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Iraq: The moral argument for "finishing the job"
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lawrence Kaplan, senior editor of The New Republic, freakin’ nails it. I’ve attempted a number of posts to explain why it is so important to finish the job in Iraq. I should have just waited on Kaplan because Kaplan gets it. Not only does he lay out the argument eloquently, he skillfully guts the arguments of the Murtha and Kerry wings of the left. So prepare for some extensive quoting.

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Absolutely beautifully said. The Murtha argument does indeed respond to many political needs which work well for Democrats but are unrelated to the needs of Iraq and its people. Foreign policy differences, opposition to a preemptive war and the administration’s mishandling of the aftermath are political issues. But Iraq and its people are only obliquely considered in them if considered at all by those who would abandon them.

Those of us who argue we should finish the job are often called war mongers, Bush lovers or stupid (or a combination of all three) for wishing to continue such an obvious (at lest to the critics) failure to a particular end point.

Kaplan has provided those of us who believe we should finish the job the proper retort to those who say get out now: Heartless. Leaving Iraq before the job is finished would indeed be nothing short of heartless. And there is a second term which is also quite applicable. Unethical. We have an ethical and moral obligation to the people of Iraq to ensure they are at least able to have a chance at real self-government. That obligation entails "finishing the job".

Kaplan succinctly distills the Murtha argument to an easily understood bumper sticker slogan: “We are the problem”.

No. We're not.

It is an argument I utterly, completely and contemptuously reject.

We’ve certainly made a problem, but we aren’t the problem. Since we’ve made the problem, it is an ethical imperative that we fix it. Us. No one else. Us. Call it a continuation of the Pottery Barn rule if you wish, but we have a moral duty to fix what we’ve broken.

Kaplan further discusses the Murtha argument and its bankruptcy:

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That isn’t a story line or narrative you’re likely to see from most of the talking heads on the left. That's because it cedes the moral high ground to those who say "stay the course". It obviously won’t prevent Americans from dying in Baghdad or the rest of Iraq either. But it speaks to the powerful point Kaplan makes of moral duty and staying the course until we manage to find a way, in cooperation with the fledgling Iraqi government, to cool the violence and lessen the sectarian tensions which have been unleashed. It can be argued we had a hand in the development of that violence, but regardless we still bear an ethical responsibility to leave Iraq better than it was after our invasion. That isn't and won't be an easy job by any measure, but we have a responsibility to see it through.

As the article points out neither side involved in the violence thinks we’re the problem. Both sides, as represented by the quotes offered by Kaplan, instead think of us as part of the solution – at least short term. And it is within that short term that we must finish the job. Give Iraq the chance and opportunity to stand up its government with the ability to actually govern.

We can debate forever whether we should or shouldn’t be there or whether we should or shouldn’t find ourselves in this sort of a position. And that's fine. But we are there and we are in that position. The duty we now have is to make the best of that situation and attempt to turn it into a positive, first for Iraq and its people and secondly (and it will follow naturally if we do the first) for ourselves. But get it through your head: we are not the problem.

Kaplan then turns his attention to the Kerry argument:

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Note well the one line he quotes from Kenneth Himes: "The moral imperative during the occupation is Iraqi well-being, not American interests."

That is what “finishing the job” means in moral terms. And doing whatever version of “getting out of Dodge” Kerry is peddling this week doesn’t fulfill that moral imperative, especially in light of what Kaplan is sure would happen if we turned our backs and “redeployed”. But remember, this isn’t the first war from which Kerry has demanded we “redeploy”. We’ll talk about that in a minute.

As I’ve mentioned for months and months, “finishing the job” is not an open ended commitment. Kaplan makes that point as well. “It does mean staying until Iraqis have the means to restrain the forces unleashed by our own actions.” The plan and metrics for “finishing the job” exist and have for quite some time despite claims to the contrary by opponents of the war.

Kaplan expands on the moral argument by citing the hypocrisy of certain critics who make a difference only for Iraq:

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That’s not leadership. That’s partisan politics in lieu of leadership. Those that have participated in the political theater and charade Kaplan speaks of above don’t deserve to be called leaders. Future Democrat calls for others to consider the humanitarian plight of people like those of the Balkans and Darfur can’t help but fall on deaf ears given the seeming callousness with which they appear willing to walk away from the Iraqi people.

And that brings us to the only true and worthwhile comparison of Iraq to Vietnam, one which Kaplan draws carefully and skillfully:

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However being a country which lives up to its moral obligations is one of them. We have a moral obligation to see the job through. Whether we agree or not on the war, whether or not the job has been poorly done in the aftermath, whether or not you're a fan of the administration, that obligation doesn't go away. We can argue forever on the political issues surrounding Iraq. But what is undeniable is the moral responsibility we carry to finish the job. That can't be talked away. It can't be redeployed.

We fell for those sorts argument once before, made by many of the same people, to our eternal shame. Murder on a massive scale was the result. Let's not make that same mistake again.
 
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You would think the left would be more likely to adopt the moral angle on Iraq than the right. I guess BDS causes blindness.

There is also a very compelling practical argument for remaining. Nobody, left or right, wants Iraq to turn into a terrorist base camp the way Afganistan was. Both the ME terrorist community and the USA recognize that losing in Iraq would be devestaing for their cause. There is a lot at stake for both the good guys and the bad.
 
Written By: Doug Purdie
URL: http://www.onlybaseballmatters.com
Interesting post. A few thoughts:

a. Al-Sadr appears to be one of the most powerful politicians in Iraq. If the new metric of success is preventing civil war and we achieve that metric, the price of that success will be the creation of a pro-Iranian profoundly theocratic state.

It’s hard to ask Americans to die so that women can be forced to wear burka.

b. You and Kaplan may both contemptuously reject the notion that "we are the problem". But a sample of two is hardly representative, and I didn’t see any link to any polling data (assuming that an accurate poll could be obtained) regarding how large numbers of Iraqis feel about our continued presence.

