Hillary Clinton

When We Gonna Get Out of Iraq?

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Last Friday, the House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution calling Iraq a (the?) central front in the War on Terror and saying no to any "abritrary date" for pulling troops out. The Dem leadership in the lower chamber has been calling for an announced timetable to get out.

This week, the Senate will take up the same issue, and the wrangling started up on the Sunday yak shows. As CNN reports, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is pushing to set dates for troop withdrawals:

"A timetable, some goals, some discussion with the Congress by the administration. The president might not have wanted to have done that early on, but three years and three months and a bogging down, I think, suggests that the time has come for some discussion as to where we go from here."

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) responded thusly:

"When you're seeing the Iraqis starting to step away from fear and starting to really cooperate like they have, when you see a new president really setting priorities on the electrical grid and water and better life for the people of Baghdad, and when you see progress, at least to some extent, I don't think now is the time to set a timetable."

The real rub: Support for the Iraq war is at 38 percent, with 54 percent of Americans opposing it, according to a recent CNN poll. There's an even 47 percent-47 percent split on whether troops should be home within a year.

More here.

Elsewhere, the Wall Street Journal opines that Iraq is not in any way, shape, or form like Vietnam, except that homegrown subversives are intent in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory:

Iraq is different from Vietnam in many ways, but its main similarity is that any defeat won't be inflicted on the battlefield. The U.S. won big military victories at least twice in Vietnam, in the 1968 Tet offensive and the 1972 bombing campaign, only to squander them because of defeatism in Washington. The U.S. has sacrificed too much already in Iraq to withdraw just when victory once again looks possible.

Go here to read the Journalites agree with Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) that withdrawal (or "retreat") is not "a smart strategy."

In March, around the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Reason asked libertarian-leaning folks what we should do now. Those answers are here.

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  1. seriously people, i won’t be back till next week and i usually read reason every day. that creepy closeup of the blonde there is gonna give me nightmares. the ads aren’t supposed to run folks off you know…

  2. around the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Reason asked libertarian-leaning folks what we should do now.

    Right, I remember. And Glenn Reynolds gave the most brilliant, deeply analytical and realistic tactical advice ever set forth about a military matter:

    Reason: 3. What should the U.S. do in Iraq now?

    Reynolds: Win.

  3. “When We Gonna Get Out of Iraq?”

    Ahhh, when the oil is all pumped out? Just say duuuh, corporatarians. 7 US military bases in Iraq now.

    Defending the rights of multinational corporate citizens, the supreme mission of the US military.

  4. OK, so no arbitrary date. How about a carefully chosen and realistic date for withdrawal? Would that be too much to ask for?

  5. This makes me remember why I moved to Canada. I’d rather die waiting in a cancerline than support this deeply sinful public-private partnership called The Iraq War.

  6. It would be nice if the Democrats had the stones to simply unify and say that the Iraq War has been a complete fiasco, there is absolutely no benefit to our soldiers remaining there, and that the withdrawals need to begin immmediately. What they are instead doing is pure political posturing, because they know that calling for a withdrawal date will never fly, but calling for a date to be named relieves them of the burden of being seen as against the war (only against the way it was prosecuted).

  7. jf-

    Honestly, the basic problem facing the Democrats is that they voted for the war before they voted against it. It’s trite, but it’s true.

  8. basic problem facing the Democrats

    also the problem for many, many ppl who call themselves libertarians. They didn’t vote for the war in Congress, but there is a lot less humble pie eating than there should be over this taxpayer funded adventure.

    I t would help if more members of the public could come to admit they were stoopid personally on an individual basis. Then it would be easier for Hillary to feel that kind of pain.

  9. The truth is that we are never going to get out of Iraq. You dont invest in an over $1.5 Billion embassy complex ? 21 buildings on 104 acres, if you plan to leave.

    It will be the biggest embassy IN THE WORLD.

  10. I’d consider taking the Wall Street Journal’s argument “The U.S. has sacrificed too much already in Iraq to withdraw just when victory once again looks possible” seriously if they hadn’t assured me that we’re just about to win, if only you believe, a couple dozen times over the past three years.

    thoreau, Tinkerbell only died because you wouldn’t clap hard enough.

  11. thoreau, stop repeating the lie.

    “Honestly, the basic problem facing the Democrats is that they voted for the war before they voted against it. It’s trite, but it’s true.”

