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The Future of Iraq:
The Washington Post has a fascinating front-page report on how the Bush Administration may be quietly reorienting its goals and expectations for Iraq. It begins:
  The Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq, recognizing that the United States will have to settle for far less progress than originally envisioned during the transition due to end in four months, according to U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad.
  The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges, U.S. officials say.
  "What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."
Splunge (mail):
Riiight. Say, if anyone is willing to believe in a major change in Administration policy based on what a pair of Post reporters and their sole anonymous source opine, I've got a bridge to sell you.
8.14.2005 12:55pm
A Blogger:
Splunge, if you're not willing to believe "what a pair of Post reporters and their sole anonymous source opine," I suppose you still believe that Nixon had no role in the Watergate break in?
8.14.2005 12:59pm
Adam Kotsko (www):
Better late than never, I suppose.

I hope that next time, policy makers decide to base their actions on reality before they destroy an entire country and kill tens of thousands of people. I completely support "going with your gut" when choosing from the menu at the restaurant, deciding what stock to buy, whatever -- but in terms of wars, I think there should be a higher burden of proof that "We just know, okay?"
8.14.2005 1:08pm
cljo (mail) (www):
That's interesting, but hasn't the invasion/occuption/reconstruction been one lowered expectation after another from the very beginning? The electricity grid, the economy, the political process, the violence. None of it matches the words of the Administration pre-invasion.
8.14.2005 1:28pm
Splunge (mail):
Well, A Blogger, if I may reduce your counterpoint to this syllogism:

(1) At least one Post story about an Administration has been accurate.
(2) This is a Post story.
(3) Therefore, the story is accurate.

Then you have presented me with an example of the Quantifier Shift logical fallacy, one general form of which is:

(1) Some S which have the property P also have the property T.
(2) S0 has the property P.
(3) Therefore, S0 also has the property T.
8.14.2005 1:38pm
Been There, Done That:
I'm still waiting for that $20 a barrel oil Larry Kudlow promised us at the beginning of this disaster.
8.14.2005 1:55pm
A Blogger:
Splunge,

You're hilarious, but of course quite wrong. I am not claiming that everything in the Post is correct. I had interpreted your comment as saying that because it is in the Post and anonymously sourced, it must be incorrect. I was pointing out that this is not always the case.

Of course, if you would like to back up your first comment with actual reasoning as to why you are skeptical that this story is accurate, then that might be more productive. Just a suggestion.
8.14.2005 2:01pm
Adam Kotsko (www):
I would argue that it's at least plausible that one would have to go to an anonymous source for a candid admission that Administration policy has changed. The policy changes fairly often, but normally they act as though this has been the policy the whole time and simply stop talking about past policies (for instance, the idea that we were simply going to Iraq in order to disarm Saddam -- which, in reality, would have been a very simple matter given that he in fact had no arms at all).
8.14.2005 2:11pm
Amber (mail):
I, for one, would like to welcome the Administration to the reality-based community!
8.14.2005 2:25pm
=0=:
I suppose it is to their credit that they recognize the pavement before it establishes a relationship with their faces.

Too bad the Bush show lacked adequate planning skills. Operations is hard.

And too bad "their faces" is, um, also my face. What did this war of choice cost again? And in precisely what way did it advance the struggle against nonchristian terror?
8.14.2005 2:27pm
JonC:
Pardon me, because perhaps I missed it, but just when did the administration ever claim that we would leave Iraq a fully-functioning Jeffersonian democracy with all the trimmings and full employment? Who's really trying to lower expectations for the future of Iraq here: the Bush administration, or the Post?
8.14.2005 3:16pm
Splunge (mail):
Well, A Blogger, it's true you did not explicitly claim all stories in the Post are accurate, but I believed your comment implied that this story stood a reasonable chance of being so, on no stronger basis than the fact that at least some Post stories in the past 50 years have proved accurate. Which is fallacious reasoning, of course.

However, you have disabused me of that notion, and I now understand you make no claim for or against the accuracy of the Post story. Fair enough. Neither do I. I only suggested that the reasonably cautious logical mind would not take to the bank the conclusion that the Administration's Iraq policy has changed on the mere basis of anonymous hearsay quoted by highly interested parties.

Which is to say, I have the same confidence in what the Post asserts about the Administration's Iraq policy as I would if I divined that policy from reading tea leaves or throwing yarrow stalks. The Post might prove correct, of course. So might the yarrow stalks.
8.14.2005 3:24pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"Which is to say, I have the same confidence in what the Post asserts about the Administration's Iraq policy as I would if I divined that policy from reading tea leaves or throwing yarrow stalks."

So... What is the Administration's policy?