The problem with the bumper sticker approach is that it’s too simplistic. Which problem? The problem that a significant number of Shia and Sunni feel the need to settle up old accounts? No. The problem that a large number of young men are always going to hate being occupied? Yup.

If we are not the problem, why are we being attacked? why the need to protect the Green Zone like some medieval fort?

c. The moral imperative is Iraqi well-being. Absolutely true. But if our government refuses to recognize that imperative (witness, for example, the collapse in reconstruction funding) then withdrawal becomes the only possible alternative.

d. If the US truly intends to act as a buffer between two domestic forces who hate each other’s guts, then the nearest historical analogy would appear to be Great Britain’s occupation of Northern Ireland. In a place where the occupier had strong historic ties to one of the local communities and spoke the language and was immediately next door, the price of that occupation was very high. The occupation is still ongoing, the cost has been enormous, and it brought terrorism to the home country.

Some things are worth fighting for. Slavery was our issue. Religion and power appear to be the issue for Iraqis. And I remain profoundly unconvinced that the formation of an army is doing anything more than giving training and weapons to those getting ready to fight.
 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
Your sentiments are certainly admirable. However, your realism, and Kaplan’s, is suspect. You both assume we can control what happens in Iraq.

Read carefully the quotes of Mr. Yoqoubi from the Post article. This is a man with real power on the ground in Iraq. Power we have not been able or willing to confront, as shown by our recent skirmish with the Mahdi Army. Al-Maliki was the first to condemn us after that dust up. The Shia are spoiling for a civil war in Iraq so they can crush the Sunni once and for all.

The best that can be hoped for now is three independent or semi-independent regions as outlined by Peter Galbraith. The Kurds are already gone and want no part of Iraq. They have always hated Iraq and have banned the Iraqi national flag from being flown in their territory. They have their own army and government and are, de facto, a separate country. The south is already an Islamic state.

Unfortunately, whether we stay or whether we go, a blood-bath is coming over Baghdad. Mr. Yoqoubi confirms that.

Terms like "finish the job" are meaningless. The Shia of Iraq plan to finish the job themselves. We have unleashed forces we can’t control and Iraqis will not control, by their own choice. The pro-Iranian Shiite majority have power within their grasp and they won’t stop until it is absolute and and Islamic government reigns in Iraq.

Don’t forget we are ordering young Americans to die for that.
 
Written By: Pug
URL: http://
I’d argue that the proper thing to do is not stick around.

To me, it’s a rather straightforward analysis: how many American lives and dollars should be ’invested’ in seeing a particular outcome realized? In this case, there are three outcomes being sought: (1) an end to the intramural fighting that we are supposedly responsible for, (2) a democracy that will lead to peace on earth, and (3) sending a message to the terrorists that they ought to retire since we can’t be intimidated.

Since (2) is delusional, pie-in-sky thinking, with Bush and his fellow kool-aid drinkers offering no more historical, factual and theoretical support that there’s a snowball’s chance of this ever coming true than those who scream that cold fusion can work or those who claim to turn water into wine, I’d eliminate it. As for (3), those who hate us will hate us and try to kill us if we stick around in Iraq just as much as they’ll try to kill us if we leave. So all that is left is (1), trying to keep the Iraqis from killing one another.

And that is simply not enough to justify the losses of another thousand or so American lives on top of those lives already wasted pursuing Bush’s not-so-excellent adventure in bringing democracy to the corners of the world. I’d have no problem as a President in ordering American troops into battle in order to defend America and save American lives... I would not order them into harm’s way to save the lives of those in Bosnia, Kosovo, Darfur... or Iraq.

Furthermore, unlike Kaplan and Colin Powell (and, I presume, you), I don’t think our invading Iraq obligates us to ’fix what we broke’. We were justified in going in in order to get rid of Hussein and to make sure there were no WMDs. The Iraqis, through their acceptance of Hussein, brought this upon themselves and, as such, we didn’t assume guardianship of them and their affairs. Put another way, we didn’t ’break’ Iraq, it was broken, the Iraqis created the mess themselves, so let them clean it up and work it out for themselves.

And yes, I mean what I said that the Iraqis accepted Hussein. They may have b****ed about it, they may have risen up every now and then, but they never did what they needed to do to get rid of him. As the expression goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
 
Written By: steve
URL: http://
McQ, I’ll give you this:

The moral argument that we owe it to the Iraqi people to fix a situation that has gone sour while we were, to one extent or another, running it and/or responsible for it, is the best argument for staying the course.

I respect it.

But it’s still wrong, and the reason it’s still wrong is that we really are the problem. Not because American troops are thugs or because the country or the armed forces have evil intentions. Quite the reverse. But because:

#1. The distorting effect of US military forces inside the ethnic balance of power has led to a deadly stalemate that otherwise would not exist:

#2. The Bush Administration will not seriously investigate a political solution to the war. They are ideologically incapable of serious negotiations with our enemies and quasi-enemies - Shiite or Sunni - and too incompetent and radioactive to succeed even if they would try.

I absolutely contest the idea that Iraq will explode in a bloodbath if we leave. If we negotiated our withdrawal and conditioned it to a larger laying down of arms, our withdrawl could be the end of the conflict.

But we’re too proud, and the Administration needs to look like it’s killing some sort of bad guys, somewhere. And that’s one reason why the Iraqi nation is suffering, along with the indigenous thugs on all the warring sides.

We’re trying to fix the problem, but we are trapped in the dyanmic propelled by our own efforts.

This is why we should not have invaded in the first place - and in some other situation where it might actually be neccesary to do so, we shouldn’t stick around.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
wants Iraq to turn into a terrorist base camp the way Afganistan was.

