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Revisiting 'Three Questions for the Pro-War Blogosphere':
Congress has sent the President its war spending bill, and as expected, President Bush has vetoed it. I think it's an interesting moment to revisit a post I put up almost three years ago, "Debating the Invasion of Iraq — Three Questions for the Pro-War Blogosphere." Here's the post, dated September 27, 2004:
  A year and a half have now passed since the invasion of Iraq. If you read the papers these days, the news coming from Iraq seems awfully depressing. The country is suffering about 70 hostile attacks a day, and 900 U.S. soldiers have died since the declared end of the hostilities — a rate of about 2 U.S. soldiers every day. Over 90% of Iraqis see the U.S. as an occupying force. Meanwhile, classified U.S. intelligence reports are pretty gloomy about what will happen in Iraq in the coming years. While U.S. public opinion on the war in Iraq seems evenly divided, right now the picture looks grim. I'm no expert in foreign policy, and wasn't sure whether the invasion was a good idea in the first place, but my sense is that attitudes towards the war in Iraq are becoming increasingly sour.

  So here's a little experiment in blogospheric dialogue. I would like members of the hawkish side of the blogosphere to post responses on their blogs to three questions I have about the situation in Iraq. In exchange, I'll post links to the answers on the Volokh Conspiracy. Here are my questions:

  First, assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?

  Second, what reaction do you have to the not-very-upbeat news coming of Iraq these days, such as the stories I link to above?

  Third, what specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?
  You can revisit the responses here and here, although unfortunately a number of the links no longer work.

  I'd be curious to hear from bloggers who responded back in 2004 — or more generally, from those who were hawkish in 2004, when that post appeared — about whether and how your views have changed in the last 3 years. Do you agree today with what you said in 2004? Has the war developed as you expected? How would answer these three questions today?

  UPDATE: It's also interesting to revisit the comments to the October 2006 post, "When Will U.S. Troops Leave Iraq?"
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Still hawkish.
Wars have bad news. This is news? What am I supposed to think about somebody who pretends to be surprised to hear bad news? Or, worse, who is sincerely surprised to find war includes bad news?

I believe the war went faster--to Baghdad--than I expected. I think the military was unprepared for the level of terrorist violence, considering the level of such stuff in the ME. I was pretty sure there wouldn't be a sanctuary a la North Viet Nam, but the actions of Syria and Iran were not punished sufficiently to put them out of play.

I was surprised at how well the elections went.

I recall somebody, possibly Victor Hanson, saying the Pentagon was studying how to win a war before the media could lose it. Clearly, they failed.

I was not surprised at the dem/lib/media treachery. It's what they do. I am slightly surprised to find Bush more resistant than I thought.

Considering the recent turnabout in el Anbar, and the increased killings of terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, I am cautiously optimistic, considering political progress made.

The move to put US troops into the neighborhoods is a good one, one requiring moral courage on the part of the command structure. I recall reading Marshall's memoirs of his WW I service and considering he was a perfectly nice man in his personal life and a ruthless son of a bitch in war. The side wins, he said, which can be held to the fight the longest, which implies a number of not very touchy-feely things, such as heavy casualties. Professional officers have to be ruthless sons of bitches, even with the lives of their own soldiers, while being personally nice is a bonus.

I have to admit an additional hope we win briskly. I want to see those who oppose our victory suffer. I include, unfortunately, one or two relatives. But if we win and they decide to rejoice, that would be good, too. Just as long as we win.
5.1.2007 8:01pm
Bob Leibowitz (mail) (www):
The issue three years ago: We need to kill more bad guys, faster.

The issue today: We need to kill more bad guys, faster.

War is an awful business. Horrible to the loser, the winners and those who stand by. I'm afraid that "Compadsionate Conservatism" doesn't encourage the killing that's necessary to end the fighting at the earliest possible time, and to influece the behavior of those who remain.

In the end, doing the "nice thing" brings more troubles.
5.1.2007 8:12pm
StevenK:
Though written in haste, I think my original answer still holds up:

http://pajamaguy.blogspot.com/2004/09/quick-answers.html

I could add a few notes here and there, but I'll save them for future debates.

Right now, the main question is (and has been for some time) what is the proper exit strategy-—leaving immediately, waiting until the situation is stable, or something in-between.
5.1.2007 8:13pm
Russ (mail):
Still in favor. Having fought in OIF-1, I think I speak from a perspective greater than that of the average American.

The story you see on the news is incredibly misleading. It was misleading then, and according to friends of mine still in theater, it is misleading now. Too many in the press seem to think that b/c we are sustaining casualties, that means we are losing. Tell that to the Union soldiers at Cold Harbor. Or the Colonials at Elizabethtown. Or the 101st(my old division) at Bastogne.

1. I believe the invasion was a good idea b/c it drew AQ out into the open. They now view Iraq as their central front against the Americans. Yes, we are fighting them there. And if we pull out of Iraq, where does that effort focus next? Well, after the huge recruiting boon they'll get from "defeating" the Americans, they'll pour into Afghanistan, where the terrain makes the fight more difficult.

2. My reaction to the depressing stories is that the good work we've been doing is not getting out. There have only been three times I can recall "good news" from Iraq, and that's only b/c it was so big it could not be hidden - the fall of Baghdad, the capture of Saddam, and the elections. I can even remember the barely suppressed "dammits" coming out when the Iraqis looked overjoyed to have voted.

3. Metrics for success:
- Saddam gone? Check
- New democratically elected government installed? Check
- Iraqi Army capable of working on its own? In Progress, not yet there.
- Iraq out of Iranian orbit? The hardest part, and will be easier to measure once there has been a peaceful transfer of power between elected governments.

Here are my questions for those still opposed:
1. Why do think having a tyrannical dictator like Saddam back in charge would be a good idea? Do you really think Iraqis don't deserve freedom?

2. Why do you think AQ will just melt awway after we've left?

3. Do you approve of the Taliban-style government they'd hoist on Iraq if given the chance? Women in burkhas, homosexuals stoned to death, forced adherence to the state religion - is this really what you want?

4. Do you think there has been no good thing happen inside Iraq simply b/c you haven't seen it on the news?

I'm probably going back about next April or so when I get back into the TO&E Army. I have no desire to leave my family and would love it if this mess was settled by then, but I know that such a blow to our national security would be catastrophic. I also know that I have Iraqi friends whom I couldn't abandon to the brutality that would result.
5.1.2007 8:39pm
Ron (www):
My comment is in response to the hawks, still hawks, still thinking about being a hawk, and the like: Yes, killing the bad guys faster would be a good idea. But we can kill of the insurgents and crazies forever, and they will still be gunning for us, and bombing things, etc.

To "win" the war, force along will not work. Iraq needs political reconcilliation. Ask yourselves, how is the proposed oil law doing? What is the status of de-Baathification? Can Maliki actually govern? What laws did Parliament pass this session? Is the corruption waxing or waning - or holding steady?

Iraq also has to show economic progress. Do you know what the unemployment rate is? How is reconstruction aid doing? How are projects that the US has already built or re-built doing?

So, go ahead with the macho talk. That's fine. There's a real place for tough security when a 1,000 mini-Saddams have been unleashed. I would just like to see the right stop blaming Harry Reid for demoralizing the troops, and the media for somehow misrepresenting all that's good in Iraq. Put down the damned Kool-aid.
5.1.2007 8:39pm
CheckEnclosed (mail):
To those opposed to current U.S. approach in Iraq: Suppose a good sized cache of WMD had been found in Iraq a few months after the invasion. Would that change your view of whether the invasion has been worth it?

To those who support the current U.S. approach in Iraq:If you think that Al Qaeda will "follow us home" if we pull out, won't they do that if our actions succeed in generating a stable Iraq? Doesn't this argument prove too much, by suggesting that the way to keep Al Qaeda from attacking us here is to endlessly prolong the fight in Iraq?
5.1.2007 8:48pm
c.f.w. (mail):
First, assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?

It made no sense - it was wrong factually (no WMDs) and as a doctrine (preemptive war, pax americana ideas are defective).

Second, what reaction do you have to the not-very-upbeat news coming of Iraq these days, such as the stories I link to above?

It has become time to cut losses and depart - leave Iraq to the Iraqis. Save some troops (25,000 - 50,000) in say Qatar, if the Qataris are amenable. Stop treating the Mid East as poor, unsophisticated, and unable to work out its problems largely on its own.

Third, what specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?

Leave "did we succeed" questions to the historians 50 years from now. Run the Iraq operation like a business. It has had its chance to succeed, and has produced some good. What "pony" will we find if the US "surges" for another 18 months? If we do not know, or have a reasonably positive forecast, stop the killing of 5-10 US soldiers a week. There will be other wars - if things erupt in Iran/Iraq, we can look again at what to do.
5.1.2007 9:05pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
1) Yes.

2) The usual lies. We're winning now. See (3) below. The media rely only on Sunni Arab stringers and so report what Iraq's Baathists tell them to report.

3) We will have won when the proportion of Iraq's population comprised of Sunni Arabs has dropped below 5%, which will be in no more than another twelve months, and possibly as little as six months. Iraq's Sunni Arabs are responsible for almost all the trouble, by comprising, giving support to, and hiding Baathist and foreign terrorists.

Iran is responsible for the rest of the trouble. While Syria has certainly been trying, Syria is limited to operations in conjunction with Iraq's Sunni Arabs. Absent the latter, Syria aid to Al Qaeda would mean very little in Iraq. This is why there have been so few terrorist incidents in Kurdish controlled areas - lack of access due to the dearth of Sunni Arabs.

The Sunni Arabs were @ 22% of Iraq's population when we invaded. They are down to maybe 9% now. Almost all of the decrease has taken place since the Samarra mosque bombing by Iranian agents incited Shiite militias to commence big-time ethnic cleansing. This has been a rousing success.

I predicted this in October 2003, and said then that our relationship with Iraq's Shiites was the center of gravity of the occupation campaign. Events have fully validated this opinion.

I repeat, we're winning big in Iraq right now. This is not being reported in the American media. They are on the other side in the war on terror. They want us to lose. Tough for them. We're winning, and the only reason this will not become obvious is that we're about to commence military operations against Iran. That will be a riveting distraction from our victory in the Iraq occupation campaign.

And one which I expect the Bush administration will screw up as badly or, more likely, worse, than anything it has done to date in Iraq. We'll win in Iran too, but despite the Bush administration, not because of it.

And, in response to the question I know you will ask, American troops will leave Iraq when American troops leave Germany and South Korea. Iraq is too strategically important a location for us to leave until the Iraqi government asks us too, and it won't for a long time, just as the German and Korean governments haven't asked us to leave. So get over it. This is reality.
5.1.2007 9:19pm
Colin (mail):
Is it just me, or is Holsinger advocating ethnic cleansing?
5.1.2007 9:22pm
frankcross (mail):
Sounds like you're cheering genocide, Tom.
5.1.2007 9:24pm
TJIT (mail):
These exercises would be more useful if they included a robust discussion of hind sight bias.

The dangers of having left saddam in power given his past actions (invasion of iran, invasion of Kuwait, which lead to the first gulf war) are rarely discussed.

The rapidly crumpling sanctions regime that was already weakened by oil for food program corruption is rarely discussed either.

The hazards of having hussein in power with sanctions lifted and massive oil revenue for a weapon buying free for all are almost never considered.

Given the totality of the information available at the time of the invasion I still think invading was the correct decision.
5.1.2007 9:25pm
An American Patriot (mail):
Tom Holsinger:

You truly frighten me.

Best,
An American Patriot
5.1.2007 9:33pm
Francis (mail):
Democracy does not equal liberty. If we were serious about bringing democracy to Iraq, we had to be willing to live with results we don't like, like the adoption of sharia as the criminal code.

