War credits

by John Quiggin on September 14, 2007

Now that everyone has finally agreed that Iraq is another Vietnam, we can move on to the next point which is that, having lost the war, the war party in the US is going to blame their domestic opponents, just like they did after Vietnam.[1] The only difference is that the war-peace divide now matches the partisan division between Republicans and Democrats.

In this setting, the idea of looking for a compromise is just silly. The Republicans have made it clear that they don’t want one. Even the dwindling group of alleged moderates aren’t going to vote for anything that would seriously constrain Bush. So, the Democrats can choose between acting to stop the war now, or inheriting it in 2009 [2] . There’s no possibility of pushing anything serious past the Senate filibuster, let alone override a veto.

The only real option, apart from continued acquiescence, is for Congress to fulfil its constitutional role and refuse to pay more for this endless war, starting with the $50 billion in supplementary funding Bush is asking for. There’s no need for any Republican votes, just for the Democrats to stick together and stand firm. That hasn’t been the Democratic way for a long time, but maybe its time now. Certainly, the majority of Americans want to get out of Iraq, just as, in the end, they wanted out of Vietnam.

1. In this context, it’s notable that despite the revisionism of the war party, there’s no evidence that Americans have changed their minds about Vietnam. The great majority still see it as a mistake, just as they did when the war ended

2, I suppose the counterargument is that, by doing what they were elected to do in 2006, the Democrats will wreck their presidential and congressional chances in 2008. If so, perhaps they should give up now.

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{ 85 comments }

1

roger 09.14.07 at 7:03 pm

John, you are totally right about the supplemental. More, the Dems should divert at least half of military spending on the war to creating conditions that will staunch the bloodbath that has been going on in Iraq and deal with the consequences. The worst consequences are, of course, the forced movement of people internally and externally – which requires having the courage to grant Syria and Iran billions of dollars to deal with refugees, and make available similar grants to provinces inside Iraq – and the horrendous state of the infrastructure. The latter can only be dealt with after the Americans give up the idea that only Americans can and should be fixing the Iraqi infrastructure.

Unfortunately, what should be done as a humanitarian policy in Iraq goes counter to what it is possible to expect from Americans. Just as the past bloodbath can be laid squarely on the D.C. elite, which is complicit in the death of half a million Iraqis, the future bloodbath is being promoted by the Americans and will no doubt kill another half a million. The lesson is that the U.S. is a rogue nation. The question is: should it be invaded? Should we install another government in the place? Perhaps move the capital from D.C.? Institute a soft partition?

2

abb1 09.14.07 at 7:12 pm

Politically, of course, it’s a no-brainer: let the war continue; heck, let them start another war – with Iran – and see the Republican party destroyed completely. No, in the next 16 months only the Republicans can end the war.

3

roger 09.14.07 at 7:16 pm

ps – as I remember it, CT, in 2002, was slightly for invading, due to the humanitarian case against Hussein. So I do wonder, now that there is a tremendous humanitarian case against the U.S., if invasion of the U.S. should be considered. A nice little intervention.

Or is that for lesser breeds outside the law?
I wonder what the… well, decent position would be.

4

Grand Moff Texan 09.14.07 at 7:26 pm

In this setting, the idea of looking for a compromise is just silly.

Unless you can count.
.

5

Grand Moff Texan 09.14.07 at 7:29 pm

1. There’s no need for any Republican votes, just for the Democrats to stick together and stand firm. That hasn’t been the Democratic way for a long time, but maybe its time now.

I forget where I saw this, but in terms of actual votes, the present Dem. leadership has presided over a historically remarkable period of unity, and Bush has the worst record of getting his way with this Congress than any president in decades.

Two articles, read them weeks apart, can’t locate them now.

2. The revisionism of the war party isn’t aimed at the American public, but instead at disciplining the political class, including the commentariat. Much, much easier.
.

6

John Quiggin 09.14.07 at 7:34 pm

GMT, I agree the Democrats have been much more unified in this Congress than previously. That’s why I think there’s some chance that they could actually do this. On #2 you’re right, of course.

7

Grand Moff Texan 09.14.07 at 7:43 pm

John: I guess my main kvetch is that you’re assuming greater unity (and desire for unity) among Republicans, discrete noises of late to the contrary.

