October 31, 2006

"We have acquired this responsibility..."

Christopher Hitchens on Iraq:
[T]he many disappointments and crimes and blunders... do not relieve us of a responsibility that is either insufficiently stressed or else passed over entirely: What is to become, in the event of a withdrawal, of the many Arab and Kurdish Iraqis who do want to live in a secular and democratic and federal country? We have acquired this responsibility not since 2003, or in the sideshow debate over prewar propaganda, but over decades of intervention in Iraq's affairs, starting with the 1968 Baathist coup endorsed by the CIA, stretching through Jimmy Carter's unforgivable permission for Saddam Hussein to invade Iran, continuing through the decades of genocide in Kurdistan and the uneasy compromise that ended the Kuwait war, and extending through 12 years of sanctions and half-measures, including the "no-fly" zones and the Iraq Liberation Act, which passed the Senate without a dissenting vote. It is not a responsibility from which we can walk away when, or if, it seems to suit us.

71 comments:

Doyle said...

If we can invade when it suits us, why can't we withdraw when it suits us?

Plus, it seems withdrawal is more popular with the Iraqi people than invasion ever was.

MadisonMan said...

why can't we withdraw when it suits us?

Well, I'd feel responsibility for the ensuing bloodshed. I'd like to think that the US presence is helping Kurds, repaying a debt from Gulf War I.

Doyle said...

Oh I forgot to mention Hitchens' credibility on the Iraq war is precisely nil.

He's still coming to grips with the demise of his colonialist fantasy, and the process involves a lot of drinking.

amba said...

This is the part of all the "pullout" talk that really sickens me. (Un)Fortuntely, if we do abandon Iraq we will pay, and for a long time. The karma will be proportionate. In this case, the morally right thing to do is also where our long-term self-interest lies: in not handing a third of Iraq to Iran and another third to al-Qaeda, and terminally alienating our best allies there, the Kurds.

VICTOR said...

I guess you can say the same about many, many different countries.

How about, say, Afghanistan?

His ranting about it doesn't sound like it contains any constructive suggestions.

Doyle said...

Well, I'd feel responsibility for the ensuing bloodshed.

That's awfully sweet, and totally consistent with our foreign policy.

MadisonMan said...

Doyle, I don't consider it a sweet position. It's a moral one.

Eric said...

Not to point out the obvious, but none of us has a clue about how to handle the war in Iraq. I think it is clear it was a mistake to invade, even if it was with the best intentions (dubious). But do we, in our position as U.S. citizens, really have any understanding of a) the actual situation in Iraq; b) the “flavor” of countries in the region keeping tabs on our involvement; and c) the limitless repercussions our actions or inactions could spur? Our media has failed us miserably for the last decade and a half. Not to begin another debate, but the problem of profit-driven media has caused a race to the bottom which has not been beneficial to the country. I read three national newspapers each day (I don’t sleep much) and scour the internet for as much relevant material as I can. But there is a complete dearth of useful data on Iraq.

One other point is clear: no matter what happens from here on out, “bad things” will happen in the region. I’d like to see an international peace-keeping force in Iraq (fat chance) and an honest effort to rebuild the infrastructure we destroyed (not when Republicans control the Executive and Legislature – too expensive). After that, I admittedly have no intelligent comments to add.

Fenrisulven said...

Doyle: Oh I forgot to mention Hitchens' credibility on the Iraq war is precisely nil. He's still coming to grips with the demise of his colonialist fantasy, and the process involves a lot of drinking.

Its become obvious that your only concern re Iraq is as a political tool. Your credibility on the Iraq war is precisely nil.

Abraham said...

If we can invade when it suits us, why can't we withdraw when it suits us?

A concept which apparently is foreign to you: honor.

Balfegor said...

One other point is clear: no matter what happens from here on out, “bad things” will happen in the region.

Hitchens' broader point, in the excerpt seems to be that for the past 100 years or so, extremely bad things have been happening in the region, and many of them have been happening at Western instigation.

In the specific case of Saddam Hussein and Iraq, his argument seems to be that some decades ago, we decided that in to get a stable ally, and a secure flow of oil, it was fine for a few million Iraqis to be killed. [I am not sure his history here is correct, given that the French and the Soviets supplied most of his gear] And that later, Carter decided that in order to get a bit of revenge on the Iranians for humiliating him, it was fine for another million Iraqis to die fighting Iran. That, in other words, the status quo ante the invasion was a monstrous situation which would not have occurred had it not been for our past efforts in propping up bloodthirsty tyrants -- and that just because there weren't video cameras on the scene, and the reporters were all too scared to report what was going on, that doesn't mean we aren't culpable for those past atrocities.

Of course, the germ of the current problems in the Middle East -- from Lebanon, to Israel, to Iraq, and not excluding Egypt and Syria -- is the colonial policy pursued by the British and the French, especially after the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire and the abolition of the caliphate. And we could pursue the same sort of course as they had in the past, or as we have in the more recent past -- choose some group (the Kurds say, or any militia/warlord of choice), throw our firepower behind them and allow them to massacre their enemies down to the last man, woman, and child. And there would be peace; the same sort of peace Hafez Assad achieved when he had the terrorists resisting his government slaughtered, or the same peace the King of Jordan had, when he had the PLO terrorists acting against his government slaughtered. It's a simple military solution that's easy, and that works. But then we'd be perpetuating the unnatural state of affairs that Hitchens thinks created our moral culpability in Iraq. We'd just be setting up another Saddam.

