Friday, August 20, 2004
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The latest Iraq autopsy
Larry Diamond was a Senior Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad from January to April of this year. A few months ago I blogged about his dissatisfaction with the administration's handling of the post-war occupation of Iraq.
Diamond has articulated that dissatisfaction into a lengthy essay in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs entitled "What Went Wrong in Iraq," that expands on this criticism at length. It's sobering reading. Here's how it starts:
Read the whole thing. And here's a link to the rest of Diamond's writings on Iraq.posted by Dan on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM
"But doing so would also have required different kinds of troops, with different rules of engagement. The coalition should have deployed vastly more military police and other troops trained for urban patrols, crowd control, civil reconstruction, and peace maintenance and enforcement."
Except that sufficient numbers of MPs and the rest DON'T EXIST. Period. It wasn't ideology or hubris that inhibited their deployment--it was necessity.posted by: Alex Knapp on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
I made the same comment the last time Dan posted this guy's thoughts. There aren't 300,000 ground troops available and MP's are probably the most thinly-stretched soldier units in the army.
Which brings me back to Dan's constant refrain that post-war planning was botched. Good planning is measured by what is accomplished with what is available. You can't measure is against what could have been accomplished with imagined resources. If the measure of success requires what this guy thinks it required, then the error in planning goes back pre-war: the war should never have been launched in the first place.posted by: Norman Pfyster on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Exactly, Norman. Exactly.posted by: Opus on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
What Norman said. If you don't have the tools for "nation building," DON'T DO IT.
*Especially* if there's no pressing need for it.
Rumsfeld et al. had plenty of smart people they could've listened to about what Iraq would require. But they didn't listen, because that might have contradicted their axiom: "We're going in."
The world cannot afford to have these people running a superpower for four more years.posted by: Anderson on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
I disagree. Setting aside for the moment the arguments in favor of invading, to not invade because of a shortage of post-war MPs would have been a textbook example of risk averse decision making. You can always come up with a zillion good reasons not to start a war -- and that's as it should be; wars are terrible, ugly things. But sometimes those reasons are more than outweighed be the reasons to go in, as I believe in this case they were. Perhaps perversely, it is precisely this Administration's willingness to ignore the critics of the Iraq war -- that host of nattering naysayers and whining milquetoasts -- and simply do what they knew to be the right thing...that's what cements my vote for Bush, a man about whom I have almost nothing good to say otherwise.
That said, I'll pick up a copy of Foreign Affairs. This piece sounds more credible than most of the chaff out there.posted by: George on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
We have two choices, each with pluses and minuses. Neither ABB nor ABK is a well-rounded, objective position.posted by: old maltese on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
George: If you need some divisions of MP's and haven't got them, then you recruit or draft them, you otherwise get your nation-building toolkit stocked, and THEN you go in, if you need to.
The problems with the Iraq occupation are (1) we DIDN'T need to, and (2) we didn't even try to do a good job of it. I don't see how labelling common sense as "risk-averse decision making" impugns the common-sense notion that you don't jump off the cliff without a parachute.
But I wonder what you think were "the reasons to go in," which you think were valid and sufficiently weighty, were. If we DID need to, then doing a bad job for want of the right tools isn't so bad after all. So why do you say we were right to go in when we did?posted by: Anderson on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Sorry, George. I'm picking on you too.
If they were told they needed troop numbers beyond those available, how is waging war anyhow doing "what they knew to be the right thing"?
Instead, wouldn't that be doing what you've been told is the wrong thing?
(Dan, can you fix the font? Eh - is it just me?)posted by: wishIwuz2 on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
If we didn't have 300,000 troops (or more specifically 300,000 of the right types of troops), then the hubris did not lie in the post-war planning, it was in the decision to go to war.posted by: PD Shaw on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
So we needed more MPs in Iraq. What about Afghanistan? If we needed & didn't have enough MPs for Afghanistan, does that transform that invasion into poor policy?
Does this mean invading Sudan is never justifiable if it requires 300,000 MPs that we will never have?posted by: h0mi on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Anderson, here they are in a nutshell. I'm giving them far shorter shrift than they deserve unfortunately, but I feel like I've been typing these same words for close to two years now and they haven't convinced anybody yet who wasn't already convinced.
Strategic reason: it had to be demonstrated that the US is willing to invade and occupy a rogue regime. Over the course of several decades we had steadily lost almost all means to influence the behavior of bad actors, and after 9-11 that can no longer be tolerated.
Legal reason: there was an international rap sheet a mile long leading directly to Saddam's door. He was essentially caught red-handed (in 1991), tried, convicted and sentenced (via 17 UNSC resolutions), yet he simply laughed it all off: prior to 9-11 the sanctions on Iraq were on the verge of disintigrating. For Saddam to have got off scot-free would have destroyed any vestige of the notion of international justice. The fact that the UN's abdication of its responsibilities forced the US to enforce its rulings does not change this.
Moral reason: during his reign of terror Saddam killed some 150,000-200,000 civilians and upwards of 1.5 million soldiers (Iranian, Kuwaiti and his own). That all adds up to an average of up to 100,000 human beings a year, compared to 1,000 US soldiers and a few thousand Iraqis total lost in the war to depose him.
You can argue with any of those. But if you do believe in any of it, to not invade because of a lack of frickin crowd-control cops would be just idiotic, and morally indefensible. That's what I mean by "doing the right thing."posted by: George on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Sorry, George, but I'm picking on you to now. At the time Saddam Hussein killed all those civilians and soldiers we were supporting him. How does that square with morally defensible behavior?posted by: Mara on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Mara: not a proud moment in American history, but let's add a little context. US support was short-lived (1983-88 or so, although that was the height of the Iran-Iraq war) and moreover insignificant. America weapons sales to Saddam never amounted for more than 5% of the total arms trade in any year, and less than 2% over a 20 year period. The big dealers, year after year, were Russia, China and France. A better question to ask would be: why haven't those nations wised up to what a horror shop Saddam was running?
