Sunday, July 25, 2004

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"This is your kind of Book Review"

There's a clear division of labor in the Drezner household when it comes to The New York Times Book Review -- I read the nonfiction reviews and my wife peruses the fiction reviews. This morning, she glanced at the table of contents and said to me, "This is a Dan Book Review today."

She's right -- the review looks like it's been outsourced to the Yale History Department. Be sure to check out John Lewis Gaddis' mixed review of Niall Ferguson's Colossus [What could he say that you missed in your review of Ferguson?--ed. Well, Gaddis had a longer word count than I did, and manages to go after some of Ferguson's inconsistencies that I omitted because of space constraints.]

Then go and peruse Paul Kennedy's favorable review of Hugh Thomas' Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire, From Columbus to Magellan. When you're done with that, enjoy Francis Fukuyam's deft dismissal of Michael Hardt and Antinio Negri's Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (their follow-up to their execrable Empire).

Then, and only then, enjoy for dessert the debate between Gaddis and Kennedy over American grand strategy and the difference between being imperial and imperious. Gaddis -- who's more sympathetic to the Bush administration's strategic ambitions than Kennedy -- closes the discussion as follows:

I'm angry that the current administration thought creatively about the situation it confronted on Sept. 11 and responded with a serious reconsideration of American strategy, but then they screwed it up in Iraq. They violated a really fundamental principle. It's the dog-and-car syndrome. Dogs spend a lot of time thinking about and chasing cars. But they don't know what to do with a car when they actually catch one. It seems to me this, in a nutshell, is what has happened to the Bush administration in Iraq.

posted by Dan on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM


“...but then they screwed it up in Iraq.”

Since when did this happen? John Lewis Gaddis is merely uttering the ahistorical liberal academic line. A new Iraqi government has already been installed. More importantly, very few lives have been lost considering what has been gained. So why is Gaddis saying something so obviously absurd? I guess the dude still wants to be invited to the white wine and brie cheese academic parties.

We are already starting to see a few other dominoes dropping in the Mideast. Qaddafi is no longer a threat and seemingly the Palestinians are reevaluating their relationship with Yasser Arafat.

posted by: David Thomson on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]


Don't forget the review of Michael Ignatieff's "The Lesser Evil" in today's NYT Book Review. Its presence in the Sunday review bolsters your assertion that this review is a little more non-fiction and politics oriented than normal.

posted by: Phillip Carter on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

“About this time 60 years ago, six weeks after the Normandy beach landings, Americans were dying in droves in France. We think of the 76-day Normandy campaign of summer and autumn 1944 as an astounding American success — and indeed it was, as Anglo-American forces cleared much of France of its Nazi occupiers in less than three months. But the outcome was not at all preordained, and more often was the stuff of great tragedy. Blunders were daily occurrences — resulting in 2,500 Allied casualties a day. In any average three-day period, more were killed, wounded, or missing than there have been in over a year in Iraq.”

Victor Davis Hanson is vastly more brilliant than John Lewis Gaddis. The above link should offer a more balanced perspective on the Iraq war. Nobody denies that in hind sight a number of problems could have been minimized. Still, when looking at the big picture---Iraq has been a major success. Why is the liberal establishment demanding perfection of the Bush administration? Can anyone point to another such instance in American history?

posted by: David Thomson on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

“Don't forget the review of Michael Ignatieff's "The Lesser Evil" in today's NYT Book Review.”

Here is the link to Ronald Steel’s less than adequate review:

“To describe, as Ignatieff does, terror-wielding groups like Al Qaeda and Hamas as ''less political than apocalyptic'' and essentially ''death cults'' may be comforting. But it is dangerously self-deceptive. It conveniently allows us to dismiss their obvious and usually explicit political goals as simply a mask for their irrationality. It encourages us to believe that those who oppose us for our actions are ''in love with death'' rather than being governed by beliefs as important to them as ours are to us. By doing so it indulges us in waging ''war'' on the manifestations of terrorism rather than dealing with its causes.”

Michael Ignatieff is one of my favorite Harvard academics. He's a reminder that not all of them are stark raving lunatics. Ronald Steel wants us to deal more with the causes of terrorism. Gosh, is this a subtle way of telling us that the Palestinians are allegedly being mistreated by the Israelis? Are the Islamic militants poor misunderstood freedom fighters, the George Washingtons and Thomas Jeffersons of their culture?

posted by: David Thomson on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

“...but then they screwed it up in Iraq.”

