Iraq

It's Mea Culpa Time!

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Five years have passed and Slate asks a handful of "liberal hawks" how they "got it wrong." Josef Joffe, editor of the German weekly Die Zeit, says it's a loaded question, briefly revisits the "dark years" after the invasion, says the tide has turned post-surge, and acknowledges that the invasion tipped the regional power balance towards Iran:

The lesson is stark: If you don't will the means, don't will the end. To this Kantianism, let us add pure homily: Look before you leap. The tragedy of American power in the Middle East, the most critical arena of world politics, is that the United States ended up working as the handmaiden of Iranian ambitions.

By destroying Saddam's armies, the United States flattened the strongest bulwark against Iranian expansion. By empowering the Shiites, it opened the way to an ideological alliance between Najaf and Qum, the two centers of the faith on either side of the Iraq-Iran border. And by entangling itself in an open-ended war in Iraq, the United States squandered precisely those military assets that would have kept Iran in awe. Would the Ahmadinejad regime grasp so boldly for nuclear weapons if U.S. power and credibility were still intact?

Probably not. Recall the vindication the administration felt when, after the invasion, a nervous Libya relinquished its WMD program to Britain and the United States, as Christopher Hitchens mentions in his contribution to the debate. But Joffe has a point; the nuke issue is surely a two-way street. Obviously, a perceived military success terrifies regional dictators, a perceived failure emboldens them.

The brave Iraqi exile Kenan Makiya, instrumental in swaying liberals like George Packer and Paul Berman to support the war, wonders why, after writing a book like The Republic of Fear, he didn't consider the brutalizing effects of Ba'athist dictatorship on the people of Iraq:

But my biggest political sin is that in spite of nearly a quarter of a century of writing about the abuses of the Baath Party, I, and more generally the whole community of Iraqi exiles, grossly underestimated the consequences on a society of 30 years of extreme dictatorship. Iraqis were, it is true, liberated by the U.S. action in 2003; they were not defeated as the German and Japanese peoples had been in 1945. A regime was removed and a people liberated overnight, but it was a people that did not understand what had happened to it or why. Iraqis emerged into the light of day in a daze, having been in a prison or a giant concentration camp, cut off from the rest of the world to a degree that is difficult to imagine if you have not lived among them.

Richard Cohen says he knew that the Bush administration was full of it (of course he did), but he was guided by a utopianism, one informed by having "spent time in the region." He knew, for instance…

"…that Saddam was unconnected to Osama Bin Laden, that Iraqi intelligence had not met with Mohammed Atta in Prague, and that while Iraq once had a nuclear weapons program, it no longer did. That left chemical and biological weapons, and neither represented much of a threat. Gas had been around since Ypres (1915), and biological devices were impractical as weapons of mass destruction, although they remained profoundly scary. So, the only justification left was, really, what the neocons had started with: a war to reorder the Middle East. This had a certain appeal, since the region was unstable, undemocratic, repressive, and downright dangerous. Can it be a coincidence that so many of the so-called liberal hawks had spent time in the region? When it came to getting it right on Iraq, ignorance may indeed have been bliss."

So to be "right" about the war in Iraq, it was important to know very little about the Middle East?

And, as expected, Hitchens hasn't budged at all.

NEXT: Arthur C. Clarke, RIP

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  1. The more I think about how 90% of the country behaved in the Spring of 2003, the more it pisses me off. The super-duper-patriotism, the lap dog media, the “freedom fries”, the spouting of jingoistic platitudes, pretending like the war would be a game of Halo, “do you hate America?” and on and on. Its probably the closest I’ve ever felt to really, really wanting to leave the country.

  2. Recall the vindication the administration felt when, after the invasion, a nervous Libya relinquished its WMD program to Britain and the United States

    OK, let me make sure I get this. If country A has wmds, invade a country B that is 8 countries over to make A give up its wmds. That is, if that was even planned in the case of Libya.

  3. That’s an interesting insight on the part of Makiya. Maybe he should have seen it earlier, but that doesn’t diminish the truth or power of his observation now.

