Give Us 25,000 More Troops and a Unicorn and We Can Win This Thing!

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Over at Cato@Liberty, Justin Logan ably demolishes the calls to "give the neocons a mulligan" and send more troops to Iraq. (An idea that's, depressingly, gathering momentum with the people who rule us.) Logan's focus is on Frederick Kagan's plan, which since it's packaged as the work of a "former West Point military historian" is accepted as something other than warmed-over manure.

This surge of roughly 25,000 additional troops, at this stage in the conflict, is unlikely to even suppress the violence significantly in Baghdad. Kaganites like to point to U.S. operations in Tal Afar as an analog. In that instance, a population of (a guesstimated) 150,000 Iraqis was pacified by 3,800 U.S. soldiers, with Iraqi forces in tow. Kagan protests, in response to those who say the forces don't exist to replicate this strategy in the rest of Iraq or even Baghdad, that their opposition "rests on vague extrapolations of force ratios in Tal Afar to the entire population of Iraq or of Baghdad."

But our extrapolations aren't vague at all–they're based on all the counterinsurgency literature out there. Kagan's plan doesn't use the normal metrics for stability ops–he changes them completely. He uses studies that are based on total population, but then decides, without much explanation, that only using the Sunni population for calculation is appropriate in this instance, since "it would be unnecessary and unwise to send coalition forces into Kurdistan or most of the Shiite lands."

As Matthew Yglesias once put it, responding to a different thought-bomb from Kagan fellow-traveller Rick Santorum:

Seriously, these people are morons.

You can check out Logan's foreign policy writing for Reason here.

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  1. I think they are both wrong. The counter insurgency literature is bunk. The problem is that the more people you put into an area, the longer the logistical tail, the more targets there are, the higher the casualties the more bad press. BAck in the days when you didn’t conduct war on CNN maybe the big force ratios made sense. In this day and age, you can’t fight like that anymore or at least the U.S. can’t. Flooding the country with troops will just produce more casualties and more propeganda for the enemy. The only answer is to conintue to slowly scale back the U.S. presence and slowly turn the dirty work over to the Iraqis. No amount of troop flooding is going to stablize Iraq.

  2. Has anyone specified the source of these new troops? Will we be emptying the barracks in South Korea and Okinawa to make this renewed offensive?

    How long will it take to whip Rangel’s inductees into shape?

  3. How long will it take to whip Rangel’s inductees into shape?

    A forced march from Canada to Camp Pendleton should toughen them up.

    Why Canada? Well, where else will you find healthy young males with US citizenship if we enact a draft?

  4. C’mon, when has Fredrick Kagan ever been wrong about military strategy in Iraq?

    Oh. Right.

  5. To this topic, I say, “Amen,” and “Finally,” and look forward to reading the comments, and maybe adding one of my own.

  6. I’m love strategies based on statistics and arbitrary dismissals of inconvenient facts.

  7. Anyone else suspect they’re going to end up putting small numbers of Americans with large numbers of Iraqis, and it’s going to become “Frag The Yankee” time?

  8. “How long will it take to whip Rangel’s inductees into shape?”

    About as long as it takes to whip an Iraqi inductee into shape. I mean, if we’re counting on them to save our bacon, then their training regimen ought to suffice for our guys, too.

    Right?

  9. …and a Unicorn and We Can Win This Thing!

    I could probably find a donkey with a weird cyst on its forehead. Does that count?

  10. John writes: “The only answer is to conintue to slowly scale back the U.S. presence and slowly turn the dirty work over to the Iraqis. ”

    Looks to me like Iraqis are doing most of the dirty work already. Especially the stuff with the drills.

  11. …A couple comments I’ve heard from inside the military community suggest that basically everybody stateside who can hold a gun is going to go back – we’re not talking about the cooks and clerks, we’re looking at combat units, whether they’re ready to go back or not.
    And I’d also point out that everybody seems to be assuming that we’ll be following the same ‘we’re-here-to-help’ strategy we’ve followed up till now. If we actually are emptying the cupboard, there’s only one logical way to employ that many troops – just start killing as many bad guys as we possibly can. If we do anything else…quite frankly, that would border on criminal malfeasance and would do nothing more than make the end come that much faster and that much more painfully.
    Oh, and look for a new CENTCOM between Christamas and New Years…who will definitely be of the kill-’em-all-and-let-God-sort-’em-out variety.

  12. give me several million dollars and I’ll happily produce a genetically engineered unicorn.

  13. “The Army missed its recruiting targets in 2005 but met this year’s goal.”

    Conveniently leaving out whether the targets were lowered this year, and that age limits were raised, qualifications were lowered, and if Stephen Hawking was 18 and rolled into a recruiting office, they’d probably take him.

  14. Only 25,000 more troops? That’ll only give the insurgents more targets. What we need is 400-500 thousand more troops, which we don’t have. I figure that we have two choices:
    1) Stay and be targets, or
    2) Leave and let nature take its course: a very bloody civil conflict.

  15. 25,000 more troops and following Jonah Goldberg’s suggestion of Pinochet as a model leader for Iraq and viola! Success.

    Its amazing to me how much mo’ the ‘a little bit more of the same’ is catching on with the elites…

  16. The current Bush/Kagan thinking seems to be of the “We should have gone in with a bigger force to begin with” variety.

    Infortunately, while that made a lot of sense 3 years ago, it doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense now.

