"We Have Failed" in Iraq, Sez Gen. (Ret.)

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Wall Street Journal columnist John Harwood has a chat with retired Gen. William E. Odom, currently of the right-wing Hudson Institute, who believes we ought to hightail it out of Iraq ASAP. Snippets:

"We have failed," Mr. Odom declares bluntly. "The issue is how high a price we're going to pay. … Less, by getting out sooner, or more, by getting out later?"…

Mr. Odom opposed the Iraq war before it happened. An expert in comparative politics who teaches at Georgetown and Yale, he warned that there was no reason to expect that Iraq could soon develop the ingredients for constitutional democracy: individual rights, property rights and a tax-collection system supporting a government to enforce them. The violence of recent months, he concludes, has exposed Mr. Bush's vision of doing so as a dream….

The longer U.S. troops hang tough, he reasons, the more isolated America will become. That in turn will place increasing strain on international economic and security institutions that have undergirded the emergence of "America's Inadvertent Empire," as Mr. Odom's latest book calls it. "I don't know that the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, [or] NATO can survive this," he says.

Odom wants the UN and Europe to come in but also wants the U.S. to leave even if no one else steps forward.

Read the whole thing here.

[Tip of the hat to Ernest Hancock]

NEXT: Sometimes One Place Wants to Slip into the Other Just to See

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  1. I opposed the war too, but I’m not sure if pulling out is the right thing to do. It’s like we forced our way into a home with the intention of redecorating, ripped out the cabinets, pulled up the floorboards, and then said, “Whoops! Bit off more than I could chew, here. Well, I’ll go back to my apartment now and leave you homeowners to clean up the mess.”

  2. I don’t know that the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, [or] NATO can survive this,” he says.

    That’s the best argument I’ve heard for staying the course in Iraq.

  3. How about pulling out all the troops, and sending in The Gap, Starbucks, and McDonald’s?

    I mean, really, does anyone think the Pentagon can hold a candle to WalMart?

  4. He clearly favors putting people in plastic shredders.

    Why do conservative former generals hate America?

    Yes, I’m going to be writing comments like this for the foreseeable future.

  5. Jennifer, I think Odom is saying that it is not possible for the U.S. to clean up the mess it made. Any government the U.S. installs will never gain the respect of enough Iraqis to survive. Persisting won’t change the outcome, but it will add to the costs.

  6. Jennifer,

    Even if you had good intentions with the redecorating… what if every time you tried to spackle a hole in the wall you made two new holes? What if you knocked down a lamp every time you moved a ladder? What if the home owner occasionally shot a member of your work crew? What if you did as much harm as good in your “redecorating”, you lost crew members, the owners wanted you out as you were not invited, and it cost a fortune. Then would it be OK to leave?

  7. Eric-
    I agree, there’s no way out of this mess, short of an asteroid falling from space and squashing the area flat. But in the eyes of the rest of the world, do we want to be seen as someone who at least TRIES to clean up our messes, or someone who trashes other countries and then goes back home?

  8. zak,

    Good point, but I’m with Jennifer. The solution then would be to find a way not to knock over lamps and put more holes in the walls. Tough? Yes. Impossible? No.

  9. Ah Joe, the old shredder myth. LOL.

    Perhaps you could supply some evidence. Oh and by the way, Ann Clwyd saying so isn’t enough.

  10. Jennifer,

    It would be nice for the U.S. to have that reputation, but when I weigh that against hundreds of billions of dollars and an indefinite but large number of American lives that could be saved, I think leaving now sounds like the least bad option.

  11. Obviously occupation is a bitch- but I sure heard some encouraging news today- that Iraqis in Najaf have started vigilante groups to clean up the streets themselves ( by fighting the al Sadr gang). Law and order happening from the bottom up is a good sign ( as opposed to being imposed from the top down). They’ll need that level of determination post-handover, and if this is any indication of how they handle troublemakers, maybe they’re up to it.

    I’ve got a blog post up about it (that I don’t need to duplicate here), if anyone’s interested.

    I don’t think anyone disagrees that we should get out of Iraq as quickly as we can without making things worse. And if they can fight of al Sadr and the like by themselves ( more effectively than us, perhaps) then everyone wins- we can pull out sooner.

  12. wellfellow

    How many soldiers have to die before the renovation process over and ask yourelf if American lives are worth it ? That still doesnt solve the terrorist ( “immenent threat” ) issue which was the primary objective for this project. The entire world knows the Bush admin. fucked up which has not only given The U.S. a worst rep. yet ridicules our “leaders” decision making.

    I think pulling is far fetched Bush knows that. Its unfortunate that our troops have to risk their lives for such a stupid excuse….

  13. Wellfellow,

    Impossible. That is why we should not have gone in. Dealing with the reality that we are there… leaving is the only option. The sooner the better.