Lastly, why should US policy two decades ago determine US policy now? Would we be obliged to continue a policy that we now thought was morally wrong?posted by: George on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
More over at the same time your country was also sending weapons to Iran to fight against Iraq (a rather funny way of "support[ing]" Iraq). In fact I remember reading an article in the 1987 New Republic (ironically enough by Daniel Pipes and Laurie Mylroie) demanding that the US should tilt towards Iraq in that war (though to be fair to them they do say: "A MORE SERIOUS argument against a tilt toward Iraqis the danger that a victorious Baghdad would itself turn against ... Kuwait".
Asides from all that, I never got the "we helped Saddam then, so how can we do anything now" argument. If anything, doesn't that mean you should be more obligated to help undue damage that your support may have caused?posted by: Jacob on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
George, if "it had to be demonstrated that the US is willing to invade and occupy a rogue regime," didn't it also have to be demonstrated that we could do it properly?
Because given the current status quo that has resulted, I don't think we've demonstrated much at all except that we won't be invading any more "rogue regimes" for quite some time. Our forces are too tied up in Iraq, and will be for the foreseeable future. On those terms, we've just demonstrated our limitations.posted by: Reid on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
'Asides from all that, I never got the "we helped Saddam then, so how can we do anything now" argument. If anything, doesn't that mean you should be more obligated to help undue damage that your support may have caused?'
I don't think that argument invalidates the reason for war. It does, to some extent, reduce or minimize the moral high ground or the claim that human rights was a major reason for the war. To suddenly be upset by poison gas use by Saddam 20 years after you shook hands with him when he used it in Iran is hypocrisy of the highest water.posted by: erg on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
No Reid, the demonstration part has already been achieved. The audience for that was Assad, the Mullahcracy, Kim Jong Il, Qadaffi, Prince Abdullah, etc. When the world saw Saddam being pulled out of a hole in the ground, getting his teeth checked like a derelict at a free clinic, the first and most fundamental objective of the invasion was accomplished.
What we are now engaged in is a much larger enterprise: to remake Iraq into a modern state, and so perhaps put the whole region on a better track than it has been for decades. That's a whole lot tougher, and I won't hazard a guess how it will turn out. But despite all the violence, chaos and missteps, I do believe things are going to get better, not worse.posted by: George on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
'Strategic reason: it had to be demonstrated that the US is willing to invade and occupy a rogue regime. '
Already done in Afghanistan. There was no need to do that again for demonstration purposes.
'For Saddam to have got off scot-free would have destroyed any vestige of the notion of international justice. The fact that the UN's abdication of its responsibilities forced the US to enforce its rulings does not change this'
So if the UN were to insitute rulings against Israel or even the US itself, you'd think the US would enforce them ? Hardly. Since when is it the US's mission to enforce UN resolutions anyway ? And when are doing that for Burma or Sudan ?
'But if you do believe in any of it, to not invade because of a lack of frickin crowd-control cops would be just idiotic, and morally indefensible'
So why didn't we carry out the Normany landings in 1942 ? We knew that Stalin was in dire straits, losing millions of people (both civliians and military), and until Stalingrad, was in serous danger of losing or having to strike a separate peace. To not attack simply because we didn't have enough landing craft or trained soldiers was idiotic and morally rephrensible !!
Reid writes: "Our forces are too tied up in Iraq, and will be for the foreseeable future. On those terms, we've just demonstrated our limitations."
And the effective tactics learned by the Iraqis will surely be passed on to Iran, Syria, etc.posted by: Jon H on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
"No Reid, the demonstration part has already been achieved. The audience for that was Assad, the Mullahcracy, Kim Jong Il, Qadaffi, Prince Abdullah, etc. When the world saw Saddam being pulled out of a hole in the ground, getting his teeth checked like a derelict at a free clinic, the first and most fundamental objective of the invasion was accomplished. '
It seems to have led both Iran and North Korea to increase their nuclear program activities. Some objective. And if Musharaff had been assassinated (and remember that 2 attempts came pretty close), and Pakistan had fallen to a virulently anti-American Islamic party, that would have been one heck of an expensive demonstration.
h0mi writes: "So we needed more MPs in Iraq. What about Afghanistan? If we needed & didn't have enough MPs for Afghanistan, does that transform that invasion into poor policy?"
Afghanistan was a surprise and a necessity. You do your best with what you've got under those circumstances.
In the case of Iraq, it was neither a surprise nor a necessity. They started talking about invading Iraq in September 2001, if not earlier. They had a year and a half to prepare. A year and a half to give troops supplemental training in MP duties. A year and a half to increase recruiting of full MPs. A year and a half stock up on proper body armor and armored Hummvees.
Because Iraq was not a surprise, nor was it a necessity, it falls under the "If it's worth doing at all, it's worth doing well" doctrine.
George writes: "The audience for that was Assad, the Mullahcracy, Kim Jong Il, Qadaffi, Prince Abdullah, etc. When the world saw Saddam being pulled out of a hole in the ground, getting his teeth checked like a derelict at a free clinic, the first and most fundamental objective of the invasion was accomplished."
Which suggests that the objective was wrong-headed, because we're in a war against stateless terrorists. None of the people you list are likely to be piloting planes into US buildings or strapping explosives to their bellies.
The people who *are* likely to do that are the people whose friends and family have been killed, maimed, or abused by US troops.
