NYT: Grudging Admiration Posted by: Dale Franks
on Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Since I'm on the West Coast, it's tomorrow for many of you, but still today for me. This means I get to see The New York Times just before bedtime. Most of you won't see it until tomorrow...uh...today. Whatever.
The important thing is this editorial where the editors of the Times finally seem to realize that something's up in the Mideast:
It's not even spring yet, but a long-frozen political order seems to be cracking all over the Middle East. Cautious hopes for something new and better are stirring along the Tigris and the Nile, the elegant boulevards of Beirut, and the sand-swept towns of the Gaza Strip. It is far too soon for any certainties about ultimate outcomes. In Iraq, a brutal insurgency still competes for headlines with post-election democratic maneuvering. Yesterday a suicide bomber plowed into a line of Iraqi police and Army recruits, killing at least 122 people - the largest death toll in a single attack since Saddam Hussein's government fell to an American invasion force nearly two years ago. And the Palestinian terrorists who blew up a Tel Aviv nightclub last Friday underscored the continuing fragility of what has now been almost two months of steady political and diplomatic progress between Israelis and Palestinians.
Still, this has so far been a year of heartening surprises - each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing. The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance. And for all the negative consequences that flowed from the American invasion of Iraq, there could have been no democratic elections there this January if Saddam Hussein had still been in power. Washington's challenge now lies in finding ways to nurture and encourage these still fragile trends without smothering them in a triumphalist embrace.
Finally, the NYT is on board with Democracy promotion in the Mideast. Glad to have you aboard, guys.
They are certainly hedging on the side of pessimism, and only giving grudging credit to the Bush administration, but it seems to be getting into their heads that they may have been on the wrong side here, it seems to me.
And that bit about the Bush Administration taking a "healthy" share of the credit? Nice understatement. Without the Bush Administration, none of this would be happening. They deserve the primary share of the credit, along with the governments of Tony Blair, John Howard, Alexander Kwasniewski and others.
What is happening reminds me of that heady year of 1989. For those of us who were in Europe then, especially those of us who were serving there on active duty, it was an amazing time. Almost without warning, peaceful revolution swept across the continent, washing away the Soviet tyranny against which we had striven for decades.
When we look back on the 1980s now, it's not remembered as a decade in which a dim cowboy president courted global thermonuclear war, but as the decade when the USSR was brought down, the Warsaw Pact eliminated, and democratic governance came to Eastern Europe.
As of now, this decade gives every appearance of being the one in which Mideastern tyranny was humbled. Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq, with all their troubles, has devolved into civil war and chaos. Free elections have now given some hope of freedom to the region's inhabitants. Even as we speak, a sort of "Velvet Revolution" is going on in Lebanon, a country torn by 30 years of civil war, invasion, and occupation. Egypt is making moves towards open elections, in a country that hasn't seen a single free election once in its 5,000 years of recorded history.
And this is happening because--and only because--we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and we made it clear we were prepared to stay for as long as it took, however difficult the task, to try and build the basis for consensual government there.
Several years ago, John Kerry referred to the Reagan years as a "time of darkness". Yet, in the last election's presidential debates, he boasted about how often he stood with Reagan, giving him support in Congress. For those of us who remembered his activities in the 80s, we assigned that memory the same credibility we did to his trips to Cambodia with the Magic Hat.
But, the way things are moving, it wouldn't surprise me if, in 15 or 20 years, a future Democratic presidential candidate began regaling us with the tales of his support for the Bush Administration's policy in the Mideast.
There's a long way to go yet, and the path is fraught with pitfalls, but we may be seeing another turning point in history unfolding before our eyes.
A turning point, I hasten to add, we wouldn't be seeing at all had we followed the advice of the Dean/Kennedy crowd.
I think this is the most we can expect from the Times.
I really liked this one, though: "And for all the negative consequences that flowed from the American invasion of Iraq, there could have been no democratic elections there this January if Saddam Hussein had still been in power." You don’t say.
