The Callotomized Pundit

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Victor Davis Hanson is confounding: He's a writer who knows an awful lot about military history and apparently nothing about why people don't want to send more troops into Iraq. He didn't used to remind me of the Stanislaw Lem character whose left brain and right brain weren't communicating, but now he does. Witness this graf in his latest grunt about "the present anti-war movement (if it is that)," probably the stupidest thing you'll hear anyone say about Iraq this year. I realize it is January 4.

We have gone from Hezbollah and Dr. Zawahiri referencing Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky to excurses on impeachment from deep thinkers like Bill Maher and Keith Olbermann to Halliburton plots to "no blood for oil" to "the world's greatest terrorist" to novels and movies dreaming of assassinating the President to George Soros's Nazi allusions and now to the ultimate trivialization of the anti-war crowd-that the war is a monumental uncool drag, a has-been distraction from more important things like fighting with Rosie or bucking up a naughty beauty queen or staged "you're fired" poses.

Goo goo ga joob!

If you crack out your Captain Midnight ring and massage this prose, it sounds like Hanson is saying "the people who criticize the progress of the war are deranged hippies." Well, fantastic. This may be true on Earth-2, where the Coalition of the Willing won the war by dumping crudely translated Bill Kristol pamphlets that convinced the Iraqis of the West's essential correctness. On this Earth, however, the war was poorly planned and executed and experts ranging from Jim Baker to John Murtha are arguing, convincingly, that an increased American presence won't solve the problem and all that's left to try is extracting American troops. The neoconservative response to that is… well, it's Hanson's drivel. Truly pathetic.

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  1. To be fair, has anything this gasbag has ever written about the politics of the Iraq war been any better? I’m told that Hanson’s scholarship is impressive, but as a pundit he makes Anna Quindlen look sharp.

  2. “On this Earth, however, the war was poorly planned and executed and experts ranging from Jim Baker to John Murtha are arguing, convincingly, that an increased American presence won’t solve the problem”

    I actually agree with you about that. I am not convinced more troops is the answer to anything and I am not sure what the hell VDH is getting at with his statement. But John Murtha is a has been retired reserve Colonel who is not an expert on anything beyond taking bribes and shaking down government contractors for protection money. You might want to ammend that statement.

  3. Maybe it’s simply a comment on our shallowness. Where are the street marches? Where are the antiwar protests? Most of the protesting I’m seeing originates from the warmth and safety of a computer and an internet connection. Unless you count re-electing most of the Republicans who ran in last year’s election as a protest. Pretty wimpy. Say what you will about the baby boomers — at least they knew how to throw a decent antiwar riot.

  4. Jesse,

    VDH is a brilliant clasicist. He was really the first guy to think about what an ancient war really would have looked like rather than just taking the sources at face value. He thought about and investigated questions like, how do you burn a wheat field, is it really that easy to kill an olive grove, how do you actually feel and cloth an army in the field in 300 BC. His answers were anything but intuitive and changed the way scholars look at ancient wars. Also whatever you think about Iraq, he has been dead on about Afghanistan. He was one of the few people who said we didn’t need 100,000 plus people to take out the Taliban.

  5. The dirty hippies were right.

    Dennis Kucinich – the Department of Peace guy – was better able to analyze the security situation and advise a course of action to protect us than all of the Military-Historical Geniuses as National Review.

    Ha ha. Dennis Kucinich. The crystal guy.

    Ha ha.

  6. Anyone that has to use John Murtha to make a point isn’t worth listening to.

  7. Anyone that has to use John Murtha to make a point isn’t worth listening to.

    Sorry, but Murtha’s forgotten more about the modern military than Hanson will ever know. The folks who say we should ignore Murtha sound an awful lot to me like people who say Milton Friedman wasn’t worth listening to on economics because “the market” was his solution for everything and he met with Pinochet once.

  8. O really Joe,

    Those same people also claimed that the U.S. would never make it Baghdad and would take 10,000+ casualties doing so and Saddam would use nerve gas, that it was in a quagmire because it halted for three days in the Karbala gap and that the Taliban would never be overthrown without 100s of thousands of troops and thousands of casualties. But in your world being liberal means never having to admit to a mistake.

  9. “Sorry, but Murtha’s forgotten more about the modern military than Hanson will ever know.”

    Oh REally? Why don’t you provide some links. How many books has Murtha written? How many position papers has he ever written. How many think tanks are lining up to hire Murtha as a scholar. Are the folks over at the Army War college or CGSG offer Murtha a job after he leaves Congress. What has Murtha ever done or thought about the modern military than say things that you agree with? God God Dave that doesn’t even pass the laugh test. Please say you are kidding.

  10. VDH is looking pretty shrill here.

    – Josh

  11. How many think tanks are lining up to hire Murtha as a scholar.

    Um, you really want that to be the criterion? “Think tank” has become a byword for “place where people who are wrong about Iraq work.”

  12. Do these people actually believe that you can alter reality if only you use the right words? Just say the right things and transform our Iraqi adventure into a raging success. And eating cyanide is also good for you, if you first listen to me point out that it’s derived from nourishing and healthful almonds.

    Eat up, Hanson. Yum yum yum.

  13. John,

    Even if Dennis Kucinich had claimed each and every one of those things, which he didn’t, his record would still be vastly superior to that of anyone who has appeared in National Review in the past ten years.

    10,000 casualities? We’ve already surpassed 10,000 dead, wounded, and captured, over a year ago. Never take Baghdad? Tell me, which side’s fighers can walk down the street without coming under fire? And which side has to camp our behind multiple layers of security, just to avoid being slaughtered in the night, in Baghdad? Quagmire? Anyone want to say we’re not in a quagmire?

    BTW, we’ll know how accurate Hansen’s predictions about how to defeat the Taliban were, when somebody finally manages to defeat the Taliban. We already know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a lack of American troops allowed hundres of Al Qaeda and Taliban, including OBL, to escape from Tora Bora.

