Alphabet Soup in Iraq

Prepare for "Plan C" and hand Washington an "F"

These have been traumatic weeks for the White House, as its strategy of holding the fort on Iraq is turning into the political equivalent of the Little Big Horn.

Amid national war fatigue, congressional Democrats are pushing hard to impose a legislative deadline for military withdrawals. An initial assessment report imposed on the administration by Congress and published on July 12 showed, at best, mixed success on a series of key benchmarks to judge improvement in Iraq. Even Republican lawmakers are revolting, and two prominent senators, Richard Lugar and John Warner, last week advocated a realignment of American combat troops by as early as next year, even if their proposal did not set a deadline.

The Washington Post did little to help the Bush administration's case when it published a story by Bob Woodward highlighting the CIA's doubts about amelioration in Iraq. According to Woodward, CIA Director Michael Hayden told the Iraq Study Group last November that "the inability of the [Iraqi] government to govern seems irreversible", before affirming that he couldn't "point to any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around." Later in the interview Hayden qualified his pessimism somewhat by suggesting that a functional government in Iraq was not achievable "in the short term."

So alarming are the implications of an American debacle in Iraq, that the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, felt the urge to intervene last Monday and warn: "Great caution should be taken for the sake of [the] Iraqi people. The international community cannot and should not abandon them. Any abrupt withdrawal or decision may lead to a further deterioration of the situation in Iraq." An Iraqi tribal leader fighting Al-Qaeda who was recently interviewed by the BBC Arabic service said more or less the same thing. If the United States withdrew from Iraq, he warned, his men would find it difficult to defeat their adversaries.

That Iraq is an American mess is an understatement. However, like many messes, it is a metastasizing one. American politicians are panicking, and in so doing are making many more mistakes than they need to make—so that we can spread the blame across the political spectrum.

President George W. Bush has the right instincts in believing that the only way to prevail in a place like Iraq is to make an open-ended commitment, with no talk of withdrawal. There are no quick fixes in Iraq, and no obvious slow ones either. But that's hardly enough. Bush seems to have no real clue about what to do next and is going through the same flawed thought processes as those of Richard Nixon in 1969, when he sought to engineer "peace with honor" in Vietnam, while facing a public mostly focused on the "peace" part of the equation. Like Nixon, Bush is fiddling with the switches, even if he, correctly, sees any talk of withdrawal at home as weakening his bargaining hand in Iraq. The military is preparing a plan to cut troop levels in quieter northern Iraq by half in the next 12 to 18 months. Nixon did much the same thing during his first year in office, mainly to reduce domestic political resentment; but this did not alter his desire to pursue, even escalate, the Vietnamese conflict.

Bush has completely missed an essential rule of politics: Don't leave a policy vacuum, because someone else is bound to fill it. Congress is now energetically filling it in Iraq, forcing the administration to do the same, but using a document that Bush never liked in the first place: the Iraq Study Group report, with its central idea of refocusing the American effort on training and supporting Iraq's security forces. But as Bush knows well, and indeed as the benchmark assessment released last week confirmed, the situation of the security forces—meaning both the Iraqi army and Ministry of Interior units—"continues to show [only] slow progress."

Training and support are good ideas in the abstract, but their results in Iraq have been uneven, they take time, and, perhaps most important, many Iraqis are worried that the U.S. is leaving. As the benchmark assessment underlined: "The increasing concern among Iraqi political leaders that the United States may not have a long-term commitment to Iraq has also served in recent months to reinforce hedging behavior and made the hardest political bargains even more difficult to close."

The Democrats are in no better a moral posture. Seeing Bush trapped, they are hammering him, hoping this will carry them to victory in next year's presidential and congressional elections. The Republicans sense a looming rout, which is why they, too, are hitting Bush harder than ever. However, the Democrats have no more an effective plan for Iraq than the administration does, and would be just as vulnerable to the misfortunes following from a withdrawal as the Republicans. It may be justifiable to condemn an administration that has been unable to point to an Iraqi upturn for four years, but acrimony only makes the situation worse for everyone, because Iraq is not about partisan American politics.

With the outcome of the military "surge" uncertain and Republican members of Congress fearing for their political future, the administration is being manhandled into looking for alternatives. London's Sunday Telegraph reported that Bush would consider a so-called "Plan C" in Iraq—essentially a modified version of the surge. The idea would be to bring about "a slow withdrawal of troops after March next year—just nine months after the surge was fully operational—with 30,000 sent home by September next year." Political cover for this withdrawal would be provided by the report submitted next September by Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, and the ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, on the surge's success. If Petraeus and Crocker see progress, this would "justify a handover, in some areas, to Iraqi control in the spring—sooner than critics of the surge had expected." So everything in Iraq has become a fallback plan. But you don't win wars on Plan Cs.

