I Might Be Wrong

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My friend John Tabin lambastes me for endorsing this Jim Henley prediction:

As a reminder, the winter months are when insurgent activity drops, so look for a spate of stories about how "the surge is working" in the early months of 2007. Then look for everything to fall apart again as summer turns toward fall.

But insurgent attacks are down from the previous months and down from the summer. What'll happen when the additional troops are brought home? Well, that's a different question: On this question, and this assertion, I have been proven wrong. Happily so. There are thousands of Iraqis who I thought would be dead, and they're not. That's fantastic news.

Unfortunately Tabin doesn't stop there. He points out that "the doves" have been proven wrong before, too, and quotes The Nation's predictions of Saddam's invincibility to prove it. Well, OK. I never said that the doves (and certainly not The Nation) were always right, only that the hawks were always wrong. Tabin throws my snark back at me:

[I]f one were inclined to be really uncharitable, one might throw Dave's declaration from that post right back at him: "These people are always wrong and should not be taken seriously."

If you're going to argue against that, you've got to defend the three and a half years of utterly wrong arguments by war hawks–including and especially the hawks who are now crowing about how the surge has discredited those irksome Weigels and Henleys. Here's surge architect Fred Kagan from August 2005.

If the U.S. were to keep its troop levels constant over the next 18 months, the manpower available to perform all of these critical tasks would increase dramatically as Iraqi forces became available to handle basic security functions… [If] Bush stays the course and pays the price for success, the prospects for winning will get better every day.

Not "send more troops," by the way–stay the course. It would take a few more months of bloodshed for Kagan to realize that the previous successful plans were unsuccessful and we needed a new successful plan. Here's Sen. Joe Lieberman from November 2005.

The leaders of America's military and diplomatic forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey and Ambassador Zal Khalilzad, have a clear and compelling vision of our mission there… Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do.

To say in early 2007 that Iraq war hawks were "always wrong" was more or less as true as arguing that salmon go upstream to spawn. Right now we're seeing the amusing spectacle of guys like Bill Kristol pondering that the Democratic victory in 2006 was perhaps "providential" because it changed Bush's strategy, after arguing in 2006 that we would win the war if we stayed the course and "kept our nerve."

NEXT: Than Shwe: Not a Disaster Capitalist!

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  1. David Weigel writes:

    On this question, and this assertion, I have been proven wrong. Happily so. There are thousands of Iraqis who I thought would be dead, and they’re not. That’s fantastic news.

    Have you been moonlighting at the Onion?

    Not-So-Horrible Thing Happens in Iraq

    “Not bad-not bad at all,” said Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly, who claimed the attack is conclusive proof that the tide in Iraq is somewhat turning in a vaguely less-ghastly direction. “This is hardly the parade of death and destruction we’ve grown accustomed to. In fact, I’ve recently received word that our injured soldier isn’t even going to lose his other leg.”

    “Things are definitely starting to almost look up,” Donnelly added.

    According to Pentagon sources, the fact that only a handful of the casualties were elderly women is a testament to the success of President Bush’s latest troop surge. In addition, because only the easternmost portion of a nearby Sunni mosque experienced severe structural damage, Monday’s events will go down in military records as a “relative victory for the U.S.”

  2. The point of the surge was to give the Iraqis time to reach a political solution. Hows that workin out?

  3. “There are thousands of Iraqis who I thought would be dead, and they’re not. That’s fantastic news.”

    …and 3800+ dead Americans.

  4. I never said that the doves (and certainly not The Nation) were always right, only that the hawks were always wrong.

    Except when they were right. Regarding the relative ease of overthrowing the Saddam regime, for example. And the surge.

    I suspect the hawks have also been right on more nebulous issues, such as the cost in Iraq of allowing Iran to meddle as it pleases.

    Sure, lots of wrong in there for the hawks, too, but don’t pretend they are uniquely stupid when it comes to Iraq.

    The point of the surge was to give the Iraqis time to reach a political solution. Hows that workin out?

    It sucks. Your preferred alternative would be better how?

