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What are they saying in Iraq? (update)
Posted by: mcq on Thursday, April 26, 2007

Well here it is, first person:
I’m not a spokesman for the Army.

I don't know what goes on in every place of Iraq. I do know is my father served during OIF 1 and 2, I served for OIF 3.
My brother came for OIF 4 and I am back here again for OIF 5

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for my family but we’ve seen good things that have occurred from our presence here in Iraq.

I’ve seen people cross the borders last week from Syria to finally come home, water, actual water pumped into Sadr City (during 2005), which restored basic necessities to the people there, and people willing to stand up for their country here in Anbar.

Now I find myself in Ramadi, Iraq. Last October my brother left Ramadi after a long and vicious deployment and I see hope, lots of hope — you see it in the people eyes around you.

Everyday people are rising up here, cleaning their streets and joining in noble causes to make a difference for their fellow countrymen of Iraq.

We’re really selling this country short should us leaving early come to pass.

What we’re doing now is instilling pride and patriotism back to a people here but we should not do this anymore if we’re sacrificing our own by leaving.

While the events which led us up to this point may have been caused by political or military blunders we cannot afford to give up at this point.

If someone really, really thinks we are losing here then they need to see what’s been happening here in Anbar.

To cut to the point, Anbar is leaving us in awe. This place used to be so dangerous you couldn’t go into the city without a long drawn out fight but now it’s done a complete 180.

People, Iraqis and Americans, are busting their butts off making this place almost a safe haven from violence. Just in statistics alone we’re doing well, real well.

But the success is in large part due to the people here wanting peace.

That peace is attempted to spread now into nearby areas and hopefully success will not be defined to one area and when more places rise up this year as successes Reid will keep his mouth shut.

Spc. Ricardo Branch
Ramadi, Iraq

I apologize if this message is a bit jumbled together. I wrote it after a long trip out at the COPs here and am tired.
No need to apologize Ricardo, thanks for the note ...and be safe.

Rick Branch is a long-time QandO reader who has been with the 3rd ID for a few years. The first time we heard from him was on his first deployment. He's now on his second.

My guess is Harry Reid wouldn't believe him either.

UPDATE: Gen Petraeus also talked about Anbar in much the same terms that Ricardo:
Progress in Anbar is almost something that's breathtaking. We have made huge inroads.
 
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Comments
You should have a contest.

I’m dead serious. You can pile up all the first-person spontaneous testimonies from soldiers who think the surge is going to save the day. You should invite - I don’t know, maybe a DKos front-pager, they have a lot of Iraq vets over there - to pile up all the spontaneous testimonies from soldiers who think it’s a bitter joke. Let’s see who’s pile is taller! Whoever has the tallest pile will be correct.......... right? wrong?

Heck, you could even call it ’collaborative research’ instead of a contest!

Until then... well, nice post, good to know there’s a soldier left who Harry Reid hasn’t helplessly stripped of all will to survive and left him a frail, broken shell, etc.

I’m waiting for the first "US casualties rose in April: low morale and Harry Reid probably to blame" post.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Yep, that will be right after the AP front-page stories marking declines in troop casualties (it has happened, albeit not often). Just as you might say the reichwing speaks through Bush’s mouth, Harry Reid’s orifice is now owned by the nutroots. His mouth opens, their talking points come out. It really isn’t any more complicated than that.

Everyone’s taking sides on this one - you, me, and everyone at this (and virtually every other) blog. If I were to channel a nutroot fearmongerer, this is where I denounce you as a troll and accuse you of being funded by George Soros, all Roveian-like, to infiltrate right-of-center blogs and disrupt our discussions of reeducation camps. Have a good day.
 
Written By: Rob
URL: http://
By the way, I’d be willing to bet that the Kos vets (the legitimate ones, that is, not the ones who claim it cause their uncles served in Korea) were the real pains-in-the-ass types, the ones that couldnt wait to get out and who gave everyone a real headache, couldnt pull their weight, etc. For every true vet over there, there’s a Jesse Whatsisname... guys with serious holes in their resumes. Just my opinion - you’re not a kkkos kkkid unless you’re sideways...
 
Written By: Rob
URL: http://
I’m dead serious.
Only if "dead serious" really means "full of fecal material".
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
I’m confident that the percentage of soldiers who would like to be allowed to do their jobs in Iraq and would like to be supported as they do them, far outweighs the percentage that are against the whole thing. Not that opinion matters a whole lot in relationship to facts and soldiers are no less fallible than anyone, but if the soldiers over there were rotating back *here* with any sort of general attitude that it was any where near as screwed up as we’re supposed to believe, it wouldn’t just be a few darlings of the left speaking up. Retention would be through the floor, and recruiting would be pitiful.

 
Written By: Synova
URL: http://synova.blogspot.com
Retention would be through the floor, and recruiting would be pitiful.


Oh, they would, would they?

http://www.intel-dump.com/archives/archive_2007_03_25-2007_03_31.shtml#1175297233

Slate published a piece of mine this afternoon in which I argue that the U.S. military has broken (note the tense) under the strain of the current wars, and that the fracture is getting worse. Current policies are ensuring that the U.S. military will require at least a decade — if not a generation — to recover from Iraq once the war ends.

The U.S. Army broke in the 1970s in the wake of the Vietnam War and the end of the draft. But if you ask officers who served during that period, few will recall the sounds of creaking planks, snapping beams, or rupturing buildings as the institution disintegrated. Instead, the crumbling occurred over time, becoming apparent only decades later.

Today’s Army is stretched past its breaking point by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The sounds of its collapse may be faint enough for policymakers in Washington to ignore, but they are there. An exodus of junior and midlevel personnel illustrates the crisis. Their exit has forced the Army to apply tourniquets like "stop loss" to halt the hemorrhaging, and it has also dropped its standards for recruiting and retention.

Four years into the war, the Army still has too few troops to persevere in Iraq and Afghanistan and too few deployed in each place to win. To surge its forces in Iraq, the Army has dipped deep into its well, returning units back to combat after less than a year at home, leaving many with little time to train incoming soldiers and come together as a team.

Of all the signs of breakage, perhaps the most acute is the decision to redeploy Army brigades to Iraq sooner and for longer tours in combat. The entire active-duty force is either deployed, set to deploy soon, or within one year of coming home from Iraq or Afghanistan. Short of conscripting millions of Americans to rapidly build a larger military, contracting out for a larger force, or mobilizing the entire reserves at once, military leaders say they have no other choice—to surge in Iraq, they must reduce the time soldiers spend at home between deployments and lengthen their combat tours from 12 to 16 or 18 months. But sending troops to Iraq after such a short time to reorganize, refit, and retrain is a recipe for disaster.



