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Time to pick Our Bastard in Iraq
Posted by: Jon Henke on Saturday, November 25, 2006

A lot of pundits are pointing to the steady deluge of violence in Iraq, and making the case that (a) we caused it and (b) the best thing we can do now is to get out. [for the record, I've been arguing for a very long time that we need to draw down troops levels and remove remaining troops to the unpopulated desert as a logistics, training and emergency backstop]

I'm not really sure that a US withdrawal will make things better. Reduced exposure of US troops to violence is, ceteris paribus, a positive thing. The same cannot necessarily be said about reduced violence in Iraq, though.

After all, the factions within Iraq are not fighting for the hell of it; they are fighting for specific, and perhaps implacable, interests. If violence in Iraq is reduced, it will be because one group or another has won the power to impose its will on the rest of Iraq. Is that better than the current, visible violence? Maybe so, maybe not...but it will be less 'newsworthy'.

Under Saddam Hussein, we may not have heard about daily mass killings, but that doesn't mean that (a) they didn't happen, or (b) things were "better". I'm not categorically opposed to a Realpolitik 'strongman' policy to stabilize Iraq. It's probably the best available option left.

But there are strongmen and there are strongmen.

The current plan to leave a lot of US troops in Iraq shows no signs of producing a pluralistic government. Simply abandoning Iraq to the vicissitudes of fate is probably even worse, since it is a de facto invitation to the outcome least conducive to our interests.

At this point, all we can really do is to minimize our own exposure while we negotiate with the various interests, both internal and external to Iraq, to ensure that the best possible (i.e., least bad) bastard ends up in power...and that we have some leverage with that eventual regime. Neither "stay the course" nor "cut our losses and figure out how we're going to get our folks out" push us towards the optimal ends of the spectrum of possible outcomes.

Allowing the best available faction to conquer rivals and stabilize Iraq with US support is far from a "good outcome". . . . .but the rest of our options are much worse.


UPDATE: Cliff May has similar thoughts:
But because “victory” as Bush once defined it now seems out of reach, it does not follow that the solution is to cut and run — or even to cut and stroll away, the policy euphemistically called “phased redeployment.” More modest but still significant goals can be achieved.
[...]
As for the sectarian violence, our presence is not the cause and our absence would not be the cure. By continuing to play the role of honest broker between the Shia and Sunni communities, we may be able to prevent the conflict from spiraling into all-out civil war.

There are no good options in Iraq. There are only bad options and worse options. Let’s hope President Bush and the new Democratic leaders in Congress are wise enough to distinguish between the two.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
Let’s take what you’re saying as a given for a minute; will the Kurds sit still for a Shia or Sunni strongman? The unrest hasn’t reached their parts yet, and likely will not do so as long as the vast majority of the violence is contained to Baghdad and parts of Ramadi. But if there’s a definite "winner" in central Iraq—which, mind you, may only come after an awful slaughter, which we’d be sitting back and watching from thirty miles away the whole time—then the time comes for the Kurds to make a decision: more decades of rule under a "bastard," or taking their chances on independence.
 
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
And by "awful slaughter," I mean something even worse than what’s currently going on there. I’m talking mass killings on the level of ethnic cleansing.
 
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
I’m not sure we can ever stabilize Iraq as long as Iran and Syria continue to actively destabilize the country.
 
Written By: TJIT
URL: http://
will the Kurds sit still for a Shia or Sunni strongman?
That’s one of the points we need to consider when casting about for "our bastard". We need a rapprochement in which the Kurds are, if not completely autonomous, at least relatively unmolested. It’s probably within our ability to ensure that, especially considering the probability that none of the significant factions in Iraq would really have the ability to invade the Kurdish north relatively soon.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
At this point, all we can really do is to minimize our own exposure while we negotiate with the various interests, both internal and external to Iraq, to ensure that the best possible (i.e., least bad) bastard ends up in power...and that we have some leverage with that eventual regime.
You forget: George W. Bush is still the Commander in Chief. And he is not going to change what he is doing in any significant way. He has said as much. He is not going to draw down troop levels. He is not going to talk to Syria or Iran. And he is not going to negotiate with "terrorists."

Why is this so hard to understand?

All these prescriptions being offered by various pundits on the right and left are meaningless. The American people made the collosal mistake in 2000 and 2004 of electing Bush. And Bush will make no move now, in 2006, that would suggest he was somehow wrong about Iraq. To Bush, changing course in any significant way is an admission he was wrong about Iraq and is tacitly admitting defeat. And this is something he will not do. Ever.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
All these prescriptions being offered by various pundits on the right and left are meaningless. The American people made the collosal mistake in 2000 and 2004 of electing Bush.
... as opposed to electing Al Gore or John Kerry as Commander in Chief, which would not have been such colossal errors?
 
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
mkultra nailed it. All of this is just mental masturbation (and pretty pathetic facesaving).

Nothing is going to change until change is forced on this administration.

And if you haven’t noticed, Bush is already walking away from the mess he created. Of course it would have been a good idea to consider the probability of this situation coming to pass 4 years ago.

Which begs the question, why would anyone take Cliff May, or Jon Henke for that matter, seriously at this point?
"staying the course" in Iraq means "that we don’t tuck tail and run, that we don’t retreat, that we don’t surrender."
Sound familiar?

Sorry but we’ve had tragically unserious people advising us on what to do in Iraq for far too long. It’s time to listen to people who didn’t have their head up their ass in 2002.
 
Written By: Davebo
URL: http://
Sorry but we’ve had tragically unserious people advising us on what to do in Iraq for far too long. It’s time to listen to people who didn’t have their head up their ass in 2002.


Who, DaveBo, Michael Moore...he was against the war, you can’t mean John Kerry or Hillary right ’cuz they voted FOR it? Michael Badnarik???