So, if the objective of the Iraq war was to make us safe from terrorism, it would seem to have failed miserably.posted by: Jon H on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Jon H: I'm willing to admit that it may have been a mistake to not have more MPs ready to follow on the troops. May have been -- there's a lot of opinion on both sides. Franks himself says he asked for the number of troops to be limited. Hindsight being 20-20, it's easy now for folks to look back and say this was a mistake or that was a mistake, without really knowing what they're talking about about. And I don't know either, which is why I'm not offering an opinion. What I do object to, strenuously, is the notion that the chaotic nature of the occupation (whether or not caused by American mistakes, or Iraqi intransigence, or foreign terrorists or whatever) invalidated the reasons for the invasion itself. It doesn't. At the extreme, if the country slipped into real civil war, that for me WOULD call the enterprise into question. So far the Coalition seems to have done a pretty good job avoiding that possibility.posted by: George on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Jon, I disagree. "Stateless terrorists" are not really stateless; Iran, Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and others have used these groups as direct or indirect arms of state policy for decades. The long-term solution to the terrorist problem must involve convincing rogue states (or at least their ruling regimes) that continuing support for terrorists will result in their destruction.
Second, the problem of terrorists is inextricably tied up with the problem of WMD proliferation, and that is a problem best approached at the state level. See also: Libya (disarmament of), Pakistan (exposure of nuclear trade of), North Korea (PSI blockade of)
Lastly, I think the idea that every bomb creates a suicide bomber misses the point on several levels. If it was true, most of the Arab world would have blown itself up by now. Moreover, it's not the suicide bombers we need to go after, it's the people who send them -- who fit a very different profile. Tell me, which US bomb caused Osama to hate us? How about Zarqawi -- which country did he come from that was bombed by us?posted by: George on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
I agree with the need to create a deterrent factor to bad actors. However by that standard, Iraq has been an abysmal failure. Kim Il Jong has more nukes and better missiles than he ever did before, and the long predicted industrial-base crumbling in NK is still postponed until the indefinite future. As for Iran, they're clearly both accelerating their nuclear program and escalating informally support for guerilla resistance against the USA in Iraq.
If creating a deterrent through executing someone summarily as an example was the goal, and the necessity of successfully carrying out this example required post-war follow-through, and the lack of such planning in fact demonstrably encourages bad actors to increase their activities then ipso facto the original conception and execution of the war was fatally flawed.
Any way you slice this, it stinks George. Wake up.posted by: oldman on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Rogue states breed the sort of anti-Western sentiment that manifests itself in terrorist atrocities. The administration understood that mechanism well. What they disregarded was our complicity in creating such awful governments. Our support of Saddam in the 80s did not go unnoticed by Iraqis or Iranians, or anyone else in the region. Iranians haven't forgotten our sacking of their PM in 1953. The US, perhaps out of a Cold War necessity, has always preferred a repressive regime friendly to its economic interests over an unfriendly regime that more legitimately represents the population's will. The Pinochet coup in Chile in 1973 was one such pertinent example.
Many in the Arabian world view their powerlessness as the fault of Western governments that have interfered in their affairs. Before the US, there was European imperialism. Since their official governments have been so anemic, they admire terrorist groups that manage to exhibit power moves against Western targets.
Unfortunately, isolationism isn't a satisfactory solution, either. That leaves us in a bind. I think had we rebuilt the United Nations to reflect current reality, used it as a platform to spread democracy in the Middle East and more effectively challenge rogue states, that would have removed the target off of the US back. Our failures in diplomacy have really hurt our efforts, in both the short and the long term, in our war against terror.
My solution is half-thought out, so please post flaws with it...I'd like to use spaces like Dan's comment to cobble together a better understanding of these troubling events.
Cheersposted by: vagabondplus on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
George, did you even read the article? Iraq is ALL MESSED UP. Even if it was the right strategy and morally defensible, it IS ALL MESSED UP.
Additionally, do you know what you're talking about?
"Stateless terrorists" are not really stateless; Iran, Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and others have used these groups as direct or indirect arms of state policy for decades.
And none of those countries used Al Qaeda as an instrument of state policy on 9/11.
The correct statement is: stateless terrorists are stateless, whereas state-sponsored terrorists are state-sponsored.
In any case, pardon me if I don't think that giving a new generation of jihadis vast amounts of experience in attacking oil infrastructure and disrupting an authoritarian regime is a good idea.posted by: praktike on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Old Man: I'm awake, and I disagree. Regarding NK, I daresay nobody knows exactly what they have in the hole, but I suspect there's a lot going on behind the scenes that we don't know about. See here http://www.techcentralstation.com/072904B.html and here http://www.techcentralstation.com/072904B.html. I think it's quite plausible that the US's demonstrated commitment to acting unilaterally if necessary helped get all these disparate nations (including Russia, Japan, Australia, Germany, France and others) to act together to contain the NK threat.
More importantly, evidence (such as it is) that these two nations have not been sufficiently deterred does not mean that NO nations have been deterred. Virtually every other regime on the register of rogue states has modified its behavior to some extent. Maybe it's you who needs to wake up.posted by: George on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
The "we supported Saddam at one time" line of argument attack strikes me as particularly mindless.
Really, would someone explain it? Tell me how giving Saddam the means to fight the Iranians to a stalemate in the 1980s somehow - what, prohibits, disqualifies, renders immoral? what? - any effort to remove him in 2003.
Saddam earned his removal from power in 1991 and thereafter.
As for the "you don't have enough policemen for postwar, therefore you shouldn't have invaded at all" argument - please.
There isn't a city in America which has the number of police officers it believes are really necessary, yet they don't fold up shop & give up all efforts to keep the peace because of it.
The mission was worth doing even if we didn't have the numbers to do the post-war perfectly.
As for declaring it a "failure" - people were declaring the occupation of Germany post-WW II a failure much later than 16 months or so post Germany's surrender.
They could be right - but it is far, far too soon to tell.
Whoops, that first link should have been http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/psi.htm.
Vagabond, I don't disagree. American Cold War foreign policy has left a lot of bodies, and we'll all be cleaning them up for many years. But I don't have a lot of faith that the UN is going to magically reform itself. The fact that Libya and Sudan have both recently held the chair of the Human Right Committee (or whatever the correct appelation is) should demonstrate that the UN is not the organization to spread democracy in the Arab world.