Holsinger has argued for years now that peace will return to Iraq when the Sunnis have been utterly crushed. He may be right, but it doesn't sound to me like victory. A resurgent Shia government in Iraq is far more likely to move into Iran's orbit than the US's. Evicting Saddam so that a pro-Iranian quasi-democratic government can be installed hardly sounds like what the American people were promised.
5.1.2007 9:35pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Colin and frankcross,

Given that I predicted his 42 months ago, it can hardly be called "advocating". You two know little of the Middle East. I suggest you read the chapter about Lebanon in P.J. O'Rourke's Holidays in Hell, particularly the part where he asks an Israeli officer why a particular, weak, Lebanese militia attacked a much stronger one knowing they would be wiped out. The Israeli officer replied, "Because they had the ammuntion." And compare that real-life incident to this apocryphal story:

A scorpion wishes to cross the Jordan River and turns to a frog to carry him on its back to the other side. The frog tells the scorpion that he is fearful the scorpion might sting him in transit. The scorpion assures the frog he would not do such a dastardly thing, particularly in view of the fact that the frog is doing him a favor. The frog accepts the logic of that statement and proceeds to carry the scorpion across the canal. Midway across, the scorpion stings the frog.

As he begins to sink, the frog asks, "Why did you sting me? Now we will both drown!"

The scorpion replies, "Because this is the Middle East."


Ethnic cleansing is the path to victory in Middle Eastern conflicts. We can't stop it. The most we can do, as Jim Dunnigan put it:

"With the U.S. remaining for a while, the expulsion of the Sunni Arabs would proceed in a kinder and gentler way."
It has been obvious for years that the Iraqi occupation campaign would be resolved by expulsion of the Sunni Arabs. Except to people who don't know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites.
5.1.2007 9:42pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
Still a hawk.

1. I can't think of anybody who has changed their mind on this. For me, it comes down to a judgment that the sanctions idea had run its course - we either had to go forward or go back.

3. What will success look like? When the elections were held, I asked a war opponent that question, and got a *very* perfectionist answer - saying that the Iraq mission would be a failure unless the government of Iraq was better (in her opinion) than most state governments in the US. My own answer is that we will have won if the government of Iraq asks us to leave (or to cease patrolling and remain in bases, as in Japan and Korea) because Iraqi forces no longer require this assistance.

Of course I would hope that Iraqis would choose to govern themselves well, but that is not something that the US has very much control over. If the Iraqis reach peace through ethnic clensing of Sunnis that'd be unfortunate. On the other hand, if the Sunni community is committed to ruling as an ethnic minority and will not accept any alternatives to this, seems to me that the Iraqi Shiites have a legitimate right of self-defense. Whatever happens, so long as there are not Bosnian-style open mass murders, I think the US will have done its job.
5.1.2007 9:46pm
volokh watcher (mail):
I'd bet the proverbial house that not one of the hawks who've posted would be supporting a Democrat president for invading/occupying Iraq with the results we've suffered.

I've a close friend in the 101st Airborne who came back from Iraq about 5 months ago.

The description coming from that soldier and others in the 101st was that the occupation and rhetoric from the WH was ridiculous. They wanted out. And they don't want to go back.
5.1.2007 9:54pm
U.Va. 2L:
It has been obvious for years that the Iraqi occupation campaign would be resolved by expulsion of the Sunni Arabs.

And it's obvious to the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades that the Palestinian occupation problem can be resolved by the expulsion of the Jews.

Oh, well. At least you're honest about having genocide as a goal.
5.1.2007 10:04pm
Colin (mail):
You two know little of the Middle East.

My god, objecting to genocide does not equate to ignorance of the Middle East. I know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite, and I don't want to see either group extirpated for the sake of convenience.

Compare PDXLawyer's reply ("Whatever happens, so long as there are not Bosnian-style open mass murders, I think the US will have done its job.") with yours ("Ethnic cleansing is the path to victory in Middle Eastern conflicts."). If you're simply saying that genocide would work, that's one thing; it seems to me, though, that you're advocating it, which is why I asked my original question. There is a difference between actions that might end the war and actions that are worth taking.
5.1.2007 10:06pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
600 000 dead Iraqis - see Lancet - not our propaganda 25-50 000. Millions of refugees. Absolutely no WMD's and absolutely no relationship between Saddam and Al Qaeda (just ask Tenet). Aggressive War by us against them because we can do it.

Here are three for the hawks,

1) if you had known in 2002 what our members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (per Durbin who voted against the war in Iraq) knew (but were not allowed to say) which was that the intelligence they were getting in the closed briefings did not bear out any of the arguments being given to us to go to war in Iraq, would you still have done it?

2) what is the limit on a policy that says "we fight them over there so we do not have to fight them here". What gives us the right to pick any country which is not a threat of imminent attack in which to start a war?

3) How about an Iraqi referendum on whether the foreign troops should stay or go? That would be interesting to watch.


Best,
Ben
5.1.2007 10:08pm
frankcross (mail):
Tom, regardless of whether you are right, it's hardly a good thing to be a party to.

And you're definitely accusing the Bush Administration of lying massively about its plans for Iraq and the consequences of the occupation.
5.1.2007 10:23pm
sbw (mail) (www):
My answer then. My response is still solid.

Whether and how your views have changed in the last 3 years? My views have solidified.
Do you agree today with what you said in 2004? Completely.
Has the war developed as you expected? No. American journalism has failed us. See Journalistic Indifference and Crisis? What crisis?
How would answer these three questions today? Same ideas, expressed more clearly.

Thanks for returning to the issue. Both sides, for and against the war in Iraq, talk past each other, increasingly exasperated that the other refuses to acknowledge the validity of what each believes to be obvious. Both sides seek clear statement of principle, but both sides lose the struggle to find purpose.

Those against the war — mostly Democrats — convey the appearance that an enemy can win a war simply by killing enough civilians — and which side the civilians belong to doesn't matter — to demoralize the folks at home.

Those for the war — mostly Republicans — convey that military power must prevail, regardless of principle.

Both fail to ask what is it about society that is your responsibility. What are the responsibilities one cannot run from.
5.1.2007 10:58pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ben. The other members of the intel committee were saying in the open what they could say based on what they had heard. Facts were classified. The resulting opinions were not.
Ben, I think you presume the Iraqis would prefer to be massacred wholesale to having the Americans around. You may be right, but various polls show different answers-with different questions.
What gives us the right to wait until a threat is imminent. Recall that if the threat manifests itself with sufficient US casualties, the originating country will be nuked. That's not good.
Some liberal Christian churches have, in the light of the Balkan ructions, cobbled up the concept of "humanitarian intervention". After enough nagging, they will admit that the conditions for peace--and humanitarian services--may have to be "imposed", which is as far as they will go to the dreaded "f" word, (Fight). It didn't occur to them that the OIF might meet their requirements. They still won't admit it. But the deeper issue is at what poitn do we have the right to invade another country? We're supposed to "do something" about Darfur, but nobody wants to fight there. Nothing else will do, however, so what do we do? And if invading Darfur is legitimate, why not Iraq? Iraq was far more a threat to us than Darfur is.
Of course, we could take a different approach and simply bomb the Sudanese parliament over and over again until the survivors agree to do things our way. No invasion necessary.
But if Iraq is not legitimate, why is lifting a finger to change things in Darfur legitimate? They're not a threat and they are keeping their atrocities to themselves.
5.1.2007 11:13pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
First, assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?
I still don't see a choice. Sanctions were breaking down, primarily due to Saddam Hussein utilizing Oil for Food money to massively bribe two or three of the permanent members of the Security Council. We had been told that at least the French would vote to end them the next time they came to a vote. So, that would mean removal of the no-fly zones that were somewhat protecting the Marsh Arabs, and definately were protecting the Kurds. Also, it would have allowed Saddam Hussein to be the hero of the Middle East for having invaded Kuwait, lost, then waited us out. Finally, one of the justifications for 9/11 was that we had an awful lot of infidel troops stationed in Saudi Arabia near the Islamic Holy Sites to protect the Gulf States and to implement the no-fly zone. We needed to get them out of there without losing face (and thus, "street cred").
Second, what reaction do you have to the not-very-upbeat news coming of Iraq these days, such as the stories I link to above?
As a previous poster has pointed out, much of the news coming out of Iraq comes from Sunni Arab stringers through liberal journalists who are either not working in Iraq or are sticking to the Green Zone.

As a result, whatever good news there is, is invariably mostly either ignored or hidden. If you limit yourself to getting your news on Iraq from the MSM, you are inevitably going to have a very misleading impression of what is going on there.
Third, what specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?
I am not sure if that is the criteria. Rather, I would ask whether we failed, not whether we suceeded.

You might think switching the burden of proof there, etc. is unwarrented. But looking for success, as compared to avoiding failure, presupposes that the Administration, Congress, etc. got us into this fight because they wanted to. I know that is the accepted wisdom on the anti-war side. But realistically, that assumption doesn't hold up, even with the hated neo-cons.

To take an example, I don't think we wanted to get into the Korean War. We didn't win there, since the North Koreans never surrendered. But, the cease fire is still in effect, so we didn't lose. And at the end of the day, that is what matters.

So, if we can withdraw our troops without losing face, leaving behind a reasonably strong Iraqi military and government that is at least fairly democratic, I will consider that acceptable.
5.1.2007 11:13pm
Norseman:
re # 2: "What gives us the right to pick any country which is not a threat of imminent attack in which to start a war? "

Might? No seriously. Most people in the world still live in communities where might, not right, determine allocation of resources, distribution of "justice", etc. Only those who live under the protection of western military might can speak towards the role of right and wrong in geo-political fights. I believe if it were not for NATO, any number of dictators, from within and beyond Europe would have gladly violated a few european's rights in order to support their regimes at home, or any other number of morally "wrong" reasons. I'm answering as a western citizen who's nations troops have served in Iraq and Afganistan.

for # 3 - I would support such a referendum. Perhaps it could be done in Cuba, North Korea, or have been done in Sadam's Iraq under independent standards.
5.1.2007 11:14pm
Russ (mail):
Thanks to all those who ignored my counter-questions. You've shown the moral vapidness of your position by basically acknowledging that you can't answer them.

Volokh Watcher - I would like to hear from your friend first hand, if you can get him to post. I've been there, and the friends I still have there paint a far different picture from the one you're getting.

Finally, Benjamin, your 600,000 number has been completely discredited. Try looking for something that has backing, for that one does not. It may make you feel good to try to validate your own views, but it has exactly zero basis in reality.
5.1.2007 11:20pm
Anon. Lib.:
These responses are truly depressing. Can any of you point to the specific benefits that the US has obtained that counterbalance the costs of the war, which include in no particular order: (1) the blood on our hands (both American and Iraqi), (2) the stain on our honor from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, (3) the financial cost (over $420B so far (not counting interest on new debt), not to mention the opportunity costs), (4) our weakened international and strategic position (including the impact of having the bulk of our forces tied down in Iraq for years (thank God for the Beijing Olympics!), (5) the resurgence of the Taliban, the strengthening of radicals in Iran, and our loss of international prestige) and (6)our weakened military. Do you really think that removing Saddam Hussein---who we now know did not have any WMDs or any ties to Al Qaeda---was worth this?
5.1.2007 11:29pm
Anon. Lib.:
Sorry I screwed up my numbering---4 and 5 are the same point.
5.1.2007 11:40pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
600 000 dead Iraqis - see Lancet - not our propaganda 25-50 000. Millions of refugees. Absolutely no WMD's and absolutely no relationship between Saddam and Al Qaeda (just ask Tenet). Aggressive War by us against them because we can do it.
One big problem with the Lancet study - where are the bodies? Where are the graves? To suggest that that study has been massively and repeatedly discredited is an understatement. It would be as if 10 million Americans had died in that time frame. That level of killing would be impossible to hide, esp. from the populace.

Yes, there probabably are well over a million refugees by now. As noted, the vast majority are Sunni Arab, who are being pushed out of the country. But what must be remembered is that the ethnic cleansing didn't really get going strong until al Qaeda blew up that famous Shiite mosque.

What is going on is that the small minority of Sunni Arabs ran the country for decades, oppressing the Shi'a and Kurds through even increasing levels of brutality. After Saddam was overthrown, they mostly refused to join the new government. Instead, they aided and abetted the Sunni terrorists, foreign and domestic, who kept ratcheting up the indiscriminate murder of Shiite civilians, often women and children. Up until the Samarra mosque was blown up, the Shiite religious leaders (notably Grand Ayatollah Sistani) were able to keep their people mostly under control, and engaged in the democratic process. But, again as noted above, many finally figured out that the only way to have security is to remove the remaining Sunni Arabs, esp. those living in mixed areas (which is primarily around Baghdad - which, BTW, is also where most of the reporters are).

