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Sunday, March 26, 2006

The importance of the perception of victory: replying to Tbogg 

Lefty blog TBogg and his commenters are mocking me for this post, in which I asserted that we should all want the perception that al Qaeda has been defeated in Iraq, whatever our personal politics. Specifically:
Anybody who thinks that an American withdrawal from Iraq will weaken al Qaeda because there will no longer be the "incitement" of the "crusader occupation" is a fool. Victory begets victory, and defeat begets defeat. Whether or not the Iraq invasion has worked out precisely as its supporters had hoped -- it obviously has not -- it is surely in the interests of all Americans, and indeed all Westerners, that it be perceived as a defeat for al Qaeda. Any American who argues otherwise does so from a narrower agenda, such as the political advancement of Democrats. Any other Westerner who argues otherwise does so from misplaced anti-Americanism. There is no other plausible explanation.

TBogg replied:
To recap: victory begets victory which is not exclusively limited to victory and may also include defeat if you can make it look like victory. And if you point out that the defeat is, in actuality, defeat, and not victory, which it isn't - you hate America.

Personally I preferred pre-9/11 plausibility when reality was still in vogue.

Actually, the first part of TBogg's "recap" is precisely correct: "victory begets victory which is not exclusively limited to victory and may also include defeat if you can make it look like victory." There are countless such examples in American military history going both ways (see, e.g., the defense of the Alamo, virtually the entire campaign of the Confederacy before the fall of Atlanta, and the American war in the Philippines, for starters), but the archtype is the Tet offensive. The Tet offensive, a coordinated nationwide attack by the Viet Cong on the date of the Vietnamese lunar new year in January 1968, is now widely understood to have been an operational catastrophe for the insurgency that may have broken the back of the Viet Cong. But that's not the way it was reported in the Western press, probably because the attack's ferocity and proximity to Saigon seemed to discredit the claims of American commanders that they were winning. Shortly thereafter, Walter Cronkite delivered his now famous report "We are mired in stalemate," Lyndon Johnson withdrew from the 1968 election, and the public debate turned away from the prospect of victory to the acceptable conditions for withdrawal. Even though the war would drag on for Americans for four more years while Nixon and Kissinger negotiated the Paris accords that would end American involvement, the United States had effectively given up just as it was relearning the art of counterinsurgency (as we seem condemned to do every couple of generations) because of the Viet Cong was perceived to have won a victory, regardless of the reality.

Setting aside for a future post the question of how to measure success or failure for the United States in Iraq, I believe we can agree on at least a few points.

First, al Qaeda has declared that it will drive the United States from Iraq and has staked its prestige on that objective. If it succeeds, its prestige will grow just as its antecedents rose to influence after driving the Soviets from Afghanistan.1 If it doesn't, al Qaeda will suffer a blow to its credibility, one of many we must inflict in order to degrade the attractiveness of its ideology and, ultimately, operational power.

Second, when the United States does ultimately withdraw its military from Iraq, al Qaeda will benefit if it is widely believed that it forced the United States from Iraq, and it will suffer if it is widely agreed -- especially in the Muslim world -- that whatever the reason for American withdrawal, al Qaeda did not bring it about.

Third, genuine enemies of the jihad should want al Qaeda to suffer, and therefore should want the world to perceive that al Qaeda did not bring about the American withdrawal from Iraq, when and if it occurs. No matter how much they also hate George Bush.

The left instinctively agrees with me that perceptions matter in war. It proves this every day in the debate over the reasons for the war. Whatever the stated reasons of the Bush administration -- which has, both legitimately and illegitimately2, pushed a particular perception of its reasons for deciding to invade -- the left often or perhaps usually claims that the Bush administration is not telling the truth about its motives. We have been hearing and reading these explanations for years: the Iraq war is to grab the oil for Halliburton, or because Israel issues the White House secret instructions through a cabal of neocons, or to foment a "climate of fear" to achieve electoral advantage, or because Bush the son has to exorcize the demons of Bush the father. The left does this because it knows that American voters will be much less forgiving of the alleged "failure" in Iraq if they believe that the reasons for the war were in the personal interest of the president and his chief advisors, rather than a sincere expression of the perceived national interest.