Praktike: no, I have not read the article in the two hours since Dan posted the link. Apologies. I also apologize if my comments have not been clear: I AM NOT arguing that things are not messed up in Iraq. From where I sit, it's near impossible to sift through all the good and bad news. I haven't been there recently, and neither have you. But as soon as someone says "see how messed up it is? that proves we never should have invaded" I take issue.
As for terrorists, let me be more plain: there are no stateless terrorists. Al Qaeda would not be the problem it is today had it not been for monetary support from Saudi Arabia and territorial support from Afghanistan.posted by: George on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
I think had we rebuilt the United Nations to reflect current reality, used it as a platform to spread democracy in the Middle East and more effectively challenge rogue states, that would have removed the target off of the US back.
I think you are absolutely correct about that. It is also absolutely true that if I were 6 inches taller, weighed 100 pounds more, could bench press 500 pounds, and was handsome and full of animal magnetism, I could be the champion of World Wrestling Entertainment.
Alas, it is about as possible to reform the UN that way as it is to reform my body to WWE specifications.posted by: Roger Sweeny on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Excellent job, George.posted by: Richard A. Heddleson on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Thanks. Looks like either the argument is over, or everybody thinks I'm hopeless.posted by: George on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
From these various comments, I get the feeling that George and whomever seem to think that no matter how prepared or not, we needed to invade Iraq. I disagree. As was said above, we had the example of Afghanistan to pitch that notion to the world. The arabs probably knew (I can use probably since George did it so well a couple of posts ago) that Iraq had no wmds that we used as an excuse. They also know that the present administration is willing to abandon to its own devices a recalcitrant nation such as the Afghans. Why should they think we will stay the course with Iraq? I'm already hearing speculation that Iran is next.
Secondly, I can't help but wonder if we shall be able to "Americanize" democracy in Iraq. From what I can see, the religious leaders control the south, the Kurds control the north and the moderate sunnis control the middle. We have seen numerous examples around the world where the dominant culture likes to make sure it retains control. In fact, that was the problem that Hussein was faced with. Daddy Bush knew that and he knew he couldn't finish the job in Iraq without destabilizing the near east. His son is too rigid to realize that since he thinks "God talks through him." And if the majority Shias are elected, will it be democracy or theocracy as in Iran?
I believe firmly that the war was one of the biggest mistakes in U.S. foreign policy since we "policed" the Banana Republics on behalf of Chiquita.posted by: chuck rightmire on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Chuck, a couple responses and then I should get going:
One: A number of the reasons I cited are specific to Iraq -- specifically, the horrendous nature of the Saddam regime and his status as an international outlaw.
Two: didn't Colin Powell say a few weeks ago that at least two Arab rulers had told him point-blank that Saddam would use WMDs on American troops? Point being everyone thought he had em, not just Bush and his cronies.
Three: I too would like to see a greater commitment to Afghanistan. But there's no guarantee that even a much larger commitment of troops or police or money or whatever could really reform the place. As for commitment to Iraq, we could have packed up and gone home six months ago (after we got Saddam) but have stayed on, getting shot at and spilling blood. If that doesn't demonstrate commitment to "stay the course" I don't know what does.posted by: George on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
didn't Colin Powell say a few weeks ago that at least two Arab rulers had told him point-blank that Saddam would use WMDs on American troops?
Well, if Colin "aluminum tubes" Powell said so it must be true.posted by: Bernard Yomtov on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
George: you're a machine... you rule!posted by: Adam on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
"Needs must when the Devil drives."
Such a poor pitiful giant. It can't do anything right.
9/11 never happened, and there was no relationship whatever between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq.
Nothing ever effects anything else.
The sky is always falling for some people.
It's always the same people.
And they're always wrong.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Bernard, Gen. Franks also claims that Jordan's King Abdullah and Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak warned him about Iraqi WMDs (though you probably don't believe him either).posted by: James DeBenedetti on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
I can see an argument for more troops in Iraq, at specific times and for specific purposes. It would have been a great help to have had enough infantry to secure more of the weapons dumps that were all over Iraq after Baghdad fell; in the wake of that triumph, nations like Germany might have been induced to make fewer difficulties for our efforts there if we had found a way to get them to assign some of their troops to, for example, guard mass grave sights pursuant to war crimes investigations.
There are other examples, but having made this point we ought to distinguish it from the more often made argument that we can achieve security in Iraq by flooding it with peacekeepers. Kosovo and Iraq are not analogous; neither are Bosnia and Iraq, or East Timor, or Cyprus. In each of the other cases the local populace was very clear about the identity of its enemy -- the people it feared, usually with good cause. Peacekeepers from the outside offered a buffer, a deterrent to more fighting, especially when (as in Bosnia) all sides were pretty well exhausted to begin with. Opposing sides were not as closely mingled as they are in Iraq; people are not as heavily armed as they are in Iraq.
There aren't really any good precedents or analogies for the situation in Iraq now, and while it may be interesting in an academic sense to think about whether 300,000 troops aided by thousands of interpreters could pacify a country like this there is no good reason to think that taking one or two steps toward putting a coalition cop on every street corner would do the trick.
However, since we are thinking in an academic sense....it occurs to me that one of our liabilities in Iraq is Iraqis' undertainty about American goals combined with their rapidly acquired knowledge of American scruples -- the things they know American soldiers will not be allowed to do to support coalition policy. Uncertaintly about goals may not be something that the military could address in any event. But the disorder that got the occupation off to such a bad start might have been quelled in short order had American troops in Baghdad been ordered to shoot looters. It might not have taken more than a couple of dozen such shootings to create uncertainty among Iraqis intent on causing trouble and gratitude among Iraqis fearful of chaos after the long years of harsh order imposed by Saddam Hussein. Similarly, it is clear that no one in Fallujah last April thought the killing and public mutilation of the Blackwater contractors would lead to the celebrating mob being bombarded by American artillery -- Americans can kill civilians by mistake, but not deliberately. This certainty is not clearly a good thing, and the means later chosen to respond to this incident (a ground assault that killed hundreds) was not obviously more humane.
