Thursday, September 24, 2009
However, I also view the conflicts very differently. Afghanistan was a conflict launched with limited aims - topple the Taliban and deny Al Qaeda sanctuary at minimal commitment and loss of American life - in response to an attack on the US emanating therefrom. Afghanistan is not fundamentally a strategic asset of geopolitical import. It has no wealth or geography which would make it so.
Iraq was and is fundamentally different. It has vast wealth, and Baghdad is the heart of Arabia. Regionally, there is hardly a more important strategic asset. Furthermore, it was governed by an appalling and grotesque tyrant with whom we had already fought one war.
Iraq, quite simply, had to be truly "won". Our core strategic interests were at stake there, our conflict with Arab-inspired Islamism required that we go to the heart of Arabia and insure Islamism suffered a defeat there; and these strategic interests were congruent with the moral imperative of deposing the Saddam Hussein regime and leaving in its wake a regime which represented the will of its people. To that end, the US has performed with truly exceptional distinction. The decision to "Surge" in Iraq was intended to ensure victory there, as opposed to making a similar decision in Afghanistan. American performance in Iraq may never be properly appreciated - much like American performance in Japan, South Korea or West Germany. Let's hope the current administration's commitment to withdrawal doesn't squander the (fragile) stability created largely through the efforts of America.
Afghanistan is not - in my view - a core strategic asset. It is a strategic distraction. Its geography is of limited relevance and it has no wealth. The reasons to involve American force projection there are principally tactical - to deny Al Qaeda easy sanctuary and political protection form the Taliban. And that is buttressed by moral considerations insofar as the Taliban are a disgusting tyrannical theocracy, the political kinmen of Al Qaeda.
Therefore, it seems to me, our commitment to Afghanistan should be limited. What is the point of a Surge there? what is its cost? Is it worth it? What is victory? I am not convinced that it is worthy of pursuit. That's right, I may agree with Joe Biden! Afghanistan went poorly for the British and the Soviets. It is less winnable at a sensible cost than Iraq and less important. I would much prefer that we make sure Iraq is stable and quiet with more American assets than worry about overcommitting to Afghanistan. That little bit of hell may best be managed via a contructive set of relationships with Pakistan and India.
Last, we do need to husband our resources. Iraq and, frankly, Iran, are much more important that Afghanistan. So I must say, while I disagree thus far with pretty much every single policy choice the current Adminstration has pursued both domestically and abroad, I have some sympathy with the notion that they are reconsidering the fashion in which they want to manage the Afghanistan conflict.
I agree that Afghanistan is probably not a core straegic asset to the U.S. -- our objective there is to deny safe haven to radical Islamist terrorists. Afghanistan is a core strategic asset in the India / Pakistan conflict, and I believe the ISI became intertwined with the Taliban and AQ so that it could have a good source of shock troops to send to Kashmir and still have plausible deniability.
The U.S. and its allies must maintain sufficient forces in place such that enough friction is maintained to deny easy operation for AQ camps. We can use fine tools to do that, or, as Sigourney Weaver suggests in Aliens, a more blunt tool (but nobody really wants to do that).
There is no chance of a First World Jeffersonian Democracy breaking out in Afghanistan over the next generation or so, and that should not be the endpoint that the U.S. works towards. That said, there has been some improvement there in the last 8 years. I don't think that complete abandonment is an option, lest the 1990s take place again.
I would not want to be Barack Obama running for re-election in the summer of 2012 if a major successful AQ attack takes place in the U.S., following the complete withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2011, and the re-establishment of terrorist training camps there shortly thereafter. It will be hard to blame that one on W.
Everything I know about Afghanistan I learned from reading "Flashman". I suspect Sir Harry would heartily endorse your views. I think we need a smaller presence and a lot of drone aircraft in Afghanistan, as we should only have limited objectives there.
Obama's thinking on Afghanistan is probably affected more by domestic political concerns than anything else. He doesn't want to run in 2012 after "losing" Afghanistan. Obama may turn out to have a lot in common with LBJ. Happy now, Olbermann and Maddow?