  17. P Brooks wrote, “Has anyone specified the source of these new troops? Will we be emptying the barracks in South Korea and Okinawa to make this renewed offensive?”

    From what I’ve heard the plan to get the additional troops would mean extending the stay of some troops currently deployed and accelerating the scheduled arrival of some new troops rotating in. So this means that the “surge” would be pretty short – a few months at best (unless they really want to cripple the Army and Marines for years).

    I think it’s a dumb-ass thing to try, but it may be a psychological prerequisite for total or near-total withdrawal. As in, “See, we tried. It didn’t work.”

    This particular pooch is well and truly screwed and we’re way past the point of ever unsrcewing it.

    But it would get McCain and Lieberman to STFU and would discredit the neocons even more. I’ve changed my mind, given that, it’s a win-win!

  18. If we actually are emptying the cupboard, there’s only one logical way to employ that many troops – just start killing as many bad guys as we possibly can.

    I thought we started off doing that. Problem was, we indiscriminently mowed down a lot of innocent people in the process. Thus helping to fuel our current problems.

    If that’s the plan, then I predict not success or victory, but more of the same.

  19. I wish someone could be found who worked for one of Bush’s failed oil companies.

    I bet Bush was always saying “That well will produce, I’m tellin’ ya. The only way we can lose is if we stop drillin! There’s oil down there!’

  20. It is important to give the volunteer militaryevery chance to win Iraq. That way they can’t blame the anti-Iraq-War crowd when they lose.

    If they want 25,000, then give em 50,000. If they want 50,000, then give them every last volunteer US soldier there is.

    If they need more soldiers than will volunteer, then give them a draft.

    When they are ready to admit defeat, then, and only then, should we let them leave. That way maybe they won’t be so gung-ho about the next nonsense war that comes up. A painful lesson, to be sure, but so valuable.

  21. I might be in the minority here, but I think the most likely scenario is us pulling out, and then within 6 months to a year winning in Iraq. For a variety of reasons, this war will be easier to win if we’re gone I think. It will dry up some potential insurgency pools that are there because we are, it should greatly reduce the PR effectiveness of the insurgency when the western media’s cameras shut off, without us as hall monitors the kid gloves might come off the Iraqi army and police and they may bloody a few sunni and shia noses and potentially scare Iran a bit. It’s possible Al Qaeda remnants could declare victory and then hightail it to Pakistan, leaving Iraq alone.

    I don’t think it’s a given that Iraq will necessarily get worse after we leave. However I do think _we_ will be greatly weakened which certainly isn’t all good or even mostly good. There’s still some really bad guys out there who aim to do us real harm (even if there’s far fewer of them than the government has led us to believe) and this little experience sure isn’t going to scare them any.

  22. I guess you’ll allow them to use nukes? Otherwise they can blame the anti-Iraq/anti-nuclear weapon crowd for their loss in Iraq and all the conscripted soldiers will have died for nothing.

  23. It is important to give the volunteer militaryevery chance to win Iraq. That way they can’t blame the anti-Iraq-War crowd when they lose.

    That excuse doesn’t have a lot of traction.

    For almost 4 years, the anti-Iraq-War-crowd hasn’t kept Bush, Rummy and the entire U.S. military from doing everything it wanted or getting everything it needed.

    A big portion of Iraq War critics have been saying all along that we needed more troops. They haven’t been anti-war because they’re dovish peacenicks. They’re anti Iraq War because they saw Bush’s approach as wrong-headed and incapable of success.

  24. I’ll tell you, I’m a little torn on this issue.

    My gut instinct is that we have unjustly caused so much pain and suffering in Iraq, that we have an obligation to fix the mess.

    But I know damn well that the situation the Bush administration has caused in Iraq is irreparable. The amount of troops and money it would take to stabilize Iraq is not a price the American public will be willing to pay. And even if we did manage to stabilize the country, that would still fail to make amends for our egregious wrongdoing, because then we would be occupiers in what was once a sovereign nation.

    So there is no answer. There is no way to make this right. The only thing of which I am certain is that as long as we’re in Iraq, our young boys will continue to kill and be killed. If nothing else, can we at least strap some guns to Bush and his cronies and parachute them into Fallujah to fight this war their damned selves?

  25. I guess you’ll allow them to use nukes? Otherwise they can blame the anti-Iraq/anti-nuclear weapon crowd for their loss in Iraq and all the conscripted soldiers will have died for nothing.

    I officially dare . . . no, on 2d thought I dog dare the military to take this position. Kwais? You think we should bring the nukes in Iraq now? John, how about you? Good idea?

  26. “My gut instinct is that we have unjustly caused so much pain and suffering in Iraq, that we have an obligation to fix the mess.”

    Perhaps, but at this point it’s like firemen trying to put out a fire in a building out of which people are shooting at the firemen.

    Our obligation doesn’t necessarily have to be fulfilled *now* when that is impossible. We could very easily withdraw and say we will rebuild them after they get their act together.

  27. The Iraqi factions are irreconcilable, and there is nothing we could realistically do to change that. All of this “we broke it, we gotta fix it” stuff is just naive crap. We are incapable of fixing it. What will happen over the next several years is simply the denouement of the process that began when Britain cobbled together the Iraqi state in the aftermath of World War I.

    Let’s either get our our people out of Iraq altogether or install them on secured bases and stop having them attempt to patrol a civil-war zone.

