Democrats & Liberals Archives

Does Success Now Mean Success Later?

Does the drop in violence now mean success for the surge? To consider that question properly, we must remember that the surge’s goals extended beyond merely reducing violence in the short term. The violence that has occurred and still occurs is the symptom of something else, something that the Bush administration and its supporters, in the rush to break their arms patting themselves on the back, aren’t really addressing.

Let's address some issues right from the get-go: if the surge doesn't work, we don't have the soldiers, the equipment, or the basic wherewithal to come back with more troops. If this surge doesn't work, there's no second surge possible. Don't ask me why Bush let this happen. He had a congress that would have suffered little for expanding military forces (hell, this Congress wouldn't take a hit doing it.). He had everybody and his dog telling him that it needed to be done, and he kept on denying it, even as his people played games with the deployment schedules and dipped deeply into the National Guard and Reserves to avoid dealing with the logistical issue.

But hey, that's all the past. Perhaps we could forgive him for it! Except there's no real getting around the logistical reality. The surge is over, and not because of encouraging signs, but because it simply can't be further extended without dire consequences.

So, the surge is a one shot deal. It works, or it doesn't. Now some would say, looking at the decline in violence right now, that the surge has succeeded.

Well, let's hold our horses. First, one measure, American casualties hides a rather problematic, even counterproductive change in our approach to dealing with insurgents. The political justification for this is obvious: if fewer soldiers are dying, that must mean the fighting's not so intense. Not really. Though reduced from midsummer, the monthly attacks still exceed most of the months of this war before April 2006. If all the surge has managed to do so far is make things no more violent than they were when things got out of control, that's far from having won the war. Nor are fewer casualties an indication of success, if they relate more to a change of tactics. We're using airstrikes more when situations start getting deadly. This saves American lives, but at the expense of greater civilian casualties, which can prove to be troublesome for counterinsurgency. Much as I agree with saving American lives, the nature of this war may reduce present violence at the expense of increasing and prolonging it later.

Indeed, although violence has been reduced, the costs and the reasons for this reduction might not reflect the wishful thinking concerning this issue. First, one reason that the GAO has given for the reduction in violence is that the insurgents have succeeded in shunting the other side out of the neighborhoods they dominate. This is not properly called progress. Nor would we call 2.3 million internal refugees a sign of progress. The way the Bush Administration has dealt with this is to resign ourselves to the problem, arm the insurgents, and force our soldiers to fight right alongside them. This would not be the first time or even the second time we've helped arm the enemy, but it's probably worth noting that this is the first time we're doing so deliberately, rather than because of some negligence or corruption. Well, we're turning lemons into lemonade, right? Well, that was the plan, but unfortunately it seems somebody forgot the sugar, because the different sides don't seem so sweet on one another.

The failures of reconciliation are only a minor matter for those whose aim is merely to provide the short term political boost of apparent success in the media. As a matter of fact, though, this reconciliation is crucial, because without it, Iraq will inevitably fall apart, collapsing into a violent mess. To gauge the success of the surge, the White House committed itself to a set of 18 benchmarks. While they tried to spin things to make it look like there was more progress, The Goverment Accountability Office reported that they only met three of the goals, and partially met four others, leaving eleven benchmarks unequivocally failed. Included among these failures are:

1) Constitutional review, and
2) De-Baathification reform
3) OIl Revenue Sharing.
4) Enacting of electoral reform
5) Insurgent Amnesty Laws
6) Disarming of Illegal Militias.
7) Eliminating political interference with Iraqi military commanders
8) Ensuring that Iraqi Security forces are even handed.
9) Reducing the Sectarian violence and eliminating illegal militias
10) Increasing Iraqi Security force independence
11) End Iraqi political undermining of Iraqi Security Forces.

Only recently has the violence lessened, so part of 9 has been satisfied. Part. But not the part that prevents future civil strife.

The Republicans, for obvious reasons, don't want to admit the failures of the war. The lessening of the violence is what they've been looking for, especially with the focus of many Democrats and Americans on the violence. However, the violence is only a system of deeper problems, and like all symptoms in a disease, it can come and go, especially in the presence of a medicine.

The Republicans would have us remain committed in Iraq, on this account. Remember the first part of this post, though? The commitment is costing us dearly; we cannot maintain our presence indefinitely and maintain a functioning defense for our own country. As it is, we have no strategic reserve to deal with emergent military problems. Do we have a plan to win Iraq? The Pentagon says they have had one, but they've not seen fit to show it to those paying the bills. And even now, with this apparent turn around of events, the GAO is saying:

The U.S. and Iraqi governments have failed to take advantage of a dramatic drop in violence in Iraq, according to a report issued Tuesday by a U.S. watchdog agency, which warned that prospects were waning "for achieving current U.S. security, political and economic goals in Iraq."

Iraqi leaders have not passed legislation to foster reconciliation among Shiite Muslims, Sunnis and Kurds, and sectarian groups still retain control of ministries and divide Iraqi security forces, according to the Government Accountability Office report.

Moreover, the Bush administration's efforts to stabilize and rebuild Iraq are plagued by weak planning, a lack of coordination with the Iraqi government and among U.S. agencies, and an absence of detailed information on "the current and future costs of U.S. involvement in Iraq," it said.

"U.S. efforts lack strategies with clear purpose, scope, roles and performance measures," the report said.

Also, hopes for stability in the North are threatened as Turkey becomes increasingly antsy about the activity of Kurdish radical groups.

The Bush Administration and its Republican supporters habitually have claimed that victory is at hand in the war, that we're winning. They did that right up to the point that Democrats took the majority from them, and then, for a brief moment, they admitted that things needed to change. Then, though, they decided to follow a new plan that would put a military already under huge strain under further logistical pressure in order to supposedly provide breathing room for the Iraqis to reconcile and reduce the violence. Challenged as to what good they would do, they put up a list of Benchmarks. All along, even as violence persisted in the region, they claimed everything was working. Give it time to work, give it time to work, they said.

Something has worked. Many would say that the Surge was ancillary to it, that the real cause was that local populations got sick of the thugs and the terrorists running amok. We were just the convenient forces to help them on the matter. As encouraging as their cooperation with us is, their cooperation with each other is what's important, especially as the surge comes to an end forced by faulty logistical policy. We literally can't stick around in current numbers all that much longer, so unless Iraqis have a dependable government, security forces, and armies to protect them, all the gains made are for nothing. America cannot win if Iraqi safety requires our continued presence.

The real question of whether we continue is not whether violence has been reduced for now, but instead whether the institutions and political systems to create permanent stability have been put in place.

If we have failed, it's best to stop failing, and start looking for better ways to handle the situation. Until we do that, we will continue to waste resources in places where they are not doing any good, at the price of most of our opportunities to redeem the situation.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at November 13, 2007 7:13 PM
Comment #238282

But Bush has consistently told us that more soldiers dying means we’re “winning”…so does that mean with fewer soldiers dying that we’re losing???

Posted by: Rachel at November 13, 2007 10:27 PM
Comment #238286

The only thing consistent about what Bush has said is that he nearly always says, or eventually comes back to saying that we’re winning.

Unfortunately, though this political tactic has served as the grounds for him to claim that he and his own are perservering where others are wavering, it’s also made it politically difficult for him to admit to the problems in word or deed- problematic because major changes of policy would have been needed to head off many of the crises, before they got out of control.

Control of image, which Bush is still doing, and my post is aimed at examining critically, though easy, is no substitute for reliable control over events. It is far more effective to control the battlefield, than to control what is said about it, not the least because what happens on the battlefield goes a long way towards determining what people say about the war. By focusing on the coverage of the war, rather than the events and issues being covered, Bush and his supporters undermined their efforts to win it.

Image control is a constant battle, when you don’t have control over the events behind the problem, and it can become so absorbing that people hardly see beyond the short-term response to current events.

My question in this entry is whether long term matters crucial to stablizing Iraq are being addressed. My conclusion is no.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 13, 2007 11:04 PM
Comment #238290

Do you actually want the surge to succeed? I’m surprised that you’d completely leave any acknowledgment of that out of your discussion.

Troop numbers and the availability of equipment are not insurmountable obstacles by any stretch, although maintaining or even increasing them over the long term would require measures we have as yet avoided taking but which are certainly within our power to take. We could easily decrease our military “footprint” in some parts of the world where we’re thinking about doing so already anyway (i.e., South Korea and Western Europe). And we also happen to be an industrialized nation—not some third world backwater who lacks the means to churn out as much equipment or even more equipment that we’d ever need if that’s what we decide to do. Sure, you can find articles on the internet that talk about these struggles, but that’s why we have generals and a Department of Defense. It’s their job to overcome such challenges, and they actually do know how to do their jobs.

The political will or ability is another question, and I can’t tell you whether or not we’ll have that. Neither can I tell you if the surge ultimately will succeed or fail. I do know, however, that precious few wars have ever been fought by anybody which didn’t, even before a successful outcome, involve a lot of setbacks and challenges that were accompanied by defeatist claims from some quarters that everything was hopeless and the war already lost.

Posted by: Liam at November 13, 2007 11:39 PM
Comment #238291

Your information is accurate but the premise is wrong. The whitehouse is addressing these problems and actually posts the failures on their web site. They also have a comparison of the false assumptions and the changes that are in process.
They readily admit the failures and offer plausable solutions.
This isn’t a republican issue. Bill Clinton also endorsed military action against Saddam and set the stage for our invasion. Not only stating he had weapons of mass distruction and would use them but we would use force to remove him.
I am not blaming him, just making the point that we should lay aside the partisan garbage and work together to ensure our military and it’s Commander in Chief have our full support.

