We aren't getting off to an auspicious start, though.
I'm going to answer these questions posted by conservative Dale Franks...
Huh. Yeah. I'm not a conservative. Although, perhaps "conservative" in this case simply means someone who doesn't sign onto the whole progressive deal. A catch-all for non-leftist, as it were.
But let's move on.
I know quite a few of the cons who read my site regularly ask the same questions (and by "ask" I mean regurgitate existing talking points), and even though I've made my views crystal clear for the last 5+ years (since before the war), here we go again.
I guess he had to get some little digs in. But, I don't read Mr. Willis' site, so I don't actually know what his positions are. Like I said in the original post, my questions were an honest attempt to clarify his positions in my own mind.
And let's dispense with silly arguments about whether we should've gone into Iraq in the first place. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.
Well, the history of this decision is consistently being rewritten by the right.
Well, even if that's true, it's irrelevant. We can't jump on our magic ponies and take a ride back to 2002. What happened, happened. So, it's simply not productive to re-hash it at this point. All we can do is try to determine what to do from this point on. The past is simply isn't retrievable.
And, look, no one would like to retrieve it more than I would. If I knew then that the Hussein regime had no active WMD programs, I wouldn't've approved of going to war, either. And, since then, much of my writing on Iraq has consisted of criticism of the Bush Administration for handling the post-war policy incompetently. I think there's more than enough blame to go around for the past, but again, that's all water under the bridge. We are where we are.
As the war has gone worse, the decision has magically become more bipartisan. Certainly the Democrats were very very stupid to vote for the authorization, but it was the President who made the case for war based on claims of Al Qaeda - Iraq - WMD and it is he who made the final decision to move from authorization to walking away from the UN to war.
OK. Now hold on for just a second. The Bush Administration went to war in Iraq, based on that authorization. We don't get to magnanimously get to absolve Democrats who voted to authorize the use of military force from responsibility because they weren't the one's that gave the actual go order. The whole point of getting Congressional authorization is to share responsibility for it. And democrats seemedpretty sureabout it at the time.
I mean, nice try, and all, but those who voted for the war have to share in the responsibility for it. That's the system of government we have, so you can't just elide past it.
Anyway, on to the answers.
There will be a bloody fight within Iraq for control of that nation. Whether that will be bloodier than the current civil war, I can't say. But it will be a bloody confrontation without the added carnage of American troops. On the domestic front, it will be better to have our troops not playing - essentially - pattycake with Iraqi forces who would just as soon betray them. Instead we would be back on track hunting down Al Qaeda and their affiliates instead of nation building. The postwar plans, if you can call them that, thought we would prop up a guy like Chalabi and Iraq would have some kind of democracy (everybody remember Bush's second inaugural speech?). That isn't going to happen. They want Sharia law. They don't want a secular, progressive republic. They'll pick what they want.
You seem to know precisely what the Iraqis want. I, on the other hand, freely admit that I have no idea what "the Iraqis" want. I don't have access to the inner lives of "the Iraqis". But I'm certainly willing to find out. Some time ago, I advocated letting the Iraqis themselves have a referendum on a US withdrawal. If the Iraqis were to have a national referendum on the question, then I think we would know what they think, and I'm willing to abide by their wishes.
But, then, what if the Iraqis vote to have us stay for some period of time? Then what?
You seem sure that the Iraqis are just hell-bent on killing each other. And you seem to regard the prospect with some equanimity. I have to wonder why you're comfortable with such an argument. Doesn't it sound awfully close to the kind of condescending comments about "the bloody wogs" that would've been common in the corridors of Whitehall 150 years ago?
On the domestic front, it will be better to have our troops not playing - essentially - pattycake with Iraqi forces who would just as soon betray them. Instead we would be back on track hunting down Al Qaeda and their affiliates instead of nation building.
Well, on some level, that's a switch. Those on the Left seemed to think nation-building was a fine and noble idea when Bill Clinton was doing it in Haiti, the former Yugoslavia, etc. Now, though...not so much.