_I_ still remember Reagan portrayed as a dim-witted cowboy. I won’t ever forget it. There’s some GREAT P.J. O’Rourke writing from that period, IIRC it’s collected in _Holidays in Hell_, where he discusses the vehement loathing "civilized" Europe had for Reagan and go-go Americans.
Frankly, I’m glad to see W finally committed to the completion of 1989. It should have heralded a sweeping enlightenment of the world, a reconfiguration towards freedom and democracy.
41 dropped the ball: he didn’t have the "vision thing". Clinton was too busy having his knob polished and making money in iffy land deals to follow through. All the while interest on the bill compounded from one atrocity to the next. Until 9/11.
I do so wish 41 and his realpolitik crew had a little more creativity back then, I wish they had realized that the end of communism was such a huge opportunity, but they were so wrapped up in cold war think they let it slip away. Clinton didn’t even give a damn because it was the economy, stupid.
Well, W got his reelection and all it’s cost us in the end is a few extra thousand Americans that wouldn’t have had to die if Powell hadn’t gotten squeamish in the first place, and 41 didn’t betray those he urged to rise up against Saddam in the first place.
"..it wouldn’t surprise me if, in 15 or 20 years, a future Democratic presidential candidate began regaling us with the tales of his support for the Bush Administration’s policy in the Mideast."
Hopefully that would reflect a situation where only a Democratic candidate who could make that claim honestly would be a credible candidate for nomination. In that world, that new world, the others, the obstructionists, wouldn’t even be in the running.
Hey, cut the NYT a break--no one wants to turn out to be WRONG later, you know? I mean, what if they get all excited and proclaim democracy in the middle east and turn out to be all WRONG later? They would completely lose credibility! They’d look as stupid as back when they were still supporting the Viet Nam War! Nobody wants to be WRONG like that again! We all want to be on the RIGHT side of history, don’t we?
Reid, you are so on man. I’ve been thinking to myself, the terrorists are sitting in their caves in Afghanistan and Iraq, reading the NYT and thinking, this is great news!!! The NYT says the Americans military is going to cut and run! Powerful analysis Ried, simply powerful.
the NYT has its biases and shortcomings (as does every media outlet), but I read it and the other MSM because they have a lot of good information. I like to think that I can read it critically, and decide for myself, what is opinion, and what is substantiated fact, what is relevant and irrelevant.
kcom, let’s just hope that in 15 or 20 years the terrorists haven’t gotten a hold of nuclear or biological weapons and killed a couple of million people here or in Europe. If that happens, how many people are going to care if democracy broke out and took hold in the middle east? I am not a fan of W, but I do admire the fact that he sticks to his guns/principles.
My problem with the whole Iraq war is the opportunity costs. I’d like to think that we could have spent $500 billion and deposed Saddam Hussein in a way that was less destabilizing to Iraq than the invasion, in a way that did not alienate us as much from our allies around the world, in a way that didn’t galvanize what had become a crippled terrorist network. Even if democracy does break out all over the middle east, the actions that the U.S. has taken have sown the seeds that will produce tens, if not hundreds of thousands of terrorists. And as September 11th showed us, it doesn’t take an army of millions, or even thousands to bring massive death and destruction to our shores. It only takes 19 men, and $500,000.
And if you don’t think that the U.S. led coalition’s war to overthrow a brutal dictator has impassioned a small but blood-thirsty terrorists, you’ve been watching too much fair & balanced journalism.
If democracy breaks out and the terrorists don’t ever again launch a major attack on the U.S. or Europe, then I think that it will be undisputable that W will rightful go down as one of the greatest presidents ever. But until the mission is truly accomplished, let’s hold the applause.
You gotta love that Fluffy logic: don’t fight terrorists or destroy their support networks, because that "galvanizes" them and makes them really mad!
Fluffy, under the previous Administration, our main response to terrorist acts was finger-wagging and empty threats to "bring the perpetrators to justice." It’s true: we weren’t quite as alienated from the rest of the world: McDonalds were still being trashed and "American cultural imperialism" decried, but no big protests in London. On the other hand, a bomb was set off in the middle of Manhattan, some Islamist nutball built up a global terror network admonished to kill Americans wherever they are, two embassies were bombed to smithereens, a U.S. Navy vessel disabled in "friendly" waters by suicide bombers, and finally, four planes were hijacked and destroyed, along with two skyscrapers and a good portion of the Pentagon. Whoo-hoo, I’m sure glad that our enemies weren’t "galvanized" or "impassioned" then! Nothing like appearing weak and decadent to placate one’s enemies, let me tell you!
