Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 9, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE CHAOS HAWKS....In the beginning were the War Hawks, and much did they counsel the powerful to do battle against the evildoer Saddam. Then came the war, and the looting, and the Heritage Foundation hordes, and the hawks lamented exceeding loud and many soon repented of their ways. Yea, verily, they presently transformed themselves into Pottery Barn Hawks, eager to fix the disaster they had helped create and thus redeem themselves in the eyes of the faithful. In the fullness of time, though, the disaster ripened and flowered and became impossible of resolution, and the hawks despaired. Success had become unachievable, yea unto their own generation and the generation to come after them. In short, life sucked.

So what's a Pottery Barn hawk to do? The answer, lately, is: become a Chaos Hawk. First, admit that Iraq is hopeless, thus demonstrating that you're not completely out to lunch. After all, the surge has produced only tiny gains in a few highly localized areas and has no chance of replicating those successes on a wide scale. The Iraqi government is dysfunctional, the police forces are dysfunctional, the army is years away from competence, militias are engaged in a ruthless campaign of sectarian cleansing, infrastructure is declining, and refugees are fleeing the country at a rate of thousands per day.

Having admitted, however, that the odds of a military success in Iraq are almost impossibly long, Chaos Hawks nonetheless insist that the U.S. military needs to stay in Iraq for the foreseeable future. Why? Because if we leave the entire Middle East will become a bloodbath. Sunni and Shiite will engage in mutual genocide, oil fields will go up in flames, fundamentalist parties will take over, and al-Qaeda will have a safe haven bigger than the entire continent of Europe.

Needless to say, this is nonsense. Israel has fought war after war in the Middle East. Result: no regional conflagration. Iran and Iraq fought one of the bloodiest wars of the second half the 20th century. Result: no regional conflagration. The Soviets fought in Afghanistan and then withdrew. No regional conflagration. The U.S. fought the Gulf War and then left. No regional conflagration. Algeria fought an internal civil war for a decade. No regional conflagration.

So where does this bogeyman come from? Hard to say. Probably a deep-seated unwillingness to confront the fact that the United States can't really influence a course of events we originally set in motion. But Iraq is already fighting a civil war, and that civil war will continue whether we stay or go. If we go it will likely become more intense, but also shorter lived. The eventual result, however, will almost certainly be the same: a de facto independent Kurdistan in the north and a Shiite theocracy in the south. The rest of the Middle East will, as usual, watch events unfold without doing much of anything about them, and will accept the inevitable results. The U.S., for its part, will remain in the north to protect Kurdistan, in the east in Afghanistan, in the west in the Mediterranean, and in the south in its bases in the Gulf. We'll hardly be absent from the region.

I think it's worthwhile for proponents of withdrawal to be honest about the likely aftermath of pulling out: an intensified civil war that will take the lives of tens of thousands and end in the installation, at least in the short-term, of an Iran-friendly theocracy. This is obviously not a happy outcome, but neither is it the catastrophe the Chaos Hawks peddle. The alternative is to babysit the civil war with American troops, spilling blood and treasure along the way, without truly affecting the course of events in any substantial measure.

Politically, this is the key battleground now. As long as the Chaos Hawks are able to panic the public into believing that withdrawal will result in a Middle East in flames and ten dollar gasoline at home, no Congress will have the backbone to defund the war and force a pullout. This means that it's time for more sensible regional professionals to screw up their courage and tell the truth: pulling out won't be pretty, but if it's done prudently neither will it be Armageddon. The sooner we figure this out, the sooner we can leave Iraq.

Until then, though, our foreign policy will continue to be held hostage to a senseless war that does us no good. Al-Qaeda will continue to recruit and grow, Afghanistan will slowly slip away, a shooting war with Iran will become more likely, our military will continue being stretched and drained, and our country will become less and less safe. And all for nothing. It's way past time for us to start formulating a sane national security policy for an age of terror. Leaving Iraq is the first step.

Kevin Drum 1:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (108)

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Comments

Staying is losing. Leaving is choosing.

That's my bumpersticker.

Posted by: craigie on September 9, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

If the sensible voices had actually had much of a voice in the first place, we wouldn't be in this mess. The circus that will undoubtedly unfold next week with the "Petraeus Report" will demonstrate whether anything has changed.

Posted by: Nemo on September 9, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

and refugees are fleeing the country at a rate of thousands per day.

I'm glad you mentioned this. I don't think people know how big of a deal this is (hell, we don't even hear a lot of reporting on the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, or the culture of the country we're occupying...).

A lot of the doctors, scientists, and other skilled professionals left Iraq a long time ago. Imagine if everybody you liked left your neighborhood, leaving you with mostly only the scumbags. That's kind of like what's happening in Iraq (I'm not calling everybody in Iraq who isn't a professinal a bad person, or calling them scum just because they didn't want to leave or couldn't leave. I'm just drawing a comparison between something really terrible in a person's personal life, and something terrible happening to a whole country).

Posted by: Swan on September 9, 2007 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

The Chaos Hawks will prevail. They will argue and win that since Shia Iraq won't be friendly with the US post-withdrawal (Iran will be their BFF), we have to take out Iran so the Shia Iraqis can't do further harm, and Iran will join the United Front (Afghanistan, Iran and Iran) as US colonies to control the Oil Crescent.

After the Iran attack, which much be before the US primary season determines a Rethug candidate, some Man on a Horse (Petraeus?) will be led out of the quagmire in the mideast to become the US national savior as the Repub. candidate who will keep the US committment to south asian domination by US Oil and Gas.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR on September 9, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

You proceed in a slap-dash manner. Do you believe we could walk out today without penalty? Bush and the military brass would love nothing better. Why not declare victory and leave

Your list of similar wars--Israel, Gulf War, Afghanistn, etc.--is not identical to our current situation. Do you think no war in the ME could lead to these problems? There is no de facto government in Iraq. One cannot be formed. The Sunni, Kurds and Shia will not come together. This wasn't the case with the Gulf War.

"Deep-seated unwillingness" and "Chaos Hawks" is a call to accept your reasons because we hate Bush.
I hope you analysis is correct, but we need more than sloganeering. The effect of troop draw-down is important to Dems who intend to take credit for it.

The impact of pulling out 150,000 US peace-keeping troops is significant. These troops are not without effect at this time.

US presence is a deterrence to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The behavior of the actors will change.

Posted by: Sam Abergundum on September 9, 2007 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe just focusing on Afghanistan would enable us to win Afghanistan. I don't think the Iranians have bigger ambition or capability to accomplish anything more internationally than eventually win an ally in Iraq. Letting events play out without our presence will result in a stabler region in ways that will have more meaning for us, and an internally focused Iran and Iraq, just trying to make their own territory safe and prosperous.

Posted by: Swan on September 9, 2007 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Always look for them to be doing the opposite of what they say they're doing. The Chaos Hawks actually want to sow chaos in the middle east. For some, that was the plan from the beginning.

Posted by: rabbit on September 9, 2007 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent post, Kevin.

It's ironic that the hawkish position has evolved to "we've screwed up so bad now we need to stay and take care of our screw-ups" but yet there is never any real accountability accepted for those screwups -- no calls for firings or impeachment, no mea culpas, and no personal admissions of having gotten behind strategies that were so disastrously wrong.

