The Rhetoric of Having Been Wrong

by John Holbo on June 19, 2014

There’s a meta-ish debate going on about who should and shouldn’t have rightful standing to opine about whether the US should do something about the horrible situation in Iraq. Meta-ish debates have a tendency to make things sound complicated, when this is pretty simple.

Either the neocons know they were wrong last time, or they don’t.

If you are The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and you don’t know it, you are useless, for wolf crying purposes.

If, on the other hand, you know you were wrong before, and you know everyone else knows, but you think you are right this time, and you want to warn everyone, you won’t say ‘now is not the time to re-litigate whether I was perfectly right in the past concerning each and every last wolf.’ No, you will say something reasonable, like: ‘I know you have no reason to trust me, given how wrong I was before in a case that looked an awful lot like this one. I am so sorry for the damage I have done, but I will be even sorrier if the fact that you can’t trust me means even more damage is done. That will be my fault, too, if it happens, so please …’

There is, after all, such a thing as common sense.

I was wrong about Iraq. I was one of those Kenneth Pollack-reading liberal queasyhawks, to my ongoing shame.

{ 456 comments }

1

Ed Herdman 06.19.14 at 7:07 am

Seems like common sense, but your presentation suggests a point to me. If it’s simple (and I agree about that), why do I get the feeling the choice presented is not just a binary? It looks like a 2×2 matrix (or maybe n x n), filled out with right/wrong in the appropriate places, but then there’s more – then we have to find some highly contextual method to air the laundry appropriately (well, it’s not ad-hoc, though; I’m aware people have tried to develop a polite way to own and move past errors as a part of the methodology of philosophical discourse).

Yes, I’m not advocating against transparency, and clearly people are emotional and confuse correlation of failure in a history of argument with evidence that the current arguments are wrong. But this seems at the edge of just coddling people, and possibly self-flagellation good only for the gotcha crowd, i.e., the people who don’t care about your reasons and don’t want your true reasons to have memetic power, only the distortions of it. Aren’t we all supposed to have microsecond memories these days, anyway? The number of people who are likely this deep into the argument should know better than to discount your argument just on account of having been wrong. If / when they do, you have the bonus of being able to call them slovenly idiots.

I also have to say I’m wanting more context here. I tried to search it out but I’m not sure I’ve found the right stuff.

2

Bruce Wilder 06.19.14 at 7:08 am

“I’m a stopped clock, and I’m bound to be right, eventually” doesn’t seem all that persuasive to me, but it might be different on Fox News.

I was never of the opinion that “success” required staying in Iraq for an indefinite period bordering on the infinite, and that withdrawal would cause “failure”, but if I did, I might feel vindicated by the course of events.

I never thought that the unprovoked U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq was some great gift of freedum, which the undeserving Iraqi savagery should feel deeply grateful, but if I did, I might think the U.S. didn’t so much fail, as it was failed.

Did common sense and reasonableness ever have a place in the post-9/11 American foreign policy?

3

John Holbo 06.19.14 at 7:25 am

“the people who don’t care about your reasons and don’t want your true reasons to have memetic power, only the distortions of it.”

I don’t know what this means.

4

Ed Herdman 06.19.14 at 7:28 am

As Justice Roberts wrote in his Korematsu dissent, defense and military measures may well be unreasonable, and might not actually need to be held to the limits of civil authority. He held that the Court had erred in deciding the previous case, Hirabayashi v. United States, in such a way that allowed the slide towards a racist policy – in deciding Hirabayashi, one that the Court majority had been determined not to allow the policy to expand. It expanded despite their best intentions.

There are a couple interesting things among the many from that history that I’ll pick out: One, that it took so little time for U.S. policy to swing so sharply towards creating the argument for, and acceptance of, a domestic gulag or system of concentration camps (ironically under the umbrella of the Department of Justice). Two, that the consensus on what had been “reasonable” and militarily common-sensical seems to have never really been developed, and evaporated for practical purposes. Even if they wanted to hold onto the racism, people had gotten sick of the war.

Back to the present day, what’s remarkable is that the blundering non-consensus of a certain rogue’s gallery has been so durable. You definitely will not see any mea culpa from the right-wingers who bashed Eric Shinseki on having successfully delivered an appraisal of the military prospects of the U.S. in Iraq, didn’t raise an eyebrow at the Rumsfeld treatment he got before and even after he was forced out of the duty he had performed for the nation at that time, and who have returned for another round bashing him again as the Secretary for VA.

I suspect that the most effective way we have of returning to normal is not by arguments about reasonableness and common sense – but by starving the beast, just as the Vietnam War was killed off. Kill the military necessity argument, kill the market – that’ll have to be good enough. I don’t much like this solution since it allows us to continue to navel-gaze while the Iraqis remain spectators at their own auction, but we have to walk ourselves back out first.

5

Sebastian H 06.19.14 at 7:32 am

I was wrong about Iraq. I don’t think we should try to do much of anything there now. I hope that my being wrong on the pro war side isn’t making me over cautious about the present situation, but considering the ratio of good outcome wars to bad outcome wars possible over caution is likely the better bet.

6

John Holbo 06.19.14 at 7:43 am

Well, I’m still not quite sure what your point is about the post, Ed, but I will say this: it sounds as though you are suggesting it’s a bit unfair to hobble people’s arguments by making them ritually confess past errors before getting on with it. In fact, quite the opposite is the case, at least in the present case: if the Bill Kristol and the Kagans were to sacrifice their own reputations, in effect – admit all their gross errors of the past decade – that would be the best way to get a hearing for a ‘nevertheless, the thing that was wrong before is right in this new case because …’ argument. Of course they won’t do that, but that just shows that they are either delusional or just blowing smoke.

The fact that Iraq was the greatest catastrophe in US foreign policy history, and that its proponents were at best foolish and ignorant, is not some historical footnote. It’s where all discussions of the current situation start. So if you were one of the foolish ones, you start with a mea culpa – a brief one at least. There is no other sane way.

7

Kieran 06.19.14 at 7:55 am

Kenneth Pollack! There’s a name I haven’t heard in a while.

8

bad Jim 06.19.14 at 8:01 am

The Very Serious People who argued for the Iraq adventure did so to maintain their status as Very Serious People, and for no other reason. Their pretended expertise was exposed as pandering to their sources and their judgment as mere posturing to their peers: I’m as respectable a hawk as you.

But, as Brad DeLong would say, they don’t mark their beliefs to market. Despite having been demonstrably and catastrophically wrong, they continue to offer their advice: zombie foreign policy, if you will.

Only certain ideas are respectable, and unfortunately they include military intervention and aversion to debt. Their result may be death and immiseration but their pedigree is impeccable.

9

Ed Herdman 06.19.14 at 8:03 am

@ John Holbo #3:

What I mean by memetic power, which may or may not be a carelessly cooked-up ugly bastard of a phrase, is that ability to have some meme propagate – and lies (or distortions) often burn much brighter than the truth. In this case, I think that the major meme you’d like to introduce is “here’s what I think now and why.” The “and here’s why you should listen this time” is intended to be the minor theme.

It seems to me that anybody who considers themselves seriously in the business of judging such arguments (which should include the group of people who would know you had made a prior judgment, which you now reject) should not have to be told not to view the facts and value of your current statements as predetermined in a game theory-like manner. If there is a predetermined way they view your arguments, it seems likely based on more fundamental sources of partisanship / respect, and it’s a coin toss as to whether they presuppose your arguments true or false.

I realize that of course even serious people have only so much time on their hands with which to change their opinions about anybody they happen to read (even in their own field), and it’s not emotionally realistic to expect people not to play the game to some degree – so I’ll have to rest with saying that I think there is still a danger of providing ammunition with this kind of plea, even though I see your point. I’m not sure how I would try to determine the difference.

Another observation. It seems to me that stature and power also enhance our tendency to be judgmental, as I was about Rumsfeld (and by extension Cheney, Wolfowitz, et al) above. It seems justifiable: Their ability to use the bully pulpit, or screw up peoples’ lives. From them, a “I was wrong, and I have learned” would have proportionally increased impact.

A philosopher saying he was wrong? Not unprecedented or shocking – and also you tried your best and probably didn’t make the world a worse place in doing so. It’s hard to get out of shape about that. Maybe I’m just not seeing that part of the reason I’m more inclined to be favorable here is this particular form of showing respect for our opinions that you show here – and in that, I think that careful readers will be more attracted to the care you show in presenting your changed opinion and contrasting it with what came before, than in any kind of meta-arguments with game-theory-like overtones.

10

Ed Herdman 06.19.14 at 8:18 am

@ John #6:

I agree that a mea culpa is important, and I started trying to distance myself from appearing to endorse that opinion while writing my post here (which I punched through without viewing the new comments).

But I don’t think what’s in the original post is so much about mea culpas as about the games theory of Making Friends and Influencing People.

So I guess to be blunt about it, I think what’s weird about the post is that I’m not sure what audience it’s intended for. Is it about the internal thoughts of the self-critique process, or is it for others?

As I hint at above, I think that people who are predisposed to respect what you have to write won’t need or want to be moved by such a “boy crying wolf error” if you present good arguments. So – and here is where I think the post was misleading – you don’t do this by making the argument that what other people do is based on reverse psychology about what you do.

Better to just make the new argument – even in comment threads about the President’s recent PR troubles, there’s a lot of people clued in to the fact that the President can make up a lot of ground by just starting to do the right thing, and adjusting his posture a bit less – less of saying “my foreign policy is: Don’t do stupid shit” and showing evidence of being the “House under siege,” and more of signing executive orders on limiting discrimination and directing the EPA in climate change.

The Administration is actually doing a lot of good, but it’s actually kind of hard to glean that from the news because the defensive posturing has started to override the message. And people who want to oppose the President based on who he is can only benefit from that personalization.

11

John Holbo 06.19.14 at 8:47 am

“I think what’s weird about the post is that I’m not sure what audience it’s intended for.”

It’s blogging, so that’s a bit of a mystery.

But in case any reader happens to be on some talking head back-and-forth with Kristol, my advice would be to say: “Look, just because you were wrong last time doesn’t mean you have to be wrong every time. But people aren’t just dragging up old history. They want some reassurance that you know a catastrophic mistake when you see one. What exactly has changed, such that a terrible idea should suddenly turn into a good one?”

And if Bill Kristol is reading, he should ask himself the same question.

12

Phil 06.19.14 at 9:00 am

Not sure about this – you’re in danger of making Michael Ignatieff look good. (I guess the missing piece of your argument is that the mea culpa should actually be a good one.)

13

Sasha Clarkson 06.19.14 at 9:41 am

We all get things wrong John, In 2003, most people did not have enough reliable information to have a valid opinion, and therefore too many decided to trust their elected leaders. However, It is incredible that those leaders making the decision to invade did not consider the possibility that intervention might things worse. “First do no harm” is a sound principle, and examples like Cambodia and Afghanistan should have served as an object lesson. But even then, one had the impression that Blair and Bush knew nothing about the complex history of Mesopotamia, and were even less interested in finding out. George Joffe’s recent description of his meeting with Blair confirms this in Blair’s case.

Also, the MPs who voted on the invasion might have taken the trouble to spend a couple of days looking up the history of the the region in, say, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and other sources. The complexities and dangers would have been obvious: they might at least have asked better questions.

My own knowledge at the time was serendipitous. As it happened, a quarter of a century ago, an interest in the history of mathematics had led me to the history of Islam. In particular, I read Glubb Pasha’s* “Life and Times of Muhammad” and his acclaimed four part history of the great Arab empires – the books just happened to be in my local public library in a small seaside town in West Wales. (I later bought second hand copies online.) His descriptions of the Sunni-Shia split and its consequences should be compulsory reading for any westerner wishing to understand the historical context of current conflicts.

Glubb, also a Britannica contributor, also wrote personal memoirs about his own life as a soldier, which included first-hand experience in the newly created (by the British) state of Iraq in the early 1920s. Anyone reading his accounts of the post WWI tribal conflicts in the Arabia, should have at least some doubts about stirring that volatile pot again (and again and again!)

*Sir John Bagot Glubb

14

John Holbo 06.19.14 at 9:45 am

“Washington should provide the military support that Mr. Maliki desires—drone strikes, weapons, reconnaissance assets, targeting assistance, improved and expanded training for his forces, even manned airstrikes. But only if he and Iraq’s leading politicians agree to settle the deep sectarian conflicts that have brought the country to its present plight.”

That’s Pollack, a week ago:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/kenneth-m-pollack-how-to-pull-iraq-back-from-the-abyss-1402441299

15

Sasha Clarkson 06.19.14 at 10:07 am

John @ 14

“But only if ….

So that’s a “no” then?

16

Barry 06.19.14 at 11:52 am

He does that. After things went bad, he went around saying that he had urged the Saddam be deposed only after straightening out the rest of the Middle East. IOW, Saddam was a horrible threat, but one which could be contained safely for a decade or two.

Basically, say everything, no matter how contradictory, so that you’re never 100% wrong.

17

Jim Buck 06.19.14 at 12:00 pm

Those drink-soaked Trots– who unlike Hitch and Norm haven’t had the decency to die–are already wearing khaki and blaming past failure in Iraq on local military inferiority:
http://hurryupharry.org/2014/06/17/iraqs-implosion/#comments#disqus_thread

18

Ronan(rf) 06.19.14 at 12:14 pm

I wouldn’t mind if someone choose to listen to Bill Kristol(or pay him as an analyst) that’s their business. Why they would bother I don’t even know, but it’s a free country. Kristol is a caricature though,I would say the bigger issue is the online mafia who got in
at day one(think the Yglesias, Drezner faction which has now expanded to incorporate all sorts of unsavoury characters) and who argue amongst themselves in cutesy, unserious ways drifting between overwrought hyperbole(OMG don’t speak to Josh Foust like that!) to literally analysing war and poverty through lolcats. I’d put ‘em cutting back roadside shrub for a year in Delaware, if I had my way.

19

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 06.19.14 at 12:29 pm

The obvious answer is Lizard Cheney. What was the question again?
~

20

Cheryl Rofer 06.19.14 at 12:46 pm

My question is why the media bother to dig up the 2003 Iraq warhawks. There is some amusment and click/eyes value in wondering whether they will recant, but now we know they won’t. So find some pundits who were right and actually know what they’re talking about, like Juan Cole or Mark Lynch. There are a fair number of them about.

Oh. Sorry. They were blogging in 2003. Clearly not Very Serious People.

21

novakant 06.19.14 at 12:55 pm

I know you have no reason to trust me, given how wrong I was before in a case that looked an awful lot like this one. I am so sorry for the damage I have done, but I will be even sorrier if the fact that you can’t trust me means even more damage is done.

That might sound quite reasonable, but the underlying hubris and narcissism is still striking and at the heart of the matter.

OK, let’s say I forgive you for your past errors of judgement, but please tell me why should I listen to you anyway? Do you have any privileged knowledge of the situation or the history that led to it? Do you know anything above and beyond googling up some factoids and evaluating them according to your prejudices and political agenda? Why is there always the question about what “we” – the US/UK – should or shouldn’t do? Why is nobody ever questioning the “we” itself and its status as a worldwide hegemon? What if China or Russsia were that hegemon?

22

novakant 06.19.14 at 12:57 pm

P.S.

I’m not addressing John specifically in the above post.

23

josh 06.19.14 at 1:17 pm

I think the Economist has taken a pretty similar stance to you – “we know we were wrong about Iraq last time, but this time you have to trust us!”

24

Ed Herdman 06.19.14 at 1:29 pm

That’s part of what caught my attention (in the latter half of my replies). I would have wanted to see the questions of “well, what’s best for Iraqis?” in the discussion somewhere as well, even if that concern has been wheeled out by the “well, our invasion was for the best after all!” crews.

I gotta correct myself – the Obama Administration, of all groups, actually can make the claim that people oppose what they do simply because it’s them doing it. And they have more or less directly referenced this as well – still it becomes something of a distraction, because they can’t change policy based on that consideration alone. They can’t appease the obstructionism.

For somebody in Kristol’s position, that kind of argument doesn’t work. It’d be an improvement of the world if the Kristols would view themselves as potentially influential and therefore potentially needing to think about accountability. If they actually start to believe they’ve attained that prominence, though, we’re in trouble.

25

Peter K. 06.19.14 at 1:37 pm

@13

“However, It is incredible that those leaders making the decision to invade did not consider the possibility that intervention might things worse. “First do no harm” is a sound principle, and examples like Cambodia and Afghanistan should have served as an object lesson.”

How can you know that things wouldn’t have been worse sooner without the war? Or it would have been no worse but Iraq would have fallen apart sooner and the chaos would have spread earlier. But I agree that the leaders didn’t know. They were being dishonest and lied to everyone when they said they could do it on the cheap and that Iraq would be in great shape in a short time. George Bush was right that history would judge and it will judge they did a horrible, horrible job.

26

mbw 06.19.14 at 1:45 pm

So this is an opportunity to pointlessly say I got it right. Here’s the leaflet (minus formatting) we were handing out by the thousands when the war started.

IRAQ: Bush on the Brink
With war looming, we think some simple facts need to be known.
Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11. No hijackers and no funding came from Iraq, so
far as any intelligence agencies know . Even Bush now only makes vague remarks about Iraq’s links to ‘ Al-Qaeda-type organizations’.

Iraq is not a current threat to the U.S.
Whatever bioweapons Saddam may be hiding from U .N. inspectors, we’ve lived with for ten years. The CIA doesn’t expect him to give his weapons to terrorists unless we attack. Iraq’s nuclear program isn’t close to being at the top of the nuclear threat list.
This war will cost you plenty . For starters, Bush wants about $1000 per taxpaying household. Most serious cost estimates including the first couple years of occupation are over $2000 per household. Long-term economic effects are very uncertain, but could run much more.

The world thinks we’re in it for the oil.
Whether or not that’s right, the Administration has repeatedly said that Iraqi oil can help pay for rebuilding Iraq- meaning the expenses crea ted by their w ar and the cost of their military occupation. The first oil contract (to put out the expected huge fires) has already been issued- to Halliburton, which got a head start in dealing Iraqi oil under CEO Dick Cheney .

This war will increase terrorism. Aside
from what Saddam might do, it will convince
many Muslims that the U.S. is on another
‘crusade’ against Islam, helping al-Qaeda recruiters.

We have almost no allies. In most of Europe,
over 80% of the public opposes this war, and in
Turkey and Pakistan sentiment is even stronger.
Our one major ally , Tony Blair, is fighting against
most of his own people. Our other ‘allies’ are
generally weak governments that Bush has bribed,
with your tax money , to say they go along. Turkey
has (so far) turned down $6 billion cash, plus more in promises.

This war is a giant distraction. The war does nothing to address the real problems we face in our economy , our environment, our federal debt, our energy use, our crumbling educational system, our unraveling social services, etc. These problems will all be worsened by the war, even if it helps Bush distract voters.
Iraq will be a mess. Already Iraqi Kurds and their T urkish neighbors are threatening armed conflict. Civil war between Sunnis and Shiites is possible. Our plan for Iraq seems to be to shoot first, think later.

Bush is AWOL- again. Bush supported the
Vietnam War, but pulled strings to get a safe Texas
Air National Guard job, then went A WOL for over a
year. This time, Bush and his CEO friends are giving
themselves huge budget-busting tax breaks, just when the rest of us are getting stuck with his war bills.

War is hell. Many people will be killed and maimed, including many civilians. Huge economic and environmental destruction is likely . Everyone knows enough to say that war is a last resort, but this administration doesn’t know enough to mean it.

27

Anarcissie 06.19.14 at 2:03 pm

There are really two different components of the Iraq adventure of 2003. One is its immorality, the other is its stupidity. These components can be further analyzed into different levels of sophistication.

In the case of the morality, imperial adventures simply extend the logic of the State, so I can understand them as a particular branching of the Will to Power. What I don’t understand about Iraq 2003 is the stupidity. At the highest level, I understand that those who lust greatly for power may be overcome by their emotions, and at the lowest, by the brute instincts of tribalism; but what about the rest of us? How could reasonable people, after all that had happened in the immediately preceding decades, have faith in anything emitted by the U.S. government or the New York Times? A mea culpa should include some explanation. Unless ‘we’ understand where ‘we’ went wrong, how will ‘we’ avoid further repetitions of the disastrous error?

28

Straightwood 06.19.14 at 2:03 pm

We are reaping the consequences of failing to punish American war criminals. We now much watch them renew their calls for endless war. Manning is serving a 35 year prison sentence. Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bush are rich and free.

29

Barry 06.19.14 at 2:13 pm

Jim Buck 06.19.14 at 12:00 pm

” Those drink-soaked Trots– who unlike Hitch and Norm haven’t had the decency to die–are already wearing khaki and blaming past failure in Iraq on local military inferiority:
http://hurryupharry.org/2014/06/17/iraqs-implosion/#comments#disqus_thread

Those guys are scum. It’s a cesspool of racism over there.

30

William Timberman 06.19.14 at 2:36 pm

novakant @ 21

You’re right. The magisterial we which precedes all these statements of high purpose is exactly what’s most suspect about them. Its origins in the we of the feudal landlord, the colonial slavedriver, and the capitalist are clear enough. Not so long ago Henry Ford promised the lucky duckies of the time five whole dollars a day if they stayed away from demon drink, stopped beating their wives, and allowed his inspectors to enter their company housing units unannounced to confirm that their moral compass continued to point in the direction expected of a Ford employee. Otherwise — and there was always an otherwise — it was the wilderness of unemployment for them.

Maybe it’s true, maybe somebody should tell the Iraqis and the Iranians and the North Koreans what to do. Should that somebody in question be Paul Wolfowitz or William Kristol? It’s doubtful that they command the power to make anybody do anything anymore, if in fact they ever did. This I consider to be a Good Thing, even if what now happens in Iraq is not.

31

Main Street Muse 06.19.14 at 2:37 pm

From the OP: “No, you will say something reasonable, like: ‘I know you have no reason to trust me, given how wrong I was before in a case that looked an awful lot like this one. I am so sorry for the damage I have done…”

First of all, I don’t know where JH stood on Iraq back in 2003. For me, the idea that we were preemptively striking Iraq to avoid the mushroom cloud of their nuclear arms, as we were simultaneously at war in Afghanistan, a nation notorious for sucking dry many superpowers who waged war within its borders, was a ghastly idea at best.

I don’t know how Bush/Cheney/Rummy sold it to themselves – I don’t know what strange mental gyrations were needed to convince themselves that invading Iraq was somehow a good idea – they deliberately lied to the American public – and to the global public as well – about the reasons to invade. They KNEW they didn’t have a valid case, so they cooked one up – and when that proved to be a figment of their imagination, they cooked up the whole “democracy in Iraq” nation-building scheme -and apparently democracy in Iraq requires US troops on the ground in Iraq forever. That’s a strange picture of “democracy.”

To expect THESE people – these manipulative and grotesque monsters to humbly admit they were wrong in 2003 is beyond rational. These are not rational people. They are corrupt in ways that we simply cannot imagine – we do not have the imaginations required to understand and picture their world view. That’s how extreme these people are.

Dick Cheney is a vocal advocate for torture – a loud, deliberate voice explaining to the world why the US must torture – he knows he cannot say “torture” – so like a corrupt used car salesman, he fiddles with the language and comes up with “enhanced interrogation.” This is a man who pulled every string he could to get out of serving his country when he had that opportunity – really, if a novelist made up Dick Cheney’s character in a story, it would appear one-dimensional and fake. And here he is, loudly proclaiming the blindness of the current president to the impact of his policies. It boggles the mind, the blindness of the WarHawks.

How much did Halliburton make on all those no-bid Iraqi contracts? Follow the money, as Deep Throat once said. There you’ll find your motivation.

And with Bush – who the hell knows what deep-seated Oedipal thing he’s got going on with his father that caused him to head over to Iraq. The cost we’ve born for the failures of the Bush administration are unbelievably enormous and horrifyingly tragic. “Mission Accomplished!” And what a mission it was… an epic failure from the get-go.

32

J Thomas 06.19.14 at 2:41 pm

I was right about Iraq, but for all I knew it could have gone otherwise. If the US forces had done things particularly skillfully, things might have worked out.

Saddam had been a secular technocrat type, and he had lots of Shias in his government. But then one of the things we did for our Gulf war was to try to organize a Shia revolt, and while we were making a deal with Saddam to let him keep Iraq and keep his main loyal army intact, we also told the Shias to revolt and get crushed. After that he tilted more toward proving he was religious, and supporting Sunni zealots.

In the early occupation we made a big deal about treating Sunnis and Shias different. We published a lot of info about Saddam’s repression of Shias — many Shias had not known that he was systematicly having them murdered, a few at a time. We insisted that Sunnis were the ones who had supported Saddam and that their leaders must not be allowed into the new government. We had a whole lot to do with getting the conflict heated up between them.

The British were good at that sort of thing, keeping the natives mad at each other while British administrators ran things. We didn’t do it very well.

I sure don’t see what we could do to get a victory now. We didn’t accomplish much occupying Anwar ourselves. Eventually we made a deal with them — we’d give them guns and money (but no lawyers) and we’d go away and let them stop Al Qaeda themselves, and we’d get them some sort of representation in the Shia government, and that way we could say we had a successful conclusion so we could pull out. Are we going to help the Shias occupy Anwar? Or maybe just spend a couple of years starving them into submission so the Shias can say they won?

Probably the Sunnis are the weaker side, we’ve certainly supported the Shias a lot more over the years. Wouldn’t it make more sense to support the Sunnis until it looks like they might win, and then switch back to supporting Shias? What’s the point for us in deciding who should have the military advantage in Iraq, if it isn’t to maximize the casualties and disruption?

At the very least we need to get it clear what our goals are before we provide arms and UAV strikes etc to one or two or three sides.

If our goal is to get them to stop killing each other, I’m pretty sure it isn’t going to further that goal to ship them arms to help them kill each other. BTDT. “Fighting for peace.” There shouldn’t be much argument about that one any more.

About the guys who were wrong before, they need to present their arguments. It doesn’t really matter who they are or how many times they’ve been wrong before, what matters is the actual argument and whether it’s right.

Here’s my take on that. At one point we had around 100,000 troops in Iraq and we spent around a billion dollars a day, and the US military claimed we were doing a pretty good job of keeping a lid on the violence. Then we retreated to safe bases and handed the security issue off to the Shia government. If we do that again, how long can we expect it to take before we can hand off security to the Shia government again?

33

Barry 06.19.14 at 2:46 pm

“…and the US military claimed we were doing a pretty good job of keeping a lid on the violence. “

Which means precisely nothing. I’m sure that a very large number of people were killed during those times, and that the US government deliberately lied about it.

34

Main Street Muse 06.19.14 at 2:56 pm

“Here’s my take on that. At one point we had around 100,000 troops in Iraq and we spent around a billion dollars a day, and the US military claimed we were doing a pretty good job of keeping a lid on the violence. Then we retreated to safe bases and handed the security issue off to the Shia government….”

And now Iraq has exploded. Who knew “nation-building” required the US to invest all those troops and a billion dollars a day to do “a pretty good job of keeping a lid on the violence”?! Such a deal…

35

Layman 06.19.14 at 3:01 pm

Peter K @ 24

“How can you know that things wouldn’t have been worse sooner without the war?”

This is simply a restatement of the Bush Doctrine, a morally repugnant basis for international relations. To illustrate: How can I know you won’t harm me? Of course I can’t know, so I must preemptively harm you. I don’t want to Godwin the thread, but if you’ll take a look at the basis of some historical conflicts erupting in the late 30’s and early 40’s, you’ll find similar justifications cited.

Invading Iraq was a crime. That’s the problem, not that we executed the crime poorly.

36

Bloix 06.19.14 at 3:02 pm

#26 – “What I don’t understand about Iraq 2003 is the stupidity.”

In July 2002, I was asked by a French acquaintance whether the US would invade Iraq. No, no, I said – for a while there, people were saying Saddam was involved in 9/11, but it’s clear now that he wasn’t so there won’t be any invasion. I swear to god, I was so sure of it, I was patronizing this guy. I remember that conversation as well as anything I remember in my life.

And six weeks later, the administration began to roll out its propaganda campaign for war. White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card was asked “why the administration waited until after Labor Day to try to sell the American people on military action against Iraq,” and he answered, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”

Every step from then on was obvious war-mongering that didn’t even try to pretend that it was anything else. And still, people were swayed and went along, purely on the authoritative status of the war-mongers.

37

J Thomas 06.19.14 at 3:02 pm

Barry, you could be right. But how else can we intervene? Isn’t that what intervention *is*?

Our intention would be to go to Iraq and kill bad guys until the bad guys get tired of dying and accept the government we want to impose on them.

So I’m asking, how many years would it take for us to kill enough bad guys that the survivors are ready to surrender and live under the control of their enemies? How long should we estimate it will take, and how much money? (And also how many US lives, though we can predict that number will be small.)

I’ve heard the argument that the current situation is unacceptable so we must do whatever it takes to change it. That argument is worn out.

So OK, if the plan is to kill bad guys until they get tired of killing good guys, we need to think about how hard it will be to achieve that victory.

38

Ed Herdman 06.19.14 at 3:02 pm

Even if the military was doing a pretty good job, it was triage before stabilization. The Shinseki estimate I mentioned earlier didn’t come out of thin air – the U.S. has had previous experience with exactly this kind of thing in Vietnam estimates. The military can far outperform expectations on a per-capita or force multiplier basis, and be the best in the world – but still not be able to make up the shortfall between wildly optimistic expectations and the reality of what is actually needed.

Likewise, I don’t think the standard “US government lied” line is necessarily true. The military was reporting far more optimistic civilian casualty numbers than the independent groups arrived at, but staying “on message” made sense given the volatility of the situation and what was being asked. The people who were actually making the policy and who were in a position to be honest with the public – they were in the White House.

39

Ronan(rf) 06.19.14 at 3:12 pm

@24
I agree that we can’t know what Iraq would be like without the war; that (perhaps) it is unlikely to have stayed stable over the past decade, that it could still have sunk into sectarianism or that Saddam could (would) have used even greater levels of brutality to put down any emerging opposition over the past decade.
But, one of the main (strategic) problems is that the war cut off a lot of the alternative options for dealing with these counterfactuals (and dealing what is happening in the Middle East now) and that the war failed on every level (that is important to the US foreign policy commentariat) ; it replaced non sectarian authoritarianism with sectarian authoritarianism, aggravated the Iranian/Saudi rivalry, disrupted the regional alliance system away from US interests .. so on and so forth.
I agree that these situations are undoubtedly always incredibly complicated (morally, strategically, politically) with no easy answers. But the problem, as I see it, was that these people (who cultivated a persona of clear eyed, politically neutral expertise) ignored that complexity and behaved with foolish, intellectually unserious emotionally charged recklessness.
The heroes of these stories, imo, are the people building things slowly from the bottom up (the Iraqi spending hours compiling data on the dead for little pay, the local nurse dealing with institutional corruption and hostility in post conflict societies, the person organising workers in the face of management violence etc) rather than the big ideas people.
That’s cliched of course, but it’s the way it is.

40

Layman 06.19.14 at 3:47 pm

Ed Herdman @ 37

It’s true the military had a lot of experience from Vietnam to draw on, but it seems to me the logic of that experience doesn’t lead to the conclusion that there is some sufficient level of investment which allows a foreign occupier to overcome a popular anti-occupation insurgency. Rather the opposite, I think; we lost despite massive investments and the unilateral expansion of war into neighbor nations.

The idea that Iraq 2003 could have been ‘done right’ seems wrong to me. Are there any good examples – victories? – to draw lessons from? Ones which don’t require genocide, or the complete destruction of a nation?

41

LFC 06.19.14 at 3:49 pm

I wd note that from at least the mid-90s, it was the Clinton admin’s official position and Congress’s that Saddam should not only be ‘contained’ but, ideally, ousted via the application of sanctions (which killed a lot of Iraqi civilians) and support for the Iraqi opposition in exile; also, there were no-fly zones, ostensibly to protect Kurds and Shia from Saddam but also to put pressure on the regime. The ’03 invasion was an escalation from a dubious policy (on various grounds) to a catastrophically stupid one.

Ronan:
But, one of the main (strategic) problems is that the war cut off a lot of the alternative options for dealing with these counterfactuals (and dealing [with] what is happening in the Middle East now) and that the war failed on every level (that is important to the US foreign policy commentariat) ; it replaced non sectarian authoritarianism with sectarian authoritarianism, aggravated the Iranian/Saudi rivalry, disrupted the regional alliance system away from US interests

I wd note re the phrase “US foreign policy commentariat”: what you mean, istm, is one fairly narrow slice of the US foreign policy commentariat, i.e., the slice that publishes in places like The Nat’l Interest and For Aff. The “US foreign policy commentariat” is not synonymous w “the US foreign policy establishment and its hangers-on in the punditry” but rather, on a properly broad reading of the phrase, encompasses everyone who writes or speaks publicly (incl. online in blogs etc) about US foreign policy. On that broad definition, “the US foreign policy commentariat” is quite large and v. diverse in viewpoint, and contains people who, e.g., explicitly take normative considerations into acct.

42

Ronan(rf) 06.19.14 at 3:54 pm

You’re right LFC, I shouldnt generalise.

43

LFC 06.19.14 at 3:57 pm

Layman @39
The ‘Petraeus school’ (to use that shorthand) referred a lot to the Br. experience in Malaya. (Not that I am endorsing any of that.) The ’06-’07 surge has laid the basis for a defeat-snatched-from-the-jaws-of-victory narrative (sound familiar?), as exemplified for instance by McCain’s overwrought (or so it seemed to me from the audio, I didn’t have the video) appearance on the NewsHr last night.

44

Layman 06.19.14 at 4:42 pm

LFC @ 42

You’re right about the defeat-snatched rhetoric. This is yet another facet of the insanity of the invasion in the first place, something I can’t understand about those who advocated it.

Americans have no stomach for sustained war. Any adventure in Iraq would thus always have an expiration date. The artificial nature of the Iraqi nation, the conflicting aspirations of its neighbors, and the ethnic & religious ties between those neighbors and disparate groups of Iraqi citizens pretty much guaranteed sectarian strife following that expiration date. No workable plan for the Iraq war could have addressed that eventuality except permanent occupation in support of an authoritarian government.

It’s easy for me to believe that some of those who promoted the war (e.g. Cheney) secretly had permanent occupation in mind, while others were simply naive tools (e.g. Bush). But there were advocates who must have understood the realities. Were they all secretly planning permanent occupation? If not that, then what?

45

Bruce Wilder 06.19.14 at 4:50 pm

Layman @ 43

Two points.

1. Oil

2. there were advocates who must have understood the realities No.

46

Ed Herdman 06.19.14 at 4:54 pm

OK, John Holbo’s use of reverse psychology and mentioning Bill Kristol is starting to make more sense after having looked at the June 16th Tom Tomorrow (“Kristol’s prominence as a pundit only makes sense if we are finding out what he thinks in order to do the exact opposite.”) Let’s also not forget the Cheneys squeezed out this fresh nugget: “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.”

@ Layman:

That was a response to Barry @ 32. I don’t disagree with what you’ve written here at all, except for the characterization that I am arguing we just needed to throw more resources at it. I don’t draw that conclusion at all.

If you know your Vietnam history, you’ll know that we never came close to doing “good enough,” in terms of what was actually needed. Never lost a battle – so the popular story goes (it’s not exactly true) – but we certainly lost the war. What I was referring to was the early estimate of General Leclerc – who said something like “it would take 500,000 troops and even then it could not be done.” He wanted half a million men for a stalemate. We had over half a million US troops in Vietnam at the peak of fighting, and this nearly 20 years after Leclerc had been in Vietnam we still didn’t see his point.

The consensus against the Vietnam War had two long legs: One was the cost to Americans, and another the cost to the Vietnamese. Cut through one of the legs, and the argument still remained. I say the same thing about the Iraq war.

47

Barry 06.19.14 at 4:55 pm

J Thomas 06.19.14 at 3:02 pm

” Barry, you could be right. But how else can we intervene? Isn’t that what intervention *is*?”

Could you please explain what you are talking about? Perhaps by quoting my words?
I’ve looked at my comments, and can’t find anything relevant to what you are saying?

48

Ze Kraggash 06.19.14 at 4:56 pm

Dear Sir, my name is Samantha Smith. I would like to know why you want to conquer the world.

49

Barry 06.19.14 at 4:56 pm

Ed Herdman: “Likewise, I don’t think the standard “US government lied” line is necessarily true. The military was reporting far more optimistic civilian casualty numbers than the independent groups arrived at, but staying “on message” made sense given the volatility of the situation and what was being asked. The people who were actually making the policy and who were in a position to be honest with the public – they were in the White House.”

In other words, they lied.

50

Ed Herdman 06.19.14 at 4:58 pm

Layman @ #43:

The old saying about attributing to malice what can be properly explained by stupidity (and hubris) applies here, I think. Rumsfeld in particular was acting like a star-struck teenager who had just discovered technology and patriotism (technology – our special projects will do the work of foot soldiers; patriotism – how dare Shinseki dare question the civilian authority, but nevermind we’re trying to be more military than the military).

I like “4-D lizards from outer space” also, though. They clearly profit from all this. We certainly didn’t – I don’t think even American oil companies have done much with it (instead the Chinese and other regional players have been trying to have a go at it).

51

Barry 06.19.14 at 4:59 pm

Ed: “That was a response to Barry @ 32. I don’t disagree with what you’ve written here at all, except for the characterization that I am arguing we just needed to throw more resources at it. I don’t draw that conclusion at all.”

Actually, no. I was pointing out that the US government’s spin was not trustworthy.

I’ve been skimming your comments for a couple of posts now, and frankly, you’re a bullsh*tter. This will be the last reply to anything you write, since it’s not worth debating with a liar.

52

Bruce Baugh 06.19.14 at 5:00 pm

Cheryl Rofer@20: Really, a crucial truth here is that they didn’t have to “dig up” the hawks from anywhere. They’ve all been there all along. And that’s part of the essence of the tragedy.

53

The Temporary Name 06.19.14 at 5:05 pm

The people who want to rescue Iraqis could take some in.

54

Ed Herdman 06.19.14 at 5:05 pm

@ Barry: Even before the shameful treatment of Shinseki by Rumsfeld, you’re saying that people who feel operational security in their bones, want to win the war, and probably make as much in a year to buy a D.C. pol’s favorite suit (or maybe just the tie tack), and have become emotionally invested in the war through the loss of their community members – they are as deserving of criticism as the dilettantes who could arrange for the war on a lark and planned it like a fishing expedition?

I’ll agree that this episode proves the need for whistleblowers, as Straightwood mentions, but I don’t see equivalence of blame here. One side bought the war on credit; the rest of the government has been paying for it (along with everybody else) ever since.

55

JimV 06.19.14 at 5:13 pm

To mbw @25: that was a heck of a pamphlet. Thanks for trying.

56

Ed Herdman 06.19.14 at 5:13 pm

Barry, I’m pointing out that we can get a lot more precise than “the government.” Yeah, it’s a tragedy that the Bush / Cheney team got so many people to do their dirty work, but like Bruce @ 51 said, the people who are behind (and still pushing) the Iraq war are a distinct faction in US politics.

57

David 06.19.14 at 5:14 pm

I humbly submit that we stop paying attention to the foreign policy recommendations of anyone who is not a Marxist.

58

Bruce Wilder 06.19.14 at 5:20 pm

To elaborate: however powerful a parasite may be, it is simply not true that the parasite understands how the host works, or has an interest in making the host work well. The grifter or thief or mobster lives on the dysfunction of the society, as well as its function, but is likely to confuse the former with the latter. The thief appreciates, in his way, the value of the institutions of private property or money, and may well understand in some dim way that he participates in an assault on those institutions, but he never expects that his assault will cause the institution to collapse. If he imagines any consequence beyond his own satisfaction, he probably thinks his victims will come back stronger than before. The sheep will breed more lambs and grow more wool. Against reason, he imagines a positive response from his depradations.

The Project for a New American Century types saw the establishment of the American Imperium, rooted in the occupation of Germany and Japan and those nation’s subsequent economic miracles, as a precedent, if not truly a model. This would be an opportunity, in the wake of the end of the Cold War, to push back the frontiers of Empire, to create a new occupation, followed by a new miracle.

They cobbled together some PR drivel and farcical narratives from storehouse of American myths of WWII and the Cold War, and trumped up a melodrama of “weapons of mass destruction”. It was absurd, but it was met by weakmindedness and moral vacuum, which continues to this day.