Well, if the perceptions of our reasons for starting the war matter, the perceptions of our reasons for ending it -- or at least our involvement in it -- must also matter. My fairly incrementalist claim is that they matter beyond American domestic political considerations. They also matter to the credibility and fortunes of al Qaeda. In this, the anti-al Qaeda left should agree with me that we are all much better off if at the end of the American time in Iraq, whenever that end shall come, the world perceives al Qaeda as having failed.

The good news for our compadres on the left -- at least those who are more concerned with advancing American interests in the war against al Qaeda than validating every last criticism of the current administration -- is that it is entirely possible to believe that the Iraq adventure has been an operational failure for the United States in the sense that it was not worth the cost and still agree with me that it has been a grievous defeat for al Qaeda. One can believe Bush is incompetent and scream it from the rooftops, and still advertise the idea that al Qaeda is worse for wear having turned Mesopotamia into a battleground. On Iraq, lefties can have their cake and eat it too, which they almost never get to do.

Of course, unreconstructed lefties will complain that it is not credible to claim that al Qaeda is on its way to defeat in Iraq. Some lefties still bleat that "Iraq has nothing to do with f*cking al Qaeda. Putz!" Even if that were true before the war, pretty much everybody, not least of all al Qaeda, agrees that since the invasion Iraq has had quite a bit to do with al Qaeda. If al Qaeda was not in Iraq before the Coalition's invasion, it is now, attracted there by the prospect of humiliating the United States, just as it believes it humiliated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

Indeed, this is the crux of the main lefty complaint about the Iraq war, at least as it relates to al Qaeda: that the jihadis have exploited popular outrage among Arabs and other Muslims over the Iraq war to recruit men and attract money for the purpose of ousting Westerners from Iraq, ensuring that popular sovereignty never gains legitimacy there, and attacking Westerners elsewhere, all of which undermines American credibility and diminishes our security. In this way of thinking, the problem isn't just that the war in Iraq is a waste, or that the costs far outweigh the benefits of ousting Saddam. It's that the war has, allegedly, strengthened the jihadis.

But has it? Is it not possible that just as al Qaeda has leveraged the battle of Iraq into more recruits and money, its methods and ideology -- now fully revealed in all their implications for Arabs and other Muslims -- have also inspired many hundreds of thousands to take up arms against it? About a month ago I spelled out this argument in some modest detail:
Recognizing that there are bitter divisions over whether Iraq was a legitimate extension of the wider war, almost nobody disagrees that it is part of that war now. Commentators tend to obsess about the impact of present-day events on the future of Iraq and the politics of Coalition democracies, but the most important effects are on the wider war against al Qaeda and its ideological allies. When we look at Iraq through that lens, we see an entirely different debate. The clear majority in the West argue that the war in Iraq is enormously beneficial to the jihad. A small, besieged minority -- of which I am a member -- believe that Iraq is to al Qaeda as Kursk was to Germany, or Afghanistan was to the Soviet Union: a strategic ambush. Even as the war has clearly deepened anti-Americanism in the region, perhaps irredeemably so, as Peters argues it has also polarized millions of Arabs and other Muslims against the jihad. This polarization is the necessary first step to victory against the jihadi ideology.

Jihadism will not be defeated and the terrorist threat to the West ended until the ideology that underlies it is discredited among Arabs and Muslims. Why? Because only Arabs and Muslims can win this war, which is first and foremost a massive civil insurgency within Islam. If love of America were a prerequisite to that result, we would be in a lot of trouble in the wider war. However, as I have argued many times before, the crucial prerequisite is not that we win hearts, but that the jihad, by its actions and failures, makes enemies. As this happens, as the Arab and Muslim world realizes that the jihadis offer only death and despair notwithstanding their soaring rhetoric, more Arabs and Muslims will supply the intelligence and make the sacrifices necessary to defeat al Qaeda and its allies in the streets and finally in the caves.