"Withdrawal" means to Kurdistan. That will be a plenty good base from which to disrupt any strucutres and groups that display international tendencies.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
At least we’ve found a peace-keeping mission that liberals cannot stand.
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
"Withdrawal" means to Kurdistan.
Which is part of Iraq. Or did you forget?
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
At least we’ve found a peace-keeping mission that liberals cannot stand.

there may be a more stupid rationale than this for guiding US foreign policy, but offhand I can’t think of it.
 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
Hoping to learn, I have spent some time with the leftie responses above. My conclusion? They offer rationalizations for offering an alternate solution to the problem of Iraq, any alternative other than what the Republicans are offering. The motive? To return Democrats to power so that activist judges can be appointed and the progressive march to power can resume.
Basically, their position is that the situation is complex and no one knows what is going to happen, so one might as well advocate something that will deprive the Republicans of their foreign policy advantage. After the Democrats are in power, if more lives are spent going back into Iraq we can deal with that then. Bloodbath of foreigners? Not our problem. Look how well Vietnam turned out.
 
Written By: Notherbob2
URL: http://
Hmmmm. I should have said national security advantage.
 
Written By: Notherbob2
URL: http://
Yes, Notherbob, it is informative to look at how well Vietnam turned out because I never thought I would see the day Americans were sucked into a similar situation, especially by people who should have learned the lessons of Vietnam.

Please explain, Notherbob, what are the Republicans offering? More of the same? Status quo? Sadly, that is what they are offering. Are you saying the best thing to do is stay so Republicans can maintain their "national securtiy advantage?

"Withdrawal" means to Kurdistan.
Which is part of Iraq. Or did you forget?


Someone better tell the Kurds. They won’t even allow the Iraqi flag to be flown in Kurdistan. They want no part of Arab Iraq and they are willing to fight about it. They are also our only real friends in the area, so naturally we will screw them over in the name of Iraqi "national unity", which really means Shiite domination, even though the Shiites hate us. We’ve got it all going good in Iraq.

 
Written By: Pug
URL: http://
Yes, Notherbob, it is informative to look at how well Vietnam turned out because I never thought I would see the day Americans were sucked into a similar situation, especially by people who should have learned the lessons of Vietnam.
And what lession did you learn about VietNam?

That’s its a good idea to throw allies to the wolves?
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
there may be a more stupid rationale than this for guiding US foreign policy, but offhand I can’t think of it.
If you aren’t one of the people who desire the US to perform peacekeeping in places such as Haiti, Darfur, Bosnia, and the Sinai then that’s fine.

If you aren’t, here’s a place where we *could* "keep the peace" and actually have a reason for it to fall upon us to do so.

How about Afghanistan? Should we "keep the peace" there or wave bye-bye to them, too?
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
Yes, Notherbob, it is informative to look at how well Vietnam turned out because I never thought I would see the day Americans were sucked into a similar situation, especially by people who should have learned the lessons of Vietnam.
How on God’s green earth do you suppose that Iraq is similar to Vietnam? Because there’s shooting? Because moonbats get to call our guys baby killers?

The political dynamics and the form of the combatting forces bear absolutely zero resembence to Vietnam.
 
Written By: Pablo
URL: http://
So is the right question for politicians ..

are you comfortable with abandoning the Iraqi people ?
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
"Are you saying the best thing to do is stay so Republicans can maintain their "national securtiy advantage?"
I guess if I were like the lefties above, I would be saying that. And paying think tanks to dream up scenarios that are plausible to voters so that I could retain power. And weaving these scenarios into my Narrative so that it could be "netrooted" by lefties on blogs (and internet magazines).
However, I am not. I support my government, Democratic or Republican and I assume that the administration in power, while not being apolitical, has the best interests of America in mind for most, if not all, decisions that are made. I take a dim view of people who exchange their obligation to express their own experience and intellect in their political function and instead substitute Cliff Notes [NYT] for that obligation so that they may have more free time for leisure activities.
I don’t know what should be done in Iraq [or anywhere else, for that matter] except in my local community. Alternate views and criticism of the current administration are American tradition. So are party line voting and taking the opinion of other, presumably better-informed persons as truth and voting accordingly. Prattling talking points on serious forums for political discussion is not, although that seems to be the trend for blogs.
What am I saying, Pug? I am saying that the Democratic think tanks have come up with a Narrative that subverts the best interests of America to the political needs of the Democratic Party. We are doing the best that can be done, having made the decision to go into Iraq. We should not pay the price in Iraq that is required for the Republican national security advantage to be negated.


 
Written By: Notherbob2
URL: http://

The war in Iraq is over. We won.

President George W. Bush told us so three years ago while posing for the photo-op on the deck of the USS Lincoln in front of the "Mission Accomplished" banner.

The battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people is over.
We lost.

There is no way for us to repair the damage we have done. The vast majority of the Iraqi people want us to leave Iraq—now!

Our occupation of Iraq is a dead-end road. When is the best time to turn around or get off a dead-end road?

It seems to me that the answer is: As soon as possible—no matter how far we have traveled down the dead-end road.
 
Written By: Kirk Muse
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/writer/muse
Interesting website you have here McQ, et al. I don’t agree with a lot of it, but you offer a refreshing alternative to the left or right dance consuming most of the country.

I think your analysis of this issue is wrong because of two flaws in your analysis: 1) you think the US can make things better by staying longer; and 2) you over-estimate military factors and plans at the expense of socio-political factors.

I’m posting this because my blog today is on a similar issue, and really my blogs of September 11th (reflecting on the day) and 12th touch similar themes. If you’re in the mood, you can read them there: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

And if you still think I’m just an idiot whose opinions are not worth reading, then I can live with that too. But I do think your blog has an interesting angle, in any event.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~blog.htm
Neo: in a flash. yesterday ain’t fast enough.
 