“The plan” was really no plan at all. The principals simply had no idea what actual planning required, consisted of. If you look into the details of the operation, you can see some feeble attempts at planning, which serve to highlight how determined the principals were to screw it all up. The intelligence agency at the State Dept did some excellent work. The guy they put in charge of the Occupation before Bremer seemed sensible enough. And, in the same palsied spirit, you can see the consciousness of lies about WMD and the intention to reconstruct Iraq — to solve the country’s problems with electricity, water, poverty and sewage.

The important thing to realize is not that the problems of Iraq, however they may be identified or enumerated, were “too difficult”, and therefore nothing should have been attempted. That’s not a useful parsing; that’s just more weakmindedness. The important thing to realize that this is a case of the fox taking charge of the chicken coop.

59

PatrickinIowa 06.19.14 at 5:20 pm

The problem for most of the Very Important People admitting they were wrong in 2001/2002/2003 about Iraq isn’t that they were wrong. It’s that they were wrong for transparently (at the time) intellectually and factually dishonest reasons. Whether Rumsfield or Cheney or any of the pundits lied or were stupid (malice or stupidity) matters very little: either way we shouldn’t listen to them now.

The other thing to remember is that previously they were wrong about Guatemala, Nicarauga, supporting Saddam Hussain against Iran, and a multitude of other applications of US force, going all the way to Southeast Asia. Most of them didn’t start being wrong in this millennium. They have a long history of meretricious blather, usually ending in the deaths of thousands of innocents.

In these circumstances, it seems to me the most rational response to one more attempt to gin up the unfortunate tendency for the US to think that killing people is the answer is the Rude Pundit’s “That Dick Cheney is still alive is a demonstration that either there is no God or that God said, “F@ck it” and walked away a long time ago. “

Enjoy: http://rudepundit.blogspot.com/2014/06/father-and-daughter-cheney-can-go-suck.html.

60

Ian 06.19.14 at 5:26 pm

I was wrong about Iraq. I was one of those Kenneth Pollack-reading liberal queasyhawks, to my ongoing shame.

No offense, but who really cares, apart from the smallish community that reads this blog? The point about the neocons is that they occupy some of the highest perches in the media aviary. It’s an argument about the complicity of the press.

61

Robert Waldmann 06.19.14 at 6:29 pm

Wait you were wrong on Iraq ? I was just thinking how much less time I would spend reading stuff on the web, if I decided not to read anything by anyone who was wrong on Iraq, and I had no idea. Don’t you live in Singapore ? I thought the summer of war (ht Andrew Northrup aka the editors) had something to do with something in the US water system. I now realize that the pathogen could be transmitted over the internet.

I honestly can’t fit my head around the idea that you, John Holbo thought it was a good or least bad idea to invade Iraq”nahhh not John Holbo, you’re pulling my leg — I know about Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum (till the last minute) Matthew Yglesias, Mark Kleiman, Ezra Klein, Andrew Northrup (aka the editors), [please don't tell me any more] but no way John Holbo “. I think you should take that as a compliment.

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J Thomas 06.19.14 at 7:14 pm

#39

The idea that Iraq 2003 could have been ‘done right’ seems wrong to me. Are there any good examples – victories? – to draw lessons from?

In each case there’s room for disagreement whether they actually accomplished the actual goals or what the goals should have been.

Panama — Whenever Panama is ruled by somebody the USA cannot stand, we get rid of him. By law of averages, half the time this should be an improvement for the people of Panama. So for example, Torrijos negotiated too forcefully about the canal, so when Noriega asked if it would be OK to stage a coup we said yes. Torrijos died in a plane crash, Noriega announced that US interests put a bomb on the plane. Later, when Noriega also proved unacceptable, the USA invaded Panama and replaced him with a democratic government. There was surprisingly little violence. The Panamanians seemed to understand from repeated experience that the less they did, the sooner we would go away. It’s pretty much like that whenever we invade small latin american nations. Our goals might not in fact be worth doing, but we don’t face a lot of opposition and when we leave we can announce that the country once again has a democratic government that we have carefully installed so it will do what its citizens want.

Greece. After WWII Greek communists had a fighting chance to take over the country. The US military cooperated with Greek forces to kill communists, and killed enough of them to stop the movement. In later generations socialist reformers got so much support that it took a military coup to stop them, and the USA supported the generals until they became unsupportable. It wasn’t enough killing to be considered genocide, and relations between the USA and Greece have remained excellent even though for most of the time the USA supported Greece’s enemy Turkey much more than we supported Greece. It could be argued that US goals for Greece were not good goals, but it would be hard to argue that they were unsuccessful.

There are various examples of US occupations that could be considered successful. The best of them were Germany and Japan post WWII, but those were total defeats which you ruled out. For Japan we got some good anthropologists to help work out the details about how to manage it. They stressed for example the big-brother/little-brother relationship, which did a whole lot to smooth things over. The policies then got implemented by a collection of people who largely didn’t know what they were doing, but it could have gone very much worse than it did.

I could imagine that Iraq could possibly have gone much better. First, quickly work at local elections for town councils and city councils. Then democratic regional associations, and try to quickly work up from the bottom. Second, let Iraqi engineers rebuild as quickly as they could, and let them decide what replacement parts they needed. We had US inspectors who took a year to decide what US equipment was needed, and then it took an ineffective US bureaucracy much longer to get that stuff imported and installed. Make it clear that we would stay just long enough to get things organized and then leave.

I want to believe that if we had just done things better it might actually have worked. Given quick local elections and a lot of local autonomy, Iraqis would believe we did intend to leave and that would have much reduced attacks on US troops, and various things might possibly have worked out. I can’t prove there was any chance because in reality it failed. It seems plausible to me and I wanted to believe it could have been possible, given people who had good purposes and a clear sense of how to further those purposes.

63

Layman 06.19.14 at 7:17 pm

Bruce Wilder @ 57

“The Project for a New American Century types saw the establishment of the American Imperium, rooted in the occupation of Germany and Japan and those nation’s subsequent economic miracles, as a precedent, if not truly a model. This would be an opportunity, in the wake of the end of the Cold War, to push back the frontiers of Empire, to create a new occupation, followed by a new miracle.”

Yes, I get that. It’s what I meant when I wrote “It’s easy for me to believe that some of those who promoted the war (e.g. Cheney) secretly had permanent occupation in mind…”

You see the rest as useful idiots. Some were, but it’s hard to believe that they were all one or the other; that no one not in on the con ever asked how & when we get out.

64

J Thomas 06.19.14 at 7:39 pm

#46:

I’m sure that a very large number of people were killed during those times, and that the US government deliberately lied about it.”

Barry, you could be right. But how else can we intervene? Isn’t that what intervention *is*?”

Could you please explain what you are talking about? Perhaps by quoting my words?
I’ve looked at my comments, and can’t find anything relevant to what you are saying?

US military intervention involves sending in the military to kill people, or at the very least to threaten to kill people unless they obey us. And since the extended use of military force requires acceptance by the US public, they have to find a way to describe what they’re doing that the public can support.,

Of course they killed people and lied about it. That’s what they do. The question is whether this time it’s better for the US military to intervene than to not intervene. Lots of people thought we were right to intervene in WWII, that the world would be a worse place if we didn’t. In each more recent war we get a lot of propaganda arguing that the enemy is so bad the world will be a better place if we kill a bunch of people to stop them.

65

Harold 06.19.14 at 7:42 pm

An interesting thing about Japan is that Douglas MacArthur signed a law authorizing land reform without a second thought and in one stroke broke the back of the Japanese aristocracy. Plus, the occupation was filled with liberal New Dealers (as opposed to U of Chicago libertarians) with whom the Japanese populace eagerly collaborated.

66

Layman 06.19.14 at 7:46 pm

J Thomas @ 61

It’s hard to see how Greece qualifies. While the US certainly supported the Greek government in opposing the communists during the civil war, and supported a string of rightist governments in the decades that followed, it was never really the case that the US occupied Greece or used its military forces to maintain order & control the country. The Greek anti-communists largely fought & won their own war. And US actions there can hardly be called a success, since the result was two decades of repression, civil & social strife, and a string of coups.

As to Panama, were we fighting an insurgency there? I’ll accept ‘occupation’ considering the Canal Zone, and certainly we’ve picked & toppled governments there, but I don’t clearly recall any history of significant combat operations against an indigenous insurgency.

That people think we could have done Iraq right frankly disturbs me, because it provides the motivation to try this kind if nonsense again.

67

Layman 06.19.14 at 7:49 pm

“Lots of people thought we were right to intervene in WWII, that the world would be a worse place if we didn’t.”

Perhaps lots of people did, but apparently not enough, since we never did choose to intervene in that war. We got dragged into it by the other side, as I recall.

68

Barry 06.19.14 at 8:10 pm

Layman, about PNAC and the neocons – their goal was to sweep through the Middle East, conquering a number of countries and installing puppet regimes. That meant that things had to be done cheap and fast. That ruled out the Shinseki approach, which was basically to station every single remotely available service member in Iraq for 2-3 years.

J Thomas, most of what you said was pointed out before the invasion.

I think there’s a rule here, that when people do stupid things, don’t be surprised when they also carry them out stupidly.

69

J Thomas 06.19.14 at 8:23 pm

it was never really the case that the US occupied Greece or used its military forces to maintain order & control the country

True. There were a number of US pilots in Greece, and I talked to a man who was in US ground forces there who talked like there were thousands. But just now I could not find a record of a single US casualty during the Greek war. I guess the US military people didn’t fight much at all.

As to Panama, were we fighting an insurgency there?

If you can run an occupation and change of government etc without actually getting an insurgency going, isn’t that better than mismanaging things enough that you have to fight an insurgency? The fewer people you have to kill to prevail, the better.
As to Panama, were we fighting an insurgency there?

70

roy belmont 06.19.14 at 8:34 pm

Cui bono dude.

71

LFC 06.19.14 at 8:40 pm

Btw, Zakaria’s June 12 column, wh/ I just read for the first time, is pretty good, and tends to contradict the McCain line about why a ‘residual’ US force did not remain in the country (though no doubt the details of what happened re the negotiations are not yet fully known):
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fareed-zakaria-who-lost-iraq-the-iraqis-did-with-an-assist-from-george-w-bush/2014/06/12/35c5a418-f25c-11e3-914c-1fbd0614e2d4_story.html

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Peter K. 06.19.14 at 8:41 pm

Layman @ 42

““How can you know that things wouldn’t have been worse sooner without the war?”

This is simply a restatement of the Bush Doctrine, a morally repugnant basis for international relations. To illustrate: How can I know you won’t harm me? Of course I can’t know, so I must preemptively harm you. I don’t want to Godwin the thread, but if you’ll take a look at the basis of some historical conflicts erupting in the late 30′s and early 40′s, you’ll find similar justifications cited.

Invading Iraq was a crime. That’s the problem, not that we executed the crime poorly.”

That’s not what I’m saying at all. People say the war caused the chaos. The chaos was coming anyway. That doesn’t justify the war of course.

The question isn’t whether or not Iraq was going to harm us or “our people” as they said in the 30s and 40s. The question is whether or not the region was sliding into chaos whether or not there was a war.

The leaders didn’t say “the region is sliding into chaos so we need to invade.” They said that it would be easy and cheap and Iraq would quickly turn into a democracy so we could safely ignore that part of the world again soon enough.

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Peter K. 06.19.14 at 8:52 pm

Layman @34

“Invading Iraq was a crime. That’s the problem, not that we executed the crime poorly.

Well it sort of matters when people say the crime caused the region to slide into chaos when it’s possible that the region was sliding into chaos anyway.

If the U.S. had built Iraq into global economic superpower as they did with the defeated Axis powers Germany and Japan, more people would overlook or play down the crime.

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Layman 06.19.14 at 8:53 pm

J Thomas @ 68

I don’t think Panama qualifies. The occupation consisted of the Canal Zone, which is tiny (about 500 square miles) and for the purposes of operating the canal. US forces did not police the Panamanian people nor operate the Panamanian government. Their presence was under treaty and limited to the Zone. There was no history of local military opposition & no insurgency. When popular opposition to our presence reached a significant level, we renegotiated the treaty & left.

By coincidence, I lived in the Canal Zone from 65 – 68, and then in Athens from 68-72. I don’t offer that as evidence of any authority here, as I was way too young to glean any useful expertise at the time.

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The Temporary Name 06.19.14 at 8:54 pm

The question is whether or not the region was sliding into chaos whether or not there was a war.

I don’t understand why that is the question. Surely the body-count matters.

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Ed Herdman 06.19.14 at 9:05 pm

Surely also the right of the people in an area to some input and self-determination matters as well!

@ J Thomas #68 (The Tet Offensive post)

From the start, the Iraq war was clearly one in which many people were going to have to die, and the threat to US interests was never very clear (or likely to be large even if there was intent).

Warmongers seemed content to point out, with that demagogues’ skill of hiding in the cracks between data points, it was going to be Different. Iraq wasn’t Vietnam; it was going to be more like the Gulf War again; we had the Rummy doctrine + new superior super technology! (actually, HMMVs with cargo nets for doors); and whatever else ad-hoc puzzle pieces came to light. If we let that kind of thinking slide along, we can find ourselves getting into disasters forever, with the warmongers never quite having to state their case’s merits and demerits, and shifting the blame onto doves for pooping on the party.

A lot of the opposition seemed too fundamental and moralizing for them. “What, you guys are just worried that a few people will die? That we’ll betray some arbitrary legal principles to eradicate badness and evil? Those aren’t good enough reasons!” Well, as it turned out, those seemingly simplistic and undetailed objections would have served as a great defense against an unnecessary risk and entering into a disaster. If the warmongers were the great students and admirers of the military they claim to be, they’d know that plans don’t survive contact and fate sits ready to cut our lifelines.

So I want to point out that your concerns are rather optimistic considering the climate of intellectual dishonesty which surrounded the entry into that war. Is it logically possible that you can have a good war? I guess…Who has made a concerted effort to make it reality? I don’t mean things like the war colleges’ interest in “just war” philosophy, or technological improvements, or reinstituting the draft, and “assurances.” I mean having the near certainty that we can actually do something so breathtakingly complex and challenging as a war for regime change, and have it come out “the way we like” (even that already implies a breathtakingly narrow and narcissistic worldview).

Even if there was a “slide into chaos,” who asked us to come in guns-a-blazin’? Surely couldn’t we partner with the region’s members? Leclerc wanted negotiation in Vietnam and caught hell for it from his leaders. Meanwhile, the “go it alone” attitude in the U.S. is as tribal as any other nation’s; we really didn’t learn from the Cold War and its end if we end up saying that unilateral action is not only effective, but our mission to claim. Post ’75 done.

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Layman 06.19.14 at 9:15 pm

“Well it sort of matters when people say the crime caused the region to slide into chaos when it’s possible that the region was sliding into chaos anyway.”

If I stole your wallet, would you say I caused it to be gone, or would you say I didn’t because it might have disappeared anyway?

“If the U.S. had built Iraq into global economic superpower as they did with the defeated Axis powers Germany and Japan, more people would overlook or play down the crime.”

How would we do that? I could be wrong, but I think we spent more in 2004 on Iraq reconstruction than we did in West Germany during the entire Marshall Plan, in constant dollars. And it’s my impression that the economies of the former Axis powers took decades to recover.

78

Manta 06.19.14 at 9:17 pm

79

Ed Herdman 06.19.14 at 9:24 pm

Beck almost has it right, but who was saying that Iraqis didn’t want to be free? Poison in that sweet wine. Now, liberals did say things like “Iraqis have to be the driving force, from the grassroots up” and evidence seems to bear that out. Strange, but even in his admission of guilt, that kind of right-wing-ish thinking, almost like a “stab in the back,” creeps in there. The people of Iraq didn’t fail us; we failed them in trying to envision a state that wasn’t there and wasn’t going to be there without their forming new alliances between groups.

80

Doctor Science 06.19.14 at 9:30 pm

Let me join Robert Waldman @60 in saying, “John Holbo, wtf?”

In more detail:

- I’d be very interested in learning whether Belle supported the war, ever.

- I don’t think “shame” is a sufficiently self-reflective response, coming from a philosopher.

I’m one of those people who, without being a professional historian or ethicist or politician or soldier, could nonetheless diagnose “a fucking evil and stupid idea” at a distance. I screamed and yelled, marched and wrote, and did my best to shift the runaway trolley to disaster, but it didn’t make a damn bit of difference.

I remain incandescently angry at Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their claque, but I have plenty left over for all the people who were supposed to have detailed, professional knowledge of the issues, yet went along with a plan my amateur mind could see right through.

And yes, John, that includes you. I don’t expect you to have great insight into Middle Eastern affairs or military history, but you’re supposed to think clearly about ethics. And you didn’t.

Now, a little time with the Google machine reveals that your pro-Iraq-War phase didn’t last very long. But I’d be interested to know how you, as a philosopher, went off the rails, and how you got back on them. And what this taught you about whether philosophy is good for anything, really.

My personal, deeply embittered guess is that you, like most non-evil non-ignorant supporters of the Iraq War, were too much of an emotional male to be rational — or philosophic — about it.

81

The Temporary Name 06.19.14 at 9:40 pm

I’d be very interested in learning whether Belle supported the war, ever.

You will be disappointed.

82

JanieM 06.19.14 at 10:05 pm

From Doctor Science’s second link: And if anyone ever sees a woman with road rage, they should write it up and send it to a medical journal.

Not making a statement about any broader claims, but I don’t think the writer has encountered a wide enough variety of women. He should take a ride with me someday. Not that I’m proud of it, but he could get a nice journal article out of it.

83

Phil 06.19.14 at 10:24 pm

I want to come back to that word ‘we’. It’s the most seductive part of the pro-war argument – the assertion that, in the face of this horror or that inhuman tyranny, we can’t just sit back and do nothing. It resonates: as we(!) watch the news (generally from a sedentary position and while not doing anything), it’s easy to think I want this stopped! There must be lots of people like me – if only someone would do what we want!

But it’s a fallacious and ultimately spectacular way of thinking. The agency we’re invoking, 99 times out of 100, is that of the state. And the default position of the state is never sitting back and doing nothing. It’s true that you and I as individuals had no identifiable interaction with (say) Malala Yousafzai until the first time we saw her on the news, but our governments were interacting with the government of Pakistan in a hundred different ways. States are always already related, always already interacting. To trade with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was doing something; to maintain a specific set of sanctions was doing something; to vary those sanctions would be doing something.

Those people who told us that we needed to do something, when they really meant that our government needed to stop doing what it was doing and wage an aggressive war without a long-term plan, should never be trusted again. If all your problems look like casus belli, you’re probably holding the wrong tool.

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Bruce Baugh 06.19.14 at 10:30 pm

Doctor Science, I like that link, and I think that there’s a really solid case to be made that, as they are socialized in actually existing Western societies, men as a group are not fit to wield political power. I’m not being catty about that, either. I can point to exceptional individuals and groups, but they are exceptions.

One of the things that really angers me still is how much of the discourse about Iraq dumps the burden on opponents. If you, J. Random Warmonger, come to me and say, “Let’s spend far more than we can afford to kill a bunch of people neither of us knows much about, and fire everyone who has any plan for the aftermath, won’t that be great?”, it’s not my damn burden of proof, it’s yours. The null hypothesis shouldn’t be “J. Random gets his way unless people like Bruce manage to stop him”, it should be “we don’t act until everyone is convinced J. Random has a moral goal an a competent plan within our capability to execute”.

I’m putting this alongside Jim Henley’s “If you need to fight a counter-insurgency war, you are likely on the wrong side”: if the setup is that you will inflict expensive death and misery by default unless the rest of us stop you in time, your setup is wrong.

85

The Temporary Name 06.19.14 at 10:30 pm

It’s Pascal’s Wager with God as a bomb.

86

Sasha Clarkson 06.19.14 at 10:40 pm

Phil @83

It’s the famous Yes Minister syllogism

“Something must be done.
This is something,
therefore it must be done”

87

novakant 06.19.14 at 10:45 pm

Sorry Dr Science, but your attempt at gendering the issue of Iraq war support is rather embarrassing – especially given the facts, but not only – and a tiny bit offensive as well.

88

JanieM 06.19.14 at 11:24 pm

One of the things that really angers me still is how much of the discourse about Iraq dumps the burden on opponents.

This is true in all kinds of situations where people dream up expensive, stupid, self-serving, or otherwise bad-for-the-rest-of-us ideas and then proceed to frame the situation as a debate between the “positive” side and the naysayers.

89

Bruce Baugh 06.19.14 at 11:33 pm

Well, true enough, Jamie.

90

Bruce Baugh 06.19.14 at 11:34 pm

Janie! Sorry!

The Iraq disaster managed to hit so many extremes of expense and harm done and lack of rationale and lack of planning and and and. But it’s true, it’s not very unrepresentative in terms of that imbalance of discourse at all.

91

JanieM 06.19.14 at 11:37 pm

No, Bruce, and I didn’t mean at all to minimize the disastrousness of how the pattern was used re: Iraq. It would just be nice to figure out a way to break that pattern…in a lot of situations.

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J Thomas 06.20.14 at 12:28 am

#74
I don’t think Panama qualifies. The occupation consisted of the Canal Zone, which is tiny (about 500 square miles) and for the purposes of operating the canal. US forces did not police the Panamanian people nor operate the Panamanian government.

We have occasionally done more than that, notably in 1895, 1908, 1912, 1918-1920, 1921, 1925, 1958, and 1989. At various times for short periods (always less than 3 years) US forces did police the Panamanian people, supervise Panamanian elections etc.

We have never faced a serious insurgency because Panamanians know they could not win, that the USA could crush all opposition if necessary.

The government of Panama negotiates with the USA in the knowledge that we could invade them again whenever we want and there is absolutely nothing they can do about it except appeal to world opinion. That probably influences their negotiating stances. They have sometimes insisted on points that have no practical significance, as an assertion of dignity or something. Like, at one point they demanded the Panama flag be displayed in the Canal Zone, and the US military argued that this should not be allowed because if we gave in on that, it would encourage them to demand something else.

I’m not sure this should count as a “success”, but for a long time we managed to get pretty much everything we wanted with no insurgency, and we had to apply actual military force only for short times at fairly small expense.

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J Thomas 06.20.14 at 12:41 am

#72
The leaders didn’t say “the region is sliding into chaos so we need to invade.” They said that it would be easy and cheap and Iraq would quickly turn into a democracy so we could safely ignore that part of the world again soon enough.

That’s what they said ahead of time.

After it failed and people accused them of driving the region into chaos, now they argue that for all you know it would have slipped into chaos anyway so that wasn’t their fault.

It’s a “I didn’t set start the fire by smoking in bed, the bed was already on fire when I lay down in it” argument.

94

P O'Neill 06.20.14 at 1:14 am

Luckily we’ve learned from 2002-03 not to have a President exaggerating links between Iraq and al Qaeda* and to place Iraq in its regional Arab and sectarian context before opining on it.**

*ISIL is not an Al Qaeda affiliate.

**As this thread approaches 100 comments, the word “syria” has yet to be mentioned.

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Bruce Wilder 06.20.14 at 1:31 am

Or Saudi Arabia

96

Bruce Wilder 06.20.14 at 2:32 am

Layman @ 63: [some of those who promoted the war (e.g. Cheney) secretly had permanent occupation in mind…] You see the rest as useful idiots. Some were, but it’s hard to believe that they were all one or the other; that no one not in on the con ever asked how & when we get out.

The point of my comment @58 (née 57) was that those not-in-on-the-con have to be able to recognize that the con is a con, and treat it accordingly, drawing attention to its nature, and the nature of its proponents. The success of a con depends on getting a lot of people not in on the con to play along, — in this case, the “Very Serious People” mentioned by Bad Jim @ 8, for example, people paid to model idiocy in the Media and to keep the discourse in the double-digit-IQ range. WMD was a PR invention and means of cynically manipulating public opinion, but it was treated — and is still treated — as if it is a required aspect of shared reality in the mainstream media.

Weakmindedness plays a large part in how “the pattern of discourse” others have been commenting on, is perpetuated.

Why did “no one . . . ever ask how & when we get out”? I’m sure some people did ask, and were frozen out and bullied. No one lost their job in the mainstream Media advocating for Bush’s invasion of Iraq; the consequences for those questioning U.S. policy or journalistic standards at leading outlets haven’t fared as well.

Even Colin Powell, whose brand-name Powell Doctrine asked the exit strategy question, was Secretary of State; he was willing to go before the Security Council and present a fraudulent case. Is he routinely referred to in the Media as the disgraced former Secretary of State? That’s what a healthy discourse would look like. We wouldn’t be just looking for apologia, we’d be routinely dishing out disgrace, like we meant it. Maybe even prosecuting war criminals. But, no, we look forward, and make no judgments.

97

Alan White 06.20.14 at 3:02 am

“**As this thread approaches 100 comments, the word “syria” has yet to be mentioned.”

In comment 94 it is, with entailed self-referenced contradiction. So I nominate myself for wise-ass nit-picker of the thread.

The incursion into Afghanistan was marginally morally justified by looking for bin Laden. Anything beyond that was opportunism of the worst sort. And we schmelected the worst sort of opportunists, with the worst sort appointment of Supreme Court justices beginning with Ronny-boy politicizing that schmselection of the worst.

98

Omega Centauri 06.20.14 at 3:18 am

Well, perhaps it *could* have worked if the right crew had been involved in post invasion decision making? But, as it was the people calling the shots were mostly true believers in the value of the freemarket paradise. Many seemed to truly believe that all you had to do was eliminate the (bathist) government, and open the borders to the international brigades of libetarian entrepreneurs, and lickety-split between that, and copious oil reserves Iraq would become a wealthy paradise. PNACs ambitions were truly large, first they would conquer Iraq for the freemarket, then on the basis of that shining example the rest of the world would see the wisdom of following suit. No planning was needed, libertarian chaos would do all the heavy lifting. The only necessary was to carefully screen out those who weren’t tru believers from the occupation authority.

So the counterfactual “maybe it could have worked”, is set against, “but there are a zillion ways even people of good faith can screw it up*”. And there are many more ways to screw it up, then there are ways to get it right, so next time we start blue skying about trying something similar we ought to keep that in mind -the odds are not in our favor.

(*) Or maybe especially people of good faith are far more likely to screw up, they after all tend to be slow to mark their ideology to market.

99

LFC 06.20.14 at 3:21 am

P O’Neill @94
You call for ‘placing Iraq in regional context’ (who cd object to that?), but simply mentioning the word “Syria” doesn’t mean the resulting analysis will be good. Anne-Marie Slaughter’s NYT piece leads off by mentioning Iraq and Syria in the same breath pretty much, but that doesn’t mean that Slaughter’s (vaguely hedged) advocacy of the use of air power in both Syria and Iraq is sensible (I think it’s prob. not and wd prob. be counterproductive). There is a view to the effect that (1) Obama shd have done more and earlier to support the ‘moderate’ forces in Syria, (2) his failure to do that contributed to ISIL’s rise in W.Iraq and E.Syria, (3) this was all rather predictable and therefore the admin is blameworthy for being shortsighted. This may be right (I’m not sure/don’t know whether it is), but seems a bit too neat to me. (The situation in Libya has not evolved in the way that the proponents of Op. Odyssey Dawn had hoped it wd. That doesn’t seem to be mentioned all that frequently in these discussions.)

100

LFC 06.20.14 at 3:38 am

A.-M. Slaughter:

This is where the White House is most blind. It sees the world on two planes: the humanitarian world of individual suffering, where no matter how heart-rending the pictures and how horrific the crimes, American vital interests are not engaged because it is just people; and the strategic world of government interests, where what matters is the chess game of one leader against another, and stopping both state and nonstate actors who are able to harm the United States.

In fact, the two planes are inextricably linked. When a government begins to massacre its own citizens, with chemical weapons, barrel bombs and starvation, as Syria’s continues to do, it must be stopped. If it is not stopped, violence, displacement and fanaticism will flourish.

When Russia was conducting a brutal campaign in Chechnya that involved the killing of Russian civilians, was Slaughter calling for intervention? Why doesn’t Slaughter write a column arguing that if only the Russians had been stopped from massacring their own citizens in Chechnya, the Boston bombings wd never have
occurred? Oh, maybe b.c if the U.S. had bombed in Chechnya, it wd have precipitated a war w Russia. Now I’m not saying the situations are comparable (they aren’t), but the pt is perhaps nonetheless suggestive.

101

Ed Herdman 06.20.14 at 4:43 am

@ Bruce:

I thought the common consensus among anybody who’s looked at the Colin Powell fiasco is that he’s at the top of the list of prominent military figures the Bush Administration humiliated, along with Shinseki. Powell himself admits that it was a mistake; he did so nearly ten years ago. But he was basically coerced into it. His choice was basically “do nothing and Bush’s crew moves forwards without him,” or “do what he could to make sure that we didn’t go in without international support.”

I put him in the same camp with all the other folks who we say, with hindsight, could have done more to speak out against the war, and who thought (just as they did at the very top) they could tame the beast. But absent a mutiny in the armed forces, we would’ve gotten that war anyway, and the Administration had sold it to him.

It’s also worth mentioning that Powell “clashed with then-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright over the Bosnian crisis, as he opposed any military interventions that didn’t involve US interests.”

In hindsight, I’m sure this can be said to look damning of him. What I see is that in the darkest moment of modern American history, when he was caught off-guard by 9/11 and the Administration had him rethinking his principles, they pounced, pushing him into presenting an ill-prepared speech without leadership, with only the clear specter of ignominy should he fail looming in the background.

102

roy belmont 06.20.14 at 5:08 am

Bruce Wilder 96 -
It’s maybe helpful to keep in mind that “con” is a distill from “confidence”.
The use of the hollow “con”fidence of the mark – “I know what’s going on. The pea is there! There!”
The mark invests in the scam because of ego-hunger and pride-driven need to know what’s going on.
Otherwise Chump City.
As the prestidigitator’s hands move past your ability to see.
Let me try that again.

103

Bruce Wilder 06.20.14 at 5:37 am

Powell admits it was a mistake, in the ritualistic rhetoric of apologia issued by someone, who thinks people should continue to trust and honor him (as per the OP), but he doesn’t, even now, identify it as a con. And, people don’t generally dishonor him as a liar and someone, who failed his country in an office of great trust — Ed Herdman did not do so in his comment, he made more excuses for Powell. Instead of confronting the horror of what Powell did, in the service of a criminals committing a great crime, Ed Herdman offers fanciful counterfactuals. He made sure the U.S. had some international support for its ill-advised war crime. (How’s that an excuse?)

I’m not concerned with whether Cheney and company somehow bullied and humiliated Powell; boo hoo, the might General got bullied on the playground — I’m concerned that Powell shamed his own country, and contributed mightily to the injustice and misfortunes of the world we live in.

My point, here, isn’t to beat up on Ed Herdman, who is a thoughtful commenter; it is to question how we all became so weakminded. This is a “consensus” as Ed Herdman called, and I think he called it that correctly. And, it is a real problem: a pattern of discourse that drives politics into the ditch, again and again.

104

john c. halasz 06.20.14 at 5:56 am

“A Weak Mind In the Mountains”

105

Bruce Wilder 06.20.14 at 6:04 am

roy belmont @102

My father used to like to say, “You can’t cheat an honest man,” an echo, I’m sure of the 1939 film by W.C. Fields: “You can’t cheat an honest man; never give a sucker an even break, or smarten up a chump.”

The confidence we want to place in our leaders is our fault.

106

J Thomas 06.20.14 at 8:39 am

His choice was basically “do nothing and Bush’s crew moves forwards without him,” or “do what he could to make sure that we didn’t go in without international support.”

“It follows that any commander in chief who undertakes to carry out a plan which he considers defective is at fault he must put forth his reasons, insist on the plan being changed, and finally tender his resignation….” Napoleon

But of course, Powell was not a general at the time. But he could and should have resigned and publicly explained why.

107

Ed Herdman 06.20.14 at 10:03 am

I have to plead an imperfect memory here. The “choice” I recreated above focuses on the period before the presentation at the UN, when Powell was fed bad intel. Sure this is a counterfactual (or consideration of the possibilities, more accurately) – but it’s also not strange to attempt a reconstruction of the likely state of his mind at the time, which you have to do when declaring what his intent was. Our condemnations are weakened if we cannot even guess what failures in vision or reason lead Powell away from the path we suggest we would have taken in his place.

Come on down from there, Bruce; there’s a difference between an explanation (or at least an attempt at one) and an apologia.

And your characterization of Powell’s apology indicates you don’t know or care what he said, or the early date (as early as 2005) when he said it. I agree it’s still too little, and too late, but I could see somebody who was emotionally invested, and felt they had a duty, needing a year to un-convince themselves about that – and at that same time his training as an officer likely rebelled against the idea of undermining the enterprise that he still thought was just! All the while I’m sure he was being told not to worry about it, that there was other and better intelligence or even proof just around the corner – we all remember that Bush was so determined to find it that he even searched around the White House for that evidence. What commitment!

Not that it makes much difference in this argument, I think where Powell comes in for criticism is after UN presentation and the British newspaper expose of the fake intel’s source (I’d forgotten all about that until this thread).

Even that, however, wouldn’t have been enough to sink the whole enterprise; it was known there was a lot of jockeying in the worldwide intel communities to feed the biggest whoppers to the U.S. No doubt Powell felt – in fact I believe the Bush Administration members probably sincerely felt also (they were taken in by that one expat Iraqi huckster who was supposed to be the new, energetic leader of the nation; remember that guy?) that at least some of their reasons were still good and added up to a coherent case, in their minds.

I’m not a military expert, and Powell is; he has still held to his belief that the war was necessary and just, and that it was precipitated by failed attempts at negotiation. I don’t trust his expert judgment here – plenty of other voices, as well as the ultimate dissent of the miserable plain failure of that campaign, show beyond a reasonable doubts that he was very wrong. But since you mentioned counterfactuals, I think you’re creating one where you concoct a scenario where Colin Powell pushed a war he didn’t think was just or likely to succeed. Even though a lot of that support was for reasons that look laughable in hindsight (some of the usual reasons – the “surge” should have happened sooner, not enough soldiers, etc.), those were still his reasons.

Wrong, yes, but a liar? A con artist? Only by proxy, unless somebody can show me new evidence of duplicity in this. Even of the Bush Administration center circle, it’s plainly strange to see the many assertions over the years that they only acted cynically, and never sincerely. No – they clearly had been taken in by their own story, even if it had started as just that. And failing to even admit this possibility means that we spend a lot of time shaming for behavior that, emotionally, is very improbable to have really taken place, and a distraction for the real reasons for condemning them in the first place. It is yet another case where people focus on the murderer and forget all about the victim.

108

J Thomas 06.20.14 at 11:01 am

Even of the Bush Administration center circle, it’s plainly strange to see the many assertions over the years that they only acted cynically, and never sincerely. No – they clearly had been taken in by their own story, even if it had started as just that.

Say I’m in a position of authority, and I go to the CIA and tell them “Iraq has a nuclear program and it’s your job to find me the proof.” They can’t find it and I say “You’re incompetent, I told you to find me proof and you didn’t. I’ll find it myself.” I find other people who tell me just what I wanted to hear, and I say “We now have proof of what I said all along, but we can’t show it to anybody who might not agree that it’s solid proof because we have to keep it secret.”

And later other people try to second-guess me, and YOU say “I’m sure it wasn’t a con, J Thomas really believed it himself. He truly believed the fake evidence he collected, and that’s different in an important way from trying to con us.”

Thank you for believing in me! It’s true, I’m not a con. I really believed it, and that makes me OK. And now it’s important that we start this other war. Please believe me! I’m not conning you, I really believe it! And so should you.

Thank you for clarifying the issue, too! The important question isn’t whether I’m right. The important question is whether I’m sincere. If I was conning you before then it would make sense not to believe me now. And it would make sense to blame me for what I did. But since you know I’m sincere, I am blameless and everybody should agree with what I say. Because after all, I am right this time, I sincerely believe it and so should you.

109

Niall McAuley 06.20.14 at 11:36 am

Powell knew exactly what he was doing. Here he is in Feb 2001:

QUESTION: The Egyptian press editorial commentary that we have seen here has been bitterly aggressive in denouncing the U.S. role and not welcoming you. I am wondering whether you believe you accomplished anything during your meetings to assuage concerns about the air strikes against Iraq and the continuing sanctions?

SECRETARY POWELL: I received a very warm welcome from the leaders and I know there is some unhappiness as expressed in the Egyptian press. I understand that, but at the same time, with respect to the no-fly zones and the air strikes that we from time to time must conduct to defend our pilots, I just want to remind everybody that the purpose of those no-fly zones and the purpose of those occasional strikes to protect our pilots, is not to pursue an aggressive stance toward Iraq, but to defend the people that the no-fly zones are put in to defend. The people in the southern part of Iraq and the people in the northern part of Iraq, and these zones have a purpose, and their purpose is to protect people — protect Arabs — not to affect anything else in the region. And we have to defend ourselves.

We will always try to consult with our friends in the region so that they are not surprised and do everything we can to explain the purpose of our responses. We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions — the fact that the sanctions exist — not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein’s ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq, and these are policies that we are going to keep in place, but we are always willing to review them to make sure that they are being carried out in a way that does not affect the Iraqi people but does affect the Iraqi regime’s ambitions and the ability to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and we had a good conversation on this issue.

110

Layman 06.20.14 at 12:43 pm

Ed Herdman @ 107

“Even of the Bush Administration center circle, it’s plainly strange to see the many assertions over the years that they only acted cynically, and never sincerely. “

Even their allies in the Blair government understood “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” That’s how sincere they were; so sincere their closest allies didn’t believe them.

111

MPAVictoria 06.20.14 at 1:05 pm

I think being able to admit that the second Iraq war was a huge blunder is a pretty low bar for being taken seriously….

That said I don’t blame some people for being taken in by elite opinion at the time. That is how propaganda works. And I must admit that, while I didn’t support the invasion, I was shocked/appalled with how poorly the immediate aftermath was handled.

112

Collin Street 06.20.14 at 3:20 pm

> Powell knew exactly what he was doing.

“In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.”

113

Jim Harrison 06.20.14 at 4:11 pm

The case for invading Iraq was always weak. It wasn’t just an error whose unwisdom only became clear in hindsight. Millions all over the world understood the war’s illegality and predictably disastrous consequences. It was promoted by big-lie propaganda by people who knew exactly why they supported Operation Iraqi Liberation. Those responsible for the war were criminals and belong on trial, not on cable news. The hell with letting them off with some sort of “mistakes were made” evasion. Obviously justice is unlikely to be done, but we should at least remain clear about what justice would be in this case.

114

Lee A. Arnold 06.20.14 at 4:21 pm

I was on the fence about invading Iraq. I don’t think a war of choice is a good idea, I don’t think breaking international law is a good idea, and I don’t think getting into something you don’t understand is a good idea. And I never believed the weapons of mass destruction thing. BUT I think that getting rid of dictators is usually a good idea, especially a cruel one.

I prefer to discuss real events unless the conversation is meant to be theoretical or psychological. What the U.S. is doing now seems to me to be smart. Iraq must break up into 3 (Shia, Sunni, Kurd) because now, it has gone to pure tribalism. The Kurds already accept the U.S. as an ally, more or less. Sunni ISIS (or ISIL) has done well because 1. all the Sunni neighborhoods instantly switched allegiance, 2. the Sunni soldiers in the regular Iraq army are getting out while the getting is good, and 3. the excellent Baathist military commanders from Saddam’s day are directing much of the ISIS strategy. (Unfortunately the more secular and once-westernized Sunnis now joining their blood brothers may not like it when things are turned against them for not being religious enough.) The Shi’ite Maliki was horrible to the Sunnis and there will be no replacement for him who can, or will, unify Iraq. Obama’s rhetoric on the matter of needing to replace Maliki is obviously phony and is meant to buy time. However ISIS cannot push much further south because southern Iraq is almost entirely Shi’ite. That will leave the Sunnis with a landlocked state so obviously they have to push through Syria — and that would appear to be their main strategy: the end of Sykes-Picot for good; a brand-new map. Stopping this new semi-jihadist state unfortunately means supporting Assad’s cruelties, and many other Western countries appear to be deciding that is the best thing to do right now. An interesting sidelight is a slightly closer U.S. rapprochement with Iran in the pursuit of saving the Iraqi Shi’ites from much more harm. Thus the U.S. can stand on the sidelines and end up with slightly better relations with all sides, eventually.