The great opponents of the Iraq war, including many liberal hawks who have now "returned," argue that al Qaeda has leveraged the Iraq war into waves of new volunteers and huge new resources. However, this almost certainly true but exquisitely unidimensional fact is of little use in describing the wider jihad's strategic condition. The armed forces and military industrial capacity of Germany were almost certainly larger at the end of 1942 than at the end of 1941, but that did not mean that its position had improved. So it is with al Qaeda.

How do the jihadis earn these enemies that will one day, this generation or the next, defeat them? In two ways. First, the jihadis hurt their own credibility by adopting tactics that alienate Arabs and Muslims. The United States and its allies presented al Qaeda with an irresistable hard target when it occupied Iraq. Austin Bay made precisely this point two months before the invasion. When al Qaeda and its domestic Sunni allies failed to dent the hard target they had to choose between giving up on Iraq -- a decision that would have shattered their credibility -- or attacking softer targets. They started blowing up civilians, particularly Shiites, which decision polarized the insurgency and created millions of enemies of al Qaeda. They extended their war to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. According to the Pew Global Attitudes Project survey taken before the attacks on Egypt and Jordan, support among Muslims for suicide bombing as a tactic and Osama bin Laden as a leader declined significantly between 2003 and July 2005, notwithstanding surging anti-Americanism during the same period. It is a safe bet that the jihad and its ideology is even less popular after the slaughter at Sharm al-Sheikh, Amman and the Golden Mosque.

Second, the jihadis create enemies by failing. Yes, al Qaeda was able to attract volunteers, money and arms to "defend" Iraq. Notwithstanding the ignominious failure of the optimistic scenarios peddled by the Bush administration before the war and in the early months of the occupation, the lingering imperfections of Iraqi democracy and the continuing low-grade war, it is far more likely than not that Iraq will sustain the most diverse and representative government in the Arab world (with the possible exception of Lebanon). More importantly, it does not matter if the Arab world believes that this result is in spite of America's efforts, rather than because of them. Indeed, al Qaeda will be all the more humiliated -- and its ideology that much more discredited among Muslims -- if Muslims believe that Iraqis alone defeated it in Iraq.

So, yes, Tbogg, America can fail in many of its objectives in Iraq and al Qaeda can still come out the big loser. You can hate Bush and still celebrate a defeat for the jihad. The question is, why don't you?
_______________________________________
1. Bin Laden recognizes the value of claiming the credit for victory. He quite famously promoted the perception of the victory over the Soviets as having been entirely to the credit of the mujahideen, even though they weren't able to get anywhere against the Soviet helicopters until the United States gave them Stinger missiles.
2. Legitimate reasons are geopolitical -- the protocols of diplomacy require us to deny that one of our reasons for invade Iraq was to coerce and cajole Saudi Arabia into cracking down on al Qaeda. But it was. Illegitimate reasons include the administration's deliberately unclear statements about the connections between Saddam's government and September 11, which were largely for domestic political purposes.

21 Comments:

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Sun Mar 26, 02:16:00 PM:

Mostly I am skiing and on vacation, therefore not tuning in much. I have argued previously on this site that the "debate" with the left on Iraq is at this point, well, pointless. The war is over. We won long ago. Saddam is in jail. His heirs are very dead. Zarqawi has essentially pulled out. American troop levels have declined to 132,000 and absent some important event, will shortly be down to 100,000. The Iraqis have elected their own government, and are constructing theior own standing army.

While the left whines, the rest of us win. If they don't want to, screw 'em. Who cares?

Now the evidence of Saddam's complicity with broader Arab Islamic terror is beginning to spill forth. Screwy, read Steven Hayes. Iraqi intelligence services clearly supported training and operations of terrorist enemies of the US, including UBL and AQ, with Saddam's express authority. Saddam managed also to corrupt the UN so completely with the OFF scam, coupled with Russian intelligence complicity during the war, that the evidence is now clear that the UN is, as Bush properly articulated before the war, now irrelevant. Finally, the evidence is also now clear, that, regardless of Saddam's WMD inventory at the war's inception, he fully intended to reconstitute his WMD programs. He had demonstrated his willingness to use them before. Now he was working with broader terrorist networks, and the US was his sworn enemy. Of course he was a threat. Of course we needed to take him out. If you can't see that, you're in denial, a fool, an enemy -- something, but obviously wrong.