...
especially considering the probability that none of the significant factions in Iraq would really have the ability to invade the Kurdish north relatively soon.
True, sad to say the same can NOT be said of Iran and Turkey or for that matter Syria, NONE of whom want anything like an independent Kurdistan. So for better or worse, we gots to create a democracy or a Korean-style authoritarian government (1963-198?). The country WILL fall apart, otherwise, Syria and Iran will play the various Kurdish factions off agsinst one another, as happened in the FIRST Gulf War and Turkey will just annex a portion of the border region and mount incursions to supress the PKK as it currently threatens to do.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Davebo writes:
Which begs the question, why would anyone take Cliff May...seriously
Or ANY of the neocons that infest NRO or The Weekly Standard and AEI. The GOP has to sever ties with these war-mongering, faith-based "visionaries" utterly, and put some adults back in charge of foreign policy.

Neocon needs to become a term of derision. Its adherents should be pariahs.
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://inactivist.org/
Well Joe, as you keep telling us, Michael Moore is fat.

Other than that I really can’t grasp your infatuation with the guy.

But then at this point, what else can you possibly offer other than inane rants about a guy who has absolutely nothing to do with the mess you cheered on?
 
Written By: Davebo
URL: http://
By the way Joe, if you are wondering who opposed the Iraq war and warned of the consequences you need not look further than one of the most senior elected Libertarians in the US, Ron Paul.

Of course, Ron Paul isn’t a neo-libertarian which as far as I can tell means anti-libertarian.
 
Written By: Davebo
URL: http://
So Davebo, you have no response other than name calling, right? And Davebo, I don’t think I’ve EVER commented on Moore except to say he’s pulling for the other side. And inane rants, again you have an alternative, besides:
It’s time to listen to people who didn’t have their head up their ass in 2002.
So who IS that again? Just waiting for a response, so I can make an inane rant...Whip that name and the policy out.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I can’t argue with you John, because I have a feeling that I basically agree with you. The diffference is the rhetorical sleight of hand you use to pretend that there is some sort of cut and run option being advocated that you don’t agree with. I advocate withdrawal, and I basically see things the same way you do, although I lean towards partition over a strongman (a single leader exercising genuine control over all of Iraq’s peoples could only come about by an enormous bloodbath at this point). The important function of withdrawal is the end of the US being used as a tool by the Shiite government and as a shovel against the Sunni insurgency, and both you and your withdrawal boogeyman know it needs to be done.

There’s no guarantee why the withdrawal of US forces would not lead to a reduction of violence in Iraq. We are not currently exercising any significant restraining factor. Nor are we genuinely mediatiting between anyone. But even if violence increases for a time after we leave, the ultimate level of death will probably be lower than if we stay and Iraq’s vaccuum continues for another decade.

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Finally, there is the question of what happens if the United States is successful in overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s regime. As is becoming apparent in Afghanistan, throwing a government out is easier than putting a new one together. Although most Iraqis presumably fear and despise Saddam Hussein’s rule and would likely be relieved in the event of his ouster, this does not mean that a regime installed by an invading Western army would be welcomed. For example, most of the leading candidates that U.S. officials are apparently considering installing to govern Iraq are former Iraqi military officers who have been linked to war crimes.

In addition to possible ongoing guerrilla action by Saddam Hussein’s supporters, U.S. occupation forces would likely be faced with competing armed factions among the Sunni Arab population, not to mention Kurd and Shiite rebel groups seeking to break away from any ruler in Baghdad. This could lead the United States into a bloody counterinsurgency war. Without the support of other countries or the United Nations, a U.S. invasion could leave American forces effectively alone enforcing a peace amidst the chaos of a post-Saddam Iraq.
It’s not like no one tried to warn us.
 
Written By: Davebo
URL: http://
By the way Joe, if you are wondering who opposed the Iraq war and warned of the consequences you need not look further than one of the most senior elected Libertarians in the US, Ron Paul.

Of course, Ron Paul isn’t a neo-libertarian which as far as I can tell means anti-libertarian.
Oh you mean that Davebo is a PURE libertarian... good thinking.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
And Ron Paul’s solution was what? Let Saddam continue a murderous rule? Threaten his neighbors and their oil supplies?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
There’s no guarantee why the withdrawal of US forces would not lead to a reduction of violence in Iraq. We are not currently exercising any significant restraining factor. Nor are we genuinely mediatiting between anyone. But even if violence increases for a time after we leave, the ultimate level of death will probably be lower than if we stay and Iraq’s vaccuum continues for another decade.
That’s why I’ve been saying for around two years now that we need to draw down troop levels, withdraw remaining troops to the sparsely populated areas in Iraq and let the disequilibrium within Iraq work itself out naturally. We can’t really stop it, but we can influence it. Only...we can’t influence it if we simply leave Iraq altogether.

Frankly, the same thing applies in Afghanistan. The people who have been complaining that we "took our eye off the ball" and let Afghanistan slide into disarray are simply making the "stay the course" argument they dislike so much in Iraq. We can’t change the culture...we can only get a few roadblocks out of the way and give the remaining factions some incentives. We’re not going to "eliminate" the problems in Afghanistan any more than we can in Iraq.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
And Ron Paul’s solution was what? Let Saddam continue a murderous rule? Threaten his neighbors and their oil supplies?
It annoys me that people pretend these are not actual options. Of course they are. Do you endorse an immediate invasion of Iran, North Korea, China and other totalitarian countries? If not, then you’ve accepted those as legitimate options.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
It annoys me that people pretend these are not actual options. Of course they are. Do you endorse an immediate invasion of Iran, North Korea, China and other totalitarian countries? If not, then you’ve accepted those as legitimate options.
They ARE legitimate option,s Jon. Just as not confronting Hitler was a legitiamte option, but the question is WERE THEY VAIABLE OPTIONS, did their costs outweigh their benefits? I say "no." Hussein had invaded his two closest neighbors and showed no sign of having learned anything from his misadventures. The Sanctions Regime was failing, fast. Sooner or later, Hussein or his soms were going to rejoin the World System..and sooner or later we were going to have to go to Baghdad and end the regime.

So Jon, Mona, Davebo, Glasnost the question REALLY is, what would YOU have done? How would YOU have handled the regime in Baghdad? For Mona, Mona realize your Party supported and your President signed the Iraq Liberation Act. Glasnost, I’m betting you have supported the US in it’s actions in Haiti and the Balkans, what’s the difference, here except that fewer Americans died? In short Neo-Isolationism really can’t be one of your options, UNLESS you’ve opposed all US adventures in the 1990’s. Davebo and Jon get the option of adopting the libertarian position, but at the moral and economic cost of leaving the Hussein regime in power...