That is a long way to say that the Sunni Arabs are fleeing the country because they refused to accept their minority status, and the Shi's and Kurds who constitute the vast majority of the population are refusing to accept Sunni Arab control and Sunni Arab violence. They primarily only have themselves to blame.

Oh, and there weren't absolutely no WMD and no ties between al Qaeda and Iraq. Just not nearly the quantity expected, and the ties weren't that strong. Indeed, the news today is that a number of people believe that Abu Ayuub al Masri, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, has been killed (by Sunni tribesmen, even), and there are indications that he was in Iraq prior to our incursion. But the whole al Qaeda ties to Saddam thing is a straw man in the first place - it was never even a significant reason for our going to war there. Probably not even a minor one.
5.1.2007 11:41pm
frankcross (mail):
Anon. Lib., you have missed the point. Iraq is a peaceful democracy. No deaths are happening. None of those bad things are happening. It's all the misrepresentations of Sunni stringers for liberal newspapers. Which, amazingly enough, seem to include FoxNews and the Washington Times, which have failed to report that we are winning.
5.1.2007 11:42pm
Francis (mail):
on the Lancet study, I'm no expert but Tim Lambert at Deltoid is. Where are the Iraqi dead? in graves. it's a big country and the culture is to bury quickly after death.

According to the CDC here, there were 2.4 million deaths in 2004 in the US, with a death rate of 817 per 100,000. How many of those deaths were reported in the New York Times?

The Lancet article made a very simple point: before the war, Iraq had a very low death rate due to an abnormally young population as compared to Western countries. After the invasion, the death rate has risen substantially. The difference between the two is "excess mortality", and the best guess was, at the time of publication of the report, about 600,000.

Saying that the study has been debunked doesn't make it so. All we have is disputes over methodology. The disputes may have merit and may not. But resolving those disputes definitively requires a new dataset. Notably, no one has funded a separate team to go to Iraq to obtain that different dataset.
5.2.2007 12:11am
Mark Field (mail):

I can't think of anybody who has changed their mind on this.


I believe you. What's interesting is that during this period, millions of Americans have done just that, according to the polls.
5.2.2007 12:14am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Anon. Your point 2, Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, give away the game. AG was a few hours of naked twister. The perps are punished, up to a brigadier general. What the terrs do is, as everybody knows, incuding you, infinitely worse, and what Saddaam's guys did there is unspeakable. Nobody thinks of the AG episode as a stain on our honor, although you surely wish they did. Gitmo is a prison. You presume that the tones of horror which your cohorts have in pronouncing the name actually have fooled anybody. Hasn't happened. You know better. Possibly you're new here. But we know better, too. Even though some, like you, will pretend differently. The stain of Gitmo is manufactured by those who want a stain, not by the facts of the case.
Your point number 2 being so obviously lame, there is no reason to continue to address the others.
And do you really think anybody thinks you are really concerned for our weakened military?
More to the point, do you think anybody thinks you would accept any answer at all?
Sorry. Try this stuff someplace else.
5.2.2007 12:15am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
These responses are truly depressing. Can any of you point to the specific benefits that the US has obtained that counterbalance the costs of the war, which include in no particular order: (1) the blood on our hands (both American and Iraqi),
If you want it on your hands, then fine. My view is that we were forced into it by Saddam Hussein, and the blood is on his hands.
(2) the stain on our honor from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay,
Abu Ghraib was de minimis. Far more egregious behavior goes on routinely in our prisons. Those responsible were tried, convicted, and either sentenced or severely reprimanded.

And I see absolutely nothing wrong with Club Gitmo. The vast majority of the detainees there would have been shot on sight in previous wars for having violated the Rules of War. Insted, they are being fed and treated better than they have ever been before in their lives, and are being kept from coming back and trying to kill our troops again. Sorry, I don't have any empathy for the vast majority of the detainees there.
(4) our weakened international and strategic position (including the impact of having the bulk of our forces tied down in Iraq for years (thank God for the Beijing Olympics!),
I am not overly worried about our reputation - it is far better for having gone into Iraq than not. Respect is far more important here than love. And combined with respect, fear. we gained a lot of respect from the more disreputable elements by taking out the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, that is likely to be flushed down the toilet if we cut and run.

Yes, the military is stretched thin. Clinton's Peace Dividend turns out cut too many troops. And it will take time to build back up to an adquate level.
(5) the resurgence of the Taliban, the strengthening of radicals in Iran, and our loss of international prestige) and
If you take the type of international prestige that you so seemingly crave, and add a couple of bucks, you can probably buy coffee at Starbucks.

Only time will tell whether the Taliban is really making a comeback. One week they seem to be, the next they get cut up pretty good by our gunships.

The radicals in Iran are not stronger. Rather, they are in a much more perilous position than when we invaded Iraq. That is why they are making so much noise. But student unrest continues to build. Yes, it is brutally supressed. But what they can't suppress is the rapidly gaining influence of Grand Ayatollah Sistani and the resurgence of the type of traditional Shi'a Islam that he represents. And that is significant, because this strand of Shi'a Islam is direclty counter to the strand that is used by the Iranian clergy to rule their country. He preaches strict separation of mosque and state. His rapidly growing influence can be seen by all the Shiite shrines that are now being frequented and maintained again, as well as the millions of dollars now being contributed to him by Iranians.
(6)our weakened military. Do you really think that removing Saddam Hussein---who we now know did not have any WMDs or any ties to Al Qaeda---was worth this?
I am not sure if the military is really that weakened. Yes, it is stretched very thin right now. But it is also the best trained, best equipped, and most blooded military in the world right now.

As for the equipment, what must be remembered is that American military equipment evolves far faster during war time than during peace time. Thus, body armor is generations better than when we went to war. Ditto for armoring vehicles, UAVs, etc.

I am not saying this to suggest going to war for these reasons, but rather merely to rebut your suggestion that it has been an unmitigated disaster.

And, Saddam Hussein did have WMD and ties to al Qaeda. Just not very many WMD or very strong ties. You need to keep up on your talking point - when small caches of pre-GWI WMD were found, the proper talking point became that there weren't very many of them, and they predated the first Gulf War. And when it turned out that Iraqis had met with al Qaeda and Iraq was tolerating al Qaeda in the country, the new talking point was that they weren't major ties
5.2.2007 12:15am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Francis. How did Iraq get an abnormally young population when sanctions killed half a million kids? Either Iraq didn't have an abnormally young population, lacking 500,000 kids, or the kids weren't killed. Which of your myths do you want to give up?
And why did the Lancet use a lower pre-war death rate than other sources had calculated?
5.2.2007 12:19am
jpe (mail):
1. Why do think having a tyrannical dictator like Saddam back in charge would be a good idea?

a) He was a natural enemy of al-Qaeda; if 9/11 changed everything, it would've changed our pre-existing alliances and realigned with those nations and leaders that similarly loathed al-Qaeda. I think our goal should be hunting down and killing al-Qaeda members, not spreading freedom, sunshine, etal., through the middle east.

3. Do you approve of the Taliban-style government they'd hoist on Iraq if given the chance?


A democratic Iraq could do the same thing. It'd just be an elected theocracy. We've already seen movement in this direction.
5.2.2007 12:20am
Tom Holsinger (mail):
frankcross,

I am delighted to see you blaming Bush for the fact that the Sunnis and Shiites are behaving now like they have for a thousand years. It's always blame Bush with you guys.

Not to mention this demonstration of your complete ignorance of the subject. We have this problem now because the Bush administration has idiotically insisted for four years on placating Iraq's Sunni Arabs despite all the evidence that such was impossible until they were properly motivated. "Q. What was your means of transportation. A. Mostly fear."

Now some of Iraq's Sunni Arabs are properly motivated, and they are bringing us gifts of dead Al Qaeda. IMO they changed sides too late. The vast majority of Iraqis hate them, want them gone, and are encouraging them to leave. We can't stop that. We tried and the Sunni Arabs just kept fighting us and murdering Shia. So the Shia began ethnic cleansing. All we can do is moderate it somewhat - make for a kinder, gentler ethnic cleansing.

Because the Iraqi people decide this one. Not us. You lefties have this conception that America is the center of the universe and nothing happens unless Americans make it happen. I know, I know, that is too much reality.

The Shia have finally figured out that the only way to keep the Sunni Arabs from murdering Shia is to get rid of the Sunnis, and they are.

"Most senior government officials, going against popular sentiment, don't want to kill or expel the entire Sunni Arab population. That's over two million people, and would be a disaster on several levels. The Sunni Arabs are a disproportionate number of Iraqis university trained professionals. Without them, Iraq would have to import foreigners to do a lot of these jobs until, a decade hence, enough Shia Arabs and Kurds could be trained. Less of a problem is the worldwide condemnation for the "group punishment" of the Iraqi Sunni Arabs. But on the street level, most Iraqis note that the Sunni Arab community has not been able to stop the terrorists living in their midst. This, plus the sins committed when Saddam was in charge, merit expulsion of the entire Sunni Arab community. If it were put to a vote, the Sunni Arabs would be gone."
5.2.2007 12:31am
Francis (mail):
Richard: using the word "myth" is both insulting and inaccurate. Iraq like many developing countries has a population skewed to the young due to high fertility rates, poor health care and war. As I understand what the authors of the Lancet study did, they calculated both the pre-invasion and post-invasion death rates using the same sampling techniques. Pre-invasion death rates coincided with other studies.
5.2.2007 12:33am
Recovering Law Grad:

For me, it comes down to a judgment that the sanctions idea had run its course - we either had to go forward or go back.


One of the truths we have learned over the past four years is that the sanctions, in fact, were hugely successful. Did they lead Iraq towards a democracy? No. Were they a bright spot on the human rights landscape? No. Did they help keep America safe and an enemy contained for a dozen years? Yes.

I don't disagree that promoting democracy and human rights are laudible goals, but why elevate either over safety/containment. I mean, hasn't that been the dominant theme of American foreign policy since the beginning of this country? Seems like it has worked ok.
5.2.2007 12:37am
Tom Holsinger (mail):
This article merits repetition in full (my emphasis for the last two sentences):

Where Did All The Sunni Arabs Go?

March 7, 2007: Having lost many of their bomb factories (where care bombs were assembled) and safe houses (where suicide bombers were trained and indoctrinated) in Baghdad, Sunni terrorists are rushing in teams from the suburbs to try and make enough mess to force the Shia militia to come out and fight. The Shia militia saw that the American surge campaign in Baghdad would be directed mostly at the Sunni terrorists. Thus the Shia militiamen simply put their weapons away and took off their black uniforms for a while, and let the Americans do their thing. The Iraqi police, controlled by Shia politicians, and largely staffed by Shia, was believed sufficient to guard key Shia targets (religious shrines and headquarters for Shia militia and politicians).

Despite the continued terror bombings, most Sunnis don't believe the Shia militia would be dumb enough to come out now and draw the Americans away from their campaign against Sunni terrorists. Thus the Sunni Arabs of Iraq believe they are doomed. Officially, the government is willing to make peace with the Sunni Arab community, if they will quiet down and just become, well, a harmless minority. But too many Sunni Arabs would rather die than give up hope of regaining control of the country they have run for centuries. So the terrorism continues.

Hope is about all the Sunni Arabs have left. Nearly half of them have fled the country, and most have fled their homes. Many are living as refugees within Iraq. Entire Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad have been "cleansed" of Sunni Arabs. When Sunni Arabs were twenty percent of the population, as they were in 2004, they still had a reasonable chance of eventually using their superior wealth, experience and educations, to regain control of the government, or at least key parts of it. The Sunni Arab terrorist groups have made that impossible. The Sunni Arabs are being erased from Iraq. Sunni and Shia have fought over "Mesopotamia" (central Iraq) for centuries, and now it looks like the Shia are going to keep control for some time to come.

The Americans would have preferred that everyone got along, and most Arabs and Europeans would have preferred that the Sunnis remained in charge (to keep the Iranians in their cage). People tend to fear and abhor change, and the changes in Iraq are a good example of that. The Gulf Arabs see a Shia Iraq as a stepping stone for Iranian domination. The Turks see Iraqi Kurds as far more troublesome now, without a Sunni dictator to keep them in line. Middle Eastern rulers in general see an Iraqi democracy as a sham, just a righteous veil behind which Shia politicians steal the money and kill their enemies with the same enthusiasm as Saddam and his Sunni henchmen. And if the Iraqi democracy does succeed, it becomes a real troublemaker in a region run mostly by dictators and aristocrats.