And upon further questioning, nor is there an admission that we should have never invaded in the first place.

The mind of a wingnut, how strange and wondrous are its workings.

Posted by: trex on September 9, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone knows what's going to happen. The goal is to make it happen to a Democrat.

It's really, really simple.

Posted by: Charles on September 9, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

The deliberate, measured, and sombre tone of Kevin's analysis is commendable and admirable, but, alas, the current situation demands the opponents of this war to be firebreathing loudmouths, or else the madness in the middle east will continue.

Posted by: gregor on September 9, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Where's one to find sanity in the US government these days? Really. Where? Or responsibility? Or shame?

I think your analysis is pretty sound except for what rabbit said, Seems like some wanted and like it this way with all the uncertainties and lack of critical analytical thinking.

God knows we all know that some huge mistakes have been made, and graft and corruption goes on every day and is being suppressed from investigation -- by the Attorney General's office, no less, and by the pols in Iraq. There's no surprise in any of this to the shame of the US. trex said it. No heads falling. No apologies.

We just continue in the same insane way.

I expect much more of this insanity before it is all over, more deaths, more money thrown away, and noone saying sorry.

Posted by: notthere` on September 9, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

I really think the Republicans are just counting on the Democrats being too scared to try to pass something that ties funding to timelines for withdrawal. If you think about it, if the Congress passed something like this, for Bush to ignore it, he'd have to pull off something like a coup. I just don't think Bush and his people have enough balls to try this, and the political consequences for them would be insurmountable. The Dems really just have to try to pass something again and again, and the Repubs will start to get on board. Nobody sane wants this war to last forever.

Posted by: Swan on September 9, 2007 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, keep everyone busy while he replenishes the ol' coffins, er, coffers.

Posted by: Kenji on September 9, 2007 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Needless to say, this is nonsense. Israel has fought war after war in the Middle East. Result: no regional conflagration. Iran and Iraq fought one of the bloodiest wars of the second half the 20th century. Result: no regional conflagration. The Soviets fought in Afghanistan and then withdrew. No regional conflagration. The U.S. fought the Gulf War and then left. No regional conflagration. Algeria fought an internal civil war for a decade. No regional conflagration.

The difference is that the conflicts you list are between nations -- it makes sense that the violence was contained between these nations. The central conflict in Iraq is between sects -- Sunni and Shia -- that have a long history of rivalry and violence. There are Shia minorities in the states to the south and west. Is it likely that there will be a regional conflagration? Perhaps not, but I think the risk is more serious than you indicate.

Ultimately, however, I agree with you that we must disengage. I would just advocate a slower withdrawal than you might prefer. The one thing we can be sure our troops can achieve in Iraq is to prevent the direct intervention of Iraq's neighbors. That might not prevent the violence from spreading, but it's something.

Posted by: Wagster on September 9, 2007 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

>"Always look for them to be doing the opposite of what they say they're doing. The Chaos Hawks actually want to sow chaos in the middle east. For some, that was the plan from the beginning."

Rabbit has it figured.

From the very start the goal was to remove Iraq as a state that could ever challenge Israeli hegemony in the Mideast.

Now the only remaining state with significant power is... Iran. After the upcoming Islamic revolution in Pakistan there will be another, much more formidable player in the mix.

With Bush's help, Bin Laden has lured the USA into a trap from which they cannot gracefully extricate themselves.

Posted by: Buford on September 9, 2007 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Ten dollar gasoline? There he goes again! The figure I hear most often on Faux is nine.

Posted by: Jean Arf on September 9, 2007 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

"The rest of the Middle East will, as usual, watch events unfold without doing much of anything about them, and will accept the inevitable results."

I agree. Yes, the various Middle East nations don't like what would happen, but each of them has strong reasons for staying out.

"the likely aftermath of pulling out: an intensified civil war that will take the lives of tens of thousands and end in the installation, at least in the short-term, of an Iran-friendly theocracy."

Right again. Remember that one of the reasons Bush gave for declaring war on Iraq was to fight Islamic terrorism, but the outcome is going to be making Iraq into a country, that in the War on Terrorism, is definitely on the other side.

Posted by: bobo the chimp on September 9, 2007 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

At 2:40, I mean:

If Bush vetoed it, keep sending it back- refuse to fund without timelines- that scenario.

Probably the likeliest way to a coup would then be to issue an executive order, declaring that Congress was unconstitutionally violating the President's war powers by refusing to fund-to-fight rather than fund-to-withdraw in the middle of a big war, and thereby undermining national security. The EO would claim that the Treasury has to fund anyway. Then the Dems could challenge the EO in court, unless Bush used force to try to prevent this, and if the courts returned a result unfavorable to Bush, Bush would then have to take the next step of trying to get his way illegally. Or, Bush could pull some dirty tricks, and, for example, try to frame key Democratic lawmakers, if he thought locking them up would somehow stifle the Congress. Whatever happened, martial law would be pretty hard to enforce in the United States if it came to that. Bush would somehow have to sell the whole nation on the idea that his was the only legitimate authority.

I think if the Dems push it, it's a really tough pitch for Bush to get to the plate.

Posted by: Swan on September 9, 2007 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

WHO ARE YOU and what have you done with the real Kevin?

Posted by: R.L. on September 9, 2007 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, the only one with enough power to spin the mainstream "liberal" media to a "success" in Iraq if a withdrawal results in a more intense civil war is Bush himself. Doubly unfortunately, he would never do it. His roadmap seems clear: prolong the war until the failure becomes that of his successor, then spin the blame there.

Posted by: Nemo on September 9, 2007 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

brilliant post.

Posted by: mestizo on September 9, 2007 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Vietnam was a domino. Vietnam's falling was going to lead to other dominos falling.

When Vietnam fell, it was largely our fault that 2 Million Vietnamese had been killed in the war. We left, and it got really and truly fucked in that region for awhile.

Today, my shirts and coffee come from Vietnam.

The way to win is to get out, and let really crappy pop music teens, maquiladoras, the internet, and fair trade policies win.

And of course, OBL, et. la., have stated that that is what they fear the most from the west. So why should my kids fight, when Nike and WalMart combined with Britney, Paris, and Lindsay's vajayjay's are so much more effective?

Posted by: jerry on September 9, 2007 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Please don't use the phrase "blood and treasure." It makes you sound like a neocon.

(Do a little lexis-nexis if you don't believe me.)

Posted by: JD on September 9, 2007 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin is being awfully glib, yet again, about the consequences of withdrawal before this catastrophe is stabilized. Though many of us in the US and UK knew the invasion was idiocy, our two states went ahead anyway, with quite predictable results. But surely it is then the height of moral hypocrisy to advocate walking away, leaving others to bear the crushing costs of our national tomfoolery?
If we could be sure Iraq would not descend into an even greater nightmare, then by all means withdraw. But Kevin's analogies to Israel, Afghanistan, etc are pretty weak stuff upon which to risk thousands and thousands of lives (see posts above). If it were obvious that Iraq would be better off without US/UK troops, then by all means withdraw. But Kevin's past arguments on this score have seemed pretty much like whistling past the graveyard, a pretty apt metaphor. It's also a lot easier to advocate this when it's not your butt at risk but those of Iraqis.
Chaos Hawks? Handy slogan. A bit like calling Kevin the typical Ugly American: We broke it; gee, let other people pay for it. If we do withdraw, I hope to God Kevin's right. Several decades as an anthropologist leaves me petrified that he's not. Iraqis could pay an even greater price than they have to date.
All that said, there are far hotter circles of Hell reserved for the arrogant and reckless twerps who got us all into this in the first place.