Or, hey, how about a retired Major General in the Washington Times?

http://washingtontimes.com/op-ed/20070329-084334-9363r.htm

Bean counters in the Pentagon tell us that Army recruitment and retention are in good shape. Problem is, our cumbersome readiness reporting system only informs leaders in Washington of conditions on the ground many months after the force begins to break. Today, anecdotal evidence of collapse is all around. Past history makes some of us sensitive to anecdotes and distrustful of Pentagon statistics. The Army’s collapse after Vietnam was presaged by a desertion of mid-grade officers (captains) and non-commissioned officers. Many were killed or wounded. Most left because they and their families were tired and didn’t want to serve in units unprepared for war.
If we lose our sergeants and captains, the Army breaks again. It’s just that simple. That’s why these soldiers are still the canaries in the readiness coal-mine. And, again, if you look closely, you will see that these canaries are fleeing their cages in frightening numbers.
The lesson from this sad story is simple: When you fight a long war with a long-service professional Army, the force you begin with will not get any larger or better over the duration of the conflict. For that reason, today’s conditions are pretty much irreversible. There’s not much that money, goodwill or professed support for the troops can do. Another strange consequence is that the current political catfight over withdrawal dates is made moot by the above facts. We’re running out of soldiers faster than we’re running out of warfighting missions. The troops will be coming home soon. There simply are too few to sustain the surge for very much longer.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Or, hey, how about a retired Major General in the Washington Times?
You libs do like to go General shopping to buttress your points......I think it’s cute.
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Is it just me, shark, or have you become a little less militantly hostile when I wasn’t looking? That comment of yours was almost... mocking, but without the undertone of hatred! Awwwww! Hugs for everyone! You must have .. bought a dog? Come closer to Christ? Gotten laid?
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Oh it’s so cute when liberals spin recruiting and retention numbers.

In *fact* the military has increased it’s numbers *during wartime* at the same rate at which Clinton decreased the size of the military during his administration.

Recruiting goals (which include this overall increase) are met.

Retention is high. It is particularly higher among those who’ve been stationed in Iraq than for those who have not been.

People enlist in the military for *eight* years. Usually for four years active and four years reserve. When the Army offers 2 year enlistments it is two years active and six years reserve.

During a war soldiers are asked to serve their reserve commitments. This is what they are FOR. It is *expected.*

And I do notice that your retired Major General, while saying that the military numbers lag, has offered NO numbers of his own. He’s going by Vietnam because that’s what he knows. I notice the Slate article is high on innuendo and lacking numbers. It’s proof is "stop loss" which is soldiers serving their reserve commitments, and minor changes to allow qualified recruits to enlist who may have otherwise been disqualified. (The requirements are *still* higher than they’ve ever been for war-time troops.)

All of this while *increasing* the total size of the military.

And if we are short NCO’s and middle range officers... it takes more than 6 years to make those people. We’re managing with what Clinton left us.
 
Written By: Synova
URL: http://synova.blogspot.com
To cut to the point, Anbar is leaving us in awe. This place used to be so dangerous you couldn’t go into the city without a long drawn out fight but now it’s done a complete 180.
I have absolutely no doubt that that is gospel truth, so to speak. I also don’t doubt General Petraeus’s report. Sadly, however, the same things were said in 1970 about most of South Vietnam. The VC were cut to shreds during Tet in 1968 and the NVA were still recovering from their offensives of 1967 and gearing up for Easter 1972. Westmoreland (and Abrams) was right: we were absolutely winning the war. Vietnam really was (relatively) quiet. Editorial desks and Congressional chambers, however, were not. Nor are they now. 1968-1973 scarily repeated 2002-2007. Military winning the war; media and politicos losing it.
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://www.asecondhandconjecture.com
"I’m waiting for the first "US casualties rose in April: low morale and Harry Reid probably to blame" post."
Quality liberal commenters on QandO, why don’t you repudiate comments like this? You are taking a form of ownership by your silence. Yes, I know, silence does not....

There comes a time when immature blathering needs to be identified. I will take the fist step.


 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
Hmmmm. "First" step.
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
To anyone who really has been objectively watching this, it’s clear that the surge will not bring success, and the chance that it will create a ’peace with honor moment’ is diminishing. It’s amazing how people who have been wrong for four years will nonetheless ignore the evidence and cling to words from official spokespeople, or a voice of a solider here and there (contradicted by other soldiers who get dismissed as being ’pains in the ass’). One has to be awed by that kind of faith, it reminds me of how Germans believed that ’a new weapon’ would turn around the tide of war. Alas, the reason the surge is failing is because this isn’t a military war. It isn’t even real counter-insurgency. It’s a social engineering experiment gone awry. Staying in Iraq weakens our country and distracts us from true dangers.

I understand the good intentions of wanting to spread democracy, and the belief that Iraq as a model for market based democracy was seductive and alluring. I understand as well the fears that as oil production peaks, the US needs to out manuever China especially to assure access to oil from the region. But the tactics used in Iraq have failed, and the surge is only pushing violence elsewhere, and the insurgents are simply adapting as they always do.

Alas, they’re setting up a ’blame the anti-war crowd’ revisionist argument for when the inevitable happens, claiming we ’could have succeeded’ if only the Bush Administration wasn’t ’stabbed in the back’ by liberals, pacifists, and those not true to the American ideal. Hmmmm...where have I heard that before?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
And which correspondent (who’s actually been to Iraq) said this???
Well, even more than that, if you just wanted to look at it purely in terms of American national interest, if U.S. troops leave now, you’re giving Iraq to Iran, a member of President Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil,’ and al Qaeda. That’s who will own it. And so, coming back now, I’m struck by the nature of the debate on Capitol Hill, how delusional it is. Whether you’re for this war, or against it; whether you’ve supported the way it’s been executed, or not; it doesn’t matter. You’ve broke it, you’ve got to fix it now. You can’t leave, or it’s going to come and blow back on America.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com/
I absolutely disagree with the quote Keith posted. First, I don’t believe for a moment that al qaeda will control Iraq if we leave. Sunnis and Shi’ites both ressent Al Qaeda and have no intention of handing Iraq over to them. Will Iran have a lot of influence? Of course. That’s one reason I opposed the war, I saw that coming. But that’s a reality we’re going to have to accept. Iraq is bleeding us in terms of resources, people, and prestige. The military is overstretched, our alliances are fractured, China is making inroads in relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia, and the longer this goes on the more we give propaganda aid to anti-American groups throughout the region.

We are not powerful enough to control Iraq or shape the politics of the region. We are not powerful enough to "fix" Iraq — and the attempt to do so over the past few years has made it worse. That’s a fundamental assumption I think the quote above has wrong — that somehow we can fix Iraq, and that the effort to do so won’t make things worse. I disagree on both counts. Even the surge — which stretched what is politically possible given public opposition to the war — is only bringing troop levels to what they were in 2005, and shifting violence from one region to another. Insurgents can wait, adapt, and pretty much choose where to go and what to do, the US force isn’t strong enough to prevent that.

I’m absolutely convinced it hurts us far more to be in this quagmire than to find a way out. We have to confront our failure in Iraq (undeniably we have failed in relation to the goals and expectations of 2003), and our weakened position on the world stage. That’s a hard pill to swallow, I know.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I’m absolutely convinced it hurts us far more to be in this quagmire than to find a way out.
I’m absolutely convinced that you’re wrong, unless the "way out" results in a stable independent Iraq. None of your solutions will lead to that.
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
I don’t think al Qaeda would control Iraq, but I do think they would have a base of operations there, and a propaganda coup. If we don’t "win" in Iraq, then who does win. If we say we lost, then the enemy will say they won. Where goes our prestige then?

As well, they would redouble their efforts in Afghanistan using the same ’slow bleed’ campaign of spectacular suicide bombings, to drain public/political support for continuing our efforts there.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com/
Or, hey, how about a retired Major General in the Washington Times?
I do find it funny that they have absolutely no time or interest to talk to Gen Petraeus, but they have time to talk to Assad.
maybe a DKos front-pager, they have a lot of Iraq vets over there
Yeah, and how many of them are real. You guys have a real penchant for propping up fakes and pointing to them like the pet donkeys they are. Shall we post the hundreds of fake vets that you bozos have trotted out to sell your crap. I suppose it would not matter.
 