On the plus side, Iraq has become a magnet for Sunni terrorists, and the graveyard for most of them. The carnage in Iraq is mostly Moslems killing Moslems, which has caused al Qaeda to go from the most popular Islamic radicals (on September 11, 2001), to the most reviled. That's what the opinion polls say, and growing number of terrorist arrests in the region can't be counted as any kind of terrorist victory.

Meanwhile, the Americans argue among themselves over whether the effort in Iraq is a great good, or a great evil. For the Sunni Arabs, it is definitely bad. Terrorist activity is trending down, and Sunni strongholds continue to fall. The tribal warfare in western Iraq, where terrorist backed tribes battle American backed ones, is a bloody battle that gets little media attention. But the terrorists are losing here as well. Week by week, the dozens of indicators maintained by American intelligence show the Sunni Arabs fading. The media won't notice this until several weeks go by without a terrorist bombing, followed by foreign reporters looking around and asking, "where did all the Sunni Arabs go?"
5.2.2007 12:37am
Commenterlein (mail):
Holsinger and Aubrey are utterly amazing.
5.2.2007 12:38am
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Notice that the responses to the hawks here do not at all address the merits of what we say, and merely attack us personally. This is typical.
5.2.2007 12:48am
logicnazi (mail) (www):
So back when this whole thing started I was very ambivalent about the whole war. I always thought the supposed terrorism justification or WMD justification was BS and even if true hardly a compelling reason to invade. I mean absent nuclear weapons invading Iraq could only have increased the likelihood any present biological/chemical weapons would be used against us. However, I thought there was a fairly good humanitarian case for the invasion but wasn't sure how likely things were to work.

Interestingly now I am pretty damn sure that a precipitous withdrawal would be a bad idea. I still don't know if invading in some other way would have been a go idea but it is quite clear that the invasion was bungled. However, that's a sunk cost and it seems pretty clear that withdrawing precipitously would cause massive casualties. Maybe it's unlikely that we will win if we stay but the expectation is surely higher if we do because the cost of failure is so high (for the Iraqis).

Note none of these justifications have anything to do with US security. It's simply that we have a moral responsibility not to further fuck over the Iraqis and set them up for a massive civil war/genocide/invasion of Kurdistan by turkey. I do have some worries that leaving Iraq would destabilize the Mideast and risk a nuclear arms race but I don't think terrorism is a reasonable justification to stay in Iraq.
5.2.2007 1:04am
Tom Holsinger (mail):
logicnazi,

Terrorism where? What makes you think the terrorists won't follow us home if we stop whacking their lairs abroad?

Consider that we'll never see September 10, 2001, again. That world is gone.
5.2.2007 1:17am
Colin (mail):
Logicnazi, you've very nearly summed up my feelings exactly.
5.2.2007 1:26am
Colin (mail):
What makes you think the terrorists won't follow us home if we stop whacking their lairs abroad?

Iraq is much more of a terrorist "lair" now than it was before the invasion. I'm astonished by the repeated insistence that the war in Iraq somehow reduces the numbers of terrorists globally. It wasn't that long ago that the CIA was admitting to Congress that the war helps recruit terrorists.
5.2.2007 1:30am
K Parker (mail):
Recovering,
the sanctions, in fact, were hugely successful
I can see why the French would think so, but for the rest of us I think a little more elaboration of the details might be in order.
5.2.2007 1:30am
Recovering Law Grad:
Parker:

One of the key goals of the sanctions was preventing Saddam from building and wielding a powerful military, especially with regard to WMD capabilities. Of course, we now know that Saddam's military capabilities were hugely degraded...
5.2.2007 1:54am
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Colin,

Iraq no longer trains terrorists in how to hijack airliners. Note that this appeared in The Guardian two months after 9/11.

After 9/11, there was NO ****ING WAY the United States would tolerate the continued existence of terrorist-supporting states which we knew trained terrorists in how to hijack airliners.

But we did tolerate them before 9/11. That world is gone. Pretending otherwise as official policy will get us attacked at home again, and far, far worse than on 9/11.

Consider the term "plausible deniability":

"In politics and espionage, deniability refers to the ability of a "powerful player" or actor to avoid "blowback" by secretly arranging for an action to be taken on their behalf by a third party - ostensibly unconnected with the major player."

as you read it the Guardian article excerpt below:

The Iraqi connection

As evidence linking Iraqi intelligence to the 11 September hijackers begins to emerge, David Rose gathers testimony from former Baghdad agents and the CIA to reveal the secrets of Saddam's terror training camp

... The senior US intelligence source said the CIA believed that two other hijackers, al-Shehri and Jarrah, also met known Iraqi intelligence officers outside the US in the run-up to the atrocities. It is understood these meetings took place in the United Arab Emirates - where Iraq maintains its largest 'illegal', or non-diplomatic, cover intelligence operation, most of it devoted to oil exports and busting economic sanctions.

The source added that Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which has now effectively merged with al-Qaeda, maintained regular contacts with Iraq for many years. He confirmed the claims first made by the Iraqi National Congress - that towards the end of 1998, Farouk Hijazi, Iraq's ambassador to Turkey and a key member of the Mukhabarat leadership - went to Kandahar in Afghanistan, where he met bin Laden.

The FBI believes many of the 11 hijackers who made up the conspiracy's 'muscle', Saudi Arabians who entered the US at a late stage and whose task was to overpower the aircrafts' passengers and crew, trained at Afghan camps run by al-Qaeda. But they have no details: no times or places where any of these individuals learnt their skills. Meanwhile, it is now becoming clear that al-Qaeda is not the only organisation providing terrorist training for Muslim fundamentalists. Since the early 1990s, courses of this type have also been available in Iraq. At the beginning of October, two INC activists in London travelled to eastern Turkey. They had been told that a Mukhabarat colonel had crossed the border through Kurdistan and was ready to defect. The officer - codenamed Abu Zeinab - had extraordinary information about terrorist training in Iraq. In a safe house in Ankara, the two London-based activists took down Zeinab's story. He had worked at a site which was already well known - Salman Pak, a large camp on a peninsular formed by a loop of the Tigris river south of Baghdad.

However, what Zeinab had to say about the southern part of the camp was new. There, he said, separated from the rest of the facilities by a razor-wire fence, was a barracks used to house Islamic radicals, many of them Saudis from bin Laden's Wahhabi sect, but also Egyptians, Yemenis, and other non-Iraqi Arabs.

Unlike the other parts of Salman Pak, Zeinab said the foreigners' camp was controlled directly by Saddam Hussein. In a telephone interview with The Observer, Zeinab described the culture clash which took place when secular Baathists tried to train fundamentalists: 'It was a nightmare! A very strange experience. These guys would stop and insist on praying to Allah five times a day when we had training to do. The instructors wouldn't get home till late at night, just because of all this praying.'

Asked whether he believed the foreigners' camp had trained members of al-Qaeda, Zeinab said: 'All I can say is that we had no structure to take on these people inside the regime. The camp was for organisations based abroad.' One of the highlights of the six-month curriculum was training to hijack aircraft using only knives or bare hands. According to Zeinab, women were also trained in these techniques. Like the 11 September hijackers, the students worked in groups of four or five.

In Ankara, Zeinab was debriefed by the FBI and CIA for four days. Meanwhile he told the INC that if they wished to corroborate his story, they should speak to a man who had political asylum in Texas - Captain Sabah Khodad, who had worked at Salman Pak in 1994-5. He too has now told his story to US investigators. In an interiew with The Observer, he echoed Zeinab's claims: 'The foreigners' training includes assassinations, kidnapping, hijacking. They were strictly separated from the rest of us. To hijack planes they were taught to use small knives. The method used on 11 September perfectly coincides with the training I saw at the camp. When I saw the twin towers attack, the first thought that came into my head was, "this has been done by graduates of Salman Pak".'

Zeinab and Khodad said the Salman Pak students practised their techniques in a Boeing 707 fuselage parked in the foreigners' part of the camp. Yesterday their story received important corroboration from Charles Duelfer, former vice chairman of Unscom, the UN weapons inspection team.

Duelfer said he visited Salman Pak several times, landing by helicopter. He saw the 707, in exactly the place described by the defectors. The Iraqis, he said, told Unscom it was used by police for counter-terrorist training. 'Of course we automatically took out the word "counter",' he said. 'I'm surprised that people seem to be shocked that there should be terror camps in Iraq. Like, derrrrrr! I mean, what, actually, do you expect? Iraq presents a long-term strategic threat. Unfortunately, the US is not very good at recognising long-term strategic threats.'

When American forces overran Salman Pak in 2003, the airliner fuselage was still there.
5.2.2007 2:03am
80s Child (mail):
I thought this thread went completely nuts when Holsinger began advocating mass murder of Sunni Iraqis, but then someone had the balls to say that the people behind Abu Ghraib have been punished enough, thank you...

Please please please Google keep this thread for eternity so that future generations can learn from the litany of mistakes and idiocies war supporters have lain out for all to see.
5.2.2007 2:14am
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Given what happened at Abu Ghraib under American control, the term "dissociative fugue" is quite applicable to some here, and most of the left. Repetition of their comfort object names is a means of avoiding confrontation with nasty things like real enemies killing us at home given the opportunity.

Reality = cognitive dissonance. So they desperately mutter their fantasy comfort terms.
5.2.2007 2:43am
libertarian soldier (mail):
1. For it then; for it now. As others have cited, the sanctions regime was failing with no hope of renewal/strengthening it--even less if the Russians/Chinese/French would have known how oil prices were going to skyrocket to support their arms sales/economic expansion. And George Tenet can whine now as he shills his book, but my station chief had a betting pool open on when the first WMD stash would be found. There have also been fewer terrorist attacks against US interests (ships/barracks/diplomats/embassies/domestically) than in any previous period in the last 25 years. The AQN overreach in KSA resulted in a massive purge of their forces there. And while there have been well publicized attacks against other nations, those targetting America have not succeeded--I believe for two reasons: 1) they are too busy trying to survive in IZ and AF; and 2) anyone wanting to attack Americans has more accessible targets than American civilians living in the US.
2. I would find it astonishing if the MSM reported the "good news"; I am not at all surprised about what they report now.
3. I say the "Iraq invasion" is already a success, as of the day people around the world saw the purple fingers. The current GWOT campaign in IZ will continue until the democratically elected government invites us to leave, or the remaining target array incountry can be handled by indigenous forces.
5.2.2007 2:48am
Anderson (mail) (www):
(1) Why does Holsinger think hijackers need classes from a nation-state to hijack a jetliner?

(2) Russ: Thanks to all those who ignored my counter-questions. You've shown the moral vapidness of your position by basically acknowledging that you can't answer them.

Or maybe they're paying attention to what Kerr wrote in the post, which was "how now, warbloggers?" -- not "taunt the warbloggers, please." We can ignore that directive (I seem to be), but that's no excuse for such a juvenile remark as Russ's.

(3) I admit to having been tempted to see ethnic cleansing as the only long-term solution. It worked rather well in 1945, if you didn't mind the hundreds of thousands of dead German women and children -- and few did at the time, given the heaps of those murdered by other Germans.

But it's a desperate, "we-have-utterly-failed" kind of solution -- a final solution, one could very well say. And for Holsinger to tout it, without admitting that it shows what a failure Bush's occupation has been, is morally creepy. I hope to see his acknowledgement to that effect.
5.2.2007 3:28am
Joshua:
Kerr: [A]ssuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?

Yes, it was a good idea* - but an idea that has now more or less run its course. Now we're reduced to marking time until the Iraqi government is ready to do its own heavy lifting, and refereeing the latest manifestation of a centuries-old Islamic intramural rivalry in the meantime. Is that worth American blood and treasure? Is it even what we came to Iraq to do in the first place? I don't think so.

Kerr (again): [W]hat specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?

In a nutshell, will we have to go back there in my lifetime (I'm in my mid-30s) to put down another troublemaking regime? If we do, then this war was a failure. I'm just not convinced we can do any more today to make that outcome any less likely in that time frame.

CheckEnclosed (again): To those opposed to current U.S. approach in Iraq: Suppose a good sized cache of WMD had been found in Iraq a few months after the invasion. Would that change your view of whether the invasion has been worth it?

