A different view on the Iraq report

I haven’t read the full Baker Hamilton Iraq commission report, but I don’t need to read it to know that it’s going to be useless— a compromise of “exit strategy” (surrender strategy?)ideologies as opposed to a victory plan.

If I may seemingly digress”¦ Last week the idiot light indicating I needed to service my car’s transmission came on. I called a friend who owns a transmission parts distribution business, knowing that he had intimate knowledge of the Portland transmission repair industry and that he’d be able to draw on this specialized knowledge to recommend an honest, reliable transmission repair shop. After examining my car, the recommended shop gave me three options for dealing with the issue. I weighed the costs and benefits and chose my solution. From idiot light on to repair took two days, but only because I put off the trip to the shop for a day.

Let me tell you what I did not do. I did not call a bunch of political has beens with no knowledge of transmissions or the transmission repair industry to diagnose my transmission problem. I did not call my friend the pollster, because as much as he knows about sampling and statistical analysis, and while I’m certain he could tell me how a sample of likely voters between the ages of 18 and 35 felt about their transmissions, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know much about transmissions. I didn’t call my friend the heart surgeon, because while he is an expert at diagnosing and repairing problems of a somewhat mechanical nature, he also doesn’t know much about transmissions either— hell, he can’t even program his DVR.

Let’s extend this reasoning to the problem of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency in Iraq. What do you think Sandra Day O’Connor or Vernon Jordan knows about either? I’ll call on Sandra if I want to know about constitutional law — maybe — and on Vernon if I want to know how to pass a bribe. Do we really want William Perry, who as Undersecretary of Defense for Jimmy Carter participated in the formation of the policies that gave rise to the modern Islamist terrorist states and as Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton turned a blind eye to the terrorist acts leading up to 9/11 and the Iraq war? I’m sure Leon Panetta will be fine with any recommendation, so long as the Iraqis agree not to do offshore drilling. Of course, maybe the whole Iraq war could have been avoided if Chuck Robb had married one of Saddam Hussein’s daughters. Ed Meese is only there because he’s James Baker’s buddy and James Baker is only there because he’s a friend of Papa Bush. Lawrence Eagleburger was substituted for the only appointment making even remote sense — former CIA director Robert Gates — when Gates was tapped to replace Donald Rumsfeld. Eagleburger was a vocal critic of the decision to invade Iraq and voiced his support for impeachment should President Bush take military against Iran and/or Syria to stop them from meddling in Iraq. Gee, I wonder what his recommendation will be?

And then there’s Alan Simpson. A fine man, someone I’d love to have a few drinks with, and probably possessed of more common sense than the rest of the commission combined, but still not an expert in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.

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  • David G

    I am not sure where you are going with your comments about the inexperience of the commission members.

    President Bush has been relying upon the “real” experts in the government for the past four years – both military and diplomatic. Where has that gotten us? You don’t need to be an expert to realize what a disaster the war policy has been.

    The ability to diagnose failure is different from the ability to create successful future courses of action. There is no longer any reason to believe that the United States can achieve anything worhwhile in Iraq. It is certainly laughable to think that the “interests” of Iran and Syria will now make them want to help the U.S. All the experts and all the kings men are not going to put this Humpty-Dumpty back together again.

    We “cut and ran” in Vietnam. We pulled out all our troups and all our “aid.” Now, thirty years later, our president is a welcome visitor there. Let’s go back to that strategy again – it worked!

  • Tim Lyman

    David –

    I thought I made a pretty clear, if convoluted, argument. Seek advice from practicing subject matter experts – not ivory tower bureaucrats, partisan hacks, or those with a proven record of screwing up the Middle East. I certainly didn’t need these people to tell me that Iraq is a mess.

    Are you completely ignorant of history? Cutting and running in Vietnam led directly to the deaths of over 3,000,000 Vietnamese and Cambodians.

    As far as Bush being welcomed to Vietnam, the Vietnamese government wants to increase US trade so they can get more $. I seriously doubt most Vietnamese over 40 have much love for Americans.