Posted by: Kruser at November 13, 2007 11:48 PM
Comment #238293

Liam, where do you suggest we look for these additional things, like, uhhh, troops?? And weaponry, vehicles, arms?? Maybe you haven’t noticed, but we’re a tad short of those things, and only excuses are showing up. Funny thing, but our credit cards are about to be cut up. Everyone left the room the first time the word “draft” was uttered. You might have missed all the articles and publications about the military being stretched to breaking and no lines of men and women waiting to jump in there. Would certainly make things a little easier, but just isn’t reality.
Kruser, I don’t think this has ever been considered strictly a Republican war, but for sure a Bush war, and if the R’s followed, well, guess that’s how the rest happened. Sorry, but the biggest part of the partisan garbage that needs to be laid aside IS the CIC !

Posted by: Jane Doe at November 14, 2007 12:03 AM
Comment #238296

Sure I’d like it to succeed. That’s the draw of it. But is it succeeding? No.

I’m not a defeatist by nature. I’m an optimist. I firmly believed, up until about Summer of 2006, that we could overcome the problems.

It goes beyond whether we have the troops. We have millions of draft-age boys and girls. It goes beyond whether we have the economic wherewithal. We have tons of that.

But these are not things you pull out of your hat at the last moment. You can’t just move tens of thousands of soldiers with a snap of your fingers. These things take time, and if read what was written in the articles, and took note of who was saying these things, you would understand that it’s the generals and the Pentagon that are telling us these things. It’s the generals telling us that military readiness is that bad. It’s the Pentagon talking about the wear on the equipment, and how many years it will take to reconstitute all this strength. It’s the generals telling us that we’re out of troops, and Secretary Gates himself saying that extending deployments and continuing the surge are untenable.

Things aren’t hopeless. They never are. But optimism is no excuse to ignore logistics, or the difficulty in getting things done. It’s precisely that kind of attitude that’s basically lost the war.

Yes, I’m saying we’ve lost it. Why? Simple: we failed to do what we set out to do.

Am I happy about that? No, and that’s why I blog. I wanted to win, but it seems like some people regarded any kind of doubt as to the effectiveness of their plans and strategies as defeatist.

And as such, they rejected many of the same policies they would later embrace, all too late to do any good. When troubles appeared to arise over different situations, they would deny something was going wrong. And it would go wrong.

All too many setbacks for this administration have been self-inflicted, dealing with things people warned them about, but which they pronounced defeatist quibbling.

This isn’t about defeatism. It’s about fulfilling purposes. Wars aren’t won or lost on bodycounts, but on what one can make happen.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 14, 2007 12:25 AM
Comment #238298

Bill Clinton never invaded Iraq in order to depose Saddam Hussein.

As for this being a Republican War? What do you think your people were campaigning on in 2002, when you took back the Senate from the Democrats?

While nobody can seriously claim Democrats were not involved, it was a Republican President and Republican Congress that lead this war.

As for my information being accurate, but my premise being wrong? No, it’s not that easy. If my facts are right, then the opportunity to use the surge to bring reconciliation is slipping away, if those successes ever correlated in the first place.

We cannot extend the surge, which that White House Document was written to explain. The surge’s purposes, deliniated by the benchmarks, was failed.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 14, 2007 12:36 AM
Comment #238299

Iraq and Afghanistan have now cost 1.6 Trillion Dollars, all put on the national credit card, for which more than 365 Billion Dollars a year is being paid in interest. And much of that interest is being paid to foreign investors like Saudi Arabia and the Chinese government.

Rebuilding our military to pre-invasion levels will take yet another 1/4 to 1/2 trillion dollars, AFTER our occupation ends.

Folks, we have added 3.35 Trillion dollars to the national debt in under 7 years. That cannot be sustained. Yet, in our future lies a $44 trillion unfunded mandate and contract with the American people for Social Security and Medicare.

Even if Success Could be achieved in Iraq in 5 or 10 years, WE CANNOT AFFORD to pursue it. Our economy just took another huge hit, with the sub-prime mortgage industry debacle, and there is another credit card industry hit waiting and building in the wings. The last of the good days are now. There is a backlog of investment needs and problems that will not wait much longer for dealing with, like water scarcity in the West, Dust Storms in the Midwest and agricultural topsoil runoff at a time when agricultural demand is growing rapidly, and dams, road, and bridge infrastructure, climate change and CO2 emissions, and EDUCATION!

What bread winner in their right mind would let their own nuclear family want, and be harmed, by the bread winner’s charitable giving to a family overseas? That is the position the U.S. is in with Iraq. Our giving in Iraq is costing our ability to provide for our own here at home.

This Iraq war has lasted longer than WWII, and may well end up costing more in equal dollars. We cannot afford to continue this occupation. The good news is the Iraqis don’t like, and won’t tolerate, al-Queda in Iraq anymore than we will. It is time to take care of our own, and get ourselves rebuilt so that we can afford to be charitable overseas again sometime in the future (not that I consider what we’ve done to the Iraqis all that charitable).

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 14, 2007 12:48 AM
Comment #238303

Let me just give some simple sequences.

Security always must come before rebuilding. Security must be established, usually with violence and force. When you first try to do that, it caused an uptick in violence, since the bad guys fight back. After you start to beat them, there is less violence. Most people just want to be safe and do not take sides until they think they can guess who will win. The more you look like the winner, the more people come around to your side.

Until January, we were on the negative side of this sequence. The change of strategy has changed the equation. The terrorist are now crapping in their pants for fear of coalition forces. The tables are turned.

We still have significant political challenges. But - remember the sequence - security must come before rebuilding.


The Iraqis could not push out AQI w/o our help. This is historical fact. A little more than a year ago, the leading tribes of Al Anbar tried. AQI was better equipped and much more ruthless. Until they made a deal with the Marines, they were losing.

Think of these bad guys like Stalinists. They are small in numbers by exeedingly cruel. They can intimidate large populations while they murder anybody who stands against them.

Some of insurgents are not terrorists. They can be - and are being - brought back into civilized society. There are others, however, that just need killing. The Marines are helping out with this. If things work as they should, fence sitting people see this and choose the right side.

Jane, Steven et al

We will be withdrawing troops soon. This is possible because of the success. Our Iraqi allies will be able to take on the bad guys. They are already doing a good job in many areas.

So we all will get what we want - a U.S. drawdown, but now we will get it for the RIGHT reason.

Thank God the President stood up to those who would have run out too soon. He saved many lives by that courage.

Success will bring troops home faster and safer than failure.

Posted by: Jack at November 14, 2007 4:05 AM
Comment #238309

I know the argument, and perhaps in certain respects it’s correct. Of course having more soldiers would help the near term tactical situation. That’s why people like me were calling for that four years ago.

The change with al-Qaeda, and other insurgent groups, though, is more the Iraqis getting sick of the violence and deciding to do something about it. Maybe we can do more to take advantage of that now, with greater numbers of soldiers, but that, because of logistical screw-ups, will not last.

No amount of soldiers, though, can make up for the lost opportunities of the first couple years of this war. The progress we’ve made would have been more effective back when we had greater community support for its own sake, back when the ideologues and sectarians hadn’t split the population up and settled into an ad hoc system of feifdoms Iraq has broken down as a nation, become a failed state where the central government no longer functions properly. That’s not good for keeping the peace. Just look at Somalia and Afghanistan. Same thing happened with them.

The Drawdown will happen, but for logistical reasons, not strategic. We no longer have the capacity to maintain a force that size in Iraq. You praise Bush’s courage, but I think he’s a coward. He’s resisted doing much of anything for the last several years because he doesn’t want the poltical problem of having admitted a mistake. He waited, through the beginnings of the insurgency, through the loss of Najaf and Fallujah to the insurgents, through the outbreak of the civil war, all the way through to the aftermath of the 2006 elections to suggest a surge, and then implemented it having failed, through all those long years of full scale war to deal with the logistical problems of keeping that war going. Only now are we getting anymore soldiers, and that will not help us in time.

He has preferred to maintain this aura of invincible conviction, rather than get down and dirty with the requirements of his plans. If he had real courage, he would have not let things come to this.

Success would have brought soldiers home sooner, but success is not what Bush has brought to the table. The insurgents succeeded in taking the local power we never fully asserted ourselves. We could have avoided this, had we changed our strategy sooner, but doing that at the appropriate time would have exposed this President to political risks and second guessing, and the President was more afraid of that than the consequences of doing things his way.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 14, 2007 9:11 AM
Comment #238310

Iraq has lasted longer than WWII because we didnt fight it like WWII . In WWII we bombed both Germany and Japan into oblivion. I wholeheartedly belive that we should have done that in Iraq .

As far as deaths go, we have lost more persons in an hour taking little unnamed islands in the pacific that we have lost in all the fighting in Iraq combined. Yes death in any form is undesireable, but honestly to occupy a country, we still aren’t doing too bad.

As far as bases go, we have had occupying bases in Okie, and Germany for 60 years now, putitng a base up in a country we are in is just par for the course, perhaps 20 years from now it willbe a big money maker for iraq like our other bases are?

