Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Experts' View on Terror

Bush and several other Republicans say we’re winning the “war on terror,” and with a little patience we will win the Iraq War. Democrats and a few Republicans say we are not winning. Who is right? Maybe there are experts around who can tell us. Foreign Policy magazine together with Center for American Progress have a Terrorism Index, where they survey more than 100 real foreign-policy experts.

Here are some results of the latest Terrorism Index Survey:

Fully 91 percent say the world is becoming more dangerous for Americans and the United States, up 10 percentage points since February.

Eighty-four percent do not believe the United States is winning the war on terror, an increase of 9 percentage points from six months ago.

No effort of the U.S. government was more harshly criticized, however, than the war in Iraq. In fact, that conflict appears to be the root cause of the experts’ pessimism about the state of national security. Nearly all—92 percent—of the index’s experts said the war in Iraq negatively affects U.S. national security, an increase of 5 percentage points from a year ago.

The survey includes a lot more. Read the whole thing and have your eyes opened. You will see the situation, not through the distorted lense of the media, but through the eyes of experts, both Democrats and Republicans.

It's time for a change in policy. It's time to bring the Iraq War to an end and to start fighting real terrorists where they are - according to the experts, in Pakistan.

Posted by Paul Siegel at August 24, 2007 6:00 PM
Comment #230590


You know that I sometimes do a listing of sources. I use the Center for American progress among my sources, BUT it is certainly not an unbiased source. I think you can use what they say to bolster your arguement, but you really cannot present them as experts, anymore than I could use the Heritage Foundation as an unbiased source in the success of the president. It requires more commentary.

Posted by: Jackj at August 24, 2007 6:18 PM
Comment #230592

The Experts Opinions have already become Common sense amongst the public, Paul. Getting consensus on this is no longer the goal.

The goal now, is to move enough Republicans to override a Presidential Veto to begin cutting funds for future operations in Iraq and direct those funds as available ONLY for safe and phased withdrawal and redeployment of troops capable of healthily handling redeployment.

That goal diminishes in importance as the election of 2008 comes closer. So, if it can’t be accomplished by the end of this year, regretfully, the GI loses that occur from ‘stay the course’ in 2008 will be on the hands of simple political expedience. A sad but, unavoidable consequence of a two party system incapable of working together.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 24, 2007 6:20 PM
Comment #230617

While there really are experts on all kinds of diverse issues, what is an “expert on foreign policy” anyway?

It’s like being an expert on the meaning of life or having a happy marriage. A survey can tell us what a small sample of hand-selected journalists, academics, career beaurocrats, and former political appointees think, but that’s it. We’re certainly not told why these “experts” were selected instead of others, what the criteria for inclusion was, and what ideological agenda is held by those doing the survey. Opinions are like a******s—everybody’s got one.

There are valid arguments on both sides to be had about whether or not the US is “winning the war on terror” (whatever that means), but evaluating them requires us to see the reasoning and evidence behind them.

Having said all that, I’ll also add that I agree with these experts. The US is most not likely “winning the war on terror” because that’s nothing more than an idiotic and vague term that was come up with by Bush’s speech writers. This has to be the first time in history that political correctness has caused a country to go to war against an emotion rather than an enemy.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 24, 2007 10:20 PM
Comment #230623

I disagree with the fundamental focus of this article. As LO points out, a “war on terror” is not an appropriate focal point for foreign policy.

Should we go after Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida? Absolutely- for vengeance, if nothing else. But Al Qaida is the exception rather than the rule. It is exceptional because it does something few terrorist networks have ever done before- it takes an internationalist perspective.

In most cases, terrorism is used as a tactic to unseat a government which is perceived to be unjust. Often, this involves using terrorism as a tactic against a democracy occupying a region with a muslim majority.

It will take a long time for our country to regain its equilibrium. The perception that a “war on terror” should be our focus, the sheer fear pervading our terrorized perceptions, the deep insecurity and loss of confidence, motivating us to resort to military force in order to combat a problem which is most decidedly not military in nature, all this has done terrible harm.

We have lost our way.

Posted by: phx8 at August 24, 2007 11:49 PM
Comment #230624

I read some military press release that claimed that we and the Iraqis were killing AlQueada members at rate of about fifteen hundred a month.Struck me at the time that there were probably fifteen hundred or less of them before the invasion.We seem to be making them faster than we can shoot them.Not a winning strategy. Of course the military would never fib,now would they.

That is pretty good source and a quick look shows they went out of their way to get a politicaly diverse group of respondants.

Posted by: BillS at August 24, 2007 11:56 PM
Comment #230630

BillS, I looked at the list of respondents too. The very first name on the list was Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s Secretary of State, and after that, there were six of seven other people I’d ever heard of, including former Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart, and outspoken critics of the Bush administration like Richard Clarke, Michael Scheuer, and the Barack Obama campagin foreign policy adviser, Anthony Lane.

Now, I’m not saying that these people don’t have legitimate backgrounds in foreign policy, but so do a great many people who aren’t on that list. If we’re gonna poll people like that, why don’t we also poll Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, or for that matter, Condi Rice or Karl Rove? I saw a couple of prominent conservative names on there (like Daniel Pipes), but not many of significant stature—which makes me wonder what their criteria was for including “conservatives” to begin with.

I don’t deny that the poll says what it says, or even that the conclusions are correct. But I just don’t see what merit a poll has of such a small group of people when the list is composed according to criteria which are both arbitrary and anything but transparent.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 25, 2007 12:43 AM
Comment #230631

Foreign policy includes international law, Diplomacy, Intelligence gathering and analysis, counterterrorism, and of course Defense. Is one opinion good as another? That’s a hell of thing for the Republicans to say at this point, after all they’ve put the country through. No, but we have more than a few experts in the field Included in the list.

I think there’s a simple metric for whether we’re winning the war on terrorism: is it more or less of a threat than before. We could have permanently diminished al-Qaeda, and nobody would have had a problem, much less have complained about the political correctness of it all.

Pardon me for saying this, but I can only go “say what?” when I hear you say that the reason we went to Iraq was political correctness.