I am kind of curious as to why you think that US forces cannot simultaneously deploy to Iraq, and also look for al-Qaeda affiliates. After all, going after Al Qaeda is—considering that doing so would require operating in foreign countries—basically a small unit, special ops deal. It has very little at all to do with Iraq. This is akin to arguing that having US troops stationed at NATO bases in Europe hinders our ability to provide adequate assistance to the Japanese Self-Defense Force. We're perfectly capable of doing both.
Do you reject the "you broke it, you bought it" idea?
I didn't outright, but it's clear there's nothing we can do to fix what we broke. The simple act of us being there is preventing that, either through the Iraqis leaning on us to clean up all their messes or resentment provoked by having their country occupied by the world's sole superpower. The moment to fix it has passed us by.
Well, why is it so clear? If you'd said two years ago that Anbar province was an intractable hotbed of insurgency, you'd certainly have appeared right. Al-Anbar has been the seat of Sunni insurgency since 2004. If you said that today, though, you wouldn't. And just last year, Army Intelligence guys were counting Ramadi, the provincial capital, as a total write-off.
So, are you saying that the Al-Anbar example is an irrelevant, one-off quirk? It has no larger implications?
As I stated above: this is going to happen. Either it happens when a Democratic president withdraws or it happens 10 years from now. The only difference is the amount of U.S. troops who die in the process and the gaping holes in U.S. security that linger on. I'm saying we pay up front instead of the 30 year mortgage.
What are the gaping holes in US security? And what role does the US military play in closing them? I recognize that border security is one such hole, but I'm not sure the US military has much of a role in closing it, what with posse comitatus restrictions and all.
What should the US military be doing with its combat assets right now that they're not doing because of Iraq? If you're going to say that they should be hunting down Al-Qaeda, then that's an non-starter, frankly. Al Qaeda exists in a number of sovereign nations that won't look kindly on us sending in the 4ID to conduct the hunt. Again, the search for Al Qaeda is basically a small-unit deal. It's not something we can commit any significant combat power to, due to the nature of that kind of operation.
So, if the US military wasn't sending 150,000 guys to Iraq, what, precisely, would those guys be doing that would be more useful?
Compare and contrast with Kosovo and Darfur.
In neither situation are Americans actively occupying and being killed. In Darfur, it's clear work has to be done internationally but there's no clear mission militarily. Even so, the general idea of helping the dispossessed militarily is not invalid, but if we're going to do it it ought to be clear what the endgame is supposed to be (and sold honestly instead of with talk of mushroom clouds and terrorist cells a plenty, cue Iran spin).
Well, I think in the case of Iraq, it's always been clear, even prior to the invasion, what the endgame is supposed to be. It's always been a stable, relatively democratic, unified Iraq, that doesn't constitute a threat to it's neighbors, or to the United States.
As far as the honestly sold bit, again, that's closing the barn door after the horse has left. We can have an interesting debate about how we got into the invasion in the first place, but it doesn't really help us now.
The interesting thing, though, is that you seem to be setting the precondition for stabilization operations as one where US troops won't be killed. But if that's the bar, then you can pretty much forget about having stabilization operations anywhere, since there's never going to be a guarantee that such operation will be either easy or bloodless.
And I'm not sure I have a problem with setting the bar that high, since, in the normal course of events, I'm not keen on stabilization operations in the first place.
But, if you are going to set the bar that high, then there's no way that you can really advocate such operations in the future, because risk will always be attendant on them.
What if Iraq turns into a Taliban-like cesspool, and becomes a base for terrorist operation against the US in the same way Afghanistan was?
It currently is a haven, and that's with thousands of American troops on the ground there. We can hunt terrorists, and that should be our armed forces primary mission until the Al Qaeda threat is eliminated. But it isn't the time to build brand new nations now, not at this cost.
I don't mean to be rude here, but I honestly don't know how to parse the meaning of this paragraph. You are literally saying:
1. Iraq is a haven for terrorists. 2. The US Military should hunt terrorists. 3. The best way to hunt for terrorists is to withdraw from Iraq.