(And where did they get the idea that we were weak? From our own actions and words, including, yes, reading the New York Times. Contrary to what you may think, bin Laden & Co. are neither isolated nor stupid. Rest assured that they are at least as well-informed about what our chattering class says, as you are.)
We could have deposed Hussein without destabilizing Iraq -- but that would have left the Middle East in its unacceptable status quo of secular fascist tyranny balancing radical Islamic tyranny. This would have maintained a superb breeding ground for terrorism, which, contrary to left-wing prattling, has no trouble whatsoever working with both Islamists and secular fascists. Let’s not forget that modern Arab terrorism has distinctly secular roots -- it was pioneered by the PLO, who, like many of the Red Brigade-style terror gangs that plagued Europe in the 1970s and 80s, were trained by Communist USSR and their various Eastern European satellites. Once the USSR was no more and Eastern Europe gained independence, the terror gangs went away, and even the PLO faded nearly into nothing, only to be revived by the Oslo process. In the same way, draining that proverbial swamp of today’s Middle East is the only thing that has a chance at stopping Islamic terrorism.
Can I promise that in 15-20 years a nuke won’t go off in an American or European city? No -- noone can. I can tell you that it’s a lot less likely if the would-be bombers don’t think it will get them what they want. It’s also a lot less likely if we keep nukes out of the hands of lunatic dictators in the first place -- say, but not allowing Hussein’s nuclear program to go forward. And if you think that, were such a nuke available, it would never have been placed into an American city by bin Laden’s gang prior to Bush’s actions -- then I strongly suggest a rapid reacquaintance with reality.
"I’d like to think that we could have spent $500 billion and deposed Saddam Hussein in a way that was less destabilizing to Iraq than the invasion ..."
I’m sure we’d all /like/ to think that. But is it, in fact, true? I’ve never seen anyone who made this claim who was able to produce something both feasible and effective, but I’d love to be surprised on that score.
9/11, for all the death and destruction it caused, was essentially a failure. The planes and the towers contained a fraction of the people they normally held. Our economy was not destroyed or even significantly destabilized. Our morale was not crushed, quite the reverse. By contrast, we’ve killed/captured far more of them, taken away Afghanistan, scotched any active or nascent support by Saddam Hussein (and his formidable oil wealth), and we and our allies are harrying them at every turn.
Has our deposing Saddam impassioned some bloodthirsty terrorists? Sure. Now they’re really, really, really pissed at us instead of just really, really. And? I’m not going to advocate the police stop going after gang thugs because it makes the thugs mad. As far as increasing their numbers, it’s been my experience that caving to bullies inspires far more of them than pounding them into the ground like tent pegs.
You’ll notice how the Left desires to withold judgement AND praise now that success appears to be in the offing. When success is undeniable we’ll see a reprise of Afghanistan and the Berlin Wall. The MSM will say nothing more on the subject of success, the reporters will find a new ’trouble’ area to report from, and the Left will say, Let’s move on".
There will be no credit attributed to Bush or to Conservative insight, no lengthy articles on how the Left completely misread every aspect of war, international politics, and human nature, no photos of long lines of Afghan women waiting to vote or beaming Iraqi faces holding up a purpled forefinger.
They may find the ’real’ architect of the changes in the MidEast but it won’t be anyone working for Bush. They’ll discover that Iraq was already, quietly, collapsing and the war was just the little nudge that pushed down a teetering house of cards. They’ll devine that, had we but waited a few more months, everything would have turned out the same without the need of war. They’ll reveal that it is, in fact, the subtle pressure and presence of the UN that is making the difference in Iraq, Saudi, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, etc. and that NGOs are making life better for everyone there.