It’s got not one damn thing to do with that. Your people were big on rogue nations and on invading Iraq from the get-go. 9/11 occured, and some people either saw the opportunity to go ahead, or convinced themselves it was a necessity.

It was the Republican’s decision to go to war in Iraq, one they drummed up a political mandate for in the 2002 elections. You folks ignored the pleas to keep the focus on Afghanistan.

Get your facts straight: your people decided to go to Iraq. Nobody else was forceing you.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 25, 2007 1:00 AM
Comment #230633

You missed Paul Bremer.Not likely to find a sitting SOS there for obvious reasons and Rove does not even pretend to be a forign policy wonk.Is Wolfowitz even showing his face in public anymore? I do not see any lack of transapency in particular. They gave the names and you are free to seek the bona fides.I regard your suspicion as healthy for any source but in this case that dog won’t hunt.
I am not happy with all their conclusions. I would rather we get out sooner than their consensus but it is a serious perspective from knowelageable people.
Did you check out their short take on the prominemt presidential candidates?

Posted by: BillS at August 25, 2007 1:23 AM
Comment #230636

LO, if experts are not to be relied upon, why is the Bush administration full of folks claiming the title, and why are we paying their salaries?

Why have a CBO or OMB, or State Dep’t., or NASA, if experts can’t come up with a workable and useful gameplan?

Your argument falls flat.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 25, 2007 3:32 AM
Comment #230643

David, I went out of my way to say that there really are experts on many diverse subjects—NASA is a good example where expertise makes an important difference.

As I said earlier (a nuance that escaped you) “foreign policy” is a lot different from something like launching a space shuttle. NASA really is rocket science, and to work for them, you have to have some pretty specific skills. To be considered a “foreign policy” expert, however, all you need is to be a political appointee or have an editor who will publish your opinions.

As for the “foreign policy expertise” of those on that list, isn’t Madeline Albright the genius who brought a resolution to the Israel-Palestinian problem? Isn’t Paul Bremer the genius who oversaw the rebuilding of Iraq after the invasion?

I could pick two names at random out of the phonebook whose opinions on foreign policy I’d respect more than I do Albright’s and Bremer’s. At the very least, randomly chosen people wouldn’t have a long list of screw-ups in an area where they are supposedly “experts.”

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 25, 2007 10:04 AM
Comment #230645
…terrorism is used as a tactic to unseat a government which is perceived to be unjust.

Like Bush invading Iraq or Eisenhower’s approval of the US CIA getting rid of democratically elected president Mossadegh of Iran and installing the brutal dictator known as the “Shah of Iran” and is even more brutal Savak secret police or the US CIA behind toppling Salvador Allende??

Hmmmm…two of those were democratically elected, three if you want to call Saddam Hussein’s “election” a real election…

Posted by: Rachel at August 25, 2007 11:17 AM
Comment #230649

There are plenty of others who are well regarded on that list. You’re just looking for an excuse to reject the overall conclusions.

It’s sad to see the Republicans essentially fact-proof all their conclusions. You folks need to realize that there’s something behind this in substance, that these issues are not gaining attention because of some media bias. This playing the victim is only serving to convince Americans and the world that the Republicans perspective on foreign policy has tenuous connections to the real world at best.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 25, 2007 12:11 PM
Comment #230659

LO said: “As I said earlier (a nuance that escaped you) ‘foreign policy’ is a lot different from something like launching a space shuttle.”

It IS? How so? Both deal with unknowns, both make educated guesses while calculating risks. Both have had their successes and monumental failures, costing tax payers 100’s of billions. So, just how is it they are different?

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 25, 2007 1:51 PM
Comment #230662


If there are no true experts on foreign policy and everyone’s opinion is equally valid, then we should follow the polls and leave Iraq.

Posted by: Woody Mena at August 25, 2007 2:45 PM
Comment #230666

Woody, the point I was trying to make (unsuccessfully apparently) is not that every opinion is equally valid. I wasn’t even defending the war in Iraq, the conduct of which I strongly disapprove. My point is that we should engage with the arguments themselves and decide for ourselves what is valid instead of relying on any one poll of so called experts.

You and I could put together competing polls of a small sample of “experts” that we handpicked on most any subject and come up with totally opposite results.

David, saying that an expert in rocket science is like an expert in foreign policy just because there are a few points of comparison is like saying that a school bus could be entered in the Daytona 500 because it has tires and a steering wheel.

Rocket science is a hard science, and the worth of an expert in that field can be evaluated objectively. “Foreign policy” is more like an art-form. It involves philosophy, history, sociology, ideology, culture, religion, economics, languages—a whole host of things which I’m sure you’ll agree are a lot more subjective, especially when combined. Scientists do not disagree about basic questions like whether or not gravity exists and what a rocket must do do to overcome gravity, but there’s no such set of agreed-upon principles when it comes to foreign policy. We all have opinions about foreign policy, and those considered the “experts” in that field are political appointees, journalists, and members of various ideologically-motivated think tanks. I’m not saying that their opinions are necessarily worthless or even wrong—simply that it’s better to hear and evaluate for ourselves their arguments.

If a panel of ten aeronautical engineers all told me that an airplane wouldn’t fly, I wouldn’t get on it. That simple. If a panel of ten journalists, think-tank members, and political appointees selected by the editor of a magazine (who assured me that these are all “experts”) told me that the key to a successful foreign policy is X , Y, or Z, I’d be a little more skeptical. Certainly you can see the difference.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 25, 2007 4:22 PM
Comment #230683

OK. Do you agree with 92% of the panel that the war in Iraq has had a negative effect on US security?

Posted by: BillS at August 25, 2007 8:07 PM
Comment #230688

LO, you make a fatal logical blunder. Rocket science has never been hard science, because rocket science is constantly pushing into new areas of technology and areas of probability and statistics, like space debris location, speed, trajectory, both man made and natural, and each new design involves unknowns which will fail occasionally until the unknowns become known. Just look at the history of monumentally expensive failures in our space exploration program, and try to tell me this is any more hard science than foreign affairs. Sorry, but, in some ways, our foreign affairs almost have a better track record since WWII than our Space Program.