 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
... as opposed to electing Al Gore or John Kerry as Commander in Chief, which would not have been such colossal errors?
Al Gore would not have invaded Iraq. Would Saddam have remained in power? Most likely. But so what? He had no WMD. He was not actively assisting Al Qaeda. He was a check on the ambitions of Iran in the region. And by 2003, our excellent military had him contained. He was boxed in.

Gore would have invaded Afghanistan (assuming 9/11 would have happened on his watch). He would have poured more resources into Afghanistan and it would likelly be more stable now.

As for the rest of the Middle East, it would probably look more or less the same as it does today. It’s hard to see how it would look much different, although Gore may not have greenlighted the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

We would be in a stronger position than we are today, and America would not have burned up its standing in the world

As for Kerry, it is hard to imagine that he could do any worse than Bush is doing now. And his election would have signaled to the world that the United States was prepared to admit that a course correction was needed, instead of waiting to signal that admission in 2006.

Again, the issue is not what we should do next. The issue is what is George W. Bush prepared to do. And based on what we know about him, the answer is: nothing new. Nothing new at all.

The Iraqis can’t force us to leave. And Bush won’t leave. Welcome to the next two years. More dead Iraqis, more dead Americans, and regression.

Indeed, in the run up to the 2004 election, Bush’s supporters, many of whom post on this site, urged his re-election precisely on the ground that Bush would not change course. Now many of those same voices are calling for some kind of policy change in the Middle East. It’s insane, really.

 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
Sorry but we’ve had tragically unserious people advising us on what to do in Iraq for far too long. It’s time to listen to people who didn’t have their head up their ass in 2002.
In 2002 just about everybody was on board with the same set of assumptions about Iraq except the unserious people doing street theatre and chanting "No War For Oil!"

The serious debate at the time was whether we needed to invade immediately or give the inspections another extension.
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
Indeed, in the run up to the 2004 election, Bush’s supporters, many of whom post on this site, urged his re-election precisely on the ground that Bush would not change course. Now many of those same voices are calling for some kind of policy change in the Middle East. It’s insane, really.
I note that you’re careful to describe these "supporters" without naming names. However, I am the one suggesting a different policy than the current (or alternative Democratic) and I am the one "posting" to this blog today.

You’ve not addressed my argument at all; you only assert that it’s pointless. Maybe, maybe not. What others do with that is beyond my reach. But it’s more useful than your "all is lost" commentary. So what, exactly, is your point? That I should stop commenting on Iraq? That I should become a Democrat? That I should urge us to leave Iraq immediately?
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
It’s galling that the Democrats and the Left, who allowed the case against the war to be made by the likes of Code Pink and ANSWER, now want to adopt the mantle of seriousness.
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
It’s galling that the Democrats and the Left, who allowed the case against the war to be made by the likes of Code Pink and ANSWER, now want to adopt the mantle of seriousness.
There were many more voices than Code Pink or Answer warning that the invasion was a bad idea.

You just refused to listen. And so I linked to one of those voices above, and you still pretend it was only moonbats.

So why bother? You obviously want to believe this, facts be damned.

Sort of the attitude that got us in this mess in the first place actually.
 
Written By: Davebo
URL: http://
You’ve not addressed my argument at all; you only assert that it’s pointless. Maybe, maybe not. What others do with that is beyond my reach. But it’s more useful than your "all is lost" commentary. So what, exactly, is your point? That I should stop commenting on Iraq? That I should become a Democrat? That I should urge us to leave Iraq immediately?
Your post is devoid of any mention of George W. Bush. Not once do you mention him by name or position.

My point is that no one should be giving their position about what we should do in Iraq now unless they first begin their explanation with the acknoledgment that the biggest impediment to changing US policy in Iraq is George W. Bush. To admit, candidly, just once, that their prescription can be carried out only if Bush is forced to change.

Until you do this, you cannot be taken seriously on the subject of our policy in Iraq. You can of course continue to post. No one is stopping you. But the expectation you seem to have, that people should actively debate your position, or at least discuss it, is completely misplaced.

I know you didn’t endorse Bush. But you certainly didn’t actively campaign against him. And there is even more of a burden on people such as yourself. You actively campaigned for a man who wholeheartedly supported Bush and who was prepared to continue that unwavering support. If it was up to you, George Allen would be in the Senate, rubber stamping everything Bush is prepared to do, or not do.

As for your prescription, it amounts to negotiating with the warring interests in Iraq in order to make sure the least bad bastard wins.

That, however, is no solution at all. What do you mean by "negotiating"? What is there to negotiate?

At this point we have effectively sided with the Shia in the civil war by siding with the Shia dominated "government." We have already picked a side. And our taking sides has done nothing to affect the course of the war.

The Shia and the Sunnis are going to fight until one side wins, or until they reach a stalemate and negotiate a settlement. And they are going to do this whether we are there or not.

We cannot change the ultimate ourcome in Iraq. Staying simply delays the inevitable.

As I have said before, the burden is on those who want to stay to explain, in detail, how our presence will improve the situation. Not simply delay bloodshed,but actually improve it.

Please explain, in detail, how the United States military can get the warring sides in this civil war to lay down their arms and negotiate for peace. Because unless you can do that, unless you can explain how we can actually make things better, instead of merely delaying bloodshed, then all you are doing is kicking the can down the road.

Negotiating with two sides in a civil war that want to kill each other is not a strategy. After all, what is there to negotiate? We have nothing to offer them.

 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
Granted that a solution needs to be found. But doesn’t it have to comply with the Iraqi Constitution? The one that millions of Iraqis risked their lives to vote for? The one that established a representative form of government that included the election of political leaders by citizens? Elections that millions of Iraqis again risked their lives to vote in?

I’m quite certain that neither partition nor "our bastard" are provided for in the Iraqi Constitution, and that the representatives elected by the people have not voted for either of these options.