  28. A big portion of Iraq War critics have been saying all along that we needed more troops. They haven’t been anti-war because they’re dovish peacenicks. They’re anti Iraq War because they saw Bush’s approach as wrong-headed and incapable of success.

    There are other reason for opposing the Iraq War besides being a dovish peacenik or because GWB is a poor military commander.

    I should know. I have opposed the Iraq War since before it started (I officially started opposing the day the pre-emptive war doctrine was announced, July 2002, i think). my reasons have never been dovishness nor a lack of faith in GWB’s C in C capabilities. I have opposed the war because there was not sufficient provocation to declare that particular war in the first place. It was an unjust cause from the start and that is why it has always been and still is doomed to fail. However long the US needs to stay there to get that across to all the young people is how long the US should stay there.

  29. Yeah, doubling down is a great strategery when you’re looking at a big loss. Buy more pets.com stock. It’s going to come back.

    Can someone arrange for Bush to have a personal audience with Kenny Rogers where he’d learn about that “knowin’ when to fold em” thing?

  30. Understood, Sam. My statement was not an indicator that there were only 2 reasons for opposing the war.

    The core of my message was that the Bush Administration and the U.S. military have gotten everything they’ve asked for AND have been offered a lot more than they’ve asked for or taken.

    I didn’t add your (completely principled and sensible) rationale only because it wsn’t dirctly relevent to my response. Bush’s competence was.

  31. “The Iraqi factions are irreconcilable”

    I really don’t think so. It certainly doesn’t seem that way to me. The problem seems localized, sporadic (by that I mean there hasn’t really been any concentrated lasting offensives) and doesn’t seem to be originating from any central leadership at least on the Sunni side (which is doing far more of the killing).

    I think the problem is that our presence is likely the largest obstacle to that reconciliation. I mean the difference between massive civil war and a country whose capital city has a serious violent crime problem is really one of degree. If the end result is 95% of Iraq and Iraqis living better lives than they ever could have even dreamed of while the remaining 5% is Compton on a steroid and amphetamine cocktail…

    …is that victory and a decent endgame for Iraq? I think it’s as good as anyone could have hoped for and ultimately a better situation than when we got there. I’m not saying that’s definitely what will happen, but I do believe our military and our media’s presence there magnifies the problems both in terms of perception and reality. If we leave and things get a little better but the perception is things have gotten a _lot_ better, well then who knows what happens from there.

  32. Why is this a big loss? Because Iraq is not a big USA? Because Iraqis are killing each other? Seriously, Iraqis were killing each other at the rate of 10,000 a month under Saddam. Wars are hard. I am starting to conclude that the U.S. public does not have the stomach to fight and to win any war at any time. The Mexicans could invade Texas and if the war didn’t end in 100 hours with 12 casualties, people would be talking about a quagmire and the need to negotiate a surrender. Screw them. Increase the size of the Army and let every jihadist in the world continue to come to Iraq and die at the hands of the U.S. Really. We have taken maybe 15,000 casualties in three years. The U.S. took more than that in a week during World War II. There isnothing unsustainable about that. It is only unsustainable because we make it that way. It is either that or leave Iraq with a few million refugees leaving behind a new Aghanistan circa 2000. What is your choice? A U.S. would be an unmitigated disaster. Pretending that is not true is just as stupid as pretending a few thousand extra bodies are going to end the thing by election day.

  33. In that instance, a population of (a guesstimated) 150,000 Iraqis was pacified by 3,800 U.S. soldiers, with Iraqi forces in tow.

    ARGH! No! Such! WORD!

  34. What will happen over the next several years is simply the denouement of the process that began when Britain cobbled together the Iraqi state in the aftermath of World War I.

    Is anyone surprized that borders drawn for the benefit of the UK and France have led to trouble?

  35. Is anyone surprized that borders drawn for the benefit of the UK and France have led to trouble?

    Don’t even get me started on the idiots who built New Orleans below sea level…

  36. I’d be interested in hearing what the writers at Reason would do about Iraq. Sarcasm and cynicism is not exactly a policy. What, precisely, do they recommend?

  37. “Why is this a big loss?”

    Because we spent thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars and failed to achieve our goals.”

    “Because Iraq is not a big USA? Because Iraqis are killing each other?” Yes, that being the goal (version 2.0) that was announced to justify the war. You spent quite a few years proclaiming that goal, and boy, weren’t we all going to look stupid when Iraq was a glorious model spreading USA-style governance across the region. Or had you forgotten?

    “Seriously, Iraqis were killing each other at the rate of 10,000 a month under Saddam.”

    Not in 2002-2003 they weren’t.

  38. John,

    You crazy. If Mexico’s army actually invaded Texas (or any nation invaded any part of the 50 states), we’d turn Mexico into a barren wasteland. Most Americans don’t give a crap about Iraqis. Most Americans do give a crap about Americans.

  39. I am starting to conclude that the U.S. public does not have the stomach to fight and to win any war at any time.

    There’s a big differrence between…

    1. The U.S. going to war against a direct attacker with a realistic definition for success

    and

    2. The U.S. going to war with a country that didn’t attack us with an unrealistic idea for nation building in a country where we don;t understand the language, the people or the religious factors involved.

  40. Don’t even get me started on the idiots who built New Orleans below sea level…

    *Chuckle*

  41. “but I think the most likely scenario is us pulling out, and then within 6 months to a year winning in Iraq”

    Again,
    Have you ever heard of “You must be present to win”?
    It’s somewhere in the fine print.