Are you sure you meant to formulate the argument this way?
A lot of this stuff involves more Special Operations and detective work than the random smashing of things, but for objectives like finding Bin Laden in the hills of Pakistan or wherever will require heavy military lifting. And that's fine because that's about protecting America and finding the terrorists at war with America.
Wait a second. Are you seriously arguing that Pakistan will allow the US military to operate overtly, and in force, inside Pakistan? That's an...extraordinary idea.
Do you, perchance, have a list of countries who will charitably allow the US military to enter their country in force to hunt for terrorists. I'd really like to see that. Because, my initial reaction is that such an idea lies somewhere between barely possible and hopelessly quixotic.
We've tried it the conservative way for a long time now. It isn't working.
Actually, we haven't tried it "the conservative way". The conservative way would have consisted of shooting looters in Baghdad on sight. It would've meant evacuating Fallujah and razing it to the ground in 2004. It would've meant responding to anyone who even looked at us cross-eyed with overwhelming military force. It would've meant keeping the Iraqi army intact, and helping us hold things together until we could turn the place over to a local strongman.
We have, in fact, operated in a decidedly unconservative way. At every junction where we faced a choice between clamping down harshly and backing off, we have backed off. At every juncture, we have chosen the least costly, least forceful—and ultimately least effective—course of action. Whatever that may be, it isn't the "conservative" way to wage war.
It's not my fault America was stupid enough to vote for Ronald Reagan.
Well, nobody's blaming you for it. Everyone pretty much blames Jimmy Carter for that.
And well they should. It seems the American people stupidly got tired of watching the Soviets and their clients expanding into new countries every single year. Tired of 12% inflation, and a tax code that worked with inflation to bump them up into ever higher tax brackets. Tired of watching while Americans held hostage for 444 days by Iranian "students". They stupidly wanted a change.
What they got was an end to the Cold War, 3% inflation, the longest peacetime economic expansion in history, and actual, verifiable reductions in nuclear weapons.
Stupid, stupid Americans.
Nobody said [a withdrawal] would be painless or bloodless, nor am I optimistic about the near future at all thanks to the repercussions of our current situation. But again, it's going to be hell anyway, the question is how much American lives, money and security are we willing to throw into the mix. If there was any hope of a decent outcome, there would be support for it. But we've screwed the pooch. We are in the abyss and I don't see the sense in digging any deeper in hopes of finding a pony because its not there.
But the thing is, are we really looking for a pony?
You've mentioned gaping security holes. But wouldn't an Iraqi descent into internecine bloodletting comprise a gaping security hole?
I mean, let's assume you're right. What would Iran, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia do? Would they be drawn into such a conflict? Would it expand into a regional war? If not, why not? And what would the effect of such a regional war be? Would world oil supplies be disrupted? If so, would that constitute any sort of security problem, even if only economic security, for the US?
Iraq doesn't exist in a vacuum. Why should we assume the implosion you foresee would have benign effects on the region as a whole?
I can’t believe this is a debate. You are expressing facts. Your opponent is expressing opinion and emotions. I am not going to bother recounting his inaccuracies, suppositions, and plain bovine scatology. This entire exchange is a waste of time and energy. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, no one is entitles to their own facts. This is an argument between two people who live in alternate universes in which facts and reality are different. The prevailing argument seems to be "Don’t confuse me with the facts. My mind is made up."
We can’t jump on our magic ponies and take a ride back to 2002. What happened, happened.
Ah, yes, but the narrative, you see, is much more important than the actual battle. Never forget the Carvillian strategy: Repeat the lies, half-truths, and non-facts ad nauseum and they will become truth, as they will go unchallenged on ABCBSNBCNN by the sympathizing talking heads.
Now hold on for just a second. The Bush Administration went to war in Iraq, based on that authorization.
Again, disturbing the narrative, dude. This is already so far down the Memory Hole, it’s unseen. I’m actually surprised there’s still Google caches of all that.
We don’t get to magnanimously get to absolve Democrats who voted to authorize the use of military force from responsibility because they weren’t the one’s that gave the actual go order.