Written By: cap joe
URL: http://
To be fair, Pelosi did spend a 1/2 hour on the phone with Gen Petraeus. Although I’m not sure who showed up for the closed briefings yesterday.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com/
I’m absolutely convinced that you’re wrong, unless the "way out" results in a stable independent Iraq. None of your solutions will lead to that.
I believe you’re operating from a false assumption: that we have the power to create with military force a stable independent Iraq. You believe there is a clearly definable "solution" out there. I think that’s an illusion — and I believe the last four years is evidence in favor of my position.

My blog today discusses this kind of debate in more detail, but here’s my conclusion:

So what should the Democrats do? I personally think that there are two problems in crafting a response. First, given the reality of situations like those faced in Rwanda and Bosnia, we have to avoid a kind of absolute retreat from responsibility. Second, we also have to make a transition to a regional and international effort in Iraq rather than simply leaving.
...
Yet if it’s just what Republicans call "cut and run," it probably won’t be a much better option than staying. The US has to truly alter its approach, and combine ending our major military effort (perhaps keeping open the possibility of participating in a UN mission) with work at regional and international diplomacy focused not on geopolitical rivalries or who is in the axis of evil, but on helping the Iraqi people avoid having the situation get worse rather than better. The Saudi-Iranian dialogue recently shows there is regional will to do this. I think we need to recognize that there are things beyond our control, things that even with our great military capacity we can’t simply "fix," like a political and social system. Thus the tempting image of a military victory and total success needs to be replaced by the messy image of compromise, diplomacy and uncertainty. C’est la politique.

 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I don’t think al Qaeda would control Iraq, but I do think they would have a base of operations there, and a propaganda coup. If we don’t "win" in Iraq, then who does win. If we say we lost, then the enemy will say they won. Where goes our prestige then?
Keith, I have a real problem with that argument. I think far too much emphasis is placed on prestige and propaganda, and not enough on the strategic and tactical realities. I don’t think al qaeda will gain much even if they claim victory, or use America’s departure for propaganda — they are already gaining a propaganda coup with Haditha, Abu Ghraib, and real or made up charges of American atrocities. I think we really have to worry less about the prestige/propaganda impact, and more on objective national interest. I do not see the propaganda impact as causing serious harm, especially if we replace our policy with an effective regional and international effort.

I’m not sure how this would affect al qaeda’s efforts in Afghanistan (or ours, for that matter — we’d have more resources available for that theater). But the bottom line is I see the current policy in Iraq as an obstacle to developing a creative regional/international effort. We are paying the whole price in a conflict that looks exceedingly costly and harmful to our interests (and prestige).

But at a core point I agree with you: al qaeda is a threat, Islamic extremism or perhaps better pseudo-Islamic fascism is a threat, and I’d add that massively increasing oil demand combined with the very real possibility that oil production is peaking creates a real threat to our economy if the region becomes chaotic — we could have a severe and this time long lasting oil crisis that would devastate an already fragile economy. The issues are real, your concerns are, I believe, legitimate. We just disagree on what the best course of action is.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I do not see the propaganda impact as causing serious harm, especially if we replace our policy with an effective regional and international effort.
There in lies the crux of the problem. No one has any serious plan to do this. The Democrats certainly have not proposed anything, other then a date certain. Currently, it is in Iran and Syria’s interests to keep funding terrorism in the Middle East. I don’t think any amount of sweet talking is going to change that. I don’t know how you create the conditions for them to stop funding terrorism. How do you create a sanctions regime that doesn’t primarily harm the people?

What’s missing in the equation is that we are providing security for Middle East oil, and those who are using the majority of it are not. Approximately 60% went to the Asia-Pacific region, followed by 19% to Europe and 15% to North America. (Numbers are from 2003)

It’s not going to effect just us, if there is a ME oil crisis, it is going to effect the world economy.

You would think this would be enough to entice, China, Russia, Europe, Japan, and other countries to help out. For the simple fact that if we fail in Iraq, it has the potential for destabilizing the entire region. And that has the potential for bringing down fragile economies. Never mind the humanitarian side of the issue, as the ethnic tensions in Iraq might boil over and become genocidal.

And if that happens, we better start making more bio-fuels, because if there’s one thing we’ve got in abundance, is arable land. (I’ve always thought bio-diesel is the short term bridge to whatever the better solution is. You can retro-fit existing cars with turbo-diesels, and the tech is straight forward.) The change-over would be good for the country as well. Pump up the engine and electronics manufacturers, plus the service men to retro-fit existing vehicles. We’ve already got the infrastructure to deliver the fuel, just need more production. Take the farmers off subsidies, and they’ll start growing optimal crops for fuel. WIN/WIN/WIN.
The issues are real, your concerns are, I believe, legitimate. We just disagree on what the best course of action is.
I believe you’re operating from a false assumption: that we have the power to create with military force a stable independent Iraq.
I think that’s a straw man argument. Military force is a component of the solution, not the entire solution. It has been from the start. But, you get into a conundrum. Without security, you can’t have stability, and prosperity can not take root. Without prosperity, and the jobs it provides, there can be no security.

I think in the end, it’s a complex problem, and it takes complex solutions. And that is not a mistype, solutionS. Multiple solutions, because even within Iraq, different areas require different solutions. The Kurdish areas have different requirements then Baghdad, and both of them have different requirements from Anbar, etc...

We are doing our best, right now, to implement a complex solution on the security, economic, and political fronts. I say, give it a chance. Gen Petraeus has said we should be able to see real progress by the end of summer (I think.) We do see positive signs in some areas, including Anbar as Reuters is reporting. And if you notice the solution there, it involves local buy-in to the political solution. The locals must join the effort if it’s to be successful. Of course, any mass causality event overshadows any positive news that might be there. Which is exactly what our enemies intend.

All we really know is that the price of failure will be costly, regardless of what path we take.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com/
And again I want to say that there is a fundamental assumption that there are non-military solutions and military solutions and never do the two meet. The "false assumption" that "we have the power to create with military force a stable independent Iraq" is not the false assumption. The false assumption is that anyone thinks so. It’s nearly a straw man argument, as Keith said.

The most harmful false assumption is that *nothing else can be done* until the military efforts *end*.

I think it comes from viewing the military, not as a foreign policy tool, but as a separate, different, "when all else fails" sort of thing... perhaps even viewing the military and war as an extension of police and law enforcement. Just because both have guns doesn’t make one an extension of the other. The military is a foreign policy tool, not a law enforcement tool. The other aspects of a military action are going to be the other tools of our foreign policy. They don’t *exclude* each other, they go naturally together.

I think that the administration has made mistakes about implementing non-military efforts, partly because the "hot war" part was over before anyone had a chance to catch their breath, and partly because the human creative resources that *could* have been put to work on those efforts found it politically preferable to refuse to be seen, in any way, to be supportive of the effort in Iraq.

The difference between viewing something as a challenge to be figured out and viewing the same thing as proof of doom and failure, is more than anything else, a choice.

(And I’ll mention my pet peeve... sanctions. Sanctions work by making an entire population miserable enough that they will pressure their own government to change in order to get the sanctions lifted. If the people don’t *hurt* or if the ruler doesn’t *care* that the people hurt, sanctions will not work. Sanctions are not the moral high ground. They are simply a way for countries to wage war without having to admit that is what they are doing.)
 
