Will the White House Change Course on Iraq?:
The New York Times has an interesting report on this question.
John T. (mail):
Always interesting to compare articles like with with the Times's articles from their own writers actually in Iraq, like John Burns.
7.9.2007 4:45am
Gaius Marius:
In reading both articles, my impression is that Iraq must be partitioned and the United States should only aid those provinces where the United States is realizing, and will realize, success. Hence, Kurdistan and Anbar Province should be partitioned from Iraq and provided aid. Baghdad should be written off and left to its own demise.

The White House will not change course because President Bush and Vice President Cheney are inflexible and incapable of adapting war plans to ever changing circumstances unlike great military leaders like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and George Washington. If Bush and Cheney want to be foolhardy enough to "stay the course," then all the power to them. They just should not expect the Republicans to run off the edge of the political cliff along with them like a bunch of lemmings.
7.9.2007 9:27am
Eventually they will have no choice, but if history is any guide they will first do maximum damage to the GOP's electoral chances.
7.9.2007 9:36am
Justin (mail):
"Will the White House Change Course on Iraq?"

For an answer, click here.
7.9.2007 9:47am
rarango (mail):
I doubt if the Administration has any real plans to withdraw based on the defection of a couple of republican senators who, just coincidentally, are up for relection in the next cycle. Rather, this thumbsucker is, I suspect, designed to appeal to congressional republicans as the congress once again takes up spending on the war. But I may be over cynical.
7.9.2007 11:04am
uh clem (mail):
The Bush plan is to somehow muddle through until Jan 2009. Then it becomes somebody else's problem.

So, no, there will be no course change - the destination's in sight, and they're headed straight for it.

Changing course would be tantamount to admitting a mistake, and that won't happen - not while he's within reach of running out the clock.
7.9.2007 11:11am
Henri Le Compte (mail):
I for one hope we do not. Sooner or later folks this war is going to have to be fought. Radical Islam is an expansionist, messianic movement. They have tasted "victory" with 9/11, and now in Iraq (should we leave). It will be an error of historical proportions for us to abandon Iraq. What's more, all you sage counselors today will be just as quick to curse Bush for his "fecklessness in running out on Iraq" when we are engulfed by WW3 in ten years time. (Just the way you did with Bush 1.)

Everyone is a genius in hindsight, and everyone is pretty-darn-smart in the near term. But in the long run? Not so good...
7.9.2007 12:07pm
David Drake:

Those who voted for the War in Iraq and now oppose it are summer soldiers and sunshine patriots. The GOP Senators in particular are disheartening--they apparently care more for their reelection efforts than for the good of this country and indeed of the West.

I'm afraid we are going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, because the only way we lose in Iraq is to quit.
7.9.2007 2:44pm
I don't think the Congress will vote for a full withdrawal in our lifetimes, not with 4,000 dead and buried in the ground. If it was in our national security interests to stay longterm before that, nothing much has changed since to make it less so. We're there for the longterm it appears, and anybody who originally voted for that resolution knew that then, and will have to defend that vote accordingly.

However, I suspect that after September, after this "surge", there'll be some type of stepback, until we get to the headcount that Rumsfeld had in mind from the beginning, shortly after the invasion (let's say it all together now: "RUMSFELD WAS RIGHT")

Politically it's as much a loser to be tagged "cut-and-runner" as to be tagged "baby-killing-warmonger", and politicians will do their best to be on both sides of that fence, as usual (or preferably neither side, other than the pork side). So how this cuts in an election isn't as clear as some are making out. Ultimately, like immigration, it might turn out to cross conventional political lines, with the Blue Dog Democrats swapping places with some on the other side, with no impact on the final vote count.

