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Tilting at Windmills

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December 3, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

TAKING YES FOR AN ANSWER....I was going to write a post later in the afternoon about the background to today's Iran story, but Matt wrote it first, so you might as well just go ahead and read his version.

If you need to refresh your memory on all this stuff, last year I wrote a quick summary (with links) of all the 2003 activity here.

FWIW, this is one of the reasons I've never quite bought into Matt's "incompetence dodge" idea that success in Iraq was never possible. Sure, we couldn't have sent 500,000 troops, but we could have sent 250,000. And we could have made serious postwar reconstruction plans. And we could have stopped the looting before it spiraled out of control. And we could have reconstituted the Iraqi army and limited de-Baathification to only the highest echelon of Saddam-era officials, as the administration unanimously agreed to do until Cheney and Rumsfeld unilaterally overturned the decision. And now we can add to that one more thing: in the aftermath of our lightning victory in Iraq, Iran really was feeling some pressure and was willing to talk to us about halting their bomb program — and possibly cooperating in other areas as well. If you take all the stuff above, and add to it the possibility that the Iranians might have been — maybe grudgingly, maybe unreliably, but still — willing to use their influence to help us out with Iraqi players like Hakim and al-Sadr, who knows? Iraq might not have turned into a triumph, but there's a good chance it would have gone a helluva lot better than it has.

But like Matt says, the Bushies couldn't take yes for an answer. So we are where we are.

Kevin Drum 3:31 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (59)

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Comments

Not initiating the war in the first place would've been a nice, plausible option to mention.

Posted by: steve duncan on December 3, 2007 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

And we could have made serious postwar reconstruction plans. —Kevin Drum

The State Department had "serious postwar reconstruction plans." However, the Bush administration ignored them entirely. Go back read Fallows' "Blind Into Baghdad" in The Atlantic.

Posted by: JeffII on December 3, 2007 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Preposterous.

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 3, 2007 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

> But like Matt says, the Bushies couldn't
> take yes for an answer. So we are where
> we are.

And after seeing which way the wind was blowing it would have been irrational and probably treasonous for any Iranian government NOT to start a nuclear weapons research program. If they didn't they are either models of forbearance or really bad at strategic analysis.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on December 3, 2007 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Steve: Yes, of course. I think everyone here knows that would have been my first choice too.

JeffII: Agreed. I was, of course, talking about plans that were both serious and actually followed.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on December 3, 2007 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

We could have remained focused on al Qaeda instead of wasting time, money, lives, property, and prestige in Iraq.

Posted by: AJ on December 3, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

And your point is?

Are you saying it was okay to invade Iraq over WMD that we knew didn't exist, but we screwed it up?

Keep on wanking, friend, if it feels good. That's all that matters.

Posted by: bob on December 3, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

And now we can add to that one more thing: in the aftermath of our lightning victory in Iraq, Iran really was feeling some pressure and was willing to talk to us about halting their bomb program

Kevin, don't you think you're too quick to believe the NY Times report that Iran doesn't have nukes? The report seems to rely on senior intelligence agents and CIA agents. Look how they screwed up on Saddam having WMDs. They could be equally screwing up on Iran not having nukes right now also. Food for thought.

Posted by: Al on December 3, 2007 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Certainly, the unproked invasion by the US could have had a better outcome. After killing 100,000 or so people an Iran/Russia/Pakistan style democracy could have been established. It could have gone *so* much better! Chalabi could now be 'President'! Ah, opportunities lost...

Posted by: Jim Lund on December 3, 2007 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, that's 'unprovoked'

Posted by: Jim Lund on December 3, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

I was, of course, talking about plans that were both serious and actually followed.

So actually "we" couldn't have done so. The people in power were Republicans, specifically the Bush regime, and therefore incapable of making serious plans and actually following them. And anyone who supported the war had to have done so knowing full well that it was going to be the incompetent fuck-up George Bush who was in charge of carrying it out.

It's like me saying I can fly if I grow wings and they actually work. Theoretically true, but impossible in practice.

Posted by: Stefan on December 3, 2007 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

After killing 100,000 or so people an Iran/Russia/Pakistan style democracy could have been established.

Add another zero to that. It's about one million Iraqis who have lost their lives due to our unprovoked attack on them.

