Monday, November 14, 2005

Strategic overview: Annotating and updating Den Beste 

More than two years ago, blogging great Steven Den Beste (now (perhaps) returned from retirement!) published a widely-linked "strategic overview" of the war on Islamic fascism, including (in Den Beste's conception) the invasion of Iraq. Den Beste's strategic overview was an extremely useful outline of the strategic issues identified by supporters of the Bush administration's policies, and it has in many respects stood the test of time. It runs more than twenty pages, but even at that length you are unlikely to read a more concise summary of America's strategic challenge circa 2003.

However, a lot has happened since the spring of 2003. Whatever might be said about the success of the war in Iraq compared to the standard of history, it has been at best a qualified success -- and many opponents of the war call it an unqualified failure, or worse -- compared to the standard set by its most optimistic advocates in early 2003. So where do we stand? Now that Den Beste has returned to blogging, perhaps he will be updating his own overview. However, since I thought my own thinking would benefit from the exercise, it is with great humility that I undertake to annotate and update Den Beste myself. The object of this post, then, is to organize my thinking about the war in light of what we knew then and what we now know. You guys are along for the ride. Do not expect spit and polish, but do not hesitate to dispatch your (constructive) arguments, additions and subtractions into the comments. In all likelihood, I will update this outline in the future, or use it as the basis for other work.

I have reproduced Den Beste's original post with the original links in italics below, with my additions, deletions and corrections in regular text or reflected as such in Den Beste's. Please excuse my formatting, which tends to be as aesthetically displeasing as everything else about this blog.

The purpose of this document is to provide a high level strategic view of the cause of the war, the reason that the United States became involved in it, the fundamental goals the US has to achieve to win it, and the strategies the US is following, as well as an evaluation of the situation as of July, 2003. Most of what is here has been explored in far greater detail in numerous posts made on USS Clueless (http://denbeste.nu). [It was adapted from this entry.]

[20030913: I have been making ongoing revisions to this document. I've been adding links to supporting information, and rewriting some sections which were misunderstood, whether accidentally or deliberately.]

  • Defining the war

  • Den Beste's original outline to some degree assumed the definition of "the war," which is itself a profoundly controversial question. The Bush administration and its allies settled on declaring war on "terrorism," which is actually a tactic rather than an enemy. This had a certain expediency, in that it avoided naming the enemy too specifically -- "al Qaeda" does not exactly issue identity cards -- or naming it too generally -- Muslims with certain political views and an inclination toward acting on them. The "war on terror" idiom makes it much more difficult, however, to explain links between various actions taken in furtherance of the war -- invading Iraq, for instance -- and the publicly stated war aims. Meanwhile, opponents of the Iraq war declare with great stridency that it has "nothing to do with the war on terror" (or at least they used to say this, before al Qaeda decided to make a stand in the Sunni Triangle). These declarations, though, are almost always made by people who seek to discredit either the Iraq war or the Bush administration. It is the rare supporter of the war that makes such a distinction. (Unlike many supporters of the invasion of Iraq, I believed that ex ante the invasion was justified and even necessary without taking into account al Qaeda, but history has revealed the weakness in that argument for the war.) In any case, more than four years after September 11, the Bush administration finally defined the enemy as something more than the practitioners of the methods of terrorism.

    Regardless of the claims of those who believe that Iraq has nothing to do with the broader war, it is clear that the actual participants think otherwise. My own view is that it is a front in the broader war voluntarily opened by the United States. Whether the decision to open this front turns out to have been wise or foolhardy remains to be seen, although I remain an optimist.

    So how to define "the war"? The definition of the war is inextricably bound up in its "root" and "proximate" causes (see below). As we shall see, the war is primarily a struggle within Islam between Islamic extremists and those they call apostates. The extremists want to dispose of apostate regimes and replace them with a pan-Islamic Caliphate that runs according to their interpretation of Islamic law. That Caliphate, in the doctrine of al Qaeda and in the imagination of its soldiers, will extend to the outermost boundaries of historical Muslim rule, including the Iberian peninsula, southern France, and the Balkans to the suburbs of Vienna. Israel, the United States, other Western powers, India, Russia and the Muslim "apostate regimes" -- which include any government that does not meet the exacting standards of the Taliban -- block the way and must be eliminated or contained (eliminated in the case of Israel and the apostate regimes, and contained in the case of the non-Muslim powers outside the Muslim core).

    The war, therefore, is against the ideological insurgency within Islam that pursues these objectives, and anybody who gives it aid, shelter or comfort.

  • What is the root cause of the war?

  • Den Beste developed the "root cause" of the war below, without the advantage of knowing much of what we know today about al Qaeda's development and ideology. Den Beste's analysis remains true as far as it goes, but at the end of this outline section I explore the connection between the social and economic factors identified by Den Beste and the ideological roots of al Qaeda. I also identify the "proximate causes" of the war, which are as or more important to understand if we are to evaluate American strategy and tactics.

    1. Collective failure of the nations and people in a large area which is predominately Arab and/or Islamic.

      1. Economically the only contribution they make is by selling natural resources which are available to them solely through luck.

      2. They make no significant contribution to international science or engineering.

      3. They make little or no cultural contribution to the world. Few seek out their poetry, their writing, their movies or music. The most famous Muslim writer of fiction in the world is under a fatwa death sentence now and lives in exile in Europe.

      4. Their only diplomatic relevance is due to their oil.

      5. They are not respected by the world, or by themselves.

      6. None of this has anything to do with historical Arab culture at its height, which was rich, powerful, and very impressive. It produced great literature and poetry, great science, and amazing architecture. It adopted and regularized place-value numbering, developed arithmetic and invented algebra. But that all largely ended several hundred years ago. All of the discussion above refers to the current culture of the region, and the people living there now.

    2. Since this is a "face" culture, shame about this this has led to rising but unfocused discontent, anger and resentment.

      1. A 2001 survey of Arab teenagers found that about half of them wanted to emigrate.

      2. People in a face culture are not comforted by the accomplishments of their ancestors if they themselves have none. Others in the world don't respect a people because of what was done by their ancestors. Thus the monumental accomplishments of Arab civilization at its height are not material to any analysis of the current situation.

    3. Some governments in the region have tried to focus it elsewhere so as to deflect it away from themselves. (The "Zionist Entity" is a favorite target.)

      1. There's good reason to believe that the Saudis have actually made deals with al Qaeda and other dissidents. It's been alleged that there was an explicit deal with al Qaeda that if it made no attacks in Saudi Arabia itself, in exchange the Saudi government would not interfere with its fund-raising in Saudi Arabia. [This is an important point. Saudi Arabia did not join the war on al Qaeda in a meaningful way until the invasion of Iraq. Since the spring of 2003, when Den Beste first published his overview, the Saudis and al Qaeda have been rather openly at war.]

      2. The Saudi government has been involved in a devil's deal with Wahabbist extremists for decades, letting them have full control over roving bands of thugs armed with canes who would beat women wearing "indecent" clothing or walking without male relatives, or anyone at all who acted in any way that the extremists thought violated their interpretation of proper behavior. The Wahhabists have also been given vast amounts of money (billions of dollars) to support their efforts to export their version of Islam around the world, both to Islamic and non-Islamic nations. In exchange for this, the Wahhabists have turned a blind eye to the decadence (and sins) of the members of the Saudi royal family and have not agitated for revolution against them.

      3. All the nations in the region demonize Israel. Their schoolbooks are loaded with propaganda against the Jews, many of which repeat historical lies and slanders.

      4. This amounts to a culture-wide addiction to "the cult of victimhood".

    4. Ambitious leaders of various kinds of tried to use it for their own purposes.

      1. Khomeinei and the Taliban used it to support revolutions respectively in Iran and Afghanistan.

      2. Saddam used it to gain support for creation of a united pan-Arab empire ruled from Baghdad.

      3. Den Beste explored the "root cause" of the war without explicitly drawing the connection between this sense of collective failure and the emergence of Islamic jihad. There are lots of cultures that have massively underperformed their potential -- sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, to name two -- and they have not responded with jihad or its equivalent. So how did this "root cause" give rise to the proximate cause, which is a minority of Muslims at war with their majority and the West? There were three influences that came together uniquely in the Muslim world during the last 70 years.

      4. Al Qaeda's ideology, which is set forth in tens of thousands of pages of argument on the web, is the descendant, after many twists and turns, of arguments first made by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood in the 1930s.
        The big problem, as they understood it, was that Egyptian society had been cut loose from its Islamic moorings. Their naïve view was to put jihad at the center of Muslim life and drive the British out. They thought that once the British were gone society would naturally revert to Islam. They were wrong. Why? According to al Qaeda, the villain was Gamel Abdel-Nasser, the secular Arab nationalist who dominated Egypt during the first half of the Cold War. “In the eyes of the jihadis, Nasser is the devil of all devils. He was a popular, nationalist leader who enjoyed legitimacy at home,” and he “continued the process of westernization that began under the colonialists.”

        The Egyptian Islamist, Sayed Qutb, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, began to think about this problem – how is it that Egypt is ruled by an Egyptian, yet Islam in its original form has not returned?

        Qutb developed a set of doctrines that called for carrying out revolution at home, first. “Only by controlling the state and all of its power can [we] put true Islam back to the center of social and political life.”
        There is much more on al Qaeda's deep philosophical roots here.

      5. Saudi Wahhabism, which has emerged as a political force inside of Islam with the rising wealth of the House of Saud, devotes a great deal of energy to worrying about who is and is not an apostate.

      6. These two forces came together in Afghanistan during the 1980s, and a new synthesis emerged: an ideology that required that Islam control the state and all its power, and that it clearly define that state within the strict requirements of Wahhabism. Anything less would be apostasy.

    5. What is the "proximate cause" of the war? The rise of al Qaeda.

      1. During the 1980s, the United States rallied the Muslim world to support the Afghanis in their war against the Soviet Union. (Read, for example, Charlie Wilson's War, which describes the intersection of American and Saudi interests in this struggle). Saudi money, American arms, and Muslims willing to fight and die for Islam converged in Afghanistan.

      2. The Soviets left Afghanistan in defeat. The various victors drew different lessons. The Americans believed that their arms and international pressure took down the Soviet Union. The mujahideen believed that they had defeated the stronger of the two superpowers in armed struggle.