Meanwhile American military planners are surveying possible scenarios in the event of a U.S. pullout. One definitive conclusion everyone has reached is that nothing is definite. Predictions vary between seeing the situation in Iraq deteriorating into a regional cataclysm and, as one retired Marine involved in war-gaming a withdrawal put it, an outcome that is not "apocalyptic" but "very ugly." In that context, it might be useful for U.S. decision-makers to start looking more closely at Iraq itself, rather than just at Washington. There are definite signs of advancement in parts of the country, and some American commanders are insisting that now would be the worst time to exit. Success may be just around the corner.

Skeptics will respond that the same language was used in Vietnam. Victory was always around the corner, but never was. However, Iraq and Vietnam are very different places. The way to win an insurgency is, often, by lowering oneself into the minutiae of a place. It takes great patience, unity at home, and an obligation not to lose one's head. None of these are present today in the U.S. No one can deny that Iraq has turned into a fiasco, but you don't deal with a fiasco by just trying to switch it off.

Reason contributing editor Michael Young is opinion editor of the Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon.

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  • ||

    Stop it, stop it, stop it. This is the Mid East we're talking about. The absolute best case scenario is, we pull out and let the blood bath proceed without us. BEST CASE.

  • Say Nay! Kid||

    Can't we, like, just get the UN involved?
    If they can't fix Iraq, what good are they?

  • Anonymous Bastert||

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7163438967506423335&q=edward+luttwak&total=74&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=0

  • ||

    This war isn't going to be won with Plan A or Plan B, either, Mr. Young. Have you considered the possibility that the United States of America is not omnipotent?

    Predictions vary between seeing the situation in Iraq deteriorating into a regional cataclysm and, as one retired Marine involved in war-gaming a withdrawal put it, an outcome that is not "apocalyptic" but "very ugly."

    The predictions of people carefully chosen by Iraq Hawks like Michael Young, anyway. I haven't been terribly impressed by these peole's predictions over the last five years.

    Devoted as he is to the proposition that the use of American military force is always and everywhere a Very Good Thing, Mr. Young refuses to admit what all 16 of our intelligence agencies and a large majority of Iraqis have told us: that the American presence is the primary driver of the Sunni insurgency. It is making Iraq more violent, not safer; it is making Iraqi politics more polarized, not more agreeable.

    Look at Northern Ireland - the Brits' statement of their intent to withdraw their military was a powerful tool for splitting the insurgents, allowing an accommodationist center to achieve an agreement, and marginalizing the radical holdouts.

    It has been proven that an Iraq with a Sunni insurgency and an American troop presence will result in a Sunni insurgency which will make space for a cadre of foreign jihadists; and that the political agreement which could put this insurgency to rest cannot happen under conditions of an American occupation.

  • Tim||

    Agree with joe, but also note Mr. Young's justification is purely humanitarian, but does not suggest it is in our national security interest to remain there and continue to suffer troop casualties and deplete our military resources.

  • ||

    Just remember, guys, there was no difference between Bush and Gore! No difference at all!

  • ||

    Win in Iraq!?! We effectively ended any chance of a "win" in occupying/rebuilding Iraq when Bush and Rumsfeld refused to accept Gen. Shinseki's estimate of 300-400,000 troops to occupy the country after the invasion. Even now we've still got half that number in the country in the middle of a full-blown insurgency/civil war with a hostile population. The U.S. troop numbers now are insufficient to establish order (this according to the manual that Gen. Petraeus himself authored), the Iraqi security forces that aren't engaging in ethnic cleansing are incapable of operating indepedently, the Iraqi government has shown no indication that they're taking a political solution seriously, public opinion has turned against us there, and the latest NIE says that Iraq is making us more of a target now. There is absolutely no way to win this war because Bush screwed it up at the outset with his idiotic "strategy", the Iraqis aren't trying to fix their own problems, we don't have the resources to do more, and it works against our interests to stay. So I agree with Warren...stop this ridiculous talk about winning because it's nonsense.

    The people who claim this war is winnable are either delusional or dishonest, Bush's instincts on Iraq have been wrong every time, and it's time to pull the plug, withdraw and stop getting our troops killed fighting someone else's civil war.

  • ||

    Losing in Afghanistan because of a lack of troops, on the other hand, is going to be neither a humanitarian crisis, nor a military one.

  • ||

    joe,
    I would stop threatening our efforts to stabilize Iraq if I were you. We wouldn't want you to lose your house or anything.

  • ||

    UCrawfor,

    Not to mention "enough troops to secure Iraq" the day the war ended is going to be a much smaller number than "enough troops to end the civil war."

  • Tim||

    Even if a long-term occupation could be successful, we simply don't have the troop numbers, absent a draft.

  • ||

    It's interesting that Mr Young faults both sides of the debate for failing to come up with a plan to fix the Iraq mess, and then fails to offer one of his own.

    What hobbles Mr Young and so many other war commentators is the naive belief that there is always some way to make every situation work out perfectly, and if we don't see it it's not because it's not there, it's because we lack the proper vision. The same is true, incidentally, of much of the discussion on health care reform, but let's not go there.

  • ||

    As for Mr. Young's humanitarian thoughts on the matter, I'd argue that it's far more humane in the long-term to allow the Iraqis to sort out the issue of governance on their own rather than acting as an non-objective intermediator. Bush's incompetent plan may have helped kick off the civil war, but the dynamics that really caused it were there long before we got involved, and a conflict like this was probably inevitable once Saddam Hussein left power (even if we hadn't been the ones to remove him).