Posted by: jim on September 9, 2007 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum finds his voice...

'nuf said.

Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on September 9, 2007 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Iraqis could pay an even greater price than they have to date.

That's not in question, jim. The Iraqis WILL pay an even greater price than they have to date. The question is how much greater and there is a lot of evidence and logic that says that our withdrawal will lessen that greater price.

Posted by: jerry on September 9, 2007 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

I couldn't decide this weekend what irritated me more -- the incessant, tabloid-style U.S. media coverage of that missing 4-year-old English girl in Portugal, or the ignorant CNN talking bimbos who kept making repeated references to a non-existent "Portugal Police Department."

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on September 9, 2007 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

Awesome post, both literary and compelling.

What is lacking for reconciliation in Iraq is the skill of a peace broker such as Wesley Clark.
This administration is full of hawks with their own agenda, most notably, American empire.
No sense blaming Congress.
How about the guy running around the last six years calling himself the decider, the commander guy, mission-accomplished dude, obviously trying to convince himself, and us, he was in charge, while all along as we know the cabal led by Cheney and his ilk keeps us in this mess, as they no doubt feed into that messianic complex Bush holds. Shaping the chaos is the next war cry.
And there's Halliburton, Cheney's bread and butter, moving its corporate headquarters to the Arab land Dubai for permanent war support in the Middle East, and no accountablity in the USA.
Let's not forget this administration wanted to let Dubai take over U.S. ports.


Posted by: consider wisely always on September 9, 2007 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Until then, though, our foreign policy will continue to be held hostage to a senseless war that does us no good.

It does you and I no good.

That doesn't mean no one does.

We reap no benefit from

  • an omnipotent executive branch bloated beyond recognition with 'wartime' powers, which can now safely be turned on domestic opposition
  • a premier wedge issue that has delivered two elections already, and bids fair to deliver the next one, the referendum over 'who lost Iraq' (2006 was a squeaker and a fluke)
  • a stack of magic P.O.'s on the public fisc that the bean-counters can't shoot down,
  • faster promotions, with less scrutiny, for those officers who play the game.

But somebody does.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on September 9, 2007 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

>That's not in question, jim. The Iraqis WILL pay an
>even greater price than they have to date. The
>question is how much greater and there is a lot of
>evidence and logic that says that our withdrawal
>will lessen that greater price.

Jerry,I sure hope you're right. My problem is that the evidence and logic I've seen so far aren't terribly convincing. Kevin's a persuasive analyst on many things, but on this point IMHO his arguments always come up surprisingly threadbare. I mean, "The U.S. fought the Gulf War and then left. No regional conflagration." Well, duh! Couldn't it be because Bush senior and his advisers were smart enough to realize that, unless they left the center of power in place, which they did, a regional conflagration could occur?

Posted by: Jim on September 9, 2007 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Ever since 9/11, the same band of ideologues have been misinterpreting and misrepresenting the entire situation in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. They have made prediction after prediction after prediction, and every one has been not only wrong, but egregiously so. Their answer is not to acknowledge their misunderstandings and outright errors, but merely to keep issuing new predictions.

So, why, six years after the start of the "War on Terror," and four and a half years after the invasion and occupation of Iraq, would ANY sane person believe a word they say?

There is a classic logical fallacy often called the Proof By Pleasure, which holds that some people will gullibly believe whatever is the most pleasing to them. Anything that supports their ideological world-view will be unquestionably believed, while any facts or arguments that contradict their delusions will be dismissed as the work of evil forces or those they've duped.

Today, both on Iraq and Iran, the same fools and liars who consistently distorted and cherrypicked reality to make it fit their ideological agenda, are merely continuing the same tactics. And, as before, a significant number of people are again mainlining the administration's Kool Aid.

Posted by: Blue Sun on September 9, 2007 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Bravo, Mr Drum.

Posted by: Monty on September 9, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Ah Kevin.

You thought some conservative claptrap was going to follow didn't you?

Naaaa, I just wanted to say Ah Kevin.

Posted by: pdiddysl on September 9, 2007 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

It does feel good to say Ah Kevin, doesn't it?

Not quite tremblingly good, but still good.

Posted by: Kenji on September 9, 2007 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Jim,

Of course, things are going to get worse if we leave. That's a given at this point. You don't tear down a fence containing enraged beasts and expect them not to go after each other.

That aside, once the fence has been torn down, NO result is going to be a good one. So, instead of asking the narrow (and pretty much unanswerable) question, "what will happen if we leave?" we should be looking at the broader picture. The question I am most worried about is "What will happen if we stay?"

For four and a half years, Bush's tactic for trying to keep the beasts from feeding on each other was to throw sacrificial American soldiers into the gap to keep them distracted, preying on us.

The longer we have stayed, the worse the situation has become. What started as a small Sunni insurgency is now complete chaos in Iraq and a rallying cry for Islamic jihadis the world over. In addition, Iran has been seriously empowered and is being drawn deeper into the conflict every day.

Meanwhile, Turkey is massing a quarter of a million men on the northern border of Iraq in response to the Iraqi Kurds' policy of supporting and sheltering their Kurdish Turkish cousins, the terrorist group PKK, which has become more active committing atrocities in the Kurdish region of Turkey. (Didn't Bush once make belligerent threats about what we would do to countries that shelter and support terrorists?)

All over the Islamic world, moderate voices are in retreat, and Islamists, both peaceful and violent, have been growing in influence.

We can make a very strong case that, by our invasion and continuation of the occupation, things are getting worse on all fronts daily. A wider war with Iran is almost inevitable if the Bushies are allowed to continue this war. And, if the administration bombs Iran, we will almost surely see the 130 million Shi'ites around the world rise up against us.

All of this "staying the course" is costing us thousands of American lives and billions, if not trillions of American dollars.

So, even the most extreme speculation on what might or might not happen if we withdraw can't begin to compete with what is already happening ever day we continue to pursue the war.

The die was cast the day Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, et al, decided to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein. They failed to take into account Robert Frost's wisdom:

"Don't ever take down a fence down until you know why it was put up."

Posted by: Blue Sun on September 9, 2007 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

There appears to be a bipartisan consensus from our self appointed wise men in the media that we must stay in Iraq for the forseeable future. No amount of logic or lack of public support for this war will change it. Its all about dragging it out to 2008. Deep down the war hawks don't believe the policy was in error. They think the Bush Administration just wasn't competent enough to execute it properly. So they are playing for time, dragging it out to the next administation. The war will continue.

Posted by: aline on September 9, 2007 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

A cynic would suggest we stay with the war so as to stretch the troops beyond their capability. Next would come a draft, followed by the Great American Public finally getting their collective asses in the streets.

Posted by: Rula Lenska on September 9, 2007 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

An excellent analysis of the evolution of the Republican Hawk species as its natural but self-made environment (the Republican War in Iraq) gets more difficult to exist in. Of course, it has to be an evolutionary process. I doubt that even the Discovery Institute would try to sell the creation of the modern Chaos Hawk out of the more primitive War Hawk as an example of Intelligent Design.