Written By: steve sturm
URL: www.thoughtsonline.blogspot.com
But it speaks to the powerful point Kaplan makes of moral duty and staying the course until we manage to find a way, in cooperation with the fledgling Iraqi government, to cool the violence and lessen the sectarian tensions which have been unleashed. It can be argued we had a hand in the development of that violence, but regardless we still bear an ethical responsibility to leave Iraq better than it was after our invasion. That isn’t and won’t be an easy job by any measure, but we have a responsibility to see it through.
Argh.

You and Kaplan and the "stay the course" crowd keep making the same mistake. You believe that there is some large group of potential leaders out there who are powerful enough to lead the Iraqi government to a point where it would be more than fledging, but also independent enough of the various sectarian groups to put loyalty to government and state above their loyalty to their sectarian group.

There is no such group of leaders. There are no Titos running around. And even if there were, they certainly wouldn’e be democrats.

Until you understand and accept this fact, you will continue to fail to understand the problem.

The main problem with our current situation in Iraq is that we are relying on the very people who created the problem in the first place to fix the problem. The Kaplans of the world thought it was a good idea to invade Iraq. They were wrong. So why in the world should anyone listen to what they have to say now?

If there is a sentiment with which I do agree, it is this one. Two bucks to the person who guesses who said this:
The fact is, there is very little that we can do to dampen the sectarian rage and pathologies tearing Iraq apart at the seams. Did the Army make a mistake when it banished "counterinsurgency" from the lexicon of military affairs? Absolutely. Does it matter in Iraq? Probably not. How can you win over the heart and mind of someone who sews a dog’s head on a girl? Would more U.S. troops alter Iraq’s homicidal dynamic? Not really, given that, on the question of sectarian rage, America is now largely beside the point. True, U.S. troops can be—and have been—a vital buffer between Iraq’s warring sects. But they cannot reprogram their coarsened and brittle cultures. Even if America had arrived in Iraq with a detailed post-war plan, twice the number of troops, and all the counterinsurgency expertise in the world, my guess is that we would have found ourselves in exactly the same spot. The Iraqis, after all, still would have had the final say.
Staying is simply delaying the inevitable.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
McQ,

Our staying in Iraq depends on the answer to the questions:

* Do the vast majority of the Iraqis want us to stay in Iraq ?

Answer to the above quetion is what should be guiding our Iraq policy. Not the Democrat or Republican Party line.

1. If the answer is Yes, we should stay in there as long as the Iraqis as well as the US are comfortable
2. If the answer is No, then we should publish a timetable for our departure and plan to "redeploy", "cut-n-run", "retreat"...whatever

Does anybody know what the Iraqis want ?

 
Written By: Ivan
URL: http://
on peacekeeping:

there is a distinct lack of consensus among liberals both as to when and as to how the US should commit to peacekeeping.

I have a very simple view: the US should commit to peacekeeping when there is strong durable bipartisan support for the venture. This is the lesson of Germany, Japan, Korea and VietNam.

These days, in order to get bipartisan support any policitian is going to need an exit strategy — how do we know when we’ve won? alternatively, our leaders need to state bluntly that the commitment is open-ended and our involvement will end only when a future president decides that our interests no longer require troops being stationed in that country.

If you get get 60% of the votes in the Senate after being honest, go for it. But if our leaders feel the need to lie to us about the scope of this country’s commitment, that’s a pretty good sign that the peacekeeping effort will fail.
 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
Basically, their position is that the situation is complex and no one knows what is going to happen, so one might as well advocate something that will deprive the Republicans of their foreign policy advantage

What the h*ll are you talking about? Would you like to quote one of the commenters previous to you saying anything remotely like that, or are you simply imposing your hatred-shriveled biases on reality with total disregard for the actual words posted by the actual posters?

Some people here are talking about Iraq. That’s because we’re intellectually sincere people discussing the problem being posted. Then there’s you, turning everything you touch into surreal monologues against the "liberal narrative". Why don’t you be a man and post your own solution, instead of using Q and O as a cheap playground for your schoolyard bull?
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Ivan: who cares what the Iraqis want? American foreign policy ought to be dictated by what the American people want. I don’t care if the Iraqis get down on their hands and knees and beg us to stay... any more than I care that the people in Darfur are begging us to come. And, on the flip side, it doesn’t matter if they all want us out, if it benefits America to be there (such as to maintain a credible threat against the Mad Mullahs next door), then we stay... regardless of what the majority of Iraqis want.
 
Written By: steve sturm
URL: www.thoughtsonline.blogspot.com
mkultra,
You believe that there is some large group of potential leaders out there who are powerful enough to lead the Iraqi government to a point where it would be more than fledging, but also independent enough of the various sectarian groups to put loyalty to government and state above their loyalty to their sectarian group.
Yes, it’s called Parliament. They have the power to make law, and they increasingly have the power to enforce it. Is it perfect? Hell no. But it is their government, like it or don’t.

Your mistake is in believing that it all can’t help but fall wholly to one group or another. Way to completely misunderstand democracy, and no, you and your friends can’t have any of our government either if you’re going to act like that. We’ll vote on it, and just you watch.
Staying is simply delaying the inevitable.
Delaying it? We’re waiting for it.
 
Written By: Pablo
URL: http://
You are right: an ethical case can be made for ’staying the course’ or ’finishing the job’.
So, how will we know when the job is finished or when we’ve hit the end of the course? Pie-in-the-sky goals like producing a stable, peaceful nation just aren’t feasible. Look around the Middle East" just how many peace loving nations do you see that aren’t ruled by dictatorial governments?
The real ethical answer is that we should leave as soon as the Iraqi government asks us to leave. Just keep in mind that an open-ended stay by us gives them no incentive to work aggressively to hasten the day of our departure.
It’s a tricky situation, one that should be reassessed constantly. No empty sloganeering can serve to help our decision making.
Anyway, it looks as if Iran will be taking over the security problems there. So, we can be real proud of staying long enough to help the Iranian regional aspirations.
 