All else being the same, my view wouldn't have changed a bit. Does anyone seriously believe any of the warring parties in Iraq really cares whether we found WMDs after the invasion or not? We'd still be infidels to them, they'd still be infidels to each other, and Saddam's removal would still give them free rein to wage war against both us and each other. My surmise is that even if we had found WMDs, the situation on the ground in Iraq, and the political climate in Washington, would be more or less the same today as they actually are - and so would my stance.

CheckEnclosed (again): If you think that Al Qaeda will "follow us home" if we pull out, won't they do that if our actions succeed in generating a stable Iraq? Doesn't this argument prove too much, by suggesting that the way to keep Al Qaeda from attacking us here is to endlessly prolong the fight in Iraq?

This always struck me as the weakest part of the case for war. What we're facing is a globalized enemy. Just because we defeat them in Iraq or anywhere else, doesn't mean we won't have to fight them closer to home in the future. (London 7/7, anyone?) Indeed, if you care to count non-terrorist activities as part of the global war (the Motoons controversy in Denmark, the French riots, CAIR, the Muslim cabbie and checkout-clerk flaps in Minneapolis, etc.) we've already been fighting Islamic supremacism "over here" for quite some time now.

===

* My support for OIF in 2003 boiled down to a variation on Pascal's wager. If we presumed Saddam had WMDs, acted and turned out to be wrong about that, well, we all know the outcome of that. On the other hand, if we presumed he didn't have WMDs, didn't act and turned out to be wrong about that, the outcome would have been far worse. Given the choice between millions of really angry people and millions of really dead people, I chose the former.
5.2.2007 3:43am
Nikolay (mail):

Do you approve of the Taliban-style government they'd hoist on Iraq if given the chance? Women in burkhas, homosexuals stoned to death, forced adherence to the state religion - is this really what you want?
That's actually what the democratically elected government in Iraq does.
Battle-hardened jihadist from Syria as a Premiere Minister -- check.
Sharia constitution -- check.
Police attacking women for immodest clothes -- check.
"Moderate and peaceful" cleric issuing 'death to gays' fatwas -- check.
Secular middle-class abandoning the country -- check.
Iran controlling most of the politicians -- check.

What can be said here? Allah Akbar, I guess.
5.2.2007 7:06am
Norseman:
No one mentioned Libya - the one successful WMD program that was disclosed and eliminated as a result of the war (according the press reports). Who knew, going into Iraq would eliminate Libya's nuclear weapons program ...
5.2.2007 7:41am
abw (www):
My response to the original questions.

The really short version is 1. Saddam hadit coming, 2. Anger at the terrorists, sympathy for the victims and 3. Ability of average American to ignore anything occurring in Iraq.

For the longer more eloquent version click the link!

I'll add here that the comments in this thread bear out my 'ignorance is bliss' answer for question 3.

To pull out one in particular:

I'm astonished by the repeated insistence that the war in Iraq somehow reduces the numbers of terrorists globally. It wasn't that long ago that the CIA was admitting to Congress that the war helps recruit terrorists.

Your dilemma is easily solved by killing more terrorists than they recruit.

Personally, I'm astonished by the repeated insistence that not killing terrorists somehow reduces the numbers of terrorists globally. In case you haven't noticed, there has been no lack of reasons, real or imagined, for jihadi recruitment going back more than a few centuries.

Eventually either one side will have to learn to accept freedom of religion or the other side will have to learn to live under sharia.
5.2.2007 7:51am
Randy R. (mail):
It's astonishing to hear that we are doing so well in Iraq. Hooray!
But apparently, George Bush didn't get the memo. As I recall him saying recently, we are not winning in Iraq, and we are not losing. Hardly the ringing victory everyone here seems to think is happening.

And if we are doing so well, why the need for the surge a few months ago?

And if we are doing so well, then surely there is no objection to a slow withdrawal of our troops, or at least a timeline of benchmarks for the Iraqi gov't to meet, right?
5.2.2007 7:52am
Francis (mail):
Tom, speaking of not answering questions, you haven't answered the critical one: how is it that a successful ethnic cleaning of the Sunni by the Shia is a victory for the US?

why on earth would the US go to war with Iraq in order to replace an anti-Iranian dictator with a pro-Iranian theocratic democracy?
5.2.2007 8:01am
EvanH (mail) (www):
No one mentioned Libya - the one successful WMD program that was disclosed and eliminated as a result of the war (according the press reports). Who knew, going into Iraq would eliminate Libya's nuclear weapons program ...

Norseman, I suggest you go back and look at the facts. Libya had been looking for a deal with the west long before the Iraq war began.
5.2.2007 8:31am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Francis.

The reason I used the term "Myth" is because one or both are not true. And there are a number of people desperate to believe both and are not going to give them up. But if one is true, the other isn't. And, as I said, you can't very well have an abnormally young population if you've taken half a million kids out of it.
It seems that the abnormally-young-population is the assertion you currently find most useful. Which means that everything anybody said about the half-million-dead-kids assertion is totally false. Until, of course, the latter becomes more useful.
For some strange reason, the Lancet article tells us, there is a huge disproportion of the putative dead in the men of military age (MOMA) demographic. These guys would have been the least likely to succumb to the vicissitudes of a disrupted society, such as poor health care, inadequate nutrition, disease. So their appearance here is a two-fer. They should only be in proportion to their proportion in the population. They aren't. They shouldn't be beyond their proportion in the population. They are.
One whimsical answer for the low death rate was to assert that the sanctions killed the weak and, once the Oil For Food program kicked in, people were able to eat what Saddaam didn't manage to sequester and the strong were in the tall grass. This, of course, would only be temporary.
Lancet also found in several places that about 80% of the dead had generated death certificates. They could have asked the government for the total number of certs and multiplied by 1.25. Based on their own research,that would have been more accurate. Unfortunately, it would reduce the deaths they sought to promote by about two-thirds. So they dropped that like a hot rock.

Anderson. You misrepresent Holsinger's point. I know, I know, big surprise here. The point is that there is no dry land in the world except for Antartica which is not owned by one or another nation state. So the terrorists can't BE anywhere to train without being allowed or encouraged by some nation state. Now that you know we know better, think of something else.

I recall an entire article on Low Intensity Conflict regarding Central America. The author was against it. She used her lifetime supply of scare quotes, hoping that the tones of horror in which she and her ilk spoke of the concept would convince the unwary that it was unimaginably awful. Turns out the primary problem is that LIC doesn't kill enough civilians for the antiwar groups to make their points. I see the same crap going on regarding Abu Ghraib and Gitmo. Can't actually make a case, so they pretend the case has been made and hope to drag one or two of the unwary along with the momentum. In the meantime, though, they make their own lack of good faith obvious to a hundred times as many. I don't get the math.

I haven't followed the ups and downs of the Sunnis, so I can't comment on where they'll be in a year or so. However, it's clear that the usual liberal crap is floating around here where Holsinger is being accused of advocating what he predicts. Can't you guys get a better idea than that? It's not like anybody's going to believe it. It's just annoying and, come to think of it, revealing of a complete lack of good faith and useful ideas.
5.2.2007 9:05am
sbw (mail) (www):
What I wrote above didn't seem to make a dent. So let me offer my own three simple questions:
Are we at war?
If so, with whom?
What do you propose to do about it?
5.2.2007 9:26am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Evan H. I believe Libya's whackjob is clear that, if he had been looking for a deal, this hurried him. But it may have been a fresh idea, sparked by watching his fellow Islamic Lion dragged from a hole in the ground.
The point, it seems to me, about Libya is that we had a very bad idea of how far Ghaddafi had gotten with his nuke program and didn't know about his mustard gas at all. This goes to just how much we are likely to know about anything. It also suggests we consider the possibility that we don't know it all.
5.2.2007 9:38am
Anonymous Reader:
All,

Some very good comments. I think all too often, there are idealogues who are heavily invested one way or another and we just speak past each other. Please allow me to make some points:

1. There were different phases for the war. Each phase has a separate and distinct mission. Please put on your military thinking caps and you'll understand what I'm talking about. As an analogy: "Your mission is to get to the mall. In order to get to the mall you have to do a bunch of things, get directions, get the car ready, get in the car, drive there, and then park. Once there, you have a new mission. That mission is to go to XYZ Store and buy whatever." This is what I mean by each phase of the war having different missions. I won't even begin to touch each unit having a separate mission.

2. The type of warfare that we waged initially was wrong. Yes, the Generals in charge at the time instituted the incorrect strategy in dealing with the insurgents. This is no bust on them, everyone is a product of their experiences and environment. For example, although the French had some very experienced senior leaders during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, they lost. Why? Primarily because the commander of the outpost was a cavalryman. Why is this important? Well, it was a seige or defensive fight not a cavalry fight. Our Generals are all talented individuals. They just picked the wrong strategy. And in today's political climate, to admit that you were wrong is akin to suicide. In an ideal world, we should all be able to admit mistakes and move past them. But in reality, your critics will use any weakness or percieved weakness as a bludgeon to pummel you to death.

3. GEN Petraeus is in an awkward situation. Although he has already fought in Iraq I believe in 2003/2004, those who look at what his Division did versus the other Division's will see that he has a much different strategy. Not to mention that he literally wrote the book on the current counterinsurgency strategy for the US. It would be suicide for him to lambast the previous Generals for their decisions. For one, you can't second guess the commander in the field. He made his decisions with the information that he had at the time. Hindsight being what it is, you can't sit there and criticize the wrong decisions, it's spilled milk. Better to learn those lessons and improve the situation. Also, Congress is SCREAMING about getting the troops out. He's already been put in his place, ala his confirmation hearing, about sticking his nose in political business, but it's got to be frustrating for him to inherit this HUGE monster and then be expected to turn it around in a couple of months!! Congress has what? a little over 500 people in it and they can't pass a budget in months!! Anyone who's ever been on a boat knows that you can't turn a big boat around in seconds. It needs slight rudder control and it turns very slowly.

Anonymous Reader
5.2.2007 10:09am
Ken Arromdee:
(3) I admit to having been tempted to see ethnic cleansing as the only long-term solution. It worked rather well in 1945, if you didn't mind the hundreds of thousands of dead German women and children -- and few did at the time, given the heaps of those murdered by other Germans.

But it's a desperate, "we-have-utterly-failed" kind of solution -- a final solution, one could very well say.


So, by your reasoning, we lost World War II?
5.2.2007 10:22am
Anon. Lib.:
I continue to be astonished. How can anyone really think that we do not bear substantial responsiblity for the death and destruction caused by this war? On what basis do you think that Saddam forced us into the war? By allowing UN inspectors into the country? By oppressing his own people in the same ways as other countries that did not inspire military interventions (see China, Burma, Sudan, Syria, Congo, Tajikistan, North Korea, etc.). This was absolutely a war of choice. And to paraphrase Colin Powel, we broke it now we own it.

Seriously, can anyone dispute---knowing what we know today---that there were ways of dealing with Saddam that did not cause the deaths of (at least) tens of thousands of people, empower a theocratic, Iran-friendly government in Baghdad, cost hundreds of billions of dollars, divert our attention from OBL and Al Qaeda, stretch our military to the breaking point, or encourage our soldiers to disregard the Geneva Conventions and basic decency and employ the same "coercive" techniques as the Soviets?

And really, how can you pretend that Abu Ghraib and Gitmo were anything but shameful and horrific. Here, for example, is what the Vatican said about Abu Ghraib (Care of wikipedia's entry on AG---I can't get the html links to work, sorry): "The torture? A more serious blow to the United States than September 11, 2001 attacks. Except that the blow was not inflicted by terrorists but by Americans against themselves." Does that sound like the world is treating this as a de minimis affair?

Lastly, I want to repeat my original questions: What are the benefits that we have received from this war? What have we gotten out of it that we would have considered worth all of this bloodshed, treasure and turmoil?
5.2.2007 10:27am
chris c:
1. I was for the war in 03 because I thought Saddam had chem and bio weapons and was closing in on a nuke - not imminently, but in the next 3-5 yrs. I also gen bought the notion that the Mideast was broken and working to build a democracy there made moral and practical sense.

had I known Saddam did not have the WMDs feared, and was not close on nukes - no, I would not have been in favor of war.

But I think we would have had to fight him sooner or later - later would have probably been better though (who knows). he was not going to evolve into Vaclev Havel.

2. the news is depressing as hell obviously. even allowing for media bias, it's clear the country is broken (I suspect it was broken long before we showed up, maybe even at birth, but that's just my guess.)