And is there some reason why have to get it from anonymous sources and tea leaves, instead of having the Administration explain it to us in a coherent and convincing fashion?

Honestly, can anybody out there present a realistic plan for success in Iraq? Because I sure haven't heard one.
8.14.2005 3:51pm
=0=:
Pardon me, because perhaps I missed it, but just when did the administration ever claim that we would leave Iraq a fully-functioning Jeffersonian democracy with all the trimmings and full employment?

That's a great question. Now we're geting somewhere. What, exactly, are we doing in Iraq? What's the goal? Are we stopping the spread of WMD, spreading freedom, or what?

Anyone?
8.14.2005 4:16pm
John Jenkins (mail):
As I've remarked before: politics is the only place where you can change your mind based on the evidence and it's somehow a negative.
8.14.2005 4:20pm
jack:
When the "evidence" is a series of colossal screw-ups of their own making, then yes, it is a negative mark for the administration.
8.14.2005 5:05pm
DelVerSiSogna:
I wonder whether all those who have been, for so long, criticizing both the left and the media for being "defeatist" or emboldening the enemy by suggesting that we "can't win" (e.g., here) will now criticize the Bush administration with equal vehemence?
8.14.2005 5:22pm
JMRobinson (mail):
Sounds like someone just took PHI105, Introduction to Logic, at their local community college.

*looks at Splunge*
8.14.2005 5:47pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"As I've remarked before: politics is the only place where you can change your mind based on the evidence and it's somehow a negative."

That's an extremely odd way to look at this situation.

I don't think people would complain about Bush "changing his mind" per se. Quite frankly, I'd be very impressed if Bush came out and said these things openly, acknowledging the reality of the situation.

The problem for Bush is that he himself has made "changing his mind" a non-option. Correct me if I'm wrong, sir, but wasn't it Bush who wielded the term "flip-flop" against his political opponent every five minutes of his campaign? Are we supposed to just forget all that?

And don't you think that if Bush has in fact changed his mind about the prospects for success in Iraq, he owes it to the American people to come out and say so, regardless of the political consequence? The last time I hears Bush make a speech on the topic, he was echoing "stay the course" for the umpteen millionth time.

And of course, the reason he has to do so is because if he admits he has to change his mind about the prospects for democracy, there will be no more justification left for why we invaded Iraq in the first place. He'd basically be admitting that all those deaths, and the hundreds of billions of dollars, and the strain placed on our relationships with our allies, all was for nought.

Essentially, it would be like the emperor admitting the facts about his new clothes, wouldn't it...
8.14.2005 6:21pm
JonC:
"What, exactly, are we doing in Iraq? What's the goal? Are we stopping the spread of WMD, spreading freedom, or what?"

Answering these kinds of questions is frequently an exercise in futility, because at this point all the arguments have been aired and one either thinks the liberation of Iraq was worth it, or one doesn't, and no one is going to be persuaded to switch camps. Still, if I may, I would say that what we did in Iraq was essentially what the Bush administration set out to do- and what the Clinton administration was also committed to doing, at least on paper- which was end the reign of a ferocious dictator, who, it is generally acknowledge by all sides, had a history of brutality towards his own people and antagonism toward the US (whether one thinks antagonism towards the US is a bad thing or not is another matter). Arguably, he was also a dictator who provided aid, ancillary or direct, to terrorist groups, but this is a point of bitter contention between the two sides.

The other thing we've accomplished is to give the Iraqis an opportunity- merely an opportunity, not a guarantee- to achieve historic self-government for themselves. Whether or not the Iraqis seize that opportunity remains to be seen, but it is clear that they would not have nearly the chance for stable self-government that they have now were it not for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Again, arguably, the US efforts in the region have proven successful in igniting passion for democracy and freedom in neighboring regions, such as Lebanon and Kyrgyztan. You can dispute the extent to which American efforts in Iraq are responsible for this, but I think that it's at least plausible to argue that the revolutions in those two nations are exactly the kind of result that those dastardly neo-con hawks who sold the war in Iraq were hoping for.
8.14.2005 6:26pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"I would say that what we did in Iraq was essentially what the Bush administration set out to do ... which was end the reign of a ferocious dictator"

Correct me if I'm wrong, but that was only one of many justifications the Administration set out, wasn't it?

Wasn't there something about eliminating WMDs? And the whole endeavor was named "Operation Iraqi Freedom", wasn't it? Surely, that didn't simply mean "Freedom from Saddam".

"The other thing we've accomplished is to give the Iraqis an opportunity- merely an opportunity, not a guarantee- to achieve historic self-government for themselves."

Not to be too flippant here, but it seems to me we also gave them the "opportunity" to descend into a massive civil war that will dangerously destabilize the Middle East.