Posted by: Stefan on December 3, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

You assume doing any or all of those things would have made a meaningful difference. Why? If we had done all of those things correctly, you'd have written this piece with another list of several things we should have done differently, just different ones.

Posted by: david on December 3, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

I heard of a surgeon that amputated the wrong leg on a patient. He did a real nice job of tying off the veins and arteries, followed by a bravura suturing of the wound. The medical review board didn't give a good goddamned though. Neither did his insurer. Doing a real good job of performing a mistake didn't count for much. Seems there was the unpleasant matter of the missing limb to consider. Even Bush has a few unnecessarily missing limbs to account for. Too bad no one is around to force the accounting.

Posted by: steve duncan on December 3, 2007 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq might not have turned into a triumph, but there's a good chance it would have gone a helluva lot better than it has.

Seriously, when you look at the amount of sectarian violence and ethnic cleansing in Iraq we have already seen, and the amount we are likely still to see, how do you ever conclude that the situation in Iraq might have turned out appreciably better?

These people don't hate each other so much because we invaded them. They hate each other because of their long history -- our invading them simply allowed them to act on it.

At best, with a more intelligent approach, we might have affected the timing of the bloodletting. On what ground should we imagine that we would have appreciably altered the final outcome?

Posted by: frankly0 on December 3, 2007 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

Dude, we could have bought Google when it was five bucks a share. Coulda woulda shoulda.

Posted by: craigie on December 3, 2007 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

And anyone who supported the war had to have done so knowing full well that it was going to be the incompetent fuck-up George Bush who was in charge of carrying it out. Posted by: Stefan

And this gets back to my choice for scapegoat at that time. Colin Powell could have stopped the nonsense dead in its tracks. Of all people in the cabinet, the only one with actual military experience, he should have known that he was aiding and abetting a crime and what the consequences would be, even under the best of circumstances.

Posted by: JeffII on December 3, 2007 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

I think we should just treat everyone nicely.

Posted by: A Caring Soul on December 3, 2007 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK
FWIW, this is one of the reasons I've never quite bought into Matt's "incompetence dodge" idea that success in Iraq was never possible.

Even all of your "maybe couldas" taken together do not add up to the conclusion that there was any execution of the unprovoked war of aggression against Iraq that could have been reasonably expected to produce a net desirable outcome, even ignoring the grave moral crime of initiating such a war regardless of the perceived benefits to the national interest.

The pragmatic issue (issues of provocation aside) is not that the war could not have possibly succeeded, its that it could not have been reasonably expected to have produced a net benefit however executed, and, consequently, could not be rationally considered a desirable policy.

At the same time, given who was in charge of the war, war supporters outside of the administration should draw no comfort even if your argument was convincing, since who would lead the war and how competently it could be expected to be led was, as others have noted, well-known at the time the war was being considered, so even if provocation is discounted and it is posited that a competently managed war might have been rationally expected to be beneficial, it was not rational to expect the war to be conducted competently.

Of course, all three issues -- provocation, disastrous likely outcome even in the best case, and likely incompetence of execution -- were pointed out by war critics in the run up to war.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 3, 2007 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Are you saying it was okay to invade Iraq over WMD that we knew didn't exist, but we screwed it up?

Exactly.

Given what we know now, it is preposterous to speculate about how success could have been achieved in Iraq.

Success to what end?

You are very wrong on this one.

Posted by: gregor on December 3, 2007 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Now if only Bush & Co. had taken 'yes' for an answer with respect to continuing Iraq WMD inspections...yeah, and if only they'd given free ponies to everyone too.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on December 3, 2007 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Now if only Bush & Co. had taken 'yes' for an answer with respect to continuing Iraq WMD inspections

But the inspections, which were steadily revealing the Bush Administation's fearomongering to be bullshit, were among the reasons Bush needed to attack right away, lest the whole house of cards topple under the weight of reality. This time, the revelations may have come in time to avert Bush/Cheney's warmaking ambitions.

Posted by: Gregory on December 3, 2007 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK
FWIW, this is one of the reasons I've never quite bought into Matt's "incompetence dodge" idea that success in Iraq was never possible.

Yeah, but that's your blindspot. The bottom line is, if the shrub and the dick weren't terminally wacko, why the fuck would they have invaded Iraq in the first place?!? As Atrios says, there simply WAS NO REASON to attack Iraq!