  4. Ali,

    The administration believed that, rightly or wrongly, no country would give up wmd’s unless America made a show of strength with the one country that had consistently defied US and UN demands to allow their weapons program to be inspected. If a piker like Saddam could keep his doors closed to weapons inspectors, who couldn’t?

    The invasion gave pause to a lot of pikers like Saddam. Arguably, it made the North Koreans more amenable to talks (until the war started going badly, and they went back to stalling tactics). It may have caused the Iranians to pause their nuke program, as the NIE on Iran’s nuke situation in 2003 pointed out. And yes, it may have been what tipped Libya.

    While it’s hard to say for sure how much these developments are directly attributable to the invasion, it’s equally arguable that the aftermath or the invasion diluted the intimidation power that America had from its show of strength.

  5. I don’t think ignorance was a necessary condition for being right. I do think that a bit of detachment helps one avoid utopian fantasies.

    What gets me is that 5 years into this mess the media actually still treats hawks as Serious People. They actually invite hawks to respectable venues and hear them out. They wouldn’t invite flat earthers to respectable venues and thank them for appearing, they wouldn’t invite NAMBLA to offer an opposing view when a child molester is on trial, yet they invite hawks to respectable venues and nod their heads and thank them so much for appearing.

    Look, some shit is just no longer a matter for serious debate. I hate saying that, because if you go too far with it you wind up in extremist territory, but at some point you have to be like “Damn, we’re still arguing about this? WTF?”

    You can only let an idiot blather about “success” in Iraq so many times before you have to conclude that he’s an idiot with nothing worth airing.

    Mind you, I’m not suggesting that anybody’s first amendment rights should be infringed. Those who want to should of course be able to invite whomever they want to appear in their venues. I would never force anybody to rescind an invite or pull a column. But I would say that the media is a pack of drooling idiots for still publishing and airing hawkish commentary.

    Speaking of which, why is Michael Young still posting stuff on an otherwise thoughtful site?

  6. Regarding Iran:

    We removed their biggest enemy. We enabled a situation where power is held by Shia militias funded by Iran, and to whatever extent a meaningful government exists in Iraq it is a government aligned with those militias.

    Yes, Iran’s leaders must just be quaking in their boots right now. “Oh noes! Our biggest enemy has pissed off its allies and placed large portions of its forces in territory where our guerrillas can operate with impunity! How can we defend ourselves?”

    The people who continue to think that invading Iraq has improved our leverage over Iran are the dumbest fucking people on the planet.

  7. The administration believed that, rightly or wrongly, no country would give up wmd’s unless America made a show of strength with the one country that had consistently defied US and UN demands to allow their weapons program to be inspected. If a piker like Saddam could keep his doors closed to weapons inspectors, who couldn’t?

    You just provided a good case for Operation Desert Fox and the sabre-rattling that got the Blix team into Iraq.

    But the invasion and occupation of that country? I don’t see the “pikers” in Iran backing down. As a matter of fact, this war has caused them to speed up their efforts while reducing our ability to bring either military or political pressure to bear on them.

    As for North Korea, they’d beeing seeking talks since the Clinton administration, and were all ready to meet with Powell when the President cut his legs off. This war didn’t make them “more willing to talk.” They’re an aggressive panhandler, and getting paid off is the reason they have a nuke program.

    It sure has made Bush more willing to talk, though. And remember, he thinks a willingness to talk is a sign of weakness.

  8. “Can it be a coincidence that so many of the so-called liberal hawks had spent time in the region? ”

    What exactly does “spending” time in the region” mean ? Flying in and out on expense account, reading a couple of books, visiting Potemkin villages, wearing local garb and going native for a whole 7 days before flying back, a couple of years as a career Foriegn Correspondent while developing a Lawrence of Arabia complex ?

    I’ve “spend” some time in Mexico (AKA Tijuana) and dude! i love the country, just fucking love it ! I suppose that makes me a learned on the subject of Mexico by this prick Cohen’s reckoning.