Do all of you who are busily proposing alternative futures for Iraq endorse the abrupt overthrow of the Iraqi Constitution and the representatives lawfully elected by Iraqi citizens? If so, you certainly expect instant results, in a quintessentially push-button American fashion. Following World War II, Japan and Germany were both remade in the image of democracy. Japan, without any history of democratic government, has certainly flourished and become one of our best allies. They didn’t get there overnight, though, or even in the short span of months that you find so exasperating in Iraq.

It seems to me that one of the numerous important barriers to resolving sectarian violence in Iraq is Maliki himself. He is making decisions designed to protect his personal political position (and has stated so point blank, whether he realized his admission or not). He is not working for the benefit of the Iraqi people and certainly is not allowing American forces to work effectively. Maliki needs al Sadr on his side in order to maintain his position in power; therefore Maliki refuses to do anything to suppress al Sadr, an act that would help immeasurably in bringing sectarian violence under control. For another example, Maliki forced the Americans to stand down from the steps they took to look for a kidnapped soldier. While the American rules applied, violence decreased dramatically; when we complied with Maliki’s demands, violence increased again. Maliki is an obstacle, but because he is the lawfully elected leader, we are stuck with him. The solutions proposed in the comments on this post (partition, strong man, etc.) are inappropriate and illegal — unless you also propose the immediate overthrow of the Iraqi Constitution and its lawfully elected representatives.

Maliki is one problem that, solved, could reduce the sectarian violence considerably, especially if it were followed by the arrest and/or execution of al Sadr (who should have been bumped off long ago, if you ask me). Within the context of the Iraqi Constitution, what can be done to replace an elected leader who is working against the best interests of the Iraqi people? I’m not entirely familiar with the system of government the Iraqis have instituted, but I believe that Maliki was elected by the Parliament (or whatever the corresponding body is called), and not by a direct election of citizen votes (as we do here in the United States). I wonder if he could be replaced by a special election, just as happens in England when a Prime Minister is replaced (i.e., they don’t have terms of office that run for a fixed number of years, as we do in the United States). Maliki was elected as a compromise candidate that satisfied the interests of the three sects: Sunni, Shia, Kurd. (I also remember reading that many people believe Zawqari was "given up" to the Americans as part of this parliamentarian agreement to compromise on Maliki.) Can he not be replaced in a new vote by Parliament? If so, perhaps that is one piece of the solution where we could be exerting extreme pressure. The Iraqi Parliament, not America, needs to replace Maliki with another lawfully elected leader, not an "our bastard" chosen by the American government or its pundits. Maliki represents himself, not the Iraqi people. I agree with John Henke that Iraq needs a better leader, but I believe that one should be chosen in accord with Iraqi Constitutional provisions, not by American decree (or whatever).

I agree that some solution to the sectarian violence needs to be found. I don’t believe that a solution that ignores the Iraqi Constitution is advisable. Can you all defend or revise your proposals in terms that respect the Iraqi Constitution and the representatives lawfully elected by the Iraqi people?

The primary point I want to make in this comment is that the Iraqi Constitution must be honored or abandoned. I support honoring the Constitution, particularly when it has been in force for such a short time and it is therefore unreasonable to expect perfection so early in the day. I realize that other issues are also critical components in achieving a peaceful resolution in Iraq, but they are not the point of this particular comment. Nor do I think that revisiting and rehashing how we got to this point is useful, if the exercise seeks merely to vent and proclaim validation, rather than to point the way to a solution. However, I will add that I think we need to exhibit a much better understanding of human psychology, and abnormal psychology in particular, in any plans designed to win against terrorists. Unless, of course, we are talking about plans designed to lose to the terrorists.
 
Written By: PhoenixPat
URL: http://
So why bother? You obviously want to believe this, facts be damned.
This is coming from a man who just wrote that all of us who argued in favor of invading Iraq are unserious people who have our heads up our asses.

We are at least as serious as the people who argued against the war, most of whom are clowns who were not making the arguments that you want to credit them with now.
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
* Your post is devoid of any mention of George W. Bush. Not once do you mention him by name or position.

* Please explain, in detail, how the United States military can get the warring sides in this civil war to lay down their arms and negotiate for peace.
1) I didn’t mention a Democrat by name, either. I wrote a post about the geopolitical situation in Iraq and spectrum of policies that might be pursued. You apparently wish that I’d written about something else. Well, I wish you’d respond to the points, but that seems to be too much for you.

2) I do not propose that the US get the warring sides in the civil war to lay down their arms and negotiate for peace. I’ve said that we need to largely get out of the way of the inevitable bloodshed and be ready to assist with the government that emerges.

Did you read my post at all?
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
Granted that a solution needs to be found. But doesn’t it have to comply with the Iraqi Constitution? The one that millions of Iraqis risked their lives to vote for? The one that established a representative form of government that included the election of political leaders by citizens? Elections that millions of Iraqis again risked their lives to vote in?
Unless you can get the Iraqi factions to agree to conduct themselves in accordance with the Iraqi constitution....then, no. And it’s not happening now, so what makes you think the victor will rediscover pluralism?
Do all of you who are busily proposing alternative futures for Iraq endorse the abrupt overthrow of the Iraqi Constitution and the representatives lawfully elected by Iraqi citizens?
Whether I want the Iraqi government overthrown or not is irrelevant. The Iraqi factions are busy working on that themselves. You seem to think that the solution is in our hands. That’s just not the case. If the dominant Iraqi factions are not willing to work within the Constitution after they’ve been given this much time and opportunity, there’s little reason to think they’ll suddenly have a forehead-smacking moment wherein they decide to be pluralists again.

You think the Iraqi Constitution "must be honored or abandoned". But by whom?
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
This is coming from a man who just wrote that all of us who argued in favor of invading Iraq are unserious people who have our heads up our asses.
I don’t recall saying you weren’t serious. Just flat out dead wrong.


When the war was being hyped through falsehoods such as non existant IAEA reports allegedly claiming Saddam was six months from having a nuclear weapon, I decided that if the case was such a slam dunk why did they feel the need to just make crap up.
most of whom are clowns who were not making the arguments that you want to credit them with now.
Once again, I linked to a paper by a very well respected organization that made several good arguments for not invading Iraq. If you refuse to read it I’m not going to get out the crayons and draw you a picture.
 