To have a meaningful discussion about the topics you want to talk about, you have to somehow get past this fundamental problem. Anyone crazy enough to invade without a reason, how the hell do you expect them to conduct the rest of the operation with any more sanity?

You're being incoherent here, that's all.

Posted by: Amit Joshi on December 3, 2007 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

I think we should just treat everyone nicely.

I take it you are new to this planet and haven't much experience with the inhabitants?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 3, 2007 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

Can't drive forward safely if you're only looking in the rear view mirror.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 3, 2007 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

Al on December 3, 2007 at 3:52 PM

"Kevin, don't you think you're too quick to believe the NY Times report that Iran doesn't have nukes?"

Looks like the premise was accepted when lauding the perma war in Iraq a couple of hours ago:
Posted by: Al on December 3, 2007 at 1:11 PM
"Spring 2003: Iraq was liberated by George W Bush and General Petraeus.
Fall 2003: Iran halts its nuclear weapons program.
Coincidence? I think not."

oops. there i go imputing rationality to the faux-trolls again.


Posted by: Trypticon on December 3, 2007 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

"Can't drive forward safely if you're only looking in the rear view mirror.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 3, 2007 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK"

How is it you have access to the internet?

Posted by: david on December 3, 2007 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Can't drive forward safely if you're only looking in the rear view mirror.

I had thought your writing was unintelligible because you simply blathered, but it's now clear that you make as little sense when you pare it down to just a few words. The brevity, though, is much appreciated. By all means, remain koan-esque.

Posted by: junebug on December 3, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

I am presuming here that Mr. Drum is positing that the administration would want to be a success at whatever it does; therefore it is sensible to ask why, if the claims for WMD were known by the administration to be false; didn't they listen to Defense and State in the execution of the invasion and occupation of Iraq?
The answer apparently is that Cheyney and Rumsfeld were either incompetent, corrupt, or so determined on their course that nothing would sway them. Or possibly all three? They also had Bush's support because Cheyney's moles throughout the various departments were helping the VP to short-cicuit any debate. If I understand correctly, several writers have mentioned that Bush tends to make his mind up based on whoever he sees first; and something tells me Cheyney usually managed to be that person.
The Iraq invasion was a stupid idea to begin with and with no real debate to point out possible problems one ends up with the "Perfect Storm" of horrible results.
Colin Powell should stay out of politics in any form.

Posted by: Doug on December 3, 2007 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Drum is still angling for a WaPo job.

Posted by: /b on December 3, 2007 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

After the successful US invasion of Iraq:

The US could have killed tens of millions of more Iraqis with increased troops in Iraq and kept all of Iraq's oil for its self.

or

The US could have allied with al Sadr and the majority of Iraqis and paid market prices for the oil.

The scenario that most smells of victory for many Americans is the one where millions more Iraqis die. Then we could have a parade.

Posted by: Brojo on December 3, 2007 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

LOL -- bug (et al), you guys really have trouble with this past/future thing, huh?

The key sentence in the NYT piece is about the FUTURE: "The conclusions of the new assessment are likely to reshape the final year of the Bush administration, which has made halting Iran’s nuclear program a cornerstone of its foreign policy."

Kevin's IMMEDIATE take on it is about the PAST, quoting Barbara Starr: 'that this is "Very much against the grain of what the Bush administration has been saying."

Fair enough for a first reaction, repeated in his second "I guess Cheney finally lost his turf battle on this one."

But then all the guy can say is, gee 'how come we didn't take 'yes' for an answer over the past five years or so?, with examples like Iran and the post-invasion mess. Still moderately insightful, if getting less so.

But all the posters in the thread can say is no, no!, a thousand times NO!, the invasion of Iraq could never have worked out, with folks coming up with misplaced amputations and whatnot.

This revelation that Iran stopped its nuke program not long after we knocked off Saddam is about the FUTURE, folks.

About which, I note rather alarmingly, none of y'all seem to have much to say.

Driving with the pedal to the metal, looking at where we've been.

The fact is, knowing when to take 'yes' for an answer is generally a good idea. But it's NEVER about what you see in the rear view mirror.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 3, 2007 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

"I've never quite bought into Matt's "incompetence dodge" idea that success in Iraq was never possible"

If the idea of the "incompetence dodge" is only that success was "never possible", then Mr. Drum would be correct. It might've, and it might even let those who failed to execute and plan off the hook for their partial responsibility for the unfolding tragedy.