But that aside, aren't you basically suggesting that if the Iraqis ultimately fail to achieve self-government, that will be their own fault? Don't you think that, having invaded the country and creating this situation, the U.S. owes it to the Iraqis to do a little more to help them along on this endeavor?
8.14.2005 6:59pm
gary lammert (mail) (www):
Things are getting askew. For the macroeconomic umbrella containing America's incursion into the middle east... kindly vist... The Economic Fractalist...http://www.economicfractalist.com/
8.14.2005 7:08pm
Hank:
=0= asks what, exactly, we are doing in Iraq. We are helping Bush to feel important. He takes pride in calling himself a "war president" (the other day he insisted that we should continue to use the phrase "war against terror"); he wants to equate himself with Lincoln and FDR. We are also giving Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld an opportunity to teach a lesson to liberals who opposed the war in Vietnam (for what is Iraq but Vietnam reincarnated?), and to show disdain for poor people (including soldiers). Hell, being president, vice president, secretary of defense, would be boring without a war. Without a war all that Bush could do to get his rocks off would be to appoint people like Bolton in order to give the finger to the Senate by denying them their power to advise and consent.
8.14.2005 8:24pm
Raymond Aron (mail):
Jon C writes: " Again, arguably, the US efforts in the region have proven successful in igniting passion for democracy and freedom in neighboring regions, such as Lebanon and Kyrgyztan."

Is that now the justification for the hundreds of billions of dollars spent, thousands of Americans maimed and killed and the possible transformation of Iraq into a client state of Iran? Because if so, maybe it might have been easier just invade Kyrgyztan.
8.14.2005 8:53pm
Kamakazi (mail):
How about a little "Reality based" discussion. It gets so tiring to hear the ever changing expectations of the naysayers, as the "reality" of the situation changes, without taking any credit for the current messy situation. Had the naysayers (including those of our supposed allies) not publically condemned every move this administration has made, do you not think that the real enemies (No not George Bush) might have realized that there was a ununified front supporting this venture and any interferance in its success would be met with strict action. Instead, the enemies from Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia have been emboldened because they are reasured that our strategy to build a seed of democracy in the center of the Middle East is doomed, not from their objections but, from those "on our side". Iran no longer fears action and neither does Syria. This is not because the Bush administation blew the war, it is because more than half the populations of Western democracies openly opposed every move with the help of their respective Leftist press organizations just because G.W. was a Republican.

Please don't try the old "How dare you question my patriotism" crap. Those who understand war know that the most important weapon is a united populace with common cause. Questioning tactics, planning, strategy etc. are all fine but questioning the motives or the cause after Congress and the President has voted to move forward simply empowers the enemy. This war would be very different had the world united to remove a horrible dictator and helped to create a seed of democracy which over time has a real chance of changing the fortunes of the masses of oppressed in the M.E. instead of going against all logic and principle to label G.W. as the biggest terrorist in the world.
8.15.2005 12:50am
JonC:
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but that was only one of many justifications the Administration set out, wasn't it?"

Heaven forbid the administration offer more than one reason for doing something. Yes, this was one of the justifications. As to the WMD angle- well, our intel turned out to be wrong. So did the intel of every other major Western nation, including France and Germany. But based on what was known at the time, the non-proliferation argument was plausible. Perhaps the administration overlearned the lessons of the early '90's, when our intel was wrong in the opposite direction- i.e. predicting that Saddam was further away from acquiring WMD than he actually was.

"But that aside, aren't you basically suggesting that if the Iraqis ultimately fail to achieve self-government, that will be their own fault? Don't you think that, having invaded the country and creating this situation, the U.S. owes it to the Iraqis to do a little more to help them along on this endeavor?"

Well now, which is it? Should we cut and run immediately, or should we stick it out and help the Iraqis get on their feet? The anti-war camp seems divided on this point, but for the most part seems to come down in favor of the former, while the latter seems to be exactly what the administration is doing. One can criticize the administration for not doing a better job of help the Iraqis democratize, although I think last year's elections showed just how far they've come in an astonishingly short time- much shorter than it took for the US to take its first halting steps toward unified democracy.

To be more direct, the answer to your first question is a qualified yes: if the Iraqis don't adapt to self-government, at least some percentage of blame will have to fall on their own shoulders. And the answer to your second question is yes I do, and so does the Bush administration.
8.15.2005 1:24am
John C (mail) (www):
Splunge:
You've hit the nail on the head; the Post's stories are rife with "anonymous sources" and modifiers which have the effect of transforming every article into a form of sensationalism, which heretofore was only found in the tabloid press. Sometimes they even have pictures. But then they have to sell newspapers, so they do whatever works and damn the unaltered facts.
8.15.2005 7:57am
Josh Jasper (mail):
Our Intel wasn't wrong. We had intel that confirmed that there were no WMDs. We *chose* to ignore it in favor of obviously forged documents and Baghdad Bob style bluster.
8.15.2005 8:28am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"do you not think that the real enemies (No not George Bush) might have realized that there was a ununified front supporting this venture and any interferance in its success would be met with strict action."

