Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Once again, critics of the Iraq war are disappointed that George Bush has been able to maintain the support of our "traditional allies":

Britain's new prime minister, Gordon Brown, has disappointed American and British critics of the war in Iraq by declaring that he believes the West is involved in a "generation-long battle" against radical Islamic terrorism, that he believes the American mission in Iraq is worthwhile, and that he will stand by President Bush in his efforts to promote democracy in Iraq and in the rest of the Middle East.

After a four-hour meeting yesterday, which followed a two-hour discussion with the president at Camp David over dinner Sunday night, Mr. Brown offered little encouragement to those who hoped that the departure of Prime Minister Blair from Downing Street would lead to a weakening of the traditional alliance between America and Britain or would diminish the British resolve in Iraq.

"We are at one in fighting the battle against terrorism, and that struggle is one that we will fight with determination and with resilience and right across the world," Mr. Brown said at a press conference at the presidential mountain retreat.

While repeating his aim to hand over to "the democratic government of Iraq" the administration of the southern Iraqi province that surrounds Basra when security conditions allow, Mr. Brown did not flinch from his support of Mr. Bush, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, or the wider war against terrorism.

That makes two left-wing British prime ministers in a row who believe not only that we are in a long-term ideological struggle with radical Islam, but that the American strategy for contending with that threat is broadly correct. What do they know that we do not?


By Blogger Dan Kauffman, at Tue Jul 31, 08:38:00 AM:

The Iraq War was so politicaly damaging to Blair that he was only the FIRST Labour leader to be elected to three consecutive terms LOL  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Tue Jul 31, 11:33:00 AM:

What do they know that we do not?

They know there's people trying to bomb London. US democrats seem to forget that.  

By Blogger David M, at Tue Jul 31, 01:55:00 PM:

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 07/31/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.  

By Blogger Unknown, at Tue Jul 31, 07:18:00 PM:

I think they know that there's an enormous continuity to American foreign policy. However George Bush's actions are disavowed by his critics the odds are pretty fair that, knowing what he knew when he knew it, any other American president would probably have done much the same things.

That's true of the next president, too, whatever he (or, heavens forfend, she) is saying on the stump.  

By Blogger Christopher Chambers, at Tue Jul 31, 09:20:00 PM:

Lord have mercy you m-fs sound like little boys who are sticking out their tongues at the adults LOL.

Brown is talking the talk for pr purposes. Labour has not given its domestic agenda. Even noted liberal JK Rowling has said that's the only reason Blair was the lesser of many evils (I guess Tony's an official Muggle). The black hole the war's become is insidious, of course, in that while Saddam had nothing to do with 9-11 (oh, the story is now that he was "unpredictable" wow), Bushfolk have now imposed a construct where saying the war is crap means you are ok with a subway station getting bombed. A cynic might say this was the whole Verdun-like aim. Create such utter chaos that Al Qaida'd be dumb NOT to enter the fray, and of course Saddam's traditional enemy Iran rolls in, too. But hey...

In any event, the snarkiness of this post and some comments here makes me want to buy you guys some Transformers (TH probably wants Ironhide) or maybe Marvel Universe for Xbox...or some Capri Sun. Little snot-nose LOVE Capri Sun. Fruit punch or lemonade, boys? Then I want you in the mini-van and no squirming, fighting or nose-picking ok? ;-)  

By Blogger SR, at Tue Jul 31, 11:12:00 PM:

We really missed you Chris.  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Tue Jul 31, 11:14:00 PM:

Labour has not given its domestic agenda.

Sure they have - its the same as it always is:

-- stagnate the economy
-- increase unemployment
-- increase crime
-- raise taxes  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Jul 31, 11:42:00 PM:

As has been defended elsewhere, there is a reasonable explanation, aside from public relations. I don't find it overly difficult to imagine that someone could think an idea perfectly worthwhile and honorable, but not support its implementation under special circumstances; for example, incompetent implementation, such as it being a good idea to have a bridge somewhere but a bad idea to remake the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

By way of examples for Iraq:

Shinseki being ridiculed for thinking that the war in Iraq would require far more troops than we initially planned. (And now we're in a "surge" because we couldn't secure the country. Hmm.)

Estimates by proponents that the war would cost around $60Bn. ($430Bn and counting, aka >6x more.)