But, to me, the idea of the "incompetence dodge" is that, even if it coulda been substantively "successful," it is a DODGE to focus on the incompetence: it was an illegal, immoral war, unprovoked and tragic. Regardless if it coulda been even remotely more successful, it was wrong to undertake it. And we believe that it lets chump-ass "liberal hawks" and fence straddling writers and politicians OFF the hook, to focus on the execution rather than the moral travesty of initiating the war.

To me, the dodge is the one taken by politicians who don't wish to take a strong stand against the war, and didn't oppose it at the time - so they focus on the incompetence.

Writers such as Drum and Yglesias, Ezra Klein, Jonathan Chait, etc., etc., who supported the war initially, until the cool kids decided it wasn't cool anymore, often do the same thing. It's easier to have a career writing for the LA Times, NYT, WashPo, TNR, etc., if you follow suit.

So we shouldn't blame the "liberal" hawk writers for sucking up to the system they are trying to be employed in, buy they shouldn't expect us to call their piss, rain.

Posted by: luci on December 3, 2007 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

LOL -- and oh yeah, cuz somebody reminded me: who was it who predicted in every Iran thread that they would decide they were better off as a 'nearly-nuke power'?

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 3, 2007 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

The dodge is that what W. Bush did in Iraq was incompetence. Chaos, factional cleansing, millions of refugees, looting, and even IED's killing lots of poor American soldiers was part of W. Bush's master's original plan to keep Iraq destabilized for as long as possible. Oil will be much more valuable in the near future, and, even if a Democrat is elected president, the US will be in Iraq to extract it.

Posted by: Brojo on December 3, 2007 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK
As Atrios says, there simply WAS NO REASON to attack Iraq!

I believe either Rumsfeld or Cheney was quoted in Against All Enemies as pointing to the lack of decent targets in Afghanistan, implying that we needed to Iraq because there were things there that were susceptible to bombing.

So, its not that there was no reason to attack, just no adequate reason.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 3, 2007 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

The key sentence in the NYT piece is about... blah, blah, blah.

And for good measure, blah. Look at me -- I'm a contrarian! I'm a cipher! I'm a floor wax AND a dessert topping -- I am GENIUS and I am tehAmericanist!

Gawd, but I pity the poor saps you corner at cocktail parties. Koans, please.

Posted by: junebug on December 3, 2007 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

And now we can add to that one more thing: in the aftermath of our lightning victory in Iraq, Iran really was feeling some pressure and was willing to talk to us about halting their bomb program

Kevin, other than the fact that Iran was hiding its CIVILIAN use of nuclear energy program -- with good reason, given Israel's tendency to bomb anything that looks radioactive -- is there any evidence that Iran ever had an active nuke program?

Keep in mind that the same essentially racist mindsets that lead to the insistence that Iraq had WMDs were responsible for all the reports of Iran's supposed nuke program.

(it may have had one prior to 1991, but with the first gulf war, and Iraq's shutting down its own nuke research, there was no longer much of a need for an Iranian bomb...)

Posted by: p_lukasiak on December 3, 2007 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK
About which, I note rather alarmingly, none of y'all seem to have much to say.

Leaving aside, for the moment, the merits of your claims of what should be considered important in the underlying news of the NIE release (in part because you make no argument supporting them or even coherent statement of what they are beyond vague platitudes), its hardly surprising (or revealing of anyone's broad priorities) that most people here are responding to Kevin's commentary rather than the underlying news independently of Kevin's commentary.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 3, 2007 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Kevin that the US could have managed post war Iraq a great deal better. A different post-war strategy might have saved tens of thousands of Iraqi lives and many American lives.

One reason we messed up was that we failed to plan for al Qaeda's decision to make Iraq the central front of their global campaign.

However there has been a silver lining. The defeat of AQI and AQI's attacks against other Muslims have dramatically turned the Islamic world against al Qaeda.

support for terrorist tactics has fallen in seven of the eight predominantly Muslim countries polled as part of the Pew Global Attitudes Project since 2002; in most cases, those declines have been dramatic.

Posted by: ex-liberal on December 3, 2007 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

And yet, oddly enough, his commentary is about 'taking yes for an answer'.

Until fairly recently, when the surge led to a fair amount of not so godawful news out of Iraq, the general consensus was that the war would be the Big, the Decisive Issue next year. Right?