      3. All these factors -- the new synthesis in radical Muslim ideology, the myths and realities of the victory over the Soviets, and the fact of thousands of battle-hardened jihadis -- came together in Afghanistan in the early 1990s. Al Qaeda, which means "the base" in Arabic, emerged with the objective of laying the base for, and ultimately establishing, a pan-Islamic Caliphate governed in accordance with the principles of its host regime and overlapping ally, the Taliban. This is the origin of our enemy in this war.

    6. Why is the US fighting the war? Why were we attacked?

    7. Below, Den Beste identifies a true but incomplete list of reasons to explain "why [we were] attacked." Den Beste's reasons all explain why Islamist radicals might be motivated to attack us, but they do not clearly explain why al Qaeda considered it strategically propitious to do so. This is a subtly different but crucial question that I will attempt to answer below.

      1. American success casts Arab/Islamic failure in sharp contrast. Politically, economically, militarily, technologically and culturally we set the standard and our accomplishments make their failure look particularly bad.

      2. America is the largest and most important supporter of Israel. Arab leaders have used Israel as a scapegoat for their own failure, and part of that is to blame us since we refuse to abandon Israel. They have provided enough support to the Palestinians to keep the struggle going, so that their own people have someone outside to hate, which is why Israel is top of their shitlist. But that also causes them to hate us for our support of Israel.

      3. America is secular. Islamic religious zealots have been preaching that much of Arab/Islamic failure happens because Muslims have not been sufficiently devout. Allah has not been fighting on their side because they were sinners who have turned away from the teachings of the Prophet and a true virtuous life. The zealots claimed that only by embracing extreme forms of Islam could they again gain Allah's favor and begin to succeed. But the US government and the American people do not follow those teachings, and America is a success. At the same time, in the nations where the extremists took power things got even worse. American success is heresy. In religious terms the only explanation for that is that America is in league with Satan, and Khomeinei said as much.

      4. American culture and American ideas are very popular with many of the people who live in the Arab/Islamic belt in question, particularly among their young people. This is viewed with alarm by traditionalists of all kinds. Their own people were being seduced away from their traditional culture and extreme religious practices.

      5. America has earned a reputation in much of the world as being rich, well-armed, but also cowardly; full of bluster but having no guts. Such events as our defeat in Viet Nam, our experiences in Beirut and Somalia, our half-hearted and largely ineffectual responses to the attacks against us in the 1980's and 1990's, and many other episodes contributed to the impression that we would not fight back if attacked, and that there was little risk in in attacking us, whether rhetorically or even violently.

      6. America is the "top dog" in the world right now, and there was prestige associated with attempting to take down the "top dog".

      As I noted above, Den Beste's outline well explains why radical Islamists might be motivated to attack the United States, up to and including deriving rapturous release from dying in the effort. However, Den Beste's reasons -- that our success casts Arab/Islamic failure in sharp relief, that the United States is the most important supporter of Israel, that America is secular, that they are alarmed by the infectious appeal of our decadent ways, and that we were perceived as easy to scare off in the wake of Afghanistan, Beirut, and al Qaeda's extra-territorial attacks during the Clinton years -- do not explain why al Qaeda considered it advantageous to do so.

      The answer can perhaps be found in al Qaeda's own doctrine, which American scholars increasingly understand. According to Princeton's Michael Scott Doran (now on the National Security Council), al Qaeda's strategy is to "vex and exhaust" the apostate Muslim regimes and the United States, their principal sponsor:
      So where does the war stand now, according to al Qaeda? A leading al Qaeda operative has written a book, the title of which translates loosely to “The Management of Chaos.” According to al Qaeda, the current stage of revolution is the stage of “vexation and exhaustion” of the enemy. They have a notion of how to do this to the Americans and to their 'puppets'.

      You vex and exhaust the Americans, according to al Qaeda, by making them spend a lot of money. The United States is a materialist society, and if forced to spend too much money it will “cut and run.”

      The means to this end is to force the Americans to spread themselves thinly. Al Qaeda wants to strike everywhere, not just spectacular high value attacks. This will cause the Americans to defend a lot of places at high cost.

      This may explain the relatively low yield of the London attacks, the subsequent threats in New York and elsewhere, and so forth. Still, one is almost forced to wonder why there have not been more low grade attacks, the better to vex and exhaust the United States. More notes from Doran's lecture:
      In addition, al Qaeda wants to force Americans to carry the war into the heartland of the Middle East. There are two reasons why al Qaeda sought an American invasion in the Middle East. First, it will be very costly for the United States and will therefore drain our treasury. Second, bringing the war to the heartland will have a polarizing effect within Muslim society. Doran believes that they borrowed this “polarization” idea from Palestinian organizations of the 60s and 70s. Americans striking back “without precision” will polarize Muslim society between supporters and proponents of jihad.

      It is not necessary, according to al Qaeda, that they get the great masses on their side. The goal is to win over “an important segment of the youth.” Their propaganda is directed to young men. One of their propagandists says that “if we can win over only 5% of one billion Muslims, we will have an unbeatable army.”

      Al Qaeda also aims to "vex and exhaust" the local rulers. They start with the assumption that the social stratum in most of these countries is extremely thin. The number of well-trained troops in these countries who will remain loyal to the regime is small. The goal of the violence is to spread these loyal, competent troops thinly. Again, al Qaeda hopes therefore to strike dispersed soft targets with sufficient economic or political significance that they must be defended by the few competent soldiers loyal to the regime. They have targeted the foreign compounds in Saudi Arabia, for example. Once you have done this, then “space opens up in society where the jihadis can dominate.” The leadership in the country has to start making distinctions in their society about places that are and are not worth guarding. There are then, by the decision of the regime, places where the radicals can operate unmolested.

      So, al Qaeda's strategy was to "vex and exhaust" the United States and drive it from the region, and then do likewise with the apostate regimes, thus laying "the base" for the rise of the pan-Muslim Caliphate. Bin Laden in particularly was supremely confident that the United States would run easily, and that a couple of mass casualty attacks would drive the United States from the region, leaving them free to attack apostate regimes and then, finally, Israel.

    8. Possible responses, small and large

      1. Some advocated appeasement: reduce our military spending, massively increase foreign aid, stop supporting Israel and throw it to the wolves, and apologize, apologize, apologize. [Apart from a very few unreconstructed blame-America-firsters on the hard left, I do not recall that appeasement was very popular in the fall of 2001. Readers are invited to supply examples I may have missed.]

        1. Historically, appeasement doesn't work.

        2. Those proposing this generally hold strongly leftist, post-nationalist political positions and assumed that since the terrorists evidently hated the US as much as the leftists do, that they must hate the US for the same grounds. But there's no reason to assume that al Qaeda or the other terrorist organizations that imperil us have any sympathy with what Fonte calls transnational progressivism, or that they would cease making plans for attacks against us if the US ratified the Kyoto accord or the ICC treaty.

        3. This approach claimed that poverty and American foreign policy missteps in particular were the proximate cause of Arab/Islamic anger directed at the US. But there's no reason to believe that this is true.

          1. al Qaeda's original political statement regarding the US did not include any such claims. (Later statements sometimes did at least touch on such things because al Qaeda was trying to gain support from leftists in Europe.)

          2. Most of the terrorists who carried out the attack on 9/11 came from prosperous families. None of them came from impoverished backgrounds.

          3. There doesn't seem to be any difference in the degree of hostility expressed towards the West in Arab nations which are relatively prosperous (e.g. Saudi Arabia) and those which are less well off (e.g. Syria).

          4. Arab and Islamic hostility towards the US even in nations relatively unaffected by American foreign policy is far greater than in nations which have suffered far more at our hands, such as Viet Nam (which has been trying for years to reestablish normal diplomatic and commercial relations).

          The argument that poverty per se is ever a root cause of terrorism is discredited by the affluence of al Qaeda's leading lights. But the incompetence of Arab societies that leads to poverty is a root cause, even if insufficient by itself.

        4. If the true root cause was anger and resentment caused by Arab shame at lack of Arab accomplishment, massively increased aid would not help. You do not make a man proud by giving him charity. [Even if the root cause is less anger and resentment caused by Arab shame than ideological resistance to Western influence (al Qaeda's explanation), big piles of aid always come with strings, and that would be seen as furthering Western support for the apostate regimes, rather than diminishing it. So even if the "anger and resentment" of the average Arab might diminish with more aid -- and I'm with Den Beste in believing that it would not -- al Qaeda and its supporters would view such aid as more of the same "Crusader state" colonialism.]

        5. Irrespective of any other arguments against this approach, it wasn't politically possible in the US. The vast majority of Americans (especially America's Jacksonians) were in no mood to accept such a solution. The domestic reaction to those who advocated this solution was nearly uniformly hostile.

      2. The microscopic solution was to respond "proportionally" with a token counter-attack, and then deal with the situation as one of international law enforcement, by attempting to find and arrest those who were implicated in the plot so as to put them on trial for it after extradition.

        1. That's what we tried to do in the 1980's and 1990's, and it failed. Bin Laden was already under indictment for previous attacks against us, and all diplomatic efforts to gain control of his person for trial over a period of several years had failed.

        2. This policy in the 1980's and 1990's was part of what established our reputation in the Arab world as being cowardly.

        3. Doing this after an attack as devastating as the one on 9/11 would have further reinforced our reputation for cowardice. It would have raised the reputation of all terrorist groups by showing that terrorism was a valid (and successful!) way of striking back.

        4. Such a response would have encouraged further attacks against us which potentially might have been far more devastating, if the terrorists had
          managed to gain access to some sort of extreme weapon.
          [I do not agree with this last point. A weak response to 9/11 surely would have raised the prestige of the jihadis among non-jihadis, but it would not have "encouraged further attacks," except insofar as a weak response would have, by definition, not degraded al Qaeda's military capability as profoundly as a strong response Al Qaeda had already declared war, and was not going to relent under any circumstances.]

        The "law enforcement" reponse is necessary to deal with al Qaeda, and it has been deployed to great effect in the last four years. The question is whether it is sufficient. Doves argue that the belligerant American response increases anti-Americanism and decreases the "soft power" necessary to secure cooperation. Hawks argue that we most need the cooperation of the authorities in Muslim countries. These governments are often subject to enormous internal pressure from Islamists, and fear them more than the United States. Hawks, therefore, argue that we needed to go to war in order to secure the cooperation of Muslim governments.