    Foreign Affairs did an excellent article noting that it's almost impossible to solve the problems that create a civil war non-violently...and long-term you have a better chance of permanent resolutions if you just let the involved parties sort things out on their own (violently or non-violently). After all, we and the U.N. have been "mediating" Israel and the Palestinians for 60 years and that conflict's no closer to being fixed now than it was at the start. Here's the FA article:

    http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20070301faessay86201/james-d-fearon/iraq-s-civil-war.html

  • ||

    Frankly, the assertions by Iraq hawks that the only option besides continuing the war is to abandon Iraq and all humanitarian and national interets there is a pretty good indication of what they intend to do when they finally acknowledge that they are not going to find the pony.

    It's like the LA cops who abandoned the poor neighborhoods during the riots. You don't like us occupying your streets like a gang of thugs? Ok, how do you like it when we completely abandon any presence at all?

  • ||

    "What hobbles Mr Young and so many other war commentators is the naive belief that there is always some way to make every situation work out perfectly, and if we don't see it it's not because it's not there, it's because we lack the proper vision. The same is true, incidentally, of much of the discussion on health care reform, but let's not go there."

    That is very true. Wars are hard and they are never won easily or without mistakes. People always have this idea that whenever a war isn't easy that it must be due to incompetance. Sometimes that is true. More often, the situation is incredibly difficult. The Civil War is a good example. Grant was facing a well lead fanatical enemy that was fighting on its own ground. There was no way to win that war without taking enormous casualites, which of course Grant did and was branded an incompetant butcher for his trouble. The choices in Iraq are brutally simple, you can hang in there with the troops we have and spend 1000 or so lives and a few hundred billion dollars a year and in a few years hopefully, the enemy will get tired of dying and the Iraqis will get tired of killing each other and you can go home. Or you can leave now, let the place probably fall into chaos and become a giant failed state for terrorists to hide and train in, there be massive instability which would spill over into God knows where and probably face the prospect of maybe going back in a few years. There are no good sollutions.

    Incidentily we face the same problem in Afghanistan. The U.S. is no more winning there than it is in Iraq. The taliban is still there and if the U.S. leaves, it is unlikly that the government would survive very long. Once we leave Iraq and let it go into chaos, Afghanistan continues and the same people screaming to get out of Iraq will be be screaming to get out of there. The war in Afghanistan is not going to end anytime soon.

    Basically, we are stuck fighting these people, be it in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, somewhere, for the forseeable future. I don't see an end to it, short of adopting the Roman model of exterminating entire races of people, which cannot and should not happen.

  • ||

    Tacos mmm...,

    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

    That link is really scary. I mean, it's over. All Bush has to do is publicly declare himself dictator for life and it's all over.

  • ||

    Joe,

    Your analogy to the police is flawed. Aside from a difference in mission, cops don't get to make up their own laws independent of elected government authority (like we get to do in Iraq) and they're legally bound to enforce laws when citizens' individual and property rights are being violated, or be prosecuted by civilian courts when they violate those laws (military forces usually aren't...they have their own independent court system). U.S. troops also don't have an obligation to enforce Iraqi law...that is the responsibility of the Iraqi security forces. Fact of the matter is, we have no obligation to protect the Iraqis here. The elected leader of Iraq, al-Maliki, has already said we're welcome to leave, they have their own security forces in place, and many Iraqis would prefer it if we weren't in place. And most of the laws that we've put in place for them (de-Ba'athification in particular) have tended to make the situation worse in the country, not better.

    It may seem heartless in the short term, but in the long run the best thing we can do for the Iraqis and ourselves is to get out of their country and let them hash through their own isssues. It's the only way they'll be forced to resolve their internal differences. As it stands now, we're just prolonging the conflict and likely intensifying it.

  • ||

    Or you can leave now, let the place probably fall into chaos and become a giant failed state for terrorists to hide and train in, there be massive instability which would spill over into God knows where and probably face the prospect of maybe going back in a few years.


    That's intagibly different from the current status quo. We don't have enough troops to stabilize Iraq, because that would require a draft. And the American people wouldn't support that. So we get all the negative consquences you mention, plus we spend billions of dollars and thousands of lives half-assing an occupation. Listen, it would be nice if we could put 600,000 troops in Iraq and stabilize it. But we can't and we never will. So given that, John, why waste money and lives on a doomed expidition?

  • ||

    "Fact of the matter is, we have no obligation to protect the Iraqis here."

    Yes and no. We certainly had an obligation as an occupying power once we invaded. When does that obligation end? Further, if it were just Iraqis, you would have a great point. What about the foreigners that have invaded the place? Should be leave the Iraqis at the mercy of them? In addition, how is it in the US best interest for the place to turn into Somalia and everyone who ever worked with us getting shot? I am sympathetic to the idea of screw them if they can't get their act together, but I don't know that it is that simple. We are trying the nice kind way of dealing with terrorism by coming over and trying to rebuild better societies. IF that fails and we are attack again, the other alternative is to just bomb them into the stone age and go home, telling them not to screw with us anymore. It is a bit of a freightening idea.

