What next

by Ted on August 18, 2005

Orin Kerr recently proposed a useful simplified framework of possible outcomes in Iraq:

1) The U.S. beats back the insurgency and democracy flowers in Iraq (call this the “optimistic stay” scenario),
2) The U.S. digs in its heels, spends years fighting the insurgency, loses lots of troops, and years later withdraws, leading to a bloody and disastrous civil war (the “pessimistic stay” scenario);
3) The U.S. decides that it’s no longer worth it to stay in Iraq, pulls out relatively soon, and things in Iraq are about as best as you could hope for, perhaps leading to a decent amount of democracy (optimistic leave), and
4) The U.S. decides that it’s no longer worth it to stay in Iraq, pulls out soon, and plunges Iraq into a bloody and disastrous civil war with the bad guys assuming control eventually (pessimistic leave).

Speaking only for myself, I’m entirely confident that we could achieve outcome 4, believe that staying the course will continue to lead to outcome 2, and can scarcely imagine outcome 3. What about outcome 1? Is it achievable?

There’s been some good discussion among some war supporters who believe that the situation in Iraq is dire, but salvageable. They aren’t spending a lot of time flailing against a stab in the back from the press or from tricksy liberals. They’re disturbed by the dialing down of expectations, and by official talk of troop withdrawls. See Charles and von at Obsidian Wings, Bill Kristol at the Weekly Standard, Greg Djerejian at Belgravia Dispatch (also here).

Here’s Greg, speaking as well as anyone:

Bottom line people. For the forseeable future Iraqi forces can only supplement U.S. forces, not replace them. Or we risk losing this war (Yes, rampant sectarian violence is a ‘loss’). If we really are lucky enough to turn some corner, and it really looks like we can pull 30,000 guys out in late ‘06, well God Bless. But cheap talk that sounds suspiciously like a timetable for pulling out men without regard to conditions on the ground provides, to use a Rumsfeld phrase, a ‘lifeline’ to terrorists and insurgents. So whoever is emitting such signals out of DoD needs to shut up. Now. If they can’t, the President must exert leadership and force them to. His recent comments about staying the course in Crawford are to be welcomed. We’ll see if they did the trick. If not, and such noises keep seeping out of DoD—again, he will need to exert leadership. And if it is Rumsfeld, in the main, making such noises (as I strongly suspect and as is much of the Washington scuttlebutt)—it is yet another reason he should be fired….

How can we be talking about troop pull-outs when, in the capital city itself, the mayor is sacked in some putsch, one cannot drive safely from the airport to downtown, and dozens of Shi’a police recruits are massacred by Sunni insurgents? Again, this is in the capital itself. Not to mention there is a roiling insurgency throughout the strategically critical Sunni heartland (as well as recent, and very alarming, moves towards Shi’a autonomy in the south of which more later)? Was this pull-out talk perhaps meant as some tactical signal to the Sunnis that they need to start playing ball or we will leave them to the bloodthirsty revenge-minded Shi’a? Absurd. Again, an Iraq characterized by large scale sectarian killings will be a strategic defeat for America, as well as a massive moral failure.

There’s a well-known prayer that asks for the courage to change the things that can be changed, the serenity to accept the things that cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference. I find myself short on all three.

I believe that Greg is right about the consequences of letting Iraq collapse into civil war. It’s terrible to contemplate. A civil war or a failed state could lead to tens of thousands of deaths, maybe more. It would be a moral travesty and a terrorist breeding ground. It would make a mockery of the goal, however idealistic, of transforming a bloody dictatorship into a stable, democratic, normal country. “Serenity” hardly seems like the appropriate response. When I look at the situation through the eyes of an idealistic war supporter, some of the vitriol is easier to understand; they’re appalled at war opponents who would abandon the people of Iraq to this fate.

So it seems unthinkable to declare victory and come home. Having said that, “what we must do” has to be constrained by “what we can do.” Imagine a village living in the shadow of a live volcano. Serenity is not an appropriate response to the threat of an eruption, but neither is a program of virgin sacrifice. Neither steely-eyed resolve nor spine-stiffening prose poems about the nobility and admirable selflesness of the virgins will do much good.

(This metaphor breaks down quickly, of course. No amount of virgin sacrifice could possibly stop a volcano, whereas there’s still hope that we might be able to prevent catastrophe in Iraq. And I hope that I am not misinterpreted- I mean no criticism of the members of our military, who really do exhibit nobility and selflessness. My brother is a Captain in the Army, and I’m immensely proud of him. However, I’d guess that the themes of pro-sacrifice pundits would sound awfully familiar. “Would you tell the mother of one of our brave virgins that her child died in vain?” “If these anti-sacrifice elites have a plan, let’s hear it.” “This talk of pulling out does nothing but anger the volcano god.” “Anti-sacrifice activists, it saddens me to say, are objectively pro-eruption.”)

What steps could be taken to save Iraq from catastrophe?

If the argument starts, “If we had a draft”, there is no argument. It’s like saying, “If everyone biked to work”. Under no circumstances will Congress authorize a draft to provide soldiers for a two-year-old, unpopular war. For similar but much more intense reasons, we’re not going to get an influx of troops by coming to NATO or the UN on our knees. It just isn’t going to happen. Under no forseeable circumstances will the lame-duck Administration push for a draft, after two years of angrily insisting that we have all the troops we need. The folks I’m quoting above are very critical at Donald Rumsfeld, who has amply earned it. Rumsfeld should have lost his job much earlier for his role in prisoner abuse scandals, for his lack of planning, and for his unsuitable arrogance:

Rumsfeld’s personal contempt for many of the senior generals and admirals who were promoted to top jobs during the Clinton Administration is widely known. He was especially critical of the Army, with its insistence on maintaining costly mechanized divisions… One witness to a meeting recalled Rumsfeld confronting General Eric Shinseki, the Army Chief of Staff, in front of many junior officers. “He was looking at the Chief and waving his hand,” the witness said, “saying, ‘Are you getting this yet? Are you getting this yet?’ ”

Unfortunately, President Bush has not shown the any sign of displeasure with Rumsfeld’s performance. I’d be perfectly happy if Rumsfeld was kicked out and made the scapegoat that allowed the Administration to admit error. I’ll believe it when I see it.

I can see the moral appeal of steadfastness in Iraq. Having said that, we are losing at current troop levels, and I don’t see that changing. The mayor of Baghdad was deposed by an armed Shiite militia, and we just shrugged. Death squads roam the streets, torturing and killing civillians. The unemployent rate is somewhere around 30-50%. Official Iraqi police are accused of ethnic cleansing, while many of our best efforts turn to disappointment:

For much of last year, the soldiers of the First Cavalry Division oversaw a project to restore the river-front park on the east bank of the Tigris River. Under American eyes, the Iraqis planted sod, installed a sprinkler system and put up swing sets for the Iraqi children. It cost $1.5 million. The Tigris River Park was part of a vision of the unit’s commander, Maj. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, to win the war by putting Iraqis to work.

General Chiarelli left Iraq this year, and the American unit that took over had other priorities. The sod is mostly dead now, and the sidewalks are covered in broken glass. The sprinkler heads have been stolen. The northern half of the park is sealed off by barbed wire and blast walls; Iraqis are told stay back, lest they be shot by American snipers on the roof of a nearby hotel.

Even if it is a good idea, I’m not sure whether it’s possible to maintain our troop levels without a draft. It was retired General Barry McCaffrey who said, “The Army’s wheels are going to come off in the next 24 months.” As of July (when plans were announced to reduce this number), 41% of the troops in Iraq were National Guardsmen, which ought to be cause for alarm. Recruitment is down, and I doubt that any realistic set of reecruitment incentives will lead to the military we’d need for an indefinite stay.

The best hope has to lie in an Iraqi force that can handle its own security. I can’t intelligently speak about how much progress we’re making on that front. There are nominally 171,000 Iraqi troops of one sort or another, who deserve all the support we can give them. However, a recent Pentagon report said that “only a ‘small number’ of units are capable of fighting the insurgency without American military support.” American military leaders have to hold back information from Iraqi troops during some joint operations out of fear of insurgent infiltrators. Here’s Frederick W. Kagan, AEI resident scholar:

The United States is engaged in creating a force of light infantry in Iraq that will ultimately number nearly 250,000 troops. This force will be well suited to conducting patrols in fixed locations, maintaining a presence in threatened areas, doing searches and sweeps, and performing high-end police functions. As more of these troops become available, we can expect improved intelligence and less friction between U.S. forces and local Iraqis. And although we can also be sure that these forces will be less effective than professional American soldiers and will suffer from conflicting tribal and sectarian loyalties and corruption, it will be generally true that the more such Iraqi troops there are on the streets the better.