3. whether it's a success is not going to be decided for a long, long time. cue Chou En lai's supposed comment re the French Revolution. No doubt it puts us in the position of the boy who cried wolf, though, and I expect at some point in the future this will cause us to wait too long to act.
5.2.2007 11:08am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Aubrey: So the terrorists can't BE anywhere to train without being allowed or encouraged by some nation state.

Thanks for the explanation. Now, did the United States *allow* Tim McVeigh to plot to blow up the Murrah Building, or did it *encourage* him to do so?

So, by your reasoning, we lost World War II?

I didn't say we lost this war. We *won* WW2 (in Europe) in May 1945, just as we *won* the Iraq war in April 2003 -- in the military sense of defeating the enemy in the field. But have we failed in the occupation?

Now, what did the original Allies go to war to accomplish? The preservation of Polish self-determination, right?

The ethnic cleansing of eastern Europe was, I hope, a consequence of our alliance with the Soviets, not something we would have allowed had we been the ones occupying Poland and Czechoslovakia. I may kid myself.

Defending eastern Europe from Nazism by delivering it into the hands of the Soviets is, I submit, a failure, just as delivering Iraq from Baathism by delivering it into the hands of the mullahs may prove to be.

In eastern Europe, "we" won the war but lost the peace. The same appears to be happening in Iraq.
5.2.2007 11:15am
cathyf:
What the hell is the "pro-war" blogosphere? Al-Jazeera? The jihadi sites?

Characterizing anyone outside of the islamofascist movement as either "pro-war" or "anti-war" implies that there are people outside of the islamofascist movement who have some say in the decision of the islamofascists to wage war. A position which can only be held by a moron.

I'm not pro war; I'm anti surrender.
5.2.2007 11:17am
Houston Lawyer:
I have always supported the war. It is clear that we, as a country, underestimated how difficult the aftermath of the war was going to be, but that was not our primary concern going in. Now that we are there, we have an obligation to stay until the Iraqis can hold down the fort either by themselves or with minimal outside support.

If we stay until the job is done, we will have proved something to our potential adversaries. They recruit based upon our past history of abandoning our allies.

When I was in my late teens, they opened up an orphanage for Vietnamese children near my home town. This was a direct result of our abandonment of our allies in South Vietnam. We don't know precisely how many died in South East Asia as a result of our retreat there, but they number in the millions.

We have already abandoned the Iraqis once, following the first Gulf War. At that point, Saddam killed hundreds of thousands of Shia and Kurds. There is every reason to think that an early withdrawal will lead to killing fields once again. You may tell yourself that this is not our concern, but the rest of the world won't see it that way.
5.2.2007 11:28am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Anderson. Ref. McVeigh. We certainly allowed him to do his thing. You will note he did it. It was in all the papers.
The point is that he didn't need to be trained by a nation-state, although he and a couple of his buddies did have some training with different goals in mind. But he had to be within a nation-state. And nobody in any other nation-state could get to him without imposing on our nation-state.
Am I going to fast for you?

On another hand, the more sophisticated techniques and equipment are almost always developed and supplied by nation-states. The terrs in Iraq, for example, are not capable of producing the EFPs that Iran supplies, and those who brought the skills to use them were originally trained either in Iran or in some uncontrolled region by Iranians. Another nation-state, you see.
5.2.2007 11:32am
Adeez (mail):
Tom Holsinger and Richard Aubrey: I couldn't disagree with you more, but I gotta admit, I sure do admire your persistence and consistency. But unlike Russ, you guys never spoke of your tours of duty in Iraq or your next deployment. What's it like over there from your perspectives?

We've unleashed the gates of hell. How do you quantify a mother's pain over seeing her young daughter's face blown off? How do you quantify the stress of an American family wondering whether their child/spouse/parent/sibling will ever come back. How do you quantify the pain that PTSD will cause the countless veterans?

I have a few open questions to the occupation supporters, which I don't expect to be answered: how much longer could a free, democratic republic continue to be an empire? At what point do these two competing paradigms clash? Or do you believe that we can continue to pretend to be a free country, with a large middle class, while pursuing imperial goals and alienating the rest of the world?
5.2.2007 11:42am
Francis (mail):
Richard, please provide some support for your claim that the embargo killed .5 million children.
5.2.2007 11:56am
TJIT (mail):
I think those who oppose the war need to consider two things.

1.) The sanctions against Iraq were crumpling under the pressure of

a.) Corruption in the oil for food program

b.) Pressure from international human rights organizations who were concerned about the collateral damage of the sanctions

c.) Pressure from commercial interests and nations who wanted to do business with Iraq

Even if they had contained saddam while in place the sanctions were not going to last much longer.

When the sanctions were removed saddam would still be in power, with no constraints, and lots of money from oil sales.

Given those conditions it is highly likely saddam would use his oil revenue to at least rebuild his conventional forces and probably reconstitute his WMD programs.

2.) saddam tended to have periods of stability followed by episodic foreign invasions (iran and kuwait). These invasions caused lots of death, destruction, and instability in the region.

The invasions of iran and kuwait need to be the baseline when evaluating the wisdom of removing saddam from power, not the relatively stable sanctions era.
5.2.2007 12:00pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Francis. I don't claim it. The folks opposing the sanctions claimed it, probably knowing they lied like rugs. But I see you pretending it was never an issue, now that it makes the abnormally young population assertion shaky. As I said, you have to pick one myth or the other to give up.

Adeez. I was in the Infantry several wars ago. I would have gone to Viet Nam--my first choice of duty stations--but my brother was killed first elsewhere. I have notified next of kin ("Pardon me, sir or madam, but your husband, son, or brother....") and been a survivor assistance officer. Been in Valley Forge Hospital back in the day. So take your chickenhawk argument and stick it where the sun don't shine.
In the meantime, keep in mind that if only vets or serving soldiers can have an opinion, you lose.
And keep in mind further, if there's room, that prudential judgments on matters of war and peace are not made more or less correct by one's prior service or lack of it.
And get some new material.
Also, look up the definition of "empire" and get back to us. Making up words isn't the same as thinking.
5.2.2007 12:30pm
Justin (mail):
Aubrey, this article may give you some more accurate information about the Quaddafi deal
5.2.2007 12:44pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Justin. My concern about Ghaddafi is not the timing of his motivation.
My primary concern is how much he had that we didn't know about until he let us take it.
5.2.2007 12:59pm
Francis (mail):
Richard: take your "pretending" allegation and shove it. You don't know s**t about me or about my beliefs regarding the effect of the embargo.

Here's a very simple truth and i'm typing really slowly so you might understand:

Your political opponents do not all hold the same beliefs.
5.2.2007 1:06pm
dejapooh (mail):

1. Why do think having a tyrannical dictator like Saddam back in charge would be a good idea? Do you really think Iraqis don't deserve freedom?


I think this is really dodging the issue. I think having a tyrant (or tyrants) there is inevitable now. They are going to go through a civil war, they are going to kill hundreds of thousands, and then a new tyrant will take over. No one WANTS a tyrant in charge there, or anywhere. The problem is that when you remove a tyrant or tyrannical system there is a potential for civil violence based upon the civil discourse that had been so long delayed. Removing a tyrant is a dangerous issue because the potential for violence is so high. It should only be undertaken under the gravest of circumstances.

It is not that the Iraqis do not deserve freedom, but you need to remember that our freedom imposed upon them may appear like a new tyranny to them. Many believe their own tyranny is better than an imposed freedom. Many believe that freedom without basic security is difficult, especially in a society that has not been free for a long time.



2. Why do you think AQ will just melt awway after we've left?


Of course they will not melt away. But we have driven thousands to their ranks from around the world. The only connection between AQ and Iraq has occurred after the invasion. They had no foothold under the old tyrant.


3. Do you approve of the Taliban-style government they'd hoist on Iraq if given the chance? Women in burkhas, homosexuals stoned to death, forced adherence to the state religion - is this really what you want?


Why, do you? Seems to me that in all the time that the tyrant was in power, he never forced that issue. If it happens now, it will be a product of our invasion. Tricky thing about freedom, if the people elect politicians who pass laws following that perversion of Islam, what will we do about it?



4. Do you think there has been no good thing happen inside Iraq simply b/c you haven't seen it on the news?


The real question should be where is the society and where is it going. I think we may end up with 3 new 'stans and a heck of a lot of fighting where the populations mix (as radicals try to force their perception of the "outsiders" out). Is it peaceful in MOST of Iraq? Yes, most square miles of Iraq are peaceful. Most parts of Iraq started out cleansed of ethnic minorities. I am not sure this is a good thing.

***

By the way, I find it is usually better to assume that people who disagree with you are thoughtful and intelligent. In my opinion, the biggest problem with have in the U.S. is the loss of civility in our discourse (as your questions reflect). Democracy without civility is doomed.
5.2.2007 1:15pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Francis. You mean you never heard the embargo opponents claim the sanctions killed 500,000 children? What planet do you call home?
I will say you are quite assertive about which myth you have, temporarily, given up.
5.2.2007 1:35pm
Steve in CA (mail):
Holsinger, Aubrey, and a few others here have made the claim that "the media" (along with Democrats and whoever else) want us to lose the war. The rules of this blog prevent me from giving this the extremely uncivil response that it deserves, but, as someone with a spouse and many friends who work in the media, let me just say that I've never heard any journalist say anything remotely like "I hope we lose." And, it's an offensive and disgusting thing to imply. I don't like it when you call my friends traitors.
5.2.2007 2:03pm
Francis (mail):
Richard: Hear does not equal Hold.

I have heard the assertion that the embargo killed up to .5 million Iraqi children. Having never seen any legitimate data to support the assertion, I never held that belief.

The Lancet study, on the other hand, appears to me to be a legitimate attempt to analyze the impact of the invasion on Iraqi death rates. Whether the criticisms are credible can only be determined by obtaining a new data set, something which could be funded if there were the interest to do so.

oddly enough, that funding hasn't appeared.
5.2.2007 2:22pm
dejapooh (mail):

No one mentioned Libya - the one successful WMD program that was disclosed and eliminated as a result of the war (according the press reports). Who knew, going into Iraq would eliminate Libya's nuclear weapons program


Could you elaborate on this? I had not seen the admission by Lybia that the war in Iraq caused them to open up.
5.2.2007 2:29pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Steve in CA. Ever hear your friends and acquaintances saying, "I hope we win. Gosh, I hope we win."?
In fact, from time to time somebody will say something about hoping we learn not to be so hubristic next time, need to be humbled, need to pick up a few seats next election, need to not hand Bush a victory.
Fact is, your friends and acquaintances can spin the news without telling you their plans.
5.2.2007 2:48pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Daily Telegraph, March 9, 2003:

A spokesman for Mr Berlusconi said the prime minister had been telephoned recently by Col Gaddafi of Libya, who said: "I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid."
5.2.2007 3:17pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
oops, European date notation puts the day before the month, unlike our putting the month first. The Telegraph article was probably published on September 3, 2003, not March 9, 2003.
5.2.2007 3:21pm
Steve in CA (mail):
Mr. Aubrey,

What I meant was, the journalists I know are just as patriotic as anybody else. The suggestion that they want our country to lose the war is horrible, and I think it's about time the people who make that suggestion start getting called on it. (One of them is my wife, so I'm pretty well-informed)
5.2.2007 3:27pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Steve. I have no doubt that some journalists want us to win the war, others are unsure, and some want us to lose.
In most normal distributions, the tail on either end is remarkable but not disturbing.
In this case, the tail on the lose end, probably past two SD, if not one, is reprehensible, as well.
5.2.2007 3:29pm
cathyf:
Richard Aubrey, I find the notion that this particular distribution is normal to be laughable. Judging by what the media writes and broadcasts publicly, I'd say the shape is more like exponential decay.

But that's only judging by their public utterances. Perhaps they really are anti-surrender in their personal beliefs and are extraordinarily good at hiding it. For some reason.
5.2.2007 3:49pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
The media often hires terrorists as stringers in Iraq. This is particularly true of the AP. Almost all media stringers in Iraq are Sunni Arabs who, if they are not terrorists or terrorist supporters themselves, know they will be shot if they report things the terrorists don't want reported.