Never attack an opponent without giving them a route of retreat that is advantageous to you. In this case, that means giving the GOP in Congress the choice between abandoning Bush and political death.
.

8

Jay Livingston 09.14.07 at 7:53 pm

war-peace divide now matches the partisan division between Republicans and Democrats. This must refer only to Republicans and Democrats in Congress, not in the country at large. That 60-65% of the public who think that the war was a mistake, that Bush misled the country and botched the war — they can’t all be Democrats.

9

Timothy Burke 09.14.07 at 8:02 pm

I guess this is why I keep focusing on winning the peace–the political peace, that is. Which means right now the important thing is to keep the Bush Administration on the hot seat, and leave them the clear responsibility for the war. Let them do whatever the hell they want, since there isn’t anything they actually can do to fix this clusterfuck at this date.

So I would say the Dems should be focusing on three other things besides a scenario for troop withdrawals:

1. Ensuring this Administration has no avenue for pursuing voluntary military action elsewhere in its remaining time in office. This is Job #1.

2. Exposure of every mistake and miscalculation in the Iraq war, Afghanistan and associated ventures from 2001 to 2007. Use the fact-finding capacities of Congress, which can’t be blocked by Republican filibuster or anything else, and keeps the Administration under pressure–plus it helps to keep clear who is responsible for all of the blunders.

3. Concerted attempts to roll back the Administration’s assertions of executive power. That’s why the Dems rolling over and playing dead on FISA was so stupid. That’s one of the areas they should be fighting hard on.

But concentrating on a particular scenario for troop withdrawal doesn’t gain them anything–and it makes it easier for the Republicans to hang the inevitable crises that will follow on withdrawal on the Democratic president who takes office in 2009. They *can’t* force the Administration to withdraw now with the current balance of power in the Senate, so don’t make it the centerpiece of their critical response to the war.

10

Uncle Kvetch 09.14.07 at 8:04 pm

Certainly, the majority of Americans want to get out of Iraq, just as, in the end, they wanted out of Vietnam.

But do the majority of the Democrats in the House and Senate actually want to get out of Iraq? Where “getting out” means “getting out”–no residual forces, no permanent bases, no training or advisement or consultation, no nothing?

I’m not being flippant–I think it’s very much an open question how many Dems really want to get out as opposed to slimming down the occupation to something more manageable and less politically costly. Obama’s speech the other day was pretty straightforward in this regard: “We will need to retain some forces in Iraq and the region.” So whence this assumption that “the Democrats” want to “get out of Iraq”?

11

save_the_rustbelt 09.14.07 at 8:07 pm

Viet Nam was a bipartisan mess, although the GOP was in charge when the clock ran out.

Iraq is 100% GOP.

Do not assume that all Republicans are supporters of the Iraq war or of Bush.

If the Dems cut off the money, exactly how do we move 160,000 troops (and hardware) out in an orderly and safe manner? Someone should be working on an answer.

12

Uncle Kvetch 09.14.07 at 8:11 pm

Politically, of course, it’s a no-brainer: let the war continue; heck, let them start another war – with Iran – and see the Republican party destroyed completely.

Whereupon the whole bloody mess becomes a “Democrat war,” with the result that the Democratic party is destroyed completely too.

Hey, now that I think about it…

13

John 09.14.07 at 8:14 pm

Yes. Certainly the most important thing about a war is wresting domestic political advanatage.

14

Uncle Kvetch 09.14.07 at 8:16 pm

If you’re addressing me, John, I implied no such thing. Quite the reverse, in fact.

15

abb1 09.14.07 at 8:52 pm

Whereupon the whole bloody mess becomes a “Democrat war,”

No, I don’t think it does, not necessarily. In 2009 they scale down and become heroes, the long national nightmare is over. They’ll be using cruise missiles instead of marines and everyone’s happy.

16

bi 09.14.07 at 9:09 pm

“If the Dems cut off the money, exactly how do we move 160,000 troops (and hardware) out in an orderly and safe manner? Someone should be working on an answer.”

Yeah, because either you don’t give money, or you have to give the money unconditionally, right?

17

Grand Moff Texan 09.14.07 at 9:11 pm

Certainly the most important thing about a war is wresting domestic political advanatage [sic].