Written By: Laime
URL: http://
The real ethical answer is that we should leave as soon as the Iraqi government asks us to leave.
That is the current official state of affairs. We remain at the invitation of the Iraqi government. Iraq is not occupied, it is sovereign.
 
Written By: Pablo
URL: http://
Moral Schmoral. If you are my freind who’s helping me carry a new plasma TV into my house, and you drop the TV on the concrete steps, you may have the moral obligation to repair it, but that doesn’t magically give you the ability. If you can’t repair it, does it help fulfill your moral obligation to have you endlessly scrabbling on my steps gathering pieces of circuits and sticking them together with superglue? It’s been three months since the announcement of your 3 Phase plan for victory and drawdown in Iraq. Have those three months been more victorious than the previous three, of the past three years have been?
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
PABLO:
You read the words so well, while missing the point entirely. It’s like accentuation a drop of water in an ocean.
 
Written By: Laime
URL: http://
Yes, it’s called Parliament. They have the power to make law, and they increasingly have the power to enforce it. Is it perfect? Hell no. But it is their government, like it or don’t.

Your mistake is in believing that it all can’t help but fall wholly to one group or another. Way to completely misunderstand democracy, and no, you and your friends can’t have any of our government either if you’re going to act like that. We’ll vote on it, and just you watch.
Sadr’s party has several seats in Parliament. Do you think their allegiance is to the state, or to Sadr and the Mahdi army? Likewise with the Kurds. You think their allegiance is to the central government in Iraq, or to Kurdistan?

And with more bloodshed every month, parliament increasingly has less power. Indeed, to the average Iraqi, the government is more meaningless today than when it was first formed.

But then you probably thought invading Iraq was a good idea.

 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
How do you know I missed your point when I didn’t address it at all, Laime? I simply stated a relevant fact. Did you get the point of it?
 
Written By: Pablo
URL: http://
Sadr’s party has several seats in Parliament. Do you think their allegiance is to the state, or to Sadr and the Mahdi army? Likewise with the Kurds. You think their allegiance is to the central government in Iraq, or to Kurdistan?
How many legislative bodies in how many countries manage with exactly the same sort of issues?

It’s about balance. Or, checks and balances, if you prefer.
 
Written By: Pablo
URL: http://
If you are my freind who’s helping me carry a new plasma TV into my house, and you drop the TV on the concrete steps, you may have the moral obligation to repair it, but that doesn’t magically give you the ability.
No one is claiming it does. Doesn’t remove the moral obligation though, does it?
It’s been three months since the announcement of your 3 Phase plan for victory and drawdown in Iraq. Have those three months been more victorious than the previous three, of the past three years have been?
A) it’s not "my" 3 phase plan

B) it’s not a 90 day plan

C) it’s obvious you haven’t bothered to read it
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://qando.net
Does anybody know what the Iraqis want ?

Well, Sadr rounded up 100 signatures - a third of the parliament - and governments in the ME cooperate with the US a lot more than their populations like - demanding a withdrawal in Iraq. Today or yesterday.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Indeed it’s not a 90 day plan, but then the occupation didn’t start 90 days ago either. Part of the plan appatently was that
There are presently 14 combat brigades in Iraq. Figure 3,500 per brigade and you can do the math (it will also give you a good idea of the "teeth to tail" ratio). By September of 2006, this number will be down to 12 (two brigades which would normally be ready to rotate into the theater will see their deployment cancelled).
It’s now September 2006. The early days of this plan don’t appear to have worked out as expected. Does that mean we reset to three years from now or do we have to wait until the security situation has improved back to the level it was three months ago to restart this alleged plan?

Look, I’m with you on the moral obligation. We do owe the Iraqis a country not torn apart by civil war and not ruled by another dictator. But we’ve been welshing on that debt since May 2003, or even earlier when Rumsfeld threatened to fire anyone who tried to plan for the occupation. Or when we hatched this sceme to replace Saddam with Chalabi. Pretending that keeping on bleeding there will change any of that isn’t going to fulfill the obligation. It’s not the people who want to leave now that are being immoral. The immoral ones are the folks who were and still are in charge of this debacle. We smashed Iraq, and we’ve done such a bad job there in the past three plus years that now we can’t put it back together again. That is deeply immoral, but not because of the people who point out the fact, because of the ones who created this situation.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
Well, Sadr rounded up 100 signatures - a third of the parliament - and governments in the ME cooperate with the US a lot more than their populations like - demanding a withdrawal in Iraq. Today or yesterday.
Lots of leaps in that logic. I’m sure al-Sadr was all in favor of the Federalism plan that is now dead as a doornail. How it got that way is an interesting turn of events.
 
Written By: Pablo
URL: http://
It’s now September 2006. The early days of this plan don’t appear to have worked out as expected. Does that mean we reset to three years from now or do we have to wait until the security situation has improved back to the level it was three months ago to restart this alleged plan?
Well, first the rest of what that post said was this:
General Casey is anticipating, if stabalization proceeds as planned, to have that down to 10 in December of 2006 and to 7 or 8 brigades by June of 2007.
Would you say it has proceeded as planned?

Secondly, this:
Phase I (2006-2007) Stabilization

Phase II (2007 - 2008) Restoration of Iraqi Govt authority

Phase III (2008-2009) Iraqi Self-reliance
So in actuality we’re in the beginning phase of the 3 phase plan.

No, we don’t reset, we proceed, but we may end up seeing the time frame slipped a litte. That’s what "conditions based" means.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://qando.net
There is no perfectly moral choice possible, everything results in shades of gray.

To carry out a successful counter insurgency a strong central government must carry out some form of collective punishment aginst those deemed likely to be providing support for the insurgency. Getting the government to stand up, means getting the government into a position where it can do this. If the war is to end it will end in this manner.