No, I think that's just silly. The insurgents would have reacted the exact same way regardless of what anybody else did. They basically had nothing to lose.
8.15.2005 9:41am
I adore this post (mail) (www):
Has everyone forgotten that CONGRESS authorized this war???? Bush did't usurp his executive powers and simply invade Iraq. He asked CONGRESS who gave him the express authority to use force against Iraq. Ultra-liberal senators like Hilary Clinton and Chuck Shcumer voted yes to the resolution. Expalin that. (I'm sure it will be expalined by some wacky theory that Bush planned the Intelligence, etc.)

And has everyone forgotten that CONGRESS can easily end this war too???? Remeber learning about the power of the purse and other ways CONGRESS can end war, in fifth grade?

My point is this. Stop constantly pointing the finger at Bush and the "Administration." Trust me, I'm no fan of either. But I also know how government works, and its not how a lot of you are trying to phrase it. The president is merely a figurehead. He doesn't have the power that Congress has to start and end war.

So next time you feel that this war was wrongly started or a dragged out failure, blame Hilary Clinton and John Kerry for authorizing it, not the Bush administration who merely asked for permission.
8.15.2005 9:47am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"Heaven forbid the administration offer more than one reason for doing something."

But you said removing Saddam was "essentially what the Bush Administration set out to do." In fact, that was largely a secondary objective compared to the other objectives. This was largely because most people in this country (and moreso in the rest of the world) were not willing to expend this amount of resources and lives solely on removing Saddam, regardless of what else happened.

Also, there's simply no question that a war premised on removing Saddam would have been an even more blatant violation of international law. In fact I seem to remember Colin Powell making a dramatic speech in front of the UN, trying to convince the Security Counsel that this war was really about self defense and defense of others (because of course a war based on regime change would not have anywhere near satisfying our obligations under the UN Charter).

"well, our intel turned out to be wrong."

Actually, it seems to me our intel turned out to be lies. But regardless of whether it was intentionally wrong, we knew that before we invaded. People seem to forget about this minor detail, but I seem to recall that Saddam allowed weapons inspectors into the country several months before we invaded, and the weapons inspectors found NOTHING. And of course, instead of letting this play out and confirming what the weapons inspectors were finding, Bush absolutely insisted that we had to invade NOW.

"Well now, which is it? Should we cut and run immediately, or should we stick it out and help the Iraqis get on their feet?"

I have never been a proponent of getting out. I was vociferously against the war before it started, but once we had invaded I was screaming for Bush to devote the resources necessary for success.

Unfortunately, Bush took the worst possible course -- he invaded, and then doomed our effort to failure with this half-assed approach to occupation.

"the latter seems to be exactly what the administration is doing."

NO. The Bush Administration has NOT done what is necessary to achieve success. That should be bloody obvious by now. "Stay the course" is a recipe for disaster at this point. If Bush wants to have any chance whatsoever at succeeding, he'd better make some radical changes. Otherwise, we're headed for a far more severe disaster than is happening right now.

But none of that will matter to Bush and his hardcore supporters, I suppose. Quite frankly, you guys are among the 25% or so of the electorate who will never admit what a colossally stupid mistake it was to invade Iraq, and how badly Bush has screwed things up.
8.15.2005 9:58am
SG:
Hold on there Mahan, you're misremembering your history.

The weapons inspectors had a protocol and schedule to follow, with interim reports and a final report where they were to confirm that Iraq had verfiably disarmed, with "severe consequences" authorized in the event of noncompliance. The onus was placed on Iraq to demonstrate disarmamment to the weapons inspectors satsifaction.

The protocol was followed to completion, and Hans Blix gave his final report which said in effect that the inspectors didn't find any weapons, but Iraq's behavior was insufficient for them to assert that Iraq had disarmed, i.e.,Iraq did not fulfill its obligations under the Security Council resolutions.

While none of this makes the war a good idea, the inspectors were allowed their time. And the war was on solid legal grounds via Iraq's implicit repudiation of the Gulf War cease-fire, if nothing else.
8.15.2005 10:20am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"The protocol was followed to completion, and Hans Blix gave his final report which said in effect that the inspectors didn't find any weapons, but Iraq's behavior was insufficient for them to assert that Iraq had disarmed, i.e.,Iraq did not fulfill its obligations under the Security Council resolutions."