Some of us predicted that we'd be withdrawing troops next spring anyway -- and the decline in various indicators would be the rationale for it: since most of us want the troops out, why would it much matter WHAT the excuse was?

Ain't that "taking yes for an answer"?

Likewise -- I recall having an argument or two with some of you guys about Iran and its nuclear weapons program, with prolonged discussions about the Israel raid on Osirak, and whatever it was in Syria, at least four threads of such stuff: and I consistently predicted that Iran would conclude that it was better off as a "nearly nuke power".

Hell, I know how to take yes for an answer. The NIE says Iran’s “decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.”

Gee, doesn't that sound like... what somebody said?

Awww, bug: you don't have to apologize. I don't corner people at parties.

I dance.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 3, 2007 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK
And yet, oddly enough, his commentary is about 'taking yes for an answer'.

No, actually, that's the title of his comment, not the subject of his comment.

The subject -- both of the main part of Drum's comment, and of Yglesias comment to which Drum points as replacing the comment Drum was going to write -- is retrospective, the latter how the current release fits into the past, and the former about its implications for the interpretation of past policy decisions.

And that's what people are mostly responding to, the content (not the title) of Drum's posts.

(Frankly, on your main contention, I think the value of this information is mostly in drawing a deeper understanding of what has transpired than drawing future conclusions from this event independently of what it reveals of past decisionmaking; that Iran may have abandoned whatever nuclear ambitions they had shortly after the United States destroyed their most serious regional rival, with which the present Iranian regime had fought a long war in which non-conventional weapons were used is hardly surprising, and hardly has any substantial implications for future policymaking beyond those gained directly through what it illuminates of the recent past actions of this administration. OTOH, that the administration's best available information, which it actively concealed, was that such had taken place, and the administration continued to beat the drum about active Iranian nuclear programs for several months, is important in interpreting future statements by this administration.)

Posted by: cmdicely on December 3, 2007 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

Most impressive, even for him: Dice manages to write a sentence of 104 words without a single coherent thought.

Golly, folks, you really DO need to have it spelled out for you: being the President of the United States means that you have a lot, but not total control over information like this. So you can plan out for months if not years in advance how it comes out, to position your administration for advantage when it DOES come out.

Like I've said for months about the surge: the stats from Iraq were gonna go down, just in time for Bush to start withdrawing troops AS HE ALREADY HAD TO DO. But having staged the surge first, with the declining stats that even Murtha has acknowledged, means that he gets to point to success, as he does it.

Taking yes for an answer ? Or are we gonna react cuz Bush's humiliation (which we probably cannot achieve under those circumstances, anyway) is more important than saving face WHILE we get the troops out? Cuz to get the troops out faster, we probably can NOT save face -- and guess what? In those circumstances, we don't get to humilate Bush, either.

And he ain't on the ballot, anyway: the rear view mirror.

Iran: whoever it was who predicted that they'd decide they were better off as a nearly nuke power has been vindicated, but there's another dynamic here, too: it takes a damned fool not to notice that Iran gave up its quest for nukes AFTER WE KNOCKED OFF SADDAM. That, too, looks like a Bush victory.

B-b-b-but, folks stammer, hasn't Bush been saying for a year now that Iran was just about to get nukes, that we had to be ready to attack any time now????

Yeah, that's the smart play: assume your political adversaries are stupid and ignorant and have no sense of how these things work. Haven't any of you wondered that no sooner did the NIE's preliminary conclusions get circulated, that the Bush guys started saying the OPPOSITE?

Gee, I guess these guys must have NO clue how to win elections.

In the context of troop withdrawals (which had to have been done anyway), that Bush will claim are indicated by the success of the surge, attacking Bush for war talk against Iran EVEN AS the NIE shows knocking off Saddam removed the nuclear threat, MAKES HIM LOOK GOOD, NOT BAD. He's not a PROSPECTIVE candidate, and the removal of the nuke threat means we're not looking at the prospect of a war with Iran. We'd be attacking him RETROSPECTIVELY, for what the public is gonna recognize as a lasting achievement.

And what's more, it sets up Republican candidates to separate themselves from Bush's biggest liability (endless war), and yet associate themselves with his success -- eliminating Iran's nukes and withdrawing troops from Iraq.

So this is a good time to remind y'all of my other prediction: that Pakistan will give us bin Laden during the Republican convention.