  • ||

    "So given that, John, why waste money and lives on a doomed expidition?"

    Good point. I suggested in another thread that since we don't have the will to fight Al Quada and they will soon be protected by a nuclear Iran, maybe we should just pull out and do what the Romans did with the barbarians and pay protection money to be left alone. I was quite serious in suggesting that. The other alternative is to just go home and if we are ever attacked again bomb the entire middle east out of existance such that there are no more Muslims to become radicalized, another Roman approach. I don't see radical islam quitting anytime soon. Even if we will abadon the middle-east, that will just embolden them with visions of a world wide caliphate. We are in for a long hard slog regardless of what happens in Iraq.

  • ||

    The choices in Iraq are brutally simple, you can hang in there with the troops

    Stop putting your politics into the mouths of better men than yourself, you deplorable hack.

  • ||

    UCrawford,

    I agree with you about the police analogy. The thing is, it's not my analogy. The people who support this war really do believe the American military has a responsibility to be the gendarmes in Iraq - and this talk about ending the current mission being equivalent to "abandoning Iraq" just shows how they view that responsibility: as something to blow off if they don't get to do things exactly the way they want.

  • thoreau||

    That Iraq is an American mess is an understatement. However, like many messes, it is a metastasizing one.

    Yes. Yes it is.

    Mr. Young, what have you learned from this? Anything? Anything at all?

    If there was ever a man who could flunk a Turing test...

  • ||

    Iraq is a country of 27 million people and there are a couple thousand of foriegn jihadis there. The idea that this country, which successfully protected itself from foreign jihadists for decades before we went in, would be taken over by them is absurd on its face.

    The only reason international jihadists are able to operate in Iraq at all is because of the insurgency our occupation has created.

  • ||

    "Stop putting your politics into the mouths of better men than yourself, you deplorable hack."

    Joe, I have been there, I have risked my life. You haven't. That doesn't mean I am right. That doesn't mean I am even a good person. But it does mean you can't play the "better man than you card". I am sorry that my existance, someone who actually made a real sacrifice for the Iraq war and still cars about the outcome bothers you so much. Again, I will gladly e-mail you my pictures from Iraq. I will even send you my ORB that shows my service there.

  • ||

    I didn't say you weren't in the military, John.

    I just pointed out that the people serving in Iraq, the ones you pretend support your fring lunacy, are better men than you.

  • ||

    And by "fringe lunacy," I'm talking about things like asseting that there will be an "Iranian-backed al Qaeda."

    Just to review:

    Al Qaeda is a Wahabbist Sunni organization that considers Shiites to be infidels.

    When the al Qaeda-backed Taliban took Kabul, they massacred the Iranian embassy staff.

    Al Qaeda has bombed Shiite mosques in Iraq, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

    Al Qaeda has spent the last three years carrying out massacres of Shiite civilians in Iraq, in an attempt to provoke a Sunni/Shiite civil war. Now that their efforts have been successful, they have been fighting on the side of the Sunnis, against the Iranian-backed Shia.

    When the United States invaded Taliban/al Qaeda-run Afghanistan, the Iranians agreed to provide us with assistance, including the rescue of downed pilots, overflight authority, and sealing their border against escaping al Qaedists.

  • ||

    The obligation ended once al-Maliki said we were welcome to leave...which he's done several times already. And frankly, the situation in Iraq likely wouldn't have been as bad as it is now if Bush hadn't ordered Bremer to disband the Iraqi military and police forces (throwing 15,000 armed people out of work) and fired tens of thousands of peoples from the government ministries.

    As for fighting al-Qaeda (a Sunni organization), the country's 60-80% Shi'a, bordered by five nations that hate al-Qaeda. Most of the Iraqi Sunnis hate al-Qaeda. The Kurds hate al-Qaeda. The Shi'a definitely hate al-Qaeda. So the warnings about an al-Qaeda caliphate in Iraq if we leave are utterly ridiculous (it only happened in Afghanistan because of the geographical isolation of that country and the support of Pakistan for the Taliban). The groups that do work with al-Qaeda in Iraq now are largely only doing so to gain support in their efforts against us, so if we remove ourselves from the equation the reason for the alliance is gone and the locals and the neighbors will give al-Qaeda the boot without having to use our troops as targets.

    By the way...there is no unified philosophy known as "radical Islam". Most of those groups are too busy fighting each other to be focused on conquering the world, and the only reason they're focusing on us now is because we're over there and giving them a reason to unify. The only Islamic group we should be targeting now is al-Qaeda, they're the only ones who have attacked our country, and that cause is not served by us remaining in Iraq. If we leave the Iraqis, the Iranians, the Turks, the Kurds, the Saudis, the Syrians, and the Jordanians will fix that problem for us.