    So basically, nothing the National Review crowd predicted about these wars has come to passs; on the other hand, some of the dissenters got the timeline wrong in their predictions of failure. So that’s pretty much equivalent.

  14. I’ll agree with John in saying that VDH is a great classicist. Of course, we aren’t besieging Lagash here so what he has to say isn’t entirely relevant.

  15. VDH is a brilliant clasicist.

    Like I said, I’ve heard that his historical scholarship is excellent. And I don’t doubt it.

    Paul Krugman is a fine scholar too, but that doesn’t make his punditry any better.

  16. Those same people also claimed that the U.S. would never make it Baghdad and would take 10,000+ casualties doing so and Saddam would use nerve gas, that it was in a quagmire because it halted for three days in the Karbala gap and that the Taliban would never be overthrown without 100s of thousands of troops and thousands of casualties.

    So, it’s not better to underestimate success and be proven wrong than to overestimate it and be proven wrong? Scenario A:

    “Wow, I thought Product Launch X would only bring in $10,000. Instead, it’s brought in $1 million! We’re rich!”

    Scenario B:

    “Wow, I thouht Product Launch X would only bring in $10,000. Instead, it’s failed utterly and I’m dying of starvation!”

    Yeah, those Scenario A dudes are morons.

  17. “Um, you really want that to be the criterion? “Think tank” has become a byword for “place where people who are wrong about Iraq work.”

    What about my other questions Dave? Give me one shred of evidence that they guy knows anything other than the fact that he says things you believe in? The crazy lady at the laundry mat probably says a lot of things you agree with to, but that doesn’t make her an expert.

    Joe,

    Great way of dodging my point. My point was that the same people you laud as sages were dead wrong in their predictions to. Shockingly, wars are very unpredictable and no one got it right.

  18. Almonds had to be GMO’d way back when before we could eat them.

  19. Listen, I hope I’m not alone in saying that I don’t want Reason (or comments sections) to slip into the mean spirited stuff we see over on Daily Kos and Huffington. We can all trounce VDH’s points without getting personal.

    VDH may not be someone I agree with, but he’s not pathetic, I don’t think. He has a point of view that is not in line with mine, or apparently with David’s points of view.

    To take that excerpt as a sign that VDH is stupid, well, that’s just a mistake. He’s obviously flustered that a lot of Americans seem more preoccupied with pop culture than foreign affairs.

    I don’t think he’s completely off the mark on some of the Iraq points. This has not been a catastrophic war for us. It may be wrong headed, it may be a mistake, it may be expensive, but it is not catastrophic. The huge volume of antipathy we might feel toward the war doesn’t make the war into an actual calamity. As a former Iraq-War hawk, I’m pretty familiar with the kind of vitriol this issue can attract. Although my opinions have changed as new information about the war has come out, I’m not ready to join the everyone-who-disagrees-is-stupid camp,

    VDH is clearly not going to agree with the opinion that we should get out of Iraq (and I think frankly that there is a debate to be had, one that should focus on what will happen to Iraqis if we leave or stay, not on how we feel about it). I find his name calling disturbing and would like to see him refrain from it. But I also think we serve ourselves better by not jumping into the same gutter

  20. John, you’re equivalating here – Shockingly, wars are very unpredictable and no one got it right.

    The dirty hippies have a higher War Predictability Truthiness Quotient (WPTQ) than the Neo Cons.

    Clusterfuck vs Champagne Party. Which best represents the truth?

  21. “My point was that the same people you laud as sages were dead wrong in their predictions to.”

    Any your point has been proven wrong. The predictions of failure have been borne out – only the timing of the failure has been inaccurate.

  22. The neo-cons have been “truly pathetic” from the get go. Now that they are out of fashion is a good thing. But it only goes so far as an encouraging development. There’s no reason to believe the next regime won’t be equally stupid, and enjoy initial widespread support.

  23. Pure water is healthy and good for you. Pure oxygen is healthy and good for you. Hydrogen peroxide is merely pure water with pure oxygen added to every molecule. Therefore, drinking hydrogen peroxide is healthy and good for you.

    Of course, Joe would probably disagree with me. So would Michael Moore. And Osama bin Laden, too. Need I say more?

  24. Damon, I appreciate the calm voice of reason. but something you said, I think, illustrates a major frustration of the anti-war crowd.

    This has not been a catastrophic war for us. It may be wrong headed, it may be a mistake, it may be expensive, but it is not catastrophic.

    for us

    How about for the uncountable– because the Pentagon doesnt do body counts– Iraqis? Those deaths are on us. That should go into any definition of catastrophe. But for myopic Americans who only quantify the success of the war based on its effect on U.S. national interest, the point is lost.

  25. Damon,

    I seriously doubt Weigal could get better than a C in one of VDH’s classes. The problem with nearly all of Reason’s coverage of the war is that in Reason’s eyes everyone who agrees with them is a sage and everyone with a different point of view is an idiot. It is one thing to have a point of view and even be right. It is quite another to be completely unable to understand or even try to understand the opposing view point and to just engage in personal invective. You would expect invective from the posters on here but you should expect better from the Reason staff. Unfortunately, that is not what happens. In Reason world, VDH is pathetic and ignorant and Murtha is sage of modern military knowledge. That statement alone says all you need to know.

    Joe,

    Every prediction they made about the war was wrong. No one anticipated the insurgency. Just because things didn’t work out, doesn’t mean the nah sayers were any more right than the supporters.

  26. damon,

    You’re being balanced and well-reasoned. What is wrong with you? Kidding. But I do think you give VDH too much credit, he’s not being as generous with people he disagrees with as you suggest we be to him.