  42. Don’t even get me started on the idiots who built New Orleans below sea level…

    How about the idiots who built Holland under sea level? Building under sea level is not a bad idea. Making the levees unable to withstand prevailing weather condtions is.

  43. “I am starting to conclude that the U.S. public does not have the stomach to fight and to win any war at any time.”

    …as demonstrated by the broad public opposition to the Afghan War, which has gone on quite a bit longer than the Iraq War, but which wasn’t based lies, and which didn’t fail utterly to achieve its stated purpose.

  44. madpad,

    “There’s a big differrence between…”

    Not to people like John, there isn’t. That’s why we got into this quagmire, and that’s why he can’t imagine any reason, other than the perfidity of the American public, why anyone would turn against it.

  45. Joe,

    If we leave Iraq, Iraq turns into a real blood bath. Everyone who ever associated with the US will be killed and we will probably have on the order of two or three million refugees and oh by the way, the place becomes a giant base for Islamic terrorists. Those are the facts. The question is what do you want? Don’t advocate a withdrawl unless you are willing to live with and justify those consiquences.

  46. “…as demonstrated by the broad public opposition to the Afghan War, which has gone on quite a bit longer than the Iraq War, but which wasn’t based lies, and which didn’t fail utterly to achieve its stated purpose.”

    Joe was it you or your imposter who was advocating bringing the Taliban into the Aghan government because they just want “another system of government”. These people aid and abet the killing of 3000 Americans and now three years later you and your ilk advocate bringing them back into the government of Aghanistan. IF when we ever leave in Iraq, you will begin the call to end the quagmire in AFghanistan.

  47. I don’t think most Americans who supported the war did so because they wanted to stay in Iraq til it was Finland. I think most who backed the war did so b/c they thought Saddam had WMDs and that he would use them if left in place, esp as sanctions eroded and he got more cash and got more weapons.

    Obviously that rationale was mistaken. The resulting sense that sticking in there isn’t worth it doesn’t suggest a lack of guts on our part, just a belief that the goal isn’t worth the cost.

    still, the Zinni / McCaffrey argument that we have to try to set things straight (or at least better), or we will have to wade back in, seems compelling to me. anyone have reason to doubt their take? certainly the Iraqi govt shows no sign of being up to the task.

  48. I am so sick of hearing that the Iraqis need to get THEIR act together.

    The Iraqis had their act together, and we crushed them. It’s funny that we’ll call Saddam a ruthless evil dictator who had to be stopped, and then we’ll say that the factions in Iraq are irreconcilable. Hello? Iraq was stable under Saddam because he was ruthless. I’m not saying he was right, but if we can do a better job, why aren’t we?

    Before the first gulf war, Iraq had the best healthcare and education system in the Middle East. The country was secular, they had the lowest infant mortality rate in the Middle East, and the highest number of women in college. Now the self-righteous yahoos in this country are going to tell them that they need to get their act together? Priceless.

  49. madpad-

    I was just responding to:
    Is anyone surprized that borders drawn for the benefit of the UK and France have led to trouble?

    If you still don’t believe that the French have no business drawing up maps, I suggest you try driving in DC.

    🙂

  50. John,

    It was indeed I who advocated allowing Talibs to participate in the democratic process in exchange for laying down their arms. That’s what’s called “winning.” And yes, we should start working towards an end game there, so we can achieve that victory.

    “If we leave Iraq, Iraq turns into a real blood bath. Everyone who ever associated with the US will be killed and we will probably have on the order of two or three million refugees and oh by the way, the place becomes a giant base for Islamic terrorists.”

    All of those things are just as likely to happen if we try to stay. They are coming to pass, right now, under our noses, with 150,000 American troops in country. Or hadn’t you noticed?

    The only way to arrest these threats is a political, not military, solution among the various Iraqi factions, and the willingness of Iraq’s neighbors to curb, rather than exacerbate, the violence. That cannot happen while we are occupying the country. By leaving, and by trying to use our withdrawal to promote a settlement, there is at least a chance of an acceptable outcome. Staying the course will mean all of the bad things you describe coming to pass ON OUR WATCH, with some nice shots of helicopters taking off from the roof of the embassy to boot.

  51. “If we leave Iraq, Iraq turns into a real blood bath. Everyone who ever associated with the US will be killed and we will probably have on the order of two or three million refugees and oh by the way, the place becomes a giant base for Islamic terrorists.”

    Unlike if we stay in Iraq, which has already been turned into a big bloodbath, everyone who’s associated with anyone’s getting killed. Refugees are at least in the 100,000s already, and oh yeah, the place is already a giant base for Islamic terrorists…

    “was it you or your imposter who was advocating bringing the Taliban into the Aghan government because they just want “another system of government”.”

    Wasn’t that Bill Frist?

    I was ambivalent about going into Iraq, and once we were there I felt we couldn’t just leave without restoring some stability and hopefully a better government than we kicked out, because 1)our credibility as a country was on the line and 2) even though it wasn’t a terror base before, it would become on in a vacuum.

    But I’ve began to change my mind. Is our presence there making things better or worse? If we’re just going to leave anyway, isn’t it better to do so sooner rather than later so we can get an earlier start on containing the inevitable bad consequences of it? I’m not naive enough to think that Al Qaeda won’t see this as a victory and possible embolden them to carry out more attacks, and it would ruin any credibility in that part of the world, especially as a force of democracy. But if we get out of there (or at least draw back into enclaves) then we can redouble efforts in Afghanistan and have forces to hit at terrorists strategically and coherently and NOT do again exactly what they wanted us to do, which is needlessly occupy a huge country with no support and leave our forces totally exposed.

