Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 12, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

WITHDRAWAL PAINS....In a crie de coeur over at The New Republic, Lawrence Kaplan harshly rebukes advocates of withdrawal from Iraq:

The truth is that, as the war takes a sectarian turn, the Americans have become more buffer and lifeline than belligerent. Earlier this year at his home near the Syrian border, Abdullah Al Yawar, a Sunni sheik in Nineveh province, warned me that "if the Americans leave, there will be rivers of blood." Hundreds of miles to the east in Baghdad, Sheikh Humam Hamoudi, one of Iraq's most powerful Shia, echoed the fear of his Sunni counterpart: Without the Americans, he said, Baghdad will become another Beirut.

....Withdrawal advocates who wear the position on their sleeves as if it were a badge of heightened moral awareness seem to forget that, as theologian Kenneth Himes wrote in Foreign Policy, "The moral imperative during the occupation is Iraqi well-being, not American interests." Having invoked just-war tradition to oppose the war's cause, they completely disregard its relevance to the war's conduct namely, the obligation to repair what the United States has smashed.

Kaplan, of course, is someone who eagerly supported the war in the first place and bears considerable responsibility for our current position there. And yet, justified or not, I sympathize with his obvious bitterness. There is, at this point, not much question that an American withdrawal from Iraq would lead to massive bloodshed, a Shiite theocracy, and considerably enhanced influence for Iran in the Middle East. It would be a debacle almost without parallel.

And yet, like most other critics, Kaplan offers no better answer. In fact, he gives the game away with a comparison to Vietnam (something that's apparently OK for conservatives):

Then, as now, responsibility for the war's outcome lay squarely with its architects. But the war's aftermath also bloodied the hands of critics who insisted on walking away without condition and regardless of consequence. The genocide that followed in Cambodia and the spectacle of Vietnam's reeducation camps will not be repeated in Iraq. But ask any American officer there and he will tell you that, absent U.S. forces, Iraq's ditches will fill rapidly as the death toll multiplies tenfold.

But this is exactly the problem, isn't it? We stayed in force in Vietnam for nearly a decade, and we still couldn't accomplish our goals. Should we have stayed another decade?

Anyone who advocates withdrawal needs to understand just what the consequences would be. But, as Kaplan admits, responsibility nonetheless lies squarely with the war's architects. In Iraq, if anything, we are having even less success than we did in Vietnam, and there's hardly even a colorable argument left that we have any hope of turning this around. Withdrawing may be an appalling and grisly option, but would it be better to kill a few hundred thousand more people and then leave? Those like Kaplan who oppose withdrawal have a question of their own to face up to.

Kevin Drum 1:22 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (171)

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kevin: Withdrawing may be an appalling and grisly option, but would it be better to kill a few hundred thousand more people and then withdraw?

as long as bush and the gop retain control in the next elections...

yes

Posted by: Freedom Phucker on September 12, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK


oh....

phirst!

Posted by: Phreedom Phucker on September 12, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

We had our chance to do this right and Bush blew it big time. At this point, is there any alternative that does not involve a blood bath. Staying, leaving, something in between? About the only thing I can see is to use the promise of withdrawl as a way to start a political dialogue among the major factions. Risky, of course, but it's better than leaving our guys there with targets on their backs.

Posted by: tomeck on September 12, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

"In Iraq, if anything, we are having even less success than we did in Vietnam, and there's hardly even a colorable argument left that we have any hope of turning this around." - Kevin


58,000 dead in Vietnam
2600 dead in Iraq

Nothing accomplished in Vietnam (a Democrats war)
A freely elected permanent representational gov't in Iraq
A 250,000+ military/security force
Saddam on trial

I don't see any correlation at all

Does the left ever tire of being defeatest losers?

Prepare to be bitch slapped again this fall and in '08.

Have a nice day.

Posted by: Jay on September 12, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

"There is, at this point, not much question that an American withdrawal from Iraq would lead to massive bloodshed, a Shiite theocracy, and considerably enhanced influence for Iran in the Middle East."

how is that different from what we already have, other than that the iraqi government is mostly for show?

and there *is* doubt about the shiite theocracy, do you expect the kurds and the sunnis both to be defeated completely?

as far as understanding the consequences of withdrawal, the future is cloudy for me (maybe it isn't for the "stay the course" brigade), but the consequences of staying are not: more american dead and wounded, more money wasted, more influence for iran, more dead and wounded iraqis.

those who want to stay need to do more than just say leaving would be bad, let's hear the plans and the milestones and the end conditions.

Posted by: supersaurus on September 12, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Withdrawing may be an appalling and grisly option, but would it be better to kill a few hundred thousand more people and then leave?

Kevin, that's a false choice. We don't have to do one or the other. Why don't we stay in Iraq, add some more troops, and instead win the war? Look what happened in Vietnam after we left. Thousands of people murdered in Saigon. Instead of rooting for failure, we can still win as long as we have the will to do it.

Posted by: Al on September 12, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Keep calling them out Kevin. I'm finally coming around to the idea that we have to leave, and I'm about sick of being told by the war supporters that my belief that withdrawal is our only tenable option is unreasonable or hysterical or calculated or immoral or whatever. If they can't say HOW we can win, then they don't need to say anything at all.

Posted by: Alexander Wolfe on September 12, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Withdraw.

Iran could use a tarbaby right about now.

Posted by: Fred on September 12, 2006 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Well, if we're going to compare to Vietnam, we have to ask the question: What would have happened had we pulled out of Vietnam 5 years earlier? Probably the same thing, but with less devastation of the country and 20,000 less dead Americans. If we'd have stayed? Well it's hard to conclude that we could have stayed indefinitely and prevented the inevitable.

I really don't know what we should do in Iraq, but its pretty hard to believe that the best solution is to keep the guys who screwed it up in the first place in charge.

Posted by: Doug-E-Fresh on September 12, 2006 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, that's a false choice. We don't have to do one or the other. Why don't we stay in Iraq, add some more troops, and instead win the war? Look what happened in Vietnam after we left. Thousands of people murdered in Saigon. Instead of rooting for failure, we can still win as long as we have the will to do it.

Al, that's a false option. Where are we supposed to get these troops. How many Americans do you think support the idea of instituting a draft so we can send 100,000 more soldiers over? And that doesn't even get to the argument as to whether more troops would even help.

Posted by: Alexander Wolfe on September 12, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Lawrence Kagan and his ilk have those rivers of blood on their conscience. Any moral standing they might once have had has been thoroughly obliterated.
It's the same group that's been cheerleading for that "only" Democracy in the Middle East this past summer. And once again, rivers of blood.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/761781.html

Posted by: reader on September 12, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Jay, you and/or your relatives will presumably be among the proud 55,400 to go, no?

Didn't think so. Have a nice day, yourself.

Posted by: Fred on September 12, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK


"You think Vietnam was bad? Vietnam is nothing next to Kosovo."

Posted by: Tony Snow 3/24/1999 on September 12, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

speaking of kosovo....


"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is." - 4/9/99

Posted by: Governor George Bush on September 12, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

More lecturing from the idiots who pushed for the war they wanted, not the war they were sold. They wanted a war for liberation. The President, Rumsfeld, Rove and the GOP planned and executed a war for revenge, making their fundamental goals abundantly clear to anyone that would listen.

We get it, leaving Iraq will intensify the bloodshed. But staying will ensure that the United States is unable to move forward in its own interests or in anyone else's. Staying in Iraq means foreign policy paralysis across the board.

p.s. Fuck you Kaplan you stupid piece of shit.

Posted by: enozinho on September 12, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

"But the war's aftermath also bloodied the hands of critics who insisted on walking away without condition and regardless of consequence."

I don't think he's blaming Vietnam's architects here. It's the Vietnam War's critics that he's blaming for the aftermath(the hippies & peaceniks) though it's not clear to me what power they had over Nixon. (Sarcasm)

Posted by: Mario on September 12, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is." - 4/9/99

This needs to be mailed to everyone who still thinks that "stay the course" is anything but a bumper sticker. It needs to be on the front page of every paper every day. It should lead every TV newscast. It should be a bumper sticker itself, and a t-shirt, and a billboard, and hell, a desert topping.

Posted by: craigie on September 12, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

The neocons have plugged a bunch of quarters into the Iraq-One-Armed-Bandit and by god they're gonna sit there emptying a bucket of coins until the goddamned machine pays off.

Posted by: steve duncan on September 12, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

The legacy of our involvement in Iraq will be far worse for us than allowing regional genocide and similar abuses. The Viet Cong did not have a global terrorist network and a religous vendetta. That's not an argument to stay or an argument to do anything, really. It's just a statement of how profoundly stupid this invastion has been, and that we will live with the consequences for decades.

Posted by: G Spot1 on September 12, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Good news, Al: we're short on troops, so we're calling you up! Please report next Monday; the Blowhard Brigade is counting on you!

Posted by: Al-Anon on September 12, 2006 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK


larry kaplan: But ask any American officer there and he will tell you that, absent U.S. forces, Iraq's ditches will fill rapidly as the death toll multiplies tenfold.

"We are not killing them faster than they are being created." - Brig. Gen. Robert Caslen, the Pentagon's deputy director for the war on terrorism. 3/2/06

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on September 12, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Why don't we stay in Iraq, add some more troops, and instead win the war?

Your local recruiting station is open for business, Al.

Posted by: jimBOB on September 12, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Those like Kaplan who oppose withdrawal have a question of their own to face up to.

Like this one:

Given that Osama's plan is to bleed the USA to death in the desert... are those advocating America remain in Iraq, overtly abetting Team Osama?

At what point does that abetting become a crime?

Posted by: koreyel on September 12, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

There is, at this point, not much question that an American withdrawal from Iraq would lead to massive bloodshed, a Shiite theocracy, and considerably enhanced influence for Iran in the Middle East. It would be a debacle almost without parallel

KEVIN DRUM:

KEVIN DRUM:KEVIN DRUM:KEVIN DRUM:KEVIN DRUM:KEVIN DRUM:KEVIN DRUM:KEVIN DRUM:KEVIN DRUM:KEVIN DRUM:KEVIN DRUM:KEVIN DRUM:KEVIN DRUM:KEVIN DRUM:KEVIN DRUM:


STOP IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Where is your ****evidence*** that American withdrawal will lead to the second coming of the Khmer Rouge??? Where are the !!serious!! independent analysts making that call??? Where is the *evidence* they cite? Have you examined the serious people who disagree? Have you looked at this assessment rigorously? Or are you just swallowing this ASSUMPTION?

The US pursuing the endless counterinsurgency in Anbar province that provides the military need and psychological neccesity for Iraqi Sunni response. Why wouldn't US withdrawal end that counterinsurgency?

The US is providing the permanent military dominance that enables Shiite thugs to have the advantage needed to carry out daylight death squads. Why wouldn't that withdrawal force a more cautious, less provocative Shiite security policy?

The US is singlehandedly blocking arrangements like decentralization, amnesty, and other national reconciliation gestures needed as part of negotitations. The US is blocking negotiations themselves, while thinking, mistakenly, that it is encouraging them.
Why wouldn't a US disengagement enable a political settlement to become possible?