Posted by: Rhancheck at November 14, 2007 9:24 AM
Comment #238311

I wonder if you take the GAO numbers and correlate them with the grandstanding and anti war hype produced by the dems and liberal media for elections and conformations. You whould find the lack of cooperation between factions in Iraq and the violence, directly related to the decay of unity produced in this country. You will see in the beginning when dems were behind the effort that violence was at a minimum and hope was high. Our congress today isn’t much of an example of cooperation and getting things done for the people, that is for sure. So how can we expect them to do the same?

Posted by: Kruser at November 14, 2007 9:33 AM
Comment #238313


The change in Al Qaeda and insurgents results from a combination of conditions none of which were sufficient by themselves and which were enhanced by each other. It is like a flock of pigeons making a turn. You cannot say which one started it. In effect they all did.

Iraqis got sick of the insurgents and AQI because the these guys are very bad. War opponents sometimes forget how very bad they are. And please always remember and never forget that we were never fighting the people of Iraq. It was always a war IN Iraq not against Iraq. In any case, the Iraqis – alone – would be unable to defeat the insurgency. The bad guys were well armed and ruthless. They murder anybody who stands up to them, including little guys like school teachers or mothers trying to improve conditions for their kids. The Iraqis NEEDED the help of the coalition forces AND the coalition forces needed them. You really cannot separate them in terms of causality. In addition, coalition forces had been building trust for the past years. That is why the Iraqis came to them for help. Once again, you cannot separate out the causality. You need to look at the whole picture to understand it.

There were many mistakes made in the early years. We have made up for them. Maybe we should have been in this position last year, but this is where we are now. The strategy worked. We always planned a drawdown. Iraqi forces are becoming able to defend their own country. Our forces will remain in some numbers, but less and less involved in the actual fighting and there will be less fighting anyway.

The good news, Stephen, is that this time we have beaten the insurgency and stuck terror into the hearts of the terrorists. I take significant satisfaction that these horrible guys are now shivering with fear of death from the sky or coming over the hill. I would feel pity for them, but they do not deserve it. We no longer can lose on the ground in Iraq. Where we risk losing what we have gained is in the halls of Congress in the U.S. and the parliament in Baghdad. I am reasonably confident that if American resolve does not fail, Iraq will work something out. It will not be a centralized state as it was. This is good. The centralized socialist tyranny was a bad thing. We need not create conditions for its returns. We cannot predict the exact shape of things to come, but right now the prognosis is very good.

Iraqis are standing up to fight the bad guys. It is now up to Americans to do what is both the smart and the moral thing: finish the job and bring our troops safely home from a reasonably democratic and stable Iraq.

Posted by: Jack at November 14, 2007 10:21 AM
Comment #238320

Occupation by itself does not bring peace. When we occupied Germany and Japan, both nations were pacified, and we had the soldiers there to keep them pacified. We didn’t have a full-scale insurgency in either place hampering our political and infrastructure reconstruction.

How’s this for irony: your people rejected nation-building at the beginning of this war, saying that it was old fashioned, that Iraq should rebuild itself with it’s own oil money. Your folks decided that we didn’t need so many soldiers because transformation was such a wonderful thing. But now, having failed to get this war right, your side invokes the difficulties and casualties of that war to justify those of this one.

The Iraq war is nothing like WWII. In WWII, they didn’t leave anything to chance. They didn’t cling to military and political doctrine as the enemy got strong and bolder. They didn’t let the territory they conquered spiral out of their control, in denial the whole time.

The GAO numbers starkly illustrate the problems. While your people have been quibbling about media bias, complaining about how you can’t get fair coverage, these problems remained unaddressed. The Readiness problems didn’t just come out of thin air. They’ve been on the horizon for quite a while.

Unfortunately, dealing with that problem would expose Bush to the criticism that he wasn’t doing right before. So to keep up appearances for the base and stonewall criticism, they didn’t even acknowledge the problem, instead creating a fig-leaf of a logistic strategy, sending reserves and National Guard militias to Iraq instead of starting a bulk-up of American forces from the get-go. As Benjamin Franklin said, a stitch in time saves nine. Unfortunately, Bush would rather do the nine than admit he needs to rework the plans.

As for cooperation? Bush has gotten what he wanted, most of the time. Fact is, people actually think Democrats are cooperating too much, and that can’t last.

First of all, there’s no real difference between insurgents and Iraqis. They are Iraqis, for the most part. Some insurgents they’ve gotten sick of. Other insurgents, though, including many of the ones in Anbar Province are now in temporary alliance with us, The militias essentially going along to get along.

Practically speaking, the logic of coopting the insurgents makes sense, as long as you’re thinking short term, which this Administration is brilliant at doing. But long term, all these people we’re arming haven’t really decided to play nice with each other, and that means the minute we leave, they’re at each other’s throats.

More to the point, we really haven’t stopped what these people were doing in the first place. We’ve been powerless, really, to prevent these people from entrenching their secular enclaves in the structure of the community. As issues of resources and ethnic tensions come to the fore, the stability that exists while we’re refereeing will not endure.

The very fact that this occurs belies your assertion that we somehow have made up for it. We have not made up for letting Iraq descend into this kind of civil strife. It’s still going on. Iraq remains volatile. And then you have what’s going on up North.

We have not beaten the insurgency. We’ve redefined our way to a claim of victory. For example, you claim that it not being a centralized country will somehow be a good thing. I don’t think so. A lack of central authority is what gets you failed states. The fact that you’re resigned to this means you’re resigned to Iraq becoming a balkanized shadow of its former self, different regions following different directions.

It’s precisely this lack of political unity that compelled our country to centralize authority in the constitution. We needed it so we could organize a military defense, maintain a common currency, resolve conflicts between states, and resolve other issues as a nation, and not just a contentious collection of quasi-nations.

A non unified Iraq will find it more difficult to keep law and order. It will be more prone to flying apart based on political disagreements. It will be more vulnerable to invasion and attack from outside.

And this is what you call success, victory even. I came to oppose Bush’s invasion and policy in Iraq because of just such redefinitions, just such a tendency to weasel out of admitting there were problems. America deserved better than this.

What’s extended this war, whatever this outcome, is the failure early on to commit the forces necessary to win. It’s been the willingness to let things get out of control, to allow corruption and division to grow, to leave things to chance which really should have been made sure of. The irony to your accusation is that the Republicans and the supporters of this war essentially got what they wanted for the longest time, nobody to stop them. Unfortunately, they were so concerned with gaining victory on their own terms, that they didn’t gain it on its terms.

I was more than happy to see America kick ass, by the way. It’s seeing the war turn south and Iraq get out of control for no good reason that soured me on the way this war was being run. I wanted the war resolved quickly rather than wait for Bush to win by staying the course. I was shouting at the top of my lungs for these people to get their act together and get Iraq done so we could go back to kicking Osama Bin Laden’s ass, like we should have been doing all along.

I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to hear you guys claiming the same crap from here to doomsday about how the liberals got in your way. The insurgency and this civil war developed under your watch, with your people making the substantive decisions on the matter. It is sheer political cowardice to blame others for the consequences of decisions one has made by themselves.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 14, 2007 11:44 AM
Comment #238325

Is the violence really as resolved as it seems?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 14, 2007 11:57 AM
Comment #238330

First let me address the number of deaths in 1982 and 1983. Most of those, barring some sort of secret war we don’t know about, were probably due to natural and accidental causes. This, I would think, should properly be considered separately from deaths in combat. I think there would be some in the military who would take issue with deaths from illness and accident being equated with making the ultimate sacrifice in battle.

That’s not really what we’re talking about here, though.

I know many have forgotten this, but the tendency for my people to emphasize the death toll originates not in some desire to convince people that the Iraq war is somehow ultra-bloody in comparison to others.

It relates to Bush’s landing on that aircraft carrier, that infamous “Mission Accomplished”/”End of major combat operations” rhetoric. The emphasis on the number of dead relates to the fact that the war was supposed to be long finished at this point. Yet the worst fighting, the largest scale military campaigns and the most casualties have been suffered in what is essentially supposed to have been a post war occupation. The fact that we let things get out of control is the subtext for the thousands of dead that we continue to highlight. These are the masses of soldiers killed in combat after the war was supposed to be over.

As for your charge in the second post? I have no fear of having to tell my grandchildren any such thing. I have never expressed any support or made any apology for al-Qaeda.

I think its cowardly to worry about looking bad when your own actions are what’s causing your problem. It’s better to worry about doing the right thing, and letting our good deeds stand in our defense, rather than try and conceal and cover up mistakes and crimes, hoping to preserve our image.

As for hoping that it’s resolved? Hope and $1.25 will get you a cup of coffee at the corner diner. No, we have to make sure these issues really are resolved.

As for people jumping out of windows? I think you give yourself too much credit. The so-called victory here is a result of concerted propaganda, not real developments. It’s this tendency to embrace hopeful rhetoric, rather than deal with the practical concerns on the ground that have led to the defeats we’ve suffered in this war. Y’all have been too concerned with convincing people that the war’s going well to actually manage the damn thing properly.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 14, 2007 12:27 PM
Comment #238331

How can you ask “Does success now mean success later?” When you have already made up your mind that it won’t?

Rather than acknowledging the tightrope we are walking over there and seeing the possible of good that hopefully will occur, you instead, belittle and deny all that and blatantly highlight all negatives that may or may not happen.