I know you don’t want to admit it, but, the historical facts and costs are there as evidence that your argument makes absolutely no logical sense whatsoever. Experts are those who have devoted considerable time and effort studying the variables that go into predicting outcomes. Some are better and more gifted at it than others. Some have political agendas altering their perspectives, others don’t. This is true of any area of expertise. But, you can’t make the case that experts in one field are anymore capable than experts in another field. The very definition of expertise defies such a proposition.

You don’t call on experts to build a building, you call on contractors who implement what previous experts have already designed. The experts design attempting to consider all known variables for outcome, and even anticipating unknown variables to the extent possible. The managers take that expertise, weigh in terms of cost and expectations, and go back to the experts and ask for designs that assume more risks and less costs. What the managers end up with is a plan which technocrats then implement.

This process is precisely the same whether it be foreign affairs or putting the first ever International Space Station in orbit. The experts are absolutely necessary. A part of success is whether the managers, (politicians in the case of foreign affairs) are capable of recognizing independent expertise or, whether they themselves design the program and seek to pay only the experts who will validate that design by non-experts. When politicians do this, they end up with fringe experts, and when that design proves wrong, (Iraq, Global Warming, La. Levees and Army corps of Engineers), it usually comes to light that the consensus of the expert community would never have approved the politician’s design supported by biased minority experts in the first place.

The strength of science lies in the consensus of the experts in that field. The more theoretical the science the greater the risk the consensus will change before it becomes accepted applied science. But, the fact remains, at any point in time, the consensus of the experts statistically proven right far more often than the minority view of experts opposing the consensus.

Constitution Party folks have no problem finding scientists who rebuke evolution, cosmological physics and genetics. If there is a paying demand for a Ph.D. to say the world is flat and can create ‘proof’ for it, I assure you, there will be a few who will do their doctoral thesis on that foregone conclusion with logical ‘proof’. But, their view will be in the minority of experts, and their ‘proofs’ will be roundly destroyed by the consensus experts on empirically replicable bases.

I can make a completely logical argument that little farting gremlins live inside every combustion engine and are responsible for the power to turn that engine when fed fuel and copious quantities of air. Entirely logical, hence, a proof. But, one only need to disassemble a few million combustible engines to see that not a single disassembly reveals the existence of little farting gremlins. And here’s the kicker, those experts who argue there are farting gremlins, when exposed, will argue that the gremlins combust instantaneously upon exposure to light, accounting for why you can never find them when opening up an engine to see them.

This is the charlatanism of doctoral degrees underway in our society, with the Baptist University for example, which produces many of Bush’s administrative personnel, educated to argue in defense of a pre-ordained point of view and explanation.

Whereas, empirical experts constantly seek to disprove, NOT PROVE, the assumptions upon which their work is based, which is why they share their work with adversaries and invite them to disprove their work, as Hawkings, Einstein, Pasteur, and a host of other empirical experts have done.

NASA succeeds when their experts have the resources and time to attempt to destroy the credibility and integrity of their work, before launching it into space. NASA fails, when the managers tell the experts the money or time isn’t there, increase the risk, and lower the cost and shorten the time window, and we will go with what you have. Most of tragedies in NASA have been a result of just this sort of compromise in safety and integrity, and always against the warnings and advice of experts within the agency.

The exact same effects are witnessed in foreign policy. A host of experts warned and cautioned the President against invading Iraq, from the Joint Cheifs of Staff, to general staff in the Armed Forces, to state Department experts, to Intelligence experts. But, the Bush administration had already decided the policy, and THEN went shopping for the experts to promote who would in exchange, argue for the invasion policy. There was no fault with the consensus of experts. The fault lied in the Administration shopping for the minority of experts who would provide ‘proofs’ that the invasion policy was sound.

That is absolutely the wrong and most counterproductive method of making use of the experts.

Another classic example is the Bush administration promoting those to leadership who will argue that debt is of no consequence to economics. This flies not only in the face of common sense, but, lies at the extreme fringe of conservative economics and in opposition to the consensus of conservative economics experts.

Ironic that the distance between Bush’s select economics experts on this issue lies at the same fringe of experts on the liberal side of economics who also provide ‘proofs’ that debt doesn’t matter, unless you enter the realm of unreal numbers like 30 trillion, given current economic conditions and GDP.

The consensus of economists however 10 years ago was the 9 to 12 trillion would bear extreme opportunity costs that could threaten the viability of the U.S. economy given the boomer retirement demographics. That is still the prevailing consensus. But, Greenspan would not say that until AFTER he left his role as Fed Chairman, when he came out and said the convergence of national debt and boomer entitlement spending threatens the survivability of democratic capitalism in the 21st century.

To Bernanke’s credit, though he has moved the goal posts from the current 9 trillion to the neighborhood of 14 trillion or more, he is willing to warn the public and the President that we are on a collision course by stating the time to deal with debt and entitlements is 10 years ago. But, you won’t get Bernanke to say that the current 9 trillion is a threat. Not directly.

This is always the imminent danger of managers (politicians) either cherry picking the experts to support the manager’s untested and unproven predictions and policies, or, constraining the experts they hire to a defined set of parameters beyond which they are not permitted to speak, or face forced resignation or firing. Under these circumstances, the experts do indeed end up appearing with hindsight, to have been more wrong than right. But, it was not a problem with expertise, but, with the managers who hired them and set the limitations on their tasks and expertise.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 25, 2007 8:51 PM
Comment #230690

David, the inaccuracy of your remarks is almost amazing.

Rocket science is not a hard science because it pushes into new areas of technology, probability and statistics? I think you should educate yourself on the meaning of the phrase “hard science,” which you’re clearly unfamiliar with. Rocket science is largely a branch of applied physics, which is as hard of a science as they come. All of the sciences, soft or hard, involve pushing into new areas—that is the very essence of conducting scientific experiments in order to test hypotheses. A hard science doesn’t suddenly become a “soft science” when it involves the testing of theories. That’s simply not the difference between hard and soft sciences. In the spirit of this dialog, why don’t you try polling some people. Ask them if they agree with you that rocket science is a soft science. I doubt you’ll find anybody with even a high school science education who’ll agree with you.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 25, 2007 9:28 PM
Comment #230694
LO OK. Do you agree with 92% of the panel that the war in Iraq has had a negative effect on US security?