Why must you repeat these stupid narratives? You know that US military force is making things worse! Why must you assume that ceasing US military force will ALSO make things worse!

These assumptions by policymakers and the media are killing this debate.

Posted by: glasnost on September 12, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK


steve...great analogy

The neocons have plugged a bunch of quarters into the Iraq-One-Armed-Bandit and by god they're gonna sit there emptying a bucket of coins until the goddamned machine pays off.


they'll meet the living....at the buffet

Posted by: mr. irony on September 12, 2006 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

get your team paraphenalia here:

http://www.gzbi1.com/

Posted by: republicrat on September 12, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

"We stayed in force in Vietnam for nearly a decade, and we still couldn't accomplish our goals. Should we have stayed another decade?"

I'm still waiting for a single Iraq hawk to answer that question, or more importantly, why they think withdrawing from Iraq ten years now will be less of a bloodbath than withdrawing today.

Here's a hint: try to come up with an answer that DOESN'T ASSUME, sans evidence, that all the problems in Iraq can be solved with the current number of troops given sufficient time.

Posted by: ajl on September 12, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

we can still win as long as we have the will to do it.

Having the will to do something is not sufficient to succeeding. This is not some after-school special where the spunky underdog makes it onto the sports team after all. There is a variety of opinion from senior officers as to what it would take to *salvage* something from the current situation in Iraq. But of the ones who think something can be done, these all agree that it's a number of years away and quite a lot more money to go. To say nothing of the casualties we'll take. Or was "will" a shorthand for all that?

Fuzzy-headed rhetoric is what got us into this mess in the first place; please don't foist anymore of that crap on the pile this administration has already built up. It's not helpful.

Posted by: cyntax on September 12, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK


republicrat...think they have any with this logo?

"The White House reveals that the U.S. embassy in Baghdad now houses a formal 'Office of Hostage Affairs'. - 9/7/06


Posted by: mr. perspective on September 12, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

There is an alternative to either "stay the course" or "withdrawal." It's called "partition." No, it's not a very attractive option, but it looks damned good compared to the other two alternatives.

Iraq is eventually going to turn into three countries no matter what we do. That was preordained from the moment we walked in. The only issue is how violent it will be. Our goal should be to try to manage the process so as to minimize violence.

Of course, this will never happen on W's watch. Because it would be admitting defeat (and we all know how he feels about that). Because some important allies like Saudi Arabia and Turkey hate the idea. Because the Sunnis will end up without any oil. Because Syria and Iran and Turkey might end up moving into parts of Iraq, and maybe even fighting each other. That's why it's so important to manage the process carefully.

Look, it's going to happen. Get used to the idea. But a precipitate withdrawal or continuing on our current path are probably the two worst ways to manage the partition process.

Posted by: rosswords on September 12, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

"There is, at this point, not much question that an American withdrawal from Iraq would lead to massive bloodshed, a Shiite theocracy, and considerably enhanced influence for Iran in the Middle East."

There's a lot of question about this hypothesis. First of all, there's a strong possibility that the Shiites won't win in a three sided civil war. They might not lose, either. Instead, there could very well be one year (roughly) of bloodshed, followed by the realization that the three sides can never destroy each other. Following that realization, parties can begin making the pragmatic concessions that succesful democracies are built on. As long as a party (the Shiite arabs, as well as the Kurds) thinks that the US army will protect its interests, it has no incentive to compromise. As long as one side feels besieged (Sunni arabs), it has no room to make concessions without being perceived as the "loser." Our withdrawl is the best option in a series of bad options, but there is substantial question as to the effects of such a move.

Posted by: father figure on September 12, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

would it be better to kill a few hundred thousand more people and then leave?

That probably is not the result of the "stay the course" (with constantly adapting tactics) strategy. Right now, only a tiny percentage of Iraqi deaths are by American combat arms. Most likely, 10 years of American presence entails the fewest total deaths of the available likely options.

Whether it is worth a few thousand American lives to save a few hundred thousand Iraqi lives is a different question. the American forces are unlikely to kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in the upcoming years.

Posted by: republicrat on September 12, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Re; "...Abdullah Al Yawar, a Sunni sheik in Nineveh province, warned me that "if the Americans leave, there will be rivers of blood."

Sunni blood. About time they figured that out. I must admit, sometimes I think our best option would be to just sit back and let the shiites take care of the sunnis. Then set up shop in Kurdistan.

Posted by: Randy on September 12, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

"There is an alternative to either "stay the course" or "withdrawal." It's called "partition."

"the Sunnis will end up without any oil."

Yeah, this wouldn't lead to civil war. Partition makes no sense...

Posted by: father figure on September 12, 2006 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Instead of rooting for failure, we can still win as long as we have the will to do it.
Posted by: Al on September 12, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, Rummy and Bush don't seem to have the WILL to do it.

(if they did, they would have done whatever it takes, including conscription, to get sufficient troop numbers in there to win).

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on September 12, 2006 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Kaplan, wrong from the start, gets today's question wrong, too. It's not Withdraw from Iraq, yes or no? So don't you follow him there, Kevin. You're smarter and more humane than he is.

The correct question is Withdraw from Iraq, when and how? It's the only question that matters, and anyone who isn't thinking it through isn't thinking.

Posted by: Skeeter on September 12, 2006 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Jay; I have a cousin, a Marine, somewhere in Anbar province, driving aroung in an unarmoured Humvee; should he die so we can "repair what the United States has smashed"? SHOULD HE???

Posted by: Charly_not_Charlie on September 12, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

I would agree with Kevin Drum but more directly. Since the time this 'stay and fix Iraq' argument was first waved three years ago, the civil fighting death toll has multiplied tenfold and tenfold again. The US Army's efforts haven't stopped it and there's no reason to think another year of occupation will have any positive effect.

Posted by: Jim Lund on September 12, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

"Sunni blood. About time they figured that out. I must admit, sometimes I think our best option would be to just sit back and let the shiites take care of the sunnis."

Are you watching the same occupation as the rest of us? The Sunnis are better trained, better financed, and ruthless. They probably couldn't force the Shiite religious parties to surrender, but they could surely match any bloodshed the Shiites try to inflict upon them.

Posted by: father figure on September 12, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Partition's also a good option, but we'd need to load all the Sunnis who are willing to go, onto busses, and ship them off to Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

It's either that, or witness the most spectacularly public brutal genocide of our time. Sistani just bowed out. The Shiite militias are serious. Airstrikes after withdrawl might slow them down.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on September 12, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Michael Ware just got back from being embedded with troops in Ramadi. He said that privately commanders are telling him that they need THREE TIMES AS MANY TROOPS to complete their mission.

Let's see...have 140,000 troops, need three times that number...carry the two....

Posted by: Windhorse on September 12, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

There is, at this point, not much question that an American withdrawal from Iraq would lead to massive bloodshed...

I am reaching the end of tolerance for this type of thinking. Mr. Kaplan helped start the war, the river of blood whose banks he destroyed ought to only be filled with the black blood of warmongers like him. Unfortunately, the reality is the river of blood will only be filled by the innocents he loves to kill.

Mr. Kaplan's authority and undue respect must be destroyed. Mr. Drum could be a little more forceful in his criticism and call Kaplan a mass murdering American who should be ostracized from public discourse. Listening to the advice of Mr. Kaplan is the same as seeking the counsel of Charles Manson. Or Ted Bundy. Or Pol Pot. Or Gen. Westmoreland. Or Kissinger. Or Pinochet.

Smear Kaplan and save a Iraqi child's life. Honor him and tens of thousands die.

Posted by: Hostile on September 12, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

"Partition makes no sense."

Maybe not, but it's inevitable. The only real question left is, how do you manage it without civil war or foreign intervention?

Posted by: rosswords on September 12, 2006 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Why would anyone care what the New Republic writes? They are the worst of the worst, faux liberals and contrarian bedwetters who are consistently wrong about everything, and repeatedly exposed as plagiarists and sock puppets.

You might as well give credibility to Jonah Goldberg or David Brooks.

Posted by: Aeolus on September 12, 2006 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

rosswords wrote:
That's why it's so important to manage the [partition] process carefully.

I am increasingly of the viewpoint that partition is likely. But it's laughable to assume that the process could be "managed carefully" by the current Keystone Korrupt Kops administration.

Posted by: Wonderin on September 12, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Is Mr. Kaplan willing to take the responsibility of the deaths of Americans (and Iraqis) if we follow his advice and continue to be there as it takes, whatever the 'it' may be?

Posted by: gregor on September 12, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Comment deleted by poster.

Posted by: Hostile on September 12, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Ross, its pretty ironic, isn't it, that in Vietnam we fought for 10 years to keep 2 countries separate that really weren't separate, and that in Iraq we're fighting to keep 1 country together that really isn't 1 country.

Posted by: Doug-E-Fresh on September 12, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Having invoked just-war tradition to oppose the war's cause, they completely disregard its relevance to the war's conduct namely, the obligation to repair what the United States has smashed.

But are we repairing anything? If instead of repairing we're just crashing around the shop, ripping more stuff from the shelves then what good are we doing? You don't ask the bull to repair the china -- you try to get it the hell out of the china shop.

Posted by: Arminius on September 12, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Al welcome to the reality world,How does it feel to be free of the Neocon wastebin.More troops is just what we told you guys to do if you where going to do this assinine war.Powell had it right we had it right but GWB had it all wrong.Don't blame us for there mistakes.RULE #1 OVERWHELMING FORCE.Afganistan and Iraq are disasters because of DO IT ON THE CHEAP.We said no war, But if you have to do it use OVERWHELMING FORCE!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Mann Coulter on September 12, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Kaplan: "Goddammit, you people didn't want us to fight this war, and now you want us to stop fighting it! Make up your minds, hippies!"

Posted by: dj moonbat on September 12, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Father Figure,

Re; "The Sunnis are better trained, better financed, and ruthless. They probably couldn't force the Shiite religious parties to surrender, but they could surely match any bloodshed the Shiites try to inflict upon them."

You may be right. The sunnis might make a decent stand - and there might be a lot of shiite blood spilled as well. But to be honest that doesn't bother me a whole hell of a lot. They want a civil war. Let them have it.

Posted by: Randy on September 12, 2006 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Curious. Sixty-odd comments on an Iraq thread, and not one mention that it's been proclaimed the central front of the war on terror....

Only two mentions of terror at all.

Didn't anyone watch Dear Leader last night?

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on September 12, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

I just feel so bitter. To me it seemed the nearly inevitable consequences of an invasion would include an impossible situation, where either staying or leading would lead to more bloodshed. Withdrawal is the least bad option in my opinion, though it gets worse as time goes by; the consequences of withdrawal now appears worse than they did a year ago.

So it is galling be lectured by someone who advocated embarking on this debacle. Yes, I know withdrawal could lead to a blood bath. There actually was a better option which I and others advocated--not invading the god damned first place. Those who pushed for an invasion might want to remember that before getting too sanctimonius now that we're forced to choose between petentially horrific alternatives.

--Rick Taylor

Posted by: Rick Taylor on September 12, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

They want a civil war. Let them have it.

Indeed. Perhaps we've discovered our true calling on the world stage. We should invade more countries where preexisting tensions are simmering, thereby enabling all the potential warring parties to have it out once and for all.