Got it lefties? By any conceivable definition, the US has won the war in Iraq. Period. As TH has argued, of course we are going to have military bases. We are also going to benefit from trading relationships with Iraq over time, as will they. And, oh yes, we also have Iran surrounded by our troops, and allied countries (with basing relationships), none of whom want to see Iran go nuke.

Now, while I am wiping your whining mugs with the facts, shall we review the Reagan presidency and the fall of the Soviet Union as well?

People who don't learn from history are condemned to repeating its mistakes. Isolationists, pessimists, socialists, fascists, enemies of liberty and capitalism are repeating their mistakes.

It's right in front of us.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Sun Mar 26, 06:11:00 PM:

The left tends to believe that their worldview, their way that things should work, is the Real America. Whatever happens in elections, war, or economy, it is this that they wish to preserve and this that they wish to win.

At its best, it has a nobility of purpose, a desire that America be all it should be, and that we should risk loss or even defeat to preserve our highest values in purest form. At its worst, it is a childish insistence on a black-and-white world, willing to sacrifice many lesser beings for their own feelings of moral superiority.

They call this adherence to worldview a higher patriotism. That does violence to the concept of patriotism, of course. One might make a case that it is a higher cause than patriotism, but it is not the same cause. They are loyal to ideas that have some overlap with American ideals, and cannot accept alternative views. It would be better if the world worked that way. Therefore, it does work that way.

The criticism by conservatives that not only the far left, but the mid-left, do not want America to win is thus at least partly true. It is taken by liberals as a mere insult, but that is not the point. They want something other than American victory -- not its opposite, perhaps, but something quite different than victory.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Mar 26, 08:19:00 PM:

What does the Left want?

Defeat in Iraq as they wanted Defeat in Vietnam. Because they believe in their heart of hearts that either 9/11 didn't matter, didn't happen but was some massive conspiracy (see Charlie Sheen), or will never happen again if we are just nice to Jihadis.

Recall the Folk Marxism of the Left drives everything they do, some animals are more equal than others. Particularly non-Anglo, non-Christian people. That the jihadis are autocratic anti-moderns is a plus.

There is nothing the Left hates more than the Agent of Change in the World, America. They hate change and want a return to some Pol Pot utopian past absent change.  

By Blogger JAF, at Sun Mar 26, 09:55:00 PM:

Has anyone ever thought about what if George W Bush was a Democrat? Wouldn't the dems be more supportive if that was the case, barring the fringes?
If its obvious to me, then its obvious to anyone, there are elements that want it to fail in order to gain political capital. Al Queda, Iran, Mooqi Sadr, Sunni Insurgents, Al Jazeera, and many on the left are all on the same side.  

By Blogger Mark Zimmerman, at Mon Mar 27, 09:22:00 AM:

"America can fail in many of its objectives in Iraq and al Qaeda can still come out the big loser. You can hate Bush and still celebrate a defeat for the jihad. The question is, why don't you?"

I think the short answer here is, where is the defeat for the jihad? They're just getting started in Iraq. You kill Zarqawi, but fire up a thousand new jihadis that target Westerners and Western puppets but spare Shiites, and this is a great victory?

We made have won a few tactical victories in Iraq, but our strategic siatuion has deteriorated immensely, thanks to Bush. Most of the left understands this.  

By Blogger Oded, at Mon Mar 27, 11:29:00 AM:

'I think the short answer here is, where is the defeat for the jihad? They're just getting started in Iraq. You kill Zarqawi, but fire up a thousand new jihadis that target Westerners and Western puppets but spare Shiites, and this is a great victory?'