      3. The small solution was to assume that al Qaeda was the entire problem, and to eradicate al Qaeda and all others who could be shown to be directly involved in the attack in September of 2001.

        1. If we had concentrated exclusively on al Qaeda it would have left intact other similar movements, equally dangerous but not directly implicated in the attack against us. Al Qaeda launched the attack against us but were not the only ones who had the ability or will to do so, and other groups had been and had every intention of continuing to launch such attacks against other targets (e.g. Bali, Israel, the Philippines, Kashmir). [We now know that there really is no such thing as attacking al Qaeda in the abstract. Al Qaeda is, by design, a network that is fundamentally decentralized. If we smash one part of the network, the network routes around the damage. Al Qaeda is able to accomplish this by disseminating a broad ideology and strategic objectives on the web for anybody to see. Subscribers to the ideology who have received training from more sophisticated "members" can then carry out attacks that were not explicitly authorized by the central hierarchy.]

        2. This would have been a case of treating the symptom, not the disease. It would have left the deep discontent and frustration of the "Arab Street" intact, as fertile ground for the next demagogue to come along wishing the plant the seeds of jihad against the West.

          [I think that this is true, but misses the point. The "seeds" of jihad were planted half a generation ago. Al Qaeda's virus is into the planet's system (the "disease"), but in a much more fundamental sense than Den Beste implies. The tiny fraction of the Muslim world necessary to support al Qaeda's operations are not motivated by amorphous discontent, but a transcending and well disseminated ideology. The enemy is no longer dependant on a "demagogue," so it is not worth worrying about the "next demagogue." The movement is sustained by an ideology, and it will continue to be so until that ideology is as thoroughly discredited as communism eventually was. For this reason, one of the best measures of strategic progress in this war has been the rising willingness of ordinary Arabs to denounce jihad, both in the abstract and by cooperating with the counterinsurgency.]

      4. The large solution is to reform the Arab/Muslim world. This is the path we have chosen.

        1. The true root cause of the war is their failure and their resentment and frustration and shame caused by that failure.

        2. They fail because they are crippled by political, cultural and religious chains which their extremists refuse to give up. The real causes of their failure is well described by Ralph Peters. Most of the Arab nations suffer from all seven of his critical handicaps, and the goal of reform is to correct all seven, as far as possible.

        3. If their governments can be reformed, and their people freed of the chains which bind them and cripple them, they will begin to achieve, and to become proud of their accomplishments. This will reduce and eventually eliminate their resentment.

        4. Their governments would then cease needing scapegoats. [This claim I'm not so sure about. All governments need scapegoats, even our own. The difference is that the scapegoats in transparent societies can defend themselves and argue the contrary position, and even those who will not defend the scapegoats will argue openly that the government is trying to distract the people via scapegoating. Democratic Arab countries will still demonize Israel and the United States -- if there are votes to be won doing that in Europe, you can bet it will happen in democratic Arab societies -- but there will be many people who will cry "bullshit" when it happens.]

        5. Their extremists would no longer have fertile ground for recruitment.

        6. This is a huge undertaking; it will require decades because it won't really be complete until there's a generational turnover. But ultimately it is the only way to really eliminate the danger to us without using the "foot-and-mouth" solution (which is to say, nuclear genocide). [This is too conclusory for my comfort. Even if Den Beste is correct that reform of the Arab/Muslim world is the only way to eliminate it is a threat, he does not consider two alternatives. The first is retreat -- we could abandon all support for apostate Arab and Muslim regimes, withdraw all troops and aid, and support the elimination of Israel. That would require that we consign more than a billion people to repression and darkness and countenance other horrors, but it would get al Qaeda off our case. At least if we take them at face value. The second is containment at greater remove, plus deterrance. We could simply ban the entry of Arab Muslims into the West, and threaten them with annhilation if there is ever a mass casualty attack in the West. Of course, neither of these solutions is particularly attractive, and neither is an acceptable answer given our other geopolitical requirements.]

        7. The primary purpose of reform is to liberate individual Arabs. This is a humanist reform, but it isn't a Christian reform. There will be no attempt to eradicate Islam as a religion. Rather, Islamism as a political movement, and as a body of law, and as a form of government must be eliminated, leaving Islam as a religion largely untouched except to the extent that it will be forced to be tolerant. The conceptual model for this is what we did in Japan after WWII, where only those cultural elements which were dangerous to us were eliminated, leaving behind a nation which was less aggressive, but still Japanese. No attempt was made to make Japan a clone of the US, and no such attempt will be made with the Arabs. [The differences between the Arab lands and Japan are profound. Japan was utterly vanquished and subjugated. We have not inflicted any Muslim country with a comparable defeat. As a result, the Arabs are not yet enthusiastically embracing our solution. Also, we had little continuing need for Japan's senior leadership, because it had been the enemy. We do have a continuing, if ephemeral, need for Arab governments, even their silly kings and fascist dictators, because our direct enemy is an insurgency within Islam that has dragged us into a fight that only can be won by Arab Muslims. We need Arab leaders to a far greater extent than we needed Japanese leaders. This gives Arab leaders, even those we might detest, leverage. Look no further than our extended negotiations (by force and otherwise) inside Iraq to see how we wrestle with this problem every day.]

        8. We need to give ordinary Muslims a reason to join the fight against the jihadis, and that requires an ideology that can compete with radical Islamism. Monarchy, fascism, and communism have all been discredited, and moderate Islam -- whatever that may mean -- does not seem robust enough to serve the purpose. Popular sovereignty may, though, stand a chance. Read my "realist" case for the democratization strategy here.

      5. Short term strategy in response to the 9/11 attacks

        1. al Qaeda had to be eliminated, or at least drastically crippled.

        2. In order to reduce the immediate hazard, we had to change the perception that we were cowards who could be attacked with impunity. In the short term, it was not possible for us to make the "Arab Street" love us, but we could convert its contempt into fear. Though not ideal, that had the dual merit of being feasible and effective. (Respect and friendship ideally would come later, as it did with Japan.) [However relevant the "Arab street," the perception of the front line "apostate regimes," particularly Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, was more critical. Neither the House of Saud no Pervez Musharref were going to lift a finger against their own Islamists unless they knew that the United States was committed. Only boots on the ground would suffice to prove American commitment after more than thirty years of geopolitical cowardice.]

        3. The international web of finance which supported the terrorist groups was vulnerable; their resources needed to be trimmed as much as possible to reduce their ability to operate against us. [Again, this required a commitment to the Saudis.]

        4. The purpose of all of this was to give us breathing room, to stabilize the situation for a few years so that we could carry out longer-term and more effective strategies. It was not, however, sufficient on its own.

      6. Stage 1: Afghanistan

        1. al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan, politically protected by the Taliban. It had operated there with impunity for years. The majority of its membership was organized into relatively normal military formations which had been fighting on behalf of the Taliban in the ongoing Afghan civil war. It also had training bases for terrorists, and most of the leadership of al Qaeda was located there, beyond the reach of international law enforcement. [See Stephen Coll's Ghost Wars, the most accessible analysis of the rise of al Qaeda in the years preceeding 9/11.]

        2. Even after the 9/11 attack, the Taliban refused to cooperate, and continued to protect al Qaeda. We now know that this is because al Qaeda controlled the Taliban. Omar was the nominal head of government but bin Laden pulled the strings.

        3. Thus the Afghan war, fought by us mainly with air strikes, special forces and bribery.

        4. The goal was to drastically reduce al Qaeda's ability to use Afghanistan as a base of operations and eliminate the government that had been protecting it.

        5. Elimination of the Taliban would be an object lesson for other governments who had been protecting terrorist organizations.

        6. "Nation building" in Afghanistan was not an essential part of the operation there, except to the extent needed to make sure that Afghanistan did not again become a large al Qaeda stronghold in the short run (3-5 years). Any "nation building" beyond that was inspired by humanitarian impulses, but did not further any strategic goals. [As it turns out, we are most of the way through Den Beste's 3-5 year horizon, and we still need to "nation-build" in Afghanistan to interdict the return of al Qaeda. Den Beste was correct about our purpose in nation-building -- interdiction -- but wrong on the necessary duration. I expect that we will need to interdict Afghanistan for 15 years, rather than 3-5.]

      7. Stage 2: Iraq

        1. Goal of Stage 2: we had to conquer one of the big antagonistic Arab nations and take control of it.

          1. To directly reduce support for terrorist groups by eliminating one government which had been providing such support. [Whatever the links between Saddam and the Islamists, they were tentative. Saddam did support terrorists, but primarily those aimed at Israel. However, once the United States was on the offensive against al Qaeda, it is foolish to suppose that such an implacable enemy as Saddam would not have supported them, and vice versa. If the far more rational government in Tehran is crossing the Shia-Sunni divide to treat with al Qaeda, it is very likely that Saddam would have had we not turned our attention to Iraq so quickly after the elimination of the Taliban.]

          2. To place us in a physical and logistical position to be able to apply
            substantial pressure on the rest of the major governments of the region.

            1. To force them to stop protecting and supporting terrorist groups

            2. To force them to begin implementing political and social reforms

            3. To prove to them that the United States was absolutely committed to fighting al Qaeda, we needed to put ourselves in a position from which we could not retreat in defeat.

          3. To convince the governments and other leaders of the region that it was no longer fashionable to blame us for their failure, so that they would stop using us as scapegoats.

          4. To make clear to everyone in the world that reform is coming, whether they like it or not, and that the old policy of stability-for-the-sake-of-stability is dead. To make clear to local leaders that they may only choose between reforming voluntarily or having reform forced on them.

          5. To make a significant long term change in the psychology of the "Arab Street"

            1. To prove to the "Arab Street" that we were willing to fight, and that our reputation for cowardice was undeserved.

            2. To prove that we are extraordinarily dangerous when we do fight, and that it is extremely unwise to provoke us.

            3. To defeat the spirit of the "Arab Street". To force them to face their own failure, so that they would become willing to consider the idea that reform could lead them to success. No one can solve a problem until they acknowledge that they have a problem, and until now the "Arab Street" has been hiding from theirs, in part aided by government propaganda eager to blame others elsewhere (especially the Jews).

