Sunday, July 06, 2008

Judgment on Iraq: Sorting right from wrong 

Regarding the growing sense that the counterinsurgency that we and the Maliki government are waging is approaching something that looks like victory, Andrew Sullivan concedes his surprise:

We need to add all the usual caveats. This is Iraq. But if someone had told me a year ago that fifteen of eighteen benchmarks had been reached, that all the parties were in negotiation over future politics, that al Qaeda was close to dead at the hands of the US and the Iraqis, and that oil contracts were being handed out amid four-year lows in violence, I wouldn't have believed them.

As far as it goes, Andrew is more intellectually honest than virtually every other public intellectual or politician who opposed President Bush's decision to support the Petraeus strategy in Iraq. Good for him. But then he offers this rather more dishonest comparison:
Of course, this all makes Obama's 16 month withdrawal timetable more and more feasible. It really now is a question of prudence and strategy in how best to withdraw troops. Do you trust McCain to get them all out swiftly and prudently? Or do you trust Obama to get them all out prudently and swiftly? It's a judgment call. And the options are better than they were six months ago.

If we are, as Andrew says, to judge the judgment of the two candidates, then the answer is clear. Eighteen months ago John McCain argued that the safest way out of Iraq was to win, then withdraw. Barack Obama, parroting the received wisdom of the Democratic foreign policy establishment, said that victory in any meaningful sense was not only unlikely, but that the presence of large numbers of American soldiers actually fed the insurgency and decreased the prospects for stability. On that crucially important decision, at least, it is becoming ever more obvious that McCain was right and Obama was wrong.

In perhaps related news, it has now been ten days since the last reported American KIA (i.e., from hostile action) in Iraq. That is the longest such stretch since May 14-25, 2003. Not being a "grim milestone," this will get no coverage from the mainstream media or notice from the Obama campaign, but it is a very encouraging bit of news. No wonder Obama is having to "thread the needle" on Iraq.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 02:58:00 PM:

And no KIAs with the major operation in Mosul ongoing.  

By Blogger Eric, at Sun Jul 06, 03:39:00 PM:

Perspective: President Bush, aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, said, while announcing the end to major combat operations in Iraq, "The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done and then we will leave and we will leave behind a free Iraq."

Sullivan isn't wrong, but he takes a different shade of gray. We do need to draw down in Iraq - I think everyone, including GEN Petraeus, can agree on that. Whereas the priority for some is the full withdrawal of US forces from Iraq as expeditiously as possible, the priority for others is also to draw down, but to do so in a measured, thoughtful manner that preserves and still supports continued progress in Iraq.

I think everyone can also agree that it's too early to declare Iraq a success and we must stay focused on the task at hand. Perhaps, however, it's not too early to exhale a little bit and sneak a peek ahead to What's next. Is a "free Iraq" to be treated as having no relation to our other regional goals? If not, what do we want a "free Iraq" to lead towards? When (not If) we draw down forces and reconfigure our mission in Iraq, what do we need to do next in order to achieve our next objective?  

By Blogger Escort81, at Sun Jul 06, 03:41:00 PM:

McCain being correct on the Surge is probably the best single reason to vote for him. His statement that he "would rather win the war and lose the election" than the other way around shows some character and decent rhetorical skills. His previous criticism of Rumsfeld and battlefield strategies being used by Coalition Forces (and strong "anti-torture" stances as it related to the three known instances of waterboarding, as well as other more commonly used aggresive methods) were mistaken by some conservatives as not being fully on board the prosecution of the GWOT. In my judgment, McCain wants to win the GWOT and has a better and more forward-leaning way of accomplishing that task than does Obama. I don't buy the argument that Obama's visage by itself reduces the chances of a terrorist attack (an AQ terrorist plotting to blow up a U.S. target realizes that Obama's father was a Kenyan, and says, "Oh, well, I didn't realize that; nevermind, we'll put all attacks against the U.S. on hold until he's out of office.")

The pivot that Sullivan and other Obama supporters are trying to use -- OK, the Surge is working, therefore it is easier to have a 16 month withdrawal -- is really cute and clever. Nice try.  

By Blogger NotWhoIUsedtoBe, at Sun Jul 06, 04:43:00 PM:

Sullivan reacted to reality. When the reality of 2006 was that we were losing, he reacted to it. Now that we are winning, he says so.

He's not a politician, and isn't a leader. He's an opinion columnist. So, it seems to me, he's doing his job. I wish more opinion bloggers were like him in that sense.