BillS, I’m honestly not sure. In some ways, yes, in others no.

In the short term, I’d definitely say yes, but that’s usually the case with any war and is not in itself a commentary on the merits of the war itself. Was the US more or less secure after declaring war on Germany? I’d say less secure. Were the American colonies more or less secure after declaring independence from Great Britain? I’d say less.

As for Iraq, I didn’t support a ground invasion from the beginning, wasn’t pleased by the botched management of the occupation, and have always felt (and still feel) that the emphasis on a political process over defeating the insurgency was a huge mistake.

At this point, however, I think it’s more important to think about what happens in the future than it is to rake over the disagreements about the past. I find myself more interested in other parts of that survey.

This same survey of “experts” also says:

84% believe that a bloody civil war would rage out of control if the US left Iraq.

59% think that withdrawing from Iraq would strengthen Al Qaida globally.

49% think that withdrawing from Iraq WOULD (not might)lead to terrorist attacks in the US.

76% believe that Iran would step in an fill the power vacuum left by the American withdrawal.

62% think that instability would spread in the middle east outside of Iraq.

79% are against an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

Whatever this survey is, it’s certainly not an endorsement of cutting and running from Iraq, and despite my misgivings about everything that’s led up to now, I don’t think that leaving is even an option. I don’t put much credence in these “experts” even though they basically agree with me.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 25, 2007 11:09 PM
Comment #230695

There’s a real danger in making this “all is subjective” argument, and it’s this: Subjectivity is just something in our heads. There are real things out there, including other person’s thoughts and beliefs that mediate the success and failure of foreign policy. Foreign policy is a mansion that includes many rooms.

The disciplines that come under it are historically well-established, and although you don’t have any hard-science perfect methods of getting results, There are approaches that work better, and there is a qualitative difference in the performance of those with competence in the field, and those without it.

Humanities not’s perfectly predictable, but it’s nowhere near random. People generally share certain needs, and many of the means to those ends. Where they don’t, between two different groups, there’s still self-similarity on the smaller scale.

Your party, unfortunately, loves to blur the lines, loves to get its foot in the door by appealing to the well known imperfection of even the best experts. You’re doing that here, too.

The way you just vaguely refer to political appointees, bureaucrats, and reporters annoys me, because I happen to know who a few of these people are, and they aren’t exactly slouches. You haven’t substantively established that the roster of experts aren’t what they’re supposed to be. Additionally, while some of these folks don’t have spotless records, doesn’t mean they don’t have their share of successes, in addition to the failures. It’s having too many or too few that you should look out for.

So, if you’re going to continue with this particular claim, back up your opinion with something real. Otherwise, quit arguing to the gaps in people’s knowledge about these particular folks.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 25, 2007 11:31 PM
Comment #230698

The real trouble is, because of the way Bush has managed the war, we don’t have the control over the situation to avoid many of those consequences. The Sunnis are basically resigning from Maliki’s government. We’re not getting, and it doesn’t seem like we’re likely to get the political cooperation it would take to have Iraq remain stable when we leave.

Most Democrats are in favor of a gradual withdrawal, indeed most Americans. Unfortunately, the guy in the White House won’t hear anything of it. Having failed to wage the war in a way that would allow him to garner the political success needed for the barest of victories in Iraq, he’s decided that we’re not leaving until we win. Translation: America gets to suffer longer for his incompetence as a wartime president.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 26, 2007 12:08 AM
Comment #230699

Stephen, it seems to me that you’re a lot closer to the “all is subjective” way of thinking than I am, since you’re subjectively picking and choosing which parts of this particular survey you want to emphasize while ignoring or suppressing the parts that contradict you.

This group of experts does not support a quick withdrawal from Iraq, and the majority of them believe that any withdrawal from Iraq would strengthen Al Qaida, lead to Iran’s dominance of Iraq, a bloody civil war, and instability spreading out of Iraq and throughout the entire region. So do you agree with them or not? If you want to vouch for their “expertise” then you’ll have to confront the totality of their views—not just their judgements about past decisions but their views about the consequences of further actions. Either that or say that you don’t care if Al Qaida is strengthened, instability spreads throughout the region, and all the rest of it.

Frankly, I think this panel of “experts” holds views that are a lot closer to mine than yours.

As a point of fact, it’s nonsense to say that when it comes to expertise in foreign policy, “there is a qualitative difference in the performance of those with competence in the field, and those without it.” There is absolutely no existing basis on which to make such a judgement. Foreign policy which produces results that can be evaluated is not a hobby than anybody practices part time, and if you’re involved in it at all—even if you just write about it—there’s no bar whatsoever to being considered an “expert.”

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 26, 2007 12:17 AM
Comment #230700

“84% believe that a bloody civil war would rage out of control if the US left Iraq.”
Thank goodness the bloody civil war is raging in control.

“59% think that withdrawing from Iraq would strengthen Al Qaida globally.”
So we will following up the invasions of two Muslim counties by permanently occupying them. Ha! That will show them! Occupations are bound to remove any objections, right?

“49% think that withdrawing from Iraq WOULD (not might)lead to terrorist attacks in the US.”
As if it is an either/or, mutually exclusive proposition. Bizarre.

“76% believe that Iran would step in an fill the power vacuum left by the American withdrawal.”
Who do Americans think make up the Dawa and SCII parties? Why would Shias in Iraq ,who spent their exiles in Iran, not want to be allied with Iran today? Can anyone explain this?

“62% think that instability would spread in the middle east outside of Iraq.”
Because everything sure is hunky dory right now. With everything going so wonderfully well, we certainly would not want to upset the apple cart, eh?

“79% are against an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.”
And with such a great track record, why, surely they must be right this time.

Posted by: phx8 at August 26, 2007 12:19 AM
Comment #230717

This was soooo good, I am going to post it in its entirety. It’s a number of US soldiers open letter analyzing the war:

The War As We Saw It
By Buddhika Jayamaha, Wesley D. Smith, Jeremy Roebuck, Omar Mora, Edward Sandmeier, Yance T. Gray and Jeremy A. Murphy
The New York Times

Sunday 19 August 2007

Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.