Part of the problem Mark is that your view is shortsighted in that you cannot rely on events as they transpire and are reported by the MSM which presents events devoid of context. The history is being written now but is presently obscured by current politicization and partisan agendas. History will prove THs excellent summary to be true in my opinion.

It is also precisely because Shiites (spared?!!!) and other innocents have been brutally murdered by AQ that their ideology is being discredited. We cannot kill every Jihadi created, we can only make their ideology unpalatable to other Muslims.

They have shown their collective asses in Iraq, a fact that is clear to Iraqis and I am sure many other Muslims but (un)surprisingly unclear to the majority of the MSM and those like Mark who cling to shallow liberal talking points.

The Iraq war has been won militarily and AQ roundly defeated both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of course truth is not nearly as important as perception, the propaganda battle for which is clearly being lost by the Bush administration.  

By Blogger Mark Zimmerman, at Mon Mar 27, 12:02:00 PM:

"It is also precisely because Shiites (spared?!!!) and other innocents have been brutally murdered by AQ that their ideology is being discredited. We cannot kill every Jihadi created, we can only make their ideology unpalatable to other Muslims"

Wahhabis rampaged through Iraq in the early 1800's, slaughtering everyone they could lay their hands on in Karbala. The Wahhabi jihadis have long been discredited amongst Shiites and mainstream Sunni.

Where do you get your notions that al Qaeda is being defeated? Of copurse, we can defeat them on the battle field. There was never any question about that. Iraq is slipping further into chaos. al Qaeda will thrive in this chaos. Just look at the history of Afganistan.  

By Blogger GrenfellHunt, at Mon Mar 27, 02:38:00 PM:

Tigerhawk: another great post.

We are in a generational battle for the minds of young Muslims. If Al Qaeda wins in Iraq, then young Muslims will conclude that Allah is on the side of the terrorists and will sign up for jihad in droves.

If America wins in Iraq, then young Muslims will conclude that terrorism is an affront to Islam and will look to support democracy.

Those are the stakes, and those who can't see that have resigned their membership in the reality-based community.  

By Blogger Oded, at Mon Mar 27, 03:37:00 PM:

AQ is unable to hold any real estate in Iraq. They have been roundly defeated whenever and wherever they assemble in large numbers, rapidly losing ground to coalition forces. Territories that have been cleared are increasingly being held by the Iraqi Army which is ratcheting up in numbers and ability.

They have shown themselves to be the vile murderers that they are by virtue of the fact that they cannot defeat a professional force. Their options were limited to making Iraq ungovernable by fomenting civil war. Strict Sharia law, killing innocents and local tribal leaders for intimidation has not endeared them to the Sunni tribes in Anbar, who are now chasing them to the hills.

As for Afghanistan, AQ had the luxury of the Taliban ruling the country and giving them carte blanche to build terrorist training camps and gather in large numbers untroubled by a modern army. Once the Iraqi army is fully trained and US forces reduce their footprint becoming purely support and quick reaction teams, what is left of AQ will be forced to attack indigenous forces of a sovereign muslim nation. This will further discredited them in the eyes of Muslims, Sunni and Shia.

While I dont disagree that the situation in Iraq will get worse before it gets better, I dont see much of a future for AQ there. They simply have no political ideology that will be supported by the masses.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Mon Mar 27, 09:06:00 PM:

Mark, a lot of people make the claims that you are making -- that Iraq is slipping into chaos, that we are creating more jihadists, etc. The evidence presented for this seems to be a combination of "things look bad," and "other people say so." The narrative you offer is plausible. It was plausible before the war as well, when there was no data either way. Is there convincing evidence that it is true?