Written By: Davebo
URL: http://
Did you read my post at all?
Heh ... I knew you were talking about MK immediately without ever having read his comment (and now you know why I don’t read his comments).
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
"withdraw remaining troops to the sparsely populated areas in Iraq and let the disequilibrium within Iraq work itself out naturally. We can’t really stop it, but we can influence it."

Why do we need troops in Iraq at all if they are just going to sit back and watch? You are going to have to be more specific if you intend to convince anyone that we can influence anything by squatting out of sight in the desert somewhere.

*************************

" ) I didn’t mention a Democrat by name, either. I wrote a post about the geopolitical situation in Iraq and spectrum of policies that might be pursued"

It’s sort of a religious thing to some folks, Jon, like the Muslims saying "peace be upon him" whenever they mention Mohammed. Whenever you mention Iraq you must say something like "thanks to that moronic war-mongering....". All part of the syndrome.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Once again, I linked to a paper by a very well respected organization that made several good arguments for not invading Iraq. If you refuse to read it I’m not going to get out the crayons and draw you a picture.
I never denied that there were good arguments against invading Iraq. I believed at the time that the case for invasion outweighed those arguments. Obviously, I did not give as much weight to them as I should have, but I certainly was not "tragically unserious", nor did I have my head up my ass.

I don’t give the Democrats any more credit than the Republicans for Stephen Zunes’ arguments, because those were not the arguments that the Democrats and the Left were making at the time. I was on the internet debating the Iraq war issue every day, and the people I was arguing against were taking their talking points from ANSWER, not Stephen Zunes.
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
I like to look at history as a guide, and I can’t recall a country stepping down from this kind of ethnic strife with anything too stable. I think they are past the point that even a Saddam could keep power, the militias are too strong and diverse, the strong man solution no longer exists.

If the US leaves, the Iraqis will face a decision: continue escalating sectarian violence (I doubt the US presence has an impact on the level — we aren’t really providing much security to most of the country anyway), or have leaders of the main rival groups decide to create stability and share the wealth. If the latter happens (and it isn’t impossible), then — again with history as a guide — it may well be that over time a stronger force or leader emerges from that consociational set up ending the violence. The route would be: Iraqi unity government that draws in militias and shares power, to either slow progress to democracy of a sort, or the emergence of a new strong man.

If the US stays, militias will stay armed and refuse compromise, fearing an American hand in the deal or an attempt by the US to influence/control the outcomes. Moreover, each side will try to use us to support them, they will each try to convince us to make them "our" strongman. This will put the US in an untenable position — we can’t make a strongman succeed, and supporting one will make our policies look hypocritical and engender the anger of the side not chosen. Not chosing means we stand by and watch things continue to deteriorate, being blamed for the situation because of our presence, and having many of our people killed.

This ain’t the pottery barn. We broke it, but we can’t fix it or own it. Events are sometimes outside human control, and the best here is to figure out how to minimize damage and not betray national security. To me the only rational way out is the oft-derided by time proven approach by foreign policy realism. Both Iran and Syria do not want a long time unstable Iraq. Each have influence over various groups and could do a lot to bring about the kind of consciational solution discussed above. We should start a withdrawal while working on building that kind of solution. It’s our best bet.

I’ve seen a lot of people with general statements like "we need to win" or "the violence will get worse if we leave," but little specific analysis and explanation. Often the response to those who disagree is an ad hominem attack rather than engagement with the idea. I think even war hawks have to be willing at this point to question their commitment to this policy and recognize that perhaps the realist route is the only way to create conditions that can maximize the probability of the best possible (though by no means good) outcome.

(And for you political partisans, note that this idea has more in line with a wing of the Republican party than with the Democrats — put partisanship away with the Iraq issue, it’s too important for left-right squabbles, squabbles about Iraq should be about Iraq per se).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
We should have put a Kurd in charge from the get go. They were/are the most friendly to us and would have zero qualms about restraining the rest.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
John Hencke: Thank you for responding to my comment. To answer your questions:

1. It is the insurgents who are not conducting themselves in accordance with the Iraqi Constitution. Sectarian violence is being waged by a quite tiny group in a very limited bit of Iraq (mostly Baghdad). Most of Iraq is under much better control (better, not perfect, but better). I don’t believe the Iraqi people have abandoned their Constitution. However, they do not have a committed, strong leader or the necessary resources to quell the insurgents without us. If we abandon their Constitution at this fragile time, then I see little chance that they will ever be strong enough to recover it on their own. I agree with you that Iraq needs a stronger leader. I just believe that Iraq should choose one according to the law, rather than that America should casually cast aside a Constitution that we so recently pushed so hard to get and appoint someone of our own choosing. Furthermore, were we to choose our "own bastard," we would be providing evidence to support a point that anti-American voices have long used against us: we support dictators at the expense of the people. This pairs nicely with all the other points on that list: we don’t have the stomach for war, we can be easily defeated by a stronger-minded barbarian culture, etc.

2. You ask who I think should be honoring or abandoning the Iraqi Constitution. My response is twofold:
(A) Us, certainly, because to betray it would provide our enemies with yet another enormous psychological victory, as well as to cause the Iraqi people to lose all confidence in us. We have loudly proclaimed the primacy of democratic government and declared it to be a tool that will transform the Middle East. To abandon the first fruit in our garden so quickly would suggest that we were wrong to even try (well, second, if Afghanistan was first). The enemy well understands the importance of public opinion, both here and in Iraq. With the willing complicity of the American mainstream media and the leaders of the Democratic party, the enemy’s message is being shouted out loudly and clearly. They interpret every action as a victory for them; most often, they can only do so by distortion, outright lying, selective reporting, and other dishonest means. QandO readers certainly are familiar with all the many examples exposed by bloggers. It’s bad enough when our enemies use distortions and lies to work against us; how much worse to have a legitimate argument to use against us. If we abandon the Iraqi Constitution, we will give them a powerful talking point (at the least) in the war of ideas. We must consider the psychology of our opponents, and of the people whom they seek to influence: Muslims throughout the world, not to mention American voters and American politicians. Our enemy seems to have a much better understanding of psychology than we do. And the psychological field of battle is, I believe, the most important weapon in this war of ideas. So far, the enemy is winning the psychological war. (My emphasis on psychology should not be interpreted to mean that I want us to talk things out like reasonable people. I think we should pound the hell out of them so that they never dare to tweak our nose again.)
(B) The Iraqi people, whom I believe still do support their new Constitution. It is the small number of insurgents who do not (plus the outside influences of Iran, Syria, and others opposed to our concept of freedom, liberty, and justice). To them, Constitutional government represents a defeat of their goal, which is the imposition of their will upon the people, without giving them a voice in their own government or even control over the conduct of their daily lives. To grant them a victory in this regard, however temporarily you may envision it, would be a great, perhaps permanent loss for the Iraqi people, not to mention America’s best interests.