    President Bush has been relying on career bureaucrats and diplomats for formulation of his Iraq strategy. Any military strategist would have told him (some probably did) four years ago to take out the insurgent munitions dumps and command centers (they call them mosques) and to put large forces on the Syrian and Iranian borders to stem the flow of munitions, fighters and trainers from these countries.

    The main criticism of the Clinton administration’s reaction to the escalating terrorism that led to 9/11 was that they attempted to manage it at a “tolerable” level. For my money that’s exactly how we have been dealing with the insurgency in Iraq – with the same results – escalating violence and a growing movement emboldened by every American death.

    It’s not too late for victory in Iraq, but it’s going to be much more difficult militarily and perhaps impossible politically thanks to the victory of the party of cowardice, appeasement and surrender for control of congress. Does anyone with more than two functioning brain cells think Syria would be trying to reassert itself in Lebanon if the Republicans still held both houses of congress?

    War is not a sporting match. It doesn’t take two teams to play. Taking our ball and going home will not, alas, make us safer. I cannot engage you in a game of one-on-one basketball without your consent. If I decide to kill you your consent and feelings on the matter are irrelevant. And believe me, the forces behind the Iraqi insurgency want to kill you. We are at war with these primitives, whether we like it or not, and Iraq is the front in that war. We know this because they have told us so. If we defeat them in Iraq, it will make it much more difficult for them to recruit new members and carry out attics elsewhere.

    After the fall of the Soviet Union intelligence experts were laughed at for predicting radical Islam as the next great enemy of the west. Their remarks were written off as lies meant to keep funding flowing to the military industrial complex. World War II began in 1939 with the German invasion of Poland and ended in 1989 with the fall of the Soviet Union. World War IV began in 1979 when Jimmy Carter fed the Shah of Iran to the wolves and was rewarded with the first radical Islamist state and the kidnapping of 52 Americans. If we’re lucky we can win this one in less than fifty years.

  • Tim Lyman

    Sorry – end of last sentance in paragraph 7 should read “carry out attacks elsewhere.” So much for spell check.

  • iop

    No commissioner on the report spent more than four days in Iraq. Even worse, they didn’t even travel outside the green zone.

  • David G.

    Tim,

    Tell us who these “practicing subject matter experts” are who you think can bring about victory (whatever that is) in Iraq. I don’t think they exist. Quite frankly, I think all US Middle East experts fall into one of the other categories you identify. They are all either: “ivory tower bureaucrats, partisan hacks, or those with a proven record of screwing up the Middle East.” The reason we need to get out is because we don’t have a clue about what we are doing there.

    As for your Vietnam and Cambodian statistics, I won’t quarrel with you on the numbers, but I will say that I wouldn’t have been willing to sacrifice one more American life there. People are sadly killing each other all over the world as we speak. That doesn’t mean we should get involved or stay involved in any of that. Read George Washington’s farewell address where he urged the country to stay out of foreign wars. The advice is still good today.

    I have no doubt that there are people who would enjoy killing you and me. How many of them are there? No one knows. I just don’t think there are enough of them that we should go chasing them all over the world while at the same time making ourselves easy targets for them.

    It is interesting that you bring up the subject of the Soviet Union. The fall of the Soviet Union was the most momentous event of the 20th century. How many notable experts predicted or even suspected it would happen? None! That is the exact same number of experts who can help us in Iraq today.

    I just don’t see the argument that says we need to stay in Iraq to prevent the potential catastrophe that our own actions created. It was never going to get any better for us in Vietnam. It never will in Iraq either. There aren’t any experts who are going to save us.

  • iop

    More input from those lower level commanders on the ground. They live with the decisions the higher commanders and politicos make. They know best what is working and what is not. There should be a Iraqi survey of them.

  • Anonymous

    As much as we all can respect and sympathize with our soldiers on the ground, we can’t expect them to give us any more guidance on what to do there than our experts.

    Prior to arriving there, probably most of our soldiers didn’t even know where in the world Iraq was, none could speak the language there, and none had training to fight an insurgency. If they had much training at all, it was in fighting a conventional war against another army, not in opposing an insurgency.