Written By: Synova
URL: http://synova.blogspot.com
And if we are short NCO’s and middle range officers... it takes more than 6 years to make those people. We’re managing with what Clinton left us.

Excuses and evasions. The war is sucking the army dry. Do I have to quote Barry McAfferey’s report to the joint chiefs? The people that are saying otherwise, are not disinterested observers, they’re people like yourself whose jobs depend on pretending that disintegration doesn’t exist. It’s almost impossible to find disinterested military observers who are speaking otherwise in public: it’s 10 to 1 against.

The military is a foreign policy tool, not a law enforcement tool. The other aspects of a military action are going to be the other tools of our foreign policy. They don’t *exclude* each other, they go naturally together.

When you say it like this, it become an ideology, not an assessment. The history of counterinsurgency in the 20’th century is a history of failure precisely because they do exclude each other. It’s very simple. "Hearts and minds operations" and war are fundamentally contradictory to each other. Trying to do both simultaneously tends to have them nullify each other and render the larger whole incoherent and useless. This paradox is sometimes mitigated with superb tactics and leadership, sometimes overwhelmed with massive amounts of resources, but mostly it can not be overcome at all. That’s why insurgencies work. Often.



 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
There are excuses and then there are reasons.

It takes years to make an NCO. To get the "middle" ranks among enlisted or officers it takes years. This *problem* is a problem created when Clinton reduced our ranks so drastically.

The war is sucking the Army dry?

Clinton sucked them dry. The war is showing how foolish it was to think that our military was large enough for what might be asked of it. The claim that you’d made, second hand or not, was that *this war* was causing NCO’s and middle ranked officers to flee in droves... but without numbers to back that up. The numbers show unusually high retention rates, particularly among those who have served in Iraq.

I dispute that middle ranked enlisted or officers are leaving the service in greater numbers than normal (there are *always* a certain number who chose not to re-enlist or chose to pursue other careers). *Therefore* as an indication that *this* war is unpopular among the troops, this fails. The opposite indication is there... high retention suggests confidence. This is more reliable than a "contest" of letter writing veterans.

My "excuse" seems to upset you because you’re trying to claim that the *stress* on the Army is a meaningful metric about how soldiers feel about *this* war. The stress on the Army has an easily understood source. Clinton gutted the Army. We are increasing the size of the military at a rate equal to the rate he decreased it and we are doing this during a war without conscription. This increase, which we are able to do during wartime, does *not* solve the problem of too thin middle NCO and officer ranks because that takes years.

This war will be over soon, no matter who wins in 2008. Will you support continuing building the military back up or support breaking it back down for a new "peace dividend?"

===
Diplomacy is war by other means or war is diplomacy by other means... whatever the heck that quote is, it’s got nothing to do with the 20th Century or my ideology. Armies are tools of foreign policy, extensions of diplomacy. They are not in conflict unless one has the notion that diplomacy is actually a popularity contest.

*This* glasnos, is ideology...""Hearts and minds operations" and war are fundamentally contradictory to each other." It’s right up there with "War never solved anything." Accusing me of ideology and then stating your own baseless ideology is not making a meaningful argument.

"Hearts and minds" is a strange fantasy anyway. The supposed basis of our failure at this is a statement of faith. It must be since somehow we lose the "hearts and minds" contest while sadistic and murderous barbarians who blow up large numbers of civilians are completely immune.

"Trying to do both simultaneously tends to have them nullify each other and render the larger whole incoherent and useless."

Examples, please. Just because it sounds good to you means nothing. When has military action and other non-military activity, meant to work to the same ends, nullified each other and failed?

Or is this just excuses for all those who want a good reason for their own inaction?
 
Written By: Synova
URL: http://synova.blogspot.com
I do not see the propaganda impact as causing serious harm, especially if we replace our policy with an effective regional and international effort.

There in lies the crux of the problem. No one has any serious plan to do this.
That’s a fair point. It seems all we have to chose from is leave Iraq or follow a dubious surge. The goal should be: a) create a situation where Syria and Iran no longer see it in their interest to support terror; b) improve conditions for people in Iraq; c) enhance stability in the region to help insure no major oil disruptions. And, while you’re right that we don’t get that much oil from the Mideast, since the market is a world market buying oil anywhere affects demand — and if Mideast oil got disrupted, we’d feel the impact (we get a lot of oil from Nigeria, which also has a lot of problems.

I don’t know if biofuels are going to really save us. Besides the price increase in food, they produce a lot of ozone, which has a more severe direct/immediate harm than does C02. But you are right in your claim that many countries will be hurt if there is a disruption in the region. I think that creates opportunity as well; it makes me optimistic that an approach that builds alliances and uses diplomacy, economic pressure, and maintains a risk of military action can yield results.

I agree the price of failure is high. Bluntly: looking at the costs of continuing military action in Iraq, the probability of benefits (the likelihood the current path with bring stability) vs. the probability of disadvantages (the likelihood that the current path will create more problems), I end up having to conclude that the rational course of action is to ditch the current strategy and try to build something else. Maybe there’s a middle ground between leaving Iraq and staying the course with the surge. But something’s gotta change.

And to Synova:

The most harmful false assumption is that *nothing else can be done* until the military efforts *end*.
I don’t think we can create a regional solution or enlist more states through an internationalized effort if we don’t fundamentally change our military policy in Iraq. Since the war is so unpopular, most Americans simply want to just stop thinking about Iraq given the current policy. I think we do need to take the region and the country seriously, and the public will be more supportive of that only if the current efforts are significantly cut back, with a focus less on military action, and more on international cooperation. I think our current policy is an obstacle to the steps that need to be taken.

We’re very vulnerable economically, and oil dependency is our Achilles heal. The news today of the Saudi arrests involving a potential oil focused terror plot was a bit disturbing. Though it’s good they stopped the effort and apparently are on top of things, all the terrorists need is a lucky major strike at oil fields, refineries, and the like, and things could get ugly fast.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Diplomacy is war by other means or war is diplomacy by other means..
War is a failure of diplomacy.

War is killing, destruction, and it has a devastating impact on average people. It’s not be chosen in some kind of cold calculation of power politics. We have to consider the human impact and try to avoid needless killing.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"War is a failure of diplomacy."

No.

And if I’m mangling Clausewitz it’s not a concept that I’ve just made up.

It is a grave error, first of all, to view diplomacy as *not* having the potential for devastating impact on average people. It gives the illusion that, so long as it’s not *war*, that the high ground is taken and all is sugar and light. Millions of human beings have died as a result of diplomacy, at least as many as have died from war. Why? Because while the politicians push and shove and have their conferences, real life for real people goes on. Hardship, killing, and all the bad stuff continues. Genocide continues.

There are many sorts of force that a country can bring to bear on it’s neighbors. Do not operate under the illusion that it is not force that is involved in diplomacy. Do not operate under the illusion that a "diplomatic" solution that takes decades is kinder than a military solution. It may well not be.

War as a failure of diplomacy expresses the issue and relationship as though *all* problems are diplomatic problems and that when diplomacy fails that war is the result. This is every bit the "when you have a hammer all problems are nails" error. All foreign policy problems are not diplomatic problems any more than all foreign policy problems are military problems.