I wonder if he will lose his liberal readers and regain his conservative audience.  

By Blogger Larry Sheldon, at Sun Jul 06, 04:54:00 PM:

I've never been able to figure out why anybody reads Sullivan. I tried for a while but concluded that it was a lot like eating something bland, tasteless, and mildly disgusting.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 05:07:00 PM:

Sullivan reacted to reality. When the reality of 2006 was that we were losing, he reacted to it. Now that we are winning, he says so.

Rubbish. At least it's rubbish if sticking a wet forefinger in the wind constitutes a valid reaction to reality.

Sully simply executes a bald-faced lie here, transparently leap-frogging previous principle for present-day opportunism.

With luck, he'll lose all his readers. He certainly earned it.  

By Blogger Richard, at Sun Jul 06, 05:10:00 PM:

Does anybody think the Vietnam War "ended" or do people think we lost the Vietnam War?

Why then, does anybody think Obama will "end" the war in Iraq as opposed to Obama losing it?  

By Blogger Waldo, at Sun Jul 06, 05:32:00 PM:

Back in 2003, the SecDef Rumsfeld said that we didn't need that many troops to occupy Iraq. In fact, he claimed that the presence of large numbers of occupation troops intermingled with the population would feed an insurgency.

Others, such as Gen Shinseki argued that a larger force would be needed to secure the country. Now, it seems that Obama believes in the Rumsfeld model, while McCain believes in the Shinseki model.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 05:37:00 PM:

why leave? why not scale down our bases elsewhere - in Japan, Germany, Korea wherever, and move that presence to Iraq? If the Iraqi government asks, why not stay, especially if it helps keep the place secure, and the danger to our people has diminished?

The Germans, Japanese, and Koreans can pay for their own defense now. Its time they got weaned off of free military protection.  

By Blogger Unknown, at Sun Jul 06, 05:48:00 PM:

Obama really beleives that becuase his Dad was Kenyan that alone will reduce America's risk to a terror attack.

Someone needs to remind the Messiah that on Aug 7, 1998 a large truck bomb blew up the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. Even tho a lrge number of people who looked like Kenyans worked there (mainly because they were Kenyans) that didn't stop Al-Qaeda from committing this atrocity.

Obama is plainly an imbecile, his only hope is that the MSM can keep the interference running for him the next 4 months.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 05:57:00 PM:

The idea that a shift away from the "Rumsfeld model" of fewer troops, and towards the "Shinseki model" of more troops on the ground is flawed. The "surge" in troop numbers, while certainly helpful, was accompanied by a major tactical and strategic changes engineered by Petraeus and others. The anti-surge contingent focused mostly on the troop levels, and I think many commenters are making the same mistake here.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 06:13:00 PM:

"Sullivan reacted to reality. When the reality of 2006 was that we were losing, he reacted to it. Now that we are winning, he says so."

I think it is short sighted to say "we were losing" in 2006. War is not a baseball game where it is clear when you are down by 3 runs and thus "losing" even though the game has not ended. Things for the US military were objectively more difficult in 2006 and deteriorating slightly from 2005 but we were in the fight and many things were in motion that were necessary that will have contributed to winning the fight.

To use the baseball analogy, we were scoring runs in 2006 and the insurgency was scoring runs as well but the "total score" in 2006 was a matter of opinion. I have never thought we were losing and other people were quite certain of it. Who's opinion was right?

Note: Based on US soldier fatalities the worst 12 month stretch of the war was from September 2006 to August 2007. And the worst 3 month stretch was April to June 2007. Interestinly the lowest 3 month stretch for US fatalities was also in 2007 (Oct-Dec).


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 06:34:00 PM:

One point about the heavy versus the light footprint. There was not a big increase of US troops for the surge- maybe 20%. What made the difference was that they were no longer in the barracks as much , but out on patrol much more than before.

One factor in the success of the surge was the large terrorist/insurgents database that had been built up since March 2003. If we had the heavy footprint in 2003, absent that terrorist/insurgents database we had four years later, we would not have been as successful.  

By Blogger Waldo, at Sun Jul 06, 06:38:00 PM:


I agree. The increase in troop numbers in the "surge" was not the major reason for the change in the course of the war. The most important change that we made is the deployment of US forces into neighborhoods as opposed to patrolling from forward operating bases. More important, though, is that Al Qaeda in Iraq lost, not through our actions, but due to their own brutality and inability to govern.

