Thursday, October 9, 2003
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To repeat: no coherent narrative
Given the latest suicide bombing in Iraq, it's going to be easy to claim that the place -- and U.S. policy -- is an abject disaster. And there are certainly some problems besides violent attacks in the U.S. administration of Iraq.
However, consistent with my no coherent narrative meme, there is also some good news. The New York Times reports that it should be very easy to fulfill Iraq's aid needs for the next year -- about $6 billion -- in part because it will take some time for the country to have the necessary institutional infrastructure to absorb even more aid. Some cheering grafs:
Even more heartwarming is this Chicago Tribune story on the effects that U.S. aid are having on the Iraqi people. The highlights:
Really, you need to read the entire article.
One new and potentially intriguing part of the Iraqi coverage is that the Bush administration recognizes it needs to get more of the positive stories coming from Iraq into the media. [Why does this matter beyond the 2004 election?--ed. Because if the American people become convinced that Iraq is a miserable failure, then they're going to start demanding a withdrawal, which would be catastrophic for regional stability] This Chicago Tribune story on Condi Rice's latest speech suggests a new White House plan on this front:
Still developing...posted by Dan on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM
Regarding the "and the administration's $87 billion spending request for Iraq and Afghanistan faces heavy Democratic opposition." bit from the Trib quote, from the little discussion I've caught of this by Dems (on C-SPAN actually), they primarily seemed to be opposed to the questionable amounts budgeted, not the overall plan.
Points such as the vast difference in quotes from American contractors compared to Iraqi firms - and Iraq has some really good engineers, so this isn't like Farmer Ahmed making up numbers. It seems fair to look into if this is just really cushy budgeting allowing American co's to catch a windfall of spending. Aren't Repubs supposed to be against such profligate spending?posted by: Todd G on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Jim Dunnigan made a useful statement about this on his web site. I'll repost the whole thing here as his comment today will scroll off the URL in a few days - one of the defects in his site software.
"IRAQ: The Long Civil War
October 9, 2003: About a third of the American troops in Iraq are taking nearly all the casualties. These are the troops who occupy the "Sunni Triangle" and are fighting Baath Party diehards. The "Sunni Triangle" area in and outside of Baghdad is occupied by Sunni Arabs who supported Saddam Hussein, formed the core of the Baath Party and have tyrannized the Kurds and Shia Arabs for centuries. The Sunnis don't necessarily want Saddam back, but they do want to be back in charge of the country. Since so many of them belonged to Baath, or worked for the Republican Guard and secret police, there is high unemployment. The Sunnis had it so good for so long that many have never had to really work for a living. Unless you call terrorizing, torturing and murdering non-Sunni Arabs "work." The coalition knew going in that the Sunni Arabs might continue to resist. The Sunnis had been in charge (even when the Turks and British were occupying Iraq) for centuries and no one quite knew how Baath would react to being out of power.
Now we know. Baath leaders have sufficient cash to pay unemployed soldiers and secret policemen to attack American and Iraqis working for the coalition or transitional government. The solution for that is actually quite simple, and right out of the "Small Wars Manual" the Marine Corps wrote in the 1930s. First, you help rebuild the country. In 80 percent of Iraq, the only contact Iraqis have with coalition troops is watching them, or working with them, on reconstruction projects. In the Sunni Arab areas there are a couple of dozen incidents a day. More than half of them are attacks on Iraqis. As a result of this, about a third of the U.S. troops in Iraq are suffering about 90 percent of the casualties. The "Sunni Triangle" is something of a battlefield, but in ways most outsiders don't appreciate. For one thing, there is much factionalism (especially that based on tribes) in Iraq, and this is true among the Sunni Arabs as well. Iraqis spend more time shooting at each other than they do at Americans. There's a good reason for this, as when the American troops shoot back they usually hit what they are shooting at. So Baath gunmen prefer to attack other Iraqis. Most of the Iraqi attacks with assault rifles and RPGs against Americans are ineffective, and bombs are becoming more popular, While the remote control bombs have been quite effective, they have also killed and injured lots of Iraqis. Rewards have been offered for information on those bombs, and Iraqis have been cashing in by providing tips on who and where.
Over the next year or two, the Sunni Arabs will find themselves facing more Iraqi police and soldiers. Some of these will be Sunni Arabs, as many Sunnis didn't care to be run by a gang of corrupt tyrants, even if they were Sunni Arabs. But it will eventually come down to a civil war type of situation. Millions of Sunni Arab Iraqis are willing to support Baath and resist. It will take years of unrest before the last Baath diehard puts down his gun, or is shot dead.
Meanwhile you have corruption, tribalism and a lousy work ethic to deal with. The latter is the result of Baath running the country as a private fiefdom for the last three decades. Bit by bit, most entrepreneurs were eliminated and most businesses became state owned or controlled. Party loyalty was more important that workplace efficiency. For most Iraqis, like citizens of communist countries after the Soviet Union collapsed, delivering a day's work for a day's pay is a somewhat alien concept. The endemic corruption doesn't help either. Iraqi contractors will often look for a way to make it appear that the job was done rather than actually do it. Their idea of efficiency is looking for the right person to bribe as quickly as possible. What doesn't work in Iraq (both before Baath, during Baath and now) can often be traced to the corruption.
The tribalism is a special problem that at least has a positive side. The tribes have been around for thousands of years and their organization has survived as a means to provide some degree of justice and a social security net for people. But many tribes operate like criminal gangs and some tribes, to American eyes, ARE criminal gangs. Leadership in a tribe is not hereditary, but goes to a small number of families that keep producing the most capable leaders. Usually aided by a council of elders (senior members of other powerful families), the tribal chiefs wield great power and influence. No elected (or unelected) leader of Iraq can ignore the tribal leaders.