  9. Since we are on the subject of liberal hawkism – recall Sayid Qutub the islamist nutjob ? IIRC some liberal hawk wrote a study of the man as the originator of Islamism. He developed his ideas after “spending time” in America and becoming an expert on American values. The guy visited a Church social in 1900 BC or something and concluded that America was like modern Hollywood.
    I submit that “spending time” means shit in terms of getting it right.

  10. Good point, SM.

  11. Richard Cohen doesn’t know what he is talking about.

    “…that Saddam was unconnected to Osama Bin Laden, that Iraqi intelligence had not met with Mohammed Atta in Prague”

    http://www.thexreport.com

  12. But my biggest political sin is that in spite of nearly a quarter of a century of writing about the abuses of the Baath Party, I, and more generally the whole community of Iraqi exiles, grossly underestimated the consequences on a society of 30 years of extreme dictatorship. Iraqis were, it is true, liberated by the U.S. action in 2003; they were not defeated as the German and Japanese peoples had been in 1945. A regime was removed and a people liberated overnight, but it was a people that did not understand what had happened to it or why. Iraqis emerged into the light of day in a daze, having been in a prison or a giant concentration camp, cut off from the rest of the world to a degree that is difficult to imagine if you have not lived among them.

    That’s probably the smartest thing I have read in a while on this subject. And I firmly believe this lack of knowlegde was why the administration was so confident about dealing with the aftermath, and why things went downhill so fast.

  13. F all these effin media types. Fact is, it didnt matter who was right or wrong, the Bush admin was going into Iraq, probably regardless of 9/11. And theres not a damn thing anyone will do about it. The political will isnt there for impeachment. You wanna hold media busybodies feet to the fire? Quit buying and reading their publications.

  14. Tolstoy talks about how history takes its own momentum. We are seeing an example of that today in Iraq. All of the doves scream and rant about how right they were but things roll on. The war is going to roll to an end over the next few years and Iraq will be a much better place then it was in 2003. There is no way to settle the argument about whether it was worth it because you will never know what would have happened had the invasion not happened. One thing is for sure; Iraq is not another Vietnam. No war lasts forever. The Iraqis will get tired of killing each other. Iraqis are not Iranians. The idea that Iraq is going to be some satilite state of the Mullahs is wishful thinking. It is what it is. It is going to be a reasonably functional federal state awash in oil money. Not great but a lot better than what it was in 2003. There will never be any Saigon like pictures of Americans fleeing in defeat. It is going to wind down with a wimper and there is nothing anyone can do about it. It is that sense of powerlessness more than anything that is behind rants like Thoreau’s.

  15. The war is going to roll to an end over the next few years and Iraq will be a much better place then it was in 2003.

    You and the other remaining dead-enders are the stupidest fucking people on the planet.

  16. “But my biggest political sin is that in spite of nearly a quarter of a century of writing about the abuses of the Baath Party, I, and more generally the whole community of Iraqi exiles, grossly underestimated the consequences on a society of 30 years of extreme dictatorship. Iraqis were, it is true, liberated by the U.S. action in 2003; they were not defeated as the German and Japanese peoples had been in 1945. A regime was removed and a people liberated overnight, but it was a people that did not understand what had happened to it or why. Iraqis emerged into the light of day in a daze, having been in a prison or a giant concentration camp, cut off from the rest of the world to a degree that is difficult to imagine if you have not lived among them.”

    That is very true. But I would ask is the sollution then to just leave them in the concentration camp? If anything that seems to be a pretty good moral justification for the war.

  17. Really Thoreau?

    Do you know anything about Iraq? Have you ever been there? Did you ever see the mass graves of childen with their toys? The dry marshes? The people living in dirt? The prisons. The remains of kurdish villiages Saddam had gassed? I saw all of that and you can fuck off. I feel sorry for people like you who have never been anywhere or done anything or seen anything and sit around and think they know how good or how bad the rest of the world has it.

  18. Really Thoreau,

    You are normally a reasonalble person. Why don’t you go talk to someone who actually lived under Saddam and lecture them about how much better off they were under him? Why don’t you go tell that to a Kurd sometime? I really think you need to fly over there right now and tell everyone in that country how wonderful they had it under Saddam and how sorry you are that we destroyed that great life.