Phrases like "deteriorated immensely" and "a thousand new jihadis" are dramatic statements, which would require some sort of dramatic evidence. In the absence of that, I have to conclude that you are attempting to persuade us by condescension. Unlikely to be very effective.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Mon Mar 27, 09:49:00 PM:

Mark,

In addition to AVI's excellent points, your comment was rather nonresponsive to my main point. I do not dispute that al Qaeda has been able to attract money and men because of the American invasion of Iraq. But that's only half of the story. The war in Iraq has also created a lot of enemies for al Qaeda, both in Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab and Muslim world. In Iraq, we know that there are now tens of thousands of soldiers and militia hunting al Qaeda with enthusiasm. Saudi Arabia and Jordan have joined the fight against al Qaeda with intensity. More importantly over the long haul, the Pew data are convincing that al Qaeda's popularity peaked in most of the Muslim world in 2003, at the time of the American invasion, and has been falling ever since. Why? Because of the tactics al Qaeda has used both inside Iraq and outside.

Al Qaeda drew a line in the sand in Iraq, and vowed to expel the Americans. They assumed it would be relatively easy -- in 2003 we still had our history of cutting and running to overcome, after all. But American soldiers proved to be hard targets, and America the country did not fold up, but redoubled its commitment. So al Qaeda had made a promise that it could not keep. So it turned to killing Iraqi Arab "collaborators" and it expanded the war against putative American allies that it judged to be supportive, at least tacitly, of the removal of Saddam (particularly Saudi Arabia and Jordan). All these efforts revealed the dark side of jihadi ideology and provoked a massive response against al Qaeda. Many of these new enemies of al Qaeda were also strongly anti-American -- Moqtada al-Sadr, for example. As much as he hates us, though, he turned from fighting the United States Marines to al Qaeda for two reasons -- the Marines were a "hard" target, and al Qaeda was indiscriminately killing innocent Iraqis, particularly Shiites.

So, yes, al Qaeda has almost certainly attracted new jihadis as a result of the invasion of Iraq. But I believe that there is considerable evidence that it has also created many more Arab and Muslim enemies. Like the Soviet Union in the war against Germany, these new enemies of al Qaeda do not like the United States one bit. But they are taking up arms against the jihad, and that is very much in our interest.  

By Blogger Mark Zimmerman, at Mon Mar 27, 11:25:00 PM:

"Mark, a lot of people make the claims that you are making -- that Iraq is slipping into chaos, that we are creating more jihadists, etc. The evidence presented for this seems to be a combination of "things look bad," and "other people say so." The narrative you offer is plausible. It was plausible before the war as well, when there was no data either way. Is there convincing evidence that it is true?"

No data either way? Are you serious? For objective evidence that Iraq is sliding into chaos, consider the failure of the reconstruction effort, as illustrated by the fact that both oil and electricity are below Saddam levels. I don’t see how we’re going to pull away from chaos, and build a nation that’s a model for the region, when we can’t defend critical infrastructure from attack. As for “other people say so” as evidence for slipping into chaos, Allawi said just last week Iraq is sliding deeper into civil war (chaos). He’s not the final authority, but he’s in a position to know something about it.

The Iraqi newspaper Azzaman reported today the current government is much less efficient than Saddam’s in handing out food rations, and as a result 20% of the population faces hunger. This may not be an immense deterioration in some eyes, but it still represents deterioration.

http://www.azzaman.com/english/index.asp?fname=news\2006-03-26\134.htm

So you can believe what you want, but I don’t see how anyone can deny there’s plenty of evidence for a pessimistic view here.


"The war in Iraq has also created a lot of enemies for al Qaeda, both in Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab and Muslim world. In Iraq, we know that there are now tens of thousands of soldiers and militia hunting al Qaeda with enthusiasm. Saudi Arabia and Jordan have joined the fight against al Qaeda with intensity. More importantly over the long haul, the Pew data are convincing that al Qaeda's popularity peaked in most of the Muslim world in 2003, at the time of the American invasion"

Saudi Arabia and Jordan were fighting al Qaeda even before 9/11. As for the Shiites, they hardly needed Bush to show them what bastards Wahhabi jihadis are. The Iraqis have always known how Shiites are treated in Saudi Arabia. Wahhabis have a long history of killing Shiites.

Al Qaeda’s popularity would spike again if they successfully launched another major attack on America.

If you claim al Qaeda’s falling popularity in the Arab world is evidence we’re being successful in Iraq, what do you make of the absolutely abysmal popularity of the US in the region since the Iraq war? The longer the killing goes on in Iraq, the lower US prestige sinks in the region.