    Over half of the Democrats in Congress voted against the AUMF. In 2003, with the political culture the way it was and the wholly-dishonest full court press for war being waged by the White House, Congressional Republicans, and both the mainstream media and Right wing media machines, more than half the Democrats in Congress still managed to answer the question correctly.

    And, IIRC, zero Republicans.

  12. “The truth is that we are never going to get out of Iraq. You dont invest in an over $1.5 Billion embassy complex ? 21 buildings on 104 acres, if you plan to leave.

    It will be the biggest embassy IN THE WORLD.”

    This is the sort of positive encouraging news that those treacherous bastards at the Mainstream Media don’t want you to hear.

    ——

    “… the Wall Street Journal’s argument “The U.S. has sacrificed too much already in Iraq to withdraw just when victory once again looks possible”….”

    So the Wall Street Journal would tell us, “If we had only kept buying Enron stock, everything would have worked out fine?”

  13. Republican politicians and their faithful press have treated this war as campaign fodder from Day 1 – hell, from Day 1 minus 100 – using the prospect of war as an excuse to rip the country in half in the hopes of ending up the the slightly bigger half.

    And now they have the nerve to complain that there is domestic dissent from the war? They guaranteed domestic dissent – they went out of their way to create domestic dissent – throughout the 2002 and 2004 political seasons. And now the complete lack of a united home front during wartime might prove bad for the troops in the field, and bad for our national security as a whole?

    You don’t say.

  14. I don’t know if it makes any difference to the States but the tide does seem to be turning in the UK, where the govenment is hinting that there will be a withdrawal date set/proposed/mooted and that soldiers could start leaving in the next few months.

    The UK leaving might give the US government a chance to dress up the idea that ‘we’re winning’ and start to pull out. The UK won’t loose face as we’re supplying a far smaller share of the troops and we’re not such a military presence but the US could scale down, seemingly following our lead, without looking like they’re just cutting and running.

    Of course, the fact that the US and UK soldiers are in distinctly different areas might make that difficult but it could certainly offer a chance for the US to reduce the military there.

    Also, the States ruled against Italy. Good Job.

  15. If you check T.’s old threads, you will find his opposition to this government adventure nothing short of unimpressive.

    At this point, he is making excuses for being a such a pseudoliber when it mattered.

  16. that we’re just about to win

    Too bad no-one can define “win” in any sort of concretely objective fashion. Which is the biggest reason for setting an “arbitrary” date, because it is a hell of a lot more concrete than an arbitrary goal.

  17. John M.,

    Thank you. I stand corrected.

  18. rip the country in half in the hopes of ending up the the slightly bigger half

    The Wishbone Strategy — what a great image. Is that original with you? Hell, I don’t care, I’m stealing it anyway.

  19. I’ve believed all along that the Republicans will keep pushing this “no pullout, we have to win” thing until it’s politically expedient for them, without (as MP notes) actually defining what it would mean to “win”, until they believe it’s no longer a political winner. Then they’ll define whatever the status quo happens to be at that point as “victory”, wrap themselves in the flag, and begin the pullout. Their true goal is to win elections, not to win the war. (If I could bring up the “why libertarians should support the Democrats if you’re supporting a major party” thing again: would a President Gore have invaded Iraq in the first place?)

  20. Right, I remember. And Glenn Reynolds gave the most brilliant, deeply analytical and realistic tactical advice ever set forth about a military matter:

    Reason: 3. What should the U.S. do in Iraq now?

    Reynolds: Win.

    Mona,
    Were you being sarcastic? Because I found that to be one of the more banal responses. It’s the equivalent of a coach telling a sideline interviewer what the team needs to do to win and the coach responds, “Score more points than the other team.”

  21. “would a President Gore have invaded Iraq in the first place?”

    Not as likely, but still possible, given that Joe Lieberman would have effectively done the exact same thing as Cheney, and possibly even more effectively.

  22. Mo asks: Mona,
    Were you being sarcastic? Because I found that to be one of the more banal responses.

    Ummmm. I would say I was being contemptuous.

  23. Not as likely, but still possible, given that Joe Lieberman would have effectively done the exact same thing as Cheney, and possibly even more effectively.

    Perhaps. But still, I imagineGore would never have been so unilateral in his approach. The UN (for what it’s worth) would likely have been more involved which would have made it far, far easier to walk away.