“Advanatage” doesn’t have to be political, you know. Decent people keep their politics out of advanatage.
.

18

arthur 09.14.07 at 9:19 pm

In the Senate (which has 100 members) there are 51 members of the Democratic Caucus, but only 49 Democrats. One of the two independents, Senator Leiberman of Connecticut, is emphatically a Republican on Iraq issues. The Democrats have 50 votes on Iraq at most. Vice President Cheney breaks ties in the Senate. The Democrats should oppose all war funding for the War, but they can’t stop it.

19

John Quiggin 09.14.07 at 9:23 pm

Arthur, the war funding needs a majority in both houses. The House Democrats can reject it outright. That’s why, although it’s politically tougher, rejecting the funding is the constitutionally correct way to go.

20

abb1 09.14.07 at 9:37 pm

The Democrats have 50 votes on Iraq at most.

Hagel would probably vote to cut the funding. Except that many Democrats in the Senate wouldn’t, so the point is moot.

21

Ben Alpers 09.14.07 at 9:40 pm

Iraq is 100% GOP.

Nonsense.

This war was approved by a Democratic-controlled Senate in 2002. Both then House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and then Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (as well as current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) voted to authorize the war. I believe that Bob Shrum has since written that in the fall of 2002, DC Democratic consultants nearly unanimously favored war with Iraq.

In 2004, the Democrats chose not to nominate any of the antiwar candidates (e.g. Dean, Sharpton, Braun, Kucinich, and Graham). The 2004 Democratic platform not only failed to call for an immediate end to the war, it even refused to call the war a mistake (explicitly saying that people of goodwill can disagree on whether or not the war was a good idea).

Before the new, Democratic-controlled Congress met in January, Nancy Pelosi explicitly took defunding off the table. And, despite a brief attempt to add non-binding deadlines to the first Iraq supplemental they considered, they’ve been writing blank checks for this war ever since.

22

Chris Bertram 09.14.07 at 9:44 pm

Roger:

_as I remember it, CT, in 2002, was slightly for invading, due to the humanitarian case against Hussein._

CT started on July 8th, 2003, so you remember wrong.

23

Nell 09.14.07 at 9:49 pm

I suppose the counterargument is that, by doing what they were elected to do in 2006, the Democrats will wreck their presidential and congressional chances in 2008. If so, perhaps they should give up now.

Harry Reid appears to have done so.

24

Grand Moff Texan 09.14.07 at 9:57 pm

This war was approved by a Democratic-controlled Senate in 2002.

If you are referring to the AUMF, a majority of Democrats voted against it in both houses.

And I’m not even going to dignify “immediate” with so much as snark.
.

25

c.l. ball 09.14.07 at 10:12 pm

The Dems are in a real bind now. If they refuse to pass the supplemental, what happens next? Does Bush order a withdrawal? In prior cases when Congress has barred the expenditure of appropriated funds for combat (a positive action, not blocking a spending bill as we are discussing here), the troops were already out (Vietnam) or the president had already decided to withdraw them (Somalia). Iraq presumably gets worse and them Dems get blamed.

Or does he make presidential prerogative ploy/play (and he would have some good arguments since troops are deployed under Congressional authorization and Congress has not legislated their withdrawal, even via the purse yet)? The Dems don’t want a constitutional crisis. If so, they could have proceeded with impeachment or censure motions long ago.

Dems got blamed for Vietnam because they both started it and sought to end it. LBJ began the US side of the war, it went sour, and then the Dem. Congress sought to reduce commitments under Nixon. Dems ended up being blamed for waging it badly and then hindering the GOP’s war effort. Today, the blame for its initiation and course lies squarely with the Bush admin. The political problem is to avoid the perception that the Dems are bringing about the defeat that the GOP all but insured. And that’s hard to do when they are forcing the president’s hand by denying supplementals.

26

nick s 09.14.07 at 10:32 pm

I suppose the counterargument is that, by doing what they were elected to do in 2006, the Democrats will wreck their presidential and congressional chances in 2008. If so, perhaps they should give up now.

There’s even a political argument: a win in 2008 that inherits Bush’s war on Bush’s terms isn’t going to be worth shit.

In fact, there’s a curious kind of game theory going on, in which the Republican contenders manage to be sufficiently batshit that the obviously sensible course of action — allow one of them to inherit the poison chalice — is untenable.