However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.

In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a “time-sensitive target acquisition mission” on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse - namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.

Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.

Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.

The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.

Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington’s insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made - de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government - places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.

Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict - as we do now - will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.

At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. “Lucky” Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are - an army of occupation - and force our withdrawal.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

Posted by: Max at August 26, 2007 12:21 PM
Comment #230718


No offence meant, but everyone is an expert in their own mind. The proof is in the actual doing, everything else is mere speculation.
“Experts” rarely oversee the actual fruits of their expertise. That is usually left to subordinates, which gives the “experts” the opportunity to cover their asses if something goes wrong.

Posted by: Rocky at August 26, 2007 12:27 PM
Comment #230723

Wipe off your glasses. Only 12% think that leaving Iraq would lead to terrorist attacks on the US.Not the 49% percent you sight.

Posted by: BillS at August 26, 2007 1:58 PM
Comment #230726
LO Wipe off your glasses. Only 12% think that leaving Iraq would lead to terrorist attacks on the US.Not the 49% percent you sight.

Ha. I only saw the error after it was too late. I knew I could count on one of you to catch it!

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 26, 2007 3:03 PM
Comment #230727

Loyal Opp, you too are playing fast and loose with the facts. Al-Queda has and is already being strengthened by our presence there. There is no reason to think that would not continue if we left. But, that’s the point, it doesn’t matter, al-Queda is being strengthened either way.

The civil war would get worse ONLY if we don’t make accommodation for other forces to replace ours as we leave, which is what Democrats are increasingly calling for through the U.N., and Middle Eastern diplomatic talks with Iraq’s neighbors, who have their OWN vested interests in containing Iraq’s civil war.

The problem with the poll of the experts is it doesn’t ask them about what would could take place if other nation’s step in as we step out, which is everywhere being offered as the alternative by both experts and Democratic candidates (save 2).

A little common sense is called for in reading this poll. Would the results be the same if the experts are asked, if we withdraw in steps over a year’s time, and other nations or the U.N. increments their troops to replace ours to secure areas already relatively calm, would the situation get significantly worse? The results would be entirely different.

Our Exit should NOT leave a VOID. Our Exit should be accompanied by diplomatic efforts to point out the costs to neighboring nations of leaving a VOID and invite them to provide modest forces and language assistance for UN peacekeeping forces, to replace our forces as they withdraw.

DUH! TELL ME BUSH’S ADMINISTRATION HAS NEVER HEARD OF THIS OPTION. I dare you. The fact is, Bush’s legacy depends on our soldiers dying there till their is a new President so Bush can claim 1) it is not his problem, 2) if the quagmire Cheney calls it, isn’t resolved, Bush can blame the new President, and 3) there are many oil flow crises coming down the road, regardless of what happens in Iraq, and Bush can claim however the US under a new President responds to Iraq, the oil crisis is a result of the new president’s handling of Iraq.

Killing Americans in Iraq is now largely about Bush and his cabinet saving face. No other options but staying and dying are going to be entertained by Bush. He may draw down the troops a bit in the Spring, but, keeping the U.S. the dominant occupier in Iraq is essential to the Administration’s and their supporters being able to pass the buck for Iraq to the next President.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 26, 2007 3:15 PM
Comment #230729

I’m looking at the broad picture. We’re dealing with a complex situation where events do not simply snap to desired states. Yes, bad shit will happen as we leave. Unfortunately, that’s the options we’re left with, as a consequence of the Bush strategy.

The surge, whether you like it or not, ends in April 2008. This is not pessimism, it’s logistical fact, and the Bush administration has failed to deal with it. If your plan is to keep the good work of security going by maintaining the surge, the truth of the matter is, it won’t work, because Bush’s policy on manpower has failed to put the soldiers into the system necessary to keep it going as long as it would need to be there.

You’ve bought your own party’s rather partisan rhetoric on the war, and despite all that I have said, and all you have read from my entries and comment, are alleging that I want a precipitous withdrawal and are happy with seeing the region collapse.

Pay close attention: I advocate a graduated withdrawal. I believe the situation is such that the status quo of the surge will not prevent the outcomes in question, and may in fact worsen them. So the real question is, if we recognize that fact, what do we do? Certainly not stay. We have to do something, but our past actions have limited our options.

The president talked about Vietnam, and I think he forgets that much of the mayhem that occured in the surrounding region came from our destabilization of Cambodia with our invasion. The promised violent overthrow of the surrounding countries, besides that, did not occur. More to the point, those who know their history know that the ones who finally took the Khmer Rouge out of power were the Vietnamese themselves.

The violence that will follow our withdrawal, will be our responsibility, for having invaded without decent planning and resource management to prevent it. The rise of al-Qaeda, as it already has happened, has been our responsibility, because we created such a security vacuum. It was the people of Iraq who beat down al-Qaeda In Iraq, and they’ll likely continue to do it, once we’re gone.

Our real worry is keeping the destabilizing forces we failed to prevent in Iraq from extending beyond its borders. As long as we stick with Bush’s plan, we will not be paying attention to what we need to do.

As for the experts? You make yet another claim that you do not back up. What is your basis for your claims, besides your rather biased reading of the results? You should go through the list and get to know who some of these people are and what they think before you start making broad claims as to their beliefs and qualifications.

There is criteria out there for determining who can properly be called an expert. I can call Joseph Wilson an expert, because he has experience as a diplomat. I can call Gen. Shalikashvili a foreign policy expert.

I have to apologize for the broken link, here’s the list. Seeing as how you didn’t research the participants, I’ll do so ten names at a time. I’ll have to make the URL’s plain text to get around the spam blocker on our comments.

The first name is Madeleine Albright. If a former Secretary of State cannot be considered a foreign policy expert, I don’t know who can be.

The Second name is Jon Alterman. The site gives this description of his background:

Previously, he served as a member of the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State and as a special assistant to the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. Prior to entering government, he was a scholar at the U.S. Institute of Peace and at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. From 1993 to 1997, Alterman taught at Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D. in history. He also worked as a legislative aide to Senator Daniel P. Moynihan (D-N.Y.), responsible for foreign policy and defense.