The key point being that, as you admit, the inspectors didn't find any weapons. Their findings made it obvious that Iraq posed little or no danger to us or its neighbors, regardless of how it had disposed of its past weapons stocks. That by itself was enough to cast serious doubt on our "intel", and it warranted postponement of the invasion until any remaining doubts could be resolved.

Nobody except those pre-disposed to war thought that Iraq's behavior in dealing with the inspectors justified the invasion regardless of what had happened to the weapons.
8.15.2005 11:05am
JonC:
And just for the record, if you actually read the text of the Duelfer report- as opposed to the semi-hysterical media coverage of it- it makes it abundantly clear that while Saddam may not have had WMD locked, stocked, and ready to fire on the launching pad, he was capable of reconsituting his WMD programs into a relatively short period of time.

And as a point of clarity, the poster "John C" above is not the same person as me.
8.15.2005 11:33am
Crane:
The United States no longer expects to see... a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges

Gosh, I remember when Bush was promising to create a flourishing democracy in the Middle East. And now we admit that the end result of our invasion will be a country in which less than half the population will be able to reliably feed their families without worrying about getting blown up? One of the things I heard Iraqis say over and over again in the coverage of the elections was, "I want a normal country" Looks like they won't get one anytime soon.
8.15.2005 11:34am
JonC:
"'Stay the course' is a recipe for disaster at this point. If Bush wants to have any chance whatsoever at succeeding, he'd better make some radical changes. Otherwise, we're headed for a far more severe disaster than is happening right now."

And your recommendation for what some of those radical changes should be is...? Perhaps you can articulate this plan to the Democratic party, because I haven't them offer one yet.
8.15.2005 11:38am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"And your recommendation for what some of those radical changes should be is...?"

If we're not going to pull out, we have no choice but to double the number of troops on the ground. That may require a draft, I don't know for sure, but if that's what it takes, that what it takes. We would also have to make some serious concessions to the international community to get them involved.

"Perhaps you can articulate this plan to the Democratic party, because I haven't them offer one yet."

The last time I checked, sir, the Democrats have absolutely zero say in how the war in Iraq should be run. They don't control Congress, and they sure as hell don't control the Executive Branch or the military.

This is the Bush Administration's baby. Make no mistake about it; the success or failure of this war turns entirely on the conduct of this Administration. It is therefore Bush's job to come up with a successful plan.
8.15.2005 11:59am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
It was asserted that there was intelligence that Iraq didn't have WMD any more. Well, maybe. You are picking and choosing your intelligence with 20/20 hindsight, saying, essentially, that since there was SOME intelligence that there wasn't, despite more internal intelligence to the contrary, and despite the beliefs of the intelligence organizations from a lot of other major countries, notably France and Russia, that we should have believed those few analysts.

Let us rephrase this: let us assume that there are ten analysts who opine on the subject. One (maybe two) say no, and the other eight or nine say yes. In the end, the one was right. You are then suggesting that the Administration should have listened to the one and not invaded, even if the cost of not invading if the other eight or nine were right was significant.

So, maybe we have to look at it from a game theory point of view. You have four options:
1) Intelligence is right, there are WMD, and we invade.
2) Intelligence is wrong, and we invade.
3) Intelligence is right, and we don't invade.
4) Intelligence is wrong, and we don't invade.

Obviously, options #1 or #4 are where you would be if you had perfect intelligence - invading if there are WMD, and not invading if there aren't. But if you are making this sort of decision, you also need to look at #2 and #3. We did #2, while you are suggesting that we should have picked the potential for #3.

My view is that if you look at it this way - which would have been worse, #2 or #3, and invasion looks like the less bad option. Add to this that the chances that the intel was right, based on the amount of intelligence in either direction, probably was well above 50% to start with. My guess is closer to 75% to 80%, esp. given the international consensus. If 75%, then you are suggesting picking #3 based on a 75% chance that the intel was wrong. But I think you pick #2 even if it was 50/50.
8.15.2005 12:05pm
spencere (mail):
Kamakazi -- I challange just about every point you made.

The most important factor is not domestic support -- the most important point is having enough force in your war to make the enemy quit. The only person responsible for that is the President. He decided that it would be a cake walk and decided to fight the war on the cheap. The consequence was the protracted war we are now in. The problem was not caused by the public or lefist opposition. The problem was the poor judgement of the President who rushed to war without adequate prepration.

I challenge you to show me any evidence that comments by Americans who thought the war was a bad idea lead to a single person taking up arms against the US.

Our fundamental problem in the war is that Bush realizes that to really win the war he would have to give up his tax cuts and to him the tax cuts are more important then the war.
8.15.2005 12:06pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I knew I was switching things around at the end there. Try "My guess is closer to 75% to 80%, esp. given the international consensus. If 75%, then you are suggesting picking #3 based on a 25% chance that the intel was wrong. But I think you pick #2 even if it was 50/50." Maybe even 72/25 in the other direction.
8.15.2005 12:08pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"Intelligence is right, there are WMD, and we invade."