They’ll report that US errors cost many more lives than was admitted by Bush and Co. They’ll hint of still greater coverups that hide more terrible revelations. And, if some nation should backslide, a la Russia, they’ll explain that the entire episode was a Bush failure. I can predict all this and I don’t even have a crystal ball.....
First, I never said or implied or reasoned anything like "don’t fight terrorists or destroy their support networks, because that ’galvanizes’ them and makes them really mad." My concern is that we aren’t fighting the terrorists or destroying their support networks enough. And it’s not just me.
"The U.S.-led war in Iraq has become a distraction in the international war against terrorism, Israel’s leading strategic think tank said in its annual report released Monday. . . . Jaffee Center director Shai Feldman said that the vast amount of money and effort the United States has poured into Iraq has deflected assets from other centers of terrorism, such as Afghanistan. Intelligence expenditures made necessary by the large U.S. troop deployment in Iraq ’has to be at the expense of being able to follow strategic dangers in other parts of the world,’ he said. Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli army general, said the U.S.-led effort was misdirected on the strategic level. If the goal in the war against terrorism is ’not just to kill the mosquitos but to dry the swamp,’ he said, ’now it’s quite clear’ that Iraq ’is not the swamp.’ Instead, he said, the Iraq campaign is having the opposite effect, drawing Islamic extremists from other parts of the world to join the battle against the occupiers. ’On a strategic level as well as an operational level,’ Brom concluded, ’the war in Iraq is hurting the war on international terrorism.’"
Also, I have never been an apologist for the Clinton Administration. What a waste of a presidency. But it’s not like Clinton was ignoring the terrorists while the rest of the country was saying, we’ve got to get the terrorists. Come on! I seem to recall that most of the Republicans in congress were preoccupied with the sex scandal than terrorists. There is enough blame to go around.
Regarding this statement, "I’m sure glad that our enemies weren’t ’galvanized’ or ’impassioned’ then! Nothing like appearing weak and decadent to placate one’s enemies, let me tell you." Actually, the campaign in Afghanistan was pretty much a complete success, and there was quite a bit of evidenced that the terrorists had lost a lot of support and momentum. But terrorists acts have increased dramatically since the beginning of the Iraq War, and the to extent that thousands of European Muslims have gone to Iraq, and basically gotten hands on training in terrorist activities, I would say it has once again, galvanized and impassioned them.
The flowering democratic movements are awesome, and we should continue to do everything in our power to help them. It boggles my mind that so many democrats appear despondent over the success of the Iraqi election and the demonstrations in Lebanon. But, I’m not ready to say mission accomplished.
Regarding, "Contrary to what you may think, bin Laden & Co. are neither isolated nor stupid." I never said or implied that. To the contrary, I implied that they are pretty damn smart and creative. If think that there is irrefutable evidence that bin Laden believed that we would never go into Afghanistan because of our pathetic responses to the embassy bombings & the Cole bombings. But not because of the NYT.
"We could have deposed Hussein without destabilizing Iraq -- but that would have left the Middle East in its unacceptable status quo of secular fascist tyranny balancing radical Islamic tyranny." First, I’m not sure how we could have deposed Hussein without destabilizing Iraq, I would like to think so, but I’m no expert on that subject. But why would it have left the Middle East in its unacceptable status quo? IF the U.S. and its allies could have deposed Hussein without destabilizing Iraq and had democratic elections, why wouldn’t those elections have the same effect that the January 30th elections have had?
Finally, Regarding, "I can tell you that it’s a lot less likely if the would-be bombers don’t think it will get them what they want. It’s also a lot less likely if we keep nukes out of the hands of lunatic dictators in the first place -- say, but not allowing Hussein’s nuclear program to go forward. And if you think that, were such a nuke available, it would never have been placed into an American city by bin Laden’s gang prior to Bush’s actions -- then I strongly suggest a rapid reacquaintance with reality." THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT OF MY FIRST COMMENT!!!
Where are the nuclear weapons out there for terrorists to get their hands on? Before the war, we THOUGHT in Iraq. We KNOW that there are lots of nuclear goodies in Russia that are poorly guarded. But have we been doing as much as we should have since September 11th to help Russia secure them? No, we’ve been spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq.