          6. To "nation build". After making the "Arab Street" truly face its own failure, to show the "Arab Street" a better way by creating a secularized, liberated, cosmopolitan society in a core Arab nation. To create a place where Arabs were free, safe, unafraid, happy and successful. To show that this could be done without dictators or monarchs. (I've been referring to this as being the pilot project for "Arab Civilization 2.0".)

          7. Not confirmed: It may have been hoped that the conquered nation would serve as a honey-pot to attract militants from the region, causing them to fight against our troops instead of planning attacks against civilians. (This was described by David Warren as the "flypaper strategy".) It seems to have worked out that way, but it's not known if this was a deliberate part of the plan. [If it were deliberate, then the Bush administration botched it horribly. The poor preparation for a counterinsurgency after the end of major military operations seems to suggest that the "flypaper strategy" was no strategy at all, but an unforseen consequence. I depart from more dovish observers, though, in my view that it may be a fortuitous, even if bloody, unforseen consequence.] Many of the defenders who died in the war were not actually Iraqis. [Readers will recognize this as the "foreign fighter" controversy, and it still rages today because one's perception of the extent of foreign fighter intervention seems directly related to the political argument over American withdrawal. If the insurgency is essentially nationalistic, then the American presence probably exacerbates it. If, however, we have drawn al Qaeda into a strategic battle (even if by accident), then we would be tragically foolish to withdraw and hand al qaeda a victory even if our presence is otherwise feeding the nationalistic elements of the insurgency. My own view is that we are some distance from defeating the Sunni nationalists but that the Shia and the Kurds, acting through the government, will be able to contain it within the next few years. Al Qaeda, though, is on the run in Iraq. We have a chance to humiliate it if we chase it from the region. We must not let that chance slip by.]

        2. Neither Afghanistan nor Iran would serve the political goals. The conquered nation had to be one generally thought of as being Arab.

          1. The human and cultural material we needed for reform did not exist in Afghanistan.

          2. The "Arab Street" would not have been impressed by successful reform in Afghanistan or in Persian Iran.

        3. Why Iraq?

          1. Already a problem

            1. The existing sanctions process against Iraq (including patrols over the "no fly" zones) was a failure and was unsustainable. One way or another the status quo was going to end soon. Lifting the sanctions and ceasing to enforce the "no fly" zones without removing Saddam from power was too risky. [This is a critical point of divergence between thoughtful opponents of the war and its supporters. Both groups agree (especially now that we know Saddam's WMD programs had probably not revived, notwithstanding his best efforts) that containment was "working." Doves believe that this fact was reason enough to oppose the invasion. Hawks (including me) are convinced that containment was collapsing. The French had abandoned it in 1996, and together with the Russians, international NGOs, and Iraq's other allies and beneficiaries were campaigning for containment (including sanctions and the no-fly zones) to be removed entirely. The Saudis were under great pressure to remove American soldiers from Arabia. For us, the counterfactual question was and is the most troubling: what would the world look like with Saddam, Usay and Qusay uncontained?]

            2. Saddam represented a substantial long-term threat. He had demonstrated utter ruthlessness and viciousness in two external wars and uncountable internal repressions. He showed no sign of abandoning his ambition to develop nuclear weapons irrespective of how long it might take or how much it might cost or what political sacrifice might be required. [One day, we would have had to invade Iraq, even if we were not at war with al Qaeda. Because Saddam had demonstrated through prior irrational decisions that he was not deterrable, he had to be contained. Unfortunately, containment was collapsing (see above, and Kenneth Pollack, The Threatening Storm, which pretty much proves the case). Since we know that Saddam would try again to develop or buy nuclear weapons (having tried at least twice before 2003) and we now know that A.Q. Khan would have readily sold him the technology had the heat come off, we would have had to deal with Saddam when and if containment did collapse.]

            3. Saddam had been providing immense support for terrorist groups, both monetarily and in other ways. There were known terrorist training bases in Iraq and he had been providing money and arms. It appears that little of that support went to al Qaeda. Most of it went to various Palestinian groups such as Hizbollah. [I'm not sure. Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy with a Shia base. Saddam supported specific groups, not including Hezbollah.]

            4. Saddam had placed a bounty on Israelis by stating that he'd pay a lot of money to the families of any successful suicide bomber, no matter what group the bomber came from.

            5. Saddam had developed and used chemical weapons against Iranian troops and on Iraqi civilians. Left to himself there was a non-trivial chance of his giving such weapons to terrorists. After the war in 1991 and 12 years of Anglo-American enforcement of sanctions, Saddam had a grudge against the US, and the chance of him surreptitiously aiding terrorist attacks against us out of spite was too great to ignore. It's a matter of record that he attempted to have the senior George Bush assassinated. (George Bush Sr. had been President during the 1991 Gulf War.)

          2. Military feasibility

            1. The leaders of Kuwait feared Saddam and owed us a big favor from 1991 [and very much feared the collapse of containment], so Kuwait could be used as a base from which to launch an invasion of Iraq.

            2. NATO ally Turkey shared a northern border with Iraq and it was expected that a second invasion force could be massed there. (As it turned out, this didn't happen.) [One can only wonder whether the Sunni insurgency might not have been much weaker if it had not been possible for the Ba'athist soldiers to flee to north.]

            3. Iraqi terrain between Baghdad and the Kuwaiti border was well suited for mass armored assault.

            4. Because of ongoing low-level combat in enforcement of the southern "no fly" zone, it was possible to do most of the essential air preparation slowly over a period of months before combat began.

            5. Though the Iraqi military was large and had a reputation with the "Arab Street", in fact it was deeply crippled and likely to be much less formidable than many expected.

          3. Political feasibility

            1. A casus belli existed that could be leveraged to justify conquest in certain international fora.

              1. This related to Saddam's failure to abide by the truce terms signed in the aftermath of the war in 1991, particularly in cooperating with international inspections to eliminate Iraqi chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and development programs.

              2. Saddam's possession or intent to acquire such weapons represented an indirect and long term threat, but was not in actuality the primary justification for the war.

            2. There had been substantial support by American voters since 1991 for military operations to remove Saddam from power. There was far less support for invasion of Iran and no support at all for conquest of any other nation in the region.

          4. Strategic suitability

            1. Iraq is centrally located with borders on Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. It has major ports through which supplies and troops can move. Thus if we occupied Iraq, it would be ideal as a potential base of military operations against any of those other nations later, should that become necessary. [We had such bases, but they were in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. We had to leave the former, and the bases in the latter are not well-suited to coercing Syria. In any case, the operative word is "potential." The prospect of military intervention might in fact reduce its likelihood.

            2. The governments in the region know it. Having American troops on their borders, or even the threat to move troops there, was guaranteed to get their attention. [Indeed it did. This is at least one reason why Syria and Iran have been at least passively supportive of the Sunni insurgency.]

            3. If the military victory over Iraqi forces was overwhelming, that would make the threat even more impressive. The military forces of the other nations in the region were even less formidable than that of Saddam's Iraq. [The question, it turns out, is whether we in fact won an "overwhelming" victory over Iraqi forces. We certainly did in the traditional sense that we overran its positions and captured its territory, but in two crucial respects it seems today that we were denied "overwhelming" victory. First, hawkish critics of the administration (including Ralph Peters and Michael Scheuer) argue that we did not kill enough of the enemy to instill the sense of defeat that is in turn necessary to reform the country (see, e.g., Japan for the opposite case). Second, it now appears that some elements of the Iraqi army melted away according to plan, and today form the nucleus of the Ba'athist rejectionist insurgency.]

            4. This would make diplomatic threats against them far more effective and inspire much more cooperation from them than had been forthcoming to that point.

          5. Potential for Reform

            1. Among the major nations of the region, Iraq before Saddam had been relatively mercantile, relatively secular, and had originally had a relatively well-educated and cosmopolitan population. [We now know that the insurgency recognized this fact as well, and has systematically murdered Iraq's professional class.]

            2. Iraq had a history of democratic government, albeit not very successfully.

            3. The Kurds had already established a government similar to what we needed to create.

            4. Iraq's oil wealth could be used to offset much of the cost of rebuilding after the war, as well as making the nation economically viable and prosperous and helping to finance diversification of its economy. [This turns out to be untrue at one level, because the insurgency has greatly increased the cost and difficulty of rebuilding. At another level, the oil wealth should help the government survive and rebuild over the long run.]

          6. Symbolism and propaganda value

            1. Saddam had become a hero to the "Arab Street". He was thought of as a strong Arab leader who was standing up to the West. Though Iraq's military had been decisively defeated in 1991, Saddam survived politically and this actually enhanced his reputation. He hadn't won against us, but at least he'd tried, which was better than anyone else seemed to be doing. The "Arab Street" was proud of him for making the attempt. (This involved a lot of revisionism, such as ignoring Saddam's earlier invasion of Kuwait, or the participation of large Arab military forces in the coalition army which fought against Iraq.)

            2. Iraq's military had the reputation of being the largest, best armed and most dangerous of any in the region. If it could be decisively crushed it would be psychologically devastating.

            3. Baghdad historically was one of the great capitals of classic Arab civilization. Having it fall to outsiders would be symbolically important. [There is no arguing this point in a vacuum. The question, again, is how the fall of Baghdad would be important. Would it be important because it would reinforce American credibility with the Arab street, or because it dovetailed so elegantly with the jihadi argument that the American presence in the region was but another chapter in the same "Crusader" campaign to subjugate Arabs? There is good evidence that both results have obtained.]

          7. Other factors

            1. We owed the southern Shiites a moral debt for not supporting their attempted revolution in 1991, and for our failure to make any attempt to prevent the retaliatory slaughter inflicted on them by Saddam afterwards. (I consider this the most important and most shameful lapse by the US since the end of the Cold War.)

            2. The Kurds had prospered under the umbrella of the northern "no fly" zone. If the sanctions against Iraq had ended and we had stopped enforcing the northern "no fly" zone, the Kurds would then have been crushed, in a repeat of the 1991 slaughter inflicted on the southern Shiites. [This is a crucial point that is insufficiently recognized on both sides. Containment in its post Gulf War form was collapsing, in no small part because Saddam was campaigning for an end to sanctions and the no-fly zones, from which the French had withdrawn in 1996. Without the active containment regime, itself essentially a war on Iraq, the Kurds would have been helpless.]

