Strategic Analysis

by Kieran Healy on August 12, 2007

Good stuff. Someone should hire this guy. (Via Unfogged.)

{ 2 trackbacks }

Cheney on Taking Baghdad « Eating Words
08.12.07 at 11:55 am
How Many Dead Americans Is Sadaam Worth « Eclectics Anonymous
08.13.07 at 3:19 pm



Randy Paul 08.12.07 at 2:57 am

Oh, snap!


alex404 08.12.07 at 4:26 am

I really don’t understand that man.


mcd 08.12.07 at 4:45 am

It’s Cheney’s evil twin brother!


R Why 08.12.07 at 5:24 am

To be the 8 millionth person to rip off Mastercard (and thereby give them a free plug, all in the service of humor).

Dick Cheney’s hubris as VP: millions of dollars, thousands of lives.

Dick Cheney in 1994, talking about Iraq: priceless. No, actually, utterly priceless.


omar shanks 08.12.07 at 5:30 am

I wonder whether our our current vice-president shaved off his goatee before or after eliminating his alter-ego.


Backword Dave 08.12.07 at 10:09 am

Ha! I blogged a Cheney speech to that effect back in January.


"Q" the Enchanter 08.12.07 at 3:45 pm

But everything changed after 9-11.


roger 08.12.07 at 3:51 pm

He was a liar then as well as a liar now. Syria would take Anbar province? Iran fought to take Eastern Iraq? Those propositions are totally absurd. Apparently, during the eight years of war between Iran and Iraq, Cheney didn’t understand the first thing about it. Hint, it started with Iraq attacking Iran, not vice versa.

Of course, at the AEI, they weren’t going to ask about broadcasting a promise to the Shi’ites to support them if they rose up against Hussein and then watch them being slaughtered – an incident that involved a much greater number of deaths than Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait.

The lesson is: Cheney is always wrong, and also can be counted on to say, in a low, growly voice, about two or three lies per every three minutes of interview time. That’s a pretty amazing rate.


Martin Bento 08.12.07 at 5:35 pm

So if Cheney saw the quagmire coming, perhaps the objective was creation of a quagmire – one that would require an indefinite American military presence in heartwarming vicinity to the oil. According to the stuff Ralph Peters has been publishing in places like the Armed Forces Journal, it seems completely redrawing the map of the Mideast is just the thing (ethnic cleansing works! – RP), and one cannot sell that save as a response to turmoil and threat. Even as centrist a voice as Josh Marshall sees building the chaos out as a feature not a bug from the Administration’s perspective. I’m not saying everything has gone according to the Administration’s plan – chaos is easier to unleash than control – but, if Cheney realized all this, perhaps a stable, unified, and democratic Iraq was never plan A.


sappycynic 08.13.07 at 1:43 am

Maybe martin, but I don’t think Bush is that cynical. Exactly how much of his (former) administration is that cynical is hard to say (but Cheney is a safe bet).


Dan Simon 08.13.07 at 5:25 am

I hypothesize that Cheney actually supported invading Iraq in 1991 (or at least regretted by 1994 America’s failure to do so), and recited the standard talking points against invasion in his 1994 interview strictly out of loyalty to the administration in which he served as Secretary of Defense.

It’s also worth remembering that the likely reason Cheney was asked the question in the 1994 interview in the first place was that by then, the decision not to depose Saddam Hussein when the opportunity had arisen looked to most people to have been extremely shortsighted. Indeed, it appeared to have trapped the US in a “quagmire” of sanctions and no-fly-zone enforcement that a march to Baghdad in 1991 might well have avoided.

It’s always nice to think that a simple, sensible strategy would rid the US of whatever terrible problems it’s facing in some region of the world at a given moment, without creating a whole new set of terrible problems in its wake. Unfortunately, being a superpower with global interests means having lots of problems in lots of places pretty much regardless of what you do. Whether the current state of affairs is actually worse than an Iraq still ruled by Saddam Hussein–by now almost surely freed of sanctions, rapidly rebuilding his military capabilities, and cultivating a few radical Islamist allies of his own–is an interesting question.


willie mink 08.13.07 at 5:33 am

Hey dan, could you pass the Kool Aid? It’s getting hot in here.


derrida derider 08.13.07 at 7:29 am

an Iraq still ruled by Saddam Hussein—by now almost surely freed of sanctions, rapidly rebuilding his military capabilities, and cultivating a few radical Islamist allies of his own …

Wrong, wrong, wrong. The alternative to toppling Saddam was coopting him, a la Musharef. He’d be rebuilding alright – with US weapons. Had the neocons not picked on him because he was the wobbliest tenpin in the ME then he’d be a bosom buddy by now, no doubt being used as a base to overthrow Iran or Syria or both with no mention of torture rooms and gassings making the US media.