  24. SR,

    I doubt Gore would have had as much trouble seeing through Lieberman as Bush has had seeing through Cheney.

  25. Mark,

    “The UN (for what it’s worth) would likely have been more involved which would have made it far, far easier to walk away.”

    Also, deeper and broader support both internationally and among the American people would have reduced the capacity of the enemy to win the political war, which war supporters assure us is the only threat we face in Iraq.

    Milosevic and his Russian allies tried to win the political warm too, during Kosovo. It didn’t work.

  26. Not as likely, but still possible, given that Joe Lieberman would have effectively done the exact same thing as Cheney, and possibly even more effectively.

    I’m still skeptical that Gore would’ve had the stones to launch a full scale invasion of Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban. Anyhow, this speculation is just a lot of pissing in the wind.

  27. Doctor Duck,

    The thing about the wishbone strategy is, when was the last time you heard a war supporter denounce it? These people who are so terrified of domestic dissent, of a lack of unity when our troops are in the field – can anyone think of an example of one of them chiding Dick Cheney or Andrew Sullivan or any other prominent pro-war voice for purposely adopting a strategy of using war and terrorism as wedge issues?

    Sure, they often talk about the need to be united in Supporting the Troops, but in terms of war opponents denouncing their position and coming over to the other side. But that’s having your cake and eating it too. The real test of the seriousness of someone’s political commitment is what they are willing to give up that they value, in order to achieve a higher priority.

    George Bush would even allow DHS personnel (like the people who run FEMA, for example) to have civil service protections instead of being political appointees, in the name of achieving national unity on the issue of homeland defense. In fact, he eagerlly ginned up that argument, and accused Democrats of “not caring about the security of the American people.” And the WSJ editorial page, which consists of people looking aghast at the fact that there is domestic opposition to the president on war issues, eagerly joined in the campaign.

  28. Why don’t the insurgents defeat the U.S. by simply deciding to take a six month holiday? The U.S. public would see the end to violence and demand the troops come home. How could Bush refuse? Once the U.S. is gone, the insurgents start up again with sectarian violence, etc. having rested and refitted against a now-complacent Iraq government. But, no, the insurgents keep killing and bombing and giving
    Bush and Co. excuses to stay in Iraq.

  29. Creech, “How could Bush refuse?”

    The latest line is that the troops we have in Iraq – the one’s who are the only thing preventing the country from collapsing into a terroristy bloodbath, and can’t be withdrawn under any circumstances – need to be in Iraq so they can mount up and invade Iran on a moment’s notice, just in case.

  30. The US pullout from VN was ugly and painful, but who here wishes the pullout had been later rather than sooner?

  31. I will admit to having supported Iraq at the outset, and (somebody is going to jump down my throat and call me a chickenhawk in 3…2…1…) still think that it wasn’t an awful idea at the time. HOWEVER, it was sold wrongly, executed badly, and shows less progress than I’d really like. Granted, three years isn’t that long, 2500 isn’t that many troops (in perspective, okay, not that every death isn’t a terrible thing, but so far as active shooting wars go with the number of troops we have in the field that’s a low percentage)…but we’re basically fighting a bunch of untrained hooligans with old soviet guns. We should be able to defeat them militarily in that kind of time span with 150,000 troops.

    Not that these untrained hooligans aren’t smart, they are, which is how they garner (to a lesser or greater degree) popular support among some locals. I think joe’s earlier comment about a broader base, or at least the appearance of a broader base, of international support was pretty accurate. It’s not that we don’t have superior military ability to the insurgents/terrorists/hooligans, but you need more than that to achieve the ends we’re ostensibly trying to achieve.

    Hindsight is 20/20, of course, YMMV.

  32. Any person reading this thread will quickly realize why the Lib party doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being taken seriously.

    you folks are pathetic

  33. How Iraq is like Vietnam.

    It’s expensive and a lot of people get killed.

  34. I, of course, have no policy proposals on where we go from here or which bad option presents the least awful long-run consequences for the people of Iraq.

    Ruthless: But, look at what happened to SE Asia and Vietnam after we pulled out. I can’t really say that the Communist regimes that sprung up in the region were a super awesome deal for their people.