            3. Without invasion, reform in Iraq was impossible. The sanctions had failed, and after the debacle of the 1991 Shiite uprising, there was no further possibility of revolution. Removal of Saddam and beginnings of reform in Iraq could only be imposed from outside by military force. Thus invasion of Iraq would have been necessary eventually even if it wasn't the first target. [Agreed. One day, we would have had to invade Iraq, because the settlement after the Gulf War was inherently unstable. The interesting question is whether the war on al Qaeda added to or subtracted from the reasons to invade in 2003.]

          8. Potential problems

            1. Saddam might use nerve gas or biological agents against the invading force, or the buildup in Kuwait. The possibility existed that the cost of the war in casualties could be extremely high.

            2. Iraq isn't really a single nation; it is at least three, depending on how you count. (It had been three provinces under the Ottomans.) Creating a unified nation out of it involved problems due to ethnic divisions.

            3. It also included both Sunnis and Shiites, who generally felt about each other the way that the Catholics and Protestants feel in Northern Ireland. [This analogy appears to understate the hostility.]

            4. It could be expected that neighboring nations would try to support factions inside Iraq to work to prevent creation of a democracy there. Iran, in particular, was certain to try to inspire the majority Shiites to establish Iraq as another Khomeinite Islamic Republic. [This has clearly come true -- we know of active intervention from Iran, at least passive support from Syria, and probably support form elsewhere in the Arab Muslim world.]

          9. Preparing for war

            1. Development of a "coalition of the willing".

              1. NATO was a hopeless waste of time, especially since some NATO members sided with Saddam and tried to use the mechanisms of NATO to prevent our attack.

              2. The British and Australians openly sided with us. The British in particular could offer substantial military and diplomatic assistance. Australian assistance was smaller but no less welcome.

              3. Canadian opposition was a major unpleasant surprise.

              4. Other nations were willing to help, though in some cases they didn't want to admit it publicly until the last minute. [Obviously, a year after Den Beste wrote the small contributions from our "traditional allies" because a very hot topic in the presidential election campaign of John Kerry. Whether a better diplomat than George W. Bush could have attracted more support for Operation Iraqi Freedom is its own massive discussion, and beyond the scope of even this outline.]

            2. It was necessary for Congress to pass an authorization for war.

              1. The one passed in September of 2001 (under which we had fought in Afghanistan) could not plausibly be interpreted as authorizing war in Iraq unless the Bush administration claimed that Saddam's government was directly implicated in the 9/11 attack, and no such evidence existed. There's no reason to believe that Saddam was directly involved.

              2. An attempt to try to use the one passed in 1991, or to go into combat without one using the 60-day clause in the 'War Powers Act', would have caused a constitutional crisis.

              3. It would have been wrong to try to bypass Congress, violating both the spirit and letter of the Constitution.

              4. It was vital that the Congressional authorization for war in Iraq not include any provision that would give hostile foreign nations (e.g. France) the ability to veto the war. Thus it was vital that it not require UNSC authorization or NATO approval or participation. [Den Beste does not say why it was "vital" that Congressional authorization not depend on foreign approval, perhaps supposing that the reasons are obvious to his readers. They include, at a minimum, the following: First, the objective of the resolution was to permit the United States to go to war. If the resolution required foreign approval, it would strengthen foreign "approvers" at the expense of the United States. Second, such a provision would have increased Saddam's leverage immeasurably -- he would have had a tremendous incentive to "turn" one of his traditional allies on the UNSC (France or Russia). Finally, it would have been a permanent boost to the deeply unpopular and silly idea that the United States should surrender sovereignty to the United Nations.]

            3. We had to attempt to deal with the UN.

              1. Tony Blair required UN approval (or an "unreasonable veto") for domestic political reasons. In the British system, a decision to declare war is made by the cabinet and doesn't directly require approval from Parliament, but Parliament has the indirect ability to veto it through a vote of no confidence, causing the government to fall. If Blair's cabinet had decided to go to war without any attempt to gain UN approval it would have led to a party revolt and a vote of no confidence.

              2. It was clear that the UNSC would never actually grant permission for armed invasion. By going to the UN in September, it had become abundantly clear by October that the UN wasn't going to cooperate, so Congress defeated all attempts to include a requirement for UNSC approval in its authorization. (In the Democrat-controlled Senate, those attempts were defeated by a filibuster-proof majority.) [The Democrats seem to have actively forgotten this point as the war has become toxic to their base.]

              3. Wrangling with the UN ended up covering the primary period of troop deployment in Kuwait, restraining Saddam from a preemptive attack against us before we were ready. He believed right up to the last minute that his friends and supporters in Europe could prevent the attack, and knew that any military action by him would have scuttled that political effort by France, Germany and Russia. (Not yet known if this was a deliberate part of the Anglo-American strategy or fortunate side effect.)

            4. Dealing with the UN required arguing the case on the basis of Iraqi failure to comply with previous UNSC resolutions, and to concentrate on the issue of inspections and WMD disarmament. This was not the real issue for anyone involved.

            5. All negotiations at the UN happened on two levels. Speeches and announcements all talked about Iraq. The real issue was the fact that the French feared the US more than Iraq. It was a keystone of French foreign policy to use all possible means to restrain US military power and diplomatic influence.

            6. After Congress passed an authorization for war without requiring UNSC approval, and after the Republicans won the November election and gained a majority in the Senate while keeping control of the House, European opponents of war were chastened and permitted Res 1441 to pass. It started one "last chance" opportunity for Saddam to cooperate with inspections, and was ambiguous as to whether war would automatically be authorized if the inspections failed. The US claimed it did; the French that it did not.

            7. To no one's surprise, the new inspections were a joke. [It is worth remembering why the inspections were a joke. First, inspections were not meant to "find" WMD. They were designed to audit compliance with a set of rules and declarations. Audits assume that the organization (in this case, the government of Iraq) being audited is trying to comply. Just as financial audits are not, by design, intended to detect fraud, these UNSCOM inspections were not intended to find hidden weapons. Indeed, it took years of inspections after the Gulf War to detect Saddam's nuclear program, and even then the inspectors found it only because of two lucky defections. Second, the Iraqis obstructed the inspectors at every turn.]

            8. After Saddam yet again failed to really cooperate with inspections, the US and UK introduced one final resolution in the UNSC that effectively would have authorized war. Those opposing the US, in particular the French, continued to oppose this. The debate became surreal because the true French position was to oppose the US irrespective of the merits of the situation.

            9. Chirac ultimately overplayed his hand and gave the US and UK the diplomatic opportunity to walk away. Tony Blair had as a practical matter gotten his "unreasonable veto".

          10. Despite the setback of Turkish non-cooperation (due to another French political maneuver) [and, to be fair, the failure of American public diplomacy] logistical buildup was complete and CENTCOM told Bush that it had sufficient force in place and was ready to go. The attack was launched, and we won.

        4. Results. No battle or war is ever 100% effective in accomplishing the goals set for it, but this one was very good. To review:

          1. The military operation was rapid, efficient and overwhelming.

            1. Coalition losses were very light.

            2. Iraqi civilian losses were also very light, confounding predictions before the war. This claim has been vehemently contested. While it may well be the case that contemporaneous estimates of civilian casualties understated them, whether or not they were "light" depends on the point of comparison. Compared to wars in history, and especially given the firepower dumped on Iraq, they were extraordinarily light. In today's political climate, though, many people seem to think that any civilian casualties are unacceptable. Still others argue that the laws of war make the Coalition responsible for all civilian casualties, regardless of when inflicted or by whom.]

            3. As a result of a very successful psyops campaign before the war, large parts of the Iraqi military deserted. [Was this the result of psyops, or part of a plan to resist via insurgency? Probably more the latter than the former.] Many of those who remained refused outright to fight. Most of the paper strength of the Iraqi military never had to be engaged, and the remnants of the Iraqi air force didn't make a single sortie.

            4. Iraq's military was not seen by other Arabs as having put up a good fight. Most found the performance of the Iraqi military embarrassing and humiliating.

          2. We now control putatively occupy the territory of Iraq, and have been applying substantial pressure to Syria, Saudi Arabia and indirectly to Iran. Syria and Saudi Arabia appear to grudgingly accept the new situation. The situation in Iran is very fluid and difficult to predict. [Much could be written to qualify and elaborate on this point, but Den Beste was basically correct two years ago. The crucial point is that the war provoked al Qaeda into attacking Saudi Arabia, which brought the House of Saud into the fight on our side. This does not make the Saudis a genuine friend of long-term American interests, but it absolutely has made them the enemy of our enemy.]

          3. Headlines notwithstanding, in most of Iraq the rebuilding process is actually going moderately well. There have been mistakes and progress has not been as fast as many would like, but most of the resistance has been in a small region of Iraq which is dominated by those groups and tribes who were the top-dogs under Saddam. The armed resistance remains a concern and will continue to be a problem for months, but in the nation as a whole progress has been satisfactory. Most of the people of the nation are glad we're there, and their main fear is that we'll leave too soon, or that the Baathists will somehow regain power and reinstitute their reign of terror. [This is not one of Den Beste's most prescient predictions, however reasonable it might have appeared two years ago. Since that time, though, the insurgency has continued to rage. "Most of the people" are not "glad" that we are there, although they may appreciate individual gestures and hate America less than most Arabs. At best, they think of us as a necessary evil. There is nothing wrong with that, though. It is a peculiarly American belief (of which George Bush is as much a prisoner as, say, the editors of the New York Times) that people whom you have conquered should love you.]

          4. After the war, the true degree of brutality and barbarism of the Baathist regime began to be revealed. This helped shift the political discussion internationally, since it became increasingly difficult for anyone to argue retroactively in favor of any policy which would have left Saddam in power and thus let the horror continue.

          5. When Baghdad fell in just a couple of days, with very few American casualties, Arabs elsewhere were totally disillusioned and deflated.

          1. The news reports fed to them during the war had been lies, and had told them that the Americans were being badly hurt and that the Iraqi army was fighting well.