  • ||

    Al Qaeda has spent the last three years carrying out massacres of Shiite civilians in Iraq, in an attempt to provoke a Sunni/Shiite civil war. Now that their efforts have been successful, they have been fighting on the side of the Sunnis, against the Iranian-backed Shia.

    When the United States invaded Taliban/al Qaeda-run Afghanistan, the Iranians agreed to provide us with assistance, including the rescue of downed pilots, overflight authority, and sealing their border against escaping al Qaedists."


    I wish you were right Joe. I really do. But we know for a fact that Iran has been supporting both sides in Iraq. They have been supporting Al Quada there. They are not above working with them. Perhaps it is such that if we just leave, Al Qauda and Iran will get down to the business of killing each other. To which I saw Hurrah, when can we start coming home. I just doubt that is the case.

  • ||

    Joe,

    Agreed on the Bush administration's vision of us as the world's police. There's been a lot written about how Rumsfeld and Bush were against getting much international involvement in Iraq from the outset because they didn't appreciate having to compromise on their work in Afghanistan. So I think you're dead on about how they're prone to taking their ball and going home whenever someone questions them.

  • ||

    We certainly had an obligation as an occupying power once we invaded. When does that obligation end?

    How about when the vast majority of Iraqis want us to leave? How about when the government they elected want us to leave?

  • thoreau||

    John, it may very well be that the Iranians are playing a dangerous double game with Al Qaeda.

    But once they have no more need to play a double game, which side do you think Iran will revert to?

    I realize that people are perfectly capable of collaborating in private with those whom they denounce in public. But when the game goes from denunciation to shooting, that changes things a bit.

  • ||

    "And frankly, the situation in Iraq likely wouldn't have been as bad as it is now if Bush hadn't ordered Bremer to disband the Iraqi military and police forces (throwing 15,000 armed people out of work) and fired tens of thousands of peoples from the government ministries."

    If they hadn't done that, they would have had a shiite rebellion. The mistake they made was they just let them go home. They should have rounded them all up, put them in camps, sorted through who was a bathist thug and who was a soldier and built a new army from there. Why Bremmer didn't do that is beyond me. It is one of the biggest blunders imaginable. No one could believe it when it happened. We had done this once before in Germany. We had the know how and Bush and Bremmer ignored it. Inexcusable.

    "The groups that do work with al-Qaeda in Iraq now are largely only doing so to gain support in their efforts against us, so if we remove ourselves from the equation the reason for the alliance is gone and the locals and the neighbors will give al-Qaeda the boot without having to use our troops as targets."

    If that is true, maybe we have won and just don't know it yet. If we went home what does Iraq become, Columbia? Not a great place but better than Saddam and not a threat to the US. It is true everyone hates Al Quada in Iraq. If the government is strong enough to beat back Al Quada then perhaps it is strong enough to stay in power absent the US. I guess the real danger is the crimnal gangs take over and it becomes Somalia and that allows Al Quada to operate. But again, maybe the consiquences of a withdrawl are not that bad. If so, the declare victory and go home.

  • ||

    "How about when the vast majority of Iraqis want us to leave? How about when the government they elected want us to leave?"


    Fair enough but neither the government nor the populace has done that. I always liked the idea of a referendum on the US staying. If the populace voted for us to leave, then we declare victory and waive goodbye. If they voted for us to say, no one could say we were an occupying power anymore.

  • ||

    But we know for a fact that Iran has been supporting both sides in Iraq. They have been supporting Al Quada there. They are not above working with them.

    Curses! My chain of historical evidence and logic are no match for your naked assertions!

    The idea of Shiite Iran supporting al Qaeda is even dumber than the idea of Baathist Iraq supporting al Qaeda - oh, that's right, you made naked assertions about that, too. How'd that turn out?

    Anyway, Iran must be a really lousy backer, because Osama bin Laden just threatened to declare war on Iran.

  • ||

    John,

    Actually, most of the Iraqi Sunnis have been conducting attacks against the Shi'a, not just al-Qaeda. They did that at first to attempt to regain power (because Bush kicked them all out of government with overly harsh de-Ba'athification policies) and later to retaliate against Shi'a death squads run by government supported militias. Al-Qaeda is a minor player in all this...the only significant act they did was to bomb the al-Samarra mosque and really ignite the sectarian violence. But all they did there was speed up an inevitable process...it would have happened eventually. And as witnessed in al-Anbar, Sunni support for al-Qaeda in Iraq is far from universal. The only reason they've lasted as long as they have is because the Iraqi Sunni need them to fight against the U.S. backed Shi'a government. It's an alliance of pragmatism, not ideology. Same with Iran's probable support for Sunni insurgents in Iraq (they're trying to get us off their borders). The only common factor in all of these alliances has been us...once we leave the area, the alliances will likely fall apart because of ideological differences. If we stay, so will the alliances. And if we attack Iran, they'll only get worse.

  • ||

    I don't know if civil war was inevitable in Iraq, or not.

    I do know that al Qaeda felt the need to carry out atrocities against the Shiites in order to jump start it.

  • ||

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A4191-2004Jul21.html

    Take it up with the Washington Post Joe. I don't write the newspapers I just read them.