A Menken Moment said...

Hitchens is correct to point out that there are people in Iraq who would suffer if the American troops were to abandon all of their efforts there, namely the secular and more democratically inclined. He is also correct to remind us that, regardless of how we got to Iraq and how well or ill we proceeded there, just leaving without any concern or preparation for the consequences would be dishonorable.

The question is, is Iraq so full of factional strife that nothing our troops staying there can do will relieve the violence. Hitchens does mention an idea: redeploy to Kurdistan ready to come to the aid of the Iraqi government. So he is not without an proposed solution. It seems better we should turn our attention to debating this idea rather than declaring ex cathedra that Hitchens's credibility is nil or trolling on about his drinking.

Doyle said...

Political tool? I was against this war back when it was popular.

Kirk Parker said...

Eric,

"I think it is clear it was a mistake to invade"

Well, it's equally clear to me that invading was the least worst option. Have you really forgotten that sanctions were crumbling and could not have been sustained much longer, or is that just a convenient oversight on your part? If the latter, do you really think the world would be better/safer today with a sanction-free Sadaam in place getting his reconsituted nuclear-weapons under way, perhaps with help purchased from a still-unknown-to-the-West A. Q. Khan?

Kirk Parker said...

My reaction to claims about Hitchen's drinking is the same as Lincoln's supposed response to complaints about Grant's: let's buy the rest of the punditry whatever he's drinking!

Zeb Quinn said...

Political tool? I was against this war back when it was popular.

Seising the lowground that you've always been clueless is an interesting gambit.

Fenrisulven said...

Doyle: Political tool? I was against this war back when it was popular

Yeah. We get that. Now its time for you to step up and be constructive, instead of throwing rocks from the sidelines. Remember, you plan on taking the House? Consider it an experiment. Maybe you'll latch on to a new plan that will save a signifigant number of lives, American and Iraqi.

SteveR said...

Yeah it was far better when we passed feckless legislation or assumed that our intelligence agencies were working out of sight to right wrongs or that the UN would organize some great humanitarian effort to ensure justice to the poor and oppressed throughout the region (and the world for that matter).

Maybe the europeans should have stayed out of the region entirely and left them to slaughter eachother so that we could now ignore history like say we do with the massacre of the Armenians.

Confronting reality really bites and criticizing those who do is so so very very easy and intellectually unchallenging. "gee they did something and it wasn't perfect"

Danny said...

For every Iraqi who wants to live in a secular democracy, there are hundreds of Iraqis who want to live with basic access to food, water, shelter and medicine. The US military knows it can't provide any of those, and they sure aren't helping much in terms of security. So why are we there?

My guess is Iran. If we leave, then they'd take our place.

Doyle said...

Now its time for you to step up and be constructive, instead of throwing rocks from the sidelines.

What a joke. I get accused of being only concerned with the war as a political tool, and for pointing out that my position predates the unpopularity of the war (which is necessary for it to be a "political tool" at all), I get accused of throwing rocks.

Fenrisulven said...

Dolye: What a joke. I get accused of being only concerned with the war as a political tool, and for pointing out that my position predates the unpopularity of the war (which is necessary for it to be a "political tool" at all), I get accused of throwing rocks.

"If we can invade when it suits us, why can't we withdraw when it suits us?"

[PLINK!]

"Plus, it seems withdrawal is more popular with the Iraqi people than invasion ever was."

[PLINK!]

"Oh I forgot to mention Hitchens' credibility on the Iraq war is precisely nil."

[PLINK!]

"He's still coming to grips with the demise of his colonialist fantasy, and the process involves a lot of drinking."

[PLINK!]

"That's awfully sweet, and totally consistent with our foreign policy."

[PLINK!]

ShadyCharacter said...

Eric, if I were you I'd pick three different newspapers to read each day (I'd also start using Google to help with the "scouring of the internet").

You say what you'd love to see an international peace-keeping force in Iraq. Well, 3 seconds of using The Google got me the following current list (with troop numbers and commitments):
1 United Kingdom 7,200 1,300 8,500
2 South Korea ~3,000 ~3,000 ~2,000 (end of 2006)
3 Italy 1,785 1,785 0 (Dec. 2006)
4 Australia 1,400 ~500 ~1,900
5 Poland 900 900 0 (end of 2006)
6 Romania 865 865
7 Denmark 515 ~35 (NATO and UNAMI) ~550
8 El Salvador 380 380
9 Georgia 300 550 (UNAMI) 850
10 Azerbaijan 150 150
11 Bulgaria ~150 ~150
12 Latvia 136 136
13 Mongolia 131 131
14 Albania 120 120
15 Slovakia 104 104
16 Czech Republic 100 100
17 Lithuania ~50 ~50
18 Armenia 46 46
19 Estonia 38 38
20 Bosnia & Herzegovina 37 37
21 Macedonia 33 33
22 Kazakhstan 29 29
23 Moldova*

Maybe these aren't your favorite 23 countries, but I'd say the grouping meets the definition of "international"...

Next comes the predictable gripe about troop numbers from these allies. Well, look around the world today and the only countries that have militaries capable of sending thousands of troops generally tend to be bad guys (north korea, china, arguably Russia). Those that we may wish would help us with boots on the ground (canada, france, germany etc...) really couldn't help much even if they were fully committed to the project (canada couldn't even get troops to the Afghan theater without hitching a ride on our troop transport planes). Israel would probably be willing to help, but that wouldn’t exactly be a stabilizing force.