And that’s why I made the comment about the opportunity costs. Also, what about North Korea? We know they have nukes. We know Kim is crazy. Why aren’t we going in there with guns a blazing? Because there are alternatives!!!
Again, I acknowledge that if democracy breaks out all over the middle east and we successfully contain/destroy al Qaeda and there aren’t anymore major terrorist attacks on the U.S. in the near future, W will go down as one of the greatest presidents ever.
First, if the Pentagon had come out with some rough cost estimates before the war began, and said, it’s going to cost $300 - $500 billion for this war, there would have been a lot of people on both sides of the aisle and all over the political spectrum who would have said, whoa, nelly. And I’m not sure there is, I’m not an expert on the subject, but I think that if you’d have told everyone that those kinds of resources were available, a lot of creative people would have come up with some creative proposals. Would they have been viable? I don’t know. But we’ve never even had that discussion. And frankly, I blame the democrats for not pressing harder.
I’m sure we’d all /like/ to think that. But is it, in fact, true? I’ve never seen anyone who made this claim who was able to produce something both feasible and effective, but I’d love to be surprised on that score.
The fact that 9/11 was a "failure" in your analysis is of little consolation to the thousands killed. Are we harrying them or are they harrying us? We may have killed a lot of them, but there are a lot more ready to take the place of those who’ve been killed and captured. As for Afghanistan, it is improving but there are still many problems there. What could an extra $10 to $30 billion done there? The mullahs are still teaching hate for America in the madrasas Afghanistan and Pakiston.
Finally, no where did I say that the U.S. shouldn’t go after the terrorists. Your characterization that I did is incorrect.
One thing that always makes me laugh is when liberals point out things to us like (for example) "there are still problems in Afghanistan". etc. etc. Oh really? It’s not a Utopia there yet?! I’m shocked. LOL.
Dude, there are still problems here. There are problems everywhere. You have to start somewhere. Geez. Grow up.
Way to selectively quote me. Taking lessons from Brit Hume? As far as being a liberal, most liberals think I’m a conservative. Go figure. It’s funny how when you don’t agree with a political figure you’re automatically labeled as being part of the opposition.
As for your non-analysis of my Afghanistan reference, the point of my ENTIRE quotation was that $10 - $30 billion more in Afghanistan could do a lot of good. But do we have $10 - $30 billion to spend there? It seems that everyone, democrats, republicans, liberals, conservatives have decided not to ask the question, could we spend this money better in our war on terror? Most experts that I have read indicate that the root causes of terrorism are poverty, disease, a lack of democracy governments/institutions, & a lack of an economic future. But apparently that discussion is not worth having? And we still have madrasas in Afghanistan churning out hate in AFGHANISTAN!!!
And of course your have to start somewhere. (That comment is more of a truism than my statement about Afghanistan, how ironic). But the question is where? And once again, that was the whole point of my questioning about the opportunity costs of the Iraq war.
And finally, "Geez. Grow up." Powerful commentary there, powerful. How can I respond to that except to say that you obviously must have been captain of your grade school debate team.
the point of my ENTIRE quotation was that $10 - $30 billion more in Afghanistan could do a lot of good.
Would it? I’m not entirely sure that it would. Then, I’m not entirely sure that it wouldn’t, either. The problem with big projects in developing nations is that you may well be building the infrastructure faster than the society. You may be building roads where they’re not yet ready to travel, as it were.
Gorchakov once wrote -- when discussing the interaction of modern countries with more nomadic tribes -- "the state therefore must make a choice: either to give up this continuous effort [to control its borders] and doom its borders to constant unrest...or else to advance farther and farther into the heart of the savage lands...where the greatest difficulty lies in being able to stop."
In Afghanistan, it seems to me, we’re letting the society catch up with the rather rapid changes already occurring there. That should be a fairly organic, Afghan thing. They need help with security, but I’m not really sure that simply throwing money at them will necessarily be productive.
FB wrote: "Most experts that I have read indicate that the root causes of terrorism are poverty...& a lack of an economic future." That explains why the 9/11 perpetrators were well-to-do. To quote the WSJ Best of the Web, what would we do without experts? Root causes, my foot.