I agree that Iraq has to be "won." We broke it we own it.
I disagree with you that "our conflict with Arab-inspired Islamism required that we go to the heart of Arabia and insure Islamism suffered a defeat there." I've got a lengthy list of reasons for this ... which I've ranted about here before. But given your particular formulation of why we were justified in invading Iraq here are just two:
1) if we wanted to teach "radical Islam" a lesson why did we invade one of the few Arabian countries with a secular government? Why not Saudi Arabia? Our own official reports say 15 of the hijackers and most of the ring leaders were from Saudi, etc. etc.
2) if our leadership really believed in your formulation back in 2002, it certainly wasn't the basis on which invading Iraq was sold to the American people ... nor to the UN. Horns of a dilemma ... were they lying to us then, or are you just rationalizing now. I expect that there'll be a response here soon to tell me that I'm an ignorant shithead who doesn't understand how Iraq fits into the grand neocon vision for the Great Game. Keep drinking the Koll-Aid fellas ....
Link to Dawnfire,
I don't agree with your "answer." I don't have "questions" ... I'm just an asshole with an opinion and I disagree with yours. If you have foreign policy expertise that I don't have -- it doesn't necessarily make you correct because of it. Think "The Best and the Brightest" ... a lot of really smart guys from the Ivy League fucked up in Viet Nam.
My focus is on the domestic fallout of our invading Iraq -- it ruined what could have been a very successful Bush presidency and then brought us Obama. The hope of democracy flowering in the Middle East -- or even our grabbing all the oil -- can never make up for the damage that we've aleady suffered and the course we've been put on. Am I wrong on that? Don't tell me that these effects weren't forseeable in broad brush -- it's Viet Nam redux.
TH could have just said that we have to win in Iraq, which I agree with. But he included a rationale for our invading that I thought needed comment. Implicit to TH's rationale is that Saddam's being an imminent threat was never the real reason for our invading Iraq. If that's what was really going on -- and it suspect it may have been part of the reason -- try explaining that to a Gold Star mother. Personally, I believe the best explanation is the simplest ... that Bush wanted to outdo Poppy and that Cheney wanted another Cold War to fight but Russia wasn't up to it at the time ... but I'm small-minded and not a big thinker.
To Escort 81,
I don't understand how Afghanistan affects Pakistan in a way we can address. Honestly I'm dumb here. I read Flashman and I saw The Man Who Would Be King, and I've seen pictures of the Khyber Pass -- that's it. I would have thought that the mountains limited historical interaction between the two ... that Pakistan - India is more important than Pakistan - Afghanistan. If we're worried about bad guys slipping back and forth, drones should help. But we haven't caught bin Laden in eight years -- how effective will we be with more men on the ground when policing a border. I don't see how things will be different in a year ... or five ... or ten.
I have another question. Mohammed Atta was a well-educated guy would could easily operate in the West. I fear guys like him coming out of Western universities more than the ragheads coming from the Middle East or Afghanistan. The latter couldn't get on a plane or a subway without sticking out. My point was that bin Laden & Co needed a base in 2001, but it didn't have to be Afghanistan. The next attack may well come from a base that isn't Afghanistan. If so, it's a sideshow.
You are correct insofar that a functioning western-style democracy is unlikely to emerge in Afghanistan. However, a surge is necessary for two reasons:
(1) Insurgencies need safe areas, and the AfPak border is the safe area for AQ and the Pakistani Taliban. An effort must be made to gain some measure of control over Afghanistan so that we can deny safe areas to the bad guys. This must be done while the Pakistanis still have the willpower and ability to go after the bad guys on their side of the border. Now is the time. An effort made now will spare us having to make a much larger and more expensive effort later. Pakistan, and its nukes, are too valuable to lose.
(2) Like it or not, we've already invested a lot of political and strategic capital in Afghanistan. It would be wrong to lose the ship for want of a nail.