"Al Qaeda drew a line in the sand in Iraq, and vowed to expel the Americans. They assumed it would be relatively easy -- in 2003 we still had our history of cutting and running to overcome, after all. But American soldiers proved to be hard targets, and America the country did not fold up, but redoubled its commitment."

I think you’re right about al Qaeda underestimating the American commitment in Iraq, but al Qaeda takes a long view. Tactical defeats for the underdog are to be expected in asymmetric warfare. As long as they’re able to fight and the war continues to drag on, and especially now when it appears to be devolving into a sectarian blood letting, the better for al Qaeda. The Sunnis of Iraq will have fewer and fewer options, eventually having to choose between trusting the tender mercies of the Badr Corps, or joining the jihadis and at least dying like a man.


"Many of these new enemies of al Qaeda were also strongly anti-American -- Moqtada al-Sadr, for example. As much as he hates us, though, he turned from fighting the United States Marines to al Qaeda for two reasons -- the Marines were a "hard" target, and al Qaeda was indiscriminately killing innocent Iraqis, particularly Shiites."

Sadr gave up the fight against the US in 2004 when he got what he wanted, which was a position at the top of Shiite political heirarchy. At some point, maybe soon after what happened last weekend at Mustafa Husayniyah, Sadr will turn violently against the US again. If you want to talk about perceptions, last weekend was a disaster for the US. It doesn’t matter if we really killed those people; the Iraqis all believe we did. Things like this will continue to happen, as long as the war continues.

"So, yes, al Qaeda has almost certainly attracted new jihadis as a result of the invasion of Iraq. But I believe that there is considerable evidence that it has also created many more Arab and Muslim enemies. Like the Soviet Union in the war against Germany, these new enemies of al Qaeda do not like the United States one bit. But they are taking up arms against the jihad, and that is very much in our interest."

The Shiites have been allied with us from the beginning. If we're see continued or escalating sectarian killings, I don’t see how this is going to be in the US’s interests. You seem to take a zero-sum view with regard to al Qaeda. One less fighter is less trouble for the US. But a war of attrition will never be to our advantage, even if it is our Iraqi ‘allies’ doing the killing for us.  

By Blogger Phoenician in a time of Romans, at Tue Mar 28, 05:25:00 PM:

First, al Qaeda has declared that it will drive the United States from Iraq and has staked its prestige on that objective. If it succeeds, its prestige will grow just as its antecedents rose to influence after driving the Soviets from Afghanistan.1 If it doesn't, al Qaeda will suffer a blow to its credibility, one of many we must inflict in order to degrade the attractiveness of its ideology and, ultimately, operational power.

That is so incredibly stupid. WHENEVER America withdraws, Al Qaeda will claim victory. Therefore, by your logic, America will have to stay in Iraq forever.

But this, of course, demonstrates that Al Qaeda was right all along - the US IS intent on taking over the Middle East by force. Which will incite people to oppose the US by whatever means possible.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Bin Laden seems to be a lot smarter than the Bush Administration and you...  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue Mar 28, 08:08:00 PM:

Oh wow, so when the last US forces leave Japan for good (if they do) then the Japanese will claim victory in WWII? And like Saddam claimed victory after Desert Storm? Pfft.

If the US leaves before winning, then Al Qaeda can claim victory. So we win.

And what is with you leftist assholes and your condescending attitudes? "Bin Laden seems to be a lot smarter than the Bush Administration and you..."

As if Bin Laden has anything to do with the Iraq conflict.  

By Blogger Phoenician in a time of Romans, at Tue Mar 28, 10:10:00 PM:

Oh wow, so when the last US forces leave Japan for good (if they do) then the Japanese will claim victory in WWII?

Japan was a country. You occupied Japan, ground it beneath your heel, imposed your law and your chosen constitution.

Al Qaeda is not a country.

Therein lies wisdom, child. Reflect on this difference.

And what is with you leftist assholes and your condescending attitudes?