"First, if the Pentagon had come out with some rough cost estimates before the war began, and said, it’s going to cost $300 - $500 billion for this war, there would have been a lot of people on both sides of the aisle and all over the political spectrum who would have said, whoa, nelly. "
Oh no, not the dreaded ’If only we had known’ argument. First, before OIF even began, leftists were predicting far higher costs in both lives and treasure than have actually proved to be the case. Since it began, there’s been an orgy of second-guessing, 20/20 hindsight, Monday morning quarterbacking from that side of the aisle. What have those creative (and, I dare say, highly motivated) folks come up with? The technical term is ’bupkis.’
"The fact that 9/11 was a "failure" in your analysis is of little consolation to the thousands killed."
Wasn’t meant to be. Was meant to put paid to the ’laid the US low’ argument.
"Are we harrying them or are they harrying us?"
We’re harrying them. They’re trying to harry the Marines.
"We may have killed a lot of them, but there are a lot more ready to take the place of those who’ve been killed and captured."
Here’s some basic math. Start with 100. Add 50 more every month. A year later, you have 700. Much better to subtract, say, 25 every month. Now you only have 400.
"As for Afghanistan, it is improving but there are still many problems there. What could an extra $10 to $30 billion done there?"
What could an extra $10 to $30 billion have done in the Sudan? In Chechnya? In pick-the-poor-spot-of-your-choice?
"The mullahs are still teaching hate for America in the madrasas Afghanistan and Pakiston."
I presume you mean Pakistan. It’s also going on in Saudi Arabia and Iran, along with other places. Are you proposing we attack them? It’s called ’prioritizing.’
"Finally, no where did I say that the U.S. shouldn’t go after the terrorists. Your characterization that I did is incorrect."
And nowhere did I ’characterize’ that you’d said that. Your characterization that I did so is incorrect.
Cool site. I will look at it some more when I’m not so bleary eyed. Frontline did a piece a couple of weeks ago on the post-September 11th terrorist movement, and in fact, the link I included on a lack of an economic future discusses Sageman’s conclusion’s in large part. And I’m sure that they upper echelon of terrorist leaders may not fit the profile. But I suspect that the soldiers/the recruits who are blowing themselves up, fit the traditional profile.
What is more, the lack of economic opportunity is particularly striking for the Muslim immigrants in Europe. Massive numbers of Muslims have immigrated to western European countries, only to find that they are restricted from working their.
Frankly, I agree regarding the $10 - $30 billion in Afghanistan. Is it the best place to put the money? I don’t know. I just have a gut reaction about the vast amounts of money that we are spending. And part of me knows that this argument is moot at this point because we have to finish the job in Iraq, and finish it right. And if it takes another $200 billion, then we’ve got to spend it. So the discussion of opportunity costs regarding that money is irrelevant. I just wish that we had that discussion more often. I think the president said it very well in his justification for cutting the programs in his latest budget. (Mind you, I’m not up on the specifics of the programs he proposed cutting in the budget, but his rationale that if those programs don’t work, then that money could be better spent somewhere else was refreshing).
Jim C., I like the quote about experts, but I still rely on them a lot. As for the root causes, you don’t think that there are root causes? It may not be one root cause, or even just two or three, but I think that there are root causes to why the terrorists are doing what they are doing. I’m sure they all have their own reasons, but it’s critical to understand.
Dude, I’m totally sorry about the misspelling. I saw it after I’d posted and couldn’t change it. mea culpa.
As for the cost argument, I’m not sure we are on the same page. I’m not second-guessing/monday morning quarterbacking anyone. The only people with the capability to give a rough estimate of the cost of the war was DOD, and Rumsfled wouldn’t do it, for several reasons that I completely understand from his perspective. The only beef I have with him and the DOD is that they knew this was likely to cost upwards of $500 billion, and even with his knowledge, I’m not aware that DOD every considered, hmmmm, how else could we approach Iraq with $500 billion. I have a bigger beef with Congress. And not just with one part or the other, both parties. Nobody made an effort to really get even a conservative number out of the DOD on the cost of the war. And thus, we were left trusting DOD that it be $1 trillion or $2 trillion dollars. As for coming up with creative alternatives, I haven’t got any either; nothing at least that I could back up with facts and hard substantive analysis.