Dale, you’re not getting it. As long as the mantra is repeated unchallenged on Wolf Blitzer... yes, yes we do...
Those on the Left seemed to think nation-building was a fine and noble idea when Bill Clinton was doing it in Haiti, the former Yugoslavia, etc
That was different... I mean... well, it was back before the Big O’s BDS set in.
Compare and contrast with Kosovo and Darfur.
In neither situation are Americans actively occupying and being killed.
... and when Americans are in Darfur, we’ll support it. Unless, of course, Bush is still in office, then we’ll oppose it. You know, "no blood for oil", "neocons", "Zionists", we’ll build that meme when we get to it, don’t you worry.
Wait a second. Are you seriously arguing that Pakistan will allow the US military to operate overtly, and in force, inside Pakistan?
Don’t be so obtuse, Franks. You know darn well what he means: if we utilize our diplomatic channels in order to operate inside Pakistan, then we’re not aggressive enough in going after Bin Laden (possibly for sinister reasons like keeping Amerikkkans fearful), but if we storm the badlands in an all-out assault, then we’re not utilizing diplomacy in an intelligent fashion. Seriously, dude, this is really rudimentary triangulation.
After taking a moment, I see the problem: you’re debating Oliver Willis! In a post! You and all of us who’ve read through that are now dumber for it. That’s four and a half minutes we’ll never see again...
We’ve tried it the conservative way for a long time now. It isn’t working.
Actually, we haven’t tried it "the conservative way". The conservative way would have consisted of shooting looters in Baghdad on sight. It would’ve meant evacuating Fallujah and razing it to the ground in 2004. It would’ve meant responding to anyone who even looked at us cross-eyed with overwhelming military force. It would’ve meant keeping the Iraqi army intact, and helping us hold things together until we could turn the place over to a local strongman.
What, precisely, make your suggestions more "conservative" than the actual choices of the conservative standard bearer, President Bush? Bush is conservativism. And conservatives have cheered him all the way and his running of the war. Now you may have been highly critical, but then, you claim not to be conservative. Perhaps there are conservative ideas to which he has not been true, but claiming that Bush’s way isn’t the conservative way is exactly like claiming that real communism has never been tried.
BTW, how can you have failed to notice that turning the place over to Chalabi was our Plan A for the post invasion?
Re Anbar: We hear that the Sunnis there have been turning against Al Qaeda, AKA Islamic State in Iraq, and that they have been joining the security forces. A reduction in violence seems to support the story, which is a key difference from when we heard the same thing in 2005. Do we know why? Have the Sunnis suddenly come to support the central government which still fails to represent them? Maybe. Maybe they have been won over by our officers’ endless teas with them. Or maybe they want to make sure that when the civil war comes, the shia are not the only ones who’ve been getting shiny new M16s from the US. Maybe the tribal powers that be are tired of Al Qaeda competing with them for power in the province. Does that mean they are ready to admit that the Sunni deserve only a 20% share of oil revenues and even less on new exploitation? Are they ready to withdraw from Kirkuk and leave the city ot the Kurds? I don’t know, and of course this is better news than the Sunnis encouraging Al Qaeda, but there are real posibilities beyond that they have had the scales fall from their eyes.
Oh and please do keep up your argument that we can’t just elide past Democratic votes for the AUMF. There is not a person in the US or out of it that doens’t know who got us into this mess in Iraq, or who’s been running this cluster f@#$ for the past four years. This is Bush’s war. As he adamantly reminded us in the period from November 2002 to November 2004. Pretending otherwise just hurts your own crediblity.
Inconvenient, Schminconvenient. I’ll happily agree that Democrats who voted for the AUMF share resoponsiblity. What do you think their share is compared to Bush’s? 10%/90% or 5%/95%? There is one man who decided to invade Iraq, his name isn’t congress.
I mean, you’re advocating a policy change that will have wide-ranging effects. It’s not enough to say that everything will be OK. You have to show your math. You have to explain why you’re not just whistling past the graveyard.