  19. Obviously, a perceived military success terrifies regional dictators, a perceived failure emboldens them.

    I think this also overlooks the fact that the unavoidable lesson of Bush’s Iraq policy and North Korea policy is that if you want the US to leave you alone, you better get your hands on some nukes.

    No nukes = you get to be the patsy when someone like Bush wants to have a war to improve his party’s standing in midterm Congressional elections.

    Yes nukes = you can do whatever the fuck you want and nobody says shit.

    And spare me the whole “why are the Iraqi people so dysfunctional” routine. There are few people worldwide who would root for a foreign invasion and occupation of their country and would cooperate with it. It doesn’t really require a more profound explanation than that.

    I didn’t understand the Iraqi people at first, because if I was living under Saddam I would want a foreign power to invade, and would have greeted them with flowers, and would have collaborated with the replacement power. But I was forced to realize that I am not most people.

    And after a few years of living under military occupation, with foreign troops and mercenaries who can shoot people in the street at will with little threat of punishment and who can kick in any door they want and drag off anyone they want, even my instinct for placing ideology over nationalism might start to wane.

  20. John, Iraq went from dictator rule to militia rule. And you call that progress?

    I’m glad Saddam is gone. I’m horrified at what has replaced him.

  21. I don’t see an improvement over the rule of one man vs. the rule of the sectarian mob.

  22. There is no way to settle the argument about whether it was worth it because you will never know what would have happened had the invasion not happened.

    On that basis you could never conduct a cost/benefit analysis of ANY action, no matter how prosaic.

    Of course back here in the world of people who aren’t brain dead, of course you can decide whether it was “worth it” by measuring the costs against the benefits, and then considering the opportunity cost of the resources expended.

    And that means that unless there was no better way for us to spend 4000 lives and 1 trillion dollars, no course of action that would have employed those resources in a way that did more to enhance the security of the United States, then the war was a mistake and was not “worth it”.

    I don’t think you sincerely have the kind of profound epistemological doubt that makes it impossible for anyone to ever look back over their actions and consider the benefits and costs. [“Who knows what might have happened? No one can ever know that! Blah blah blah blah.”] Once again, in a different context I’m sure you’d take a different attitude. As a matter of fact, a thread or two down you appear to be ABSOLUTELY SURE about how things would have turned out if we hadn’t nuked Japan. So it’s pretty obvious that you’re dragging out a tired positivist routine because you simply don’t WANT to consider whether the war was worth it, and you’re willing to ape a certain philosophical skepticism to make that possible.

  23. “John, Iraq went from dictator rule to militia rule. And you call that progress?

    I’m glad Saddam is gone. I’m horrified at what has replaced him.”

    Yeah it really is. In some places like the Kurdish north it is downright great. In other places it still sucks but it is still better. You have to understand to that even under Saddam it was run by mallitias. Saddam used the tribes against each other all the time. Saddam’s Iraq was not some organized systamitic state like Stalin’s Russia. It was just one big criminal enterprise that killed 10,000 a month. As far as what is there being “horrifying”, compared to what? I would take what is there over the Somalia, the Sudan or any number of other place. Moreover, there is reason to believe it will get better and continue to get better. Was it worth it? It is certainly reasonable to argue that it wasn’t. But it is not reasonable that Iraq is now some kind of hell worse than it was under Saddam. That is just not true.

  24. John, Iraq went from dictator rule to militia rule. And you call that progress?

    Ummm…yeah?

    Our Revolutionary War and Civil War had similiar transitions. Is Iraq going to end up like that? Who knows. But pouting in a corner isn’t going to change anything.

  25. John–if liberating the Iraqi people from Saddam’s brutal rule was the right thing for America to do then why are we still there? That was accomplished a couple of years ago. They were liberated. Its done. If that’s your reasoning for this shindig shouldn’t we be long gone?

  26. Iraq is more like Revolutionary France than Revolutionary America, and will probably end up with a military dictator just as France did.

  27. Thoreau,

    John doesn’t need to know anything. He saw things that gave him strong feelings, you terrible, terrible person.