The least immoral choice is one whereby the punishment administered to the rebellious population is minimized - imprisonment instead of execution, extra judicial killing of leaders instead of massacres of villages. Hope that Kaplan and McQ understand this, and are arguing for support to allow the Iraqi government to carry out a minimal impact anti-insurgency with collective punishment against the Sunni population.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
While I buy the moral logic of Lawrence Kaplan, I just don’t see the chances for success anymore. The problem is both political and military, with each intertwined. The first problem was that we did not send in enough troops to stablize the border and patrol the Sunni triangle. Indeed, much of the problem stems from the disorder that raged in Anbar as early as May 2003 and continues to this day. The Sunnis were not going to accept the new reality unless they were forced to accept it. We sent in too few troops to intimidate the potential insurgency from taking hold. Disbanding the Iraqi army only added thousands of angry Sunnis to the insurgency.

The next problem was in treating the transition to democracy along explicitly sectarian lines. We did this first by establishing the Iraqi Governing Council with literal sectarian/ethnic quotas. While this may appeal to American domestic liberals, this was not a wise way to readjudicate power. What it did was reify existing divisions along sectarian lines, giving more explicit political power to the Iraqi population in accordance to these unchangeable identities. We repeated the Lebanon example of confessional representation, which gave the various factions even less of a reason to look beyond their own sect or ethnicity. Saddam did much to harden these lines in the 1990s. But we shouldn’t have continued along that path. Instead, we should have done whatever possible to create new political institutions and parties that crossed sectarian lines.

And finally there was the problem of corruption and incompetence. Many of the people in the Coalition Provisional Authority had no business being there. They stood by while massive corruption undid billions of dollars worth of vital reconstruction projects. The problem was that we emphasized turning authority over to the Iraqis - any Iraqis - before they were competent to run the show.

These fatal mistakes greatly undermined the reconstruction project and went a long way toward creating the current crisis. We never really established security. The democratic system has driven the country apart, instead of pulling it together. And the people increasingly view the national government as unable or unwilling to perform basic services like providing electricity, cheap gas, water, safe schools, hospitals and, of course, security. As a result, Shi’ites have largely given up on the Shi’ite-led government and increasingly turn to the quasi-governmental Sadrists. Like Hezbollah, the Sadrists offer social services. And they also offer revenge - something which the moderate Sistani never offered. Should we be surprised that after years of terrorist provocation from Sunni insurgents - including Al Qaeda - that the Shi’ites would sit tight forever? Are they Gandhi? Well, they played Gandhi until the December 2005 elections put them in permanent power. But when the Samarra shrine was blown up in February 2006, they had no reason to follow Sistani’s moderate advice anymore.

So where are we now? Civil war. The US is the only thing standing between 100 deaths a day and 1000 deaths a day. On this point Lawrence Kaplan is absolutely right. But is that to be our mission going forward? To keep civil war casualties to a minimum while propping up a government that has less power than Lebanon’s ever had? Staying and preventing the bloodbath is a moral obligation. Fine. I accept that. But I don’t accept the status quo. If we are serious about this obligation, and our other obligation in Afghanistan, then lets jack up the size of the military. Bring back the draft. Flood Iraq with 500,000 troops. Let’s end the Sunni insurgency once and for all. Let’s patrol the border for real. Let’st establish real security in Baghdad. Let’s smash the Sadrists. Let’s do all of these things so the new Iraqi army can take over security. If we’re serious this, then let’s see some sacrifice from the American people. I don’t care if this hurts Republicans or hurts Democrats. We either take this seriously, or we pull out.
 
Written By: Elrod
URL: http://
I just realized something: Bush is ’cutting and running’ behind our backs.
I’m sure you’ve read the reports about Anbar province, which is completely ’insurgency’ (Al Queda, etc.) dominated. The general said he has enough troops for ’his mission’, which is limited to training Iraqi troops, thus excluding any offensive actions.
I see the outline of a plan for when to declare that the job has been done: we train as many Iraqi troops as possible while we’re there, and when it’s politically expedient for us, we declare that the mission has been completed (since we’ve trained x number of troops), and we leave. It also occurs to me that Bush is just dragging this out for the duration of his turn. That way he can always claim, that he stayed with ’the mission’. The legacy, you know.
Please, someone tell me I’m wrong. It’s heartbreaking to end on this cynical suspicion at the end of a discussion that began with a question about ethics.
It’s scary how often my suspicions about this war have turned out to be true.
 
Written By: Laime
URL: http://
"Why don’t you be a man and post your own solution, instead of using Q and O as a cheap playground for your schoolyard bull?"
I read a lot of accusations of a lack of reading comprehension here. My recollection is that they are correct in about 65% of cases. This one seems black and white to me. Gasnost, if you read above you will see what can only be interpreted as my "solution" for Iraq:
"I don’t know what should be done in Iraq...I support my government..."
Don’t look now, but your ad hominem is showing. I don’t hang around schoolyards, but I doubt they are talking about the Liberal Narrative there. I am not smart enough to have dreamed up the concept of the Liberal Narrative. There is some real insight in the comments above which followed my original comment. Cause and effect? I think not. As for the LN, I prefer to read the original in the NYT compared to the rehashed versions offered by most liberals in this space.

My manhood? You are right on that score; discussions of same or attempts to prove same belong on the schoolyard.

 
Written By: Notherbob2
URL: http://
Let me suggest an addendum to the Pottery Barn rule:

Sometimes a product is slightly defective and must be accepted as such, or sold at some sort of discount to get it out the door.

Yes, we all want Iraq to become West Germany overnight, but it’s more likely to look like some other 3rd world nations at this point: a weak democracy with sectarian politics and a lingering insurgency.