But this light infantry force does not constitute an army. It will not be able, whatever its numbers, to conduct a counterinsurgency by itself for many years, and it will not be able to do so at all unless certain critical deficiencies are remedied. For example, it appears that efforts to establish Iraqi logistical elements are lagging badly behind the formation and training of light infantry units. Iraqis thus rely on coalition logistics when they must move from their home bases—or, more commonly, they simply do not move from those bases at all. Their transportation assets are minimal, and so they lack the ability to project their forces within Iraq. As a result, they would not be able to concentrate force rapidly in particularly violent areas or to destroy insurgent concentrations quickly. For as long as these conditions hold, the U.S. military will remain an essential part of the struggle against insurgency in Iraq.

It is also important to understand that the current Iraqi forces rely heavily on the availability of responsive U.S. airpower. They do not have their own organic fire support (artillery or aviation), and so must wait for the American soldiers embedded within their formations to call in coalition air support when they run into any sort of serious opposition. The combined operations of Iraqi formations with embedded U.S. trainers and coalition troops have been excellent preparation for the Iraqis and have gone a long way toward creating a meaningful indigenous light infantry force. But they are also conditioning the Iraqis to rely on a capability that only a significant U.S. presence can provide.

I’ve mulled this over, trying in vain to come up with an original angle, or at least a conclusion about the least worst option. I can’t do much better than to encourage you to read the links and discuss.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Crooked Timber » » Kinds of Quagmires II
08.19.05 at 9:01 am
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08.20.05 at 1:36 pm

{ 80 comments }

1

Uncle Kvetch 08.18.05 at 2:02 pm

Again, an Iraq characterized by large scale sectarian killings will be a strategic defeat for America, as well as a massive moral failure.

Why is this in the future tense?

So it seems unthinkable to declare victory and come home.

Don’t worry; it’ll be much more thinkable when it happens, sometime in the summer of 2006.

2

Hektor Bim 08.18.05 at 2:04 pm

One thing that seems to be missing from your formulation of the problem is that the insurgency cannot win. It has the support only of some 20% of the population in only a small part of the country, and has no significant outside patron willing to provide it heavy weaponry or shelter.

A descent into civil war is a real possibility, and may already be happening, but the best way to forestall that is to elect a new government and get it significant international recognition and support. It already has this with respect to Iran and Turkey, and that will be important.

So I think under some conditions, options 1 or 3 are possible. The problem, of course, is that the current leadership in the US is criminally negligent, so I think the chances of option 1 are quite low, mainly because the Bush administration has failed at every significant undertaking it has attempted over which it had control. The British administration merely wishes to leave Iraq and will do so, theocracy and death squads in Basra notwithstanding.

Option 3 is the most likely positive outcome for me, mostly because the Shiites and Kurds understand the stakes, as do the Iranians. This is the best chance Shiites have had in Iraq in something like a thousand years, and the best chance the Kurds have had since Salahuddin. Together they have the military power to crush the insurgents, and actually have been successful at doing so in most of the country. The Iranians also have a lot invested in the survival of a friendly neighboring country.

The question is whether this can be accomplished without rivers of blood, as opposed to the creeks we have now. I don’t know the answer to that question, but I think it will happen largely outside of the control of the American and British forces. We can aid the effort, but I think the US government is ultimately too incompetent to do so.

3

mpowell 08.18.05 at 2:16 pm

Uncle Kvetch,

This post addresses an important issue: the feasiblity of obtaining outcome 1 in Iraq. I can see you are eager to turn it into a criticism of the current state of Iraq (and implicitly this administration). This criticism is relevant to the issue at hand b/c the competence of this administration does affect our chances, but your tone of blame is only going to drag the discussion into the mud.

Can we have people weigh in on this question without throwing rhetorical bombs at the other side?

4

fifi 08.18.05 at 2:24 pm

If by civil war you mean a war between Shi’a and Sunni, it could engulf the whole of the middle east.

5

Ray 08.18.05 at 2:25 pm

“One thing that seems to be missing from your formulation of the problem is that the insurgency cannot win.”

What planet are you posting from? The insurgency is winning _right now_. They are not the ones with the recruitment problems, they are much more likely to be in Iraq in two years time than the US army is. They may not get the Iraq they want at the end of the day, but they’ll probably get much closer than the US will. Although I suppose by then the US may have redefined its goal to ‘get rid of Saddam and get out in one piece’, and so will be able to declare victory.

6

abb1 08.18.05 at 2:26 pm

the insurgency cannot win

What does it mean? Cannot win what? The single explicit goal of the insurgency stated by their leaders over and over again is to end foreign occupation.

Thus “the U.S. decides that it’s no longer worth it to stay in Iraq, pulls out relatively soon” = ‘insurgency wins’, correct?

7

mpowell 08.18.05 at 2:33 pm

I also disagree w/ the statement that the insurgency cannot win, but I also thinks its a silly way to look at the issue. There are different elements within the insurgency, each w/ different goals. There is little sense in which the insurgency as a whole can win, but there is a sense in which everyone can lose. And this latter possibility is very likely in the case of a US pull out.

‘no significant outside patron willing to provide it heavy weaponry or shelter’

I doubt this is really true.

8

Uncle Kvetch 08.18.05 at 2:36 pm

Uncle Kvetch, This post addresses an important issue: the feasiblity of obtaining outcome 1 in Iraq.

No, it really doesn’t. Ted lays out four scenarios for consideration, not one. It’s rather telling that you apparently read his post as asking the question “How can we achieve true victory in Iraq?,” when it clearly did not ask the question in those terms.

Also, mpowell, I can’t help asking: How is it that Hektor writes…

The problem, of course, is that the current leadership in the US is criminally negligent, so I think the chances of option 1 are quite low, mainly because the Bush administration has failed at every significant undertaking it has attempted over which it had control.

…and I’m the one getting scolded like an errant schoolboy for my “tone of blame”?

9

Hektor Bim 08.18.05 at 2:37 pm

Sorry, Ray, but you are in dreamland.

There are more sides than just the insurgency and the Americans. The Kurds have gotten most of what they want, and the rest is likely to fall into their hands. They’ve expanded their control over almost all of the Kurdish-populated areas, which are far larger than the areas they controlled while Saddam was in power. They already control Kirkuk militarily and politically, and probably demographically, and every day more expelled Kurds return and more Shiite Arabs go back to southern Iraq. The Kurds even have a decent shot of taking over half of Mosul, which they never expected to. They won’t get independence, but they will probably get everything else, inclduing a share of Kirkuk’s oil revenues. They are doing quite well, and their counterinsurgency operations are generally successful. The economy in Northern Iraq is booming, and money is pouring in. They also have by far the most powerful military force in Iraq, the peshmerga.

The Shiite Arabs have consolidated their control over nine of the 18 provinces, and continue to deBaathize the government and army. They control the government and its revenues, and probably will get to keep much of the southern oil revenues. They have religious freedom, and are going to make a lot of money out of the opening up of Najaf and Karbala to international pilgrims. They will eventually rule Iraq.

The insurgency can kill people and create instability, but almost all of that is in central and near Northern Iraq, where they can shelter among large numbers of Sunni Arabs. So, yes, they can kill Americans and blow up Shiite civilians and ambush policemen and army recruits, but they can’t take over. There is no part of Iraq that has an insurgent “government” or “schools” – compare to Sri Lanka or Nepal.

The insurgency can’t win unless a foreign power invades and specifically supports them. That might happen, but it is far more likely that Iran will rescue the Shiites if things get nasty. So, yes, the insurgents cannot win.

Beating the US army doesn’t mean you control Iraq. Just because we pull out doesn’t mean the return of the Baath or the Talibanization of Iraq.

10

Hektor Bim 08.18.05 at 2:49 pm

Abb1,

There have been many statements by members of the insurgency of their goals. One of them is ending the occupation, but a lot of Shiites share this goal, and they are willing to do it through a political process – see Moktada al Sadr.