The flaw in the "Rumsfeld model" is not that fewer troops are needed, but the idea that American troops are inherently toxic and a cause for instability. That was the argument that Rumsfeld made against higher troops levels, and the argument that many in the media make today. In fact, it's the actions of those troops (i.e.- do they provide security to the population), that matter.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 06:41:00 PM:

2003 and 2007 in Iraq are in no way comparible. Different conditions required different approaches. The Surge work because of all that was accomplished in the previous years. It is nice that at least some people hear recognize that, even if the Media and most pundits don't.

C. Owen Johnson  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 07:30:00 PM:

The Surge work [sic] because of all that was accomplished in the previous years.

Good grief. Read the recent Army report and say that with a straight face.

Better yet ask Tomas  

By Blogger clint, at Sun Jul 06, 09:28:00 PM:

C. Owen Johnson-

I'd say, rather, that the "surge" (hate the name, because it wrongly emphasizes the +20% rather than the switch to classic counterinsurgency) worked *as well as it did* in part because of progress that had been made over the intervening years.

I think it's pretty clear that classic counterinsurgency techniques worked extremely well wherever and whenever they were applied. See General Petraeus's progress in the earlier parts of the war, for example.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 10:45:00 PM:

"Read the recent Army report and say that with a straight face."

What? Army report?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 06, 10:53:00 PM:

Without the Iraqi army to supplement the US Army/Marines "surge", it would have been just another clear and sweep operation, with the "insurgents" filling back into the vacuum after the US Army or Marines left a sector of operation.

"Clear, hold and build". Big footprint, small footprint; irregardless, until a competent Iraqi army was trained and ready to support and engage in operations, the US forces in Iraq were always going to be in a fire-fighting mode; stamping out the blaze where it was worse. Al-anbar province was one of the worse places for several years, but not the only bad place.
The "Anbar Awakening" happened coincidentally with the Surge, and not really because of it. This allowed a lot of good things to snowball; meaning that actually fewer brigades had to be occupied in Anbar because the Sunni Iraqis were stepping up to fight the insurgency there. The "Sons of Iraq".
Complementing the military surge had to be the political component; the beginnings of true national reconciliation after decades of the Republic of Fear under Saddam Hussein and the Baathist party.

Truly, Petraeus, as commander of the 101st Airborne in the north in 2003-04, had a clearer grasp of how to maintain order and suppress insurgent activity than other field officers of the same grade, but there was not universal direction from the top civilian leadership at the time, so no standard field doctrine existed or was created at that time to guide other officers and occupation units. The Surge wasn't just numbers, it was tactics and strategy, and a more thorough approach, only possible because of the size of the Iraqi trained army in late 2006, early 2007.

This was, in my opinion, Rumsfeld's biggest sin; not Abu Graib, not the size of the force, or many other irrelevant issues that occupy the minds of the simple and the Media. The lack of the correct counter-insurgency doctrine to succeed in Iraq. The Army and Marines did it in fits and starts for three years, until Petraeus instituted a fully thought out field doctrine to be used in 2007's "Surge".

Shinseki's complaint was the size of the force. While not irrelevant, it was doctrine that the field army so desparately needed at the end of the main combat phase in OIF in 2003. A larger army in Iraq would have been more costly and more of a mess, if the doctrine for suppressing the insurgency was still wrong.

Ideas, the correct ideas and intellectual organization, always have to precede action for the actions to have purpose and meaning. Thus the holding action for three years (2003 -2006) until we had
1) Doctrine
2) An adequately trained Iraqi army in place to "Hold and Build"


By Blogger newscaper, at Sun Jul 06, 11:56:00 PM:

To give Obama too much credit for "at least he's honest enough to acknowledge the changing situation" is a gross error.

His is NOT *anywhere* near saying that he was wrong to bail out when things were difficult.

Otherwise he's giving, at best, a strategy that says "support when its looking good, quit when its tough." That's not any kind of leadership, certainly not making any connection between sticking it out (with revisions) as being the only way to turn a tough situation back in to a good one. Obama grudgingly offering some support now does not in any way excuse the fact that following his advice means we would have never got to this improved situation.

BTW, I'll also add that of the mistakes in the year or two right after the invasion that can be laid at Bush & Rumsfeld's feet (BTW I do *not* count disbanding the old Iraq Army as a mistake) IMO most were motivated by giving the domestic US left wing opposition as little ammo as possible to use against their own country. For example, imagine the outcry if US soldiers had begun shooting looters on sight. *All* attempts by the leftists to criticise the war effort from the right are disingenous BS.  