Your second “point” that Republicans are too cheap to spend money on an “honest effort” of reconstruction took about 3 seconds to deconstruct also. As of August of 2005 we’d committed 186 billion to Iraq and 66 billion to Afghanistan. We’ve spent more since. Even if they’re too lily-livered to send troops, what’s keeping the EU and the rest of our “allies” from sending money to help out on reconstruction? That’s the position Japan is taking given its unique constitutional situation.

“After that, I admittedly have no intelligent comments to add.”

LOL

JohnK said...

It never occurs to anyone that perhaps all of the options in a given situation are bad option. I suppose it is human nature to expect a simple easy simple solution to every problem and every war and when one does not present itself it is because of someone's "mistakes" or "incompetence". Everyone assumes that it was a mistake to overthrow Hussein. Oh really? Does anyone ever consider that a we might have had more problems in last three years dealing with a defiant and increasingly accepted Saddam than we have had? People act as if only we hadn't invaded life would be days of wine and roses. Arm chair twits like Andrew Sullivan move divisions around the world like risk pieces with no account for logistics or second order effects. People just refuse to accept that sometimes there are only hard options.

In some ways the current war in Iraq reminds of the predicament the Union was in in 1864 or the allies were in 1915. The fact is that the Army of Northern Virginia was well lead, fanatically loyal, well armed and on its home territory. The war wasn't going to be won without a hugely difficult and bloody fight. When Grant did just that he was branded a drunk and a butcher; as if he should have had a magic wand and through tactical brilliance defeated Lee. It was the same in 1916. Hague is one of the most reviled generals in history, yet have never met one critic of Hague who can point one good option for the allies in 1916 facing a well lead committed enemy dug in and occupying the better part of France along a line taking advantage of every topographical advantage.

Today we face a rededicated and clever enemy in Iraq. There is no magic bullet to defeat him. Only through dogged determination and effort will Iraq be stabilized. That will, like everything in war take time and blood. Eventually, the enemy will get tired of dying and run out of motivation, people and know how. That is a hard option, but it is better than running home with a bloody nose and letting Iraq become Taliban Afghanistan times 10.

Doyle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
george said...

Would someone in Christopher Hitchen's circle of relatives and friends, please do an intervention on him and get him into a rehab clinic? The sauce has pickled his brain.
What responsibility do I have to the Iraqi people? I was against the war from the very beginning fearing a foreign policy debacle similiar to the one that I experienced as a medical corpsman in Vietnam. But at least in Vietnam, only half of the country hated us.
It's ironic, how history repeats itself due to the innate stupidity and moral corruption of pundits like Christopher Hitchens and politicians like Senators Joseph Biden and Kay Baley Hutchison, who have proposed the partitioning of Iraq as a solution to the debacle there. Don't you just love wacky politicians pandering to voters during midterm elections? The senators remind me of firemen, who have set the house on fire with their affirmative votes for the war resolution on Iraq, standing in front of the burning building and casually debating how to put out the flames while they are holding water hoses that don't work in their hands.
Abraham has replied to a previous writer that we must stay in Iraq to salvage our honor. I heard the same noble argument from civilians when I returned to the world after my tour of duty. Try giving up indoor plumbing and sleeping in the great outdoors, Abraham, if you believe so deeply in the concept of honor. Endure rocket attacks on your base that seem like your very own version of "Apocalypse Now." You won't like the scenario of that war movie. I wonder how deeply you would view civilians safely back in the world believing in your obligation to defend the war and perhaps buy the farm to salvage the country's honor?
101 American soldiers have died this month in Iraq, one of the worst months since the invasion. I want the men and women serving in Iraq safely back home with their arms and legs still attached to their bodies. That means much more to me that some abstract concept like honor.
For all the readers who still believe in this debacle, try an experiment for just one day. Pretend that you have lost one of your arms or your legs. Then try to go about the normal routines of the day without that arm or leg.

Tibore said...

Doyle, don't take this personally, but to be blunt, your comments do not reveal any constructive opinions. They do come off as mere rock throwing from the sidelines; that's why you're being criticized. Yes, you're against the war. We get it. But just dropping things and leaving doesn't necessarily follow from that; if anything, it's antithetical to it, because it does not involve repairing what is broken.

What should we do to fix the situation? That's the question. I'm afraid I'm going to have to rule out withdrawing as an adequate solution, because it does not address the issue of fixing the problem. What do you think we should do to solve the issue?

If you can answer that, then maybe you won't be the target of thrown rocks yourself.

Brent said...

Thank you, Doyle, for proving for the thousandth time that liberals have difficulty taking an argument at face value. It's just so much easier for liberals to cast aspersion on the messenger.

You started out good, Doyle ol' friend, on the first comment.
Then you had to make it personal. Doesn't that wear on you? Don't you secretly hope that you can at least influence one person to consider your position?

It's generally impossible to tell if you actually have a point that may be worth considering because you seem so pleased with yourself in your sarcasm.

Please use your obviously above average intelligence to actually engage the conversation, taking on actual points raised, and perhaps benefit all of us.

Goesh said...

There is the madman from North Korea with nukes, the Pakis have nukes and a powerful presence of islamic fundamentalists and the mullahs of Iran will soon have control over nuclear weapons. We simply cannot cut and run from Iraq as we know the Democrats/Liberals will do and subsequently embolden islamofacists the world over. What impact would it have on strategic allies in the middle east and their planning and treaties and dealings with other nations not friendly to the US? It goes way beyond simply saving some American lives and money for the sake of some votes. Alliances could radically and quickly change, investment strategies could collapse, treaties could be negated, etc. etc. Only a fool would think a withdrawal from Iraq benefits the US and only a fool would think the terrorists would be content to convert their swords to plow shears once the US was gone.

