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Generals might quit if we attack Iran?
Posted by: McQ on Sunday, February 25, 2007

Uh, so?

I love stories like this from Michael Smith and Sarah Baxter. This is short on facts and long on assertion and anonymous sources and opinion and presented as "news":
SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.

Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.

“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”
Of course a lot of people question whether an attack would be effective. But it is certainly possible. Neither, however, are sufficient reason to "quit" if such a strike were ordered.

But according to these two, four or five generals an admirals, supposedly "senior military commanders", would quit. Good. If you're against something you should. But to be clear there are no "military commanders" in the Pentagon. All the commanders are in the field. What they're talking about, if they're talking about people in the Pentagon, are staff officers.
But General Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said recently there was “zero chance” of a war with Iran. He played down claims by US intelligence that the Iranian government was responsible for supplying insurgents in Iraq, forcing Bush on the defensive.

Pace’s view was backed up by British intelligence officials who said the extent of the Iranian government’s involvement in activities inside Iraq by a small number of Revolutionary Guards was “far from clear”.

Hillary Mann, the National Security Council’s main Iran expert until 2004, said Pace’s repudiation of the administration’s claims was a sign of grave discontent at the top.

“He is a very serious and a very loyal soldier,” she said. “It is extraordinary for him to have made these comments publicly, and it suggests there are serious problems between the White House, the National Security Council and the Pentagon.”
I'd agree with General Pace ... zero chance. But "going to war" with Iran isn't the same as a "strike" on Iran. So which are these generals talking about?

For all we know, given this bunch of conjecture and assertion, "senior military commanders" could mean the 1-star in charge of Power Point presentations for the J5. Reading Smith and Baxter's article, I'm not sure they'd know the difference between that 1-star and a 'senior military commander' anyway.
 
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Smith is the Times correspondent on defense/intelligence matters and has in the past been the chosen vehicle of the UK intel community. He broke the Downing Street Memo story.

Baxter is a pro-American, Pro Iraq Invasion conservative who is the Times Washington correspondent, well connected inside the beltway.

They know the difference between a powerpoint commando and a real commander.

Regards, C
 
Written By: Cernig
URL: http://cernigsnewshog.blogspot.com/
Didn’t the Clintons fast-track a bunch of Generals & other bigshot types in the military to help get their compliance to the mid-90’s gutting of the military? I wonder where their sympathies lay?
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
Here was the last time that McQ brought to our attention a breathless report that Bush was getting ready to invade Iran. That time the reporting was by Dave Lindorff of "The Nation."

The source for that article was named: Ray McGovern, who was described as "a former CIA threat-assessment analyst." Wow!

I went over to Wikipedia and looked up Mr. McGovern’s bio:
McGovern was a mid level officer in the CIA in the 1960s where his focus was analysis of Soviet policy toward Vietnam.
In January, 2006, McGovern began speaking out on behalf of Not in Our Name. According to the group’s press release, McGovern served "war crimes indictments" on the Bush White House from a "peoples tribunal."

It is guys like McGovern who keep this issue alive in the press. At least Smith and Baxter, unlike Lindorff, had the good sense to keep their sources unnamed.
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
But according to these two, four or five generals an admirals, supposedly "senior military commanders", would quit. Good. If you’re against something you should.
And if that’s true for the generals, it should be true for the privates, corporals and anyone else in the military. Right now we’ve become an aggressor nation, and ultimately that will be our downfall. Those who care about the country are fighting to end this disastrous foreign policy. Those in the military should have the courage to refuse to fight, even if it means imprisonment. Luckily, rank has its privileges and generals can quit without penalty.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"But "going to war" with Iran isn’t the same as a "strike" on Iran"

Wouldn’t Iran have something to say about that? They might consider themselves at war with a nation that commits an act of war against them. If we are not prepared to commit ourselves to a full scale war, it would probably be better not to commit an act of war.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Baxter is a pro-American, Pro Iraq Invasion conservative who is the Times Washington correspondent, well connected inside the beltway.
Actually she is a pro Iraq invasion (believing we would find WMD) Democrat with dual citizenship. I’m not sure how that demonstrates her knowledge of the military.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
Right now we’ve become an aggressor nation, and ultimately that will be our downfall.
Seriously, Erb. This is just dumb. An "agressor nation"? Why don’t you just come and say "Nazi" instead trying to be pseudo-intellectual about it?
Those who care about the country are fighting to end this disastrous foreign policy.
So you’re questioning my patriotism then.
Those in the military should have the courage to refuse to fight, even if it means imprisonment.
Why would you ever suppose that they wouldn’t? How arrogant do you have to be to think that you know best as to why our soldiers continue to fight? According to you, it’s only the threat of imprisonment. Soldiers, who don’t fear getting killed in battle, only face such danger because they are much more afraid of going to prison, according to you. Death vs. imprisonment. That’s you’re brilliant analysis.

I’ve got a suggestion. Go tell a combat soldier your brilliant reasoning as to why he should just quit, and see where you end up.

