National Strategy for Tautology in Iraq


My first inclination was to let this facile bit of propaganda slide, figuring it couldn't really influence anyone. Then I read this reaction to George Bush's victory-in-Iraq speech in The Wall Street Journal:

Or as military analyst Andrew Krepinevich put it to us yesterday, whether Iraq was a "war of choice" or a "war of necessity" at the beginning, it certainly is the latter now. Our adversaries the world over—from North Korea to Syria's Bashar Assad to Iran's mullahs—are watching to see if America has the will to win in Iraq.

Well, fuck, that's kinda the whole ball of wax now isn't it? For Iraq to be a "victory" it must put the United States in a better strategic place than it was in at invasion -1. Yet we are still not talking about that. Unless the Bush Administration really wants to argue that the sole rationale for the Iraq war was to demonstrate to the various Middle East actors that the U.S. has the will to fight an open-ended, pointless war in order to demonstrate the U.S. was the will to fight an open-ended, pointless war in the Middle East. Stand back, people, we're crazy nuts.

Hell, maybe that is the entire strategic rationale, which would be one of the many breaks with the all-purpose Vietnam analogy that the current red jersey-blue jersey breakdown does not capture. On some level, fighting an ugly war of attrition in the jungles of Vietnam made clear to the Soviets that war-by-proxy would be opposed, not to mention it kept the U.S. focused on technological advances as the key to trump, and ultimately exhaust, Soviet worker-drone numerical advantages. Makes a ton of sense as long as you are not being drafted into the operation at the pointy end.

Yet the only way the Iraq adventure makes sense is if it somehow deters bad outcomes for the region and the terrorism it spawns. OK. Is Iran now more or less likely to pursue a nuclear future? Do the Saudis—and Muslims as a whole—like us more now that our bases are in Iraq and not in the Kingdom? Are we really killing more terrorists than we are creating?

Three years and countless Bush administration speeches and spins on, we still know next to nothing about what really constitutes victory in the current conflict. The proof? Iraq in 2015 is a functioning Jeffersonian democracy with several large U.S. military instillations. And Iran is a nuclear power with medium-range missiles. Is President Rice doing cartwheels? Me neither.

Iraq is at best a pretext, a stepping-stone, an object-lesson in progress. Victory is not an option.

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  1. Or as medical analyst Dr. Giggles put it to me yesterday, whether use of a tourniquet was a “medical choice” or a “medical necessity” before I took an axe and chopped off my own hand, it certainly is the latter now. The blood from all over my body — my head, my extremities, and my heart — is rapidly draining away, so let’s move past the tired debate over whether I really need to fasten this belt tightly around my upper arm.

  2. Ok, Tim. Let’s get on with it. But we have to debate what color belt to fasten around your upper arm.

    I’m inclined to argue that America, Fuck Yeah! chose the red belt last fall.

  3. “I took an axe and chopped off my own hand”

    DUDE!!! Are you crazy? Wha’d’ya do that for?!

  4. geez: That’s not very forward-thinking. Obviously, you’re just trying to score partisan political points for the anti-self-dismemberment crowd.

  5. When you come to the fork in the road, take it.
    I began to read the Wall St Journal reverently in 1968. In recent years, we hit the fork. The WSJ took one, and I the other.

    Thanks, Jeff Taylor.

  6. Tim Cavanaugh,
    Of the three posters separating us, it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere, eh? And I’m a fine one to talk.

  7. Jeff Taylor-

    Excellent post!

  8. Yeah, Jeff. That post was brilliant and laugh out loud funny. Your personalized squirrel-skin tote bag is on its way.

  9. The victories we wanted to achieve were all achieved on the way in and upon the capture of Saddam. My read is that when Bush said “mission accomplished” he really meant it in a certain way. What we are left with is the world’s most complex exit strategy. I have no doubt that most neo cons would prefer to be able to leave after reconstruction and democritization begins to have a cost higher than they’d like – but they know we can’t, so they are stuck in the role of limp cheerleaders.

  10. For the limp cheerleaders, victory is not an option.

  11. …But we have to debate what color belt to fasten around your upper arm.

    May I recommend Tim takes the yellow ribbon from around America’s collective eyes and uses that?

  12. You raise a good point, Jeff – when trying to figure out the right course of action, all you need to do is read the op-ed sections of the WSJ and the New York Times.

    If you can find some method that they both disagree with, you’re in the clear.

    It drives me crazy that a newspaper I enjoy reading so much seems to be written by shills.

  13. If I say, “A crazy, pointless war is a crazy, pointless war,” it is not a tautology.

    The second use has a typifying pregnancy, and is much narrower than the first, which could be pretty broad.

    The point of the thing is to say that the wider category of the first deserves the same sentiments as the narrow category of the second.

    But that may not be true.

    We may be willing to fight a crazy, pointless war to protect our interests, or to bring democracy (“when by any calculation there would be little return”).

    I make crazy, pointless turns in novice dog training and the dog winds up attentive to turns. “Crazy, pointless turns are crazy, pointless turns” dismisses the possibility.

  14. We won’t bleed to death if we withdraw now. That is just yellow journalism.

  15. facile bit of propaganda

    utterly. i was simultaneously amused and aghast reading it. how can anyone think that blather comprots with reality?

    Stand back, people, we’re crazy nuts.

    huzzah! i agree completely — this is what hubris looks like. now, when do we start coming back to sanity?

    after the fall.

    Victory is not an option.

    exactly. koros — hybris — ate. this is a very old story.

  16. poardon me — “comports”, of course. 🙂

  17. What we are left with is the world’s most complex exit strategy

    you say that, mr ligon, as though the denouement isn’t part of the drama.

    rumsfeld would agree with you, methinks — but if you find yourself in his company, you’ve obviously entered the wrong telephone booth.

  18. “you say that, mr ligon, as though the denouement isn’t part of the drama.”

    I’m perfectly aware that it is. From the neocon perspective, there were a couple of things that needed to be done, even at high cost, and those were done on the way in. The choices then are leave immediately or try to rebuild. Leave immediately has some problems as a concept, so we try to rebuild. The limp cheerleader phenomenon is having felt like you’ve already done what you needed to do, and you just need a way out. All I’m getting at here is that many war supporters never saw the rebuilding piece as a key strategic objective, so the objective now looks like “Okay, how soon can we leave so that this whole thing doesn’t end in a chaos similar to what we’d have had if we’d just invaded and left immediately?”

    The good news there is that with very few exceptions, perhaps including Bush himself, most people are ready to go – we just need to agree on what stability means.

  19. “Stand back, people, we’re crazy nuts.”

    Heh. Twenty years ago, we called that “Mutual Assured Destruction.”

  20. exit stratagy from Iraq?!?!

    Hell I am still waiting for the exit stratagy from Europe.

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