  5. As always it seems, everyone learns the wrong lesson. “These people are always wrong …” is not a serious statement bolstering a well thought out position. Mostly, it reflects the author’s unwillingness to acknowledge that conflict is, uh, hard. With a lot of variables and stuff.

    Countering that statement with a ‘back at you!’ declaration makes Tabin seem no more self-aware than Weigel was.

  6. Sounds like we need to hear more from PV1 Scott Thomas Beauchamp (just checked AKO, he is still on his second award of that rank)?

    If only TNR had not shut him up on 7 September 2007 maybe we would be getting the real story from a phony soldier serving in Iraq.

  7. I suspect the hawks have also been right on more nebulous issues, such as the cost in Iraq of allowing Iran to meddle as it pleases.

    What about the cost of the US meddling as it pleases? Do we really expect that there will be more democratic elections for a centralized Iraqi government, which will then govern effectively? Or are we just going to referee a civil war until one side has won?

  8. Except when they were right. Regarding the relative ease of overthrowing the Saddam regime, for example. And the surge.

    As JBinMO notes, the surge has pretty clearly failed to do what it was supposed to do. You have to define “right” pretty narrowly to cast this as a bragging point for the hawks.

  9. We’re in a war, man! There’s no time to worry about whether or not we’re taking the right course of action! Arguing about it only emboldens our enemies!

  10. The fact that we’re even TALKING about al Qaeda attacks and Iranian meddling in Iraq is useful to keep in mind as we’re discussing who’s been right about this war.

  11. Wars are extremely hard and unpredictable. The same people who claimed Iraq was lost in 2006, also claimed that we shouldn’t invade because Saddam would use chemical weapons and turn the place into a wasteland or that his army would kill 1000s of Americans in house to house fighting for Baghdad. Everyone has been wrong about a lot things. But please find me any war in history that actually went as planned and anyone knew beforehand how it would turn out? You can’t.

    For once I agree with Weigel. Thank God the surge is working. Hopefully things will continue to get better. The surge was about more than “a political solution”. It is about providing security to Iraq so that its police forces and army can be allowed to build. We learned the hard way that you can’t build an Army or a police force when someone comes and shoots anyone who joins. You have to have basic security. The crucial mistake of this war was made at the beginning. No one understood how broken Iraq was. They really thought that if you cut off the head in Baghdad that the rest of the body of Iraqi civil society would live on. Americans have a bad habit of thinking the rest of the world is like us. No, I don’t mean democracy, I mean that if the whole federal government ceased to exist tomorrow, it wouldn’t mean a whole hell of a lot in Peoria, where the police and fire departments and other essential services would still function and come to work. In Iraq, there was no such thing as an honest cop on the beat. As soon as the threat of death from above was gone, the whole civil structure of government collapsed. It has had to be rebuilt from the ground up. It is the US failure to understand that situation in 2003 and 2004 that has caused many of the problems. For me the classic example of this thinking is the famous deck of cards. The US leadership really thought that if they just caught those 52 guys that everything would fall in place. In fact those 52 guys were totally irrelevant to the future. They were done. While the US was chasing old bathists, the entire civil structure of Iraq lay in ruins and something had to rise to take its place. That something was the Sunni insurgency and the shia militias funded by Iran.

    The US has gotten very lucky in that Al Quada is so awfully even the bathists and Sunnis couldn’t put up with them and the there is enough Iraqi nationalism in the shia community not to want to be under the thumb of Iran. For the moment, a lot of people who would normally be at each other’s throats have agreed in Iraq to work together to run out the Iranians and Al Quada. The surge has provided them the security to do so and to start seriously building their Army and police force. The hard question is when Al Quada is gone and the Iranian backed Shia militias are under control and the US draws down, will those parties go back to each other’s throats and start killing each other again or have they really gotten tired of killing each other and will the lure of what could be a really rich country cause them to make peace.

  12. If you dig a little deeper into the data about attacks, you’ll find that 1) attacks by Sunni insurgents are down, while 2)there is less ethnic cleansing of Sunni neighborhoods by Shiites in Baghdad.