There couldn't possibly be a civil war when an oppressive minority loses its strongarm protection and faces an enraged majority! (More than a few generals have used the phrase "civil war.")

“Greeted as Liberators” & “Mission Accomplished” & “Bring 'em on.”

We've been "making progress" for longer than we were in WWII, and political reconciliation still hasn't happened. Bonus round: the Iraqi legislature takes a summer recess whilst our soldiers die. Yes it's hot, buy air conditioners. Lightning round: most recent NIE says that Al Qaeda is "as strong or stronger" than they were following 9/11.

The administration that deliberately set out to break down and rebuild a foreign country (theoretically with “planning”) couldn't manage to cope with a long-foreseen vulnerablility in New Orleans, resulting in the city's flooding, improper evacuation, and horrors at the Superdome. Perhaps this is just me, but the apt metaphor seems to be one of weightlifting: if you can't handle the 60 pounds weight, the 100 pounder is out of the question. Similarly, if an administration can't handle a domestic disaster with days of meteorological warning and years of preparation, how can it handle a foreign one, with personnel fallout, rising Anti-US sentiment, and a sentient enemy with firearms?

Perhaps the parting metaphor is this one: say you have frequent bouts of appendicitis, or infections in a primarily useless part of your body. Not uncommon solution: an appendectomy, removing said worthless tissue. Given this diagnosis, would you prefer an incompetent doctor with a tendency to try and juggle scalpels over patients, or no treatment at all? I, for one, would invest heavily in antibiotics and take the pain, because incompetent medicine (or administration) can do far more harm than nothing at all. I understand that the fight is important, and perhaps even winnable if we reinstate the draft and initiate mandatory military service for the next 30 years. However, until such things start happening (and they would never survive an election) we are merely driving our military into the ground and dashing our volunteers upon the rocks surrounding the siren vision of a peaceful middle-east. For corroboration, see most military officials past and present, including the universal opposition of the joint chiefs to the surge when it was started. Until advocates can get past the “how important” to the “how,” I remain unsold on the advisability of our middle-eastern misadventures.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Wed Aug 01, 08:13:00 AM:

Shinseki wanted so many troops because he wanted to impose universal martial law throughout the entirety of the country after the end of hostilities, (like in Japan) not because of some magical fore-sight into an Iraqi insurgency. (most of whom aren't even Iraqis)

I seem to recall cost estimates being put on the actual WAR part. You know, with enemy missiles and tanks and radar stations and such. Everything I remember hearing about the post-war occupation was to the tune of "long term" and "years."

"There couldn't possibly be a civil war when an oppressive minority loses its strongarm protection and faces an enraged majority!"

This isn't even a point, it's just a sarcastic comment.

“Greeted as Liberators” & “Mission Accomplished” & “Bring 'em on.”

We WERE greeted as liberators. I guess you weren't watching the LIVE freaking' feeds of cheering crowds blowing kisses at our tanks. The Iraqi regime WAS overthrown in 6 weeks at minimal loss, hence the mission accomplished, and they DID bring it on (the Baathists were who the comment was directed towards at the time) and had their asses soundly beaten.

I've got to go to work, but it's apparent that you, Mr. Tory, have both a selective memory and way less understanding of military and geo-political affairs that you think you do.

For example:

"perhaps even winnable if we reinstate the draft and initiate mandatory military service for the next 30 years"

This is just absurd.

"Until... I remain unsold on the advisability of our middle-eastern misadventures."

If you were really honest, you'd just say, 'I will remain unsold on the advisability of our middle-eastern misadventures.'  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Aug 01, 08:36:00 PM:

As a start, I think it worth noting that the opposition in the above comment was primarily directed at examples, rather than at the pith of the post: that many people seriously doubt the competence of the administration to wage ware effectively. As a compounding factor, even if all examples that were given or could be given were definitionally wrong, perception is the key issue; the examples need only seem persuasive to be persuasive, regardless of underlying fact that could be derived through the careful and studious research most Americans don't do. Admittedly I also expounded on personal opinion, but I feel an at least salutary nod to the gist of the blog post is needed. In my defense, a more elaborate articulation of my views with plenty or sourcing.

By way of sources on public perceptions of George Bush and Iraq, see http://www.pollingreport.com/BushFav.htm or http://www.pollingreport.com/iraq.htm, both of which conveniently aggregate data across multiple sources including the NYT and WSJ; please reserve complaints about bias unless you have better data, which I'll be glad to hear about. I think these polls taken together clearly outline the possibility that George is perceived as a less effective leader these days, sharpening the point before I address the previous examples. These responses will be numbered for convenience.