    Plenty of “liberals” were wrong about what precisely would go wrong in Iraq, but as people have noted, they were more right than the hawks who predicted parades and flowers and a blossoming new mini-America in the fertile crescent within six months while we went “on to Syria/Iran/wherever”. A lot of went wrong has been entirely predictable, but was just ignored by people who decided that the most optimistic outcomes were somehow the most likely.

  27. Please. Won’t SOMEBODY think of the children??

  28. H2O + O2 = H2O3 not H2O2

  29. Actually, the State Department did predict the insurgency.

  30. Matt,

    I agree with your point. We do have to consider Iraqis. But it isn’t an Our-Damage vs. Zero-Damage set, right?

    This gets difficult because we have to compare losses we inflict with losses under Hussein. We also have to compare the moral weight (although in the end a death is a death) between unintended casualties and those inflicted on purpose (bystander vs. target casualties).

    We can’t know the ultimate truth for some time. Blood may be worth it if in the end we can somehow reach stability. If not, then the blood was never worth it. If so, then the current hand wringing is wrong headed. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I think that lamenting what we have done (outside of moral speculation) is not the best way to form policy. Neither side is doing this: Stating what we absolutely want, and then absolutely doing what we need to achieve it.

    We want out of Iraq? Ok, fine, but what do we want Iraq to look like when we leave? If a real, hot, civil war happens, that’s still our responsibility, either because we sparked it or because we failed to prevent it. Which scenario will spill more blood? I don’t know. Which do we want to live with? I don’t know either.

    But I don’t think we should approach the questions with emotion, but rather with cool headed and perhaps even cold rationality. Weigh our utility for various outcomes, and move forward. I am more than willing to say that our withdrawal may be the right thing to do, but for whom is it the right thing? And are we willing to deal with the costs?

    David made an excellent post some weeks ago about the wrongheadedness of chasing a loss with more losses. Can you really honor american dead by sending more to die, etc, was his point. By the same token, can we really wash our hands of Iraqi blood by cooly withdrawing and allowing the sands to swallow even more of it? (And will that even happen? who knows).

    I just think this debate needs to be divorced from anger, that’s all. The winner should be determined by reason, not by vitriol. That’s what we’re all about here, right?

  31. A lot of people predicted the insurgency, civil war, that it would increase incidents of terrorism as well as terrorists. Even without the benefit of hindsight it wouldn’t take much to see this.

    One thing that wasn’t thought of much:
    Many (myself included) figured that the Shia would welcome/help us, and most problems would be with the Sunni. This was true early on and the south is still calmer (since they’ve been permitted to go Taliban-lite down there), but I think the scale of the death squads and the fact that we’re the only protectors of the Sunni wasn’t foreseen by many.

  32. No one anticipated the insurgency.

    Really? Then every single person we’re discussing is an idiot. Let me make a blanket prediction now, then. Anytime any country, anywhere, anytime, invades another country, there is a solid 95% chance there will be an insurgency against the invader. Now you can never say “nobody anticipated it” again.

    Seriously, any reasonable invasion plan, anywhere, ever, should include a contingency plan on how to deal with an insurgency if one develops. The point here isn’t whether anybody “knew” an insurgency would take place. The problem is that apparently nobody in a position of power even prepared for the possibility. Which shows a pretty outrageous lack of foresight.

  33. I guess I should point out in response to John’s defense of VDH over Afghanistan that we actually SHOULD have had 100,000 troops there. Our pared down force, even when expanded to a limited-engagement NATO force, has been ineffective in stemming the Taliban insurgency and drug trade in the south, which has contributed the a further weakening of Kabul.

  34. Maybe it’s simply a comment on our shallowness. Where are the street marches? Where are the antiwar protests?

    I think this is what Hanson was getting at. While his cheerleading for continuing on in Iraq isn’t convincing, the more interesting point is about the lack of an organized, sustained and collective public voice focused on bringing the troops home and not being distracted by domestic politics and pageantry.

  35. Damon,

    Maybe it is the fact that there are no good option in Iraq. Perhaps the it is just a long hard fight against a very determined enemy. What drives me most crazy about arm chair quarterbacks like Andrew Sullivan is that they sit around and act like if only they had been king everything would have been perfect. The first clue to whether someone is serious in their thinking about Iraq or just a shill is whether they think there are or ever were any easy sollutions. If they think that, they don’t get it at all. But, we live in a society where only easy sollutions are acceptable, so I guess it is not surprising.

  36. How about for the uncountable– because the Pentagon doesnt do body counts– Iraqis? Those deaths are on us. That should go into any definition of catastrophe. But for myopic Americans who only quantify the success of the war based on its effect on U.S. national interest, the point is lost.

    Good point, but I think it should also be balanced against the number of Iraqis who didn’t end up in mass graves on a whim of Saddam Hussein in the time since we pushed him out of power.

  37. “…the lack of an organized, sustained and collective public voice focused on bringing the troops home…”

    Did you miss the November elections?

    In 2003, National Review was dismissing arguments against the war because there WERE large, organized protests. Full of hippies. With puppets. Very silly, just shows a lack of seriousness.

    Now, they have the nerve to criticize people who oppose the war because they AREN’T taking to the streets, in large protests, with puppets?

    Here’s a thought – the incapacity of war supporters to honestly contend with arguments against the war has nothing whatsoever to do with the tactics of their opponents.

  38. “Here’s a thought – the incapacity of war supporters to honestly contend with arguments against the war has nothing whatsoever to do with the tactics of their opponents.”

    Here is another though, the incapacity of the wars critics to honestly contend with the reality of the situation and the full consequences of a U.S. pullout has nothing whatsoever to do with the tactics of their opponents. Perhaps we don’t have an organized anti-war movement because unlike Vietnam, most people realize it is not so easy to just walk away from Iraq.