By Blogger newscaper, at Mon Jul 07, 12:03:00 AM:

BTW, about disbanding the old IA not being a mistake...

At this point, with the IA finally pulling its weight, and increasingly integrated and professional, I think the "mistake" people (including too many war supporters trying to sound like they're not just mindless Bushbots) have the burden of proof to show that a non-disbanded army in desperate need of purging wold have lead to a better Iraqi Army *now.*

I seriously don't think that can be claimed as self-evident. Just because things weren't easy between the disbanding and the last 6-12 months doesn't in any way mean the disbanding was wrong. It's the end result that matters.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Mon Jul 07, 12:34:00 AM:

I'm not going to claim that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld pursued the best of all possible strategies from 2003-2006. But all this critiquing now is just so much Monday morning quarterbacking. When we toppled Saddam in 2003, Iraq was a country with little history of stable, peacful rule coming off a 30-year reign of terror by a brutal dictator. It is likely that no matter what we did a period of chaos and violence was inevitable.  

By Blogger Andrew Graff, at Mon Jul 07, 01:30:00 AM:

Well, I'm sticking by my positions on Iraq. And now that things are looking up (for the moment) I can do so more comfortably than some occasions in the past. At the very least, I've a better record of predicting victory in Iraq than Paul Krugman has of predicting recession in America (and we are both likely to be finally right at about the same time).

My position on Iraq has always been that do to inherent structure of the conflict, it was virtually impossible for America to lose except by giving up. At no time did the opposition represent a credible popular insurgency with a credible path to victory. At no time were they ever able to score a significant military success against the coalition forces. And in the end, the terrorists were undone by pretty much precisely what I said would undo them - the unwillingness of the Iraqi people to put the chains back on. I still believe it is virtually impossible to lose the Iraq war. The cost has been far higher than we would have liked or hoped for, but it is also far less than it could have been. In the end, victory was practically certain, and thankfully we finally found the right Commander for the job to shorten the days to that triumph.

Bush wouldn't be the first commander-in-chief to have trouble finding the right subordinates for the job.

But at the same time, I maintain the same cynical view of the war in Afghanistan I've always had. Because of the structure of that war, the war there is virtually unwinnable. Just as the insurgent in Iraq had no credible path to victory, so the coalition in Afghanistan has no credible path to victory. I haven't heard one person articulate how we can obtain victory in that conflict in terms that don't involve several generations and alot of big 'if's.

The thing I find really damning is that the anti-war crowd continually tried to compare Iraq to Vietnam despite the fact that they had virtually nothing in common. Yet, they for the most part refrained from comparing the war in Afghanistan to Vietnam despite the fact that they are in so many ways alike. The principle reason that the left failed to draw this comparison is I think that the war in Afghanistan is more popular, but the great irony there is of course that this is also a way in which the war in Afghanistan is very much like Vietnam. The war in Vietnam was in it's initial phases extremely popular as well. It only became unpopular after it had been dragging on for a decade or so, after the Americanization of the war and the body bags started really piling up.

My great fear has never been for Iraq. The worst that could have happened there was that we abandon victory right as we are about to obtain it - which would have been bad enough but not catastrophic. My great fear has always been for Afghanistan, because its there where we could see the Americanization of the war with no clear plan for winning save putting in more troops and stomping around with our big boots on making a mess of things.  

By Blogger LouisAntoine, at Mon Jul 07, 01:50:00 AM:

Mmmm hmmmm. Tigerhawk, McCain, and most of the commenters here thought invading Iraq was a great idea in the first $%&*@#$ place. After that, why should I for even a split second listen to anything you have to say about anything, ever again?

You still think it was a great idea. You have never had the courage to deny that, against massive evidence.

The Bush administration and its supporters had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the new tactics that appear to be having a positive effect in Iraq. These shifts in strategy were caused by pressure from Bush's opposition. The firing of Rumsfeld, the commitment to nation-building, even the higher levels of troops-- all of these things had been demanded by opponents of the Bush administration long before they came to pass. But this blog and many of its readers constantly defended Bush on a partisan, political basis, no matter how plainly destructive the policy.

You are not going to pin failure in Iraq on Democrats, you sniveling cowards. If an initiative is undertaken with a fundamentally flawed premise at the outset, blame for failure does not lie with the person who mediates the consequences.  