"Since when did this happen?"

Earth to Dan.

Several years ago, my seven year old daughter would react to information she didn't want to deal with by sticking her fingers in her ears, clamping shut her eyes and shouting la-la-la-la-la-la-la. She grew out of this, as most people do.

There is no doubt that our military forces overmatched the Iraqis and that we were able for a time to force our choice of political leadership and award criteria for government contracts upon the citizens of that nation. From that limited viewpoint, I suppose our actions in Iraq can be called a success.

But let's review just a few of the screwups:

The US attacked Iraq instead of committing more forces to finishing off Al Quada in Afghanistan.

The US attacked Iraq, which had no direct ties to 9/11, instead of Iran, which did.

Abu Ghraib.

The Bush administration has been unable to produce any compelling evidence whatsoever to support its main reasons war--which were, lest we choose to forget, that Iraq had WMD's, that Iraq was somehow connected to Al Quaeda and the 9/11 attacks, and that Iraq was a "gathering threat".


The decision to disband the Iraqi army.

Deciding, and then reversing the decision, to prevent Baathist party members from participating in the government.

Failure to provide adequately armored vehicles or body armor to US troops.

Failure to persuade the kind of coalition we saw in Iraq I to join our effort the second time around.

What is it, over 100 Billion spent so far with no end in sight and still no attempt to make annual budget estimates on our war costs in Iraq. No wonder we have record budget deficits.

Alawi (sp?) is our man in Baghdad now, but he may have to be every bit the dictator Saddam was in order to keep Iraq from disintegrating. Maybe we should keep the champaigne on ice for now.

The middle eastern domino effect? Has the palestinian problem been solved while I wasn't looking? And what other governments do you expect to convert to democracy? Iraq isn't out of the woods yet, and if Saudi Arabia falls it will be to religious extremists, not to democracy.

A military force so overcommitted that we couldn't go after Iran or Korea if we needed to.

Look, I completely support the competent use of military power to keep America safe. But Iraq? Iraq has been a complete screwup.

posted by: Kevin Polk on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

I guess that would be Earth to David.

posted by: Kevin Polk on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

I guess that would be Earth to David.

posted by: Kevin Polk on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

Contrarian view: I say the conservative counter-revolution is over.

Other don't forgets:

A Vast LEFT wing conspiracy is forming:

The point: liberals are taking back the "L"word from conservative slogan-label makers, factual distortions and theoretical delusions now so visible in the public square.

Example? Parse some c bloviators -labels, actual distortions, roadmap/reality distortions see; there are plenty of corresionding l labels, distortions too, of course.

If you read the left-wing conspiracy article you will see both the historical formation of conservative postions over a 40 year period and the drive to re-formulate liberal positions.

The public square benefits from intelectual clarity and integrity from both conservatives and liberals, IMHO.

Do you disagree?

Do you really want liberals to leave the public square to un-corrected, maybe even uncorrectable c bloviators and in-effective but idiologically pure pols?

It seems to me this blog intends clear catagories, accurate facts and policy and idiology that fits the real world not an out of date road maps.

I say the conservative counter-revolution is over; but the news hasn't arrived yet to the "so-called" and self-certain c thought leaders.

[I apologize if if you see this post at inappropriate trolling or butting into resident and predictable ironies; my intent was to engage the thread and inject some fresh air into tired ironic aspersions about l media.
Is the NYTimes liberal? You bet. Liberal the way I define liberal, not the way c label-makers define it.]

posted by: Steve Harrington on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

“I guess that would be Earth to David.”

Oh wow, where should I start?

“The US attacked Iraq, which had no direct ties to 9/11, instead of Iran, which did.”

Are you ready to bomb Iran? Charles Krauthammer and others believe that this is might be a dire necessity? Do you think that John Kerry should speak directly about Iran in his convention speech?

“The decision to disband the Iraqi army.

Deciding, and then reversing the decision, to prevent Baathist party members from participating in the government.”

You may have a valid point. These two decisions could have indeed been costly mistakes. Errors are unavoidable. Still, the good outweighs the bad. Hind sight is always 20/20.

“Alawi (sp?) is our man in Baghdad now, but he may have to be every bit the dictator Saddam was in order to keep Iraq from disintegrating.”