Regarding "What could an extra $10 to $30 billion have done in the Sudan? In Chechnya? In pick-the-poor-spot-of-your-choice?" That goes back to my point. Hell, we could have spent $10 billion in 30 different countries supporting pro-democracy causes/efforts. Iraqi elections followed by democracy movement in Lebanon followed by . . . . Why not have started with Lebanon? Why not have started with a democracy movement in northern Iraq? We could have helped the Kurds secede and form a democratic government (yeah, we would have had to deal with Turkey, but we would have had $300 billion). But again. I admit, we don’t have that money know.
Finally, you stated, "I’m not going to advocate the police stop going after gang thugs because it makes the thugs mad." I thought from this statement that you were implying that I wouldn’t want the U.S. to go after the terrorists because it would make them mad. If you weren’t, my bad.
Thanks for the interesting discussion one and all.
"Nobody made an effort to really get even a conservative number out of the DOD on the cost of the war."
A budget gnome myself in real life, I, too, prefer to have some idea of the costs of an endeavor before entering into it, if only so I know how many red pens to have on hand. I don’t know if it’s the case that they didn’t try, it’s possible they did and we didn’t hear about it, or they did and failed. Whichever it was, I agree they all could do with some smacking about.
"Why not have started with Lebanon?"
While I’m not privy to the exact strategic thinking of Wolfowitz(sp?), Rumsfeld, et al, I would guess for several reasons, most of which fall into the categories of urgency, justification, or effectiveness.
Urgency: Despite the ’Saddam was no threat to anyone’ song from many on the left (not saying you) he was a far greater danger than Syria, especially just regarding the occupation of Lebanon. While Syria sponsored and sheltered terrorists, they had and have considerably less financial wherewithal to cause mischief in that regard. Saddam, on the other hand, had tremendous oil wealth and, along with putting out a contract on a former President of the United States, was sheltering (Abu Nidal and others) and supporting (cf the checks to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers) terrorists. Depending whose evidence/testimony you believe, he was at very least maneuvering for an alliance with Al Qaida.
Justification: Along with the growing threat he posed, we had 12 years of cease-fire violations (which I really wish we’d pushed harder about) and a resolution supporting ’serious consequences’ if he failed to prove he had met his disarmament obligations.
Effectiveness: When you want to send the message to thugs that there’s a new way things are going to work, you don’t just slap around some punk. You take down Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. Saddam was an example, pour encourager les autres. And, to judge by the drastic sail-trimming among the despots of that region, they have been suitably encouraged. And the pro-democracy forces inspired. If this continues to play out the way it currently is, we will have effectively liberated Lebanon (and potentially others) without stepping foot inside their borders.
"Why not have started with a democracy movement in northern Iraq? We could have helped the Kurds secede and form a democratic government (yeah, we would have had to deal with Turkey, but we would have had $300 billion)."
Not just Turkey, but Iran, Iraq, and Syria as well, all of whom have restive Kurdish populations. Much as I would dearly love to see an independent Kurdistan, there’s just no way those four countries could afford to let it exist, let alone equipped with the oil wealth of northern Iraq.
"Finally, you stated, "I’m not going to advocate the police stop going after gang thugs because it makes the thugs mad." I thought from this statement that you were implying that I wouldn’t want the U.S. to go after the terrorists because it would make them mad. If you weren’t, my bad."
Nope. I was just stating my own reasoning on that score. Though I believe somebody else accused you of thinking that way, so I can see why you would be a tad touchy on the subject.
"... The Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies (I know what you are thinking, those Isrealis, they’re soft on terrorism)"
Ah yes, the Israelis. Responsible for that /smashing/ success known as the Oslo Accords. Never forget that Israel produces credulous appeasers such as Shimon Peres as well as ruthless pragmatists such as Ariel Sharon. They’re not infallible.