          2. As a result, the rapid fall of Baghdad was like a bucket of ice water in the face; totally unexpected and an even more massive shock.

          3. They are now asking themselves what other lies they've been fed by their governments.

          4. And some are asking themselves "why we Arabs always seem to fail? What is wrong with us?"

          5. Some Arabs are now openly debating the merits of reform.

        5. Anti-American rhetoric is rapidly going out of style in the region. It's no longer fashionable to advocate picking a fight with us. [This seems wildly wrong, in retrospect, at least insofar as the average Arab is concerned. However, it does not matter. Anti al Qaeda rhetoric has increased much more profoundly. Since it is far more important to discredit the jihadis than it is to be liked, this is itself huge progress.]

        6. Irrespective of whether Saddam actually had physical possession of any kind of WMD, it remains the case that he had not abandoned his ambitions to develop such things. Now that he has been deposed, that is no longer really possible, even if he is still alive. He may still have that ambition but he no longer has the means. It would be nice if he were captured or killed, but removing him from power was the primary goal. (Qusay and Uday were found and killed; Saddam may also die very soon. was subsequently captured in December 2003, and has gone on trial for crimes against the Iraqi people.)

        7. With Saddam's defeat, substantial support for Palestinian terrorist groups has been cut off, and it's already beginning to have effects on them.

    9. Stage 3 and beyond: the future

      1. Pacification and nation building in Iraq must continue. This is a gradual process which will go on for at least the next year and probably for several years at a reduced level. I expect us to have at least some military presence in Iraq for the next 30 years. (It is essential that we
        maintain such a presence
        [Those who advocate American "withdrawal" in the near future often call on the United States to declare that it does not intend to "permanently occupy" the bases that it is building in Iraq. This demand springs from several different motivations, depending on who is making it. Some believe that such a declaration will somehow prove to those who care that our motives are not imperialistic. Other believe (or seem to) that it is the prospect of these bases that fuels the nationalistic elements of the insurgency. Still others believe that a permanent American base in Mesopotamia would be inherently destabilizing in the Arab world and a constant irritant to the Arab "street." All of these arguments strike me as slightly true, but trivial compared to the advantages of major bases willingly leased by the sovereign of Iraq.]

      2. A new Iraqi army, modest in size but far higher quality compared to the old one, will be trained over the next year and will eventually take responsibility for most internal security. This is clearly happening, but at a much slower schedule than Den Beste predicted. For something of a contrary view, click here.]

      3. The process of creating Iraqi self-government got off to the wrong start with the wrong concept (top-down) but is now moving in the right direction (bottom up). Most of the cities and towns in Iraq now have ruling councils, and local elections will become the norm. A national council is in place but has little real power, but in perhaps a year there will be the beginnings of a process to write a new constitution and to hold real elections, after which most power will be turned over to the new government. Then, for a period of a few years, there will be "democracy on training wheels" where some of our troops remain but largely don't interfere unless there is a threat of the government being taken over by radicals. [Den Beste was substantially correct in this prediction of two years ago, and his vision of "democracy on training wheels" is manifestly true. Indeed, since tens if not hundreds of thousands of people have read Den Beste's original "strategic overview" over the years, his conception of this problem probably lowered the expectations of a great many influential people on the right, and may well explain why so many of us see the glass "half full," rather than cracked and leaking.]

      4. Iraqi liberal democracy will represent a threat to the autocratic regimes in the region merely by existing, and the US will have to militarily guarantee Iraqi security against threats in particular from Syria and Iran, and to a lesser extent from Saudi Arabia. We'll also have to guarantee Kurdish security against threats from Turkey. This is another reason why there will need to be a significant American military presence in Iraq for years. [Very true. Part of this is due to the Sunni-Shia war that is playing out in Iraq.]

      5. There's going to be low level armed resistance in Iraq for a very long time, and that means a ongoing trickle of casualties. This isn't a problem which can be solved in weeks. [Also accurate: Notwithstanding relentless MSM coverage, casualties are indeed "a trickle."]

      6. Diplomatic pressure will continue on other nations in the region to cut support for terrorist groups and to implement domestic reforms, and that will be far more effective. Also, as Iraq gets back on its feet, the new-found freedom there will serve as both a challenge and an inspiration for others in the region. The "Arab Street" will begin asking their governments why they can't have the same thing.

      7. There is no way to predict whether any more significant military operations will be needed in this multi-decade war to bring about fundamental reform in the Arab/Muslim region. We will plan no new major military campaigns there in the immediate future (the next three years), but invasions of Iran or Syria or even Saudi Arabia are conceivable sometime in the next 20 years if their leaders refuse to cooperate in reforming, or if hostile and activist regimes take power.

      8. Punitive or preventive bombing, especially of Iran's nuclear facilities, is entirely possible. There will probably be varying degrees of American involvement in low-level or non-traditional armed conflict in various places in the region. The Marines and Army Special Forces will continue to operate in Yemen and Somalia.

      9. The shadow war against terrorist group finances and against the cells of those groups will continue, occasionally popping into the public view when there's a high-profile success – or a high-profile failure.

      10. The chance of new and devastating attacks against the US and UK now appears to be substantially reduced. The risk of attacks against us is not zero; there will be more attempts and some may succeed. However, the terrorists now seem primarily to be operating inside the Arab world itself (except for ongoing Palestinian operations against Israel). That's doubly good, because it's motivating the governments there to help us more than they have been. [This prediction remains true, notwithstanding the 3/11 attacks in Madrid and the 7/7 attacks in London. Neither of these were "devestating" (although Madrid was a fair bit nastier than London). While they may have been the sort of "small" attacks that might have been calculated to "vex and exhaust" the West, it seems more likely that al Qaeda's ability to visit mass casualties on the West has been substantially degraded.]

    10. We can still lose this war.

      1. If nation building in Iraq fails, we won't succeed in demonstrating that reform can work for Arabs and make them happier and more successful. We will fail to show them that reform is a better choice for them than jihad.

      2. If we permit low level resistance in Iraq to drive us out, the Arab street will once again conclude that we are ultimately cowardly, and will again feel contempt for us. And no nation or group in the region will ever again take the risk of helping us in any future operation there.

      3. If other nations in the region don't implement reforms, their people will continue to be angry and will continue to support terrorism and extremism.

      4. If the other nations in the region don't cut off support for terrorist groups, those groups will continue to have the wherewithal to operate, and may eventually target us.

      5. If we do not bring about general reform before one or another nation in the region successfully develops nuclear weapons, the political situation will become vastly more complicated and we will be in extreme peril. It will become extremely difficult for us to continue to foster reform in the region, and there will be an unacceptably high likelihood that one of our cities will eventually be nuked.

      6. It is therefore critical that we continue to be engaged in the region and continue to work for reform there, doing whatever we must to prevent development of nukes by hostile nations in the region and continuing to work to weaken existing terrorist organizations. We are winning the war but we have not won it. It will take decades to win, just as the Cold War took decades to win. The greatest danger facing us now is that we'll lose heart and give up before we finish the job.



    By Blogger Steven Den Beste, at Sun Nov 13, 11:56:00 PM:

    Nicely done. I am not omniscient, and as you mentioned we've learned a great deal in the last two years. I don't agree with everything you added but I think you are substantially correct overall.  

    By Blogger SeekerBlog.com, at Mon Nov 14, 02:22:00 AM:

    Excellent job - just emailed the link to whitehouse.gov. Hopefully you'll be hearing soon from the President's staff seeking guidance on improving their public diplomacy. Seriously, how do we get the Democratic leadership to think seriously about the risk that they are taking?

    The major trends in the GWOT are positive. Support for al Qaeda et al is falling. Counter-terror support in essential states like Saudi is increasing. Iraqi security forces have crossed into the geometric phase of growth in capability. The former-regime-elements + Jihadi forces are generating increasing alienation whilst their leadership is degrading. The U.S. nation-building leadership seems to be finally getting their act together. The U.S. military continues to adapt and get smarter. The morale and resolve of the U.S. troops is firm (a complete disconnect from U.S. polls).

    So I would be short the insurgency and long the Iraqi democracy-on-training-wheels except for:

    1) The fear that internal U.S. opposition will defeat a fundamentally good policy.

    2) The fear that corruption and tribalism will defeat the efforts of the best of Iraqis (similarly for Afghanistan).

    I believe corruption is a more serious 10-year threat than the current insurgency. While much external and internal effort is being invested to thwart the corruption threat, the outcome will be determined by the Iraqis.

    But where we should have leverage, the U.S. political trends seem almost hopeless. The administration doesn't seem able to communicate, and the opposition doesn't seem to care about the damage they are doing. This is one of the few accurate parallels to the Vietnam case, and it's not a happy one.  

    By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Mon Nov 14, 04:46:00 AM:

    Counter-terror support in essential states like Saudi is increasing.

    Steve, I think the recent Saudi move to drop their economic boycotts of Israel will make them a dead center target for the Islamofascists. That implies they TRULY are "on board" now 100%.

    They could have easily lived without WTO membership and maintained their boycotts if the Israel position was genuinely important to them philosophically.

    I think this means the Israel posturing was just that - posturing for the masses. But the winds of change are blowing and the "mood of the masses" is changing with it...

    This is as I mention, a "tectonic" change. If the Saudi's flip, that's strong motivation for a lot of others to flip too.  

    By Blogger Cassandra, at Mon Nov 14, 07:53:00 AM:

    I believe this is where I finally get to ask you, "My God, how many cups of coffee did *you* drink this morning?" :)

    A tour de force. It's killing me not to be able to respond to this in any substantive way.  

    By Blogger Quilly_Mammoth, at Mon Nov 14, 08:07:00 AM:

    The key to victory will be transitioning to a support role in Iraq. Unlike Vietnam there isn't a corrupt local government hindering the refinement of the national forces. The Iraqis are showing increasing ability to manage their own affairs up to the CSS level.

    The biggest obstacle to victory is the insanity of America's Democrat Leadership! One expects the far Left to be wrong...to them everything is about economics...about the RIFs. There is much hay that the Democrat Leadership could make of the many mistakes made by the Bush Administration in Iraq, yet they seem fixated on the "Bush Lied" meme. Why? Because it is the surest way to power; despite the fact that promoting this meme, unlike legitimate criticism, will push us to Cutting and Running because it delegitimizes the entire War on Terror.