It’s more like nails and screws, if you’ll pardon the simplification. You’ve got a hammer... the military, and you’ve got a screw-driver... diplomatic force. ("favor trading, economic pressure, public scorn, sanctions, whatever")

If the problem is a screw, the failure of diplomacy will not turn it into a nail. If the problem is a nail, the screw-driver makes a crappy hammer.

The problems appropriate to the tools we consider "diplomacy" can absolutely exist right along side the problems appropriate to military force. Insisting on one or the other means that only one set of problems gets dealt with while allowing the other set to continue unabated. And *that* means real people facing devastating impact, and as we’ve seen from history, often facing death and genocide.

not-war != peace

 
Written By: Synova
URL: http://synova.blogspot.com
"I think we do need to take the region and the country seriously, and the public will be more supportive of that only if the current efforts are significantly cut back, with a focus less on military action, and more on international cooperation. I think our current policy is an obstacle to the steps that need to be taken."

I’m glad that you take it seriously. I think you misjudge public opinion.

I agree with what you say public opinion *is*.

I disagree that following public opinion by significantly cutting back military action will do spit to increase either international cooperation or domestic approval.

First I’ve got recent experience to go by. For quite some time public opinion has been that Bush did not send enough troops to enforce order in Iraq. Did public opinion become more approving when policy was changed and the plan was announced that more troops would be sent? No. Now, suddenly, public opinion is that we need far fewer troops who stay separate from the population.

This is the clearly demonstrated behavior of the sub-set of the population that will entertain the thought that we are stuck there. There is no reason whatsoever to think that anyone will become more approving or any foreign government will increase involvement if we switch back again to fewer troops.

I don’t think that the larger part of the public is even aware that they are now asking for the opposite of what they supposedly wanted before.

For some it’s about opposing Bush. If he does something different the people who oppose him will still oppose him. They are very flexible.

There is also the very real possibility that reversing the "surge" will stop the very thing that has a chance to suppress violence enough to make some progress on other fronts. I know that there are those who really believe that the factional strife over there is actually caused by the US presence and if we back off it will stop. I trust that is not you.

(In my experience people who say so will make those statements interspersed with "they’ve been killing each other for centuries, they aren’t going to stop just because we want to force democracy on them." It makes no sense for the same people to say both things but they do.)

If violence does not drop to near nothing, those not supportive now will not become supportive, even if they get the changes they have said they want.

And a goodly portion of hard core anti-war types will never turn supportive no matter what anyone does, even if we just bring every last one of our troops home and pretend that none of it ever happened.
 
Written By: Synova
URL: http://synova.blogspot.com
"War is a failure of diplomacy."

No.

And if I’m mangling Clausewitz it’s not a concept that I’ve just made up.
I know you’re referring to Clasewitz. I’m referring to Hans Morgenthau, whose book Politics Among Nations became standard after WWII, creating what in political science is termed realist theory (he was opposing the idealism which he saw had appeased Hitler and left the West unable to confront the threat of Nazism). Essentially, war is too dangerous and unpredictable to be used as a tool of diplomacy (Iraq proves that, pretty clearly!), and war must be used only as a last resort to stop an aggressor or defend from certain attack. The book is now in its 7th or 8th edition, and though Morgenthau is dead, a colleague of his still updates it (unfortunately removing some things considered politically incorrect). I like the 5th edition best.

If diplomacy alongside deterrence works, you should have no wars, accordng to Morgenthau. When it fails, either due to lack of a deterrent or because of an irrational or power hungry leader, then war is the result. He’s essentially arguing against war as a foreign policy tool in favor a strong deterrent and war only when necessary. He certainly did not think war and military options were unnecessary — quite the opposite, the realist theory sees human nature in a negative light and believes that with anarchy (which defines the international system) states have to be prepared to defend their national interest and deter would be opponents.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
And a goodly portion of hard core anti-war types will never turn supportive no matter what anyone does, even if we just bring every last one of our troops home and pretend that none of it ever happened.
I do not think a war like this can regain support once it’s lost it. Bush, like LBJ forty years ago, isn’t trusted. When a story breaks that the US isn’t counting car bombs in giving figures that say violence is down, most people don’t analyze that or think about whether or not bombs should be included, it just gets filed under "they’re lying to us again." That’s why the Gonzalez, Libby, and other cases are so damaging to the Administration, they’ve created a long shadow of distrust and public sense of incompetenece (even by many war supporters) that essentially means they’d need something hyper-dramatic to try to regain public support.

The sectarian violence has numerous causes, but clearly we did give it a chance to unfold by the mix of lack of security and poor post-war planning (whether or not we could have done better, I’m not sure — maybe the current situation was near inevitable once the decision to invade was made. I suspect if we’d left in May 2003, things might actually be better). History suggests that this kind of violence won’t end quickly. At this point, we’re looking at something which could take a generation to play itself out.

Thus the case many make for continued intervention: that’s the only possibility to break the cycle. My view: we don’t have the capacity to intervene to the extent and length of time necessary (in part due to public opinion) to actually create stability (look at lingering problems in Bosnia and Kosovo),and even if we did, the anti-Americanism we inspire (there will always be Hadithas, Abu Ghraibs and cases like that in war, more will happen) and which average Iraqis share mean that we remove incentives for them to solve the problem themselves.

The one kind of intervention which can work is regional (the countries around have to want a peaceful Iraq) and international (UN involvement, with forces from states that are seen in a positive light by Iraqis). The US can’t get the regional and international effort with our current policy; if we end this "phase" by announcing troop withdrawals, and then pressure the UN and regional actors (who love making life tough for the US, but really don’t want a broad regional sectarian war), then perhaps we can find something best for the Iraqi people.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
There is no "regaining" public support. It’s like suggesting that the US "regain" international favor. We never had it. Bush had brief support immediately after 9-11 but before that the same ones with the constant "lying" accusations were saying the same. The "BDS" was in full swing already. There is no "regaining" what never existed.

Changing policy will change nothing at all.

And as you said, the countries around Iraq have to want a peaceful Iraq. Which ones would those be? A peaceful Iraq is actually a threat to any one of its neighbors and more of a threat than a war-torn Iraq could ever be.

What if democracy in Iraq and a fair application of laws *works*? What if they get peace and prosperity? Will Egypt find it so easy to arrest bloggers? Will Iran find it so easy to arrest women who protest new stricter clothing laws? Will Saudi be able to maintain that Saudi women are just too stupid to drive a car?

Nations can’t be expected to act contrary to their self-interest unless they are forced to do so. Somehow.

 
Written By: Synova
URL: http://synova.blogspot.com
.This* glasnost, is ideology...""Hearts and minds operations" and war are fundamentally contradictory to each other."..."Hearts and minds" is a strange fantasy anyway. The supposed basis of our failure at this is a statement of faith. It must be since somehow we lose the "hearts and minds" contest while sadistic and murderous barbarians who blow up large numbers of civilians are completely immune.

Give me a break. Who are we kidding? Aren’t you someone who should have read General Petraeus’ manual on counterinsurgency? How many times do you think it says that cooperation from the local population is vital to such operations? Do you think he’s kidding? It’s hard to win cooperation - or, more critically, support - from civilian populations while you bomb the sh*t out of them. That’s why a large majority of the population in Iraq supports attacks on US forces. Which in turn is why we’re losing the war. This must be deliberate ignorance.