27

luci 09.14.07 at 10:48 pm

To Authorize the Use of Force against Iraq in 2002:

Senate:

58% of Democrats voted for (29 to 21)
98% of Republicans voted for (48 to 1)

In the House:

39% of Democrats voted for (81 to 126)
97% of Republicans voted for (215 to 6)

28

e julius drivingstorm 09.14.07 at 11:51 pm

The vote was for authorization based on a “cooked” NIE. Legislators who apologized for or regret their votes are regretting that they were not able to see through the frame-up or that their idea of “as a last resort” turned out to be the administration’s first resort.

29

dogfacegeorge 09.15.07 at 12:52 am

Can’t the Dems filibuster a supplemental? If so, then they need but 41 Senate votes to stop the $50B request.

And can’t they bottle it up in committee? If so, they only need a majority of a committee.

30

roger 09.15.07 at 1:07 am

Chris, you are right. I remember that there were a lot of sympathetic posts about people like Norman Geras at the beginning of CT, and there was a sympathy towards liberal interventionism – but you yourself came out in the end against the war (unlike a few other CT-ers).

However, the interventionist problem still stands. There was always some wack about a system in which the actors also get to be judges. Consider what the U.S. would look like now if it wasn’t a superpower – it would have a torture camp, it would be selling nuclear materials to countries like India, which are not members of any nuclear treaty, its president would be threatening another country, Iran, and the leading contenders in his party would be making jokes about bombing that country, it would have fought a war in another country that produced 4 million refugees, 2 million of them outside the country, and it would continue to refuse to acknowledge this fact or any responsibility for that fact. In other words, we would be dealing with Sudan. But, of course, there is no hope, practically, that the U.S. or its leadership will suffer for any of this. There will be no arrests on human rights issues; the U.S. will never pay a dime to Iran or Syria or Jordan, in compensation for the refugee problem; it will distribute weapons of mass destruction as it sees fit; and it will continue to try to start wars in the Middle East. The war starting is for special rogue states – Libya likes to do that.

This war has exposed the blindness of those who dreamed of some liberal international order, as one of the fundamental rules of law – equality – is systematically violated. There are no mechanisms to constrain the U.S. as it engages in inhuman and criminal behavior on a mass scale – that has become evident.

31

roger 09.15.07 at 1:08 am

Chris, you are right. I remember that there were a lot of sympathetic posts about people like Norman Geras at the beginning of CT, and there was a sympathy towards liberal interventionism – but you yourself came out in the end against the war (unlike a few other CT-ers).

However, the interventionist problem still stands. There was always something wack about a system in which the actors also get to be judges. Consider what the U.S. would look like now if it wasn’t a superpower – it would have a torture camp, it would be selling nuclear materials to countries like India, which are not members of any nuclear treaty, its president would be threatening another country, Iran, and the leading contenders in his party would be making jokes about bombing that country, it would have fought a war in another country that produced 4 million refugees, 2 million of them outside the country, and it would continue to refuse to acknowledge this fact or any responsibility for that fact. In other words, we would be dealing with Sudan. But, of course, there is no hope, practically, that the U.S. or its leadership will suffer for any of this. There will be no arrests on human rights issues; the U.S. will never pay a dime to Iran or Syria or Jordan, in compensation for the refugee problem; it will distribute weapons of mass destruction as it sees fit; and it will continue to try to start wars in the Middle East. The war starting is for special rogue states – Libya likes to do that.

This war has exposed the blindness of those who dreamed of some liberal international order, as one of the fundamental rules of law – equality – is systematically violated. There are no mechanisms to constrain the U.S. as it engages in inhuman and criminal behavior on a mass scale – that has become evident.

32

bi 09.15.07 at 5:29 am

“The political problem is to avoid the perception that the Dems are bringing
about the defeat that the GOP all but insured. And that’s hard to do
when
they are forcing the president’s hand by denying supplementals.”

I guess, even if they don’t the deny supplemental funding, the people who’ll have this “perception” will still believe that the GOP is to be praised for Iraq’s (now) “success”. So is there really anything to lose by denying supplementals?