This notion that he was a friend of al quaeda is a truly bizarre one. In fact the only al quaeda in Iraq before the invasion was where his writ didn’t run – those noble Kurds gave a few of the bastards sanctuary. As a secular socialist he was political Islam’s ideological enemy (the Christian minority in Iraq were for that reason a solid part of his support base – support for which they’re now suffering from the Islamists), and any pragmatic alliance of convenience with them would have lost him far more than he could gain, even assuming that the other side would have been interested.

I’m sorry, dan, but we really shouldn’t have to engage in such deceased equine flagellation at this late stage.


abb1 08.13.07 at 8:50 am

…but I don’t think Bush is that cynical

But wasn’t there a credible report that a few years ago Mr. Bush – personally – came up with the cuckoo idea to paint a US plane in the UN colors and get it shot down over Iraq to justify the upcoming war? How much more cynical can you go?


chris y 08.13.07 at 11:09 am

Incidentally, what’s all this about? I can’t imagine he wants to spend more time with inflict himself on his family.


Glorious Godfrey 08.15.07 at 2:20 pm

I think this is a re-run of a bunch of old threads, but what the fuck, it’s the interwebs and I’m bored.


So if Cheney saw the quagmire coming, perhaps the objective was creation of a quagmire – one that would require an indefinite American military presence in heartwarming vicinity to the oil.

Oh yes, I’ve heard that one. Buuuut…

chaos is easier to unleash than control

You bet! I’d even go as far as to say that it comes with the “chaotic” bit in “chaos”. In fact, the whole idea that creating a quagmire was the whole point all along has a strong whiff of bargain-basement Machiavellism about it i.e. it’s in all likelihood wank.

No alleged “hyperpower” sends its high-tech military into an impoverished country to display its inability to maintain basic law and order and cope with low-level warfare. “Being close to the oil” is not too useful, if the country remains ungovernable and oil companies remain afraid to invest.

The “plan” was to crush the Iraqi army and put on a nice display of overwhelming military might, occupy the country in triumph, and send in the exiles. The Bush people and the neocons may be deceitful, but a subtle lot they ain’t. Iraq is floating on a sea of oil, or so Wolfie told us. Bellum se ipsum alet and all that jazz.

Only after the whole thing went tits up did the desperate attempts to remain relevant begin, in the face of a country descending into chaos. And it remains to be seen whether what looks like standard “divide et impera” antics isn’t really a slow realignment to favour the Sunnis (i.e. after having written the Shia off as strategic allies of Iran).

That centrists like Josh Marshall are willing to accept that spreading bedlam and topsy-turvydom in the Middle East was always part of the script does not prove that the idea is not questionable. It just shows the contortions that people in the Beltway are willing to go through in order not to admit the obvious: that the American military is badly overstretched, and that America’s hegemony is waning, fast.

The fact that many people, even some critics of the war, are willing to buy into the idea has a psychological component as well. We have an instinctive aversion to disorder, absurdity, improvisation. The idea of devious masterminds with layered long-term plans is probably less scary than the idea of ideologues and dilettantes with too much power, flying by the seat of their voluminous pants and generally making shit up as they go along.

Basically, I haven’t read the book, but by all accounts “this guy is right”:

The American empire is often compared with ancient Rome, or the British Empire. Pax Americana, Pax Britannica, Pax Romana, it all sounds terrific. But since silly historical analogies are a dime a dozen, I’ll indulge myself and compare the American travails in the Middle East with the wars waged by Spain in the Netherlands.