Zarqawi wants a jihadist state in Iraq and the subjugation of the Shiites. Those that follow him tend to specialize in suicide bombings of Shiite mosques and gatherings (like bus depots).

Others want a return of the Baath, which functionally means Sunni dominance, oppression of Shiites, and death for the Kurds.

They all have contempt for the democratic process and the elections, and the internationally recognized government of Iraq. They seem to be against this largely because it puts Shiites in charge and gave the Kurds some measure of power.

At this point, the insurgents only seem to agree on the need for Sunni Arab political control, and the willingness to kill as many random people as possible to get it. The insurgency is the Sunni Arab militia – that’s it. It’s not some broad-based national movement of liberation – it’s an ethnically-based resistance movement, dependent on foreign jihadis as suicide-bomber cannon fodder.

11

mpowell 08.18.05 at 2:50 pm

Uncle Kvetch,

First, I wrote my post after yours but before Hektor’s was visible. Secondly, I perceived your post as making a flip comment while Hektor appears to be examining the issue. Third, I didn’t say the question is how we can achieve victory in Iraq but what is its likelihood if we try. I think this is the relevant question b/c most observers will agree that 3 is highly unlikely so we are left w/ leaving Iraq and going w/ 4 or staying in Iraq and trying to achieve option 1. So I’m asking, given the cost of staying in Iraq and given the likelihood of success, is it worth staying?

Isn’t this the issue?

12

abb1 08.18.05 at 2:50 pm

beating the US army doesn’t mean you control Iraq

Beating the US army (and those who they consider collaborators) is what the insurgency is all about.

What you’re talking about is power-sharing struggle between different segments of the population that has nothing whatsoever to do with the insurgency.

13

Ted 08.18.05 at 2:55 pm

given the cost of staying in Iraq and given the likelihood of success, is it worth staying?

Isn’t this the issue?

For what it’s worth, I think that this is the issue.

14

mpowell 08.18.05 at 2:57 pm

Hektor,

I will agree that the insurgency will not win a real victory on their actual terms for the reasons that you describe. But if the Shiites and the Kurds eventually divvy up Iraq (in the wake of a US withdrawal), won’t there be a bloody civil war in the meanwhile? And what about the possibility of Turkey getting involved? Part of the problem w/ creating a Kurdish state is that Turkey is presumed to be adamantly opposed to it. (at least so far as I understand)

15

abb1 08.18.05 at 2:58 pm

they are willing to do it through a political process – see Moktada al Sadr

I don’t think you’re quite correct here. This is today – Iraqi Cleric Al-Sadr Says Occupation Is `Problem:

Since the August uprising, al-Sadr has pursued political gains. The National Independent Cadres and Elite party, linked to the cleric, won three seats in the country’s Jan. 31 election. Al- Sadr himself didn’t run for office, and told the BBC he will refuse any political role “while the occupation is present.” He also doesn’t rule out a return to violence, according to the transcript.

“Resistance is legitimate at all levels,” al-Sadr said. “Be it religious, intellectual — and so on. The first person who would acknowledge this is the so-called American President Bush who said, `If my country is occupied, I will fight’.”

16

Hektor Bim 08.18.05 at 2:59 pm

abb1,

What does blowing up Shiite mosques have to do with beating the US army? What does assassination of the Algerian ambassador have to do with beating the US army? Is every Iraqi who voted in the election a collaborator? Is every Shiite and Kurd a collaborator?

The only way to understand the actions of the insurgency is as an attempt to reassert Sunni Arab political dominance over the 80-85% of Iraqis who aren’t Sunni Arabs.

Plenty of Shiites want the Americans out, including al Sistani. They don’t blow up Sunni Arab mosques.

17

Hektor Bim 08.18.05 at 3:03 pm

abb1,

The insurgency is about asserting Sunni Arab dominance over everyone else in Iraq. That is the only way to understand their indiscriminate killing of civilians. I’ve lost count of how many Shiite mosques they’ve blown up, how many Shiite funerals they’ve destroyed.

The Sunni Arab insurgency acts like they consider every Shiite and Kurd a collaborator, and any Sunni who voted or interacts at all with the government in Iraq. The only thing I can call that is an ethnically-based militia that wants power for itself.

Plenty of Shiites want the Americans out, including al Sistani. But they don’t blow up Sunni mosques to get it. It’s the Sunnis who are trying to force an ethnic and sectarian civil war.

18

Hektor Bim 08.18.05 at 3:07 pm

Yes,

al Sadr reserves the right to resistance, but note he isn’t doing it right now. That’s because he knows he can get political control by other means. If the Shiite government tunrs out differently than he suspects, he might turn to violence.

It’s all a struggle for political control. The Sunni Arabs kill because they believe they have no other options, and they know they only way they can control the country again is through the blood of the Shiites and Kurds.

The real goal of the insurgency is political control of Iraq for Sunni Arabs. And in this, they will not succeed.

19

Uncle Kvetch 08.18.05 at 3:11 pm

Uncle Kvetch, First, I wrote my post after yours but before Hektor’s was visible.

Fine.

Secondly, I perceived your post as making a flip comment while Hektor appears to be examining the issue.

My comment may have been flippant in tone–I’ll own that. But it was not just a random piece of snark (and I think calling it a “rhetorical bomb” was just plain silly). I was simply pointing out that I am driven to distraction by the surreal tone of this debate; specifically, by verbal handwringing along the lines of “But we can’t just leave and let Iraq slide into chaos!” when it is amply clear that Iraq is already in chaos.

Third, I didn’t say the question is how we can achieve victory in Iraq but what is its likelihood if we try.

And this just amplifies my point: what constitutes “trying” in your view, and how does it differ from what “we” have been doing in Iraq since 2003? If you wish to argue that we haven’t really “tried” to defeat the insurgency yet, please tell us what you would do differently. If, on the other hand, your argument is simply to “stay the course,” please tell us how you think the US military strategy thus far has been successful.

Finally, if a substantive debate on the merits is what you really want, why was your first contribution to this thread a meta-jab at someone else over their “tone,” as opposed to, say, some actual substance?

20

Steve LaBonne 08.18.05 at 3:14 pm

I think it’s between 2 and 4, depending on how long we decide to keep getting our troops killed for the mere sake of delaying the inevitable. But the civil war, while certainly bloody and disastrous, will lead not to “the bad guys taking over” but to a reasonably stable condominium between Kurds (who will ultimately be smart enough not to provoke their neighbors by demanding de jure independence) and the Shiite Arabs, and hard luck on the Sunni Arabs- that last part being ugly and deplorable, but probably inevitable.

An outcome worth the expenditure of blood and treasure it took to get there? Surely not, to put it mildly. But a long-term strategic disaster for the US? Not so much that it can possibly justify keeping troops there any longer in the forlorn hope of somehow lucking into a better outcome. My policy conclusion? Phased withdrawal starting ASAP. Which is what I would like the Democratic members of congress to have the guts to call for, loudly and every day. It will lose no voter other than the Limbaugh-lobotomized who would never vote Democratic under any circumstances. And they also need to keep repeating in every available public forum those quotes Uncle Kvetch posted, from Republicans who were doing anything but “supporting the war” in Bosnia. The Republicans only get away with the “on the other side” hypocritical lies because the opposition and the press don’t call them on it. The opposition needs to start doing so, and so loudly that even our useless press can’t ignore them.

21

abb1 08.18.05 at 3:22 pm

Hektor, I disagree. First of all I don’t remember too many mosques bombed, especially during the last few months. When they are bombed, why would you call it ‘insurgency’? It’s something else, it’s sectarian fighting. I don’t remember too many random attacks either; there are what? 60? attacks there every day and a vast majority of them target US troops or Iraqi (‘colloborators’) troops or police. That’s a picture of classic resistance, I think bombed mosques is a red herring.

Also, I think one of the big problems there is that whoever is elected or gains power under the occupation is tainted, most of the guys who sit in that government now have no future. Unless they re-create a Saddam-like system, of course, with the Mukhabarat or these new ‘Scorpions’, the whole nine yards. But at the moment it doesn’t look like they can do it.

22

Ray 08.18.05 at 3:25 pm

Hektor, the insurgency has two main goals
Drive the US out (get the troops out and get any US-friendly government out), and
Increase the power of the Sunni minority.