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Lee A. Arnold 06.20.14 at 4:36 pm

All of which makes another reason why it is a good thing that we didn’t listen to the neocons to bomb Iran. Bill Kristol and those other people should lose their television careers.

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MPAVictoria 06.20.14 at 4:46 pm

“Bill Kristol and those other people should lose their television careers.”

Bill Kristol should have his head chopped off in the town square and put on a pike as a warning to the rest of them.

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john in california 06.20.14 at 4:58 pm

A superfluous comment:
John, you must be too young to have lived through Vietnam.

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J Thomas 06.20.14 at 4:59 pm

I don’t think a war of choice is a good idea, I don’t think breaking international law is a good idea, and I don’t think getting into something you don’t understand is a good idea. And I never believed the weapons of mass destruction thing. BUT I think that getting rid of dictators is usually a good idea, especially a cruel one.

I think Tito was good for Yugoslavia, but he didn’t have a workable exit strategy. If we had killed him and occupied Yugoslavia I doubt we’d have an outcome as good as what we got by waiting, which wasn’t great.

Every now and then people are ready to overthrow their dictators, and then get pot luck for a replacement. Cuba got rid of Batista and got Castro. The Philippines got rid of Marcos and got Aquinos, which I think was a considerable improvement. Iran got rid of the Shah and got Khomeini, which was a fine improvement for freedom but not so good for science, technology, or relations with the USA. Etc etc.

People put up with a whole lot, but when they are ready to get rid of a dictator they do it, unless he has too much support from a superpower. So my first thought is that if we don’t like dictators, we should try to avoid being the superpower that props them up.

[Skip rational analysis of today's Iraq/Syria politics]

Your reasoning makes good sense to me. I don’t know how to tell whether it makes so much sense to Iraqis that they will follow it.

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The Temporary Name 06.20.14 at 5:13 pm

Iran got rid of the Shah and got Khomeini, which was a fine improvement for freedom but not so good for science, technology, or relations with the USA.

Huh? Somewhere around there’s a Khomeini speech in which he promises chains (meaning religious law). So maybe “somewhat reliable rule-of-law” is the improvement, while restrictions on women keep growing.

http://www.iranhrdc.org/english/publications/legal-commentary/1000000261-gender-inequality-and-discrimination-the-case-of-iranian-women.html

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Bruce Wilder 06.20.14 at 5:14 pm

Ed Herdman @ 107

I cared enough about what Powell said in his apologia to go to da Google and find some snippets on YouTube and the New York Times report of the first interview where he expressed his revised view, etc. before I wrote my comment. So, yes, I saw or heard how ambivalent he was, how he continued to endorse the war itself as a policy and how he emphasized the long hours he spent with George Tenet going over the “evidence” (a dramatic embellishment of the lie! — of course, he didn’t blame poor George Tenet, he unctuously assure his interviewer), etc.

EH: I think you’re creating one where you concoct a scenario where Colin Powell pushed a war he didn’t think was just or likely to succeed.

By pushing so hard to make this a question of sincere intent, you are dragging the whole discussion down a rabbit hole. I’m not constructing a counterfactual at all; I’m relying on the factual. Colin Powell did advocate for a war that was unprovoked, and told lies to create the impression that there was provocation. He did advocate for a war for which the planning was extremely poor. Those are facts. Whatever imaginary construction with which you want to clothe those facts, your argument should have to fit those facts, to take account of those facts, to confront and account for those facts.

The original con created a fog to distract and obscure those facts. The work of the UN inspectors and the intelligence agencies and common sense was buried underneath the melodramatic talk of mushroom clouds and aluminum tubes and mobile labs and absurdly tenuous links alleged between Saddam and Al Qaeda.

I want us to let go of the con and its fog, and look with appropriate horror on what was wrought under its cover.

Layman commented @ 63, “it’s hard to believe that . . . no one not in on the con ever asked how & when we get out.” That brought to my mind the example of Colin Powell. His subsequent apologia are premised on the idea that he was not in on any con, man of military honor and rectitude that he likes to portray. His name is famously attached to a doctrine that includes the idea that every intervention plan should come with an exit strategy. These are facts. He was a General. Secretary of State. I really do not want to go further than the facts.

Powell’s job was to be an intelligent and discerning consumer of intelligence. He had considerable resources at his disposal in his own Department and in the larger intelligence community and in the international community of which he was among the most prominent leaders, formally and informally, with acquaintance and contacts of long duration, from his long career. He was trained. He had experience and authority.

As Secretary of State, he squandered the little remaining credibility of the U.S. facilitating an ill-planned war of aggression (– a war crime by America’s own definition) that ended in a humiliating and enormously costly failure. That’s the culminating achievement of his career, and I’d like him to be “honored” for it appropriately, not with continued deference, but with the contempt that his failure to serve deserves.

Yes, I get that one can get lost in the details of whether Powell knew, or should have known, that the script he read at the UN was false and deceptive. Was Powell fooled? Whose lies were in the script he read? (Wait! He was reading a script? Is the Secretary of State an actor assigned from Central Casting?) And, on and on. Did the whole Administration fool itself? Could Powell have known that the planning for the invasion and occupation was faulty? Was he responsible for that? Did he fight the good fight with Rummy and lose in inter-office politics?

To take Roy Belmont’s pointer, that’s just re-creating the confidence game, with all its distractions and misdirection of attention. You’re back to trying to track under which shell is the pea. And, still failing to notice that it was a shell game all along.

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Bruce Wilder 06.20.14 at 5:26 pm

Bill Kristol — a face for radio, a voice for writing, and a mind for television.

Lee A Arnold:

I was on the fence about invading Iraq. I don’t think a war of choice is a good idea, I don’t think breaking international law is a good idea, and I don’t think getting into something you don’t understand is a good idea. And I never believed the weapons of mass destruction thing. BUT I think that getting rid of dictators is usually a good idea, especially a cruel one. I prefer to discuss real events unless the conversation is meant to be theoretical or psychological. What the U.S. is doing now seems to me to be smart.[!?!] . . .

That was a superb example of the OP’s recommended rhetoric of self-rehabilitation.

Should we expect you on Fareed or Face the Nation this Sunday?

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Barry 06.20.14 at 5:29 pm

Seconding Bruce, and adding onto: “Powell’s job was to be an intelligent and discerning consumer of intelligence. He had considerable resources at his disposal in his own Department and in the larger intelligence community and in the international community of which he was among the most prominent leaders, formally and informally, with acquaintance and contacts of long duration, from his long career. He was trained. He had experience and authority.”

Colin Powell became a four-star general, top dog in the Army, and then chair of the JCS. He had the top rank and position among all officers in the US Armed Forces. Any statement claiming that he’s not a highly experienced bureaucratic infighter is a lie, pure and simple.

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Ronan(rf) 06.20.14 at 5:29 pm

“I prefer to discuss real events unless the conversation is meant to be theoretical or psychological. What the U.S. is doing now seems to me to be smart. Iraq must break up into 3 (Shia, Sunni, Kurd) because now, it has gone to pure tribalism.”

I don’t think there’s any *must* about it. Afaict, people who know Iraq are divided between those who think the US has to pressure Maliki to creating a more accomodating Iraqi government (and who stress that there *is* a real Iraqi national identity), and those who think the regions borders *are* being redrawn, either implicitly through ungovernable spaces and ethnic cleansing, or potentially explicitly (through possible international recognition of those new borders – I wonder what LFC thinks about the possibility of regional borders being redrawn at the international level? )

“Stopping this new semi-jihadist state unfortunately means supporting Assad’s cruelties, and many other Western countries appear to be deciding that is the best thing to do right now. “

Not really, I wouldn’t think. The Syrian war isn’t *only* the Jihadi threat and nation building project, but hundreds of other local conflicts removed from that aspect of the war. Dealing with the Jihadi threat/state building doesn’t necessarily depend on supporting Assad’s cruelties.

” An interesting sidelight is a slightly closer U.S. rapprochement with Iran in the pursuit of saving the Iraqi Shi’ites from much more harm.”

An Iranian intervention (afaict) would be the final factor that really allows the conflict break down on sectarian lines (if it hasn’t already) A real US/Iranian rapprochement might be a good idea(it also might not) but I really don’t see it replacing the US/Saudi relationship.

” Thus the U.S. can stand on the sidelines and end up with slightly better relations with all sides, eventually.”

I think leaving them come to a ‘regional solution’ is the worst of all worlds. Certainly don’t send in anything above Special Forces, but the history of realpolitiking in the Middle East isn’t great.

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The Temporary Name 06.20.14 at 6:17 pm

The Kurdish state exists (although currently under the Iraqi constitution) and has for a while.

Their press releases are here: http://www.krg.org/a/i.aspx?l=12&s=040000

Note that they’re not interested in contributing forces to retake Mosul.

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Bruce Wilder 06.20.14 at 6:17 pm

It’s so easy to get distracted by the fascinating game of thrones, which is the Middle East.

For geographic, not ethnic reasons, Iraq will tend to become one country one way or another, whether it is ruled from the headwaters or the delta, the center or from Iran, it will tend to become one country, even if that means domination of large parts of the population by other parts.

The U.S. is clearly out of its depth in the chaos of Syria/Iraq, not least because of the American relationships with Saudi Arabia (which is backing ISIL — are we not supposed to notice?) and Iran (which is a major support to the Shiites in Iraq). Why is the U.S. implacably hostile to Iran and strongly supportive of the Saudi’s? Just on the surface, Saudi Arabia would seem like an enemy of the U.S., and Iran, if not an ally, then at least a potential cooperative partner regionally. This craziness, I think, is directly traceable to allowing American foreign policy to be hijacked by oil interests operating covertly.

If we had truly wanted stability in Iraq, it would have been achievable, if and only if we were willing to see the Iraqi’s use the oil for their own development and industrialization, foregoing in fairly short order the imperative to export it all. As long as Iraq (and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the other Gulf States) are extractive regimes, extracting and exporting the oil, there are strong political economic incentives to concentrate income, wealth and power in very few hands, which leaves most of the population very, very poor and without prospects. The West wants the oil, with increasing desperation, so maybe we don’t really want a vigorous mass-market economy in the Middle East consuming its own oil and producing its own food and manufactured goods and generally enjoying a high standard of living. It’s a quandary, and though an enlightened regard for mutual benefit and human rights and welfare might, theoretically, animate American foreign policy, we settle the difficult question by allowing oil and financial interests to drive the conduct of policy and military intervention, and the oil companies and international banks prefer to promote extractive regimes, that concentrate the wealth in financial instruments and export the oil.

We are not a nice species, we humans.

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Bruce Wilder 06.20.14 at 6:36 pm

One of the sadder aspects of the futile effort to make sense of the George W Bush Administration’s Iraq policy is the way it corrupts our whole concept of what a foreign policy in the American national (aka public) interest would look like, how it would be formulated or conducted. Conmen do not model well statesmen. They really don’t.

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max 06.20.14 at 6:39 pm

JET @ 62: There are various examples of US occupations that could be considered successful. The best of them were Germany and Japan post WWII, but those were total defeats which you ruled out. For Japan we got some good anthropologists to help work out the details about how to manage it.

In both cases those nations had worked through all the details of being nations before they implemented their local forms of democracy. In Germany’s case they kept the forms, if not the democratic functions, of the preceding state and we kept those forms afterwards so the local elites and their bureaucracies just sailed on through the whole time. Japan kept the emperor and we kept the locals, same as Germany.

Iraq was cobbled together by the British, run by the British and successors of the Ottoman bureaucracy and then abandoned by the British and then shaken up by various coups, and then they had Saddam for a long time who had a bureaucratic structure dedicated to him. And then we came along and bombed, starved, bombed again and invaded over the space of 13 years, and then we expunged the local bureaucracies. So Iraq never underwent the regular process of state formation and was perpetually riven by ethnic and religious rivalries never settled by a widely accepted civil truce. The goal, of course, was to purify Iraq of its government and bring in an entire new replacement so you can’t say that was mistake separate from invasion.

The problem then is that we have never successfully done what we were attempting to do.

A Leninist-Stalinist takeover might have managed it (the Baathists being sorta that way to begin with), at the price of a great deal of blood.

I could imagine that Iraq could possibly have gone much better. First, quickly work at local elections for town councils and city councils. Then democratic regional associations, and try to quickly work up from the bottom. Second, let Iraqi engineers rebuild as quickly as they could, and let them decide what replacement parts they needed. We had US inspectors who took a year to decide what US equipment was needed, and then it took an ineffective US bureaucracy much longer to get that stuff imported and installed. Make it clear that we would stay just long enough to get things organized and then leave.

I can’t imagine Iraq could have gone better because the people who would be cooperating to accomplish those things were more concerned with getting rid of us, or using us to get at their ethnic enemies, than they were with doing what you suggested.

We could have invaded and immediately left (assuming we had bagged Saddam on the first go) and the Baathists would have sorted something out eventually, but then, getting rid of the Baathists was goal one for the invasion.

max
['PURITY OF ESSENCE! ESSENCE OF PURITY!']

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Ronan(rf) 06.20.14 at 6:48 pm

@124 – the Kurds have some degree of autonomy and (I’d assume) aspirations for full independence. Whether that can be realised in the context of regional politics I don’t know. But it also doesn’t speak to the larger question of the existence of an Iraqi national identity.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00396330802034317#.U6SBXrGN7fM

On the question of Saudi or Iran, how does it matter. Morally ? Both countries have quite brutal regimes (the Saudi’s maybe worse) both interfer incessantly around the region (Iran probably worse up until recently) It really seems to be much of a muchness.
The US (I would guess) has very little influence over Saudi reform, so I wouldnt say there are any good options. A less antagonistic relationship with Iran would be good, though. (also, afaik though I could be wrong on that, the ordinary Arab in the Gulf States live pretty well (economically) It’s the huge underclass of immigrant labourers (and women) who lose out most.

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The Temporary Name 06.20.14 at 7:04 pm

From Ronan’s link:

Conversely, there is no precedent for subdividing the Iraqi territory on the basis of sectarian identities

The precedent has been set since 1991, and Kurdistan has relative peace and oil. It’s not westerners doing the partitioning in their case; it’s the Kurds. So yes, it doesn’t speak to the Iraqi much at all at this point.

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The Temporary Name 06.20.14 at 7:04 pm

Iraqi identity that is.

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Ronan(rf) 06.20.14 at 7:07 pm

I would say as well (afaik) that most of the pressure for the Saudi relationship and the US policy of ‘stability’ (oil production) in the Gulf, has come from policy makers (rather than sectional interests) for strategic reasons (to supply Europe and Japan(primarily) with low cost oil) So it hasn’t just been US oil companies corrupting US foreign policy.

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Ronan(rf) 06.20.14 at 7:22 pm

@129 – I’m not disputing there’s an autonomous Kurdish region and Kurdish national identity. I’m saying people should be wary about extrapolating from that grand schemes for redesigning Iraq along sectarian lines.

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roy belmont 06.20.14 at 7:23 pm

but not so good for science, technology,

You might want to look at the education stats for Iran under the Shah v. under the Islamic theocrats.
The consensus cliche is woe betide the freedom-loving, but the fact is women in far greater numbers entered fields previously reserved for privileged males.

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peggy 06.20.14 at 7:25 pm

mbw@26
Yes we were right also, but you had a better leaflet.

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The Temporary Name 06.20.14 at 7:51 pm

I’m saying people should be wary about extrapolating from that grand schemes for redesigning Iraq along sectarian lines.

I agree completely.

The consensus cliche is woe betide the freedom-loving, but the fact is women in far greater numbers entered fields previously reserved for privileged males.

Yes and no; women are restricted from certain fields. Educational freedom is both oversold and undersold there, sometimes by myself in the same sentence.

There are two paragraphs at the end of this section of the link I posted above in which you can get an impression of the hype opponents of the regime use against it, and the reality that the regime does indeed not want women in this place or that and that they want to close opportunities:

http://iranhrdc.org/english/publications/legal-commentary/1000000261-gender-inequality-and-discrimination-the-case-of-iranian-women.html#7

Still, after 1979 the ability to get an education was expanded dramatically.

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Barry 06.20.14 at 8:13 pm

JET @ 62: “There are various examples of US occupations that could be considered successful. The best of them were Germany and Japan post WWII, but those were total defeats which you ruled out. For Japan we got some good anthropologists to help work out the details about how to manage it.”

One of my comments back in the day was that the USA had a 100% record of success in building democracies – we succeeded in the two and only two cases where we wanted to do it, Germany and Japan.

Bush and Cheney had no interest whatsoever in democracy and freedom at home, let alone in subject states.

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LFC 06.20.14 at 8:26 pm

ronan @123
I wonder what LFC thinks about the possibility of regional borders being redrawn at the international level?

The short answer is I really don’t know enough about Iraq’s political geography to give a good answer. But even an independent state of Kurdistan in the north wd prob require a quasi-concert of major powers pushing and endorsing it, which doesn’t seem to be on the horizon afaik. I’m wary of looking at a map at a distance and projecting schemes onto it, when the effect cd be to deepen the misery and displacement etc. that’s already occurring. I suppose it’s possible that after the ’03 invasion, when the country was still under US occupation, a partition scheme cd have been devised and possibly realized (emphasis on ‘possibly’) if there had been acceptance by all affected parties. But that moment has long gone, and I don’t know whether it wd have been a good idea.

There is some precedent for regional boundaries changing status (so not “redrawn” so much as “reclassified”) to int’l boundaries, e.g. dissolution of USSR, but of course that was a different situation w its own context etc.

On another subject, I also feel that I don’t know enough about ISIL. I noticed that Barak Mendelsohn wrote several posts at L. Sjoberg’s blog Relations International about ISIL and al-Qaeda central and the rift betw them, but I haven’t read them.

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Sasha Clarkson 06.20.14 at 8:29 pm

Ronan @132 “I’m saying people should be wary about extrapolating from that grand schemes for redesigning Iraq along sectarian lines.”

Quite – WE (as in the Europeans and Americans) should not be thinking about redesigning Iraq at all! However, it’s worth noting that the British cobbled Iraq together from the separate Ottoman Vilayets (top level administrative divisions) of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra. Perhaps the Ottomans knew what they were doing. “WE” should let the locals determine their own future.

Past British (and successor US) policy, administration and interference in the dismembered Ottoman Empire and Iran is responsible for just about all of the current problems in the region.

Often, hereditary enemies, and even members of the same family, were played off against each other. Oil, of course, has been a big factor in all this too

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hussein_bin_Ali,_Sharif_of_Mecca

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_Saud_of_Saudi_Arabia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestine_Mandate

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosul_Question

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pahlavi_dynasty

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bob mcmanus 06.20.14 at 8:42 pm

137 last

War Nerd on ISIL

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The Temporary Name 06.20.14 at 9:12 pm

War Nerd on ISIL

Thanks.

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LFC 06.20.14 at 10:19 pm

@mcmanus
thanks, that appears to be on the whole (tho perhaps not in every particular judgment) a useful and informative post.

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J Thomas 06.20.14 at 10:30 pm

#136

One of my comments back in the day was that the USA had a 100% record of success in building democracies – we succeeded in the two and only two cases where we wanted to do it, Germany and Japan.

I have to agree with your serious point, and you stated it well.

I have a frivolous objection — you are making a No True Scotsman argument. You say that the times we succeeded were precisely the times we intended to succeed. But this is circular.

Apart from how you know it’s true, though, it looks pretty true to me. Like, when we conquered the Philippines we said we wanted to create democracy there. But we figured the filipinos weren’t ready for democracy. Our plan was to teach them how to do democracy for 50 years first, and then let them have democracy.

What with one thing and another, the people who opposed us or our collaborators tended to get forced up into the mountains where they could fight us when we went to hunt them. When the japanese took over the philippines from us, the people who had collaborated with us then collaborated with the japanese, and the people who had tried to fight us, fought the japanese. We gave them some weapons etc, they were now our allies. After the war we forced them back up into the mountains and we gave democracy to the collaborators. We didn’t do much to encourage democracy after that, but officially it wasn’t our business any more. Our Marines did keep going on hunting trips in the mountains, though.

All in all, it doesn’t *look* like we were actually trying to bring democracy to the philippines.

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js. 06.20.14 at 10:50 pm

Wait, Holbo, you supported the Iraq war? Jesus. Why? (Haven’t read the thread, so sorry if this has been covered.)

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J Thomas 06.20.14 at 11:10 pm

#127
I can’t imagine Iraq could have gone better because the people who would be cooperating to accomplish those things were more concerned with getting rid of us, or using us to get at their ethnic enemies, than they were with doing what you suggested.

It may be my well-developed imagination. I say, if we had made it clear by words and actions that we did not intend to stay, Iraqis might not have tried so hard to get rid of us. And I don’t think it’s certain how intense the ethnic strife was before we did everything we could to intensify it.

I wanted to believe there was a chance. Get democratic government for cities and towns, with local tax collection. Then each local population starts out with some independence. (Except of course for the central government organization that imported food and distributed it. Pasta, rice, lentils, etc. The big majority of the population depended on those imports, and depended on the central government to handle that efficiently, and they depended on the railroads to move the food. As soon as that food stopped reaching ethnic areas there would be big trouble.)

So for example we made an attempt to eliminate the Ba’ath police and secret police, and our soldiers did an utterly incompetent job of police work themselves. If each local government had its own police — kind of like we do here — they could hire Ba’ath policemen if they wanted, or replace them, or get them to teach police methods to people who could join them and represent ethnicities or whoever needed representation among the police. Or temporarily set up a city militia to keep order. It wouldn’t necessarily be *good* everywhere, but likely it would be far more orderly on average, and places where things were bad people would feel they had a complaint against their local governments.

Anyway, get towns and cities with their own independent local governments, and then ask them which other towns and cities they want to ally with. More voting. If they can’t think of anybody they’re ready to join, let them stay independent until they decide on somebody. If they don’t wind up with traditional province boundaries that way, so what? Maybe they tend to sort themselves out by ethnicity, or by trade, or whatever. Their choice.

Then if the provinces can’t agree to join up into a central government, you have a de facto partition. They might have trouble about ethnic cleansing or people choosing to move to areas governed by their own kind. Or maybe often ethnic neighborhoods would feel safe with the people around them and not mind government dominated by another ethnicity. Their choice.

The better they worked things out, the more likely that large-scale ethnic violence could be avoided or delayed. I used to read interviews. “How worried are you about the Sunnis rising up and killing whole Shia communities?” “What a ridiculous idea! In Iraq we have gotten along peacefully for generations. There are lots of mixed marriages and nobody thinks anything of it. Why do you Americans think this way?” I had the impression what tore it was when a Shia temple got destroyed. The watchmen were captured unharmed and did not get a good look at who did it. Then explosives were carefully placed to efficiently take it down. Nobody claimed credit for it. A lot of Iraqis thought that Americans did it. But also a lot of Shias were never as friendly to Sunnis after that.

Just maybe if they had solid progress at getting things working, they might have mostly stayed peaceful. They might have split the country into smaller pieces, for multiple reasons not just ethnic, and later tensions like who owned what oil riches might have resulted in later conflict, but I’m not certain it had to fail.

But of course we never really gave it a try.

We could have invaded and immediately left (assuming we had bagged Saddam on the first go) and the Baathists would have sorted something out eventually, but then, getting rid of the Baathists was goal one for the invasion.

Say we forgot about that goal. Local elections. Let Baathists take whatever office they get the votes for. Maybe you get Baaths taking over Sunni cities, and having no chance in Shia cities unless they are individually popular in those places. Let the politics work itself out. If you don’t let Sunnis vote for the people they want to vote for, they will fight, right? It’s undemocratic to keep them from running. If we were right about how much they were hated, they would have no chance to win a whole legislature or prime minister or president or whatever. Not giving them the right to try was a stupid policy.

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js. 06.20.14 at 11:42 pm

I now see that Robert Waldman and Doctor Science covered my sentiments rather well upthread (tho I disavow the gendering—it’s way too easy a let off.) Still, Jesus.

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The Temporary Name 06.21.14 at 12:09 am

Yes, mystifying. Obvious idiots and assholes are not going to do the right thing in carrying out what was very clearly the wrong thing.

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roger gathmann 06.21.14 at 12:17 am

Shouldn’t this meta debate be expanded a bit to go beyond individual culpability? For I think there is a strong structural question here. What people said and did – Cheney, Wolfowitz, the Weekly Standard crowd, the Ignatieff liberal crowd – is on the record and, due to the internet, easier to access than ever. So, the structural question is: why does this make no difference? Why is Wolfowitz’s p.r. person answering requests to appear not only on Fox news, but on all kinds of news shows and no doubt various op ed pages (the betting is on: how long before Wolfowitz has an op ed in the NYT?).
The press went through a light bit of mea culpa-ing back in 2004, but basically, the paradigm of the establishment press hasn’t changed at all. It is a culture of impunity. Nobody would ever ask Wolfowitz, for instance, about estimating that the war would pay for itself in 2003 and how we are to take this 1.5 trillion dollar mistake. Criminal negligence? Ignorance so deep that the person who appointed Wolfowitz to a position of responsibility should answer for it? These questions and many, many others will never be asked.
So what are we to make of a liberal press (in the post-clinton sense in which, say, Obama is liberal) that is mired in a culture of impunity? Does it say deeper things about the press’s model for reporting the news (the ignorance of any of the methods developed by sociology, the reliance on authority as truth-makers, the entwined influence of the more powerful news figures and the establishment, etc.)
I have on optimistic days the notion that it was the Iraq war that killed the Washington Post – which hasn’t changed under its new management. But this is certainly very very little. The news is everywhere, and everywhere it is badly reported, not reported, tarted up and misleading. This isn’t true of all news. I think I can get a fairly accurate picture of the Kardashians reading the gossip rags. But the high standards of veracity and investigation that are brought to the celebrity set seem absolutely absent when brought to Iraq – or, recently, Ukraine.
This, to my mind, is a much bigger problem.

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Lee A. Arnold 06.21.14 at 12:52 am

Ronan(rf) #123 — I am just trying to describe what appears to be going on. Who is it who “knows Iraq” and thinks there is a real Iraqi national identity and that there can be a more accommodating Iraqi government? Please provide a link. I would like to read that person’s analysis. I hope this is a military analyst.

I did not write that the Syrian war is ONLY the “Jihadi threat”. If you think Western governments should pursue a different policy in re Assad, you might at LEAST describe what that policy could be. Simple assertions are worthless and boring.

The only personal opinion I gave was that I think the US should largely stay out of this, which is also what appeared to be happening, up until we heard about the 300 military advisors. That is about 299 too many.

Why would their own choices in a “regional solution” be the “worst of all worlds”? You don’t explain this either.

149

Ronan(rf) 06.21.14 at 1:23 am

As I said I’m no expert, but Toby Dodge and Reidar Visser (who I linked above),for example, argue that any major border changes aren’t needed. Why would you want to read a military analyst ? As I said, there is another argument (afaict) that argues the Middle East is going through a period of intense nation building that *will* be resolved through large scale ethnic cleansing and violence. All I was implying is you shouldn’t be so definitive in your solutions.
I don’t know (obviously) what the US should do re Syria. I’m saying there are other options (special forces, local alliances etc) that could begin to deal with the Jihadi threat short of throwing in with Assad. (Also bear in mind Assad’s links to the Jihadist’s and how they can be manipulated)

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n07/peter-neumann/suspects-into-collaborators

On the last question, because a regional solution will decend into the usual quagmire (power politics, sectarianism, no long term solutions) Because it’s not a solution. Because even by your analysis you are risking a lot for some minimal potential gains. (Thus the U.S. can stand on the sidelines and end up with slightly better relations with all sides, eventually.) Because international politics is not a zero sum game ?

150

roy belmont 06.21.14 at 1:26 am

I could be wrong about this. I have been wrong about things before.
But it seems like there’s a consensus that the minds, the ones Jim Harrison above calls “people who knew exactly why they supported Operation Iraqi Liberation” were responsible for a “mistake”.
All of them above average intellience, way more party to insider geo-political info, at the helm of engines of war the like the world has never seen. Mistaken.
The ghastly numbers behind the statistical horror of that “mistake” lend a certain weight to the accusation. But mistakes, I mean we all make them.
Like I said, I’ve made a few.
But for the sake of God why is there no above-ground debate about whether or not the resultant dystopia of Iraq was intentional?
Is it really that bizarre of an idea?
Or does it lead directly to a very uncomfortable confrontation?
With whatever it is that would want Iraq destroyed, decimated, dysfunctional, dystopic?
Cui bono dude.

151

Ronan(rf) 06.21.14 at 1:34 am

btw, re military analysts – this is Petraeus’ position (afaik) The surge and awakening were explicitly acts of state building (getting local Sunni groups to drive out foreign Jihadi’s and then (hypothetically) incorporate them into an Iraqi government)This is still his position (and a number of other analysts)

152

Ronan(rf) 06.21.14 at 1:40 am

“The only personal opinion I gave was that I think the US should largely stay out of this, which is also what appeared to be happening, up until we heard about the 300 military advisors. That is about 299 too many.”

Also, ‘staying out of it’ means nothing.(Especially when those ‘military advisors’ are special forces) The US will not be ‘staying out of it.’ The US might not become deeply involved (militarily – apart from clandestinely) but diplomaticaly the US will (of course) be involved and a main player.

153

js. 06.21.14 at 1:47 am

Obvious idiots and assholes are not going to do the right thing in carrying out what was very clearly the wrong thing.

Exactly. It was wrong twice over—which part did someone like John Holbo, whom I quite respect, think had any chance of turning out well? And more importantly, why?

154

Ed Herdman 06.21.14 at 2:46 am

Sorry to go so far back upthread, but I was kind of expecting Bruce’s post upthread at #120. However I’m rather confused about the actual tack being taken here with the Powell criticism.

That Powell failed in his duty to check the argument for war isn’t in question – he agrees on this point.

What doesn’t make sense is trying to assign him equivalent responsibility for the war as we do to the Administration triumvirate (four people, if you count Bush along with Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz). To a large degree this is true for Condoleezza Rice also, who we know made some efforts to restrain the good ol’ boys. That these people decided to stay involved long enough to mitigate the damage isn’t something I’m terribly comfortable with. The idea that you delegitimate, let alone weaken, a regime by resigning from it has never had much practical appeal to me. The Bush Administration had their pick of any idiots they wanted, and Bush was ready to “go it alone” without the help of his less reliably jingoistic hires.

It is a shame that there hasn’t been, and won’t be, a more public dissection of who failed in which way. But like the Challenger and Columbia disasters, different people hold different levels of responsibility. I know our justice system is enamored of the idea of holding criminals responsibility for actions which they didn’t intend to or directly cause (i.e., convicting a C-store robber of murder when the clerk shoots the robber’s partner in crime) but it has been a pretty well established principle of American law, at least for Very Important People, that intent and amount of contribution matters.

The leadership of the country at that time wasn’t monolithic. There was the Triumvirate, who obviously come in for the major share of criticism. Does it particularly matter which of them was slightly more or less bad than the others? Given what we know, none of them really seem to have acted ethically on enough occasions that we shouldn’t care. The less ideologically blinkered professional officials Powell and Condoleezza Rice not only made some efforts to restrain and mitigate the impacts of the disastrous Administration approach, but you also have to do some fairly far-ranging interpolations to accuse them of duplicity approaching the levels of a Cheney, for example. Certainly if I studied the impacts, I’d say that Powell and even Rice did more to stop the war than I ever had, for instance. Behavior that’s perfect according to my wishes and my hindsight can’t really be levered against them in a moral critique; that’s not realistic in the least.

Whether the war itself was just and so on – is something I feel has and had a pretty strong and obvious answer – would be completely disingenuous to pretend that this was completely obvious to everybody else, especially back then in the wake of 9/11. I was brave enough to remind some of my fellows about the perils of jingoism, but even then I was old enough to know that has a pull that just mentioning the Hitler Youth (as I did) wasn’t going to shake somebody’s conviction that we had to wave the flag and “do something.” A lot of pretty smart people got taken in for this; we can’t act shocked our whole lives that there are things like groupthink and jingoism, and try to act as if we really have the tools to defeat them.

We might do well to look inwards as well: What is truly strange is the fascination with elevating suspicions and innuendo, and interpolating what people did-or-didn’t know based on private thoughts and conversations that we generally cannot know about – when all we need to make a pretty thorough critique is a common sense argument. And still people still scratch their heads as to why these obscure, extraneous, and half-a-chance-to-be-right historical constructions critiques don’t win the day.

I also feel sad for not having realized that the Napoleon quote is a bit less relevant here than the more traditional “captain of the ship” analogy. Despite his military training, Powell was not at the helm of this effort. The buck’s supposed to stop at the President’s desk; he’s supposed to accept responsibility. We have to consider the kind of ethics that Powell was likely operating under, and to me it seems that he was operating under that more follow-the-leader approach than the whistleblowing agenda we’ve seen (and I don’t have to point out that approach has been controversial lately). That doesn’t excuse Powell’s lapse in judgment, but it should inform our critique. President Obama has referenced this a few times; I can’t recall Bush having done so (and I remember quite a few times when he hasn’t). The only major exceptions for Obama are when he refers to issues inherited from that previous Administration.

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Lee A. Arnold 06.21.14 at 3:23 am

Ronan(rf), You write “I don’t know (obviously) what the US should do re Syria” but then you write, “I’m saying there are other options (special forces, local alliances etc) that could begin to deal with the Jihadi threat short of throwing in with Assad.” Wait a minute. You “don’t know”, but there are “other options”? What?! This is why YOU should be reading military analysis, so you won’t write wishful thinking.

I want to read military analysis by people who have been there, because that is the only stuff that I don’t already know. ANYBODY can write, “because quagmire”, “because not a solution”, “because not zero sum”. That is almost nonsense. Tell us something we DON’T know, such as, what is happening between the people; what is going on between the forces.

Petraeus’ top military advisor on the surge, David Kilcullen, an Australian, called the invasion of Iraq, “The biggest fucking mistake in U.S. history.” Think Petraeus really doesn’t believe that? Don’t confuse generals accepting a mission, with what they really believe. Kilcullen would be well worth hearing from at this moment. The guy is almost a genius. [If you want to look at something brilliant about the near future of warfare, something you should really know, watch at the YouTube of a recent Google talk by Kilcullen. Among many other things you will learn how the Syrian rebels are putting together military vehicles from off-the-shelf components. Completely fascinating.] Col Patrick Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis is very interesting to read, right now. Or consider the fact that Navy admirals publicly stated that bombing Iran would be a very bad idea — a few of them said this, when Bush and Cheney were making noises about it. (That is how close we apparently came to it: the admirals had to step out publicly and say “no”. They said it again recently, when the neocons were pushing it just a few years ago.) I already have my own reasons why it is a bad idea to bomb Iran. I won’t bore you. But the reasons why the ADMIRALS think it is a bad idea are knowable, and worth knowing. And that is about military analysis.

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john c. halasz 06.21.14 at 4:10 am

There was the butcher’s hand.
He squeezed it and the blood
Spurted from between the fingers
And fell to the floor.
And then the body fell.

So afterward, at night,
The wind of Iceland
And the wind of Ceylon,
Meeting, gripped my mind,
Gripped it and grappled my thoughts.

The black wind of the sea
And the green wind
Whirled upon me.
The blood of the mind fell
To the floor. I slept.

Yet there was a man within me
Could have risen to the clouds,
Could have touched these winds,
Bent and broken them down,
Could have stood up sharply in the sky.

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Bruce Baugh 06.21.14 at 5:38 am

It’s worth noting how few people who claim to have been duped about Iraq at high levels have gone on to do anything to practically make amends, or to try to bring the liars who manipulated to any sort of accountability at all.

David Brock shows what making amends looks like when it comes to the right-wing media establishment. John Cole and Charles Johnson do when it comes to warmongering. I don’t actually expect someone like Colin Powell to make a career of it, but where he is (for instance) to be found telling the public just who was spreading what lies when? Where are any of those alleged people of good will doing anything like – pressing for hearings, supporting criminal investigations and courts martial, anything at all to bring some accountability? Nope, it all fades away into rationalizations and reasons to keep on with the usual suspects.

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J Thomas 06.21.14 at 5:54 am

#152

That Powell failed in his duty to check the argument for war isn’t in question – he agrees on this point.

Well, of course he was not given the argument until the last minute, and then he saw how weak it was, and he went ahead. When they wouldn’t give it to him, and then when they did he could see it was no good, that was his chance to quit while he still had some honor. He didn’t, and he was lost.

What doesn’t make sense is trying to assign him equivalent responsibility for the war as we do to the Administration triumvirate (four people, if you count Bush along with Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz).

?? They had no moral responsibility. They were snakes. They were amoral liars. You can’t hold them responsible, responsibility does not apply to them.

Powell at least by reputation was a human being, a responsible person. He served them when he should have known better.

That these people decided to stay involved long enough to mitigate the damage isn’t something I’m terribly comfortable with.

Good. You shouldn’t be comfortable with it. What excuse can they make? “I was only following orders.” That’s about it. And that sucks.

The idea that you delegitimate, let alone weaken, a regime by resigning from it has never had much practical appeal to me.

What’s your alternative? Follow their orders? Stand beside them and privately tell them you don’t think it’s a good idea, and then obey them? Tell the world that you have seen the secret data that mustn’t be shared, and they are right?

The Bush Administration had their pick of any idiots they wanted, and Bush was ready to “go it alone” without the help of his less reliably jingoistic hires.

Then let him do that. If you follow his orders yourself then you are the idiot. Resigning probably does not stop him, but giving him your full support is the worse choice.

Certainly if I studied the impacts, I’d say that Powell and even Rice did more to stop the war than I ever had, for instance.

To the extent that they were more competent than their replacements would be, they contributed to the war crimes. To the extent that their support encouraged the public to buy into the lies, more than their replacements would, they caused those crimes. Opposed to that, what did they do to stop it? They talked to bosses who would not listen to them. Big deal.

A lot of pretty smart people got taken in for this; we can’t act shocked our whole lives that there are things like groupthink and jingoism, and try to act as if we really have the tools to defeat them.

If you see people doing groupthink, and they’re getting ready to march off a cliff, and you publicly agree with them even though you know better, what does that make you?

I also feel sad for not having realized that the Napoleon quote is a bit less relevant here than the more traditional “captain of the ship” analogy. Despite his military training, Powell was not at the helm of this effort.

There were people thinking about Powell for President. But he lied for Bush, and Bush smeared him with shit. If he had refused to do Bush’s dirty work, it’s possible he might have been President today. There’s the possibility Bush would have had him killed rather than accept the possibility Powell would tell the truth to the media. But he had been a soldier, and he was complicit in getting thousands of other soldiers killed. He should have taken that chance.

We have to consider the kind of ethics that Powell was likely operating under, and to me it seems that he was operating under that more follow-the-leader approach than the whistleblowing agenda

Yes, “I was only following orders.” He was wrong.

That doesn’t excuse Powell’s lapse in judgment, but it should inform our critique.

What are you saying here? It’s hard for me to make out what you’re saying.

It sounds like you’re saying “Yes, of course he was wrong, but putting that aside, if we ignore that he was plainly wrong, we can argue that he wasn’t *really* wrong. He had reasons for what he did, and when he had reasons that means it was OK. He took orders from evil bosses, so it was their fault and not his fault. If he didn’t do it somebody else would. It was just a lapse of judgement so it wasn’t really bad.”

What is your point? I don’t see that you have any point here except to tell us that you don’t know right from wrong.

159

William Timberman 06.21.14 at 7:03 am

Powell said yes early and often. He never once even thought to say no, to take a chance on going through life relying only on the resources that a man with integrity can conjure out of compromises which don’t compromise him. It’s a grand waste of time, it seems to me, to debate the degree of his moral culpability. There just ain’t no there there.