Why do you foolishly indulge in exaggeration? Iraq is already far more democratic than it was under Saddam Hussein. Allawi, though, may have to become more like President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. I am reminded of the warning of Jeanne Kirkpatrick that the United States has the unfortunate tendency of demanding our allies act perfectly. There will inevitably be human abuses committed by members of the new Iraqi government. This is a question that John Kerry should also answer:

Will you freak out when human rights abuses do inevitably occur in Iraq? Will you use this as a convenient excuse to pull the plug on Iraq?

posted by: David Thomson on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

Sorry, but going to wade into it deep when say just more and more books out there wasting more and more paper.

Esoterica of yuppies and bobos unless your butt or your kid's butt(including Congr and Senate kids'and so on) has been or will be on the line as in a lottery to serve.

Several years of National Service military training (non-dog degrading type)programs for all citizens in this country for several reasons.

posted by: Alex on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

"Will you use this as a convenient excuse to pull the plug on Iraq?"

We now appear to be at the point where some Iraqi employers are, at minimum, financing some of the kidnappings and convoy attacks. Why? They want the jobs. They want the low wage Egyptians, Pakistanis, Indonesians and others out because they're taking jobs away from Iraqis. I don't condone killings, but can you blame the Iraqis for being resentful? Your 'pulling the plug' comment doesn't make much sense in this context. If you are concerned about oil, US Halliburton contracts, maintaining large military bases then I guess it makes sense that you want to 'stay the course', as they say. If are truly concerned about the quality of life for the people we were suppose to be liberating, then things aren't so clear.

posted by: moog on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

David Thomson, we basicly don't know what the hell is going on in iraq. It's like vietnam that way -- we were getting reports from the US military that everything was going fine, and it wasn't. But then, we started getting media reports about how bad it was that I hope were way exaggerated. How do you filter out the bias? There's no good way to do that. Guess. Later you can go back and see how far off you were.

It's clear though that most iraqis like US troops no better than they like insurgents and maybe not nearly so well. So as soon as Allawi feels secure enough, the absolute best thing he can do to increase his popularity will be to order the US troops out. Assuming he isn't the puppet that the iraqis take him for....

He needs to do that before the elections, if there are going to be elections. Can he get sufficient ex-Ba'ath troops loyal to him in time? It might very well turn out that his best chance to personally survive the next few years will be to tell us to leave. Kerry wouldn't have to pull the plug.

The question for Kerry would be how much of our unspent 18 billion dollars in humanitarian aid to spend after that, and how much more to ask Congress to donate to iraq once they have the kind of democracy that can snub us.

And maybe Negroponte's job now is to make Allawi look like a puppet so he won't get enough support to manage without our troops.

Or maybe I've completely misread the situation. I wonder whether the historians will actually have a much better picture of it all than we do. To some extent, I guess. Some of the lies will be revealed as lies, though not all. They will have a better chance to look at various stories and put them together into something that makes sense.

posted by: J Thomas on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

"Lies" the man said! Brutal Afgan winter! Brutal Iraqi summer! Human shields! ALL Americans will die at the gates of Baghdad! A.N.S.W.E.R.! There are no American soldiers in Baghdad! Arab street will rise up!

I can't wait for the musical. Sandy Berger is collecting the material. Do you suppose Sandy can dance the lead? Without his pants stuffed full of stolen papers I mean.

posted by: Lee on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

I am tentatively siding with Mr. Thomson on this one. I start at the same place as his first comment. When did it become universally acknowledged that we had screwed up in Iraq, and by what criteria did we come arrive at that decision? The "Earth to David" comments are rather a red flag. When something as multidimensional and unstable as war, occupation, and foreign policy is concerned, to be quite so certain is suspiscious. I fully agree that the socially accepted truth is that we screwed up in Iraq, but I doubt Mr. Thomson is must interested in an evaluation of whether he "gets" what "everyone just knows." Each of the criticisms given rises to the level of discussion, but I consider none to be proved and few probable. We have not forced our choices of leaders on Iraq. Injustices equal to Abu Ghraib take place in our own prisons every year -- I draw no conclusions from them. The standard misrepresentation of how we got into Iraq, Kevin, ignoring the role of Congress, the British, and the national debate; and your reframing the WH reasons to make them fit a retrospective history...

J gives a judicious caution that we don't fully know what is going on, and then immediately violates it himself. What is the evidence that Iraqis like the Americans and the insurgents equally? That they regard Allawi as a puppet?