But if there are no terrorist attacks in this country between now and election day 2008, then I wouldn't want to be an incumbent juxtaposed with Bush on this issue, that's for sure.
7.9.2007 5:03pm
Prof. Kerr, you seem to be overusing the word "interesting" when it comes to newspaper articles.
7.9.2007 6:45pm
I'm amused that Henri expresses skepticism about long run predictions in the same post that he confidently predicts exactly what will be happening in ten years if we withdraw from Iraq. I guess it is only other people who have trouble predicting the future, but Henri's crystal ball works just fine.

Incidentally, of course what is really going on in Iraq is a sectarian war between Shiites and Sunnis ("Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia" is basically a sideshow, and there is good reason to believe that if we withdraw from Iraq the Iraqis will effectively wipe them out). Henri may or may not be right that sooner or later such a fight had to be fought, but in any event I don't see anything inevitable about the United States becoming a party to the Islamic version of the Thirty Years War.

Similarly, whackjobbb writes: "If it was in our national security interests to stay longterm before [almost 4000 KIA], nothing much has changed since to make it less so." The logical reply is that the premise is false, meaning it was never in fact in our national security interests to stay in Iraq longterm. For that matter, it was never in fact in our national security interests to invade Iraq at all.

It is true, though, that these are not recent revelations: at the very latest, our lack of a sufficient national security interest for the Iraq invasion became clear once we found out that Iraq did not in fact have advanced WMD programs and WMD stockpiles. What has happened since then is the tragic failure by various parties to accept that as a nation, we made a colossal mistake by invading Iraq in the first place, and that we are simply compounding that mistake by staying there.
7.10.2007 4:57am

For that matter, it was never in fact in our national security interests to invade Iraq at all.

You'll have to explain that to the 3/4 of our body politic who voted for that resolution. And since we pulled Sadaam out of that spider hole and thus forced Khadaffi to turn state's evidence, we've uncovered the A.Q. Khan nuclear bazaar that Iran has actively traded in, as would Sadaam have if he'd been given the chance, and Khan hadn't been exposed. None of the choices were good ones, but 3/4 chose this one.

Perhaps the 3/4 understood then the dangers of nuclear proliferation, especially when dealing with the Sadaam/Khadaffi/Dear Leader/mullah types, even if you still don't today?

In any event, any Senator/Rep who voted for an Iraqi invasion understood this to be a longterm commitment, and cutting and running now is definitely not in our national security interests. I believe we'll be there for a 1/2 century or more now, and I highly doubt any collection of demopublicraticans will come to any other conclusion but that one.
7.10.2007 12:10pm

That is the nature of a mistake: you think something is a good idea at one point, then realize at a later point that it was not a good idea after all. So while I acknowledged that we made the decision to invade Iraq as a nation (although a minority objected, of course), the fact that we made this decision as a nation does not mean that decision was any less of a mistake.

As for our current national security interests, there is nothing "definite" about your claim that our ongoing presence in Iraq serves our national interests--in fact, most of the evidence is actually to the contrary, particularly when you factor in the enormous costs. Indeed, probably the best available argument for staying is an altruistic one: that we owe a duty to the Iraqi people since we put them into this situation, even if it is not in our own national interests.

The problem is that even if you accept this altruistic argument in abstract, in practice there is very little reason to believe that we are actually doing anything in Iraq but delaying the inevitable result of toppling Saddam. And the inevitable result may not be as bad as some people claim--indeed, the doomsayers about what will happen if we leave are largely the same people who have made repeated erroneous predictions about Iraq in the past.
7.10.2007 12:29pm

By the way, here is why a sufficient number of existing politicians will either admit their mistake, or be replaced when they seek reelection:

Latest Gallup Poll Results
7.10.2007 12:57pm
You'll go a long way before you find any serious reviewer of our national security interests who believes we should pull out of Iraq completely. And no, I don't expect any collection of republicraticans to do so. They'll back down to Rumsfeld's original plan, albeit 4-5 years later than he advocated.

No doubt, polls will show people don't like war and death, but we know that from the jump, don't we?