Fenrisulven said...

johnk: I suppose it is human nature to expect a simple easy simple solution to every problem and every war and when one does not present itself it is because of someone's "mistakes" or "incompetence".

I think part of it is the new America - everything is jiffy-pop microwavable drive-thru. Can't reform a country in three years? Quagmire. Imagine how such an attitude would have affected our efforts during WW2.

Richard Dolan said...

Hitchens was, as always, sharp. Ann leaves out his comment that we are in Iraq at least as much for our own sake as theirs. While I agree with those in this threat who say that Hitchens' point is rooted in concepts of honor and commitment, it's also even more deeply rooted in self interest and necessity. As Hitchens says, there is no distinction any more between "over there" and "over here" as far as the jihadi killers are concerned. Right now, it's hard for them to execute their murderous plots "over here," but that will be only a temporary condition if we give up the fight and run away.

The reality that "over there" and "over here" are now one and the same was the lesson that 9/11, and before it the USS Cole and the embassy bombings and the first WTC bombings, and the London, Madrid and Bali bombings, and all the rest, brought home in a way that only the truly blind refuse to see. Bush made an important point recently about the continuing war, in Iraq and more generally against Islamofascism, when he observed that the definition of "victory" that many in the West now adopt is the cessation of murderous mayhem. If that's it, then it also follows that "victory" can't be achieved -- not in Iraq, not in Israel or Palestine generally, and not even in France -- without a long term commitment to do what it takes to wipe out the sources and sponsors of jihadi terror.

The question is not whether the US and the West generally will be forced to see this fight through, but only when and how. The jihadi terror didn't start in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq, and we have no power to end it with a breezy "never mind!" as if the Iraq war were an SNL skit. If we leave Iraq, the jihadi killers just move on to their next target, emboldened by the suicidal fecklessness of their chosen enemies, and eventually (and not far down that road), they'll bring their war to Egypt, Turkey, Israel, the EU and the US. As Hitchens says, for those who hadn't grown weary of the task by the afternoon of 9/11, it's obvious that they already have, and don't intend to stop until we do what it takes to stop them.

I think Hitchens is right that the US has "acquired this responsibility." I would only add that, if we try to duck our responsibility in the short term, events will force it on us later when facing up to it will entail even more terrible consequences.

Brent said...

Wow, Doyle, I didn't think that my comment would follow a similar one making the same points about you! I guess it's an intellectual "intervention"!

An old Irish saying: "If everybody says you're drunk, you'd better sit down."

Henry said...

It's ironic, how history repeats itself...

One amazing fact about the Iraq debacle is that there is yet no refugee crisis.

George, remember the Vietnamese boat people? Remember the killing fields in Cambodia? Those crises came after U.S. withdrew its forces and military support from our Southeast Asian allies.

You say it's ironic how history repeats itself. I agree. Why haven't you withdrawal hawks learned anything?

Fenrisulven said...

george: 101 American soldiers have died this month in Iraq, one of the worst months since the invasion.

There's a reason this is one of the worst months since the liberation - the jihadi's have finally figured out American politics and are targeting YOU. Why do you think 75% of the violence is around the Western media enclaves? You are the target - their goal is to discourage you into retreating.

I want the men and women serving in Iraq safely back home with their arms and legs still attached to their bodies.

The men and women serving in Iraq want to finish the job so they [or their children] don't have to go back there 10 years from now.

For all the readers who still believe in this debacle, try an experiment for just one day. Pretend that you have lost one of your arms or your legs. Then try to go about the normal routines of the day without that arm or leg.

Better idea, pretend that you're an infidel who is beheaded because you won't convert to Islam. Or a woman who is gang-raped and set on fire because you showed too much ankle. Or buried beneath a wall because you are gay. All in Boston, not Baghdad.

To paraphrase Trotsky: "While you may not be interested in Islam, Islam is interested in you". If we surrender Iraq, your children will take up the fight on American streets.

: It doens't matter that you are not interested in Islam. Islam is interested in you.

Justin said...

Okay, to make a more serious rebuttal than Doyle's, lets put it this way.

Is there any realistic chance Hitchens won't be saying the same thing in 5 years? What about 20? Okay, no? Then staying is simply delaying the inevitable at all cost to them, and to us. It's silly, and its only being done so that a certain set of losers don't have to admit they burned down the house with their imagined superpowers (and some matches).

Old Dad said...

Justin,

Since you're prescient, what's the market going to do next week?

Joe Baby said...

1. Hitchens' argument that our previous actions give us a responsibility to do the right thing has been rejected by the left on numerous occasions. The 'previous action' theme is frequently the punchline to the argument that we should get the hell out.

2. I'm surprised that Demo candidates aren't selling a vastly different plan of action re: Iraq, but in general the ads and statements are of the "we'll do something different" or "Iraq is broken" variety. Call me cynical, but it appears to be an appeal to moderates while communicating quite clearly to the left, "we're done in Iraq."

3. Meanwhile, plenty of ads that President Bush should do something re: Darfur.

4. Of course, even if the Dems win both houses they can't easily produce a withdrawal. We'll simply get two more years of p.o.'ed Dems who are certain the the global war on terror should only be fought in Afghanistan.