I don't think it was nearly that cut and dry, even assuming there was solid evidence Saddam had WMDs. The fact is, having stockpiles of old chemicals doesn't by itself mean Saddam presented any kind of threat to the US. He also would have needed some means of delivering them effectively, and the intent to do so.

Second, you are ignoring abundant evidence showing that the intelligence was fixed in favor of war.
8.15.2005 12:22pm
=0=:
And your recommendation for what some of those radical changes should be is...? Perhaps you can articulate this plan to the Democratic party, because I haven't them offer one yet.

Let's recap. The Democratic party is to blame because a war of choice that has nothing to do with the war on non-white terrorists was started by them, based on faulty intelligence sourced to fit a pre-established belief by them, and under supplied by them. After all, you go to war with the Democratic party you have, not the one you'd like to have.

Oh, wait. None of that ever happened.
8.15.2005 12:22pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I will suggest that there are some giveaways that the reporters are either basing some, or a lot, of their article elsewhere, or their supposed leak is not in the loop.

One was the comment that one reason for this thinking is that combat casualties are up. Well, yes. They are up. We are in the midst of a major military operation in the west near the Syrian border in an attempt to cut the infiltration routes along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. By necessity, they go up at times like this. The last time we had a spike like this - we were also in the midst of a major military operation. The difference between this time and the previous times we have tried to cut those routes there is that we are attacking multiple targets at the same time in force, making the infiltrating terrorists stand and fight, instead of retreating.

Bush knows this. Cheney knows this. Rumsfeld knows this, etc. Which is why they are unlikely to be looking at the casualty figures and going, Oh, it has suddenly gotten bloodier, we had better get out. Only someone out of the loop as to what is actually going on there would try to make the point made in the article.

Note also that the quote from the one general about supply columns being hit was cut off. The fuller quote points to an increase in frequency, but then points to a decrease in casualties, due to better armoring of the vehicles.

I think that what is also indicative of where the information is coming from is that it mostly, explicitly or implicitly, is coming from Baghdad. Why? That, along with the Sunni trangle, is where the terrorists are able to really disrupt things. They are not really operating to any real degree in the Kurdish north nor the Shiite south. And there, reconstruction is moving along briskly, with minimal interference by the terrorists. In short, in 80% of the country geographically, and probably 60% by population, the oh so pressing problems are being addressed.

Again, Bush knows this. Cheney knows this. Rumsfeld too. Rather it looks to be the prevailing "Green Zone" view of reporters who don't get out into the rest of the country.
8.15.2005 12:32pm
David Timothy Beito (mail) (www):
Orin:

Back in 2003, the folks at Volokh were very supportive of the Iraq war but I have seen few of them express an opinion for quite some time. Does this silence indicate growing doubt?



Do you think that U.S. involvement in the war was justified? Do you support a quick withdrawal, staying the course, or the Kristol strategy of sending more troops? I'm sure we'd all like hear the current views of other conspirators too!

8.15.2005 12:47pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"In short, in 80% of the country geographically, and probably 60% by population, the oh so pressing problems are being addressed."

So you think the war in Iraq is succeeding?
8.15.2005 12:53pm
Christopher Fahey (mail) (www):
Prediction time.

It seems to me that the Administration won't pull out, nor will they exert any significant effort to actually try to "win", either (through unpopular methods like raising troops or raising taxes). They'll simply stay the course, without change, hemorraging the lives of 50 Americans and a thousand Iraqis a month, an acceptable level. They'll do this just long enough to pass the whole hot potato to the next Administration. They've got a bad case of "senioritis", so they'll try to make it through the next three years without actually pulling out and looking like losers, but without actually doing what it takes to win either.

Bush himself expresses it best:
"I haven't suffered doubt," he told Woodward. When the author—quoting Bush's political adviser Karl Rove—suggested that "all history gets measured by outcomes," Bush "smiled," reports Woodward. " 'History,' he said, shrugging, taking his hands out of his pockets, extending his arms out and suggesting with his body language that it was so far off. 'We won't know. We'll all be dead'."

Either that or they will completely pull out at the next major Iraqi political milestone, regardless of the security situation. And they will proudly claim that the job is now complete, and that any subsequent disaster in the region will be the sole responsibility of the Iraqi people.
8.15.2005 12:53pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
"I don't think it was nearly that cut and dry, even assuming there was solid evidence Saddam had WMDs. The fact is, having stockpiles of old chemicals doesn't by itself mean Saddam presented any kind of threat to the US. He also would have needed some means of delivering them effectively, and the intent to do so."