I do have one question that was not addressed. Have the Republican hawks evolved into an entirely new species yet? Can a modern Chaos Hawk still interbreed with a primitive War Hawk and have viable offspring?

Posted by: Rick B on September 9, 2007 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

I like this analysis. It explains a lot. Can it be that Iraq is a 12-step program for the president, and that he's currently working on the third step?

If so, then there are only nine more disasters to go, and only 16 months in which to work them.

Posted by: Gary on September 9, 2007 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

Long after anyone ceases to care people will wonder how people could delude themselves to reality so completely when the facts were plainly known.
http://empireburlesquenow.blogspot.com/2005/03/dark-passage-pnacs-blueprint-for.html

Posted by: opit on September 9, 2007 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin puts to soft a spin on it.

Either the United States leaves Iraq now, and the insurgents follow them home, just like the Chaos Hawks predict.

Or the United States attempts to stay, the insurgents get even more skilled at guerrilla warfare, Saudi oil wells start blowing up, Somalia, the Niger delta, and other areas grow interesting, the British completely pull out and supply lines get cut in Basra, and the army gets caught.

I am eating homemade peach ice cream this evening. I have no long range plans.

Posted by: Thinker on September 9, 2007 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

I see Pickles had successful surgery for a pain in the neck. Can we come home now?

Posted by: Rula Lenska on September 9, 2007 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

Fine. Get the regional experts to sign off on Drum's post and I might listen. Juan Cole, hardly a hawk, is one of those who have warned about precipitous withdrawal leading to humanitarian catastrophe.

There are some logistical issues in the background.

Some years ago, I recall that Stratfor recommended that US troops pull back to the desert. That is, let Iraqis fight their guerrilla war, but keep US troops in a *somewhat* lower profile position to take out Al Qaeda basecamps as they appear. Heck, maybe they could discourage the parties from using artillery against one another.

What sort of pullout and presence might block conflagration?

Posted by: Measure for Measure on September 9, 2007 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

As though these jerks really care about genocide.

Posted by: bob h on September 9, 2007 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

It isn't Vietnam all over. It is Cambodia all over. We f'd them up as well.

Posted by: OldGuy on September 9, 2007 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

Blue Sun,
There is little you say with which I would disagree (except for your term “beasts” to refer to the warring parties in Iraq). And your description of how things have gone downhill in Iraq over the last four years or so and may get worse seems pretty accurate enough. But your point seems to be that what might happen “if we withdraw can't begin to compete with what is already happening ever day we continue to pursue the war.” I don’t see the warrant for that statement. The problem – as always - is the power vacuum that withdrawal would leave. Terrible things happen in a power vacuum – just removing the president in Rwanda brought genocide. And sure, Turkey is moving troops to their border now. In the event of a withdrawal by US forces, though, they would probably consider it wise to move in (with the risk of colliding with other external forces coming the other way).
I can’t predict precisely what would happen, but bad things happen when imbalances of power are created in societies that nowadays are armed to the teeth with genocidal weaponry.

Posted by: jim on September 9, 2007 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

An excellent article, but misses on one crucial point...

"an intensified civil war that will take the lives of tens of thousands and end in the installation, at least in the short-term, of an Iran-friendly theocracy. This is obviously not a happy outcome, but neither is it the catastrophe the Chaos Hawks peddle."

Maybe it will be a catastrophe -- it's impossible to say at this point. But what's certainly true is that the outcome, whatever it is, was been set in motion by our handling of the invasion and immediate aftermath, and has been impossible for us to influence in a meaningful way for several years now.

Posted by: AndyS on September 9, 2007 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Great post and written with conviction. I agree with everything you said except for one small thing: "The U.S., for its part, will remain in the north to protect Kurdistan..."
I doubt that because it is landlocked and the only "friendly" country will be Turkey who is not happy with Kurdistan. I wouldn't want to be a referee between an established friendly NATO country and a newly independent country that would like to see itself enlarged at the expense of our friend Turkey-and us not have an easy way to get out...

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 9, 2007 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

You're right, Old Guy. The US is totally incapable of bringing any sort of just or happy outcome to this disastrous war. There have been so many excellent comments above. The total cluelessness of the war hawks about what would happen once Saddam was deposed is unforgiveable. It seems to me that the only way this situation can be salvaged is by some sort of mediation (I know how crazy that sounds). And I admit that it's very likely impossible. The mediation can't be carried out or influenced in any way by the US. Not only does the US have no cultural understanding of Sunni/Shia conflict but US credibility is totally nil in any case. Is there any person or persons in the ME that all parties would trust? I imagine a person like ElBaradei, intelligent, fair, truthful. As we know, the Sunni/Shia split was certainly in evidence in pre-war Iraq but perhaps less so than in Saudi Arabia and Iran (except for southern Iraq). There isn't a single Sunni mosque to be found in Tehran. There was intermarriage of the sects in 'secular' Baghdad. Neighborhoods and business districts were integrated. Do these people really want to massacre each other or do they simply want a measure of justice for themselves and their families in a post-Saddam country? One thing I know for sure is that there is no military solution, and having it continue just adds more fuel to the fire. The US needs to get out now before it makes things even worse. And the blame for this tragedy will forever rest with George Bush, Dick Cheney and their neocon advisors.

Posted by: nepeta on September 9, 2007 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

Bob Schieffer of CBS News:

"We haven’t lost this war, but we’re not winning it. We’re hanging on. Victory would be obvious, Iraqi families would be strolling the streets of Baghdad and Osama Bin Laden would be walking out of a cave somewhere with his hands up. Instead of that question, let’s hope the General will be asked what we so often forgot during Vietnam: Is this worth the cost in lives and money?"

Ideally this was heard by non-blogging mainstream tv viewers who have not yet made up their minds.

And BlueGirl at proctoringcongress.blogspot.com offers a compelling post on the Patraeus matter.

Posted by: consider wisely always on September 9, 2007 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

We destroyed the Soviet Union by forcing it to spend so much on its military that its economy collapsed (their humiliation in Afghanistan didn't help them, either). OBL is a fairly good bet to have done the same thing to us with a couple of airplanes, on our own dollar, if we "stay the course" in Iraq for the next ten years, dumping our national wealth into the Military Industrial Complex. And somehow, Bush clings to the hope that history will favor him with its admiration??

Posted by: JimBob on September 9, 2007 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

Jee, lets spend another trillion dollars on a bad idea.

Imagine if we spent that trillion on alternative energy sources, like liquified coal, bio-sources, 'safe' nuclear energy (ie. French method) etc...

We might be exporting energy now instead of importing it, the money would be flowing to the great plains and the middle west instead of the middle east and our soldier's wouldn't be in harms way.

The only people who want a large presence in the middle east are those who are vested in the petroleum industry and George Bush who's entire presidency is likely to go down as an historical failure even before it ends.

Clearly the present course is not sustainable.

What ever happened to the old Republican mantra of not wanting to throw more money down a rat hole?

Over extension killed the Russians and the old British empire.

Posted by: Bub on September 9, 2007 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

**

Posted by: mhr on September 9, 2007 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Measure for Measure wrote:

Juan Cole, hardly a hawk, is one of those who have warned about precipitous withdrawal leading to humanitarian catastrophe.