Doyle said...

As constructive an opinion as I’m able to offer:

My direct access to “the generals on the ground” is unfortunately limited, but I am very reluctant to believe the doomsayers on the consequences of withdrawal when they are so often the same people who advocated invasion. Those who expected (or at least promised) a swift liberation and return to stability have no credibility in my book.

As intuitive as it may seem that 140,000 U.S. troops would have the effect of quelling violence in Iraq, it does not seem to be working out that way. Moreover, our continued presence in Iraq is intensifying the threat of a terrorist attack on the United States. I know that argument makes some people unhappy, but it’s supported by the most recent NIE and I think makes common sense.

In any case, while I can’t say that immediate withdrawal is the best option, I do think a lot of the arguments against it are specious. As long as we stay, hawks will be able to speculate how much worse things would be if we left, when as long as we’re there, we’ll never know. If I were president, I’d give it some serious consideration, which Bush has made clear he is not doing.

MadisonMan said...

Careful fenrisulven -- it sounds like you've been talking to jihadis, as how else could you know their motives? DHS is gonna be tapping into you.

Your explanation is plausible -- but it's equally likely that crazy criminals don't need a reason to kill.

Doyle said...

Side note: I hate the "phased withdrawal" talk which comes mostly from Democrats. If we're going to leave, we should do it quickly, without leaving some portion of our ground force there in smaller number (and thus in a more vulnerable position).

The Jerk said...

Why is it that only those who criticize the current Iraq policy have an obligation to suggest constructive alternatives? I don't see Fenrisulven et. al. putting forth any ideas.

Brent said...

Doyle,

Impressive, thought provoking reply. Thank you.

I do not agree with the thought that staying in Iraq increases the terrorist threat, because I do not believe that the supply of terrorists will end until freedom is established in the Middle East. When?

Literally decades from now.

American lives the cost? A safer, far more stable world in the future fror my grandchildren and great grandchildren is the benefit. Sorry if it sounds crass.

Do I believe that the Middle East can culturally be changed into a thriving, civil and free society? Sadly, I have to admit probably not.

But that's a whole other discussion . . .

JohnK said...

"Moreover, our continued presence in Iraq is intensifying the threat of a terrorist attack on the United States. I know that argument makes some people unhappy, but it’s supported by the most recent NIE and I think makes common sense."

That is a complete mischaracterization of the NIE. You might try reading the thing rather than the NYT biased propeganda about it. The NIE says in pertinent part

"The Iraq conflict has become the —cause celebre“ for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters forthe global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves,and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carryon the fight."

Withdrawing will fuel terrorism not sticking to the fight and winning. Further, while Iraq is the "cause celebre" of the jhiadist movement, there are other factors involved. The report states

"Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1)Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Westerndomination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq —jihad;“ (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-USsentiment among most Muslims–all of which jihadists exploit."

http://72.14.209.104/search?q=cache:K06igREErdMJ:www.dni.gov/press_releases/Declassified_NIE_Key_Judgments.pdf+national+intelligence+estimate+2006&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1

Withdrawing from Iraq will do nothing to address these factors and would probably agrivate them by making the jhiadists look stronger and the probable winning side.

The lying about the NIE by the national media is nothing short of disgraceful.

Andrew Shimmin said...

Whether Hitchens, Bush, whomever, have any credibility or don't, does not mean they're wrong about the consequences of withdrawal. To think so is like assuming that since the last time you flipped a coin it came up heads, this time it'll come up tails.

RogerA said...

I certainly have no magic solutions for the situation in Iraq, but it seems there are at least several imporant things at work for evil there and in no particular order:
(1) outright ciminality. I dont think that is anything any American policy or force can deal with it; ominously enough, if the Iraqi government can't deal with their criminal elements they certainly wont be able to deal with larger security issues IMHO. Certainly one branch of our policy and effort should be aimed at controlling the criminal elements; (2) federal issues: we really need to evaluate the feasibility of a federated Iraq; as long as we stay wedded to a unified post bellum Iraq we foreclose other important options--there are, of course, some real geostrategic issues with a shite south most likely joined with Iran, a kurdish north, and impoverished sunni rump state, but have we really addressed how those issues might be dealt with? I think not
(3) the insurgency itself--to the degree that federalism is successful, it would let two out of three elements of Iraq (Kurds and Shiites) control their own boundaries and eliminate the insurgency--and if at some point the Iraqis decide a more centralized Iraq is desireable, they can move in that direction.

What strikes me about my thoughts is this: there isnt much of a role for any larger military force--thus that military force that is left should be there to maintain Iraqi EXTERNAL security.

Just some thoughts

Doyle said...

Andrew -

You have that backwards. It's inferring because a coin landed heads, it will do so again.

But coin flips are independent events, whereas I'm arguing people who supported invasion initially are more likely to insist withdrawal is a bad idea.

If the law of averages were in effect, they'd have gotten something right by now.

Goesh said...