Think of all the places we could help out in this way! Congo, for example. Hell, even China!

In a few hundred years, all of the world's potential civil wars will have been fought, and everybody will be at peace!

Posted by: Wonderin on September 12, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Withdrawing will not be an overnight affair and the act of moving in that direction will set in motion new dynamics in Iraq.
The parties there will have to rearrange themselves into more stable and defensible positions, without a foreign force to intervene.

This could be painful and messy, but if it happens in the midst of US redeployment, it need not become some kind of Rwanda situation, can be much less bloody than Yugoslavia/Bosnia, Lebanon and other protracted civil wars.
We need to be able to see distinctions between different kinds of wars and civil strife, horrible as that may be.

One reason it could work out better than other places, is much of the boundary-making is defacto already accomplished, and there are major cities and infrastructure in each zone, so it's not like there's some party getting nothing.

Baghdad is a problem area, and oil is a problem area, and access to waterways another.
But you would then look at coming up with a plan for these before taking action, via hard diplomacy, and you would stage the redeployments so perhaps Baghdad would be later in the game.

Ie, just saying you are leaving does not mean you are going to act stupidly or abruptly.
It can be a process, and you can look at regional security considerations in setting up certain parameters and lines in the sand which must be respected.

Right now, the US is propping up an integrated Iraq, which is not viable on its own without US force and perhaps never will be.
We keep the peace, but we also keep a tinderbox situation in place, preventing it from resolving to something which is actually stable and can stand alone.

The alternative in Iraq, which would not require reconfiguration nor foreign presence, is a heavy-duty authoritarian regime, whether secular or religious.
But neither the US nor the Iraqis want this, especially since the dictator would be 'not-one-of-us' for a majority of the people.

We need to accept that the place will and must reconfigure, and withdraw in a consistent, deliberate and measured fashion, which allows that reconfiguration to happen in a relatively stable and planned way.

There will be violence, but there already is.
Skillful, targetted use of US force, coupled with sane, defensible boundaries, can prevent outright war.

We need to work with the reality of the situation, creatively, but get our head out of the sand.

Posted by: jim on September 12, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Imagine you have a "friend" who insists on taking a drunken joyride despite your strenuous objection. Y'all kill somebody, and that "friend" insists that the only responsible thing is to try and evade capture by the police, because the alternative is too terrible to contemplate.

Then multiply that by a few tens of thousands, and you've got a neocon.

Posted by: dj moonbat on September 12, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "There is, at this point, not much question that an American withdrawal from Iraq would lead to massive bloodshed ..."

On the contrary, there is a great deal of "question" as to whether an American withdrawal from Iraq would lead to more or less "massive" bloodshed than the massive bloodshed that is already happening there now.

Randy wrote: "The sunnis might make a decent stand - and there might be a lot of shiite blood spilled as well. But to be honest that doesn't bother me a whole hell of a lot. They want a civil war. Let them have it."

This callous attitude is a perfect example of why the US should never have invaded and occupied Iraq in the first place. And it also speaks to the attitude of US troops in Iraq who regard the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians as worthless.

The bottom line is that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq was and is a crime -- a war of unprovoked aggression and mass murder, based on the deliberate, elaborate and repeated lies told by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell and other principals of the Bush administration to the American people, the US Congress, the United Nations Security Council and the entire world.

The US occupation of Iraq is an ongoing crime against humanity. It must be ended and the perpetrators of this crime -- the career war profiteers of the Bush administration -- must be impeached, indicted, tried, convicted and imprisoned for their crimes.

And the United States is and will be obligated to pay massive reparations to the people of Iraq for the mass destruction and mass murder caused by our unprovoked war of aggression.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 12, 2006 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Civil war, although very bad, does create nations. The US Civil War made us all Americans. Before the war US citizens' national identity derived from the state of their birth. General Lee chose Virginia over the Union, a bewildering choice to the modern observer.

That does not mean Iraq will establish a national identity from their civil war. Iraq may very well devolve into sectarian states. Regardless of the outcome, it is not America's business to interfere in other nations' self-determination, so we should leave Iraq now.

Comment about Mr. Kaplan deleted.

Posted by: Hostile on September 12, 2006 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

SA,

Re; "This callous attitude is a perfect example of why the US should never have invaded and occupied Iraq in the first place."

We should have gone in, taken out Saddam, searched for WMDs, handed them a book on "Democracy for Dummies", and then pulled out. Oh, and establishing a base or two in Kurdistan would probably be a good idea - as we may need it when we follow the same plan in Iran.

Posted by: Randy on September 12, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Nixon caused the bloodbath in Cambodia, by destabilising the Sihanouk government. After the final bugout from VN, the U.S. government supported Pol Pot for years.

During our decades in VN, we created millions of people who lived by stealing from our bases, black market deals, smuggling, prostitution and drugs for American troops, bribes to get American bulldozers working on their own projects, and politicians prostituting themselves to the American military to project the appearance we were 'winning'.

Is it any wonder that re-education camps were needed? In the U.S. the rightwingers would love to set up such camps for inner-city residents- they call them 'boot camps' and 'tough love'.

You may now resume your regularly scheduled viewing of The Green Berets. If it's not too damn French for you.

Posted by: serial catowner on September 12, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

As a person born there a year after the bloody partition of the Indian subcontinent, I am quite fascinated by all of these guys sitting in their armchairs proposing all sorts of solutions for Iraq as if the people actually living there are a bunch of cattle who cannot decide what to do for themselves.

Posted by: gregor on September 12, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Americans. Never. Lose.

Posted by: bob on September 12, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

A book on hand jobs for dummies for those who cannot gone in, taken, or pulled out has been searched for but not established. Curd is made from milk let stand, two or more hours. Children like to follow plans, remember, whether it is mommys does not matter. It is funny to write about a plum tree, growing in Tehran, but its roots are deep and the soil rich with history, so it grows and provides the cooling shade that we should all find comfort in.


Posted by: Will on September 12, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

They want a civil war. Let them have it.

That's not true. Some want a civil war, unfortunately, all will be caught up in it.

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on September 12, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Gregor,

Re; "...as if the people actually living there are a bunch of cattle who cannot decide what to do for themselves."

Good point. No point in crying over spilled milk, but from this point forward, we should let them decide for themselves. And like I said, if they choose civil war, we should let them have it.

Posted by: Randy on September 12, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

MeLoseBrain,

Those who don't want a civil war could choose to help us find those who do. If they don't, they are in effect choosing civil war.

Posted by: Randy on September 12, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

This line of thinking reduces to: there's no end of the problem we've gotten us into and it's irresponsible of you to want to quit doing it.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on September 12, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

"Those who don't want a civil war could choose to help us find those who do. If they don't, they are in effect choosing civil war."

Boy, Randy, you must not live in Iraq if you think its that simple. You are implicitly asserting that they shouldn't fear retribution, and shouldn't have any moral qualms about assisting a (frequently brutal) occupier, simply because they don't like the thought of a civil war. And that ignores familial obligations, etc. They should do what we want, darnit!! If only the majority of Iraqis simply did everything that Donald Rumsfeld and the neocon Armada wanted them to do, our troops could have left immediately! The world is really simple when you think about like a neocon...

Posted by: father figure on September 12, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

There is, at this point, not much question that an American withdrawal from Iraq would lead to massive bloodshed, a Shiite theocracy, and considerably enhanced influence for Iran in the Middle East. It would be a debacle almost without parallel.

There is, at this point, not much question that a continued American presence in Iraq will lead to massive bloodshed, a Shiite theocracy, and considerably enhanced influence for Iran in the Middle East.

Isn't this also true? The bloodshed will simply be prolonged over a longer period of time, but will still be massive. A Shiite theocracy is already well on its way in Iraq (sans Kurdistan) -- nothing is going to stop it since that is what a majority of Iraqis seem to want (ah, democracy). Iran's influence has already risen greatly, and shows no signs of diminshing because the US stays in Iraq. Iraq is Iran-lite, and will only become more so as the US disengages.

The only point of those who want to stay is to delay the inevitable and thereby pretend its not goig to happen -- there is no plan for the continued US presence to prevent any of these dire consequences from coming to pass.

Posted by: dmbeaster on September 12, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and I have one other question; people like Lawrence Kaplan were incorrect about almost every single underlying assumption that they had before the war. Why should their predictions about the consequences of withdrawl be afforded any weight whatsoever? Why shouldn't their credibility be shredded to tatters, as a result of all their incorrect assumptions?

Posted by: father figure on September 12, 2006 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

As a person born there a year after the bloody partition of the Indian subcontinent, I am quite fascinated by all of these guys sitting in their armchairs proposing all sorts of solutions for Iraq as if the people actually living there are a bunch of cattle who cannot decide what to do for themselves.
Posted by: gregor on September 12, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

It's not that.

It's just that - none of us like what their decision will inevitably lead to. The Shiites and Sunnis want to kill eachother. We understand they've made that decision. That decision was made hundreds of years ago.

Now, the decision seems to be -
Brutal dictator and peace.
or
Militant theocracy and genocide.

I'd like a third choice, please. Perhaps involving freedom AND peace? And if that's not possible, then my fourth choice would be; anything that involves getting our troops back home where they belong, and stops burning $100 Billion borrowed taxpayer money a year.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on September 12, 2006 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

To the quite limited extent that Americans are to blame for the Cambodian killing fields, it is the Nixon administration for backing the coup that installed the feckless puppet Lon Nol, not the opponents of the Vietman War.

Posted by: kth on September 12, 2006 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Why cannot we just facilitate the dissolution of IRAQ into KurdIraq, SunniIraq and ShiaIraq. Whether we stay or leave, tomorrow or 10 years from now, the result will be the same. The winner (there has to be a winner after all we are AMERICANS)Iran, of course.
The British left two festering sores when they "
disengaged" from Empire -

1. Palestine
2. Kashsmir

We are repeating history. Obviously we have learned nothing. I have a young son, will he be fighting in Iraq in 2020?

Posted by: Paul the Cynic on September 12, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Father Figure,

Well, this is one of those situations where they really don't have any safe choices. They can trust us or they can trust their clans. Either way they could lose. Just callin' it as I see it.

Posted by: Randy on September 12, 2006 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone says leaving will bring bloodshed and civil war,And you know this how? For all we know we could leave and peace will break out for the next one hundred years.

Posted by: Mann Coulter on September 12, 2006 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

What they need is a strong leader like G.W.Bush who don't mind killing for the sake of good.Someone with a strong fist to kill these people who get in the way.Oh wait we removed him from leadership already,Nevermind.

Posted by: Mann Coulter on September 12, 2006 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

Mann Coulter,

You're right. But then, they could have peace now if they wanted it.

Posted by: Randy on September 12, 2006 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

I have a young son, will he be fighting in Iraq in 2020?

Yes.

Posted by: John Kerry on September 12, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Pull out now, let the civil war escalate.

At least they'll be fighting each other over there instead of fighting us over here. No?

Posted by: elmo on September 12, 2006 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

elmo,

You may be joking, but you also may be on to something.