I am the last person to advocate the country walk away from an unresolved conflict, but we do need to change strategy at a minimum in Afpak. We can't afford to continue to fight forever, there or anywhere, we just don't have the money. We also don't have the soldiers. Moreover, it's predictable that some of our forces now in Afpak will be needed elsewhere somewhere along the way between where we are and "winning", whatever that means, so even if we did have the money we can't continue along our present path.
Flashman spent most of his time south and east of Kabul, so his experience is pretty limited. We, on the other hand, have tried to occupy the bulk of the country but, sadly, our efforts have come to the same end as the Brits. Chaos.
On the other hand we do need to maintain a core area of influence, so that we can maintain a base of active operations against the Taliban and al Qaeda. It would be foolish to think we aren't going to be fighting a low-level war for many years against them, at least until we can kill the "deep bench" of leadership the invaluable Bill Roggio says they possess.
If we can't control the whole country and we can't afford to leave entirely, we need to find a strategy that can afford us maximum troop protection while enforcing our interests as best we can manage.
It seems to me that one possibility is to define a geographic are where the population is amenable to working with us, obviously the areas controlled by the Northern Alliance, and we should abandon the Pashtun's, only returning to deliver missiles when required.
Off topic, but CP, did you happen to catch Julien Robertson today on CNBC. If not, and your lunch is fully digested, check out the video when it's posted. He basically says we're in for a repeat of 1930-1980 unless savings increase and federal taxes and spending drop very, very soon.
A "surge" in Afghanistan would be a change of strategy. For the past few years, we've been doing the old "search and destroy" thing. That's why McChrystal's report is such a big deal: He was the king of search & destroy, and now even he's calling for a change. Smash them now, harass the remnants later.
Also, don't rely too much on Flashman, anymore than you would on Bilbo Baggins or Superman. Leaving the fictional component aside, one must remember how awful the Victorian British Army really was. Although the quality of individual soldiers was very high, the army sucked at the operational and strategic levels. However picturesque, it was fundamentally incompetent. Hence, Bismarck's comment that if the British Army ever invaded north Germany from the sea, he would have it arrested by the local constabulary.
Link, you have to view the report from the perspective of the constraints from which it grew.
Gen. McChrystal has a clear mission objective, delivered to him from the president in March, to pacify the country, eliminate the Taliban and build long-lasting national institutions. His report, coming six months on, is simply telling the president what he needs to meet the mission objective.
A true "change in strategy" would start with a change in mission objective. That is a subject yet to be discussed, but that is what I am advocating.
By the way, it's worth reading what the military thinks of our problem.
Basically, whomever it is that is talking to Roggio (probably McChrystal's staff, at a guess) don't agree that adopting the Biden approach would be effective.
Link - first, it's probably worth noting that CP posted on this topic, not TH, and TH might have different views.
As to the justification for invading Iraq, my recollection is that there was a list of something like 15 causus belli enumberated in the Congressional Resolution authorizing the President to act (as opposed to the WMD obsession pinpointed by the media and certain lefties who felt "hoodwinked" in to the war. And the primary causus belli then articulated and adopted by Congress was that Saddam was in violation of numerous UN Resolutions relating to his agreed disarmament post PG I in 1991. He was in violation of the cease fire agreement; he was firing on our assets; we had already conducted one action called ODF in 1998 to get him to knock it off; and post 9/11, he was told to come clean and comply with the UN Resolutions and fully disarm or else.
Historically, Saddam's regime had been secular. However, he had recently taken to adding, in arabic, "God is Great" on the IRaqi flag. His intel services had met with Al Qaeda leadership in the Sudan, brokered by Khartoum's leadership (and well documented by Stephen Hayes).
And finally, he was among the biggest Sunni supporters of Arabic terrorism anywhere. He housed any number of bad guys (be they al qaeda or not), including the guy who wound up the biggest terror baddass of all running AQ in Iraq.
So, therein lies the set of rationales for attacking Iraq and deposing Iraq. Additionally, I observed that Iraq sits at the center or Arabia (Baghdad the capital of Arabia), so its strategic import cannot be doubted. Saudi Arabia is non-strategic. It is the desert, not the Levant. Only if you want to aggravate Muslims by flattening their religious sitees would you attack Saudi.