So a principal objective of the coalition occupation is to get the majority of Iraqis organized well enough to hold an election, and then carry on fighting the Baath Party by themselves."posted by: Tom Holsinger on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
A few thoughts:
1. my mother lived through Nazi occupation of France in WWII. Most days she did the normal things like go to school, help with the shopping, etc. The point? Life under occupation is a lot like normal life. So the US is painting schools. Are we addressing the root causes of the guerrilla war? Are we succeeding in being perceived as liberators rather than quasi-benevolent occupiers? Beats the hell out of me. But neither the good-news stories nor the bad-news stories answer that question.
2. I count myself as a moderate, centrist, Calpundit-style liberal. I don't know of anyone who holds my general political philosophy who wishes the occupation to fail, i.e., for the US to be forced to install a strongman and withdraw. "We broke it; we bought it." is a more accurate view. BUT, I believe that the Bush admin. does not have the best interests of the Iraqi people at heart. For example, Bremer has stated more than once that a sharia-style political and judicial system will be unacceptable. Since, apparently, the US is reserving veto rights over the final form of an Iraqi govt, it's going to be very difficult to keep up the argument that we are "liberators" rather than occupiers once Iraqis start debating their constitution.
Going back to France, the Vichy government has not exactly been covered in glory in the eyes of history. I am concerned that we are building tremendous political resentment against not only ourselves but our puppet govt.
3. So what's the best possible outcome? Obviously I want Bush out of office. I think another 4 years of American isolationism and arrogance will increase the threat of terrorism against the US, not diminish it. Also, the country's debt load will likely be staggering.
Ye gods, if this is a win, I really don't want to see any more bad news. Come on, Dan, read between the lines. There is no commitment that the donors' conference will go forward as planned. Japan, one of the world's largest economies, is planning a contibution that is 1/20th being asked of the US taxpayer. The EU states, also the world heavyweights, COLLECTIVELY won't even match the Japan contribution. AND we do not know WHY a country as badly broken as Iraq cannot use aid more rapidly. NOR do we know what this means in terms of further aid requests for years and years into the future.
heart-warming stories of kids going to school holding hands with GIs are cute, but not terribly relevant. at least, not to me.
cheers,posted by: FDL on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
The one consistent element of the Bush Administration is that the opposition finds a weakness, attempts to exploit it, and after they have started to attack, the rug is pulled out from under them. A lot of this is because the administration is doing a lot of things right, and don't ballyho about how great they've been, but good news gets out eventually.posted by: Bill S. on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
The fact that we will not allow a sharia-based government to run Iraq is proof we haven't liberated Iraq?
I guess I missed the part of our post-WW II occupation in Germany where we made sure the Nazis could freely participate in elections.
Of course we liberated Iraqis and of course we are insisting on a type of government that benefits us--this was a war fought in our national interests after all. How would it be worth the sacrifice to allow a government that might turn hostile and require a new war in 5 years time?
It's been 6 months since the statue of Saddam came down in Baghdad. Let's try to have a little patience here.posted by: Brian J. Dunn (The Dignified Rant) on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
A well-stated response that doesn't add up at some points. For example, you criticize Bush- saying that he doesn't have Iraqi interests at heart when Bremer threatens to reject a Sharia-style government.
Why in the world would you think that a Sharia-style government- bereft of things like religious tollerance, free speech, secular rule, and women's rights- is in the Iraqi's interests? Our refusal to accept such lunocracies is evidence that Bush *is* interested in Iraqi well-being, rather than the opposite. And given that the majority of Iraqis prefer American-style rule to the various Middle Eastern alternatives, I don't see how your point begins to get traction.
And I think it pointless to bring up Vichy France as an analogy to Iraq. Better examples would include Post-war Germany, Japan and South Korea. We did not set up a puppet government there, and there seems to be very little indication that the US plans anything different for the Iraqis.
But I find your final summary to be the most perplexing. American Isolationism? Perhaps you didn't notice that we are INTERVENTIONIST. Nor do we do this alone (even today, we see that the Turks are joining the long list of countries that assist the US in Iraq).
We know why the Iraqi infrasturcture is unable to accept aid: 30 years of Tyranny, a decade of sanctions, and constant sabotauge by millitants. And to think that cement factories, oil refineries, roads and schools can all be built back to accept billions of dollars in mere months seems to be setting the bar at unreachable heights.
-HBposted by: Henry Bramlet on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Let me speculate a little on the apparent slowness of the reconstruction.
In any infrstructure there are devices, machines, installations, that are both key to the system, and relatively few in number. Many of these items are very costly, because so few of them are produced. Many of these items take up to a year to produce, and no inventory is kept by manufaturers (built to order only).
Now, do you suppose that replacing a generator turbine, or a telephone switch, or a whatever might fall into the above? And, add to this that the technology on hand is two decades out of date to begin with, so that your very expensive, and hard to produce dingus may not even connect to the rest of the setup without a lot of extra engineering effort and piecing together.posted by: Chuck on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
"Aren't Repubs supposed to be against such profligate spending?"
Yup, and if we should be very concerned if these allegations are accurate. There is a possibility that some petty bureaucrat was overly concerned about rewarding contracts to former Baath party members. Alas, they may have concluded that to play it safe--no Iraqis should be awarded a contract!