In spite of their many setbacks, the Spaniards did manage to retain a strong presence in the region, thanks in no small part to the diplomatic skill of Alejandro Farnesio/Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma. He deftly exploited the divisions among the rebels, secured the support of the southern Catholic nobility, and brought about the Union of Arras (Atrecht). The result of those efforts goes by the name of “Belgium” these days. However, the so-called Eighty-years War caused irreparable damage to the aspirations of the Spanish Habsburgs (which, not unlike those of American empire-heads, were not altogether too realistic to begin with).

I have no doubt that the initiatives of the US in the Middle East, in the course of the next two decades or so, will not be entirely in vain. But they will be little more than onerous attempts at damage-control, in essence. In the rubble of Iraq are the shards of the New American Century.

It certainly shouldn’t serve as a precedent, but I tend to agree with Dan’s assumption that Dick was just toeing the line of the Administration he’d served under.

P.S. I’m sorry I always sort of contradict you, Martin. You actually strike me as a nice, bright chap. In the extremely unlikely case that we ever met in person, I’d stand you a beer for your troubles.

P.P.S. Your reply in the nationalism and social democracy thread was shite, though.


Glorious Godfrey 08.15.07 at 3:02 pm

P.P.P.S. And since mindless reiteration is the new zen, I’ll add yet again that the relative nonchalance with which the true meaning of the Iraqi debacle for American hegemony is appraised is strongly redolent of the lack of seriousness in foreign policy which followed in the wake of Vietnam. Since it became a communist country, its loss did not deal a particularly strong blow to the US, in purely economic terms (that will not necessarily be the case with a resource-rich country like Iraq). But the fact is that after Korea and Vietnam it is pretty much out of the question for the US to wage war, conventional or otherwise, in a region of such capital importance as the Far East. Which makes the usefulness of that bloated military somewhat doubtful…

At any rate, saying that some sort of “Vietnam Syndrome” was the most important consequence of the war is a bit like stating that the main result of the battle of Waterloo was that Napoleon got prone to melancholy moods and developed an addiction to rum on Saint Helena.

18 08.15.07 at 3:12 pm

I’m sure Kieran will be thrilled by this development:


abb1 08.15.07 at 3:41 pm

There might be a bigger “divide et impera” ambition here than you think; not internal to Iraq, but on the scale of the whole region. Total eradication of nasserism/baathism and any form of Arab nationalism.

Whether they actually planned to initiate a mass-slaughter of Arabs by Arabs I don’t know, but Arab nationalism had been their main worry and pain in the ass since the 50s, no question about that. Not anymore.


Glorious Godfrey 08.15.07 at 3:58 pm

Arab nationalism is alive and well, abb1. Listen to Muqtada. These days its more successful strains are no longer secular or socialist, but they remain inimical to American interests all the same.

Do allow me to be facetious. You’re a Marxist, aren’t you? There’s that famous quote by the man himself, about the vampiric behaviour of big capitalist honchos. You appear to have bought into all the elements of the vampire mythos: your imperialists are canny beyond mortal ken, superhumanly patient, and after being thwarted they always come back stronger than ever. They are cool as fuck, basically.


abb1 08.15.07 at 4:55 pm

No, but certainly there are people up there who are being paid for strategizing, making geopolitical calculations and analyzing various big-picture scenarios. At least hundreds, probably thousands of them, working 40 hours/week, making careers out of this kinda thing. It all gets compressed into a five-page summary that some Cheney or Rumsfeld guy gets to read it and this is a part of his input. How important a part I don’t know, but somehow George Kennan had managed to become fairly famous and influential doing exactly this kinda thing.

What do you think, they just go for a beer one day, have too much and decide – hey, let’s invade Iraq! let’s show them all! I suppose Russians might do something like that, but not the Americans. Nah. Americans follow the rules of management, the rules that consist of five-to-seven words and the first letters of each word form another word that’s easy to remember. And one of these words has gotta be “Geopolitics”.


Glorious Godfrey 08.15.07 at 5:51 pm

Sorry, but if you’re just goint to throw back the “they are the pros, and they’re smarter than all of us” line in my face we’re not going to make much progress.

First of all, the US defense and intelligence establishment is a many-headed beast that places self-preservation as one of its main priorities. This has never exerted a particularly salutary influence on decision-making.