I have a better comparison than Normandy. When we entered WWII, the first nation we invaded was Morocco. It was in retrospect a good choice. But all the criticisms of entering Iraq apply more emphatically to our invasion of Morocco.

Proposed: the difficulties of occupation were a direct result of the swiftness of military victory.

posted by: Assistant Village Idiot on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

AVI, the evidence that iraqis generally despise the US military come from opinion polls commissioned by the CPA. I tend to trust those opinion polls; if the CPA had them falsified it wouldn't have given itself an approval rating under 10%.

Of course, the CPA is no longer commissioning opinion polls, and the results we get now are very different. For example, in one of the last CPA polls Allawi had an approval rating of 20% in favor and 60% opposed, and of 17 candidates for President he came in #17 where Saddam was #10. But in the first opinion polls funded by Allawi, suddenly Allawi had 70-80% approval. Maybe it was that he gave a good speech or something....

Do iraqis tend to think of Allawi as a puppet? Clearly they did while he was running the IGC. (He got the top spot when a car bomb killed his predecessor. Remember that his group was blowing up car bombs in Baghdad back when Saddam was running things.) The IG is the same people from the IGC, plus some technocrats and a bunch of kibitzers. It would make sense for iraqis to think they were still puppets. But iraqi bloggers don't.

Who are iraqi bloggers? Well, consider that 2% have landline phones, about the same number of phones as under Saddam. But 5% of the population has cell phones now. There are less than 20,000 modems. Bloggers are young people in rich families.

Or maybe some of them are poor but educated. The average yearly income in iraq is supposed to be around $500 now. An iraqi who knows english and has the capital to blog might bring in some donations. If he got $1000 a year that's significant money for something that needn't take a whole lot of his time. Bloggers who're in it for the money should try hard not to offend their donors. Iraqi bloggers are interesting but not representative.

Then there are the people who talk to reporters. Typically they say they hope Allawi can get security running, and they don't fault him for being an american puppet. Typically the reporters don't speak arabic and are at the mercy of their handlers, who might have a consistent bias.

As Allawi's secret police goes into operation we can expect much less loose talk from iraqis. The time of free speech is ending -- unless the new secret police demonstrates conclusively that they are not like the old one, and why should they?

I tend to believe the reporters' handlers but it isn't certain. And maybe people are reserving judgement, as I am myself. If honest elections happen in January, can Allawi run things without being elected? Only as follows: The people will elect a president and two deputy presidents. Those three will unanimously choose a prime minister who must pass a majority vote in the assembly. If Allawi could intimidate the three presidents into nominating him, and then intimidate a majority of the assembly to vote for him, he'd be the new prime minister. But otherwise the secret police and the army would officially report to the new prime minister and Allawi would be out.

So given free elections, the new assembly could spend 2005 writing a new constitution, and then with free elections in 2006 they would have a fully sovereign government. And in theory Allawi could demand the US troops leave during 2004, and the TG could demand the US troops leave during 2005. If something happens that makes Allawi look like he isn't a puppet, people will probably think he isn't. So far I've heard that he says he won't follow american standards about treatment of prisoners -- he will torture prisoners -- and he's approved of several american airstrikes on an iraqi city, and he's backed down on an amnesty plan after he announced it publicly but Negroponte disagreed.

At any rate, these are details. The question of whether we messed up the occupation -- clearly things have not gone as planned.

In hindsight it looks like an error to disband the army etc. But if we hadn't they'd be running things for us, and a lot of them are insurgents now. Are we really worse off with those guys as insurgents versus having them officially on our side and officially cooperating with us?

The error was in needing them in the first place. We should have had a couple hundred thousand more guys on the ground, who knew arabic. Then it wouldn't be such a mistake to disband the iraqi army. As it was, there were no good choices.

The CPA looks like a generalized mistake to me. They tried to get really good experts, and the experts tended to leave when they noticed the mortar shells landing nearby in the Green Zone. So they wound up with nonexperts who tended to stay for three-month tours and *those* were way below strength. Maybe if the security had been better they could have kept the good people and done better work? They needed more people than they had budgeted, though. Things would have gone smoother if the iraqis hadn't destroyed so many records at the beginning of the liberation. And that was because we didn't have the troops on hand to guard the government buildings....

Right down the line we could have recovered from our mistakes if we had more troops. Maybe we can recover from some of our current mistakes with more airstrikes. I dunno.