    So which is worse? And which is more naive, to leave (or draw back considerably) soon and contain the damage or to trust the people who messed this up so brilliantly in the first place to have more success with a “do over”?

  52. “Hello? Iraq was stable under Saddam because he was ruthless”

    No it wasn’t. He didn’t control anything north of the green zone. The U.S. and NATO had been engaging in a running low level war with him over the no fly zones. The country was being completely starved and crippled by the U.N. sanctions and the oil for food ripoff. The place was complete fucking chaos. It was anything but stable outside of the Kurdish north.

  53. Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites who flee the country, it is reported, have no trouble relating peacefully to each other in their new “homes.”

    “Those people have been killing each other centuries” is an excuse used by people who can’t admit that “those people” are killing each other because we (and Al Qaeda) created a political situation that makes identificaiton with sectarian militias a rational choice for people who would otherwise lead peaceful lives. Don’t delude yourself into thinking Americans would act any different in the same circumstances.

  54. John,

    You’re talking about after the first gulf war. I was talking about before the first gulf war.

  55. “But if we get out of there (or at least draw back into enclaves) then we can redouble efforts in Afghanistan and have forces to hit at terrorists strategically and coherently and NOT do again exactly what they wanted us to do, which is needlessly occupy a huge country with no support and leave our forces totally exposed.”

    Hit them where? Iran? Syria?

  56. No it wasn’t. He didn’t control anything north of the green zone. The U.S. and NATO had been engaging in a running low level war with him over the no fly zones. The country was being completely starved and crippled by the U.N. sanctions and the oil for food ripoff.

    Um, just so we’re clear, you’re referring to the government of Saddam Hussein, right? The guy whom you also claim was a dire threat to America?

    I’d just like some clarification on that.

  57. thoreau

    I think the Unicorn may be the easy part.

  58. “Hit them where? Iran? Syria?”

    Riiiiiight. Iran, that country that was fighting the Taliban for years while we were negotiating with them over poppies and pipelines is a base for Al Qaeda. Well I mentioned Afghanistan. We certainly have to stay engaged somewhat in Iraq. What about Sudan? Somalia? God-forbid- Saudi Arabia?

    This sort of Cold War/state-based thinking is partially to blame for our being trapped in Iraq. Some people had no ability to comprehend how we were hit on 9/11 without state support. Terrorists are going to be training where a state doesn’t exist. Threats that come from states are often deterable, and when not, can be confronted directly and defeated militarily.

  59. I really don’t think so. It certainly doesn’t seem that way to me. The problem seems localized, sporadic (by that I mean there hasn’t really been any concentrated lasting offensives) and doesn’t seem to be originating from any central leadership at least on the Sunni side (which is doing far more of the killing).

    From what I’ve read, Iraq is currently in a slow process of ethnic cleansing, particularly around Baghdad, which is the only place where the various sects and tribes really live side by side. You don’t need centralized leadership for that.

    I see that process accelerating substantially the moment we leave. Is the end result three independent states or something more like the current status of Bosnia? Can’t know that at present.

    The scary thing is that Iraq might not be divisible into three easy pieces, because it is a complex quilt of tribes and clans. Any leader who seizes power in Baghdad will run things primarily for the benefit of his tribe/clan, much as Saddam did for the Al Tikriti clan.

    To be sure, there are folks in Iraq who wish the country to remain united and who seek modernization. Problem is, I question whether there are enough of them to make a difference. In the end, the Shi’ites have the numbers, and if they choose to unite behind Sadr or his ilk, it really doesn’t matter what anyone else there does or thinks.

  60. “Some people had no ability to comprehend how we were hit on 9/11 without state support. ”

    That is probably because Al Quada had the state support of Afghanistan.

  61. “That is probably because Al Quada had the state support of Afghanistan.”

    I’m pretty sure it was the other way around. And are you implying that the 9/11 plot couldn’t have been pulled off without the backing of Mullah Omar?

  62. “Iraq was stable under Saddam because he was ruthless.”

    Two points:

    a) It seems to me a stretch to call Iraq circa 2001 as “stable.” Part of the country had seceded. Millions were facing starvation and most of the country was without the most basic of utilities. And all the while various interested parties in Europe (and a few here) were making a tidy profit through the corruption of the oil for food program.

    b) If you can call it “stable” then ultimately stability doesn’t sound like such a great thing.

    Iraq was a disaster thanks to Saddam’s imperialist adventures from a decade earlier, there’s little evidence that left to his own devices he’d behave. There’s plenty of evidence that the status quo sucked at the very least close to as much as the current situation.

    The argument against invading Iraq wasn’t that it was a perfectly fine place before we screwed it up, it wasn’t. The argument is that whether Iraq is a perfectly fine place or not was only marginally any of our damn business.

  63. Joe: Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites who flee the country, it is reported, have no trouble relating peacefully to each other in their new “homes.”

    Because they are then outside the context of their tribe or clan. The sectarian/ethnic/tribal divisions within Iraq have been a problem since the country was created. Totalitarian brutality was the only way that things were kept in check. It is utopian to imagine that we are capable of changing that by imposing a democratic overlay. Ultimately, it would be in the long-term interest of the USA to get the hell out of the Middle East and let those pathetic bastards fight it out amongst themselves. They can’t afford not to sell us oil, and they don’t have the means to impose monopoly pricing. So why should I really give a shit about their nasty little blood feuds?