Posted by: Randy on September 12, 2006 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

The only way to avoid genocide, regional war, and a Shiite megastate when we leave, whether it is in 2 or 20 years, is to leave a repressive Saddam-like regime in power. That cant be admitted, so the only politically viable exit strategy is to hang on until the American people are so disgusted that they dont care who we leave in power.

The right's all-pervasive propaganda machine makes it unlikely that Americans will ever put the blame for this debacle where it belongs.

Whether they are for withdrawal, continuance, or escalation, it is time for ALL Democrats to admit that it was a mistake to invade Iraq.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on September 12, 2006 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Beirut, even at its worst in the late '70s and early '80s, was a vast improvement over non-Green-Zone Bagdad today. I bet you'd have a hard time finding a Bagdad resident who would NOT take that exchange.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on September 12, 2006 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

The really frustrating thing is not that we don't have any good choices. We do, including increasing the number of troops and seeking renewed assistance from the interenational community. But all of these choices are dependent on one thing -- someone other than George Bush is president. That's the real obstacle to resolving the crisis in Iraq.

Posted by: AndrewBW on September 12, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Instead of withdrawing completely, a better solution would be to redeploy our troops along the borders with Iran and Syria and let the Iraqis fight it out for the center of the country without any outside interference.

We gain nothing by staying where we are now except more dead and maimed American soldiers. Yet unless we are prepared to keep a military persence in Iraq for the next hundred years, we have to accept that the Sunni's, Shiite's, and Kurds will fight it out for control of Iraq whenever we leave the country, be it in 2007 or 2027. I'd rather get the bloodshed over with now, simply because the situation in the Middle East will be more stable one everyone knows who controls Iraq, rather than continuining in the endless state of uncertainty that we have now.

Posted by: mfw13 on September 12, 2006 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Michael7843853 wrote: "The only way to avoid genocide, regional war, and a Shiite megastate when we leave, whether it is in 2 or 20 years, is to leave a repressive Saddam-like regime in power."

Well, that was, after all, the Bush administration's original plan for Iraq: to install Chalabi as the "new, improved Saddam" -- a US-backed puppet dictator who would turn over control of Iraq's oil and the profits therefrom to US-based multinational oil companies and rule Iraq in their behalf.

When that didn't work out, the Bush administration had no other plan.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 12, 2006 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

glasnost wrote:

"The US is singlehandedly blocking arrangements like decentralization, amnesty, and other national reconciliation gestures needed as part of negotitations. The US is blocking negotiations themselves, while thinking, mistakenly, that it is encouraging them."
__________________

glasnost, do you have a cite for these assertions?

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 12, 2006 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

"You're right. But then, they could have peace now if they wanted it."

Randy, are you sure that you aren't actually Doug Feith? I mean, that is breathetakingly naive, simplistic, etc. Of course, if the Sunnis just said "gosh, all those years of obtaining oil wealth were wrong. We gladly accept third class status in the new Iraq. Hopefully, we can excel in our new role as the Kurds' and Shiite arabs' punks." What a realistic possibility...

Posted by: father figure on September 12, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Paul the cynic,

The winner (there has to be a winner after all we are AMERICANS)Iran, of course.

Iran will be a partial winner due to the removal of a relatively equal military power in the region. However, they'll have the kurds in the north of their own country to deal with, but in this scenario those Kurds will have support from "KurdIraq" (your term). Meanwhile, my understanding is that the Shiite's in the south are only in a marriage of convenience with Iran. If they actually had autonomy, it's by no means clear that they would unequivocably align themselves with Iran.

Posted by: Edo on September 12, 2006 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist wrote:

"Well, that was, after all, the Bush administration's original plan for Iraq: to install Chalabi as the "new, improved Saddam" -- a US-backed puppet dictator who would turn over control of Iraq's oil and the profits therefrom to US-based multinational oil companies and rule Iraq in their behalf.

When that didn't work out, the Bush administration had no other plan."
______________

SA, what's the proof that the plan was to install Chalabi as dictator? It seems pretty clear that the plan, such as it evolved, was for true democratic processes to form a government. Which is what it did, no matter how hamstrung that government now is by sectarian violence.

Chalabi has his shot at elected leadership and lost. Why fixate on him?

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 12, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

Withdrawal would mean a river of blood? What's the level of blood now- a limpid stream? A babbling brook?

Posted by: clb72 on September 12, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Withdrawal advocates who wear the position on their sleeves as if it were a badge of heightened moral awareness seem to forget that, as theologian Kenneth Himes wrote in Foreign Policy, "The moral imperative during the occupation is Iraqi well-being, not American interests."

Does Kaplan believe this? Jesus Christ, these people have no shame, no honor and no clue. They start a profoundly immoral war on nothing but misplaced assumptions and/or massive lies based on nothing but "American interests", branding those opposed as traitors and then whine about the moral attitude war opponents cop when we're proven right?

This week, there will be hundreds of Iraqis in Bagdahd who will be murdered by rampaging militias. This is Iraqi well-being? What the fuck are we doing there? What are we occupying? Why?

We haven't been given an honest answer for three years. The last thing we need is for failed theorists like Kaplan to keep talking.

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f. on September 12, 2006 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

Only one way to find out, an orderly withdrawal. If we doubled the troops we would only double our errors.

Posted by: Matt on September 12, 2006 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Father Figure,

Its only 3rd class status because they refuse to set aside their secular divisions. That too is a choice.

Posted by: Randy on September 12, 2006 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Randy:

No, that's an ideological Western frame placed into a cultural system where it doesn't belong.

To defend one's honor and family in Iraq does not amount to a "choice" in any sense that Americans would understand it.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Ahmed who?

Posted by: g.w.b. on September 12, 2006 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

It's pretty easy, we let Saddam go and then we leave, he had the Shia in a box before. Let him do it again.

I've always believe that if the iraqi's really wanted to be free they should have freed themselves (like the Russians) enough Americans have died for this folly already.

2671

Posted by: c. on September 12, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

It seems pretty clear that the plan, such as it evolved, was for true democratic processes to form a government.

If that was the plan, they should have called a summit immediately after the invasion, gathered an international peacekeeping force to stay in Iraq till such time as the national elections were held, and immediately get the hell out.


You must be smoking something.

The plan to begin with was for a long term occupation. GWB's statements continue to support this hypothesis.

Posted by: gregor on September 12, 2006 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

Trashhauler wrote: "what's the proof that the plan was to install Chalabi as dictator?"

Read George Packer's book The Assassins Gate and Paul Bremer's book My Year In Iraq for discussion of how the Bush administration's delusional neocons thought that after overthrowing Saddam's government, the US would simply turn over Iraq to Ahmad Chalabi and his fellow members of the Iraqi National Congress.

Trashhauler wrote: "It seems pretty clear that the plan, such as it evolved, was for true democratic processes to form a government."

Have you been following the news from Iraq at all for the last three and a half years?

The Bush administration resisted elections every step of the way and when they finally had no choice, they did everything they could to make sure that the process of forming a new Iraq government was as un-democratic and as controlled by the US as possible.


Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 12, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

trashauler,

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A42580-2005Apr10?language=printer

Where did this amnesty plan go?
Do some investigative reporting, and you'll find the stories about displeasure from the Bush Admin on the concept. It was whittled down to exclude anyone who had killed US or Iraqi soldiers, and became meaningless.

As for the rest of it, if you wanted to pay me for a report, I could find the dots and connect them, but it would take more trouble than I'm willing to put in. But if you look for any time at all - I bet you could find quotes on Juan Cole - you'd see that the Sunni insurgents have made US withdrawal a condition of any truce.
The US is not negotiating anything with Sunni insurgents accept their surrender, and there's no way they can negotiate with the Shiites while the US is whacking them if and when they pop their head up.


The smoking gun is not in my back pocket, but... do "you" think that the US has engaged in any serious negotiations with the Baathists, the Sadrists, or tried to broker between them?

They're too rigid to consider it.

Posted by: glasnost on September 12, 2006 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

it should be "cri de coeur" not "crie de coeur"

Posted by: Michele on September 12, 2006 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

The sensible thing to do at this point would be to withdraw our troops to Kurdish-controlled territory in the north and then redeploy them along the Iranian and Syrian borders with Iraq so as to try to minimize foreign influence.

The Shiites and the Sunnis are going to have at it whenever we leave, be it 2007 or 2027, and I'd rather have them go at it sooner rather than later, and without foreign influence from Iran and Syria.

This would also have the side benefit of hopefully keeping Hezbollah under a little bit more control as well.

Posted by: mfw13 on September 12, 2006 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

glasnost wrote: "The US is singlehandedly blocking arrangements like decentralization, amnesty, and other national reconciliation gestures needed as part of negotitations. The US is blocking negotiations themselves, while thinking, mistakenly, that it is encouraging them."

Trashhauler: glasnost, do you have a cite for these assertions?


Christ, feckin' idjits. Whenevever their arguments are shredded the wingnuts retreat to this "do you have a cite?" cover. Yeah -- it's called common knowledge. It's called reading the papers. It's called learning how to use Google. If you don't know these facts, Trashauler, then you haven't been paying much attention the last three years and there's not much point in talking to you about this.

Posted by: Arminius on September 12, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

It is clear to me that the most mainstream and respected of the multitude of Kung Fu flicks would have to be Enter the Dragon. This film is directly responsible for the existence of the Sunni insurgency. They are obsessed with this kinetic blur of flesh and blood.

IIRC, tucked away in the colony of Hong Kong, Bruce Lee runs around shirtless and trains hard. He teaches in a school of the martial arts that could pass for a madrassa anywhere in the Levant.

Competing in tournaments is a regular occurrence and the invitation from a certain Mr. Han (Shih Kien) is no exception. However, that all changes when Braithwaite (Geoffrey Weeks), an agent of the British government, drops by to chat with Lee. It seems that Han likes to mix his martial arts with a dash of drug smuggling, arms running and prostitution--just like in Iraq.

This is critical and you *better* not miss it. Not surprisingly, Braithwaite would dearly love to dispose of Han and his private little island, if only he had some solid proof. This is, of course, where Lee comes in, a one-man chick banging, ass kicking expeditionary force.

Luckily the forces of good have already managed to place an operative on the island, though nothing has been heard from the bosomy Mei Ling (Betty Chung) for many months. While Lee contemplates what could be a suicide mission, a few of the other international fighters arrive. Fresh from the States, Roper (John Saxon) is running from mounting gambling debts while Williams (Jim Kelly) has had his fill of racist police officers.

How does NFL quarterback Jim Kelly fit into this? I have no sonofabitchin idea. Meeting these old acquaintances isn't what makes up Lee's mind though; the crucial factor is that Han's bodyguard Oharra (Bob Wall), a sadistic bully, directly caused the tragic death of Lee's sister.

Now while revenge fails to play a part in Lee's philosophy, *just like Iraq, fer chrissakes,* the opportunity to make amends is just too tempting to refuse.

That's my position.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

Randy: Those who don't want a civil war could choose to help us find those who do. If they don't, they are in effect choosing civil war.

Many Iraqis are cooperating with the Iraqi police and army to find those who are involved in the killing. One of the reasons for Americans to stay is precisely to help the majority to defeat the diverse spirited and murderous minorities. The doubt isn't about the existence of people who are "choosing" to prevent civil war. The doubt is about their numbers and their effectiveness compared to the criminal and sectarian gangs and militias that are trying to incite the wars.