When I look at the media and the foreign bloggers in iraq, it looks like it's all coming apart. But that might be biased reporting. We'll get a better sense of that later, when it's history and nothing is riding on it but the reputations of historians.

posted by: J Thomas on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]


Ah. ANd even assuming you're correct, where, pray, tell, are these troops to appear from?

Don't tell me about how we should ahve made arrangements with France and Germany, because we'll have a profitable hot chocolate stand in Hell before that would happen, and we both know it. ame thing for the UN, as we;re now learning... and as I called it over a year ago.

The ony way to deal with it, was as Mr. Bush has done. Even Kerry knows this, which is why he's never reallt gotten down to the specific differences between Mr. Bush's actions and what he would do were we stupid enough to give him the chance.

And DT:
Gaddis is not an idiot, in the strictest of senses, but he certainly can't seem to get his head out of his backside on this one.

Earth to Kevin Polk: AQ was already moving into Iraq, thinking we'd never attack there, and because hey already had infrastructure there. Iraq was the right thing to do. Had we no gone into Iraq, we'd have seen further attacks against us here in the US. And I wonder who you'd be blaming for that monumental a screwup, eh?

posted by: Bithead on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

Speaking of book reviews ... I'm halfway through "In Defense of Globalization," and lo and behold I come across the Great Daniel Denzer (sic), to which strangely liberal views are attributed.

posted by: praktike on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

The issue of our success or failure in Iraq is not resolved.

We started with a country that was a nuisance but was contained.

What we end with is still an open question.

If we end with a stable "client " state that gives the US a military base in the region the war will have been a success.

If we end with a country that is strongly anti-US the policy will have failed.

If we end with a failed state that breaks into pieces out policy will have failed.

In the short-run the war has weakened the US and strengthened the terrorists. If this is the long run impact the war will have been a failure.

The key point is that the Bush admin really had no idea what they were getting into with the war,
and had no fallback position when things did not work.

posted by: spencer on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

"We started with a country that was a nuisance but was contained."

The key point is that we didn't really know. Certainly contained as far as conventional military capability was concerned (although with constant military and economic effort required), but we didn't know well exactly what he would/could do with WMD and/or terror networks.

If Bush were smart, he would drive home the point that because our intelligence was iffy, and Saddam was refusing to cooperate (in violation of UNSC resolutions, etc.) in letting us firm up our intelligence, we could not afford to assume he was contained. Tony Blair has sort of made this point, but if Bush highlighted that the limitations of our intelligence made it more imperative that we depose Sadaam, it would be a kind of political jiu-jitsu that would help him immensely.

Furthermore, the containment was breaking down. As full of holes as the Oil-for-Food sanctions were, there was a huge cry to end them as inhumane. Enforcing the no-fly zones required 12 years of daily hostile fire, with no end in sight. I'm not pleased with the current state of affairs in Iraq, I haven't seen plausible alternatives proposed.

posted by: Curt on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

I like your mode of discussion, J Thomas.

Comparing the ebb and flow of the polls of Iraqis over the last year (Zogby, Gallup, CNN), I count a strongly-US portion of about 25%, a strongly anti-US position of about 10%, and a large fluid and suspicious middle. I think the suspicion is warranted by any country in the presence of foreign troops, but I also note that much of the worry was directed at the belief that Americans would not give up power, would be there for years, and would take and the oil and women. As the new government, police, and military carve out increasing roles, those particular worries will be less of an issue.

Granted, given the natural impatience and ethnocentricity of humankind, we will see an increase in the number of Iraqis who say "great, but you've been here too long. Go away now." Iraqis who thought last August that at least two years' occupation would be necessary are beginning to consider that a maximum now. That level of unhappiness with us does not trouble me greatly. We have endured a good deal of that from South Korea this year, with no real danger of a serious breach in relations.

As to the Iraqi bloggers, we are all wise to be both grateful and suspicious. This is, as you note, not a representative sample. But it is as likely to over-include well-off Baathists and those funded by other Arab groups as any other group. And if it over-represents clever people looking for the main chance, so much the better: that group will be influential in the rising Iraq.

I forget what else I was complaining about.

posted by: Assistant Village Idiot on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]


When the germans invaded russia during WWII they didn't really have enough troops to do the job, and they had no good way to get them. They fell down in not actively recruiting ukrainians etc, but there would have been dangers if they had gone that route too. However, germany was in the process of losing an arms race, and the longer they waited the worse they would have fallen behind.