  14. Anyone who says that Europe or the UN can contribute in any way to a solution in Iraq obviously has their head up their ass. The UN and the leading powers in Europe (France and Russia) were in bed with Hussein, and weren’t using any protection. They are guilty as hell of sustaining the Hussein regime, and much else, via their corruption of the oil-for-food program.

    The idea that the non-Baathist Iraqis would grant them legitimacy and a warm welcome is lunacy. The utterly crapulent track record of the EUniks and the UN in “nation-building” and “peace-keeping is sickening beyond belief. Wherever a better solution may be found, it ain’t there.

  15. Anyone who says that Europe or the UN can contribute in any way to a solution in Iraq obviously has their head up their ass. The UN and the leading powers in Europe (France and Russia) were in bed with Hussein, and weren’t using any protection. They are guilty as hell of sustaining the Hussein regime, and much else, via their corruption of the oil-for-food program.

    The idea that the non-Baathist Iraqis would grant them legitimacy and a warm welcome is lunacy. The utterly crapulent track record of the EUniks and the UN in “nation-building” and “peace-keeping is sickening beyond belief. Wherever a better solution may be found, it ain’t there.

  16. First, I’m surprised this thread wasn’t pounced on and dominated by hawks.
    Second, Jennifer, as the asker of more good questions, you may be guilty of the same cultural misunderstanding that was first displayed when Bush dropped those food packages into Afghanistan at the same time he was sending numerous “smart bombs” up camels’ butts.

    I’m Irish, so what do I know, but I was very sensitive on several levels to the mistakes in Vietnam.
    What the people in that part of the world want is for the US military to get the hell out of the area muey pronto.

    It’s like after a party: “I’ll gladly clean up the mess, if these boring assholes will just go home.”

    As I had suggested in another thread, we need to start a new thread about how to make ignorant tribal folk conform to libertarian sensibilities… peacefully.

    There are ways. Am willing to share.

  17. please share…

  18. The terrorist mentality is: if kicking butt gets results kick more butt.

    So the question now is do we want to take a kicking now and in Iraq or later elsewhere?

    Iraq is as good a place to kick back as any. The fact that foreigners are coming against us is a good sign.

    As to self government taking hold: post WW2 Italian governments were noted for their short tenures. After thirty or forty years they got the hang of self government.

    Partisan warfare is tribal warfare. Spain is still not over the aftermath of Napoleon almost 200 years later.

    The #1 problem with Americans is their inability to contemplate fifty or two hundred year projects. A year on and already the cost is too high and the contemplated results (a civilized Middle East) are not worth the effort.

    It is quite possible that the effort is not worth it. The difficulty is that it will take five to ten years to find out. A one year test with hostile forces not fully defeated is not a good measuring point.

  19. someone here misses the ‘hawks’? 🙂

    I supported the Iraq war and still think it was the right thing to do. Needless to say, I don’t think we should cut and run.

    I also believe that giving the UN the authority is a surefire way to screw it up (US may screw it up too, but the UN surely WILL).

    Too bad the NATO “allies” didn’t agree with us on this one. NATO can do a better job than the UN.
    Well, “conservative generals” don’t necessarily all have the same opinion on all matters, just like any other ‘species’.

  20. zak,
    Thought you’d never ask.
    I can’t put these in perfect order of priority, but the overriding theme is for the US government to stop pissing off foreigners–read, the rest of the world.
    Way up there would be admitting what Jimmy Carter did was a colossal boo boo. His idea was to give equal amounts of taxpayer money to Egypt and Israel.
    Completely cut all aid to both.
    While at it, could be the chance to cut all “aid” period.

    Embargoes, sanctions… all that stuff: bad!

    Sorry, I’m being called to dinner. But, you get my drift.

  21. M. Simon, you are so pissing into the wind saying:
    “The #1 problem with Americans is their inability to contemplate fifty or two hundred year projects.”

    Long-term projects like carving Mt Rushmore, the building of cathedrals and the pyramids are possible for several reasons: they are tangible. They are relatively small in the overall scheme of things.

    Intangible nation-building: fuggetaboutit.

    You want a long-term, intagible project?
    Continuing my preprandial discourse, get people to love, or, at least, to value one another.
    That would mean eliminating talk of borders, illegal aliens, exporting jobs, overpopulation, and on and on.

  22. R.C. Dean,

    “They are guilty as hell of sustaining the Hussein regime, and much else, via their corruption of the oil-for-food program.”

    Or such goes the unsubstantiated pro-war rumors. BTW, any country or company that did any business with Hussein’s regime would also appear to fall under your condemnation, which of course includes American companies and the American government. I’m sorry, but your attempt to act like America has some clean hands regarding Iraq is laughable at best, and an attempt to lie at worst. After your embarressing and blantantly stupid and bigoted comment earlier I had hoped you might mature.