    I still see our adventure into Iraq as very similar to the one in Vietnam. We got into both wars as preventive measures so that we would not have to fight the enemy on our own shores later on. We entered the Vietnam war to save us from the “domino theory” where the communists would eventually be attacking the shores of California. Tim Lyman expresses essentially the same point of view about the Iraq war: that if “they” win in Iraq “they” will come after us next or eventually. History has shown the “domino theory” to be a tragic delusion. Unfortunately, we Americans love to believe in grand conspiratorial theories. Fears about letting “them” win in Iraq, whoever “they” are, are just as delusional. Iraq and its rulers, whoever they are, are never going to be a serious threat to the United States. History confirms that too.

  • Tim Lyman

    The domino stated that if one state fell to communist insurgency, its neighbors would soon fall. The theory proved true. Within two years after we left Vietnam not only was South Vietnam conquered, but Laos and Cambodia were taken over by communist regimes. After a commuist coup in October of 1973 Thailand went through five governments in three years in a stop and go civil war.

    The subject matter experts are those people in the military and intelligence services, here and at our allies, who spend their careers perfecting the art of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.

    “They” are the radical islamists who want us dead. And for the dense among you, we know they want us dead because they have told us so again and again – and then there was that little hint on September 11, 2001.

    Oh, and for the record, the North Vietnamese have admitted that they were about to give up the battle until they saw how the growing antiwar movement was working to their favor. I don’t think that lesson was been lost on Al Quaida, Iran and Syria. The left wing right here at home is at least as responsible for every American death in Iraq as our foreign enemies.

  • Tim Lyman

    Almost forgot –

    I have read GW’s farewell address. Your evocation of it is so flawed as to be riduculous. It was made 200 years ago in a completely different world, when we were protected from foreign enemies by an ocean that took two weeks at best to cross, when it required a huge navy to make transoceanic war and our enemies were nation states.

    • je

      To Tim:
      I agree with what you say, at least in regards to the analogies you make. But your argument misses the point. The Iraq project is unsustainable if the country is divided. It is my view that to sustain our effort in Iraq we can not have this bitter divide that has fractured this country and sapped our resolve.

      The Iraq Study group is not “experts” as you put it. Clearly, what it was designed to do, or more likely come to stand for, is the realization among Republicans and Democrats alike that failure in Iraq would be catastrophic. Democrats and Republicans are standing shoulder to shoulder to support the President’s goals in Iraq. It is good to have Democrats and Republicans agree on the goal.

      The United States of America has not had success so far. President Bush said today,”its bad” in Iraq. The proposals are no worse than where we are right now. Frankly, I do not share your pessimism about the proposals, but I do know we will fail if this country is splintered and divided.

      If we are united we have the best chance for success. You have made your criticism of the members, all the same I respect their collective judgment and patriotism. I did not read a way forward in your text, other than a vague reference to military advice. I only gently chide you because, truth be told we need as much support as possible.

      The president today said we need a change in course. Our success or failure depends, as much or more, on our being united at home as having effective strategy and tactics on the ground in Iraq.

      I suppose it does not surprise me that there is criticism on the right and on the left. In my opinion it is misguided and regrettable, yet in some measure shows the Iraq Study Group is on the right track; being in the middle is the surest bet to uniting the most citizens.

      We need Democrats and Republicans united behind a common Iraq policy. The Iraq Study Group proposals provide the basis for that unity. It should not be passed up lightly.

      Finally, I do not agree the ISG is just a fig leaf for defeat. The stated goal of all ten members is success in Iraq and was articulated as such by the members again and again over the last two days. What proof or evidence do the doubters have to back up those assertions. Are those who insist the ISG wants “surrender” saying all ten members are lying to the whole country? A serious charge and reckless if made without any proof to base it on.

      Let us move forward as one country with a common Iraq policy.

      • Tim Lyman

        “We need Democrats and Republicans united behind a common Iraq policy.”

        It will never happen. You will never get the lunatic left wing of the Democrat party to agree with any policy forwarded by the Bush administration. If he were to pull out all the troops tomorrow as they desire, they’d be criticising him for that.

        The lunatic left wing of the democratic party and their willing allies in the media have relentlessly and very effectively worked to divide the country. To their shame Democrat elected representatives have put pandering to this vocal minority element of their party ahead of national security.