So they tried and it didn't work out, and they had nothing to lose -- if they'd waited then Stalin would have hit them with an army that would be stronger the longer he waited.

But the USA was not losing an arms race. Our military superiority was large and if anything getting larger. There was no credible reason to think iraq could have nuclear weapons in less than five years -- the claims they were closer than that were woven of the sheerest bullshit.

Here's the thing that makes Bush look the most utterly incompetent to me -- if he'd only waited one more year, he not only would have had time to get better support, he could be having his war-boosted approval ratings *now* instead of last year when they did him essentially no good at all. I see no particular reason to suspect he actually thought iraq was a threat, one year would have made no difference. But he squandered his chance to win by a landslide.

If it was me doing it, I would have looked at getting a lot of occupation troops from egypt. They have a lot of people who speak arabic. They aren't direct neighbors. They need money. We would have needed egyptians who spoke english which would be a little harder, but there are lots of those too. If we even had one egyptian translator for each american squad it would have made a tremendous difference. If we could have run the occupation with two american leaders for each egyptian squad it would have been a whole different ballgame. There would be issues about egyptians stealing and raping, it wouldn't be frictionless. But if we had 350,000 egyptian occupation troops to supplement 100,000 american troops, there's a good chance the insurgency mostly wouldn't have gotten started.

Of course that might not have worked. There might be good reasons I don't know that would have prevented it. But as far as I've heard we never considered the possibility, we sneered at the egyptians for being a bunch of radical islamists ruled by a dictator.

Apart from that, in WWII we set up crash courses to teach german and japanese. We made a solid effort to get enough bilingual occupation troops in there. I don't understand why we haven't done that this time. How many soldiers should be quick-learning arabic? 10,000? 30,000? It simply has not happened and there's no excuse for it. It's like the military doesn't think we're going to be fighting with or against or for arabs again anytime soon. It just does not make sense.

OK, we had to disband the army, the secret police, and the police. They were Saddam's organisations and they used Saddam's methods. Leave them in place and it would be like occupying germany and using the Gestapo to keep order. Not only did people not trust them, but *we* couldn't trust them. The idea that we should have kept them only came up because the alternative didn't work.

In the absence of 400,000 heavily-armed arabic-speaking foreign troops to keep order, we should have proceeded with local elections as fast as possible. Bremer stonewalled that because he saw some islamists win elections and he didn't like it. But get local governments in place and they can hire local police. They can hire ex-military guys or ex-cops or even ex-secret-police, but there's a strong chance the local governments know what they're doing where we don't. If they get Saddamist cops who bug people too much, they'll likely lose next year's election and the new guys can do it over.

Local cops could provide a whole lot of security to local populations. It wouldn't be perfect from our point of view. Fallujah cops might be all salafis, southern cops might be radical shi'ites, etc. But providing a degree of safety to the public is a great big issue. Get the robbery to die down and people start feeling like they have a right to reconstruction. They aren't going to put up with the idea "it's the americans rebuilding so we ought to blow it up". Oh, and find iraqis to do a lot of the work. Why not? They work cheap and they need the money, and when it's work that clearly benefits their own peaceful communities instead of just the occupation, why shouldn't they take american money to do it?

The american police system has local police for each town and city, and county police, and state police, and the national secret police like FBI and T-men are small and spread then when they aren't concentrated in the capital city. If a ruthless US government leader wanted all those police to help him eliminate opposition, he'd have a big job organising all those guys who have distinct payrolls. Why shouldn't iraq have that?

If iraq started organising from the bottom up, town councils etc leading to regional groups etc, they might be hard to manage. They might break off into ethnic-cleansing gangs. But they might anyway. There's a reasonable chance that people living in secure regional governments would see the value in nonviolent negotiation, the sort of thing they could do easiest with a weak federal government. The dangers are at least as great setting up a strong-man.

The choices weren't simply to do as Bush did or call off the invasion. Calling off the invasion was probably best. Or postpone it for at least a year and maybe 4 years. Assuming nukes were the issue, we had no evidence they had anything, and there was strong reason to think it would take 5 years or longer. Say the sanctions crumbled -- that would give *excellent* opportunities for Saddam to do stupid things for us to find out about. Get solid evidence and we might actually get UN support. Or if he doesn't try that's OK too.

But it wasn't a two-way choice. It wasn't a choice between "stand tall" and "give up".

posted by: J Thomas on 07.25.04 at 10:29 AM [permalink]

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