All throughout the war we would get snippets of info about foreign fighters being caught and killed. Let's dispel the myth first that Ahmed from Egypt leaves his shoe selling stall in Cairo, gets himself to Iraq and is instantly capable of handling all weapons and explosives, identifying units and officers and aircraft, able to plan and execute ambushes, skilled in sniping, able to marshal resources and command men. The Left's infatuation with Che Gueverra has come full circle folks and now manifested in Iraq. Jihadist, blooded veterans from Chechyna, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Gaza, Kasmir, Somolia, West Bank, etc. have been flocking to Iraq in droves. It is their obligation. The Left can't understand this any more than they can't understand our enlistment quotas being filled, wounded men demanding to be returned to their units and all kinds of men voluntarily extending their duty in Iraq. Why in God's name do you think all the professional military men and planners left the borders porous? Sheesh! Attrition takes on a whole new meaning when the logistics to reconstitute are 3rd world logistics. No self-respecting jihadist is going to allow Western style representative government to exist in the heart of the middle east. Women voting, my AK-47! A Consitution in lieu of al qu'ran, my IED! The best they can do is bleed the people with sectarian violence hoping US voters will cut and run.

Abraham said...

I wonder how deeply you would view civilians safely back in the world believing in your obligation to defend the war and perhaps buy the farm to salvage the country's honor?

It would be irrelevant, because that would be the obligation that I freely and voluntarily assumed. Perhaps I would come to regret my choice - perhaps not - but if I were upset at my position, I would have nobody to blame except myself, and would perform my duties out of personal honor if nothing else.

michael a litscher said...

Fenrisulven: It doens't matter that you are not interested in Islam. Islam is interested in you.

And more to the point for the twits in the audience with the "End the war, bring the troops home" signs in their front lawns: Islam is at war with us, and has been for at least three decades. We may withdraw our troops from the battlefield, but the war won't be over - radical Islam will still be at war with us, and will continue to be at war with us until said twits wake the hell up and decide we need to fight back, and fight until the other side surrenders.

DookOfURL said...

My thinking is that Hitchins is the same sort of liberal that I am, and that the perfect statement of our view of US foreign policy is: "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

Kinda makes you all nostalgic, doesn't it?

Doyle said...

... for a president who sounds like a president? You bet.

Pogo said...

Fenris is right. Hitchens is right. We should take Islamic fascists at their word. They don't want something from us, they want us dead.

But half the country, like Doyle, wants to run away from this fact, and have constructed marvelous windbaggy treatises of Chomskeyesque proportions intent on proving we are the Worst Nation That Ever Was and We Deserve It and Bush I and Bush II caused it all.

And when it lands on our doostep (again), the dozing giant will awaken, enraged. Meanwhile, buses in France burn, and 50 cars per day set afire, by the religion of peace.

So go back to sleep, Doyle. Blame the messenger. Call him drunk. But he's been dead right most of the way, and you've got nothing but bumper sticker notions to share. Denmark is too afraid of its own Muslim citizens to speak against them, or have their throats cut. But sleep on, Doyle.

WW: juash. I kid you not.

Mark R. said...

Hitch is right, but he doesn't address the root of the current problem - vicious circle of jihad re-inforcing sectarian violence re-inforcing jihadis.

Our mission in Iraq (should we choose to accept it) needs to focus on breaking this vicious circle. With the significantly lower levels of sectarian violence, the Iraqi government would be able to do much more to take on and defeat the jihadis with a lot fewer American "boots on the ground". That is my definition of victory.

Options? Remove the Sunni Baathits will to fight by killing enough of them, running them out of the country, or buying them off with oil bonds. At the same time, remove the Iranian sponsored Shi'ia militias from the scene as an effective fighting force.

It only takes our will. But we have to impose it, not dick around with PC "let them run their country while we are nice enough to defend them" BS. For better or for worse, after removing Saddam we own Iraq. Let's act like it. Iraqis need to be fearful in the short term, grateful in the long term. Anything else gets more of them and of our soldiers killed.

joe said...

There's this movie everyone's talking about "No Substitute for Victory: from Vietnam to Iraq". Originally "No Substitute for Victory" was a documentary hosted by Jon Wayne released when during war in Vietnam. Now this film is re-released on a DVD and examines out current conflicts in the Middle East as seen through the scope of history from our previous conflict in Vietnam. It has exclusive modern day interviews. I think it will be an excellent source of vital information and entertainment! You should check it out!

Freder Frederson said...

Options? Remove the Sunni Baathits will to fight by killing enough of them, running them out of the country, or buying them off with oil bonds. At the same time, remove the Iranian sponsored Shi'ia militias from the scene as an effective fighting force.

And how exactly would you go about achieving these goals? How would you instill fear in the Iraqis? Encourage retalitory killings by U.S. troops? Perhaps summary executions or the use of rape as a weapon? Teams of U.S. soldiers organized into death squads? What exactly are we talking about here? You really need to be specific. I really need to know what kind of depravity you are talking about.

Revenant said...

Plus, it seems withdrawal is more popular with the Iraqi people than invasion ever was

That raises the question of whether people have the *right* to an unfree society, even if that's what they want. If eighty percent of the population wants religious dictatorship and twenty percent wants peaceful, secular democracy, the morally correct thing to do is ignore the wishes of the eighty percent.

Of course, it isn't our government's job to do the morally right thing; it is the government's job to do what's best for Americans. I don't think it has any particular moral obligation to the Iraqi people. I do, however, think that both our interests and theirs are served by establishing a secular democracy in Iraq.

Mark R. said...

Freder: I really need to know what kind of depravity you are talking about.

Why is it that some people automatically imagine depravity as the only tactics to achieve strategic objectives?

I am not close to the situation on the ground (terrorist-produced and CNN-distributed sniper videos don't count) to propose a specific plan. But I am sure we have military and political leadership that can develop the plans if they are allowed to go at it without one arm tied behind their back. After all, in Gulf I they proved pretty effective about making Iraq head for the exits from Kuwait post haste.