    1) This is a consequence of the goings-on in Anbar Province, which had nothing to do with the surge, but with local Sunni communities turning against al Qaeda AFTER WE LEFT, BECAUSE WE LEFT. Of course, we’ve been hearing from the hawks that Iraq will be taken over by al Qaeda if we weren’t there to fight them.

    2) There is less ethnic cleansing in Baghdad because the city has been effectively cleansed of its Sunni neighborhoods. This happened under our noses, during the height of the surge.

    This is the success the hawks are bragging about – the complete discreditting of their strategic analysis of the situation, and the death squads’ dirty deeds being accomplished so effectively that they’ve wound down their activity.

  13. The crucial mistake of this war was made at the beginning. No one understood how broken Iraq was. They really thought that if you cut off the head in Baghdad that the rest of the body of Iraqi civil society would live on. Americans have a bad habit of thinking the rest of the world is like us

    A lot of truth there, I think.

  14. You conceded too much, Dave — you weren’t wrong. Write another post and pimp slap that guy.

  15. John, that’s some pretty ballsy revisionist history.

    Nobody thought that if you cut off the head in Baghdad that the rest of the body of Iraqi civil society would live on We flew in Ahmed Chalabi – the George Washington of Iraq – and 500 mercenaries in an attempt to stage a De Gaulle in Paris moment.

    When Shiite militias in the South – the ones that had risen against Hussein in 1992 – offered before the war to fight alongside allied forces, they were told that they would be treated as enemy forces if they appeared armed on the battlefield.

    Bremer set out to govern Iraq from one of Saddam’s old palaces in the Green Zone.

    There was never any conceptualization by the people running this war that we would decapitate the Baathist regime and Iraqis throughout the country would then take over their own affairs.

    We attempted to decapitate the existing top-down leadership and replace it with our own.

  16. “1) This is a consequence of the goings-on in Anbar Province, which had nothing to do with the surge, but with local Sunni communities turning against al Qaeda AFTER WE LEFT, BECAUSE WE LEFT. Of course, we’ve been hearing from the hawks that Iraq will be taken over by al Qaeda if we weren’t there to fight them”

    We never left Anbar Joe. We just figured out to stop fighting the local tribes and work with them. The local tribes came to the US after they realized how terrible Al Quada was. You have to understand the people of Anbar are not radical Muslims. They drink liquor and their women don’t wear burkas. They think the Shias are religious fanatics. The people of Anbar are historically smugglers and robbers living off of the trade routs to Syria. The last thing they want is an Islamic Republic. Initially, they aligned with Al Quada because they thought they could run the US out and be back on top in Iraq. After they realized that the US wasn’t leaving and Al Quada was worse, they came to a US special forces team and later the Marines and said that if the US gave them money and arms, they could wipe out Al Quada. The US did and the Anbar miracle was born. But the US never left Anbar and Al Quada was defeated there because of a change in the attitude of the tribes there and the US military’s willingness to work with them.

  17. “There was never any conceptualization by the people running this war that we would decapitate the Baathist regime and Iraqis throughout the country would then take over their own affairs.”

    That is just not true Joe. They thought they could put their own people in charge, yes. But what they didn’t realize was that they entire structure was gone. They thought you could just replace one head with another. They found out otherwise. Bremer though he could run the country out of Baghdad because he had no conception that there wasn’t any government left to run. They re-built the top of the Iraqi government but never bothered to worry about the bottom. Yes, we in the Army were out there trying to set up police forces and schools and the like, but that all came later in the summer. Initially everyone thought that you could leave a few people in place at the top and we all could go home. In the crucial months of April and May before Bremer when Garner was in charge, they thought they could just leave the Iraqi government structure in place and put new people in charge. There wasn’t a structure to leave in place. There was a lot of pre-war planning, but it all assumed that the basic civil structures in Iraq would remain in place after the war. Since that didn’t happen, all of the pre-war planning was worthless.

  18. John,

    Now you’re just factually wrong. We removed most of our troops from Anbar, and pulled the rest back to their bases, in order to free up more troops for Baghdad. The military wrote off Anbar, because it had been taken over al Qaeda and the local authorities were allied with them.

    THEN the local authorities turned on al Qaeda and began to fight them – once our footprint was removed.