I'm not arguing for more general brutality but rather for a recognition that having overthrown a regime that controlled everything the coalition had a responsibility to demonstrate to Iraqis something as vital as the knowledge that they now had choices -- that is, the knowledge that there are some choices they may not make. Looting and desecrating the corpses of murdered men are two obvious candidates. From the uncertainty as to whether they would result in immediate, violent sanction from the strongest power within Iraq -- the American military -- might have grown self-restraint among some of the Iraqis who have lately been participants in that country's culture of violence.posted by: Zathras on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
I believe Franks, but why should he or I believe Abdullah and Mubarak?posted by: EH on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Why doesn't it surprise me that right-wingers think being compared to an automated device is cool?
The problem the pro-war types are having is their historical frame of reference.
">http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2003/02/21/maine/index_np.html"> "A splendid little war". (Salon.com)
Where Does Iraq Stand Among U.S. Wars? (Washington Post)
Back to the Spanish-American War of 1898? (New America Foundation)
Iraq and the Spanish-American War:
Why Americans May Grow Impatient with the War in Iraq
The Spanish-American War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War can fairly be described as “discretionary” wars for the United States. In advance of these conflicts, American territory was not attacked or directly threatened, and American lives were endangered only incidentally. By contrast, the two world wars were “non-discretionary,” in that American lives or territory (or both) came under direct attack. For this reason—among others—the Spanish-American War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War generated considerable controversy in the weeks surrounding the president's decision for war, while American belligerence in the two world wars was comparatively noncontroversial.
In 1898 the United States intervened in a war then underway in Cuba, by which indigenous revolutionary forces sought to wrest control of that island from its colonial master, Spain. Three years of fighting had produced inconclusive results, but significant casualties and much damage to Cuba's economy. American opinion favored the insurgents, owing to long-standing American dislike of European imperialism, and perhaps an instinctive preference for the underdog in a fight. It would at any rate be on that basis—as a campaign to liberate Cuba from Spain—that war would be justified to the American public. This point of view was embodied in the Congressional declaration of war itself, which included a proviso that affirmed Cuba's rightful freedom and independence, and disclaimed "any disposition or intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over [the] island except for the pacification thereof."
The point about Shinseki being punished for speaking truth to power doesn't hold water. The events Diamond describe do not match with the timeline of events and he even contradicts himself in the piece.
General Keane, the then Vice Chief of Staff, was announced as General Shinseki's future successor as Army Chief of Staff in April 2002, 14 months before Shinseki's scheduled retirement and end of his term of office as CSA. That was a highly unusual move and considered a not so subtle public rebuke of Shinseki, but he was not immediately shown the door and served his entire tour as Chief.
Was he effectively a lame duck? Maybe. He did have a credible vision of transforming the Army, but it contrasted with Rumsfeld's equally credible vision.
Shinseki gave his Armed Services Committee testimony in February 2003 (10 months after 'Mad Jack' was announced as his successor). He retired in June 2003. His retirement ceremony was conspicuous in the people who were absent. That there was enormous bad blood between him and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz is well known. But let it be known, he did not want them there and they knew that and respected his desires.
Keane declined to be the CSA due to family health issues but served as Acting CSA until August when Schoomaker was able to take office. In this case, it is not a political euphemism. His wife is sadly afflicted with Parkinsons.posted by: A Serving Soldier on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
praktike: George, did you even read the article? Iraq is ALL MESSED UP. Even if it was the right strategy and morally defensible, it IS ALL MESSED UP.
While I can't disagree with that, I think a more accurate characterization of the article is that the mess in Iraq is specifically due to poor and nonexistent planning leading to a string of very avoidable mistakes (not just the troop levels) resulting in one huge public relations disaster after another.
And as has characterized this administration's decision-making in other areas, many of the mistakes were due to the people in charge blindly sticking to ideology and refusing to listen to people who knew better. And so now, security is a mess, and most Iraqis distrust us along with everything we touch.
On second thought, that's not a very good sound byte. "ALL MESSED UP" is catchier. Never mind!
(But Dan is right, the whole thing is well worth reading)posted by: fling93 on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
As for terrorists, let me be more plain: there are no stateless terrorists.
So, which state backed Timothy McVeigh?
If we were going to bomb the country that provided him with training and money, which country would it be?
Where are we so far?
The first question is, have we made a mess in iraq. The answers so far are "Yes" and "Maybe". If it didn't work then the question is what should we have done different.
But there's a chance that everything is working fine and there's no problem. Maybe we should simply expect that it will take 50 years of occupation to establish democracy in iraq. On another blog a war supporter gave the estimate that often you have to kill 10% of the local population before the survivors are ready to give up insurgency and accept democracy, and we simply haven't yet done what it takes -- but as soon as we do then we'll be well onto the 50-year schedule.
If we accept that it isn't working then the question under consideration is what should we have done instead. One suggestion is to delay the invasion until we're actually ready and spend the meantime getting ready. A second is to figure out what's needed and supply those early. Another is to not invade at all. The fourth is that we needed to invade when we did and further delay would have been even worse, and we didn't think we needed extra troops etc (and maybe we didn't, maybe everything is going the best it possibly could right now).
Are there other important questions that have been asked that I haven't mentioned?
Here's one that we ought to consider.
Given where we are now, what should we do from here?
What goals are worth pursuing?
Actually, I do believe Franks. I do think Feith and his gang are morons.
But no, I don't believe Powell. Not any more. I think he will go down in history as a man who sacrificed his considerable reputation and integrity for the sake of loyalty to Bush. I think that for all his achievements, he lacked the will to do the right thing when the crunch came.posted by: Bernard Yomtov on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
On the question of whether to invade at all, we have first the moral argument that Saddam was much worse than most rulers and deserved to be removed. The counter is that when he did his worst Bush's closest advisers and his daddy were backing Saddam. I say this is not a good argument not to kill Saddam. Just because we're just as bad is no reason not to kill him -- whether we reform or not. The worse we are the more we can be expected to ignore moral arguments anyway. But it is an effective moral argument why the rest of the world might want to stay out of it. "May the best evil ruler win." "Too bad they can't both lose."