As to Afghanistan, I agree with some poster's comment that we should not abandon. But we should operate with a light footprint and try to rely on a parternship with Pakistan and militayr technology to target AQ and protect Kabul rather than going with big boots. One man's view.
We simply cannot control the territory, just like Pak can't control its tribal lands. You can't put enough people there. And we aren't willing to nuke it. Especially since the bad guys can run back and forth between Pak and Af, it's like Vietnam and VC running into Laos and Combodia.
Anon- as to the Julian Robertson transcript, of course, strictly speaking, he's right. At some point, our creditors will stop lending us money. But of course these things don't proceed in a straight line and there should be adjustment processes that take place in the market and whihc discipline us.
What Robertson doesn't observe however, is that the reaosn Chian and Japan lend us the money is so that we can continue to consume their exported goods. That, and they have no other especially attractive place to put all of the trade surplus they are generating.
Interestingly, some of them have figured out they should probably buy our productive capacity (or invest in it) as well as j ust lend us money. SO their SWF's are ramping up their investing activities in the US accordingly.
FWIW, I think we have the mother of all bubbles building in the US Treasury market. And we will elave rates too low too long (fearing deflation) and we will see a much weaker currency and inflation. And slower growth. The 70s all over again.
I think there are two reasons why we must win in Afghanistan--where I define "winning" as setting up a functioning government that's able to control its entire territory. Admittedly, this will be hard (but hard means possible), and it may very well take longer than democracies have patience for.
The two reasons have already been alluded to earlier; I summarize them here:
a) Without victory, it's a safe haven--a stronghold, even--for terrorists and those who support them (the Taliban are just one example).
b) It remains a pathway to a southern, warm-water port for the Russians. They tried once, with barbaric results for the Afghans; they'll try again.
A limited objective war effort just means keeping the grist mill grinding for American soldiers (and Afghan citizens). The last limited objective wars the US has fought were in Korea and Viet Nam. This must be fought to a total victory. Failure just leaves a free hand for the terrorists and their supporters and confirms those barbarians (rightly or wrongly; it's what they'll conclude) in US weakness, and they'll keep coming and keep killing.
It's a crummy choice really. I am still torn over which way to go on this. But as yet another individual who thought invading Iraq was the right thing to do, I am leaning to the idea of clearing out of Afghanistan. Here's why.
We do need to husband our resources. We have limited resources with which to forcefully change the world so we must use them for the most vital undertakings.
There is nothing about Afghanistan that makes it an ideal or irreplaceable sanctuary. All you really need is a country with a rural, uneducated, poor Moslem population, two fools and a Madrassa. They're like cockroaches---clean them out of one house they move to the next.
When it comes to wars my preference is fight to win or get out. It's not right to put soldiers at risk, and lose many, if we are not determined to win and willing to persevere along with them.
On the other hand, it does not speak well of our character if we take on big, expensive challenges, spend our blood and treasure, and then say I QUIT.
Also, we have asked a lot of people to trust us and they have stuck their necks out in hope that the vision we have of a more modern, democratic future for Afghanistan (even if it is generational in scale) is attainable. It also speaks poorly of our character if we walk away and let our friends be slaughtered. This includes a lot of women who we have tempted with the fruits of education and a future of greater equality. Those hopes will be crushed.
Also, it seems that at the moment, Pakistan is showing some backbone in dealing with the Taliban and cooperation between the US and Pakistan in the territories looks to be more substantial than ever. Pakistan never misses an opportunity to disappoint but for the moment the future looks less rosy for the Taliban in Pakistan and that would surely reverse if we clear out. A collapse in Pakistan could be devastating and a serious threat to us.
It's a crummy choice really.
I agree that Pakistan is one bright spot, at least right now, in an otherwise difficult climate. Yet another reason not to take the Biden course, and put troops in the NW Territories and the Waziristans.
When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Afghanistan can NOT be changed, ask the Greeks, or the British, or the Russians.