        I am no military expert, but I see three basic issues that are not being addressed in Iraq. Iran and Syria are actively helping the insurgents. Iraq’s borders with these countries are even more porous than our border with Mexico. Armed militias are using mosques as munitions dumps and military command centers.

        Bombing the living crap out of Iran and Syria, as satisfying as it would be, will do nothing to stop the flow of arms, fighters and expertise into Iraq and would only increase support for those regimes.

        The first step in any solution must be to seal the borders to prevent the free flow of arms, fighters and expertise into Iraq and the smuggling of oil out of the country. Without new arms and money from oil revenues the insurgency cannot sustain itself.

        The next step is where it gets messy. The militias need to be disarmed and the mosques either emptied of munitions or destroyed. We were on the verge of a full scale invasion of Sadr City two years ago but backed off at the last minute to appease the provisioal government. That’s where we really screwed up.

        Iraq is not in a state of civil war. Baghdad is experiencing what could be best described as a gang war on steroids. 95% of the death and destruction we hear about is in Baghdad. The biggest problem we face is that we have all but ceded macro control of our military operations to the do nothing civilian government rife with corruption. I honestly believe we need to take a step backward and tell the Iraqi government to sit down and shut up while we clean up the country and only hand control back when they’ve done some housecleaning.

        • je

          To Tim:
          Of course, not all Democrats will agree. And if I implied Democrats of all stripes would agree then I’m Sorry. I was taking literary license. What I am talking about is Democratic leadership and a substantial amount of the rank and file in both the Congress and the country at large.

          While I agree there are substantial numbers of Democrats whose actions are predicated by the motives you describe above, there are also others who appreciate the danger to America and her vital interests should a precipitous withdrawl occure. These Democrats at this point are the majority of the party; at least I hope they are.

          My reading and checking leads me(not scientific)to conclude there are enough Democrats who want to exhaust all options(If for no other reason than to avoid blame for losing, and avoid the national security stigma like what happened after Vietnam.), because it’s the right thing to do. A majority of Democrats know a catastrophe for American interests in the region would not be good for Americans ilrespective of party.

          I don’t blame you for expressing your frustration with Democrats and the media, yet, at this juncture, it’s counter productive. Pointing fingers and name calling will not draw Democrats to a policy. When I look at the polls, and what is happening on the ground in Iraq, it confirms to me this is our last opportunity to bring ENOUGH citizens together to support an Iraq policy.

          I assume(for the sake of discussion) President Bush has done everything he could these last three years and it’s still “bad.” “Staying the course” will not survive politically in this country and its not working out militarily in Iraq either.

          Frankly, if President Bush blows off the Iraq Study Group Report, Democrats are very likely to blow off Iraq. A divided country will doom to failure the Iraq project. I’m not interested in political blame. I want the best possible outcome. The United States needs more time and more successful strategies and tactics.

          Tim, I appreciate your response, although, you did not address the main thrust of my original argument.

          How do we sustain an Iraq policy when the vast majority of Americans have turned against the policy? That’s my bottom line for supporting the ISG recommendations. It’s the only way to sustain an Iraq policy over the long term. The only other alternative is eventual defeat.

          Unless you know of some “magic bullet?” Or some other way to get Americans to bite the bullet.

          This does seem to be the only game in town.

          • Tim Lyman

            I think I have answered the question several times over, but I will summarize ONE MORE TIME. What we need is not an exit strategy, but a new strategy for victory. I define victory as the elimination of the insurgencies (we are dealing with several factions) capability to make war. Seal the borders to starve the insurgencies of munitions, foreign fighters, expertise and cash. I realize we can’t seal them 100%, but right now they’re totally porous. Disarm the militias. Destroy all insurgent and militia munitions dumps and command centers – even if they are inside mosques. Purge the civilian government of corrupt officials. Letting these corrupt bastards line their pockets on the backs of dead Americans and Iraqis is unacceptable. Finally, the administration needs to get a whole lot better at communicating its successes in order to counter our biggest and most dangerous enemy, the far left antiwar PR machine has been going full force since day 1.