33

Ben Alpers 09.15.07 at 5:55 am

The Democrats are caught between two “perceptions”…

The (GOP talkingpoint) “perception” that anything they do to end the war is a stab-in-the-back.

And the perception (held by me and others) that as a party they are not actually opposed to this war.

As to GMT’s response to my earlier comment…

If you are referring to the AUMF, a majority of Democrats voted against it in both houses.

No. As Luci pointed out a majority of Senate Democrats voted for the AUMF in October 2002.

And I’m not even going to dignify “immediate” with so much as snark.

I don’t think I have to dignify this non-argument with a counterargument, but I will anyway.

I had said that the 2004 Democratic Platform did not support immediate withdrawal. Obviously by “immediate” I meant what advocates of immediate withdrawal have meant from the start: leaving as quickly as is practically possible, starting now. And, yes, I think that was the reasonable position to take in 2004.

Instead, the Democratic Platform (a .pdf is available here) suggested ways in which we could fight the war more effectively (by, e.g., “truly internationalizing” the occupying forces in the country).

So I stand by my earlier comment. The anti-war position in the summer of 2004–the correct position, IMO–was immediate withdrawal. That was not the Democrats’ position. More importantly, today it is still the right position and it is still not the Democrats position as a party.

34

bad Jim 09.15.07 at 6:15 am

A suggestion from Mark Kleiman, via Digby:

Take, for example, the Webb Amendment, forbidding troops from being required to serve tours in Iraq longer than the spells between tours. If passed, it would force a troop drawdown by spring.

The Democrats should offer the Webb Amendment when the Defense Appropriation comes up. If the Republicans want to filibuster, fine. Don’t pull the amendment. Just let them keep filibustering. As long as the amendment is on the floor, there can be no vote on the bill itself. Keep calling cloture votes, one per day. After a few days, start asking how long the Republicans intend to withhold money to fund troops in the field in order to pursue their petty partisan agenda.

The point is that the appropriations bill needs only a majority to pass.

35

LordActon 09.15.07 at 7:48 am

alpers suggests;

“The anti-war position in the summer of 2004—
the correct position, IMO—was immediate
withdrawal. That was not the Democrats’
position. More importantly, today it is
still the right position and it is still
not the Democrats position as a party.”

And he is 100% correct. If there was a “D”
President now, the parties roles would be
completely reversed. With the “R”s lamenting
how absurd nation building is and the “D”s
insisting that we ‘stay the course’.

It’s all politics of course. What else do
you EXPECT from a group of politicians? Not
a single “D”n nor a single “R” will do even
the littlest thing that might cause him or
her to be ‘un-elected’.

. . .

Roger suggests that the rest of the world
needs to invade the USA, as it is a rouge
nation.

Good luck on that.

So, Roger, have you joined your nation’s armed
forces yet? Or are you merely a “chicken hawk”
who wants to send other young men to their deaths
for the sake of ideology?

36

abb1 09.15.07 at 8:17 am

Not
a single “D”n nor a single “R” will do even
the littlest thing that might cause him or
her to be ‘un-elected’.

Now, that’s a bit much. I’m sure there are always a few freaks willing to commit political suicide, but the number is negligible.

37

hidari 09.15.07 at 10:49 am

Since we have now decided that Iraq is Vietnam, does this mean that Iran is Cambodia?

38

dsquared 09.15.07 at 11:22 am

more like China.

39

soru 09.15.07 at 11:27 am

The script the administration, and parts of the military, seems to be working from has Iran as North Vietnam.

I doubt it is a conscious thing for domestic political advantage. They just really think in that kind of pattern: all wars must match one of the 4 known wars in the history books. If it’s not the ARW, WWII, or the civil war, it must be vietnam. Consequently, things that were true about North Vietnam must be true about Iran:

1. it wants to unify with the other half of what it sees as one country

2. it is sponsoring the majority of the violence

3. it is part of a political block that is both evil and irreconciably opposed to the US

4. the above truths will be denied by moderates, who have the power to prevent you acting on them.

Questionable when applied to North/South Vietnam, nonsense when applied to Iran/Iraq.

40

Alan K. Henderson 09.15.07 at 2:11 pm

Now that everyone has finally agreed that Iraq is another Vietnam

That’s not true. Many antiwar types drew parallels between the two conflicts. Bush (not the first to do so) drew parallels between two military pullouts, one hypothetical and one historic.