  39. Damon, I have run through the moral steeplechase you’ve outlined many times. But there’s a weird assumption at work. Somehow, on some level Americans think it their responsibility if Saddam continued torturing his countrymen, an equivalence between deaths ‘we allowed Saddam’ to continue to perpetrate and deaths we actually perpetrated. This thinking begets the ‘we have to do something’ attitude. Call it American Exceptionalist Guilt, or something.

    Im guilty of this thinking sometimes, but why dont the Saudi’s feel they must do something? Why not the Brits, or the French? Lifes a bitch, and some people have it better than others. It has always been and will always be.

    Down with American Guilt!

  40. “The first clue to whether someone is serious in their thinking about Iraq or just a shill is whether they think there are or ever were any easy sollutions.”

    Based on this logic, we can dismiss the entirety of the neoconservatives.

    The act of our toppling Hussein was supposed to be all that was necessary to turn Iraq, and eventually the region, into a sea of liberal, democratic American client states. The Iraqis were going to behave exactly like the Eastern Europeans in 1991-1993, and organically and spontaneously come together to establish this new order. The passage of the constitution and Purple Finger Day were proof that they were right.

    And anyone who doubted this was a racist, who doesn’t think Arabs deserve to live in a liberal democratic state. At least, that’s what John spent two years telling me.

  41. “Perhaps we don’t have an organized anti-war movement because unlike Vietnam, most people realize it is not so easy to just walk away from Iraq.”

    In the latest poll, 61% of Americans say they want us to do exactly that. So maybe there’s something else going on.

  42. “No one anticipated the insurgency.”

    That’s a joke, right?

  43. John,
    What’s your hard on for VDH? I’m sure he’s a brilliant classicist. How does that make him an expert on modern warfare?

  44. Did you miss the November elections?

    Is that when the anti-war party vowed to end the war raise the minimum wage?

  45. Damon,

    The postulated additional deaths from continuing Saddam rule do indeed have to be considered in any moral calculus about the war.

    I would just caution you about the tactic, so beloved by some, of taking an average of those killed throughout the entirety of Saddam’s rule, as he had been rendered incapable of carrying out anything remotely comparable to an Anfal campaign, an invasion of high neighbors, or an anti-insurgencies effort against the Shia and Kurds, 1992-style, at the outbreak of the war.

    “Between 1939 and 1959, the German government killed an average of 600,000 people in concentration camps per annum” is a true statement, but also a deeply dishonest one.

  46. scape,

    Yes or No, did the Democrats win the November elections because of popular opposition to the war?

  47. “John,
    What’s your hard on for VDH? I’m sure he’s a brilliant classicist. How does that make him an expert on modern warfare?”

    I don’t necessarily think that it does. I also don’t think that he is right about everything. My point was that whatever VDH is, I dont’ think you can point to Murtha as a good alternative. My point was more about Murtha than VDH. Weigal still hasn’t given one shred of evidence that Murtha knows anything other than the fact that he agrees with him. Like I said, the crazy lady at the laudry mat probably agrees with Weigal to, but that doesn’t make her an expert.

    Yes Joe,

    The people who thought we could go to Baghdad and that would be it are and were wrong. But that fact doesn’t make the people who think we can now just pull out without grave consiquences any more right.

  48. This may be true on Earth-2, where the Coalition of the Willing won the war by dumping crudely translated Bill Kristol pamphlets that convinced the Iraqis of the West’s essential correctness.

    That wouldn’t happen on Earth-2. Bill Kristol only wins on Earth-3.

  49. Joe:

    Point taken.

    Everyone:

    Here’s a snappy suggestion: Why don’t we all stop paraphrasing what our opponents are saying in a way that suits our argument? Honestly, it gets us nowhere and is incredibly sophomoric. “Ooooh, the NEOCONS said we’d march in and everyone would throw us lollypops and chocolates and dance on silver clouds. How wrong they were!” “Ooooh, the LIBERALS thought we would step off of our plains and immediately be turned into hamburger by seas of landmines. How wrong they were!”

    Strawman, anyone? I don’t think the arguments are this simple on either side. These are mere charicatures of viewpoints designed to give us an easy rhetorical target.

    Again, think of the children.

  50. The anti-war hippies were just as wrong as the neocons – they didn’t predict a clusterfuck. They predicted nuclear armegeddon in the Middle East. Who was closest? Guess: A Democratic Iraq? Don’t Hold Your Breath

  51. Andy,

    A War Like No Other is really a lousy book. I am not sure what his point was other than that the war really sucked and killed a lot of people. Warfare and Agriculture is a much better example of his writing.

  52. “Weigal still hasn’t given one shred of evidence that Murtha knows anything other than the fact that he agrees with him.”

    OK, Murtha said a year ago that there was a civil war breaking out. He was much-derided in National Review for doing so. He was right, they were wrong.

    John,

    I haven’t heard a single person – literally, not one – say that we can pull out of Iraq without grave consequences. Everyone I’ve seen arguing for withdrawal have admitted that there would be consequences, but that the consequences of staying would be worse. That, btw, is what is known as a “quagmire.” If I go there will be trouble, but if I stay it will be double.

  53. To take that excerpt as a sign that VDH is stupid, well, that’s just a mistake. He’s obviously flustered that a lot of Americans seem more preoccupied with pop culture than foreign affairs.

    The national dialogue would improve immensely if VDH took more interest in pop culture than foreign affairs. His comparison, in one of his books, of the vaunting engaged in by Trojan War leaders in Homer to the braggadoccio of gangsta rap was inspired. His bloviations on anything at all related to current foreign and military policy, not.

    No one anticipated the insurgency.

    Bull fucking shit is what I have to say to that.

  54. I think it should also be balanced against the number of Iraqis who didn’t end up in mass graves on a whim of Saddam Hussein in the time since we pushed him out of power.

    Unless he was on his way to immediately execute hundreds of thousands of people as we invaded, this is specious.