My "excuse" seems to upset you because you’re trying to claim that the *stress* on the Army is a meaningful metric about how soldiers feel about *this* war. The stress on the Army has an easily understood source. Clinton gutted the Army.

Synova, this is a joke. I don’t know the ins and outs of the games the DoD has played with recruitment and retention numbers: I just trust the large numbers of outside-the-military veterans I’ve read saying that all is not rosy. I find it very unlikely that hordes of retired generals have all developed BDS. I’m not going to try to argue on the details. I’m not prepared to.

This war will be over soon, no matter who wins in 2008. Will you support continuing building the military back up or support breaking it back down for a new "peace dividend?"

If "breaking it back down" means an end to absurd, unsustainable double-digit growth in defense spending every year, with tens of billion dollars vanishing into thin air, then count me in for a peace dividend. We’re up to 5% of national GDP on public defense spending - the very conservative estimate - and another presidency of similar increases will bring us towards 10% - now you’re in USSR-collapse territory.



 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
A peaceful Iraq is actually a threat to any one of its neighbors and more of a threat than a war-torn Iraq could ever be.
I think that’s absolutely wrong, and you can tell by looking at what people in the region are trying to do. The biggest danger is a Shi’ite-Sunni regional war, and there is intense fear that this will happen. That’s why Iran and Saudi Arabia are suddenly talking, and why the Arab league has invited Iran to participate. They realize that it would be very dangerous to let Iraq continue, and blame the US for most of the problem. Iran helps Shi’ites, Saudi Arabia funnels money to Sunnis, and both hate al qaeda. It’s their neck of the woods, they need stability. We’re outsiders, and have done more harm than good.

As for military spending, we spend half the world’s military budget and its caused us to succumb to temptation to see military action as an effective solution to complex problems, leading to ill conceived missions in Kosovo and Iraq. I think we need to cut back on our military, recognizing that military solutions don’t do much in the current complex climate. I think economic realities and public opinion will force those cuts in coming years.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Why then do they continue to try to weaken Iraq? Why does Iran do what it can to destabilize the new government there, including providing bombs that are used to kill Shiites? If they figure out not to use Iraq as their battleground it won’t matter that we are there. This is illogical. Everyone fears a regional war and *Everyone* wants to be sure that they are on the side that wins it.

Why not support stability in Iraq? What better way to get us to leave?

And I don’t see the point of having a military AT ALL if we have to have one that isn’t actually strong enough to do anything. That’s a silly extension of the idea that if we’ve got a hammer that we’ve *got* to use it. So the solution is to not have a hammer. It’s not, "When you’ve got a hammer all problems look like nails" it’s, "Get rid of your hammer and there will be no more nails."

Of course there will still be nails. And because of that, and the fact that we don’t know what will happen in the future, we need to have the hammer available.

And I don’t have much good feelings about what people seem to see as the alternatives to war. Sanctions are either immoral or ineffective. To think that the world hates us for our guns deliberately (and perhaps willfully) ignores how much they hated us for starving Iraqi children. Never mind that Saddam was starving the children while he built palaces and filled mass graves, the WORLD still hated US, not him, for starving Iraqi children.

What I see is a whole bunch of people who really do think that standing by and hand-wringing is the moral high ground. So long as the right words are said and the right outrage expressed, that is *doing* something about the problems. Clean hands, seem to me, to be the worst evil because clean hands are a lie.
 
Written By: Synova
URL: http://synova.blogspot.com
"It’s hard to win cooperation - or, more critically, support - from civilian populations while you bomb the sh*t out of them. That’s why a large majority of the population in Iraq supports attacks on US forces. Which in turn is why we’re losing the war. This must be deliberate ignorance."

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

The people "bombing the sh*t out of them" are NOT Americans.

This is where faith and idiocy come into play. Your faith that WE are losing hearts and minds because of what WE do, and the people who are bombing the sh*t out of people and carrying on extra judicial killings and basically making life a horror are WINNING the hearts and minds.

And you are so blind to it that you couldn’t even conceive that this is what I was talking about. The people killing people and bombing the sh*t out of them over there are Islamist terrorists.

As it is, in several places those barbarous sub-humans *are* losing the hearts and minds as local populations and sheiks have decided instead to support American commanders and efforts.

Deliberate ignorance, indeed.

 
Written By: Synova
URL: http://synova.blogspot.com

And I don’t see the point of having a military AT ALL if we have to have one that isn’t actually strong enough to do anything.
That’s a straw man if I ever saw it. Who wants a military not strong enough to do anything? I think with Iraq the issue is whether the tactics and strategy chosen can work. I think it cannot, for the reasons I gave above, and thus call for a change in policy.

As to Iran — they are active in Iraq because they do not want the US to be in a position of strength in Iraq, or in the region. They realize that keeping the US bogged down in a quagmire assures we have limited options against them, and it increases anti-Americanism. But if we were to shift our policy and the issue was just Iraq itself (and no longer the threat of an Iraq as an American proxy), their calculation of interests would be very different. They’d like to dominate too, of course, but then the pesky balance of power comes into play, with Sunni states potentially backing Sunnis, and the Arab-Persian mix divides Shi’ites. So the result could be — and the US has to be involved at some level to create the process — a regional agreement that helps stabilize Iraq and avoids dominance of any foreign power, whether Iran, Saudi Arabia or the US. We won’t have the pro-American Iraq the neoconservatives desired, but we might get a stable Iraq. The more countries that can be involved the better, and UN Security Council action to multi-nationalize the problem would be especially great.

This would a process that should have already started, and should start while US presence is still high, with troop withdrawals also tied to the regional process (part of an incentive for cooperation from regional powers). It also has to be real — verifiable compromises and agreements, not just a paper ’peace with honor.’
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Is it a straw man? You said, "I think we need to cut back on our military, recognizing that military solutions don’t do much in the current complex climate."

You want a smaller military because the problems we have don’t call for military solutions. The context was *not* our military presence in Iraq but our military budget and total strength.

If our current complex climate doesn’t call for a military solutions, then why have a military at all? Answer: Because tomorrow’s complex climate might be different. If we had to fight a significant war, could we?

Having a strong military does not require using it to try to solve problems best solved in other ways. Having a strong military is necessary so that if we *do* need it, we have sufficient trained personnel and infrastructure, the sort of things that can not be whipped up over night when the need arises. We can’t decide that we need more NCO’s and middle ranked officer and get them in fewer than 8 to 10 years.

Supposedly our "over-extension" in Iraq is an issue. If we *ought* to be there or not, the fact that maintaining this involvement is difficult should illustrate the need for more trained people. What will the world be like in 10 years? If all we’ve got is a bill for maintaining a peacetime military, is that really so bad?

The military doesn’t mind not fighting, you know. The idea that soldiers or those who study war are compelled to find some way to use their training is a fanciful remnant of the 60’s.
 
Written By: Synova
URL: http://synova.blogspot.com
Iran: "They realize that keeping the US bogged down in a quagmire assures we have limited options against them, and it increases anti-Americanism."

The options suitable to anything we might have to do in Iran are completely untouched by the "quagmire" we’re bogged down in. Maybe Iran doesn’t realize this. Our Army may be busy but we’ve got two entire "armies" who aren’t particularly busy at all. And it wouldn’t even be making do with what is available. I can’t see any strategic reason for ground forces and occupation in Iran. Something like that would not be on the table *anyhow*. So technically limited, but limited to our best choices.