I am no Republican knee jerker. We must be as fair as possible. I have learned not to trust the initial reports from the liberal media. Let’s just see if there is indeed some fire behind all this smoke. If so, I am more than willing to criticize the Bush administration.posted by: David Thomson on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
"Bremer has stated more than once that a sharia-style political and judicial system will be unacceptable"
Sorry but this is the same old fashioned stereotyped relativism from the left, what makes you thinking that Iraquis want Sharia or that muslims in general want the Sharia?posted by: lucklucky on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
“For example, Bremer has stated more than once that a sharia-style political and judicial system will be unacceptable. “
Sharia is a form of theological dictatorship. Thus, Paul Bremer should be congratulated for this decision. Am I therefore an arrogant American who believes that we should sometimes act paternalistically? The answer to this question is an unhesitating and adamant yes!
I am convinced that Americans should act as missionaries representing the truths and values of Western Civilization. Nature abhors a vacuum. We must do everything possible to assist the Iraqi people in seeing the light.posted by: David Thomson on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
David Thomson --- The White Man's Burden was a shitty concept then, and it's a shitty concept now. Trying to instill cultural values at gunpoint didn't work then and it won't work now.
I think what FDL was trying to say was that when perceived Iraqi interests/wants/needs clash with what the Administration perceives as American interests/wants/needs, America under the current Admin will choose the latter. I don't think that America should shoot herself in the foot, but I do think that the current Admin's conception of what American interests are is incorrect.
The Turkish troop issue will be a major test of this, IMO.posted by: Henry Shieh on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
It's got nothing to do with "White Man's Burden", Henry. Not unless you really believe that violent theocratic regimes with utter disregard for the human rights of half of the population are somehow innately desirable for Arabs.posted by: Bryan C on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Come on guys! It is only six months since the collapse of Saddam's government (using the time honored method of 'get the heck out of town before the sheriff comes'). The closest historical comparison we have is the occupation of Japan after WWII. I am fairly sure there wasn't any Japanese council already in place after only 6 months.
We kept control (ie military government) for atleast 3 years. We also made sure that the new Japanese government was a representative type of government.
President Bush and his administration is doing a fine job of 'muddling through'. It worked after WWII and it will work now, if we stay the course.posted by: Brian on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
“The White Man's Burden was a shitty concept then, and it's a shitty concept now. Trying to instill cultural values at gunpoint didn't work then and it won't work now.”
The exact opposite is true. Colonialism did much to improve the lives of millions. As matter of fact, many areas of the world would have been far better off if the colonialists (especially the British) had stayed a lot longer. It is senseless to highlight the horror stories whole ignoring the incredible good done in the Third World. I am also very glad that the Roman legions kicked the crap out of my German ancestors. Heck, we might still be eating raw meat and wearing loin cloths.
"The Turkish troop issue will be a major test of this, IMO"
Are you aware of Ataturk? He zealously embraced Western Civilization. He realized that the Muslim world was doomed to irrelevancy and backwardness. You might enjoy visiting this particular website:posted by: David Thomson on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
I am in now way desirous of failure in Iraq, and I don't go out of my way to find cause for pessimism and ignore cause for optimism, but I find most of the 'good news' out of Iraq to be more depressing than the bad news.
Pictures of children walking to school? People drinking water out of a tap? People waving nicely at Bradleys? That's good news? That's life as normal. That's people just being people. I don't tear up every time I see some kid go to school outside my window, and I don't understand why people get weepy watching an Iraqi child do it. The implication seems to be that we reamed Iraq so completely that even walking to school is a tremendous event. I find that horrific, not relieving. And it's supposed to balance out ongoing suicide bombings and daily fatalities? Oh, that rascally liberal media. . covering up the flower-holding schoolchildren.
Call me when real good news comes in. I'll be as happy about it as you.posted by: sidereal on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
"t's got nothing to do with "White Man's Burden", Henry. Not unless you really believe that violent theocratic regimes with utter disregard for the human rights of half of the population are somehow innately desirable for Arabs. "
Gosh, where are Gloria Steinem and Susan Sontag when you need them? Henry is obviously a male chauvinist pig who desires to keep women in their place. He needs to be sent to areeducation camp. Henry must be some sort of right wing fundamentalist!
posted by: David Thomson on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Hmmm. Let's see. Mass burial sites. Torture. Disappearing family members. But no doubt the kids were able to walk to school. If this happened to my child, it would take little more than seeing them actually walk to bring tears to my eyes.
What a fine, cold, fantasy world you have crafted for yourself.
Why don't you hit us with the "money for Iraqi schools gets taken from US schools" and complete the picture.posted by: Calvin on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
"The implication seems to be that we reamed Iraq so completely that even walking to school is a tremendous event."
I would be very curious what you would consider good news - The good news is that the people of Iraq will soon regard walking to school and drinking water from a tap as life as normal because they no longer have to fear a brutal dictatorship. If you don't see this as good news - you need to open your eyes.posted by: Robert Habich on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Isolationism was the wrong word. I was thinking of unilateralism. Apparently the coffee hadn't kicked in yet.
I find the decision as to the role that the US should play in the drafting of the Iraqi constitution not to be quite as tidy as Mr. Thomson suggests. First, I am not advocating sharia. I would prefer a liberal democracy.
But what happens if the Iraqi constitutional convention decides to have sharia play a role in the future political structure? If we interfere with that decision, we risk losing what little credibility we hold on the international stage as "liberators" rather than occupiers. Also, the constitution we impose might lack credibility among those who are to vote for it.