Arrogance and ignorance are not a good mix.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
This Time’s garbage "journalism" makes me dispeptic. "Burp!"

And, Scott, your use of the piece’s murky critique as cover for more Bush-bashing is, well, telling.

The dishonesty in the piece is given away by the generic use the word, "attack." The authors of the piece know that if they pressed their anonymous objectors to differentiate between divergent grades of "attack" then the story’s lede becomes a dud.

An objective and curious journalist would wonder if the US’ covert ops in Iran, like exploding an airplane carrying Iranian Air Force officials, are "attacks" sufficient to spur these "Commanders" resignations. Or whether it will take an overt Tomahawk strike on Tehran, or a shooting, naval blockade of Kharg Island to make these guys push-off to a sun-belt golf-course.

If the first condition is an "attack" then these "commanders" should have alreardy traded-in their bars for a nine-iron and a "-Links" mailing-address.

And if the second condition applies, then the objectors should whinge to their fellows on the war-planning committees, not the press. It’s inevitable in any consensus-driven office: these 2, 4, or 5 weasels can’t sway their committee-majorities, so they’re whining about it to someone who’ll listen.

 
Written By: steveaz
URL: http://
They know the difference between a powerpoint commando and a real commander.
If they don’t know the difference between "going to war" and a strike, then I’d say your assessment isn’t very valid.

What was Operation Desert Fox? War or a strike?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Didn’t the Clintons fast-track a bunch of Generals & other bigshot types in the military to help get their compliance to the mid-90’s gutting of the military?
Yup ... one of them was Wes Clark.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Seriously, Erb. This is just dumb. An "agressor nation"?
That’s what we were in Iraq, and if we attack Iran without direct approval from the UN Security Council, we’ll be the aggressor there.

I’m not questioning your patriotism, but your intelligence and ability to understand foreign affairs. I also question your understanding of basic ethics, you seem not to care if the US has become an aggressive world power. It’ll be our undoing as a nation unless people don’t do everything they can to stop it.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Scott,
I’m catching my breath here! I gotta ask...

Can you imagine ANY justification for a US military "strike" on Iran? Is there any single, remote, even hypothetical, event that might make the grade?

And, can you envision a situation that may demand a US military "strike" somewhere else in the world without UN approval? For example, should Clinton have sent the 101st into Rwanda back in nineteen ninty-something, the UN "Genocide" articles be damned?

OT: Aside from it’s suffocating circularity, the association of "Legality" with a shifty UN "concensus" is, well, very French: not an operable model.
 
Written By: steveaz
URL: http://
And a country that violated 17 UN resolutions is a victim of aggression Scott? So when someone cheats in your class, are they a victim of your aggressiveness?
 
Written By: Oh my!!
URL: http://
I also question your understanding of basic ethics, you seem not to care if the US has become an aggressive world power. It’ll be our undoing as a nation unless people don’t do everything they can to stop it.
America’s been aggressive (at a minimum) since taking New Mexico. In those 160 years the nation hasn’t become undone.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
And a country that violated 17 UN resolutions is a victim of aggression Scott?
Logic lesson: just because someone commits aggression doesn’t mean aggression cannot be committed against them.

Still, if the US had kept it at just winning the war, perhaps things wouldn’t have been so bad. Instead they turned it into this insane big government social engineering program, trying to remake a political culture riddled by corruption and authoritarian heritage back to the Ottomans. It’s drained us economically, stretched the military, deprived us of moral standing and support from the rest of the world, and divided the country. Anyone who tries to say this was a good choice (or that it was an ’outstanding accomplishment’) is clearly either engaged in political spin or out of touch with reality.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"...either engaged in political spin or out of touch with reality."
I would say that your fondness for the LN qualifies you on both counts. Your sophomoric view of the military... let’s just say that your ignorance is evident. Apparently drinking vodka with a Soviet general officer is not sufficient military background to enable you to hold forth on matters military.
I am not an expert on military matters, but I think I can discern your greater ignorance fairly easily. Maybe you need to talk to some AMERICANS in the military (or do they require an armed guard to set foot on your campus?).
 
Written By: notherbob2
URL: http://
"Those in the military should have the courage to refuse to fight, even if it means imprisonment."

I guess that makes you a chicken-dove.

" Luckily, rank has its privileges and generals can quit without penalty."

It isn’t a privilege, it is one of the terms of service, like any other contractual term. Officers may tender their resignation after meeting whatever minimum term of service they contracted for.


"I’m not questioning your patriotism, but your intelligence and ability to understand foreign affairs. I also question your understanding of basic ethics,"

Whoa. That wouldn’t be an ad hominem attack, would it?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I would say that your fondness for the LN qualifies you on both counts. Your sophomoric view of the military... let’s just say that your ignorance is evident. Apparently drinking vodka with a Soviet general officer is not sufficient military background to enable you to hold forth on matters military.
I am not an expert on military matters, but I think I can discern your greater ignorance fairly easily. Maybe you need to talk to some AMERICANS in the military (or do they require an armed guard to set foot on your campus?).
Gee, you can’t make a substantive argument, can you? Just insult.