            An aggressive offensive strategy will appease most Americans. Most people’s frustration with the war is that we do not appear to be doing anything except sending our soldiers out to be shot. Most Americans support victory (as I have previously defined it) in Iraq, but do not support the continuation of what appears to them to be a stalemate.

            The administration can only regain support for its war policy if we start seeing dramatically larger numbers of dead insurgents and dramatically lower numbers of dead Americans SOON.

  • Todd

    I honestly have no clue how to solve the debacle that is Iraq and the Iraq study group is probably only a piece to the puzzle. It is insulting that the President is saying that “its bad” in Iraq now after four years of this tragedy.

    You are not going to find me blasting or lambasting the Democrats for being responsible for the failures in Iraq. Never in our history has a President had such a compliant Congress who took his words hook, line, and sinker. If I remember correctly the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress during this time. Most Democrats voted for the authorization to invade Iraq. It is not the Democrats fault that there were found no WMDs, no links to Al Qaeda (Ansar al Islam is circumstantial at best), and no impending threat from Saddam. Accountability? Lets give the Congressional Medal of Freedom to two of the people who spearheaded this invastion. It is not the Democrats who consistantly claim that Iraq has reached a “turning point” or better yet in the “insurgency is in its last throws” and the body count continues to rise. This debacle is of our own making and the war rests squarely on the shoulders of George Bush and his administration.

    Yes lets move forward on a unified Iraq strategy but someone please tell me WTF it is.

  • David G.

    Tim,

    I think je has made an important point, which you seem to agree with: unless Americans unite on a plan, there will not be anything like a successful conclusion in Iraq. Todd then asks the next logical question: what is the plan that will unite us all?

    It is pretty evident that Americans are not going to unite on any plan. Too many, like myself, think the war is unwinnable. Too many, like Tim, want to keep pouring in resources hoping that eventually something will work. The ISG report is already being attacked by so many people that it too is hopeless as a unifying plan.

    If the American people can’t unite on what to do, then – I think we all agree – nothing can get accomplished. But that is exactly the situation we are in. Americans cannot agree on what to do.

    Democrats and liberals can’t be blamed for this disagreement. George Will and Patrick Buchannan have both basically characterized the war effort as the worst foreign policy disaster in the history of the United States. Even our own Senator Gordon Smith now calls the war effort criminal and absurd. The dissidents are much more widespread than Tim has been willing to admit. They are not just liberals and Democrats.

    So, if we are agreed that a divided US cannot succeed in Iraq, what is plan B? John McCain has reluctantly admitted that the US should get out if it cannot accomplish anything.

    That is the Plan B.

    I think the US has a fairly successful recent history of “cut and run” operations. We don’t need to fear doing it again.

    We certainly cut and ran in Vietnam. As Tim points out, this resulted in a local blood bath there. But no significant interests of the US were otherwise adversely affected, and we stopped the financial and human drain on the country.

    We also cut and ran in two other Middle East countries: Lebanon and Somalia. Decades later, the blood bath is still going on in those places. Aren’t we glad we got out of those messes early? We never were going to do any good in either of those places either.

    So it is time to come to the same realization in Iraq. Yes, a blood bath will follow when we leave, but we can’t stop that there any more than we could in Vietnam, Lebanon, or Somalia. Maybe, like Vietnam, it will sort itself out in 30 years or so. Maybe, like Lebanon or Somalia, it will go on indefinitely. Either way, the US will still survive and prosper. It always has and, as far as we can tell, always will.

    Let’s let that happen.

    • Tim Lyman

      “I think je has made an important point, which you seem to agree with: unless Americans unite on a plan, there will not be anything like a successful conclusion in Iraq”

      I could not disagree more. There is no “plan” that will bring the media and the left behind the Iraq war. They have been working to undermine it since day 1. Further, publicly announcing a plan is abalogous to showing your poker hand. The only action in Iraq that will get the country behind the war are significant victories over the insurgents combined with drastically lower levels of violence and American casualties.

      “Yes, a blood bath will follow when we leave, but we can’t stop that…”

      Your callousness and disregard for the lives of non-American non-combatant civilians is reprehensible and comtemptable. Unlike Lebanon and Somalia, we created the mess, therefore we are morally obligated to clean it up.