Why? Because of how the war has been run in the past?
Isn’t the past something you always tell us to let go of when we bring it up by mentioning the past administration?

Posted by: kctim at November 14, 2007 12:34 PM
Comment #238333

Interesting how the blue-column bloggers look at success in War. When we aren’t having any success it’s Bush’s fault; when we are (indeed) having success it’s not the “entire” reason why we are there. No wonder why you guys don’t resonate with the military crowd. It’s utterly amazing!**

Posted by: rahdigly at November 14, 2007 1:13 PM
Comment #238369


Most insurgents were Iraqis but most Iraqis were not insurgents. There are criminal gangs in the U.S. If you fight criminal gangs in the U.S. you are fighting some Americans but you are not fighting the American people.

The formulation that we are fighting the Iraqi people is wrong in exactly that way.

When I say not a centralized state, I do not mean anarchy. The U.S. is not a centralized state. Our States retain lots of power. States can tax, regulate, make laws concerning life and death. The governor can even call up troops. Many successful states are not centralized and that is one reason for their success.

The centralized state thing in Iraq did not work out very well. Pushing some autonomy to lower levels will probably be good.

Posted by: Jack at November 14, 2007 4:04 PM
Comment #238375

How can I ask it? It’s what they call a rhetorical question. However, I’m fair enough to provide one piece of evidence after another why current reductions in violence don’t necessarily add up to a victory.

I knew going in that the Right would consider my POV pessimistic at best, defeatist at worse, so I listed the reason why victory was not yet at hand-in fact, why it would likely never be at hand, the way the surge was intended to bring it.

Success now does not mean success later when it’s not the right kinds of success. Perhaps we’re helping to reduce the violence to lower levels. It wouldn’t suprise me. But those levels are still high in comparison with the rest of the war, so saying we’re winning in an overall sense is premature. If we weren’t winning when levels were lower, why should we consider ourselves victors at the still high rate of 3000 attacks a month?

If we haven’t reconciled the parties in question to at least some degree, then whatever violence our numbers were suppressing will come back. Our numbers cannot stay at their current level, nor will the surge likely be repeated, given our deplorable state of military readiness.

Could we win? Well, I’m reluctant to say we would, if the conditions are not there to prop up continued success.

We haven’t succeeded in making the Iraqi police or their army of much use. Who would keep the peace in Iraq, and protect it from the advances of its neighbors?

We haven’t succeeded in elevating effective Iraqi government beyond local ethnic and sectarian fiefdoms. How then do we expect the sectarian violence not to flare up again, if the surge is responsible for its surpression?

We haven’t succeeded in spreading the economic wealth in Iraq, making sure they all have a stake in Iraq as a functioning economy. Without that, how do we expect Iraq to repair the damage of decades-long warfare?

Lastly, we haven’t succeeded in creating a government there accountable to the people, which would treat each Iraqi fairly. Without cohesive political control from the top, Iraq will fall apart.

The events of the last few years dominate Iraq’s future. While the sanctions regime of a decade had it’s effect, this administration destroyed a stable government (though ruthless and tyrannical), without successfully arranging for a successor regime to take up the slack. The decay under Saddam was bad, but the disintegration under American Occupation is shamefully far worse.


The biggest threat to Baghdad’s security is now Shiite militias, he said. Infrastructure weaknesses and unemployment are also serious obstacles, which American efforts at the local level cannot fully address because “these become national-level problems,” he said. Violence, meanwhile, despite recent declines in some areas, has moved to some degree to rural villages and towns from major cities, American and Iraqi commanders said.

The reports I’ve linked to indicate that these national level problems have not been resolved, and as many predicted, the violence simply went where we were not. I know the supporters of this war like to insist that the surge has magically enabled us to take care of everything, but unfortunately, you folks still don’t have enough soldiers in Iraq to pacify the entire country. With the native Iraqi forces, besides the insurgents, not really worth a damn, and our surge on its way out, the only thing to keep things from sliding backwards is the Iraqi people’s grassroots political will.

That itself, though, might be compromised from above as those with regional and sectarian power. They way your people have set things up, what we might have here is the replacement of one brutal tyrant with many, some with our help and encouragement.

As for whether this argument would resonate with the military crowd? I imagine this one does. Maybe you should be more careful about what you presume resonates with these people. After all, they are individuals.

If you think by centralized government I’m referring to a Saddam style dictator, you’re mistaken. I was thinking something along the lines of what we have. That being said, I do not see the weak-ass government of Maliki to be anything approaching the kind of centralized government we have.

As for who we’re fighting? We’re fighting Iraqis. Some might make your distinction, but this isn’t like WWII, where the French could tell themselves we were just moving through. The Iraqis can’t say that. A great number of Iraqis don’t draw the lines we do between the insurgents and themselves.

We shouldn’t have made this a primarily political war, aimed at regime change, but lacking planning for nation building. We should have brought in the soldiers and made this a proper occupation, with law and order, not to mention extensive re-engineering of the Iraqi political structure.

The trouble with what we have now is that yes, we have a government with the ability to tax, regulate, make laws concerning life and death, call up troops, etc… But unfortunately, we have too many of them, all with competing agendas and forces. That is the failure of the Iraq war, that we let things get this badly discombobulated, and I don’t think an insufficiently large surge will make things any better on a permanent basis.

to all-
At this point, I see some hope. Some. But that hope depends strongly on the Iraqi people, and not our military, because our military is in no position to be a permanent referee here.

Should we do what it takes, after and as we withdraw, to make things better? Of course. But our options have been limited because of the way this war has been managed, and in no small part because of the surge. Every manpower and equipment problem, every economic problem we had with this war was made worse by this surge, without it attaining its stated goals.

I just think the Right would do itself a massive favor by actually admitting that things have not gone as planned. Unfortunately, they’re stuck stalling the rest of America for the time and patience not to look like failures.

It’s time to admit how things actually stand, rather than continuing to market this war.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 14, 2007 6:06 PM
Comment #238377


I understand your analogy of the situation in Iraq and can not say that I disagree. For me it is hard to ignore or let slip past notions of half truths, and false promises put out there by the neocons to quell our impatience with a very poorly managed war. I can not simply let a very long list of past discrepancies slide by the wayside and all of a sudden put my unfettered trust in an administration that has not proven worthy of such. Claims of success imo can not be validated. Only a sustained peace allowing the 2,000,000 plus displaced refugees to return to their homes would indicate a validation of success. I wonder if we were to displace over 2,000,000 of our citizens here in the US would we consider ourselves at peace so long as those people could not return home for fear of execution? Would we in the interest of peace be able to look the other way in the face of ethnic cleansing and ignore those affected if they were our own? I do not think we would find the removal of sectarian groups as a solution to be acceptable. Quite simply so long as our presence is required to keep the peace and the Iraqi people are not allowed to live in their own country there is no success. It will require much, much more than a simple downgrade in violence to bring this reality to fruition.

Posted by: RickIL at November 14, 2007 6:32 PM
Comment #238385

Awwh, what’s a matter, did I hit a nerve with the “not resonating to the military crowd” comment? Boo-hoo! Some of you are just going to have to face the facts and, more importantly, accept responsibility for your comments. There’s good news in Iraq (murder victims down 80%; IE’s are down 70%; and many of the strongholds and areas considered “lost” are now controlled by US & Iraqi forces) b/c of the SURGE— the same surge many of you tried (desperately) to convince us wasn’t working back in the late summer early fall.

It’s time to face facts on this war and stop pretending like you guys care about the troops, the US involvement, etc. All (some of) you care about is that it fails b/c Bush is our President and (after all) it’s Bush’s War. Many of us have tried to explain this to you; however, your hatred was too intense to get through. Maybe now some of you will actually admit there’s success in Iraq; after success after success and that the war is not lost.

Posted by: rahdigly at November 14, 2007 8:20 PM
Comment #238386

Armchair generals.. First we have too many troops. Then too few. I remember recently the argument here was that too many troops causes more exposure therefore casualties, and now we needed more is the story. Glad we don’t have a wishy washy commander in chief. War, especially a terror, jihad based one, is new and requires changes in strategy at times. I believe whatever the change implemented, this column will take the opposite position and whine about the failures.
Stephen, Clinton did endorse Saddams removal and in that speech said it was the next step if he doesn’t open up to the inspectors. He did in fact state there were weapons of mass destruction and he did in fact bomb their country (the reason for the speech). Is there a difference between aerial bombing and invasion of a sovereign nation ?
The premise I was talking about was that the President is hiding and ignoring information on the failures. That is false. (check the whitehouse website)

Posted by: Kruser at November 14, 2007 8:34 PM
Comment #238398

Clinton did endorse removal of Saddam with his signing of the “Iraq Liberation Act”, however invasion was never an option under that act.

Groups were designated for support if they were to attempt an overthrow of Saddam, but the act was very specific about American Military involvement.

Posted by: Rocky at November 14, 2007 9:48 PM
Comment #238400


the war is not lost.