  28. Fluffy,

    We will never know for sure that bombing Japan was the right thing but we can guess 50 years on. Fifty years on we will certainly be able to make some guess about Iraq. Five years on, not so much. If Iraq turns out to be a truly prospoerous democracy, history will look on the war a hell of a lot differently than if it turns into Somalia.

    As far as the alternatives that we do know, had we not invaded, we still would have thousands of people in Saudi Arabia. France and Russia would still be making billions off of oil for food. We probably would have bombed Iraq a few times since then. The sanctions would still be starving the Iraqi people and they would still be living under a brutal dictator. Those things are a pretty good bet.

  29. John, I’m not suggesting there would have been some happy ending under Saddam. But it doesn’t follow that because things wouldn’t have ended well under Saddam, that they would somehow end better with American involvement.

    I really think there is no happy ending for Iraq, or for that entire region no matter what we do.

  30. If I had said in 2003 that the outcome of the war in Iraq would be what is now described as the best-case-scenario, I would have been denounced as an America-hating defeatist.

    Oh, wait. I did, and I was.

    Stupidest fucking people on the face of the earth, all trying lick their wounds and pretend they aren’t zombies.

  31. “John–if liberating the Iraqi people from Saddam’s brutal rule was the right thing for America to do then why are we still there? That was accomplished a couple of years ago. They were liberated. Its done. If that’s your reasoning for this shindig shouldn’t we be long gone?”

    There is some truth to that. Maybe we should have just left and left them to their own devices. Given them a few billion in aide and said have fun if you ever screw with us we will be back in spades. That is not very humanitarian but it is practical. Even being the do gooder I am, at some point, we do have to leave and they have to run their own country.

  32. John didn’t think we needed to wait 50 years to render a verdict in January 2005.

    Or in April 2003.

  33. Iraq is more like Revolutionary France than Revolutionary America, and will probably end up with a military dictator just as France did.

    I don’t think leaving right away will make that less likely. That would almost seem to be an argument to stay in fact.

  34. Even being the do gooder I am, at some point, we do have to leave and they have to run their own country.

    …but first, we have to make sure the death toll is well into six digits. Because of how much we care.

  35. “I really think there is no happy ending for Iraq, or for that entire region no matter what we do.”

    I agree. A lot of what has happened is the butchers bill to Iraq for 40 years of Bathism. That society was so wrecked by it. Eventually Saddam would have died and his kids were universally hated and would have never been able to hold on to power. When that happened, without an outside force in the country, it would probably have been a worse bloodbath than anything we have seen in the last five years.

  36. Pain, when violence was up you told us thats why we have to stay.

    Now that violence is down, you’re telling us we have to stay.

    Its like the Drug warrior proponents who ask for more funding because marijuana use is up, but also ask for more funding because marijuana use is down.

  37. Pain,

    Every argument to stay – an insurgency might form, foreign terrorists might come in, there might be sectarian violence, there might be ethnic cleansing, Iran might expand its reach into the Shiite areas, we might look weak and inspire more jihadists, al Qaeda might ally with locals and take control of territory – happened under our noses while we were there.

    We can’t control the political outcome in Iraq. If that’s the only reason to stay, there is no reason to stay.

  38. Cesar,

    When violence goes down and their army is competant, we need to go. Al Quada is finished in Iraq. It is not going to turn into a sattilite state of Iran. There is no reason why the troop level shouldn’t drop this summer and continue to drop into next year. This is not and should not be an endless war.

  39. John, do you believe we should have permanent bases there?

  40. “John, do you believe we should have permanent bases there?”

    Small ones maybe. We should keep advisors and special operations people there but not perminant basis of any size. The last thing we need in the world is people being able to point at those bases and claim that we really did do it for imperialistic purposes. No more than a brigade if that and maybe none.

  41. Al Quada is finished in Iraq. It is not going to turn into a sattilite state of Iran.

    Also, the election is going to set off Arab Spring, the insurgency is just a few dead-enders, the Sunni boycott of the elections doesn’t undermine the progress of democracy, and the insurgency is in its last throes.