    THEN Patraeus sent 10,000 troops back into Anbar, managing the scrape them together in the midst of the surge, in reaction to what he saw was going on there IN THE ABSENCE OF AN AMERICAN OCCUPATION.

  19. Joe as of November 15% of the US force in Iraq was in Anbar.

    In the three months since thousands of U.S. forces poured into Baghdad to quash escalating violence, far more American troops have died in the volatile western Anbar province than in the capital city.

    More than two-thirds of the 245 U.S. casualties between Aug. 7, the start of the Baghdad offensive, and Nov. 7 occurred outside Baghdad _ which military leaders have called the “center of gravity” of Iraq, and the key to success in the war. Four in 10 deaths over those three months have been in Anbar province, a Sunni insurgency stronghold where U.S. Marines have largely taken the lead.

    The road from Baghdad to Ramadi as seen from the viewpoint U.S. Army Sgt. Walter Yenkosky, of Van Nuys, California, a passenger in one of six Humvees making the trip to Camp Fallujah, in Baghdad, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2006. There was a fair amount of fear in the air as a six-Humvee convoy made the 65-kilometer (40 mile) journey from Baghdad to Camp Fallujah. Once considered among Iraq’s most-dangerous locales, Fallujah is less violent since U.S. forces overran the city in November 2004. But it is located in Anbar, a largely Sunni Muslim province rife with insurgents. (AP Photo/Will Weissert) (Will Weissert – AP)

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    Marines, who comprise only about 15 percent of the 141,000 U.S. forces currently in Iraq, accounted for nearly 28 percent of the fatalities over the three-month period.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/25/AR2006112500149.html

    The surge started last spring. The US never drew down in Anbar.

  20. From the International Herald Tribune.

    Last year, a leaked U.S. Marine intelligence report conceded that the war in Anbar was effectively lost and that the province was on course to becoming the seat of the Islamic militants’ plans to establish a new caliphate in Iraq.

    The key to turning that around was the shift in allegiance by tribal sheiks. But the sheiks turned only after a prolonged offensive by U.S. and Iraqi forces, starting in November, that put Qaeda groups on the run, in Ramadi and elsewhere across western Anbar.

    Not for the first time, the Americans learned a basic lesson of warfare here: that Iraqis, bludgeoned for 24 years by Saddam’s terror, are wary of rising against any force, however brutal, until it is in retreat. In Anbar, Sunni extremists were the dominant force, with near-total popular support or acquiescence, until the offensive broke their power.

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/07/08/news/assess.php?page=2

    I don’t know where you hear this stuff Joe, but it is just not the facts.

  21. John,

    The statement you quote is “15% of the U.S. forces in Iraq are MARINES.” Not “In Anbar.” In the marine corps. See, right here: Marines, who comprise only about 15 percent of the 141,000 U.S. forces currently in Iraq

    In fact, there were roughly 10,000 U.S. forces in Anbar Province during the surge – out of 168,000. That’s about 6%.

  22. It should be noted that (from what I have heard and read) that the Anbar province locals view their current cooperation with American forces as temporary and as a sign that they’ve beaten us. I suspect that much of what happens on the ground in Iraq is little understood by most of us here and by the Bush administration as well. My opinion is bolstered by how reactionary our responses have been over the past few years.

  23. Please, John, until you read third-grade English, don’t lecture me on the facts.

  24. R.C. Dean,

    I think we have to give up the illusion that we are somehow in control of our fates in Iraq.

  25. Bremer though he could run the country out of Baghdad because he had no conception that there wasn’t any government left to run. They re-built the top of the Iraqi government but never bothered to worry about the bottom.

    Uh, correct me if I’m wrong John, but I believe we disbanded the military and undertook a policy of “de-Baathification,” i.e., adopted a policy that most members of the government were going to lose their jobs. That doesn’t sound like “not worry[ing] about the bottom,” that sounds like eliminating the bottom.

    And it’s nice that you now admit that war is unpredictable, no war goes as planned, etc. It would have been nice if those planning this debacle had thought of that a few years ago, when they so confidently predicted the replacement of all the dictatorships of the Middle East with pleasant democracies.