Your statement is at best a matter of opinion. The reality is that there have been improvements in certain areas. No one will argue that the surge did not have an effect. As Stephen says the surge is due to end soon. What will happen then? Will the Iraqi’s be ready and capable of sustaining and improving upon the situation? Or will the insurgency realize a revival once we have downgraded american manpower? Do you think that perhaps the insurgents are waiting out the surge knowing that it will not last forever. They have used these tactics in the past. Why should they not do so again? Will the goals necessary to form a functional government be met anytime soon? Will the Iraqi’s be able to meet the financial burdens of rebuilding their country? Will the sectarian groups be able to reach an understanding which will allow them to live in proximity to each other free of violence? Will the refugees be able to return home without fear of execution? These are all valid questions of great concern which will have an important and real effect on the final outcome. They are only a few of the concerns which need attention. It is much much too soon to declare success in Iraq. The real question is just how much loss in life and money are we the taxpayers willing to bet on what is still a huge gamble.

Posted by: RickIL at November 14, 2007 9:57 PM
Comment #238404


How much clearer can I be. The Iraq project did not go well. In fact it was in the dumpster in January of this year. That is why we had a MAJOR change of strategy. That is why we did not stay the course. We understood that the way things were going were not leading to success, so we made big changes.

The most important part of the surge was not more men, but a change in how they were deployed. They went out, defeated the enemy and then stayed in forward deployed groups WITH the Iraqis. Iraqis are now much more trusting of their coalition partners because they live near them and know them. Iraqi security forces are becoming able to take over the job.

That is why it was always the plan to pull out many troops. They are not leaving an empty battle space. They are being replaed by Iraqis who have been working with them and learning the business. The bad guys will not simply return because many are dead, more have seen their error and returned to civilized society and the Iraqis are now able to keep any remaining bad guys under control.

I do not think most Americans (and most people on this blog) understand the surge. They just think it was more men. Some tell us, wearing the mask of wisdom, that it is not sustainable. Let me say again - it was NEVER meant to be kept up forever. You are right. It is not sustainable. You may now make other wise statements, such as it is light during the day and darker at night.

Let me make a very simple analogy. You decide to make major renovations on your house in hopes of selling it. At first there is lots of activity. Your ignorant neighbor comes by and tells you it is a waste of time, since you cannot hope to keep up the pace of repair forever. The Dems are like this ignorant neighbor, criticizing what they evidently do not understand.

The Dems have stayed the course of critcism, not understanding the the course in Iraq is changed. You all should get with the change or at least change the course of your criticism. It is starting to look silly.

Posted by: Jack at November 14, 2007 11:22 PM
Comment #238405

Rick, how you use my quote “the war is not lost” with the war is “won” or even “over”, escapes me. I merely stated that the surge is working (note that I didn’t say worked!).

As Stephen says the surge is due to end soon.

Damn right. And, if you read (carefully), our troops coming home is b/c of the sucess of the surge. By the way, this story (of success) was on page A-19 of the NYT; not the front f@#$ing page!!

“American forces have routed Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the Iraqi militant network, from every neighborhood of Baghdad, a top American general said today, allowing American troops involved in the ‘surge’ to depart as planned.”

Will the sectarian groups be able to reach an understanding which will allow them to live in proximity to each other free of violence?

Read this carefully as well, there’s good news after good news lately; couldn’t say that before the surge, that’s for sure!

It is much much too soon to declare success in Iraq.

You can always declare success when success is exactly what you have! Again, success is not equated to “succeeded”; big difference! Oh, and, did you feel the same way when senate majority leader Harry Reid declared that the war in Iraq is “Lost”?!

Time for some of you to “cowboy up” and realize that there is success in Iraq and that this war is NOT LOST!!!

Posted by: rahdigly at November 14, 2007 11:53 PM
Comment #238408

Oh, come on. Hundreds of thousands, and perhaps over one million Iraqis are dead as a result of the US invasion. There are similar numbers of wounded. There are over two million Iraqi refugees in other countries, and another two million internally displaced. Cities are devastated. The infrastructure is in ruins. And the US government continues to hide from its citizens the extent of the destruction and death.

The reasons the Bush administration gave for invading Iraq- that Saddam Hussein threatened US security, there were WMDs, there were ties with Al Qaida- were flat wrong.

How DARE any war supporter talk about success. This has been a disaster for everything good and decent that America once stood for. It is nothing less than SHAMEFUL to root for the continuation of an unjust, and frankly sickening occupation. There is simply no justification- none- for continuing to occupy their country. To pretend otherwise is disgusting.

Posted by: phx8 at November 15, 2007 12:18 AM
Comment #238409

Sorry- but anyone supporting a bloody, unnecessary war which has needlessly killed hundreds of thousands of human beings is not entitled to use the word “success.”

Posted by: phx8 at November 15, 2007 12:24 AM
Comment #238412

Very well said phx8, and I’ve often wondered how some can justify their pride in this disastrous event, or whatever one can call it. To know that we’ve lost so much, and will continue to do so for a long time, with of course the death toll being the most precious on that list. There is no understanding what the puffed chests are all about. It’s unbelievable that the concept of Iraq, in its’ entirity is beyond grasp for so many.

Posted by: Jane Doe at November 15, 2007 1:11 AM
Comment #238416

Thanks! It beggars belief. Bush supporters seem to think we’re doing the Iraqis some sort of favor by occupying their country, establishing permanent military bases, and demanding the Iraqis give Exxon, BP, and Royal Dutch/Shell incredibly profitable contracts on the oil reserves.

What happened to this country? How can we have sunk so low as to debate torture? Or pretend the most important aspect for the future of Iraq is whether the United States is suffering as many casualties as in the past?

And I haven’t even begun to go on and on about the financial costs to our country.

It is deeply disgusting. Once upon a time, I served in the military, in the USAF. Who would have thought this country would have fallen so far, and dishonored our troops to such an extreme? I know for a fact, I never pledged to support the pre-emptive invasion of countries which never attacked the United States, nor their occupation.

Success? Let’s use more honest terminology:
War Profiteering

Posted by: phx8 at November 15, 2007 2:19 AM
Comment #238423

You say that the soldiers are on your side, but I keep hearing about and from soldiers who have all kinds of problems with how the war is being fought, whose concerns go unaddressed by the very people who claim to be kindred spirits.

I linked you to one guy, was able to recall him off the top of my head, and even recall one particular post that made an impression on me.

Contrary to your accusations, I’m very sympathetic towards the troops. It is, in fact, a big part of my motivation. I find it shameful that your side uses them as human shields for policies that have been getting them killed for nothing these past few years, for policies that have been counterproductive. I find it sickening that the Republicans allowed their ranks to become so overstretched, so undertrained, so ill-equipped. Your side is even depriving them of the strength to defend their country, should an emergency arise. Yes, many of them are conservatives, and some might disagree with me. But I think the facts speak for themselves.

You say we’re winning? You always say that. I only recently, as of about 2006, came to view the Iraq War as unwinnable. You’ve never changed your position, even as the country collapsed into civil war, not even to say that there was something to be concerned about. Your position has never depended on the facts on the ground.

You say we’re winning? You’ve said that regardless of what setbacks occur, and you don’t seem to be concerned with actually dealing with little things like logistics or what the troops actually think and experience, rather than what you imagine they do.

With the Sistani link, you neglect one important fact: as much good as it may do, it hasn’t done that good yet. The Results remain to be seen, especially in light of Sistani’s previous failure to prevent the sectarian violence from escalating. Now I agree that if Shia have gotten sick of the violence, they might be more inclined to side with Sistani, and this might turn out to be a major turning point. However, if I bought everything you guys handed to me as evidence that the war was won, I would have predicted victory a hundred times in vain. It’s cause for hope, but unfortunately, the Republicans have been all too unskeptical, all too uncritical in their thinking when it comes to distinguishing cause for hope from evidence of victory, their own wishful thinking from the nature of the situation.

You insist on positive thinking from people, but a failure to deal with negative facts for what they are is part of why Iraq has gotten so bad in the first place. If you folks had admitted there were problems earlier instead of continuing throughout the years to engage in free-floating optimism, your side might have dealt with the negative problems before they became an albatross around your neck.

Clinton did not invade. If he thought just like Bush, he would have acted just like Bush. He did not. Therefore, you cannot support what Bush did with what Clinton did not.

As for Armchair Generals? I don’t presume to know everything. I researched these positions before taking them. The real problem is that there are too many soldiers heading into this surge for it to be sustainable, but not enough to do what it was that Bush and company intended. And if the purposes of the war cannot be served by the forces we have there, if we cannot leave Iraq for the most part without having it collapse, then even progress as we have now is temporary at best.

Could things improve? Yes. But my feeling is that the best hopes for the situation improving lie with the Iraqis, and that won’t happen as long as we’re propping things up. The Iraqis from the start have had to learn to fend for themselves. The longer we stay, the more we strengthen the radicals who have sided with us out of convenience.

It seems rather coincidental that Bush starts talking about success just about the time the generals start telling him that we need to start removing soldiers in order to maintain any kind of working army. I’m not wearing any “mask of wisdom” This is what the armed forces have told Bush and the Congress. The requirements they laid out, and the end of the surge that Bush has been advertising are too remarkably similar for it to be coincidence.

Do I dispute that the Iraqis could resolve many issues themselves? No. In fact part of the reason I advocate withdrawal is so we can get out of the way of that. But do I have unalloyed faith that everything will turn out as promised? No. I have promised too much by this administration that they failed to deliver on.

