looking back on the disaster that western reluctance to intervene brought there – and the impacts we’re feeling today from that – are you really going to hold that out as the success metric?

    We let the bad guys destroy societies, torture, rape, and murder, and then if we can arrest them after the fact and put them on meaningless trial afterward without losing anyone on our side, we’ll call it a success?

    Because that’s what it sounds like you’re advocating…

    A.L.

  58. HA,

    Iran has started open intervention in Iraq because its side was losing and ours was winning. Iran is enlarging the conflict.

    Look at all the facts, not just those which support your hypothesis.

  59. AMac-

    bq. Its caricature is just snark. Yeah, you can find most anything in comments here, because they are open. Can you identify the many posters or even thoughtful ‘regulars’ who repeat “Support Bush Almost No Matter What” mantras, as you suggest? I didn’t think so. From the caliber of most of your writing, I take it you aren’t a teenager any more…

    Arguing about this particular subject could devolve into semantics and definition real quick, so let me try and cut to the chase: no, none of the posters here has explicitly said “Support Bush Almost No Matter What”, as far as I’m aware.

    However, I don’t think that’s an unreasonable summary of what major posters on this blog have said, especially with regard to Abu Ghraib. Here’s a post from Trent, a post from Joe, and two posts from AL himself, all of which take the position that what the US did isn’t nearly as bad as what Saddam was doing, or that our response inherently shows us to be better than them. I don’t feel like I’m being dishonest by generalizing that into the “Support Bush no matter what” line, but if you do, fine, I’ll note that down, and we can move on.

    bq. I have difficulty with the context of the “so we can preserve the effectiveness of our Armed Forces for more pressing matters that might arise (North Korea, Taiwan, Iran …).” As support for withdrawal from Iraq, I’d grant that use-of-force leftists (Hitchens) and neocons (Ledeen) using this line were being straight. But under what circumstances would those on the disengagement left support sustained US military intervention in these other trouble spots? Absolutely, this is a major and serious problem; Phil Carter and the other milbloggers (and you) are wise to raise it. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that leaving Iraq is the only or best solution. And as bin Ladeen has been at pains to remind us, this all plays out in the context of his “weak horse” claims.

    I think you’re getting a lot of lines of argument confused here. A lot of those on the “disengagement left” were fans of the Powell Doctorine back in the day – short of another WW2, where we went toe to toe with the army of another great power that threatened our existance, we shouldn’t ever engage in sustained interventions. The army’s built to get in, blow stuff up, and get out – if it’s nation building you want, then you want something the army’s just not made to do… as GWB himself argued once upon a time.

    Moreover, one of the underlying reasons for the Powell doctorine was not that the military couldn’t do a sustained engagement, but because the political will to support those troops couldn’t be maintained indefinitely. _Absolutely_ this all takes place in a “weak horse” context – almost any war of choice does – which is why we probably should have considered the possibility of failure more before going in, rather than taking a “we’ll win because we have to” approach.

    bq. More generally, I’m dismayed at the disengagement Left’s crude understanding of tragedy as it has played out in history. Anyone who makes arguments akin to Ted’s the Allies’ mistakes were mostly made early in WW2 either hasn’t read military history (e.g. Keegan), or has misinterpreted it to suit his/her current-events politics.

    Er, that was _my_ “the Allies’ mistakes were mostly made in early WW2″ argument, not Ted’s. Other people have since demonstrated that there were mistakes made by the US later in WW2, but I made several arguments as to why the WW2 circumstances were different than the mistakes we’re making now. If you disagree, have at it, but lay down some concrete arguments rather than saying that I just don’t know my military history.

    bq. In some situations, there is only bad and worse. That is not a moral release from being obliged to seek the least-bad. Although, sadly, the Bush Administration’s plans for the invasion’s aftermath show that in the world of politics, it can be a release in political terms. Many of us in the center see the eyes-averted stance of the disengagement Left as just as reprehensible in some respects, and worse in terms of the likely practical outcomes. This is why A.L.’s compared to who? response (#52) makes sense to me, in a real, and tragic, way.