160

Ronan(rf) 06.21.14 at 8:45 am

Lee Arnold – Kilcullen heads a think tank called Caerus. They don’t call for partition.(afaik) Note that (iirc) over the 00s regionally and in Iraq partition was *not* popular. I said I ‘didn’t know’ what to do because it is very difficult to resolve decades long sectarian violence easily, so by extension there is no easy solution.
Again, the US *will* be involved, so it’s about *how* they are involved, and again ‘throwing in’ with Assad does not automatically resolve the Syria situation.(Perhaps a role as a relatively neutral mediator would be a better option. Perhaps not.) But I’m not sure why you think there are relatively easy solutions to this with across expert agreement. (The caricatured hard bitten military realist would probably just leave Iran and Saudi bleed themselves out in Syria)

“I want to read military analysis by people who have been there, because that is the only stuff that I don’t already know. “

This makes no sense. There’s obviously a huge amount you don’t know about the situation. Most *good* military analysts would NOT offer such definitive socio political solutions. (They would offer strategic and tactical military advise, I would assume, and little more)
Again, leaving a ‘regional solution’ develop does not mean the Iraqi people expressing some perverted form of agency, it means other countries interfering and manipulating the situation to their interests. It means the escalation of sectarian divisions. Then, perhaps, your partition scheme becomes a reality, but it is not a *natural solution*, it is the result of decades long communal, sectarian violence, which will also be unstable and (depending on difference in military strenght in the various regions) capable of breaking down again.
I read Kilcullen’s new book. Sure it’s interesting, but it’s a book about the evolution of warfare in this century, NOT about Iraqi history/politics. It does not contain the answers to the problems of the Middle East.

161

Ronan(rf) 06.21.14 at 10:07 am

Or to put it another way, you seem to be getting causation backwards. Is violence the result of deep seated sectarian differences and demands for separation, or are they the result of the violence ? It would seem it’s the later, that sectarian and geographic divisions are the result of decades of war and then a Shiite dominated political system that was unresponsive to Sunni concerns, rather than the idea that Iraq was always an ‘artificial state.’
In this situation there seems to be two main solutions (in this thread) (1) try and pressure Maliki into allowing a more pluralistic political system which will give the opposition a stake in running the country (2) divide the country along sectarian grounds. Number (2) cannot be done by outsiders, but if it happens as a result of the violence then it happens, so the only game in town is still (1). There is also no evidence that the second option is better than the first. Where is the evidence that those states will be viable? That they will be seen as legitimate (domestically, regionally, internationally) ? Where is the evidence that they will be stable ? So the only real solution is to still work through option 1.
What you might see in a decade or two is an Iraq divided along sectarian lines, perhaps even completly disintegrated. If that occurs it doesnt mean it’s natural or inevitable, it is still the result of decisions made by people and groups in the context of the specific circumstances that preceded it.

162

Layman 06.21.14 at 12:56 pm

Ronan @ 159

I have to say that almost everything you write here is wrong, or at least apparently unfounded. The Kurds have a long history of national identity, and in the modern era have on multiple occasions fought for a national entity. Shi’ites in Iraq have been rebelling against oppression since the formation of Iraq by the British. Iraq is certainly an artificial state, and ancient states which managed the same geographic regions & peoples did so through the allowance of autonomy.

You say outsiders can’t craft a solution which partitions Iraq. Perhaps, but why not? If you mean it isn’t possible, I can’t see why. If the US announced recognition of e.g. Kurdistan tomorrow, Kurdistan would be a fact on the ground. Who would undo that, and how? If you mean it isn’t moral for outsiders to do it, why do you think it more moral that outsiders help kill Kurds to prevent it?

163

J Thomas 06.21.14 at 1:29 pm

So the only real solution is to still work through option 1.

That was a good idea back in 2005 when we were making our first attempts to allow Iraqis to have a degree of self-government. But instead we insisted that no prominent Sunnis could be allowed in government. Because along with the Sadrists we had chosen them for enemies.

It was still a good idea back in 2007 when we officially reversed our policy to keep Sunnis out of government and told the Shia government it had to give Sunnis a lot of patronage jobs. There was no follow-through when we got distracted and let them take those jobs away, though.

I think now it’s too late. If we try to pressure Maliki into a coalition government because Sunnis are winning the war, what does that tell Sunnis they should do more of? Why would they believe we mean it this time, when we didn’t mean it last time? And anyway our influence on Maliki has reached a low point. Why would he allow his enemies into his organization? Because we say so? We can offer him airstrikes, which all along have been a big political liability for him because his supporters weren’t convinced we could tell good arabs from bad arabs from the air. We can offer him money. I guess if we give him *enough* money maybe he’ll put it in a swiss bank and leave the country, which would be some improvement….

Still, I think your number 2 is the best option for us. We can’t let everybody see us doing nothing. And provided we don’t actually send any military people back into Iraq or spend too much money, it is the least bad choice. We can let the world see that we are pressuring Maliki to make a government that Sunnis would rather join than secede from. While this is like unlocking the barn door and inviting the horses to come inside after they have come back with flamethrowers to burn it down, it’s still the best choice even though it will inevitably fail.

164

Harold 06.21.14 at 1:31 pm

Layman, 160. If we create a Kurdistan, we will make a mortal enemy of our erstwhile ally Turkey.

165

J Thomas 06.21.14 at 1:38 pm

Harold the Turks tried to get along with the Israelis, and the Israelis didn’t want any.

In the medium run, how can Turkey get along with us when they can’t get along with Israel? If there’s some important purpose to recognizing a Kurdish nation, we can write off Turkey a little early. But I don’t really see what that purpose would be.

166

Layman 06.21.14 at 1:41 pm

Harold @ 162

I know, and I’m not advocating that we do that. It seems to me that outcome is certain, but we shouldn’t cause it, just as we shouldn’t kill people to prevent it.

167

Peter K. 06.21.14 at 2:37 pm

Layman @77

“Well it sort of matters when people say the crime caused the region to slide into chaos when it’s possible that the region was sliding into chaos anyway.”

If I stole your wallet, would you say I caused it to be gone, or would you say I didn’t because it might have disappeared anyway?”

Doesn’t really apply to what I was saying.

“If the U.S. had built Iraq into global economic superpower as they did with the defeated Axis powers Germany and Japan, more people would overlook or play down the crime.”

How would we do that? I could be wrong, but I think we spent more in 2004 on Iraq reconstruction than we did in West Germany during the entire Marshall Plan, in constant dollars. And it’s my impression that the economies of the former Axis powers took decades to recover.”

According to Wikipedia it was $13 billion over 4 years. I would guess that is more than was spent on the Iraq War adjusted for inflation. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

“The years 1948 to 1952 saw the fastest period of growth in European history. Industrial production increased by 35%. Agricultural production substantially surpassed pre-war levels.[60] The poverty and starvation of the immediate postwar years disappeared, and Western Europe embarked upon an unprecedented two decades of growth that saw standards of living increase dramatically. There is some debate among historians over how much this should be credited to the Marshall Plan. Most reject the idea that it alone miraculously revived Europe, as evidence shows that a general recovery was already underway. Most believe that the Marshall Plan sped this recovery, but did not initiate it. The United States worked to direct the Marshall Plan towards children and an increase of nutritional material for all citizens within western Europe so as to shed a positive light on its goals as it worked to effectively defeat communist threats.”

But yes it took decades whereas the Iraq war was ten years ago and the Saudi-Iran-Israel Cold War isn’t over. It’s heating up. It’s been heating up ever since the Iranian revolution and since Saddam annexed Kuwait. And since Israel’s occupation and Lebanon’s civil war. Now Syria and Iraq are worse than Lebanon.

You are apparently of the Vietnam generation. A younger, post Cold War generation was naive to think that America would stabilize a region after getting rid of a dictator. We were naive to think a nation as rich and powerful as the U.S. wanted to stop humanitarian crises and could do it (this was before the housing bubble/financial crisis and before the Republican party clearly went off the deep end.). It was stupid for people to think that Bush would do a good job with nation building. Didn’t the Bushies understand that such massive negligence and dishonesty would damage their brand?

Did anyone see the clip of Fox News’s Megyn Kelly hammering Dick Cheney? It was brutal and well deserved. He was going about how Obama was wrong about everything and then she SLAMMED him for being wrong about everything: no WMDs, the insurgency being in its last throes, etc.

It does look like there is something of a split on the right. We shouldn’t overhype it, but some conservatives see the sheer negligence and dishonesty of Cheney, just as some of the lunatic conservative base took out Eric Cantor.

168

Lee A. Arnold 06.21.14 at 2:58 pm

Ronan(rf): “I’m not sure why you think there are relatively easy solutions to this…”

And I am trying to figure out how you got that impression. I wouldn’t presume to have a solution! I am not “calling for” partition; I think that is where events are taking it.

169

Lee A. Arnold 06.21.14 at 3:02 pm

It looks like there is going to be a Kurdistan. As long as they don’t mistreat the Turkomen, Turkey will probably live with it. Anyway it will be next to impossible for any force in Iraq to rout Peshmerga out of Kirkuk. The Kurds just sold a million barrels of oil to Israel, to be delivered today in fact. This had been in violation of Baghdad’s policy and US wishes, but somehow I think the US will live with it.

Does the US still have a huge listening post up there? I remember that just a few months after the 2003 invasion, news reports said that US intelligence was building a huge installation in the Kurd area.

170

Lee A. Arnold 06.21.14 at 3:18 pm

MPA Victoria #116: “Bill Kristol should have his head chopped off in the town square and put on a pike as a warning to the rest of them.”

You do realize that Fox News would just wire-up the skull, to continue gibbering on camera?

Let’s agree to the perfect compromise: 1. the pike; AND 2. he loses his television career!

171

J Thomas 06.21.14 at 3:48 pm

#165

“The years 1948 to 1952 saw the fastest period of growth in European history. Industrial production increased by 35%. Agricultural production substantially surpassed pre-war levels.[60] The poverty and starvation of the immediate postwar years disappeared….”

But yes it took decades whereas the Iraq war was ten years ago….

If we could have gotten big substantial improvement in 1 year, or maybe 2 years, it would have made a great big difference socially and politically. Just getting public services like water works and power plants working quickly would have made a great big difference. In the Gulf War we tried to damage that sort of thing, and after the war they largely had it working again in 8 weeks. Lots of jerry-rigged temporary fixes, but working. In 2003 we weren’t trying hard to damage infrastructure, and 2 years later we still didn’t have basic repairs done. That may have given Iraqis the impression that we didn’t really want to repair the damage….

…the Saudi-Iran-Israel Cold War isn’t over. It’s heating up. It’s been heating up ever since the Iranian revolution and since Saddam annexed Kuwait. And since Israel’s occupation and Lebanon’s civil war. Now Syria and Iraq are worse than Lebanon.

This might be a good moment to bring up Roy Belmont’s question. Who benefits?

Egypt has a degree of chaos with another quasi-military government that has strictly temporary public support. Syria is in chaos, as is Iraq. Iran has had sanctions partly lifted, temporarily, worse sanctions or US military attack depend on coming US elections.

I would argue that Israel is not better off from this. Israel would be better off with a comprehensive peace and open borders for trade. However, Israelis might believe this is not in the cards. They can’t get normalized relations until arab governments agree that Israel is the sole owner of Judea and Samaria and the Golan, and does not owe anybody anything. And that agreement is unlikely in the foreseeable future. So it might easily seem to many Israelis that the best attainable goal for them would be to have every populous neighbor in chaos with many arabs killing each other.

It was stupid for people to think that Bush would do a good job with nation building. Didn’t the Bushies understand that such massive negligence and dishonesty would damage their brand?

Saddam claimed to have vast proven oil reserves which he could not legally sell. If he had been telling the truth, imagine the possibilities! I can believe that the Bush administration thought that while they developed that oil there would be many well-paying jobs in Iraq, and once it flowed world oil prices would go down. Iraq would be wealthy, selling as much oil as the Saudis. The USA would be wealthy, buying cheap oil. Once they turned Iraq into a wealthy libertarian paradise, Iraqis would be too busy getting rich to bother killing each other.

If the oil had been there, the occupation would not need tremendous expertise. Lots of people who hoped to get rich would support them in lots of indirect ways. Much easier to get people to cooperate when they see giant rewards by doing so. Seeing the giant rewards they wouldn’t have been upset at the US keeping control and providing them (and their oil) military protection.

But Saddam lied. They were stupid to believe him, but it was soooo tempting because if it had been true the rewards would have been wonderful.

They understood the damage to their brand the day after Baghdad was liberated and they got a close look at the Oil Ministry records. But it was too late then.

172

P O'Neill 06.21.14 at 3:49 pm

Low-hanging fruit that illustrates JH’s point:

George Will on Fox News — Second he [Obama] said — and this was mind boggling — that he hoped Iraqis would set aside their sectarian differences. It’s like expecting the French to set aside wine and cheese. It’s what defines Iraq, are the sectarian differences.

[via NR Corner]

173

Layman 06.21.14 at 4:03 pm

Peter K @ 165

It may interest you to know that Iraq GDP grew by 55% in 2004, has grown by more than 4% every year since 2005, and exceeded 10% in 2007 and again in 2013. This compares quite favorably to GDP growth for West Germany and Japan in the 10 years following the end if WW2.

And, again, the US spent far more on reconstruction in Iraq than in either West Germany and Japan. In fact, the US spent the aftermath of WW2 actually dismantling German factories as part of a plan to eliminate Germany’s capacity to wage war in the future.

174

Peter K. 06.21.14 at 5:11 pm

“And, again, the US spent far more on reconstruction in Iraq than in either West Germany and Japan.”

No links? Yes they dismantled German factories but they still had Mercedes-Benz and the Autobahn. And today Germany is one of the most productive exporters in the world. You have to wonder how much is due to their lack of a low-efficiency military-industrial complex. Also they have a better labor-management system than most.

175

Layman 06.21.14 at 5:26 pm

176

Bruce Wilder 06.21.14 at 5:33 pm

J Thomas: “It sounds like you’re saying “Yes, of course he was wrong, but putting that aside, if we ignore that he was plainly wrong, we can argue that he wasn’t *really* wrong. He had reasons for what he did, and when he had reasons that means it was OK.”

I especially enjoyed that.

Peter K:“Didn’t the Bushies understand that such massive negligence and dishonesty would damage their brand?”

They did not care. That’s part of the essential difference between a con game and equity investment in a continuing, value-generating enterprise. “I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone” or variations on that theme, and the assurance that someone else will hold the bag or clean up the mess, and then a new con game can be introduced, a new brand. Because the con-man is not building something to last; the con-man’s long-term plan is to be gone. The con-man is not aiming to create value to be realized in the long-term; the con-man is extracting cash from destruction of the long-term.

It doesn’t matter, for example, that they spent $13 billion on the reconstruction of Iraq, when $60 billion was needed and $18 billion was appropriated; it matters that they spent it without accomplishing anything but lining the pockets of private contractors (with ties to one or more of the political factions in on the con, in the U.S. or in Iraq or in Kuwait), and no one — at least no one important, but almost no one unimportant, either — was prosecuted for stealing the money or wasting it. Iraq needed electricity, clean water, sewage treatment and efficient rail transport. It didn’t get them. It got some dilapidated schools painted, but not repaired and some police stations that couldn’t be used because the plumbing didn’t work and a variety of electrical generating projects that couldn’t be connected to the electrical grid. And, Cheney collected retirement bonuses from Halliburton, but, hey, he made a “mistake”; they all made “mistakes”.

177

Anarcissie 06.21.14 at 6:34 pm

Among the having-been-wrongs is at least one hot presidential candidate; it might be more interesting to go into that situation, than to belabor such hulks as Cheney and Powell, who are (hopefully) now politically aground and rotting.

178

Bruce Wilder 06.21.14 at 7:18 pm

But, clearly we do need to belabor the hulks. When you cannot recognize the con game for a con game, even after it is over, it’s never over. It’s never over until someone stops it.

There’s two halves of the pathetic human attempt to do stuff: the speculative formation of expectation, the analysis prior to experience, the promise of reward, the planning and the organization. That’s one. And, then there’s the aftermath; the feedback, the governance (telling word, no?), the retribution, the taking stock. We do not take the latter half seriously enough, and then we wonder why our politics spirals ever downward, as we look forward . . . to still more and worse crap.

179

Anarcissie 06.21.14 at 8:03 pm

I agree, but a reasonable explanation of how people were deceived, from the point of view of those deceived, which is part of belaboring the rotting hulks, does not seem to be forthcoming. (It could be most useful in counteracting the further deceptions yet to come.)

Meanwhile — if I may shift to a more pungent metaphor — Cheney and Powell are now well down in the sewers of history, whereas others of their kind are still swimming cheerfully about the drain and making noises. They may do more damage before they go down. What can be done?

180

Barry 06.21.14 at 8:08 pm

JT: “But Saddam lied. They were stupid to believe him, but it was soooo tempting because if it had been true the rewards would have been wonderful.”

Bull f*cking sh*t. Guys with deep oil connections were fooled by Saddam?

Pull the other figure.

Layman: “In fact, the US spent the aftermath of WW2 actually dismantling German factories as part of a plan to eliminate Germany’s capacity to wage war in the future.”

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhht.

The Condoleeza Rice School of History.

181

Ze Kraggash 06.21.14 at 8:19 pm

It doesn’t make sense to concentrate on persons. There is plenty of material, many Cheneys, Powells, and Clintons, and new ones are born every day. Trying to discredit them all is not a meaningful approach.

182

novakant 06.21.14 at 8:21 pm

On the question of Saudi or Iran, how does it matter. Morally ? Both countries have quite brutal regimes (the Saudi’s maybe worse) both interfer incessantly around the region (Iran probably worse up until recently) It really seems to be much of a muchness.

If you can’t see much difference between SA and Iran or the way the US has treated these countries for the past couple of decades – then you’re just plain ignorant.

Also, chastising them for interfering in the region is a bit rich coming from a US/UK perspective.

183

Ronan(rf) 06.21.14 at 8:45 pm

I am not talking about ‘how the US has treated them’ and I’m not ‘chastising them’ by noting their foreign policies have been quite destructive in the region. (and I dont feel the need to pin my colours to the mast every time I criticise an Arab regime by also noting all the bad things that the US, UK, Israel whoever has also done)
I am talking about the alliance with Saudi, which people seem to think is morally reprehensible and strategically idiotic(I half agree on some of it) I’m wondering how would a similar alliance with Iran be any less morally reprehensible.

184

novakant 06.21.14 at 9:30 pm

You haven’t answered Bruce Wilder’s question, let me rephrase: why was Bandar Bush a regular in the White House, while Iran has been punished with war and sanctions? And while I don’t think the US government is morally superior, I would hope it would at least act somewhat rationally.

Btw, Iran isn’t Arab.

185

Ronan(rf) 06.21.14 at 9:50 pm

Path dependence ? Anyway I did answer his question. Clearly the Saudi relationship is (has been) primarily built around maintaining access to oil for the US and it’s allies. The hostility towards Iran is indeed irrational (imo – as I noted above) and primarily a result of the fall of the Shah, rise of Khomeini, the hostage crisis, the political economy of the new alliance system (interests building up in the FP community in the US and pressure coming from allies in the region (Saudi, Israel) not to ease relations with Iran) so on and so forth.
When has Iran been punished with war by the US ? I know Iran isn’t Arab.

186

novakant 06.21.14 at 10:12 pm

187

Ronan(rf) 06.21.14 at 10:17 pm

Iraq ‘punished Iran with war.’ The US helped fund the Iraqi war effort and gave tacit approval to the use of chemical weapons. (not that this is relevant to anything Ive said above, so Ill leave it there)

188

Ronan(rf) 06.21.14 at 10:19 pm

..and no, I dont agree with the policy, and understand fully why it would be a deep wound on the Iranian side.

189

roy belmont 06.21.14 at 10:32 pm

Layman 06.21.14 at 5:26 pm:

Does that include the forty pallets of cash that went missing?
Minimal estimates $6 billion+. Spent money.
Or the dark budget for contractors like the valiant heroes of Blackwater and its morph-mutant current iteration. Lots of cash going down that hole.
Spending money is not the same as accomplishing something, is it now?

I could spend $2000 getting my bicycle tires changed. Because the bike guy’s a rip-off and I’m a chump.
Hey man I spent $2000 getting my bicycle repaired!

Results dude. Results are what matters. Even more than intent.
Which in this case is so obscenely immoral most of the commenters here seemingly can’t even get next to it.
You aren’t watching a “mistake” boys and girls. You’re watching iniquity writ large before the eyes of a passive helpless world.
And commenting about it “judiciously, as you will.”

190

Barry 06.21.14 at 11:13 pm

Layman: “In fact, the US spent the aftermath of WW2 actually dismantling German factories as part of a plan to eliminate Germany’s capacity to wage war in the future.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_Plan

BTW, whomever talked about the amount of money the US ‘spent on Iraq’ should realize that having a war waged in your country is rather different from funding food and reconstuction.

191

Layman 06.21.14 at 11:17 pm

Barry @ 189

See section 8.2 of your link.

192

Bruce Wilder 06.21.14 at 11:30 pm

Iran aspires to be a modern, constitutional, industrialized social welfare state, while Saudi Arabia is determined to remain a medieval autocracy (with iphones and themeparks).

I think the contrast between them highlights the extent to which U.S. foreign policy is the wholly-owned subsidiary of reactionary business interests, which use American power abroad in highly destructive and unethical ways, to benefit parasitic business interests at public expense, that are then covered domestically by a modicum of propaganda efforts, aided by the ignorance and disinterest of the American public. The Iraq War was unusual, in that it was highly visible in the U.S., at least at the outset, and required a large-scale propaganda effort, to cover up just how costly and destructive to U.S. interests it was.

The Iranians are pissed off at the U.S. for trying to impose an autocratic state on Iran, which is kind of telling in itself, but it’s not as if the 9/11 hijackers were Iranians . . . or Iraqis. In Iraq, right now, the U.S. is supporting the Iranian-backed government against the Saudi-backed ISIL. It’s funny how these things work out.

So, here we are commenting, “judiciously, as you will.”

193

bob mcmanus 06.22.14 at 12:07 am

In Iraq, right now, the U.S. is supporting the Iranian-backed government against the Saudi-backed ISIL.

Not very actively, and I have my own speculations about what is going on. Tar-baby.

As far as the rest of the thread, I have stayed off, out of boredom with the nostalgia of days when the centre-left could even pretend to have an ethics to betray. I am so tempted to one-up Belmont and go all max Godwin on your butts.

But let’s continue to discuss OUR country’s illegal murder of tens of thousands and the destruction of a nation as if it were a budgetary item on a highway project or a SCOTUS
decision on eminent domain. Calm. Judicious. Reasonable.

Let’s not.

194

LFC 06.22.14 at 12:23 am

@B .Wilder
How did the US “try to impose an autocratic govt on Iran”? what are you referring to? ’53 coup? (See article on that, btw, in current [July/Aug.] Foreign Affairs. Must stress I have *not* read it, only glanced at the opening, so not endorsing it.)

195

bob mcmanus 06.22.14 at 12:31 am

As far as Holbo’s transgression of the pieties, my own romantic temptation benefited by attention, memory and a search engine, is to imagine a small temporary handwaving in service of social comity while attempting to anchor in a challenging but necessary refuge.

I honor and admire that much more than the self-serving entirely useless and ineffective opposition. I also give Klein and Yglesias a pass. Hell, I will give all words a pass, including my own sarcasm of the time. “50 million troops for five years, 5 million for fifty.” Everybody else was spouting nonsense anyway.

We weren’t going to stop the war, and I didn’t care to send a signal of my social submission.

196

bob mcmanus 06.22.14 at 12:32 am

193: Sistani forced early elections. How soon we forget.

197

Ed Herdman 06.22.14 at 12:36 am

Moral outrage is good, but arranging critiques on innuendo and failing to differentiate between players is not. Though I don’t really have any argument about whether somebody wants to criticize Powell, for example, at the highest volume (even though I don’t personally agree with it), I do worry that it lessens the impact of the critique against others.

I mean, this:

Meanwhile — if I may shift to a more pungent metaphor — Cheney and Powell are now well down in the sewers of history, whereas others of their kind are still swimming cheerfully about the drain and making noises.
I mean, what the hell? This is just fearfully wrong. Powell hasn’t (to my knowledge) come out to say the war was wrong, but he did apologize for the UN report, he split ways with the fearmongering camp, and he’s gone against his own party twice in a row to support a Presidential candidate who made his criticism of the war a central plank in his platform. I’ve never seen anything to rebut this conclusion of the NY Times a decade ago. A failure? Sure.

He’s also not writing alternate-universe op-eds trying to drum up continued support / hysteria for the war.

But hey – there’s no second acts in American lives, are there?

@ bob again: I already Godwin’d things (a very small part of the debate with no obvious impact), just weeks after 9/11! I just wish I’d been better placed to do some damage to the warmongers’ argument.

198

Ed Herdman 06.22.14 at 12:36 am

Hmm, forgot to end my block quote. That should be after “making noises.” We regret the error.

199

J Thomas 06.22.14 at 2:05 am

Ed, I would point out the moral and logical flaws in your argument but I don’t think anybody here is at all swayed by what you say, so why bother?

As a spokesman for evil you are pretty much worn out. Probably time to come back with a new name and a different patter.

200

Ed Herdman 06.22.14 at 2:30 am

I’m perfectly fine having these views associated with my name, and I did find my views on Powell’s responsibility altered and enlightened by the discussion. But if I had to put my point across about his wrongdoing, I could actually do it to his face, and I would. I wouldn’t even have to throw a shoe (who does that?). Some of the criticisms of him here are based on basically imaginary and ungenerous beliefs about his mindset and reasons, which still are relevant if you are going to talk about “evil” in any meaningful sense. I don’t use “evil” to talk about the weather or about somebody who made a mistake (even if it’s one they don’t recognize), and neither should the most ardent utilitarians. But maybe that’s too much to ask for after the comments have apparently shut down John Holbo’s own willingness to step up for another round of free cheap shots in trying to explain his own feelings of wrongdoing.

201

max 06.22.14 at 2:39 am

JET @ 144:
It may be my well-developed imagination.

No, it’s the RPN, Jonah. (Well… the language utilizing the notation.)

I say, if we had made it clear by words and actions that we did not intend to stay, Iraqis might not have tried so hard to get rid of us. And I don’t think it’s certain how intense the ethnic strife was before we did everything we could to intensify it.

But we do know. In 1991, both the Kurds and the Shia rose up in revolt against Saddam. (They were risking their lives, fortunes and sacred honor.) They didn’t have to (maybe some of them liked Saddam), but we encouraged them. But our encouragement wouldn’t have meant jack if they were happy with the guy. The counter-argument is that it was just a problem with Saddam, but the Kurds were happy to continue to not deal with Iraq, and the Shia were organizing their own revolts in the middle of a murderous dictatorship.

Having gotten rid of Saddam, and having say, the Shia engage in an ethnic cleansing campaign in Baghdad right under our noses should put paid the notion that the ethnic groups involved would really just love each other if we just gave peace a chance. It hasn’t and it won’t because that’s an ideological commitment extended and maintained in outright contradiction to the known facts of this particular case. They don’t want to believe that (in this case) so they don’t.

We have gone through an entire century of empires being broken down into their constituent ethnic parts every chance people get pretty much, but that does not matter because people want to believe they can overcome that through the right form of bureaucracy. (Sometimes you can but almost invariably after massive amounts of bloods have been spilt.)

I wanted to believe there was a chance. Get democratic government for cities and towns, with local tax collection. Then each local population starts out with some independence. (Except of course for the central government organization that imported food and distributed it. Pasta, rice, lentils, etc. The big majority of the population depended on those imports, and depended on the central government to handle that efficiently, and they depended on the railroads to move the food. As soon as that food stopped reaching ethnic areas there would be big trouble.)

But why should anybody back (much less implement) local control when they’re trying to maintain the power of the central government?

So for example we made an attempt to eliminate the Ba’ath police and secret police, and our soldiers did an utterly incompetent job of police work themselves. If each local government had its own police — kind of like we do here

Jonah, they have provinces and local councils and what not. They have a strong central government, but it does delegate power to a certain extent.

— they could hire Ba’ath policemen if they wanted, or replace them, or get them to teach police methods to people who could join them and represent ethnicities or whoever needed representation among the police. Or temporarily set up a city militia to keep order. It wouldn’t necessarily be *good* everywhere, but likely it would be far more orderly on average, and places where things were bad people would feel they had a complaint against their local governments.

You’re trying to write a small function (do_local_gov[]?) and then invoke the function repeatedly. That’d be sensible if the various provinces and towns weren’t a) particularist and b) corrupt. The way they did it in Germany was simply not to mess with the local structures at all, DeNazification or no DeNazification. That worked, in part, because preceding German governments had already standardized and worked hard against corruption. In this case, when you invoke your function, the individual virtualized versions aren’t going to produce consistent or coherent results.

Anyway, get towns and cities with their own independent local governments, and then ask them which other towns and cities they want to ally with. More voting.

And they promptly start fighting because the Shia in the central government don’t want the Sunni to tell them to screw off.

Then if the provinces can’t agree to join up into a central government, you have a de facto partition.

We structured the constitution we (more or less) wrote for them in exactly that way, skipping the Ethnic Feud!-style voting.

They might have trouble about ethnic cleansing or people choosing to move to areas governed by their own kind.

Wow! They had lots of ethnic cleansing, much bombings, very killing, such crying.

the more likely that large-scale ethnic violence could be avoided or delayed.

The delay has ended.

“What a ridiculous idea! In Iraq we have gotten along peacefully for generations. There are lots of mixed marriages and nobody thinks anything of it. Why do you Americans think this way?”

Unreliable narrator. One could also consider unreliable reporters prompting the interviewee for the Western-acceptable answers.

But also a lot of Shias were never as friendly to Sunnis after that.

The Shias wound up in charge. There were enough Sunnis unhappy about that to produce those kinds of bombings – and the Shia were angry Those People couldn’t just accept that the government should be Shia-dominated. In much the same way the Sunni could not understand why Those Shia couldn’t just accept Saddam.

later tensions like who owned what oil riches might have resulted in later conflict, but I’m not certain it had to fail.

I am certain it had to fail (that is democracy + Iraq as unitary state + imposed by Americans) because there was no mode of success. (Actually there is a mode of success but it’s really slow: let them fight it out til they get tired of it, but that’s -American occupation.)

But of course we never really gave it a try.

While I am entirely confident in the notion that people staffing the occupation in Iraq were pretty incompetent, I also note that they tried everything, pretty much.

Say we forgot about that goal. Local elections. Let Baathists take whatever office they get the votes for.

So, basically, you kill Saddam and then let the Iraqis vote for whatever they want as long as its democracy and not anti-American. Tried that.

Maybe you get Baaths taking over Sunni cities, and having no chance in Shia cities unless they are individually popular in those places.

And maybe we turn up to down and and black to white. I mean, you can try.

Let the politics work itself out.

War is politics by other means, and politics is war by other means. They’re working out the politics with automatic weapons.

Not giving them the right to try was a stupid policy.

If we’d organized an election in Kurdistan in 1991 giving them a choice of re-joining Iraq and becoming independent, which would they have chosen? We didn’t want them to become independent for various reasons, so we didn’t give them the right to try. Not giving the Iraqis the right to try has been baked into the policy from the beginning.

max
['Oy.']

202

LFC 06.22.14 at 2:46 am

Cheryl Rofer @20 of this thread:
My question is why the media bother to dig up the 2003 Iraq warhawks. There is some amusement and click/eyes value in wondering whether they will recant, but now we know they won’t. So find some pundits who were right and actually know what they’re talking about, like Juan Cole or Mark Lynch. There are a fair number of them about.

Mcmanus @194
“Everybody else [meaning, in context, everybody] was spouting nonsense anyway.”

I think C. Rofer’s probably right.

203

LFC 06.22.14 at 2:52 am

mcmanus 195: too cryptic.

204

Lee A. Arnold 06.22.14 at 3:43 am

MacManus #195 — al Sistani also wanted the SOFA agreement to specify that the US was definitely out by 2011. The neocon pundits’ current claim that Obama could have overturned this is more insane lying. Sistani can call out a million people onto the street overnight. Now it sounds like he wants Maliki out, too.

205

roy belmont 06.22.14 at 3:48 am

why the media bother to dig up the 2003 Iraq warhawks
Ask.
Ask the question.
And then don’t even answer it.
You must not answer that question. It is forbidden to answer that question. Ask it all you want, but you are not ever going to be allowed to answer it with any degree of honesty.
Fuck Godwin.

Muqtada Al-Sadr is the closest thing to a visible saint in the Middle East today, as he was ten years ago.
Condi Rice was and probably still is a heavy-smoking dyke, hyper-intelligent, on the make and willing to front a compromised surface to get what she wants.
Al-Sadr was consistently shown in a light that made him look like a snarling animal to the American public, while Condi, hey Condi and Bush, you know, you ever wonder, I mean…

These things don’t go together.
They don’t fit together, those images. They won’t…merge.
Until we get to the immune system response of evil to virtue, and the need for a proxy shield for iniquitous duplicity.
Then, hey presto! They do start to fit together.
Colin POwell was sacrificed, a cut-out, a proxy front, a fall guy, a chump, and he was chumped off.
Al-Sadr was so often described as a “firebrand” in the oughties press it might as well have been his middle name, and Condi was there, being all made-it good Negro gal and liberated woman and so thus impervious to liberal venom.
Which is now so diluted anyway you guys are talking about Colin Powell (in 2014!) and asking asking for all that’s holy, why Wolfowitz and Kristof and Cheney, and who knows what other dreck-filled carcasses are being primped in the green rooms of what’s left of American mainstream journalism, are being “consulted” on this latest iteration of Sauron’s expansionist wet dream.
Asking and never even answering your own fucking question.

Maybe, just maybe, your main narrative isn’t quite centered on the real.

206

MPAVictoria 06.22.14 at 4:10 am

“Condi Rice was and probably still is a heavy-smoking dyke”

Straight up bigot.

207

Lee A. Arnold 06.22.14 at 5:20 am

Also get his saints wrong.

208

roy belmont 06.22.14 at 5:28 am

In the interest of my own mild amusement at your idiocies:
I don’t give a shit who or how Condoleeza Rice has sex with anyone.
I also have no problem with the consumption of tobacco products.
It is the hypocrisy of her position as cheerleader for the Iraq war, and the fact that knowing that about her would have undone her image in the lumpen-mind.
It would and does shock the people that enabled this ongoing nightmare of pseudo-apocalypse.
Muqtada al-Sadr, if you know anything at all about his background has displayed for years now what my Irish grandfather would have called “the patience of a saint”.
His actions match his words, and his words are about peace and the well-being of his people.
Blow me. Arnold.

209

bad Jim 06.22.14 at 5:42 am

My favorite saint is Lorenzo, who purportedly said while being barbecued, “I’m done on this side. Turn me over.”

210

Lee A. Arnold 06.22.14 at 6:03 am

Roy Belmont, I have been following the whereabouts of Muqtada al-Sadr ever since the fall of 2003, about 6 months after the invasion, when the NYRB featured him in a very long article about the young Shi’ite clerics. He was already using computerized mailing lists to organize his followers, very interesting. I remember just after that article appeared, Paul Wolfowitz assured a small gathering of supporters in D.C., “al Sadr has no traction,” — yet another Wolfowitz judgement that was evidently wrong, even then. But al Sadr is no saint, not by any spiritual definition nor mystical practice in any world religion, certainly not Sufi, nor by any Muslim assignation. Every cleric in line behind al Sistani (and al Sadr is not nearly the next in line, so far as I know) MUST practice “patience”, because them’s the rules.

Please say something else stupid so we can get you banned.

211

roy belmont 06.22.14 at 6:44 am

Arnold:

I would expect you to know more than the average passive observer about al-Sadr.
No really, I would.
Based on your other smarmy chauvinist comments here, you’d almost have to have him on the radar. Danger lurks. Got to watch them haters, eh?
Especially the ones that have been driven into cosmic levels of rage by the perfidy of those you defend.

The disgusting arrogance behind your tiny grasp of al-Sadr’s position and your glaring omission of any response to my acknowledgment of his background … and hey let’s just go there for a second, ‘kay?
His father was murdered by Saddam.
Don’t know about you but me, somebody murdered my dad I’d be all up on them real hard.
But your affiliates in the seats of power, as American went into Babylon, to vengefully take Nebudchanezzer’s treasures for themselves, among other duplicitously accomplished “missions”, made sure that the American people saw, and still see, al-Sadr as dangerous, because he was, and he is. Just not to decent people.
Dangerous to the swine that are running this cabaret of horror.

Without any testimony as to your personal or dogmatic requirements for sanctity I can’t get an opinion together about how specifically full of shit you are about al-Sadr and his threat to you and your people.
Which is probably as real as most of the other threats you face now.
Iniquity is always most threatened by virtue and moral strength.
The backwash of that iniquity is going to be monstrous.
My advice to you and yours would be stop adding to it. Now.

“So we can get you banned”!
Where’s Bloix when you really need him, huh?
Out there somewhere having an identity crisis, as his ethical sense, obvious, sincerely held, smacks into the concrete depths of how bad he’s been played.

Framing this “question” as one of these lying sacks of shit having been “wrong” as the OP does, is to me, a kind of unconscious quislingism. They weren’t wrong, they were lying. They were lying then and they’re lying now and that’s when they’re being given a podium. You know that, and I know you know that.
And now you know I know you know that.

C’mom man you know you want to, don’t make me say it again – give it up.

212

bad Jim 06.22.14 at 7:44 am

Juan Cole was initially rather sympathetic to al Sadr as a nationalist firebrand, but the hecatombs heaped up in process of internecine warfare in Baghdad and his retreat to Iran to further his education did nothing to burnish his reputation.

It’s like early American history: the founder of our country, and most of our first presidents, were slaveholders: utter assholes, to the first and second approximation (it’s a job requirement, whippings and all). So? You’re born to the family and the country you have, not what you wish you had.

It’s hard to identify any good that’s come from hanging Saddam Hussein.

213

ChrisB 06.22.14 at 7:59 am

OK, I’m happy enough to praise my moral intuition in being against Iraq 2, but I’d also like to think that there was a general principle in there somewhere. People seem to be phrasing that general principle as “Don’t invade countries”. I can’t help feeling, though, that that has a flip side, which is “Horrible tyrants who avoid civil war are better than civil war, and we ought not to threaten the position of horrible tyrants unless we are absolutely certain that civil war will not ensue.” If we had an opportunity to bring Saddam back, that is, we’d do it. I, to be consistent, would do it. And I can’t see how that can’t also imply that I ought to support Assad against ISIS/ISIL. Which is not, as far as I can see, a conclusion that has occurred to any of the moral philosophers who’ve commented above, who have universally concluded that their responsibility stops at not invading and concluded that such a position enables them to imply that they would neither have invaded nor supported Saddam but would rather have found a completely different right answer that is now no longer available. I’m not being sarcastic; I just can’t see how the debate can be carried on without implying _something_ about supporting Assad or supporting his overthrow. If the Iraq example doesn’t imply anything about a very closely related dilemma, does it have any generalisable features at all? And if not, what on earth is the good of it?

214

Ze Kraggash 06.22.14 at 8:37 am

The Al-Sadr guy had a great face. I always thought of him as a hero of a Hollywood epic. And maybe he was indeed a Hollywood actor, who knows.

215

Layman 06.22.14 at 1:00 pm

“I’m not being sarcastic; I just can’t see how the debate can be carried on without implying _something_ about supporting Assad or supporting his overthrow.”

Excluded middle: Do neither.

216

Ze Kraggash 06.22.14 at 1:05 pm

212 “OK, I’m happy enough to praise my moral intuition in being against Iraq 2, but I’d also like to think that there was a general principle in there somewhere.”

The general principle is that states don’t invade other states. You personally are free to support tyrants or revolutionaries or whomever else you wish to support.

217

MPAVictoria 06.22.14 at 1:47 pm

Roy not only are you a bigot, you are a moron as well.

You wouldn’t use that term to my face you sad, pathetic little man. Don’t post it here.

218

MPAVictoria 06.22.14 at 1:50 pm

” being all made-it good Negro gal “

And I missed this little gem the first time around.

Straight. Up. Bigot.

219

Lee A. Arnold 06.22.14 at 2:07 pm

Belmont you moron stop drinking. Everybody knows his father was killed by Saddam. I JUST WROTE that the evidence was that he was going to be an important political leader back when the neocons were dismissing him, 10 years ago. The Sadrist fighters are responsible for lots of bloodletting (they have just been called out again) and he managed to get a lot of them shot up the last time. I seem to remember that al Sistani had to implore them to stand down. You seem to think that “saint” means “political leader”. Stop drinking. You are almost incoherent.

220

Peter K. 06.22.14 at 2:38 pm

Bruce Wilder:

“Peter K:“Didn’t the Bushies understand that such massive negligence and dishonesty would damage their brand?”