True, but Kevin acknowledged this too. This was a central point of his post. I used to worry about the humanitarian catastrophe when I used to be skeptical about withdrawal, a loooong time ago. Does Juan Cole advocate withdrawal now? The question is whether it's worth it to stay, even if there will be a potential humanitarian catastrophe. We can always consider what to do to limit post-withdrawal problems, short of keeping almost the whole U.S. military in Iraq.

Posted by: Swan on September 9, 2007 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

Thoughtful post and even more thoughtful dialog in the comments.

Our "adventure" in Iraq is now fully recognizable as an the straw that broke an already crippled camel's back. Maybe it's just better to get the decline and fall of our empire over with. I wonder how the neocons will feel when they wake up and realize that their rank stupidity has made us about as important as the dessicated husk of former greatness that is France.

I fear that what is actually unfolding is a combination of what was suggested by rabbit and JimBob. The neocons think that chaos is a great plan because it gives us an excuse to "control" the region. Unfortunately, we aren't controlling jack shit and other far more serious threats will emerge.

Thanks alot assholes.

Posted by: Dope on the Slope on September 9, 2007 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

. As long as the Chaos Hawks are able to panic the public into believing that withdrawal will result in a Middle East in flames and ten dollar gasoline at home, no Congress will have the backbone to defund the war and force a pullout.

I think you're wrong here, Kevin. The public is not deceived at this point. The poll numbers are very clear. The people who are deceived are the members of the Washington Consensus. They are the ones being told by the Serious People in the foreign policy apparatus that disaster will result.

"The public" doesn't care about the outcome of the Iraq conflict. The fear of terrorists attacks have abated (hence wingnut bloggers and talk radio people rooting for such an attack.) Gas prices have already gone up. The occupation is costing more than any gas increase could anyway.

The problem is in Washington, not in the heartland.

Posted by: jayackroyd on September 9, 2007 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
Either you're a genius (which could be) or you have your finger on the Pulse. That was one of the best breakdowns I've run across in a looong time. It's what I feel but never could/can't quite articulate.

$420 BILLION dollars (plus interest) later and what have we done?

Posted by: bigsky in Iowa on September 9, 2007 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

"An Iran armed with nuclear weapons and in control of Iraq should make even liberals do a little thinking" - mhr

Nope. What does Iran having control of Iraq have to do with anything? Iran has quite enough on its plate without 'controlling' another country. You know, things like raising the standard of living for its people, providing health care, forming close ties to China and Russia, the normal stuff that countries do when they're not in the process of invading other countries. Iran, being a majority Shia country, has a natural alliance with Iraqi Shias (65% majority in Iraq). I'm sure that they'll do all they can to help create a neighboring Shia state. But isn't that natural given human behavior and psychology? As for the nuke problem, I don't see much more of a threat by Iran having nukes than I do Pakistan, India, Israel or the US having nukes. And, more importantly, it appears to me that Iran is not trying to develop nukes in the first place. I wouldn't blame them if they did, but according to the 3rd quarter 2007 IAEA report, Iran is cooperating and transparency is increasing. This, of course, is not what the US wants to hear since it pretty much destroys any excuse to strike Iran. I read an interesting interview with Bush from about a week ago. He explained to the interviewer that a nuclear-armed Iran would be dangerous because they could blackmail the West by blocking the oil flowing to the west through the Strait of Hormuz (SP?). I was amazed to hear for the first time out of Bush's mouth that oil has anything to do with the administration's 'strategy' pertaining to Iran, and by association, Iraq. I'm going to go look for that quote.

Posted by: nepeta on September 9, 2007 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

A draft would be a very tough sell. Remember, Bush all through his two terms have been swearing up and down that there would be no draft. If he did, he would run up against strong opposition due to the fact that no longer was it just a small segment of the American population doing the fighting, but rather potenially most of the nation. That changes people's perspective. Especially considering that the war is now deeply unpopular.

Posted by: Kelvin Phillips on September 9, 2007 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

There are Chaos Hawks and then there are Armageddon Hawks, the ones for whom chaos is the point.

Posted by: Ross Best on September 9, 2007 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

"You’ve gotta think, think BIG. The Iranian issue,” he said as bread crumbs tumbled out of his mouth and onto his chin, “is the strategic threat right now facing a generation of Americans, because Iran is promoting an extreme form of religion that is competing with another extreme form of religion. Iran’s a destabilizing force. And instability in that part of the world has deeply adverse consequences, like energy falling in the hands of extremist people that would use it to blackmail the West. And to couple all of that with a nuclear weapon, then you’ve got a dangerous situation. … That’s what I mean by strategic thought."

Did Kevin post this already from the Draper interview?

Posted by: nepeta on September 9, 2007 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

Eventually we will realize that someone in our government made the decision to put America in a position where we have two choices: either wreck the homeland economy, or create a genocide elsewhere.

In a just society, the first order of business would be to string up those responsible for such a disastrous decision.

Posted by: Remus Shepherd on September 9, 2007 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

Well, somebody has to say it...

Me, I'm OK with intensified civil war if the US leaves. That would be by choice. The Iraqis know what they need to do. They need to step up and act as if they want a functioning country.

Now, there's a lot the US (and the UN) can do as the withdrawal happens (six-month process? I dunno). Send in and protect the NGOs, make funds available, sponsor peace negotiations, drop the odd bomb if necessary. This is what used to be called statecraft.

Posted by: floppin' pauper on September 9, 2007 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

floppin' pauper, there IS a lot that could be done in an organized withdrawal. unfortunately, it is beyond doubtful that anyone in the international community would want to even try to work with GWB. It is likely that THE WORLD is waiting for him to go away so some progress can be made on many, many fronts.

Everything he touches turns to shit. Who in their right mind would want a part of that?

Posted by: jcricket on September 9, 2007 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans are going to continue their war in Iraq for as long as possible.

They don't care what you say or what anyone else says in opposing them.

The public be damned.

Posted by: gopwar on September 9, 2007 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

kd

good stuff.

and very imaginative analysis.

you are getting very passionate in your old age.

thanks

Posted by: orionATL on September 9, 2007 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

Great piece Kevin. Beautifully written, incisively analytic & cogently argued. Well done mate.

Posted by: DanJoaquinOz on September 9, 2007 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

This Chaos Hawk theory is excellent Baathist and Al Qaeda propaganda.

Perhaps you guys regularly read http://www.uruknet.info/ ?

They are a pro-Baathist website that publishes Resistance Reports praising the "Resistance" and belittling the United States.

You have a lot in common.

Posted by: Supporter of Civilization on September 9, 2007 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

The war will end when the people profiting from it n longer profit, and not before. Since chaos can be extremely profitable, the worse the chaos gets, the more likely we are to stay. And so what if the army breaks? We'll just hire more mercs, at more profit.

Supporter of Civilization, smarter trolls, please. Or do you always just read your enemy's propaganda and then advocate the exact opposite? Whoever's paying you is paying you too much.

Posted by: lambert strether on September 9, 2007 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

It's inspiring Kevin, that you manage to be such a moron, yet so successful.

Posted by: Kevin Sullivan on September 9, 2007 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

It's inspiring Kevin, that you manage to be such a moron, yet so successful.

Doesn't look like we're getter those smarter trolls anytime soon.

Posted by: Calton Bolick on September 9, 2007 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

The most masochistic, and circular, reason I have come across for staying in Iraq is "sacrifice." The deaths of our troops will be meaningless unless we stay there as long as possible (and more deaths occur).