  55. “The first clue to whether someone is serious in their thinking about Iraq or just a shill is whether they think there are or ever were any easy sollutions.”

    You know, that whole NOT INVADING thing we were doing a few years ago just seems easier and easier in hindsight…

  56. H2O + O2 = H2O3 not H2O2

    Only for people bogged down in reality-based thinking. That’s loser talk.

  57. Why don’t we all stop paraphrasing what our opponents are saying in a way that suits our argument? Honestly, it gets us nowhere and is incredibly sophomoric. “Ooooh, the NEOCONS said we’d march in and everyone would throw us lollypops and chocolates and dance on silver clouds. How wrong they were!”

    They actually said we’d be greeted as liberators, and the Iraqis would throw flowers at us. No exaggeration there. It was going to be a six-month cakewalk, remember?

  58. “You know, that whole NOT INVADING thing we were doing a few years ago just seems easier and easier in hindsight”

    That would have been perfect. Saddam was never a threat to anyone. The U.N. sanctions were going just great. The oil for food program was doing a swell job at providing for the Iraqi people. Those options were not so great either. IF we hadn’t invaded, the sanctions would have ended. Saddam would still be in power and basically back into the world community. Maybe that is better than what we have, we will never know, but what is done is done. The question is where do you go from here? I don’t think pulling out and leaving chaos is an option. They only option is to keep fighting until the other side quits.

  59. The question is where do you go from here?

    No, the question is, who do we trust to answer the question, where do you go from here?

  60. I wish President Bush had been right and I had been wrong.

    I would like to see a stable, democratic, pluralistic Iraq.

    The extreme predictions of castastrophic casualties – made by very few – during the invasion were mostly based on the assumption that Saddam Hussein, if desperate, would use the weapons of mass destruction that President Bush assured us Hussein possessed. [My own take on the possibility that Saddam Hussein would use weapons of mass destruction was that it would only cause the US to fight harder and not have any substantial effect on the duration of the “classical” combat phase.]

    However, the internal tensions in the country were well known before the invasion. Many commentators foresaw the probability of a civil war. People with an eye to history warned of the problems of an occupation and resistance to an occupying force.

    Four years on, there is no evidence that Iraq is settling down:

    1) The casualty rate among coalition troops shows no sign of going down.
    2) Attacks on the civilian population by the militias of all sides appear to be rising.
    3) The wild mourning in Tikrit at Saddam Hussein’s funeral indicates that a substantial number of Sunnis are not reconciled to the new regime.
    4) The Iraqi police and military appear to be thoroughly infiltrated by militants.
    5) Al-Sadr’s militia seems to be growing. Al-Sadr has given no evidence of commitment to the Iraqi regime; we do not know what his long term plans are.
    6) The borders are still porous and jihadist fanatics are infiltrating at will.

    IMHO, a “surge” of 25,000 to 30,000 troops will have no effect. 500,000 to 1,000,000 troops MIGHT achieve a full lockdown and suppression of the jihadists and the various militias, if the troops were used with sufficient ruthlessness. However, this would negate any pretense of a democratic Iraqi regime being in control of their country.

    Unless the US takes the million troop option, chaos seems inevitable in Iraq whether the US pulls out now or later.

    The execution of Saddam Hussein gives the US the opportunity to declare victory and get out. President Bush should take it.

  61. chem 101:

    2[H2O] + O2 = 2[H2O2]

  62. John,

    Leading to the ridiculously obvious question:

    “And if they don’t?”

    and to address your overall point: Who is more easily deterable, the head of a state surrounded by the US and other enemies, or patchworks of tiny groups who think they hold the only true path to salvation?

    And would the US be in a better position trapped in a country fighting some array of these smaller groups, or free from that and able to take on or threaten Saddam if he actually tried anything, or Iran, or North Korea, hm?

    This is, of course, ignoring your claims about sanctions, oil for food (only an idiot would act shocked that this was corrupt, we were bribing Saddam to not start shit, big deal), etc

  63. There’s no need to see plans
    Through to fruition
    Especially if
    You’ve guessed the conclusion

    I’m delighted to have found
    If it’s too heavy, you can…
    Just put it down
    The bravest decision you ever make
    Is admitting that
    You’ve made a mistake

    It’s not a lack of determination
    It’s more heroic resignation

    Some of us want to go back to our families
    Stand down with Enrico Gatti
    Some of us want to go back to our families
    Stand down with Enrico Gatti
    I’ve no right to advise, advice for the wise
    There’s no shame in giving up

  64. “Maybe that is better than what we have, we will never know, but what is done is done.”

    I’ll contend that without the invasion the situation in Iraq today would be essentially the same as it was back in 2002, crappy but much better than the current mess. My only point was that once upon a time some of us had a simple solution, and we were right. Maybe the simple solution of running away is the best one now (and thats a real maybe, since these days I tend to respond to the whole Iraq question with the simple solution of applying vodka to my brain cells)

  65. The first clue I had that National Review was worth reading was an obit written by Buckley about Hubert Humphrey. It had nice things to say.

    Alas, a lot of other people write for National Review and I dropped it.

    Maybe I’m a minority demographic, though. The Kos style may rule in the end.

  66. And don’t hide behind “we will never know”. of course we will never know, but we can make good guesses. Your statement is true, and yet still bullshit.

  67. Back on topic “uncool drag”? “bucking up a beauty queen”? He sounds like he wrote this while drunk and living in 1955.