Posted by: republicrat on September 12, 2006 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

glasnost wrote:

"The smoking gun is not in my back pocket, but... do "you" think that the US has engaged in any serious negotiations with the Baathists, the Sadrists, or tried to broker between them?"

I have no idea, glanost. It seems to me that an absence of knowledge about secret negotiations would not be the same as proof they hadn't occurred. I do know that military people talk and negotiate with Sunnis all the time. We know many of these people have contact with the insurgents. If not talking with the Baathists was a strict policy, then most senior military leaders have violated it.

No need to write a report, I was curious about the depth to which the entire Administration is believed to be stupid and incompetent. Apparently, simple contact with the White House removes all cognitive ability.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 12, 2006 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

The above post is not me.

Likely it's Thomas -- because I forced him to admit that he's Cheney, after lying about it for months.

I haven't read the drivel yet. I doubt it's particularly amusing, cuz the guy doesn't have much of a feel for parody.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

The above post is *actually* me.

I think the one doing this is Charlie or Thomas -- because I forced him to admit that he's Cheney, after lying about it for months.

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

father figure: The Sunnis are better trained, better financed, and ruthless. They probably couldn't force the Shiite religious parties to surrender, but they could surely match any bloodshed the Shiites try to inflict upon them.

I agree, but here is a somewhat more optimistic elaboration.

there is a lot of internal movement as Sunnis and Shi'ites are gradually segregating. I expect eventually a de facto partition, and a reduction in the sectarian killing after that has been achieved.

First it was shown that the Sunnis could not reassemble sufficient military power to recapture the whole government. Now it is being shown, I think, that the Shi'ites lack sufficient military power to dominate the government.

The nominal government is sort of in a tqilight zone. It was elected; 95% or so of Iraqis support it; but it isn't sufficiently strong to suppress the dissenting rebels.

Posted by: republicrat on September 12, 2006 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

Actually ... I take that back. In its its own, obsessive way, it *is* kind of funny -- but you'd have to have a taste for such things.

I'm not (needless to say) a Kung Fu movie devotee. I saw Enter The Dragon, though, when I was about 13. The *only* thing I remember about it was when Jim Kelly goes to the bad guy, in his most over-the-top blaxploitation flick accent:

"Man, you know, you are right out of a *comic book*."

I took the Batman TV series seriously when I was a little kid. That line was probably my first awareness of unintentional self-parody :)

Helpful hint next time I'm not around and you run into another one of these things: I do perversion humor. I don't do straight sexual humor like an enthusiastic 14-year-old.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist wrote:

"Read George Packer's book The Assassins Gate and Paul Bremer's book My Year In Iraq for discussion of how the Bush administration's delusional neocons thought that after overthrowing Saddam's government, the US would simply turn over Iraq to Ahmad Chalabi and his fellow members of the Iraqi National Congress."
__________________

Bremer's description didn't have anything to do with the widespread criticism of his own decisions, did it? He seems to have been the epicenter of the "official" effort to discredit Chalabi, certainly. He also seems to have been amazingly resistant to Administration desires in political efforts to advance democracy and involve the UN in the election process.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 12, 2006 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

wonderin:Think of all the places we could help out in this way! Congo, for example. Hell, even China!

The US interrvened in both places, with just the sad consequences that you imply. People who say that American interventions are unsuccessful more than they are successful are not just blowing hot air.

Democrats opposed Gulf War I; Republicans opposed intervention in the Balkans. People who opposed the US aimns in VietNam seem to want the US to do something military in Darfur. To me, it looks as though most people are inconsistent.

Posted by: republicrat on September 12, 2006 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

It is hard to tell why Kevin, an otherwise smart and reasonable guy, is so prone to sophomoric and silly statements whenever he attempts to address Iraq or even the war on terror.

Here, "we are having even less success than we did in Vietnam." "should we have stayed in Vietnam another ten years?" "would it be better to kill a few hundred thousand more people and then leave."

The less success statement has no rational basis. No one suggested the more years in Vietnam, rather either unleashing the power to win or at least acknowledging the horrible truth of pulling out.

And "kill a few hundred thousand more people." What absurdity. We are not killing anyone other than terrorists and other bad guys. It is so liberal to casually acuse American of killing a few hundred thousand more people.

Posted by: brian on September 12, 2006 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

republicrat:

It's one thing to intervene to stop genocide or to distribute food to the starving (as in Somalia). It's quite another to invade a country that hasn't attacked for your own geopolitical motives and proprietary threat assessment.

It makes no sense in a straight humanitarian calculus to have invaded Iraq just to topple an odious dictator. There are too many of those around in the world. That's why the *only* way Bush could have sold the Iraqi invasion, both to the American public and to the rest of the world, is through the WMD / intolerable threat argument.

And this is why everybody on the left opposed this invasion. I personally opposed Vietnam, Grenada and Panama. But I backed Somalia, Kosovo, Haiti and Liberia. I certainly would also back Darfur and Congo if those were realistic options.

I opposed the Gulf War -- but then realized in the run up to the Iraq war that all the principles I was defending there were the principles that made the Gulf War a just intervention. I was wrong there.

Genuine international coalitions and honoring international law are critical things in the post Cold War world.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

"And this is why everybody on the left opposed this invasion."

Except of course their elected representatives.

If one is to appose a war in a representative Democracy its important to do two things.

#1. Get your elected representatives to vote against it.
#2. Have them do so before the invasion.

Posted by: Fitz on September 12, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

Fitz:

I don't consider the Democrats particularly "on the left" as a general rule, BUT --

I'll tell you -- both my US senators voted against it (one of whom is now my governor) and my congressman voted against it.

So NYAH :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Fitz:

And yes: I'm talking about the IWR, not the supplemental appropriation bills that it became fashionable to oppose after the invasion and the occupation began to lose support.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

Arminius wrote:

"Christ, feckin' idjits. Whenevever their arguments are shredded the wingnuts retreat to this "do you have a cite?" cover. Yeah -- it's called common knowledge. It's called reading the papers. It's called learning how to use Google. If you don't know these facts, Trashauler, then you haven't been paying much attention the last three years and there's not much point in talking to you about this."
_____________

Oh, I've been paying attention, Arminius, and read many conflicting accounts on any number of issues. But I apologize for not wording my request for expansion of glasnost's assertions better than I might have. Yeah, the "gimme the cite" thing can be irritating, even when it might be appropriate.

There is a tendency on many sites to treat certain beliefs as "common knowledge" or "accepted truth." Outsiders question such dogma at their own peril, which is why most people stay comfortably amongst those whose views reflect their own. I've no interest in crossing the line in this area and I've no desire to hijack the thread into rehashing ancient history.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 12, 2006 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

And in case I didn't make this perfectly clear:

The argument in defense of Trashhauler and against using cites posted under my name is not me.

In case the ham-fisted parody didn't make it immediately clear :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

Fitz,

>#2. Have them do so before the invasion.

I believe those titties have flown out of the brazziere already.

*snicker8

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, "skyway.net":

I'd say nice try, idiot -- except it wasn't a nice try.

So I'll just say idiot and leave it at that.

"Titties flying out of the brassiere." Yeah, that's *really* characteristic of my kinda humor.

Oh, and I don't have a * over a zero on my keyb, so I'd never typo a 0.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

Oh ... sure enough ... it was an 8.

I'm slowly going blind :(

I use the numeric keypad for that character, anyway.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

"How does NFL quarterback Jim Kelly fit into this?"

Bob, I'll tell ya how. He was a loser. He couldn't close the deal, not like Bruce Lee. First, he got his ass kicked by Hahn, the he couldn't win a Super Bowl. He shoulda never left that Giant's game in the hands of some faggy kicker.

Much like Dubya left Iraq in the hands of Rumsfeld......

Ya see, if we woulda just sent in Chuck Norris, everthin' would be alright by now.

Didn't you see "The Octagon" or "The Delta Force"??? What are ya, some kind of Commie???

Posted by: Saltine Cracker on September 12, 2006 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

What I *really* have been meaning to see are those Jack Abramoff Red Scorpion movies ...

Cheez Louise :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

Too late for the debate but here's 2 cents.

First, if the press are not reporting the upside, would someone please link me to the governments propaganda page that tells us what has been done?

Next:
Another pathetic diatribe from the repugnut so-called inteligentsia. If the US troops stay then it is the same as a magic wand; all will come right.

He offers no new plan, no ideas, just faith. Presumably the same leaders who "...created Iraq's humanitarian crisis..." will show the imagination they have so far signally failed to show, and come up with the alternative to the present situation.

He's willing to criticize those who see withdrawal as necessary without arguing with any practicality what staying would achieve or how it would be done.

As I argued yesterday, let's win at least one of these wars. Today C. Rice put Afghanistan back in the public eye -- not before time.

Withdrawal from Iraq doesn't have to be a replay of Vietnam; there's no NVA. It can be preplanned and structured. The Kurds already seem to be getting ready for it, as do the Turks and Iranians.

This administration is incapapble of looking forward or of being flexible (viz. Iraq), but it is time to convene all interested parties -- both internal and external -- and plan out the next 2 years, not some bottomless, endless pit.

It is time to restructure Iraq in a way that will allow the most people to survive in a viable life. It may require a smaller US force to be based there for some time but not as an army of occupation.

Since "Mission Accomplished" we've been there almost three-and-a-half years and just given the present "government" its first army division that has no heavy weapon, logistical, intelligence or, even, training support, minimal air and navy. Wow! Well done!

I say " government" because, tell me, what do they govern?

In Lebanon, Christian, Druze, Sunni and Shia can live together when not interferred with by outside forces. How many remember Lebanon of the 60s?

I'm not saying that Iraq can be that tomorrow, but the present pressures were built up over generations and need to be released.

Bush and his neo-cons had no idea what they were getting into. They have no idea how to deal with the present. They have no idea for an exit.

Time for the Dems to step up. What a coup! A plan to exit Iraq!

Posted by: notthere on September 12, 2006 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

Republicrat,

Re; "Many Iraqis are cooperating with the Iraqi police and army to find those who are involved in the killing. One of the reasons for Americans to stay is precisely to help the majority to defeat the diverse spirited and murderous minorities."

Agreed. I believe we can and should complete this mission.

Posted by: Randy on September 12, 2006 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

brian:

The less success statement has no rational basis. No one suggested the more years in Vietnam, rather either unleashing the power to win or at least acknowledging the horrible truth of pulling out.

"Unleashing the power to win" is a filthy myth which I am increasingly convinced is propagated by Satan. No American violence directed towards North Vietnam could have persuaded the country to stop supporting the roughly 1/3 of South Vietnamese who actively desired a Communist victory and to end their plans for an invasion. The US dropped more bombs on Laos alone than were dropped by all the participants in WWII in all theaters combined. The next step would have been to annihilate North Vietnam's cities (themselves not strategically crucial, in a peasant society), or to invade North Vietnam with land forces. The former option was morally bankrupt: no moral system, Christian or otherwise, could countenance the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocents to prevent the fall of a corrupt and brutal regime in Saigon which itself was guilty of atrocities at least as bad as those of Hanoi. The latter option was a recipe for an even more hopeless quagmire, for further US occupation of yet more unwilling and fiercely resistant armed citizens, for simply re-playing the doomed madness of French colonialism, and for courting nuclear war with China.