"Afghanistan can NOT be changed,"
Mountainous countries do tend to be conservative, but they do change eventually. Mobile phones, new roads, clinics, growing literacy, and contact with foreigners will all have their effect. The pressure of the modern world cannot be resisted for ever.
This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 9/25/2009, at The Unreligious Right
To Don, if I took any one lesson away from The Places in Between, Rory Stewart's book about walking from the Iranian border to Kabul, it was that many people in Afghanistan are both cognizant of much of the outside world, of cell phones, sat phones, medicine etc, but have not changed their essential social beliefs at all. It may be that their society will change with time, but I'd guess it'll be a very long time.
I think it's important to keep in mind that if the US stayed actively involved in Afghan affairs after the Soviets retreated, Taliban takeover might never had happened and Al Qaeda would never gain a stronghold there.
In early 1990-s the US was in a very good position to be a major player in Afghan affairs, to guide that country toward modernization with minimum military involvement. Unfortunately all the goodwill and influence were squandered after the US retreated into Clintons-era domestic psychodrama and abandoned Afghanistan completely. In the early 1990-s Afghanistan was practically free to the US for the taking. In early 2000-s, a great deal of American blood was shed to take control of Afghanistan again. So let's not make the same mistake and leave Afghanistan again. It might turn even more ugly.
Of course, the US military presence has to be handled wisely. Obama started all wrong. The whole thing was driven strictly by ideology. Let's not forget that Obama's ideas of 'surge' in Afghanistan generated from his campaign rhetoric against everything Bush ever did. If Bush 'surged' in Iraq, it was wrong. If Bush didn't 'surge' in Afghanistan, it was also wrong. Also, Iraq was a 'wrong war' and Afghanistan was a 'right war'. The result was an idea of taking Bush Iraq 'surge' idea and apply it in Afghanistan (because Bush was stupid, of course). Just how pathetic is that? Yet during the 2008 campaign a lot of people bought into this dangerous nonsense.
Is the following wrong?
We went into Afghanistan because bin Laden was there. If bin Laden wasn't there, we wouldn't have gone into Afghanistan. Pre 9/11, Afghanistan was a good base of operations for bin Laden. Today, it's a good hideout.
Conceivably, bin Laden could have operated from many other places pre-9/11 ... Yemen ... the jungles of Indonesian Borneo ... etc. They wouldn't have been as good a hideout post 9/11, however.
The Taliban only became relevant to us because they harbored bin Laden. None of the ragheads in the Taliban present a direct terrorist threat to the West. They're so "foreign" they couldn't get on a plane or a subway without calling attention to themselves. They care about dominating Afghanistan ... to them the US might as well be on Mars.
Mohammed Atta scares me more than bin Laden. We may see his like again ... a well-educated committed radical who can pass in the West and pull off any number of diabolical operations. Atta may have been in Afghanistan, but it was incidental. There were no flight schools in Kabul.
We have two interests in Afghanistan. 1) make sure that bin Laden and Al-Qaeda are frustrated in using Afghanistan as a base of operations, 2) prevent problems in Afghanistan from spilling over into Pakistan. If we can accomplish these objectives, do we really care about the Taliban controlling most of Afghanistan? If we try to root out Al-Qaeda completely, they'll just move somewhere else. I doubt we could root them out anyway. We couldn't capture or kill bin Laden in eight years. QED.
Someone above posted that our current mission is "to pacify the country, eliminate the Taliban and build long-lasting national institutions." This strikes me as Vietnam redux crazy. If we can achieve the limited objectives of #1 and #2 above, Afghanistan has no other strategic importance to us.
Iraq isn't another Vietnam. We can't afford to lose Iraq as it has huge strategic importance.
So why can't a smaller force and a lot of drones and other high-end technology work?
"Someone above posted that our current mission is "to pacify the country, eliminate the Taliban and build long-lasting national institutions." This strikes me as Vietnam redux crazy. If we can achieve the limited objectives of #1 and #2 above, Afghanistan has no other strategic importance to us."
You can blame Obama for that, and Bush before him. Obama laid out the mission objectives in March, but McChrystal is saying he now he doesn't have the resources required to meet the president's stated goals.