  68. I’ll contend that without the invasion the situation in Iraq today would be essentially the same as it was back in 2002, crappy but much better than the current mess. My only point was that once upon a time some of us had a simple solution, and we were right. Maybe the simple solution of running away is the best one now (and thats a real maybe, since these days I tend to respond to the whole Iraq question with the simple solution of applying vodka to my brain cells)”

    I don’t think you can say that. The secterian violence in Iraq was going to happen eventually. Saddam was going to die or finally be killed his enemies at some point. Once that happened, no way do his sons take over, they were universally loathed. The best that could have happened long term had Saddam remained in power would have been he stayed a neutered leader on a tender box until he died allowing the Iraqis to get down to the serious business of killing each other, only without any influence from the outside, sans Iran and Syria. Considering the condition Saddam put the country in it is hard to see a good peaceful end for Iraq under any scenerio.

  69. Considering the condition Saddam put the country in it is hard to see a good peaceful end for Iraq under any scenerio.

    Yes.

  70. Yes or No, did the Democrats win the November elections because of popular opposition to the war?

    They didn’t win the elections. They won enough seats to gain a majority. Almost 90% of Republican seats in the House were retained by Republicans. The Senate is virtually evenly split. If the election were really about Iraq, why such a high percentage? By the logic expressed by pundits and parrots alike, if the Republicans had held on to their majorities, would this have been cited as a ringing endorsement of the war? I think not.

  71. Is that the first time Ron Hardin didn’t say something misogynistic in a post?

  72. colon
    Given the near impossibility of defeating an incumbent representative in our current ultra-gerrymandered condition retaining “almost 90%” of your house seats is a massive loss.

    John
    I think the Baathists could have kept a lid on things with or without Sadaam, and I don’t think he was going anywhere for awhile. But even if you are right it would be a sectarian war without thousands of american troops stuck in the middle.

  73. wow, my last post needed about 5 more commas.

  74. “John
    I think the Baathists could have kept a lid on things with or without Sadaam, and I don’t think he was going anywhere for awhile. But even if you are right it would be a sectarian war without thousands of american troops stuck in the middle.”

    I don’t think so. The Shias were eventually going to rise up. They are 70+ percent of the population. That is one thing people don’t get; as bad as a Suni insurgency is a Shia one would have been 100 times worse. That is why the whole “we should have kept the army together” argument is bullshit. The Army was Suni and keeping it in place would have given us a Shia rebellion. Yes, the U.S. troops would not be in the middle, but I am not sure that is a good thing. Iraq is not a safe peaceful place, but it is not Somalia or Rwanda right now either. The insurgents can kill random people but that can’t control territory and large sections of the country outside Baghdad are stable. Things are not good, but don’t confuse that for thinking they couldn’t be much worse. A real open civil war killing millions and creating an area twice the size of Texas without any effective state in the middle of the middle east is a pretty horrible scenario.

  75. John,
    There are fucked up places all over the globe, and there will be other fucked up places next year. The point is, that we aren’t responsible for them.

    No fucking way should have American blood and treasure been pissed away on Iraq. Something everyone should have understood in 2002 given the transparency of the pretext presented at the time.

  76. “There are fucked up places all over the globe, and there will be other fucked up places next year. The point is, that we aren’t responsible for them.”

    I wish you were right. Unfortuneately, we depend on the middle east for our oil supplies and one of those fucked up places, Taliban Afghanistan, helped give us 9-11. The days where the U.S. could say screw the world and stay home are over if they ever existed in the first place. Doesn’t mean that we have an obligation to make the world into one great big American town, but we can’t say screw everthing either.

  77. “Unfortuneately, we depend on the middle east for our oil supplies and one of those fucked up places, Taliban Afghanistan, helped give us 9-11.”

    One of these things is not like the other.

  78. so, now the argument is not that Sadaam was so powerful and dangerous that he presented a clear and present danger to the US, its that his regime was so weak thatit was going to fall at any time and our invasion garunteed we would be around to babysit.

    Your “open civil war killing millions” scenario is an absolute worste case and not very plausible. Without our presence the Shia would probably have taken power rather easily in a post Baathist Iraq. It would have been ugly and there would no doubt have been numerous reprisal killings against the Sunni, and other problems besides (such as a Kurdish secession), and we would end up with another nasty middle-eastern dictatorship. That might have happened had we stayed out. Our invasion garunteed it happening, as soon as we leave, which we are going to have to do sooner or later. This is worth the cost to us in money, in lives, and in the degredation of our military capabilities world-wide? How long before it not worth it anymore, John? Is this occupation sustainable indefinatly? Are you still holding out hope for a stable and democratic Iraq?

  79. Of course the initial conquest of Iraq was a cake walk for the best equipped, trained, and arm military in the history of the world.

    In fact, the ease of it and the failure of Saddam to employ any WMD against U.S. troops revealed the lies for justifying the invasion.

    what we have now, however, is a much different matter. Occupation of an area and engaging in conflict with what essentially is a guerilla resistance. The only way to “win” in such a case is to slaughter lots of people.

    What a win that would be for the country that pretends to be taking the moral high ground.

  80. joe,

    Our misadventures in Iraq certainly helped the Democrats in November but that is only one of several reasons behind the result. Since the balance of power in Congress could change with one seat, Hanson doesn’t see the overwhelming anti-war message that he’s looking for.

  81. John,
    Oil is sold on the open market. Our getting involved in the Mid-East only threatens our supply.

    As for Afghanistan, while I was against going to war (because now THAT is now our responsibility) at least there we had legitimate justification. I’m not saying “screw everything”. I’m saying that we should only get involved where we have legitimate self-interest and only when our involvement serves those interest. Iraq failed (grossly so) both tests.

  82. “so, now the argument is not that Sadaam was so powerful and dangerous that he presented a clear and present danger to the US, its that his regime was so weak thatit was going to fall at any time and our invasion garunteed we would be around to babysit.”

    The most shocking thing about seeing Iraq was how broken down and fucked up it was. The U.S. was dead wrong to think that Saddam was going to invade another country anytime soon. Build some WMDs and give them to God knows who, yes. But be anything like he was in 1990, no way. As far as what would have happened when Saddam left, if you are right and the Shias would have taken over, what would have prevented that from being an Iranian backed strongman who would have given Iran effective control over itsown and Iraq’s oil, Shia control over the two largest most powerful countries in the area, just in time for Iran to get the bomb? That is a worse scenerio than a civil war.