They did not care.”

Eric Cantor cares now. (Granted he’ll get a well-paid gig as a lobbyist or at a think tank.)

Did you watch the Fox News clip of Megyn Kelly slamming Cheney? No? I didn’t think so. I thought they said that Iraq would beat the “Vietnam syndrome.” Now we have the Iraq/Afghanistan syndrome.

Wilder:
“Iran aspires to be a modern, constitutional, industrialized social welfare state, while Saudi Arabia is determined to remain a medieval autocracy (with iphones and themeparks).

I think the contrast between them highlights the extent to which U.S. foreign policy is the wholly-owned subsidiary of reactionary business interests, “

Iran aspires to be modern? The people do maybe. The regime wants nukes and is opposed to Israel. The Saudis have oil and have a detente with Israel even as they fund radical groups like ISIS in the region. “

Max:

“Having gotten rid of Saddam, and having say, the Shia engage in an ethnic cleansing campaign in Baghdad right under our noses should put paid the notion that the ethnic groups involved would really just love each other if we just gave peace a chance.”

What happened was that the deposed Baathists and Sunnis teamed up with Al Qaeda-like groups. Enemy of my enemy. They massacred Shias continually at mosques etc until it finally sparked Shia-Sunni ethinc cleansing. The Shia were provoked. Of course the Iraq government could have done better on power and oil revenue sharing.

low quality comments

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J Thomas 06.22.14 at 3:13 pm

#200 Max

In 1991, both the Kurds and the Shia rose up in revolt against Saddam. (They were risking their lives, fortunes and sacred honor.) They didn’t have to (maybe some of them liked Saddam), but we encouraged them. But our encouragement wouldn’t have meant jack if they were happy with the guy.

Yes, of all the people plotting against Saddam, we encouraged a Shia group and the Kurds. Pretty much everybody is prejudiced against kurds and they want their own country, that’s clear. But then we advised a Shia group, and then we double-crossed them and left them to Saddam’s mercy. Saddam decided that Shias were suspect and purged from his government the ones that looked least reliable, and had his secret police look for more Shia conspirators. So from that time on he gave them solid reason to want him gone.

Then we came in and made a big distinction between Sunnis and Shias, we strongly discriminated against Sunnis and tried to set up a Shia-only government. It’s as if we did everything we could to start a civil war between them.

The counter-argument is that it was just a problem with Saddam, but the Kurds were happy to continue to not deal with Iraq, and the Shia were organizing their own revolts in the middle of a murderous dictatorship.

Either Saddam was just paranoid, or there were lots of attempts at revolt. We backed the Shia attempts and not the others. Kurds of course did want their own country, and the more everybody else stamped on them the more they wanted it.

Having gotten rid of Saddam, and having say, the Shia engage in an ethnic cleansing campaign in Baghdad right under our noses should put paid the notion that the ethnic groups involved would really just love each other if we just gave peace a chance. It hasn’t and it won’t because that’s an ideological commitment extended and maintained in outright contradiction to the known facts of this particular case. They don’t want to believe that (in this case) so they don’t.

After we did everything in our power to make that happen, it did happen. I don’t know how to tell how much of that was from our prompting, and neither do you. If you say it would have happened anyway no matter what, it’s possible that you’re right.

We have gone through an entire century of empires being broken down into their constituent ethnic parts every chance people get pretty much, but that does not matter because people want to believe they can overcome that through the right form of bureaucracy. (Sometimes you can but almost invariably after massive amounts of bloods have been spilt.)

Yes, like the Flemish and the Walloons kind of get along but they aren’t real happy about it. And in the USA we have various Protestants and Catholics and Jews all coexisting under one government but they don’t like it either and they’d surely split up if conditions let them. It’s that way pretty much everywhere. There are places — Utah and surrounding areas — where a superficial look would make you think it’s a majority of LDS who would get everything their way. But if you look closer, they are divided among *different kinds* of Mormons who don’t get along all that well, who would split up given the chance.

And yet sometimes people do try to get along.

“I wanted to believe there was a chance. Get democratic government for cities and towns, with local tax collection. Then each local population starts out with some independence.”

But why should anybody back (much less implement) local control when they’re trying to maintain the power of the central government?

We had destroyed the old central government, and we were trying to set up a new strong central government. The reason I think we should have backed local control is that there was a chance it would have worked, while what we did got us the results we got. If we started with local control and then built upward from there, and at some point people didn’t want to build farther, that would give them the basis for a peaceful partition. It wouldn’t solve all the problems, but it would be a far better start than waiting for ad hoc armies to control whatever they could hold onto. And maybe they might decide to split for some nonethnic reason. When we decide the ethnic issue is the main thing, we lose if it turns out something else is also important. Let people just decide who they want to be allied with, on whatever grounds they choose, and we don’t have to second-guess them.

“If each local government had its own police — kind of like we do here…”

Jonah, they have provinces and local councils and what not. They have a strong central government, but it does delegate power to a certain extent.

As I understand it, the police everywhere were paid by the central government. Local governments were also paid by the central government and responsible to it. Then we came in and we disbanded the police — everywhere — because they were organized by Ba’ath. Easy to disband them, don’t pay them from the central government offices that we controlled.

You’re trying to write a small function (do_local_gov[]?) and then invoke the function repeatedly. That’d be sensible if the various provinces and towns weren’t a) particularist and b) corrupt.

Would you say that is untrue of our own towns and state governments? And yet we mostly get buy. People tend to accept the system, and when they object to corruption or racism or whatever then they tend to organize to win elections instead of shooting the voters they disagree with. It depends on a collection of things like elections people trust not to be rigged. Many of the things that tend to prevent armed revolution are breaking down here, but if we had done the right things we could have helped get them to work right in Iraq.

The way they did it in Germany was simply not to mess with the local structures at all, DeNazification or no DeNazification.

Yes, but we did not do that in Iraq.

“Anyway, get towns and cities with their own independent local governments, and then ask them which other towns and cities they want to ally with. More voting.”

And they promptly start fighting because the Shia in the central government don’t want the Sunni to tell them to screw off.

That’s why you do that before you create a central government, and then you create as much central government as they’re ready to vote for.

“…the more likely that large-scale ethnic violence could be avoided or delayed.”

The delay has ended.

Yes, it’s far too late now. But the time might come again when people want to set up a democracy someplace they don’t already have a long democratic tradition. I have a concept about some of what’s important for that. In some cases it’s impossible — for example in places where everybody hates everybody else. I think it’s better to start small and build it up as far as people feel like building it, and then stop. Because the more people you get in the same democratic government who care more about how much they hate other voters than about how to make things work, the worse the democracy runs. (One of those things we’re having problems with here, these days.) I think it might be better to have several working democracies that have bad relations with each other, than one big dysfunctional nation.

If you claim that you can’t have democracy any place that doesn’t already have a long established democratic tradition, you might be right. I’d rather look at whatever can be done to help it work, and try it repeatedly before I decide it’s impossible.

“What a ridiculous idea! In Iraq we have gotten along peacefully for generations. There are lots of mixed marriages and nobody thinks anything of it. Why do you Americans think this way?”

Unreliable narrator. One could also consider unreliable reporters prompting the interviewee for the Western-acceptable answers.

You could be right. It looked to me like the unreliable reporters were prompting for conflict. I don’t know what the truth was.

It’s hard enough to find the truth about objective stuff. Saddam’s censuses said there were a lot of Sunnis. The CIA published data that said there weren’t so many, that there was a large Shia majority. I noticed that opinion surveys in Iraq consistently sampled more Sunnis than the CIA said to expect. So they would “adjust” the results. They would take their actual opinion results, and separate out the answers by Sunnis versus Shias, and then change the published answers to reduce the Sunni contribution and increase the Shia one to match the CIA ratios. This fits standard accepted practice. The polls have random errors, and if you care about particular known variables you can “correct” for those variables. But the bias was always in the same direction….

We said there were so many more Shias than Sunnis that the Sunnis would just have to knuckle under and accept their minority status. But maybe the ratio wasn’t as far off as they said, and Sunnis were too large a minority to ignore.

“Say we forgot about that goal. Local elections. Let Baathists take whatever office they get the votes for.”

So, basically, you kill Saddam and then let the Iraqis vote for whatever they want as long as its democracy and not anti-American. Tried that.

What we claimed we tried, was elections where Iraqis could vote for whoever they wanted provided they were not Ba’ath and not religious. What do you think would happen here if we had elections where you could vote for anybody you wanted provided they were not Christians and not Republicans? We would probably have gotten better results if we let people take office even if they are anti-American. If we weren’t planning to stay, what’s the harm?

“Not giving them the right to try was a stupid policy.”

If we’d organized an election in Kurdistan in 1991 giving them a choice of re-joining Iraq and becoming independent, which would they have chosen? We didn’t want them to become independent for various reasons, so we didn’t give them the right to try. Not giving the Iraqis the right to try has been baked into the policy from the beginning.

Yes, I know. We had fail baked into the policy from the beginning. I say there might have been a way to do it right. That’s because I have an ideology that says democracy can work, that it can sometimes be better than shooting until the losers surrender.

If you believe in democracy and you think about its implications, you will wind up with an idea for Iraq similar to mine. But we did not try anything like that because we were being run by people who did not believe in democracy for other people, whose goals had nothing to do with letting Iraqis develop a government that worked for them.

Ideally, democracy serves as a sort of crude simulation to tell them what results they can expect if they fight it out. On each issue they wind up with some sort of result that’s better for everybody than they can expect from fighting, so they don’t fight. Anybody who feels like they are better off to fight than to accept the totality of those decisions will fight. When we keep people from actually negotiating, we defeat the purpose. Saying “you can have democracy provided it doesn’t include anybody who was on the wrong side before, or anybody who’s religious, or anybody who won’t to do what the USA wants” turns it into a sham.

Incidentally, for places like Afghanistan it might be good to make that symbolism plain. Like, at elections maybe voters should be required to bring some kind of firearm and within 3 tries hit a target at 2 meters. And then in the parliament, each politician gets as many votes as he has people who have shot for him. It would be a sort of reminder….

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Bruce Wilder 06.22.14 at 4:24 pm

Peter K @ 219

PK: Did you watch the Fox News clip of Megyn Kelly slamming Cheney?

Yes, it was amusing. But, what’s your point? That Fox News, literally, has a brand, and wants to protect it? Duh. Megyn Kelly plays a certain, assigned role. Remember election night with Karl Rove? It is what she does.

PK: Iran aspires to be modern? The people do maybe. The regime wants nukes and is opposed to Israel. The Saudis have oil and have a detente with Israel . . .

You wrote this dreck, and then concluded your comment with the throwaway, “low quality comments”? Really?

I’m not going to carry a brief for Iran. My points were about the self-destructiveness of American foreign policy and the propaganda that covers for that destructiveness. When I wrote, “Iran aspires to be modern”, I was referring to a commitment expressed in national policy; Iran has poured resources into education and science in recent decades. The literacy rate has more than doubled since the fall of the Shah, and Iran has one of the most vigorous national scientific establishments in the world. They have a national policy of developing nuclear power, similar to the policy of the French. It is the U.S., which insists that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, while the horizon on the development of an actual weapon recedes steadily; the regime emphatically denies it, and its powerful religious leaders insist on moral principle, that Iran should forswear nuclear weapons. Of course, the U.S., with its hostility, has given Iran strong motivations to get nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, it is the U.S.’s great, good ally, Pakistan, which has received billions in U.S. military aid, hosted Osama bin Ladin, and given nuclear tech to Libya and North Korea. And, Pakistan’s educational investments? Explosive growth of Madrassas to radicalize the population and turn out militants, funded in part by the Saudis, of course.

Again, the point, here, is not to paint any country as “good guys” or “bad guys”. The point is to expose the ridiculousness of such cartoonish propaganda, and to expose the self-destructive policy choices such propaganda covers.

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Anarcissie 06.22.14 at 4:31 pm

ChrisB 06.22.14 at 7:59 am:
‘ OK, I’m happy enough to praise my moral intuition in being against Iraq 2, but I’d also like to think that there was a general principle in there somewhere.’

How about ‘Don’t kill (etc.) people unless you really, really have to’? And ‘Don’t support or consent to others doing it’? Is this too naive? Does it assume too much? It seems to me a lot of people will at least give these principles lip service, which suggests to me a widely held sort of intuition, even if it is not widely obeyed.

Where I fault Powell is that he was supposed to be a man of reason and a soldier, not a mad dog like Cheney. He was the kind of person we counted on to stop the mad dogs, not run with them. Or at least call out, ‘Hey, that’s a mad dog there!’

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Bruce Wilder 06.22.14 at 4:47 pm

Anarcissie @ 222

How about ‘Don’t kill (etc.) people unless you really, really have to’?

WMD! We really have to! [Saddam had something to do with 9/11!]

Is this too naive?

Apparently.

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mattH 06.22.14 at 5:23 pm

(I know this is very late, post-wise, but it has to be said)

John Holbo @14

The best part of that Pollack Op-Ed is the first 2 comments and the fact that we don’t hear many people site Pollack on anything. He certainly hasn’t said anything close to ‘I know you have no reason to trust me, given how wrong I was before in a case that looked an awful lot like this one’, and it seems like it’s going to haunt him for a long time. We can probably chalk that up to his being ostensibly a “liberal”, now I just wonder what it’ll take to place those others in that same category? This post is certainly a nice reminder though.

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bob mcmanus 06.22.14 at 6:07 pm

201: So find some pundits who were right and actually know what they’re talking about, like Juan Cole or Mark Lynch.

Juan Cole

“The first thing that occurred to me on the fall of Qa’im is that Iran no longer has its land bridge to Lebanon. I suppose it could get much of the way there through Kurdish territory, but ISIS could ambush the convoys when they came into Arab Syria…Without Iranian shipments of rockets and other munitions, Lebanon’s Hizbullah would rapidly decline in importance, and south Lebanon would be open again to potential Israeli occupation.”

And you know, I believe him, that the supply routes between Iran and Assad/Hizbullah might be broken never occurred to him before yesterday. I suppose it might be too speculative yet to imagine that this is a plan.

OTOH, we do get the history of the Zangid State (1085-1146)* and some history of Sir Percy Cox circa 1915.

*Cole should learn to use “CE” instead of “AD.” I am surprised.

It is not all difficult to find correct or accurate information. It’s raining now outside my window. Having just read a little Grice, the point in co-operative conversation is to exchange information that is useful and relevant. Information from one side may be true, and yet not make sense in the context.

Of course, you have to determine the purpose of a co-operative conversation or discourse. Groucho Marx had his own purposes. The purpose of much centre-left discourse is to feel informed, righteous and aggrieved, and excused for passivity.

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J Thomas 06.22.14 at 6:13 pm

#212

People seem to be phrasing that general principle as “Don’t invade countries”. I can’t help feeling, though, that that has a flip side, which is “Horrible tyrants who avoid civil war are better than civil war, and we ought not to threaten the position of horrible tyrants unless we are absolutely certain that civil war will not ensue.” If we had an opportunity to bring Saddam back, that is, we’d do it. I, to be consistent, would do it.

I want to believe those are not the only two choices.

Let’s back up to say 2002. We didn’t want Saddam and we didn’t want to continue the sanctions and no-fly zones where at any time a US pilot might die. What if we offered Saddam a couple billion dollars and amnesty, and we buy Iraq from him? He and his family get to come to the USA with no prosecution for previous crimes. Give him a few billion to distribute among his top 100 or so loyal followers who could follow him into exile. We then take over an unbombed Iraq complete with functioning government, secret police, torture chambers, the works, and we look at how to reform it and turn it into a functioning democracy. Every couple of years we let Iraqis vote whether they want to keep the status quo, go independent, or apply for US statehood, like Puerto Rico.

If it worked it would be far cheaper than the violent invasion was. We would have the chance to reform an existing system rather than build a system from the rubble. And if it didn’t “work” it would still be by far the cheapest way to decapitate the Iraqi government.

Of course, it would be immoral. Saddam would get far too much mercy instead of justice. But how much did our effort to bring Saddam to justice cost? Was it worth the price?

And of course, the rest of the world and particularly the UN might likely disapprove. It’s a bad precedent to let a dictator sell his nation. It’s a bad precedent to let another nation vote whether to dissolve itself and become part of your nation. National boundaries are supposed to be sacrosanct and you must never absorb another nation into yours, that’s imperialism and a big no-no. And yet….

There ought to be other choices besides to “support” a dictator with tools to help him suppress his people, or bomb his draftees plus collateral damage, or do nothing.

And I can’t see how that can’t also imply that I ought to support Assad against ISIS/ISIL.

To my way of thinking, ideally we would find a way to encourage the people on the various sides to continuing negotiation, looking for things they prefer over violence. The stronger sides might tend to get more of what they want, balanced against the weaker sides’ need to get enough to be better than fighting a losing war which would severely inconvenience the winners too.

Officially Syria is a democracy, and Assad is the elected president. But for a long time, the president ran with no second candidate, and 2/3 of the senate was officially required to be from his party. It was a sham democracy. Now they have officially changed and anybody can run for office or run a political party, and the insurgents refuse to participate. If they believed the elections would be fair, wouldn’t it make sense for them to run for office and try to get votes? If they won (and if Assad followed the rules and stepped down) they could win without a fight. I think that they do not believe the elections would be honest, and they do not believe Assad would step down if defeated, and also they do not believe they would have enough support to avoid major embarrassment.

How can these insurgents threaten the government when they lack public support? Because they are heavily armed by outside governments.

Two orgaizations that lack public support but that threaten people, that can perhaps each get some support because people hope to get protection from the other. And you are not sure which to arm?

Here is a proposal. It is not realistic. I got it by following the logic, which unfortunately is notoriously unreliable for practical solutions.

Let’s say we want Syria to be a more-or-less-peaceful democracy. (Democracies sometimes get a sense of national outrage and go out to start stupid wars, like we did with Iraq etc. It happens.) But they can’t do that now because they have a dictatorship (that’s democratic on the surface) and some undemocratic outsider-funded insurgencies. None of the people who have the power to stop democracy are willing to accept it. And we can’t stop foreign nations from arming both sides. (Israel probably arms anybody who can create chaos in Syria. Assad was threatening to make peace, all he wanted in exchange was the Golan but Golan is worth more to Israel than peace with Syria. Their refusal makes Israel look bad. So the more Syrians that kill each other or get killed by foreign mercenaries or foreign fanatics, the better.)

We can’t stop the combatants and we can’t stop the people who arm the combatants, and while those small groups are much more powerful than anybody else, they can prevent negotiation.

So — the obvious logical conclusion is to arm everybody in Syria. Do, say, airdrops. Drop hundreds of thousands or millions of little parachutes with guns and ammo, for anybody to collect. And let the armed Syrians decide for themselves who they support. We don’t arm one unpopular group or another unpopular group, we arm *everybody*. And when it’s dangerous to push anybody around, the insurgencies and the government will both be weaker.

Does that sound too crazy libertarian? OK, if we try it and it doesn’t work, that’s data about libertarian approaches that is worth having.

But my fundamental approach is still: Do what we can to promote negotiated settlement rather than violence. Try for a negotiated agreement that each side finds acceptable. The BATNA — the Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement — is civil war.

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J Thomas 06.22.14 at 6:23 pm

#216

Roy not only are you a bigot, you are a moron as well.

I think you’ll find that he is not ashamed to be a bigot and not particularly upset that you call him one.

It’s a kind of cultural diversity. He has a vastly different point of view from you. If you can understand it, your horizons might be broadened. Your own viewpoint may become less parochial.

Of course, some of what you learn from him might be disgusting. I expect that he thinks some things are inevitable, that you think are intolerable. But still he might have some insights you would find valuable. And if all the understanding is in the other direction, he gets an advantage over you.

Just a thought….

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bob mcmanus 06.22.14 at 6:23 pm

So did the discussions on the left in 2002-03 about WMD, Powell’s veracity and integrity, the arguments for and against the invasion “make any sense?” At the time, they didn’t to me, as in “why are we talking about this stuff at such length?” Does it make sense in retrospect? Cheney is back on tv.

Well, the meaning and sense of a discourse is its utility, and since the purpose of the discussion was not to stop the war, which wasn’t going to happen, in order for it to not nonsensical one has to impute purposes and utility in some opposition to those which were stated.

We didn’t want to stop the war. We wanted an opportunity to point and say “Stupid evil Republicans.” At the expense of Iraqis.

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bob mcmanus 06.22.14 at 6:32 pm

226: Darn it feels so good to be on the privileged side of Empire.

As long as you are giving a single thought to “What do we do about Iraq?” Halliburton, Exxon, and the Pentagon will use that five steps ahead of where you think they are. They will make history while you watch.

When your only thoughts are “What do we do about Halliburton, Exxon, and the Pentagon,” and the answer is not “HRC instead of Paul” but rather what does America look like when corporations and the MIC are smoldering ruins then and only then will you be really helping Iraq.

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J Thomas 06.22.14 at 6:37 pm

#204

Colin POwell was sacrificed, a cut-out, a proxy front, a fall guy, a chump, and he was chumped off.

Yes.

Al-Sadr was so often described as a “firebrand” in the oughties press it might as well have been his middle name, and Condi was there, being all made-it good Negro gal and liberated woman and so thus impervious to liberal venom.

You’re saying that Condi Rice was there to be somebody that liberals would not really question. That makes sense.

Which is now so diluted anyway you guys are talking about Colin Powell (in 2014!) and asking asking for all that’s holy, why Wolfowitz and Kristof and Cheney, and who knows what other dreck-filled carcasses are being primped in the green rooms of what’s left of American mainstream journalism, are being “consulted” on this latest iteration of Sauron’s expansionist wet dream.
Asking and never even answering your own fucking question.

You made it very very plain what you were saying, but you said it in a way that would encourage people not to listen. Why was that?

Let me rephrase what I think you meant:

After 9/11 if not before, the mainstream media became Bush’s mouthpiece. They repeated our government’s propaganda without much of any independent checking or independent thought. They did a whole lot to get the US public to go along, we’re just lucky that Walter Cronkheit wasn’t still around to say “And that’s the way it is” or they might have gotten 99.99% of us.

Why is the media going back to the same old liars today and asking them what we should do, as if they never learned anything and never noticed that they were and are out-and-out liars? Because the mainstream media is still shilling for them. Not just Fox News.

And you think it’s pathetic that so-called liberals and so-called independent thinkers tiptoe around it, and pretend they don’t understand it. They seem to TAKE SERIOUSLY claims that “mistakes were made” etc. And pretty likely the conmen who planned it, who are still going strong, are thinking “With enemies like this, who needs friends?”.

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MPAVictoria 06.22.14 at 6:46 pm

@227

Unbelievable.

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MPAVictoria 06.22.14 at 6:53 pm

@227
I mean by that logic we should be inviting David Duke or Pat Buchanan to post here in order to “learn” from them.

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J Thomas 06.22.14 at 7:02 pm

#229
As long as you are giving a single thought to “What do we do about Iraq?” Halliburton, Exxon, and the Pentagon will use that five steps ahead of where you think they are. They will make history while you watch.

When your only thoughts are “What do we do about Halliburton, Exxon, and the Pentagon,” and the answer is not “HRC instead of Paul” but rather what does America look like when corporations and the MIC are smoldering ruins then and only then will you be really helping Iraq.

http://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/MIC

I wondered about MIC. Memory Interface Controller? But then I looked it up. You probably mean Military Industrial Complex and not Moron In Charge.

OK, so I’m afraid you’re right. Any good plan we come up with, those guys are going to say “Yes, good idea, we’ll do that!” and then they’ll start blowing things up and killing people and whatever they want. And if we complain about it they’ll say “No plans survives contact with the enemy” and there’s nothing much we can do about it.

But I don’t want our corporations to become physical smouldering ruins. We can’t feed our population without the stuff they produce. We have to have a clear idea what we’re heading toward, or it fails. Worse, the Pentagon etc says “Yes, good idea, we’ll do that!” and they do whatever they want, and if we’re still around afterward we likely won’t be in any position to complain.

I’m not willing to decide there is nothing we can do. But your idea tends in that direction. If they will always inevitably outmaneuver us, if there is no way we can actually influence them short of a civil war that destroys their infrastucture, that’s pretty bleak. Do you have any other ideas?

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J Thomas 06.22.14 at 7:05 pm

#232
I mean by that logic we should be inviting David Duke or Pat Buchanan to post here in order to “learn” from them.

Only if there’s a reasonable chance they will say things we don’t expect.

Roy Belmont is already here, and he is saying things that you have given no indication you understand. If you ignore his reasoning because you are prejudiced against his culture, what good is that?

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MPAVictoria 06.22.14 at 7:20 pm

“If you ignore his reasoning because you are prejudiced against his culture, what good is that?”

How about I spend my time on people who aren’t bigots? There are lots of them here and we only have so long to live. Also drop the “don’t be prejudiced against prejudiced” routine. No one is buying it.

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J Thomas 06.22.14 at 7:40 pm

Also drop the “don’t be prejudiced against prejudiced” routine. No one is buying it.

Why would that be?

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Sun Tzu

I’m not saying to agree that bigots are right. I’m not even saying to love them. But when you refuse to understand them, you give up something important.

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MPAVictoria 06.22.14 at 7:43 pm

Shorter J Thomas “I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”

/ Also no one has ever been convinced by quoting Sun Tzu at them in a pseudo-deep way.

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LFC 06.22.14 at 7:47 pm

@ Bruce Wilder
You claimed @191 that the US tried to impose an “autocratic state” on Iran. I asked what you were referring to. You haven’t answered. (McManus said something about Sistani but that was unresponsive to the question, b.c Ayatollah Sistani of course is Iraqi not Iranian.)

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LFC 06.22.14 at 8:12 pm

McManus
we didn’t want to stop the war
Bit of an arrogation to purport to speak for everyone who demonstrated vs the prospective invasion.

Re the mil-ind complex, which McM says has to be “smoldering and in ruins”: The MIC is a problem, but the US mil footprint is so big that it cd be cut back a lot and there wd still be work for the defense contractors (Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and the rest). Meanwhile, since violent revolutionary upheaval is not on the agenda in the US, I don’t know what McM’s actual prescription for anything is.
p.s. wrote different version of this comment earlier but it didn’t seem to post. (So I hope this won’t duplicate.)

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Bruce Wilder 06.22.14 at 8:19 pm

J. Thomas: . . . you said it in a way that would encourage people not to listen.

I thought he said it in way that expressed very well his contempt for those, who seem determined not to hear.

I appreciated your more prosaic statement of the case, but do you really think omitting profanity removes anything but an excuse?

bob mcmanus @ 225, 228, 229

The purpose of much centre-left discourse is to feel informed, righteous and aggrieved, and excused for passivity. . . did the discussions on the left in 2002-03 about WMD, Powell’s veracity and integrity, the arguments for and against the invasion “make any sense?” . . . As long as you are giving a single thought to “What do we do about Iraq?” Halliburton, Exxon, and the Pentagon will use that five steps ahead of where you think they are. They will make history while you watch.

You are on an end-of-thread roll.

A few weeks ago, I read David Kaiser’s No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War. Though certainly not the author’s intent, he describes quite well the initial stages during which America’s nascent corporate state was organized for world domination.

Contrary to Layman @ 67, the United States did intervene in WWII in a big way, prior to Pearl Harbor, but FDR chose to walk a political tightrope by refraining from a declaration of war, trying to gain time and space for industrial and military mobilization, even though the absence of a declaration of war meant it was difficult to manage the total mobilization of society that the scale of effort ultimately required.

FDR appointed Republicans to head the War and Navy Departments (there was no Defense Department, yet), beginning the precedent that Democratic Presidents have followed through Obama. He effectively drafted leading businessmen to planning commissions, including the head of General Motors, and a number of other leading businessmen of the day. There was a remarkable degree of public-spiritedness in all of this, with businessmen serving for a $1 a year and some hard-nosed negotiating over whether the government would own the war production facilities or intellectual property it was going to pay for, and how much profit business should expect to earn from the war effort. FDR did not want anyone coming out WWII with the kind of money and power that the DuPonts came out of WWI with.

Of course, in the 1930s, there were plenty of people, including leading lights of the Democratic Party, both liberal and conservative, who were highly skeptical of the motives and practices of corporate America. Organizing countervailing power was the major project of the New Deal.

I see the Rise and Fall of that New Deal America in the course of subsequent history. It’s not nostalgia, I think, so much as a recognition of the cyclical process of institutional aging. Powell was a spokesmodel for a senile, syphilitic corporate America, retaining the form but corruptly stripping out truth and substance from the precedents of WWII. George W Bush giving an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein, and refusing to take “yes” for an answer was history repeating as farce. The war machine that ground Japan to helpless surrender in less than 4 years while invading Nazi Europe, couldn’t win a war in one of the poorest countries in the world in more than a decade of spending every year more than that country’s GDP.

That Empire, that world order, created in WWII and its aftermath, is coming apart, like a termite-ridden house or a cancer-ridden nonagenarian. It’s all blowback all the time, now. While we’ve been contemplating the consequences of the failure of the Iraq War, a humanitarian crisis is erupting out of central America that’s challenging Obama’s hardline immigration policy — Honduras is breaking down into lawlessness. I’m sure somebody on Fox News is struggling to find a way to make that into a Islamic Clash of Civilizations, and some leftist is trying to remember what Eisenhower had to do with it.

Thailand. Ukraine. The Euro Crisis. The list is very, very long, and remarkably diverse and, increasingly, all-encompassing.

bob mcmanus: When your only thoughts are “What do we do about Halliburton, Exxon, and the Pentagon,” and the answer is not “HRC instead of Paul” but rather what does America look like when corporations and the MIC are smoldering ruins then and only then will you be really helping Iraq.

Indeed.

I have a lot of friends, who want to talk about HRC, as if she doesn’t work for them, as if she really thinks she and Bill earn those $200,000+ speaking fees, by “working hard” and that she remains “independent”.

I don’t hold out much hope for organizing insurrection, especially in the goldfish bowl that is the twitterverse. But, remember Bruce’s dictum: Conservatives make revolutions.

The preservationist instinct among American liberals runs very strong, but is fundamentally misinformed about the limits of practical possibility. Their conservative counterparties . . . “misinformed” doesn’t begin to cover the case, does it?

242

Harold 06.22.14 at 9:03 pm

Thank you, Bruce Wilder.

243

LFC 06.22.14 at 9:42 pm

@B Wilder
I don’t think the WW2-Iraq comparison makes a whole lot of sense.

As for the postWW2 world order falling apart, I think that judgment may contain a certain amt of wishful thinking. It’s often hard to distinguish serious from not-so-serious crises while they are actually occurring. So just listing headlines doesn’t constitute evidence of collapse. You may be right, but it prob. won’t be possible to tell for a while.

244

LFC 06.22.14 at 9:47 pm

There’s certainly been a diverse set of declarations on this thread, from Kilcullen “almost a genius” [!] (Lee Arnold) to the US military unable to master “one of the poorest countries of the world” (Bruce Wilder).

245

Bruce Wilder 06.22.14 at 10:02 pm

LFC @ 238

I didn’t mean to ignore you. I thought you answered your own question. I was referring to the history of American support for the Shah’s regime (and for shading that regime’s character away from constitutional monarchy and toward autocratic repression — SAVAK and all that.) So, yes, the 1953 coup d’état on behalf of corporate oil interests, though the history goes back at least to the Persian Corridor in WWII, when Mohammad Rezâ Pahlavi displaced his father with Soviet and British connivance, and American troops played an occupier’s role.

From an Iranian’s perspective, this wasn’t an isolated incident in 1953, it was a pattern of American subversion of Iranian national aspiration, which has continued to the present day. The U.S. leads Western efforts to impose draconian economic sanctions on Iran, which constrain their government’s efforts to develop the country and visibly reduce the prosperity of the country. The American story — nukes and Israel — is not credible to Iranians (and not entirely credible even to disinterested observers), but the threat of subversion, assassination, military attack or even invasion is very real. The U.S. attacked Iran in 2005 with the Stuxnet virus, and there have been naval incidents as well as assassination attempts. The U.S. or Israel has assassinated Iranian scientists, and the Iranians may have attempted to assassinate U.S. officials in central Asia in retaliation.

I don’t think it is really in the U.S. national interest for U.S. to be a friend of petty tyrants and mobsters, and an enemy of people trying to build their countries as modern, inclusive political economies, with elections and social welfare, etc. But, it’s what we do, because U.S. foreign policy is the creature of predatory business interests by default.

246

Lee A. Arnold 06.22.14 at 10:05 pm

LFC #243 — There is no contradiction there. Kilcullen can be a very good military advisor indeed, without the military being able to master one of the poorest countries in the world. If a good military advisor says don’t do this, then you shouldn’t do it. There were military analysts who were against the original invasion.

247

Bruce Wilder 06.22.14 at 10:05 pm

LFC @ 243

You don’t think Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries on earth? I really didn’t think I would need a footnote for that one. You’re welcome to look it up. It is pretty damn poor, whether I “declare” it so, or not.

248

Ronan(rf) 06.22.14 at 10:07 pm

What corporate interests are placated by isolating Iran ?

249

roy belmont 06.22.14 at 10:09 pm

Dear Miss Trans-Havisham:
Me, a bigot without an actual targeted target for my bigoted bigotry.
Which is doable I suppose, somehow, just not sure how it would work.

My mom was in the NAACP, as a white person auxiliary supporter. I loved my mom for that, among many other examples of her compassion. Still do.
Racists left hateful weird-ass propaganda in her locked vehicle one time. I found that very upsetting. Still do.
What’s missing from this is what I do when I’m very upset by something. Besides rant around on the internet I mean.
I marched with Cesar Chavez and his supporters through the streets of Big-Ag Salinas, at a time when he was getting serious death threats from racists and plutocrat-sanctioned thugs.
The emotional base for those actions and reactions hasn’t changed for me, just deepened and gotten far more complex.
I wore a pink shirt and an ear-ring to high school at a time when that was indisputable proof of gayness. Big fan of lots of artists with out reputations. Elton John knows who I am, in real life. There’s no animosity between us, no rejection on either side. Not that it’s any of your business.

What you’re mistaking for bigotry is my rejection of your knee-jerk mindlessness, shielded as it is by political conformity and the undeniable historical fact of prejudice.
Much the same way that Zionists hide behind the active shield of accusations of anti-Semitism to avoid the truth.
And just as in that fetid cess-pool of irrational defensiveness, once they get hold of you…gaah.

Thanks JThomas, for your somewhat off-center sort-of advocacy.

250

Layman 06.22.14 at 11:13 pm

Bruce Wilder @ 240

“Contrary to Layman @ 67, the United States did intervene in WWII in a big way, prior to Pearl Harbor, but FDR chose to walk a political tightrope by refraining from a declaration of war, trying to gain time and space for industrial and military mobilization, even though the absence of a declaration of war meant it was difficult to manage the total mobilization of society that the scale of effort ultimately required.

“FDR appointed Republicans to head the War and Navy Departments (there was no Defense Department, yet), beginning the precedent that Democratic Presidents have followed through Obama. He effectively drafted leading businessmen to planning commissions, including the head of General Motors, and a number of other leading businessmen of the day. There was a remarkable degree of public-spiritedness in all of this, with businessmen serving for a $1 a year and some hard-nosed negotiating over whether the government would own the war production facilities or intellectual property it was going to pay for, and how much profit business should expect to earn from the war effort. FDR did not want anyone coming out WWII with the kind of money and power that the DuPonts came out of WWI with.”

I read the whole passage, looking for the intervention, but never found it.

251

john c. halasz 06.22.14 at 11:16 pm

@238:

Sistani is, in fact, Iranian (“Persian”), though he resides in Iraq. His accent speaking classical Arabic has often been remarked upon.

252

MPAVictoria 06.22.14 at 11:33 pm

Shorter Roy: Don’t you know who I am?!?!?

253

Ze Kraggash 06.22.14 at 11:55 pm

@Roy,
actually, according to my observations MPAV is a male flaming troll (Victoria, the Canadian province, is its habitat). No communication possible, no point replying.

254

novakant 06.23.14 at 12:12 am

#244

Thanks for that, US ignorance and prejudice regarding Iran is truly breathtaking.

Here’s a good article explaining Iranian distrust of the US via the Iran Air Flight 655 incident – (most people probably will never have heard of it, which speaks for itself).

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/10/17/what-iran-air-flight-655-says-about-americas-role-in-the-middle-east/

255

David 06.23.14 at 12:30 am

Who do we blame for the mistake of this discussion thread?

256

john c. halasz 06.23.14 at 12:32 am

@254:

Wallace Stevens.

257

J Thomas 06.23.14 at 1:06 am

#237

/ Also no one has ever been convinced by quoting Sun Tzu at them in a pseudo-deep way.

“You can lead a force to slaughter, but you cannot make them think.”

I grant you free will so your choices are not my problem.

However, I would like to learn from you and what I’ve noticed of your comments are almost entirely your disapproval other people due to throwaway phrases they put in. I’d like it if you give me more to work with.

258

MPAVictoria 06.23.14 at 1:34 am

So the consensus around here is really going to be that it is perfectly fine for someone to refer to an African American woman as a “Dyke” and a “Negro”?

I am no fan of Ms. Rice but that doesn’t make homophobic terms okay and I think it is important to call people out when they cross the line (even if they do know Elton John). That is the only way things change.

259

bob mcmanus 06.23.14 at 1:52 am

255: Never can be sure what you mean, and I couldn’t find a quote, but googling did lead me to Savitsky, Ramon Fernandez, and “The Idea of Order at Key West” for which I thank you.

Sometimes it just feels so hard to learn anything.

260

J Thomas 06.23.14 at 2:01 am

#248

Thanks JThomas, for your somewhat off-center sort-of advocacy.

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/on-the-internet-nobody-knows-youre-a-dog

We mostly don’t know about your personal life. You could be abusing black sharecroippers and blackmailing young Jewish girls into sex slavery and we wouldn’t know unless you told us or after your arrest they published your handle. So people who decide how racist you are, judge by your language.

I think it’s better to pay attention to what you’re actually saying, if what you’re saying is worth paying attention to. When we get to deciding who has the right credentials to get listened to, that’s a potential problem in itself. So I don’t want to argue about whether you’re a racist or not. I don’t care whether you’re a dog or a racist using the internet, I want to notice what you have to say. And if I argue about whether you’re a dog, that’s following the red herring.

261

john c. halasz 06.23.14 at 2:47 am

@258:

Oh, come on Bobby Mc. In response to B.W.’s dissing of Powell (and implicitly Holbo), I posted the title @104. Since no one took the hint, I posted the text of the poem @156. I don’t know when the poem was written, prolly in the 1930’s, but the cold man who peddled fire insurance was prolly the premier poet-inquirer into American Idealism. It seems a relevant citation. Almost prophetic.

There are no irony tags on the tubz, but sometimes contemplative reflection is better than piss-poor arguments.

262

roy belmont 06.23.14 at 3:36 am

263

Bruce Wilder 06.23.14 at 4:06 am

Layman @ 249: I read the whole passage, looking for the intervention, but never found it.

Don’t be a jerk. It’s not my job to teach you the history of the Second World War.

The bases agreements with Britain, the gift of 50 destroyers, naval cooperation with Britain and Lend-Lease aid were the most important substantive interventions; the Atlantic Charter statement was the most important moral commitment. All occurred before Pearl Harbor.

That the U.S. and the Axis powers regarded each other as enemies headed toward war was not a secret in 1939-41, and hostilities took place in advance of a declaration of war.

But, since you need instruction, here’s a helpful timeline:

July 1937 – Japanese and Chinese troops exchange fire in a skirmish near the Marco Polo Bridge, beginning the Second World War.

December 1937 – USS Panay attacked by Japan during runup to the Nanking Massacre.

September 1938 – FDR appeals to Hitler for peaceful resolution of the dispute with Czechoslovakia.

September 1939 – Germany invades Poland; Great Britain and France declare war against Germany.

September 1939 – The U.S. begins “Neutrality Patrol” in the western Atlantic.

September 1939 – Soviet Union defeats Japanese army in major border clash; Japan ends ambitions in Siberia. Soviet Union invades Poland.

October 1939 – U.S. “Neutrality Patrol” begins reporting contacts with warships “promptly” and “in plain English” to aid the British Navy in locating enemy shipping. A Conference of Foreign Ministers of the American Republics meeting in Panama agreed to extend the patrolled neutrality zone to the northeast coast of South America.