    If we can get to where local forces are doing the majority of the fighting with support from only our Special Forces and Marines then public pressure will abate and the pressure to change the face of the Middle East can continue. I hope so as I have always felt there are only two ways to win this war: Democratization or Glassification.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 14, 08:08:00 AM:

    I think a leader of the Muslims in South Asia in the 30s, Jinnah, is an important figure in the development of Muslim thought. If I recall correctly, I don't believe he was a violent figure proposing Jihad like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, but he did propose a separate Muslim state because he felt that no Muslim state could be satisfactory unless governed by Islamic law. Unlike the Iranian theocrats, or the Wahabbis I also don't believe he envisioned a society ruled under a puritanical and literalist vision of Sharia such as the Taliban set up in Afghanistan. He lobbied, successfully in the end, for the separate Muslim state which was to become Pakistan contemporaneously with Gandhi leading India toward independence from the Raj.

    I strongly recommend V.S Naipaul's Among the Believers which is a snapshot of the Muslim world from Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia from the time of the Iranian revolution. I got most of my understanding of Jinnah from this book as well as Naipaul's finely observed reporting of how Muslim people felt during that critical time when our very own Jimmuh was a witherin' and ditherin' and laying down the foundations of the current situation. (Sorry couldn't resist) Seriously, Naipaul is well worth a read in light of current events.

    LGude Perth Western Australia  

    By Blogger RanDomino, at Mon Nov 14, 08:50:00 AM:

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.  

    By Blogger RanDomino, at Mon Nov 14, 08:51:00 AM:

    That was quite possibly the most inane, myopic, self-centered, and ahistorical view of this conflict that I have ever read. You should be ashamed.  

    By Blogger RanDomino, at Mon Nov 14, 08:52:00 AM:

    "Cutting and Running ... delegitimizes the entire War on Terror."

    Or maybe we recognize that it's impossible to win, so we should cut our losses.  

    By Blogger CGrim, at Mon Nov 14, 08:59:00 AM:

    Sweet, dude.

    I'd been sending Den Beste's piece to my pacifist/anti-war friends (I hesitate to refer to them as liberals, because I think true liberals - who are in short supply these days - support the war). Anyway, I'd been sending the piece with the caveat that it was several years outdated. Now I dont have to. Thanks!  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 14, 09:10:00 AM:

    Excellent, TigerHawk.

    For an aperitif, check out RanDomino's Blogger profile: "Occupation: Student Dissident" in Madison. Heh.

    Nothing cleanses one's palate of Den Beste like the geostrategic analytic genius of another Field Marshall Von Gradschool.  

    By Blogger jinnderella, at Mon Nov 14, 09:28:00 AM:

    A real tour de force, guyz, but i disagree here--
    but it would get al Qaeda off our case.
    That won't happen. No amount of compromise or propitiation will satisfy Al Qaeda. It will only encourage contempt for our weakness and hope for eventual global conquest.

    And, Iowahawk, lol, I think we can consider Randomino the pleasing sorbet that prepares the palate for the next great course. ;-)  

    By Blogger Unknown, at Mon Nov 14, 10:14:00 AM:

    Thanks, Tigerhawk. This is overdue.

    For some reason my trackbacks appear to be bouncing, so ping!  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 14, 10:23:00 AM:


    Just calling an argument all of those names doesn't make it so (sorry to hurt your feelings) - how about refuting some of the supposedely "inane....ahistorical" views with documented facts.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 14, 10:25:00 AM:

    There is an unclosed italics tag somewhere in the post. It makes it hard to tell at a glance which segments are yours and which are Den Beste's.

    Outstanding job of course. Puny html tags can't hope to overshadow that in the least.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 14, 10:57:00 AM:

    Excellent reading. Something I would like to see expanded on is commentary on the rationale for why the world population was potentially misled re: the real reasoning for going to war.

    Specifically, in my opinion, was (and even now still is, though to a lesser degree) way too politically incorrect to have discussed the muslim fundamentalism as a major threat, and that the American / world population would not have accepted this, or understood it, and instead of having 50% internal support for the war, they would have had 5%.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 14, 11:27:00 AM:

    Unfortunately both Mr. Den Beste's analysis of the GWoT and your update left out one major component: the Islamization of Europe.

    The rise of Islamic supremacism in Europe and the demographic trends toward a majority-Muslim European population later this century are already well-documented. If these two trends eventually result in an Islamist regime coming to power in Europe - thus inheriting Europe's financial and military/industrial infrastructures, not to mention France's nuclear arsenal - it will make al Qaeda seem like a minor nuisance in comparison.  

    By Blogger Bidera, at Mon Nov 14, 11:30:00 AM:

    This was a rather insightful (if a bit long for an average lurker) post on the situation in Iraq(and around it).

    Better formatting would help but that is a just minor trifle. :)

    The big question is will the predictions for next few years come true or will there be something unexpected.  

    By Blogger MrCris, at Mon Nov 14, 12:06:00 PM:

    There is no "Potentially " about it...The U.S. and the World was deliberetly misled into getting into this war by the current administration.
    While much of the above reasoning for the rationale to go to war in Iraq are pretty well accurate, they also fall far short of all the realities involved.
    Iraq could have been taken at any time. The only reason for the "rush" was that the trumped up case to "sell" the war to Congress and the "Coaltion" wouldn't stand up to close inspection for very long , thus we had to charge in and instigate full military action prior to building proper troop levels needed for nation building, and post war administration...largely leading to the problems we know have with this never ending Gurellia War.
    Hence the Administration lying to the world to make its case for War is what will continue to bite it in the ass, and is largely what caused the vast division within the United States.
    Also absent in the above is an accurate historical understanding of the region going further back beyonr the last 100 years. Culturaly in the Middle East region their memories for holding a grudge go back milenia.
    We are talking about peoples still pissed off at Alexander the Great.
    Additionally, I think the entire "their kids LOVE US" thing is a touch naive.  

    By Blogger BenJCarter, at Mon Nov 14, 12:37:00 PM:

    mrcris a few questions regarding your statements:

    How exactly were we mislead?

    How exactly was the case for war trumped up?

    How much time exactly should we have spent building up to the war? Was 8 months not enough?

    What lies, exactly, did the administration make?

    I don't buy you're rascist views of the Arab culture regarding their ability to hold a grudge. It sounds similar to the type of generalizations people used to make about "negroes".

    It's not just their kids, alot of adults love us also. The Kurds are making thank you commercials to show us their appreciation.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 14, 02:30:00 PM:

    Perhaps you or Mr. den Beste could add one more point regarding the War on Islamism, namely, the limited time frame available to us to reform the Muslim Mideast before China takes over the role of the Soviet Union in shielding Arabs from American interference. We are already seeing a long-term strategic embrace of Muslims by China in such places as Iran (oil deals, technology transfer, missiles), Sudan (oil) and Pakistan (new port). We probably have only 15-20 years before China can challenge the US on the world stage, and I'm willing to bet every unsavoury regime, from the Saudis to the Iranians to the Tunisians, will cuddle up to the Chinese the first chance they get. When the Saudis start selling more oil to China than to the US, they'll switch their allegiance right quick, and all hope of reform will be lost. If China becomes hostile to the US, it will support Islamic terrorism against the West just like the Soviet Union did. What implications will this have on our long-term Islamic Reformation strategy?  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 14, 02:59:00 PM:

    I think you have presented a very thorough, accurate, and well reasoned argument of and for our recent history.
    I have a few points on contention.

    You discuss the already present problems, specifically mentioning Russia, and France, (and im guessing you considered Germany). You point out that these nations had abandoned containment because it was not working.
    The close, corrupt economic ties with Iraq regarding the food for oil deal may present a better motive for these nations to abandon containment then your stated argument.

    Additionally a little more explanation as to why the UNSC would not support the war would be very welcomed. Again - something beyond that of the France and Russia argument.
    The revelations regarding the significant involvement between these countries and Iraq greatly undermine the creditability of there political stances regarding US operations in Iraq.

    Andrew Hollinger
    University of Rochester NY  

    By Blogger Pierce Wetter, at Mon Nov 14, 03:01:00 PM:

    You're missing victory conditions. Feel free to steal mine: http://www.opinionatedbastard.com/archives/000592.html  

    By Blogger Will, at Mon Nov 14, 04:27:00 PM:

    Grim, I've sent the "strategic overview" to a few people as well. Most of the time the reaction I get goes somthing like: "How can you say such a thing. You think they turn to terrorism because they're jealous? It's all our fault!"

    It's at this point that I politely point out that at no point is the word "jealousy" used. The average Joe on the Arab Street may want the big Western house and a few of the nicer trappings of modern living, but the real leaders of the Islamist movement are after bigger things. What they want of ours is the place of military, economic, cultural, and political dominance that we hold.

    Matoko, in the same arguments I refer to above, I constantly had to point out to people that complete and total disengagement from the Middle East is impossible. We can't escape them because of our current energy needs, and they can't escape our global media market. There will always be a black market for satellite dishes, and a quick glance through the sermon archives at memri.org will highlight exactly how much the Islamists despise the fact that we have satellites flying overhead beaming down Western decadence and heresy for anyone to see 24/7.  

    By Blogger M. Simon, at Mon Nov 14, 04:48:00 PM:

    China faces the same problem that the USSR faced. Strategic overstretch.

    A war that consumes less than 10% of the Federal budget and less than 5% of GDP is not going to dislocate the French.

    BTW re:the NYT and the anti-war Democrats.

    I was reading a biography of A.T. Mahan and he had the same concerns about those institutions in 1900 as we do today. WW2 was an abberation in the standard themes of American politics.  

    By Blogger M. Simon, at Mon Nov 14, 04:51:00 PM:

    A war that consumes less than 10% of the Federal budget and less than 5% of GDP is not going to dislocate the French [should read] Americans.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 14, 04:59:00 PM:

    A somewhat dissenting view from an honorable source:

    "Nor, it seems did it make sense entirely for President Bush. Somehow, he intuited that the existence of Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime was key to anti-American terror. But his administration was divided on this, and the president just managed to orchestrate an invasion without thinking through what role it would play in the overall war. Pressed to make some sense of what he was doing, the president said that anti-American terror stemmed from the fact that the peoples of the Middle East do not live democratically. Give them freedom and democracy, and they will be at peace with us. Hence the purpose of the American occupation of Iraq and of U.S. activities in the region became getting people to vote.