    Finally, for the umpteenth time, our military had drawn up plans for an occupation of Iraq that involved hundreds of thousands of troops prepared to put down an inevitable insurgency. Unfortunately, our leadership blithely ignored these, preferring to live with their mistaken belief that a force designed and sized to defeat Saddam’s military would also be suited to military occupation.

  26. Marc Lynch is a political scientist at George Washington University and the author of the insightful blog Abu Aardvark. Here he is at the Cato Institute, offering a sharp and sobering take on the state of the surge:

    https://www.reason.com/blog/show/122702.html

    As Syloson brought up, the Anbar shieks turned against al Qaeda and agreed to work with us to drive them out only after we’d been “defeated” – in their eyes – and were no longer operating as a security/occupation force in Anbar.

    It’s true that we still had forces on our bases and engaged in patrols, but our forces had effectively stopped controlling the towns in Anbar, and were just mounting operations intended to inflict casualties on enemy forces.

  27. Let’s look at the bigger picture here: we’re being told that we’ve turned the corner. Again. Just like the aftermath of the Falluja and Tal Afar operations, insurgent activity has dropped off. Again. And the war’s supporters are telling us that this shows they were right all along. Again.

    And now they’re back to telling us that they’ve just about managed to train enough security forces. Again. As if the problem with Iraq is a shortage of men trained to bear arms.

    The surge was never intended to provide time to train Iraqi forces. It was intended to reduced violence in order to provide space for a political deal. Well, by throwing in an unsustainable number of troops, we were able to reduce the levels of violence, all the way down to a trifling 900 attacks per day, day after day after day.

    And where’s the political deal? If you fire enough rounds, you can make your enemy put his head down. That much we’ve accomplished. But if you aren’t able to follow up on that development to get around side of him, you haven’t actually done anything to win the battle.

    Reducing violence all the way down to where it was before the surge began – you remember, a situation so awful that it justified escalating the war in a last-ditch effort to prevent the country from falling apart entirely – has not accomplished what it was meant to accomplish. If there isn’t a political deal, those thousands of Iraqis who are still alive will just be killed in the next round of fighting – fighting which will inevitably occur unless there is a political deal that stops it.

  28. “The key to turning that around was the shift in allegiance by tribal sheiks. But the sheiks turned only after a prolonged offensive by U.S. and Iraqi forces, starting in November, that put Qaeda groups on the run, in Ramadi and elsewhere across western Anbar.”

    Joe what is so hard to understand about that? No offense but I am buying the International Herald Tribune over you. Why are you such a jerk? Can’t you admit you are wrong when you are proven so? It is not that big of a deal really. I am not even arguing with you. I am just point out facts. You really let things the better of you when someone points out a fact you don’t know or misunderstand. I don’t know why that is.

  29. Okay, Joe, so if things are only not horrible because of the US presence the solution is to cut and run and leave immediately? That is going make things better? It is funny to watch the whole you dig yourself into. When arguing that the Democratic candidates are not going to create another Somalia or Saigon, you seem to be saying that everything is going to be okay once the US leaves, which means we won the war basically. But when talking about Bush and the current state of the war, everything is horrible and going to result in mass death and destruction and only the presence of an unsustainable amount of US forces is preventing it.

    I really wish we would just get the election over and let a Democrat win so you can be on here singing the Army song about how wonderful things in Iraq are. God that will be nice.

  30. I really wish we would just get the election over and let a Democrat win so you can be on here singing the Army song about how wonderful things in Iraq are. God that will be nice.

    Trade choirs, same song. Joe will sing praise, and John will tell us what’s wrong.

  31. John,

    Joe what is so hard to understand about that? I didn’t misunderstand the statement, John. I just don’t agree with it. You can drop your Captain Superior pose – why, joe, why can’t you understand this simple statement? – any time now.

    Also, while we’re talking about being jerks, are you ready to apologize for calling me “a longtime supporter and defender and Saddam Hussein,” or should I continue to write off anything you have to say as self-serving wishful thinking?

    Okay, Joe, so if things are only not horrible because of the US presence the solution is to cut and run and leave immediately? No, we should cut and run slowly, using the notice of our impending exit (and the renuciation of permanent bases and a permanent presence) to jump-start a political process among Iraq factions, as well among the “interested parties.”