      • je

        Tim:
        I hope you’re right, but if you’re wrong, we just pushed all our chips into the game(It’s not a game, it’s American blood, treasure, and standing in the world.).

        Can President Bush make it happen like you envision?

        Time would tell.

        If it doesn’t work like you envision, you and President Bush have set the Republican Party up for a complete wipeout in ‘O8.

        300-135 in the House
        63-37 in the Senate
        Democratic President.

        Are you willing to risk that, Tim?

        Now, If you are right, and it works and we have victory then Republicans have the majority in both House and Senate and a Republican President.

        But those are the stakes. Again, are you willing to risk that, Tim?

  • David G.

    Tim,

    You seem to be unwilling to accept that opposition to the war spreads out over the entire political spectrum. Pick up any Oregon newspaper from today and read what our Senator Gordon Smith said about the war yesterday. Read on-line the recent columns and comments about the war by George Will and Patrick Buchanan. These men are not leftists. You impair your own credibility by seeming to deny what everyone can see. Opposition to the war effort is widespread.

    I remember in 1968 that Richard Nixon successfully campaigned for president with the promise that he had a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War. The electorate bought it and he won the election! I just don’t think your secret-plan-idea for Iraq will do as well now.

    I don’t understand how your tactic to get the American public to support the war is going to work. You want higher body counts of the insurgents, and lower body counts for Americans. In order to get higher body counts of insurgents the Americans will presumably have to engage in more battles with the insurgents. How is that going to result in fewer American deaths and injured? The solution you propose seems to be self contradictory. Can you explain it for us?

    Sorry if you were offended by my comment about the blood bath to occur when we leave. I think the bloodbath is unavoidable. Our exit from Iraq is going to be an ugly scene whenever it happens. I agree with you that we caused the mess. We were clueless going in, and unfortunately we are still clueless. Our moral obligation is not to clean up the mess – since we don’t know how to do that. Our moral obligation is to stop making the situation worse, which we are quite likely to do if we stay there any longer – given our history there so far.

    What do you think of je’s comment above? Is prolonging the Iraq war worth the risk of turning the federal government over to the Democratic Party?

    • je

      To David and Tim:
      Dave’s comment is exactly why I support the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations.

      Dave’s comment has a rather cold logic to it.

      Yet,

      Dave you are way to blithe about the consequenses of a precipitous withdrawl. Dave, it’s not Vietnam. The middle East is where The West gets, what 40% of it’s oil.

      As Mesopotamia has been a cross roads of civilization(excluding China), through millenium, so it is still today.

      Vietnam was not a cross roads of anything other than a strongly felt ideological battle ground. Geographically, it was rather isolated. That’s not the case with Iraq. While I’m sure it tickled the communists, both in the Soviet Union and Red China, to see America lose, it did not lead to any larger conflagration beyound that geographic area, or significantly strengthen either Red China or the Soviet Union.

      But Iraq is a whole different kettle of fish.

      Iran sits on Iraq’s border with expansionist designs. Turkey sits nervously, eyeing Iraqi-Kurdistan. Isreal fears Iran(for good reason) with what, a 100 nuclear bombs? Lebanon is fragile and teetering on a Hezbollah coup. Syria looks to make mischief. Russia seeks greater influence and control. Heck, even China has a play in this dangerous game. Don’t forget Pakistan with it’s nuclear tipped ballistic missiles. Oh ya, they face a nuclear India. And there is Afganistan where we first started this snow ball (In rightous self defense after 911.)

      A precipitous withdrawl would be a catastrophe, David.

      David, You are completely wrong to suggest the consequenses of “bugging out” would be minimal.

      To Tim, “as long as your right,”… “as long as your right.” And heaven help us if you’re wrong.

      That’s why I support the Iraq Study Group.

      It balances competeing tensions both in the region and here at home.

      My comments stand.

      I’m pushing to rally America around a “new approach,” a change in course which has the most potential to unite America.

      And achieve success in Iraq and the region.

  • David G

    je,

    I agree that my comments have a cold logic to them. I would actually call them brutally frank. But I don’t think I have been blithe or minimalized the situation. I have acknowledged that our departure from Iraq will trigger a bloodbath. This is hardly blithe or minimalizing. It is brutally frank.