    On Iran, by contrast, the report concludes that al Qaeda's relationship with Tehran and its client, the Hezbollah militant group, was long-standing and included cooperation on operations, the officials said. It also details previously unknown links between the two, including the revelation that as many as 10 of the Sept. 11 hijackers may have passed through Iran in late 2000 and early 2001 because Iranian border guards were instructed to let al Qaeda associates travel freely, sources familiar with the report have said"

    That is talking about the 9-11 report.

    With regads to Iraq. See the financial times from this month

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/9cc4d5f4-2be3-11dc-b498-000b5df10621.html

    Evidence that Iranian territory is being used as a base by al-Qaeda to help in terrorist operations in Iraq and elsewhere is growing, say western officials.

    It is not clear how much the al-Qaeda operation, described by one official as a money and communications hub, is being tolerated or encouraged by the Iranian government, they said.

    Maybe the FT and the Post are part of the vast right wing conspiracy.

  • thoreau||

    joe,

    To be fair, it's not entirely crazy to think that savvy, cynical rulers interested in Realpolitik might play a dangerous game and (directly or indirectly) give a bit of support ideological adversaries as chess pieces. Indeed, some might speculate that powerful Western countries have done such things....

    However, giving some temporary aid to a useful adversary is different from forming a permanent alliance, handing the crown jewels to the pawn, or supporting that pawn in something that might be too costly.

  • UCrawford||

    John,

    I'm sorry...did you just suggest that we should have placed all the Sunni in concentration camps after the war and let the Shi'a help us determine who was good and bad? Because we certainly didn't have the manpower or resources to accomplish that on our own, and based on how the Shi'a have handled enforcement of de-Ba'athification laws, I'd say that the result would have been remarkably similar to what happened to the Jews in Germany.

    Jay Garner's suggestion was that we remove only the top ministers and the head of personnel in each ministry and the rest would sort itself out (the Shi'a actually were represented). Bremer (apparently under the direction of Bush) decided to apply de-Ba'athification to most of the Sunnis without giving them recourse...which both the combatant commanders and the CIA opposed. But Bremer ignored them and implemented his policy, which set off the Sunni rebellion.

  • ||

    UCrawford,

    It is pretty clear at least in Anbar, that the Sunnis have turned against Al Quada. The question is if the US leaves will the Sunnis and Shias start killing each other. I don't think so. I think the Sunnis have finally figured out that they are not taking over again and if they keep fucking around they are going to be anahilated by the majority. The problem now seems to be criminal gangs and law and order. The place going into chaos more than civil war.

  • ||

    If Iran's working with al-Qaeda, it's largely because they're not happy with us having a large military presence on their east and west borders and a president who likes to call them "evil".

    Like I said, remove us from the equation and most of these pragmatic alliances will likely fall apart.

  • ||

    Lord knows the Washington Post's reporting about Iraq is unassailable.

    I'm going to say it again, just like I said it when you were baselesslly asserting a link between the Baathists and al Qaeda: you are full of shit. You are simply trying to whip up a frenzy against the next country you want to attack, just like you did five years ago.

    Just to review:

    Al Qaeda is a Wahabbist Sunni organization that considers Shiites to be infidels.

    When the al Qaeda-backed Taliban took Kabul, they massacred the Iranian embassy staff.

    Al Qaeda has bombed Shiite mosques in Iraq, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

    Al Qaeda has spent the last three years carrying out massacres of Shiite civilians in Iraq, in an attempt to provoke a Sunni/Shiite civil war. Now that their efforts have been successful, they have been fighting on the side of the Sunnis, against the Iranian-backed Shia.

    When the United States invaded Taliban/al Qaeda-run Afghanistan, the Iranians agreed to provide us with assistance, including the rescue of downed pilots, overflight authority, and sealing their border against escaping al Qaedists.

  • ||

    "I'm sorry...did you just suggest that we should have placed all the Sunni in concentration camps after the war and let the Shi'a help us determine who was good and bad?"

    No I meant the Army. They should have rounded up the Army and sorted through it.

    "Jay Garner's suggestion was that we remove only the top ministers and the head of personnel in each ministry and the rest would sort itself out (the Shi'a actually were represented). "

    The problem with that idea was that the ministries were so corrupt and broke. It was not like Nazi Germany where the place was at least efficient. The place was completely falling down. Further, the ministries themselves were looted and the employees ran for their lives once the threat of Saddam was gone. People hated the government and took revenge first chance they got. The mistake Garner made was that he assumed that the average cop on the beat or firman would still come to work once Saddam was gone. That just wasn't true. The whole governmental structure of the country completely collapsed. Every government building was looted and destroyed.

  • ||

    thoreau,

    Iran and al Qaeda are not just "ideological adversaries." They are in a state of war. al Qaeda carries out attacks against Iran and its proxies, and Iran backs groups that are waging war on al Qaeda and its allies.

    You might as well speculate on an alliance between the Saudis and al Sadr.

  • ||

    Is the FT lying to Joe? Again, i don't write the papers I just read them.