You remind me of a line from a song by the band Rush, "The world is a cage for your impotent rage, but don’t let it get to you."
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Seriously, Erb. This is just dumb. An "agressor nation"?
That’s what we were in Iraq, and if we attack Iran without direct approval from the UN Security Council, we’ll be the aggressor there.
Nice bowdlerization, Erb. It’s pretty obvious what you mean, so I asked why you didn’t just come out and say it. I guess you’re either too much of coward, or too much of liar to answer that question.
I’m not questioning your patriotism, but your intelligence and ability to understand foreign affairs.
Heh. Well I guess you put me in my place. So now it’s my turn.

Let’s recap; Erb stated:
Those who care about the country are fighting to end this disastrous foreign policy.
Since you seem to be so interested in logic, let’s just breakdown the logic of that statement.

According to you, those who love the US are against the War in Iraq. The only logical conclusion is that those who support our efforts there, don’t love this country. You also call into question the patriotism of those who may not support the war, or its prosecution, but who aren’t motivated to "fight" against the "foreign policy" established by our duly elected president.

Moreover, where in that statement did you challenge anyone’s intelligence or ability to understand foreign affairs, much less mine? Talk about arrogance.
I also question your understanding of basic ethics, you seem not to care if the US has become an aggressive world power. It’ll be our undoing as a nation unless people don’t do everything they can to stop it.
The premises to your "questions" are rather suspect. Because I disagree with you on the war, I’m unethical? You reveal your own ignorance as to ethics in making such a farcical statement.

Plus, you still haven’t established why you think we’re an "agressor nation." I’m pretty clear on what you’re alluding to, my inferior intellect notwithstanding. But you won’t just come out and say it.

I may be a lot of things, but I’m at least willing to say what I mean. You on the other hand, make no substantive arguments, challenge the patriotism of those who support the war, and call our soldiers cowards. The denizens of QandO are pretty smart bunch, and we all know what you mean. You can spare us the dissembling.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Erb,

The USA had recognized Vichy France. Yet, in 1942 we invaded their territory.

Please answer: Were we an "aggressor" nation in that instance? and why or why not?
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
In my opinion, gentlemen, Dr. Erb is certainly not worth engaging in any conversation.

There are people for whom I have a lot of respect that believe we would have been better off spending the money that we’ve spent in Iraq into nuclear power and space travel. To date, none of them have expressed a desire for our Army to lose for any reason, much less to "teach ourselves a lesson".

Since his debating tactics have been, in my experience, borderline dishonest, I see no reason to waste any time engaging with him.
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
"In my opinion, gentlemen, Dr. Erb is certainly not worth engaging in any conversation."

True. Although he occasionally makes a valid point(stopped clock and all that) is is generally not worth the effort of wading though his turgid bloviations.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

Since his debating tactics have been, in my experience, borderline dishonest, I see no reason to waste any time engaging with him.
"Borderline dishonest?" I suppose about everyone gets into that territory in the heat of an argument sometimes, but if you point out anything like that and I’ll apologize and make it right.

I think it’s more that I have an opinion that you don’t like, I know my stuff, and I’m a good enough writer to defend my opinion effectively. THAT is what you don’t like ;-)
According to you, those who love the US are against the War in Iraq.
It did read that way in what you quoted. I should have used the word ’should’ — those who love this country should be working to end this war. I’m sorry for the confusion.

The premises to your "questions" are rather suspect. Because I disagree with you on the war, I’m unethical?
Fair point — sometimes in these debates one imbues the other with experiences in talking with a number of people with that perspective. No, I cannot say you are an unethical person. I believe, however, that a lot of war supporters have been unable to truly comprehend the ethical issues involved whenever a choice to use death and destruction as a tactic of policy. The impact on innocents, on civilians, on children, on the culture, and on lives in general. I don’t think it’s enough to say "well, Saddam was worse." By 2003 his repression was mild in the level of death and violence compared to this — and we supported him when he was really dangerous.

It gets very frustrating at times to see these things discussed in purely abstract terms, without regard to the human tragedy that has been unleashed in Iraq.
Plus, you still haven’t established why you think we’re an "agressor nation." I’m pretty clear on what you’re alluding to, my inferior intellect notwithstanding. But you won’t just come out and say it.
OK, I was out of line with insinuating you aren’t intelligent. My meaning was that I think a lot of war supporters don’t understand the real strategic disaster this has unleashed, but it came out as a personal insult, and that was simply wrong for me to do.

We attacked a sovereign country and overthrew its government. It was not self-defense, it was not authorized by the UN (I know the administration tries to claim it was due to earlier resolutions, but almost all international law experts, and most of the rest of the Security Council don’t buy that at all), and it was not other-defense. Thus, it was aggression. We attacked. We took over the country.