And yes, Anti-Americanism plays grandly in Iran and quite a lot of other places. It’s very popular.

"— and the US has to be involved at some level to create the process —"

This reminds me of a editorial one of my office-mates had under the plexiglass on his desk at Clark. Americans should leave the Philippines, it said. The US military there was ruining the country by keeping them from following their own destiny (the gist of it, I don’t recall the exact words) and the US should remove our bases *now* so that the PI could get on with their own sovereignty and what all. And when we left, the US had the moral responsibility to mitigate the loss of direct employment, loss of national income from base rental and all the money GI’s spent on the local economy, by sending the Philippines a lot of money.

IF the presence of the US is the cause of problems, how does the US *have* to be involved in the process to get everyone living in harmony? Would we be fooling anyone? Would they feel respected like adult and responsible countries because we were pushing our agenda less obviously?

And this I agree with whole-heartedly. "This would a process that should have already started, and should start while US presence is still high, with troop withdrawals also tied to the regional process (part of an incentive for cooperation from regional powers). It also has to be real — verifiable compromises and agreements, not just a paper ’peace with honor.’"

It’s a process that the presence of our troops does not hinder. (And everyone wants us to leave, in a sorta meta fashion, even those who like us, so our being there should be a good motivation... I never quite understood how our presence was supposed to foster complacency about the Iraqis taking over. It’s illogical.) And it *should* be going on now. This is why I’m so disgusted at the half of this country who simply refuses to raise a finger or tire a brain-cell on supporting the Iraqi government, internal stability and stability between nations over there just so long as Bush is in charge.

 
Written By: Synova
URL: http://synova.blogspot.com
Only other thing I wanted to mention specifically...

"We won’t have the pro-American Iraq the neoconservatives desired, but we might get a stable Iraq."

Some people worry too much about people liking us and I don’t think it’s conservatives. Neo-conservatives? I’m not sure what that means, but maybe they are that silly.

I don’t remember where it was but someone the other day accused the "neo-conservatives" of having promised, not a pro-American Iraq but a pro-Israeli Iraq. The mind does boggle.

I don’t know who’s been making these sorts of statements but I haven’t heard them and if I did I ignored their silliness.

It’s foolish to expect *any* nation to be anything other than concerned for its own self-interest. Maybe this is why liberals seem so prone to go on about "puppet" governments in Iraq. Maybe they really can’t imagine that we’d plan from the very first that Iraq have real and true self-government. THAT is what I’ve heard the administration and conservatives, neo or not, talking about. And if anyone talks about how we simply *can’t* allow them to do their own thing because we might not like it, it’s anti-war lefty sorts. So I don’t know who’s been promising to create an Iraqi that will do what we want them to do or be reliably pro-American.

What we need in Iraq is a stable, secular, pluralistic *liberal* government. If they are pro-American is utterly immaterial.

 
Written By: Synova
URL: http://synova.blogspot.com
I don’t remember where it was but someone the other day accused the "neo-conservatives" of having promised, not a pro-American Iraq but a pro-Israeli Iraq. The mind does boggle.
I see the neo-conservatives as intellectual hiers of JFK’s "best and the brightest." Idealistic but also militarist liberals who want to spread democracy, market and the American way of life. Like the JFK crowd, they vastly overestimated the ability of military power to shape political outcomes, and they also misjudge the ability of modernizing societies to have stable democracies. Democracies are hard to build, and even harder to maintain. If you reach a point where they become culturally entrenched they work fine, but we tend to think they’re nature "if only the evil dictators were removed."

The reason it gained ascendancy over the traditional GOP realism is because it was seen as a fix for both the terror threat and potential oil crises: America’s ideals had won in the Cold War, now if democracy and liberalism could spread in the Mideast, the countries there would move away from authoritarian, corrupt regimes, and people would have hope, not be seduced by extremism, and be predisposed towards friendship with the US and not working with Russia and China. That was a seductive illusion, but completely unrealistic. And it certainly was a kind of liberal idealism, Woodrow Wilson with a machine gun!

There are also signs that Iraqi dissidents were telling Americans that they would recognize Israel. That also was seductive, because if Iraq joined Egypt and Jordan in recognizing Israel, the balance in the Arab world would have shifted and that would put more pressure on Syria to cut a deal and provide leverage against Hezbollah in Lebanon (ultimately the goal was to pressure Iran as well). So liberate Iraq, create a stable pluralistic democracy with lots of aid, they’ll assure oil flows, shift the balance towards Israel allowing a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian problem, and put pressure on Iran and Syria, perhaps even setting up another regime change. How seductive all that is! It seems so easy, just "have the will to invade Iraq" and soon we’ll be reshaping the region in a manner supportive of our values! Alas, it was a theory based not so much on reality but on wishful thinking.
What we need in Iraq is a stable, secular, pluralistic *liberal* government. If they are pro-American is utterly immaterial.
I think you set the bar too high — a stable, secular, pluralistic, liberal government is perhpas decades off. Building that is a process. It is hard to have that kind of system. We tend to think it’s natural because of how it seems to work so naturally here — but our culture supports democracy — we tolerate vast differences of opinion and behavior, believe in compromise, can win elections without trying to eliminate the opposition, and can lose and know there will be another election up ahead. Iraq and the region needs a lot of cultural development before they’ll have the socio-cultural infrastructure for a stable, pluralistic, liberal democracy.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Now you’re just talking common sense, Scott. Shame on you!

Seriously.

You’re not saying anything that I have not heard from the "pro-war" sorts, at least the ones that I interact with, since OIF began. I think you’re overemphasizing oil, since we aren’t as dependent on middle eastern sources as people tend to think *and* because a war would seem to be sure to disrupt the oil supply, and I’m not sure I’d think of recognizing Israel as the same thing as being pro-Israel.

I don’t think that anyone really understood just how destructive of the human soul was the terror people lived with in Iraq for generations. Yet even if that weren’t so, it’s only logical to expect that it would take a while for people to take a new system for granted. So I don’t think this is a good excuse. I can’t think of any country, any government, in the world that changed from a dictatorship to a self-perpetuating democracy or republic in only four years.

Bush did say that people *want* freedom, and I think that they do. (And they certainly *deserve* freedom.) That doesn’t mean that there will be no infighting, working out kinks in the process, or the need for at least a generation for the process to be taken for granted by the population.

I don’t think I’ve set the bar too high. Iraq will never have *our* government or *our* culture, but the expectations of equality in the law and courts (the reason it’s okay to lose an election and wait for next time... the law will still protect you, even if you don’t have the majority), the beginnings of ideas of secular government (which Saddam supposedly had, so it’s not completely foreign) that includes people of various beliefs together,... I don’t think that’s too high a bar.

And I don’t know who thought it could happen overnight. The Iraqis seem willing to try. I think that we should be willing to stick it out and help.