I think that you are (intentionally) minimizing the potential threat. Obviously, what we were most worried about was nuclear, which before Desert Storm he had been diligently working on. But we also worried that he might, and showed some inclination of actually, giving them to terrorists. So, from that point of view, the worry was not that he lob missles somewhere, but rather, that he give terrorists biological or nuclear weapons that they smuggle somewhere. You seem to be concentrating on chemical, which he had a long track record of using. But, except in a land war, they are not nearly as dangerous. Much harder to smuggle enough chemical weapons to do any real damage.

But also, you are discounting what appeared to be attempts to acquire delivery systems.

Let me add that I have been reading Ken Pollack's book on Iran, and it points out that there is a big difference between Saddam Hussein and the Iranians. The former was nuts. Crazy. The later just schitzoid - meaning that there are two opposing views at the top in Iran, and that is why what they do sometimes seems less than cogent. But when the writing is on the wall, they back down. Saddam Hussein didn't. He invaded Iran, then Kuwait. He sponsered terror against us after losing the Gulf War. He tried to have GHWB assasinated. He apparently was even trying to move an army corp to invade Israel in approx. 1998. And then, faced with our army at his doorstep, and knowing that we had just sucessfully invaded Afganistan, he called our bluff. But, as is obvious in retrospect, it wasn't a bluff, and he should have known it - if he had been rationale. In a similar situation, Pollack suggests that the Iranians would have had inspectors on the next plane, with carte blanche, to prove that they had dismantled their WMD program. This continuing instability and inability to rationally make decisions is really one of the big reasons that he had to be taken out, and, arguably, why the Iranians do not.

"Second, you are ignoring abundant evidence showing that the intelligence was fixed in favor of war."

In your fevered dreams. The weight of the evidence is to the contrary.
8.15.2005 12:54pm
Christopher Fahey (mail) (www):
I forgot the third option, which is where we ally ourselved with whatever regime emerges in Iraq regardless of who or what it is. We'll strike a deal with them to help with their security in return for allowing us to keep a few military bases there and to provide the US with cheap access to Iraqi oil.

Note that this option is simultaneously (a) the least irrational of all of the Administration's potential plans, and (b) the one plan they are most unwilling to discuss publicly.
8.15.2005 1:12pm
SG:
David:

Success has a thousand fathers but failure is an orphan. Few people are vocal in supporting an endeavour that appears to be going bad.
8.15.2005 1:13pm
David Timothy Beito (mail) (www):
Of course, fewer still will admit that they might have made a mistake.
8.15.2005 1:19pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"Obviously, what we were most worried about was nuclear, which before Desert Storm he had been diligently working on."

There was absolutely no reliable intelligence to form a basis for any belief that he was anywhere near developing nuclear weapons. Look at El Baradei's statements just prior to the war.

Biological weapons, just like chemical weapons, are difficult to deliver effectively enough to kill large numbers of people, for terrorists or anyone without a sophisticated military infrastructure.

Of course, all this is academic, since Saddam did not in fact have chemical weapons.

Re falsified intelligence:

"The weight of the evidence is to the contrary."

Really. So perhaps you can tell me why the Brits thought pre-war that the "intelligence was being fixed around the policy." Why the neo-cons thought it necessary to develop their own intelligence-gathering capabilities. Why they relied on blantantly forged documents as evidence that Saddam was trying to get yellow-cake uranium. Etc. etc. etc.

And even if I were to accept your argument that this was nothing more than an honest failure of intelligence, I don't know how that vindicates Bush. It's his job to make sure his intelligence-gathering agencies are functioning properly.
8.15.2005 1:39pm
SG:
Mahad,

Do you believe the WMDs were the sole, or even simply the dominant reason why the US went to war in Iraq? I don't. I doubt you do either.

I do think that there was a good-faith belief on the part of many governments, including the US, that there were WMDs in Iraq (and read the Duelfer report, Iraq was hardly an innocent), but that's secondary.

And honestly, back in the day, did you really think Iraq had no WMDs? Would you have been shocked, shocked if the US had found an arsenal of chemical or biological weaponry. I'm not asking if you thought going to war over it was a good idea, mind you.
8.15.2005 3:15pm
Christopher Fahey (mail) (www):
Do you believe the WMDs were the sole, or even simply the dominant reason why the US went to war in Iraq? I don't. I doubt you do either.

There's a difference between the reason President Bush and the rest of the Administration believed (which we can argue about endlessly and we'll still never know for sure) and the reason they actually used to gain the support of the American people (which is well known).

WMDs were damn near the sole, and certainly the dominant reason that the Administration used to convince the American people to support the invasion.