    I agree that there is frequently a choice only between bad and worse, but I don’t think that the “disengagement left”, as you put it, is pretending otherwise. Their point is that if Iraq is a lost cause, then running our army down to the nub _is_ worse than saving what we can. What I countinually see you and AL doing is arguing that having Iraq fall apart is unacceptable, but not making any arguments as to _how we’ll stop it from happening_. And again, condemning others for thinking the unthinkable without providing an alternative just doesn’t seem reasonable to me.

    That said, intellectual honesty forces me to admit that von over at Obsidian Wings _has_ provided a highly reasonable answer to why Kevin et al are wrong. I’m not completely convinced, but it does seem to me that posters on Winds of Change could do a lot worse than adopt some of these arguments.

  60. Chris:

    Your comment at #61 is greatly appreciated. You’ve carefully argued your points, and provided a lot of food for thought.

    I understand where your coming from re. Support Bush Almost No Matter What, and while I still disagree with the characterization, I now see that it’s not snark. I apologize for making that charge.

    As far as WW2, see Mark Buehner’s list above, at #6. To which I’d add, off the top of my head, the Italian campaign (overall strategic conception, letting Wehrmacht escape from Sicily, Anzio landings, bungling Badogio’s surrender); post D-day failure to anticipate the advantage given to the defense by the Norman bocage (hedges); the inferiority of Allied armor and anti-armor guns, specifically the Sherman; the Strategic Bombing campaign against Germany. And a host of lost opportunities in failing to exploit tactical advantages throughout many or most Allied campaigns.

    John Keegan goes into this at some depth in one of his books; I can dig out the title if you are interested. The Atlantic Monthly had an excellent piece about the reality of the “forward edge of the battle” from the WW2 GI’s point of view. It was hellish, gory mayhem, not “The Good War” depicted on TV.

    What’s the point? Not that hindsight is 20/20 (true if trivial), and not that the Allies were a bunch of incompetents (not true). Instead, something that we probably more-or-less agree on, that war is as much no-holds-barred bar-room brawl as the implementation of some strategic business plan. The opponents aren’t volcanoes but skilled and ruthless adversaries, adjusting their plans in order to frustrate yours. To expect otherwise is to invite disappointment, and disaster. A comment on both to the Bush Administration’s prewar planning for the invasion’s aftermath, and on the disengement left’s current declamations that setbacks and defeats are necessarily indications of a war that’s being lost, and of a disaster looming immediately ahead.

    I’ll read Von’s O.W. piece, and try and respond to the other excellent points you brought up, tomorrow.

  61. Tom Holsinger,

    Look at all the facts, not just those which support your hypothesis.

    The impugnity with which Iran supports the terrorists and undermines the political process is further proof of my hypothesis. Iran is a party in this conflict, and what have we done about it? Nothing as far as I can tell. We maintain the SAME stategy regardless of whether Iran is supporting the insurgency or not. And what have been the consequences Iran has faced for their involvement?

    Now, I suppose it is possible that the administration is taking some kind of COVERT action against Iran. But they are most certainly not taking any kind of OVERT action. And if there is a single instance of failure with our currrent policy, it is the failure to deal with Iran. Not only in their support of the terrorist insurgency, but also their pursuit of nuclear weapons. Outsourcing our Iran policy to the bloviating and corrrupt Europeans suicidal.

    The “Iraqification” policy may work if the goal is to provide a face-saving way for us to withdraw. But if we leave without dealing with Iran, then eventually Iran’s objectives in Iraq will be realized, and our objectives will not.

    There is no solution to the Iraq conflict until we solve the Iran conflict. And we need a civilian leader at DoD who can make this case. Rightly or wrongly, Rumsfeld is not that man. I’m not even sure if he supports the case.

  62. Chris #61:

    A couple of points.

    1. A comparison of US human rights abuses in Iraq (Abu Ghraib) with others in Iraq and the region is interesting, but complex, from a number of points of view. There is (another) essay there that I’ll pass on for now.

    2. [quoting AMac]
    bq. “I have difficulty with the context of the ‘so we can preserve the effectiveness of our Armed Forces for more pressing matters that might arise (North Korea, Taiwan, Iran …)’…”
    I think you’re getting a lot of lines of argument confused here.