Not only that, but as a result:
1. At least 4000 Americans are dead (contractors and military);
2. Likely over 100,000 Iraqis are dead
3. Sectarian violence of the kind that often takes generations to overcome has been unleashed, with the US unable to protect individual Iraqis;
4. The Iraqi government is apparently complicate in ethnic cleansing, and at the very least is close to Iran and extremely corrupt
5. Hundreds of billions of dollars has been used which otherwise could have been used on other things, including counter-terrorism.
6. The military is stretched thin, and the US is no longer feared or respected as it was before
7. America’s moral authority is questioned, and anti-Americanism is high even amongst allies; it could well be that this will be seen as the end of our ’unipolar’ period;
8. America is divided in a way that as a minor point leads to exchanges like this where I hurl some unnecessary insults and of course similar things are hurled at me, but at a more significant level create the danger of political stagnationn as two sides counter each other, each with extremely different world views.

I don’t see how war supporters can confront these facts without admitting the disadvantages this war bought. I don’t see how one can look at the goals as stated in 2003 (as well as predictions of cost, duration, etc.) and not conclude that the original mission is already a failure.

I look at the situation, and don’t see any way the US can alter deep fundamental Iraqi divisions and differences, rooted in a political culture defined by corruption and force. Clearly a "surge" to levels of late 2005 can’t do much. We are engaged no longer in a war (which was won), but in a huge big government social engineering program. I have not seen any evidence that it can work, or that any real progress is being made.

Again, I apologize for the tone of the earlier post — sometimes when I’m in a hurry I let my emotion trump reason as I type!
-scott
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
So, if the government of Iran is killing our soldiers in Iraq, and we respond in kind, then would we be the aggressor???

If Iran were preparing to launch medium range missiles in the Gulf region, with an unknown payload, and we were in a position to destroy those missiles before launch, would be the aggressor???

There are any number of scenarios where the President could use force and not be the aggressor, and also not seek UN or Congressional approval for those actions.

I think it’s odd, that the President and administration are going out of their way to say, we are not going to invade Iran, and the conclusion by many on the left is that we are going to invade Iran.
those who love this country should be working to end this war.
Will removing our troops end this war? And which war are you talking about? The battle currently in Iraq, or the greater war "against terrorism."
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://inactivist.org/blog/keith_indy
" I know my stuff,"

Depends on your definition of stuff.

" that a lot of war supporters have been unable to truly comprehend the ethical issues involved whenever a choice to use death and destruction as a tactic of policy. The impact on innocents, on civilians, on children, on the culture, and on lives in general"

Some of that "stuff", eh? That wouldn’t be an ad hominem attack either, would it? I doubt that you know your "stuff", but I don’t doubt that you are full of it.

" My meaning was that I think a lot of war supporters don’t understand the real strategic disaster this has unleashed,"

I know it is so easy to attack some vague, nameless, distant, target, and it makes you feel so morally and intellectually superior, but why is that relevant here? Perhaps I just do not understand your excellent writing skills.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

Again, I apologize for the tone of the earlier post — sometimes when I’m in a hurry I let my emotion trump reason as I type!
Usually, in fact. Emotion, and not reason, after all of the bases of democratic party politics.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
So, if the government of Iran is killing our soldiers in Iraq, and we respond in kind, then would we be the aggressor???
First, you’re making an assumption (and since we likely have special operations in Iran, we’re already violating their sovereignty — but that’s an assumption too).

But yes, we would be the aggressor if we were to attack Iran if Iran is helping arm or fund Shi’ite militias, at least according to traditions of jus ad bello (the justice of going to war) and international law.

Will removing our troops end this war? And which war are you talking about? The battle currently in Iraq, or the greater war "against terrorism."
I suspect the sectarian war in Iraq will go on a long, long time. When ethnic animosities reach this level, things don’t get better quickly. Counter-terrorism (war on terror, like war on drugs, is a stretched and inappropriate metaphor) is hurt by our actions in Iraq, which do little to serve counter-terrorist purposes and in fact expose in a variety of unnecessary ways.

I still haven’t seen anyone lately truly defend staying in Iraq. Either it’s an abstract assertion (we need to ’finish the mission,’ or ’it will embolden our enemies). Next to the myriad of reasons why this so-called war is bad for national security, expensive, and damaging to American prestige and strength a vague concern that our enemies might be happy seems trivial.

Frankly, especially with the news coming out today in the Sy Hersh article, I’m convinced that the real terrorists love our predicament in Iraq and despite their rhetoric, hope we stay there (and al qaeda must be chuckling about how we first eliminated one of their hated enemies, Saddam, and now appear ready to go after another, the Shi’ites in Iran!)

Also, nobody has addressed the point that the war was won in 2003, and what we have now in a grand social engineering experiment which is virtually certain to fail given the cultural circumstances. And it’s also not been addressed how the issue is not the insurgency now, but the sectarian violence which despite the surge continues to kill over large numbers of Iraqis every day.

I’d appreciate and respect very much an attempt by someone who favors the war to actually address the tough issues.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
That is not the hypothetical I posited...

I asked "If Iran is killing our soldiers in Iraq," not if we found out they were helping others do it.
nobody has addressed the point that the war was won in 2003
I’ve made the same statement before.