I will acknowledge victory in this war at about the time it actually comes to pass. Until then we have hope, and we have policy that needs, hell, cries out to be examined critically. I will continue to be a wet blanket, because Republicans can’t seem to be the same for themselves, approaching the issues with skepticism and a willingness to believe much else but the best of the war.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 15, 2007 8:52 AM
Comment #238424

Jack et al.,
I hate to say it this way, but everyone is waiting a while to see if this down turn in violance is just a blip in the screen or going to last. We don’t know for sure either way and this administration has spent all of its capitol on credibility and people want to see 4+ months of success before we buy it. In other words I have to see proof, the MLM are not glossing over it but saying exactly how most americans feel now about this, is it an anomoly or actually getting beter?
Anything less then 4 months of success is a wait and see, also with most of the bench marks unmet we feel like we are getting the old bait and switch again. Look its working we need X more months to finish it…. Wait I mean it, it is working we need X more months.

Posted by: timesend at November 15, 2007 8:55 AM
Comment #238429


Yes there have been some successes to date. It is apparent that violence is down. But still it remains to be seen if the successes are sustainable and capable of morphing into true success in Iraq. Your links provide generalizations and possibilities of future success. They do not provide guarantees of success. We have been down this road many times in the past and the supposed good news always seems to pop up at critical junctures of funding and decision making. This seems all too familiar and convenient for an administration of questionable character that has much experience in waffling and the marketing of war. Of course we all know that this is going to lead to waiting just another four months as usual.

The difference between you and I is that I remain realistically skeptical with good reason. You have always been unrealistically supportive even in the presence of obvious failure. I suppose the latter reality may explain your obvious boastful glee concerning these small successes. After all it has been a long time since there were any valid signs of hope. Realistically there is still a very long way to go before we can claim success in Iraq. I personally do not find the sacrifices necessary to sustain a long term occupation worth the effort. I suggest you might try less gloating over your chicks until all the eggs have hatched.

Posted by: RickIL at November 15, 2007 9:55 AM
Comment #238430

Bill Clinton sent ground forces to Kuwait in 94.
Military strategy today is to bomb first (shock and awe)If that doesn’t work to cause submission then insert ground forces. Of course diplomacy and encouraging an overthrow of the government comes immediatly afterward. Obviously Clinton started the procedure. Bombing, diplomacy, and rebellion had taken it’s course when Bush took office. Hillary emphasized ground forces were the “last resort” Not that they couldn’t be used.
This was the consensis of all. You upgrade resolutions to what is needed at the time.

In a utopian world, people make their own choice of government. It is different when death squads roam freely and Jehadists rule (government endorsed or otherwise). If they are hard for our military to deal with, how much more would it be for a civilian population to fight for freedom?

Hillary’s speech to congress at the time of the resolution said that national unity was essential for success. I still maintain that the casualties and increased violence are due to anti war grandstanding here more than any other factor. Factions that want control are encouraged to continue by our appearance of a lack of resolve. Bush is constantly trying to salvage this and save lives, both Iraq and American.

Posted by: Kruser at November 15, 2007 10:06 AM
Comment #238431

Stephen, I know what a rhetorical question is, I just can’t figure out why EVERY kind of question you ask, must ALWAYS end up with negative results BEFORE those results have played out.

I know we have an election coming up and you guys want to win no matter what, but come on. Would it really hurt that much to see and hope for positives, rather than negatives?

We need to be critical of all things our govt does, but you guys have taken it to a whole new level here.

Posted by: kctim at November 15, 2007 10:13 AM
Comment #238432


“Bill Clinton sent ground forces to Kuwait in 94.”

Clinton sent ground forces to Kuwait in ‘94 to head off a threatened invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. Virtually every military action taken by Clinton after ‘96 was considered “wag the dog”, and criticized as an attempt to deflect attention away from the Kenneth Starr investigation.

There was nearly world-wide support for the invasion of Afghanistan. That wasn’t so for the invasion of Iraq, as 10’s of millions protested, Bush said, and I quote, “I know what I am doing”.

You guys can’t have it both ways, and your attempts to revise history to fit your agenda seem sophomoric at best.

Posted by: Rocky at November 15, 2007 11:11 AM
Comment #238438

Yes, he sent Ground forces there, but did not invade, and would not have circumvented the UN to do so.

The Bush Administration went out of its way to get into this war, and didn’t let anything get the way of that. Clinton stopped short.

You guys focus on the psychological elements of the war at the expense of the logistical ones. If the surge dies down and the violence returns, what message will it send when we tell them we can’t send the troops back? Most of the Psychological issues of this war could have been resolved if we had taken care of the practical issues first. Unfortunately, the Right has been perpetually trying to win this war by willpower alone, and that just won’t cut it.

Results have played out, time and time again. Not everything is so unpredictable. People said that the surge would push the insurgents out of Baghdad, but would make the surrounding areas more violent. It has. They had said that the numbers in the surge were not high enough to cover the entire country, to pacify it all at once. It hasn’t been. People have said that the Iraqi military and security forces haven’t proven themselves up to the job, and they still haven’t.

You don’t like the way I argue. That’s your problem. The question is, am I wrong, and how do you support that claim? I support that claim by point to evidence that indicates that the violences isn’t as under control as it seems, and that the strategic aim of that violence has been fulfilled. Iraq remains and in fact has become more entrenched in the sectarianism. Violence remains high, only made to seem gentler by the sheer viciousness of the fighting in the last year. 3000 attacks a month might seem better than 6000+, but that still exceeds the violence for much of the years prior to it.

I hope for positives, but my philosophy is that you must acknowledge and deal with the negatives to correct the course of your actions. It wasn’t just bad luck that Iraq flew apart the way it did, it was bad policy, aided and abetted by an attitude towards bad news that dismisses those who report problems and negative trends, or worse labels them as defeatists and collaborators.

I wished for this war to be won, but I felt we couldn’t simply clap Tinkerbell back to life; we had to acknowledge the problems and actually deal with them. We never did.

The Republicans and many on the right will not acknowledge how short we’ve fallen of our goals, how much failure we’re rationalizing here to claim that we’re now winning. We’re rationalizing working alongside insurgents who will doubtlessly use their training and equipment to fight each other as our role diminishes. We’re rationalizing leaving Iraq as a failed state with very weak central authority, a Second Afghanistant. Rahdigly’s saying the Refugee crisis is at an end because a few thousand out of a few million have returned.

These signs he talks about could be seen as hopeful signs, but it’s a semantic game to declare them to be definitive signs of success.

What seems to me to be happening is the Bush Administration is trying to justify its failure to achieve its objective, it’s defeat, by pointing to selective statistics and things that the Iraqis are doing of their own initiative, and claiming that a minimal, temporary increase of troops is responsible, and that Bush has brought us victory.

I don’t think they deserve that kind of credit. Their victory seems to be a product of the bigotry of low expectations. Thus, a drop in violence to last years levels, which were themselves vicious to begin with, is trumpeted as a sign of victory.

My real question is, if this is the best we will get with the surge, what happens next? Are Bush and this war’s supporters justified in claiming they’re winning the war?

This is the same thing they’ve done before, rationalizing the bad, accentuating the positive, and letting underlying problems fester. I have no reason to believe positive outcomes are guaranteed at this point.

Let me turn my question back on you guys: as this war was become more and more desperate, leading up to the outbreak of civil war in 2006, why weren’t you guys ahead of the problems? Of all the people to have a stake in the success of this war, It’s supporters should have been the people riding Bush to make sure things got done right.

If the Republicans and right-leaning independents had been more keen on holding this president to account, they might have seen victory, or at least a neutral outcome in this war. Instead, they accepted nearly every rationalization, and allowed the policy to take Iraq into abject failure as a state, and then only when handed a political defeat did they even acknowledge the need for a new strategy. And now? It’s more like they’ve shifted gears on the prior policy, and gone back to the same uncritical attitudes, rather than take the last few years as a clear sign that Bush and his people should be supervised more closely.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 15, 2007 11:36 AM
Comment #238439

“Hillary’s speech to congress at the time of the resolution said that national unity was essential for success. I still maintain that the casualties and increased violence are due to anti war grandstanding here more than any other factor. Factions that want control are encouraged to continue by our appearance of a lack of resolve. Bush is constantly trying to salvage this and save lives, both Iraq and American.”

I agree 100% And I put them in the same light as jane fonda.

Posted by: tomd at November 15, 2007 11:39 AM
Comment #238444


So you are compareing Ron Paul with Jane Fonda? That a stretch,even for you.

The question here is wether America should continue to be an agressive imperial power and just how much cost in lives and treasure is it worth to do so.

Posted by: BillS at November 15, 2007 12:14 PM
Comment #238450

“So you are compareing Ron Paul with Jane Fonda? That a stretch,even for you.”

Although I agree with an awful lot of what Ron Paul supports, I absolutly oppose his stance on the war. Yes. I am comparing him to jane fonda.

“The question here is wether America should continue to be an agressive imperial power and just how much cost in lives and treasure is it worth to do so.”

That’s YOUR question and one based on a false premise. I’ll leave that for you to resolve.

MY question is When will Americans start supporting Americans?

Posted by: tomd at November 15, 2007 12:44 PM
Comment #238456

The US attacked Iraq. That is aggression. Period. Iraq never attacked the US.

Here is a definition of imperialism:
“Imperialism is the forceful extension of a nation’s authority by territorial conquest establishing economic and political domination of other nations that are not its own colonies.”