And sharia isn't the only issue. The northern Kurds have enjoyed de facto independence from the rest of Iraq for years now due to the protection of the no-fly zone, and the Turks aren't happy. Apparently the US CPA is strongly advocating for a strong central government. Kurdish interests, not surprisingly, want a looser federation. Do we betray (a) the Kurds, (b) the Turks, and/or (c) our own principals of self-governance? On this issue, a number of newspapers are reporting today that the Iraqi Governing Council has opposed the placement of Turkish troops in Iraq. One paper even reports that the CPA is preventing the IGC from issuing a formal protest of the decision to bring in Turkish troops.
Now, I may hold the personal belief that Mr. Thomson's political and moral views have not advanced much since his ancestors were conquered by the Romans, but I'm not talking about my personal beliefs. The only question I'm asking is, in the context of the newest press offensive from the Bush admin about how good things are, what does "good" mean? I absolutely agree (shock-and-awe-inducing though it may appear) with the Bush admin. that we must prevail in building a nation that can join the company of nations. I don't believe that this is the administration that can bring that process about.
Talk about the power of low expectations. Those who state that Iraq was a mess from before, might want to recall that the Iraqi people will not forget that it was us Americans principally through a decade of seige, sanctions, and bombing that were largely responsible for such destruction.
The fact that Iraq was a mess when we set up shop is a point against us in their eyes and not an excuse.
While running a political spin campaign that "things really aren't all that bad," may substitute for leadership and policy governance here in the States, it simply doesn't work in an occupied zone. There the shiny propaganda and lies get stripped away in the brutal desert heat and the realities of people turning themselves into meat-bombs.
If there were "only" one suicide bombing in the USA a week, would we count that as a success? Evidence from the democratic modern State of Isreal makes them consider such a rate of attack socially unacceptable and distressingly tragic.
Multiply that by a thousand times and that corrosive sense of civil disintigration and palpable despair is what is looming over Iraq. Painting schools doesn't cut it. A thousand repainted schools does not equal one Haifa. Conservative Polyannas blasted Clinton freely over one Blackhawk Down in Somalia, but eagerly close their eyes and ears to the rising tide of suffering and darkness rising in Iraq. God help us all, for we will pay the price ten-fold for having so lost our ways that even the evils of war get spun as things "getting a little better every day."
To be President of the United States is to take on a higher standard and a greater responsibility. If Bush can't deliver, then as a conservative I say he doesn't deserve to be in power. Anybody who accepts a standard of governance any less is countenancing the leading of America into dismay and diminishment. Results matter.posted by: Oldman on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Um -- Oldman:
Care to explain why the last 12 years of Saddam was America's fault? If it's because we failed to "finish the job" in 1991, I won't agree with you, but I'll understand your point. If you are blaming "sanctions" for the mess, then the fault is with the regime who would not comply with the conditions for lifting them. (And, since it seems like they actually *did* destroy their WMDs, the failure to disclose that in the format demanded by half a gazillion UN resolutions is an incredible act of dictator vanity.)
Talk about the power of low expectations. Those who state that Iraq was a mess from before, might want to recall that the Iraqi people will not forget that it was us Americans principally through a decade of seige, sanctions, and bombing that were largely responsible for such destruction.
The fact that Iraq was a mess when we set up shop is a point against us in their eyes and not an excuse.
Derekposted by: Derek on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Dear Appalled Moderate,
Once Sec. State Madeline Albright was in an interview and being asked if the deaths of Iraqi children were worth the Sanctions, she had the intellectual integrity to say "yes,". Recently in a Time magazine interview, again asked about the question she said that she wanted to set the record straight and that the previous answer was stupid.
I will submit that she meant it both times, but the first time she answered with her head and the second time with her heart.
We live in the real world. In the real world, the fact is that it had been *years* since the UN had found any trace of forbidden weapons. While people thought Saddam might have a few chemical munitions left over from the Iran conflict, nobody with any intellectual integrity (that excludes Wolfowitz)who was in the know really thought Saddam had any real WMD shit left.
The sanctions were there to prevent him from getting new ones, which he surely would have once sanctions fell. Since the sanctions were continually be eroded by other countries who wanted to break them, and France and Russia opposed them it became primarily the responsibility of American administrations and their policy that continued sanctions and would have continued them indefinitely.
No matter how much Saddam would have cooperated, sanctions would have never been lifted because of what he might then acquire. Some pretext would have always been found to say that he hadn't complied. The fact that we have found squat since then and Iraqi scientists have come forward confirming the previous elimination of Iraqi WMD programs only in hindsight corroborates this.
So yes, America was principally responsible for continuing seige, sanctions, and bombings on Iraq for a dozen years killing and depriving untold numbers of civilians in order to strategically contain future potential Saddam actions. Furthermore the Iraqis aren't dumb. They know this. This is the dirty untold story of why things are unravelling so quickly over there. No matter how much they hated Saddam, just beneath the surface they understand that America is the source of their woe and whenever the slightest thing goes wrong over there that's why they blame us. Thus is the war for hearts and minds lost before it is begun.posted by: Oldman on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
“Those who state that Iraq was a mess from before, might want to recall that the Iraqi people will not forget that it was us Americans principally through a decade of seige, sanctions, and bombing that were largely responsible for such destruction.”
America is not even slightly responsible for any damage to the Iraqi nation. The blame lies totally on the shoulders of Saddam Hussein. Furthermore, are you hinting that Iraq was a land of milk and honey before our military confrontation with his Baathist regime? If so, may I please sell you some shares in the Brooklyn Bridge?posted by: David Thomson on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
You sound like an sound minded person, so I'm going to give you peice of advice. The way things are going over there are ensuring the failure of the venture rather than the success.