LOL -- I'm two for two, which is a damned sight better'n Kevin's prediction about TNR, doncha think?

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 3, 2007 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

... being the President of the United States means that you have a lot, but not total control over information like this. So you can plan out for months if not years in advance how it comes out, to position your administration for advantage when it DOES come out.

Hurry folks! Now you, too, can wow crowds and stump party guests with foreign-policy sophomorisms. Call now for our free brochure!

Apparently, this is where you go when you graduate from the Loose Change academy. tehAmericanist has (surprise!) jumped the shark. Remember all those colossal fuck-ups brought to you by the Bush administration/neocon crowd? They were all designed to lull you into thinking that they didn't know the first thing about running unprovoked wars & fostering democracy. What they were really doing is setting you up for a graceful exit. Joke's on you!

If you really want to impress us, tehMurkanist, distill it all into a koan. Or just give it to us in an interpretive dance.

Posted by: junebug on December 3, 2007 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

However there has been a silver lining.

Awwwww....poor "ex-liberal"...disappointment at the neocon's causus belli being revealed as bullshit in advance this time has him so disappointed that he's babbling meaningless bullshit talking points, regardless of how incompetent they make out Bush and the neocons to be ("we failed to plan for al Qaeda's decision to make Iraq the central front of their global campaign").

Posted by: Gregory on December 3, 2007 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

Bug, if you will forgive the indecent metaphor, when a guy gets you alone and commences to remove your undergarments, his intentions MAY not be honorable. He may even anticipate your reaction -- cuz he LIKES it.

It's the sorta thing to think about BEFORE you wind up alone with him, in the dark. The Republicans are taking you for a night-time stroll.

You can do shoot the messenger all you want (hell, I have more fun with it than you do, cuz I'm consistently right, and you're consistently wrong: "a nearly-nuke power" ring a bell?), but it REALLY doesn't change much:

1) The surge=lower stats dynamic sets up a withdrawal that is NOT Bush losing face.

Hell, can you think of any OTHER circumstance where the scheduled withdrawals wouldn't have been humiliating for the President? But y'all played predictably, and helped him along.

Likewise,

2) Knowing that Iran had stopped its nuke program in 2003 HELPS, it does not hurt, Republicans next year.

Put it this way -- if you were a soulless Bush operative working in the White House (I know, I repeat myself) and somebody brought you the draft NIE last spring to say, look: Iran stopped trying to build nukes within six months of our invasion of Iraq, what would you have considered your options?

"Gee, there's 'we could just tell the truth' -- but that wouldn't help us much.

OR -- we could 'talk diplomacy about Iran well into "the surge"'. Then how would this play out? Well, the surge will lower the stats for Iraq, so the troop withdrawals that we can't avoid may look like SUCCESS -- and then we announce that we actually ended the nuke threat from Iran five years ago? Naa, that doesn't play well. Folks aren't gonna vote for MORE Republican rule after they look in the rear view mirror.

How about we talk TOUGHER on Iran for the next six months? We're not up for re-election. We may scare the public, but they're not gonna take it out on US. And they'll be so relieved that we're not gonna take 'em into ANOTHER dumbass war that McCain and Romney and the rest of our guys will look GOOD, cuz they can claim a piece of what will look like victory in Iraq AND Iran: troops coming home, no ayotallahs with nucular missiles. Our guys will be the forward-looking folks.

And Democrats? They're still so pissed we got 'em into Iraq with us that everything we say about Iran all year will make 'em even crazier -- they WON'T be able to let it go when we finally are forced to say that, er, we actually won this one five years ago. Hell, they'll probably try to TAUNT us -- 'we thought you were going to win it NEXT year, you lying bastards!' I can hear it now -- by the time they figure out we win their spin, either way, it'll be too late.

Wait, I gotta call Musharaff back about the Swiss account, don't I? We get bin Laden, he gets the ATM #...."

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 3, 2007 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Kevin that the US could have managed post war Iraq a great deal better. A different post-war strategy might have saved tens of thousands of Iraqi lives and many American lives.

Would it cause you to drop dead to admit that not invading in the first damned place call it a no-war strategywould have saved a hell of a lot more lives?

One reason we messed up was that we failed to plan for al Qaeda's decision to make Iraq the central front of their global campaign.