  35. John,
    Did you have a point?

  36. Well, hello fellow social liberals!

    “Perhaps. But still, I imagineGore would never have been so unilateral in his approach. The UN (for what it’s worth) would likely have been more involved which would have made it far, far easier to walk away.”

    Aggression between countries is clearly not enough, heck, let’s get the world government involved in warfare! I mean, seriously, can you be a libertarian and support the right of the UN to be involved in war-making? I’m not even asking if you can be a libertarian and support the very existence of the UN. We can’t even control our own federal government for heaven’s sake!

    “Milosevic and his Russian allies tried to win the political warm too, during Kosovo. It didn’t work.”

    Apparently, Clinton’s war-mongering based on deceit is perfectly fine, because.. er.. well, because he’s a Democrat! Yippee!

    And Bush’s war-mongering based on lies is an abomination because he’s an evil, evil Republican! Boo!

    The Kosovo war was as idiotic, illegal and damaging to the US as the current war in Iraq. Period.

    “I’m still skeptical that Gore would’ve had the stones to launch a full scale invasion of Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban. Anyhow, this speculation is just a lot of pissing in the wind.”

    Yep, this is just speculation. But knowing the record of both Lieberman and of the Clinton administration I don’t see ANY reasons not to assume that Gore would’ve created just as big a mess as Bush out of the situation. He would’ve gotten the UN more involved, perhaps. Which in my book equates to a far, far more damaging mess.

  37. which bad option presents the least awful long-run consequences for the people of Iraq.

    Given this radical uncertainty, I propose we shift focus to consideration of which bad option presents the least awful long-run consequences for the taxpayers of the United States of America.

  38. I mean, seriously, can you be a libertarian and support the right of the UN to be involved in war-making?

    I see no reason why not. As long as you recognize the UN as a diplomatic body between nations which has no genuine authority over the US.

  39. Are there any active LP members here?

  40. The Kosovo war was as idiotic, illegal and damaging to the US as the current war in Iraq. Period.

    I can see the illegal part, but how was it as damaging?

  41. I can see the illegal part, but how was it as damaging?

    1. Our relations with China and Russia suffered immensely as a result of this war. Perhaps permanently with Russia.

    2. Germany may have violated its Constitution, which is pacifist to the core, in order to wage the war on Serbia as part of the NATO coalition. I don’t like seeing European countries, particularly Germany, becoming militant again.

    3. We attacked a country with a stable government on the accusation that crimes were being committed within its borders. The transformation of the US from a sovereign, politically self-sufficient nation to the world’s cop on the beat was complete. A country cannot get more interventionist than that.

  42. Aggression between countries is clearly not enough, heck, let’s get the world government involved in warfare! I mean, seriously, can you be a libertarian and support the right of the UN to be involved in war-making?

    I think you vastly over-estimate the UN. They couldn’t wage a tea party, let alone a war.

    And I was just pointing out that if the UN were involved then it would have been easier to pull out; which last time I checked was what this thread was about.

  43. uncle sam,

    I’m a member in good standing, although not active in the LP itself.

    John,

    sticks and stones… It’s a shame how in that one comment you can take all of the goodwill you’ve built up by engaging in reasonable debate (for the most part) from the “pro” side and chuck it in the toilet like a used wad of tissue paper.

  44. Our relations with China and Russia suffered immensely as a result of this war.

    Oh, cry me a river! Well seriously, I can see this isn’t a good thing, but I’m rather skeptical that it’s that big a deal. It’s especially surprising coming from someone who seems to dismiss the value of bilateralism.

    Perhaps permanently with Russia.

    Nothing is permanent in foreign relations.

    I don’t like seeing European countries, particularly Germany, becoming militant again.

    Who cares what you like? 🙂 Seems like a minor issue to me.

    The transformation of the US from a sovereign, politically self-sufficient nation to the world’s cop on the beat was complete.

    Oh, why is it now complete? Seems like you’re doing what you accused joe of doing, being hypocritical based on whose war it is. Again, precedent is overrated and can be reversed at any time. But regardless, meddling in others’ affairs has been going on for quite some time.

    A country cannot get more interventionist than that.

    Again, I was asking about actual harm as compared to the current travesty, not legitimacy. And I still don’t see it.

  45. We should be able to defeat them militarily in that kind of time span with 150,000 troops.

    We essentially have. It’s just that winning militarily counts for nothing in this kind of war. We won Vietnam, militarily. The British won the Revolutionary War, militarily. But so what? It’s a Pyrrhic victory at best.