They are well on the way to achieving goal 1. In goal 2, they may be successful, in that any future govt may have to buy them off. (They may also be completely unsuccessful, and they’re not going to be as powerful as they were 5 years ago.)

The US’s goal was to set up a democratic government friendly to the US and Israel, that would welcome US bases and would keep the oil flowing, that would be a model state for the ME, and would advance women’s rights. What it looks like getting is Iran II, or possibly an extremely bloody civil war.

Of the two, the insurgency will probably be closer to ‘victory’. On the classic measure, that the victor is the one who holds the field of battle at the end of the day, they’ll almost certainly be the victors (compared to the US at least).

23

Glenn Bridgman 08.18.05 at 3:27 pm

Hektor, this is true, but this isn’t a zero sum game. Just because the Sunni insurgency can’t win doesn’t mean the U.S. can’t lose. The Sunni’s have no reason to buy in to the political process. Even if the U.S. does succeed in establishing a modicum of stability, how long do you think it will be before the Shiite leadership asks for help from Iran in combatting the Sunni terrorists? This is the crux of the issue in Iraq, and until it is resolved there will be no lasting peace.

24

Steve LaBonne 08.18.05 at 3:29 pm

Iran already looks like the big winner strategically. I think that aspect of the situation is beyond our power to change.

25

Uncle Kvetch 08.18.05 at 3:34 pm

My policy conclusion? Phased withdrawal starting ASAP. Which is what I would like the Democratic members of congress to have the guts to call for, loudly and every day.

Steve, I imagine you’ll find this as encouraging as I did. The first cracks are finally appearing in the “stay the course” facade thrown up by Sens. Biden, Clinton, Kerry et al.

26

soubzriquet 08.18.05 at 3:34 pm

uncle kvetch: wrt #8 posting. There is presupposition in the four options as given though. I agree there is a rhetorical quagmire to avoid here. However, as time has passed I’ve increasingly had difficulty believing that outcome 1 was an honest goal (at least as stated…). It is less disturbing to believe ulterior motives (perhaps unco-ordinated) than deep seated incompetence.

Outcome 4 seems increasingly likely, and 3 is hard to assess without knowing what `no longer worth it’ means to the people who can make the decision. I suppose the same can be said of 2, in that case (If heels are dug in, then the question becomes “What are we staying for?”).

Of course goals are subject to reality checks too, and perhaps a kinder take is that there was incredible naiveity at work. If one thing seems certain, it is that rightly or wrongly if option 4 comes to be, a lot of people both home and abroad will hold the US, and particularly the Bush administration as culpable. This might lend credence to outcome 2, come to think of it.

27

Hektor Bim 08.18.05 at 3:38 pm

Ray,

The main goal of the insurgency is 2. They need 1 to get 2, but they won’t get 2. And to increase the power of the Sunni Arab minority, they have to decrease the power of the Shiites and Kurds. That’s not going to happen. They won’t be successful with 2, and they won’t hold power. Therefore, they won’t “win”.

Glenn,

Absolutely, it isn’t a zero-sum game. The US has probably already at least partially lost, and may lose totally. But that doesn’t mean the insurgency will win. Iran has already had most of its goals accomplished. They got the US and Britain to destroy two of their hated neighbors: the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. So far, they have gone from success to success, and they will probably soon have nuclear bombs. For the Iranian government, it’s all good.

28

BigMacAttack 08.18.05 at 3:49 pm

Collaborators = little kids getting ice cream.

What will the insurgency be able to do, that it cannot do today, if the US leaves 25,000 – 75,000 troops in Iraq?

How long can the US leave 25,000 – 75,000 troops in Iraq?

I am really curious. Any answers?

29

Jon Gallagher 08.18.05 at 4:13 pm

What’s the possibility that the Civil War is already happening and we outside Iraq haven’t been told? Baghdad at its height had a population of 3.8M. This article says that over 1100 bodies were brought into the Baghdad morgue in July. 1100 murders a month. We call cities “Murder Capitals” when their homicide rate reached 400 per year!

We exert zero influence over the violence in that country, and, according a report to Juan Cole, we managed to put rural and tribal fanatics in charge instead of urbanized folks who had a stake in a civilized outcome. So we are very liekly training the troops that will formalize the civil war.

The fact that the Civil War is happening obviates Outcome 1. Staying guarantees Outcome 2. We can only hope and pray for Outcome 3 and not 4.

We lost our part of this war when we did not put enough boots on the ground to keep the civil war from happening. Now that it’s going full bore we are just another irritant. Maybe if we leave there will be some impetus for internal groups to band together to oust the outsiders. As long as we stay we will be targets and inciters of further violence.

I say this with the full knowledge that the results will be beyond catastrophic for the Mid East and the US. There is a solid chance that this will threaten Israel, and it’s guaranteed to increase Iran’s influence and power. Meanwhile we will probably be completely shut out of oil from Iraq, Iran and Venezuela (what, you don’t think Chavez will take the opportunity to pee on the government that tried to have him overthrown?). Our word will be valueless, and it will become an article of faith that you need to ramp up your nuclear weapons program in order to keep Uncle Sam at bay.

But I also see this being the outcome if we stay. At least if we pull out we won’t have to rebuild the Army and Marines as we did in the 70s. I hope.

30

mpowell 08.18.05 at 4:36 pm

Uncle Kvetch,

Okay, I’ll grant that your comment was what you claim. But I don’t think it helps to be distracted by the fact that there is a lot of killing going on in Iraq today. Perhaps my ‘meta-post’ was an over-reaction. But I am frustrated by this kind of response: well, what does it matter, there is already a lot of violence in Iraq, so we should just withdraw now.

What do we see in Iraq today? Thousands of Iraqi dead a year? Any guesses to what kind of casualties we could see in a long term civil war? The people advocating withdrawal seem to be downplaying this. What if Turkey or Iran decide to get involved? We’ve seen long term civil wars elsewhere. It can get a lot worse.

And who’s to say this couldn’t be eventually turned around if the US could ‘stay the course’ and create a legitimate Iraqi army and police force that could create the kind of security that 130,000 American soldiers just can’t provide for. Most of the reasonable voices who think we should stay aren’t claiming we can eliminate the violence before that point, so the fact that there is violence in Iraq at this point does not argue against the feasibility of this plan. What does argue against it is this administration’s incompetent handling of the war thus far and their inability to make much apparent progress on the Iraqi army development front. Don’t get distracted by the violence today- try and determine if this administration is actually making progress at developing indigenous forces- we have some numbers, but do they represent legitimate forces?

And remember the flipside- long term bloody civil war in Iraq (leading to potentially many more casualties than seen currently).

31

Shelby 08.18.05 at 4:44 pm

How many people here were critical of Bush in 2000 because he stated his opposition to nation-building? Was he right then? If not, why not? Or is nation-building something only Democrats know how to do (Japan, Germany post-WWII), or have times changed in ways that make it infeasible for any US administration to succeed at it?

32

jaded 08.18.05 at 4:48 pm

“Again, an Iraq characterized by large scale sectarian killings will be a strategic defeat for America, as well as a massive moral failure.”

This is in a country that was stable and contained, with a level of violence far lower than at present. The main reason the US has to stay the course is that it created this stupid and totally avoidable mess, it should damn well stay and clean it up. So they have to risk 2 but go for 1. They will spend years paying the price, but it is inevitable that the US will spend a decade or more paying a huge price for this galactic bungle. If they stay they at least get the chance to affect the outcome.

33

Steve LaBonne 08.18.05 at 4:51 pm

“And who’s to say this couldn’t be eventually turned around”…
Turn what around? There’s nothing to be turned around. Even during my initial willingness to support the war because (under the influence of lingering post-9/11 hysteria of which I am now ashamed) I bought the WMD lies, I never took seriously the idea that we could “build” any such pipedream as a unitary, democratic Iraq. I always assumed that some kind of de facto, if not de jure, partition would be the eventual outcome and that getting there wouldn’t be a pretty sight. I don’t know on what basis anyone could have claimed to expect any other kind of outcome, there not being, and never having been, any such nation as “Iraq” outside the fantasy world of the erstwhile colonial mapmakers.