Whenever I come across someone who says this (I give a partial exception to bereft relatives), I am tempted to propose that they be parachute-dropped into Iraq.

Posted by: sara on September 9, 2007 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

Supporter of Civilization:

Note, Kevin does NOT bash the United States. He bashes the morons who scammed their way into political control of it. This does not make him a Baathist or Al Qeada sympathizer.

It makes him an American exercising his First Amendment rights.

Posted by: Talphon on September 9, 2007 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

The Soviets fought in Afghanistan and then withdrew. No regional conflagration.

Afghanistan isn't helpful to your argument.

True, there was no regional confrontation, but the chaos that ensued inside Afghanistan was sufficient.

Posted by: Horatio Parker on September 9, 2007 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

osted by: Supporter of Civilization on September 9, 2007 at 10:43 PM

I just dont have much use for (R)Luntzian irrational discourse or people trying to pin their view into someone elses mind,then believing it. Thats just weird to me, Republicans arent psychic, never have been, and aren't today. It seems, to me, your more interested in fanning the political flame than engaging in rational discourse and problem solving. You see (R)Frank Luntz was an opponent of rational discourse.

Never mind that George Bush Sr pulled out of Iraq because it would destabilize the place, or that Brent Scowcroft thought that a war in Iraq would undermine the war on terror, lets not forget Cheney who said it would become a quagmire or that it was not worth American lives. Never mind that Rep Hoekstra said democracy really didnt ever have a chance, never mind Sen. Warner wanting to get the troops out. Never mind the 50% of elected Republicans that have changed their minds.Never mind that Israel said if your going to destabilize the middle east, go after iran.

Saddam was a problem, we know that, but he was secular and did not follow Sharian law, in fact he gutted it. We now know why he ruled with an iron fist, as many of the fundamentalists would rise against him. The US has found that out.

Sunnis and Shiites used to marry one another. The country was broke and in debt from the eight year war with Iran. Nobody won. He ruled with an iron hand because thats what it took. He educated women and hundreds of thousands of others, he Provided electrical power. Mechanized agriculture. The nuclear facility he did try to build was bombed during a military operation. Alas, Saddam is gone, the regime change accomplished? and things didn't change for the better for the Iraqi people.

Moving on.

The fact is this was supposed to be a Freedom Operation. Democratic Purple fingers and all that. Freeing those poor oppressed people that suffered under a brutal dictator. Then, somehow, sometime back, I dont know when exactly, it came to be called a war. Sure it is part of the war on terrorism, and there are those that will say they will follow us home. Truth is they found us before the Freedom Operation. They say Iraq will become a safe haven. The truth is they didnt need Iraq to attack us from.

Well, truth is, many politicians knew this was a daring try, and that it would likely fail. The intellectuals in think-tanks, such as Fukuyama and others such as Buckleys bailed out long ago.

Thomas Friedman a longtime staunch supporter of this 'liberal noble democratic experiment' has even questioned the reality it is today.

Osama just made a recent video and the same tired pundits who backed this "freedom operation" immediately compared Osama with the netroots. You obviously know the drill, the old lame blame attack, used by you here, just now. I thought, this is quite unAmerican what these Pundits are saying. Osama is a religious fundamentalist homocidal maniac, hardly a peaceful old school libertarian, but thats what the pundits tried to do. They tried to push their view of what Osama was into other peoples minds, but they that was false. The emotional discourse prevents rational discourse, that was the, and is, the intent.

The netroots isn't belittling America, they are saying, "Hey, Look, its time to go." I backed the first few Friedman units, those 6 month wait and see what happens. And I backed the surge, and now September is here, the Big Kahuna report will settle this protracted 6 month war we were promised by many with its "shock and awe", its high tech smart weapons, a short war!,they exclaimed. And now the Big Kahuna, the deciding factor, the honest report is paperless, a big fizzle. A letdown. A Dud. Bush claimed Anbar was a result of that surge. It, in reality, wasn't.

Its time to go. And we still have a few bases that we will keep manned and a huge embassy there. Moving on...

Back to Osama.

Ron Paul, after the FOX presidental debate the other day, won the texting vote when it was over. The very same guy FOX attacks for his conservative libertarian views. Osama is doing nothing more than to try to put a wedge into American politics and the media pundits are apparently help him. The RWMSM is intending, it seems, to use this madman as a means for a political victory. Osama isnt an American, but to listen to the RWMSM, he is. Osama has no right to vote, nor should what he say become political fodder for partisan means.

I am an American,born here, and I have freedom of speech and I can voice my opinion. Osama is a madman,a religious fundamentalist that will say anything to further his religious racist agenda. I think its a disgrace to America to even show his videos, to even repeat his words. Shame on the media for given Osama airtime time and again!! Shame!

We dont show pictures of flag draped coffins: yet Osama gets front page press. How Orwellian. How callous this must seem to those who lost family on that day in 2001.

People, perhaps, will say,"Why Osama wants the Democrats to win so they will pull out of Iraq."
I say Balderdash. I think Osama wants America to stay in Iraq and watch America economically castrate ourselves. The militia in the Anbar province kicked AL Qaeda out of their territory. Not the troop surge. I agree with Kevin, here, because Osama knows that if America leaves, I think Osama and Al Qaeda will become the main target of the Iraqi people.

In Short, Osamas latest video, I say, is an Orwellian psychological trick, he wants America to stay, not leave.

Ya know?

Posted by: Ya Know.... on September 10, 2007 at 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

Leaving Iraq just isn't going to make Iran more powerful. If they find some way to turn Iraq to their advantage in promoting terrorism, such as a source of manpower (a long-shot scenario, even if they're really sitting around thinking of how best to turn Iraq into a way to attack the Western world, which is unlikely) then we can drop some very powerful disincentives on them for it then- it won't be a winning situation for them, and they'll be able to see the pain coming.

All this is true even if Iran thought it was to their advantage to foment unrest in Iraq during our occupation.

Posted by: Swan on September 10, 2007 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Sullivan:M/b> "It's inspiring Kevin, that you manage to be such a moron, yet so successful."

Is the GOP now reduced to hiring fourth graders to troll progreesive websites?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on September 10, 2007 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

Did anyone mention Lebanon as precisely the type of case that sprang up from a civil war to a regional conflagration or am I the first one?

Considering that Lebanon is the most comparable out of all the cases Kevin mentioned and that the interested regional powers are more numerous and more powerful than Syria and Israel, a correction is in order.

Sincerely,

a Chaos Dove.

Posted by: Nick Kaufman on September 10, 2007 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Sullivan: "It's inspiring Kevin, that you manage to be such a moron, yet so successful."

Its the typical irrational righty discourse.They simply do not know how to debate. Another Luntzian emotional lemming.

BTW The White House is now saying that this is just Osama propaganda and hes impotent.
http://rawstory.com/news/afp/Bin_Laden_powerless_despite_new_vid_09092007.html

"This is about the best he can do. This is a man on the run from a cave who is virtually impotent other than these tapes. -Francis Townsend Bush Homeland securiy advisor.