Which is exactly why we're all advocating for a change in mission definition. It's the mission that determines the resources required and hence it's that mission, which you think is "crazy", that forms the basis of Gen. McChrystal's recent report. Reducing mission scope, and therefore the US troops necessary to meet the objective, might work. Otherwise we're in trouble.
The question that remains unanswered, and this was highlighted in the Roggio link I supplied up above, is will a redefined mission mean that American security is imperiled. The military seemingly isn't certain.
"So why can't a smaller force and a lot of drones and other high-end technology work?"
Another words, What was wrong with the Bush approach exactly?
Good question to ask Obama.
We can prevent terrorist camps re-emergence in Afganistan without any 'surges'. We knew quite well where they were all through the 1990-s. Clinton knew where to direct missiles in one rare moment he decided to act. What we didn't have was a determination to kill the bastards. Now that we have that determination, with a little patience we can finish them off however long it takes.
Is this correct? Obama increased the mission scope back in March -- presumably to satisfy his campaign rhetoric about the real battle being in Afghanistan not Iraq -- but then didn't supply the greater resources that were needed? If so, it's news to me and worse than I thought. Even Olbermann and Maddow should be pissed.
I don't know that Obama increased the mission scope. The military has said, though, that the current need for greater mission resources is due to the deterioration of the internal Afghan political situation and the increased sophistication of Taliban weapons and tactics. My own guess is that it's also probably because the Taliban were tolerated in many parts of the country during the Bush administration, on the theory that there isn't much difference between the Pashtun and the Taliban and that "some" Taliban are worse than other Taliban. That's a guess, though. Email Bill Roggio and see what he says.
Gen. Petraeus, speaking at a conference last Wednesday,
"when he was asked about similarities between Afghanistan and Vietnam. "There are some similarities," said Petraeus, who noted that his doctoral dissertation at Princeton was about how the Vietnam War affected the U.S. Army's view of the use of force. "But I think the biggest lesson of Vietnam is to not be a prisoner of lessons you may have learned."
By the way, I agree with Candide's earlier comment the the US disengagement from Afpak after the Russians left, was a contributing factor to where we are today. Leaving again should be carefully thought through.
"If you have foreign policy expertise that I don't have -- it doesn't necessarily make you correct because of it."
Declaring that 'just because you're an expert doesn't mean you know what you're talking about,' when, in fact, that's exactly what it means, while comparing Ivy League academics who wouldn't know a foxhole from a shithole with a veteran who actually served during said conflict...
This is a self-serving appropriation of history and logic. You've managed to lift me up from the latter category and plop me into the former in order to explain to yourself and others why you don't have to take what I say seriously, because you don't like it.
That is not a way to get to the truth; that is just a tactic of self-deception because you don't feel like entertaining challenges to your already-conceived ideas.
The last time we trotted down this road, I didn't supply you with my 'opinion' that you are free to disregard because it is merely an opinion. I disproved your basic assumptions with facts that you apparently didn't know about concerning strategic concerns and the sale of the idea of invasion in public.
Now, you have no such excuse. Like I said, there is no point in answering further.
"try explaining that to a Gold Star mother."
I thought that false sympathy ploys and moral superiority went out of style with Mama Sheehan.
In any case, it doesn't work on me. Stick to guilting civilians.
"Personally, I believe the best explanation is the simplest ... that Bush wanted to outdo Poppy and that Cheney wanted another Cold War to fight but Russia wasn't up to it at the time ... but I'm small-minded and not a big thinker."
I don't know how someone so intelligent can believe something so stupid; that the President and VP somehow swindled the entire American foreign policy establishment, including the military, the intelligence agencies, and State, as well as foreign powers and their intelligence agencies and militaries and both Congressional and popular majorities into backing, paying for, and bleeding in some sort of misguided Oedipal quest of one-upmanship, and the fact that the US did encounter chemical weapons (including in combat), biological weapons strains, and 500-some odd tons of uranium was surely just a fortunate accident that lended hindsight credence to the blatant, irresponsible lies propagated by everyone involved to justify said quest.