Leaving Iraq without a functioning government, would be akin to leaving Afghanistan without a functioning government after the Soviets withdrew from there. Except in this instance, Iraq has the resources to fund an even greater world-wide jihadist revolution.

Of course, the biggest reasons anyone cares about the Middle East is oil. They’ve got it, the world needs it. For decades, the strategy of maintaining stability in the region, has done nothing but fuel resentment. Governments have been unwilling to mess with the ruling classes there, other then to prop up the favored strong-man, because doing so might upset the stability of the region, and thus effect energy prices, thus effecting national economies.

Of course, a bigger reason for toppling over the whole ball of wax is todays interconnected world. It is to easy for someone with a grudge to get on a plane and do something about it. So, we either work towards making the world a better place, which is hard, long work, or we isolate ourselves and hope our walls are big and tough enough.

And by work, I mean using all of our resources, military, diplomatic, economic, cultural, etc. These are things which we are having varied success with depending on the part of the world we are in. It is a multi-generational task, and some are already loosing the will, when our losses are historically low.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://inactivist.org/blog/keith_indy
Of course, a bigger reason for toppling over the whole ball of wax is todays interconnected world. It is to easy for someone with a grudge to get on a plane and do something about it. So, we either work towards making the world a better place, which is hard, long work, or we isolate ourselves and hope our walls are big and tough enough.
Let’s say I grant you that Iraq was driven by a desire to use American power to make the world a better place, given globalization and complex interdependence. And I will grant that we can’t just isolate ourselves.

I submit to you that Iraq proves we are not powerful enough to make the world a better place, and the effort to do so in just Iraq and Afghanistan has proven the point. We’ve divided the country, spent massive amounts of money, unleashed sectarian violence, well, I listed the problems a couple posts above. Things are getting worse, rather than better.

I further submit that there is only one way to do the task of hard work to improve the world in an era of globalization: intense multilateralism, building cooperative institutions, and recognizinig that while the US may have to compromise to gain the level of cooperation necessary, "do it our way or we’ll do it alone" doesn’t work. We need a fundamental shift in thinking not just about our national interest, but about our power — we need to recognize its limits, and recognize that it is in our interest to find ways to be a good partner rather than demanding we be the leader.

We were the ’leader of the West.’ Those days are over. We need to adapt. Then, perhaps, there can be a global effort to do what you believe needs to be done. That’s the only way we’ll have the capacity to improve things; otherwise, to end with a cliche, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I submit to you that Iraq proves we are not powerful enough to make the world a better place,
No, Scott.
All it proves is when given the chance to do so, the Democrats will always back down. This incident, after all, is merely one in a long line of such indicators.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
intense multilateralism, building cooperative institutions, and recognizinig that while the US may have to compromise to gain the level of cooperation necessary, "do it our way or we’ll do it alone" doesn’t work. We need a fundamental shift in thinking not just about our national interest, but about our power — we need to recognize its limits, and recognize that it is in our interest to find ways to be a good partner rather than demanding we be the leader.
I don’t disagree with any of that. In fact, the strategic thinker whose views I most closely associate with is a big advocate of just that. Look up his name on this website and you’ll see what I’ve continually tried to put forth.

However, we are engaged in Iraq, and sometimes we need to take the lead if we think going in a certain direction is the right thing to do.

Disengaging, to me, is not an option. The risks of leaving are greater then the risks of staying. Certainly, we don’t want to be in the middle of a civil war, but I think our presence can help prevent one. There will still be sectarian violence, much as there was racial violence in our country, long after our civil war ended. The goal is to make it the exception and not the norm.

We certainly have needed to do more to bring others to the table. Something the administration has done badly with. Although, our partners in this could have been doing more on this front to help out.

Or maybe there is hope after all, with this latest news...
The Bush administration has agreed to sit around a negotiating table with official representatives of Iran and Syria next month — as part of a planned regional conference in Baghdad to discuss ways to stabilize Iraq.
(H/T Barnett)

So, maybe the President really did take what the ISG had to say seriously. I haven’t directly read the report, so I can’t speak to whether the ISG report made mention of what sort of timetable and sequencing went along with its recommendations.

Now, while I’m in favor of seeking greater multilateralism, I’m also in favor of the US taking the lead when it’s the right and moral thing to do. We ought to be doing more in the Sudan. What that more is, can be debated, but leaving the situation to fester is not a solution to anyones problems.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://inactivist.org/blog/keith_indy
Scott - here’s an example of my line of thinking with regards to the Sudan...

And a golden oldie I found while searching this site...

http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/archives2/003813.html
The new counter-insurgency doctrine is rolling out, catching more and more attention from the press.

I was privileged to have the manual briefed to me by Petraeus’ people at Leavenworth when I was there lecturing the student body and doing interviews for the "Monks of War" piece last December. I liked what I saw then and I still like what I see now.

This is the Army and Marines really beginning to learn from Afghanistan and Iraq in a doctrinal sense. The more that operational experience piles up, the harder it will be to say no to them in budget battles.