John Arquilla seems to work in the area of Irregular warfare This is how his qualifications and activities are described by the Defense Research center for this site:

John Arquilla earned his degrees in international relations from Rosary College (BA, 1975) and Stanford University (MA, 1989; Ph.D., 1991). He is an associate professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. His teaching includes courses in the history of special operations, international political theory, the revolution in military affairs, and information-age conflict.


Ron Asmus seems to be a diplomat specializing in transatlantic affairs, and was one of the Neoliberals who advocated the Iraq war. His qualifications are given as such in a press release regarding his latest career milestone:

The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) has appointed Dr. Ronald D. Asmus, former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs, as executive director of its Transatlantic Center in Brussels. Beginning in January 2005, he will replace William Drozdiak, the Center’s founding executive director, who leaves to become president of the American Council on Germany in New York.

It also goes on to say the following:

A senior transatlantic fellow with GMF in Washington since 2003, Dr. Asmus has been a leading intellectual figure in debates on transatlantic issues and NATO reform over the last decade. He has written widely on American foreign policy, transatlantic relations, and European politics in major journals on both sides of the Atlantic. Since joining GMF, he has played a key role in projects exploring common U.S. and European approaches toward Turkey, Ukraine, the Black Sea region, and the broader Middle East.

Dr. Asmus is the author of Opening NATO’s Door: How the Alliance Remade Itself for a New Era (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002). As a deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs in the Clinton Administration from 1997 to 2000, he was responsible for European security and Nordic/Baltic issues. He has also worked as a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, as a senior analyst at RAND Corporation, and in various capacities at Radio Free Europe.


The Fourth name out of the first ten is Scott Atran the first site shows him as taking a more anthropological and cultural perspective on things. He’s done actual field work with Mujaheddin and their supporters in the west. I actually found what I could find out about him to be quite fascinating. The second link listed is to Wikipedia’s bio on him. A lot of his major work concerns the way the evolution of cognitive abilities in humans shapes how we percieve and engage in religious behavior.

The third concerns a book that he has written, to give an idea of his sensibilities.


Andrew Bacevich is a professor of International relations at Boston university. The link I’ll give you on that is to the Wikipedia article on him, and his qualifications are given as such:

Bacevich graduated from West Point in 1969 and served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, serving in Vietnam from the summer of 1970 to the summer of 1971. Afterwards he held posts in Germany, the United States, and the Persian Gulf up to his retirement from the service with the rank of Colonel in the early 1990s. He holds a Ph.D. in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University, and taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins University prior to joining the faculty at Boston University in 1998.

Bacevich is an outspoken critic of the war, and was so even before his son died a soldier’s death in Iraq. To dismiss his point of view on that account, though, would be foolish, because his bio speaks of a long career in the military and PhD. level education in the issues. He’s a veteran of Vietnam as well.


Rand Beers is a counterrorism expert who served with four administration in the National Security Council. It’s worth noting that his final job was as successor to Richard Clarke as the lead NSC official on Counterterrorism; that is, final before he went and became an advisor to the Kerry campaign on foreign policy. He, like Bacevich, is a combat veteran.

Dan Benjamin is co-author with Steven Simon (also on the list) of one of the definitive books on the history of Bin Laden-style Terrorism, The Age of Sacred Terror. He’s got a Bachelors of Arts from Harvard and a Masters from Harvard. As you can tell from the link, he’s a scholar at the Brookings Institution.


Peter Bergen is a well-regarded reporter whose works included Holy War, Inc., and a definitive oral history called The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of Al Qaeda’s Leader. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Modern History from Oxford.


Ilan Berman qualifications are listed below. My impression of his position is that he’s a great big hawk on Iran, a neocon in general, and the organization he belongs to is pretty right-wing. It even counts publisher Alfred Regnery, whose imprint is on dozens of the right-wings favorite books. Anyways, this is what the bio at the American Foreign Policy Council says:

Ilan Berman is Vice President for Policy of the American Foreign Policy Council. An expert on regional security in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Russian Federation, he has consulted for both the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Department of Defense, and provided assistance on foreign policy and national security issues to a range of governmental agencies and congressional offices. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, and his writings have appeared in such publications as The National Interest, the International Herald Tribune, and the Financial Times.
Ilan Berman is Vice President for Policy of the American Foreign Policy Council. An expert on regional security in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Russian Federation, he has consulted for both the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Department of Defense, and provided assistance on foreign policy and national security issues to a range of governmental agencies and congressional offices. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, and his writings have appeared in such publications as The National Interest, the International Herald Tribune, and the Financial Times.

Bio-page link:

Source profile link (American Foreign Policy Council)


The argument that could be made at this point is that although foreign policy isn’t hard science, it’s not esoteric metaphysics either. The boundaries of legitimate theory and interpretation are not as fuzzy as you would allege. There are room for different interpretations, but regardless of that freedom, approaches have a reality they must deal with.

There are all different kinds of expertise that can be brought to bear. The ten names I’ve given demonstrate that already. Scott Atran represents one of the more interesting examples of the breadth of the fields that can enter into foreign policy. Where we differ on this is that I believe that Foreign Policy is not a vague field of expertise at all, just one with a whole bunch of specific fields that intersect with it, and some which deal almost entirely in it.

These men clearly have taken it upon themselves to study the issues, and are confronted with these matters as part of their livelihood. The Republicans have a bad habit of not respecting the qualification of experts who don’t back their ideology. That’s a habit you’ll have to break. If you will only listen to those who flatter your political sensibilities, you will always be vulnerable to their blindspots. We should be able to learn from those who seem like our enemies, who are our adversaries, because the truth, where we find it, will not always present us with a friendly face.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 26, 2007 4:03 PM
Comment #230730

Nice try. Too bad your intended audience will pay no attention.