Pure wankery. There was no freakin' al Qaeda in Iraq before you idiots and your grand scheme to steal oil came to fruition, and blew up in - well, not the faces who deserved it, like you, but in the faces of a bunch of kids dodging IED's.

However there has been a silver lining. The defeat of AQI and AQI's attacks against other Muslims have dramatically turned the Islamic world against al Qaeda.

Read the freakin' magazine that sponsors this blog, why dontcha? Remember the cover story a couple of months ago? The Myth of al Qaeda in Iraq. Laid it out very well - aQI is nothing more than a bogey-man.

That you are still spouting the discredited lies of your overlords tells us all we need to know about the likes of you - you aren't even important enough to be updated on the talking points. What you are is a warmongering old chickenhawk, and there is a special spot waiting in the lowest pit of hell for the ex-liberals of this world.

Posted by: Airman Rowland's Aunt on December 3, 2007 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

Airman Rowland's Aunt - I haven't been in Iraq, so it's a question of whose report I trust. The people on the ground in Iraq -- our military, embedded reporters, and Iraqis -- all think they're fighting AQI. I tend to believe them more than stateside analysts.

I'm particularly impressed by the way General Petraeus's surge plan worked out. He said that AQI was causing most of the large attacks. His strategy focused especially at AQI. American and Iraqi forces now say they have substantially defeated AQI, and deadly attacks have dropped a great deal. This might be coincidence, but I think it more likely shows that Petraeus was correct about the importance of AQI.

BTW have you discussed this issue with your nephew, who, I gather, is serving in Iraq? I would be interested in his observations.

Posted by: ex-liberal on December 3, 2007 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't been in Iraq, so it's a question of whose report I trust. The people on the ground in Iraq -- our military, embedded reporters, and Iraqis -- all think they're fighting AQI. I tend to believe them more than stateside analysts.

you are pretty selective in who you choose to believe. There are just as many who recognize the folly and futility, perhaps more. But I have never seen you acknowledge Phil Carter or the bloggers at VetVoice/VoteVets.

I'm particularly impressed by the way General Petraeus's surge plan worked out. He said that AQI was causing most of the large attacks. His strategy focused especially at AQI. American and Iraqi forces now say they have substantially defeated AQI, and deadly attacks have dropped a great deal. This might be coincidence, but I think it more likely shows that Petraeus was correct about the importance of AQI.

Petraeus was busted by the GAO for lying to congress today. And everyone with two firing neurons knows that it was not Petraeus' plan. It was that fatassed Kagan and some of the bloodthirsty fools with no shin in the game at the AEI.

BTW have you discussed this issue with your nephew, who, I gather, is serving in Iraq? I would be interested in his observations.

Yes I have, and no, you wouldn't. He thinks people like you need your asses beat on spec.

Posted by: Airman Rowland's Aunt on December 3, 2007 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

Gather round, chirren, whilst tehFabulist explains how our philosopher-king Kasparovs his way into a peaceful Iraq, Clintonian approval ratings, & a Nobel prize. Slowly, methodically, the Boy Wonder -- long known for his long-range thinking & attention to detail -- has spun the web in which those hapless Democrats will meet certain death. Or at the very least, electoral failure. (What's a little hyperbole between friends?)

Seriously, man, you did much better when you packaged it as a bumper sticker. It made more sense then. These fever dreams about the stragery genius of the Mission Accomplished gang is embarrassing, even for you. Your act could use a little less Penn & a lot more Teller.

Posted by: junebug on December 4, 2007 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

theAmericanist: How about we talk TOUGHER on Iran for the next six months?

I think talking rational about Iran would accomplish more. It's not that the issues are beyond the grasp of the average voter, but that the field has largely been ceded to the right. As the NIE states:

Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs. This, in turn, suggests that some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might—if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible—prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program. It is difficult to specify what such a combination might be.
That effectively puts a stake in the "evil mullah" bogeyman. And just because the administration can't figure out "what such a combination might be" (and a snowball's chance in hell if anyone expects an NIE would provide such guidance) means there's plenty of opportunity beyond talking tough.

Posted by: has407 on December 4, 2007 at 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

I'm particularly impressed by the way General Petraeus's surge plan worked out.

Hang onto that past tense tightly because -- without the political reconciliation that the Surge didn't achieve -- it's got the shelf life of a prom dress at midnight. I'm sure the Sadr Army's content to volunteer as crossing guards & birthday party clowns while Sunnis help themselves to the government.