The paradoxes of counterinsurgency listed in the NYT piece sounds like a Nine Commandments for the SysAdmin force:

1) The more you protect your force, the less secure you are (If military forces stay locked up in compounds, they lose touch with the people, appear to be running scared and cede the initiative to insurgents.)

2) The more force used, the less effective it is (Using substantial force increases the risk of collateral damage and mistakes, and increases the opportunity for insurgent propaganda.)

3) The more successful counterinsurgency is, the less force that can be used and the more risk that must be accepted (As the level of insurgent violence drops, the military must be used less, with stricter rules of engagement, and the police force used more.)

4) Sometimes doing nothing is the best reaction (Often an insurgent carries out a terrorist act or guerrilla raid with the primary purpose of causing a reaction that can then be exploited.)

5) The best weapons for counterinsurgency do not shoot (Often dollars and ballots have more impact than bombs and bullets.)

6) The host nation’s doing something tolerably is better than our doing it well (Long-term success requires the establishment of viable indigenous leaders and institutions that can carry on without significant American support.)

7) If a tactic works this week, it might not work next week; if it works in this province, it might not work in the next (Insurgents quickly adapt to successful counterinsurgency practices. The more effective a tactic is, the faster it becomes out of date.)

8) Tactical success guarantees nothing (Military actions by themselves cannot achieve success.)

9) Most of the important decisions are not made by generals (Successful counterinsurgency relies on the competence and judgment of soldiers and marines on all levels.)
So, I would add, the military is certainly learning this, and the rest of the government needs to follow in their transformational footsteps.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://inactivist.org/blog/keith_indy
I think the bit you posted about counter-insurgency was good. Unfortunately I don’t think the insurgency is the main problem in Iraq at this point.

You know, in general we’re not that far apart in wanting not to let atrocities "just happen," but we have a fundamental disagreement about how to calculate when intervention to "do good" is legit. It boils down to two of "Just War Theory’s" most controversial and debated points: 1) Success must be likely; and 2) the evil caused by fighting will not outweight the evil that would happen if you refused to fight.

I do not think that intervention by any one state will likely to be successful. The reason is that as good as the intentions in Sudan (or earlier Somalia) might be, in most cases people will not tolerate having to have their children and friends go die for a conflict that is far away and unrelated to their daily lives. Thus the stomach of any country for the costs of such an intervention will be low, and ultimately a state will not be able to do what is necessary to fix the situation.

The only way I think this can be overcome is through a strong multilateral effort (via the UN — preferrably a reformed UN), with REAL burden sharing. If Americans see the US as paying the whole cost, then approval will plummet (or you’ll have to do like Clinton did in Kosovo — do so much to avoid casualties that you become unable to really help people on the ground, and bombing becomes more likely to kill civilians).

I believe there is a huge risk that intervention will do more harm than good (arguably it’s gotten to that point in Iraq — over 100 Iraqis killed daily). Part of it is the same as above — if the task gets too difficult, a state’s public will turn againt the intervention. But also war is a very violent, destructive choice — as they say, all you can plan is the first bullet. You don’t know what might be unleashed when that gets brought to a political culture. Thus I’d reserve intervention for only the worst kinds of atrocities (Rwanda, Sudan would qualify, I think), and again it would have to have true international legitimacy and burden sharing.

But look at Rwanda. When Lt. Gen. Dallaire asked to do just small things that could have avoided a bloodbath — and then later a force that could have ended the atrocities — the world ran away as fast as possible. I think the US can be a force for building a consensus for successful multi-lateral efforts if we embrace rather than deride the UN, and work closely with others. (I do think Bush did the right thing but insisting on multilateral talks with North Korea, and it seems to be working).
However, we are engaged in Iraq, and sometimes we need to take the lead if we think going in a certain direction is the right thing to do.

Disengaging, to me, is not an option. The risks of leaving are greater then the risks of staying. Certainly, we don’t want to be in the middle of a civil war, but I think our presence can help prevent one. There will still be sectarian violence, much as there was racial violence in our country, long after our civil war ended. The goal is to make it the exception and not the norm.
Over 100 Iraqis are killed daily in what by any political science definition is already a civil war. I think the situation in Iraq has deteriorated to the point that, especially with the resources available (and problems growing in Afghanistan) that we can’t really fix the situation. If we can’t ’do good,’ then sometimes disengaging is necessary. But the question there is HOW do we disengage. Bringing in talks with Iran and Syria, trying to develop a regional stabilization plan with a gradual withdrawal...that might be the best path, if we can get other states on board.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I agree that we aren’t to far apart. I think we are using much the same calculus in making our judgments. We disagree on the weight of important ’facts’ leading us to our judgments.

I think it really boils down to whether one sees hope or not in our efforts. You do not. I do. And I don’t think I could convince you otherwise. We are entrenched in our positions.

So, what of the evil that was replaced in Iraq?

The evil that was Saddam’s own tyranny over his countries people. His stubborn refusal to submit for 12 years to those UN SC resolutions. Which refusal lead to the deaths of innocent children at a rate of 3000-5000 a month by some estimates.