What a bigger problem is with these experts is that they are in fact part of the problem. There appears to be no acknowlegement of what is the obvious basis of US forign policy and military effort. We have been engaged in oil imperialism at least since ww2 . A look at where we have major bases makes it obvious. Saudi Arabia,Kuwait,now Iraq.The main job of our navy is protecting supply lines.The increaseing animosity toward Iran can be explained as confronting the only real power in the ME capable of thwarting the advance of US oil domination.This is all from a country that uses much more oil per capita than any other country.
There is an alternative to going down that path that leads us to constant warfare and dismissle of our higher goals by rightly concerned soverign nations globally.A profound push for oil independance fro the ME through the use of sensible conservation and alternates,tarrifing oil imports to increase domestic supplies and stabilize alternate developement. Canada,with the second largest proven reserve and Mexico would be excluded from tarrifing by NAFTA. Good. They seldom shoot at us pumping money into their economies would help this North America.Draw back is that US oil companies cannot push them around much. We also do not have to spend our military garding their fields.
This is a whole different paradigm for US forign policy and direction. The plutocrats that like to ply global domination will fight like hell to stop the change but change we must or the future looks bleek.

Posted by: BillS at August 26, 2007 6:09 PM
Comment #230738

I’ve come to the conclusion that if we give in to that notion, we sacrifice whatever momentum we have yet, and turn the debate into one of partisan give and take. It works better, and honestly, feels better to argue a factual case, rather than impotently berate the right for not getting it.

As for your theory, oil is only a part of it. It was complicated by the fact that we were trying to keep the resources out of the hands of the Russians. Additionally, there are the complications of the third front strategy.

In fact, that strategy is why we can project a military presence there. The idea was to have more than just the China and East Germany lines, to instead open up a Central Asian front. This would force the Soviets to expend resources to deal with that threat.

The trouble isn’t that we were especially imperialist. It’s more that we sort of followed on in the path of other Western powers without really integrating our values into our foreign policy. The average person doesn’t really understand why people have such a problem with our foreign policy, or at least they didn’t before now.

Truth is, we need to be better aware of how our government represents us, and not merely accept the old kind of foreign policy as a default right way to do things.

But of course, that takes a lot of original thinking, and that is a difficult and risky thing to get right. I’m not kidding. When historical events are at stake, people don’t want to get it wrong. This kind of thing takes a political movement, and that’s going to be a struggle. As far as the financial interest goes, I’d think we’d be best off trying to co-opt them. Corporations are bound to protect their interests by law. What we need is the right combination of firm stands and economically beneficial policies.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 26, 2007 8:13 PM
Comment #230744
Our Exit should NOT leave a VOID. Our Exit should be accompanied by diplomatic efforts to point out the costs to neighboring nations of leaving a VOID and invite them to provide modest forces and language assistance for UN peacekeeping forces, to replace our forces as they withdraw.


David, that is not an option—that’s a pipe dream in a land of make-believe. When and if we withdraw, it doesn’t matter who we “invite” to do anything—people are going to do exactly what they want in the power vacuum we leave. Namely Iran and a strengthened and victorious Al Qaida, and when we’re gone, nobody’s gone a damn about our “invitations” or lack thereof.

You talk about “invitations” as if this would be a quaint little tea party where neutral parties under the auspices of the UN would kindly RSVP that yes, they’re willing to come into a war zone that they’ve previously fled and contend with Iran and Al Qaida without the protection of the US military.

We’d be better of pinning our hopes on pixies sprinkling fairy dust than we would the UN and the good intentions of Iraq’s neighbors.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 26, 2007 9:41 PM
Comment #230747

Stephen, your research into the backgrounds of these participants is interesting and useful for understanding this one poll, but it’s not really germane to the point I was making about such a panel.

I don’t question their views because of my “ideology.” In fact, I find a great many (over half) of the majority opinions to be same as mine. In fact, the more attention we pay to the entirety of the survey instead of just one part of it, the closer we are to fulfilling what I suggested in the first place: being attentive to the substance and complexity of arguments instead of just numbers in a poll.

I was merely trying to suggest that when evaluating such a survey, we should not grant its conclusions the same degree of automatic deference that we’d grant a similar survey about an objective question (the kind of question that might be asked in the hard sciences). And that’s because “expertise” in foreign policy is itself not granted by any objective or agreed-upon standards—the kinds of standards that would have to be met to have, say, hold a PhD in a hard science.

It would take a lot more work than I or any one else would be willing to do, but we could conduct an experiment. Ask a 100 scientists a basic question about physics. Then ask a different 100 scientists the same question. Then ask yet another 100. The variation in the results would undoubtedly be minimal compared to the variation that we’d see when we asked similarly different sets of “foreign policy experts” a basic question about foreign policy. Being able to account for and understand these differences through an understanding of the arguments (instead of just believing a number) is all I’m asking for.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 26, 2007 10:04 PM
Comment #230757

I have said many times,and I am not alone,that our forign policy is for CONTROL of oil. Not necessarily supply.Oil companies are in control,to a large extent,of our forign policy. Even if it is the default positions of western powers the result has been imperialism and we will pay for it.How many wars has Britain fought to maintain its empire and what did they gain for it. They are on a small island. Perhaps imperialism made more sense for them. They have limited resources. We do not,nor do we have hostile nieghbors. The oceans prevent any real possible serious invasion.So why do we have to spend as much as the rest of the world for our military but for expansionism?

Posted by: BillS at August 26, 2007 11:34 PM
Comment #230765

The surge is working. We just need to give it more time. Ten Years.

Stephen: If the Soviet Union still existed I would tend to agree with your approach. The fact that they don’t is exactly why we are confronted with a faction within our government and the corporate world who have determined that the time is ripe for American Imperialism. Their timetable has been upset because of George Bush’s democracy blunder in Iraq. The disbanding of the Iraq Army and the removal of Saddam without a strong replacement were big blunders.

This hasn’t really hurt the Imperialists though. they are making money faster than they can count it. There is every indication that they can work with any of the Republican candidates and possibly even Hillary.

They have been confronted, they have to be stopped. If not, they will manufacture another war with Iran or with another country that dares to stand in the way of American Imperialism.

The resources of the world are dwindling. For those who believe that they must maintain their statis quo for as long as possible there is no alternative. They must capture those natural resources. They won’t let their next president pull any democracy stunts.