 
Written By: Synova
URL: http://synova.blogspot.com
I think you’re overemphasizing oil, since we aren’t as dependent on middle eastern sources as people tend to think *and* because a war would seem to be sure to disrupt the oil supply, and I’m not sure I’d think of recognizing Israel as the same thing as being pro-Israel.
Where we get our oil from is not so important, since it is a world market and a shortfall in the Mideast would drive up prices world wide. I think the US wanted a military presence in Iraq to help shape conditions to work against the kind of regimes and politics that could lead to crisis in the future, so I think oil was a motivator. The dirty little secret of the oil industry is that production is probably at or near peak (the US peaked in 1970), and production will start dropping in the coming years as demand increases. This will bring a very large price increase, and there could be intense competition for existing oil. So I think oil is not only important, but will increase in importance (watch developments in the former Soviet Republics and places like Nigeria).
I don’t think I’ve set the bar too high. Iraq will never have *our* government or *our* culture, but the expectations of equality in the law and courts (the reason it’s okay to lose an election and wait for next time... the law will still protect you, even if you don’t have the majority), the beginnings of ideas of secular government (which Saddam supposedly had, so it’s not completely foreign) that includes people of various beliefs together,... I don’t think that’s too high a bar.
Corruption is the biggest thing working against that — Iraq is probably now ahead of Nigeria as the most corrupt country on the planet, and that subverts everything we do, and calls into question our ability to trust the Iraqi government (not just top leaders, but down through the bureaucracy). When you add sectarian violence/hatreds to the mix...Uff da! That creates a real obstacle to the kind of government we would like to see — in most countries that suffer this sort of thing, we’re looking at at least a generation.

Right now the US is seen by most Iraqis as a foreign power after their oil and wanting to have Iraq run our way. They’ll use us if they can (we have money and can give benefits), but betray us if its in their interest. Thus I conclude that there is limited good we can accomplish in the current scenario, and our presence/activities may have unintentionally aided the rise of sectarian violence and corruption (there are many charges that the US abetted corruption early on, but I am not sure how accurate they are).

So I’d prefer to avoid the big "should we stay or go, is the surge ’working’ or not (whatever that means)’ and instead look at those core issues: can corruption be controlled, is there a way to mitigate sectarian hate? It’s tempting to try to use corruption in our favor (buy off Sunni and Shi’ite leaders by having them cut a deal to control oil and enrich themselves) but that would be counter to the kind of rule of law/accountability that is really needed. I know of no problems in the world more vexing than corruption and ethnic violence — there is no clear way to eliminate them. Maybe if the regional powers and the international community took on Iraq as a project, things could be salvaged. But I don’t think the US can do it mostly on its own, and I think we need to make a major policy change, giving up control of this policy, altering the nature of our engagement, and working to regionalize/internationalize the Iraqi situation. I don’t know if it will work, it will certainly give some benefit to states like Iran and Syria which may be hard to take, but I really see that as the best option.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
This is where faith and idiocy come into play. Your faith that WE are losing hearts and minds because of what WE do, and the people who are bombing the sh*t out of people and carrying on extra judicial killings and basically making life a horror are WINNING the hearts and minds.

And you are so blind to it that you couldn’t even conceive that this is what I was talking about. The people killing people and bombing the sh*t out of them over there are Islamist terrorists.

As it is, in several places those barbarous sub-humans *are* losing the hearts and minds as local populations and sheiks have decided instead to support American commanders and efforts.

Deliberate ignorance, indeed.


Synova, 61% of the Iraqi populace supports attacks on American forces. How do you fit this into your narrative, your worldview?

You don’t. It just doesn’t exist for you, does it? But it’s the real world.

You’ve created a world of abstraction where Iraqis are supposed to think America is the good guys and react accordingly. But they don’t. Out of all the people bombing the sh*t out of the Iraqis, we may indeed be the most concerned with trying to be fair and discriminate, but it doesn’t matter. And we are, indeed, bombing the sh*t out of Iraq, whether we’re being nicer about it then Al-Quieda or not.

I’m going to try to be more civil in future discussions, because you seem to be having a civil conversation with Scott Erb. But everyone in Iraq with an iota of power except perhaps Al-Sistani is arguably describable as a barbarous sub-human, by the context you’re using. Our allies and our enemies alike. You might wake up to the idea that the Iraqis are quite comfortable with violence, as long as it’s not being used against their own clique. The Americans have no clique. They don’t get the benefit of cognitive dissonance that other Iraqi factions get.

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
And this I agree with whole-heartedly. "This would a process that should have already started, and should start while US presence is still high, with troop withdrawals also tied to the regional process (part of an incentive for cooperation from regional powers). It also has to be real — verifiable compromises and agreements, not just a paper ’peace with honor.’"

I’d love to see a regional peace process tied to U.S. withdrawal dates. It would be fantastic. It would be much better than even a U.S. unilteral withdrawal, which I generally advocate for, because I know that the Bush Admin agreeing to withdrawals in a regional peace process with Iran and Syria is a pipe dream. If I’m wrong about that, I will love being wrong.

See, this course of policy is based on the explicit understanding that the worst people in the Iraqi scenarios will keep stirring the pot until we promise to withdraw, and we lack the tools to stop them. Which is true. Which is one of a variety of interlocking reasons why Iraq never gets better under U.S. occupation.

It’s a process that the presence of our troops does not hinder.

One hundred percent wrong. You should be able to observe that this is true by noticing that it has yet to happen. It has yet to happen because no one - not the drivers of events in Iraq, anyway - are willing to start the process until the U.S. promises to withdraw.

What you mean is that, is that "Logically they should all be willing to reconcile, with U.S. troops there, since we want them to reconcile anyway."
Except that when they shout from the rooftops, like in the last regional conference, that they refuse to start until we leave, we ignore them.


Another way that this is one hundred percent wrong is that we constantly meddle in the Iraqi political process, preventing consensus from forming, knocking out people we don’t like and Iraqis do - like Al-Sadr, the vicious thug - and turning people that try to work with U.S., like Maliki, into incoherent whipsawers between American-directed messages and Iraqi-directed messages.


What we need in Iraq is a stable, secular, pluralistic *liberal* government. If they are pro-American is utterly immaterial.

We may have evolved from 2003 a little bit, and no longer expect those we we support or fail to oppose to walk down the Euphrates singing "Hail to the Chief", but we consistently knock out the most anti-American - and popular - Iraqis in favor of more cooperative and unpopular ones. The safety of our troops depends on functionally pro-American Iraqis - and on us continually co-opting the political dynamics of Iraq to protect American soldiers. Of course, since most Iraqis want their leaders to be killing Americans, not protecting, them, we thus have a weak, incoherent, unpopular Iraqi government that survives mostly on patronage and force of arms. And one that is totally unable to implement the agenda we keep telling it to implement.

We had the Iraqis elect their own government, and then we attempt to push upon it a long string of locally unpopular policies. Unsurprisingly, it’s not able to do so. That’s what happens when you try to get democracies to implement long strings of unpopular policies.








 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
What we need in Iraq is a stable, secular, pluralistic *liberal* government. If they are pro-American is utterly immaterial.

This is utterly untrue in practice. The Maliki government continues to exist because of the U.S. military presence. And it buys the U.S. military presence by cooperating with America. Meanwhile, all the genuinely powerful people in Iraq - like the Baathists and the Sadrists - want us to leave. And they’re excluded from the government, or else frozen out of the decision-making process. They make us pay for this - their absence leaves a paralyzed and weak government. It also leaves that government just as dependent on Iranian support as on our own. Finally, with no inherent political logic to its existence other than military support from the U.S., it depends almost entirely on that support, instead of an actual democratic process, in its methodology, and its goals are limited to simple survival.

http://cernigsnewshog.blogspot.com/2007/04/zen-and-art-of-iraqi-reconcilliation.html

Here’s a very smart and thoughtful article about the best possible government for Iraq that can’t happen, because it can’t happen without nonexistent U.S. approval.

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://

 
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