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August 26, 2005

Then again
Posted by Patrick at 08:34 AM * 32 comments

Why bother with this when this sums it up so much better?

Comments on Then again:
#1 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 08:50 AM:

That is it EXACTLY! Thanks so much for this post.

I love the, "So we can actually win the war!"

The whole Democratic position that we are going to out con the neocons is buying completely into their premise that we can reshape the middle east, when that was just cover for their military adventure anyway!

#2 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 09:00 AM:

The big question about the war in Iraq is whether we'll declare victory and get out now, or wait ten years and 50,000 dead, declare victory, and get out then.

#3 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 09:17 AM:

I agree with you, Jim. What I don't get is why a guy like me, poor student of history and a simplistic understadning of geopolitics could see from the start that this adventure would fail in precisely this way. Well, not precisely, I actually expected the Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis to be in open war with Turkey and Iran poised to intervene. So, I guess from my dire predictions, things are going swimmingly.

Still, we are prolonging our agony by staying. I think one problem some of my "stay the course" friends have is the idea that we broke something and we can't fix it. People think that we should atone for this misadventure by making things right in Iraq. While I agree with the sentiment, I don't think it's within our power to make things right in Iraq.

We hurt that place, and we can't even make proper ammends. It's a shame, but asking more soldiers to die for a collective sense of guilt is not a solution.

#4 ::: Leslie ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 10:33 AM:

I don't think it's within our power to make things right in Iraq.

I don't think it is either, Sean. The first thing needed is stability, and how can we bring any stability to Iraq when 1) we don't have enough troops, 2) the Iraqi forces we're supposedly "training" don't want to fight their fellow Iraqis, and 3) our very presence there is inflaming the insurgency? How can we possibly persuade the Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis to work together toward a peaceful diplomatic solution? They don't trust us, and they have good reason not to.

Our presence is the problem, not the solution. And meanwhile, the "leaders" in the Democratic party say nothing substantive or coherent. Gaah.

#5 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 11:56 AM:

Argh. When Fafblog is the best coverage around, we're in trouble. (We've been in trouble for some years.)

I'm this close --><-- to calling bullshit once and for all on the Dems. If it weren't for Boxer, Dean and Kucinich (yeah, I know, who's he?) I think I already would have. [pre-emptive: I know there are other decent Dems, but they don't make enough damn noise!]

But then who to vote/work for? A Canadian friend told me last night that he is dismayed by the apparent absence of a labour movement in the US. I wonder whether a genuine labour movement might not be able to position itself as a third US party along the lines of the Australian Democrats (original platform: "keep the bastards honest")? Are there any socialist democrats left in North America?

#6 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 12:01 PM:

I don't think it's that simple. Much as I'd like all our people home NOW, I think there'd be an immediate civil war in which hundreds of thousands more Iraqis would die. It's a situation we created, and our continued presence exacerbates it, but our sudden departure would set it aflame.

Part of the reason the Dems have nothing coherent to say on the topic is that they're wimps. Part, though, is that there really IS no good answer. Every alternative is bad, and without a crystal ball it's hard to determine which is the LEAST bad.

Such is the hole Bush & Co. have dug us into: if we stay in the hole, we'll drown as it fills with water; if we try to climb out, it will collapse and smother us.

#7 ::: Leslie ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 12:17 PM:

Xopher, you're right. Which means it still comes down to what James Macdonald said.

#8 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 12:24 PM:

Shakes head

That's really all I can do today...

#9 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 01:03 PM:

There will be a civil war in Iraq no matter what. Bush just wants to keep it from happening until he's out of office so it can't be blamed on him. That's what "Staying the course" means. Keep the status quo until he can cover his ass.

#10 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 01:05 PM:

Leslie, except that we have no way of knowing how many IRAQI dead will result from us pulling out now -- or, to be fair, whether staying in at the cost of more American lives will help.

So we're in a situation where we can definitely cut our own losses, at least in the short term (what if, when the dust settles, the new Iraq has become the state sponsor of terror that Dubya tried to hoodwink us into believing it was?), but at the potential cost of an unknown number of innocent civilian lives in Iraq.

This is an easy choice only for someone who thinks that a single American life is worth any number of Iraqi lives; I'd be surprised if anyone here falls into that category. And it will further tarnish our international reputation (and yes, that's still possible), which will result in the loss of more American lives (including civilian tourists) at the hands of terrorists "avenging" my putative Iraqi bloodbath.

I don't know what the best choice is. They're all so bad that I feel certain we'll be blamed for generations to come for making ANY of them.

#11 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 01:13 PM:

"Are there any socialist democrats left in North America?"