You have seen what their attitude towards global warming and renewable energy is. The time for America to start developing a fleet of electric vehicles was 1973. We and the World have run out of time, We change the paradigm now or there will be more wars and they will get worse.

Posted by: jlw at August 27, 2007 12:12 AM
Comment #230767

The pipe dream is thinking that with no political solution, maintaining the surge will keep the civil war from happening and the people from dying. What will happen is that our forces will gradually degrade, their mission will be gradually cut back, and we’ll have soldiers holed up in their forts forced to watch the slaughter as things go on.

The Dissenters to Bush are hoping that Bush will see reason, it seems. My experience is that Bush only sees the reason he wants to. He will not concede the question of Iraq to those who want a graduated withdrawal unless he has no other choice.

On the subject of the research, it goes a little like this: your point is not altogether very useful. In the real world, even hard science is not without controversy or uncertainty, because you’re having to investigate the real world to distill the knowledge. The laws of physics are predictable, but in the real world they combine in ways that are not so easily reducible to little, easy-to-figure-out-units.

In fact, that’s the whole point about science, what makes it necessary. Only in textbooks are facts so clear cut. In real life experiments and observations, a ton of work has to be done to make information from the measurements meaningful.

With Foreign Policy, the whole thing is so complex that scientific certainty becomes an utter joke. There’s no such thing when the important phenomena are themselves inordinately complex.

Still, somebody has to know something about what they’re doing. Somebody’s got to have a theory on things, and that theory’s going to get put to the test in the real world if used.

To properly analyze things, you have to take a more scholarly approach and learned to read between the lines. The meaningful information is there, you just can’t expect absolute certainty or determinism.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 27, 2007 12:24 AM
Comment #230776

There are different opinions, but what you have to realize is that while there’s sometimes room for different interpretations, there are objective measures of whether policy works.

That there is some ambiguity, some degree of choice between different philosophies, but despite their complexity, there are still approaches that tend to work, and those that tend to fail. Some mistakes are predictable, some successes as well.

Many of the failures of the Republican approach to this war, in fact, were predicted ahead of time, and predicted precisely. One example is the De-Baathification, which previous administrator Jay Garner warned against. Another example is going in light on the troops, which General Eric Shinseki, Army Chief of Staff, recommended against.

The trouble is, some confuse the ambiguity and freedoms that claims can be made politically (where what people can formulate in words and images can often triumph regardless of the quality of the idea) with actual policy, where the old saying “easier said than done” holds.

That, I think, is the better attitude. If you just say that everything is merely opinion, then you’ll find that in reality opinion counts for nearly nothing. Experience and understanding of history and practical issues matters, and these things folks can be educated about. It’s more complex than what we think of as hard science, but in all honesty so is actual hard science and any discipline that deals with reality. That’s the whole point of these disciplines: successfully dealing with the complexity of the real world in order to get what we want out of it. In the case of Hard Science, an understanding, if not control, of the physical world. In the case of foreign policy, the sucessful management of events outside one’s borders.

The lack of success of Republican foreign policy in recent years is one reason that Republican retreat so much towards statements of ambiguity and beliefs that things are up in the air. The alternative is acknowledging that in the majority of folk’s opinion, the Republicans are not really in the game.

It’s tough to rethink one’s approaches to policy, but I think it’s clear to everybody else but some Republicans that they need to do that. Hiding in the gaps of understanding will not help that. The Republicans need to confront the truth of the results of their foreign policy

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 27, 2007 8:20 AM
Comment #230779

Word is out: Gonzales is going to resign.

Posted by: womanmarine at August 27, 2007 8:53 AM
Comment #230801

If George Bush had said, I think I will invade Iraq and turn it into a terrorist training camp, the results would be about what we have.

Posted by: jlw at August 27, 2007 12:00 PM
Comment #230898

womanmarine; Stephen Daugherty, David R. Remer & others I have not been blogging for quite some time now, I hope that you are all well! The world has not changed as I expected it would. I do have 1 last thing to say however I do hope that I am wrong but it is my very strong belief that we are so mired in Iraq that 50 years from now our children’s children will join the military and receive orders for Iraq….The same way That I received orders for Germany, South Korea, and other places around the world. The reason…We as a country have this idea that we must stay wherever we go. We were only supposed to be in Bosnia-Herzegovina for 5 years maximum…We are still there some 12 years since our intitial IFOR troops went in in December 1995. We are still in Europe & Japan Since the end of WWII. We still have a presence in South Korea eventhough there has been an armistice since 1953. Answer me one question please, why can we never leave somewhere once we invade?
Thank you,

Posted by: Wayne at August 28, 2007 1:05 PM
Comment #230902

Korea we’ve never left because technically, the Korean War is only in ceasefire. Germany we’ve never really left because of a combination of the need to guard the Iron Curtain frontier, and the later commitments we made to NATO. As for the Balkans, we’ve left a token force there with other NATO members sharing duties. Iraq we’re not getting out of because somebody ignored the lessons of the Balkans, which is why the Balkans are mostly at peace, and Iraq is not. Clinton had no problem nation building once he went so far as to invade a country. Bush thought leaving it up to the locals he just beat the crap out of would be a good idea.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 28, 2007 1:51 PM
Comment #230922

Face it. Part of the reason we still have troops in Japan and Germany is to protect against a resurgence of agressive militarist from those countries or at least control them.

The saer rattling with Iran is getting intense.Is that Bush’s plan. Blame Iran. The only power in the area that can help bring stability to Iraq and the only power in the area than can destroy Bushcos dream of empire.Bush says they have irefutable evidence that Iran is helping kill American soldiers. OK,where is it? Is it like the evidence for Iraqi WMDs. Are Americans stupid enough to belive a known liar?

Posted by: BillS at August 28, 2007 7:42 PM
Comment #231025

BillS- All anyone has to do is consider all the
Presidents appointments an consider his Ineptness, an
must conclude that they have a massive agenda, or
the most inept Presidency in history.

Posted by: -DAVID- at August 29, 2007 10:25 PM
Post a comment