34

mpowell 08.18.05 at 5:09 pm

Okay Steve, there’s no hope for a stable, remotely liberal state in Iraq. Fine, if this is your view then you reject possibilities 1 and 3 and obviously 4 is preferable to 2. But if you reject the possibility of a stable, liberal Iraq from the outset, then you’re not actually participating in a discussion, just reminding us that people with your view do exist- which is something b/c anyone who wants to stay in Iraq must remember that it may become politically impossible at some point.

But then your worldview must be awfully depressing, b/c their are billions of people w/ no hope of living in a liberal society.

35

soru 08.18.05 at 5:24 pm

If, on the other hand, your argument is simply to “stay the course,” please tell us how you think the US military strategy thus far has been successful.

This is the ‘are we there yet?’ argument.

In this case, ‘there’ is the point where the sunni nationalists switch sides, the ba’athists give up, and the jihadis make some kind of brave but doomed last stand.

For the first year of the occupation, roughly until Sistani’s march on Najaf, the US was clearly going in the wrong direction. They were using a roadmap marked ‘post-WWII japan’, but ignoring the abscence of such key landmarks as Hiroshima, Hirohito, and the hierarchical nature of Japanese society. Not surprisingly, they didn’t see the cliff marked ‘Fallujah’ on that map.

But since then, when, following Sistani’s directions, someone turned the car around, all the signs are that that destination is getting closer.

Look at the statistics from:
http://www.brookings.edu/fp/saban/iraq/index.pdf

You can’t put perfect trust in all the figures, but I would imagine US casualty levels, at least, would hard to fake.

The violence goes in spikes, but each successive spike, since the turnaround, is lower than the last.

(the exception is non-political violent crime, as indicated by the Fisk peice, which will almost certainly be as long-term and big a problem for Iraq as it has been for South Africa post-apartheid. Ending policing by repression has that efect).

Maybe something will change, maybe the wheels will come off, the driver change his mind again, or the goalposts shift. But I think people arguing that a drastic change of plan is what is needed now are mistaken – the real need is to explain the change of plan already made.

And if, when we get there, the driver says ‘hey, this trip has been fun, want to go further?’, you have my encouragement to beat him round the head repeatedly with a tire iron until he sees sense.

soru

36

jaded 08.18.05 at 5:47 pm

soru

“the exception is non-political violent crime, as indicated by the Fisk peice, which will almost certainly be as long-term and big a problem for Iraq as it has been for South Africa post-apartheid. Ending policing by repression has that efect.”

I’m no expert on South Africa, but I suspect the violence has more to do with a combination of a long history of suppressed township violence, lack of work, lack of opportunity, poverty, and anger at the causes of that poverty. The violence existed in the townships before apartheid ended.

Iraq came off a much higher base, but continued failure to restore (not deliver, restore) employment, services and any semblance of quality of life (access to water and electricity would be a good start) promotes resentment and violence. The lesson here is that the present conditions were created by the botched occupation, not by removal of suppression.

37

Uncle Kvetch 08.18.05 at 6:12 pm

But I don’t think it helps to be distracted by the fact that there is a lot of killing going on in Iraq today. […] Don’t get distracted by the violence today

Wow. And to think you accused me of being “flip.” All those dead Iraqis are just so many eggs whose tragic but unavoidable deaths are contributing to the delicious frittata of freedom. Astounding.

Sorry, mpowell, but I can’t help but get “distracted” by the bloodshed in Iraq, for the simple reason that my government bears a hell of a lot of the responsibility for it. The US is the occupying power in Iraq right now: it is responsible for maintaining security. It is failing in that role, abjectly.

[Obligatory disclaimer: no, this does not absolve the insurgents for their own actions with respect to the killing of innocent civilians. Let’s say I were the mayor of a large city and my response to police corruption was to cut the force by 90% overnight, with a vague plan to get a new and improved force on its feet in the next, oh, 3 to 5 years. A horrific crime wave results. Does responsibility for this outcome lie solely with the criminals? For that matter, would I be justified in telling the people of my city to “not get distracted” by the mayhem, because a brighter future awaits, somewhere down the line?]

And who’s to say this couldn’t be eventually turned around if the US could ‘stay the course’ and create a legitimate Iraqi army and police force that could create the kind of security that 130,000 American soldiers just can’t provide for.

Who’s to say? History, for one. A little gander at Nixon’s success with “Vietnamization” might be instructive.

What does argue against it is this administration’s incompetent handling of the war thus far and their inability to make much apparent progress on the Iraqi army development front.

Precisely. And what signs do you see that this Administration is willing to learn from its mistakes and make appropriate adjustments to its strategy? [That last sentence was really difficult to type–I was laughing too hard.] Even if I accepted, just for the sake of argument, that scenario #1 was feasible with the “right” kind of US administration, you seem to know as well as I do that Bush & Co. isn’t that administration. So does “staying the course” implicitly include waiting until after 2008, in the hopes that competent leadership comes in?

But if you reject the possibility of a stable, liberal Iraq from the outset, then you’re not actually participating in a discussion, just reminding us that people with your view do exist

Whereas you’re doing what, exactly? It’s not as if “stay the course” is such a radically innovative point of view–I can get it from Scott McClellan on any given day.

But then your worldview must be awfully depressing, b/c their are billions of people w/ no hope of living in a liberal society.

It would be an awfully depressing worldview, if the only way people could throw off tyrannical governments was through invasion by a foreign power and the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people. That, of course, is not the case.

38

soru 08.18.05 at 6:40 pm

I’m no expert on South Africa, but I suspect .

Can I suggest you test your suspicions against the relevant figures ?

http://www.gunowners.org/fs0304.htm

This equates to 309,583 murders from the year 1950 to 1993 (44 years – [b]averaging 7,036 per year[/b]), meanwhile according to SAPS statistics, 193,649 murders were committed in 8 years after the “new democratic dispensation” came to power, thus giving an average of 24,206 per year (crime statistics for 2002/03 are not yet available). However if we consider the Interpol statistics, which are only available on their website for the years, 1995-1999 and 2001 (6 years), the number of persons murdered in South Africa within those 6 years is 287,292 – [b]averaging 47,882 per year[/b].

If someone has different figures, I’d be interested to know – that was a link from wiki.

The lesson here is that the present conditions were created by the botched occupation, not by removal of suppression.

While I’m no fan of the early phase of the occupation, I don’t think the evidence really supports that view to the extent that you can say it is a ‘lesson’, as opposed to something that would be comforting if it could be shown to be true.

Police states do, it seems, have genuinely low crime rates.

soru

39

soru 08.18.05 at 6:48 pm

It would be an awfully depressing worldview, if the only way people could throw off tyrannical governments was through invasion by a foreign power and the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people. That, of course, is not the case.

If that were true, surely you would be able to find an example of it happening in the last, say, 200 years?

That’s a lot of history covering a lot of countries, surely if it were possible, it would have happened at least once by now?

You can replace one tyranny with another, equally bad or worse, you can overthrow a non-tyranny, but overthrowing a tyranny, a government prepared and capable of using military force against its own people, seems to, historically-speaking, require outside intervention.

soru

40

mpowell 08.18.05 at 7:06 pm

Uncle Kvetch,

I think this is going to be my last post on the issue b/c at this point all we’re doing is playing rhetorical games. Which is frustrating. B/c we could talk about why Iraq could be like Vietnam or it could be like Germany. But its clear that you’re not really interested in that discussion. Let me at least defend myself:

1) Obviously, in the big picture, Iraqi casualties are important. They argue strongly against an invasion in the first place. But that’s not where we’re at today. The point I am making, which is clear if you want to see it, is that the path towards a stable Iraq laid out at say, the Belgravia Dispatch, assumes that order cannot be restored without significant Iraqi forces. Thus, obsessing about current Iraqi casualties is a distraction to the question of how accurate is Greg’s assessment of the progress towards building local police and military forces? But go for those rhetorical points instead, if that’s what makes you happy.

2) In Vietnam we failed miserably at building a vietnamese army capable of dealing w/ the North Vietnamese. Maybe that had something to do w/ the fact that the South Vietnamese government was corrupt and highly unpopular. There are other examples of nation building.

3) This administration has been pretty disappointing in many regards. But I don’t actually believe they are completely incompetent. Its just too hard to be elected president or to forge a successful political career. The fact that they are talking about building Iraqi forces clearly indicates that they understand that is the way to go. So yes, I do think they are at least moving in the right direction.