  83. Warren

    I hear from so few people who opposed the war in Afganistan, and those I’ve spoken to are staunch pacifist Quakers. Why did you oppose it, given that you agree it was justified?

  84. “John? Is this occupation sustainable indefinatly? Are you still holding out hope for a stable and democratic Iraq”

    When someone shows me that the consiquences of leaving are not worse than the cost of staying. Right now, the cost of staying is less than the consiquences.

  85. John, the ongoing occupation of Iraq has made it much easier for Iran to get the bomb, since they face no credible threat of retaliation.

  86. Warren,

    Thank you for being honest enough to admit you opposed the war in Afghanistan. A lot of people opposed it only to back track after when their worst fears were not realized.

  87. “When someone shows me that the consiquences of leaving are not worse than the cost of staying. Right now, the cost of staying is less than the consiquences.”

    But aren’t the consequences of staying only justified if it means we can make the situation any better when we do eventually leave?

  88. “John, the ongoing occupation of Iraq has made it much easier for Iran to get the bomb, since they face no credible threat of retaliation.”

    They don’t face the threat of invasion, but they certainly face the threat of retaliation. The Navy and the Airforce are virtually unengaged in Iraq. The U.S. could bomb Iran into a field of glass if it chose to. The problem is that there is no international support to do anything about Iran getting the bomb. That would be true regardless of the situation in Iraq.

  89. “But aren’t the consequences of staying only justified if it means we can make the situation any better when we do eventually leave?”

    True, but who is to say we can’t? At some point the Iraqis are going to get tired of killing each other. No war lasts forever. Isn’t it possible to just slug it out and keep a lid on things until the Iraqis come to a settlement or the place is just partitioned like the Bosnia so they can’t kill each other anymore. Granted, not good sollutions but better than the alternatives.

  90. If we can’t change the eventual outcome then the continued occupation is good money after bad. If you do think we can still improve things I want to know how (and so would the president). You may be right, but you need to explain to me just what we are doing to help at this point, aside from simply making it harder for people to kill each other in the short term.

  91. I’m saying that we should only get involved where we have legitimate self-interest

    Who gets to define “legitimate self-interest”?

    If we stand to lose access to a million dollars of resource in another country, what level of involvment would that justify?

    Just how big is that door and how easy it is to open?

  92. But they really really really want to kill each other. How long till they get sick of it, ten years? Five? Are the Israelis and Palestinians sick of it yet?

  93. Got to go John, its been nice to chat.

  94. The reason there haven’t been very many massive street protests against the war is being missed by many. There is NO DRAFT. Although labeled anti-war rallies in the 60s, they were by and large anti-draft rallies. The signs in 69 and 70 didn’t say “Bring our Boys Home”. They said “Stop the War”. Very few of the protesters cared about the troops in Vietnam, and that was wrong. I’m glad we don’t do that anymore. But “Supporting the Troops” is not the same as “Supporting the War”. Even the troops are beginning to see that, if some news reports are to be believed.

  95. True, USN and USAF aren’t engaged in Iraq and would have no problem striking Iran. However, there are a few problems with this. Iran’s nuclear labs are underground and we don’t know where, for one (and I’m sure the leadership can hide where we can’t get two). The Iranian public would rally around their leadership (as it stands they’re one of the few pro-West populaces in the region). And most important, the Army and Marines are still in Iraq, which means they’re prime targets for a HIGHLY stepped up terror campaign OVERTLY coordinated by Iran. And what could the US do from there? Invade Iran and leave Iraq? Make the rubble bounce with airstrikes?

  96. I wish you were right. Unfortuneately, we depend on the middle east for our oil supplies and one of those fucked up places, Taliban Afghanistan, helped give us 9-11.

    Uh, John, actually we don’t get all that much oil from the Mid East in these here United States. Europe and Japan are much more dependent on that supply.

    If we really wanted to deal with the source of 9-11 we’d have kicked some ass in Saudi Arabia, a place equally deserving of regime-change as anywhere else in the world. Instead, we’ve done everything possible to ignore that the majority of the 9-11 pricks came from SA and we’re running all over the world in the name of 9-11.

  97. John writes: “True, but who is to say we can’t? At some point the Iraqis are going to get tired of killing each other. No war lasts forever.”

    So what’s the point sitting in between them for the next ten, fifteen years, getting a thousand Americans killed every year?

    If we’re just going to let them burn themselves out, we can do that even more effectively from over here.

  98. “what would have prevented that from being an Iranian backed strongman who would have given Iran effective control over itsown and Iraq’s oil, Shia control over the two largest most powerful countries in the area, just in time for Iran to get the bomb?”

    That’s different from what’s happening now, how, exactly?

  99. Classic. I love it when John and joe go head to head.

  100. John, since it’s evident that we don’t need Iraq for oil and since we’ve determined that the country isn’t (and never was) a threat to the U.S., what business does the U.S. government have there? Since the vast majority of Iraqi’s want the U.S. to leave, what is the point of their democracy if we continue to ignore their wishes?

    What evidence is there to indicate that the Iraqi’s who have taken arms against our occupation will ever give up fighting us?

  101. And why should we worry about an Iran-controlled Iraq not selling us oil?

    Iran-controlled-Iran sells us oil.

  102. John:
    When someone shows me that the consiquences of leaving are not worse than the cost of staying. Right now, the cost of staying is less than the consiquences.

    I think it’s even simpler than that. The people of the United States are unwilling to commit the necessary manpower (draft) or funds (increased taxes) to acheive something resembling victory. Therefore, we are halfassing this fight, and getting our solider killed for no reason. Pull out.