Posted by: Ya Know.... on September 10, 2007 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

i'm certain some neocons / wingnuts / whatever today's label who believe "if we leave the entire Middle East will become a bloodbath", KD put it. i'm not sure about the "entire Middle East", but a withdrawal definitely will lead to a "bloodbath".

primarily, i thought these already were "regional conflagrations", as 'war' seems to rise to the 'conflagration' status:
- the wars between israel and its neighbors
- the iran-iraq war
- the soviet withdrawal eventually leading to the taliban taking over, then inviting al qaeda for some tea...and the safe haven to train terrorists to kill people worldwide (like india over kashmir and al qaeda's global exploits)

additions and/or amendments to the withdrawal-'no conflagration' results list:
- after desert storm, there were alotta troops left in the area as a deterrent--kinda like in korea
- nonetheless, iraq immediately devolved into a civil war. unfortunately, for the kurds and shia, they weren't nearly as armed as saddam and the sunni minority. the 'no fly zone' prevented 100s of 1000s of more deaths stemming from this sectarian violence.
- after the US and the mnf largely left, lebanon became a hellhole for a decade or two, in which kidnappings and assassinations were all too common.
(incidentally, Nick Kauffman raised this at 12:26a before i could finalize my post)
- more recently, after the israeli pullout from gaza, some of the pleasant people there began throwing people off roofs.

it's getting late after my first day of fantasy football commish duties...
so i'll end it here for now...
maybe pick it up tomorrow

Posted by: nitish on September 10, 2007 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

War Hawks, Pottery Barn Hawks, Chaos Hawks...
All names for the same thing. Here's the common thread:
We have PERMANENT military bases in Iraq.

Cheney et al. want bases in Iraq to protect oil flow and to project US power in the region...

Every justification for the war is simply a cover for long-term military presence - that's the one thing all the Hawks are loathe to speak of...

Posted by: snowgeek on September 10, 2007 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK

The reason we are in Iraq is the reason we are in Germany, Okinawa, Kuwait, Hawaii, etc. It serves the economic interests of some powerful few in industry as well as having an institutional life of its own. We wanted a military presense in Iraq. Given that it has the 2nd largest oil reserves in a world of dwindling oil supply it makes a great deal of sense in the geo-strategic scheme of things. We are staying in Iraq because staying in Iraq is the endgame. We are not staying in Iraq for other reasons. We give other reasons to justfy our staying but staying does not serve those reasons. The reasons serve the staying.

So, if the surge is not working we must stay so that it will work. If it were working we would have to stay so that it would not subsequently fail. If there were an intact Iraq government and Iraq was at peace with itself then we would have to stay to protect that peace. They will always come up with new reasons for staying because a permanent military presense is the whole point of this thing.

The major dems have bought into this as well. They speak of withdrawal but only "over the horizon" meaning the troops go into their permanent bases inside Iraq and say to hell with the population. But they want that military presense as well.

Which candidates want a complete withdrawal with no bases or anything in Iraq? I'd say anyone else is offering more of the same old same old.

Posted by: nameless bob on September 10, 2007 at 2:25 AM | PERMALINK

Troll #7: "It's inspiring Kevin, that you manage to be such a moron, yet so successful."

Hell, maybe it is inspiring Kevin -- inspiring him to think that some people figure they can get by on the "If you're not with is us, you're a Baathist" program. Yeah, it's working wonders for John McCain.

Posted by: Kenji on September 10, 2007 at 2:45 AM | PERMALINK

it's worthwhile for proponents of withdrawal to be honest about the likely aftermath of pulling out

I say now what I have said all along: Our leaving will not stop the bloodshed. But the bloodshed will not stop until we leave.

Posted by: LarryE on September 10, 2007 at 4:12 AM | PERMALINK

To those who are concerned about suffering Iraqis. What the hell do you think is happening to the with the Americans there? The Iraqis have said time and again that they the US to leave. We are an occupying power and all the right's bullshit cannot get away from that. Why do we have a large self contained airbase in the middle of Iraq. What does that say for Iraq's sovereignty ? Wht does the Iraqi Min of Securoty (al Rubaie who was on CNN yesterday) want to see cartoons while meeting with US Congressmen? See the problem?

Posted by: Alan on September 10, 2007 at 5:37 AM | PERMALINK

The bull in the china shop explains that he cannot leave because a mess would be made.

Posted by: bob h on September 10, 2007 at 7:22 AM | PERMALINK

Little test:
Suppose all the shit that has happened in Iraq under our watch had happened while Saddam was still in power (OK, not a great assumption because he probably would not have let it happen). But assuming it, would we now be gung ho to put 150,000 troops in there to bring order to the country and stability to the region?

But what if France and Russia were making deals with Saddam to get their oil? Oh yeah, they were.

Posted by: lou on September 10, 2007 at 7:23 AM | PERMALINK

Ooh. How dastardly!

Posted by: Them French on September 10, 2007 at 7:40 AM | PERMALINK

Bush, the NeoCONS and Iraq will be remembered as a Grand National Monument to Greed, Stupidity and Arrogance, no more no less.

Posted by: Jim on September 10, 2007 at 7:50 AM | PERMALINK

If only we could convince the Christian Fundamentalists that pulling troops out would bring on Armageddon... Presto!

Posted by: thingumbob esq. on September 10, 2007 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

Word.

Also, re: Charles' post:

Everyone knows what's going to happen. The goal is to make it happen to a Democrat. It's really, really simple.

Word squared.

Posted by: Imelda Blahnik on September 10, 2007 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

At least, leaving Iraq isn't going to make Iran more powerful in a way that would have meaningful consequences for our security, at least not for a long, long, time.

Posted by: Swan on September 10, 2007 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

Exceptional comment, Kevin. This should be required reading for every American...

Posted by: brian on September 10, 2007 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

What strikes me, both in the original post and the comments, is lack of discussion of the significance of Israel and its interests. This is not surprising. Although our relationship to Israel and its relations with its neighbors is central to our policies in the region, it is not something that gets discussed in Congress or the media here. We need to get over this. My guess is that a significant factor limiting our ability to withdraw our forces from Iraq in any reasonable time frame is the "concern" that such a withdrawal will worsen Israel's security situation. This is a concern most strongly felt by Democrats -- if losing Iraq would be bad, losing Israel would be significantly worse. However, given the relentless pressure of population growth in the region, Israel's sole chance for long term survival depends on reaching an accommodation with its neighbors. For Israel, there is an element of existential risk in the current situation. The current events clearly do not pose the same risk for the USA. Our interests and Israel's interests are not the same or even parallel. Let's discuss our shared interests and our differences publically so that an informed consensus can be developed.

Posted by: steve on September 10, 2007 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

We'll find out today. OK (sorry) - we already know.

The 'surge' was intended to quell the violence and allow the Iraq gov't to stabilize by Sept. If successful, we could start to come home. If unsuccessful, it meant Iraq was unsalvagable and we could start to come home.

The only way we stayed is if Bush managed to find some excuse to keep us there.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on September 10, 2007 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

What strikes me, both in the original post and the comments, is lack of discussion of the significance of Israel and its interests. This is not surprising. Although our relationship to Israel and its relations with its neighbors is central to our policies in the region, it is not something that gets discussed in Congress or the media here. We need to get over this. My guess is that a significant factor limiting our ability to withdraw our forces from Iraq in any reasonable time frame is the "concern" that such a withdrawal will worsen Israel's security situation. This is a concern most strongly felt by Democrats -- if losing Iraq would be bad, losing Israel would be significantly worse. However, given the relentless pressure of population growth in the region, Israel's sole chance for long term survival depends on reaching an accommodation with its neighbors. For Israel, there is an element of existential risk in the current situation. The current events clearly do not pose the same risk for the USA. Our interests and Israel's interests are not the same or even parallel. Let's discuss our shared interests and our differences publically so that an informed consensus can be developed.

