Skip the Hearts and Minds; Go for "Popular Tolerance"

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The Washington Post has a disturbing but even-handed (read: disturbing because even-handed) assessment of progress in Iraq.

The conclusion regarding the occupation so far:

"It's not about winning the hearts and minds," [Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq] said. "It's about giving the Iraqis an opportunity that they can pick up."

Whole thing here.

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  1. Nick,
    I can’t wait ’til you move to New York, or maybe San Francisco. The Washington Post is insufferably user unfriendly even though I’m registered there. (I can’t recall how that happened.) It’s like their homepage says, “Welcome, Ruthless. Blow it out yo ass!” Then a window pops up saying there are two errors.

    Seeing as how I’m two of two commenters, I’m forced to conclude I’m speaking for others.

    So, based on the limited access to the WaPo, I’ll just say I kiss the feet (no higher) of Justin Raimondo of AntiWar.com.

  2. “A total of 338 Iraqis associated with the new governing structures or with the Americans have been assassinated since Oct. 1, according to U.S. military figures. This includes 35 police chiefs, mayors and middle-ranking officials.”

    Oh, for pity’s sake!

    “As a sign of the damage done to the insurgency by the Fallujah operation, U.S. officers point to a sharp decline in the number of attacks nationwide, from a high of more than 130 a day at the start of the offensive in early November to about 60 now.”

    Oh, for cryin’ out loud!

    “In Baghdad, Sunni support for “armed national opposition” was 40 percent in a November poll taken for the U.S. military, up from 35 percent in September. More Sunnis expressed support for the insurgents than confidence in the Iraqi government, which drew only 35 percent support in November. Approval of attacks on U.S. forces was also up, from 46 percent in September to 51 percent in November.

    So it’s not just in America that religious extremists can claim a mandate!

  3. Reconstruction activity in Iraq has doubled from 469 projects, worth a total of $1.3 billion, in August to 1,034 projects valued at $3 billion.

    Wow. Cool country you’ve got there.

    Generous to a fault.

    Self-sacrificing.

    Possessing that human touch.

    You must all be so proud.

  4. How many Sunni muslims does it take to fuck up a country?

    Apparently, about 20 percent.

  5. How many born-again Christians does it take to do that to any number of countries?

    Apparently, about one.

  6. You know, in the past I’ve thought that many dovish arguments one encounters on the web start with very reasonable points, then almost immediately go off the deep end with their complete lack of perspective. Reading raymond’s thoughts, I see that I was wrong. Ahem.

    If some general somewhere said that we were striving to be loved and admired by all Iraqis everywhere, what you you guys be saying? It is the doves who have insisted on a standard of love and admiration as the mark of success, not anyone else. They need to tolerate us while we kill as many insurgents as possible, until they can take care of themselves. Gen. Casey is exactly right.

  7. One dovish argument suggests that the benefits of winning the Iraq War aren’t worth the costs. The cost side of that equation in terms of dead Americans is easy to calculate, civilian Iraqi dead less so. The bill for services to the American taxpayer has also been underpublicized, has it not?

    I suppose one could argue that a free and democratic Iraq is worth the sacrifice of all those dead Americans and Iraqis and all that treasure too, but the exerpts Raymond and I posted above speak directly to the benefit side of the equation; indeed, they suggest that a free and democratic Iraq is nothing but a pipe dream.

    I’m approaching the point where most any argument that points out that the costs of the war, in whatever form, are higher than advertised and that the benefits are likely to be much lower than advertised is a good argument.

    Maybe that makes me vulnerable logically, but there are an awful lot of hawks out there makin’ silk purses out of some really nasty stuff. I think Raymond’s just pointin’ out how nasty some of that stuff is.

  8. Ken,
    Isn’t the latest CIA reports/leaks evidence that Iraq will continue to be a sow’s ear for a long, long time?

  9. Ken:

    We all come into this with our predispositions. The elimination of Saddam from the scene, the re-establishment of a credible military threat to middle eastern dictator, and the knowledge gained about Iraq’s actual WMD capabilities are benefits that far outstrip any costs incurred to this point from my perspective. That is not to say that the costs are low, just that we disagree about the nature and size of the costs of inaction.

    The argument you just made was one of perceived costs, and I was certainly not suggesting that that approach is off the deep end by definition. The ‘aren’t you proud’ argument raymond makes falls in to the absurdly lacking in perspective category.

  10. The ‘aren’t you proud’ argument raymond makes…

    It wasn’t an argument. It was a cry of distress.

    And I tell you, Jason. I would not sacrifice ONE person I love to achieve “(t)he elimination of Saddam from the scene, the re-establishment of a credible military threat to middle eastern dictator, and the knowledge gained about Iraq’s actual WMD capabilities are”. Not a one.

  11. I’m with you raymond.
    Taking on Iraq was like looking for a lost quarter under the street light, when we know that quarter and much more money to be found in the dark. The US could have waited for sunrise or brought in search lights.
    It just didn’t make sense unless one believes in a pint of blood for a drop of oil.

  12. the re-establishment of a credible military threat to middle eastern dictator

    I realize that you cited other benefits as well, but I want to talk about this one: Didn’t we send a loud and clear message when we overthrew the Taliban? Yes, I know, they weren’t Middle Eastern, but they were Islamic fundamentalist tyrants in league with Islamic fundamentalist terrorists (many of whom were Arab).

    How much more of a credible threat do you need than invading Afghanistan and succeeding where the Soviets failed? And if that wasn’t enough to establish a credible threat, why is Iraq miraculously enough? Shouldn’t we go after Iran and Syria as well then?

    Oops, didn’t mean to give anybody ideas… ;->

  13. thoreau,
    Afghanistan was just not conducive to “Shock and Awe,” and Rummie was itchin’ to try that.

    What has Rummie got on order from Acme now?

  14. “How much more of a credible threat do you need than invading Afghanistan and succeeding where the Soviets failed? And if that wasn’t enough to establish a credible threat, why is Iraq miraculously enough? Shouldn’t we go after Iran and Syria as well then?”

    The distinction has to be made because Saddam is one man, sitting in the middle east, who flouted demands placed on him by the international community for over a decade and continued to do so up to the eve of the invasion. He was clearly not in fear for his own life, which is all that matters. He made a very rational decision based on the UN’s history of pathetic backing down at every instance of his brinksmanship. Note that Syria didn’t respond to Afghanistan, either.

    The idea is to go after the obvious one so you don’t have to go after the others. Deterrence means that you are averting conflicts. That said, if Iran persues an active nuclear program, we should go after them. A mullah centric nuclear Iran is simply not something we should accept if we want to keep nukes out of the hands of terrorists. There is a case to be made that Iran could have been done instead of Iraq, yes.

  15. “”(t)he elimination of Saddam from the scene, the re-establishment of a credible military threat to middle eastern dictator, and the knowledge gained about Iraq’s actual WMD capabilities are”. Not a one.”

    I understand completely, but I think your analysis of benefits is myopic. A terrorist armed with a nerve agent purchased from unaccounted for Iraqi stockpiles would have been a big cost. You are saying that not one life is worth eliminating that possibility.

  16. You are saying that not one life…

    I don’t do human sacrifice.

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