  23. The first lesson to be drawn is to stop listening to the hawks. They don’t know the hell they’re talking about. Iraq post-war looks a lot more like what ANSWER said it would than what the GOP said it would, and that’s pretty scary.

    I saw this fiasco coming two years ago, and got called all kind of names for it. Now, whenever something particularly horrific happens, people like Dan explain that it’s not a bug, it’s a feature. Bullshit.

    Now it’s a two hundred year project. February 03, it was a problem so imminent that we couldn’t wait another six weeks for another UN resolution to pass. You’re trying to make this up off the top of your head, and it shows.

  24. Joe-

    That’s a good point. If we encounter resistance, well, that’s what we went there to do: Fight the Islamo-fascists, and it just means that we’re luring them out of their hiding places. And when we don’t encounter resistance, that’s also part of the plan. And if we find WMD, that was part of the plan. And if we don’t find WMD, that was part of the plan because it means that we nipped it in the bud before Hussein could finish his WMD program.

    So no matter what the outcome, it’s all part of the grand plan for regional transformation!

  25. As for strategy, have you seen hawks offer anything besides “more the same, but make it work this time?”

    This isn’t fucking Scooby-Doo. Things don’t work just because “It’s GOT to!”

  26. Jennifer–let me be clear: these scum bags are a national embarressment. As a hawk, I am angered and shamed.

    Your anger is generally well-placed. this is a blot on the national conscience.

    I make the discreet point that this happens in war, and during any military deployment, of all nations. Im glad we caught it and disclosed it. Good guys do that; bad guys dont.

    AGain I share the anger. Just not the conclusion, that we are, or have become, Hussein….

    Good luck, Roddy

  27. Rod-
    Consider this, though: we only caught these guys because they were stupid enough to take photos. How many other torturers are out there, only with THREE-digit IQs?

    Also consider: when you smile for the camera, that means that you are on some level PROUD of what you are doing. I don’t think this attitude of pride developed in a vacuum; these seven or so guys we caught are likely to be the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

  28. Yes, especially the next time you need someone to help you in a fix. I’m sure they’ll come a-runnin, t.

  29. Joe: “And if I’d just shot a man because I thought his cell phone was a gun, I’d start rethinking my ideas about self defense.”

    Go to Gunsite, or someplace similar, and you will learn to control yourself well enough so those things don’t happen.

  30. Ruthles,

    The deal with two hundred year civilizational projects such as I contemplate is that one must give up utopianism such as you evidence at least for the near term.

    This has its value.

    As I wrote to a recent correspondent: Idealism is a vice of the young and I am no longer young. I am hopeful.

    As long as there can only be one alpa male and no peaceful way to decide who it will be, there will be war. It is our nature. And don’t forget that the outs always resent the ins even if the ins win in a fair fight.

  31. “According to one story I read, electric wires were attached to their genitalia. I would just as soon not get into a discussion about whether that’s better or worse than having your fingernails pulled out.”

    The photo suggested a mock electrocution event to me. It did not appear to be “real” torture. Nevertheless, it was a hideous act that demands punishment. Humiliation is, IMO, a poor means of obtaining information, but a good way of ensuring hate and a desire for payback.

  32. Jennifer,

    The grinning MP I saw in the photos was female.

  33. “Go to Gunsite, or someplace similar, and you will learn to control yourself well enough so those things don’t happen.”

    I believe that translating this suggestion into the ongoing metaphor at hand would result in listening to the advice of the old Republican establishment – say, Poindexter, Kissinger, that sort of people.

    “Keep your piece under control. Know what you’re shooting at. Make sure you’re able to hit what you’re shooting at. Know how to maintain your weapon, and what its capabilities are.” Is that the sort of advice I’d be likely to find there?

  34. joe,

    Let me se if I got you straight. A crazy man is tying to kill you. Do you stop him before or after his rehab which isexpected to take decades?

    BTW the fifty year projct I contemplate is the remaking of the Middle East.

    BTW if some one had announced in 1948 that our difficulties with the USSR would last 40 years do you think either side of the political spectrum in that day would have bought into the necessity of the struggle? During that 40 year war many were on tthe other side (just like now). My hope is that despite opposition at home we will prevail over time.

    For better or worse Bush like Truman has got us into something that will not be resolved in years. Maybe not even in decades.

    We left Vietnam and the Communists killed or exiled over a million people. I am not up for repeating the exercise. The Islamics are not nearly as nice as the Communists.

  35. joe

    “…we couldn’t wait another six weeks for another UN resolution to pass”

    where did you dream that another UN resolution would pass in another six weeks?

  36. “The Islamics are not nearly as nice as the Communists.”

    In the last 50 yars or so, the Islamists killed far less people than the communists. In fact, far less than the enlightined democracies of the West, including the US.