I understand you think this was a "mistake", but implicit in your analysis is that nuclear proliferation isn't an issue, and obviously wasn't with Sadaam Hussein. However, since Khadaffi's entire nuclear program is currently sitting down in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, including the P3 centrifuges, uranium hexaflouride stocks, Chinese warhead designs, and full documentation for the entire program including comprehensive interviews of all Libyan personnal involved, and this material would not have been in our possession WITHOUT an Iraq invasion, you may want to reconsider your position.

And make no mistake, the Butcher of Baghdad would have jumped into the Khan nuclear bazaar, and would have been even more advanced than Khadaffi shortly, if we hadn't jumped in. This is what the 3/4 of our body politic knew then and knows today, if they're honest, because Paki involvement in nuclear proliferation was known qualitatively, if not quantitatively, prior to 2003.

Now, all this is a tough sell to the public, and I don't ever expect a Bush White House that can't coherently convince anybody that grass is green, to make this case. Nonetheless, it is the case. And it is compelling, and is also driving our negotiations with Iran and N. Korea, if you notice.

I wouldn't be too quick to jump to any conclusions as to how this will play out in elections. Remember, "cut-and-runners" will be scorned equally in some corners, even as the "warmongers" are in others. Overriding all this would be our national security interests, and I don't expect the demopublicraticans to ignore those, and collectively advocate a pullout, not after 4,000 are in the ground, and leaving would preclude our influence on future events in the region. I just don't see that happening (observe how Murtha is received, for example). We'll be there a 1/2 century from now, and likely longer, I suspect.
7.10.2007 1:53pm

Sure, we won't pull out "completely". For example, I imagine we will leave a significant military presence in Kurdistan, which is not in fact party to the Shiite-Sunni civil war. We may also maintain air superiority, intervene if we detect mass genocide, and so on. But we will in fact end our direct participation in the Shiite-Sunni civil war--it is just a matter of time.

As for nuclear proliferation, of course it is an extremely serious issue. But once it became clear that Iraq did not have an advanced nuclear program, the benefit in that respect came nowhere close to justifying the costs of an invasion and occupation. In fact, we'd be much better off taking the $1 trillion plus we will end up spending on this war and devoting it to Nunn-Lugar.

Incidentally, you are wrong about Libya. Libya had already decided to negotiate an end to its WMD programs long before we invaded Iraq, as an outgrowth of its negotiations to settle the Lockerbie matter (negotiations which started in 1999). Libya wanted to end the UN sanctions regime that had been in place since 1991 as a result of Lockerbie, which had done very serious economic damage to Libya. But the UN made giving up its WMD programs a condition of ending the sanctions.

As for scorn of "cut-and-runners": I am sure such scorn will persist in some "corners" indefinitely. The political reality, however, is that those corners are small and getting smaller all the time. So, it doesn't really matter what those folks feel: when their numbers become too small, the democratic process will have its way, in one manner or another.
7.10.2007 2:28pm
By the way, I agree it was entirely forseeable that the American people would not put up with this sort of occupation. That is part of why the war was sold in conjunction with ludicrous predictions about things like the reception we would get, the costs, the required number of troops, the likely length of the occupation, and so on.

I'm not entirely sure what the people making those predictions were thinking--maybe they convinced themselves their predictions were true, or maybe they just thought, like you, that they could lock the country into the war. Either way, though, they were wrong (either about the costs, or about the willingness of the American people to put up with those costs indefinitely).
7.10.2007 2:36pm
No, I'm not wrong about Libya. The Italians nabbed that freighter loaded with Khan goodies in the Summer of 2003, shortly after the Iraq invasion. And armed with that information, that's when Bush/Blair, with Baathist blood still on their swords, informed Khadaffi that "You're next." Khadaffi stalled a few months, but when Sadaam got dragged out of that spiderhole in December, he found religion, and complied. We wouldn't have gotten that compliance without that threat, and the certain knowledge that the threat would be followed up with action, which the Iraq invasion provided in spades.