And what of the evil that would take root if were to withdraw precipitously? How many would die per day or month then? Would the violence be at a simmer or a raging boil if we were to leave Iraq without a functioning government and security forces?

I’m not opposed to doing our best to truly share the burden of operations other then full-scale war. I’m also a big advocate of doing what we need to do to have the capabilities to intervene and rebuild efficiently and effectively. Pro-active intervention would be preferable to reactive intervention, and would likely be less military in nature. But we have to rebuild and refocus our governments foreign services in order to do this. As well, we need to build the alliances and institutions on an international scale that can deal with the full range of interventions. Whether it’s responding to a natural disaster, economic meltdown, or ethnic tensions boiling into violence.

I would really suggest you read Thomas Barnett’s two books if you haven’t already. He’s no Republican neo-con warmonger. In fact, he’s a self-described Democrat.
Over 100 Iraqis are killed daily in what by any political science definition is already a civil war. I think the situation in Iraq has deteriorated to the point that, especially with the resources available (and problems growing in Afghanistan) that we can’t really fix the situation. If we can’t ’do good,’ then sometimes disengaging is necessary. But the question there is HOW do we disengage. Bringing in talks with Iran and Syria, trying to develop a regional stabilization plan with a gradual withdrawal...that might be the best path, if we can get other states on board.
Except those 100 Iraqis per day are being killed in small portions of the overall country. And some of the large scale attacks are still being committed by foreign terrorists. Most of the violence is in Baghdad and the "Sunni triangle," which is the focus of the current operations. The rest of the country, where Iraqi units are primarily in the lead with regards to security, the situation is much different.

I whole-heartedly disagree that we are at the point were we can’t "do good."

I do see good things, along with the bad, happening in Iraq. I see that our soldiers are a positive example for the Iraqi military, but they can only do that when they are operating side-by-side with them. We are a vital part of the security puzzle in Iraq, despite our presence also being a reason for some of the violence.

Our reconstruction efforts are successful in many places, and while not perfect, and fraught with waste and fraud (as any government project is,) the efforts are probably more equitably distributed among the populations then if the current Iraqi government were solely in charge. I believe that if we weren’t in some control of the reconstruction, the "spoils" would be going to the Shiites primarily.

Likewise I think our military presence is keeping the sectarian violence to a simmer and preventing the sort of full scale slaughter we saw in Rwanda. The militias are a big part of the problem, and the Iraqi government is finally getting the backbone to do something about it, or at least stand aside while we do something about it.

We disengage by making sure the Iraqis can handle security themselves, that the government represents the interests of the people, and the rights of all Iraqis are protected equally. I’m not looking for a perfect world, or Iraq, only a better one.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com/
BTW your courses sound interesting, might have taken some of them when I was in college. Just starting to go through your course notes and online diary.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com/
"So, I would add, the military is certainly learning this,"

RElearning is more like it. All those lessons have been learned and relearned since at least the 1950s. I sometimes wonder why we spend millions of dollars every year supposedly teaching these things to military officers.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I agree that we aren’t to far apart. I think we are using much the same calculus in making our judgments. We disagree on the weight of important ’facts’ leading us to our judgments.

I think it really boils down to whether one sees hope or not in our efforts. You do not. I do. And I don’t think I could convince you otherwise. We are entrenched in our positions.
Probably true. At base you are more idealist and I am more realist (that doesn’t mean I’m claiming to be more realistic, those are just the labels that are used). My Master’s thesis was a harsh critique of the Kennedy Administration’s idealistic foreign policy aims, and I see the neo-conservatives as reflecting views very much like JFK. I just want to be sure we don’t abstract the issue — treat the people involved, be they innocent Iraqis, American soldiers, or children caught in the violence as objects rather than true subjects whose suffering is like our own or our children’s. Perhaps I’m too sentimental in that regard, but I think a flaw of our culture and of political science in fact is our tendancy to abstract the human side of the equation into ’larger’ goals that rationalize actions that due harm to innocents (including support of tyrants).

As to the evil overthrown in Iraq. Can you agree with me on this: back in the 1980s, when Saddam was truly dangerous, we should have been working against him rather than supporting him? I know we were afraid of Iranian power, but he was using chemical weapons and engaging in mass atrocities! I believe that a lot of the problems we face wouldn’t come about if we made these moral concerns primary before a crisis arises, even when it seems in our interests to support tyranny. Anyway, I hope you are right that ultimately the problems caused by the choice of war will be less than what would have happened otherwise. But it seems to me that Iraq in 2003, while repressive, wasn’t this bad.

I agree that in individual acts we do a lot of good — I’ve talked to military people involved in things like opening schools and trying to help individual Iraqis. They are sincere in their efforts and have helped many people. Yet I’m hearing more and more that things are getting worse rather than better, and that many of the benefits achieved in 2004 and into 2005 have been lost in the past year or so. That’s a bad sign.

I do not think we are limiting the sectarian violence much, since we are not doing much to actively try to control it — we don’t have the force necessary. We are still focused primarily on counter-insurgency, and perhaps some raids against militias. And it could be that our presence makes it easier for the sides not to compromise — especially the Shi’ites, as we support a Shi’ite government.