    But that made no sense either. Especially to the U.S. government. In practice, the U.S. government has ignored the express result of the January 2005 Iraqi elections—Shi'ites and Kurds desire above all to rid their army and intelligence service of Ba'athist collaborators. The U.S. government's first priority is to keep them and get more of their un-elected ilk into the government. Similarly, the U.S. government supports the secular Palestinian Authority's Fatah tampering with its elections because it fears that the religious Hamas will beat out Fatah. Meanwhile, neither in Lebanon and Syria, nor in Saudi Arabia does the Bush team actually pursue democracy, out of fear of instability.

    Per se, none of the above suggests that the administration's cautions and concerns are mistaken. But surely, obviously, they spell out that the administration has no idea who it is fighting, how to defeat them, and what good it might do."

    If we invaded Iraq on an "imminent danger" basis to keep WMD out of the hands of terrorists, what are we doing to keep Iran's and Syria's WMD (Syria's probably now include Iraq's WMD as well) out of terrorist hands? Is "Democracy in Iraq" more or less likely to see the transfer of such weapons to terrorist surrogates over the next five years?

    This piece is excellent, for what it does address. But there is much that it does not. Sadly, ignoring a threat will not make it vanish.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 14, 05:28:00 PM:

    Well put and logical so the left will dismiss it out of hand.

    Randomino is obviously smoking crack.  

    By Blogger M. Simon, at Mon Nov 14, 05:33:00 PM:

    Bill Quick,

    The immanent danger meme has re-surfaced I see.

    Iraq was an emerging danger. Only some anti-war folk keep hanging on to the immanent danger meme.

    BTW Saddam had a nuclear program that was very active. The reason we did not find it in Iraq was that it was outsourced to Libya and the A.Kahn network. Which was disrupted by the war.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 14, 06:10:00 PM:

    Nice sprinking of the word "oil" throughout, but until you grasp that control of oil is the name of the game, you're clueless.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 14, 06:38:00 PM:

    Dear Mr. TigerHawk and Mr. Den Beste:

    We agree that your work now becomes an important reference piece to which we can all profitably refer in the future.

    One interesting issue is how to explicitly define American success in the Iraq venture. In our post of yesterday:

    Talking like McCain, doing like Kerry

    we address this issue. We believe that the U.S. is well along the road to successfully wrapping up its military operations in Iraq in 2006. The DoD has already announced a planned halving in its troop commitment for next summer.

    But perceptions here are vital. When the U.S. draws down, will critics, and Al Qaeda, be able to say that the U.S. is cutting its losses and running away in defeat? We all agree that Iraq will continue to be a bit chaotic. Will the U.S. withdrawal next year be viewed as a victory parade or an exhausted retreat?

    This matter of perception is vital to both Al Qaeda and the U.S. And both will seek ways to manage that perception.


    By Blogger Professor Fate, at Mon Nov 14, 07:15:00 PM:

    If you'd like another view of how things stand in Iraq (and the war on terror), you might check out the blog someone who fought terrorism before fighting terrorism was cool. On Iraq and 4th generation warfare  

    By Blogger al fin, at Mon Nov 14, 07:21:00 PM:

    This posting is a very nice complement, Tigerhawk, to SDB's excellent essay.

    The measure for success in Iraq will be when the press corps finally scrapes up the courage to get out of the barroom at the Palestine Hotel, and actually starts reporting on the state of the real Iraq, rather than the Iraq inside their minds.

    I recently discovered a valuable historical addendum to this discussion. It is a bit quaint and certainly dated, but it does add a sense of perspective.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 14, 09:36:00 PM:

    "The immanent danger meme has re-surfaced I see."

    You're right, the stated reason was an "emerging danger." However, in my comment, change "imminent" to "emerging," and it alters my point not in the slightest.  

    By Blogger M. Simon, at Mon Nov 14, 10:44:00 PM:

    Bill Q,

    So you see no value in the take down of the A. Kahn network re: keeping nukes away from terrorists?

    And of course Syria and Iran.

    Now, given all the back biting on Iraq how do you propose to get the political capital to do Syria and Iran?  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 14, 10:53:00 PM:

    Now if only the Bush admin had boiled much of this down into chunks that the average American could consume and presented it over the course of the last 3 years, I think we would see far more "support" for the war.

    Granted your average American is wholly ignorant of basic civics let alone complex foriegn policy and war planning so it may not have been all that beneficial.

    BTW: Bill don't get all Clinton in your parsing and re-creation of a words standard definition. Its the eptiome of intellectual dishonesty.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 14, 11:14:00 PM:

    Good post, overall, Tigerhawk. Here are some additional thoughts. Use 'em or delete 'em, whichever. ;)

    I think many people disagree over the war and, in general, think poorly of the Bush administration because of their incompetent management of the war itself. The lack of troops, body armor, armored humvees, and other materials have hamstrung our military's ability to overwhelmingly win (and keep winning) the war. The continuing lack of supplies shows that the Bush administration's "War on the cheap" is not really a strategy; it's a weakness.

    The Bush administration's poor diplomacy and communication skills feed the fire of European anti-Americanism. (I mean, c'mon, anyone who says Bush is a good orator is in a state of supreme denial.) Especially in the run up to the war, Bush was notorious for painting the world in black vs. white colors which any geopolitical strategist should gawk at and any (former) President should laugh at. While Bush has calmed down this aspect of his cowboy personality, it has already done its damage.

    Do I really need to go into the legal, ethical, and moral problems over the detaining of "enemy combatants" and the quasi-official policy of torture or torture-like procedures? I mean, c'mon, any even remotely torture-like behavior on our part drastically reduces our image abroad and our mission of bringing liberal (ie. progressive) democracy to the Middle East. For those who say that our public image is not an issue, I'll say this: If our mission is to spread democratic reforms to the world in order to benefit our own future national security, then our public image _is_ a primary asset (or liability) for this mission. We need to have the moral credibility to assert that our chosen way of governance is the right and correct way to govern. Otherwise, we appear as hypocrites (and rightfully so).

    Lastly, we did not forsee the insurgency and we did not prepare for post-war Iraq. The Iraqi Army was fired _and dispersed_. Did anyone think that 100,000 disgruntled, trained, (and unpaid!) soldiers would simply sit on the sidelines while a new government was formed? The former Iraqi Army was the largest mercenary force in Iraq and we allowed the enemy to buy them. It would have been cheaper to pay them to play cards and watch instructional videos on democracy. This was perhaps the most serious and foolish decision of the entire post-war (or, pre-insurgency, really) period.

    I think most Americans accept that the war in Iraq was, at least, not a bad thing in principle. However, as Americans, we value results more than philosophy. While the results could go either way, the President promoted the war as a "slam dunk". Surely, no one can argue that our chance of building a stable democratic government in Iraq is a slam dunk. For these reasons, the American people feel betrayed. The President promised a swift victory (and he did declare "victory"!), but he did not provide the necessary troops, supplies, and planning to obtain that victory. _That_ is the primary reason (imho) that the American people are so disgruntled about our President. Not because the war was started. But because the President pulled back from committing the necessary resources to win the war. No one likes a loser.  

    By Blogger Boghie, at Mon Nov 14, 11:48:00 PM:

    The war may well last decades...

    Or, it may collapse suddenly like a rotting corpse...

    It is not sufficient to understand how to fight the enemy, it is also important to know what victory looks like...  

    By Blogger gcotharn, at Tue Nov 15, 01:45:00 AM:

    I find it deliciously ironic that Bin Laden would strategically stumble by misunderstanding free market economics. Bin Laden's effort to economically exhaust America doesn't consider that American government expenditures are churned back into the American economy, then returned to the government in the form of tax revenue. America could be economically exhausted by a lack of spending; but we can never be exhausted by churning money through our economy. To us, that is like eating nutritous vegetables - it just makes us stronger and stronger.  

    By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Tue Nov 15, 02:49:00 AM:

    The only reason for the "rush"...

    Only someone completely ignorant of military matters and the region's weather patterns would make a statement like this.

    Anyone planning to invade Iraq has about a 2-3 month optimal weather window in which to operate or you're going to have to delay a full year (or face punishing heat and sandstorms for your temerity)  

    By Blogger al fin, at Tue Nov 15, 09:45:00 AM:

    Here's a good set of essays to supplement the discussion above. Included is the excellent Why Arabs Lose Wars by Norvell de Atkine. You will understand better why bin Laden miscalculated so badly, and why Zarqawi for all his "bad boy" reputation, is miscalculating still.  

    By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Tue Nov 15, 12:07:00 PM:

    While the results could go either way, the President promoted the war as a "slam dunk".

    I don't recall any slam dunk speech. Refresh my memory.

    Some dems were pitching 10,000 US casualties for the initial invasion...they voted to go anyway.

    That speaks VOLUMES to how much they were convinced it had to be done.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Nov 15, 04:32:00 PM:

    I agree that Oil for Food corruption should be more prominently featured.

    Also, a link to the reports on the results of the WMD search which showed that no stockpiles (or conclusive signs of them) had been found --what opponents trumpeted -- yet which DID conclusively prove that SH did everything to sustain the WMD tech base & knowledge to ramp up once sanctions were dropped.  

    By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Tue Nov 15, 07:47:00 PM:

    After 91' Saddam adopted a dispersed approach to many things just like the Germand did in WWII.

    Anyone expecting to find the WalMart of WMD on main street is/was a fool. The known sites the "inspectors" keep reinspecting was laughable -- if there was anything it would never be there.

    If someone wants to "hide" something there are ways to do it, and there are ways to do it.

    If you REQUIRE instant access, then your choices are necessarily limited by that constraint.

    If you do NOT REQUIRE instant access, then a universe of additional options present themselves. ex. you could build the stuff into structures and roadbeds. I don't know of anyone ever talking about a 1991 sat shot comparason with present day to identify new construction areas and such. I've certainly never seen a UN inspection team bringing along a dozer or trackhoe on an "inspection".

    The concrete pad my house is built on could be covering thousands of gallons of nerve gas agent -- but I'd never know that unless I tore the floor up.  

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