  37. Do some news searches from Feb-March 03, z.

    Good lord, these people don’t even remember how we got here.

    M.,

    I’m all for taking action agains the one or two crazy men who are trying to kill me. But once I’m out of immediate danger from them (or I discover that I never was in danger from those two, ahem ahem), I’m not going to pretend that using force against all the crazy men in Massachusetts is an intelligent thing to do.

    And if I’d just shot a man because I thought his cell phone was a gun, I’d start rethinking my ideas about self defense.

  38. Oh, my God. I take back everything I said about our needing to stay over there. We need to get the hell out NOW, and figure out some way to make amends, even if that means offering a green card and free transportation here to every Iraqi who wants it. Here’s why:

    I just got home, checked the news, and discovered that some of our soldiers have been performing *appalling* acts of torture on Iraqi prisoners. The link below shows some examples.

    Jesus Christ! For all that I despise our current administration and some of the bullying tactics we’ve used overseas, I still had this idea that we–Americans–were “the good guys.” Yet we’re doing the same kind of crap that Hussein did! I am especially appalled by the photos of our soldiers SMILING as they torture prisoners. SMILING!

    To hell with military justice; those bastards need to be parachuted naked into Fallujah with “Fuck Allah” tattooed in Arabic on their backsides. Let’s see how much they enjoy torture when they’re on the *receiving* end of it.

    http://www.local6.com/news/3250508/detail.html

  39. Joe-

    If you shot him because you thought his cell phone is a gun, then you’ve just proven that nobody better mess with you, because you’re on hair-trigger. Or at least that’s what some hawks have said on this forum: The goal is to smack around a Muslim country that didn’t even have any connection to 9/11 just to prove that we’re serious.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to shoot a random stranger on the street just to prove that I’m serious. That ought to make me safer….

  40. Speaking of Iraq, Reason seems to be ignoring the recent widely-reported US soldiers abuses of Iraqi prisoners. links:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/media/video/40098000/rm/_40098731_prisoners18_myrie_vi.ram

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3672117.stm

    How ironic that these abuses were committed in the Abu Ghraib prison, the same place where Saddam jailed and abused his opponents ..

  41. Jennifer, calm down and collect yourself. The torure incidents are bad, very bad. we caught them and will convict them. They will likely do hard time.

    This happens all the time in every war, except usually, the captive gets a bullet after a few minutes, when the captor gets bored of the play. These guys were made to do degrading stunts.

    re your connection of our efforts in Iraq to Hussein….er no. Those prisoners were humiliated. They were not killed. They were not even subject to what would be classified as true torture…nails pulled, burning et al. This is harsh, but true.

    You have made your disapproval of the war your signature here. Fine. I disagreee with you. We are not the bad guys–they are. I can provide you with chapter and verse of how the U.S. record is really rather enlightened on these issues–save for the Pacific campaign, 1944-45, which simply became a war of annihilation where prisoner taking on a mass scale was in no way an option.

    AGain, these troops will relocate from Bagdad to Ft. leavenworth, for a very long time, as part of a prolonged exercise in proper criminal handling techniques.

  42. Rod-
    According to one story I read, electric wires were attached to their genitalia. I would just as soon not get into a discussion about whether that’s better or worse than having your fingernails pulled out.

    In the name of deposing a monster we created some of our own. Fabulous.

  43. Odom had a picture of the likely consequences of invading Iraq – my picture was similar. Our theories have been borne out.

    Please abandon other theories. They have been falsified.

  44. Interesting, i must say.

  45. The current “doves” argument seems to be “Hey look! This is hard!”

    Well excuse me… NO ONE TOLD YOU IT WAS GOING TO BE EASY. YOU ARE NOT A ROCKET SCIENTIST FOR POINTING OUT THAT HARD THINGS ARE HARD.

    Sometimes we do things because they are RIGHT, not because they are EASY.

    It’s not like a significant percentage of the whiny effette silver-spoon BMW liberals who are complaining about the war have any involvement in it at all. Their butts are not getting shot up, their butts are sitting at Starbucks gossiping with their ignorant friends about how much better they could run the world if only someone would put them in charge.

    The Americans who are involved in the war are a 100% volunteer force who, by and large, are very much in support of this proactive defense of American interests. They are doing the HARD job of protecting western civilizatin from the threat of GLOBAL Muslim militancy.

    If you are only thinking in terms of Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Algeria, or Libya, I have news for you — Osama bin Laden is *years* ahead of you intellectually. Osama long ago realized that this conflict was too big for one country, or even a group of countries. This is a global conflict which will leave few countries untouched.

    No country, including the United States, will have the option of sitting this one out.

  46. Hey, this is quite exciting…..

    war is war….well, isn’t it clear that Israel and the USA will be destroyed?

    You might wish to visit
    http://www.worldaffairsmonthly.com

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