Then there's the question of nukes. If we thought Saddam was about to get nukes then we needed to stop him right away. The CIA's best estimate was that he was 5 years from it, which would have allowed 2 more years to train MPs etc. But Cheney ignored the CIA's best estimate. I see no particular reason to believe that the Bush administration believed in the nukes. There is a public statement on record that they chose the nukes as the best argument to push, the one that people would most likely accept. If they actually believed it themselves then they would have pushed it because they believed it. There is lots of reason to think they knew better. Certainly they should have known better. But maybe they announced that it was a scheme because they thought their supporters wanted to hear that. Supporters of the war can forgive a lie told to shut up the nervous nellies easier than they can forgive a really stupid mistake. So it makes sense to present it as a strategy instead of a mistake, however it really happened.
Then there is the argument that we have to show the world that we're willing to get tough. This is usually stupid.
The time it clearly works is for MAD. If we can persuade the russians that we're crazy enough to kill everybody in the world for something that isn't too important to them, they'll back down. Reagan was clearly better than Carter at this -- Carter didn't seem insane. But this approach works best when you can bluff and not actually have to show. We escalated in vietnam partly to show the world that we were willing to be tough, and the result was that we were weak everywhere else. (Luckily the russians didn't invade western europe. That made the europeans think the russians weren't going to invade. If they could do it while we were extra weak and didn't, why do it later?)
Similarly iraq. What good does it do to show our resolve when we don't have enough force left over to back up other threats? But maybe we're lying about that. Maybe we aren't actually stretched thin at all, and leaking that lie to the media means we can invade iran or whoever when the world doesn't expect it.
Finding a legal excuse is just something people do after they've decided to go to war. Saddam had a legal excuse to invade kuwait but we disagreed with it. We cranked out an implausible legal excuse to invade iraq and the world wasn't ready to confront us over it. No big deal, nothing to do with why we did it.
They ignored the army's desire to follow the Powell doctrine. And they ignored the army's estimates for what the occupation would need. If they had to invade right away on short notice then this makes sense -- no time to build up the strong forces. Rumsfeld said that he wanted to get a lighter quicker army. This makes sense; if the new methods work then we can get just as good results with fewer men or a *lot* better results with the same men. I think he was planning iraq as a trial run of his pet theories. There was no particular danger because iraq had been under sanctions for so long that their army couldn't be very dangerous. Even if we ran into problems the iraqis would be too weak to take advantage of them. And it did work that way. We ran into problems and we were able to just sit and wait for days while we got them straightened out.
And Cheney and Rumsfeld didn't care about the occupation, they wanted their trial run. They had people to lie to them that we'd hardly even need an occupation. Did they believe the lies? Probably.
Or was their intention to get a crippled iraq? Iraq with Saddam, under sanctions, was no threat to anybody. A strong democratic iraq would seem like a big threat to israel. Was the neocon plan actually to make such a mess of iraq that it would take them a long time to dig out from the rubble? Are the terrorists in iraq that kidnap college teachers and doctors and threaten to kill them unless they leave the country, really israeli teams? Or the ones who destroy power lines and water works etc.... No way to tell yet. Anyway, maybe Cheney etc really believed that occupation wouldn't be a problem.
Those are the only excuses I can see to go in unprepared. Either we had to get the nukes fast, or we thought it wouldn't be a problem. Otherwise it wouldn't have hurt anything to wait a year or two and do it right. We could have the spare troops waiting, and if the new attacks didn't work we could fall back to the Powell plan.
To support the way they actually did it, you have to figure they believed in the nukes -- which means they were stupid. Or else they believed the occupation wouldn't be a problem -- which means they were stupid. Or they wanted the results they're getting.
What most distinguishes the critics of the Iraq War is their penchant for 20/20 hindsight. The real question is, “were the decisions that were made prior to the war reasonable given what was known at the time?” In early 2003, everyone “knew” that Saddam had huge stockpiles of WMD’s and would use them to protect his regime. CIA estimated Saddam was five years from having nuclear weapons. People now believe (without evidence) that he was much further away from having them, but wasn’t it reasonable to believe in 2003 that CIA could have been wrong and that Saddam was only two years away from having nuclear weapons? Would you, as President, be willing to take that gamble?
As for planning for the post war, we simply don’t know enough to be able to say whether or not it was good. That is a question that can only be answered in the fullness of time. The war has been over for only a year, and to expect Iraq to turn from a ruthless dictatorship to a Jeffersonian democracy in that period of time is, quite frankly, ridiculous.
General Franks and the military planned both for the war and the post war. Their planning was based on the best information available to them. That information was imperfect, was known to be imperfect, and could never be anything but imperfect. There is simply no objective indication that their planning for the postwar was obviously flawed at the time it was done. The people asking for perfection are setting the bar too high.
It is a common military aphorism that no plan ever survives contact with the enemy. That proved true in Iraq, as everyone knew it would. Is Iraqi reconstruction “on track?” We don’t really know, and cannot answer that question this early. Reconstruction will take years, and the USA will probably have a military presence in the country for at least ten more years. After all, we are still in Germany (since 1945), Japan (since 1945), South Korea (since 1953), and Kosovo (since 1994), among other places.
George is absolutely right that the invasion was justified for reasons independent of the post-war and that the decision regarding whether to invade cannot be driven by concerns about how to handle the post-war period. The decision to invade was correct, for reasons George ably stated, among others. One important additional reason for the invasion can be easily seen by looking at a map: Iraq borders Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, all of which support terrorism to one degree or another. Keeping them “honest” is a lot easier with 100,000 US troops next door.