    Are you imagining straw-man positions to argue against again? That really hasn’t served you very well over the past seven years. You should probably knock that off.

    As for the next president, I imagine I’ll have quite a bit of criticism about how, and how fast, she will carry out her withdrawal policy upon taking office.

    You, on the other hand, will no doubt watch what she does and, whatever it, insist “That’s exactly what Bush would have done! Exactly!”

  32. There are thousands of Iraqis who I thought would be dead, and they’re not.

    Could you provide a link to the source where you are getting your seasonal Iraqi bodycounts from, please.

  33. Bill Kristol has been specularly wrong, in the most vile and disgusting manner, about absolutely everything. When such obviously meritless people are not homeless it disturbs me. When they are exulted as if they had merit, it fills me with rage.

    Why doesn’t Bill Kristol have to wait in line for soup and sleep with fleas like the rest of parasites on society?

  34. To summarize: joe & John disagree; they never have agreed; they never will agree; yet they persist in making the same fucking arguments over and over and over and over and over . . . .

  35. Hey, iowan, I started out talking about the subject of the thread.

    Talk to John about the threadjack.

  36. Regardless of the nature of the thread, if it touches on Iraq then one or both of you will start out playing nice but then you both quickly resume sniping at each other.

  37. John–
    As someone who doesn’t pretend to be any kind of expert on this stuff but wants as much info as possible, let me say I appreciate your posts here. Whether or not I agree with your conclusions, it’s great to hear input from someone who has actually been on the ground over there (I don’t know whether you still are).

    That said, your last response to Joe bugs me, because you said Joe’s solution was to “cut and run.” Why use that phrase? Joe didn’t suggest we do that, and come to think of it, I’ve never heard anybody advocate that we “cut and run.” That just seems to be the phrase that people trot out when they want to smear the person on the other side as being a coward or something.

    I’ve never served in the military, but I assume the army must know how to leave an area in a managed way, yes?

  38. The decision to go to war was highly controversial. While there were valid arguments both for and against, the entire decision-making process was corrupted by the poor quality of data that was made available to the public (either through incompentence or malice on the part of the adminstration). The war itself was executed flawlessly, and ended with the defeat of the Iraqi army and the dismantling of the Iraqi government. The occupation after the war was the biggest clusterfuck I have every seen, and I am old enough to remember Vietnam. AND NONE OF THAT MATTERS! THAT IS SUNK COST.

    The only thing that matters now is what is the best course of action going forward from today. The decision-making process going forward needs to consider the short-term, mid-term, and long-term consequences to the US, the region, and the whole world.

    I would think that two bright guys like joe and John would have valuable things to say on this matter. However, neither one of you can get past those sunk costs.

  39. The war itself was executed flawlessly, and ended with the defeat of the Iraqi army and the dismantling of the Iraqi government. The occupation after the war was the biggest clusterfuck I have every seen, and I am old enough to remember Vietnam.

    Given the fact that the Iraqis planned, from the very beginning, to melt into the population and wage a guerilla insurgency, I don’t think this distinction is meaninful.

    And as for “sunk costs,” I take great exception to the assertion that my opposition to the invasion has prevented me from talking about what we should do now. Look at what I wrote above in refutation of John’s “cut and run” smear. Unlike, say, Atrios or some other anti-war lefties, I haven’t been taking the “clean up your own mess” position. I’ve been arguing for a responsible course forward for years, along the lines of what I briefly outlines above.

    You cant search on “joe Northern Ireland Model” if you don’t believe me.

  40. Hey, we should all be praying for a total meltdown in the middle east. The resulting oil shortages will finally make people park those gas-guzzlers for good.

  41. Look at what I wrote above in . .

    Sorry, but when you two get going, I have to skip most of the posts you make.

    I haven’t been taking the “clean up your own mess” position.

    I applaud that position.

  42. As a matter of fact, iowan, my willingness to engage seriously with the question of what to do now that we’re stuck in the quagmire has led to libertarian isolationist absolutists, and hawks seeking to avoid admitting they’ve lost the debate, of being a crypto-hawk, with a position that cannot be meaningfully distinguished from that of the war supporters.