Now, you may feel in hindsight that the benefits don't outweigh the costs, but you'll have to explain that to the 3/4 of the body politic, and to all major party candidates in 2004, who said that it DID... even after all became known. And again, I don't think you'll ever get serious national security types to agree with you, today or ever.

By the way, the "UN" found out the details about Khadaffi's nuclear program and the Khan nuclear bazaar the say way you and I did... in the newspapers. They were completely ignorant of those details, emblatic of UN non-proliferation in general, basically. Today, they may not be ignorant, assuming Bush has let them tour our facility in Tennessee.

I'd disagree with you on the scorning of cut-and-runners. The majority won't tolerate such action, I think, even as they express their distaste for war and death. That might seem schizoid, but public opinion is what it is, and always has been. They simply want positive action... and we haven't seen enough of that.

You're right though, it'll all come down to politics, and that would indicate we finally execute the Rumsfeld doctrine in Iraq... for the next 1/2 century or more.
7.10.2007 2:55pm
Not sure what "predictions" you're referencing, or what they mean in any event (and there ain't much passing out of most any individual politician's mouth that I pay much attention to these days, nor should you).

The resolution that 3/4 of our body politic voted affirmatively on did all our speaking, I'd say, like it or not, and yes anybody voting affirmatively on that knew it to be a longterm commitment. Anybody who tells you otherwise is admitting they're a fool. And anybody acting on such a notion, and advocating complete pullout as Murtha did, is an even bigger fool.
7.10.2007 3:01pm

See here:

Libya Gives Up Nuclear and Chemical Weapons

"Libya's willingness to give up its WMD program is essentially another step in the process that was started earlier this summer when it agreed to accept responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and to pay $10m (£5.6m) in compensation to the relatives of each of the 270 people killed in the 1988 attack on the airliner.

Libya has been making efforts to return to the international fold and develop closer trade links with the West since 1999, when it handed over two Libyan suspects to stand trial under Scottish law at a purpose-built court in the Netherlands. In January 2001, one of those suspects, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, was convicted. His co-accused was cleared.

In exchange for the compensation and the acceptance of responsibility, the United Nations in September formally lifted sanctions against Libya that had been in place since 1991. America's own sanctions have remained, with Washington insisting they would stay in place until Libya proved it 'changed its ways'. The UN resolution also demanded that Libya give up any WMD."

By the way, the polls make it clear that the American people not only disapprove of the handling of the war, but also think it was a mistake in the first place, and that we should withdraw our troops by 2008 at the latest. The "cut-and-run" rhetoric was tried as an electoral strategy in 2006, and it failed miserably. But feel free to keep imagining the American people somehow secretly agree with you. In the meantime, politicians who want to keep their jobs will deal with political reality, and those who don't deal with political reality will lose their jobs.
7.10.2007 3:19pm
Incidentally, here is Tony Blair:

"'Libya has now declared its intention to dismantle these weapons of mass destruction completely and to limit the range of Libyan missiles to no greater than 300km,' the Prime Minister said, speaking in Durham. He said Libya had confirmed it wanted the process of putting the weapons out of use to be 'transparent and verifiable'.

He added: 'Libya came to us in March following successful negotiations on Lockerbie to see if it could resolve its WMD issue in a similarly co-operative manner. Nine months of work followed with experts from the US and UK, during which the Libyans discussed their programs with us.'"

Somehow Tony seems to have gotten it all wrong, claiming that his WMD negotiations with Libya began in March and not the summer, that Libya approached him and not the other way around, that the basis was Lockerbie and not the Iraq War, and the Libyans were cooperating long before Saddam was captured. And he completely left out the part about his blood-stained sword.
7.10.2007 3:49pm
Precisely, Khadaffi was threatened by the Bush/Blair warlords, and turned state's evidence in December 2003, which occurred shortly after this additional admission that Summer, as mentioned in your article:

Libya's willingness to give up its WMD program is essentially another step in the process that was started earlier this summer when it agreed to accept responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and to pay $10m (£5.6m) in compensation to the relatives of each of the 270 people killed in the 1988 attack on the airliner.