    The insurgents are smart, and following the recipe for winning a war against a major power: fight until your opponent is exhausted. There are a few other ingredients, but that’s the main one. So now we’re exhausted, and why shouldn’t we be? We go in and fight a war that has nothing to do with our national security, pay billions of dollars to little effect, and have our friends, neighbors, and families get called up to serve thousands of miles away in a war that has nothing to do with defense of our homeland. Our will to fight in Iraq is practically extinct. So we’ve won every battle, but are losing the war. As could be predicted with any bare knowledge of history.

  46. John just needs to click his heels together three times and repeat, “There’s no place like victory.”

    – Josh

  47. “The Kosovo war was as idiotic, illegal and damaging to the US as the current war in Iraq. Period.”

    2500 dead, 0 dead. Stronger political and military ties with our allies, weakened political and military ties with our allies…yep, pretty much the same.

    Good to know I don’t have to take you seriously.

  48. I like this quote:

    “He would’ve gotten the UN more involved, perhaps. Which in my book equates to a far, far more damaging mess.”

    You don’t need to look at the casualties. You don’t need to look at the dollar cost. You don’t need to look at the second- and third-order effects on geopolitics. You don’t actually need to consider outcomes at all.

    Teh UN is teh suck, and that’s all you need to consider.

    And people wonder why Iraq doves have taken to the term “reality-based community.”

  49. Why would we want to get out of Iraq? Everything’s going according to plan.

  50. Well seriously, I can see this isn’t a good thing, but I’m rather skeptical that it’s that big a deal.

    Is the Iraq war that big a deal internationally? Probably not, according to your logic. I mean, I understand perfectly well that the internal cost of the Iraq war is huge, in terms of our liberties, our lives, and our money.

    But internationally, what is the difference between NATO members ganging up to beat up Serbia and “the Coalition of the Willing” beating up Iraq?

    Both cost us plenty in terms of international good-will. And that’s what I brought up: sure the trade relations will go on, and political communication will not stop because of those two acts. But being actively disliked in the world does have its costs. It’s what corporations refer to as ‘non-tangible value’.

    But regardless, meddling in others’ affairs has been going on for quite some time.

    Not with such shamelessness and self-righteous zeal. This was, I think, the first instance we attacked a nation with a stable government. The invasion of Grenada was provoked by a Communist takeover and the execution of the Prime Minister of that country. We actually HELPED the governments of S. Vietnam and S. Korea.

    Shameless and unjustified meddling, all of that, but at least with lip service given to national sovereignty.

    Perhaps the last milestone on the road from a non-interventionist republic to an authoritarian cop-on-the-beat is a minor thing to you. But to me, it was huge.

    Even Bush at first tried to justify the Iraq war by accusing Saddam Hussein of involvement in 9/11 – i.e. we attacked him because he attacked us. Of course, he dropped that in favor of the Trotskyite zealotry of his neocon advisors.. but I don’t view the neocons as anything more than Democrats who dislike affirmative action (kids going to college soon, I assume).

  51. I understand perfectly well that the internal cost of the Iraq war is huge, in terms of our liberties, our lives, and our money.

    Yet you ignore all that when you say that “Kosovo” was every bit as damaging.

    But internationally, what is the difference between NATO members ganging up to beat up Serbia and “the Coalition of the Willing” beating up Iraq?

    The latter angered a group that is a much greater danger to us and much less likely to put their differences aside based on new realities, such as Viet Nam has done. Furthermore, the extremely messy results are likely to continue rubbing salt in that wound, while the reasonably satisfactory results in Kosovo likely mitigates that effect there. While I don’t doubt there’s some wounded pride over Kosovo, it’s hard for me to see nearly as much good-will destruction over it throughout the world as with Iraq.

    This was, I think, the first instance we attacked a nation with a stable government.

    I’ll grant you Grenada, but how about Panama? A corrupt government, but surely stable.

    We actually HELPED the governments of S. Vietnam and S. Korea.

    Um, we didn’t attack those countries but rather their northern counterparts, whom I believe had perfectly stable governments.

    at least with lip service given to national sovereignty.