By Blogger LouisAntoine, at Mon Jul 07, 02:09:00 AM:

p.s. NO ONE KNOWS what would have happened if all U.S. troops HAD been withdrawn 18 months ago. The arguments about "Al-Qaeda Taking Over Iraq!!!" trotted out by the Weekly Standard and the usual band of cretins is so transparently stupid on its face that I have trouble refuting it. Here goes: the potential that a Sunni, foreign-funded and manned guerilla group could thrive and take over a Shia majority backed by several highly organized militas (Badr and SCIRI) and a large popular one (JAM) is dumb, it's just dumb, but you take it seriously.

Iraq is a shattered country with millions of its citizens currently residing in exile. The seeds of decades of future conflict have been sown. Your passionate conviction about America's impending victory only reveals your total lack of concern about actual Iraqis over your stilted notions of American greatness.

You know what would really make a sudden improvement in Iraq? A time machine, to go back before the invasion, when a weakening and hated dictator held loose control over it. Maybe with serious consideration, patience, and focused pressure, the fall of that regime could have been managed (see: eastern Europe) without attacking and taking over the country.

Oh, but there was a reason why we had to invade so fast... I can't remember... WD-40s? WHD? Whatever.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jul 07, 08:06:00 AM:

What? Army report?
Anon at 10:45 pm

Actually, there were two reports released last week. The Army's 700 page On Point" report, and the 2005 Rand Company analysis, prepared at the request of the Army, and previoulsy withheld until last week.

Both give a blistering account of the miltary's mistakes and failures leading up to the surge, and leading one to believe that there would have been no need for a surge if "they" had planned for the day after Baghdad fell, or if we had followed McCain's and others pleas in 2003, and 2004, and 2005, and 2006 to increase the number of troops. Or change course. Or not invade in the first place.

Be honest: After 4 years of "last throes" and we're winning" do you really think that Bush would have booted Rumsfeld out and adopted the surge plan if the Republicans had won the November 2006 elections?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jul 07, 10:11:00 AM:

"Winning" implies an *end* to the conflict and the troops come home. The American people want the troops to come home. If the war were "won" then the troops would have to come home. Leaving troops in Iraq will not be seen as winning.

But the goal has always been for troops to stay in Iraq indefinitely. McCain made it clear when he explictly said 100 years would be fine with him. Therefore winning is off the table.  

By Blogger Cecil Turner, at Mon Jul 07, 10:33:00 AM:

I find the partisan politicization of warfare lamentable, in general, and most of the related arguments unpersuasive. If "not enough troops" was true, a la Shinseki, the "surge" would've failed miserably . . . because it never approached "several hundred thousand" or anything close. In fact, the relatively modest plus-up in combat troops was a requirement for implementing the energetic part of Petraeus's new (old) strategy, but hardly the main point of the strategy shift. Nor can one pretend the shift was a continuation of earlier operations, though obviously some of the preconditions were set by those. Similarly, while the SecDef is certainly involved in the planning process, the driver for operations is the Combatant Commander (CentCom), not Rumsfeld or Gates, much less Bush (or McCain or Obama).

The idea that Bush saw the light on "more troops," leading to the turnaround, is silly (though one might persuasively argue he was late in firing Abizaid). And no criticism or support by any Senator could've created a Petraeus if he weren't already available, nor does the strategy shift reflect some underlying political transformation. The lion's share of the credit belongs to Petraeus (and, to a lesser degree, his fellow COIN proponents). Congress can torpedo the effort, but except for providing requested support, can do little to execute it. Similarly, the President is largely limited to replacing generals and providing broad direction.

However, some credit does attend to the decision to support the advancement of the man with a plan; as does the willingness to provide his requested assets. And there is an unseemly fascination with defeat in some corners . . . strangely manifested in featherbedding defense appropriations (apparently to increase cost); arguing for more troops and to listen to the generals and then, once requested, seeking to deny them; and an ongoing propaganda campaign. The latter is particularly tasteless, especially when directed at our troops or the General who leads them.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jul 07, 11:09:00 AM:

I've been surprised to not see any reference here to David Brooks' recent piece, The Bush Paradox.

But before long, the more honest among the surge opponents will concede that Bush, that supposed dolt, actually got one right. Some brave souls might even concede that if the U.S. had withdrawn in the depths of the chaos, the world would be in worse shape today.