  • ||

    John,

    Read the Foreign Affairs article I cited earlier...it discusses how civil wars are often not a two-sided conflict. Chaos often qualifies as a civil war.

    The Sunni are siding with us now because we're giving them weapons. Before we only gave them to the Shi'a (through the Iraqi government). So they'll attack al-Qaeda as long as we arm them. Then, when they think they can get away with it, they'll go back to attacking the government or us (since we support the government).

    There's no upside for us taking sides here...all that's going to happen is we're going to get it from all ends and accomplish nothing positive.

  • ||

    The question is if the US leaves will the Sunnis and Shias start killing each other.

    That's funny, just a little while ago, the qustion was whether 5000 foreign jihadists were going to take over Iraq.

    Oh, and I love the "start." "Start" hasn't had a place in that sentence for three years.

  • ||

    You mean the FT that repeated the adminstration's assertions about Iraqi WMDs throughout 2002?

    Lying, hoodwinked, I don't care. The information is bullshit, and it isn't remotely suprising that you fell for it. Again.

  • ||

    "Then, when they think they can get away with it, they'll go back to attacking the government or us (since we support the government)."

    The problem is they can't get away with it because the US is the only thing that is keeping the Shia from killing them. Ultimately, if the Sunnis have a death wish, then you are right, there isn't much we can do about it. We don't owe the Sunnis staying forever to keep the Shia from killing them, especially if they are unwilling to work with the government.

  • Stephen the Goldberger||

    is it just me or is H&R turning into the Joe v. John show?

  • ||

    So basically Joe any publication that disagrees with you even foreign ones like the financial times is just a dupe for the Bush Administration. Yeah, that's reasonable.

  • ||

    John,

    We didn't do that because we didn't have the resources to pull it off. We might have if Bush hadn't cut the MP force by 2/3 trying to prove Shinseki wrong. But he did, so we had no one to run these camps...other than the Shi'a of course, which would have been a really stupid move. Most of the problems in Iraq tend to go back to the troop numbers.

    The ministries were corrupt and broke before we invaded. And one of the main reasons Germany went so much smoother was because we had sufficient troops on the ground. What do you think Shinseki based his troop estimate on? (Answer: peacekeeping operations in Germany, Japan, and Bosnia). And as I pointed out earlier, we still don't have enough troops to fix the situation now, nor do we have more to send. Even if the president wanted to give the commanders what they need, he couldn't...so it's better to pull out rather than half-ass an occupation and get a lot more of our guys killed.

  • ||

    John,

    you're assuming the worst case if we withdraw, but assuming the best case if we stay. In reality, there's a large degree of "hope for the best" involved in any approach we take. Anyone who claims to know exactly what will happen if we withdraw, or claims to know exactly what will happen if we stay for another five years, is lying.

    The only difference is, that if we stick around for five years, we're going to lose a few thousand more American dead and even more American wounded and a few hundred billion dollars, not to mention stretching our armed forces even thinner and making them unable to respond to actual threats to our national security during that time, and then hope for the best.

    If we withdraw, those men and women will still be alive and uninjured, and the dollars will still be in our treasury. That in the end is the difference.

  • ||

    I always liked the idea of a referendum on the US staying.

    I wish they'd do this yesterday. Unofficially, every poll has the majority of Iraqi's wanting us out of there, but I'd love to see us put our "democracy for everyone!" money where our mouth is.

  • UCrawford||

    John,

    Actually, if we let the Sunnis attack the government, there's a good possibility they won't get slaughtered. Saudi Arabia already said they'd help the Sunnis out, as would Jordan likely. And the Shi'a government's still a mess as are their security forces. So there's every chance that it could end up being a bloody mess ending in stalemate...which could force a compromise. Or it could go on forever, I suppose. In which case the Iraqis would be too busy killing each other to target us, and Iraq would be too chaotic for al-Qaeda to set up operations (not that the neighboring countries would let them). In either case, leaving Iraq won't hurt us and it's not our responsibility to fix their country for them.

  • UCrawford||

    Les,

    The Iraqis can have all the referenda they want...it's still not our responsibility to fight their civil war for them. Our military's job is to protect us, not them. And staying involved in their civil war doesn't meet that objective.

  • UCrawford||

    Crimethink,

    Agreed.

  • ||

    is it just me or is H&R turning into the Joe v. John show?

    I'd buy tickets if only it was 'to the death' or better yet 'to the pain'.

  • ||

    John,

    It really stands out that you haven't been able to mount even a single objection to what I've written about your silly al Qaaed/Iran theory.

    I didn't call them a dupe for anyone; I pointed out that it's not a reliable source. Neither are you, for that matter - you've got just as long a history of beind dead wrong about these things as the FT.

  • ||

    I don't write the newspapers I just read them.

    Maybe that's your problem. Maybe instead of "just reading them," you should bring a modicum of skepticism and critical thinking to what you read in the press.

    Maybe if more of you people had been willing to do that, we wouldn't be in this mess.