>See above. We’ve tried it the conservative way for a long time now. It isn’t working. Greeted as liberators. Stand up, stand down. Surge, etc.
And, keep in mind that you are essentially betting the future of left-liberalism’s credibility on national security on the outcome of that policy.
>Considering the alternative and what it has produced, I say "all in".
There’s a reason why the Democrats were kept away from the national security switches and levers for 12 years after Jimmy Carter, and were only allowed to return when we were having a holiday from history in the 1990s.
And you’re sticking with the walk-back that you meant no connection to Conservatives with your "we haven’t tried it the conservative way"? Okaay. Whatever you say pal.
One thing that I have difficulty with in these debates is the notion of Iraq as a war. Clearly, there was a war in 2003 which we won easily. Now the effort is to stabilize a Shi’ite dominated government against a variety of insurgent groups who have capitalized the chaos caused by the sudden power vacuum caused by Saddam’s departure. This is more a social engineering or nation-building enterprise than a war. The problem was not so much the military tactics (one can always blame tactics if something doesn’t work) but lack of knowledge of the culture and what it takes to move from an authoritarian dictatorship built on a culture of violence and control to a functioning democracy. Moreover, instead of doing what should have been job one in the aftermath: send in not just troops but accountants with the mission of preventing corruption from taking root, we allowed it and in some cases even encouraged or at least turned a blind eye to it. That corruption, combined with ethnic differences, assures the inability to create a functioning democracy, and programs ethnic and sectarian violence.
The idea that different military tactics could have altered this deep societal problem doesn’t make sense. I doubt even a covey of accountants could have turned it around, since corruption was so embedded in the system. The current "surge" is a limited counter-insurgency effort which cannot set those other factors right, and thus is assured to fail. The best it can do is get a moment of stability in certain sections in Iraq to give us a "peace with honor" moment so we can get out like we did from Vietnam. I’m beginning to doubt even that can be achieved. Moreover, the longer we stay the worse things are for both us and for the Iraqi people; giving a failed policiy more time because a new general is involved with a new plan doesn’t make sense. It’s the policy that’s wrong, not the tactics.
The real lesson in Iraq is that winning a war isn’t so hard, but controlling the aftermath and having the outcome you want is much more difficult. I think the experiences in Japan and Germany caused many to think all countries could be rebuilt that way, failing to understand the unique circumstances which allowed those two states to move from authoritarian regimes to functioning democracies. Let’s save wars for real imminent threats and not use the military for social engineering projects or attempts to reshape portions of the world.
Moreover, instead of doing what should have been job one in the aftermath: send in not just troops but accountants with the mission of preventing corruption from taking root, we allowed it and in some cases even encouraged or at least turned a blind eye to it.
The only case that I am aware of in which a blind eye has been turned to defense-related corruption is the case of Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. Did you have some other example in mind?
So if al Qaeda chooses to make Iraq the battleground we have to throw up our hannds and give up?
Iraq isn’t their main battlefield. And if we left, the Sunnis and Shi’ites would take care of al qaeda in short order. Most of the foreign fighters are Syrian, recruited by al qaeda or other terror groups specifically because of anger at the US invasion. If we leave, that will disappear. Don’t believe al qaeda propaganda. They aren’t as strong as they pretend to be, and their main base is in Pakistan-Afghanistan.
Spats, Bush is the President for whom Conservatives voted, for whose election they worked their little hearts out, and whose victory the cheered. He is the standard bearer of Conservativism. Like I said, he may not live up to your every conservative ideal, but in the real world, Bush’s way is the way Conservatives have put all their energy into enacting. Bush is representative of conservativism in exactly the same way the Stalin is representative of Communism. Theoretically, maybe not. Practically, absolutely.
Of course. Conservatism is all things evil and nasty. Mess in Iraq? Caused by conservatism. High oil prices? A conservative plot. Hitler, Mussolini, Franco? all conservatives. Stalin was one too, but I forget why. Got something smelly and squishy on your shoe? Conservatism, of course.