Doyle said...

terrorist-produced and CNN-distributed sniper videos don't count

Sure they do.

That we are totally sheltered from images of soldiers' death is, I think, wrong. It's purely for the benefit of domestic morale and does a disservice to the soldiers who are actually dying.

Revenant said...

It's purely for the benefit of domestic morale and does a disservice to the soldiers who are actually dying

What a load of horseshit. Soldiers don't want their deaths broadcast on international television. What the hell planet are you FROM?

Freeman Hunt said...

If eighty percent of the population wants religious dictatorship and twenty percent wants peaceful, secular democracy, the morally correct thing to do is ignore the wishes of the eighty percent.

An extremely good point.

Doyle said...

Sooo, it's done to shield soldiers from the potential, what, shame of being killed by a sniper?

My guess is they are far more concerned with that actual risk of death by sniper than what does and doesn't get aired on CNN.

If Americans could see even a fraction of the violence in Iraq, support for the war would decline even further.

Doyle said...

An extremely good point, if you ignore that, in a democracy, what 80% of the population wants it will (eventually) get.

Freeman Hunt said...

An extremely good point, if you ignore that, in a democracy, what 80% of the population wants it will (eventually) get.

We're talking about liberal democracy--democracy with protected individual rights. Not mob rule.

Revenant said...

Sooo, it's done to shield soldiers from the potential, what, shame of being killed by a sniper?

I am not going to explain to you why snuff films are disrespectful to the victims and their families. A decent person could figure it out on his own.

My guess is they are far more concerned with that actual risk of death by sniper than what does and doesn't get aired on CNN.

No shit. Just because they'd prefer to live doesn't mean they want to wind up as porn for left-wingers and Muslims in the event that they DO die.

An extremely good point, if you ignore that, in a democracy, what 80% of the population wants it will (eventually) get.

That's why the 80% has to be dealt with, one way or another, before the 20% is subjected to its whims.

Bruce Hayden said...

One of the things that some of the Sunni Arabs in Iraq have figured out that a lot of people here in the U.S. have not yet is that we are the primary force keeping them alive.

The other thing is that while everyone is talking about al Qaeda, et al., the foreign born terrorists who have infiltrated have become significantly less of a threat since Zarqawi was nailed this summer, and a lot of his network rolled up. Add to that that the Iraqi security forces can easily detect foreigners, and that Anbar Provence has become a lot less hospitable for them in the last six months, with the Sunni tribes there being more likely now to kill them than to help them. Add to this that some 3/4 of the tribes have signed on with the government for helping to provide security in the last month or so.

Most of the violence now is Iraqi on Iraqi. It is concentrated in Baghdad for a number of reasons, one of which is that that is the best place to hide.

But keep in mind that the Sunni Arabs are using indiscriminate killing of mostly innoncents in a last desperate attempt to try to reclaim power. Meanwhile, the Sunni Arabs who either have been involved in this, or were involved in atrocities under Saddam Hussein, are being personally targetted and executed, mostly by the Shiite militias. Worse, their families are also being targetted, both from the pragmatic point of view that killing the families of those who kill innocents works to discourage more of that, and that many of those involved in the executions are avenging murdered family members.

But note, this side of the bloodshed is highly targetted, about as highly targetted as the other side is indiscriminate.

Back to my original point. If we leave before things are better stabilized, there is a good likelyhood that a lot more Sunni Arabs will be killed. They apparently now constitute 15% of the population, down from 20% when we intervened. And the other side has the trained soldiers, plus most of the guns. Not close to an even fight any more. Add in between 30 and a couple hundred years of pent up revenge on the part of the Shiites and Kurds, and it wouldn't be pretty.

Of course, the MSM is still fighting the last battle, against OBL and al Qaeda.

Bruce Hayden said...

It wasn't just the western Europeans who were heavily involved. Just to the east, in Iran, the Brits and the Russians spent almost the entire 19th Century squabbling over Iran. One would essentially run the country, then the other one would. No wonder the once proud Persians hate westerners. My only question is why they hate us even more than their former colonial powers.

Iraq at least was somewhat luckier there, not really becoming a pawn of empires until the final dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire.

KnightErrant said...

There are no good solutions to the Iraq problem. The United States (George Bush) has so botched the occupation that any definition of victory is impossible. We should ignore why we invaded and forget any goals we used to have. Iraq becoming a western-style democracy that is an ally of the United States is an impossible fantasy. We should concentrate on finding the best possible bad solution. I can see five possible outcomes.

Alternative #1: The US Army steps up the fighting against all the rebelling factions, Sunni and Shi'ite, to suppress the rebellion once and for all. We do all the heavy lifting for a government that cannot get organized. Probable effect: We would have to engage in near genocide to secure the country as an occupying army. Remember, outside of Kurdistan, over 70 percent of the population hates us.

Alternative #2: Install a strongman (Saddam-lite) who will be able to rule through fear. Probable effect: Unless the strongman is a Kurd, the Kurds will fight him. If he is a Kurd, the rest of the country will resist. Result, civil war.

Alternative #3: Withdraw and allow the Iraqis to decide for themselves, either through peaceful or violent means. Probable effect: Civil War, although the terror of unmitigated civil war might convince the factions to talk.