  64. …as demonstrated by the broad public opposition to the Afghan War, which has gone on quite a bit longer than the Iraq War, but which wasn’t based lies, and which didn’t fail utterly to achieve its stated purpose.

    …yet.

  65. “And are you implying that the 9/11 plot couldn’t have been pulled off without the backing of Mullah Omar?”

    Without the safe haven to train and plan with impunity, it certainly would have been a lot harder. Afghanistan gave them an unmolested base of operations that only state support can provide.

  66. If we leave Iraq, [snip description of ominous things]. Those are the facts.

    Just a point: those are not facts, those are assertions. There is nothing certain about what the outcome will be if the American military is withdrawn.

  67. Again,

    For the most part I agree with you.

    And no, stable doesn’t mean things were good, it just means that there wasn’t chaos. Though, cityfolks actually had it pretty good for a third world nation, and women had it better than any other nation in the Middle East.

    Now there is chaos and civil war, and after that, the religious looneys are going to repress women and education in general.

  68. “Without the safe haven to train and plan with impunity, it certainly would have been a lot harder. Afghanistan gave them an unmolested base of operations that only state support can provide.”

    Or the complete lack of a state. Anyway, we WERE talking about Iraq, but apparently you decided not to address any of the fallacies in your arguments and chose to talk only about things that I nearly (and only nearly) don’t totally disagree with you about.

  69. “Hit them where? Iran? Syria?”

    Afghanistan and Sudan, right away. Very different operations, obviously, but both need immediate attention.

    Then there’s a whole list of maybes, places that might host malignant groups we might need to work against now or in the future. Like the operations in Chad, for example, or Ethiopia, or the Phillipines. I still get steamed thinking about Tora Bora, and the demand for troops for Iraq is even more urgent now than it was then. I am very worried that other military theaters are being shafted, not to mention intel, law enforcement, and domestic security. You can see the result of this in Afghanistan.

    Quagmire, John. Bush got us into a quagmire. It’s going to suck to leave, but it’s going to suck worse to stay – which will just involve leaving, probably under similar or worse circumstances later, anyway.

    This doesn’t have anything to do with my initial opposition to the war. Serious people who backed this war and urges us onward long afterward are saying the same thing.

    I sincerely hope that the post-bellum situation created by our invasion, occupation, and departure doesn’t worsen. It’s already at roughly Hussein levels, and apparently getting worse. Nothing we’ve been able to do is fixing the situation, and nobody has any ideas.

    Let’s try a peace process. A big old political track, lubricated by our departure.

  70. John wrote “Without the safe haven to train and plan with impunity, it certainly would have been a lot harder. ”

    No essential training happened in Afghanistan. They didn’t use bombs on 9/11, or guns.

    The essential training happened at flight schools. I don’t see any reason why the Afghan base was essential.

  71. The Bush/neocon plan to stabilize Iraq utilizes the same methods of imprisonment, questionable interrogation techniques and military force against any person or group willing to challenge the government that were the hallmark of Saddam’s rule. The only substantial difference is that Saddam was much more successful at ruling Iraq than Bush and his cronies are. I doubt that many of the citizens of Iraq recognize any substantial difference between the new boss and the old boss.

  72. Science has told us that the exact number of troops necessary to make sectarian conflict disappear is 234,853. Anyone who does not accept this is being un-serious about the debate.

  73. John writes:

    If we leave Iraq, Iraq turns into a real blood bath.

    It already is, and has been for a year.

    Everyone who ever associated with the US will be killed

    Alas, it won’t start with Ahmed Chalabi. I suppose we could pin the blame on the INC who got us into this mess in the first place. I certainly can’t see us handing out visas to probable terrorists – given the amount of corruption, you just know they’ll pull strings to be first in line.

    and we will probably have on the order of two or three million refugees

    That’s probably already happened.

    and oh by the way, the place becomes a giant base for Islamic terrorists.

    Already true, but then, I thought we invaded because it was *already* a giant base for Islamic terrorists.

    Funny, that. We have to stay to keep Iraq from becoming what we were told it was to invade in the first place.

    Whatever. The next terrorist attack on the US will be on the heads of Bush, Cheney, the AEI, and Heritage. They were never serious about fighting Al Qaeda. Never.

  74. Scott,

    I agree, but there is one substantial difference between Bush and Saddam: Saddam was an Iraqi, and his troops were Iraqis.

    I once took care of an elderly Lebanese couple, and their daughter was telling me what it’s like to be occupied by another country. She said, “I hope you never know what it’s like to have foreigners with guns who can’t speak your language ask you who YOU are, and where you think YOUR going.”

    Hell, look at what we’re willing to tolerate from Bush; he’s eliminated our civil rights and gutted our economy to pay for an illegal war.

    The Iraqis will never surrender to foreign rule, and as long as we are there with guns, we are trying to rule them.

  75. If winning was the issue we could win the war by the end of the week. That, however, is not politically palatable so we’ll screw around letting people die for no apparent reason, and eventually we’ll slink away with our tail dragging, declare peace, and in twenty years we’ll re-establish diplomatic relationships with Iraq. Then we’ll build a monument in DC…….

  76. “Then we’ll build a monument in DC…….”