Your original post is entitled "Time to Pick Our Bastard in Iraq." The implication is that you would abandon the Iraqi Constitution right now to choose new leadership for a sovereign nation. As their Constitution is barely a year old, this amounts to strangling it in its cradle — not the way to raise a strong and healthy child, even though he is infuriatingly fractious and messy in his infancy. I don’t believe this brief period meets what you call "this much time and opportunity." There hasn’t been enough time or opportunity to succeed for us to reject Constitutional law so quickly. You also note that "there’s little reason to think they’ll suddenly have a forehead-smacking moment wherein they decide to be pluralists again." Would abandoning the principles that we were determined to teach them actually be a useful step in getting them to that point again? And again, it’s not the Iraqi people who have abandoned their new Constitution, but a tiny subset of insurgents whom the Iraqi people reject. Your post only explains the first step (pick somebody, without suggesting anyone in particular or even presenting an historical model to emulate), but it doesn’t explain what the objective is, how we measure the attainment of that objective, or what would follow. I assume you mean the strongman era to be a temporary one, long enough to exert control and to win the victory that poor leadership has so far denied us, but followed by a return to Iraqi self-government, presumably in accord with their Constitution. I don’t fault your intent.

A good model for us to have followed might be our handling of Japan in World War II. We exacted a crushing defeat, followed by the strong leadership of General Douglas MacArthur, who was charged with running the occupation of post-war Japan. MacArthur is widely considered to be one of the greatest leaders of that era, perhaps in all of modern history, precisely because of his masterful handling of the occupation of Japan. (Most people today only remember his conflict with Truman in Korea, but that’s hardly a fair summation of his accomplishments.) MacArthur led a defeated nation into an enlightened democratic government, a transformation that has paid innumerable benefits for both the Japanese people and for our own country. However, we rejected (knowingly or foolishly) this option in Iraq right from the get-go, by fighting a limited, polite war. We also rejected the MacArthur model of transitional leadership, opting to head straight for self-government before establishing stability. I don’t know if Bremer’s assignment could be considered anything like MacArthur’s (I think not, and certainly not in its most important particulars), but it definitely did not equal the result.

If I understand you correctly, I think you are proposing that we pick up that effective MacArthur model now, by appointing a strongman who will be able to exert control and establish stability in Iraq. I am not confident that anyone, including MacArthur, could resolve the problem in Iraq today — remember, we failed to complete the single most important prerequisite: absolute defeat of the enemy. As your original post only addressed the appointment of a generic "our bastard," I confined my first comment to that issue only and focused on the Constitutionality of such a step. I will go beyond that limitation now to inject a broader idea into the discussion.

While I completely agree with your call for a strong leader, I do not believe that some unnamed strongman or even MacArthur himself could succeed in Iraq without two concurrent operations, neither of which is likely to occur:
1. Our military must be allowed to actually fight on ruthless terms that will crush the enemy’s resolve, locally in Baghdad, regionally, and elsewhere in the world. We are so respectful and polite. We recently refused to take out opposition leaders because they were meeting in a cemetery. This one example typifies our lack of determination to win. I reject the argument that we must be conduct a "gentlemen’s war" because otherwise we will be "just like them." Hooey. (And yes, I’m talking to you, Lindsey Graham.) We are not and never will be anything like them. But forcing our military to fight with one hand behind its back, on a shoestring budget, is guaranteed to fail. Furthermore, if we were truly committed to defending our nation against the forces that are now arrayed against us worldwide, we would be increasing the size of our volunteer military (Rangel: begone!) and the size of the budget. As Pierre Legrand (http://pierrelegrand.net/) has complained, our current military budget matches the lowest budget during the Clinton years and the size of our military is exactly the same as it was on the day before the 9/11 attacks. Neither of these statistics bespeaks any serious effort to fight to win.

2. Abraham Lincoln famously remarked that a house divided against itself cannot stand, a phrase that he borrowed from the Bible. The Kentucky state motto is "United we stand, divided we fall." How many times must we learn this lesson? Unity in the face of our enemy is the single most important weapon we can wield, especially in the war that we are now fighting. QandO readers surely know that the Vietnamese war was lost when American will was lost, finally dragged down by a mainstream media and anti-war activists who falsely reported that the Tet offensive was a complete defeat for America. In a frightening repeat episode, the American will to defend herself is being eroded by a mainstream media and anti-war activists, including the Democratic party leadership, who are determined to use virtually any means possible to make us surrender to a puny and pathetic barbarian opponent. As we all know, the words of Bush’s political opponents, from Congressional leaders to Cindy Sheehan, have been believed, embraced, and animated by every petty tyrant from Osama bin Laden to Hugo Chavez to Kim Jong Il. Muslim extremists and their dhimmi followers are emboldened and empowered by the Democrat party’s opposition to the war in Iraq. They are celebrating all over the world because they believe that Democratic victories in our recent elections mean that we are defeated and our outright surrender is merely a formality. As long as we have a mainstream media and political leaders who are actively, openly working against American interests, we will not be able to win. Again, basic psychology comes into play: We need to present a united front to the world. I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Personally, I think we are doomed. We are led by cowardly politicians and educated by a traitorous media. Our schools have been teaching at least two generations of students that America stinks. If we don’t value our country, we won’t fight to defend it. Far too many people simply do not believe that our way of life could ever be imperiled, so they do not see any reason to fight for it. Cowardice, treason, self-hatred, complacency: this is what will do us in. In the face of these seemingly unassailable obstacles to success, the appointment of a strongman in Iraq is hardly likely to change much of anything for long.
 