As for "acknowledging the horrible truth of pulling out": many people acknowledged quite clearly in 1973 that South Vietnam was unlikely to survive. Some were more clear-eyed than others about the likelihood of Communist re-education camps and command-economy-induced poverty. But continuing to prop up Saigon involved plenty of "horrible truths" of its own. The basic and simple point made by the anti-war side is that Vietnam's future must be determined by the Vietnamese, not by the US. Saigon lost the war because it wasn't a real Vietnamese government. Hanoi was. The same thing will eventually be true in Iraq: no government propped up by force of American arms will survive in the end. If they can't make it on their own, they can't make it period.

And "kill a few hundred thousand more people." What absurdity. We are not killing anyone other than terrorists and other bad guys. It is so liberal to casually acuse American of killing a few hundred thousand more people.

Your President, George Bush, acknowledged over a year ago that the US had probably killed about 30,000 Iraqi civilians other than "terrorists and other bad guys". It's called collateral damage. So, yes, if we stay in Iraq forever, we will end up killing several hundred thousand people. Some of this happens by accident; some of it happens on those rare but all too human occasions when Marines lose their shit and start killing kids and grandmas in blind rage, as in Haditha. Regardless of why such deaths occur, when the accidentally slaughtered civilians start to outweigh any possible legitimate utility of the mission, you have to end the mission. We reached that point in Iraq quite some time ago.

Furthermore, while you regard our enemies as "terrorists and other bad guy", they see themselves as patriots and defenders of Islam, and us as the "terrorists and other bad guy". This may explain why, the more of them we kill, the more young guys seem to become so furious at us that they want to kill us.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 12, 2006 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK


republicrat:

Re; "Many Iraqis are cooperating with the Iraqi police and army to find those who are involved in the killing.

Many Iraqis are using the Iraqi police and army to kill their enemies in private or inter-ethnic grudge matches, by accusing these enemies of having backed one or the other of the ethnic militia. Many Iraqi police and army are involved in the killing.

randy:

Agreed. I believe we can and should complete this mission.

Arrr!!! The White Whale! She blows! I'll have her monster heart yet!!! Glub...glub...blub...

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 12, 2006 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

>I'm slowly going blind :(

And before I do, I'm going to make everyone like me!

Did I type 'like' or did I type 'lick?' Because if I typed 'lick' and if I made everyone lick me, they'd figger out that I taste like tanqueray and limes.

*snarky snark snark*

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe: Many Iraqis are using the Iraqi police and army to kill their enemies in private or inter-ethnic grudge matches, by accusing these enemies of having backed one or the other of the ethnic militia. Many Iraqi police and army are involved in the killing.

Yes. that happens.

Posted by: republicrat on September 12, 2006 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

Why are withdrawal and staying the course the only two options?

Michael O'Hanlon has been all over the shout shows advocating an organized humanitarian relocation of ethnic and religious minorities to majority areas, or at least suggesting it is something Washington should consider.

We can start that relocation now or the Iraqis will do it themselves, and it will be at the barrel of a gun.

Posted by: Linus on September 12, 2006 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

Linus:

I don't know. Humanitarian ethnic cleansing? Destroying years of comity and intermarriage (you've read Riverbend's blog, right?) in Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk and other places to facilitate the agendas of a minority of sectarian fanatics?

The only way I'd support it is if there was a huge outcry for it from a majority of Iraqis themselves. I think at that point Riverbend would just up and leave the country if she and her family haven't already ...

It's like Sarajevo. Nothing more heartrending in the entire world than watching intermarried multiethnic areas unravel into sectarian violence.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

DRUM:KEVIN DRUM:


STOP IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Where is your ****evidence*** that American withdrawal will lead to the second coming of the Khmer Rouge???

Sorry, I missed that earlier. Pleasing.

Posted by: Hostile on September 12, 2006 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1: It's one thing to intervene to stop genocide or to distribute food to the starving (as in Somalia). It's quite another to invade a country that hasn't attacked for your own geopolitical motives and proprietary threat assessment.

Taking the second sentence first, the U.S. war against Iraq was more-or-less continuous from 1991 through OIF. Sometimes there was less shooting, sometimes more. The congress made regime change in Iraq its policy, and then in 2002 voted to give the president the uathority to use force to implement the policy. The Bush administration provided a unique impetus, but the justification for the war was well articulated by Democrats before 2000, and by Democrats in their speeches in favor of the war. Iraq had in fact attacked Kuwait, and was in violation of the terms of the cease-fire. Although not "genocide", the violence of the Baathist regime was considerable. I don't think the distinction you tried to make is clear-cut.

Darfur may be different, but the fundamental calculation is always whether you can accomplish more by military action than without, and whether you can accomplish more by military action now as opposed to waiting for something. That is, can you do more good than bad, and how likely is it that you have made the correct assessment?

I think that the US did, and can continue to do, more good than bad in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the cost is more expensive than the administration thought, and likely to continue so. I doubt that any effort the U.S. would be willing to make in Darfur or Congo could have the least beneficial effect.

For less than the Iraq war has cost to date, the US could build sufficient synfuels plants to obviate all of our oil imports. Such an action would dramatically reduce the cost of oil in the international markets, and do a world of good besides that. I's recommend that before any intervention in Darfur, based on our exerience in Iraq.

That doesn't help us decide when and under what conditions to withdraw from Iraq, or if the invasion was a mistake. But in future we would get more general welfare, common defense, and security for the blessings of liberty from being self-sufficient in liquid fuel that from intervening in another such place.

Posted by: republicrat on September 12, 2006 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

It's politically impossible for an American politician to be seen as advocating ethnic cleansing. Also, given the complexity of the line-drawing in this case, it might be suicidal for the US to be the one drawing the lines. It's not a bad idea, but it won't happen.

Iraq is screwed. The remaining issues are how to close out our stay there so that we are SEEN to be doing the best we could have done from this point on, and how to make sure that the endgame helps put politicians in power in the US who will avoid this kind of idiocy in the future, rather than repeating or exacerbating it.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 12, 2006 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

Brooksfoe,

A day or two before the ground assault kicked off in the first gulf war, I remember a reporter running around asking guys, "...is it worth it? is it worth it?" And I remember thinking, what kind of a dumbass question is that? We have a job to do and we're going to do it.

You see, I'm invested in winning. Its not a white whale kind of thing, its just that winning is what the US military does. Training, brain washing, whatever you want to call it - first we win - first we complete the mission - then we can talk about whether it was worth it.

But what I would like to understand is how one becomes invested in losing? Is it purely rational? I don't think so. The situation is far too complex for purely rational analysis, especially for those who have little if any access to intel. No, I think that statements declaring a loss inevitable while the game is still on can only come from an investment in losing. So tell me, what's your story?

Posted by: Randy on September 12, 2006 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK
...To me, it looks as though most people are inconsistent. republicrat at 7:48 PM
You could also realize that most events stand on their own and that no over ridding political theory will offer a consistent response to each unique circumstance. Vietnam is completely dissimilar from Dafur, Dafur is more like, but different from Rwanda. The situation in the Balkans was long lasting and Clinton was only able to follow policy guide lines set by Bush I after the ethnic cleansing began in Kosova. Colin Powell declared Dafur to be a genocide, but no one can decide on the proper intervention.
... We are not killing anyone other than terrorists and other bad guys. It is so liberal to casually acuse American of killing a few hundred thousand more people. brian at 7:53 PM
It is the legal obligation of an occupying power to keep the peace and security in an occupied territory. The fact is that, under the American occupation, the Iraq death rate has risen dramatically and can only be attributed to the incompetence with which that occupation is being conducted. The complaint is not that Americans are personally killing that many Iraqis, but that the lack of security is allowing sectarian violence (civil war), death squads, and other lawless activities.

One of the most pressing tasks faced by any military government is the maintenance of law and order. With government buildings, stores, hospitals, and cultural facilities being looted, revenge killings taking place, and general lawlessness preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid, this has become an omnipresent concern for the coalition forces in Iraq. Their responsibility in this regard is unambiguously set forth in the U.S. Armys Field Manual 27-10: The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety. Thus, although there have been assertions that the coalition forces are not police, in fact occupation law imposes policing responsibilities on them during an occupation

The total number of deaths in Iraq is not known because the occupying power is not interested in publishing that information. However, studies have shown that the Civilian death toll in Iraq exceeds 100,000 in 2004, so that number is out of date and the current total is far larger.

This study has been debated, but the statistical data and analysis has survived criticism by Administration defenders.

Posted by: Mike on September 12, 2006 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

Darfur may be different, but the fundamental calculation is always whether you can accomplish more by military action than without, and whether you can accomplish more by military action now as opposed to waiting for something. That is, can you do more good than bad, and how likely is it that you have made the correct assessment?

Even though this is true, deploying the argument to avoid even trifling US military action to stop ongoing day-by-day genocide in Darfur, in the aftermath of supporting a monumental US invasion of Iraq on flimsy and trumped-up charges of possible conceivable WMDs and a backstory of genocide fifteen years earlier which we did nothing to stop at the time -- this is the sort of thing which St. Peter looks at and is like, "Okay, here's another one for the flames."

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 12, 2006 at 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

You are a loser when you make war occupation. The war was over in March 2001. Won. The occupation was lost the day Bush landed on that aircraft carrier. Recognizing the truth is not an investment in losing, it is an investment in living. I am talking about the human beings the Americans have fucked with. Their misery cannot be prevented with our occupation. Their fate cannot be known until we leave. No American soldier can invest in the self-determination of the people of Iraq now.

Posted by: Hostile on September 12, 2006 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

You see, I'm invested in winning. Its not a white whale kind of thing, its just that winning is what the US military does.

That is why guys like you want to keep killing people long after it has ceased to have any purpose. And yes, it is a white whale kind of thing.

I supported Gulf War I. I supported our intervention in Afghanistan. In the first case, I was elated and relieved at how well the war went; in the second case, I experienced the same kind of gut-wrenching anxiety during the several weeks when things didn't go well that I experienced Monday night, watching my beloved Redskins go into the final 3 minutes tied 16-16 and with the Vikings driving. And when we won in Afghanistan, and the girls starting coming back to school, I was elated. (Then we started to squander the victory. That's been excruciating to watch.)

Iraq was a boneheaded, idiotic idea from Day 1. There was never a period of relief, because from the moment the US Army allowed unabated looting in the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad, it was clear the US leadership had no plan and no idea what the hell it was doing. (The fact that Afghanistan was slowly deteriorating at the same time made this even more clear, though one hoped for more from the Europeans there.) With the exception of a short period in the aftermath of the national elections, it has never looked even half-good in Iraq. What has been most infuriating, though, is the attempts of hallucinatory square-jawed nuts to deny the reality of the situation: to simply deny that we have fucked Iraq up, are fucking Iraq up, and that Iraq is, as a result, fucked up.