[only half joking]
Yes! You can catch their annual meeting this Thursday in the function room of the Wichita Airport Holiday Inn Express.
[/only half joking]

Seriously: I suspect that mainstream Democrats are as whipped and wimped as they are because they pay too much attention to what people say about them . . . where "people" means the punditocracy and smear patrol.

Stick you neck out and pose a serious threat, like Micheal Moore and Cindy Sheehan or Daschle, and the machine will go to work on you. The loyal parrots of the blogosphere will follow suit.

So, instead they hunker down a little and go with the flow, perhaps making tsk-tsk noises.

What they should have down is put on steel tipped boots and aimed for the family jewels. Like Neil Bush. Man, is he a . . . jewel.

#12 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 01:37 PM:

Man, is he a . . . jewel.

I'd never thought of using that as an insult, but it's great. Much better than "dick".

You... you testicle. You easily damaged, ugly, dangly lump of flesh, as much trouble as you are benefit even at that rare moment when you're actually wanted for something.

(Of course, unlike the Bushes of this world, testicles do have a use, but a foolish consistency et c.)

#13 ::: Leslie ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 02:17 PM:

Xopher, I have not suggested that it's an easy choice, or that American lives are worth more than Iraqi ones. I've already agreed with you that there are no good choices. Iraq has already become the terrorist hotbed Bush pretended it was; it is also going to become a fundamentalist Islamist state, with much help from Iran and our good friend Ahmad Chalabi. Nothing we do now will change either of those things. Our presence there now, which is feeding the insurgency, is already contributing to the ongoing deaths of innocent Iraqi civilians, not to mention all the ones our troops have killed and/or tortured, and are continuing to kill and torture. No matter what we do, the Iraqi people are going to go on suffering horribly, and we will be responsible; and the consequences of that will make themselves known for generations. We're fucked; they're fucked. It only remains to be seen exactly how the rest of this tragedy will play itself out.

#14 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 02:40 PM:

I agree, Leslie. I didn't mean to imply that you thought it was an easy choice, and in fact I stated that no one here - and I intended to include you in that, since you are here - thought Iraqi lives were worth less than American ones.

#15 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 04:12 PM:

The most practical actual plan for withdrawal I've seen is Juan Cole's. He correctly points out that while things are very bad, it's not true that withdrawing entirely and immediately can't make them worse, while acknowledging that Iraq will never be stable until the US is mostly withdrawn.

#16 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 05:15 PM:

Tavella:
Cole's plan certainly looks reasonable to me. Now it just requires convincing the people in Washington.

#17 ::: jrochest ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 06:27 PM:

Are there any socialist democrats left in North America

Yes, but they're all Canadians.

#18 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 08:07 PM:

As far as optimal solutions to getting out of Iraq, the one I see is the same one that I saw before -- which, unfortunately, can't happen due to Bush-Cheney pride/insanity:

Admit to the U.N. that we've made a mess of it, announce intention to withdraw, and ask the Security Council to replace us by providing U.N. police assistance to the Iraqi government.

I know it's a charmingly naive, '60s-retro kind of concept. Bush/Cheney/Wolfowitz/Bolton will go for it right about the same time that Sgt. Martha Washington becomes Secretary of State.

#19 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 09:02 PM:

I'm so angry about this whole no-win, ugly, needless situation that I can't be coherent.

#20 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 09:58 PM:

Well, Lenny, you can scratch Wolfowitz from the rolls of policy-makers within the US foreign policy establishment, since he's now at the World Bank.

I agree with you that only if the other three were gone or had lobotomies would there be any likelihood of your solution being tried.

I like Cole's ideas, but I'm puzzled by the tanks suggestion. I don't recall M1A1s being in high demand by US forces following the initial battles. Bradleys, yes.

#21 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 11:15 PM:

To quote Juan Cole: "Sometimes, you are just screwed."

Question: Is there any realistic plan that prevents Iraq from decending into chaos and civil war?

Answer: No. Any realistic plan must take into account the fact that Bush will be president until 2009.

#22 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 11:39 PM:

I don't see an end to any path in Iraq that doesn't include a fundamentalist Islamic government that is opposed to the United States.

#23 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2005, 11:55 PM:

RE what James said:

[Nelson Munz]
HAH-hah!
[/Nelson Munz]

When will we ever #$@%^%$# LEARN?

#24 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2005, 08:37 AM:

It seems as if there are two primary examples of what happens to Muslim countries when the US meddles: Iran and Afghanistan. Neither example bodes well for the US, or particularly well for the Iraqi people.

I was trying to think of good examples of US interference in other countries, and perhaps I'm being particularly dense, but I'm having a hard time coming up with a lot of successes: Afghanistan, Iran, Central America... Nothing good for the US came our interference, and in many cases trouble for the inhabitants.