November 1939 – The Neutrality Act of 1939 ends the arms embargo against Britain and France, permitting cash-and-carry sales.

September 1940 – U.S. institutes its first peacetime draft. Polls indicate more than two-thirds of Americans support compulsory military training of young men.

September 1940 – U.S. gives Britain and Canada 50 destroyers in “exchange” for base rights along the Western Atlantic. Additionally, unrelated to the destroyer deal, the U.S. agrees to build an airbase on Bermuda and to establish bases in Newfoundland, relieving Britain from responsibility.

October 1940 – US ends steel and scrap export to Japan.

December 1940 – FDR declares the U.S. should become the “Arsenal of Democracy”, proposing aid to Canada and Britain in their war effort. A five-fold increase in the defense budget to $10 billion proposed.

February 1941 – FBI infiltrates major Germany spy ring in the U.S.

March 1941 – Lend-Lease enacted by the U.S., effectively authorizing unlimited aid to Britain. Extended to China in April and in October to the Soviet Union.

April 1941 – FDR authorized a Special Air Unit, later known at the Flying Tigers, equipped with American aircraft and staffed by volunteers recruited from the U.S. military services, to serve in China.

April 1941 – A U.S. Navy base established at Bermuda, for a Neutrality Patrol operation and a carrier group. U.S. naval forces begin patrols along the South American coast from a base in Trinidad.

April 1941 – USS Niblack attacked a German U-boat, while rescuing the survivors of a Dutch ship sunk by that U-boat.

May 1941 FDR declares National Emergency in relation to the world war.

June 1941 – U.S. freezes all German and Italian assets and orders all German and Italian consulates closed by July 10.

June 1941 – Germany attacks the Soviet Union

June 1941 – U.S. ends petroleum export to Japan (Many contemporaries thought the cutoff of oil might lead Japan to attack the Dutch East Indies, where Royal Dutch Shell had major refinery capacity.)

July 1941 – The U.S. took military control of Iceland from Britain, which had occupied the country since May 1940, landing a contingent of U.S. Marines. U.S. Navy plans to escort U.S.-flag shipping to Iceland in coordination with British convoys.

July 1941 – U.S. assumed responsibility to patrol Greenland waters, pursuant to an agreement with the Danish ambassador in Washington, originally offered in April 1941 (on the anniversary of the German occupation of Denmark). A U.S. Coast Guard cutter destroyed a German weather station there in September. (The Danish government in occupied Denmark declared the Ambassador a traitor.)

July 1941 – FDR federalized the Philippine Army, recalling MacArthur from retirement to service as Far East commander.

July 1941 – Roosevelt demanded Japan withdraw all its forces from Indochina. The U.S., Britain and the Netherlands declared a joint oil embargo of Japan.

August 1941 – FDR and Churchill, meeting in Newfoundland, issued a joint declaration of post-war aims and objectives, the Atlantic Charter. In September, all the European governments-in-exile, the Free French and the Soviet Union endorsed the Atlantic Charter as a common statement of principles guiding the Allied war efforts.

September 1941 – The U.S. claimed the USS Greer was attacked by German U-boat off Iceland. FDR ordered the U.S. Navy to “shoot on sight” German and Italian naval vessels in the western Atlantic.

October 1941 – USS Kearny, one of three destroyers dispatched from Iceland to relieve a Canadian convoy under U-boat “wolf pack” attack, was struck by a German torpedo.

October 1941 – USS Reuben James, sailing from Newfoundland escorting an eastbound convoy, sunk by German U-boat.

264

Lee A. Arnold 06.23.14 at 4:12 am

MPAVictoria #257: “So the consensus around here is really going to be that it is perfectly fine for someone to refer to an African American woman as a “Dyke” and a “Negro”?”

Not only that, but the people who do so can identify saints.

In addition to accepting stupid emotionalism as argument, it now looks like the left’s Best & Brightest also think that the the U.S.’s stupid and horrible invasion of Iraq actually caused the sectarian strife, and that democracy would have flourished if only Saddam and his psychopaths had been assured restful retirement in a condo in Newport Beach.

265

Lee A. Arnold 06.23.14 at 4:14 am

Which they were probably offered first anyway.

266

roy belmont 06.23.14 at 4:34 am

“the closest thing to a visible saint”

Along with context, syntax and accurate quoting are also invaluable, though evidently out of reach for some.
And ironic use of pejoratives, now that’s a thing, innit?

Watch out Arnold or I’ll start posting youtubs again.

cheers
Roy “Ban me, bitch” Belmont

267

Bruce Wilder 06.23.14 at 4:54 am

Ronan(rf) @ 247: What corporate interests are placated by isolating Iran?

It’s the Saudis and their allied Gulf states, whose fear and loathing of the Iranians, drive this. And, the Saudis have many friends in international oil and international finance. Not least among them, the House of Bush.

That conflict and enmity have many dimensions: ethnic, cultural, historical, religious, as well as political and economic. The key economic problem is the extractive resource economy model that the Saudis exemplify, which practically requires an extremely reactionary politics, even if tradition and religion did not put such politics on steroids. Big oil, big money, and repression attract a very ugly sort of Western support.

Iran is a challenge to Saudi Arabia on many levels. It’s a big challenge to its religious authority and cultural authority, to an extent and depth that no one in the West can appreciate. (Locally, Iran is the populist religious leader of the underclass, which doesn’t make the Saudis or Gulf emirates love them anymore.) More important with regard to the Western interests, Iran doesn’t embrace the extractive resource economy model to the same extent, doesn’t seek to concentrate wealth in the hands of a very few, and repress the rest, and so does not appear to be as open to corruption by the corrupt. Iran wants to sell a relatively modest quantity of oil and natural gas, and buy stuff — buy development into a modern industrial superstate — not just financial instruments for a sovereign wealth fund.

268

Bruce Wilder 06.23.14 at 4:56 am

I nominate roy for saint. Let’s beatify him. That’ll fix ‘em.

269

godoggo 06.23.14 at 5:01 am

Can I be viceroy?

270

Lee A. Arnold 06.23.14 at 5:02 am

Roy #265. You split hairs in your own defense. And it is still wrong. The closest thing to a visible saint in Iraq is probably al Sistani, who has at least called for living with the Sunnis. The younger clerics, not so much.

271

Ze Kraggash 06.23.14 at 6:11 am

Sistani was more like Khrushchev to Al-Sadr’s Che.

272

Ronan(rf) 06.23.14 at 10:41 am

” it now looks like the left’s Best & Brightest also think that the the U.S.’s stupid and horrible invasion of Iraq actually caused the sectarian strife”

It did, Lee, quite clearly. It obviously didn’t create sectarian differences,but exacerbated them. And no, that doesn’t logically lead to:

“and that democracy would have flourished if only Saddam and his psychopaths had been assured restful retirement in a condo in Newport Beach.”

I guess I shouldn’t expect much better from someone who thinks Kilcullen is a living genius on account of a few youtube videos.
But yes, Iraq could have ended up in this position at some stage without the US invasion – the point is, however, that in the real world, as history actually developed, the Iraq invasion created these circumstances, and it was all pretty predictable.

273

Ronan(rf) 06.23.14 at 10:50 am

@266 – okay, fair enough. Even if that is the case (and I don’t personally buy all of it, but that doesnt really matter) it still doesn’t say that US policy is driven specifically by ‘corporate interests.’ US (oil) policy in the region is driven to protect oil supplies, and so protect (US friendly) oil producers. A lot of times (particularly since the 70s) the US has explictly sided with their allies against the interests of US oil companies. (particularly in the 70’s when the local regimes started demanding more control over supplies)

274

Layman 06.23.14 at 12:10 pm

Bruce Wilder @ 262

“Don’t be a jerk. It’s not my job to teach you the history of the Second World War.”

Again, I read your whole list. I’m quite aware of the history, and I don’t think this rises to the level of ‘intervention’ in WW2, given the definition of ‘intervention’ in the comment to which I originally responded. And I really don’t think you need be obnoxious about it.

275

Lee A. Arnold 06.23.14 at 1:25 pm

Ronan(rf) #271: “It obviously didn’t create sectarian differences, but exacerbated them.”

What was new that wasn’t latent before? There was no love lost between these two tribes. The fact that the US got rid of Saddam is not the cause of this. The fact that when things are free to go tribal, everybody chooses sides for fear of life is something like a proximate “cause”, but this “exacerbation” is splitting more hairs. The Shi’ites were already under fear of life. They were 60% of the total population and were kept under Saddam’s thumb, sometimes violently. Payback started immediately. Now the Shia are up to almost 70% (I think). Imagine that the fundamentalist Tea Party in Congress was 60-70% of the US population.

276

otpup 06.23.14 at 1:37 pm

OT. I wish people would stop referring to the US occupation of Japan as a success for democracy. The US influence on the Japanese constitution resulted in one of the most corrupt democracies among the a.i.d. nations. Dan Lazare’s book on the US Constitution and its ideology in which he contrasts the German and Japanese occupation (in the German case, the US tinkering was more effectively resisted) is quite illuminating.

277

MPAVictoria 06.23.14 at 1:42 pm

” I wish people would stop referring to the US occupation of Japan as a success for democracy. The US influence on the Japanese constitution resulted in one of the most corrupt democracies among the a.i.d. nations. Dan Lazare’s book on the US Constitution and its ideology in which he contrasts the German and Japanese occupation (in the German case, the US tinkering was more effectively resisted) is quite illuminating.”

This is a point worth remembering but on the other hand considering that Japan ended up being one of the richest countries in the world, as well as one of the safest, they couldn’t have done THAT bad a job.

278

Ronan(rf) 06.23.14 at 1:47 pm

There are plenty of countries with sectarian and regional divisions that don’t fall into communal violence (or whose political and economic system accommodates – and so weakens – those divisions), and the research post 2003 (such as Joseph Sassoon’s on Saddam’s regime) shows, using documents found after the invasion, that sectarianism *did not feature in any meaningful way* as a governing strategy within the regime (which was more concerned with ‘enemies of the regime’, which did, at times, fall upon sectarian lines.)
The point is that the relevance of sectarian identities is dependant on context, not fixed in perpetuity, and recent US policies ( the 1991 uprisings, the pre 2003 sanctions – which drove the country into poverty, made the regime more defensive and paranoid – and the 2003 invasion) all helped exacerbate internal divisions.
That doesn’t mean there are easy answers or that every problem in Iraq is the fault of the US, but it means pushing this extremely reductionist view of Iraqi history (everything is the result of sectarianism) is not helpfull or a convincing story.

279

LFC 06.23.14 at 1:49 pm

j.c. halasz:
Sistani is, in fact, Iranian

noted.

280

J Thomas 06.23.14 at 2:40 pm

#263

… it now looks like the left’s Best & Brightest also think that the the U.S.’s stupid and horrible invasion of Iraq actually caused the sectarian strife, and that democracy would have flourished if only Saddam and his psychopaths had been assured restful retirement in a condo in Newport Beach.

Thank you for that “it looks like” to take your comment from horrible misquotes to your own misguided interpretation.

I am not on the left. I belong to the radical front. My direction is forward and not left or right.

I don’t say that US action caused all of the sectarian disagreement, which after all started with Mohammed’s death or at 680 AD, depending on how you count. But Sunnis and Shias had been cooperating reasonably well before the Gulf war.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shia_Islam_in_Iraq

It wasn’t just that Saddam (and the Ba’ath socialists before him, and the Nasserite socialists before them, back to Feisal and the British) had terrorized Iraqis into not doing massive sectarian violence. Poor people kept converting to Shia and it wasn’t political for them. They were more likely to support unions or communist parties, because mostly there weren’t any Shia parties. And they mostly weren’t getting oppressed because they were Shias, they were getting oppressed because they were poor.

We had a whole lot to do with making it bloody.

And I didn’t claim a guarantee that Iraq would work out well without Saddam. But there was a great big claim on the table that getting rid of Saddam was the big priority. And making him an offer he could not refuse was one way to do that.

There is reason to think he might have accepted such an offer — namely, he proposed it to Bush himself.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/26/AR2007092602414.html
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/9864433/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/did-saddam-accept-exile-offer-invasion/

At the time, the claim was that Saddam was the issue. Probably we could have neutralized Saddam far cheaper than the war cost us, and with far less damage to Iraq also. Bush was unwilling to try it. I don’t claim this would have automatically resulted in democracy flourishing in Iraq. But if we did want democracy in Iraq, that approach had far more *possibility* than what we actually did.

281

J Thomas 06.23.14 at 2:44 pm

#276

This is a point worth remembering but on the other hand considering that Japan ended up being one of the richest countries in the world, as well as one of the safest, they couldn’t have done THAT bad a job.

Thank you! That makes a lot of sense.

282

MPAVictoria 06.23.14 at 2:47 pm

“Thank you! That makes a lot of sense.”

Glad to hear you approve. Of course I think objecting to calling someone a “Dyke” also makes a lot of sense….

283

J Thomas 06.23.14 at 3:03 pm

Of course I think objecting to calling someone a “Dyke” also makes a lot of sense….

I wouldn’t forbid you to do that. I’d consider it hypocritical on my part to say it’s OK to scorn somebody by calling her a dyke and then say it’s wrong for you to scorn them by calling them a racist/sexist/etc.

My preference (which I don’t say you have any obligation to honor) is that you also look at what else they say, and perhaps respond to whatever they say that’s worth responding to, beyond their casual epithets. And if it happens to turn out that you wind up praising somebody for some special insight in the same comment that you scorn them for some of their attitudes, there’s nothing terribly wrong with that.

284

MPAVictoria 06.23.14 at 3:05 pm

“I wouldn’t forbid you to do that.”

Why thank you.

285

Lee A. Arnold 06.23.14 at 3:08 pm

Ronan(rf) #277: “There are plenty of countries… The point is that the relevance of sectarian identities is dependent on context, not fixed in perpetuity…”

The Baathists repressed religious movements of any sect. It was a centralized dictatorship. To get to a democracy, the dictator (Saddam) would have to been followed by a more Western-liberal sort of person with the agenda of setting up a constitution. (So first you have to get the psychopath Uday out of the way, or hope he doesn’t murder Qusay, of whom we may know even less.) Let’s skip over this part of the wishful thinking to get to the nub: Any constitution that is not the Koran itself is in direct violation of the Islamic political ideal, which is that the Koran directly determines the politics and the courts. We are seeing this objection raised in “plenty” of countries… Thus ANY move toward democracy in Iraq will directly unleash a fundamentalist religious belief that will make its own decisions on how things go. (Assad’s problem in Syria, etc.) And in the case of Iraq, that makes it a Shia vs. Sunni bloodbath in addition, because they have fundamentally different interpretations of Islam. Which may not be fixed into perpetuity, but has been going strong for about a thousand years. And that is why Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld started having worried looks in their photographs already by around the Spring of 2004, and that is why they tried to impose a strongman (first, Chalabi), and that is why al Sistani out-maneuvered Bush and got elections much sooner. Because elections are a means to an end, but they will NOT lead to a secular constitutional democracy in Iraq. Not any time soon it would appear.

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Lee A. Arnold 06.23.14 at 3:12 pm

J Thomas #279: “But Sunnis and Shias had been cooperating reasonably well before the Gulf war.”

So we go to the linked Wikipedia article under the subhead, “During the Baathist regime” and find that this is not the case.

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Ronan(rf) 06.23.14 at 3:29 pm

@284 – again though you’re arguing a strawman. I’m not talking about ‘secular constitutional democracy’ in Iraq, I’m arguing against your extremely simplistic take on sectarian relations in Iraq (and regionally) which doesn’t make any allowance for the multiple non sectarian identities and movements that exist(or have existed) in the region (nationalist, secular, pan Arab) or the specific reason there has been a ‘religious turn’ in the last three decades.

“Any constitution that is not the Koran itself is in direct violation of the Islamic political ideal”

This is nonsensical. Plenty of religious movements have shown themselves willing to accomodate themselves to political reality. (which means a constitutional order that isn’t just Koranic law verbatim) There are variances across regimes, across movements (across people) about what role they see for religion in governance. (And although it seems clear that at this moment most countries, if genuinely democratic, would vote for parties commited to some incorporation of religious doctrine into governing institutions it *doesn’t* mean that this has to be the most extreme, caricatured version you are pushing, making any cross sectarian unity impossible)

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geo 06.23.14 at 4:04 pm

JT@279: I am not on the left. I belong to the radical front. My direction is forward and not left or right.

But if “radical” means “going to the root,” wouldn’t your direction be downward?

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Ronan(rf) 06.23.14 at 4:08 pm

I mean you might as well be arguing that the Northern Irish conflict was fought over the concept of transubstantiation, rather than the specific form the Northern state took (sectarian, discriminatory and exclusionary towards Catholics) the emergence of and response to the Civil Rights movement (which was in large part non sectarian and willing to work through the northern state, afaik) and then the space allowed for sectarian and irredentist movements to instigate a conflict that broke down (substantially) on sectarian lines. That is *not to say* that sectarian identity is not important in Northern Ireland, it is to say that it is important in specific ways at specific times. (And the solution *has* been – because it had to be – some form of cross sectarian unity and inclusive governance – which is fragile and doesn’t work perfectly but has largely resolved the violence)
When one form of governance is challenged by another (in this case authoritarianism in the Middle East) it is *very difficult* for any meaningful change to occur (because so many elites are invested in the previous system; economic, political, security etc) and any success will depend on the interaction between the old elites and the reformists. As in Syria the political and security establishment responded with violence, which isolated the moderates, radicalised(and divided along sectarian/ethnic lines, somewhat) the opposition, and allowed a space for extremist religious organisations to flourish.(Which *don’t* receive popular support)
From that *can not* be extrapolated grand, uni causal theories of the Middle East state system, the Arab mind and the Muslim faith.

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Frank Shannon 06.23.14 at 4:08 pm

Thank you Bruce Wilder you are the best.

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Sasha Clarkson 06.23.14 at 4:26 pm

The Tom Tomorrow cartoon today is vicious and to the point! :D

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/06/23/1308368/-Cartoon-In-a-just-world

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David 06.23.14 at 4:30 pm

“I am not on the left. I belong to the radical front. My direction is forward and not left or right.”

That is a totally nonsensical statement. Without having a preference for a sort of society you wish to create, it is impossible to “move forward”.

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J Thomas 06.23.14 at 5:19 pm

The Baathists repressed religious movements of any sect. It was a centralized dictatorship.

Yes. Although toward the end Saddam tried to look kind of religious because he needed support.

To get to a democracy, the dictator (Saddam) would have to been followed by a more Western-liberal sort of person with the agenda of setting up a constitution.

You figure it needed an Iraqi strongman to set up a constitution? I guess that’s one way to do it, but likely not the only way.

Any constitution that is not the Koran itself is in direct violation of the Islamic political ideal, which is that the Koran directly determines the politics and the courts. We are seeing this objection raised in “plenty” of countries…

If all the politicians and judges etc happen to be good muslims, then the Koran will directly determine politics and the courts. You don’t have to have it in the constitution etc, it will just work out that way. Voters who are good muslims will elect representatives who are good muslims etc.

Thus ANY move toward democracy in Iraq will directly unleash a fundamentalist religious belief that will make its own decisions on how things go. (Assad’s problem in Syria, etc.)

I agree that there is a tendency in that direction. You talk as if that’s the only factor that matters, but I think other things play a part too and this may not be enough to guarantee failure.

And in the case of Iraq, that makes it a Shia vs. Sunni bloodbath in addition, because they have fundamentally different interpretations of Islam.

That sounds like a good reason to do separation of church and state. Once a bunch of religious leaders see that it’s a question of getting their own version of Islam in complete charge of the government after the bloodbath is over, versus working out ways to continue to live in peace, there might be a strong religious movement to avoid the bloodbath.

Because elections are a means to an end, but they will NOT lead to a secular constitutional democracy in Iraq. Not any time soon it would appear.

Kurds might very well wind up with a secular constitutional democracy. Sunni Kurds and Shia Kurds seem to get along pretty well.

They might wind up with as many as three workable constitutional democracies in Iraq. Too soon to tell. I believe we could have much increased the likelihood of that sort of outcome if in 2003 we had done things that encouraged it instead of discouraged it. I don’t know whether they would have gotten a democracy, or three democracies, or seven democracies etc.

I don’t really know what was possible, and I don’t think you really know either. I want to think that there was a chance, and there might be another chance in coming years.

But I could be wrong. Maybe it was really 100% certain that the ethnic diversity in Iraq would lead to a long extended bloodbath, just as it is 100% certain that the ethnic diversity in the USA will lead to a long extended bloodbath.

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Ze Kraggash 06.23.14 at 5:25 pm

A foreign power invades, occupies a country, inflames sectarian war. Now one half of the country is fighting the other, each one (or at least one) wants the foreign power on their side. Perfect. Divide and conquer. What can be more obvious than this?

274 “There was no love lost between these two tribes.”

What this really means is that there were domestic clerics and politicians playing the sectarian card. The argument, therefore, should sound like this: if the US didn’t foment a sectarian war, someone else probably would anyway. Fair enough. However: a civil war fought with the presence of a foreign power doesn’t resolve the conflict, doesn’t lead to a political solution, to stability. It’s bound to be re-fought once the foreign power leaves. It only serves the occupier.

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Lee A. Arnold 06.23.14 at 5:27 pm

Ronan(rf) #288, if you go to (say) the Wikipedia article on “Islamic democracy” you will see that number of current Islamic democracies is less than a handful — and Turkey is now questionable and, after watching the astonishing documentary “The Act of Killing,” you may think that the inclusion of Indonesia is a cruel joke.

Regardless, if you take the position that each country has its own path, and go on to imagine an alternative path for Iraq, then you might AT LEAST give us a step-by-step REALISTIC alternative procedure by which Iraq (NOT northern Ireland) might have come to the status of a “not free” (or “partly free”), “authoritarian regime” (or “hybrid state”), or whatever your definition of “democracy” is today. And “realistic” means do NOT say, “Well I don’t know, but it could have happened, and how do you know it couldn’t have?” Because I don’t really care. I worry about what is going on, right now. I knew this was going to devolve into wishful thinking, airy theory, and personal attacks, when I commented at number 114. So it has. What is important to a lot of lives NOW is whether ISIS is going to continue to beat back the dissolving Iraqi regulars, whether the Pershmerga can keep hold of Kirkuk, whether Iran is going to invade on behalf of the Shia, and whether the US Administration in obviously trying to prevent that is going to get more Americans shot up trying to support Baghdad.

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Lee A. Arnold 06.23.14 at 5:37 pm

J Thomas #292: “I guess that’s one way to do it, but likely not the only way… You don’t have to have it in the constitution etc,… That sounds like a good reason to do separation of church and state… other things play a part too… I want to think that there was a chance…”

Again, this is all just wishful thinking. ANYBODY can write stuff like this. Why don’t you give us real details about how any of this would have gone otherwise?

If Iraq breaks up, the Kurds might indeed have a democracy or some other form. That doesn’t mean it is in the cards for the whole country.

You could as well make the opposite point: that Dubya did the RIGHT thing, because by letting all the poisons come out now, it will set up the conditions for a democratic Iraq in a hundred years.

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J Thomas 06.23.14 at 5:38 pm

But if “radical” means “going to the root,” wouldn’t your direction be downward?

I don’t mean it that way. We *come from* fundamental, down-to-earth realities and move forward.

Without having a preference for a sort of society you wish to create, it is impossible to “move forward”.

The radical front does have preferences, just not left or right preferences.

We are currently a small movement. The left and right tend to directly oppose each other, each trying hard to keep the other from achieving their goals. This results in a degree of stasis, although it looks to me like the right has gotten too much support for some of their stupidest ideas.

——-><——-
^

The problem is that when large forces are released this way without sufficient control, they can do considerable damage. So we try to point out that more than two possibilities are available, without actually pushing hard for third choices on a timescale that is so short they would be probably to be done wrong.

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Lee A. Arnold 06.23.14 at 5:43 pm

Ze Kraggash #293: “a civil war fought with the presence of a foreign power doesn’t resolve the conflict, doesn’t lead to a political solution, to stability.”

Not always, that is definitively wrong. But in this case I agree, and I think the US should stay out of this. However, that almost certainly means that Iran will step in. You probably won’t recall that independent military analysts started to realize by around 2005 or so that the U.S. invasion meant that Iran was going to end up controlling at least half the country. (Indeed Western businessmen were already finding that Iran had sewn up the business deals.)

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Ronan(rf) 06.23.14 at 6:03 pm

@294 – I am NOT claiming to have an easy fix solution to these incredibly complex, constantly evolving situations, let alone a step by step plan on how to turn Iraq into a liberal democracy. Why the hell would I ?Anyone selling such a solution is a charlatan.

I was responding to your initial definitive claims about what MUST be done, backed up by your stripped down simple retelling of HOW things are (ie it’s all about the Sunni/Shiite split). I’m saying I don’t think a Middle East with brand new borders is realistic because (1) it won’t(probably) get regional or international recognition (2) it probably won’t have domestic support (as similar plans in the 00s didn’t) (3) there *are other* cleavages in these societies not Sunni/Shiite (ie well formed national identities) and you don’t give any idea on how these new states will deal with minorities still under their control, create legitimacy etc (4) you haven’t shown how these states will be viable (how will you divide up resources) and (5) you haven’t shown that a region of small/medium sized sectarian states will be more stable.

So, my layman’s answer would be you have to work through what you already have (ie already formed (if in some cases weak), nation states) by first trying to bring control to insurgent areas, and then trying to incorporate minorities into power sharing governments (which might include some amount of regional religous autonomy).
What I (personally, ideally) would have liked to see post GulfWar 1 was not an Iraq isolated and crippled with sanctions, but integrated into the international system with diplomatic pressure put on reform and grassroots institution building. AGAIN this obviously wasn’t politically feasible, or a panacea, but that would be my ideal. I guess.

The point is I don’t have a solution (how could I?) but neither do you. But you can’t reduce this to simple stories (as you are doing imo) about artifical borders, religious divisions, and grand schemes of (unfeasible) border changes.

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The Temporary Name 06.23.14 at 6:13 pm

It’s tough dealing with Roy Belmont, because he writes like an unbalanced narcissist, and you kind of hope he takes his meds. But when he says something bigoted – which is a lot of the time because he’s a bigot – he should be called out for it. As I should be when I say something bigoted: I’m no saint.

That he might say something correct seems more like evidence of pathology than deep thought. He’s not perceptive or funny or creative: he’s a glossolalic conspiracy theorist and it takes a poverty of thought to take him seriously.

I wish him fine treatment from medical professionals.

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Ronan(rf) 06.23.14 at 6:18 pm

“Ronan(rf) #288, if you go to (say) the Wikipedia article on “Islamic democracy” you will see that number of current Islamic democracies is less than a handful — and Turkey is now questionable and, after watching the astonishing documentary “The Act of Killing,” you may think that the inclusion of Indonesia is a cruel joke. “

So what ? Your argument that I was responding to was :

“Any constitution that is not the Koran itself is in direct violation of the Islamic political ideal, which is that the Koran directly determines the politics and the courts. We are seeing this objection raised in “plenty” of countries”

Your copy and past alone disproves this contention. (All I said was a number of poltical-religious movements *have* reconcilled themselves to the compromises of realistic politics. Including regionally – the Muslim Brotherhood (up until recently perhaps) in Egypt, Hamas, Hizballah. To varying degrees and with differing results, but to see them as having a completly recalcitrant position on religious issues is wrong -although you might have difficulty getting them to cede power organiationally)
And having watched ‘the act of killing’ (which I did see) doesn’t give one a clear eyed insight into Indonesian politics.

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The Temporary Name 06.23.14 at 6:46 pm

But in this case I agree, and I think the US should stay out of this.

One way of doing something helpful and not hurtful is accepting refugees. There are a lot of those.

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Lee A. Arnold 06.23.14 at 8:25 pm

Ronan(rf) #298: The point is I don’t have a solution (how could I?) but neither do you.”

Wait a minute. I certainly did not claim that I have a solution. I described what appears to be happening: Iraq must break up.

I stick to describing what seems to be happening: it must break up. I doubt there will be many problems with international recognition, particularly of Kurdish oil. Meanwhile the other group identities and problems of stability do NOT appear to be stopping what is happening.

I think that you don’t like what you read emotionally, and so you impose your own interpretations upon it, and then you wish that something else must have been possible. That is the way many of us try to absolve ourselves from personal culpability (–or so it would appear, from this thread of comments.)

Where is the hard evidence that any of the Middle East fundamentalist movements that you name, have “reconciled themselves to the compromises of realistic politics”? Are you supposing that the “authoritarian regimes” predominating in the Wikipedia list of “Islamic democracy indices” are repressing their fundamentalists sects, and so therefore we are to call a sect’s quiescence in the face of repression, a “compromise to realist politics”? Because that may be how the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah and two dozen others would describe their situations.

And again, specifically in regard to Iraq: How do you propose “first trying to bring control to insurgent areas”? Are you going to send in US troops? Or else, why are we having a conversation about hypotheticals in some other situation, instead of thinking about Iraq?

Isn’t this sort of how we let the neoclowns get us into this mess in the first place?

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J Thomas 06.23.14 at 8:32 pm

#295

Again, this is all just wishful thinking. ANYBODY can write stuff like this. Why don’t you give us real details about how any of this would have gone otherwise?

I’m not sure how much detail you want in a blog comment. Some of my comments have been pretty long already.

But I laid it out pretty thoroughly. Just, it won’t make any sense unless you believe that democracy can work.

Democracy is the clear alternative to fighting until one side can’t fight any more. Ideally it gives a good indication who would lose if the fight happened. The side that would win gets things more its way. But if they’re smart they give the losers a good enough deal that they don’t fight. And the losers won’t try to bluff too hard or they’ll have to really fight and lose.

Iraq had all parts of government dependent on the center. The national government collected the taxes and distributed money to local governments. So local governments worked for Saddam and not just for their voters.Start by building independent government on the smallest scale, that collects its own taxes. That provides a whole lot of local politicians, local law enforcement, etc. Some of them will be better than others.

Then let them have plebiscites about which other local governments they want to ally with. Local governments that are part of a regional government together can settle their problems easier. Maybe they will prefer to split things up different ways for different issues. For water issues, everybody in one watershed belongs together. For defense against armies, maybe better to have everybody in one mountain range together. It can go every which way.

But the principle is, they form regional governments with the people they want to be in regional governments with, and not the people they want little to do with. Get the regional governments as much as possible to match up people who want to be together.

If too many people don’t want to be in the same national government with everybody else, then you have created a partition. They don’t have to secede from a government, they just don’t join. So then they have the issue of dealing with neighboring nations full of people they didn’t want to be in the same government with. There might be war. OK, that happens.

Done well, democracy gives people a clear idea of the costs of actually fighting it out, relative to the costs of the best deal they can get without fighting. Democracies done well don’t fall apart very often. They can be conquered by foreigners, or sometimes foreign-trained generals can stage coups. If the economy just stops working (not enough oil, not enough corn, etc) it can fall from that. Or too many people with an ideology that says it’s glorious to die for your ideals. Nothing works all the time.

You need elections that people recognize as honest.

It hurts if a minority is much better armed. Their voting strength won’t reflect that, and they will be tempted to win with violence where they have the advantage. But it’s a temporary advantage, and the more they ruthless they are the more ruthless they must be later when defeat has increasingly horrible consequences….

It helps if people have accurate statistics. The CIA estimates that Shias outnumber Sunnis around 3:1 (apart from kurds who count as kurds and not sunnis or shias). Or mybe 4:1. A lot of Sunnis believe that they in fact have a majority. Polling results indicate that averaged over the cities that got polled it may be more like 3:2 or even 7:5. The difference in believed ratios *matters*.

Groups that boycott elections might believe the elections won’t be honest. Whether or not they believe it’s fraud, they expect to do embarrassingly bad if they participate.

Democracy works when most people think it gives them a better result than civil war. And that’s a low bar.

But if you don’t believe in democracy then all this will seem like wishful thinking and fantasy.

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J Thomas 06.23.14 at 8:53 pm

#302

I certainly did not claim that I have a solution. I described what appears to be happening: Iraq must break up.

Yes. And now they have no way to break up without a fight.

We set up a Shia government and told them they owned the whole country, and we funded a big army for them. We tried to train it. They have no obvious way to back down from that. They aren’t about to negotiate how much of the country that the world has agreed they own, to give away to new governments. The armies will decide where the borders are.

In 2003 it probably didn’t need to be that way. Regions could have voted to decide who they wanted to join. Maybe they would have chosen to be a single nation. Maybe several nations. That approach likely wouldn’t get them borders that were defensible against each other, and that might or might not matter, up until they got some issue that was worth fighting a war over.

If they wound up with a map that looked like the South Vietnam agreement, or the UN partition of Israel/Palestine, it might have quickly been changed around by a war. But maybe not.

Now it’s definitely going to be settled by the armies, and if you’re the wrong kind of person on the wrong side of the border, then you either settle down and live with few rights, or you get yourself ethnic-cleansed. Maybe it didn’t have to be that way, but it does have to be that way now.

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roy belmont 06.23.14 at 8:54 pm

So far my most favorite thing in this thread:

He’s not perceptive or funny or creative: he’s a glossolalic conspiracy theorist and it takes a poverty of thought to take him seriously.

Glossolalic (misspelling of glossaholic)- a person addicted to vocabulary lists.
-
Back in the WBush years, when the first second Iraq conflict was ramping toward its years-long decimation of the infrastructure of Iraq society, there was a blogger called riverbend posting from Baghdad, an Iraqi woman, a student, fluently articulate in english.
Her perspective meant then, and means now, far more to me than the flatlined dry discourse of ten thousand knowledgeable rational analysts, who like professional economists, seem to construct massive reasoned disgorgements of opinion and conclusion that all too often prove to be completely inaccurate, but man, they still keep on keeping on. (subject of the OP, if you’re keeping track)
Probably because it’s more important to them to appear to know what’s happening than to actually know what’s happening.
She wasn’t all that keen on the invasion and occupation, to say the least.
Her blog went silent when she left Iraq with her family, escaping the dystopian chaos of the US occupation to live in exile in….Syria!
Quite a relief a few months back, after more than a couple of years, to see she’d posted a current personal sitrep, without specifics, that she’d left Syria ahead of that decimating process.

I’ll take honest on-site emotion-driven testimony above cold-hearted armchair rationalism any day. It’s far more human, way less insectile.

Another key to the whole quagmire thing was being in Europe in the days of the first Iraq conflict, and seeing the up-and-coming super-journo Wolf Bitzer on CNN Intl, when it was still fairly ethical and not merely a pablum-spewing Zionist/capitalist propaganda arm.
Mr. Bitzer was delivering some news from tiny democratic Israel, where Saddam had threatened to shoot missiles (because of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories holding Zionists accountable for US proxy forces) if the US obstructed his liberation of the slave-holding monarchy of oil-rich Kuwait.
The US ignored him, he did that, and there on the TV, in I forget what bastion city of tiny democratic Israel, was lurid photographic evidence of a SCUD missile, surprisingly big, which thank the mighty Yahweh had not detonated but merely landed hard in a crater of rubble and spreading anxiety.
This would seem relevant to ensuant events, but that’s not evident anywhere I’ve seen. Revenge and retaliation being the overt publicly expressed motives for much of the more controversial violent practices of tiny democratic Israel in the present moment.
Revenge and retaliation.
Revenge. And retaliation. Over and over and over, to this very hour.
And the marginalization and suppression of honest accurate journalism, of course, of necessity.

Which brings us back to Holbo’s almost timid acknowledgement of the bizarre return of Cheney and Wolfowitz to the media spotlight, not mention Kristof et al.
How can an above average intelligent mind look at that and not see some kind of off-stage conspiring?
What else could it be?
Malfunctioning holograms beamed down from an abandoned alien satellite? Parasitic worms in the brains of otherwise intelligent rational human beings?
Can you really be trying to frame this as a continuation of “mistake” sir?
How can you do that?
And keep your self-respect I mean.

Note to potential conspiracy theorists: It is very important, crucial even, that you not try to connect the fascist acts of the Egyptian government with the fascist acts of the Israeli government with the threat of fascist acts in Iraq by the US government with the fascist acts in Libya with the fascist acts in Sudan with the fascist acts in Nigeria with the fascist arming of anti-government forces in Syria – there’s more but you get the idea.
These things are not related by anything but geographical proximity.
Not related.
Not.
Related.
Oil and Israel.

Conscious breathing and a positive attitude!

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The Temporary Name 06.23.14 at 8:58 pm

Glossolalic (misspelling of glossaholic)- a person addicted to vocabulary lists.

You’re so willing to write that you just don’t check when you’re wrong. Which can be funny I guess: it’s easy to set you up because you’re unwilling to use a search engine now and then.

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Sasha Clarkson 06.23.14 at 8:59 pm

“Islamic Democracy”?

What about Western “Democracy”? In the UK, we have had a “majority” government which got 35% of the popular vote on a 60% turnout so with the active support of about 22% of the electorate – and how many of them were just voting to keep the other lot out? And then there’s the House of Lords. Also, much of our agenda is set by foreign owned media, or by domestic owned media whose owners are resident abroad for tax purposes.

In the US, it’s unlimited money which talks, sets the agenda, buys the TV time etc – and yet the House is under the control of the party which lost the popular vote despite having the majority of the money.

I would not count either of these systems as “democratic”: nor would I have the arrogance to preach their superiority to the rest of the world.

Baaaaaa humbug! :(

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Sasha Clarkson 06.23.14 at 9:00 pm

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Lee A. Arnold 06.23.14 at 9:09 pm

“Believing in democracy”? Understand what it is being used in pursuit of. Democracy works for different ends. The vote in Iraq elected a Shi’ite government which started to systematically disempower the Sunni areas. If you were an Iraqi, what would you, yourself, have done to stop that? Say, “Hold on, fellows! We must separate church and state! But we don’t have to put it in the constitution!” [Everybody else rolls their eyes heavenward: "Too much hashish, for this one."]

And now, it is too late for wishful thinking anyway: the Sunnis won’t lay down their guns again (it was, by the way, the American officers in the “surge” who convinced them to fight al Qaeda then lay down their guns to try to work with Shi’ite Baghdad, in the first place! Put that in your pipe and smoke it) Why? because the Sunnis might surmise, quite correctly, that they will be killed if they do. And after all the head-chopping the Sunnis just did, I think that is a logical assumption. So now, it doesn’t matter at all whether or not you “believe in democracy”. It has all gone a little too far for that. The Kurds almost have what they want after a century of horrifying crimes committed against them, and the Sunnis would be crazy to submit.

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Lee A. Arnold 06.23.14 at 9:14 pm

J Thomas #304: “We set up a Shia government…

NO. The US tried to set up a corrupt strongman and al Sistani demanded free elections, because the Shi’ites automatically would win.

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godoggo 06.23.14 at 9:15 pm

Why is every thread in which Roy participates all about Roy?

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godoggo 06.23.14 at 9:15 pm

Or mainly anyway.

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The Temporary Name 06.23.14 at 9:18 pm

There’s a lot of interesting stuff in the thread about Iraq, for which I thank the participants who are less cranky than I am.

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J Thomas 06.23.14 at 9:32 pm

In the UK, we have had a “majority” government which got 35% of the popular vote on a 60% turnout so with the active support of about 22% of the electorate – and how many of them were just voting to keep the other lot out?

Yes, and your voters aren’t about to actually fight over it.

If they cared, another 40% could go out and vote. And if they cared, they could get IRV or acceptance voting, and 35% of the vote wouldn’t win, the winner would get more than that.

But British voters are mostly satisfied with how it works. Also, Britain is an exceptionally rich nation and they can afford a strong enough police + military to put down any small revolutionary movement.

Imagine what it’s like in a poor country. Imagine that you get 3% of the population that supports the government enough to actually fight for it (as opposed to taking a military paycheck). And say 2% have expensive foreign weapons, and together that 5% roams around destroying stuff until maybe 15% of the population are internal refugees or have left the country.

Maybe the government lobs artillery shells your way because you are in “insurgent-controlled territory”. Maybe the insurgents stage a little raid and kill people on the street because they are assumed to be government supporters. Foreign nations offer to help you out with airstrikes and invasions etc. Or maybe they’ll settle for putting sanctions on you to teach you not to support the government or something.