  43. I haven’t been taking the “clean up your own mess” position.

    Hmmm, either I should read more slowly or you should type more slowly. What is your position here?

  44. that should be “…, accusing me of being a crypto-hawk, with a position…”

  45. . . my willingness to engage seriously with the question of what to do now that we’re stuck in the quagmire has led to libertarian isolationist absolutists, and hawks seeking to avoid admitting they’ve lost the debate, of being a crypto-hawk, with a position that cannot be meaningfully distinguished from that of the war supporters.

    so many big words, it will take me a while to provide a coherent reply 😉

  46. iowan,

    Well, there is something to be said about looking to the immediate past to predict the short and mid-term future. If I don’t have a lot of confidence in a “victory”* there based on that short-term past I think that is a reasonable position to take.

    *Something which has become progressively difficult to define.

  47. It’s too early to pass judgment on the surge – we’re going to have to let this play out. The next six months will tell whether we can produce a decent outcome in Iraq.

  48. iowan,

    In shorthand, I support something like what John Kerry was talking about in 2004, what John Murtha was talking about in 2005, and what Joe Biden has been talking about since 2006. Announce and begin our withdrawal to create the momentum to accomplish a diplomatic/political/peace process push. We should allow the Iraqis themselves, through this process, to determine their own future, without holding it hostage to our Great Power geopolitical interests (permanent bases and oil concessions, which we should renounce at the beginning of the process).

    As all 16 of our intelligence agencies have told us, our occupation is the primary driver of the insurgency, and of the alliances made between Iraqi groups and foreigners. Our support of the Baghdad government – the one the Sunnis so plainly did not consent to in the 2005 elections – is a major force propelling the violence between Sunnis and Shia.

    War supporters are willing to mouth the words, “There is no military solution, just a political solution,” but their actions and positions show them to be either incapable of understanding what is required for such a solution, or of prioritizing it – and the end of the ongoing bloodshed – beneath the NeoCon vision of using Iraq as a base for military operations against it neighbors.

    But I will admit to one mistake in my thinking – I thought that it would require an announcement of a nation-wide withdrawal to have any political effect, since I understood the insurgency to be primarily nationalist in character. The changing political situation in Anbar has demonstrated that, at least in some areas, all Iraqi politics are local.

  49. In shorthand, I think the geopolitcal consequences prohibit any serious pull-out from Iraq.

    The process I think will have the greatest chance of success (which by the way no one, and I mean no one, is talking about) is as follows:

    1) Secure the borders with Iran and Syria. The US can’t do this, so that implies an international peacekeeping force — hard to achieve since the Bush adminstration has alienated some many key allies.

    2) Secure the interior of Iraq. Again this US can’t do this, so an international force is necessary. Note that this could require partitioning of Iraq (which joe has called ethnic cleansing)

    3) Hold on for a generation or more to allow for a culture of democracy and capitalism to take hold. Note, this will only work if the wealth from the oil fields is distributed widely through the population.

    So much for my fantasies.

  50. I reckon we’ll eventually see a step back to containment.

  51. iowan,

    With a political deal ending the internal fighting, the Iraqis themselves will be perfectly capable of security their own borders, preventing incursions from their neighbors, and impose law and order in the interior of Iraq. Absent such a deal, the U.S. and all of our allies will not be able to do so.

    Also, I didn’t call partition ethnic cleansing – I called ethnic cleansing ethnic cleansing. The thousands upon thousands of murders of Sunnis by Shiited in Baghdad, the burning them out of their homes – that’s ethnic cleansing. The Kurds keeping their own government in the north – that’s partition. Ethnic cleansing might happen in a partition, but it might not. Baghdad and Kirkuk could be open cities, for examples.

    Democracy and capitalism cannot rise and flourish under this occupation, as we’ve been learning for five years. Only a political deal can bring about the security necessary for them to work.

    All of our efforts need to go towards the political solution, because our efforts to create “order” aren’t going anywhere in the absence of a deal.