The threat worked, obviously, for both Lockerbie and the nuke program. The Lockerbie thing was longstanding, 15 years or so, and Bush/Blair "persuaded" Khadaffi that this might be an opportune moment for him to clear up all of this, before he got cleared off by a USAF JDAM.

And as for your assertions about the "UN", we have this from that same article:

It is far from clear precisely what WMD if any Tripoli may actually possess and the task of verification will fall to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Oh, the BBC may not have known, but Bush/Blair and the non-proliferation experts in Oak Ridge, Tennessee knew precisely by December what Khadaffi had, as it was sitting in their facility there. Maybe I was wrong though, and the UN STILL doesn't know what Khadaffi's program contained. Not that it really matters, because they're useless to the anti-proliferation effort as we know.

If you pay attention to who was actually winning in the 2006 elections, it was plenty of Blue Dog Democrats, who basically scorn the cut-and-runners, and Murtha, whose plan was pitched immediately upon their arrival in Washington. As mentioned, polls are one thing, but there's only 1 poll that counts, and those Blue Dogs know that. Don't be so certain about all this, I'd suggest.

We'll settle all this politically, yes, but you shouldn't act so certain as to how it plays out. I suspect the Rumsfeld doctrine plays out, and so far, my suspicion is working out.

You and I are not that far apart, as we seem to agree on the ultimate outcome. We seem to disagree as to how we got here, and the true "worth" of what we've achieved, but there's no doubting that timeline, and the fruits we gained as a result of our actions during that timeline. History will judge this, of course, and I expect them to review this in the full light of the situation, which I don't believe you are. But we do agree on how we proceed from here, no?
7.10.2007 4:23pm
And by the way, to further correct your incorrect timeline, we have this from the CFR (available at many other sources, btw, and your continued denial of the real timeline here is getting annoying):

How was Khan's network discovered?

Experts had suspected Khan for a long time, but couldn't confirm their suspicions until October 2003, when Italian authorities seized a German ship carrying 1,000 centrifuges headed for Libya. The parts were made in Malaysia and shipped through the Middle East, according to news reports. Libya was able to get nearly complete centrifuges through the network, as well as blueprints for a Pakistani-designed nuclear warhead.

Blair's diplomatic niceties notwithstanding, Khadaffi was bullied into complying with that which he had NO intention of ever complying with, even as late as October 2003 and beyond... and he was finally forced to comply at gunpoint.

Those are some of the fruits of Sadaam's overthrow, fyi.
7.10.2007 4:49pm
Don't look for any of this in the NY Times or the Washington Post, mind you.

However, History will well note it.
7.10.2007 4:52pm

Well, it is both my "incorrect" timeline and TONY BLAIR'S "incorrect" timeline, but I am sure you know what happened better than BLAIR HIMSELF.

Oh, and have you checked out the war policies of Tester, Webb, Brown, McCaskill, Casey, and Whitehouse? Actually, I know the answer already: obviously not.

But please do enjoy life in your alternate reality.
7.10.2007 6:12pm
Oh, and here is a nice piece on the ever-increasing tendency of some to rely on the notion that history will vindicate this war:

The History Boys
7.10.2007 6:19pm
Well, we'll let the votes be counted. So far, they seem to be counted in support of the Rumsfeld doctrine. I expect that to continue, for the next 1/2 century or more. And we got at least 2 more years before we get to a military presence of Rumsfeldian doctrine levels, as you should intuitively know.