Life is complicated. The reason we have democracy is that no one side is right all the time. The only people who are dangerous are those who can't admit, even to themselves, that obvious fact.

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Jul 07, 12:55:00 PM:

Some helpful advice, Montagne Mointaigne. Trotting out opinions as unassailable facts and refusing to listen to opposing voices because they are *obviously* your intellectual inferiors is the behavior of an arrogant douchebag, and simply causes others to resent you and your position.

"But this blog and many of its readers constantly defended Bush on a partisan, political basis, no matter how plainly destructive the policy."

Just to establish some credibility here, I talked about the necessity for more aggression out of our troops on this blog, starting in the summer of 2006. You can look it up, if you care. Neither am I a Bush partisan. And neither am I a sniveling coward, you little piss-ant, know it all civilian. I served in this war. You, obviously, have not.

But none of that probably matters to you, since pretty much the first thing you said was that you weren't going to listen to anyone else.

"You are not going to pin failure in Iraq on Democrats, you sniveling cowards."


No, we won't. They do that themselves

"I believe ... that this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything, as is shown by the extreme violence in Iraq this week." - Harry Reid, Apr, 2007.

"Using blunter language than any other Democrat in the last two days, Mrs. Clinton told General Petraeus that his progress report on Iraq required "a willing suspension of disbelief." - NY Sun, Sept. 2007

"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said twice Sunday that Iraq “is a failure,” adding that President Bush’s troop surge has “not produced the desired effect.” - Politico, Jan. 2008

"There was no firefight. There was no IED (improvised explosive device) that killed those innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them. And they killed innocent civilians in cold blood. That is what the report is going to tell." - Jack Murtha, May 2006

But we're the fatally flawed, fundamentally wrong cowards? Fascinating.

"You know what would really make a sudden improvement in Iraq? A time machine, to go back before the invasion, when a weakening and hated dictator held loose control over it. Maybe with serious consideration, patience, and focused pressure, the fall of that regime could have been managed (see: eastern Europe) without attacking and taking over the country."

And this demonstrates that not only are you an arrogant douchebag, you're a special kind of arrogant douchebag. The ignorant kind. What are you, 8? Did the entire decade of the 1990s with economic, diplomatic, and both internal and external military pressure failing to dislodge Saddam just never occur? Or was 11 years not enough time, and we just needed more patience? Did the fact that Iraq was a police state with no fewer than 11 security agencies scream out internal weakness and we were too dumb to realize it?

Grow out of your righteousness and educate yourself before you start tossing around your ego as if you're the gods' gift to foreign policy.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Mon Jul 07, 02:30:00 PM:

Hey DF 82 -

I've been busy and haven't had much time to continue to write in defense and support of the war and the original decision (about which I used to write a lot). I haven't had much to add to the discussion. And I was about to respond to MM when I got to yours.

So thanks for saving me the trouble. Hope it's going well
for ya. It might be time for TH to get you on the front page...  

By Blogger clint, at Mon Jul 07, 03:23:00 PM:

Anon @11:10 AM:

""Winning" implies an *end* to the conflict and the troops come home."


You should be deeply embarrassed to type such nonsense, even anonymously on the internet.

Unless you seriously mean to assert that the U.S. lost, inter alia, the American Revolution, the U.S. Civil War, World War II (on both Fronts), and the first Gulf War.  

By Blogger clint, at Mon Jul 07, 03:33:00 PM:


Re: Iraq and a Time Machine...

The Iraqi "What If" that bothers me is the 1991 one -- What if President George H.W. Bush had kept our word to Iraqi rebel groups -- Shiites in the south and Kurds in the north -- and provided Special Forces and Air Support way back in '91.

It would have been ugly, and President Bush would have gotten all the blame. But it probably would have ended far better for the Iraqi people.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jul 07, 04:25:00 PM:

It was very ugly anyways, but the Western Media was not there to record it for posterity. Ask Eason Jordan about that one. There is little ideological hay to be made in truly risking your life to get out the story (with film!) that thousands of pathetic Shia Arabs in south Iraq were being slaughtered. Besides, that could have been used as justification for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Musn't do that.

I once worked for an expatriate Iraqi, who was sorta tied into the Iraqi National Congress (in London), and he came in several mornings in the spring of 1991 with a big grin on his face, "They almost got him last night!" Him, of course, being Saddam Hussein.

If, if , if. But we don't live in that world, do we?

DF82: You speak for many. Kudos.