The greatest danger to the postwar in Iraq is the antiwar movement in the USA. For Iraq to have any chance at all, it must be unambiguously clear that we intend to stay the course. Kerry has recently called our commitment into question by saying that he will have US troops home within six months to a year. Unless he repudiates this position, anyone who votes for him must do so with the knowledge that he intends to “cut and run.”
Gee, you go home for a while, and the thread leaves you far behind ...
Ben, your cavalier attitude towards war planning makes me pray you're not working for our gov't. IF it was necessary to invade Iraq, we should've done it right; there were plenty of smart people telling us how to do it right; and Rumsfeld et al. deliberately, callously ignored them. If you haven't read James Fallows's Atlantic article on the prewar, please do.
As for "everyone's" believing that Saddam had WMD and a nuclear program, "everyone" believed it chiefly because the U.S. gov't insisted it had credible intel to that effect, and no one wanted to believe that the U.S. was either lying or incompetent. Guess what? "Everyone" is a lot more willing to believe both of those now.
The "antiwar" movement has 2 elements: the far-left fringe, which is just that, a fringe; and people who would be content to stay in Iraq and do the right thing, GIVEN SOMEONE TRUSTWORTHY IN CONTROL. They just don't see any prospect of that happening under the current Administration.
Ben's trite quotation of axioms ("no plan survives contact with the enemy") shows a massive, almost wicked indifference to American (and Iraqi) lives which could have been saved by a good plan properly executed. It's not a game, Ben. It's war.
A big shout-out to George, btw, for his gracious and fair exposition of his position (and to most, if not all, of his opponents in these comments, for staying cool). George's reasons for invading Iraq were mostly valid (except for the "pour encourager les autres" bit), but none amounted to the kind of clear and present danger that would've justified going in half-cocked.
Bear in mind, people: if Bush et al. had spent time planning and preparing, they probably would've gone in just a few months ago, Baghdad would've just fallen and been properly secured, and G.W. Bush would be riding 70% approval ratings clear into November. (Undeservedly IMHO, but with his cheerleaders in the media, very likely.) And the prospects for Iraq would look much better. Who knows, Saddam might've even had time to buy build or steal some WMDs for us to find.posted by: Anderson on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
The current administration took us into the war in Iraq. I agree that it's much like the Spanish American war without the Maine to be sold by yellow journalism. I think it also may be similar to the Mexican-American war where we had no just cause, as Abraham Lincoln said in 1848.
I know it sounds like hindsight, and I wish I'd put it in a sealed envelope, but I would like to ask how someone thousands of miles out of the east coast and out of the political centers realized that Bush, Powell, Rumsfeld, etc., were lying and you didn't? Every time Baby Bush leaned on the podium, shoving his left shoulder forward and looking sincere, it was to tell us another lie. And you guys, at least some of you, bought it.
I would also like to ask for a discussion here, not just on the American role in Iraq, but of the chances that, given the current political and religious makeup of that country, we can be certain that we will replace the secular government of Hussein with a secular government to provide a strong democracy?posted by: chuck rightmire on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
George says there are no stateless terrorists because Saudi Arabia backed a proto-al-Qaeda during the Afghan jihad.
Hmmm ... something bothers me about this argument, but I can't place my finger on it ...posted by: praktike on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Say thanks Anderson! It has been a pleasure to debate without fending off insults and profanity.
PS: thanks for introducing me to Fafblog.posted by: George on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
I would hardly describe my attitude as "cavalier." I am simply stating that if you insist on perfection before doing anything, you will never do anything because perfection is impossible. It is by no means a trite saying that "the perfect is the enemy of the good." If you don't buy the reasons for the war, then you don't buy the reasons for the war. Saying that you agreed with the war but did not realize that everything would be less than perfect is asking for the impossible.
As to the issue of WMD's, as has been pointed out above, both Colin Powell and Tommy Franks have said that Arab leaders told them before the war that Saddam had WMD's and that he would use them on US troops. In addition, the intelligence services of the UK, France, Russia and numerous other countries also believed that Saddam had WMD's. To say that this was all based on faulty or dishonest CIA intelligence is, itself, a dishonest statement.posted by: Ben on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Ben, I tend to disagree with you about the nukes.
The CIA said Saddam was 5 years from having nukes. How far is brazil from nukes? 5 years. If you have the materials and the experts but no nuke program, it takes 5 years to start from scratch.
If Cheney wanted to know how confident the CIA was about their estimate he could have asked. If they said it was a 1% chance iraq would get nukes in 2 years, or 0.1% or whatever, he could have asked their basis for that judgement. He knew that the CIA had much better data than usual; they had been going wherever they wanted in iraq and testing whatever they wanted to test.
Instead he cherry-picked reports from people the CIA thought were liars. The CIA was right. You can imagine that knowing what he knew then, he shouldn't have taken the chance the CIA might be wrong. I disagree. He made a trillion-dollar sucker-bet that the CIA was wrong and he lost.
Do you believe that Cheney thought Saddam had a functioning nuke program? He had access to everything the CIA knew. I doubt he believed that. So why attack in 2003 when he could be winning a better war now? My guess is he intended iraq to be all finished up by now, and syria, and right about now he'd be finishing up the victory over iran. Nobody would much care whether iraq had nukes by then, they'd be watching iran. I think he was surprised the occupation didn't work out according to plan.
Incidentally, there are people to this day who think Saddam might have had a working nuke program. Let's look at that. We've had over a year to torture the people we thought might be leading such a program. We have not gotten anything credible from any of them. If there was a nuke program none of them knew about it. It was not staffed with nuclear experts; it would have had to be done by people the experts trained who were not under expert supervision. It had to be financed with money that was not documented. It had to use equipment and materials that we have no evidence were bought or made, that we have not found. Nobody important in the government knew about them.
It isn't real plausible.
Sorry Mr Diamond. You have spent too long in the Green zone. Just as you called it wrong in your February Article in WSJ (die-hard Baathists). No peace in Iraq until the US leaves. Yes a lot of Iraqis will die including all those who are considered to be collaborators but americans will stop dying.