If people believe that insurgency is not *necessary*, that all they have to do is convince the voters and they can win, it’s a whole lot less suffering. But if people start to believe that it doesn’t work — that through no fault of your own you cannot possibly influence public opinion without the active support of rich people, who won’t support you unless you give them the lions-share of goodies — then revolution starts to look like the only way.

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Ronan(rf) 06.23.14 at 9:47 pm

“I certainly did not claim that I have a solution. I described what appears to be happening: Iraq must break up.”

Look, you haven’t even defined what you mean by break up. Do you mean the actual dissolution of the Iraqi state (recognised internationally and regionally – not going to happen) Do you mean the extension of tribal or regional authority within the confines of the Iraqi state ? (More plausibly going to happen)

“I stick to describing what seems to be happening: it must break up. I doubt there will be many problems with international recognition, particularly of Kurdish oil. “

This doesn’t really mean anything. The Kurds have spent decades trying to get international recognition (perhaps they will now, again it’s not relevant to the larger point)and decades building the institutions of self governance, and generations developing a specific national identity, what makes you think the same is true of Shi’ite’s and Sunnis ? What makes you think a Sunni state is politically or economically viable ? What makes you think it’s domestically wanted (again, when it was floated in the 00s it wasn’t popular, afaik) ?

“Meanwhile the other group identities and problems of stability do NOT appear to be stopping what is happening.””

The problem, again, is that you are imposing your specific analysis on a complex reality. Your working backwards from your prejudices, and imagining an opposition *entirely* based around a religious based desire to secede from Iraq, rather than a heterogonous collection of groups (tribal, religious etc) dissatisfied with central rule. You’re imagining that the importance of these sectarian identites at this specific moment are set in stone, and that the order that *you see* now developing is natural.

“I think that you don’t like what you read emotionally, and so you impose your own interpretations upon it, and then you wish that something else must have been possible. That is the way many of us try to absolve ourselves from personal culpability (–or so it would appear, from this thread of comments.)”

Honestly, this idea you have off yourself as a detached, practical thinking expert is seriously misguided. (BOTH of us have very little real knowledge of the situation, all I’ve been doing is saying you should have more humility – as should I.)

“Where is the hard evidence that any of the Middle East fundamentalist movements that you name, have “reconciled themselves to the compromises of realistic politics”? Are you supposing that the “authoritarian regimes” predominating in the Wikipedia list of “Islamic democracy indices” are repressing their fundamentalists sects, and so therefore we are to call a sect’s quiescence in the face of repression, a “compromise to realist politics”? Because that may be how the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah and two dozen others would describe their situations.”

I have no idea what you’re saying here. The point is still in your response to your claim that:

““Any constitution that is not the Koran itself is in direct violation of the Islamic political ideal, which is that the Koran directly determines the politics and the courts. We are seeing this objection raised in “plenty” of countries””

The evidence is that Hizbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood have shown themselves willing to work through political systems that don’t fit your caricature. (As have Hamas to a lesser degree)
AGAIN I am not an expert on Islamic political movements, nor Islamic doctrinal support for representative government, so I don’t really see the point of arguing this (except your position seems simplistic)

“And again, specifically in regard to Iraq: How do you propose “first trying to bring control to insurgent areas”? Are you going to send in US troops? Or else, why are we having a conversation about hypotheticals in some other situation, instead of thinking about Iraq?”

No, I have said no US troops. You might not even be able to do it in any meaningful way for a time. You probably will have to cede authority to local tribes and elites. However, that *still doesn’t amount to the break up of Iraq .*
Dealing with ISIS and stabilising Iraq are two seperate (though related) goals. The first is far easier, the second I don’t know how you do it. (Probably through a combination similar to what happened during the Awakening – buying off tribes, pushing for reform in Baghdad, encouraging them to turn against ISIS etc) and again this might lead to Maliki ceding control of certain areas, but again this doesn’t mean that Iraq has dissolved. (And eventual political integration into an Iraqi state with levels of regional autnomy might be the solution)
And AGAIN, I’m not opposed to large parts of your argument. It’s the certainity with which you’re expressing it (Without talking through the specifics)

317

Ronan(rf) 06.23.14 at 9:53 pm

..or, ignore the snark and hostility in that comment and let’s try and turn it into a conversation rather than succesion of lectures ?

318

J Thomas 06.23.14 at 10:10 pm

#310
“We set up a Shia government…”

NO. The US tried to set up a corrupt strongman and al Sistani demanded free elections, because the Shi’ites automatically would win.

First we tried to set up a corrupt strongman. But he had no traction so we tried to set up another corrupt strongman, and then another. Then we agreed to elections that nobody could run in if they had been Ba’ath or if they were too religious. Sunnis couldn’t agree on candidates given those limitations, and they said they were boycotting the election which was fine with us. We set up a Shia government and we tried to set up an Iraqi army. We put Sunnis and Shias and Kurds and just anybody together in the same small units. They were trained by US instructors. Then when they went out into the field, to fight Iraqis, their orders came from Americans. Somehow they had a strong tendency to desert, taking their weapons with them.At one point the Iraqi army had so many deserters and so few prospective recruits that we agreed to an amnesty so that deserters could sign up again. But they deserted just as fast the second time.

Eventually we worked out ways to do things so they didn’t desert as fast, and we were able to hand the Shia government an actual army, the army that is defending them today.

319

J Thomas 06.23.14 at 11:11 pm

Democracy works for different ends.

To my way of thinking, the most important of them is to provide a framework for negotiated settlements. Given a disagreement, you can

1. Agree to disagree.
2. Negotiate a settlement.
3. Fight.

#3 is expensive unless one side is ridiculously weak but still makes demands they can’t actually stand behind. If you use democracy for some other goal and then you wind up fighting, you’ll probably lose more from that than you gain from achieving your other goal. If you do achieve your other goal.

The vote in Iraq elected a Shi’ite government which started to systematically disempower the Sunni areas. If you were an Iraqi, what would you, yourself, have done to stop that?

If I could get the ear of Shias, tell them that we either need to secede from the majority-sunni lands or else try to cut them a decent deal. Because otherwise we’ll be fighting their armies within 5 years after the Americans leave. And civil war is expensive, it hurts a lot of people. Unless we have a plan to kill off or drive out most of the Sunnis, we’re going to have to live with them somehow, so why not try to be friendly? Not like they all worked for Saddam.

They might likely ignore that though, since the CIA told them that all the Sunnis are alike and all complicit in the killing of their political/religious leaders etc, so why should they be nice to any Sunnis? And the CIA told them that Sunnis are less than 20% of the population, so why worry about them? If Sunnis start trouble they can just get killed until they learn not to do that.

If I could get the ear of Sunnis, urge them not to boycott elections. Get Sunni figureheads who can legally run and get them elected. Also look for campaign issues that are not about sunni/shia but about issues that need to be handled. Boycott the elections and it will be an all-Shia government and the Americans will still fawn over it and give them lots of money. What good is that? Shias are officially a majority but by working with Kurds and splinter Shia groups we can stop them from getting too outrageous. We will fight later if we need to, and if we need to fight now it helps us to have a voice in the government.

In both cases, point out that there are well-established methods to avoid voting fraud, and we should campaign vigorously to get those methods used and not let the Americans cheat about the election results. An honest election might easily result in more Sunni votes and more Sadrist votes, and the Sadrists made a point of trying to make alliances with Sunnis.

But I notice that looking at what I just said, I’m falling into the usual trap. I’m talking about Sunnis and Shias as if they are unified blocs that each tend to agree with their own. This falls into the American trap. Think of the Other as a unified group that has its own goals opposed to yours, and they become The Enemy. But really they are diverse groups that can barely hold together enough to hang onto a common label. The unified group that coordinated well to achieve group goals was the US military. They were The Enemy if anyone was.

And now, it is too late for wishful thinking anyway: the Sunnis won’t lay down their guns again (it was, by the way, the American officers in the “surge” who convinced them to fight al Qaeda then lay down their guns to try to work with Shi’ite Baghdad, in the first place!

Yes. First we decided they were The Enemy and we persecuted them at great length. Then Petraeus figured out we could never win that way, and he listened to them when they tried to make a deal. But he didn’t persuade the Shias to make a deal, so eventually the whole thing fell through.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it) Why? because the Sunnis might surmise, quite correctly, that they will be killed if they do.

Probably so. Agreed that it’s probably too late now. After a lot of killing they might get too tired to continue and then be ready to make a deal. Or maybe they’ll negotiate for real earlier. I see no reason to expect it, but I don’t know all the little details of what’s going on with them.

320

roy belmont 06.23.14 at 11:44 pm

You’re so willing to write that you just don’t check when you’re wrong. Which can be funny I guess: it’s easy to set you up because you’re unwilling to use a search engine now and then.

Superb move there, champ.
You’re so willing to write that you just don’t check when you’re wrong.
Mirror! What is this shit?
Your hunger to dominate probably just over-rode your critical faculties I guess.
I just made that up, for purposes of lightening. A small joke humbly offered.
Made. That. Up.
Placed there as a counterexample to your vicious groundless excoriating, not to mention self-licensed insults .
Accusing someone of not being funny when you demonstrably don’t even recognize their attempts at humor is, how do you say it, a little awkward.
Or insane.
Or…
-
The reason, godog, is because these persons keep accusing me of something which in their world is the unforgivable sin.
Bigotry.
When asked, requested, nay even demanded upon for examples, the most forthcoming is improper use of tabu language, and defending the right to speak of others attacked at, who may or may not be bigoted, but who disagree with the myopic consensus.
There is not one example in this entire blog of on which I have been posting at for nigh on nearly 11 years(!) now of me being, as they say, bigoted.
Because sadly for said accusing persons, I am not. Just simply not.
Except sort of against twits who demand conformity of speech.
It’s my language motherfuckers and I will use it as I please.
Fuck politically correct speech is what I say, and say again with emphasis.
Fuck. Politically. Correct. Speech.
And but then, to simplify, since superficial conformity is the only way these shallow twits have of measuring actual felt feelings – they react and the fight is on.
Was on.
I’m not fighting now.
-
Meanwhile in Egypt the client-fascist government is jailing journalists, and killing kids, as their brothers in vileness are doing now in Gaza and the West Bank.
But this has nothing to do with Iraq, or Syria, or Libya, or…already covered that I think.
The same “we” you little armchair warriors are speaking from within used to rendition people to Egypt, because they had this like really long tradition there of torturing the fuck out of people, to get them to talk?
Then there was that Arab Spring thing, and then slam! that was over, and now the pigs of Egypt are back in business.
Conforming to the rules of the Neighborhood Association
But this has nothing to do with Israel, or Iraq, or Syria, or oil, or….shoot, I’m starting to repeat myself.
No, it’s about Islamic sectarianism.
Sure it is.

321

The Temporary Name 06.23.14 at 11:50 pm

Made. That. Up.

Right.

322

MPAVictoria 06.24.14 at 12:01 am

People who get all worked up about “political correctness” are really just mad that they can’t be assholes in public anymore without being called on it.

Why don’t you ask a member of management here what their thoughts are on the matter?

323

ChrisB 06.24.14 at 12:04 am

The fundamental fallacy implicitly accepted by nearly all comments above is that external powers intervening in a nation’s affairs can design the outcomes they wish to see. The only choice interveners have is the side that they back from among the genuine contenders. After that, if you succeed you get the kind of state that your proxies want, and if you lose you get the kind of state that your proxies’ adversaries want. If you stay out, you can’t influence which side wins. But you can’t invent a side (incidentally, have you noticed that Chalabi’s back on the news?), and you can’t really modify a side, because the only sanction you have is to move to one of the other sides that you’ve already decided are even less desirable.

324

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 1:14 am

ChrisB #322: “The fundamental fallacy implicitly accepted by nearly all comments above is that external powers intervening in a nation’s affairs can design the outcomes they wish to see. “

Exactly. Or it must be the evil corporatization of the world or something.

325

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 1:14 am

J Thomas #318: “If I could get the ear of Shias… If I could get the ear of Sunnis…”

You are supposing they haven’t already heard this stuff, or know it.

326

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 1:17 am

Ronan(rf) #315: “not going to happen” — Appears to be happening now.

“This doesn’t really mean anything.” — What doesn’t mean anything is, “I don’t think a Middle East [do you mean Iraq?] with brand new borders is realistic because (1) it won’t(probably) get regional or international recognition” — What?!

“the order that *you see* now developing is natural” — Nonsense, this image of my position is all in your own head.

“The evidence is that Hizbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood have shown themselves willing to work through political systems” — These groups still have the aim of eliminating their opponents, if possible. They are compromising with the repression to get to a stronger position. They don’t want to live with Israel either.

327

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 1:22 am

I am very slow… It suddenly occurs to me that Iraq is almost certain to break up now, because if Iran enters to defeat the ISIS forces which are now routing Maliki’s army, to save Shi’ite lives, then that means Sunni countries like the Saudis may jump in to fight back. Either that, or the US goes back in for a full-scale occupation again, which the US people are unlikely to accept. They have had enough of this. So the outside world may force the partition, just to keep the oil supply stable. Watch and see if the G8 holds a sudden meeting.

328

The Temporary Name 06.24.14 at 1:38 am

So the outside world may force the partition

Partition has an ugly sound.

I don’t really see anyone wanting to help enforce new borders for Iraq, although the necessary gall is there.

329

Lauren 06.24.14 at 1:42 am

You need to go one step further. “I was really wrong. But now that I have made a big mess, it is my responsiblity to work and to fund undoing the chaos I have created, to undo my error not by abandoning a people to genocide and civil war, but instead by using my might to protect innocent people and my resources to rebuild and ensure stability and safety. I won’t give in to the prevailing public opinion again–which this time happens to be ‘Abandon Iraq, we need to take care of our own.'”
https://www.facebook.com/groups/2213508949/

330

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 2:05 am

“Baiji has fallen” — BBC just now reporting that Sunni rebels just captured Iraq’s biggest oil refinery at Baiji after a 10-day siege. Brief analysis by one of Col. Pat Lang’s regular posters down the page here:
http://www.turcopolier.typepad.com/

331

geo 06.24.14 at 2:06 am

roy@305: I’ll take honest on-site emotion-driven testimony above cold-hearted armchair rationalism any day.

Cold-hearted armchair rationalism for me!

It’s far more human, way less insectile.

Roy, are you a speciesist in addition to all those other bad things?

332

The Temporary Name 06.24.14 at 2:06 am

http://amanpour.blogs.cnn.com/2014/06/23/exclusive-iraqi-kurdish-leader-says-the-time-is-here-for-self-determination/

Iraqi Kurdish President Massoud Barzani gave his strongest-ever indication on Monday that his region would seek formal independence from the rest of Iraq.

333

J Thomas 06.24.14 at 2:13 am

#324

The vote in Iraq elected a Shi’ite government which started to systematically disempower the Sunni areas. If you were an Iraqi, what would you, yourself, have done to stop that?

“If I could get the ear of Shias… If I could get the ear of Sunnis…”

You are supposing they haven’t already heard this stuff, or know it.

??? You asked me what I’d do. Iraq had a population around 35 million, so if the power was evenly distributed I would have roughly one thirty-five millionth of the influence.

I’m getting the impression what you’re trying to ask me is, “If you were an iraqi with a magic wand who could make things happen the way you want them….”

No, that isn’t it. It’s more like you’re asking a rhetorical question, like “Can’t you see that what happened was 100% inevitable and there was nothing anybody could have done that could have changed it in the slightest.”

No, I don’t see that. It could be true. It could be false. If we could go back and try it over a few thousand times with variations, we could find out. But we don’t know how to do that. So we don’t know.

Except somehow you give the impression that you think you know just how 100% inevitable it was, you 100% know there could not have been any different result no matter what anybody did, and anyway nobody could have done anything different.

And I wonder how you know that.

334

godoggo 06.24.14 at 2:18 am

330: That’s a good example of a wiki page for which the “talk ” page is useful.

335

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 2:35 am

J Thomas #331: “It’s more like you’re asking a rhetorical question, like “Can’t you see that what happened was 100% inevitable and there was nothing anybody could have done that could have changed it in the slightest.”

Not at all! And I think you make many good observations, a lot of good points. But I am interested in what is happening at this moment, and so alternative scenarios for the past which are not attempts to be 100% solid just fill me with more misgivings and dread.

336

LFC 06.24.14 at 3:45 am

Lee Arnold @114:
Iraq must break up into 3 (Shia, Sunni, Kurd) because now, it has gone to pure tribalism.

Lee Arnold @302:
I described what appears to be happening: Iraq must break up.

I object to these statements. There is never any “must” about the (contested) dissolution of a recognized sovereign state, something that does not happen that often. It may well happen here. It may not. I don’t pretend to know whether it will or not. But to use the word “must” — Iraq MUST break up — is unwarranted. There are only a tiny number of aspects of international politics about which I would use, or even think about using, the word MUST, and this is not one of that tiny number.

I’m not an expert on the region and basically I don’t have the slightest idea what will happen. There wd seem to be several possibilities. But imo, the word MUST has no place in a comment on a situation for which the term “fluid” would seem to be something of an understatement.

At 326, Lee Arnold retreats from “must” to “almost certain [to break up],” which I guess is a slight improvement, though still considerably too definite

337

LFC 06.24.14 at 3:56 am

Ronan (e.g. @123) already said what I just said about “must.”

338

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 4:09 am

I used common definition #2:

MUST
verb
1. be obliged to; should (expressing necessity).

“you must show your ID card”
synonyms: ought to, should, have (got) to, need to, be obliged to, be required to, be compelled to More
expressing insistence.
“you must try some of this fish”
used in ironic questions expressing irritation.
“must you look so utterly suburban?”

2. expressing an opinion about something that is logically very likely.

“there must be something wrong”

339

roy belmont 06.24.14 at 4:36 am

This metaphor should suffice for tonight:

340

The Temporary Name 06.24.14 at 5:58 am

Geez, looking back I see I didn’t get a joke at all. Oops! Sorry about that Roy. Kisses. Next time maybe I’ll read some of that nonsense, but probably not.

341

Ronan(rf) 06.24.14 at 9:27 am

@325/6 – ok, I give up. I don’t think you’ve even tried to look past the first link in the chain here. You just seem to be reacting on an a daily basis to whatever happens to be on CNN at any given moment. G’luck.

342

bob mcmanus 06.24.14 at 10:18 am

328: I saw you over at Lang’s. It is best just to watch what happens on the ground day-to-day and learn.

No, the Saudis are not going to march divisions to Mosul. Although somehow, without their own divisions, the Royals did get Kuwait back. No, neither are the Iranians likely to march divisions to Mosul.

So ISIL has taken Baiji refinery, handed it to a local Sunni sheik, and left.

1) Will the Maliki gov’t ( for the sake of brevity, even with Maliki gone let’s call it that) negotiate with that local Sunni sheik, some local autonomy, profit and power-sharing?

2) Will Maliki send the Army in to take the refinery back from the sheik and try to hold it? Will then ISIL come right back and battle again? Will the gov’t forces get dispirited with fighting for a refinery on subsistence wages?

3) So if neither ISIL or the local sheik or Maliki have the ability to hold the refinery, or the upstream dams like Haditha, how is this resolved, even if temporarily and tentatively? I don’t know, but my feeling is that it has to be settled, and partition won’t work.

4) I have considered studying history, like a 1000 years worth. Is Baghdad controlled by those forces who control upriver Euphrates, and trade routes Baghdad-Mosul-East, or Baghdad/Basra/Najaf-Fallalujah-Damascus? Did the Sunnis just wear the SE Shia down?

4) This is what American death-from-the-air is for. They can’t fix the problem, they can’t really hold Anbar, but they can tip the balance of forces Maliki’s way until…I don’t know. Think Vietnam, with the Saudis etc funding the VC.

5) I have always thought that in the long term that Iraq would go back to the Sunnis.

343

Ze Kraggash 06.24.14 at 10:21 am

“whatever happens to be on CNN at any given moment”

Yeah, it certainly does sound a bit like what a “very serious person” would say: the Sunnis want this, the Shia that, the Kurds the other; they all hate each other, consumed by tribalism. IOW: silly wogs.

344

Alex 06.24.14 at 11:08 am

Something so perfect about Bob McManus showing up in a thread entitled “The Rhetoric of Having Been Wrong”.

345

Sasha Clarkson 06.24.14 at 11:29 am

Various people talk about Sunnis as if they were a monolithic bloc. They aren’t and never have been (neither are Shias). In particular, the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia are not typical of the historical mainstream Sunni tradition, and are a relatively recent phenomenon, although there has always been a minority of militant Sunni puritans.

During WWI the Turks were allied with the Central Powers, so the British gave support to ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia who was fighting a rival clan which had the support of the Ottomans. The House of Saud had a historical partnership with the Wahhabis.

The British also supported a very different Sunni leader, Hussein ibn Ali, hereditary Emir of Mecca and Hejaz. He was a Sharif, that is a descendant of the Prophet via his eldest grandson Hassan. But the Wahabbis despised the (in their view) more religiously lax Hussain. After the end of WWI and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Hussein made the strategic mistake of declaring himself hereditary Caliph (like declaring yourself Pope perhaps). A genuinely outraged (as well as opportunistic) ibn Saud invaded and expelled Hussein, who was abandoned by his erstwhile allies. the British.

The British did however carve out new kingdoms for two of Hussein’s sons, Abdullah and Faisal. These kingdoms, Transjordan and Iraq, were in constant conflict with ibn Saud and his Ikhwan (Wahhabi fighters) until ibn Saud was threatened personally by their rebellion and he suppressed them at the Battle of Sabilla in 1929.

So, WWI and its aftermath destroyed the existing balances in the Middle East and sowed the seeds of more or less all the current conflicts there. It also firmly established Wahhabiism, which has been become a global Sunni movement, financed by the Western nations who have bought Saudi oil for generations.

Bob @340 4) Look at the Abbasids. under their rule, Baghdad became the most culturally advanced city in the world, because of the hadith “the ink of a scholar is more holy than the blood of a martyr”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbassid#Islamic_Golden_Age

346

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 12:50 pm

@339 — I haven’t had a television in the house for almost 20 years!

347

Ronan(rf) 06.24.14 at 12:55 pm

..although I will reply to the comment directed to me @325.

Lee – the thing is you’re not replying to *any* of the comments directed at you with any substance, so you responded to my 315 with:

” Ronan(rf) #315: “not going to happen” — Appears to be happening now. “

But you clipped my statement, the not going to happen bit is:

” Look, you haven’t even defined what you mean by break up. Do you mean the actual dissolution of the Iraqi state (recognised internationally and regionally – not going to happen) “

It *is not happening now*, it might in the future (though I would doubt it) but the international and regional response is not to dissolve the Iraqi state. (Quite clearly) This is important, because it speaks directly to the feasibility of your argument.(Even if regional authority is ceded, if no one outside Iraq is willing to acknowledge border changes then the future is still an Iraqi state, with different levels of regional autonomy. As said above)

You said (quoting me):

“This doesn’t really mean anything.” — What doesn’t mean anything is, “I don’t think a Middle East [do you mean Iraq?] with brand new borders is realistic because (1) it won’t(probably) get regional or international recognition” — What?! “

It doesn’t mean anything to say that ‘Kurdish oil will have international recognition’, when what we’re talking about is a Sunni/Shi’ite split in the country.

I am talking about Iraq *and* the region. Any official change in borders in Iraq (again) will need acknowledgment internationally and regionally. Any official change in the borders (NOW) will more than likely make the situation worse; change the dynamics in regional conflicts, empower sectarian groups, becoming a self fulfilling prophecy (leading to more ethnic cleansing). Again, you haven’t shown whether such states are viable (economically, militarily or politically) or if they have domestic legitimacy.

If you are making the more limited claim that Baghdad will not be able to control Sunni majority areas for the forseeable future, then fine. But that’s a differen’t argument.

“The evidence is that Hizbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood have shown themselves willing to work through political systems” — These groups still have the aim of eliminating their opponents, if possible. They are compromising with the repression to get to a stronger position. They don’t want to live with Israel either. “

Again there’s no point going into this, but you’re ignoring the history of these movements, the organisational and ideological complexity both with these organisations specifically and within Islamic movements more generally, and imagining some impossible level of homogenity amongst Islamic belief.

Here’s something that appeared at the MC yesterday, which is short and general but should caution against such simplistic positions:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/06/23/what-do-we-mean-by-islamist/

348

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 1:27 pm

Is watching television and reacting to the propaganda on it causing a weird intellectual meltdown and scattering of attention?

I wrote (at #114), “Iraq must break up into 3 (Shia, Sunni, Kurd) because now, it has gone to pure tribalism.”

NOT the exterior borders (although the news is: that ISIL is now freely moving into Syria, and appears to want to go into Jordan, which may be their undoing).

Ronan(rf): “If you are making the more limited claim that Baghdad will not be able to control Sunni majority areas for the forseeable future, then fine. But that’s a differen’t argument.”

NO, that IS my argument, with the addition that Baghdad won’t be able to control the Kurds either. Barzani just made the statement that now is the time for the Kurds. So “what we’re talking about ” is NOT just “a Sunni/Shi’ite split in the country.” That is what YOU are talking about, and God knows why you dragged me into it. I wrote “3”, not “2”. This isn’t a different argument, this is my argument all along. The rest of this is in your head.

349

Ronan(rf) 06.24.14 at 1:28 pm

Just to add, then I’ll finish – the idea of regional recognition of partition does seem unlikely. The lens through which security threats (primarily) among the main powers in the Gulf are viewed is domestic regime legitimacy (which is why they interfer in each-others affairs through cross national sectarian/ideological networks, and which is why the Saudi’s have spent so much time and money in stabilising monarchs regionally – because they see any challenge to monarchs as an ideational challenge to their rule). They live off the status quo.
The idea that they would be willing to acknowledge a precedent like the partition of Iraq seems very unlikely to me (though I might well be wrong) which *would* (more than likely) cause trouble for them domestically by empowering opposition in their countries. (Not to mention that a divided and weak – though not partitioned or constantly unstable – Iraq is probably in their interests)

350

Ronan(rf) 06.24.14 at 1:29 pm

@345 – No one disputes the Kurdish situation.

351

Ronan(rf) 06.24.14 at 1:37 pm

@345 – because you *consistently* refused to define what you mean by breakdown, disputed that there was such thing as an Iraqi national identity and imagined everything in purely sectarian terms.
Since I now know what the hell you’re talking about, then I guess I do agree (to a degree)

352

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 2:41 pm

Sorry, I was depending upon basic reading comprehension skills.

353

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 2:43 pm

In fact, you quoted my sentence at #123!

354

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 2:47 pm

Bob McManus #340: “1) Will the Maliki gov’t ( for the sake of brevity, even with Maliki gone let’s call it that) negotiate with that local Sunni sheik, some local autonomy, profit and power-sharing?”

The answer to that is Yes — IF THEY WERE ALL LIVING ON MARS.

355

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 3:23 pm

Bob McManus #340: “1) Will the Maliki gov’t ( for the sake of brevity, even with Maliki gone let’s call it that) negotiate with that local Sunni sheik, some local autonomy, profit and power-sharing?”

The longer answer is that the Sunnis are a mixed bunch: a) ISIS fundamentalist killers, b) live-and-let-live, scratch-my-back, I’ll-scratch-yours locals like the sheiks, and c) more-or-less secular Baathist military people who appear to be the cause of the military successes. So I will GUESS that the sheik isn’t going to do a deal with Baghdad, because 1. his new “friends” are ISIS who just handed him the management of the oil refinery, and so 2. if he crosses them, he will get his head chopped off.

An interesting question is what these Sunnis will do to each other, if and when they can establish a stable control in these areas. Here is a new interview with an ISIS fighter:

https://elijahjm.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/isis-usa-decision-to-hit-us-will-have-a-positive-outcome-and-will-show-a-usal-maliki-alliance-against-the-sunni/

356

kjs 06.24.14 at 3:35 pm

No one moderates this utter silly and hijacked comments section?

I’d think I was in a Breitbartian asylum.

Tsk.

357

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 4:17 pm

Kjs, Please do condescend at some point, and pray tell us what has truly transpired!

358

David 06.24.14 at 4:38 pm

KJS is right. This comment section has fallen prey to narcissists and right wingers.

359

bob mcmanus 06.24.14 at 4:43 pm

Neither “kjs” or “David” left addresses

Probably LGM

360

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 5:20 pm

The thing that frightens me most about it all is that without knowing what is actually going on, the US public is going to get roped into going into another goddamned war, by the likes of Cheney and the neoclowns again. Because it ALWAYS happens. Notice that the anti-war people’s current defense against this, is essentially the rhetorics of reaction: futility, jeopardy, perversity: “These guys are insane liars, so what the hell are they even doing on television.” Yes, absolutely true: but the rhetoric of reaction never works very far (one of Hirshman’s points, I think). It doesn’t protect us against being hornswoggled into the next war, because they bring in the new-and-improved liars, who find another ridiculous national security reason, which momentarily boggles everybody because the left refuses to think hard about national security issues. Always. The left is reading comic books and jerking off. That is why I decided to read the military blogs at times like this. Because they don’t like war. They have been there, done that. They hate the neocons and the D.C. thinktankers. Some of the commenters at Sic Semper Tyrannis served in Iraq and elsewhere and you could never get this sort of insight before now. What they surmise about what “must” be happening on the ground is invaluable. It is not even clear to me that the Oval Office gets this information. I don’t always agree with their politics — Col Pat Lang thinks the expansion of Medicaid in Virginia is a terrible mistake — they are as ignorant of economics as any economist, and often their sense of geopolitics and international relations is way off the mark. But if you want to be ready to stop the next US mistake, you had better start listening to what they know. ‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war.

361

Jim Buck 06.24.14 at 5:25 pm

Ok, shall we agree that John Holbo is sometimes a victim of his own honesty and humility? On this happy midsummer day let’s raise a glass to the water-boarding that carried Hitchens off to his grave. Tis a pity he was not boarded in blood.

362

The Temporary Name 06.24.14 at 5:26 pm

The thing that frightens me most about it all is that without knowing what is actually going on, the US public is going to get roped into going into another goddamned war, by the likes of Cheney and the neoclowns again.

Assuming another Republican clown-show in the presidential race, the people to fear are from the Democratic Party.

363

Donald Johnson 06.24.14 at 5:28 pm

“Cold-hearted armchair rationalism for me!”

He was praising riverbend and contrasting her with people here, I think. He had a point, IMO.

The other point he and Bruce and Bob M and others are making seems also about right–calling the Iraq War a “mistake” doesn’t seem quite right. I don’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes, but it certainly isn’t well-intentioned people doing their best to make the world safe for democracy.

On Colin Powell, someone way way upthread quoted a report he wrote on the My Lai massacre. I can’t find my book on the subject, but Powell was asked to investigate the initial reports of something bad happening, and he duly came out with a report that said nothing bad had happened. He’s been an apparatchik his whole professional life. That’s our respectable Colin Powell. He knew how the system worked and rose as high as he did because of it.

364

geo 06.24.14 at 7:06 pm

Maybe, Donald, but why did he have to implicitly disparage insects? Some of my best friends are insects.

365

novakant 06.24.14 at 7:28 pm

They really hated riverbend because she didn’t fit the narrative – it was sad to see, but also very educational.

366

roy belmont 06.24.14 at 7:45 pm

“Roaming
among the rubble of hate
field hand’s hair and master’s face
didn’t stop me
from meeting a noose”

First words in that video above, for those too pissy to watch it.
-
Colin Powell was played – a theme I keep returning to – using his ambition and, I believe, a quality he shares with C. Rice – the sense of undeserved oppression, a mind set that places the individual above their superficially natural community.
“Those down there deserve your scorn, but not me.”
What was called “Uncle Tom” in another time.
It’s more complex than that, but the dynamic’s the same. You get rewarded for selling out people you find disgusting anyway.
It’s understandable, but it’s a wound whose outer layers have healed over. The infection’s still there, just not as visible.
It needs healing, not more scorn.

Unlike some, I feel no contempt for any other human being. It’s not a choice, it just isn’t there.

Thanks, Donald.
Body and Soul.
Still here.

367

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 8:18 pm

I remember reading Riverbend just after her blog started. Someone mentioned her on DeLong’s blog sometime in late 2003. I think she was the only independent information source to be found in those days. I sent her a message but I don’t know if she got it.

368

The Temporary Name 06.24.14 at 8:23 pm

Her last post ends in a very kind way.

369

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 8:43 pm

I remember that it was through her posts that I learned that there was a lot of Sunni-Shia intermarriage in Baghdad under Saddam’s regime.

370

J Thomas 06.24.14 at 10:37 pm

#357

…but the rhetoric of reaction never works very far (one of Hirshman’s points, I think). It doesn’t protect us against being hornswoggled into the next war, because they bring in the new-and-improved liars, who find another ridiculous national security reason, which momentarily boggles everybody because the left refuses to think hard about national security issues. Always.

You always use these absolutist terms. Every single time, you take a situation which is changing fast and all uncertain, and you always say that there is only one possible way it can go and there’s nothing anybody can do to make any difference to it.

You never, ever admit that there can be even the tiniest bit of uncertainty. And you never will.

Putting that aside, you have an interesting idea. People who want to not go to war inherently tend to be reactionary because they can’t oppose a war until somebody else proposes it.

So for example there is an insurgency attempt going on in the Philippines, and I think we should not get involved in it. But who would pay any attention to my opinion when no one has suggested we get involved? Similarly with the insurgencies in Myanmar. There are continuing attempts to exterminate tribes that were important allies for us during the Burma campaign in WWII, and I tend to think we should give them weapons and money and some sort of coaching at getting along with each other so they can better act against the Shan, but if I argued to stay out, who would notice? Hardly anybody but me is suggesting we do anything. I think we should mostly stay out of Somalia. [yawn]

And people who give reasons not to go to war, tend to do it in moral terms and not so much practical ones. But a whole lot of people have unstated reasons to support wars that are impervious to moral argument. Like, for example, a lot of people believe that war is good for the economy. The reasoning (which they do not state and may not fully grasp) goes like this:

It would be good for the economy to pay poor people to dig holes and fill them in again, because they would spend the money and increase demand. But the GOP would never agree to that because it would be unproductive, and they don’t want poor people to have money. But if instead we pay the MIC to build bombs that we then explode in foreign nations in utterly unproductive ways, everybody will go along and we will get almost the same result as giving the money to poor people, except it’s possible to get the votes.

People who believe that stimulating the economy is vitally important, will not listen to moral arguments that war is bad. They will think that morality is impractical and useless.

I really don’t see what to do about all this in the short run. In the long run it would be good to persuade a large majority of voters to be against wars and against Republicans, but….

371

J Thomas 06.24.14 at 10:41 pm

My post went into moderation and I don’t know why. Here’s the first part of it, I want to see if it was in here.

#357

…but the rhetoric of reaction never works very far (one of Hirshman’s points, I think). It doesn’t protect us against being hornswoggled into the next war, because they bring in the new-and-improved liars, who find another ridiculous national security reason, which momentarily boggles everybody because the left refuses to think hard about national security issues. Always.

You always use these absolutist terms. Every single time, you take a situation which is changing fast and all uncertain, and you always say that there is only one possible way it can go and there’s nothing anybody can do to make any difference to it.

You never, ever admit that there can be even the tiniest bit of uncertainty. And you never will.

372

Ronan(rf) 06.24.14 at 11:00 pm

This is pretty good (for anyone interested – as are most of Rania Abouzeid’s articles imo)

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/06/al-qaeda-iraq-syria-108214.html

(ps is politico actually good these days ?)

373

MPAVictoria 06.24.14 at 11:07 pm

“ps is politico actually good these days ?”

Mostly still establishment garbage. But something interesting slips through from time to time.

374

Lee A. Arnold 06.24.14 at 11:24 pm

J Thomas #367: “You never, ever admit that there can be even the tiniest bit of uncertainty. And you never will.”

Another reading comprehension problem!

I started out in this thread at #114, beginning with this, so it couldn’t be clearer: “I was on the fence about invading Iraq. I don’t think a war of choice is a good idea, I don’t think breaking international law is a good idea, and I don’t think getting into something you don’t understand is a good idea. And I never believed the weapons of mass destruction thing. BUT I think that getting rid of dictators is usually a good idea, especially a cruel one.”

THERE: I had UNCERTAINTY about whether the invasion of Iraq was a good idea. Could not be clearer. And I am the only one here who has admitted to it.

375

J Thomas 06.24.14 at 11:33 pm

#371

I should have put a smiley on that or something. It was a joke.

376

Ed Herdman 06.25.14 at 1:51 am

Thanks to Lee A. Arnold for the points about the rhetoric and honesty about the uncertainty involved around the clearly contrasting directions for the country a lot of us heard and felt at the time. I think that represents reality for a lot of us. We had reason to believe that the idea that the invasion would be just like the original Gulf War was a fairy tale, but we also thought, wow, there’s a lot of unknowns here, and also some promise. There’s a lot of people being oppressed, so there’s possibly a big chance of improving their lot.

Y’know, just before the invasion (or thereabouts) I was involved in a very small way with a local pressure campaign (which has been, in one of its national dimensions, in the news again lately). I saw a lot of very well-meaning people try to win an argument with the local poobahs, but the tone in which they said it basically precluded a further dialogue. People would say “you intend X Y and Z!” to which people looked on with wonderment at a thought process they didn’t have the tools to even begin to grasp. At worst, it was a totally fanciful interpolation of some unrelated external facts into a reconstruction of mal intent.

People do this logically impermissible move because they want to be able to go beyond saying “you screwed up” to “and you meant to do it!” It makes no sense, but it’s pleasing for a quick high and an elevated pulse. If we have evidence of the intent of wrongdoing, that’s one thing and we should pursue it. But you don’t actually need it to change policy, get convictions, and prosecute war crimes. I think this should have been obvious after the Nuremberg trial that things were moving in this direction (“following orders” is not the same as “I believed God was talking to me, and it was true in my heart” or whatever a certain former President might have said about his disastrous beliefs, but it is getting closer to that; people are concerned with what happened).

And it’s not just that it’s ineffective in one sphere. There is literally half the country who were ready to fight tooth and nail to protect their buddy, and even the most direct evidence has a difficult chance in that court. I am not ready to say “well, I haven’t done shit to convince anybody, but I’ll just swear them off as irredeemable anyway!” Beyond that, there is the simple matter that we don’t convict based on mere suspicions of what people felt.

Yeah, being a spokesperson for evil is a terrible and wasteful thing (since I didn’t convince anybody in the thread, and even let myself change my opinions based on the responses I read, I’ve been told that I have to turn my card back in to the Society). But that doesn’t mean writing whatever we please – roy kindly demonstrated why that might not be helpful.

Our job, if we can hopefully do it, is to clearly explain why the Bush Doctrine is an insane dream. I think J. Thomas, Lee A. Arnold, myself, and most other commenters in this thread agree on the basic problem here: How do we improve the world (for example, by promoting democracy) without taking reckless gambles that could leave things far worse off? Is it a matter of always abiding by principles opposing wars of choice and the “entangling alliances” that were so destructive before our first President took office? Or is there more “wiggle room” here?

All the same I’ll happily concede – I never contested it – there is a use to politics of shaming and of painting The Other, or whatever it is that’s being suggested here by the outrage crew. But we need to take care that we don’t become so tired of our own rhetoric and communal rhetoric policing that, like bob mcmanus upthread, we think we’re giving a compliment by telling ourselves that the noise pollution in our own echo chamber really reflects that we don’t care – instead of that we have allowed ourselves to be pushed out of politics and just want to satisfy our outrage with a good scream.

377

godoggo 06.25.14 at 2:40 am

So how long has that wordpress version of D-Squared Digest been in existence anyway?

378

LFC 06.25.14 at 2:51 am

geo:
Maybe, Donald, but why did he [Belmont] have to implicitly disparage insects? Some of my best friends are insects.

Why does belmont do anything? A not insignificant portion of his commenting is bizarre, to use a v. charitable word (and/or offensive).

379

Yama 06.25.14 at 11:42 am

I don’t know, I usually enjoy Roy’s stuff. It will be a travesty if folks manage to get him banned.

380

Ze Kraggash 06.25.14 at 12:42 pm

“Why does belmont do anything? A not insignificant portion of his commenting is bizarre, to use a v. charitable word (and/or offensive).”

What, you too are offended for your best friends, cold-hearted insects? What the hell kind of place is this?

381

LFC 06.25.14 at 1:06 pm

@Ze Kraggash: ha ha.
@Yama: I don’t think anyone is calling for banning him. I’m not, at any rate.