Apart from the fact that the Bush Administration and wingnut apologists for it have ruined the US's finances, reputation, foreign policy and domestic security?

I guess we're condescending because, well, we're smarter than you. Difficult to live with, but I'm sure you big, tough wingnuts will be able to cope.  

By Anonymous tom beta 2, at Wed Mar 29, 01:09:00 AM:

Phoenician: That is so incredibly stupid. WHENEVER America withdraws, Al Qaeda will claim victory. Therefore, by your logic, America will have to stay in Iraq forever.

They can claim whatever they want. The question is, will they be believed? That is the point of TigerHawk's argument, which you in your superiority have somehow managed to utterly miss.

Dawnfire82: Oh wow, so when the last US forces leave Japan for good (if they do) then the Japanese will claim victory in WWII?

Phoe replies: Japan was a country. You occupied Japan, ground it beneath your heel, imposed your law and your chosen constitution.

Well, you have the first bit backwards. We ground Japan, a fascist imperialist aggressor, under our heel, then occupied it. Then, allied with the Japanese people, rebuilt it into a nation that would within a few decades become an economic powerhouse with wealth and freedom undreamed of while it suffered under the boot of the fascists.

Phoe (still replying to Dawnfire): Al Qaeda is not a country.

Therein lies wisdom, child. Reflect on this difference.


Yeah, we have no intention of rebuilding al Qaeda. Wise. Ohm mani padme hum ....

Dawnfire: And what is with you leftist assholes and your condescending attitudes?

Phoe: Apart from the fact that the Bush Administration and wingnut apologists for it have ruined the US's finances,

The US has reached full employment and is enjoying a robust economy right now. I think we can handle it.

reputation,

Only among the bribed and ignorant.

foreign policy

Especially among the bribed, ignorant, and despotic. For those of us who appreciate democracy, however, it seems to be working out well.

and domestic security?

Last major attack on US soil? 9/11/01. Hmmm ...

I guess we're condescending because, well, we're smarter than you.

Straight from the Ministry of Reality, folks, where they manufacture the stuff by the ton.  

By Blogger Phoenician in a time of Romans, at Wed Mar 29, 05:04:00 PM:

The question is, will they be believed?

Yes. Cf Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, which involved a decade long occupation.

You lot, on the other hand, are whimpering and making plans to pull out after only three years.

Welcome to reality.  

By Anonymous tom beta 2, at Thu Mar 30, 12:10:00 AM:

Me: The question is, will they be believed?

Phoenician: Yes. Cf Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, which involved a decade long occupation.

And the relationship is ... ? This must be like the hundreds of thousands of refugees that the invasion of Afghanistan was supposed to produce, right? Or the frigid Afghan winter that would brutalize US forces, or the hundred and one other horrible things that were going to make us regret invading. Yeah. That all worked out just as predicted for you, eh?

Phoenician: You lot, on the other hand, are whimpering and making plans to pull out after only three years.

My lot's been saying we'll be there for a generation or more. You lot, on the other hand, have become experts at projection.  

By Blogger ScurvyOaks, at Thu Mar 30, 02:52:00 PM:

OK, Phoenician, let's see some data in connection with your claim that you are smarter. I know this isn't definitive, but vouchsafe to inform us stupid wingnuts of your undergraduate and graduate degrees, including the institutions that awarded them and honors (if any).

Welcome to reality, indeed.  

By Blogger Phoenician in a time of Romans, at Thu Mar 30, 05:17:00 PM:

And the relationship is ... ?

Read Michael Scheur's "Imperial Hubris".

My lot's been saying we'll be there for a generation or more.

Riiiight. Has your lot been saying how you'll pay for it and maintain troop levels while doing so?

OK, Phoenician, let's see some data in connection with your claim that you are smarter.

For a start, I'm not stupid enough to ask for personal information on an Internet thread...  

By Blogger ScurvyOaks, at Thu Mar 30, 05:27:00 PM:

Now what would anyone be able to do with this valuable personal information, Phonecian? I'm a little slow, you see, so please spell it out for me.  

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