41

roger 09.15.07 at 2:44 pm

Actually, LordActon, my suggestion is that the liberal interventionist theory of invading rogue nations is an idea with a fatal flaw. The fatal flaw is that some nations, notably the U.S., are going to be exempt no matter what they do.

42

bi 09.15.07 at 3:08 pm

Alan K. Henderson:

Eh? I thought Bush is saying that Iraq is a swimming success? Or does Bush think that getting out of Iraq will be like Vietnam, while getting into Iraq was like the Reconquista? I’m surprised your brain hasn’t exploded yet.

43

LordActon 09.16.07 at 12:56 am

Roger explained:

“Actually, LordActon, my suggestion is that
the liberal interventionist theory of invading
rogue nations is an idea with a fatal flaw. The
fatal flaw is that some nations, notably the
U.S., are going to be exempt no matter what
they do.”

Other than the fact that ‘invading’ ANY nation
is a ‘liberal’ idea, I get your point. I would
imagine that only conservatives as extreme as
Ron Paul would consider President Bush a ‘liberal’.

But I will concede you are correct. It is
unlikely the English will consider invading the
U.S. for a third time. Two lopsided losses
is enough for them.

The proper textbook action to take with ‘rouge’
states is to isolate or boycott them. Which
seems to work as long as the U.S. joins in the
boycott too. South Africa; Lybia.

But, as the Cuba example shows, a boycott by
ONLY the U.S. will also fail.

44

Alan K. Henderson 09.16.07 at 6:07 am

Eh? I thought Bush is saying that Iraq is a swimming success?

Bush has said all along that we’re making progress in Iraq, which is the case, but I don’t recall any “swimming success” comments. (Otherwise there would have been no call for a troop surge.) We did win a bunch of battles in Vietnam, but we never toppled the North Vietnamese regime and never even tried – a massive difference between that war and this one – so we didn’t really make any progress in that war aside from obliterating the Viet Cong insurgents (which ironically was enabled by the Tet invasion).

Or does Bush think that getting out of Iraq will be like Vietnam, while getting into Iraq was like the Reconquista?

That’s the strawiest of straw men. Nobody is comparing Iraq to the Reconquista. We’re not driving the Arabs and Persians out of Iraq as the Moors were driven from Spain.

Why don’t you respond to something I actually wrote? Antiwar types have long compared the Iraq War to the Vietnam War. Conservatives (including me) have long compared an Iraqi pullout to the Vietnamese pullout in that a fragile Iraq would be vulnerable to conquest as a vulnerable Vietnam was (albeit to multiple threats like Iran and al-Qaeda and not just one as in the case of S. Vietnam).

45

hidari 09.16.07 at 7:47 am

‘fragile Iraq would be vulnerable to conquest’.

Again? And given that Iraq was unable to defend itself against the US conquest, and the US have now annihilated the Iraqi economy and military, how do you square your sudden concern for Iraq being ‘conquered’ with the fact that American actions over the last few years have obviously made such a situation more likely?

(PS I am assuming you are using the strange use of the word ”conqueror’ much beloved by American nationalists (like the words ‘invade’ or ‘terrorist’) by which these words can never, ever, be applied to the United States).

46

bi 09.16.07 at 7:54 am

LordActon:

“Nobody is comparing Iraq to the Reconquista. We’re not driving the Arabs and Persians out of Iraq as the Moors were driven from Spain.”

Oh, but we’re not fighting the Communists in Iraq either, so why’s it suddenly proper to compare pulling out of Iraq to pulling out of Vietnam? (Anyway, just to clarify, I was referring to the success of the Reconquista, rather than the actions themselves.)

And in any case, why’s it that only the pullout of Iraq should be compared to Vietnam, and not the rest of the war? And even if this totally lopsided analogy holds, why should remaining in Iraq will produce any better results than remaining in Vietnam?

It’s the IOKIYAR rule again, right? Whatever argument the Republicans come up with is axiomatically correct?

47

bad Jim 09.16.07 at 7:58 am

Huh? Vietnam did us the favor of kicking out the Khmer Rouge. How many Nike plants are there now, anyway? Checks labels on sneakers.