    The attack on Serbia over Kosovo used as justification both a treaty on genocide that ostensibly compelled nations to act plus the claim that the problems in Kosovo would spill over into the rest of Europe thus threatening our vital interests and pulling us in eventually. I’m actually not one to claim Bush ever directly tied Saddam to 9/11; I don’t think he actually did, even if he was mum on the matter while others did. He did claim that Saddam would threaten our sovereignty eventually. But this is not necessarily so different from some of the rationale used for Kosovo, even though you apparently only see the aspects of each that justify your own position.

    Perhaps the last milestone on the road from a non-interventionist republic to an authoritarian cop-on-the-beat is a minor thing to you.

    Now you’re just twisting what I’m saying. I don’t think it’s any “last milestone.” I think it was just more of the same.

  52. Reason: 3. What should the U.S. do in Iraq now?

    Reynolds: Win.

    And just what would this victory look like? Perhaps the installation of a US-government friendly regime like the thug regimes in Egypt and Jordan that our government currently supports with our tax money? Is this what Americans are dying for? Is this what we’re spending billions on? Pulling out now will stop the needless waste of life and money.

  53. Excellent post, grylliade.

  54. The US pullout from VN was ugly and painful, but who here wishes the pullout had been later rather than sooner?

    Ruthless, this is probably the finest post that you have ever made on Hit and Run.

    That deserves being praised on grylliade.org, in the “Quotable Quotes” thread.

  55. Dave W.,

    Atheists don’t believe in sin. :^)

  56. Ruthless,

    The US pullout from VN was ugly and painful, but who here wishes the pullout had been later rather than sooner?

    There’s really no simple answer to that question. Just like there is no simple answer to Iraq.

    joe,

    I’d consider taking the Wall Street Journal’s argument “The U.S. has sacrificed too much already in Iraq to withdraw just when victory once again looks possible” seriously if they hadn’t assured me that we’re just about to win, if only you believe, a couple dozen times over the past three years.

    What do you think of Lincoln’s statements to the same effect (re: the Civil War) during 1862 and 1863 (during periods when the war seemed lost for the Union at certain points)?

    grylliade,

    Whatever the merits of your argument, this statement is completely wrong:

    The British won the Revolutionary War, militarily.

    Yeah, that explains the set-piece siege at Yorktown or de Grasse’s efforts in the Cheasapeake against Admiral Thomas Graves – which the British lost to a combined Franco-American force using traditional military tactics, etc. Neither the guerilla warfare in Carolinas or Vermont won the war; a clash of traditional militaries did.

    ____________________________________

    I find this entire conversation to be rather depressing.

  57. grylliade,

    And that clash was won by a combined Franco-American force.

  58. Honor thy sunk costs!

    Whenever someone says, “We’ve sacrificed too much already…” as though that were in itself a reason to sacrifice more, you know then and there that you’re talking to a moron.

    We’ve invested too much money in Enron to stop investing now!

    Pathetic. I would have thought the WSJ would have enough economists hanging around to laugh anyone using sunk cost arguments out of the house.

  59. We should have never invaded for both principled and realistic reasons. It’s wrong to invade and kill thousands of innocent civilians (so far all the quotes have been about *our* casualities and only how the invasion affects U.S. interests – not too much mention of how it affects the people of Iraq) in horrible ways as well as our own soldiers, when the real world options make that an effort in vain. The realism/pragmatic school should have better informed people in the Bush Administration of the culture,history, and ethnic/religious issues in the Middle East in general and in Iraq in particular. But was there anyone in the Bush administration who knew anything at all of the region? Any experts in Middle Eastern Affairs/Relgion, etc. It all looked terribly ad hoc to me (beyond the military invasion itself).

    Then we continue to go toasting liberal democracy – in a place that doesn’t really want it. Wait, no, they want the democracy part so that they can vote in their own medeivalist beliefs and vote out the beliefs of others, just not the liberal part where the beliefs of others are respected. So, most likely in a few years, what we’ll get is a theocracy (it’s already mentioned first thing in their constitution that it’s an Islamic Nation and all law is in reference to the laws of Islam), which could be far worse that what we had in Iraq before the invasion.