Dipshit.

Posted by: junebug on December 4, 2007 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

junebug, you're entitled to your sarcasm about Bush's "long-range thinking & attention to detail." As you rightly imply, those are not areas of strength for him.

His management style is to try to pick capable subordinates and the give them the necessary support. From a military POV, that approach worked when he finally got General Petraeus.

From a diplomatic/political POV the jury is still out. Time will tell.

Posted by: ex-liberal on December 4, 2007 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

Your claim is made with the same wisdom you displayed when you supported the invasion of Iraq. In 1920, the British faced a strong revolt, which they only barely suppressed with the manpower of the British Indian Army. (Given the size of the current Iraqi population, a similar force would today need 1,000,000 men to attain the same proportion of occupation soldiers to the Iraqi population.)

Remember, the British also had cultural knowledge of Iraq (or the areas that they put together to create Iraq) and officials who spoke Iraqi Arabic - the names of Gertrude Bell and TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)come to mind. After the revolt, Bell bemoaned the free hand that the British had been forced to give the Iraqis. Remember, the Iraq the British faced had a smaller, more rural and less literate population than Iraq has today. They did so at a time when neither Arab nationalism nor political Islam had developed the strength that they have today.

Kevin, you did not bother to learn any history when you initially supported the war. Learn some now.

Posted by: bill on December 4, 2007 at 1:18 AM | PERMALINK

Has407, it's like the old line goes: faced with any sort of competent, organized political opposition, the Republicans would be doomed next year. Unfortunately, they're up against Democrats -- of whom junebug is typical.

It really is a remarkable asymmetry between conservatives and progressives, Republicans and Democrats: in any given political situation, there is a smart and influential part of the right wing reaction that almost on reflex games it all out.

On the left, you have folks who passionately argue with their own side about how THEY (generally the most left of the Left) were right all along.

But that isn't reliably true often enough to be helpful in most, much less all circumstances, and in lots of cases it's downright counterproductive.

Me, I'd have responded to Iran's overture through Switzerland. So what? It's what THEY did, and how it plays out next year, that counts. Generally speaking, I like to watch out for the possibility of intelligent strategy on the part of adversaries, along with the potential for stoooopid errors on the part of allies: seems like prudence, don't ya think?

I see both here. I see a distinct possibility that the Republican nominee may be freed of the worst political burdens of Bush's Middle East policies by next summer (intelligent strategy), while the Democrats have framed those issues as 'you're war criminals who failed to... um....' even as the electorate is happily turning to other matters.

Bitching that they knew that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program BEFORE Bush said "World War Three" just underscores that this was a Bush success, from which GOP candidates can distance themselves without losing the advantage that the war actually had a payoff. They didn't PLAN it, they wanted a war. But when they got hops, they made beer.

Folks may not LIKE that -- but it's true.

Releasing the NIE creates a STRUCTURAL situation. It's not about the rhetoric.

Same thing is true of troop withdrawals -- they were gonna come out anyway. The surge brought the stats down. Sure, the political reconciliation that the surge was supposed to bring about hasn't happened, but politically that is much more important to Iraq than it is to US: remember the "decent interval" between the Paris Peace Accords and the collapse of South Vietnam?

Remember, too, that the ARVN only collapsed after the Congress had broken our word and cut 'em off completely.

This electoral cycle comes at a different place in the war: 1974 was not a Presidential year; 2008 is.

Ah, but bug wants to crack on folks who are thinking how this will all play out late next summer and into the fall, cuz it's SO much more fun to walk backwards into an election year.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 4, 2007 at 7:42 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin's complaint:

The Bushists are not competent imperialists.

Posted by: JC on December 4, 2007 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

The death of irony....

On the left, you have folks who passionately argue with their own side about how THEY (generally the most left of the Left) were right all along.
Posted by: theAmericanist on December 4, 2007 at 7:42 AM | PERMALINK

You can do shoot the messenger all you want (hell, I have more fun with it than you do, cuz I'm consistently right, and you're consistently wrong: "a nearly-nuke power" ring a bell?), but it REALLY doesn't change much:
Posted by: theAmericanist on December 3, 2007 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Stefan on December 4, 2007 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

LOL

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 4, 2007 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

What other people think about you is none of your company.

Posted by: Air Max 95 on April 1, 2011 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK
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