The current American occupation of Iraq is so deadly on a daily basis that its sudden cessation would be utter relief. Roughly a million dead in internecine violence, several millions exiled or displaced, and this administration thinks we ought to stay there for another fifty years.

48

goatchowder 09.16.07 at 9:08 am

A “rouge” nation?

I’ve heard of putting perfume on the pig, but never rouge.

49

abb1 09.16.07 at 10:01 am

…in that a fragile Iraq would be vulnerable to conquest as a vulnerable Vietnam was

Alan, are you saying Vietnam was conquered by someone after US pullout? But it wasn’t.

I guess you’re talking about the puppet government in Iraq that’s likely to fall, right? But that’s, you know, the whole point of a pullout after any unsuccessful colonialist war; not a bug, but the main point: after colonial power leaves the natives get to choose their own leaders. Or they can join Iran, if they want; I don’t see how it’s any of your business.

50

Order of Magnitude 09.16.07 at 5:10 pm

Iraq as Vietnam?

Iraq costs less than 1% of GDP and took less than 4000 American deaths in its 3 1/2 years. We are talking orders of magnitude differences or does that not register?!

51

bi 09.16.07 at 8:33 pm

Huh? We’re now counting only _American_ deaths? And even if we only count American deaths, pulling out of Iraq will mean that there will be _0.0000_ further American deaths due to violence in Iraq.

But as always, the ways of Republican “logic” are beyond human understanding, ergo We should remain in Iraq.

52

soru 09.16.07 at 8:35 pm

Alan, are you saying Vietnam was conquered by someone after US pullout? But it wasn’t.

You know the conquest of a country is successful when people on the other side of the world consider the state you conquered to have been a temporary illegitimate entity with no name.

53

abb1 09.16.07 at 8:40 pm

Hmm, orders of magnitude?

WaPo, 2006: Annual war costs in Iraq are easily outpacing the $61 billion a year that the United States spent in Vietnam between 1964 and 1972, in today’s dollars.

Number of deaths is low, but the total casualty rate is probably in the ballpark.

54

abb1 09.16.07 at 8:51 pm

Soru, would you at least agree that the entity was temporary? And if it was indeed so great and legitimate, why didn’t its population defend it a bit more vigorously?

55

Ciarán 09.16.07 at 8:55 pm

Order of Magnitude, the people of Iraq will join us all, I’m sure, in expressing their relief that the toll on Americans has been so slight.

56

abb1 09.16.07 at 9:17 pm

LAT column about the politics of this thing: Will Iraq sink the GOP?

…said Glen Bolger, a prominent GOP pollster who specializes in Senate races. “It is going to be extraordinarily advantageous for the Democrats and extraordinarily difficult for the Republicans . . . to still have significant numbers of troops there [during the election].”

Similar, if more cautiously phrased, attitudes were evident last week from Republican senators facing reelection in 2008, such as Alexander, Collins, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Gordon Smith of Oregon and even Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina.

See, considering this, how can a rational individual expect the Democrats to take any radical steps towards ending the war before the election? Not gonna happen.

57

Alan K. Henderson 09.17.07 at 12:00 pm

It’s the IOKIYAR rule again, right?

(Googling IOKIYAR…)

Well, I don’t think it’s okay for either party to abandon nations we promised to defend, or to wage wars without invading the Bad Guy (both Nixon and LBJ were guilty of that one), so I don’t know where that comment came from.

Alan, are you saying Vietnam was conquered by someone after US pullout? But it wasn’t.

Ah, I worded that a bit sloppily. South Vietnam was conquered by someone after US pullout. Y’all probably figured out that’s what I meant.

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Alan K. Henderson 09.17.07 at 12:25 pm

Since nobody’s challenged my initial statement, does that mean that we all agree that the hawks and antiwar types aren’t making the same Iraq-Vietnam comparisons, contrary to what’s said in the opening line in this post?

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soru 09.17.07 at 6:19 pm

And if it was indeed so great and legitimate, why didn’t its population defend it a bit more vigorously?

Does that logic of fighting back insufficiently successfully apply to other countries too?

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bi 09.17.07 at 6:27 pm

Jeez, Alan K. Henderson is now playing the “I’m wrong, but I’m still right!” schtick. When you throw out a bunch of bogus arguments and they get refuted, just throw out some more bogus arguments which have nothing to do with the original bogus arguments! Rinse, wash, repeat!