I can't decide whether the Bosnian-Kosovo conflit has turned out well or not. The cessation of the genocide was a very good thing, but we have stayed with them to help those societies recover? Or are we abandoning them they way we abanded the Afghanis? I don't know. Mostly it seems like when the US interferes it leads to trouble for everyone involved.

I'm hoping that I'm just feeling over pessimistic this morning and that there are lots of good examples if I could just THINK of them.

#25 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2005, 09:14 AM:

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the Bosnian-Kosovo situation a joint NATO/UN operation?

#26 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2005, 09:24 AM:

The all-purpose, stop-not-comparing-that-to-this example is Axis* Europe and Asia. It's in no way a transferable model, either in terms of military action or (especially) reconstruction,** but it unquestionably had a net positive effect on the world.

Now, if you want a case of successful unilateral imperialism . . . well, even the Romans ran out of sanguis et opes on that.

*The real Axis.
**As distinct from Reconstruction, which every schoolchild knows was a smooth and rapid process of economic normalization and extending full citizenship rights to the disenfranchised.

#27 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2005, 01:29 PM:

Sort of James -- the Dayton Accords were a bit interesting that way.

Both the civil and military sides of the solution are based on UN mandates. The Bosnian civil government is still a three way hybrid of Bosniak/Croat, Serb, and international parties, headed by a UN representative. The peacekeepers started out as IFOR, which was essentially the ACE Rapid Reaction Force, followed by SFOR, headed by NATO, and is now EUFOR, legally from the European Union, but having its headquarters staff at NATO. EUFOR is largely European, with some Canadian forces added, and no American units to the best of my knowledge.

No telling how this will all actually work out in the end.

#28 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2005, 07:56 PM:

ask the Security Council to replace us by providing U.N. police assistance to the Iraqi government.

And pay for it. This was my first thought too.

But then you're asking UN troops/cops to die for US fuckups... and if you do pretty much anything else you're forcing Iraqi troops/cops to do the same...

#29 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2005, 10:21 PM:

I don't see an end to any path in Iraq that doesn't include a fundamentalist Islamic government that is opposed to the United States.

The good path is the eastern half of the country being an Shia Islamic republic allied with Iran, and selling it's oil to china, leaving Kurdistan and hte Shiite provinces as seperate countries, all three hostile to us and each other.

That's the good outcome. We won't get that. As Digby so accurately notes:

But, considering that their credibility is more than a little bit tattered, it would probably be a good idea if the liberal intellectuals who backed the war finally recognized that everything they say and do is being used for political fodder and adjust their thinking and writing accordingly. They are not going to affect Bush administration policy. There is still a chance they could affect politics, however, if they will just stop pretending that the Republicans are operating on a logical basis in which they can find some common ground.

I think this is where we separate the men from the boys and the women from the girls. If, after all you've seen these last five years you still believe that the Bush administration can be given the benefit of the doubt, that they will do the right thing, change course, follow sage advice, reevaluate their strategy, bow to the facts on the ground --- then you have the same disease the Bush administration has. As Ben Franklin said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.


#30 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2005, 01:25 AM:

Following James D. Macdonald's first comment, why do I find myself wondering if our new embassy in Baghdad has a proper helipad?

#31 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2005, 09:17 AM:

Mike: the problem with the post-WWII model is exactly that it is non-transferable -- but not nearly enough people are willing to admit it. The least politically-incorrect explanation(*) I can come up with is that Germany and Japan (and Italy if you must) were all nations, rather than terrae incognitae marked off by lines of influence. ("Warlords" is another way of saying this in ]Afghani[; the mess over drafting the constitution is Iraq's demonstration of this. Let's not talk about Somalia.)

I am not quite as pessimistic as James; Sistani doesn't have a grudge against the U.S. the way Khomeini did, and is as much a politician as a priest. (And Moqtada al-Sadr is being suddenly conciliatory now that he's realized that he's not the biggest, baddest-ass thug in Iraq.) And he can only depend on persuasion; the Iranian religious veto of candidates hasn't been included in the constitution (per everything I've read -- but I haven't seen a full draft). But Iraq is likely to be an unpleasant place to live for secularists (whom Shrub and his cronies don't care about), women (ditto, especially when they disagree instead of going along as yet another casus belli), and Sunnis -- which points to continuing conflict, aided by Syria (unless the Iraqi border patrols get a lot sharper than those in the southwest US...).

* explanation of the non-transferability -- why people won't admit it is another issue.

#32 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2005, 06:54 PM:

Xopher:

I think, (just me, mind you) the civil war won't be any less severe for putting it off.

In a cold calculus (sort of like triage) adding the US deaths, and the intermediate Iraqi deaths to the mix means staying only makes the tragedy worse.

Then again, I don't want to get killed for a policy failure, much less to save face for the present occupant of the Oval Office, so I may not be the best judge of the situation.

TK

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