Examples? The disbanding of the Iraq army basically ensured the a base of military support for the insurgency. The decision to privatize the Iraqi economy ensured that the middle class would start funding the insurgency. The decision to be forthcoming to end the UN food aid program will by the CPA's own experts will produce rioting and hunger and ensure popular support for the insurgency. The arresting of Shiite clerics is at this moment ensuring the Shiite religious establishment turns on us.
It ain't just a matter of "soldiering on". It was just like this in Vietnam. It wasn't a matter of more force or more money being needed. As long as the war is being conducted in a collosally stupid and moronic fashion, every step forward becomes two steps backwards. You just can't keep on going, you got to do the right and smart thing. Otherwise keeping on going becomes digging yourself deeper in order to try to dig yourself out.
Ain't no amount of patriotic determination or crossing your fingers gonna make square peg fit smoothly into round hole if it don't the first time, no matter how many times you try.
So my advice is wake up before it's too late, and see the truth for yourself. Not the left-right bullshit. Just see it, clear as day. It ain't about right-left, it's about stupid-smart. Be smart. It may seem disloyal, but in reality only if people wake up and see the waste and stupidity will we have a chance to do the smart thing and make it come out right. I ain't against Iraq reconstruction. I just know the way it's being done won't work. That's just being smart.posted by: Oldman on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
How short like mayflies are the memories of men. As a matter of fact, Iraq sits on top of one of the largest and most profitable reserves of oil in the world. They were reknowned for their dates. They were a trade nexus. They were known throughout the Arab world as "rich Baghdadis". Furthermore, most of their adults either remember this time or are keenly aware of the fall from grace. If there was a land flowing with milk and honey in the modern Middle East, it was Iraq.
Certainly allot of Iraqis blame Saddam for their ruin. That doesn't mean that they don't blame the United States as well. It may sound kewl to say stuff like the responsibility rests on the shoulders of Saddam, but while that may play well here it is dangerously ignorant of the reality on the ground in Iraq. This is why the Iraqis are so impatient. They've already been waiting 12 years and counting. They have pretty high expectations too. This isn't some backwater like Afghanistan where we can pave a highway and call it reconstruction. Now, this requires real grown-ups, people who understand the reality on the ground and can deliver, and that we don't got.
Partly because we got people like you who are more interested in assigning the blame to someone else, than realizing the true roots and fixes to problems.posted by: Oldman on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
“That doesn't mean that they don't blame the United States as well.”
You actually have half a valid point, but it is not based on objective reality. Instead, the liberal nihilists throughout the world have repeatedly uttered the big lie that we are at least partly responsible for Iraq’s sad predicament. Regrettably, some Iraqis may very well be seduced into believe this absurd nonsense. May God forgive Noam Chomsky and his ilk---because I won’t. I might also add that these radical leftists are also the same folks who blame Israel for most of the troubles in the Middle East.
So we're still making excuses for Saddam's crimes and continuing threat. So you don't like the war, but you also didn't want the sanctions. So what the fuck did you want?
Oh, that's right. "Peace in our time."posted by: Mick McMick on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Dear Thomson and Mick,
False alternatives one and all, and this thinking inside the box is how we got ourselves here today. It was principally a Democratic strategy one might remind revisionists that principally sought to contain Saddam on the pretext of current WMD when the real issue was future WMD. My side, the Right, fell into it because over time we've become so frigging stupid we can no longer tell the difference between our own policies and those of Democrats.
Frankly, it was morally bankrupt to lay seige to an entire country in order to try to contain one man. Furthermore, the President Bush showed courage that former President Clinton never did in confronting the problem.
However, doing something stupidly is not better than doing nothing at all. The correct alternative is to do it correctly.
President Bush had an obligation in order to go the last mile in order to get allies on board, to set a high standard for convincing the American people of the venture with good evidence, to plan and consider the consequences by putting real problem solvers in charge instead of dillente ideologues who couldn't find their arse with both hands.
It is not too much to ask for competence. Nor is it disloyal or Leftist to criticize egregious incompetence. It's not a right-left thing, it's a smart-stupid thing.posted by: Oldman on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Oh and btw about that "Peace in our time," thing first of all Saddam wasn't going anywhere fast. The other thing is that this Admin will go down in history as having fucked up the opportunity to head off NK at the pass having real nuclear weapons b/c it fucked up attacking Iraq for hyped nuclear weapons. Furthermore there is a significant chance now that NK will go to war, perhaps by this Halloween, and maybe even win because of the mistakes that were made. Clinton sometimes I couldn't stand because of his decisions, but the scale of the problems being created by Bush dwarf the mistakes of Clinton.
All the while, the Admin poo poos the threat from NK. So take your "Peace in our time," and shove it. What just happened to America is the equivalent of invading South America and Mexico when Hitler loomed on the horizen. The alternative to doing nothing is never to do something stupid. It's to do the smart thing.posted by: Oldman on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
“Frankly, it was morally bankrupt to lay seige to an entire country in order to try to contain one man.”
That is patently incorrect if the one man is a total dictator. Saddam Hussein had virtually full control over Iraq. Thus, we had to invade the country if we desired to remove him from power. The general population of Iraq unfortunately had to pay the price for his evil behavior. Morally and pragmatically, we had no other choice.
“President Bush had an obligation in order to go the last mile in order to get allies on board.”