    President Bush has said he is not looking for a graceful exit. That’s because there is no graceful exit. We have triggered events which we cannot control. You opine that a precipitous withdrawal would be a catastrophe. I don’t disagree with you. What I am saying is that staying there will also trigger a catastrophe – and probably a more dangerous one considering our ineptitude at everything we do there. All of our choices are ugly. There is no graceful exit. Which catastrophe do you want to live with? That is our choice.

    I respect your desire to stall around for a while to see if we can come up with something that looks like a graceful exit. The ISG report does indeed look like it is the only proposal out there that tries to do that. But the report has already been “blown off” by so many of the interested parties that its prospects for even getting tried look very dim.

    Your interesting question to Tim about potential political fallout has obviously caught the attention of Republican senators who are up for reelection in 2008. See the very interesting article by Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska in the Nov. 26 Washington Post. (He says a lot of things I agree with – see link below.) Note Senator Gordon Smith’s very recent repudiation of the war. Smart Republicans are not going to let support for the war end their careers. I expect more Republicans will soon jump ship on the Iraq war – they have decided that it’s just not worth the cost, careerwise or otherwise.

    Link to Chuck Hagel article:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/24/AR2006112401104.html

    • je

      Dave,
      I took the time to read the Hagel piece. I appreciate your pointing it out for my edification. I would say it is more a rebuke to Tim than myself. The article submits the U.S. can’t win militarily.

      In the article, Hagel looks forward to the Iraq Study group’s recommendations. Hagel supports my contention that precipitous withdrawl would not be helpful.

      “Meet the Press” Sunday, Dec. 10, 2006 had a round table of experts interviewed by Tim Russert(no right-winger there) and NOT ONE wanted to “bug out” as you have advocated.

      In that sense you are just wrong in my opinion and we will just have to disagree, although, I welcome your discussion and analysis.

      You admit a “blood bath” would result from your advocated position. But that IS minimal juxaposed to what my recitation of potential results of a precipitous withdrawl could create.

      You are willing to whistle past a smoking hole in American vital interests in the Middle East. I am not.

      You are simply unable or unwilling to recognize the terrible damage that would happen with your position that transend the “blood bath” you so easily recognize will happen.

      Fortunately, from what I have read and seen on the political scene, your position is in the minority and few if any responsible politicians on the left or the right are adopting it. Actually, on both the left and the right most are moving to my position(Sen. Chris Dodd, Sen. Sam Brownback, and others including probably Sen. Gordon Smith.).

      Your position is reckless and unresponsible. Yes, you have discussed the various positions responsibly including your own, and I appreciate your being a strong interlocutor, but ultimately your position would do ilreparble harm to U.S. interests and must be rejected.

      Finally, you say you are being “brutally frank”, but you are actually being brutally naive.

      I am sorry, but at this point, I can only promise to defeat your arguments as soundly as I possibly can, should you continue to make them.

  • Tim,

    I think everyone could have done without these choice words of yours. Remove them, and your argument points skyrocket. Sharpen, don’t delude.

    Are you completely ignorant of history?

    with more than two functioning brain cells

    We are at war with these primitives

    • Tim

      Please note that ignorance is not stupidity. Being ignorant is merely lacking knowledge, whereas being stupid is being incapable of obtaining knowledge.

      I do not believe the poster is stupid, but that he made an honest mistake. Although I disagree with him, he seems to be an intelligent individual. My point is that people need to be versed in the basic historical facts surrounding an incident before commenting in the way he did. One of the interesting & wonderful side effects of blogging is that it does force people to enlarge their store of kowledge by researching and fact checking their posts.

      re: “two brain cells” – Well? Does anyone think Syria would be trying to reassert itself in Lebanon if the Republicans still held both houses of congress? Well?

      As to my “primitaves” remark. let me amend it to “insane primitives.”

  • David G.

    je,

    Thanks for the tip on Meet the Press. I missed the broadcast but will read the transcript whenever it is posted in the next few days. It looked like an interesting lineup of guests.

    I am not surprised or offended that you and all the guests on the show disagree with me. Rest assured, I am used to it. And I do agree with you that this discussion helps all of us to examine our positions.