Secondly, and more importantly for the matter under discussion, you seem to want to discount the fact that under the Bushies the aforementioned establishment has been taken over and effectively hollowed out by a bunch of well-organized, highly energetic ideologues utterly unwilling to listen to anybody who didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear.

Most important of all is that you just seem unwilling to contemplate the possibility that great powers may be thwarted. But it happens all the time. For example, let us copy&paste with abandon and turn our attention to those Passages from the Classics which Victor Davis Hanson Would Never Quote. Herodotus says:


Glorious Godfrey 08.15.07 at 5:53 pm

After Egypt was subdued, Xerxes, being about to take in hand the expedition against Athens, called together an assembly of the noblest Persians to learn their opinions, and to lay before them his own designs. So, when the men were met, the king spake thus to them:

“… My intent is to throw a bridge over the Hellespont and march an army through Europe against Greece, that thereby I may obtain vengeance from the Athenians for the wrongs committed by them against the Persians and against my father…”

Whereupon Mardonius took the word, and said: “Of a truth, my lord, thou dost surpass, not only all living Persians, but likewise those yet unborn. Most true and right is each word that thou hast now uttered; but best of all thy resolve not to let the Ionians who live in Europe- a worthless crew- mock us any more. It were indeed a monstrous thing if, after conquering and enslaving the Sacae, the Indians, the Ethiopians, the Assyrians, and many other mighty nations, not for any wrong that they had done us, but only to increase our empire, we should then allow the Greeks, who have done us such wanton injury, to escape our vengeance. What is it that we fear in them?- not surely their numbers?- not the greatness of their wealth? We know the manner of their battle- we know how weak their power is… Who then will dare, O king! to meet thee in arms, when thou comest with all Asia’s warriors at thy back, and with all her ships? For my part I do not believe the Greek people will be so foolhardy. Grant, however, that I am mistaken herein, and that they are foolish enough to meet us in open fight; in that case they will learn that there are no such soldiers in the whole world as we. Nevertheless let us spare no pains; for nothing comes without trouble; but all that men acquire is got by painstaking.”

The other Persians were silent; all feared to raise their voice against the plan proposed to them. But Artabanus, the son of Hystaspes, and uncle of Xerxes, trusting to his relationship, was bold to speak:- “O king!” he said, “it is impossible, if no more than one opinion is uttered, to make choice of the best: a man is forced then to follow whatever advice may have been given him; but if opposite speeches are delivered, then choice can be exercised. In like manner pure gold is not recognised by itself; but when we test it along with baser ore, we perceive which is the better. I counselled thy father, Darius, who was my own brother, not to attack the Scyths, a race of people who had no town in their whole land. He thought however to subdue those wandering tribes, and would not listen to me, but marched an army against them, and ere he returned home lost many of his bravest warriors. Thou art about, O king! to attack a people far superior to the Scyths, a people distinguished above others both by land and sea. ‘Tis fit therefore that I should tell thee what danger thou incurrest hereby….

Thus spake Artabanus. But Xerxes, full of wrath, replied to him:-

“Artabanus, thou art my father’s brother- that shall save thee from receiving the due meed of thy silly words. One shame however I will lay upon thee, coward and faint-hearted as thou art- thou shalt not come with me to fight these Greeks, but shalt tarry here with the women. Without thy aid I will accomplish all of which I spake…

[Here begins the whole business with Xerxes’ dream. After Artabanus experiences a divine visitation himself, he says:]

“I, O King! am a man who have seen many mighty empires overthrown by weaker ones; and therefore it was that I sought to hinder thee from being quite carried away by thy youth; since I knew how evil a thing it is to covet more than one possesses. I could remember the expedition of Cyrus against the Massagetae, and what was the issue of it; I could recollect the march of Cambyses against the Ethiops; I had taken part in the attack of Darius upon the Scyths-bearing therefore all these things in mind, I thought with myself that if thou shouldst remain at peace, all men would deem thee fortunate. But as this impulse has plainly come from above, and a heaven-sent destruction seems about to overtake the Greeks, behold, I change to another mind, and alter my thoughts upon the matter. Do thou therefore make known to the Persians what the god has declared, and bid them follow the orders which were first given, and prepare their levies. Be careful to act so that the bounty of the god may not be hindered by slackness on thy part.”