Of course I forget, the pay is better if you say nice things that people want hear than the bitter truth.posted by: Eunoia23 on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
For those who think that it was important to invade Iraq when we did:
Do you think invading Iraq, in March 2003, was more important to US security than completing our mission in Afghanistan? I don't mean completing the reconstruction and democracy-building, I mean the military part of the mission. Capture or kill Osama, Mullah Omar, destroy the al Queda training camps, etc.
The reason I'm asking is that new al Queda training camps are springing up in Afghanistan, the Taliban is making inroads in the South again, and Osama and his al Queda group are planning another attack on US soil that, if we are to believe the Bush Administration, will be even more 'spectacular' than his last. In other words, the group that caught us with our pants down on 9/11 is still functioning and is the group that we are spending billions domestically to guard against. It is the group that has the power to change our color code index. It is the group that initially put us on our war footing. It is the group that is DEFINATELY an IMMEDIATE proven threat and we gave em a half swipe and went off to fight a maybe in five years type threat in Iraq.posted by: lansing on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Conveniently or arrogantly overlooked in this examination is the role of the opponent. The US faced the No-Defense defense for the first time in any war. No other nation has spread weapons about the countryside, released prisoners from jail, disbanded its military, and created para-military thugs with international terrorist connections.
The other oversight is the resistance desire not to harm the Agressor/Occupier but to attack the populace. This is also a new tactic. The US was placed in the position of protecting and attacking the civilian population as the security threats hid within them.
The solution to security and economic development is a political one. The US military and the US population are not comfortable installing the political system of other nations. Yes, we lack the "will to empire". Democracy cannot be imposed from without. It must arise from within otherwise it will not flourish. Its citizens will not defend it.
Germany failed at its first attempt. France, it could be argued, has yet to achieve it. Russia still struggles. Each nation finds its own path to democracy. What we need do is assure each who take the path that the US will assist but not impose our particular brand. The manner and style of democracy must remain the choice of the citizens.
The only future is for democracies to grow. When citizens live longer and better lives under democracy than tyranny they will choose democracy.
Barnett's Pentagon New Map has some ideas. What is lacking is map to the political will. Organizational changes can accomplish much and training, but without the desire of the American people to undertake nation building it is wasteful.
Until the American people decide that the slaughter of innocents by terrorists, thugs and tyrants must cease, it will continue. The news from Dafur, Sudan is bad enough. Today's reports about the massacre in Burundi and resulting calls for revenge indicate that there will soon be another blood bath to equal Rwanda.
The UN could/should play a stronger role. However, "the longer they play bureaucratic games the more reasoned and responsible the US role in Iraq becomes" to paraphrase a recent comment from Howard Dean. When the global institutions fail to act, for whatever reason, then the US must either accept the stain that comes from complicity or decide that "We'll do it" and engage. I believe we must act to support and defend the values we hold dear, even if we lose the battles. We at least remain true to ourselves. When we become complicit in the crime by the act of omission we surrender our ideals and lose our will.
Stopping the fighting alone is not enough. How many trips to Haiti need the Marines make?
This is the lesson of Iraq.
Andy, 'The Will to Power' is dead.
Until you realize greed is a great fertilizer for evil, you are going to continue to be a cheerleader for death and destruction. (All in the name of democracy and fredom, of course.) Get over it, "We are not God’s gift to morality!"
In the case of Iraq, it was neither a surprise nor a necessity.
That's the primary aspect of the Iraq war debate, isn't it? That it was/was not necessary?
If it was necessary, the MP issue isn't so important. If it wasn't necessary, what would it matter if we did have 300,000 MPs? We'd still be fighting an "unnecessary" war, but we'd be (better) prepared for it.posted by: h0mi on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
In a situation like Iraq, the "will to power" doesn't really matter. You don't have to have it to become an empire. All you have to do is try to defend your borders or your interests around the world and suddenly you find you have that will to power. It grows on you.posted by: chuck rightmire on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Can we get a new p-value? p=0.01 for Bushposted by: Jor on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
It was a play on Nietzsche's "God is dead."
Many modern day right-wingers are hardly "believers", however like Nietzsche, they have replaced "God" with "Power." They have concluded that power dictates morality and ethics. We are good and rightious by virtue of our power and our ability to establish it. Once right-wingers believe "God is dead" they run into the arms of Power and Force.
Thus RIGHT-WING NIHILISM!!!!
The Gospel, for them, is for wimps and pussies.posted by: NeoDude on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
h0mi writes: "If it was necessary, the MP issue isn't so important."
No, it is still important, because even if it was necessary, it wasn't a *surprise*. There was lots of time for preparation. Preparation which was not done.
If, on the other hand, it was not necessary, and not a surprise, then even more preparation could have been done because the war could have been delayed as much as needed until adequately trained and equipped troops were available.posted by: Jon H on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
The last time US forces were probably large enough to effectively pacify Iraq was in 1991, when an occupation might have been anyway much easier. It was not done, and one of the many arguments brought forward by wise men was that "if we take Baghdad we´ll still be in there by 1996". How satisfied we were at the time. There was no hot discussion about that decision, no blame to go around. Those who do nothing make no mistakes.posted by: werner on 08.20.04 at 03:24 PM [permalink]
Do you think invading Iraq, in March 2003, was more important to US security than completing our mission in Afghanistan? I don't mean completing the reconstruction and democracy-building, I mean the military part of the mission.
Lansing, do you believe that mission could have been "completed"?
The russians couldn't complete it.
irregular forces in the mountains. We don't have the technology.
We caused them a lot of disruption using minimal US forces, mostly money. We can do it again when they get fully established again. That's probably about as much as we can do in that corner of the world, militarily, with our current technology.
Larry Diamond, who's been there, and who dreams still of democracy taking hold in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East--Larry Diamond says the Bush gang can't shoot straight, and either it has to bring in a lot of new members and throw out a lot of old, or it has to be chased out of town.
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