382

Barry 06.25.14 at 1:19 pm

Lee @370: this really means that you were for the war. One of the things that the Bush gaggle did was to toss up every reason they could think of, even contradictory ones. They correctly figured that people would look at a pile of sh*t, and pick out things which were not yet proven to be sh*t, and then ignore the pile of sh*t.

383

Lee A. Arnold 06.25.14 at 1:54 pm

Barry #378 — It is actually possible to be undecided about something. Bush never fooled me. I still believe that getting rid of dictators is usually a good idea.

384

Anarcissie 06.25.14 at 2:01 pm

Doesn’t that depend on how you get rid of them, and what you replace them with?

385

MPAVictoria 06.25.14 at 2:34 pm

“One of the things that the Bush gaggle did was to toss up every reason they could think of, even contradictory ones.”

This was what nearly drove me mad at the time. I mean if the Bush administration REALLY believed that Iraq had WMD then putting a couple of hundred thousand American troops in close proximity to these weapons seems like the last thing you would want to do….

386

The Temporary Name 06.25.14 at 2:56 pm

I’m not asking for Roy to be banned. It’d be swell if he was less of everything he pretends not to be and wrote coherently.

387

MPAVictoria 06.25.14 at 3:00 pm

“I’m not asking for Roy to be banned. It’d be swell if he was less of everything he pretends not to be and wrote coherently.”

Same here. Though it would be nice if a member of management would chime in on his use of homophobic slurs.

388

roy belmont 06.25.14 at 8:12 pm

Maybe because they’re perceptive enough to connect the Meshell Ndegeocello video with the empty absurdity of your bizarre mindlessness and gratuitous negativity.
You have never once written anything on this site that couldn’t have been generated by an algorithm of politically correct knee-jerk rote. Nothing original or insightful, ever. But you have insulted me repeatedly based on an idiotic misreading of things I’ve said. Freely and with impunity. And then you whine for the moderators authoritarian ref-call.
It is deeply insulting in the modern time to be called a bigot, and that’s not nearly all the abusive shit I’ve taken from you. You answered my extended hand of commonality with vicious stupidity, you respond to things I’m saying you won’t hear anywhere else with puerile nonsense, and call for the teacher.
Snitch.
Chumpasses upthread discussing whether or not I should be banned for their incomprehensions, misconceptions, and misreadings, and then deciding in their liberal magnanimity that I shouldn’t, for now. But I better watch it, or else…

And gosh wouldn’t it be better, and really, let’s face it, more sane, if he wrote as simplistically and predictably as we do.

389

Barry 06.25.14 at 8:24 pm

Me: “One of the things that the Bush gaggle did was to toss up every reason they could think of, even contradictory ones.”

MPAVictoria “This was what nearly drove me mad at the time. I mean if the Bush administration REALLY believed that Iraq had WMD then putting a couple of hundred thousand American troops in close proximity to these weapons seems like the last thing you would want to do….”

Yes, are we liberating them or killing them for doing 9/11?

390

MPAVictoria 06.25.14 at 8:33 pm

“Yes, are we liberating them or killing them for doing 9/11?”

Why not both?!!? Also Saddam is a terrible danger/threat but overthrowing his regime and occupying his country will be easy and take very few troops.

391

MPAVictoria 06.25.14 at 8:40 pm

This piece by Digby seems pertinent. Basically we will never be free of these people.

http://www.salon.com/2014/06/25/the_rights_scoundrel_returns_why_is_elliott_abrams_allowed_back_in_polite_company/

392

Ed Herdman 06.25.14 at 10:00 pm

@ MPAV

Don’t forget this piece which is essentially its companion:

[In Mr. Smith Goes to Washington] Jimmy Stewart’s naive but idealistic Jefferson Smith is able to overcome the corruption and rancor of the U.S. Senate not through negotiation and compromise but because of his indomitable will, evidenced by his decision to filibuster to the point of exhaustion. Or to look at this pathology from the opposite end of the telescope, note how Netflix’s popular “House of Cards” series acknowledges the myriad trades and settlements of democratic governance but [...] presents this mode of behavior as fundamentally immoral and corrupt. The good guy keeps on fighting; the bad guy cuts a deal. [...]

I do not mean that anyone who considers the U.S. government woefully in need of reform is against real-world democracy.

What I’d argue, rather, is that the Tea Party’s philosophy of government (again, as understood by Salam) has embedded within it an aversion to basic democratic principles that goes far beyond a typical contempt for Washington, politicians and pundits.

My challenge to everyone is: How far away from “typical contempt” for these things are those of us outspoken on the left?

393

Sasha Clarkson 06.25.14 at 10:16 pm

Getting rid of dictators a good idea?

People should get rid of their own dictators – and sometimes they do. The Iranians eventually got rid of the Shah, who was installed by the British in a coup against his own father, and then made a dictator by another CIA/MI6 coup which deposed Mossadegh, the elected PM. Of course it went wrong, but whose fault was that?

Perhaps things would have been better if they’d been left alone to start with?

In my lifetime the US has supported many dictators and many coups d’etat It is not a dictatorship itself: more a corrupt but self-righteous oligarchy with a democratic veneer. It remind me of Athens before the Peloponnesian War.

394

The Temporary Name 06.25.14 at 11:42 pm

Even if you believe “getting rid of a dictator” is a thing you should assemble a massive killing machine to accomplish, the guys running it were obvious idiots and assholes. They were not worth supporting in the achievement of any foreign policy goal.

395

bob mcmanus 06.25.14 at 11:51 pm

It remind me of Athens before the Peloponnesian War.

There are probably two competing oligarchies, maybe Pareto’s “foxes” and “lions”

Stirling Newberry’s brilliant 2004 piece “Sparta 286 Athens 254″ is apparently no longer available. Pieces are still out there, in these archives and MYDD.

The second was a way of saying that the social changes that come with a high production, high value added economy – namely a cosmopolitan society – would happen under Kerry.

That is Kerry was presented, accurately, as being a threat to the social and economic hierarchy to the land owning classes. Land, which holds its value through having cheap gasoline, demands a military machine to obtain the oil and to maintain the social inequality should it come to that. Kerry was, accurately, presented as someone who would not go to war for oil.

If one looks at the map – the division – between the large blocks of the country whose value is sunk into rent and the smaller city areas that generate value through capital – is clear.

This social structure – paralleling the ancien regime of France is based on two alliances. The oligarchic rich place their faith in Church and State, they ally with the landowning peasants that stock the army, against the tradesman and the very bottom day laborers. The hieararchical society tries to tax by forced savings the tradesmen, and keep the “rabble” in line with force. The hiearchy is not a mere marriage of convenience – each knows that it needs the other. The reactionary side of the ledger is not cleavable between “economic and social conservatives” – because the wealthy knows it needs a military, and the miltiary knows it needs someone to batter the rising professional classes into line.

396

godoggo 06.26.14 at 12:36 am

My last question was relevant to the OT, incidentally.

397

MPAVictoria 06.26.14 at 1:06 am

“Even if you believe “getting rid of a dictator” is a thing you should assemble a massive killing machine to accomplish, the guys running it were obvious idiots and assholes. They were not worth supporting in the achievement of any foreign policy goal.”

Yep. It was very much a case of bad policy being carried out in a bad way by bad people.

398

MPAVictoria 06.26.14 at 2:00 am

Roy when you stop posting bigoted things I will stop calling you out. This isn’t your space. You don’t own it and you do not get to tell me what to do.

Go post at Stormfront or Red State if you don’t want someone to object to you calling women “dykes”. This is a left wing blog! What did you think was going to happen?

399

J Thomas 06.26.14 at 3:47 pm

Roy when you stop posting bigoted things I will stop calling you out.

You may not have noticed, but every now and then he calls you out for calling him out. When he does it, it isn’t as boring as when you do it.

This isn’t your space. You don’t own it and you do not get to tell me what to do.

You appear to believe that it’s your space, that you own it and you get to tell him what to do. Why is that?

Every now and then he posts some keyword and it’s utterly predictable how you will respond. It’s like he’s established a Pavlovian response, he says the word and you jump. It isn’t really any big deal to me, but I’d like it if you could arrange to be less predictable. Maybe say something witty. The more predictable the text, the less information content….

400

Sasha Clarkson 06.26.14 at 4:33 pm

Dear Bob @391

Thank you for drawing my/our attention to Stirling Newberry. I’ll confess I’d never heard of him, but I’ve already looked at a couple of his articles, which were well worth the read. :)

401

MPAVictoria 06.26.14 at 4:47 pm

Yep nothing more informative than “dyke”.. ..

402

The Temporary Name 06.26.14 at 5:19 pm

Every now and then he posts some keyword and it’s utterly predictable how you will respond.

That is because Roy Belmont is a bigot, and it’s worth letting him know. If he gets upset about that, there are simple steps to take.

403

MPAVictoria 06.26.14 at 5:43 pm

I am sure that no one else besides me cares about this but up thread roy called me a “Snitch” for saying that management here should comment on his use of a homophobic slur.

A Snitch.

That is what the bullies in middle school called me when, after trying to deal with their abuse by laughing along with it, by ignoring it and by fighting back, I finally couldn’t take it anymore and went to the administration and asked for help.

A Snitch.

Roy is more like those childhood bullies than he probably wants to admit to himself. They also called people “dyke” and “faggot”. They too felt that they were hilarious and original. And they also hated being called on their bullshit.

So call me a Snitch roy and I shall judge you by the company you keep.

404

William Berry 06.26.14 at 6:00 pm

I believe I am making the 400th “comment” on this bizarre thread.

Comments on this entry are now closed.

Thank you.

405

godoggo 06.26.14 at 6:03 pm

401

406

J Thomas 06.26.14 at 6:11 pm

That is because Roy Belmont is a bigot, and it’s worth letting him know. If he gets upset about that, there are simple steps to take.

I think he’s been informed by now, and he doesn’t seem to be upset about it.

He doesn’t seem to mind supplying the stimulus and watching MPAVictoria jump yet again. If neither of them mind going through the same old same old repeatedly I guess nobody else should mind a lot, but if either of them does mind, they might find some way to change the pattern.

407

godoggo 06.26.14 at 6:17 pm

403
To deny access:

1) When attempting to access a forbidden webpage
2) When attempting to perform a physical action
1) Yeah, I tried to FTP that file, but got 403’ed
2) Yeah, I tried to have anal sex with Meagan last night but got 403’ed.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=403

408

The Temporary Name 06.26.14 at 6:25 pm

I think he’s been informed by now, and he doesn’t seem to be upset about it.

Neither you nor I really pay much attention to what he’s writing except in skimming:

It is deeply insulting in the modern time to be called a bigot, and that’s not nearly all the abusive shit I’ve taken from you.

He’s upset, but can’t change. Oh well.

409

J Thomas 06.26.14 at 7:27 pm

“It is deeply insulting in the modern time to be called a bigot, and that’s not nearly all the abusive shit I’ve taken from you.”

He’s upset, but can’t change. Oh well.

I can’t really tell what’s going on in his head, but my impression is that this is just tu quoque.

Of course he wants to say you’re abusive, that you’re worse than what you’re ranting about. But it’s about like somebody on Red State saying you’re a nanny-state abortion-loving commie. It just goes with the territory. Nothing to get upset about.

410

MPAVictoria 06.26.14 at 7:36 pm

“Of course he wants to say you’re abusive, that you’re worse than what you’re ranting about. But it’s about like somebody on Red State saying you’re a nanny-state abortion-loving commie. It just goes with the territory. Nothing to get upset about.”

Sure. I mean why get upset about anything ever really? Who cares if LGBT youth commit suicide at an alarming rate because of the homophobia of our culture?

411

The Temporary Name 06.26.14 at 7:41 pm

We can’t prescribe what other people get upset about, but it’s become a much nicer world* since people started getting upset about the language bigots use.

*Various caveats here regarding planetary destruction. Oops.

412

Yama 06.26.14 at 8:21 pm

Calling out Roy as a bigot is a good example of the shaming culture gone off the rails. Give it a break.

413

Sasha Clarkson 06.26.14 at 10:28 pm

“I know there are people in the world who do not love their fellow human beings–and I hate people like that. Tom Lehrer

414

The Temporary Name 06.26.14 at 10:41 pm

Finally back on topic!

415

godoggo 06.26.14 at 11:28 pm

Hey, who changed my comment numbers?

416

roy belmont 06.27.14 at 1:57 am

The Temporary Name 06.26.14 at 5:19 pm:

Any time you want to fill in the evidentiary blank on that fatuously delivered charge of bigotry I promise to read it critically, and without skimming.
Unless it’s more of Miss Havisham’s violent knee-jerk hysteria around politically incorrect terminology.
If use of bigoted epithets by anyone at all is prima facie evidence for bigotry there’s a lot of very conflicted rap artists out there who need to be called out on their self-loathing betrayal of their own people’s dignity.
Frinstance say NWA and Wu Tang and about umpteen hundred other fine young folk artists in the decades since them.

I post a video by an uncompromising black artist that is nuanced, defiant, incisively beyond shallow gender values, and solidly prominently at the very edge of consensus respectability. A woman who’s a hero in a lot of the cooler lesbian refuges, as well as with people who admire excellent musicianship. And…”Huh?”
Oh wait, I know. Because I’m trying to trick you into not thinking I’m a bigot because, because, be…why would I care about that?
I have no respect for your opinion about anything.
I’m just trying to clear you out the way so I can participate in a fairly serious discussion now and then without being bitten in the ankle by neurotic chihuahuas.
It makes it hard to address anything other than the profound irritation of being nipped at by yapping little dogs.
Every time you and your comrades are directly challenged to cough up some evidence to back your claim you either disappear or start talking about something else entirely.
Or you just go mewling back to the beginning like you got the brain damages or something.

Bring it or shut the fuck up.
Place it. Evidence. Me, bigot. Where? When?

(Not you Havisham, you’ve disqualified yourself from serious conversation with me.)

The only other logical interpretation for your repeated overt rude idiocy is some other agenda, which you’re too skulkingly afraid to bring into the light.

417

The Temporary Name 06.27.14 at 2:39 am

Ha. Oh lord. Where to start? I’ll start at the end: my super-secret agenda is ██████ ████████ and we █████ to the ███████ and all █████████ must be dealt with accordingly.

418

The Temporary Name 06.27.14 at 2:42 am

OMG.

419

William Berry 06.27.14 at 2:52 am

Roy, when you talk about those chihuahuas, you remind me of Nietzsche on the priests he imagined to be his persecutors: “. . . a species of malicious dwarf. Subterraneans.”

That’s the crazy Friedrich of Ecce Homo; he of the egomania, paranoia, and persecution complex.

Dare I suggest that, like the great man, you bring it on yourself?

420

William Berry 06.27.14 at 2:53 am

And yeah, what’s with the wacky comment numbering system?

421

godoggo 06.27.14 at 2:57 am

I’m guessing it has something to do with occasionally, and apparently randomly putting comments into moderation. Which begs the question, I think. Am I using that right?

422

The Temporary Name 06.27.14 at 3:01 am

There’s some automatic sequestering of comments just because of linkage or a misinterpretation of language used. It’s really best to quote people or the time of the comment to keep it straight.

423

Collin Street 06.27.14 at 3:36 am

Place it. Evidence. Me, bigot. Where? When?

If your brain is the problem examinations by your brain will not reveal the problem. Self-testing requires external standards and requires that you trust those external standards over your own judgement.

You cannot trust your own judgement of your own judgement, for reasons that should be obvious. You need to ask other people, and you need to listen.

424

Anarcissie 06.27.14 at 3:42 am

Copy and paste the name and time line: ‘The Temporary Name 06.27.14 at 3:01 am’ for example. The item numbers are coming from somewhere else, like possibly being generated ad-hoc, and can change.

425

Lee A. Arnold 06.27.14 at 4:08 am

It’s because previous comments have come out of moderation and now take up old numbers.

What is actually happening is kind of silly, because the premise is that a vastly different point of view is being espoused, you will hear it no where else!, and the rude language is necessary to make the points. But we already know all this stuff. There is nothing new. The rude language is a diversion from the fact that an interlocutor actually has said nothing new, and may have nothing new to say.

426

roy belmont 06.27.14 at 5:15 am

William Berry -
Dare I suggest that, like the great man, you bring it on yourself?

Dare away fool.
So too did Jesus and Geronimo and Rosa Luxemburg and Doestoevsky bring it on themselves.
Setting aside the cretinous delusional mind-set of the people he’s describing, in Nietzsche’s day……well no, wait don’t set it aside, they were, they deserved insult, by the very rules espoused and defended here.
Next example please.

I edited out a paragraph – for brevity! – that basically said one of the problems I was having with these accusations was after being maliciously and rudely insulted a lot of relatively skimmish observers are given the impression I’m originally bringing the insults and negativity, instead of responding to gratuitous insult.

Oh yes yes wait wait. It is it is very much an insult to use words like “dyke, kike, nigger, and faggot” yes it is, it is indeed.
Unless you’re using them ironically. Then it’s something else.
If you think that use too is bad and wrong, fine, make your case for it. But jumping up with torch and pitchfork in your hands – because bigots must be hated! and made to suffer! – is bound to piss off a sensitive person such as myself.

Unless, like I said there’s another agenda which the snarling lapdogs are too frightened to expose, preferring covert malice and in the know snark.
Your liberal brother in arms there, Herr Redactman, has made his agenda perfectly clear. Without any rebuttal to this I’ll just assume from his tone, and his consistent refusal to supply a single example of the purported bigotry that excuses his insulting behavior, that he’s a member of the obvious community for whom that snotty cowardice is s.o.p.

427

The Temporary Name 06.27.14 at 7:01 am

Just don’t use those words, even ironically. Please? It would be really nice to just let them go.

428

Bruce Wilder 06.27.14 at 7:41 am

I hope roy belmont will stick around. Some others, maybe not.

429

Sasha Clarkson 06.27.14 at 8:58 am

All intolerant people should be shot!

I’m sorry to say that some of what I’ve seen on this page smacks of cyber-bullying.

There are very few of us who are not bigoted about something in unguarded or angry moments. Unfortunately, the need to hate or disparage appears to be embedded in our species: there seems to be a need to increase our own self esteem by diminishing that of others, and their perceived value as human beings.

Orwell hit on something fundamental when he coined “Hate Week”: in reality, every week is Hate Week in parts of our media. Certain networks survive by feeding the Dark Side of the Force. The intention is to poison public debate and bully people into not thinking for themselves. That’s how, at least initially, the war machine neutered opposition to the invasion of Iraq.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheese-eating_surrender_monkeys

430

Yama 06.27.14 at 11:32 am

Very nice, Sasha. I especially like how the the phrase ended up in the French dub:

“Rendez-vous, singes mangeurs de fromage” (“Surrender, you cheese-eating monkeys”).

Better pacing, imo .

Back to the OP, I suppose John has been setting a good example for those who got it wrong – admit it, don’t bother defending it. That is hard to do.

431

Peter King 06.27.14 at 1:22 pm

The Temporary Name 06.27.14 at 7:01 am:

“Just don’t use those words, even ironically.”

Doubleplusgood!

“The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought — that is, a thought diverging from the principles of IngSoc — should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever.”

432

William Timberman 06.27.14 at 2:12 pm

Please record another vote for Roy Belmont. His way isn’t my way, but isn’t that at least partly the point? When I read him as he comes, I learn things, not least of which have to do with my own limitations. This, I figure, is worth the price of occasionally having my frames wrenched about a bit. That’s in fact why I come here. Anyway, long may he wave.

433

The Temporary Name 06.27.14 at 2:18 pm

Yes Sasha, those racial slurs become the tools of fascists even when the masters of irony use them.

434

MPAVictoria 06.27.14 at 2:24 pm

Yes, yes us liberals/leftists are the REAL fascists. And yes Peter, I am basically Big Brother.

/If you want a picture of the future, imagine an internet commenter objecting to the use of homophobic slurs (on a left wing blog no less!) — forever.

435

William Timberman 06.27.14 at 2:25 pm

A further note about the reasons for my (symbolic) vote. Consciously or unconsciously, bigotry does often disguise itself these days as iconoclasm, at least among the usual suspects, but despite all the puffery from his accusers, I don’t find that to be the case with Roy’s disputed comments. For what it’s worth….

436

Lee A. Arnold 06.27.14 at 2:42 pm

The words aren’t being used “ironically”. That is another wrong definition.

The real problem is, to quote Gertrude Stein, there is no there, there. It’s his own cover-up to avoid being boring.

His thesis appears to be two-part: that the invasion of Iraq was managed for the interests of Israel and the oil companies, AND somehow NOBODY else sees that. Therefore, the invective is justified. Here is the money quote: the claim is, these are “things I’m saying you won’t hear anywhere.” And since you refuse to listen, emotionalism is justified.

But that is wrong — a lot of people suspect that this is the case. We have read it in comments in Crooked Timber many times. A lot of comments on the military blog I linked to above are up front about it — thus, these opinions are held not only on the left, but even by many on the right, (because the right does not necessarily self-identify with corporate interests; and it looks like a lot of US military people are extremely suspicious of Israel, some of them to the point of anti-Semitism).

Then there is the question of why people don’t ask why the neocons are back to be interviewed in the news, whether Colin Powell lied for his ambitions, whether it’s all a big con, etc. etc.

Again that is wrong. These are by now common complaints.

Just about the only place you DON’T hear them is in the main stream media, but if you are wondering why the mainstream media doesn’t do it, then you are an additional type of idiot. And if you wonder how much the mainstream media is affecting opinion in the US, look at their declining viewship numbers.

Find the banners that are flown in the NEXT war.

437

The Temporary Name 06.27.14 at 2:46 pm

despite all the puffery from his accusers

It’s not puffery to point out that Roy can’t seem to operate without using slurs for people I know and love.

438

MPAVictoria 06.27.14 at 2:50 pm

I continue to be amazed that objecting to calling someone a “dyke” is a controversial thing to do….

439

LFC 06.27.14 at 3:01 pm

I think it was the second paragraph of R. Belmont’s 205 (time stamp 6/22/14 at 3:48 a.m.) that drew MPAV’s initial objection here. If Belmont’s language had been necessary or helpful to make an interesting or original point, that would be one thing. But as Lee Arnold said above, it wasn’t. The result was simply to draw an objection (which could have been foreseen) from MPAV, and a resulting round of charges and countercharges.

Personally I wouldn’t object to the interesting, intelligent, purposeful, or ironic use of language that, in a more straightforward context, would be deemed offensive or even bigoted. But since R. Belmont’s use of the language in question was not interesting (or even that intelligible) , the result of his using it was just to offend MPAV (and prob. some others) and start an exchange that ended up being a diversion from the substance of the thread (such as it was). (And as J Thomas noted above, MPAV and R. Belmont have had these exchanges before.)

RB thinks he is being persecuted by a pack of “neurotic chihuahuas,” but the feeling is heightened (if not created) by an apparent overestimation of his own literary and expressive gifts. Cormac McCarthy in Blood Meridian could get away with using any language he wanted, any way he wanted, b.c it’s a great novel. RB’s comments here, not so much.

The CT commenting policy, last I looked at it, puts limits on freedom to choose particular modes of expression, and although it might be a close call, a case can be made that RB has crossed the limits in question. But that’s really a judgment for the blog’s owners, none of whom has weighed in.

440

godoggo 06.27.14 at 3:03 pm

I care only about entertainment value, and I thought Hector was better for that.

441

Sasha Clarkson 06.27.14 at 3:28 pm

I see nothing wrong with criticising a comment as bigoted/offensive. What makes me uncomfortable is when I see contributors being ganged up on with comment which I perceive as“we know what you are like and we don’t want your sort around here! “

As LFC@ 439 suggests, the comments policy makes clear that we are all guests, and the blog owners reserve the right to moderate/ban whomsoever they wish. Leave such things to them rather than setting up ad-hoc censorship committees.

It is too easy for fundamentally decent people to become angry, and then dig themselves into a position which may not be worthy of them. To misquote Yoda “anger leads to the Dark Side”. Personally I like the Quaker maxim “Look for the light within” , which has never let me down – whenever I’ve actually found the courage and strength of mind to apply it.

To return to the original theme, that is exactly what John did when making the confession which initiated this thread. I’m going to have a beer now – peace be upon you all! :)

442

MPAVictoria 06.27.14 at 3:34 pm

“the result of his using it was just to offend MPAV”
And, because I can be an over emotional jackass, it worked.

If I was a smarter, more sensible person I would have simply said “roy you shouldn’t use that kind of language as it is hurtful/offensive”, linked to some data on the high rate of suicides among LGBT youth and then ignored him. Instead I got drawn in to an unwinnable internet fight at one of my favorite blogs…

/All that said I am still amazed at how many people here think calling an African American woman a Dyke and a Negro is totally fine because it really isn’t.

443

William Timberman 06.27.14 at 3:36 pm

LFC @ 439

All good points, but not in my view enough to convict — at least not of bigotry. Dyke in the original comment comes closer to doing the work MPAV and others accuse it of doing than the work Roy claims to have intended, but at least in academic circles, bluestocking was once a perfectly acceptable alternative for what he seems to be getting at, even though, as often as not, it also hinted at what dyke bellows out loud.

So as I read the passage in question, Roy was calling out Ms. Rice for being overly competitive, trying to best the male boors of the Bush-Cheney team at their own game in return for a little of their power — which, given her intelligence, she probably felt entitled to. One thinks here of a female Henry Kissinger, not a stereotyped dominant lesbian. So yes, Roy isn’t Cormac McCarthy, let along G.B. Shaw or Shakespeare, but who among us is?

444

The Temporary Name 06.27.14 at 3:52 pm

There’s more context than the Rice thing, but just dealing with that…

What one might take away from this is that neither defender nor detractor sees the irony that Roy claims. I’m pretty sure that Roy thinks he was offering an interpretation of what Fools Who Don’t See Deeply believe, that is, that OTHERS are calling Rice names as an easy analysis and they miss the REAL story, which only Roy Belmont can offer! As LFC notes, it just didn’t need to be said to make his point, and of course if this reading is correct – who knows! – he’s calling everyone in the thread bigots. (Which, as Sasha notes, actually IS true to an extent in each of us EXCEPT IN ROY WHO IS THE FURTHEST THING FROM BEING A BIGOT EVAR!)

William Timberman in defense of Roy thinks Roy straight up calls her the name.

I’d say there’s an irony fail somewhere around, but it’s a pity nobody can read Roy to get it straight.

445

Bruce Wilder 06.27.14 at 4:17 pm

I have learned a great deal I did not want to know about my fellow commenters.

This thread is poisoning the well, it needs to be stopped, now. People are committing themselves to positions of personal insult and antagonism, which are out of proportion to the questionable use of a profane pejorative.

As MPAVictoria has said, registering a simple objection would have been sufficient. The accusation of bigotry crossed a line into personal supposition that did not need to be crossed, and it has been joined by gratuitous criticism of style.

We do not need to be picking sides. We should not be picking sides. Let’s stop justifying ourselves. Several commenters have written altogether too much already in this back and forth, expressing resentments better silenced. It has become bullying.

Moderation might judiciously close this thread as hopelessly off topic and not one of the CT commentariat’s finer moments.

446

The Temporary Name 06.27.14 at 4:32 pm

It certainly is a revelation.

447

Trader Joe 06.27.14 at 4:36 pm

I’m just glad I read along far enough to see the Roy Belmont to Cormac McCarthy comparison….cost me three good squirts of Windex to clean the coffee from my monitor.

Thanks for the chuckle @439 LFC (and the thoughtful points).

448

J Thomas 06.27.14 at 4:42 pm

Oh yes yes wait wait. It is it is very much an insult to use words like “dyke, kike, nigger, and faggot” yes it is, it is indeed.
Unless you’re using them ironically. Then it’s something else.

I’m not sure I see the irony. You pointed out that Condi Rice gave the Bush administration a certain protection from the Left because they were not going to criticise her. She could say the same stupid things the others were saying, and a lot of people on the left supposed that she was a reasonable good person because she was black and a woman. Meanwhile Republicans accused her of being a lesbian (without exactly having proof even) and also accused her of being black and a woman which were undisputed and in other circles would not be considered accusations at all.

And it may be that somebody who was handling Bush PR was really on top of things.

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2004/04/condis_inner_life.html

They cleared up the “Condi is a lesbian” scandal by putting a new and even more harmless scandal on top of it.

So anyway, I can imagine you might have thought it helped your explanation to describe Condi’s effect on liberals from a Republican point of view, but I don’t see that it helped at all.

Meanwhile, the response from MPAVictoria etc was completely predictable. You have trolled them repeatedly and they have repeatedly responded the same. They think they are doing the right thing to give the same rote response to the same stimulus. You think you’re doing the right thing to give them their stimulus. It’s an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy (ESS). Everybody feels they have done what they wanted to do and gotten the best result they can get. You have the right to use those trigger words unless the moderators stop you. They have the right to object unless the moderators stop them. You have the right to object to their objection. They have the right to object to your objection.

It’s all entirely predictable and boring except for people who get excited when they take sides about which one is right.

Speaking for myself, I’d prefer that you initiate this sort of thing only when you strongly feel the urge to. Every now and then you might feel the urge to prove you have the right. Then they prove they have the right to object. You maybe respond that they have the right to object but they don’t have the right to stop you. And then you can let them have the last word until next time.

I’ve done this sort of thing myself. I remember, on Usenet there was somebody named Moggin or Catawumpus who would get into silly arguments, often about the true meaning of the book of Job. He would make a claim that was usually pretty logical based on his assumptions or his reading of the text, and then he would vociferously, passionately, implacably argue that he was completely right and anybody who had any other conclusion was completely wrong.

I could make him appear any time I wanted by mentioning his name, and he would immediately show up and argue that I was wrong about something. He probably used a search engine to check when somebody was ready for him to come prove them wrong. Then when I wanted him to go away he would go away when I stopped responding to him. Sometimes when he came back he would crow about winning the last argument, and the one before that, and sometimes he’d mention arguments from 5 or more years before, that he thought he’d won. People started complaining when I brought him back. But it was somehow useful to me. I could look at him, and remember that just because I have a rock-solid air-tight argument it doesn’t mean that everybody else’s insights are wrong. Don’t be Moggin.

I can’t argue that you should never provoke these people. I don’t know what you get out of doing it, maybe something valuable. But if you could please put it off until the urge builds up, that would be nice.

449

Ronan(rf) 06.27.14 at 8:38 pm

I still think Lee Arnold was the real scourge here : )

450

roy belmont 06.28.14 at 7:16 am

Sasha Clarkson, William Timberman, and to a certain extent J Thomas.
There’s a number of other people that don’t comment here but read, that share your attitude and open mind.
That’s why I write.

The scorn of fools is praise disguised.

451

roy belmont 06.28.14 at 7:47 am

and Bruce Wilder

452

roy belmont 06.28.14 at 7:50 am

and of course McManus

453

Jim Buck 06.28.14 at 12:16 pm

What a quagmire.

454

max 06.28.14 at 10:54 pm

Jonah @ 448:
It’s an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy (ESS).

Jonah! You’re back!

somebody named Moggin or Catawumpus who would get into silly arguments

Never could figure out what the hell that was about. I did not know your interpretation of Job was an issue of such vital importance.

Since I was distracted, a much delayed response. Jonah @ 221:

But then we advised a Shia group, and then we double-crossed them and left them to Saddam’s mercy. [...] It’s as if we did everything we could to start a civil war between them.

Quite. I’d like to attribute it to malice, but it looked like a straight ahead screw-up. Well, in 1991, it looked like they didn’t care about democracy or much of anything other than getting Bush the Elder reelected and keeping the oil flowing. Which the neo-cons then harped on endlessly so they could get back into Iraq and use it as a springboard for their projected war with the Iranians. (Thus, Dick Cheney defending the conduct of the first go-round in 1994 and now defending the completely opposite point of view now. When the time comes for the third go-round, it’ll be a different line.)

If you say it would have happened anyway no matter what, it’s possible that you’re right.

There are decent reasons to conclude that was the way it was going to go. I agree with you that it’s like a 25-year long escapade of doing everything counter-productively, but again, there is a great deal of history suggesting that a lot of people, the world around, want to engage in ethnic feuding. Certainly, there’s plenty of evidence for that in the United States.

And yet sometimes people do try to get along.

Yes. But, given the history of most occupations, it is wildly unlikely that foreign power can make them get along if they do not wish to do so. In this case, there was plenty of evidence beforehand that lots of people did not wish to do so.

Let people just decide who they want to be allied with, on whatever grounds they choose, and we don’t have to second-guess them.

Well, the thing is, is that they have now performed that particular experiment. On Libya. We gave the revolting peoples (don’t start) an air assist (which worked fine, although it took the folks on the ground awhile to get their act together), and then basically did nothing else. They had elections. There was a minor ethnic cleansing action against black people from countries further south. There was bickering and many many desultory shooting engagements in which not a lot of people got hurt (for the quantity of weapons available). There was an oil strike. There was the son of the former king agitating for some form of restoration. There was Cyrenaica considering succession (and then not, and then again). The ‘rogue’ general hooked up with the remnants of the army and went after the various jihadis, which got public support. The parliament which had spent a good year screwing around doing not very much decided they’d hold a snap election. There was some violence.

So far as I can tell, the Libyans are better off for not having Gaddafi (spelling) around torturing people, and they are settling their differences, albeit glacially slowly.

DC has denounced the policy as failure (we should have sent troops!), and they agonize on a regular basis about how bad things are. (They aren’t real worried about the Sudan or the Central African Republic, because that’s different.) Even the centrists are wringing their hands about how security has been reduced. Which, for me, brings up the question of ‘Just exactly what did you expect democracy to look like?’ Also, ‘Did you expect overthrowing the government was going to create more security in the short run?’ ‘Did you expect them to immediately open themselves to exploitation from large American companies?’ Also, the very important question, ‘Are you stupid, ignorant, or lying about what you want?’

The theory was that overthrowing a bunch of governments in the Middle East would Increase Security by Instituting Democracy, and please, pull my finger. At any rate the Libyans seem to be plugging away and they seem to be doing about as well as can be expected after their crappy government was destroyed. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best; so far their chances look decent. (There was also the issue what happened further south in the deep desert. A brief, wild foray by some folks that acquired some weapons and then not much.)

If you claim that you can’t have democracy any place that doesn’t already have a long established democratic tradition, you might be right. I’d rather look at whatever can be done to help it work, and try it repeatedly before I decide it’s impossible.

I would claim that working out the various impromptu, unofficial and unwritten agreements that get embedded in the culture in such a way as to allow normal democracy to occur takes a lot of time. It certainly took a great deal of time for the United States (and lots of other countries) to work one out – and we waged a mass extermination campaign and kept people as property while doing so. Even a functioning democracy can be a not particularly nice place.

The thinking seemed (seems?) to be that you could institute a warp jump from dictatorship to American democracy circa 1950 just by adding some ground troops.

I would say the introduction of foreign occupation troops doubles the problem from the single issue of ‘How shall we be governed?’ to two issues, the second of which would be, ‘How the hell do we get rid of these people and/or sucker them into attacking those people we hate over there?’

I don’t think it’s surprising that the Iraqis pretty much hate us and the Libyans think relatively highly of us.

“What a ridiculous idea! In Iraq we have gotten along peacefully for generations. There are lots of mixed marriages and nobody thinks anything of it. Why do you Americans think this way?”

‘Other than the foreign control under the Ottomans and the British, and the foreign institution of a reigning monarch, and the military coup and the extermination campaigns, we have got along fine!’

“Not giving them the right to try was a stupid policy.”

Well, just think, Jonah, when we had the army there in 1991, we could have backed up the Shia instead of tricking them and there might be a 20-odd-year old democracy in south Iraq, parallel to the one in Kurdistan. Oh, wait, we can’t do that, because we have to maintain the fictional lines in the desert and also DEATH TO IRAN.

Saying “you can have democracy provided it doesn’t include anybody who was on the wrong side before, or anybody who’s religious, or anybody who won’t to do what the USA wants” turns it into a sham.

Saying, ‘We’re a bunch of foreigners but we know better, so this is the democracy we like and you’re just going to have to accept it or we’ll shoot you’ is also the semblance of democracy. Yes?

max
['Currently, the polling in Iraq is being conducted with machine guns and the Sunnis have made a comeback in the vote count.']

455

J Thomas 06.29.14 at 12:08 am

#454

“somebody named Moggin or Catawumpus who would get into silly arguments”

Never could figure out what the hell that was about. I did not know your interpretation of Job was an issue of such vital importance.

For myself it was an existential thing. I deeply wanted to believe in the Korzybskian NullA thing, that you can never expect to know everything, that our theories should be compatible with the evidence but there will always be other theories compatible with the same evidence if we look hard enough, that if I’m smart enough I will never again be stuck in kill-or-be-killed, I can find common ground and shared unknowns. If we can’t compromise we can coexist. Moggin shook that. It was “I’m right and anybody who disagrees with any part of it is wrong” all the way. I tried saying “If you want to treat it as a public debate, let’s find some neutral third party to judge it” but he didn’t respond to that, just “You’re wrong because you thought there was an alternative way to see things and there can’t be.” I’d try until I got too tired of it, and later I’d call him back and try again. Never any hint of results.

“I beseech you in the bowels of Christ,think it possible you may be mistaken.” But he had a low opinion of Christ and also of his own god.

At any rate the Libyans seem to be plugging away and they seem to be doing about as well as can be expected after their crappy government was destroyed.

I mostly agree with you about everything you say. I figure that democracy gives you a way to approximate the political results of fighting to decide issues, without the expense and destruction and killing of the actual fight. When democracy gives some other result and people figure the cost of the fighting is worth it, then they fight. It isn’t an all-or-none thing, but the longer you go without a civil war the more wealth gets built up. The USA has gone 149 years without a civil war or any big war fought on our land, which helps explain our wealth. But maybe we’re due.

I would claim that working out the various impromptu, unofficial and unwritten agreements that get embedded in the culture in such a way as to allow normal democracy to occur takes a lot of time.

One of the big things is the shared understanding that factions will keep their agreements. If your faction is getting weaker, the best time to fight is right now before you get weaker still. If you make a deal and then when you’re too weak to fight the other side breaks it, maybe you should have fought. Or else accepted the inevitable.

I don’t know how long it will take in any given case. Sometimes we might get a pleasant surprise. We can’t expect it to work out well automatically, but it’s a way that *can* avert fighting, so it’s worth a try.

It certainly took a great deal of time for the United States (and lots of other countries) to work one out – and we waged a mass extermination campaign and kept people as property while doing so. Even a functioning democracy can be a not particularly nice place.

It’s a cheaper alternative to civil war. It can serve that function for despicable people as well as nice guys. Sometimes they fight instead.

I would say the introduction of foreign occupation troops doubles the problem from the single issue of ‘How shall we be governed?’ to two issues, the second of which would be, ‘How the hell do we get rid of these people and/or sucker them into attacking those people we hate over there?’

It depends. When you keep the old police in the job, the ones that were preventing free speech before, that’s a drag on getting democracy started. When you have no policing and let poor people support themselves by kidnapping richer people for ransom, that has drawbacks too.

If you do have occupation soldiers on the street, it’s better if they look professional. They should have clean uniforms and stand tall. If somebody attacks one of them then you quick bring in overwhelming force and catch the perp and put him on trial as a criminal. It’s bad to have frazzled soldiers who’ve just been in a war, who’re primed to shoot everybody in sight when their nerves catch a subliminal signal that something bad is about to happen. And it’s a lot better if the occupation soldiers make it clear that they are here to maintain order for a short time until the locals get their own police organized, and then they will leave.

Well, just think, Jonah, when we had the army there in 1991, we could have backed up the Shia instead of tricking them and there might be a 20-odd-year old democracy in south Iraq, parallel to the one in Kurdistan. Oh, wait, we can’t do that, because we have to maintain the fictional lines in the desert and also DEATH TO IRAN.

Schwartzkopf said he had read up on the diplomatic issues. He made it plain that his job was to weaken Saddam, but leave him strong enough to keep Iran in check. Bush Senior was playing a cautious geopolitical game. At the time it seemed kind of despicable to me. Now I’ve seen worse.

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El Cid 06.29.14 at 5:00 pm

It would be nice if organizations such as newspapers or TV shows gave the slightest damn about the qualifications and intellectual honesty of those they invited to speak and write, but they don’t.

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