Note the almost complete absence in the media of the big story in Iraq in the past twelve months - the rampant ethnic cleansing of Sunni Arabs by Shiite death squads and militias. The reason is that the media's stringers won't cover it. The Baathist and Al Qaeda terrorists don't want them to.
5.2.2007 4:11pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ref AP. The AP sourced over sixty stories from a guy who doesn't exist. So we have no way of knowing where, exactly, the stories came from. Did the AP guy make it up after his hangover got better? Did the AP guy go home and the editors made it up? Did the stories come in over the transom?
Yeah. Credibility out the wazoo.
5.2.2007 4:28pm
Kelvin McCabe:
Perhaps the war supporters can answer this interesting quandary: 1) During Gulf War I, Dick Cheney, then secretary of defense, supported G.H.W.BUsh's decision not to take baghdad and remove saddam. The reason: The factional and religious differences within Iraq would lead to an intractible and unpredictable civil war, a war that could likely spill out into the greater mideast. There were no good leaders to emerge to replace saddam.(do we want another shia theocracy in the region?) In short, the consequences of removing saddam were too unpredictable and unacceptable to take that course of action, despite having 500,000 soldiers mobilized and in theatre.

2) Dick Cheney, as vice-president, completely reverses track, advocates for the removal of saddam, and severly downplays the very same risks he touted during gulf war 1 (they will treat us as liberators, flowers, 6month war, it will finance itself with OIL revenue, last throes etc..)

These two positions are completley incompatible, and in fact, what dick cheney the defense secretary cited as reasons to not remove saddam have in fact come to fruition.

What does this little lesson tell us? My thoughts: that this war of choice, and it was a war of choice, was motivated by factors independent of saddam's real or alleged threat to the U.S.,which was the initial reason for invading (mushroom clouds over u.s. cities ring a bell?)-despite all the historical revisionism being done now with regard to promoting democracy, that the evidence cited to support the war was cherry picked and ginned up as well, that the vice president consistently lied to the american people and the congress about the reality of a prolonged occupation, and that his approval of the strategy which specifically called for a speedy invasion of iraq and trip to baghdad which would ensure the worst case scenario, prophesized by cheney years ago, would in fact happen.

I did not support this war at the beginning, do not support its contiunation now - not because i support terrorists or dictators, but because I knew the administration was full of shit in making the case for war. They were intentionally misrepresenting the facts and more importanlty the consequences. There was no legitimacy at the beginning and there can now be none. We are not going to win any iraqi hearts and minds, no matter how many u.s. soldiers get sent. The only plausible solution is to find the best possible scenario for departure. And then figure out how to make sure this complete disaster, from within our own government, never happens again.
5.2.2007 4:54pm
Steve P. (mail):
I just wanted to poke my head in here and wave, so when we look back on this thread in 50 years (via some futuristic Wayback Machine), I can say I was there.
5.2.2007 5:06pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
kelvin,

Good cover stories contain large elements of truth. What you describe is what some factions in the national security bureaucracy, plus the Saud regime, did advocate, but the real reason for not taking out Saddam in 1991 was that the Saudi regime didn't want us to, and that was their price for letting us use their territory to base ground forces in for the liberation of Kuwait.

Bush the Elder didn't want the Saud condition to become a public issue, so a partial truth - the Saudi's justification which a not insigificant number of Bush the Elder's advisers (notably Brent Scowcroft) agreed with, was presented as the only reason.

The entire national security establishment decided some years later, during the Clinton administration, that this had been a mistake. The decision to invade Iraq, given any plausible reason, was made during the Clinton administration. 9/11 was that reason. The 2001-2002 debate within the present Bush administration was only over exactly when to do it, and a decision was made in 2002 to do it in early 2003.

After 9/11 there was no doubt whatever in the national security establishment that Iraq would be invaded. They had to do Afghanistan first, and build up stocks of precison-guided munitions, etc.

If you want to do any research here, I suggest you start by studying staff talks between the British and French armies after the 1911 Agadir Crisis. That will give you the background to understand the implications of what you study about military contingency plans for Iraq made during the Clinton administration. Such things are not planned on the spur of the moment. Years of staff preparations go into them. The same was true of our successful invasion of Afghanistan.
5.2.2007 5:11pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Kelvin,

A bit more. Our plans for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were prepared during the second Clinton admnistration. There were only small, immaterial changes in the Afghanistan plan as carried out. There were significant changes in the Clinton-era plan for Iraq as carried out during the Bush administration, notably in that we used about 25% less ground forces during the conquest phase, and there was no invasion overland from Turkey.

Had Gore been elected in 2000, the invasion of Afghanistan would not have changed a bit while the invaasion of Iraq would probably have been done with slightly larger initial ground forces than under the Bush administration. But a President Gore would still have authorized both invasions per long-standing plans drawn up during the predecesor administration.

The occupation campaign in Iraq might have been different under a Gore administration but don't kid yourself - we'd still have invaded. That was set in concrete before 9/11 - the latter was merely the form the trigger took.
5.2.2007 5:23pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ref plans.
Once in a while, there are some things that need to be done which nobody in his right mind would have predicted and there are no plans.
Had a buddy in OCS who'd been a paratrooper in the invasion of Santo Domingo. Every company had, as one of its first objectives, a gas station--to get the maps.
Imagine some junior LTC saying, "I think we ought to plan for Santo Domingo, just in case. Like we do so many other places, just in case." End of his career.
Not much in the files on Grenada, goes the rumor, either.
But the desire to "plan for" can be used by lefties as if the mean ol' US is "planning to". Most people know better, including the lefties who are rending their garments over the issue.

Speaking of lefties, it used to be that our opponents had to fake the US or its allies into fighting in and around and over civilians trying to go about their lawful affairs. This would provide cannon fodder in the form of dead civilians for the use of the liberals. Our opponents knew the libs cared naught for the civilians killed by our opponents. Sort of asymmetric warfare.
In Iraq, they've cut out the middle man. They kill civilians directly and the left uses them just the same as if the US killed them. Admirable economy, says I.
From now on, any time the buttheads want to defeat the US, all they have to do is blow up some civilians, their own civilians, and we lose. Easy thing to do. Don't even have to face US soldiers to do it.
Admirable economy, says I.
5.2.2007 5:29pm
Russ (mail):
You're right, dejapooh - my asking you to justify your position qualifies as uncivil discourse. Sheesh.

None of the Iraqis I met wanted a return to tyranny. And it was MUCH worse under Saddam than you could ever imagine. I've personally seen the results - kids maimed b/c their parents wouldn't allow weapons stored in their home, families torn apart by mass rapings in (then)Saddam City(now Sadr City) by Uday and Qusay, the mass graves north of Karbala. They were thrilled with the elections, and astonished they could have any say over their own futures. Dejapooh, youdodge the issue by enjoying freedom yourself yet saying others couldn't possibly comprehend it in your "civilized" manner.

The only AQ connection was after the invasion?!?! Well, this would certainly come as a surprise to Zarqaei, who was in Iraq by the summer of 2001. It also would come as a hell of a surprise to the soldiers I led to help destroy the training camps in central/northern central Iraq in April 2003.

I love how you elevate Saddam to some grand samaritan. Saddam was the polar opposite of what a liberal should support - he squelched free speech and press, held no fair elections, gassed minorities, ecologically devastated the Marshlands b/c he didn't care for the Marsh Arabs, and stole from the poor to give to the rich. You are deflecting b/c it makes you uncomfortable.

Finally, you completely ignored my last question - there is a lot of good news in Iraq, but none is being reported. I don't expect no bad news - that's part of the cycle and vital for the public to understand so they can form an informed opinion. However, they are not getting the whole story. I asked an ABC news reporter about this once, and he replied that they don't report that stuff b/c it would be like reporting that 60,000 airplanes take off and land safely in the US every day. He didn't understand my incredulity at his statement, since most people in the US have the proper context for the airplane remark, but if all they see in Iraq is people hating us, they will assume all hate us.

Additionally, no one has yet addressed the fact that AQ is NOW in Iraq. Why is this a problem? Having fought against them, they stink! They have gone to hitting softer targets b/c every single time they engage us in a stand up fight, we win. Not 99 times out of 100, but 100 times out of 100. The best analogy to their fighting abilities would be that we are the Indianapolis Colts, and they are a high school JV team - good when facing people who haven't been trained, but sucky against real professionals. And if they want to fight us there, then let them!

BTW, if you think the current war is a recruitment tool, then wait to see what would happen following a withdrawal when they can point to a "victory."

Those opposed here resort to one of two tactics:
1. Personal attacks b/c those that support the war are eeeeeeevil.
2. Shouting we are losing b/c we are suffering casualties. Thank God you folks weren't in charge after Bataan, or Pusan, or Churubusco, or Bladensburg, or...
5.2.2007 5:38pm
KeithK (mail):

We've unleashed the gates of hell. How do you quantify a mother's pain over seeing her young daughter's face blown off? How do you quantify the stress of an American family wondering whether their child/spouse/parent/sibling will ever come back. How do you quantify the pain that PTSD will cause the countless veterans?


How does one quantify the pain of a man watching his wife raped because he may not have toed the line in the Hussein regime? Or that of someone seeing a family member fed into a shredder? Or that of thousands of Kurds and Shia whose children, siblings, parents and friends were slaughtered at Saddam's orders?

The answer is you can't. You can count the bodies but you can't measure the pain.

When faced with a choice where both sides present the possibilities of horrors you have to make your best guess as to which course will lead to the better outcome. For me, taking out Saddam's regime was and is the right choice.
5.2.2007 5:42pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Richard Aubrey,

Few here have any idea of the degree to which institutional inertia controls these matters. The so-called political decisions at the end are largely window-dressing. Barbara Tuchman got it exactly right in her Guns of August.

A Gore admnistration would have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and almost exactly like the Bush administration did. Furthermore Gore might have done a better job.
5.2.2007 5:43pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Tom. It's possible he'd have sold it better. But I think he'd have crumbled at any resistance. However, the republicans are far less likely to want to sabotage a president in time of war to pick up a few seats, and the MSM would give him a break. So perhaps the resistance would have taken longer to get going.
Recall the breaks Clinton got over the FBI files, just to pick one, and consider Gore with his FISA issues. No problema.
Interesting dynamic. Elect the saboteurs because if they're not elected, they'll screw everything up.
5.2.2007 6:00pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Richard,

I wouldn't go that far. But Bush has been such an inarticulate, torpid, dweeb that it would have been difficult for Gore to be much worse, save perhaps by being energetic and stupid.

Clausewitz ... classifies officers as follows:

The brilliant and energetic man makes the best staff officer. He handles routine work with accuracy and completeness.

The brilliant and lazy man makes the best commanding officer. He tends to see the big picture accurately and avoids preoccupation with detail work which might distract him.

The stupid and lazy man makes the best subordinate. He will do what he is told properly, no more no less.

The stupid and energetic man, however, is to be avoided at all costs. He is quite capable of ruining the best laid plans.

5.2.2007 6:16pm
dejapooh (mail):

I just wanted to poke my head in here and wave, so when we look back on this thread in 50 years (via some futuristic Wayback Machine), I can say I was there.


Geez, I hope I am alive in 50 years...
5.2.2007 6:20pm
Le Messurier (mail):
Houston Lawyer
If we stay until the job is done, we will have proved something to our potential adversaries. They recruit based upon our past history of abandoning our allies.

We have already abandoned the Iraqis once, following the first Gulf War. At that point, Saddam killed hundreds of thousands of Shia and Kurds. There is every reason to think that an early withdrawal will lead to killing fields once again. You may tell yourself that this is not our concern, but the rest of the world won't see it that way.


The killing fields of Cambodia were a direct result of our withdrawl from Vietnam. The anti-war people of that time are loath to admit it, which is why you seldom see this connection drawn. Their shame would be too great if they did.

If we were to withdraw from this war (the word "surrender" is quite appropriate as it is for our leaving Vietnam.)the connection to the resulting genocide would be obvious, and those advocating the withdrawl would have the blood of the thousands and thousands on there own hands. Reid, Pelosi, Murtha et all would bear direct responsibilty for the murders. Cast your counter arguments any way you wish. No other conclusion could or would be drawn. If you say "so what that it results in genocide", then get in the boat with Tom Holsinger.

The worldwide repercussions of withdrawing would be an evergrowing and almost unstoppable conversion of the peoples to Islam. Europe would be an early target. Terrorism would be only for the purpose of terrifying the populace and cowering them into pacifism. (Think Spain here) The movement to Sharia would soon be immutable.