    But since we’re already there and screwed things up so badly it behooves us to be as responsible as possible. I’m not sure what that route is. But it seems like the phased withdrawal idea is sensible – over a period of no more than 18 months, without alerting the actual time line to the public so as not to encourage the insurgency anymore than it has to be. After 18 months, at the most, we should be completely gone, as to not encourage anymore recruitment of jihadists to their cause. Would helping Iraq break up into 3 or more regions be a good idea? (Personally, I think it would be a good idea for the U.S. to break up into about 12 regions). Probably, but I wonder how that would be accomplished.

  60. midbrow,

    Would helping Iraq break up into 3 or more regions be a good idea? ….Probably, but I wonder how that would be accomplished.

    It’s a good thing you never tried to conquer anything. You’d need some lessons in real world politics first.

    The divide and conquer tactic could work marvelously well in Iraq. You start with the sectarian lines the Iraqis already like to draw themselves. Make them states within a confederation. Then, within those very states, you draw yourself a few more boundaries.

    Within each separate state you create a bunch of hills, roughly the same size, and then you find a bunch of little macho men to be barons over them. It’s a merit thing, to be a baron you have to get results: law and order, peace, justice, resumption of the local economy, etc. Those who fail you fire and replace, until you find the talent you’re looking for. It’s something you have to search for.

    Of course, you also set the barons against each other. But none of them is strong enough to wamp the others out of existence. Vola!!! You have made a large step towards creating the pre-conditions necessary for a liberal republic.

    Our freedoms are (or were) a consequence of nobody really having enough power to really dominate anybody else.

    Another thing that comes out of this scenerio I’ve painted is, that the little barons get hands-on experience at being political leaders. From their ranks you can later start drafting national caliber leaders….

    This is something that CEOs do every day as part of their jobs, to control the fiefdoms that grow inside corporations. I’m really disappointed that Rumsfield hasn’t used the tactics in Iraq that should have come naturally to him. By now, three years in, he should have made some admirable progress towards growing some decent caliber leaders.

    It isn’t so hard to pull this scene off, if you’re the one who’s handing out the money. The King of the Hill barons will be motivated to achieve quality in their governments because, after all, it’s their hill. Like I said, those who don’t perform you fire. But the rules have to be clear and you have to enforce them consistently: perform, and you’ll keep your job.

    Of course, there will be blood spilled in the process. And there is no garuntee (never can be) that the end outcome will be liberal, democratic, or anything similar.

    What this will do, however, is raise up the kind of leadership required to rule a nation, which Iraq clearly lacks (because Saddam has spent the last 20 years chasing such people down and killing them).

    The fact that the US public would never go for anything like this, was one of my chief reasons for saying we shouldn’t invade Iraq. The other was, if you have to invade an ME country, why is Iraq the top choice?

    But nobody listens to me, because we Mongols haven’t conquered anyone in the last several centuries.

  61. btw, in case it isn’t clear, the baronial war thing accomplishes many laudable goals if you’re in the nation-building business — as GWB has put us in like it or not.

    To begin with, people do not give their loyalty to a disembodied “government” from the get-go. They give their loyalty to individual leaders. What we’re trying to develop here are leaders who can a) command loyalty, b) show some evidence of a sense of justice, and c) show evidence that they are able to create and manage institutions to carry out justice.

    This gives lots of people crucial experience, including the common people who get to learn to obey simple law and order again.

    That’s the first big goal.

    The second is the matter of finding these leaders to begin with. It is often true that the people who would make the best leaders, are not the ones who initially step up to the plate and say “I want the job, I’ll do it”. [How many of you here would really want to be POTUS? And I think not many of you are happy with the candidate choices we’re given to vote for here in the US.]

    Every nation, ours included, faces the problem of getting the right people into the key high level positions. The second thing my baronial wars would accomplish, is a sifting through whatever intelligensia may exist in Iraq, to find these leaders and try to get them where they’re needed.

    We did a really crappy job of this in SVN. As far as I can tell, we’re doing a really crappy job of it in Iraq.

    This is precisely how the war is lost politically — failure to impose justice, law & order.

  62. John

    Any person reading this thread will quickly realize why the Lib party doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being taken seriously.

    I agree with you, though it’s not the road to win friends and influence people around here. 🙂

    David W

    I propose we shift focus to consideration of which bad option presents the least awful long-run consequences for the taxpayers of the United States of America.

    I’ve proposed this same thing around here before and been stoned for it.