    No, not at all. Part of the “confusion” comes from the “unlikely allies” on the disengagement left; a spectrum that runs from
    * The neoimperialist US is pretty much always wrong when it intervenes, through
    * Best intentions aside, the US reliably comes to grief when it attempts “nation-bulding” through force, to
    * Military intervention is sometimes necessary, but Attaq Iraq 2003 wasn’t the place or time.

    These are different arguments with different responses; it’s now clearer to me where you stand. I’ll simply note that the Powell Doctrine’s 1991 implementation was great as a short-term military solution, and for not perturbing neighboring regimes, and for re-normalizing the oil supply situation in the short term. It was less great from the points of view of Iraqis that rose against the Baathists, and the Kurds, and Iraqi society in general, and for those wishing for reductions in state-sponsored international terrorism. Versailles-like, the GW1 armistice set the stage for the following 12 years, that culminated (in our time-line) in GW2. Alternate outcomes were certainly possible, but, given what we know now, it takes a truly Panglossian sensibility to suppose that any of them would have been ‘good’ in any sense of the word.

    So I’m less nostalgic than you as far as the positive benefits of the Powell Doctrine (as opposed to self-imposed constraints on US behavior due to a tragic appreciation of reality, related but not the same).

    3. Two good points you made:

    * if it’s nation building you want, then you want something the army’s just not made to do… as GWB himself argued once upon a time.
    * Moreover, one of the underlying reasons for the Powell doctorine was not that the military couldn’t do a sustained engagement, but because the political will to support those troops couldn’t be maintained indefinitely.

    On the first, it partly depends on what we perceive the options to be, as has been exhaustively noted in the comments here, at your site, and at Obsidian Wings. As to the latter, in a McLuhanaesque way, the way we debate the issue itself becomes part of the issue. In later interviews, North Vietnamese General Giap and others were frank in stating that they saw their war as being won or lost depending on how it was perceived by Americans (Tet offensive could be tactical failure but strategic victory, etc.) We would be fools to assume that our capable IIF opponents (Zarqawi, Zawahiri, et al) aren’t paying just as close attention to our media, and calibrating their initiatives accordingly.

    4. If you disagree [on WW2], have at it, but lay down some concrete arguments rather than saying that I just don’t know my military history.

    We’ve probably laid down our positions sufficiently for any interested readers to judge.

    5. [The “Disengagement Left’s”] point is that if Iraq is a lost cause, then running our army down to the nub is worse than saving what we can. What I countinually see you and AL doing is arguing that having Iraq fall apart is unacceptable, but not making any arguments as to how we’ll stop it from happening. And again, condemning others for thinking the unthinkable without providing an alternative just doesn’t seem reasonable to me.

    Well, perhaps it’s a stretch to equate continuing to disagree and condemning. Anyway, yes, you have Drum et al.’s point. Thanks for the pointer to Von’s Obsidian Wings piece–I didn’t find his argument novel (a quality that grows rare in such well-trodden areas), but it’s well-stated as a response to Drum’s challenge. If one assumes that All Is Lost, then, yes, the rest falls into place. And judging from the tone and content of the comments, most readers do feel that.

    But, obviously, I don’t. I’ll bring up another historical reference, to the “Copperheads”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copperheads of the American Civil War. Like today’s Disengagement Left, many of these Northerners questioned whether Federal cause was just, and all were convinced the war was unwinnable in any case. Wikipedia quote: “Every Union defeat such as the Battle of Chancellorsville led to louder calls from the Copperheads. Given the widely perceived ineptness of the Union leadership through much of the war, they had ample ammunition.”

    In retrospect, we know that the outcome of the Civil War hung by a thread at a number of points, but the Copperheads were certainly wrong in their firm belief that Lincoln was bound to fail. The war wasn’t decided soley on the basis of Union incompetence, perceived and real. Many other things figured into it: Confederate weaknesses, Confederate incompetence, the actions of the slaves, the international situation, Northern industrial strength, Northern organizational and military competence. Most of these factors were unseen and unappreciated by the Copperhead factions.

    It’s hubristic for the disengagement left to assume that their view of what’s transpiring in Iraq is the only possible comprehensive and correct one. And that those of us who dissent from it are either knaves or fools (or both).

    I don’t think a certificate in Bush Cheerleading is needed for me to feel this way.

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