Now, my preference would be for my grandkids to grow up as Christians. But heck, that just me.

Has the Iraq war been screwed up? You bet. Are we on the right track now? I hope so! Can we leave now and maintain our security? Not hardly. Were in it now and we have to, we MUST finish it.
5.2.2007 6:49pm
Kelvin McCabe:
I fail to see the rebuttal argument Tom, but i dont claim to be as versed in military history or battles as you. As far as i am concerned, the inherent instability resulting from removing the standing government of Iraq; because of the historical tension between the kurds, shia, and sunni, and even deeper tensions between specific tribal bands within each sect, along with the power vacuum and power struggle between all above sects to assume power with saddam gone would dictate the result. Which is what we see now. Even the foreign involvment of Iran was quite predictable, given the iraqi Shia fighters who fought with Iran against Iraq in the iraq/iran war.

I am sure that the dept of defense, or the security establishment, has contingency plans, updated from time to time, to invade and win a war in a whole host of countries, from n. korea, africa, russia, iran, whatever. Probably even so for countries who are now considered "allies" - such as Japan. It would be imprudent not to have them. It is always better to be prepared for a worse case scenario.

Having a plan in place, however, does not mean you have to use it. It seems to me that your response indicates that the civilian control of the country's armed forces is a 'sham'. The plans were laid, they were going to be carried out, and all that was needed was a catalyst, which 9/11 conveniently provided. It just so happens that it occured on a hawkish republican ticket. But this is just getting into conspiracy land, (of the 9/11 was an inside job to start a series of wars in the middle east category) which i do not ascribe to. I do not see why invading afghanistan HAD TO lead to an invasion of Iraq. I dont see why distortions of reality had to be resorted to justify and sell the war, and I will never see how, now, winning the hearts and minds of average iraqi's will ever take place. Substantial majorities of iraqi's want us gone, 2 yrs ago, and more and more iraqi's think attacks on u.s. troops are justified. The longer we stay, the longer this goes on. In short, we severely underestimated the consequences of the invasion as judged by the way it was carried out, even though those in the know, knew exactly what those consequences could be, and then lied to us, and Congress, and the world via the U.N. about it. No amount of saudi involvement or appeasement can change the fact that dick cheney's claims about 6months of war, being greeted as liberators, etc...were completely BS and he knew it to be BS when he said it. If you are saying that the VP is just a voice of the military establishment, and they are the one's who really call the shots, then just say it and i may believe you. For there is no other rational explanation, other than sheer stupidity and incompetence, for what is happening now. While bush may fit this mold, cheney does not, and the military scholars, planners, and elite do not either. Something stinks.
5.2.2007 7:40pm
NYC Observer (mail):
What seems to be missing from a lot of these posts is giving any thought to the motives of the other side. Bin Laden, specifically.

Bib Laden wrote two "letters to America" in which he explained why he attacked us on 9-11. The reasons were: the presence our soldiers in Saudi Arabia enforcing the no-fly zone which defiled the "land of the two holy places", the aggressive low-level combat associated with enforcing the no-fly zone (the jihadis assert that the US has been at war ever since Gulf War 1, that the war never stopped), the Iraqi embargo and anctions which allegedly killed millions of Iraqi children, US support for Israel, and our failure to adopt Sharia law.

So basically we were attacked because of our Iraq policy.

But the liberal line about 9-11 is that "Iraq had nothing to do with it".

Iraq had everything to do with it. It was the jihadis casus belli.

After we were attacked, we had three options:

1) Agree to bin Laden's demands and withdraw from Saudi Arabia and stop all sanctions against Iraq, etc.

2) Continue to make low-level war against Saddam, i.e. "keep him in his box". This is the strategy that got 3,000 Americans killed on 9-11, and the strategy advocated by the Left.

3) Conduct a high-level war against Saddam, depose him, and give the Iraqis a chance at having a feee country.

Then the amazingly stupid Bush came up with a 4th option: allow Saddam to remain if he agreed to all UN resolutions and terms of the cease fire.

So the war decision was entirely Saddam's and the jihadis.

How could we have done anything but depose Saddam after he refused Bush's 4th option?

Can anyone on the left offer a response to these comments?
5.2.2007 8:27pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Kelvin,

Not all military plans prepared in peacetime are "contingency" plans. This is why I recommended you start with the British and French staff talks before World War One. The sources you would find on those, particularly in English, show what irresistible institutional momemtum was created towards British intervention and how that constrained the Asquith government's diplomatic maneuver room.

In the case of the second Clinton admnistration plans for invading Afghanistan and Iraq, almost everyone involved fully expected those to be implemented within a few years. Clinton's last Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, taught at Georgetown in the spring semester of 2001 and told his class that he expected a successful major terrorist attack on us at home within a year. He knew what was coming, not precisely, but that it would happen and that it would be big.

Had Gore been elected and retained Cohen as Defense Secretary, Cohen rather than Rumsfeld would have overseen the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Per the plans that Cohen had approved.

Some military plans prepared in peacetime are intended for actual use, and sometimes their use is expected in the very near future.

That happened here. The outcome of our 2000 Presidential election merely determined whether a Democratic or Republican President would carry out the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq using plans prepared during Clintons' Democratic administration, and approved by his Republican Secretary of Defense. Cohen had been a Republican U.S. Senator before being appointed as Clinton's last Secretary of Defense.
5.2.2007 9:51pm
Derrick (mail):
NYC Observer,

I find it interesting that people like you reference what OBL sometimes says as evidence of his reasoning but ignore it at other times because it doesn't correspond with your worldview. If you are so concerned with what OBL says then do you realize that the he was calling for a war in Iraq so that he could rally his faithful? If he is to be believed as a spokesman for radical jihadism then he frequently speaks about how the war has helped him and his cause. I quite frankly do believe that the Iraq War is helping Al Queda, but I'm sure that you will ignore that piece of OBL's reasoning because it doesn't already comport with your bias.
5.2.2007 10:34pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Well, this would certainly come as a surprise to Zarqaei, who was in Iraq by the summer of 2001.

Amazing how disinformation, like a recessive gene, never vanishes from the internet.

Zarqawi was in the northern no-fly zone, precisely so that he would not be subject to Saddam's catching &executing him, as Saddam would surely have done.

Saddam's regime was founded on a SECULAR tyranny that sought to repress the seething potential for Sunni-Shiite conflict. He wanted fanatical Sunni terrorists like he wanted a hole in his head.
5.2.2007 10:34pm
Russ (mail):
Great reasoning, Anderson - Saddam was a secular tyrant, so he really wasn't all that bad.

BTW, the no-fly zones never once prevented Saddam from sending armored forces anywhere in Iraq he wanted to.

It was an Arab proverb that "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Saddam took help from wherever he could get it.

But you've never had to look into the eyes of a family effected by his tyranny, so that makes it ok for you.

Enjoy your freedom, but remember that others might just want the same chance. Freedom is not easy - it takes hard work and patience, which is something that many of you seem to be lacking in these days.
5.2.2007 11:44pm
Jim Hu:
My $0.02 .
Excerpt:
My basic problem is that I remain optimistic about the long term prospects for united Iraq in principle, if the US and the coalition were steadfastly committed to victory. But that, alas, is looking more and more like a condition contrary to facts on the ground in the US and the UK.

I would still have supported going into Iraq. It just looks like the flavor of tragedy for the Iraqis and the world will be different than it would have been had we not gone in.
5.3.2007 2:39am
Michael B (mail):
Any reference to "recessive genes" and "disinformation" from the Left is particularly rich.

More Than Enough Evidence, What George Tenet really says about Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda, extended excerpt, emphases added, excerpts from Tenet's book in block quotes:

"... here is something you probably have not heard or read about Tenet's book: it confirms that there was a relationship between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda. And, according to Tenet, "there was more than enough evidence to give us real concern" about it too.

[...]

"... Tenet explains that in late 2002 and early 2003:
"There was more than enough evidence to give us real concern about Iraq and al-Qa'ida; there was plenty of smoke, maybe even some fire: Ansar al-Islam [note: Tenet refers to Ansar al-Islam by its initials "AI" in several places]; Zarqawi; Kurmal; the arrests in Europe; the murder of American USAID officer Lawrence Foley, in Amman, at the hands of Zarqawi's associates; and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad operatives in Baghdad.
"On Ansar al-Islam, Zarqawi, and Kurmal, Tenet elaborates further:
"The intelligence told us that senior al-Qa'ida leaders and the Iraqis had discussed safe haven in Iraq. Most of the public discussion thus far has focused on Zarqawi's arrival in Baghdad under an assumed name in May of 2002, allegedly to receive medical treatment. Zarqawi, whom we termed a "senior associate and collaborator" of al-Qa'ida at the time, supervised camps in northern Iraq run by Ansar al-Islam (AI).
"We believed that up to two hundred al-Qa'ida fighters began to relocate there in camps after the Afghan campaign began in the fall of 2001. The camps enhanced Zarqawi's reach beyond the Middle East. One of the camps run by AI, known as Kurmal, engaged in production and training in the use of low-level poisons such as cyanide. We had intelligence telling us that Zarqawi's men had tested these poisons on animals and, in at least one case, on one of their own associates. They laughed about how well it worked. Our efforts to track activities emanating from Kurmal resulted in the arrest of nearly one hundred Zarqawi operatives in Western Europe planning to use poisons in operations.
"According to Tenet, al Qaeda's presence was not limited to northern Iraq:
"What was even more worrisome was that by the spring and summer of 2002, more than a dozen al-Qa'ida-affiliated extremists converged on Baghdad, with apparently no harassment on the part of the Iraqi government. They had found a comfortable and secure environment in which they moved people and supplies to support Zarqawi's operations in northeastern Iraq."
5.3.2007 7:11am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I'm not the first to point out that the name of the capital city of the last country to trust us is Ho Chi Minh City.
That, too, was a matter of dem/lib treachery.
5.3.2007 9:23am
sbw (mail) (www):
Steve from CA: I've never heard any journalist say anything remotely like "I hope we lose." And, it's an offensive and disgusting thing to imply. I don't like it when you call my friends traitors.

You have distilled legitimate criticism of journalism into meaningless gibberish in a manner that allows you to discount its fair critics and not learn anything of value yourself.

To read what I wrote about journalism and pointed to above, see Journalistic Indifference and Crisis? What crisis?

Please pocket your contrived offense and don't try to pull rank. I have published newspapers for decades and will match credentials and good sense with anyone.
5.3.2007 11:06am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Great reasoning, Anderson - Saddam was a secular tyrant, so he really wasn't all that bad.

Actually, that was the reasoning of the U.S. government (including some of the biggest boosters of this war) until he invaded Kuwait. And btw, although the invasion of Kuwait was completely unjustified, the dispute that precipitated the invasion was legitimate. The Kuwaitis were slant drilling and potentially stealing oil from Iraq.

As for idiots above like Tom Hoslinger who thinks its a good thing we are participating (or at least passively permitting) the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis, he like this addle-minded administration, apparently can not think through the logical consequences of actions. How does he think the Sunni oil states to the west are going to react to a Shiite dominated Iraq? They have significant Shiite minorities, which unfortunately for them, live in the areas where all the oil is. Does he really think that killing or displacing 20% of the population of Iraq (and the best educated and richest part at that) is actually going to increase stability in the region?

Oh and Tom, the article (from March 7) you posted was a bit premature wasn't it. Seems like two months later Iraq should be even quieter. Isn't working out that way, is it?
5.3.2007 12:04pm
TJIT (mail):
J.F Thomas,

You miss one small difference in the landscape around the time Kuwait was invaded.

That is the Soviet Union was rapidly transitioning to the former Soviet Union. Don't you think that might change what was acceptable geopolitically?

Don't you think it was also possible that watching Saddam pop off and invade another country would argue strongly that the risk he posed to the region far outweighed any geopolitical benefits his regime provided to the region?

There were two mistakes at the end of the first gulf war. The first was not removing saddam from power.

The second was asking the people of Iraq to revolt against saddam and not back them when they did. That was a big reason we could not get the people in iraq to help much after the second iraq war.

We screwed them once and that made it prudent for the citizens of Iraq to not do anything to help us until we proved ourselves as being trustworthy.
5.3.2007 1:34pm