  • ||

    Joe,

    No point bashing people over the head about it. Besides, I don't think it really would have mattered that much on the Iraq invasion if we critically read what was in the papers or not. There were plenty of critics bringing these issues up prior to the invasion, including several in the administration, and the president blew them all off. He wanted to go into Iraq from the start of his presidency, he believes it's his messianic quest to bring "liberty" to the world, and he's not going to let little distractions like fact or the objections of the rest of the world get in his way. So unless "John" is actually Dubya hiding behind a pen name, I think he (and everyone else not named George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, or Dick Cheney) probably bear very little responsibility for getting us involved in Iraq.

    Besides, Dubya doesn't really strike me as someone who reads Reason magazine or participates in a lot of on-line discussions. He strikes me more as a "sport and comics page" kind of newspaper reader :)

  • ||

    The point, UCrawford, is that I don't want it to happen again.

    And I do believe that the willingness of the American public to be hoodwinked helped make this disaster happen.

  • ||

    Let's just get Hughes Corp to develop some really, really long drill rigs, drill through the earth's core and steal their oil from underneath.

  • Robert||

    Seems to me when you have a bunch of people in one place who enjoy killing each other, that "problem" solves itself. Is there any reason to believe it's better if one particular side wins? If not, hey, let 'em have all they want. L'chiam.

  • ||

    I always liked the idea of a referendum on the US staying.


    If the polls are any indication, the outcome of a referendum is a given. And since our current government has no intention to leave Iraq, ever, don't expect any sort of referendum.

  • ||

    Aresen,

    Now that, my friend, is a plan. That, or we could invent the transporter and beam all of their oil into our storage tanks.

  • ||

    Young is unwilling to admit what one CIA Officer said is true. Most of the people we are fighting in Iraq are POI's (Pissed off Iraqis). They are angry at us for occupying their country, and see the current Govt. as collaborators. Pull the troops out, and a large portion of the POI's will be demotivated. Not that the violence will end, it will continue, but it may well be no worse than now. At least we won't be paying for it with billions of dollars and more American lives.

  • ||

    douglas gray


    Hear, hear! You have voiced the most important and incontovertible argument for ending US involvement in the Iraqi Civil War. It is far pat time for us to get our young men and women out of harms way.

  • Paul Rako||

    Iraq never was our problem and never should have become our problem. The solution is to not make it our problem once again-- declare victory and pull out tomorrow. The Sunnis and the Shites, the Israelis and the Palestinians, the northern Irish Catholics and Protestants, my homeland's Croatian Catholics and Serb Orthodox. These people are savages fighting over sand and rocks and religion-- all equally absurd. They do not deserve a place in the civilized world's community. Pump out the oil and let them fight over nothing until the end of time. Rather than waste our time on savages, let's help the civilized countries like Egypt and Turkey that at least try for a secular government and polyglot society. Perhaps we all could learn from the 1953 recording by Big Bill Broonzy and Washboard Sam:

    Minding My Own Business
    I'm just minding my own business
    and leavin' other people alone.
    I'm just minding my own business
    and leavin' other people alone.
    'cause in my home,
    I have enough trouble of my own.
    The Good Book says: You gotta reap
    just what you sow.
    The Good Book says: You gotta reap
    just what you sow.
    Yes, you got to reap,
    don't care where you go.
    Some men spend their money on gambling,
    and all good time.
    Some men spend their money on gambling,
    and all good time.
    Why should I worry,
    'cause I do what I want with mine.
    Six months minding my own business,
    six months leave other people alone.
    Six months minding my own business,
    six months leave other people alone.
    And by that time baby,
    the whole twelve months is gone.

  • Dave W.||

    Mr. Young, what have you learned from this?

    My star pupil! Learning people things rocks out bigtime!

  • ||

    "but it may well be no worse than now. At least we won't be paying for it with billions of dollars and more American lives."

    Even if it is worse than now if we pull out, it's still not our business. Let them work it out and save our money and American lives.

  • ||

    "Our military's job is to protect us, not them. And staying involved in their civil war doesn't meet that objective."

    If anything, it makes us less secure by stirring up more hatred for us and thus creating more terrorists against us.

  • Gabe Harris||

    Michael Young is such a mid-east-meddler chearleader that he would be a great advisor to many of the pro-war politicians who now claim the only mistake made was "mismanagement". Why is this guy writing for a libertarian magazine? he couldn't get a gig at the WSJ?

    Since when did giving billions of taxpayer dollars to a socialist theocracy like Israel and a f'd up regime like the House of Saud become a liberty oriented ideal?

    I tried to ask Michael these questions and he passed on responding and he just replied that I had "too narrow a worldview" to be of use to him.

  • Gabe Harris||

    Now the warmongerers argue that if we leave Iraq that they will follow us over hear and terrorize us to know end. Nevermind the example of Vietnam, we left and they decided to start making wicker furniture and sell it to us at Pier 1 import.

    Countless cat lovers decorated their apartments in a inexpensive but trendy south asian decor.

    Sure they might keep attacking us if we fund a saudi and Israeli army to come in and put the shiites in concentration camps, but how about we try not funding nerve gas and concentration camps over there?

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