  42. John, I wish McCain would say the same thing you said about bases. But he seems to think its going to be like Germany which is just patently ridiculous. Nothing provides Al Qaeda more recruits like large, permanent American bases in Arab countries.

  43. It is a measure of degrees Joe. Those things happened while we were there but they didn’t happen to near the degree they could have. Ultimately, we shouldn’t want to control the political outcome in Iraq. It is their country. If they want to become a satilite of Iran, which they don’t but if they did, that is their choice and they can live with it. We owe them defeating the foreign insurgents that came there primarily to fight us and the chance to from a competant army and police force to defend themselves. After that it is their choice what they do.

  44. I agree Cesar and I think McCain is nuts for saying that. Further, Iraq can actually be our ally and have some effect on other countries in the region but they can’t do that with any credibility with ten divisions sitting in their country. Long term, we need to leave Iraq and show the Arab world that we do not intend to conquer and occupy them but could if we ever needed to.

  45. Pain, when violence was up you told us thats why we have to stay.

    Now that violence is down, you’re telling us we have to stay.

    Its like the Drug warrior proponents who ask for more funding because marijuana use is up, but also ask for more funding because marijuana use is down.

    Please do not put words into my mouth. I never told you anything. I was merely pointing out that your argument could be used the other way.

    Every argument to stay – an insurgency might form, foreign terrorists might come in, there might be sectarian violence, there might be ethnic cleansing, Iran might expand its reach into the Shiite areas, we might look weak and inspire more jihadists, al Qaeda might ally with locals and take control of territory – happened under our noses while we were there.

    Or they may have been much worse. We’ll never know. We can only guess. History only goes oneway. But do you really believe the situation will stay equal or get better if we left right now? It seems the Iraqi government is having a hard enough time keeping things together with us. I just don’t see how they can miraculously turn things around the minute we leave.

  46. I guess why I’m pissed off when I think about what was going on at this time five years ago is because we didn’t have any discussion of permanent bases, whether the number of troops stated was enough to finish the job, or of possible sectarian violence, or the wider implications for the region.

    No, anyone who brought up any question whether military action was the correct thing to do was painted as “French”, as a “defeatist, or as some kind of nutty ANSWER leftist who “hated America”.

  47. Well, at least your long-term view is reasonable.

    But what if, as all sixteen of our intelligence agencies have been telling us for years, it is our very presence that has created both the jihadist problem and the Sunni rejectionism/insurgency?

    Putting out fire with gasoline. People to whom “there is no military solution” isn’t just empty words realize that our withdrawal – our promise to withdraw, our renouncing of permanent bases and oil rights, our taking actions consistent with withdrawal, our setting a timeline, and our actual removal from the country – is a tool we can use to try to bring about that political solution.

  48. Cesar,

    The Bush Adminstration was absolutely cluless about how broke Iraq was. They really thought they could just cut off the head and put a new one on and everything would be great. Maybe they knew how hard it would be and just lied because they knew no one would go in otherwise. I don’t know. But, the fact is after seeing the place I can’t beleive anyone who had ever been there didn’t know that the whole place was going to fall in like a house of cards once you kicked Saddam out. The concentration camp analogy is a good one.

  49. Or they may have been much worse. We’ll never know. We can only guess.

    Actually, we can say with a high degree of confidence that there would have been no foreign jihadist campaign in Iraq. That exists only because of our invasion. War supporters used to brag about this brilliant “flypaper” strategy. We can conclude from this that there would have been no civil war, since it took a years-long terrorist campaign by those jihadis to get se that off. We can also know with a high degree of certainty that there would be no Sunni insurgency, since it only came into existence for the purpose of driving us out. We can also know that the Iraqi regime was not going to let Iran get its grubby paws into Iraq, since they were mortal enemies.

    But do you really believe the situation will stay equal or get better if we left right now?

    Once again, announcing and beginning our exit would help a great deal on the political end, which is necessary to getting the Iraqi government to a place where they can keep the peace. It should be carried out with a degree of deliberateness, however, rather than suddenly.

  50. Iraq is more like Revolutionary France than Revolutionary America, and will probably end up with a military dictator just as France did.