There is no false assumption made by BillS. The US has established permanent military bases in Iraq. Although the Iraq Study Group recommended those bases be called “temporary,” the Bush administration ignored the recommendation. The intention to stay ten years or more has been stated repeatedly. The economic domination is obvious. Iraqi Oil contracts with France and Russia were terminated. The US is currently demanding the Iraqi government sign new contracts granting Exxon, BP, & Royal Dutch Shell extremely lucrative rights to Iraqi reserves. Iraqi companies have been taken over by multinationals.

Tomd, it could not be any clearer. Call this war what it is. And please, don’t pretend this represents “America.” It does not. It is shameful and disgusting.

Posted by: phx8 at November 15, 2007 1:18 PM
Comment #238457


MY question is When will Americans start supporting Americans?

The majority of Americans currently support each other in finding a solution leading to a redeployment of our troops as soon as is humanely possible.

Posted by: RickIL at November 15, 2007 1:30 PM
Comment #238458

When will this president start listening to Americans? When will our troops be once again back to doing missions that actually serve to protect Americans?

When will Republicans and those on the Right stop wrapping themselves in the flag and denigrating the intelligence and the loyalty of the vast majority of Americans on this issue?

When will folks on the right realize they’re no longer speaking for the majority of American, that the soldiers in Iraq do not necessarily share their views, nor their optimism?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 15, 2007 1:51 PM
Comment #238487

If you can’t get your way by posturing and bullying, you start calling in favors.

Posted by: Jane Doe at November 15, 2007 6:14 PM
Comment #238497


The logic you set out, that success now does not mean success in the future, you have to consider the reverse. If we are failing now, does that necessarily mean failure in the future?

No plan survives intact once it leaves the breifing room. So my question is, what could we have done differently-aside from not getting involved? That is too easy a response.

Assume Iraq was a vital national security concern (it was under both a Democratic and Republican administration). No one on either side of the political aisle can say for certain that they plan would have done any better—short of the bomb the country back to the stone age crowd (a kill ‘em all and let Allah sort ‘em out strategy is probably not feasible).

Posted by: Matt Johnston at November 15, 2007 10:53 PM
Comment #238510

Matt Johnston-

The logic you set out, that success now does not mean success in the future, you have to consider the reverse. If we are failing now, does that necessarily mean failure in the future?

The logic that I set out isn’t so neatly reversible, because it’s about conditionals, not merely probabilities. With probabilities, you have a range of possibilities, none explicitly favoring a conclusion. You could get lucky. With conditionals, you make your own luck by preparation. With the Fog of War, luck is always a factor, but it becomes more of a factor when things are left to chance, as they are with the Bush Administration.

Murphy’s law applies strongly to war. You do your best to make a great deal of your own luck. You build up enough soldiers to fight the war over the long term. You don’t just invade and hope for the best. You plan for a longer war than you think you’ll have to fight, because wars have a way of not doing what they are told. When you’re counting on the population to eventually support your goal, you learn what you can about them now rather than learn by trial and error later.

You establish law and order at the first, rather than wait in the hopes that things will fix themselves.

No plan survives contact with the battlefield intact, as you say, but that’s not been the attitude of the Bush Administration. They’ve tried to play Weekend at Bernies with every plan they’ve had, pretending Bush got it right from the get-go, even as the severity of events belies that claim.

That’s part of why things are as bad as they are. Politically unwilling to admit to errors, the Bush administration has let logistical problems in the war turn an irreversible corner, within the war’s context. If we wanted to do another surge, we couldn’t.

Now whatever the Bush administration tries to claim, people saw this coming years down the road. The fact that we had to rely on reserves and National Guard militias to fill in the gaps is one example of how obvious it’s been. Why wasn’t this addressed? Unaddressed, it’s left us without any options to really slow down or reverse the decline of the surge. Worse yet, we are vulnerable to military emergencies around the world now that we weren’t before.

In Iraq, the difficult to reverse developments come in terms of the sectarian division. You don’t let things get that out of hand, and then expect them to be all better within a year. Yet the Bush administration wants us to believe that with major Sunni Groups boycotting the central government, with violence still as high as it was last year, With Sunnis and Shia refusing to cooperate on the security forces, and with armed insurgents our most effective partners in bringing order, that we have stability around the corner.

No, we don’t. There are some signs that Iraqis are starting to bring some order themselves of their own accord, but crediting it to the surge is a bit much. As my articles above demonstrated, the Anbar Awakening predated the surge, and had effectively cleaned things up in those cities by the time it was starting.

Things may get better. The surge may have done some good. However, the Surge will not last. It’s about to start reversing, and everybody we scared out of the water that’s still around to take a swim will start dipping their toes back in. If we haven’t got people playing by the rules by then, we don’t have a second chance to get it right. And if this didn’t work, why did we waste all this time on it? We could have started leaving the Iraqis more autonomy, started making the deals to try and shore up the mess we were inevitably going to leave behind.

If we had started withdrawing earlier, we would have more of the flexibility with forces to maintain our positions if we were asked to. Now, though, having put the strain on our resources that we did, we’re left with fewer options as to how to make a graceful exit, which increases the chances that we won’t make such a graceful exit.

There are plenty of plans that could have worked better. Just because all plans have their problems on contact with the real world doesn’t mean that some don’t have more problems than others. The Plans of the Bush administration have left us with fewer choices, good, bad, and indifferent, with how to deal with what is undoubtedly a national security concern.

Worse, it’s allowed Central Asia to once more become the problem it was. Worse now, we have a nuclear power at stake, not merely some failed state. This is what I hate about Bush policy. The made a huge centerpiece out of Iraq, only to ignore the crucial nations in the War on Terrorism, the nations that were actually involved.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 16, 2007 7:51 AM
Comment #238565

Matt Johnston
What could we have done differently?
We should have brought in enough support troops immediatly following the invasion to secure the bordors,secure or destroy ammunition dumps. secure the infrastructure and muesiums etc.(we did secure the Oil Minisrty).
We should not have disbanded the Iraqi Army out of hand,
We should have immediately Installed an Iraqi caretaker government with a national election held in months ,not years.Instead we waited for time to “privatize” vital Iraqi assets(sell to cronies)according to neo-con idealogy. Many were subsequently looted.
Baathist not guilty of crimes directly should not have been removed.A method of reconcileiation should have been set up quickly.
We should have made it clear that we do not intend to occupy Iraq by paying for and bringing in UN forces to administer Iraq temporaily.
Instead we started building permanent bases and the worlds largest embassy
No western oil concerns should have been allowed to dictate terms with any US involvement still in place.
Of course if we had done those things it would have run afoul of the reasons we invaded in the first place.
Many of the insurgents are Iraqi patriots,resisting forign invaders. It is apparent to them,and the rest of the world, that we intended and still intend to keep Iraq as an American colony.

Posted by: BillS at November 16, 2007 8:29 PM
Comment #238623

BillS said: “We should have immediately Installed an Iraqi caretaker government with a national election held in months ,not years. …A method of reconciliation should have been set up quickly.”

There’s the rub. The Iraq situation was one which required an iron authoritarian leadership to preserve order, or, upon removal of that, be allowed to engage and fight out its internal conflicts, ethnic, religious, and social. Those really were the only two viable choices America had to choose from. We chose the latter.

The cost to Iraq and America has been far higher than most in our government dared contemplate. Saddam Hussein, for all his evils and tyranny, knew his country well, and better than the Bush Administration, by far. Has the cost of invasion and occupation been too high? The majority of Americans and about half of Iraqis now say yes.

Only if, a political solution can be found and sustained that allows the people of Iraq to live with peace, self-determination, and prosperity, will posterity judge the invasion and occupation justified and warranted. That of course is what drives supporters of the war to continue our occupation.

But, as George Orwell so clearly illustrated, protracted conflict is never cost sustainable by the peoples engaged in the conflict. War, if inevitable, is to be fought and won with dispatch, and all available resources; for war is a bankrupting event with growing privations if sustained too long, like health care, education, and infrastructure maintenance in America for example.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 17, 2007 5:49 PM
Comment #238627


“for war is a bankrupting event with growing privations if sustained too long, like health care, education, and infrastructure maintenance in America for example.”

I am reminded of a movie I once saw made in 1936 called “Things to come”. It was a science fiction take on WW1, based on the story by H.G. Wells entitled “Shapes of things to come”.
WW1, was thought to be the war to end all wars. There was a time during that conflict that some thought that it wouldn’t end at all, that mankind had finally done it.

“The war lasts for decades, long enough for the remaining survivors to have forgotten the reasons for it in the first place. Strategic bombing is so successful that civilisation on both sides is totally devastated. Humanity falls into a new Dark Age where the technology level is reduced to that of medieval times, symbolised with a car being drawn like a cart by a horse.”

And, ironically,

“They are building a civilisation, based in Basra Iraq, that has renounced war and outlawed independent nation-states.”

My point is, as Orwell so eloquently states, wars should be short by design, goals should be put forth and met in short order. If they are not, then what, exactly, is the point of having wars in the first place?

Post Sept, 11th America was all for the “fight against terrorism”, and, to a lesser extent, the invasion of Iraq. Yet not one of those in this administration appeared to have thought through the ramifications of a “never ending” war.
Not one bothered to ask the question, “How do you defeat ideology with guns?”.
I would guess the answer would be that you can’t.
It would be impossible to kill everyone that we thought was involved in “terrorism”, and highly impractical even if we could.