From Link, response to Dawnfire,
It doesn't matter what my personal opinion is. I'm just one shithead. But I truly believe that if we were to go before a random cross section of Americans with the question "who do you agree with more" I'd beat you at least 70% to 30%. I might even win a local VFW hall or two in Texas. Do you doubt me? Half of your 30% would secretly agree with me but not want to give comfort to Obama.
This isn't a small point as the Iraq War dictated the outcome of the 2008 election. It may be relevant to the 2012 election, depending. Republicans have some real blind spots -- this is one. If Romney is the Republican nominee, this probably won't factor in 2012 -- Democrats will attack Romney on other things. But if it's Sarah Palin, the Democrats will try to morph Sarah into George at every opportunity including over Iraq, which is unfair. She could lose in 2012 because of "Sarah = George", even though she had no more involvement in the Iraq decision back in 2002 than I did ... when you couldn't find a bigger cheerleader in Congress for invading Iraq than Joe Biden. ps I'm a Sarah fan ...
Ask a typical American back in late 2002 why we were invading Iraq. Most would have said it was because Saddam was an imminent threat of using WMD in the US and "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." A lot of typical Americans even believed that Saddam was behind 9/11. This is because they were purposefully led by Bush & Co to think this. The day the invasion started Bush's addressed the nation: "And our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people." Nothing about UN resolutions. [Cardinalpark, you sounded liked a lawyer above ... could I hurl a worse insult at you?]
It does sounds like you and Cardinalpark would agree with me on the following -- that the Iraq invasion was sold to the American people as being about WMD with hints of 9/11 culpability, when the rationale was really something different. But I think we disagree on two big points:
1) Both you and Cardinalpark believe that it's OK that we invaded Iraq for reasons different than what was sold to the American people. Do you disagree?
I have an issue with America being brought into war with the public being manipulated. I'm not naive on this. I know it's gone on before and has sometimes been necessary. But the Administration involved better not deliver a "bad war", which Bush & Co did. Their publicly declared rationale for invading Iraq proved wrong -- SNL Emily Litella "never mind" wrong. Not just about WMD, but the Al Qaeda connection. Further, we won the war brilliantly, and then executed the occupation terribly -- because we didn't send enough troops after we fired the generals who told us differently. [Dawnfire: defend that!] Many Americans don't like Republicans because they think they're cold-hearted country club plutocrats -- but Republicans at least used to win points for being competent.
Sidebar on competence: I put more faith in the NYPD protecting me than our entire US defense establishment. Overstatement ... maybe? But on 9/11, NYC wasn't attacked by land or sea ... maybe the NYPD just needed its own air force. Dollar-for-dollar the NYPD has built a far better foreign intelligence operation than DC has, but we may lose it to local budget cuts. Bush & Co didn't protect us from terror -- there are no mulligans.
Understand that a lot of Americans don't want us to fight wars abroad unless absolutely necessary, ever. They can cite the original intent of our Constitution on this point just as well as I can cite it for personal economic freedoms. Reread that last sentence slowly you wannabe libertarians -- in their view, we Americans weren't put here to bleed and pay for someone else's idea of global manifest destiny in the same way I say I can say we weren't put here to fund the lifestyles of others.
Are you surprised that a lot of Americans hate finding out that they were lied to about why we went to war ... any war ... when the publicly declared reasons are proven so embarrassingly false ... and the war run so incompetently ... not just "we were surprised" McNamara in Vietnam incompetence ... but "General Shinkesi 'I told you so'" incompetence. That's why I could win in VFW halls.
2) Why did Bush & Co really invaded Iraq. Chinese menu ... we can share!
You may have a different menu and want egg roll, but I'll start with this menu. Take your pick how much you want from each category:
A) teach Islam a lesson
B) show the world how great our military is
C) gain a necessary forward base in the Middle East
D) game change the political dynamic of the Middle East
E) make AIPAC happy
F) give George W a way to outdo Poppy
A) near 0% for me ... as Bush & Co had a hard on for Iraq before 9/11. Hence Cardinalpark's major thesis is wrong ... it's a post facto rationalization.