Posted by: steve on September 10, 2007 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

The Chaos Theory is actually a modern day version of the Domino Theory of the Vietnam War. The Domino Theory held that the United States needed to continue fighting in Vietnam to prevent all of Southeast Asia from falling into the communist camp like a row of dominoes. Well, after the U.S. did pull out of Vietnam, only one of the neighboring countries went communist--Cambodia, which we had destabilized with our ill-advised bombing campaign. And it was communist Vietnam that finally interceded in Camobia to put a stop to the murderous Khmer Rouge regime.

There is as little reason to believe the Chaos Theory as there was the Domino Theory. Both were formulated by parties with vested interests in continuing the wars that they had promoted. If there is one certainty, it is that none of Iraq's neighbors have any interest in allowing chaos to spread into their own domains.

Posted by: Bobbie on September 10, 2007 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

500,000 soldiers would not be enough to rule Iraq, but 150,000 were enough to free Iraq, and with luck what we have there will be enough to enable them to keep their freedom.

Posted by: Walter E. Wallis on September 10, 2007 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Call those who support our war effort in Iraq Chaos Hawks and then misrepresent them further by attacking a Chaos Theory, which is totally concocted by opponents of the war. And then conclude by comparing the Chaos Theory with the Domino Theory. It's almost as if al-Qaeda is not now or has never been in Iraq. It's almost as if al-Qaeda was not responsible for 9/11. General Petraeus, the man unanimously endorsed by Congress, has assured us that his report is his own. He is on the front line against real enemies, not imagined theories. Let him have his say.

Posted by: Casey in Chicago on September 10, 2007 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

It was cut and run traitors like your ilk that lost the Vietnam war. Now you loosers want to subvert our efforts in Iraq. We have to deal with the pond scum at home.

Posted by: RA on September 10, 2007 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK
....what we have there will be enough to enable them to keep their freedom Walter E. Wallis at 4:37 PM
Since when is Iraqi "freedom" the business or concern of the US? Since when was Saddam worth one American life or one American dollar? Since when does the Republican ruling class care about anyone's freedom in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, or Egypt, just to name a few Bush-friendly totalitarian states?

No, the results of Bush's invasion is 4 million plus refugees, hundreds of thousands of dead, thousands of American casualties, billions borrowed and spent, the destruction of Iraq's social, business, educational, and medical structure.

It wasn't all that long ago when George H. W. Bush encouraged the Kurds and Shia to rebel against Saddam, then left them to be crushed, without a peep of complaint by any Republican. If Republicans weren't responsible for this fiasco, they would be crapping their pants in panic as they rush for the exit.

Posted by: Mike on September 10, 2007 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

You are wrong, and do not seem to grasp what we're achieving in Iraq. Which is close to nothing. The civil war is going on. We are just a party in it. We're not stopping anyone from doing anything.

This is yet another rightist talking point, based in nothing.

Posted by: Dr Zen on September 10, 2007 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

I couldn't decide this weekend what irritated me more -- the incessant, tabloid-style U.S. media coverage of that missing 4-year-old English girl in Portugal, or the ignorant CNN talking bimbos who kept making repeated references to a non-existent "Portugal Police Department."

I think it is hilarious that the MSM has had to outsource their missing white girl stories to Europe.

Posted by: Disputo on September 10, 2007 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

It's almost as if al-Qaeda is not now or has never been in Iraq. It's almost as if al-Qaeda was not responsible for 9/11.

It's almost as if wingnuts are too stupid/venal to not conflate AQI and the real AQ.

Posted by: Disputo on September 10, 2007 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

When reduced to hurling intense insults - wingnuts, stupid, and venal - at people who "conflate AQI and the real AQ" Disputo betrays a glaring insecurity with his/her position. As it should be, for how can a reasonable person NOT conflate the two? Yes, Rahm Emmanuel did a great job drumming into his troops the necessity to declare there was never any connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. However, indisputable facts combined with an awareness of simple geography and the outspoken threats from those who openly declared the U.S. to be their mortal enemy, more than overwhelms a couple of cherry picked sentences from an NIE report that declared there was no "operational connection" before 9/11. Again, Disputo's insults prove the point to anyone with even a Psych 101 credit on a transcript. And to suggest with a phony distinction between AQI and AQ that bin-Laden's vision for a caliphate did not inspire AQI to kill Americans, fellow Sunni and innocent Shia in Iraq reveals a profound partisanship that cannot be supported by facts.

Posted by: Casey in Chicago on September 10, 2007 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

"I think it's worthwhile for proponents of withdrawal to be honest about the likely aftermath of pulling out: an intensified civil war that will take the lives of tens of thousands and end in the installation, at least in the short-term, of an Iran-friendly theocracy."

The author does get a few candor points for this admission--although his further observation that this is "not a happy outcome" certainly qualifies as an exceedingly cynical example of litotes. And the predictable thought, "but neither is it the catastrophe the Chaos Hawks peddle," is reminiscent of a remark I once read, which I can only paraphrase from memory: "But" is a word we use to mean: Ignore everything I've said up to this point; here comes the real scoop.

Posted by: Phil on September 10, 2007 at 11:18 PM | PERMALINK

"The Chaos Hawks will prevail. They will argue and win that since Shia Iraq won't be friendly with the US post-withdrawal (Iran will be their BFF), we have to take out Iran so the Shia Iraqis can't do further harm, and Iran will join the United Front (Afghanistan, Iran and Iran) as US colonies to control the Oil Crescent."

I will wager cash that we won't bomb Iran. Even if they are making trouble in Iraq (and really, why wouldn't they make trouble or try to influence their neighbor?).

US colonies in the Oil Crescent? How does this work *exactly*??? Anti-war people are always vague about this. They just want to ensure that oil will sell at market price on the open the market. Who buys and sells in that market? Europe, Japan, China, Russia etc. etc.

At first anti-war people were saying that the US would replace Saddam with another Sunni dictator. Well that didn't happen....

In fact, the US "colonies" of Iraq and Afghanistan have somewhat friendly relations with Iran. In fact, Sistani and Iraqi officials have been highly critical of Israel. American's can't control everything ... See Palestinain elections of Hamas...

Posted by: Peter K. on September 11, 2007 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Are you a fucking idiot? Israel still stands after five major wars against her neighbors, including three that definitely qualify as regional conflicts and one which brought the US and USSR the closest to direct confrontation they'd been since 1962. Iran and Iraq fought for eight years into a veritable a stalemate in the 1980s. The United States left the Iraq regime and security structure intact in 1991. In fact, oof all those Near East conflicts you mentioned, only one actually resulted in the collapse of a state. Afghanistan's failure led to a huge proxy war in the 1990s between Iran and Russia on one side and Pakistan and the GCC states on another. I think that counts a regional conflagration to anyone with the two brain cells necessary to recall that there's a big fucking hole in the ground where the WTC once stood.

Posted by: P.C. on September 12, 2007 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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