    This just made me realize that if I were to travel into the future for some reason, then decide to travel to DC, also for some reason, and discover that the memorial for the Iraq War was a giant monument to Bush, well I would feel a bit like Marky Mark in the lameass remake of Planet of the Apes. Also, it would not be cool.

  77. Wine,

    We can’t win. Even back in the day when it was acceptable for colonial powers to commit straight-up genocide, Europe still ended up having to let go of its colonies.

    Rome was able to conquer other nations for long periods of time because all those nations and villages became part of Rome. Ruling over other countries without tending to them as part of your own has never worked for a significant amount of time.

    The western world has tried ruling over other countries’ resources by brute force, and it has yet to actually work.

  78. Bring the troops home and watch the fallout on Al Jazeera. I know it’s not going to be pretty, but we can’t change tribal thinking. The Kurds appear to be the only rational faction in Iraq. Protecting them would be moral. Let the Arabs kill each other. I just can’t muster up any compassion for the Iraqi’s anymore. They had their chance and blew it.

  79. Some James,

    There is no Nixon Memorial. There is no LBJ Memorial.

  80. TWC writes: “If winning was the issue we could win the war by the end of the week.”

    And exactly what strategic goals would that “win” achieve?

  81. “Hell, look at what we’re willing to tolerate from Bush; he’s eliminated our civil rights and gutted our economy to pay for an illegal war.”

    Enjoy that tin-foil hat, do ya?

  82. D Bunk,

    Tin-foil hat?

    I don’t get it.

    Am I coming off as paranoid or something? Have you not read the Military Commissions Act?

  83. So GWB is actually trying to be the Kennedy AND Johnson of Iraq. I wonder who’ll be the Nixon?

  84. A couple of points:
    The difference between us and Saddam
    purple fingers
    a minority not ruling and committing genocide on a majority.

    If we pull out, the Syrians, Iranians, Al Qaida and others are probably not going to pull out, they are probably going to redouble efforts. Of course I don’t now that for sure.

    I don’t think we are fighting all of Iraq, nor most of Iraq. I do think we are doing a bad job of connecting with most of Iraq that isn’t fighting us, likes us, Want peace and prosperity, purple fingers.

    And I think most of them don’t really know or understand yet that they don’t want someone else dictating to them how to follow their religios beliefs. But I think that would follow after a few more elections, and with a free press where the dissenters weren’t afraid of being killed.

  85. kwais,

    So having a majority committing genocide against a minority is okay? Because that’s what’s happening now.

    The purple fingers thing is interesting too. It has served two purposes: a photo opportunity for all those who are grasping at straws to justify this war, and a sure-fire way to get the people who actually vote killed (they stick out like sore thumbs).

    Yes, what was I thinking? We need to keep up the good work, or as our eloquent leader might say, “we’re doin a heluva job!”

    They can’t eat or have electricity, but by-golly, they can vote!

  86. Can’t we go back to the good old days when we killed off 1/2 million of Iraq’s children with sanctions and DU and bombed the fk out of them whenever we felt and never had any american losses?

    The funny thing about any discussion about what to do in Iraq that I hear from Western pundits, bloggers, etc. is that somehow we are going to decide what happens in Iraq and not the Iraqi’s. The only choice we have is what we do with the troops — increase size, withdraw, withdraw to bases within the country and attack as necessary to kill jihadists, etc. Everything else is up to the Iraqis — The notion that we are going to partition the country or we are going to do this and that is a display of the arrogance that got us in this mess in the first place.

  87. “If we pull out, the Syrians, Iranians, Al Qaida and others are probably not going to pull out, they are probably going to redouble efforts.”

    Maybe. We can’t know for sure what would happen if we leave. But we have a pretty good idea of what will happen if we stay – more of the same, the civil war gets worse.

    It may be possible to organize and negotiate a settlement, with our withdrawal changing the political dynamics in Iraq and throughout the region. At this point, it seems pretty clear that this would give us and the Iraqis the best change of avoiding and even worse catastrophe than the one we’re witnessing. But there’s just barely an opening to get this done now, given domestic, Iraqi, and Middle Eastern politics. If we dither too much longer, we’re going to lose even that chance.

  88. spur,

    You think the poor of Iraq are going any better now? How do you think the economy is doing in, say, Sadr City?

  89. Jon H, strategic goals? I thought we were talking about winning the war. Actually, I’ve never been clear about this thing as being a war although lately people have been referring to the invasion as a war.

    Heather, your points are well-taken. I’ve been willing to cut GWB a pile of slack on this Iraq thing but I’m about out of patience with it.

    As I mentioned the other day, Iraq is the size of Georgia and we’ve been fighting there as long as the entire second world war. The logistics of winning would require the commitment that was shown during the second world war. We don’t have that. Not on a civilian level. Not on a military level.

    The colonization point is well put but that isn’t our goal. In that respect we don’t need to keep Iraq like Peter Pumpkin’s wife, we just need to finish things up and hike back home.

  90. Wine,

    Yeah, I guess I’m not really sure what it would mean to “win.” The amount of troops and money it would take to stabilize Iraq, even temporarily, is more than we are willing to commit.

    Now, I do think that if we had committed the necessary amount of resources to stabilize Iraq when we went in, we would not be seeing the violence that is happening now. If we would have secured the country, kept the power on, the hospitals open, and started supplying people with steady employment, we could possibly have been greeted as liberators (but who knows, really?).

    *sigh*

    I don’t know, it’s just a big mess to which I see no just resolution.