And seriously, you don't really believe your nonsense about Blair, do you? Come ON now! No serious analyst supports that nonsense, and that's what History will use to judge it... the reality of the situation... not your fantasy. I know you'd like to have the lefty media get the last word on this... but they won't.
7.10.2007 6:24pm
I woulda LOVED to have been in the room when Khadaffi got the word on all this... it musta been PRICELESS!
7.10.2007 6:26pm
Again, I think when you have to deny Blair's own words to defend your version of events, you are making my point: you have become disconnected from reality, and it is reality which will govern what happens.
7.10.2007 7:12pm
Oh I don't deny Blair's words, and I'm sure he did actually say them. That's what good diplomacy is all about. When you get exactly what you want, you keep your mouth shut and let the other guy save whatever face he can. Heck, we woulda let Sadaam save face, if he'd complied with the terms of that resolution that 3/4 of Congress passed, because that's what diplomacy calls for. Which is unlike what I'm doing with you, of course, since I don't really care about diplomacy, I just get a kick out of watching you contort yourself in the face of the reality of this situation. Not very diplomatic, eh?


There was a lot of high pressure diplomacy in this era, which I'm sure has escaped you, but won't escape history as we know. In addition to the death threat Bush/Blair laid on Khadaffi in late 2003, which finally forced him to come clean, we have our Paki situation in late 2001. As was well known at the time, Pakistan was the linchpin for taking out the Taliban in Afghanistan. Bush told Powell to "Do what you have to do" to bring about that necessary Paki cooperation. Powell prepared 7 non-negotiable points, on a single sheet of paper, which were presented to the Pakis. And Powell personally told Musharraf that they were non-negotiable.

I'm certain you don't know the significance of that statement, so let me help you. What Bush and Powell were doing was to threaten militarily a nuclear power with whom the US had poor relations... a stunning development... and one of the boldest foreign policy decisions in this nation's history. Part of why Musharraf agreed to these non-negotiable points, as unappetizing as they were for him, is that they were delivered to him by Powell, who however twirpy he is, was the same Army guy who'd butchered 100,000 illiterate Shiite conscripts in Kuwait in 1991, during a fortnight of brutal carpet bombing. This threat was real, make no mistake. And Musharraf knew it, so he complied.

And now, you're sitting here fantasizing that the great humanitarian Moammar Khadaffi surrendered his nuclear program with which he'd been nailed on in October 2003, all due to the "UN", completely absent of any military threat, and that no such threat was even delivered!

I'm amused with your naivete. I guess the BDS template doesn't allow reality... and that'll always be true.

In any event, we'll let History sort this all out, and yes, History will be using the data, and not BDS, to describe these events. Khadaffi disarmed at the point of a gun, and that threat held value as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom. "Dead man walking" is sort of the only kinda message thugocrats listen to, most times, as we realists know. But then, we're not encumbered by BDS.

Now let's get busy executing that Rumsfeld doctrine!
7.10.2007 7:56pm

Trust me, I get it already: you prefer to live in the neocon fantasy world you constructed for yourself back in 2003. And the fact that in the real world of 2007 you are politically irrelevant is not a problem, because in your fantasy world the neocons actually won the 2006 election, the American people support you, and everything is right on track for making history conform to the neocon vision.

Far be it from me to deny you such a simple pleasure.
7.10.2007 8:18pm
Actually, this is all about reality, big guy, as Khadaffi well knows, even if the BDSers don't.

And do I detect that you're now abandoning your aforementioned support of the Rumsfeld doctrine, and reverting to the BDS default position of complete withdrawal from Iraq?
7.10.2007 8:54pm
No. And since you are now inventing a fantasy version of me to populate your fantasy world, I think it is best for me to leave you alone with your fantasies.
7.10.2007 9:10pm
Well that's a good sign, anyways. But beware, that BDS has a way of taking hold of you types.
7.10.2007 9:38pm
Gaius Marius:
Who gives a rat's *** about Libya and Khaddafi?!?!?! Good grief! Now, back to the original subject of this thread.
7.11.2007 9:41am