Alternative #4: Support a reluctant, ineffective, sectarian-ridden Iraq army and police force which is mistrusted by the population. Hope things will somehow turn out alright. Probable Effect: This is the current policy. I call it Stay-and-Pray. We will keep a lid on full-blown civil war at the cost of decades of unresolved chaos.

Alternative #5: Partition Iraq into Sunni, Shi'ite, and Kurdish regions. Probable effect: Iran will absorb the Shi'ite region, Syria will absorb the Sunni region, and there will be a self-governing Kurdish region. This will not solve the problem of Baghdad. Probable effect: This is the most peaceful solution, but even here the killing will continue in Baghdad. It will mean three-fourths of Iraq will be enemies of the United States but, hey, that is already the case.

My choice is Alternative 5. Alternative 3 is the big risk/big reward option. It has a chance of something resembling success if rational minds prevail; or it will make Hell look peaceful.

Fenrisulven said...

Iraq becoming a western-style democracy that is an ally of the United States is an impossible fantasy

Its also a strawman. Iraq will be an Arab democracy, with that culture's characteristics. There will be many things about that we don't like, but they will evolve. Much the same way we evolved by freeing the slaves, civil rights, woman's suffrage, animal rights, etc.

Fenrisulven said...

This is the most peaceful solution

Looking over your options, I see a consistent flaw - you appear to have "peace" as your primary goal. You don't get peace by seeking peace [see ww2]. Peace is the reward for Strength and Diligence. Much like Success is the reward for Hard Work and Perseverance. You don't get one without seeking the other.

KnightErrant said...

To Fenrisulven:

I noticed throughout your many comments you have offered no suggestions. None. You make no attempt to travel from where we are to some identifiable conclusion.

You like comparing this war to World War II. WWII had an easily identifiable goal (peace through the total defeat of the armed forces of Germany and Japan). Every effort was aimed at achieving this goal.

What is your goal in this war? What strategy in Iraq do you believe will achieve this goal? Stop whining and share.

Bruce Hayden said...

Alternative #1: Add a lot of troops and suppress violence with extreme prejudice.

I disagree that this would be essentially genocide. But I also think that it misreads the current situation.

Alternative #2: Install a strongman.

The only viable strongman would have to be Shiite, given the populations of the various ethnic groups. A Shiite strongman over most of the country and a Kurdish quasi-republic up north is probably more viable.

Alternative #3: Cut and run.

No, the result wouldn't be Civil War. That buys into the MSM misstatement of the current condition. But the Iraqi Sunni Arabs don't have enough of the population or enough of the guns or trained fighters for a Civil War. They have dropped to about 15% of the population, and lower than that in the national security forces. Instead, the proper term for it would be genocide.

Currently, I would suggest that the best way of looking at the situation is as a fight between terrorists and vigilantes. It is when the vigilantes switch over into more indiscriminate violence that we would be entering the genocide phase. There is some of this already, but the vast majority of the Sunnit Arab deaths appear to be vigilante justice - so far.

Alternative #4: Support the security forces being trained up by us right now.

Let me first note that it is the police that are the big problem. Last I knew, the army was getting a lot better marks from the Iraqi people, and didn't appear to have nearly the level of corruption as the police do.

Nevertheless, I see this as the most viable of your alternatives, despite your characterization of the security forces. Many in our military have argued that we haven't put enough resources into this area, and, instead have worked harder at killing and capturing bad guys, playing "Whack a Terrorist".

Alternative #5: Split the country up into three regions.

This suggestion ignores a lot of the reality of Iraq today. First, what would you give the Sunni Arabs? Anbar? Little oil and a lot of sand there. If you give them the area around Kurkut for some oil, the Kurds are likely to take violent exception to that - and they have the guns to back themselves up.

One big problem with the oft suggested suggestion to split the country into three sectarian countries or quasi-countries is what to do with the Sunni Arabs. Of course, that is the problem right now. But other than Anbar, there is little of Iraq in which the Sunni Arabs are the majority. Parts of Baghdad, and some of the close in towns around there. But that is about it. Also, as I noted before, the majority of the oil is under Shiite lands, and most of the rest under land the Kurds have reason to claim.

Finally, would the Shiite Arab Iraqis merge with their Shiite Persian cousins? Highly unlikely. Definately not voluntarily. Your suggestion here ignores several millenia of tension between these very different ethnic and cultural peoples.

So, no surprise that the bulk of Saddam Hussein's forces in his war against Iran were Shiite. Many volunteered to fight their historic enemies (and, yes, a lot were drafted). Still, when it came to picking a side, many more Shiite Arabs seemed to pick the Sunni Arab side over the Shiite Persian side of that war.

If you give the Sunni Arabs too much, the Shiites and the Kurds will just take it away. But if they try to do that, the Sunni Arabs would likely appeal to their Sunni Arab brethern outside the country for help, which they would likely get. And then the Iranians would be welcomed into the south to counter this.

Here is my vote ranking the alternatives from best to worst:
Alternative #4: work on the current security forces.
Alternative #1: More U.S. fighting.
Alternative #2: Strongman - though I would pick Shiite
Alternative #5: Split the country up.
Alternative #3: Cut and Run.

KnightErrant said...

To Bruce Hayden:

Thank you for your reasoned disagreement. I'm afraid I can't share your faith in the "stay the course" approach. The security situation has deteriorated markedly over the past three years. There was a chance, three years ago, to choose a course that would have led to victory. That time has long past.

It is unlikely that following a path that has led to three years of failure will somehow, eventually, lead to success. It is more likely continuing to follow a failed path will lead to continued failure.