Finally, I want to say that I don’t think the options are as clear cut as Ted suggested. What I expect will happen if the US remains committed to Iraq is that we will muddle through and be able to get a reasonable government while committing far fewer troops to the region. Our behaviour will remain critical to Iraq’s long term success, but that will be determined by future administrations. If I was more confident in this administration, I would have higher hopes, but since I also think pulling out would result in far more casualties, then some here are suggesting, I think we should stay. Let me put it this way: if we pullout, far more Iraqi’s will die b/w now and 2008 then if we don’t (in my opinion). And in 2008, its a whole new ballgame.

41

Steve LaBonne 08.18.05 at 7:39 pm

mpowell, the Kurdish region has and is likely retain a modest degree of democracy, imperfect though it may be. The Shiites will get some kind of theocracy that will commit many offenses against human rights; we can hope that it will gradually evolve in a more liberal direction but how can our troops possibly bring that about? (In fact their presence is only likely to delay it.) And the Sunni Arabs, sadly, will get payback for centuries of oppressing the others; we can only delay that, not prevent it, unless we mean to occupy the place forever. (And we’re not doing a helluva good job of protecting them even now, just ask the former mayor of Baghdad.) That’s simply a realistic (and not wonderful but not 100% bleak) picture. Whatever democratic entities may eventually emerge, they will not be “Iraq” (even if a fictitious international-law construct by that name continues to exist) because there are precious few Iraqis, especially in Kurdistan and the south. Haven’t we seen enough of trying to base policies on wishful thinking?

42

BigMacAttack 08.18.05 at 7:46 pm

‘Who’s to say? History, for one. A little gander at Nixon’s success with “Vietnamization” might be instructive.’

Really? You expect the new Iraqi regime to be lead by a corrupt and incompetent strong man and face a massive conventional attack from one the world’s largest armies without any real military asistance form the US?

Or maybe we need to do more than use history to provide us with glib(glib is being kind) analogies?

43

Uncle Kvetch 08.18.05 at 7:54 pm

If that were true, surely you would be able to find an example of it happening in the last, say, 200 years?

The USSR, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, etc.? The Philippines throwing Marcos out? Chile getting rid of Pinochet? To give an example already cited in this thread: South Africa? Or do none of those count?

44

BigMacAttack 08.18.05 at 8:23 pm

No. None count. Clearly none of those regimes was both prepared and capable of using force against their own people or they would have.

Of course at some point they crossed that line from one side to the other. It really isn’t clear why that line could never be crossed in Iraq. And some states, maybe Romania, where that lined was crossed where lead by monsters like Saddam.

I am also pretty sure that if we looked for a bit we could find an example.

History doesn’t provide absolutes.

45

soru 08.18.05 at 8:24 pm

Or do none of those count?

Of course none of them do, none of them were prepared to turn their modern military weapons on their own people. Read any serious account of those popular revolutions.

To a first approximation, there are two types of government in the world, those where the tanks stop in front of protestors, and those where they don’t.

soru

46

snuh 08.18.05 at 8:29 pm

as other commenters have noted, if actual civil war was to break out in iraq, there’s a fair chance this would draw in other countries, like iran, saudi arabia and in particular turkey. so there are possibilities beyond ted’s (1) – (4): outcomes involving a regional war, which we might label as (5) catastrophic leave and (6) catastrophic stay.

it seems to me that it might be worthwhile devoting some thought now to the issues this raises. so, for example, what could be done now to prevent turkey from doing anything rash in the event that iraqi kurds declare their independence? or, what could be done to prevent iran from intervening on behalf of iraq’s shias? or, what could be done to prevent israel from reacting to iranian intervention, should it be impossible to prevent the intervention itself? and so forth.

47

Uncle Kvetch 08.18.05 at 8:40 pm

Clearly none of those regimes was both prepared and capable of using force against their own people or they would have.

Right. The apartheid regime in South Africa never used force against its own people. We are clearly not living on the same planet, so I’m going to bow out now.

I wish you both luck in sniffing out Islamofascist sympathizers and telling everyone out there to clap louder, or else.

48

BigMacAttack 08.18.05 at 8:53 pm

Uncle Kvetch,

Why don’t people just say oh I missed that or oh I was wrong and move on?

49

Ben P 08.18.05 at 9:08 pm

Soru, you’re missing the point rather significantly. Or not so much missing the point, but have become so fixated on the nature of Saddam Hussein’s regime that you don’t recognize Iraq’s current trajectory – which is towards some kind of quasi-functional, corrupt, and neo-patrimonial third world state where politics is predicated on which ethnic or tribal groups trying to monopolize the state for their own benefit and to grab as much as of the state revenue as possible.

Now I grant you that Saddam’s rule was politically oppressive, esp. for Shi’ites and the Kurds. And in the abstract, most Iraqis are glad to see the back of him. But it is also true that Iraq is a more dangerous, poorer state with an even lower level of a functional civil society than when Saddam was in power. Remember, the Kurdish and Shi’ite South were effectively out of Saddam’s control since the mid 1990s.

Now you might look at this and say: well, its still worth it. Well I look at this situation and say 2000 American lives aren’t worth it. You probably see yourself as being humanitarian and noble for having supported the war. And I’d agree if you had gone over there or been willing to put your life on the line to do so. I might question your judgement, but I’d most definetly respect you for your commitment and selflessness. But you – and the totality of the British pro-war left – are not doing this. Your sitting back and writing at blogs while America’s youth – some of my friends included – put their lives on the line for a venture you deem noble in the abstract. Thats hardly noble. Indeed, I think its immoral. And its largely why I can’t support the war, even though I acknowledge some of the points you make: because mine and my nation’s vital security is not increased – and indeed could perhaps be decreased – by the war. And as such, I would not be willing to die in this war and thus cannot expect that others do so in my place. Its really that simple.

50

jaded 08.18.05 at 9:20 pm

soru

“Can I suggest you test your suspicions against the relevant figures ?”

Have a look at http://www.iss.co.za/pubs/CrimeQ/No.5/2Personal.html as a description of the increase in township violence during the 1980s and 90s. South Africa during apartheid after around 1980 was only peaceful if you were white.

The point is that Iraq prior to invasion was NOT a violent society. South Africa prior to the end of apartheid was, if you cared to watch the news about non-white life there. Therefore the assertion that police states are free of violence is false. Similarly, the assertion that the current Iraqi violence existed prior to invasion but was not apparent because it was suppressed cannot be proved by comparison with South Africa. The causes of current Iraqi violence are to be found more in conditions created from day one of the US invasion, starting with the absurd complete lack of effort to secure arms stockpiles.

51

Ben P 08.18.05 at 9:25 pm

jaded:
The causes for violence in Iraq are that a series of actors are fighting to control the resources and wealth that lie within the boundaries of the state of Iraq. It also stems from the fact that civil society in Iraq has collapsed and the vacuum has been filled largely by what political scientists would deem “non-state actors”: ie tribal, religious, and ethnic militias as well as ciminal organizations.

52

Maynard Handley 08.18.05 at 9:29 pm

“And who’s to say this couldn’t be eventually turned around if the US could ‘stay the course’ and create a legitimate Iraqi army and police force that could create the kind of security that 130,000 American soldiers just can’t provide for.”

Oh get real, dude. Is there anywhere outside Northern Ireland where this has happened? South Africa tried to keep this up, and succeeded for almost 40 yrs, but eventually they gave up. Israel is still at it, and will be till the end of time from the looks of things. And in both those cases the relative numbers were much more on the side of the occupation, which wasn’t being supported from halfway across the world.

America’s grand adventure in Vietnam did not result in either the defeat of the Viet Cong or a legitimate (in anyone’s eyes, from the average citizen to the rest of the world to the US itself) South Vietnamese government.

The US government appears unable to create a legitimate *US* army (ie one that doesn’t randomly kill civilians, and is disgusted by the use of torture). How are they going to achieve such a feat with the Iraqi army? And an illegitimate army is the surest way to keep this sort of thing going (exhibit A, another awfully big, awfully unsuccessful US adventure, is Columbia).

53

Jeremy Osner 08.18.05 at 9:31 pm

Soru, in 1979 the Sandinistas overthrew Somoza without outside intervention. It can of course be argued that the Sandinistas were an imperfect government but I think you’d have to be pretty far out there to call them a tyranny; and that you’d have to be similarly far out, not to call Somoza’s government a tyranny. Only one example but there it is.