Should I assume that you are referring to the Old Europeans? These sleaze balls could care less about moral values. They will merely find any excuse to wallow in their socialist milieu. Their intentions were never honorable. This is particularly true of the French. I might also add that Tom Friedman finally realized that France is our enemy. Shucks, I’ve been saying that for at least the last two years!
Remarkable. I hope Oldman sticks around long enough to tell us when this whole thing has finally unraveled. I need the help, because I can't imagine what he's talking about. Nor can my acquaintances just back from different parts of Iraq, who, uh -- report nothing resembling "unraveling" going on.
Iraq is a mess in many different respects. Stabilizing the patient will take time, and involve mistakes and costs and setbacks. I'm not aware of a standard drawn from human history or the world during my lifetime by which the post-war phase so far is anything but satisfactory, at the worst. Perfection is not a reasonable standard -- though it's the absurd, disingenuous, and implicit standard of most US media and most "critics".
"Hearts and minds" must be adjusted for each context. In Iraq, it applies differently or not at all in various situations. Kurdish hearts and minds are already long won (though confidence must be tendeded to in dealing with Turkey and federalism). Most Sunni Arab and lots of Shi'a Arab hearts can never be won, and were unwinnable long before 1991 and sanctions. But their minds are another matter.
The minds of Sunnis outside Baghdad must be made to focus on how their hopeless "resistance" may lead them to long-term ruin. That sounds feasible. They know that their Kurdish and Shi'a countrymen have, uh, "issues" with them. They can do the ethnic math. And they've doubtless noticed by now that they mostly occupy the least valuable territory, and almost none of the oil. In the end the die-hards will probably be finished off not by the 82nd but by new Iraqi security forces aided by local elders who've realized the game is up.
The Shi'a are likely to continue their sensible approach. They know they're the long-term winners in any dispensation that gives them proportionate weight, and they know even the least democratic of outcomes countenanced by the US would do that. They also realize that the US presence is critical to both fending off Iranian meddling and cutting the traditionally-dominant Sunnis down to size. If the Shi'a leadership continues to play its cards sensibly, the objective alignment of basic US and Shi'a interests should endure.
The "coherent narrative" that's missing from most media accounts is just a shred of regional or historical literacy and realism in placing the details in context. I see a dizzying mixture of good and bad things, but not the remotest prospect of failure if we care to succeed (success = acceptable outcome, not perfect outcome).
The "resistance" doesn't stand a ghost of a chance. Most of the country sees no regular politically-motivated violence (crime is another matter!). Physical security in a country with no police and packed from end to end with arms and ordnance is going to be problematic for some time. The ethnic and geographic factors greatly favor the players whose objective interests include US presence or influence. Ethnic and geographic factors also make for constant headaches and difficulties. The infrastructure and economy are a mess (thanks to local misrule and abuse), but the medium to long-term economic prospects are bright.
I suspect the media's dominant themes of the last 3 months will disappear, as quickly and without a trace, as did their laughable "quagmire" hysteria in the March sandstorm.posted by: IceCold on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
"Furthermore there is a significant chance now that NK will go to war, perhaps by this Halloween, and maybe even win because of the mistakes that were made."
Define 'win'. They don't have enough petrol to make it to the gates of Kyungbokgung, let alone enough food to last a week. They are contained on every border by somewhat sane, somewhat stable governments with strong militarys.
It's not a smart-stupid thing, it's just a WTF-are-you-raving-about-you-lunatic thing.posted by: Calvin on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Unfortunately this nation has been complacent for too long and this is why things like this can creep up on us. Consider what exactly is stopping NK from waltzing over the border? The SK defense forces, allot of land-mines, and about 40,000 US soldiers. However tactical nuclear weapons change the entire equation.
A tactical nuclear detonation in Guam, Okinawa, and Alaska would effectively gut our long range bombing response. What intercontinental bombing response we would have left would be insufficient to stop his campaign. Furthermore NK could hold hostage SK cities to make their armed forces stand down. US nuclear response would be limited by the potential loss of American and SK life. we could nuke NK but once his army was over the border...
If he rolled before the winter, he could essentially have the entire winter to consolidate control of SK since we're tied down in Iraq and would have to redeploy.
Of course it would be utterly insane to do this. Unfortunately, the regime of NK has never been particularly sane from a Western perspective. The fact that he's low on food and supplies makes him only more desperate. The preferred US response would be of course to starve the bastard out and let his regime crumble from within. That may still happen. Faced with that possibility however, those in power may prefer annihilation by war rather than falling from power.
This is a grave and gathering strategic danger that has been ignored. Before you "what the fuck you are talking about" again, bear in mind that this scenario is allot more probable than Saddam ever posing us a significant danger to us was.posted by: Oldman on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Hope you don't apply that same kind of logic to the rest of your life mister. Must make living in reality real hard.
Note that I supported the concept of an invasion to remove Saddam. It was containment that was a long term failed strategy that I opposed.
As for getting allies, your Admin disagrees with every word that you've said. Generals in the armed forces have come forward asking for more troops. The Admin has asked other countries for more troops. Obviously you are the one out of touch with reality with that mind-boggling idiotic Old Europe remark. Forget France - we can't even get the Pakistanis and Indians and Russians on board with us. We got a handful of Poles we're paying for and the Brits holding our handbag. That doesn't cut it.
Obviously the Admin has come to the realization that they would have been better off with more allies so why don't you wake up to reality too?posted by: Oldman on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
I'm sure your friends hid out in fortified bases and were escorted pretty much everywhere with heavily armed escorts. Or else they might have ended up like that poor Spanish fellow chased down and shot like a dog in the street.