Plus ça change, and all that.


Walt 08.15.07 at 6:16 pm

Never has plagiarism been so eloquent.


abb1 08.15.07 at 6:44 pm

Of course great powers fuck up all the time. And I’m not even saying that destruction of Arab nationalism was their main goal, but it certainly was in there somewhere. Those ‘well-organized, highly energetic ideologues’ are indeed well-organized and so they have their own geopolitical strategists, I’m sure, in addition to the already existing apparatus. You should read some of these ideologues and their comment threads to see how happy they are about the bloodbath there.

Here’s what I just read at the Atrios’:

Jim’s right that civil war has basically been the policy in Iraq. The obsession with training Iraqi security forces was always weird for a variety of reasons, but ultimately we taught a bunch of people to kill each other and provided them with the weapons to do so.

‘Jim’ here is Jim Henley, also a smart guy (like Atrios, I mean). And not a marxist by any stretch of imagination.


Martin Bento 08.16.07 at 7:31 am


The problem with the more modest view of the Bush admin objectives is that they really seem to have had something extreme in mind all along. They’ve been talking since 9/11 about a generational struggle. The only one of those this country has ever had was the Cold War, and that’s because it was a military stalemate. Putting one of our bastards in Iraq to replace Hussein is not a generational struggle; nor is mopping up al queda; indeed, we have to assume Bush has regarded al queda themselves as trivial because they have treated them as such, by picking another fight before that one was won. And they do seem to mean long-term; they’ve been significantly undermining the democratic structure of the country in pursuit of their agenda, and one does not do that for a modest agenda.

Have you seen the Ralph Peters map? Armed Forces Journal itself has taken it down, but you can view it here. This guy teaches at our military academies and apparently this stuff has been spewed in NATO briefings, at least floating the idea. Though presented as a solution to the Mideast’s own problems, it’s really hard not to notice that the bulk of the oil ends up concentrated in a couple of nations that do not even yet exist. And as soon as Israel and Lebanon went at it, Condi was babbling about the birth pangs of a new Middle East, although if there is anything that looks like the same old middle east, it is war between Israel and Lebanon. A stable Iraq, US allied or not, not that it would be if sovereign, doesn’t provide a path to “a new Middle East”, but the current chaos does, or can be so taken. “Creative destruction”, don’t you know? We’re seeing the quagmire used as a pretext to take on Iran right now, even though our own intelligence says most imported arms are coming from SA.

As for the conflict between diversity and social solidarity, when you first commented on that, you expressed surprise that no one else here had attacked me for that statement. Possibly it’s because many here are professional social scientists and were familiar with the empirical research that has been going on in this area and that strongly bears me out. For example, here is an overview from the Boston Globe:

Here is Robert Putnam’s study:

Putnam is ideologically strongly committed to diversity. The data has forced him to conclude – with visible reluctance, but unequivocally – that diversity does in fact undermine social capital. He argues that this effect can be overcome in time by broadening social identities, but that the effect is nonetheless real and quite pronounced.

You’re in Berlin, right? I don’t know when I’ll be in Europe again, but, if I plan to go, I’ll see about looking you up.


abb1 08.16.07 at 12:01 pm

Yeah, Jim Henley says this:

…civil war has been America’s Iraq strategy since at least early 2004. Nobody ever put it in those terms. Nobody probably even thought that’s what they were doing. But what do you think “As they stand up, we’ll stand down,” means, anyway? It means and meant getting Iraqis to fight other Iraqis. We’ve taught Shiites and Kurds – in Iraqi Security Force uniforms – to attack Sunnis. Increasingly we enjoin Shiites to attack other Shiites (ISF vs Mahdi Army) and Sunnis to attack other Sunnis (tribal alliances versus Al-Qaeda in Iraq).

Nobody thought that’s what they were doing? I thought that’s what they were doing! And I was insulted and banned for saying it!

But how did I know, you’ll ask. Simple: apply the the all-powerful and the only true teaching that combines the doctrines of DiaMat, PolitEcon and Class Struggle (not sure how to abbreviate it, ‘ClaStrug’? – 0 hits from google) – and you can never be wrong! Yess, Sir.