  52. “””The war itself was executed flawlessly, and ended with the defeat of the Iraqi army and the dismantling of the Iraqi government. “””

    If you mean poor planning executed flawlessly, maybe I’ll agree. But one of the biggest problems in the execution was the failure to secure the conventional weapons depots which armed much of the insurgency. That failure has killed more Americans than anything Iran has done.

    What I find funny with the issue at hand is how one side will call success or failure within a small slice of time. The current success means about as much as the past failure in the long term. It ain’t over till it’s over.

    I doubt we will be big winners when it’s over. The southern part is aligned with Iran, it’s probably going to be that way no matter what we do. If we attack Iran, Southern Iraq will become more active against the US. The Iraqis tolerate us knowing one day we will leave. As far as “basic security” The fact that no one, or extremely few in our government will leave the green zone without a paramilitary force to protect them speaks volumes.

    Look how many years it took us to deal with our race issues. I suspect it’s a long road for Iraq. How much, and for how long should we give them welfare? They know corruption well, and Billions of our tax dollars have been wasted. Are they NOT able to afford their own infrastructure? We can barely afford our own. The sooner we are out, the better for us. Anbar is proof that the Iraqis can and will deal with AQ.

    I can never take the Republicans serious when they come out against welfare for Americans while sending Hundreds of Billions of welfare to another country and act disinterested about investigating the waste.

    In 20 years we’ll all look back at Iraq and say, Damn, with that money would could have fixed social security. A few years ago, 2 Trillion was too much to spend on ourselves over 20 years. Why is in not too much to spend on Iraq?

  53. I reckon we’ll eventually see a step back to containment.

    Containment only works when the playing cards are sovereign nations, not when they are transnational organizations willing to engage in terror attacks. How do you contain 4 guys and a boxcutter?

    1) Secure the borders with Iran and Syria. The US can’t do this, so that implies an international peacekeeping force — hard to achieve since the Bush adminstration has alienated some many key allies.

    The last thing an international force could do is secure the borders, as ill-coordinated, un-motivated, and easily corrupted as such forces tend to be. The only way the borders will be secured will be by a functioning Iraqi government, although US assistance can help quite a bit.

    2) Secure the interior of Iraq. Again this US can’t do this, so an international force is necessary.

    See above comment. This is a job for Iraqis, with real help from competent allies (meaning, not the French, the Russians, the Chinese, the Nigerians, or whoever else isn’t already pitching in in Iraq).

    3) Hold on for a generation or more to allow for a culture of democracy and capitalism to take hold. Note, this will only work if the wealth from the oil fields is distributed widely through the population.

    True dat. Of course, pulling out altogether, or into tactically/strategically meaningless enclaves (the joe plan) won’t do much in the “hold on for a generation” front.

  54. How do you contain 4 guys and a boxcutter?

    I think it’s obvious. You choose an unrelated country that you don’t like. Rely on popular comparison’s of ethnicity and religion to sell the idea, and then you invade.

    The nice part is that you can always go back to people fear of 4 more guys with box cutters to invade the next country.

  55. my willingness to engage seriously with the question of what to do now that we’re stuck in the quagmire has led to libertarian isolationist absolutists, and hawks seeking to avoid admitting they’ve lost the debate, of being a crypto-hawk, with a position that cannot be meaningfully distinguished from that of the war supporters.

    If you don’t want to be called a crypto-hawk, joe, don’t talk like one. Non-interventionists are NOT isolationists, for the umpteenth time.

  56. John said: “The crucial mistake of this war was made at the beginning. No one understood how broken Iraq was.”

    And the doves were more than willing to let the U.N. ‘fix’ the broken country. Which means leaving it broken for the Iraqi’s not lucky enough to be part of the oil-for-food bastardization. That would be o.k. though, different culture and all.

  57. “Sounds like we need to hear more from PV1 Scott Thomas Beauchamp (just checked AKO, he is still on his second award of that rank)?

    Doesn’t Thoreau agree in advance with whatever second-term PV1 Beauchamp says?

  58. I wonder how much of the current success is a result of talking to, and recruiting people who are, or have been considered an enemy.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20071023/wl_time/cuttingadealwithmahdimilitants

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