1. “To impose universal martial law?” The quote I have down for Shinseki is “I would say that what's been mobilized to this point -- something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required. We're talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems. And so it takes a significant ground- force presence to maintain a safe and secure environment, to ensure that people are fed, that water is distributed, all the normal responsibilities that go along with administering a situation like this.” I think it speaks for itself. Sourced from wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Shinseki, though you can google parts of the quote or do more general research for the original video; casual looking didn't find it on youtube, sadly. As to most of the insurgents being foreign, this hasn't always been the case, and I see at least one expert saying that the long-term presence of the US in Iraq & poor security post-war are to blame. To start: http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/03/02/insurgency/, and to finish: http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/03/02/insurgency/. Note line 30: “Foreign nationals are widely considered to account for less than 10% of the insurgency, but their role is high profile.”

2. General point: I think many would claim that so long as there are soldiers, humvees, and tanks on the ground, we are still “at war,” as in the Vietnam War lasting from 1959 to 1974 despite troop downstepping. This would make cost estimates of the type you describe disingenuous or misleading, in the eyes people with a similar view. As for sourcing, I have seen a spread, particularly hinging on how long the US could be expected to remain in Iraq. Numbers here: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/02/21/iraq/main541584.shtml. Using the top-end number cited in the fourth paragraph, I am off by $40Bn, while the estimate is off by ~$340Bn and counting. Accepting this as a bad case, if not worst case, I think the point is still very strong.

3. Sometimes a sarcastic comment is a point. The self-evident ridiculousness of such a statement demands a justification as to why our forces thought everyone could erect a big tent and play nice. Given the troop levels fielded by the White House, I think it self-evident that shortly into the war the WH was expecting political reconciliation and ensuing peace fairly quickly, and continued to expect such reconciliation for years, touting the panacea of democracy. Given the bloc leaving the Iraqi coalition recently and the summer recess, I think such expectations unwise.

4. “Greeted as liberators” - I wouldn't trust the sanctioned TV feeds managed by a government that is trying to sell the idea “we've won.” I would instead look toward the trends of violence since invasion, which have been unrelenting and increasing; not how I would greet my liberator, nor what I imagine that quote was intended to convey. The BBC has a nice summary of general events, including violence after the war, at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4192189.stm
“Mission Accomplished” I don't believe that “major combat operations” could describe the part of a conflict that took <5% of the dead. “Minor” is the word that comes to mind there, but I'm content to leave this a philosophical point.
“Bring 'em on” Warning, sound byte: http://politicalhumor.about.com/library/blbushism-bringemon.htm. This sounds like it's directed at insurgents generally. Looks like this advice is followed to this day, and the wisdom of the quote is what I think in serious question. I think it's ridiculously naïve, but we can agree to disagree.

I'll abstain for ad homenum attacks, thanks. As to the general idea that anything resembling a representative sample of understanding on the topics mentioned can be accrued in 2 paragraphs and a five item list, I'll categorically assert my opinion that such a thing is impossible, especially something dashed off quickly, particularly on a blog, and definitely something relegated to the comments section.

On “absurd”: I think it was pretty much agreed in the “WaPo/Wishful Thinking” thread that our military is being damaged by extended redeployment. I held out solutions for a large-scale, long-term, sustainable peacekeeping force (and for the record, I am in favor of mandatory military service; enlisting sets you behind your peers these days, so no individual has an incentive to do it, but that's a discussion for elsewhere.) If you have a personal favorite number for how long to speculate that the US will need to be in Iraq, use it; I confess to being half-flippant with 30.

Finally, the good part: “If you were really honest, you'd just say, 'I will remain unsold on the advisability of our middle-eastern misadventures.'” The sourcing I have provided might lend some credence to a perspective alternative to “let's stay the course, and shut up with the dissent because then the terrorists win,” and I hardly think that one-liners on blog comments are so useful as to merit inclusion. Summarily, if you have sources for your perspectives, we can compare and contrast; I confess to not being privileged with a knowledge of the totality of everything ever, and new information is a double-plus good. If not, please keep the insults to yourself. I took an hour out of my time to write this, and I'd hope for at least some courtesy in vociferous, even harsh disagreement.  

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