    It’ll all be worth it for the baguette-sized pita bread.

  51. The Bush Adminstration was absolutely cluless about how broke Iraq was.

    I hope we all remember how clueless our politicians were the next time they try to sell us on some hare-brained, half-thought out war in a Middle Eastern country.

  52. You can only let an idiot blather about “absolute defeat” in Iraq so many times before you have to conclude that he’s an idiot with nothing worth airing.

    We can be against war and/or against the philosophy that took us into Iraq, but to simply ignore, or claim that any good news coming from the region is manufactured, causes one to fall victim to the same unwavering ideology of the group you curse.

  53. Everbody talks about how the Neocons were so clueless. What were they going to say in the beginning of the war? Did you think they would say anything close to what is, that there is the potential for this kind of mess? What haven’t they sugarcoated? That is how propaganda works, it doesn’t have to be true nor is it intended to, it is merely used to achieve an end. If this long drawn out mess can draw in Iran then they get an added bonus and hopefully can include Syria in the mix. Then they at least get their basic three countries that they wanted, North Korea, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia would be added bonuses. Just like Ledeen said, they are not fixated on rebuilding or liberating, they are “creative destruction” and destabilization is their goal. Order can only be born out of chaos. They wish to create a new order as far as geopolitics are concerned. It is them versus the Multipolar Globalists.

  54. joe,

    While agree there needs to be a timetable (maybe with a six month wiggle room or so), I don’t buy that there would be no Sunni insurgency. A civil war was inevitable the momnent the Brits shoved Iraq together. It just took the Sunni’s awhile after the overthrow to get things organized when they realized they weren’t going to be on top anymore.

    As far as Iran are you refering to Iraq being possible allies? Which I would agree is garbage. Or are you saying Iran wouldn’t be trying to subvert Iraqi policy right now? Which I would debate.

  55. The Bush Adminstration was absolutely cluless about how broke Iraq was.

    I have to admit, before the war, I never came to a principled position about the wisdom of this type of “pre-emptive war” or “war of liberation.”

    My opposition was based on the conclusion that the Bush administration couldn’t successfully lead a troop of cub scouts across an open field, so how could they possibly handle something this difficult without creating a debacle?

    You can say, “I didn’t understand how incompetent the adminstration was,” but it begs the question: “Why the hell not?”

    And this answer is, of course, because Decider Churchill was studly uber-man who had a bullhorn at Ground Zero, and anyone who disagreed got called mean names.

  56. While *I* agree…

  57. Pain,

    A civil war was inevitable the momnent the Brits shoved Iraq together. A conflict was inevitable. There is a fault-line there. No question. But need it have resultedin Bosnia-like ethnic cleansing?

    Let’s not forget, there was very little sectarian violence among Iraqis for three solid years after the regime fell. It took years and years of foreign jihadist atrocities to get the Shiites to take the bait, and even then, Sistani was able to hold the country together by his fingertips for a long time.

    The Sunnis and Shiites have “issues.” Yes, yes they do. But there are different poles of leadership in those communities, and our presence tips the balance towards the Sadrs and away from the Sistanis, (and away from the “Iraqi nationalists” and towards the religious loonies on the Sunni side), thus making civil war much more likely.

    As for Iran, why is it “garbage” that replacing the Saddam regime with a Shiite-dominated one would cause them to become allies? Do you remember what the two countries’ relationship was like in the 80s and 90s?

  58. I thank the God of Jeremiah Wright and John Hagee that Michael Young remains a verbose moron. I thank him further for allowing me to merely skim Young’s entry rather than making me read it in detail.

    But – No Cathy Young?? How am I to be assured that one side believes one set of wrong things, while the other side believes a different set of wrong things, while the fully nuanced and accurate understanding corresponds with what Cathy Young believes? Do we now live in a world where some people may believe true things, while the things their opponents believe are false?

  59. Let’s not forget, there was very little sectarian violence among Iraqis for three solid years after the regime fell. It took years and years of foreign jihadist atrocities to get the Shiites to take the bait, and even then, Sistani was able to hold the country together by his fingertips for a long time.