    I’d argue that invading Iraq may have been stupid, but now we’ve got a vested interest in seeing a stable, non-terrorist supporting government set up in Iraq. Reason: Iraq contains the world’s second largest oil supply, and I’d hate to see that money used to support terrorism (remind me why we didn’t invade Egypt instead of Iraq, if invading really had to be done).

    My criteria would be as simple as I’ve laid out above. I want to see something stable, which can only occur if there is a reasonable measure of justice coming out of said Iraqi government. This Iraqi government must also oppose terrorism.

    I think that with this as the criteria, we likely wouldn’t need as many troops on the ground as we’ve got. What we’d need more is a shrewd CEO type to stir the pot and look for the gems (the future leaders).

    I have no faith that the US will ever do anything politically intelligent in Iraq, because we’ve never really understood what we did in wrong in Vietnam.

    [PS: the issue of whether we should have been in either place really is an entirely separate matter by now. We’re IN IRAQ, and it DOES HAVE the world’s second largest supply of oil.]

  63. “It’s a good thing you never tried to conquer anything. You’d need some lessons in real world politics first.”

    You mean, playing endless games of Risk doesn’t count?

    Your own board game scenario is interesting though. Try and sell it to Parker Brothers. No, but seriously, I did find it interesting and illuminating. I’d like to see more serious discussion of what you’ve presented here. However, the American people would probably not support it as it would take years, maybe decades, to establish, trillions of dollars, many more U.S. casualties, and the logistical problem of moving thousands of people to regions hospitable to their beliefs. One missing ingredient in your scenario is that in an Islamic nation, with various sectarian and ethnic feuds going back centuries, what we would be likely to end up with is numerous mini-theocracies.

  64. “Any person reading this thread will quickly realize why the Lib party doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being taken seriously.”

    “I agree with you, though it’s not the road to win friends and influence people around here. :)”

    Okay, but why assume we’re all members of the Libertarian Party? I’d reckon many of us aren’t.

    Two things crop up on this thread, our casualities in Iraq and what the invasion means to U.S. interests. Those are important points but what seems to not get as much air time is how many Iraqi people have been killed or maimed or how the invasion affects their interests – maybe it’s mentioned but de-emphasized in comparison to U.S. casualties and interests.

  65. You mean, playing endless games of Risk doesn’t count?

    I played a lot more Stratego as a kid, my brother was always too damned lucky with the dice when we played Risk.

    the American people would probably not support it as it would take years, maybe decades, to establish, trillions of dollars, many more U.S. casualties,

    It probably would take many years. It might not be so bad financially, especially if part of your merit system rewarded barons who got the oil flowing again. You use Iraq’s money to pay for as much as possible.

    The shrewd CEO type also has to be economically frugal. How low ball a job offer can I make, to draft the talent I need? You don’t give your barons a dime you get away with.

    One missing ingredient in your scenario is that in an Islamic nation, with various sectarian and ethnic feuds going back centuries, what we would be likely to end up with is numerous mini-theocracies.

    Hmm. A distinct possibility. Though, you have a good size stick to motivate them with: oil. If they can at least work together well enough to make it flow, then they’ve got revenue streams. The CEO never pays them much above subsistence wages.

    It might fail anyway though, and it could end up costing an ungodly fortune in spite of our best efforts.

    But I’d still bet on this board game over whatever the hell they’re doing right now.

  66. what seems to not get as much air time is how many Iraqi people have been killed or maimed or how the invasion affects their interests

    Excellent point. Which is why justice is a large part of my measure of worthiness for the barons. If you don’t treat the people of Iraq half-decently, you’ll never see a stable government.

    Almost nobody state-side seems to have this fact clearly fixed as part of their views.

    why assume we’re all members of the Libertarian Party?

    Another good point. But most of us ’round here are probably at least disillusioned with the Dems and Reps.

  67. Philly,

    “What do you think of Lincoln’s statements to the same effect (re: the Civil War) during 1862 and 1863 (during periods when the war seemed lost for the Union at certain points)?”

    There is a qualitative difference – Lincoln repeatedly expressed confidence in our eventual victory, even in the face of setbacks. Iraq War supporters point at the setbacks and comes up with excuses why they are examples of us winning. Freedom is messy! Flypaper! Damn Sunnis brought it on themselves! Lincoln, otoh, didn’t crow about early Union defeats demonstrating the efficacy of our strategy to cause the South to run out of ammunition.

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