    I didn’t directly address all of the other concerns you raised in your post #12.1. You identified the economic/oil concerns as well as the many other complicated relationships in the Middle East. For purposes of economy in my writing, I subsumed all of those consequences in my general label of “bloodbath”, but I could provide some additional thoughts on those specific concerns if you are interested – but (to keep things a little shorter) not here.

    In the USA politicians and analysts are always required to offer promises and policies of hope. Americans insist on being told that there is hope, no matter how bad the situation. That is what is going on now. The ISG report tries to find hope even as it describes the situation as dire. The magnitude of the Iraq war disaster will never be acknowledged until the last helicopter finally escapes our embassy in Iraq as happened in Vietnam.

    I agree with Senator Hagel and Henry Kissinger that a satisfactory military solution is impossible. But I don’t see the US as being able to negotiate any kind of diplomatic solution either. I would like to have hope for a diplomatic solution, but there are too many roadblocks – both in the US and abroad – that make the diplomatic road impassable.

    So what is going to happen? The war will drag on. US deaths and injured will continue to mount. Nothing will change. Eventually the public will demand and get the unilateral withdrawal that could be “planned” much more effectively now. All of the economic and relationship issues that you identified will only be more ominous when we eventually are forced to withdraw. It will be ugly. It will be like Vietnam – only worse.

    There could be a calamitous event that precipitates our eventual withdrawal. Things like a disasterous military defeat, the collapse of the Iraqi “government”, some horrendously stupid military or diplomatic event, or (as you suggested) the massive Democratic takeover of the federal government in the 2008 elections are all potential triggering events. one thing is sure, we will never have a happy ending to the Iraq war.

    With all this pessimism, is there any hope I can offer? Definitely!

    After the eventual defeat in Iraq, the US will survive, thrive, and prosper, just like it did after Vietnam. We will be humbled, but not crushed. The world will be more complex, but we will cope. Our survival as a nation never depended upon a happy outcome in Iraq. The war hawks were all wrong about that. Hopefully, unlike after Vietnam, our politicians will finally see the enduring wisdom George Washington expressed in his famous farewell address: never volunteer to get into a foreign war.

    • je

      David,
      I suspect you support the Iraq Study Group more than you let on or maybe even are conscious of.

      To withdraw now, precipitously, would be doing it without a plan. I take you at your word that you believe in plans. Plans take time. I suppose that is why some hawks are so against the ISG, because they see it as a plan for defeat.

      That is what the hawks and yourself are missing. The recommendations add up to a plan for success and a plan for withdrawl which are not inconsistent.

      Because of your own lense which you look at the world with, and which is shared by many other Americans, you want an immediate withdrawl, yet, you perfer operations that are planned. An immediate “cut and run” is not planned, but is chaotic. “cut and run” is like the chaotic emotional state of “flight.”

      I share your concern that there has been a lack of successful contingency planning before the invasion to cover unforeseen events, or unexpected obsticles during the occupation. There even seemed to be a lack of planning for events which should have been predictable. But I would not compound the error by having us “fly by the seat of the pants” into a rash series of events triggered by my “flight” emotions controlling my consciousness.

      One, I want one final shot at success. and if that can’t be had, then I want an orderly redeployment. Yes, this is not an open ended engagement. Hawks must realize we either achieve success and wthdraw, or withdraw and contain the damage.

      Good miitary planning takes into account more that one possible outcome. So does good political planning.

      Remember, we were always planning on withdrawing: “when they stand up, we stand down.”

      David, although, there has been alot of failed implimentation of policy in Iraq, I am not demoralized to the point that I feel it is necessary to “drop my gun and run.” America can achieve success, but in all war there is no guarantee of success. Risk is enherent in war.

      The Iraq study Group recommendations are the best way to unite this country and move forward in Iraq.

      You seem to forget all the political damage in this country after the fall of Saigon. The United States was terribly divided politically and cynicism toward government and society greatly weakened the fabric of America.

      You are already defeated in your heart and soul, America is not. To place your emotionally defeated flight response in charge of American policy in Iraq would be “worse than a crime, it would be a mistake.”

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