When I’ve looked at failed democracies or failed states, one thing stands out: corruption. Corruption kills efforts at democracy, and almost always leads either to authoritarian thugish regimes or chaos. Iraq is riddled with corruption. That, plus the level of violence and the ability of outsiders like Iran to meddle pretty much at will causes me not to see any real short term solution coming from military involvement.

So what now? I really think neither Iran nor Syria want long term instability in Iraq; clearly Jordan doesn’t. While we’re there they benefit from keeping us tied down, but if we were leaving they’d risk regional war that I don’t think either country wants — already Iran’s elites are getting upset by Ahmadinejad’s wild rhetoric. We need to bring them into the picture, and find a way to develop a plan with international legitimacy (i.e., through the UN) to shift the burden. The only way other states will get on board is if we show a true willingness to move away from what is perceived as a very arrogant foreign policy. I still remember Bush’s statement in a debate with Gore about being humble in foreign policy, and how that will cause others to respect our good intentions. I want President Bush to start channeling candidate Bush!
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I agree that supporting Saddam, in and of itself was a bad thing. Of course, we wouldn’t have had to do that, if Carter hadn’t of enticed the Soviets into Afghanistan, or not responded effectively to the Shah’s overthrow.

History is full of woulda, shoulda, coulda’s, which might have led to a more peaceful and prosperous now. But, that’s not where we are today.

There’s a lot of left-over history in the world, and we, and our children, and their children are going to be cleaning up. We either deal with this now, trying to minimize the long-term risks, at the expense of taking on short-term risks, or we leave it to the future to change things for the better.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://inactivist.org/blog/keith_indy
Of course, we wouldn’t have had to do that, if Carter hadn’t of enticed the Soviets into Afghanistan, or not responded effectively to the Shah’s overthrow.
I think the Soviets went into Afghanistan because of Amin’s rule was a disaster and they thought they could stabilize the situation. Sometimes I think we over-emphasize our role in causing something when local factors are more important. I don’t think the Soviets were enticed into Afghanistan by Carter. They were reluctant to invade, after all. As for Iran, one can also question our installation of the Shah and support of him, given his repressive rule. I’m not sure how Carter could have better responded to his overthrow.
There’s a lot of left-over history in the world, and we, and our children, and their children are going to be cleaning up. We either deal with this now, trying to minimize the long-term risks, at the expense of taking on short-term risks, or we leave it to the future to change things for the better.
I think history evolves in ways that can’t be simply dealt with. It seems seductive to think that military power can reshape a political system and "fix" a dangerous situation, but the lesson I learn from history is that it usually doesn’t work, and often makes things worse. We Americans are pragmatic, we like to think that every problem has a solution. But some problems don’t have any quick fix, we have to let things work themselves out.

I’ll try to take a look at works from the author you suggest.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I think I’ve stated that I don’t think there are any simple or quick solutions, and that we must find comprehensive ways for "fixing" things.

The most pragmatic solution to war and violence is to avoid it. That’s not to say we should always avoid it, but that we should do what we can well before it reaches that point. Within reason of course. There’s a moral balance between appeasement and constructive engagement.

If you’re just delaying an inevitable confrontation, is it moral to give ground, just to let someone else deal with the confrontation.

I think of what we are doing now, as plugging up the holes in the dike, as fast as we can, while we plan the way we ought to be dealing with them. Because waiting to deal with some of the threats was seen as a greater risk then dealing with them, however imperfectly we have dealt with them. I.e., sometimes it’s better to do something badly, then nothing at all.

The government (mostly the military) has been under transformation since 9/11, to deal with the threats we are dealing with now, so that in the future we will be able to deal with them more effectively.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://inactivist.org/blog/keith_indy

I think of what we are doing now, as plugging up the holes in the dike, as fast as we can, while we plan the way we ought to be dealing with them. Because waiting to deal with some of the threats was seen as a greater risk then dealing with them, however imperfectly we have dealt with them. I.e., sometimes it’s better to do something badly, then nothing at all.
Well, the last sentence can also be reversed — sometimes it’s better to do nothing than to do something badly.

I think we make three fundamental errors in our foreign policy:
1) We don’t understand the cultural reality of other countries and regions, and tend to assume that they think quite a bit like we do, and if only the bad guys were removed they’d want a western style democracy; we need to do more to understand the culture — our decision makers tend not to know much about the regions we get involved in;
2) We need to think about what the real usefulness of military power is; it can win wars and defend from enemies, but it is of limited value in shaping political and cultural outcomes — in fact, in such efforts it may do more harm than good; and
3) We have to come to grips with the fact that spending half the worlds’ military budget and trying to shape outcomes around the world will cause a reaction against us. Realists have long argued that "unipolar power" would be unstable because other countries would naturally ally against such a power, and that power would be likely to squander its position through aggressive policies.

You are right that the world is in transition and we’re trying to figure out how to deal with it. I suspect this era will be studied by future historians, it’s a very important transitionary period. We live in interesting times!
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

 
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