54

Ben P 08.18.05 at 9:35 pm

To follow on from my post at 50:
I don’t think that one has to serve in the military to be able to hold an opinion about a war. But I do think one has to be willing to die in a war to be able to support it in good conscience.

Secondly, I should also say that I think there are legitimate arguments in favor of the Iraq War, at least philosophically speaking. But I also think that the philosophical justifications I’ve seen from the humanitarian perspective are ones people cannot seriously expect all but a small minority of a society to support. They simply fly in the face of people’s day to day decision making processes, which is largely to avoid death and increase personal comfort and happiness. People don’t support the war because they didn’t and (especially now) don’t see Iraq as something that poses any kind of serious threat to one’s personal well-being. People in the United States backed the war initially because they thought it did, and largely because, as Tom Friedman said at the time, “we got hit bad on 9/11, Afghanistan wasn’t enough, so we needed to attack another country to prove we meant business.” Once its become clear Iraq wasn’t a threat and the bloodlust has been satisfied, and its also clear we’re at best setting up a situation that can be termed “unstable” – so why put our friends and family on the line?

Take away the trauma 9/11 (especially as it intersects with America’s sense of itself as an exceptional nation) from every other country in the world, and your going to get very low support almost everywhere else in the world, even before 2005.

55

jaded 08.18.05 at 10:11 pm

Ben

“The causes for violence in Iraq are that a series of actors are fighting…”

I don’t disagree, although I think the “complete collapse” in civil society can be attributed to a botched occupation. I guess what I was trying to get at was that the violence did not just flare up because of the removal of the police state.

I seem to recall that in the immediate post-invasion period there was little violence (apart from the obvious violence meted out by the armies involved). There had been some trepidation that there would be a bloodbath as a result of payback for grudges against the regime and tribal enemies, but this did not occur. Instead the violence came later, helped by ready access to the arms that the US military conveniently left available to all, the disbanding of the pre-existing law and order institutions, resentment at declining living standards, and, paraphrasing your comment, political, tribal, ethnic etc rivalry.

56

Dave F 08.19.05 at 3:05 am

Violence and specifically violent crime in pre- and post-apartheid South Africa are twins in one sense. During apartheid, policing was largely repressive and strategically aimed at protecting white privilege. This was achieved by containing crime –– to a very large extent — to the confines of the townships, where police simply shrugged off up to 20 murders a weekend in Soweto alone. The passlaw and group areas laws, etc, c ompleted the laager.

Since apartheid rule ceased, crime — committed by the have-nots — has surged out of the impoverished townships and into the prosperous and formerly all-white enclaves. It is significant that the expanding black middleclass is targeted as well as well-off whites.

Rape and murder have soared partly because black families were atomised by apartheid, and after 1976, young men abandoned school — township schools were devastated. An entire generation has been brutalised and left in a state of ignorance.
And many who joined the struggle now find they have no skills to sell. The skills of war are therefore turned to criminal activity.
To a great extent, white males were also brutalised fighting FOR apartheid rule: this has entrenched the patriarchal role of males — with concomitant violent control of the family unit.

In Iraq, similarly, violence was largely in the hands of the oppressor during Saddam’s rule. It is worth noting that the Sunni insurgency, led by those who benefited most from this tribalist oppression, is using the Saddamite tactics of subjugation by terror. No one knows how many people were murdered before Saddam fell; many just disappeared, but few families were untouched.

Similarly also, the impoverished Shia majority, after decades of brutal repression, have exploded in retaliatory violence, and at the same time crime has surged out of the sluims of Baghdad and elsewhere to target the relatively well off.

There isn’t an exact parallel, but the factors influencing crime rates — and specifically the level of assault and murder — in these two former police states do look similar in many cases.

57

Danny Yee 08.19.05 at 3:12 am

If the US were to pull out, that would have to have some good effects:

* it would reduce the motivation for foreign suicide bombers/terrorists to go to Iraq
* it might reduce some of the fervour of the Sunni insurgents (though I agree that they seem mostly inspired by ethnic politics, not nationalism)

It’s just possible that things would get worse but not descend into full-scale civil war. It depends how canny the political actors (of all factions) are, but I can’t help wondering if they wouldn’t do a better job dealing with each other without the elephant in the room.

58

abb1 08.19.05 at 3:24 am

Of course none of them do, none of them were prepared to turn their modern military weapons on their own people. Read any serious account of those popular revolutions.

You’re confusing cause and effect here. When they were strong enough, they would (and in many cases did) turn their modern military weapons on their own people. But as they grew weaker, rotted, lost whatever support they had – they also lost the ability to suppress their populations and eventually collapsed.

Batista’s Cuba is another example. The fact that is turned into authoritarian country after the revolution is the consequence of US policies.

59

Brendan 08.19.05 at 4:10 am

‘but overthrowing a tyranny, a government prepared and capable of using military force against its own people, seems to, historically-speaking, require outside intervention’

This is a joke, yeah?

In actual fact, almost every tyranny that has been overthrown was overthrown by the people themselves. Tyrannies being overthrown by outside forces (as in WW2) are very much the minority.

Examples: the Greek Colonels, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, almost every country in south America, many countries in Africa, Eastern Europe, Russia, etc, etc, etc.

Let’s not forget that Saddam Hussein promised free, monitored, elections. Regardless of whether you ‘believe’ him or not, this was not the action of a man whose power was disintegrating.

60

MFB 08.19.05 at 4:19 am

Another excellent example of the internal overthrow of a murderous tyranny: Iran under the Shah.

Regarding the little squabble over South Africa: please note that soru’s figures are massaged. Essentially, he is comparing death rates over a period when South Africa had:

a lower population than now
a less urbanised population than now
a less acknowledged population than now (because between 1976 and 1990 much of the population lived in “bantustans” where the murders weren’t counted as South African
and, as dave f points out, black areas weren’t very well policed;

with now, when none of these strictures apply. This doesn’t mean that our murder rate isn’t horrendously high, of course. But I think poor soru has fallen for a racist trap.

61

Alex 08.19.05 at 5:49 am

Iraq already is a failed state. There is no (no) security in the central urban areas around Baghdad which contain a large majority of the population. Company-sized assaults have been launched on installations within greater Baghdad without coalition or Iraqi forces having prior knowledge – what more do you want?

Trying to minimise the insurgency is absurd. 20% population support? This figure can only have been derived by assuming that all insurgent supporters are Sunnis, and therefore that the (very back-of-an-envelope) figure for their share of the population is predictive. How do you think they can assault police stations in Baghdad without anyone giving them away with 20% population support?

They don’t need an outside patron – for now, their own resources suffice, and once the US goes they can always buy on the world black market. Viktor Bout’s aircraft are already active in Iraq – for oil money they will deliver all the guns heart could desire. Unlike the VC, they won’t need a turnkey Red Army to deliver the final blow because the Iraqi Army doesn’t have the ARVN’s armour, artillery, logistics and aircraft.

Soru’s argument basically assumes that the insurgents don’t exist, I’m afraid. It’s all state sponsorship! Foreign fighters! As far back as the autumn of 2003, the commander of the 82nd Airborne told Anthony Cordesman of CSIS that they made up about 10-15% of the insurgents they captured. State sponsorship is a comforting way of pretending your real enemies don’t exist – it can all be blamed on demon country X, and if we’d been allowed to nuke Mecca (or whatever) all would be wonderful.

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Brendan 08.19.05 at 7:32 am

‘Let’s not forget that Saddam Hussein promised free, monitored, elections. Regardless of whether you ‘believe’ him or not, this was not the action of a man whose power was disintegrating.’

Ooops again! mea culpa (again) late night posting. This should of course have read ‘this WAS the action of a man’ etc.

Anyone implying a Freudian slip will be punished by being psychoanalysed.

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Brendan 08.19.05 at 7:52 am

‘Of course none of them do, none of them were prepared to turn their modern military weapons on their own people. Read any serious account of those popular revolutions.’

Incidentally, it’s slightly stretching the point but actually revolts against imperialism are a better argument against this argument than totalitarian states per se. The decolonisation of, for example, Africa is a classic example of a situation where the State (i.e. the colonising power) was certainly prepared to turn the guns on ‘the people’ but the people nevertheless triumphed. Similarly, the revolutions in South America in the 19th century.