  91. Paul, McCain is trying to be the next Nixon, if he can manage to win.

    As for the topic, no the 25,000 troops won’t change anything, but the unicorn, well, they have the right idea. You see, unicorns have this secret power you all don’t know about. They can mass-control the minds of people to stop the violence. For the right price, I can tell you where to find one. Have Bush’s people contact me, but have billions of dollars in CASH ready (really, this is a good deal, compared to the price of this war!). I must warn you though, there is one negative consequence. The unicorn will establish a new religion, the worship of unicorns, and will require virgin sacrifices on a regular basis. And you can’t fool them either since they can tell who’s a virgin and who’s not.

  92. Ah, just one question Yong Kim:

    Just who would be in charge of the sacrificial virgins?

  93. TWC writes: “Jon H, strategic goals? I thought we were talking about winning the war. Actually, I’ve never been clear about this thing as being a war although lately people have been referring to the invasion as a war. ”

    Well, you see, we could easily kill everyone in Iraq in a few days.

    But that wouldn’t be *winning*. What would we have won, exactly?

    Or to put it another way, in what way would our situation be improved in any long-term sense?

  94. Aresen, given my incomparable knowledge of the unicorns, I believe I must volunteer for this lowly task to make sure that the unicorn will be satisfied with my choices and to make sure that the virgins remain virgins for the sacrifice. As Bill Clinton taught us, however, I’m assuming that oral sex etc. don’t count. I assure you that I will thoroughly examine any prospects to make sure. And do not worry as the unicorns understand what I must do to make the choices and will not object even if I must go over the boundary and have actual sex; technically it will not count as it’s for testing purposes only. Depending on the prospects, however, I may need to retest them, perhaps as long as a year or two, to make sure they’re “fit” for this sacrifice.

    I also understand that there will be public concern about this. So I shall establish a “No virgin left behind” program where I educate as many virgins as possible on the dangers of being one and gallantly offer, in some cases, my personal services so that they may escape this danger. In parallel, I shall launch an advertising campaign called “Just say Yes (to sex)” to advance this cause. I believe such fierce dedication and thoroughness uniquely qualifies me for this job. One caveat, however. Given the nature of this job, I must ask that I be immune from any rape or sexual harrassment laws. After all, this is a mission to save lives, and to adequately and efficiently do my duties, I must be given this power. After all, it’s not like I’m asking anyone to tolerate torture. Believe me, everyone involved will have a good time, even if I must force it on them. Don’t you agree?

  95. Yong Kim

    Your noble devotion to duty is admirable.

    Are you sure you’re ‘up’ to it?

  96. Would sending an additional 25,000 troops to Iraq qualify as throwing our strategic reserve into the breach?

  97. Heather Siladi,
    There is not a majority committing Genocide.

    The Shia are the majority and they have tried to be inclusive in the government.

    The majority of the terrorism is done by Sunnis.

    The majority of the killing is done by criminals, by terrorists, and by foreign fighters or foreign paid fighters.

    If we leave there may be a genocide by the majority Shia, sadly.

    And the real sad thing is that the majority of the Sunni want to live peacfully and coexist with the shia

    unfortunately the people who suffer the retaliation from the sunni terrorists will likely be innocent sunni.

  98. Kwais,

    You and I disagree on such a fundamental level, that I’m not sure where to begin.

    First of all, there is so much violence over there right now, that it’s hard to get a clear report of who is killing who and for what reason. But I do recognize a pattern in your argument that I see applied to conflicts all over the world.

    Let’s say in any given conflict there are two groups. Group A is the group that the U.S. is backing, and Group B is the opposing group.

    Okay, well Group B is automatically made up of terrorists (Sunni, Palestinians, Viet Cong, etc.)

    Group A is trying to be inclusive.

    And any acts of violence carried out by Group A against Group B is either justified retaliation, or the act of a whole other group of terrorists who have nothing to do with Group A. In other words, Group A is in the right no matter what.

    But the reality of each conflict is probably more like this:

    90% of people in both Group A and Group B want to live in peace.

    There are people fighting on both side with good intentions, but they are convinced that their side is right and are not inclined to compromise (which they view as something close to surrendering).

    There are people fighting on both sides who are crazy and evil and who will fuel the violence either because they are that certain they are right, or because they’re sick bastards who enjoy hurting people.

    The minority group is always at risk of being the victims of genocide, and the less political power they have, the more likely they are to be exterminated.

    And none of this has much to do with the fact that the Iraqis are worse off now than they were under Saddam, and that we had no right to invade them in the first place.

  99. Aresen,

    I realize the enormity of my duties. However, I’m sure I can enlist (or force) the help of many patriotic females in our country who have the necessary oral talents and the requisite dimensions in their appearance to help me get ‘up’ for this task. God bless America and the beauty-obsessed entertainment culture which will prove to be the most helpful in this time of great need.

  100. Yong Kim. You have a stiff job with rigid requirements ahead of you. Work hard and do your best to rise to the occasion, even though things may come to blows. Be a rod of righteousness and carry a mighty staff as you issue forth. May Peter always be at hand [or where-ever] as you thrust yourself firmly into the job. Penetrate where necessary so that you always come through. Keep yourself upright and erect to sow the seed of the future.

  101. So, Mr. Weigel, you are of the school that Iraq could have been won with a well worded telegram and, perhaps, one US Combatant?

    Quite an interesting theory. I wish to hear more. You have my e-mail address.

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