If the Administration argued what they argue today, that we need to invade to topple Saddam and lay the groundwork for what could be a democratic state in the middle of the Arab world, do you think he would have had the support of the American people? Nope.

That's why so many Americans are pissed off about this war. Hawks go on and on about how everyone always knew that "spreading freedom" was the objective, but we all know that that wasn't anywhere near the reason used to convince the American people to back the invasion in the first place. Most people, I think, thought that Saddam was bad, but containable. Only the specter of a mushroom cloud or the prosepect of WMDs leaking out of the country allowed the problem to be escalated into a crisis worth extraordinary means.

Democrats and Republicans alike would have been reluctant to support a risky idealistic (and, as has proven to be the case, largely foolhardy) venture to violently and rapidly implant a democracy in Iraq. In short, without the argument of the WMD threat, there would have not have been a war.
8.15.2005 4:01pm
Christopher Fahey (mail) (www):
I think when Mahad writes "we" he means "America", but when Bush supporters write "we", they mean, um, "Bush supporters".
8.15.2005 4:11pm
Christopher Fahey (mail) (www):
And honestly, back in the day, did you really think Iraq had no WMDs? Would you have been shocked, shocked if the US had found an arsenal of chemical or biological weaponry.

Sure, I beleived Iraq had WMDs. I would have been shocked, however, if a quantity of them was found that would have been enough to justify, in practical not moral terms, a war.

You try to say WMDs were not the issue, but even if they were the issue they weren't enough of an issue to justify the invasion. Again, it was the specter of the WMDs being far, far greater than anyone had ever previously imagined that provided the emotional and practical justification that allowed the Administration to start the war with a majority of Americans behind them.

Up until 2002, I figured Saddam's WMDs were there, but limited and successfully contained.

During 2002, the Bush Administration caused even me to doubt that my assumption was correct. Stories of advanced nuclear programs and massive stockpiles were everywhere. I was led to beleive that Colin Powell's presentation to the UN was just a sampling of the intelligence we had on Iraq, that the Administration had tons and tons more evidence. I thought his presentation was just the tip of the iceberg. Turns out he was scraping the bottom of the barrel: That was all they had.

When Bush's threats to Saddam succeeded (yes, Bush succeeded!) in getting weapons inspectors back into Iraq, we started to learn the truth about the WMDs. If, after those intense but admittedly incomplete inspections, the WMDs were still there, they certainly weren't there in enough abundance to make Saddam a real threat. Was he still in violation of the UN Resolutions? Yes, and Blix said so. Was his WMD arsenal likely to be a threat. Of course not.

The WMD specter had peaked, and was starting to wane. That's when Bush invaded.

You guys seem to be arguing that a moral justification for war is enough reason to actually go to war, and you don't give a damn whether or not a practical justification is needed. If we thought he had WMDs in any amount, then -boom- war is a moral imperitive.
8.15.2005 4:31pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"Do you believe the WMDs were the sole, or even simply the dominant reason why the US went to war in Iraq? I don't. I doubt you do either."

Well I was alive at the time, and I paid quite a bit of attention to what the Bush Admin was saying, and in fact YES I think WMDs were the dominant justification for the war. In fact, I distinctly recall Bush linking 9/11 to that particular justification.

Tell me, do you honestly believe we would have invaded Iraq if it weren't for 9/11? I don't. I doubt you do either.

"And honestly, back in the day, did you really think Iraq had no WMDs?"

Initially, I figured they probably had some old stockpiles of chemicals laying around, but I most certainly didn't believe Iraq presented any real threat to the U.S.

I also began to doubt Saddam still had WMDs when the inspectors found none just prior to the invasion.
8.15.2005 6:06pm
David Timothy Beito (mail) (www):
Let's leave aside the reasons, or lack thereof, for our launching the war. My question for everyone is this: What should we now? Should we continue the occupation, withdraw asap,(my vote), or send more troops? Or is there another choice besides these three?
8.15.2005 6:36pm
CharleyCarp (mail):
One more on the past: surely the finding of the Blix team amount to a thirteenth chime of the clock, demonstrating that our intelligence was very seriously flawed. What was thought in October 2002 about WMDs and in March 2003 were (or should have been) completely different.

There were proposals to delay the onset of the war while the discrepancy could be further examined. One offered by Canada was of fairly short duration, but would have made a real difference in how the invasion was perceived.

Instead, the government gambled that it would find the WMDs, be greeted as liberators, and everyone would forget about 1441 and the run-up to the war. And, IMO, it would have worked, if there had been sufficient US troops to prevent looting, and a mandate to pass power to an iraqi caretaker government asap.

This is relevant today because the same people are making the plans, and they refuse to acknowledge much less learn from their prior mistakes.
8.15.2005 8:15pm