India is fighting in Kashmir and also has a Naxalite problem. Colombia deals with FARC. See Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, etc.

Also, for as much as we shake our fists at the sky and blame ourselves, you have to wonder what would have happened if Saddam had died of a heart attack in 1999. I suspect we’d have had Uday and Qsay make a try to run Iraq or a civil war like we see today.



 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
I see the outline of a plan for when to declare that the job has been done: we train as many Iraqi troops as possible while we’re there, and when it’s politically expedient for us, we declare that the mission has been completed (since we’ve trained x number of troops), and we leave.
1. Bush has already said that we will not pull out of Iraq as long as he’s in office, and that it will be for his successor to deal with. Bush isn’t cutting and running, unless you know of some metric that allows him to dictate the movement of our troops after he’s been retired as their Commander in Chief.

2. Standing up Iraqi security forces that can competently protect Iraq has been the goal since Day 1. You’re just now seeing this, and seeing it a a prelude to an exit? That is the job, it always has been the job and we will not leave until it is done. There is no other course to change to.

3. We’ll be in Iraq a decade from now, probably two and maybe even three or more. How long have we been it Qatar and Bahrain? Kuwait? How long did we have a military presence in Saudi Arabia? The last American servicemember to leave Iraq probably hasn’t been born yet.
 
Written By: Pablo
URL: http://
2. Standing up Iraqi security forces that can competently protect Iraq has been the goal since Day 1. You’re just now seeing this, and seeing it a a prelude to an exit? That is the job, it always has been the job and we will not leave until it is done. There is no other course to change to.
Pablo, a lie repeated a million times does not become the truth. If that was our goal, how come Bremer dismantled the Iraqi Army ?? That was not the goal from Day 1. Standing up the Iraqi Army, my a$$. We just thought that the Iraqis would simply roll over when we rolled-in to Baghdad...
3. We’ll be in Iraq a decade from now, probably two and maybe even three or more. How long have we been it Qatar and Bahrain? Kuwait? How long did we have a military presence in Saudi Arabia? The last American servicemember to leave Iraq probably hasn’t been born yet.



We stayed in Germany and Japan for a lot more. We stay in places where we are welcomed and our presence is accepted. That was the case with post-war Japan and Germany. It is not the same case with Iraq, is it ?
 
Written By: Ivan
URL: http://
McQ, I think we’re in violent agreement here. Stabilization is not proceeding as planned. Not in the last three months and not in the last three years.

As Pablo kindly points out, even Bush no longer expects stabilization to occur. He plans to keep our troops fighting in Iraq as long as he is in office. He doen’t know how to win but refuses to lose face by cutting our losses. As a result we just keep coming up with non-proceeding plans and bleeding in Iraq until we get a President who either knows how to win or has the political courage to fold.

The mere existence of a plan is insufficient to acomplish our goals. Do you see any evidence that this plan is working any better than what we were doing before it was announced?

If it’s not, then we’re not finishing the job, we’re running on a treadmill.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
Pablo, a lie repeated a million times does not become the truth. If that was our goal, how come Bremer dismantled the Iraqi Army ??
Because it was corrupt and infested with Baathists. A decision was made that it was too broken to fix and needed to be scrapped. In hindisght, that may have been the second biggest blunder to date, but there was a reason for it. We also don’t know what it would look like today had we left it standing, and you can’t assume that it would be preferable to what they have now.

If that wasn’t the goal, why did we stay at all? Why not just toss the place and leave?
We just thought that the Iraqis would simply roll over when we rolled-in to Baghdad...
Baghdad Bob notwithstanding, that was pretty much the case as far as the Army was concerned. How many people did we lose fighting the fearsome Republican Guard? We cleaned their clock and/or they ran away and hid.
It is not the same case with Iraq, is it ?
Yes it is. We are in Iraq at the pleasure and request of the sovereign government of Iraq. That is our official policy and it is Iraq’s official policy. We remain there by mutual agreement. And in many places, Iraqis are quite pleased with our presence because they value our friendship and our money. But more than that, they know we’ve given them a wonderful gift: Freedom. And they, these Muslims, have not squandered it. They’ve built a society that we can only hope will become a model for the region. They’ve built a society that we should be damned proud to have enabled. But you don’t hear much about that.

Much of Iraq was completely ignored under Saddam. We’ve brought these people hope, and material benefit through the billions we’ve poured onto reconstruction. They can’t help but notice it, and they don’t need to be told that they’re far better off than they were before we showed up.

Of course, that opinion is not unanimous. Though I’m sure there were a damned fair number of Germans and Japanese that didn’t appreciate their new American overlords cum allies either.
 
Written By: Pablo
URL: http://
As Pablo kindly points out, even Bush no longer expects stabilization to occur.
Please don’t put words in my mouth.
 
Written By: Pablo
URL: http://
Pablo, These are your words:
Bush has already said that we will not pull out of Iraq as long as he’s in office, and that it will be for his successor to deal with.
And this is the context. Perhaps you failed to understand what you were saying when you noted that under Bush we’ll never leave - because we’ll never finish.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
No, it means that he doesn’t expect the job (which is realizing fully competent Iraqi security forces) to be finished before he leaves office.

Next time you want to build a strawman, get your own fu*king straw. You do not get to pick your favorite context to put my words in, nor may you assume new meanings for them. It’s a pretty asinine thing to do and you should refrain from it. It doesn’t advance your argument.
 
Written By: Pablo
URL: http://
PABLO:
The point is: In Anbar province, US forces have given up on fighting the insurgency. They are reduced to ONLY trining Iraqi troops. So, Bush is cutting and running in that area. Training troops was supposed to be one method to further the development of a stable nation, not the ONLY methold.
In the ’war om terror’ in Iraq, we seem to be concentrating maily just on Badhdad, and leaving the rest of the country to its own devices.
My point about Bush’s timing on our withdrawas reverted back to the original ethical considerations. I propose that Bush’s basing his timing on political grounds is unethical. The mission he appears to want to complete is to save his political reputaion.
 