  103. C-O-N-S-E-Q-U-E-N-C-E-S!

    There’s no “i”!

    Johhn, you reely nead to lurn hao too spel.

  104. “…well, it’s Hanson’s drivel”

    like zis?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmY__FS7BBk

  105. If we take Dave’s original post at face value, then there’s simply no reason to maintain this running debate about Iraq. Odds are the whole war’s gonna be ret-conned out of existence in a few years, so can we all stop fighting with each other and turn our attention to the REAL menace: Bizarro Obama!

  106. VDH is looking pretty shrill here.

    As opposed to the calm, nuanced way he usually writes?

  107. “The people of the United States are unwilling to commit the necessary manpower (draft) or funds (increased taxes) to acheive something resembling victory. Therefore, we are halfassing this fight, and getting our solider killed for no reason.”

    I’m still waiting for the younger war supporters to enlist in droves so I can retire.

  108. [VDH] was one of the few people who said we didn’t need 100,000 plus people to take out the Taliban.

    I guess Josh already responded to this, but let me reiterate that VDH was actually very wrong about Afghanistan. We did need a much larger force if we wanted to stabilize the country. As it stands, Karzai has never been anything more than president of Kabul.

    So, VDH, may be a great classicist. I don’t know, and don’t care. But as a commentator, he sucks some major ass.

  109. More to the point, John, the reasons why our “worst fears” about Afghanistan have not been realized are because:

    1. We don’t hear much about the catastrophe that is Afghanistan because we’re preoccupied with the catastrophe that is Iraq.

    2. What we do hear about Afghanistan is better than what we hear about Iraq, and so Afghanistan looks a good bit better by comparison.

    3. Our footprint in Afghanistan is a good deal smaller, and so there are fewer targets to kill.

    4. We have not engaged in the massive kind of stabilization that we are at least putatively committed to in Iraq, and so the opportunity for Taliban to kill Americans is a great deal less.

    However, more than five years after our invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban is still a major factor, there are regular suicide bombings, Karzai controls Kabul and that’s about it… all of it prompting Anthony Cordesman to write just three weeks ago about the “dire” situation in Afghanistan and how absent “bold” action or some such, we will lose that war too.

  110. I always confuse this guy with the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” guy.

  111. “Good point, but I think it should also be balanced against the number of Iraqis who didn’t end up in mass graves on a whim of Saddam Hussein in the time since we pushed him out of power.”

    Given his actions over the years immediately preceding the invasion, a good guess is that it would have taken Hussein about 100 years to generate the number of Iraqi deaths the war has.

  112. John,
    You have nothing to offer and you are being unreasonable. When don’t you take a day or two to reason a little more before you speak again?

  113. Every prediction they made about the war was wrong. No one anticipated the insurgency. Just because things didn’t work out, doesn’t mean the nah sayers were any more right than the supporters.

    You sir, are a liar or a fool or both.

    Start with

    http://www.cdi.org/program/document.cfm?DocumentID=2208

  114. Here’s Atrios well before the war Sept 20 2002:
    ——
    Despite the rather cynical and mocking tone I’ve taken with respect to the whole Iraq thing lately, the truth is that all along I’ve had a rather Marshallian view of the issue (Josh, not Alfred). Though I wasn’t convinced by the Washington Monthly article he wrote, I suppose that I, like him, was quite open to being convinced. I have been open to all of the possible justifcations for invading Iraq – humanitarian, national security, realpolitik, defense of Israel, etc… But, for me, all of them have fallen completely flat. Josh lays out one reason why:

    But let me discuss with you for a moment what I find the most difficult about this debate. The more ardent supporters of regime change lie a lot. I really don’t know how else to put it. I’m not talking about disagreements over interpretation. I mean people saying things they either know to be false or have no reason to believe are true. Perhaps the word ‘lie’ is a very slight exaggeration. Perhaps it’s better to say they have a marked propensity to assert as fact points for which there is virtually or absolutely no evidence. How’s that?

    From the desperate attempts to link 9/11 to Saddam, to the repeated claims that he’s a “bad man who gassed his own people” (with our support and our gas, essentially), to the misrepresentations of analyses of his potential for nuclear capability, to the knowingly false claim he “threw out the inspectors” (a failing process, admittedly), etc… etc… Not one element of this debate from the Hawks has been, by any stretch, honest.

    I could have even lived with that, perhaps. But what I can’t live with is that combined with the *zero* effort (And I Mean *ZERO*) to present (or formulate?) any conception for what Step 2 would be. No description of what an occupying force would be like – size and length. No description of plans for transition to a new government. Nothing.

    The only guide we have are the collected writings of his advisors. And those are scary.
    ——-

    And here is Juan Cole in 2003 (during the “last throes” days)

    http://web.archive.org/web/20031214140735/www.bostonreview.net/BR28.5/cole.html

  115. Following on Atrios and Juan Cole: It’s the dishonesty, and the major, major incompetence which underscores this entire failed war from my anti-war perspective. Nancy Youssef from McClatchy reported on Washington Journal the other day–from her post in Baghdad–that one of the very real problems with the “democratic government” that the Bush administration set up in Iraq is that representation is by SECT. Now, considering that Iraq has now devolved into civil war between warring religious factions–Shia and Sunni–and there is ample historical precedent for seeing that there would be sectarian problems in Iraq–can anyone PLEASE enlighten us as to how on God’s green earth, the Bush administration would think that representation along sectarian lines would NOT be a problem?!

    Read Vali Nasr’s “The Shia Revival” and you’ll see why Bush should be impeached just for STUPIDITY.

    Victor Davis Hanson is a sad old gasbag and, of course, he couldn’t be bothered to waste his hot air asking the question about sectarian representation. He’s too busy lying to readers who waste their time on his blowhard “War of Endurance.” We’ve all endured VDH long enough.

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