Written By: PhoenixPat
URL: http://
mkultra -
Al Gore would not have invaded Iraq.
So you say. How did you come to this conclusion? And do you think Gore would have refrained from trying to undermine Saddam’s regime and thus bring about the same power grab we’re seeing today? On what evidence is your position based?

I’ll bring up the same scenario I always do, only with Al Gore as Commander in Chief.
It’s late 2002. The Taliban has been kicked out of Afghanistan and what remains is primarily in Pakistan. What does the President do now?
Would Saddam have remained in power? Most likely. But so what? He had no WMD. He was not actively assisting Al Qaeda. He was a check on the ambitions of Iran in the region. And by 2003, our excellent military had him contained. He was boxed in.
... and you don’t think sanctions would have been dropped, thus allowing Saddam to reactivate his weapons programs?

You’re making a bold claim: that Al Gore would not have invaded Iraq and would not have let the sanctions drop at the insistence of several of our allies.
Gore would have invaded Afghanistan (assuming 9/11 would have happened on his watch).
Wow. The parenthetical statement there speaks volumes.
He would have poured more resources into Afghanistan and it would likelly be more stable now.
Ah, so more resources = more stability?
As for the rest of the Middle East, it would probably look more or less the same as it does today. It’s hard to see how it would look much different, although Gore may not have greenlighted the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
... incredible. You don’t think that the invasion of a keystone state, Iraq, right next door to Turkey and Iran and Syria and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, had hardly any effect on the rest of the Middle East?!

At first I thought you had to do mental somersaults to arrive at your positions, mk, but now I see that all you had to do was turn your head toward whatever convenient narrative happened to pass along. Your imagination and analytical skills both leave quite a bit to be desired.
We would be in a stronger position than we are today, and America would not have burned up its standing in the world
That’s an absurdly broad claim, so much so that you frankly can’t make anything *near* that claim with your apparent level of confidence. The United States has never had as positive a relationship with both Japan and China at the same time as it has had under the Bush administration, despite the EP-3 incident in 2001. Think that had nothing to do with Bush and his appointees?
As for Kerry, it is hard to imagine that he could do any worse than Bush is doing now.
Oh no, it’s not. Not if you’re honest with your imagination.
Again, the issue is not what we should do next.
Yes, it is one of the issues.
The issue is what is George W. Bush prepared to do. And based on what we know about him, the answer is: nothing new. Nothing new at all.
Based on what you know about him. But you’re not terribly familiar with the evolving strategy in Iraq, and why violence has gone from erupting all along the western ratlines, and up and down the two rivers, to primarily being in two cities today, Ramadi and Baghdad. I wouldn’t be surprised if the lead-up to the current conditions in Iraq was a complete mystery to you, because you seem to have maintained the position that (pretty much) nothing but failure has happened there under Bush and Rumsfeld’s watch.
The Iraqis can’t force us to leave. And Bush won’t leave. Welcome to the next two years. More dead Iraqis, more dead Americans, and regression.
We were in agreement ’til those last two words.
Indeed, in the run up to the 2004 election, Bush’s supporters, many of whom post on this site,
’Many,’ huh? Shouldn’t be too hard to name "many" people who would have called themselves "Bush supporters" in 2004, then, should it? I think you’ll find that a good number considered him to be the hardly palatable lesser of two evils.
urged his re-election precisely on the ground that Bush would not change course. Now many of those same voices are calling for some kind of policy change in the Middle East. It’s insane, really.
Because, gosh, nothing positive has happened because of our staying the course for the last two years, in which Al Qaeda has suddenly become massively unpopular and been kicked out of most of Iraq, and the supply lines to Syria and Iran have been severely damaged while a whole host of "bad guys" got kicked out of western Iraq, and a pretty good number of people who were very dangerous to the continued constitutional integrity of Iraq and who were involved in various international terrorist activities were captured or killed.
 
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
PhoenixPat, you seem to be under the misapprehension that the insurgency in Iraq is somehow disconnected from Iraqis in general, or from the Iraqi leadership. That’s very wrong.

If it were simply a matter of some dead-enders, we could defeat them. That’s not the case, though. The insurgency is simply a manifestation of the deep-seated interests within each Iraqi faction. The militias, the insurgents and the leadership are the same. You cannot distinguish them from each other. The Iraqi ministries are wholly owned subsidiaries of various Iraqi factions, and both the militias and the insurgents are the military wings of the political leadership.

Like the Palestinians, there is little distinction between the political parties and the paramilitary arms of those parties.

There is no "Iraqi people" VS "insurgents" any more than the US has "special interests" VS "the people". The insurgency doesn’t represent a small fraction of the interests...it represents central social interests that the various sectarian interests are unwilling to give up. They may profess to support the Constitution, but they’ll only do so if they can control its implementation.

It’s hard to see how the Iraqi constitution matters a whit when the Iraqi ministries it establishes are completely infected with militias, sects and insurgents willing to use it for cover and toss it aside for gain.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
This is like Kosovo or Bosnia, where we eventually took a side, armed them and supported them, to the point where the other sides realized that, yes, they were going to lose, and then cut a deal.

We should choose the Shia, for the simple reason that they have the numbers and we also want to keep Iran out of play as much as possible. The Sunnis then need to be punished collectively until they realize they will lose, and then they will cut a real deal where the insurgents stop the attacks.

The Kurds will be fine with this since they will have limited autonomy anyways.

Problem1: it may take as long as Kosovo or Bosnia to finish the job.

problem2: one day the shia might decide they no longer need us, or would prefer Iran (especially if they really, really want to put down the Sunnis hard and we balk...)
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Prediction: If Afghanistan starts to go bad, the Dems will start claiming that they were never for that war actually, and Gore would just have used air strikes and ninja teams.

Seeing as how Tony Blair got on board the invade Iraq plan, I suggest all the left leaning types stop trying to claim that they would have known better. The Labor PM of the UK had his own intel and also bought a ticket to ride...methinks Gore could easily have decided in 2002 that Saddam had to go.