This has about the same effect on us that it has on an enlisted man in a unit getting pounded by heavy artillery when his officer keeps saying, "Soldier, you are incorrect. The enemy has no heavy artillery. We are not being shelled. I want you to continue to advance until we have completed our mission." Does that make it clear to you?

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 12, 2006 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

You see, I'm invested in winning. Its not a white whale kind of thing, its just that winning is what the US military does. No, I think that statements declaring a loss inevitable while the game is still on can only come from an investment in losing.

Well if that's true, here's a list of fairly knowledgeable people, some with access to intel, who by your standard apparently have some kind of investment in losing:

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, after returning from Iraq: "...we can have an affect on the outcome, we can't win Iraq militarily, but we can empower people who want to live together in tolerance with a constitution that protects everybody's interest just not the chosen few.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0512/18/lkl.01.html


Veteran and Armed Forced Advocate John Murtha: "I said a year ago--and you remember me saying this--we can't win this militarily. The military has done everything they can do, so now it's up to the politicians, up to us in Congress. Only we can send people to war and it's up to us to find a way to solve this very difficult problem.

http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0547,ridgeway,70210,2.html

Then there's the retired generals: "All of them agreed that America's strategy and tactics in Iraq have failed, and that President Bush's policy of "staying the course" in Iraq isn't likely to produce anything but more frustration, more and greater problems for the United States in a dangerous world, and more and bloodier surprises for the 135,000 American troops in Iraq.

http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/news/special_packages/galloway/15453716.htm

Another retired general, William L. Nash: You do not win an insurgency through guns, he says. You win an insurgency through politics and economics and social equality. Nash, the General John W. Vessey senior fellow for conflict prevention at the Council on Foreign Relations and director of the Councils Center for Preventive Action , offers recommendations for undermining the insurgency, rebuilding Iraq, and eventually removing U.S. forces.

http://www.cfr.org/publication/8882/interview_with_william_l_nash_on_the_us_militarys_strategy_in_iraq.html


So whether or not you think brooksfoe is "invested in losing" -- which of course he is not, he is just being objective -- all things considered I'd say he is in pretty good company anyway.

Posted by: Windhorse on September 12, 2006 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: mms on September 13, 2006 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

Withdrawal will not only 'lead to massive bloodshed', but it will also be the "abortion of victory" against the insurgents, who at this stage are the avant-garde of global terror. As America, despite the mistakes, can still win the war in Iraq.

Moreover, a premature withdrawal will embolden the advocates and practitioners of global terror, as they will perceive such a "prostrated" American withdrawal as America's congenital weakness contra the jihadist warriors.

For more on this issue, you can visit if you wish the website NEMESIS. But with the warning, that this website is PROHIBITED area for the FAINT-HEARTED.

Posted by: congeorgekotzabasis on September 13, 2006 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

Mike wrote:

"It is the legal obligation of an occupying power to keep the peace and security in an occupied territory. The fact is that, under the American occupation, the Iraq death rate has risen dramatically and can only be attributed to the incompetence with which that occupation is being conducted. The complaint is not that Americans are personally killing that many Iraqis, but that the lack of security is allowing sectarian violence (civil war), death squads, and other lawless activities."
__________________

By what logic can the death rate be attributed to incompetence? The enemy always gets a vote, too. An army can do all that it is capable of doing and it might not be enough to quell all violence. What military process, what procedures are not being performed competently?

___________

Mike also wrote:

"However, studies have shown that the Civilian death toll in Iraq exceeds 100,000 in 2004, so that number is out of date and the current total is far larger."
_______________

Actually, there was one such study, in the Lancet. Anyone familiar with statistical studies would have immediately recognized the limits in their methodology. The confidence rate of the results was inordinately wide, making their figure of 98,000 nothing more than a guess. Are people still referring to that thing?

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 13, 2006 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

By what logic can the death rate be attributed to incompetence?

1. US armed forces began signalling their incompetence and inability to assert order in Iraq immediately after the fall of Baghdad, when they did nothing to stop looting or to protect any public institutions other than the Oil Ministry.

2. The US never adequately locked down the vast supplies of munitions in Iraqi Army arms dumps. Large amounts of those weapons were looted and have been used for the past 3 years to kill American troops.

3. It was clear that the insurgency was a genuine long-term popular phenomenon by the fall of 2003. The US command continued to shun use of the term "insurgency" until late 2004 IIRC. This reflected a continued reliance on a combination of search-and-destroy and overwhelming firepower, as if the insurgents were a conventional army or were all foreign infiltrators, rather than a classic counterinsurgency clear-and-hold strategy with use of minimal firepower which might have had some effect if it had been adopted early enough. That strategy was not adopted until late 2005, and it has proven too late: the country is now beyond American control.

4. US troops have behaved with suicidal arrogance towards Iraqis. During raids, innocent Iraqis are routinely humiliated, forced to lie on the ground with soldiers' boots on their necks, kept in degrading and painful positions for hours, often deliberately. They smash cars and fire weapons in traffic to avoid being slowed down, and open fire on unidentified vehicles at checkpoints on a "when in doubt, shoot first and ask questions later" basis. Such behavior is in accord with aggressive ROEs; far from being rigorously prevented by commander, it has been justified. That this behavior results from US troops doing their utmost to protect themselves is irrelevant.

So that would be the sense in which deaths are attributable to incompetence. Not that US troops don't generally do an excellent job of doing what they're trained and ordered to do, but that they're being trained and ordered to do the wrong things for this war.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 13, 2006 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

windhorse quoted:

Another retired general, William L. Nash: You do not win an insurgency through guns, he says. You win an insurgency through politics and economics and social equality.
_____________

Not to put to fine a point on it, but General Nash is to be congratulated on stating the obvious. Anyone who's studied military history could get that one correct.

The trick is how to work on politics and economics and social equality with a fluid security situation. Our people continue to work in all of those areas (as General Nash well knows), while at the same time doing as much as they can to kill the enemy. General Nash would be among the first to acknowledge that very little work could be done on the civil side if we were to withdraw our military.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 13, 2006 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

Brooksfoe,

Fair enough. It is true that one side or the other in any conflict is going to lose, and the loser must at some point admit defeat. So at the point when things didn't go as well in Iraq as you had hoped or imagined, you admitted defeat. It happens to soldiers too. I've read stories of the German soldiers on the eastern front who were still fighting, but had already given up - same of confederate soldiers late in the Civil War, and Sioux warriors after the Little Big Horn. At some point, morale is lost. But I've also read of the Airborne troops at Bastogne who went through hell and never gave up.

Personally, I think the American public gives up too easily, and as a side note, this adds to my belief in the value of the all volunteer military. I mean, think about it, the army is still getting volunteers at a time when the general public is losing hope - a few percentage points shy of what it would like certainly, but still getting volunteers.

But I'm not going to try to convince you. If the American people want this to be over, then so it should be and will be. The mission will be to withdraw.

Posted by: Randy on September 13, 2006 at 7:48 AM | PERMALINK

Windhorse,

That's a great example of selection bias. Your search method was to find examples of people who agreed with you. Its also, presumably, a direct result of being invested in defeat.

Posted by: Randy on September 13, 2006 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

P.S. Windhorse,

And yes, my response is an example of being invested in winning. I'm really not interested in hearing from people who want to tell me why we can't win. Now, if you want to roll out people with ideas on how to overcome the difficulties your people present, that would be useful.

Posted by: Randy on September 13, 2006 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone who's studied military history could get that one correct.

Which, of course, begs the question of why the Bush Administration has done such a piss-poor job regarding security in Iraq.

Posted by: Gregory on September 13, 2006 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe, there is a difference between technical incompetence and organizational responsiveness. I suspect many of the apparent failures to react quickly enough to changes on the ground was due to the inevitable fog of war, combined with a bit too much deference to opinions held in Washington. No matter how competent, no military leadership feels very comfortable getting out of synch with its civilian leadership. On some of your specifics:

1. While it left a poor impression, the looting did not affect the military situation measurably, which is what CENTCOM was more concerned with at the time. In hindsight, it did not even affect the progress of the insurgency, which was a planned event (at least on the part of mostly Sunni Special Republican Guard and Saddam fedayeen), not a spontaneous uprising. Then too, we'd seen similar looting in many countries in which we've deployed, it being a rather normal event in interregnums. While it obviously delayed recovery, the effects of looting have long since been repaired and overcome.

2. The looting of the munitions depots was more problematic. It was, in fact, evidence that the enemy still planned to resist. Though CENTCOM was correct in saying that the sheer number of depots made immediate security impossible, their progress in securing the depots was undoubtedly slowed by having fewer troops than anticipated. The number of troops was determined by pre-war decision-making (coupled with unexpected difficulty with Turkish legislators).

3. The delay in recognizing the nature of the insurgency was the most damaging mistake, in my opinion. However, I don't know how much of CENTCOM's apparent uncertainty was due to actual ignorance and how much was opinion-shaping ordered from on high. Again, the timing of the insurgency is significant. Most insurgencies take time to develop. It is very difficult to organize an organized resistance movement from square one, as our own special ops troops know. This one sprang forth in full flower, a clear indication of prior organization. Still, CENTCOM should have been able to put it together more quickly. However, the delay in effectively countering the insurgency does not mean the situation is irredeemable. It means we still have much hard fighting ahead of us. Indications that situation has begun to spin out of control will be when and if the legitimate government ceases to function, the presence of American troops is seriously threatened, and large parts of the country become permanent "no go" areas for Iraqi and American troops.

4. The negative effects of our ROE is overblown, largely because ever instance of overreaction is projected as being the norm, in part by our media and through deliberate enemy agitprop. Our troops are the most disciplined in the world, by far. For every ugly incident there are literally hundreds of interactions each day which shed nothing but credit on our troops. Though unfortunate events will continue to happen, such ROE is one reason why our presence is not effectively challenged and why, increasingly, the presence of American troops serves as a calming agent in areas of sectarian violence.

Again, the charge of incompetence is easy to make, but less easy to prove. To some degree, we are victims of our own prowess, in that even our opponents and critics expect us to be perfect in gathering intelligence, and flawless in execution. No such perfect organization exists in the world. A charge of imcompetence can only be made in comparison to other militaries, not to some hypothetically perfectly executed campaign. Since most of us here aren't qualified to command a platoon, let alone a multi-Service, multi-nation joint coalition, I'll continue to give CENTCOM some credit for knowing what they are doing.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 13, 2006 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe, I forgot to mention that I appreciate your serious comments and willingness to delve into specifics. That's why I try to give your posts serious response whenever I have the time.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 13, 2006 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

gregory wrote:

"(Quoting me about General Nash) 'Anyone who's studied military history could get that one correct.'

Which, of course, begs the question of why the Bush Administration has done such a piss-poor job regarding security in Iraq."
_______________

Piss-poor compared to what, gregory? Is there some standard upon which to judge or are we to be held up to the impossible standards of a hypothetically perfect campaign? The average length of an insurgency is nine years. This one has been going on for three years and has the complicating factor of multiple adversaries.