By Blogger LouisAntoine, at Tue Jul 08, 12:30:00 AM:

OK, so I'm a jerkoff, but just help my ignorant butt out, and answer me this.

If it's true that the Iraqi government wants us to withdraw, and I grant you that the Maliki government only has this option because of the surge's success (meaning that John McCain was right and Obama was wrong about the surge)... and it's McCain's policy that we will withdraw by 2013 (right? didn't he say that?) then how is McCain not an enormous "flip flopper"? His policy is a permanent military presence in Iraq. If you argue with that then you are an infernal parser and partisan defender. If the Iraqi government wants us to leave and Obama wants to leave and McCain wants to leave, then what are we really talking about here?

We're talking about a Bush policy, supported wholly by McCain at the outset, that has principally benefited Iran. The greatest regional threat to Israel out ally. A potential nuclear rival.

Obama saw and stated the risks of this; McCain did not. A question of judgment that to me heavily weighs in Obama's favor.  

By Blogger Andrew Graff, at Tue Jul 08, 10:38:00 PM:

Montagne: The problem many of us have in discussing the Iraq war with critics from the Left is that there are so many things that they take as a given that simply aren't true, or at the very least are highly debateable by reasonable people.

For example, you claim that McCain's policy is 'permanent military presence in Iraq'. But that's never been McCain's policy. McCain's policy, in brief, has always been something more like, "As long as it takes and not a minute longer." From his official website:

"I do not want to keep our troops in Iraq a minute longer than necessary to secure our interests there. Our goal is an Iraq that can stand on its own as a democratic ally and a responsible force for peace in its neighborhood. Our goal is an Iraq that no longer needs American troops. And I believe we can achieve that goal, perhaps sooner than many imagine."

The Iraqi government, McCain, and Obama all agree we should eventually leave.

However, Obama's official policy is that we leave as fast as is possible to pack up the gear and ship it home. From his official website:

"Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months."

But if you look at the request of the Iraqi legislature it looks nothing like that. The Iraqi legislature wants so to commit to stay the course for at least 3-5 more years, subject to six month reviews of the security situation and doesn't even want us to start leaving until six months after the last of the 18 provinces is turned over to Iraqi security forces. Currently, Iraq is only handling 9 of the 18 provinces.

Yes, Iraq wants us to leave, but not until roughly four years from now and only if the security situation continues to improve. Yes, the Iraq legislature wants us to commit to leaving if things are better down the line, but they want us to commit to not leaving until things are better.
Whose policy does this sound more like?

"We're talking about a Bush policy, supported wholly by McCain at the outset, that has principally benefited Iran."

A great many analysts would disagree. Unless you think that if we hadn't have attacked Iraq, we would have attacked Iran, Iran has IMO thus far really benefitted not at all from the war. What Iran has right now is an armed US force on either border. And to the extent Iran has engaged us in a covert 'war of assassins', it goes both ways. They've killed our people, but we've killed thiers. So far they've obtained no strategic value from supplying training and IED's to the terrorits in Iraq. And just as they can infiltrate Iraq, we now have the capacity to infiltrate them in a way that we didn't prior to Iraq. Through contacts with the Shia, we can develop human intel inside Iran in a way that we couldn't before Iraq. They can stir up trouble for us in Iraq, but we can stir up trouble for them in the Kurdish and Arab populations inside Iran.
And as of yet, Iran's hopes that Iraq would prove a useful client state have largely been dashed. Sistani shows no interest in being subservient to the Imans of Iran. Muqtada Al-Sadr was never able to extend his base of support beyond a small minority, and has basically crumbled and the Arab Shia of Iraq still unsurprisingly show little sign of wanting to take the Persian Shia of Iran as thier new old masters.

What exactly do you claim Iran has gotten out of this? How the heck do you think they are benefiting? The only way they can salvage something now that they've lost Basra is if the US precipitously withdraws, and even then its not clear that they can hold terroritory against the reconstituted Iraqi army.

Since you think that one of the biggest condemnations of the war in Iraq is that it is helpful to Iran, why don't we consider what Iran wants the US to do right now. What is thier official policy? The only people in Iraq clamoring for an immediate US withdraw are the spokespersons for the Mahdi army, which is to say the Iranian puppets. So, Obama and Iran are in agreement about what should happen in Iraq.

You think that Obama would be consulting with US allies in Iraq, not with the Iranians, but I guess that is part of his whole willingness to speak with anyone.  

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