Also, Jon is pretty correct about the factions and militias, though I would guess there are some "normal" factions too. It’s part of the reality there. The weird dynamic is that its mainly Sunnis attacking our troops, and yet they should fear the most from our withdrawl. Very strange.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
I’m inclined to a position not unlike Jon’s. I don’t much care how or why we came to invade Iraq. I opposed the invasion but I don’t think that “phased re-deployment”, as defined by the Democrats, is a prudent policy, either.

If victory in Iraq is defined as “Iraq is a liberal, democratic country favorable to the U. S.”, it looks extremely unlikely at this point that victory in that form is achievable (at least not in time for the next election cycle). I’m skeptical that even continued training of the new Iraqi military and police force (if that’s what “stay the course” means) will achieve that sort of victory in Iraq. It may just result in better-trained militias.

That doesn’t mean that objectives worth fighting for aren’t achievable by our staying there.

We can do our best to protect whatever Iraqis continue to support us, for example. We can deny Iraq to Al-Qaeda as an Afghanistan-style base. We can demonstrate our continued commitment to the Middle East. That would stiffen the resolve of countries like the KSA, which are liberalizing if at a glacial pace. Would that continue in our absence? We can prevent the neighbors from intervening (and chopping off pieces of Iraq for themselves).

Rather than whanking on about whether we should have invaded Iraq in the first place it might be more productive to consider what the broader strategy in the War on Terror is becoming. Democratizing the Middle East with Iraq as the model seems to be out at this point. “Going after the real enemy in Afghanistan” is laughable (so long as Pakistan provides free haven and we won’t invade Pakistan).
 
Written By: Dave Schuler
URL: http://www.theglitteringeye.com
Prediction: If Afghanistan starts to go bad
If?

 
Written By: davebo
URL: http://
If.

Every time the Taliban and Al Qaeda elements come traipsing back into the country, we hand them their @$$es on a platter. There are other problems within the country, mind you, problems that go way back, but they’re not nearly so bad as they have been in the past, not by a long shot.
 
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
And by "we," I’m actually including other countries, too. The Canadians apparenty have a lot of fight in ’em, eh.
 
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
It seems to me that IMPOSING any solutioon at this late date is just as uselesss a topic for debate as the one about who said what before the war.

Scrap the Iraqi Consntitution? Impose our strongman? These are truly imperialistic notions that just won’t wash in the Middle East. They hate us, and breed terrorists to kill us, precisely because they don’t want us to impose our will in their lands.

At best, we can try to impress upon Maliki and his compromised mininters that stability is more important than an all-out sectarian victory.

There is a loose-end question about the Consstitution. Just before the much-publicized voting, there were reports of an agreement that the Constitution woulrd be amended to address the issues of oil-wealth distribution and other economic issues. I have neither read nor heard anything about progress along this line. And yet, this has primary importance, to soothe the Sunnis and address one of the reasons for their insurrection.
We should confront Maliki publically about this. We really can’t become the open backers of a one-faction rule. That would negate any excuse for our invasion; we would simply have shifted the power to do as they want from one sector of Iraqis to another.

 
Written By: Laime
URL: http://
And by "we," I’m actually including other countries, too. The Canadians apparenty have a lot of fight in ’em, eh.
The Danes are criticizing the Germans for not doing enough militarily in Afghanistan. Rather than comment on whether or not the Danes are right, there is a weird irony in having Denmark criticize Germany for an unwillingness to engage in military action.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I must have goofed up Trackback but for what it’s worth: In Defense of Idealism Part 2

Taking off on this discussion, what is the defining feature of an acceptable faction/leader/government for Iraq? I would submit that it’s willingness to leave office on constitutional schedule.
 
Written By: Timothy
URL: http://zealandactivity.wordpress.com
"If things go bad" should actually read: If the media decides the narrative should be that Afghanistan is going very badly...

For me, I don’t expect very good results in nation-building in a Pashtun society, so this story could "break" anytime.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
This debate is incredible.

No one seems to be facing the actual point, that being that no state, not a nuclear NK, not a WMD laden Iraq, not a nuclear armed Iraq, is as dangerous as failed state.

We called Saddam Hussein a madman, but any honest observer can easily distinguish Saddam’s conventional ambitions (land, power, money) from genuine Islamist lunacy.

Saddam could be understood and manipulated with various sticks and carrots, as can kim Jong il and Iran’s President, not so with the denizens that take up in failed states.

When the moronic decision to go into Iraq was made, they were asking all the wrong questions. It wasn’t a question of whether a totalitarian butcher was allowed to continue to rule Iraq, the real question was whether we could engage in any action that could result in a failed state in Iraq.

When Saddam was in power, we knew exactly how to punish Iraq if they threatened anyone, now, we are essentially helplessly in the crossfire of a civil war in a failed state, and when Iraq is the source of attacks on our interests, there will be no one to answer for it.

Cap
 
Written By: CaptinSarcastic
URL: http://
No one seems to be facing the actual point, that being that no state, not a nuclear NK, not a WMD laden Iraq, not a nuclear armed Iraq, is as dangerous as failed state.
I’m not entirely sure that’s true, except in some very narrow senses. The Soviet Union was far more dangerous than, e.g., Somalia. Failed states present a very unique, difficult-to-deter set of challenges, but they’re different rather than categorically worse.

What makes failed states so potentially dangerous are the enemy states and proliferation. Individually, none of those three need be a major problem. It’s when two or three are combined that a real strategic problem arises.
Saddam could be understood and manipulated with various sticks and carrots
I think Republicans underestimate the extent to which Saddam would have been malleable. Throughout his rule, he was primarily afraid of Iran and interested in establishing better relations with the US.

It would be alternately laughed or sneered at — depending on the political persuasion of the audience member — but I’ve considered laying out a suggestion for how we could have dealt with the question of Iraq more profitably. It’s realpolitik at its most cynical, but I’d bet that we could have swung a deal with Saddam to lower some of the non-proliferation oriented sanctions and promise him help against any potential Iranian attack in exchange for his cooperation (both officially and in less noble ways) against terrorists.

Some would argue that he was too wedded to the terrorists and too opposed to the US, but I think that might be a serious miscalculation of Saddam’s interests and approach.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net

 
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