As for the insurgency "fading away", you ought to listen to the armed commanders. They have come out in public stating that the frequency, sophistication, and effectiveness of attacks has increased on a trendline basis and not decreased. The resistance "fading away" is a idiotic Admin line that has been shown as foolish propaganda for weeks. When you ask the guys being shot at, they are going to tell you that things are getting hotter and not cooling down.
So sure your buddies got shown a few "success" stories - of which there many to be sure - and concluded that things are getting "better". The real war isn't being fought by building schools but in the perceptions of the people on the ground. That war is being lost.
As Henry Kissinger said the guerilla wins by not losing; the occupier loses by not winning.posted by: Oldman on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Your assumption that the US would have to rely on Pacific Rim SAC bases has a refreshingly nostalgic scent despite being about 50 years past the freshness date.
Since you have clearly demonstrated your willingess to flood responders with a withering torrent of nonsense, I must, alas, end our brief relationship.
Cheers!posted by: Calvin on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
How refreshingly naive. First of all Japan is still not very popular in China. That whole Manchuria thing left a bad taste in their mouth. Second of all damn right Russia and China would stand by. It would be their chance to see America's star fall from ascendence. Such a disaster would weaken us for decades - giving them greater power on a geopolitical basis at no cost to them.
As for using those bases being nostalgic, Rummy and me should share it since Guam is where Rummy sent the bombers to beef up the response to NK military maneuvers earlier. Intercontinental bombing may still be the darling of the Pentagon but the sheer tonnage of bombs dropped is limited. In the end, old fashioned staging areas and carriers still do the brunt of the work.
As for ending this tete a te that's up to you, but from the sounds of it you could use a sound military and geopolitical review on reality versus whatever you're smoking if you believe it would be China that would bail us out.posted by: Oldman on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
There is such a thing as saying too much. Your comments on North Korea reveal that you have no idea what you are talking about.
Even Jim Dunnigan has realized that North Korea has gone terminal. It won't exist in 6-18 months. End-run industrial production has started, in addition to all the other fatal problems.
All we have to do is nothing. Chinese aid to NK doesn't even leave China - it is sold there by NK elites for hard currency.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Sometimes it is possible to miss the forest for the trees. You are absolutely correct. NK is running out of time. In one to two years, the preferred US Scenario will probably come about.
However what you're missing is that you're assuming that the NK leaders will sit around on their asses and do nothing as this comes about. Remember it is when a man has nothing left to lose, that he becomes most unpredictable.
If they know they're going down, what really do they have to lose by rumbling now while they still have some cards left? Not much, which is why the situation is so dangerous.posted by: Oldman on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
"Frankly, it was morally bankrupt to lay seige to an entire country in order to try to contain one man."
That is patently incorrect if the one man is a total dictator. Saddam Hussein had virtually full control over Iraq. Thus, we had to invade the country if we desired to remove him from power. The general population of Iraq unfortunately had to pay the price for his evil behavior. Morally and pragmatically, we had no other choice.This is, to put it mildly, very incomplete. Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan is a total dictator and his human rights record is only slightly better than Saddam's. For example, instead of the Iraqi method of putting opponents into a shredder, he boils them. Far from being next on the hit list, Karimov is a member of our so-called Coalition of the Willing.
Obviously, then, butchery is not why we took out Saddam Hussein. The threat was butcher plus nuclear weapons only one year away, as well as many other terrifying weapons of mass destruction. These horrifying weapons precluded our continuation of the regime of sanctions and inspections, and necessitated our making war almost alone, rather than waiting for allies who would surely have signed on if they believed our proof of the threats.
It turns out, of course, that the imminent threat to European and American lives (as opposed to Iraqi dissidents') was all total rubbish; the Europeans (minus the UK of course) were correct to dismiss all of our sales pitch. The truth is, we wanted to abandon our allies to show them, as VP Cheney reiterated yesterday, that the age of multilateral action was over. Now we tell them, "Don't applaud, just send money." And the exigent timing of this war to stop Saddam's program to restart his WMD programs if and when sanctions ended, well, perhaps Teddy Kennedy was right that it was driven by the American election schedule, and not by the near completion of nuclear and strategic chemical weapons.posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
>President Bush had an obligation in order to go the last mile in order to get allies on board...
Oh, really? Which allies were these, Oldman?
You must mean France. So we have to get France's permission before we act to defend ourselves, even when it becomes clear after months and years of French collaboration with Saddam? Remember, we DID go to the UN. Again and again, over 12 long years. So how long were we to wait before acting? Because if we had to wait for France to get on board, it would be forever. They have openly declared that their purpose in this world now is to be a COUNTER to the United States. To always be on the opposite side of every international issue.
That means they are our ENEMY. Not an ally at all.
As for North Korea, it would be great if we could invade them, and we would, too. But unlike in Iraq, this would lead to a huge artillery barrage that would kill possibly millions in both Koreas.
Also unlike Iraq, North Korea is destitute, which gives us the more attractive option of the diplomatic methods you scream and rant we should have used with Saddam. Which we DID use with Saddam, by the way. All in vain.
What gets me is that people like you are so focused on being a Bush-basher, you don't care at all about anything else. You could care less that Saddam was cranking out ricin and anthrax, as long as Bush can be taunted and slandered.
You and your ilk are traitors and lying sleazebuckets.posted by: Mick McMick on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
>It turns out, of course, that the imminent threat to European and American lives (as opposed to Iraqi dissidents') was all total rubbish...