    From what I have read, certain factions from both sides were sharpening their knives immediately after the invasion. It didn’t get started in earnest until the Fedayeen were taken care of and everyone was postive a Saddam regime was not coming back. But ultimately whether they would or would not have existed doesn’t change the fact of what’s going on now. I believe there is still some things we can help the Iraqi’s with before we pack up.

    As for Iran, why is it “garbage” that replacing the Saddam regime with a Shiite-dominated one would cause them to become allies? Do you remember what the two countries’ relationship was like in the 80s and 90s?

    I keep feeling like we are talking past each other here. I ‘m still not sure what you’re saying. I was simply stating that Iran would not ally with Iraq, whether led by Saddam, or any other government. I believe the animosity from a decade of brutal war between the two is too great.

  60. Certainly, Pain, but consider this: Muqtada al Sadr was the leader of a small fringe, while Sistani was universally acknowledged as the most important Iraqi Shiite leader.

    Their positions have virtually flip-flopped.

    Yes, there were and always have been violent sectarian loonies in Iraq. Our occupation, our turning their country into a war zone, empowers those loonies.

    I believe there is still some things we can help the Iraqi’s with before we pack up. We might set some things in order on our way out the door, I agree.

    As for Iran, did you not see the reports of Ahmedinejad’s visit to Baghdad last week?

    Get this: they greeted him with candy and flowers. Literally, candy and flowers.

  61. One nit:

    “Nothing provides Al Qaeda more recruits like large, permanent American bases in Arab countries.”

    Should we pull out of, for instance, here then as well?

  62. I guess why I’m pissed off when I think about what was going on at this time five years ago is because we didn’t have any discussion of permanent bases

    There was discussion of permanent bases. Bush swore up and down on a stack of Bibles that there wouldn’t be any permanent bases.

    That’s the real lie in Iraq. Not the WMD. The WMD thing was probably an honest mistake. But Bush lied to the public and to the world about our intentions in Iraq. When the insurgents said, “We don’t believe the US when they say they will leave, so we are now insurgents,” they were absolutely, positively correct and those of us [including me] who had believed Bush were chumps.

  63. Everybody’s an expert in retrospect.

    Looking forward, the Iraqi occupation is most likely going to end with a whimper in any number of different scenarios–it’s simply a matter of when. The result will be a complicated mess.

    Perhaps the Iraqi war and occupation have had one salutary effect: the USA has largely gotten all of that “preemptive war” nonsense out of its system at a comparatively low cost in blood and treasure compared to what taking out one of the other members of the Axis of Evil would have cost.

    John McCain can rattle his saber all he wants on the campaign trail, but the likelihood of anything actually happening is low. He can read poll results as well as the next guy.

  64. Get this: they greeted him with candy and flowers. Literally, candy and flowers.

    What the hell?

    Everybody knows that the Iraqis should really be showing their gratitude towards the wonderful Americans who replaced secular dictatorship with religious militias.

  65. Fluffy writes,

    There was discussion of permanent bases. Bush swore up and down on a stack of Bibles that there wouldn’t be any permanent bases.

    which is true. “We only ask for enough land to bury our dead,” dotcha know.

    At the same time, rags like National Review and the Weekly Standard were explicity discussing Iraqi bases, and the removal of our “provocative” bases in “the land of the two holy cities,” as one of the benefits of this war.

    So, yeah, they were lying from the beginning about their empire-building intentions.

  66. Hahaha, this fucking joke of a magazine has the nerve to attack Hitchens for not budging. Fuck, there is not a week that goes by when the morons at Reason don’t tell us what a dismal failure the surge is; you even posted a bunch of unhinged bullshit from some moron named Terry Michaels telling us how the surge is failing. Meanwhile, back in the fucking real world, all of the military commanders in Iraq are saying the surge is a success, the Iraqi government is labelling it a success, and every statistical measure of violence demonstrates the surge is a success. Yet we get more bullshit, such as articles stating the “surge is a success” claims are mere propaganda. You assholes are the last bunch that should say anything about someone not budging.

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