Final, and in some ways, best examples: the American and French revolutions.

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Hektor Bim 08.19.05 at 8:30 am

Alex,

Why is there no significant insurgent activity in 12 of the 18 Iraqi provinces? Because the insurgency is almost entirely Sunni Arab-based and fighting for Sunni Arab supremacy. That’s 20% of the population, tops.

I agree with you that it is largely Iraqi-based, but almost all of the suicide bombers are foreign jihadis. There is a symbiotic relationship there that sometimes breaks down.

You don’t think the peshmerga have tanks and artillery? You don’t think the Iranians will give SCIRI and the Badr brigade tanks and artillery if it will mean the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite-dominated Iraq?

Where exactly is all this money and arms for the Sunni insurgency going to come from when they don’t control any airports or major cities?

The insurgency can kill and disrupt, yes, but they can’t take over, precisely because 80-85% of the population doesn’t want them to and is willing to fight and die to prevent it.

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soru 08.19.05 at 5:19 pm

Final, and in some ways, best examples: the American and French revolutions.

Contemporary accounts feature a notable lack of helicopter gunships.

The Sandinista’s do seem to be the closest thing to a counterexample – set up a weak military, strong rural rebel movement, high levels of semi-covert foreign aid, and lower your standards for the resulting regime, and you can just about break the default pattern of modern history.

Revolts against imperialism are another thing again.

soru

66

abb1 08.20.05 at 4:02 am

US military uses hundreds of helicopter gunships, drops 1000 pound bombs on cities, shoots everything that moves – and still they can’t control some areas of Iraq. Can’t even control the road to airport. Why? The US has no support in these areas.

Regimes that have enough support survive and regimes that don’t have enough support are toppled, no matter what weapons they are willing to use.

So, what is your point? That regimes that you think should be toppled aren’t? Well, this is kinda silly, isn’t it.

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soru 08.20.05 at 5:55 am

US military uses hundreds of helicopter gunships, drops 1000 pound bombs on cities, shoots everything that moves – and still they can’t control some areas of Iraq.

Plenty of countries don’t control all their territory, in ways much more meaningful than ‘some people are able to sneak in and plant bombs’.

American rule is not going to be ‘toppled’, with the rebels holding the head of the US ambassador on a pole, his guards stripping off their uniforms and melting into the crowd.

The americans may, in time, choose to ‘go home’, under fire or not, which is not an option available to local rulers.

Alternatively, if they stay too long, a mass demonstration, a million people strong or more, will present them the option of massacring the crowd (probably on TV), or leaving.

Try that demonstration against Saddam and he would have said ‘what, so many of my enemies in one place, and unarmed? You are spoiling me’.

soru

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abb1 08.20.05 at 7:05 am

Bullshit, Soru. Holding head on a pike is not synonymous with toppling a regime. The US troops recently leveled a city of 200,000 people, something Saddam has never done, and I don’t think anyone’s done after the WWII. They shot up a number of mass demonstrations. They killed more people in two years than Saddam, probably, in a decade. They clearly operate with higher level of brutality than Saddam’s government – doesn’t work. What’s the matter?

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soru 08.20.05 at 7:59 am

. They clearly operate with higher level of brutality than Saddam’s government

The thing I like about abb1 is that he is essentially honest and rational – he believes the versions of the facts that are necessary in order to support his political views.

Cleverer people generally avoid making things so explicit, avoid revealing what facts or expectations underly their views. That way, no fear of them being contradicted.

soru

70

abb1 08.20.05 at 8:18 am

Well, I believe the version of the facts that I read in the mainstream independent centrist meadia, like, say, the Guardian. What version of the facts do you believe – FoxNews’?

Is it not in your version of facts that Fallujah was mostly destroyed with thousands of civilians killed, or that it was a city of over 200,000 people?

There are about 10,000 fully documented Iraqi civilan killed by the coalition vs. the total of 5,000 corpses found so far in Saddam-period mass-graves. These are the facts.

Give me your facts, let’s dish it out.

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jet 08.20.05 at 10:15 am

Come on, surely no one takes abb1 seriously anymore(post 82).

I see Israel as an ethnic racist expansionist state, the worst violator of the international law in the post-WWII history.

What motiviates someone to say that about a particular group of people when there are so many examples that make Israel look kind an gentle? China and Tibet, the US and Vietnam, N. Vietnam and S. Vietnam, N. Korea, the Sudan, Sub-Saharan Africa, the PLO and Lebonese, etc etc? I just can’t figure out why abb1 singles out the Jews. But either way, It’s impossible to take him seriously anymore.

72

abb1 08.20.05 at 1:01 pm

Jet, it’s really easy to find out who’s the worst violator of the international law. All you have to do is to count UN resolutions issued against each country. ’nuff said.

73

Penta 08.20.05 at 1:49 pm

The fact that you believe or trust the UN scares me.

The UN as a concept works great.

The UN as a practical matter is basically worthless and should really not be trusted.

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abb1 08.20.05 at 2:09 pm

You don’t have to believe or trust the UN (or a typical jury that delivers a verdict in any US court for that matter), but – sorry – it’s the only objective criterion that’s currently avaliable.

Except for the 5 super-countries, permanent members of the SC who have the veto power, of course. They are above the law.

75

Scott 08.20.05 at 4:12 pm

No amount of virgin sacrifice could possibly stop a volcano, whereas there’s still hope that we might be able to prevent catastrophe in Iraq.

I nominate Ben Shapiro for sacrifice, to see if that helps.

76

jet 08.21.05 at 9:40 am

abb1,
Still smoking the “Israel is the root of all evil” crack I see.

Except for the 5 super-countries, permanent members of the SC who have the veto power, of course. They are above the law.

But the 5 super-powers on the security council are far from the only countries above UN “law”. Didn’t the Sudan just kill something like ~1,000,000 people and the UN “prosecution” ammounted to some name calling and finger pointing and threats of “future actions”. I don’t know about you, but getting away with that many deaths certainly sounds “above the law”.

You’ve actually got it all backwards. The UN really only has power over democracies that give two shits about the UN. It’s only in countries like the US, UK, France, Western Europe, etc that would like to see the UN work where the UN has any power. Marx would have seen this clear as day, why can’t you? Or did all that UN action against Iran prove me wrong?

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jet 08.21.05 at 9:44 am

Another great point about the UN and “above the law”. Russia reacted far more to UN pressure for poisoning Afghanistani water wells than Iraq responded to UN pressure for firing mustard gas artillary rounds and missiles into Iranian cities. If there is a UN “law”, it only applies to a very few countries of which a very much like those on the security council.

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abb1 08.21.05 at 10:01 am

Well, that what the international law is, buddy. UN resolutions and all that stuff. Whatever you or I think the root of all evil might be – it doesn’t matter.

Btw, recently you’ve been more unpleasant than usual, Jet. Calling Israeli government ‘the Jews’ (like some ignorant bigoted redneck) doesn’t earn you any points here, you know. If you want to have this kind of discussion, go to the LGF.

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jet 08.21.05 at 2:00 pm

ass1, I mean abb1,
That’s about as offensive as referring to the United Kingdom as “the English”. And you should be the last person on this site to judge what is “unpleasant” concerning the only predominantly Hebrew country, given your views of how horrible Israel is compared to the rest of the world.

And your 1337 logic skilz need some honing. You can’t say in comment 76 that the UN rules don’t apply to the security council and then in comment 80 agree with me that the rules do only seem to apply to the security council and the countries like them. Usually people make it a point of mentioning when they’ve changed their mind. You just seem to believe both to be true at the same time.

Oh, and calling someone an “ignorant bigoted redneck” would imply you hold some bigotry of your own, at least against rednecks.

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abb1 08.21.05 at 2:33 pm

Why, perhaps there are educated and nice rednecks too, but you are not one of them, unfortunately.

Well, you seem to keep missing the point here: England is not “the WASP”. England is the country of its citizens who may or may not be WASP or Arabs or or Jews. One of my buddies at work is an Englishman who immigrated there from Jamaica. If he immigrated to Israel, he’d become an Israeli, but not a Jew.

Again, I am not really interested in analysing your apparent fixation on ethnicity of some of the Israeli citizens.

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