Even if we wipe out all of the forces in Iraq that are aligned against us, and declared victory tomorrow, we will be in Iraq for decades, if not with our armies, we will be there with our dollars.
If the Iraqi government chooses to not do as we wish either in the long, or even the short run, do we continue with our support, or do we declare defeat and take what’s left of our money and go home to what’s left of our own country?

Posted by: Rocky at November 17, 2007 6:52 PM
Comment #238628

I thought Don Imus’ comment a couple of years ago regarding S.H. cut pretty much to the heart of the matter, as does your comment, David. Imus said, “take him out of jail, give him back the keys to his country and tell him to be a good boy and clean up his country, or we’ll have to come back and kick his ass again.”
Hindsight being perfect, I can’t help but wonder if the terrible toll would be as high as it is now. I know he was a despot of immense proportions, but just maybe the near annihilation of that country wouldn’t have happened, our military ranks would not be decimated, we wouldn’t have had to bury thousands of our children, and thousands of displaced Iraquis would still have a home.

Posted by: Jane Doe at November 17, 2007 7:02 PM
Comment #238657

Don’t bow to the ‘Muslim street’
Intervention in Darfur may fuel Muslim anger, but that can’t be an excuse to do nothing.
By James Kirchick
November 18, 2007
Americans are frequently told that the Iraq war has “inflamed the Muslim world.” Just a few months after the conflict began, Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, used this exact phrase to describe the war’s effect on global Muslim opinion. Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said the continued occupation of Iraq has led to “an increase in anti-Americanism in the Muslim world.” New York Times columnist Bob Herbert complains about the “bitter anger that [the Iraq war] has provoked among Muslims around the world.” And on and on it goes.

Indeed, it is this consequence of the Iraq war — negative public opinion among Muslims — that its critics believe to be the most devastating for America’s global standing. The major lesson that many have taken from our Iraq experience is that we should place much greater stock in worldwide public opinion — particularly Muslim opinion — when deciding foreign policy.

Yet there could not be worse criteria on which to determine our foreign policy. This is starkly illustrated by the controversy about how to help stop the genocide in Darfur.

On Jan. 1, a 26,000-man United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force will deploy in Darfur — with the approval of the Sudanese government — to protect civilians from the nearly 5-year-old genocide that already has claimed upward of 200,000 lives.

The Darfur peacekeeping operation, known as UNAMID, is not terribly controversial. It will be almost entirely made up of African troops, commanded by a Nigerian who will report to a Congolese diplomat, with but a handful of European engineers and support staff.

It’s hard to find a less-convincing example of imperialism than the ragtag African soldiers on this mission. UNAMID is the most innocuous of proposals, broadly supported by all the major U.S. presidential candidates, human rights activists and international bureaucrats. It pales in comparison to the NATO mission to protect Kosovar Albanians, which entailed bombing the Serbian nationalist regime of Slobodan Milosevic. UNAMID is the antithesis of the “reckless unilateralism” of which Bush administration critics frequently complain.

Nevertheless, Osama bin Laden last month issued a barely noticed message calling for “holy war” against U.N. personnel in Darfur. The peacekeeping force has been a long-held and dear proposal of the very same liberal internationalists who have so vehemently opposed the Iraq war, but Bin Laden has failed to recognize their good intentions. He sees UNAMID as “a brazen occupation, and only an infidel apostate seeks it or agrees to it.” Indeed, he has called not only for war against the peacekeepers but even against the Arab Islamic government in Khartoum for agreeing to allow the peacekeepers entry.

Bin Laden’s pronouncement is quite portentous for those who believe that our foreign policy ought to be swayed by “Muslim public opinion.” It makes perfect sense, at least to those who do not have a myopic understanding of militant Islam’s basic ideology. In Bin Laden’s view (and the view of radical Muslims generally), Islam is at war not just with the United States and Israel but with the West as a whole, along with any and all Muslims who do not subscribe to a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. Anyone who tries to intervene, like the inoffensive Scandinaviansfunding UNAMID, earns the Bin-Ladenesque moniker of “Crusader invaders.”

But wait, you say. Bin Laden doesn’t speak for the entire Muslim world. And of course, that’s true. A Pew poll conducted earlier this year found dramatic declines in popularity for Bin Laden among Muslims around the world (although 57% of Palestinian Muslims, 41% of Indonesian Muslims and 38% of Pakistani Muslims still say they have “some” or “a lot” of confidence in him, according to a Pew poll). But even though his popularity may be falling because of declining support for suicide bombings and other terror attacks, that does not mean that his fellow Muslims don’t agree with him on the subject of international intervention in a Muslim country, a course of action that is extraordinarily unpopular throughout the Arab and Islamic world, especially after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

But here’s the even more serious problem. The UNAMID mission, controversial as it is among Bin Laden and his ilk, will almost certainly be too weak and insubstantial to truly stop the genocide in Darfur. The reality is that only the U.S. military has the power to bring Khartoum to its knees. After more than four years of fruitless diplomacy, threadbare peacekeeping operations and Arab solidarity behind the Sudanese government, this should be clear. The African Union troops deployed in Darfur are incapable of defending themselves — never mind civilians — as was evidenced by an attack launched by Darfur rebel groups last month that killed 10 peacekeepers. To solve the problems facing Darfur, American involvement is necessary — even if that means incurring more and deeper hostility from the Muslim world. That’s just the way it is.

America’s firebombing of Dresden during World War II surely “angered” many Germans, and our bombing of Belgrade during the Kosovo war perturbed Serbians. Did the fact that we (and our allies) antagonized people during these military actions make those interventions unjust? And while it’s true that the overthrow of the Baathist regime in Baghdad has angered Muslims around the world (many of whom, it ought to be noted, cheered Saddam Hussein and ignored his crimes against their fellow Muslims out of a cruelly misplaced sense of Arab nationalism), it has also delighted the Kurds, the Marsh Arabs, Iraqi trade unionists and the many other victims of Hussein’s regime.

There are lots of things that “anger” the “Muslim street:” Women not wearing burkas. Adults drinking alcohol. Homosexuals. But virtually no one seriously suggests that we make America less free in order to suit the tastes of the Muslim world. So why should we let something as nebulous and reactionary as “Muslim opinion” get in the way of preventing genocide in Sudan?

This question is especially pertinent considering that the United States is enormously popular in Africa. A Pew Global Attitudes poll released during the summer revealed that the majority of people in eight out of 10 African countries believe that the United States is their “most dependable ally.” More important, the poll found that most Africans fault the United States for not taking a more active role in Darfur. Continuing to avoid intervention there to please the “Muslim street,” therefore, will make us less popular with Africans. You cannot please everybody all the time, and in the case of Darfur, intervening will endear us to the people actually living in the region.

To be sure, global public opinion should play some role in shaping our foreign policy. But at the end of the day, the value of U.S. action abroad is not determined by the opinions of those most likely to “take offense,” but rather by the inherent rightness or wrongness of the action. Especially where genocide is concerned, the opinions of various “streets” are totally superseded by the moral imperative of putting an end to the killing. And if we’re going to judge our interventions based on the criteria of “public opinion” at all, we should first and foremost consider the views of the intended beneficiaries.

Doing what’s needed to “Save Darfur” — ultimately, the deployment of NATO, if not U.S. military forces — is going to anger a lot of Muslims. At the very least, we should acknowledge this reality — and not let it bother us.

Posted by: Maxcroft Squire Muhldoon at November 18, 2007 6:35 PM
Comment #238666

First, link it. This is a copyright violation, without the permission of the owner of that copyright. It’s okay to quote, but not to reproduce in full.

Second, We don’t have the forces to maintain a presence in Iraq at current levels, much less to intervene in Darfur, much as many would like it.

Third, While Darfur actually would have been the better place to intervene than Iraq, this sensibility of brusquely ignoring what people in the Middle East think of our actions is strategically senseless.

What we want ideally, whether they love us or hate us, is either inaction, or positive action on our behalf. We got to be careful about where and how we act, and not merely to avoid bruising PC sensibilities.

First, not everybody is offended with us to begin with. There are and were many people in the Middle East who admire (and admired) our culture. What we’ve done there is put them in a bad position.

Going after terrorists is not a bad thing, not by far. But as important, is keeping collateral damage down, and maintaining the credibility of those who would put the brakes on the radicals. We got to think very carefully about where and how we sacrifice such goodwill. In fact, sacrificing it’s got to be a last resort.

Empathy is not just a talk show virtue. It’s how we put ourselves in the shoes of those we interact with, friend, enemy, or neutral. We can’t take for granted that they share our frame of reference.

Nobody has as much power as they think, if they choose to act alone, because they are not the only ones who can choose to act. If pushed, people will move to protect their interests, to punish and visit vengeance on those who they believe have commited crimes against them, and will do what they can to protect their own.

The frame of reference people choose to do this from can sometimes be at right angles to our own, incompatible in the extreme. Al-Qaeda is a good example, as are some regimes. However, not everybody appreciates things in such a radically different way, or, being different, necessarily differ in a way that they can be negotiated with. These issues can sometimes be a minefield of misunderstandings, but sometimes crossing the minefield is a risk that needs to be taken.

If you pull off diplomacy and other arts of soft power right, your power increases greatly.

Our victory against the terrorists will not be in their complete annihilation, but in their relegation to obscurity, to being on the virtual fringes of their society.

We can’t do that without the cooperation of the population, nor without the considering what the thinking of the people on the street is.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 18, 2007 9:25 PM
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