Joking, just joking…


Glorious Godfrey 08.16.07 at 12:51 pm

abb1: Joking is good, I do it all the time. I just couldn’t resist the bit about the vampires.

The war party is well organized indeed. But a cursory glance at the output of the AEI and other assorted think-tanks and fora suffices to realise that these people are far better at scratching each other’s backs than at making realistic assessments of foreign policy.

The problems with deliberately fostering civil war are manifold. For example, all those years of rhetorical build-up (about the fecklessness of the UN, the EU or what-have-you, the willingness of the US to provide leadership in human-rights issues, the whole “9-11 changed everything” bit, etc.) are revealed for the charlatanry they’ve always been. Public opinion in the US has got extremely weary of the war, and Rove’s grandiose schemes to bring about a generational shift of the electorate to the right have failed. Do you think that was part of the plan? And not that they matter that much in the grand scheme of things, but after having scorched their arses many of the Decents will think twice before lending their support to another war of choice.

These guys wanted a war on the cheap, and yet the costs of the whole little misadventure are astronomical. Oil production levels will be pathetic for years, and it’s a safe bet to say that the hydrocarbon law is so much waste paper.

Above all, disorder for disorder’s sake makes no sense whatsoever. Or, if I may mangle Lenin, “control is better”. The only important players in Iraq who are willing to do America’s bidding are the Kurds, to an extent, and that carries a high cost (the increasing alienation of one of the regional heavy-hitters, Turkey). Apart from that, the American handlers are keen on leaning on the beleaguered buffoons in the Maliki government, but their influence does not extend much beyond the Green Zone. Iran is the true regional winner of the war, while China and Russia laugh up their sleeves.

The analogy with Spain in the Netherlands is as relevant as any. The US are still far from being lame ducks in the Middle East. And yes, the Bush administration is making strenuous efforts to remain relevant in the face of failure, by exploiting the sectarian conflict. But things aren’t turning out as expected at all, and it’s just not worth it.

Martin: Oh, the Bushies are ambitious indeed. “Everybody wants to go to Baghdad, but real men want to go to Teheran” or something like that. They’ve just broken their leg on the first lap of the circuit loop, is all.

I think I’ve seen the Ralph Peters map (your link doesn’t work). It thought it was basically pie-in-the-sky speculation by somebody who’s played too many games of “Empires in Arms”: at the military academy (great game by Avalon Hill, by the way; when we were young, me and my mates, fellow geeks all, spent way too much time duking it out on the blood-soaked battlefields of Napoleonic Europe, instead of walking in the sun, smelling the flowers and stuff). At the very latest, it began to become difficult to draw political maps without consulting the swarthies after WWII. And IIRC he conveniently blurs the distinction between merely predictive and “normative” analysis (i.e. “what ‘we’ should be doing in this part of the world”). On a purely predictive level, it’s either silly (Iran won’t break up any time soon) or somewhat insipid. It doesn’t take a genius to imagine a Shia state in Southern Iraq, for example. The point is that it wouldn’t be too pro-American, if the attitudes of the Sadrists (who are fervently anti-occupation) or of SCIRI or Dawa (who will work with the US for as long as it’s needed, but who know that Iran has greater staying power, being neighbours and all) are anything to go by.

It would be in bad form to revisit the old thread. Suffice to say that:

a) The important thing to garner support for a welfare state is a sense of community. I don’t think that a traditional sense of nationhood can lead to a sense of community, in the face of increasing diversity. In other, less euphemistical words, to the superpatriots in, say, Texas or Bavaria the Mexicans or the Turks will always be swarthies, no matter how much they may wave the flag of their adoptive countries. Which is to say that traditional notions of nationhood are inextricably bound up with unsavoury nativism and more-or-less overt racism.

b) I think that increasing diversity is inevitable, in this day and age. This has nothing to do with the “nihilistic, relativistic, multicultural” straw men of the right, of course.

c) Fortunately, the welfare state has been around for long enough for it to be able to stand on its own merits. It’s not difficult to manhandle libertarians, and they provide the only serious i.e. consistent ideological response of the right to social democracy.