Written By: Laime
URL: http://
All right Pablo, if you prefer that formulation: Under Bush we’ll never leave because under Bush we’ll never finish. Happy?

And when you claim more of the same is what we need in Iraq, more of the dying is the context, whether you like it or not.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
All right Pablo, if you prefer that formulation: Under Bush we’ll never leave because under Bush we’ll never finish. Happy?
Repeating the mistake is not an appropriate substitute for refraining from it. And yes, I agree. You are a moron. Thanks for pointing that out.
And when you claim more of the same is what we need in Iraq, more of the dying is the context, whether you like it or not.
Oh, grow up.

Laime,
The point is: In Anbar province, US forces have given up on fighting the insurgency. They are reduced to ONLY trining Iraqi troops. So, Bush is cutting and running in that area.

Reduced
to that? Cutting and running from it? That situation is a luxury attained by our success in training them to do it without us. I think it is as it should be: Iraqis securing Iraq. That helps us with the hearts and minds, when we’re not being just like terrorists raiding homes in the middle of the night, which upset John Kerry so. It is the best option for dealing with the issue, and it is ultimately Iraq’s problem to solve. Would you rather have our boys doing it or Iraqis?

Remember sovereignty?
 
Written By: Pablo
URL: http://
Because it was corrupt and infested with Baathists. A decision was made that it was too broken to fix and needed to be scrapped. In hindisght, that may have been the second biggest blunder to date, but there was a reason for it. We also don’t know what it would look like today had we left it standing, and you can’t assume that it would be preferable to what they have now.

If that wasn’t the goal, why did we stay at all? Why not just toss the place and leave?
Pablo, Iam not disputing why we disbanded the Iraqi Army. Iam just pointing out that standing up the Iraqi Army was not our priority from Day 1 (which you asserted).
Baghdad Bob notwithstanding, that was pretty much the case as far as the Army was concerned. How many people did we lose fighting the fearsome Republican Guard? We cleaned their clock and/or they ran away and hid.
The ’Elite’ Republican Guards were pretty badly mauled during GW-I. There was not much of them left around in GW-II.
Of course, that opinion is not unanimous. Though I’m sure there were a damned fair number of Germans and Japanese that didn’t appreciate their new American overlords cum allies either.
What percentage of Iraqis want us in Iraq ?? How many want us to go ?? Judging by the insurgency that is going on, I would say that the majority of the Iraqis want us to go.
 
Written By: Ivan
URL: http://
Pablo,
I’ve got a swell idea. Why don’t we move all of our troops to that "other" Iraq that actually wants us there: Kurdistan. I’m all for preserving what they’ve got. But in Sunni and Shi’ite Arab Iraq, our presence is merely to slow down a massive ethnic cleansing. From Kurdistan we can still project force onto Iran, and we can destroy an open Al-Qaeda training camp if it emerges in Sunni Arab Iraq.
 
Written By: Elrod
URL: http://
PABLO, PABLO, PABLO:

"Cutting and running from it? That situation
is a luxury attained by our success in
training them to do it without us. I think it
is as it should be: Iraqis securing Iraq. That
helps us with the hearts and minds, when we’re
not being just like terrorists raiding homes in
the middle of the night, ...."

You must be talking about some other, parallel Anbar province. In the real one, the insurgents, with Al-Queda, are in total control. You expext Iraqi troops, undertrained and underequipped, with no helocopters, no technological back-up to take care of this infested area by themselves? In the real world, if we are not fighting the ’war on terror’ in that area, then it is not being seriously fought at all.

This conversation is becoming silly, and I’m going to cut and run. You can have the last word about any of my sentences, phrases, words, commas or periods, uncontested.
 
Written By: Laime
URL: http://
Pablo, Iam not disputing why we disbanded the Iraqi Army. Iam just pointing out that standing up the Iraqi Army was not our priority from Day 1 (which you asserted).
No, I said our job was to leave Iraq with competent security forces, and that it has been that since Day 1. A decision was made to scrap the existing Army and rebuild it from zero. This does not support the point you’re trying to make, which seems to be that if we really wanted to leave an Army standing, we could only have done it with the existing force and that scrapping that force proves we didn’t really want one at all. It doesn’t follow, and it isn’t true.
The ’Elite’ Republican Guards were pretty badly mauled during GW-I. There was not much of them left around in GW-II.
That wasn’t what we were supposed to expect when we went in there. Remember how "bogged down" we were, and how we were headed for a meat grinder? They ran, like they did in GWI. Another reason not to salvage their command structure. They did indeed roll over.
Judging by the insurgency that is going on, I would say that the majority of the Iraqis want us to go.
Do you have any numbers, or just a feeling? The polls I’ve seen show the majority feeling that they want us to leave...but not yet. This is an Arab culture and pride is an important issue. But survival is more important, and they see American presence as a means to that end.

What percentage of Iraqis do you think are insurgents interested in attacking us? How many of them are in it strictly for the money, or for fear of repriasal, or some other reason but hatred for Americans?

What percentage of Iraqis do you think are vendors who get a woody every time they see an American face attached to a pocketful of American money walk into their place of business? Have you ever been in an American military town abroad?

If a sufficient quantity of Iraqis want us to go, they’ll press their government to make it so. That is how it should be, and it works. See the Phillipines.
 
Written By: Pablo
URL: http://
LAIME, LAIME, LAIME,
This conversation is becoming silly, and I’m going to cut and run.
Good idea.
 
Written By: Pablo
URL: http://
"while he’s in office" = "under Bush"

Nicht Wahr?
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
Eine andere dumme Frage bitte stellen. Du kannst sie tun!
 
Written By: Pablo
URL: http://

 
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