B) meant something to Rumsfeld certainly. Rummy would have invaded Iraq with a division of paratroopers if we'd have let him. Rumsfeld rolled over Gen. Eric Shinseki and his estimate that several hundred thousand troops would be needed as “wildly off the mark.” Bush & Co knew they couldn't sell a budget for a big invasion. So we won the war brilliantly and then lost the occupation, until McCain led the charge for the surge. Everyone feared the US in 2003, but now many think we're over-extended abroad and divided at home. Admirably, Rummy wanted to remake the military for the 21st century. He failed totally -- and got the complete opposite of what he hoped to achieve. Worst US bureaucrat this century? -- tops my list. Defense Secretary most hated by the military? ... your call Dawnfire.
C) a desirable outcome obviously. But at what cost, and what were the alternatives. Kuwait? Bribe the Turks?
D) the smart answer for some foreign policy wonks. But does this still look smart with what's going on in Iran. You guys tell me. As an amateur, all I know is that for 20 years we wanted Iraq to be a counter to Iran. Many conservatives thought invading Iraq in 2003 would backfire -- including Poppy and Brent Scowcroft. Many cited reaction from Iran ... and the problems of occupying an ethnically conflicted country (note: Germany and Japan -- ironically -- didn't present this problem). Shit, even I knew that Shia and Shiite didn't get along.
E) who knows. It's above my pay grade to assess who Wolfowitz was really working for. You guys tell me how much (D) was really (E).
F) Dawnfire, you say W's need to outdo Poppy didn't factor at all. But then why the flight deck landing and "Mission Accomplished." If W never had his "Mission Accomplished" moment, historians would have inferred the Oedipal thing. But W made it blindingly clear. It's a damning indictment. I don't know why true Conservatives defend W, because of this.
The war resolution was timed to the run-up to the 2002 elections ... most Democrats had no balls ...neither did MSM. Given post 9/11 hysteria, Bush & Co rolled them all. The intelligence community was stovepiped. Our federal government failed us at every level.
So to recap, I bet I could get 70% of Americans to agree to the following ...
While I wouldn't quite phrase it this way, I'd even use your words ..." the President and VP somehow swindled the entire American foreign policy establishment, including the military, the intelligence agencies, and State, as well as foreign powers and their intelligence agencies and militaries and both Congressional and popular majorities into backing, paying for, and bleeding in some sort of misguided Oedipal quest of one-upmanship"
"We had to invade Iraq even though our leaders knew that (1) Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and (2) whatever WMD they had was never close to being a threat to the US ... because (take your pick)
(A) "we had to go to the heart of Arabia and insure Islamism suffered a defeat there", by invading a secular country that we knew had nothing to do with 9/11 -- even though we lied to you different
(B) Rummy wanted to kick ass
(C) we needed a base to keep gas prices cheap
(D) we needed to be the first country to invade another country to impose democracy
(E) Israel told us to
(F) W has daddy issues.
I ask you ... knowing what you know now would you still have wanted us to invade Iraq?
"knowing what you know now would you still have wanted us to invade Iraq?"
Bad question. The answer is that it has been an unqualified success, even if Bush has never clearly articulated why we went in. So, even for those of us who agree with you Link that the war was started for unarticulated reasons, the end game has been very successful for America.
Just getting Libya to drop their nuclear weapons effort was good enough, as a benefit, but the geopolitics of the region have changed considerably to our benefit as a result of being there. Support for al Qaeda throughout the Muslim world has declined substantially. Pressure on Iran is only possible because we control Iraqi airspace. Our ability to influence all the countries of the region seems to me obviously greater, and signifcantly so, because of our presence there. The proof of the pudding is the decline in active support of Palestinian terror (and huge decline in that terror) among all the Sunni states that has occurred while we have been in Iraq.
I was not a supporter of the invasion, mostly because I couldn't understand the strategic rationale and because I worried about the impact of the war's expansion on domestic politics, but in foreign policy terms I don't see how you cannot describe it as anything but an enormous success.