PLEASE, somebody, please give some kind of reference to any administration official claiming the threat was "imminent." You Kennedy types keep using this word, and claiming that was the justification for war. Just the opposite, in fact: the case for war was that we must not wait until it becomes imminent.
But you guys don't care about the facts. You just keep reciting eachothers bumper stickers.
No need to worry though. You'll all drop the "imminent" thread just as you've dropped the other nonsense mumblings, and replace it with some other lie about the reasons for war.posted by: Mick McMick on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Here you go, Mick. From the White House's own press site.
Q Ari, the President has been saying that the threat from Iraq is imminent, that we have to act now to disarm the country of its weapons of mass destruction, and that it has to allow the U.N. inspectors in, unfettered, no conditions, so forth.That's his entire answer. Next time, ask more politely, OK?
You can find more Administration officials using words like "immediate" and that we can't wait until our warning is a mushroom cloud (except, Saddam had no nuclear capabilities at all) at this site. Score: Google 1; Winston Smith McMick 0.posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Tom H wrote
Even Jim Dunnigan has realized that North Korea has gone terminal. It won't exist in 6-18 months.Just to make it interesting, let's bet $100 on the side. posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Oh, come on, Lazarus. That's weak.
>MR. FLEISCHER: Yes. [emphasis added]
Fleischer was saying "yes" to a long preamble to a question about getting Resolution 1441 approved. A question hadn't even been asked yet. It would be better transribed as "Yes...?" (as in "Yes, and?")
He was not answering affirmatively to the question you are implying, ie, "is the President claiming the threat is imminent?"
Believe me, if the threat HAD BEEN declared imminent, we would not be mucking about with UN resolutions. We would be going right to the JDAMs.
Your out-of-context quote is straight from the bottom of the barrel. And your insistence that the President claimed an imminent threat, compared to a "gathering threat," is not gaining you any converts.
The Administration has been very consistent on its reasons for the war. But the critics of the war, and the appeasers of Saddam and the Islamofascists, have changed their sob story from week to week.posted by: Mick McMick on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Mick, I guess you are spouting the official defense that you got from Limbaugh or something, but it won't work. In the next question (or the continuation of the previous one, if you insist, although that isn't indicated in the White House transcript, where "Yes." appears as a full sentence and is an affirmation of imminence), the questioner again uses "imminent", and Fleisher again accepts and affirms it.
Q The chief U.N. inspector, however, is saying that, even under those conditions, it would be as much as a year before he could actually make a definitive report to the U.N. that Iraq is complying with the resolutions and allowing the inspections to take place. Isn't there a kind of a dichotomy? Can we wait a year, if it's so imminent we have to act now?This answer (like so many from the Administration) isn't especially cogent, perhaps on purpose. Let's look at "that" in Fleischer's first sentence; what is the referent? One possibility is it refers to the imminence that the questioner attributes to the Administration (and which is not corrected at either opportunity), in which case this dispute is over in my favor. Another possibility, as I read it, is "that" refers to the dichotomy that the questioner has posited between the inspectors' statement that they need a year, and the imminent threat the questioner attributes to the Bush Administration. And even under the most charitable interpretation, the answer suggests that one year is too long for the inspections to take. I think that in the context of Saddam deploying WMD, we can agree that a time frame of less than one year is "imminent". At much the same time, the British dossier asserted that Saddam could launch biological and chemical weapons (which appear not even to have existed) on 45 minutes' notice. Admittedly, this is only a statement of our close ally, but I think you must concede (1) that this scenario is itself a description of an imminent threat, in that a WMD attack can be launched without any further notice or possible defense, (2) that we did nothing to deny or disagree with this claim, and (3) once we arrived in Iraq, we saw it wasn't at all true.
I see no construal of Fleischer's reply that can possibly be taken as a denial or disagreement with the questioner's premise that Bush believed Iraq was an imminent threat. His reply makes no sense whatsoever without tacitly agreeing that such a threat exists.
As far as changing stories, for bonus points why don't you see how the Administration's excuses for the war morphed from Saddam's physical WMDs to Saddam's WMD programs. Some consistency!
I see another version of this thread is elsewhere on the blog, where the discussion seems to be conducted by grown-ups who don't call their opponents Saddam appeasers. I'm moving there; why don't you take your craven, immature act somewhere else?posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.09.03 at 11:25 AM [permalink]
Is that really the best you can do, loser? Throw a "you must be a ditto-head" dismissal, and then repeat perhaps the lamest press conference snippet ever pasted into a browser?
The question to Ari was not "is the Iraqi threat imminent?" It was yet another long-winded, slanted, barely coherent diatribe with a question mark at the end.
The evidence against your claim is overwhelming. Bush and all of his staff stated over and over and over that we must NOT wait until it becomes imminent, because then it would be too late.
We couldn't wait for Saddam to pass off these weapons to the Al Qaeda types and then attack him after a million America civilians are snuffed by an anonymous attack. We had to prevent him from getting that far.
So I guess your amazingly coherent defense policy for America is based on revenge and retribution after the fact. Is that it? Because that's not defense at all.
Sorry, guys, you lose this round. Come back with something of actual substance, and not something based on "Uh, duuuuh, we THOUGHT he meant it was imminent, even though he said it was NOT imminent. DUH!!!! So Bush lied!"
Besides, you were never convinced to support the war anyway, Bush-haters? Are you "implying" that Bush had actually convinced you to support the war??!!! Is THAT what those lame-o Socialist human shields were trying to say? Huh!
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