Each war is unique and though lessons learned are alway useful, each war must be within its own circumstances.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 13, 2006 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Jason,

I don't think anyone is saying we don't have problems in Iraq. That's just freakin obvious. My point is that there is an underlying bias as to what these problems mean. Some see the problems as a reason to quit. Others see the problems as obstacles to be dealt with. The military will always do the latter. That's what I mean by being invested in winning. And if the public decides that the problems are a reason to quit, and elects officials to accomplish that, then the military will simply have a new mission - to return home.

I am concerned, however, that much of the debate has become one of people invested primarily in their own statements. They've made predictions that they want to see come true. And of course, there's the lurking issue of political expediency.

Posted by: Randy on September 13, 2006 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

I apologize for the poor quality of my posts today with many typos and skipped words. I'm home sick with a bug picked up from my grandkids. I think I'll hit the hay.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 13, 2006 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Randy: Personally, I think the American public gives up too easily, and as a side note, this adds to my belief in the value of the all volunteer military.

Typical conservative move -- when things don't go wrong, blame America. Why do you hate the American people, Randy?

Posted by: Arminius on September 13, 2006 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Trashauler: Is there some standard upon which to judge or are we to be held up to the impossible standards of a hypothetically perfect campaign?

Nice strawman -- the choice isn't between nothing and perfection, the choice is between the incompetent job we've been doing and the competent job others have managed. The standard is other successful counter-insurgency campaigns such as the British in Malaya and Northern Ireland, the US in the Philippines, the Indians in Kashmir, etc.

Posted by: Arminius on September 13, 2006 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK


t-h: lessons learned

yeah...that's why the number of dead in iraq rises...and the number of explosions has well..

exploded..

learning lessons is

hard work..

Posted by: punch line on September 13, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

On September 11 of this year we shared a day of mourning and recollection. It was an opportunity for our country to show respect for the 2,800 people who were murdered five years ago in New York.

We in the United States are still reeling from the shock of that day. Our countrys population is about 295 million. About one of every 105 thousand persons was killed at the World Trade Center.

The population of Iraq is about 26 million. It is estimated that at least 45,000 Iraqis have been killed since we began the war there. That is about one of every 577 persons. If one of every 577 were killed in the U.S. it would be about 510,000 deaths. Recently, about 1,500 have been killed in Iraq each month. If the U.S. lost a proportionate number, it would be about 17,000 per month.

What would our state of mind be if a foreign country occupied the U.S. and 510,000 died?

Of course, it isnt our soldiers doing much of this killing, but we set the entire struggle in motion because we were told it was necessary for our self defense, and because we were told Saddam Hussein was connected to Al Qaeda. We are now told that we must stay in Iraq or well be fighting terrorists on our own streets. (Imagine how that sounds to an Iraqi, by the way. Better that you should suffer than I.)

Reasonable people can disagree on what our best course of action should be. It is obvious though that what we are now doing is not working. The administration has stubbornly insisted that we just need to see this through, but there is no end in sight, no apparent prospect of success and no discernible plan other than to stay the course until the Iraqis stand up.

Posted by: MinnesotaMark on September 13, 2006 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Arminius wrote:

"Nice strawman -- the choice isn't between nothing and perfection, the choice is between the incompetent job we've been doing and the competent job others have managed. The standard is other successful counter-insurgency campaigns such as the British in Malaya and Northern Ireland, the US in the Philippines, the Indians in Kashmir, etc."
_______________

And they last how long?

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 13, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Crap, my typing sucks today. I meant to ask

"And they lasted how long?"

Seriously, Arminius, it is not a strawman. It is not I who is saying that every mistake should have been avoided. I've experienced or observed many military campaigns and there ain't one of them goes to plan. When people speak of incompetence and support their contention with a litany of mistakes made, it's understandable but not necessarily conclusive. Each campaign, even the most successful, is rife with errors among the millions of decisions made. The only way to avoid such errors is to never engage in the first place. (Yeah, I know, what a concept.)

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 13, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

someone always has to clean up my messes....

that's enough deciding for now..

lunch break!

Posted by: g.w.b. on September 13, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

That's a great example of selection bias. Your search method was to find examples of people who agreed with you.

It's not selection bias because I was not involved in a statistical study. Rather, the quotes presumably show that one can analyze the situation in Iraq objectively without being invested in loss -- that is, if you accept that military men are trained to win.

The military minds quoted above flatly contradict your premise that Iraq can be "won" militarily. And that's without even acknowledging that they're constrained from being totally honest about the severity of the situation for a number of reasons, including troops morale and professional honor.

Its also, presumably, a direct result of being invested in defeat.

I'm invested in saving both American and Iraqi lives. If one possessed the requisite second grade knowledge of Iraqi culture that Bush and his advisors should have had prior to deciding on this folly, it was possible to correctly predict the sectarian violence that would inevitably ensue, which is one of the reasons I opposed the invasion.

Understanding in advance that a course of action is destined to ultimate failure is not the same thing as being invested in loss. I don't try and fly off of tall buildings either -- does that make me a pessimist?

I'm really not interested in hearing from people who want to tell me why we can't win.

Then you're not interested in hearing disinterested analysis, some of which is coming from the military. And if you're not interested in analyzing the problem objectively, then there's little reason to be having a reasoned discussion about it.

The military completed its objective, probably the only possible thing it was suited for doing in Iraq: defeat the Iraqi army. However, there was never any real plan beyond that on the part of the Bush administration and there still isn't, even according to the commanders on the ground themselves.

Even if there were, there just aren't enough troops to "win" an occupation as if that were possible, and there could never be enough troops to try and constrain an armed populace in which there are at least four different factions fighting us and and/or each other at the same time. The only winnable objective at the moment is a kind of stalement where, as we've seen, the internal violence worsens every month.

Now, if you want to roll out people with ideas on how to overcome the difficulties your people present, that would be useful.

We have. The ideas tendered include redeployment, withdrawal, or at least increasing the number of troops on the ground for their own protection if we're committed to the insanity of simply "staying the course" because it's politically necessary for this administration and its party.

Posted by: Windhorse on September 13, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

But the war's aftermath also bloodied the hands of critics who insisted on walking away without condition and regardless of consequence. The genocide that followed in Cambodia and the spectacle of Vietnam's reeducation camps will not be repeated in Iraq

Kaplan indulges in a little liberal slander, a little stabbed-in-the-back bullshit. I call it Liberal blood libel, an untruthful statement designed to make you hate liberals.

Liberal hands are clean in Vietnam. Conservatives' however (including conservative Democrats like Johnston and "saint" Scoop Jackson) are drenched in blood, something they have successfully projected unto their political ennemies. We are still paying for that error in the foreign policy mistakes of today.

Kaplan should read A Bright Shinning Lie by Niel Sheehan and then write his pieces without indulging in cheap anti-liberal slander.

Posted by: Nemesis on September 13, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

MinnesoteMark wrote:

"Reasonable people can disagree on what our best course of action should be. It is obvious though that what we are now doing is not working. The administration has stubbornly insisted that we just need to see this through, but there is no end in sight, no apparent prospect of success and no discernible plan other than to stay the course until the Iraqis 'stand up.'"
________________

Here is a serious question? How do we know our approach isn't working? We cannot tell by the number of insurgent attacks in any given week or month. In a large country, they can always be where we aren't. We are killing insurgents in far greater numbers than they kill Americans. The Iraqi government is legitimate and still in place. Their army is fighting, more effectively all the time. There are a thousand informed opinions out there across the spectrum, leaving average Joe Blogger trying to make sense out of it all. The less patient (on both sides) tend to pick the opinions which support their own ideas. Those with the responsibility to make decisions - or those soon to have the responsibility - must consider them all.

As for the prospects of success, several possibilities come to mind:

1. In a war of attrition, somebody gets eventually attritted to an unacceptable level. In most cases, that level is determined by political will, rather than actual loses. There is a chance that the smaller Sunni population reaches that level before the Shiites and Kurds.

2. We have no idea of what progress the Iraqi government is making on a political solution (which is necessary for victory). It could be that the elements of political accommodation are already understood, once one or several groups burn themselves out. Even the most virulent of enemies eventually cease fighting.

3. Saddam Hussein might die, with an unknown effect on insurgent morale. It might not have any effect, but one cannot help but wonder what might have happened if the American soldier cautiously approaching Saddam's spider hole had played it safe and dropped a grenade in first.

I'm sure there are other possibilities out there, but right now all of them require "staying the course," which phrase gets a bad rap. After all, England "stayed the course" whilst waiting for our entry into WWII. Staying the course doesn't mean helpless or clueless. It can also mean being resolute in the face of pressure and setbacks, until things improve.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 13, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

A day too, remember, your ass was kicked to the ground by a porter for your Worthers candy. You ran around asking guys thinking about dumb bass, and remember tinkling do, half a job is done.

Infested whiners see Arabs white wail, Yousie. Our military training, washing and scrubbing, is what it does to our brain, forever, calling it a win win mission is more than talk. Children receive training, too, usually from their mothers, because they have a job to do, learning to do do. Remember, it was worth it.

But I would understand if you were infested with longing. A lost lover is not purely rational, the emotions are too complex, not like an engineer for intel, which is a silly thing to state, because access to the heart is what it takes to declare the inevitable love in the game, but your story tells me you have little.

Posted by: Will on September 13, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

windhorse wrote:

"The military minds quoted above flatly contradict your premise that Iraq can be "won" militarily. And that's without even acknowledging that they're constrained from being totally honest about the severity of the situation for a number of reasons, including troops morale and professional honor."
______________

Windhorse, strictly speaking no war, even total war, is won militarily. The political component is always required and military action is intended to pave the way for it. American military education hammers this home nearly from day one, which is why General Nash's observation is not an earth-shattering revelation for other military observers.

Old Von Clausewitz made the point that war is the continuation of politics by other means. He also said this:

"[E]very war is rich in unique episodes; each is an uncharted sea beset with reefs. The commander may suspect the reefs' existence, without ever having seen them; now he must steer past them in the dark."

General Nash and your other military observers understand the above idea, as well, which their extended comments usually make clear.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 13, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

It really is time to slap down Bush, his operatives and media enablers every time they attempt to portray opponents of the current Iraq policy as wanting to "cut and run" and "abandon" the country.
The fact is, the botched aftermath of the invasion set up conditions for a civil war, which now is under way.
The U.S. now has a choice of presiding over the civil war and providing the combatants with the occasional target -- the role UN peacekeepers so often find themselves playing -- or putting Iraqi politicians, warlords and mullahs on notice: Ratchet down the violence and start serious work on a plan for coexistence (federalism, de facto partition, what have you) by [fill in the date], or we're relocating our forces over the horizon and waiting until you to beat one another into submission or come to your senses. It's your nation to build, not ours. We'll help if you let us.
There is nothing defeatist about that.

Posted by: allbetsareoff on September 13, 2006 at 10:52 PM | PERMALINK

trashhauler: 3. Saddam Hussein might die, with an unknown effect on insurgent morale.

since saddam was captured...

more americans have died in iraq...

than in all his time in power..

how's that for irony...

now be a good dead ender...

and ignore that fact..

Posted by: mr. irony on September 14, 2006 at 5:53 AM | PERMALINK

mr irony, like most attempts to link unrelated events, it sucks as irony. Be a good fellow and explain the significance of that fact.

I'll leave the gratuitous insults to you.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 14, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

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