If you ever visit Berlin, drop me a line and we’ll have a chat.


abb1 08.16.07 at 3:03 pm

Let me clarify that I agree that their original plan probably was to take over and install a proconsul. But it was already clear by the end of 2003 that it wasn’t going to happen. Yet since then something has been going on there for almost 4 years now, they have been doing something, what do you think it is?


Glorious Godfrey 08.16.07 at 3:57 pm

they have been doing something, what do you think it is?

For a while, till the degradation of the situation in 2006? The country was mismanaged, ineffectual war on the Sunni insurgents (which included arming Shia death squads drawn e.g. from the Badr corps) was waged, Muqtada was confronted and emerged all the stronger for it, Allawi was absurdly expected to win the 2005 elections and, as somebody memorably put it, “feathers were pasted together, hoping for a duck”.

It was all an attempt (doomed by corruption, incompetence, libertarian fantasies, Iraq’s complexities and the power vacuum that followed in the wake of the dictator’s fall) to establish an American-led new order, rather than a deliberate plan to sow chaos and discord.

Throughout 2006 and 2007 the Bushies’ frustration with the war and the Shia-dominated governments of Jafaari and Maliki has been growing. With the “surge” they have been pulling out all the stops, and a new willingness to support some Sunni militias (and tolerate the funding of same by the Saudis) has become evident. But this is a matter of having decided that, compared with an Iran that has emerged stronger and bolder from the war , the Sunnis are the lesser evil in the region. It’s by no means clear that the civil war is being promoted as an end in itself. And even if that were the case, it would be a sign of despair, not of things going “according to plan”.

Look, what you just don’t seem willing to admit is that the fuckers are losing. Iraq is a bloody shambles and in that state it’s not particularly useful for any sensible imperial design. Oh, and it sealed the fate of the GOP in the mid-terms. It’s definitely not what they bargained for.

We’re running in circles here, I guess.


abb1 08.16.07 at 5:30 pm

I did admit that their plan A failed. Yes, it failed.

Suppose I decide to spend an evening in a casino. My plan is to hopefully win 10 million euros, but if that doesn’t work out, I’ll have fun, free drinks and maybe get lucky with a waitress. Suppose in the end I lost 50 euros, but got plenty of drinks and a good-looking waitress; it was a lot of fun. What just happened? Did I win or did I lose?


Glorious Godfrey 08.17.07 at 10:00 am

Hitting on waitresses as a metaphor of foreign policy is sheer genius, admittedly. I don’t think it’s too accurate, however.

Plan A failed, and plan B is shite. You see, in foreign policy as in other domains, states are somewhat ponderous entities. There’s not much wiggle room between success and failure, when one embarks on bold military adventures.

Your hipothetical punter has lost far more than just 50 euros, the casino is in ruins, and the waitress is that verrucose Saudi wench he (somewhat half-heartedly) vowed never to sleep with again. And the disenfranchised croupiers are unionizing, with support from a shady guy of Persian descent.

And I reckon that we’re sounding silly. We should give it a rest, perhaps.


Martin Bento 08.18.07 at 7:34 am

I’m not going to take the time for a long reply here, as I’m not sure of what’s going on, but I too think there was a plan A and a plan B. Plan A seemed to be to put Chalabi in charge, but was that viable? It seems like Chalabi would be a natural to run Shiastan, if anything, more than the country as a whole. The fly in this ointment was Sistani, who pushed for actual elections. When we thwacked the Sadr hornets nest, we needed Sistani to talk him down from the brink, so Sistani got a lot more clout. Personally, that’s why I think there were elections before Bush had gotten the things he wanted irreversible in place ( military bases and oil contracts). Frankly, I don’t see sowing chaos as a rational plan, but I don’t see what they evidently did plan as rational either. As for Bush’s “losing”; he just got Congress to gut FISA for him; the Dems have used their new position to take partial ownership of the war; and now his boy is in charge of the UN. I wouldn’t say he is unequivocally losing; the situation is still highly fluid.

On the other point, if the welfare state is based on a sense of community, but that sense does not come from the constructed identities of the nation state, whence does it come? Since it is the government that provides the welfare, it is hard to see how the underlying allegiance is going to be utterly separated from allegiance to the government or to the unity of people that the government theoretically represents.

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