And yeah, John Quiggin’s words are “not true”, period, while Henderson’s words are only “worded that a bit sloppily”, but are ‘basically’ true or something.

With this sort of “logic”, who needs facts?

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abb1 09.17.07 at 7:47 pm

I don’t know, what other countries, Soru – Koreas? China and Taiwan? United States and Confederate States? I don’t see a problem if a country splits into two ideologically opposite territories; but again: if one half is only supported by an external force and not by its population, than it’s failed, simple as that. Wasn’t viable.

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soru 09.17.07 at 9:27 pm

How about the native americans? Did the fact they fought insufficiently well make it morally right to take their lands?

Or the US itself? Washington’s militia couldn’t defeat King George’s army, had to get the French to do that for them. Does that make the US less of a legitimate country?

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Order of Magnitude 09.18.07 at 3:17 am

bi: Huh? We’re now counting only American deaths? And even if we only count American deaths, pulling out of Iraq will mean that there will be 0.0000 further American deaths due to violence in Iraq.

Yes, the debate is about our money and our countrymen’s blood sacrifices. If you really cared about Iraqi’s suffering you would be on the side of liberal intervionism which you seem not to be on.

abb1: It’s not enough to look in inflation adjusted dollars but also as a fraction of GDP.

abb1: The casualty rate is hard to compare. Improvements in battlefield medicine mean that some highly traumatized soldiers survive when comparable injuries in VN might have been fatal.
Numerically, there were 211,000 wounded in VN and 27000 wounded in Iraq through Sep 07.

ciaran: I am in awe of your piercing intellect and fine sarcasm. That said, I am indeed glad the toll on Americans has been so slight.

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bi 09.18.07 at 4:26 am

Order of Magnitude:

“Yes, the debate is about our money and our countrymen’s blood sacrifices.”

So again, why not pull out of Iraq to prevent more American deaths due to Iraq?

“If you really cared about Iraqi’s suffering you would be on the side of liberal intervionism which you seem not to be on.”

What’s so “liberal” about this invasion again? The total lack of a coherent post-war plan? The hiring of Blackwater mercenaries? The hatred for the scientists behind the _Lancet_ study?

More Republican “logic”…

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Order of Magnitude 09.18.07 at 7:07 am

bi: “What’s so “liberal” about this invasion again? The total lack of a coherent post-war plan? The hiring of Blackwater mercenaries? The hatred for the scientists behind the Lancet study?”

Lest you missed it in a fit of righteous indignation I was talking about liberal INTERVENTIONISM not liberal ideology in general.

A clear case for liberal interventionism was the bombing of Serbia and its proxies twice in the Balkan wars of the 1990s. With minimal loss of American blood and treasure a tyrant like Milosevic was toppled, the ethnic cleansing, rape camps and general devastation associated with his regime were ended and Serbia received a shock that might just bring it out of the nationalist nightmare into which it slid in the late 1980s through the 1990s. The one flaw of that intervention was that it occurred only after ~250,000 lives were lost.

Rwanda was a case of missed liberal interventionism, Sudan is another. I do believe we should have intervened in Rwanda and we should (still) intervene in Sudan. I doubt the US would do it alone and everybody else (as usual) is all talk and no action. By the way the loonies in San Francisco were marching against the Balkan campaigns at the time.

There was a case to be made for toppling Saddam based on liberal interventionism.

More to your questions. I agree w/ you that post war plannig was abysmal — there is no empiric doubt about that.

I do not completely understand the implications of privatised militaries so I will refrain from commenting.

Re: Lancet, I happen to have read it for years (unlike you, I dare presume) then I dropped it (prior to and unrelated to the Iraq papers) because there are many better journals relative to time available. It is a moderately important technical journal with an editorial line that is very Euro left — activist doctors in the in the social-democratic school. That is their right but it is important to point out. Every now and then they have a good RCT or review.

Funny thing was that the two papers by that group were published with uncanny timing before US elections by expedited peer review. I am not an expert on the sampling methodology used by the authors and I presume you are not one either. A large part of reading medical articles on ANY topic is dissecting the methodology and there were substantial doubts about those two papers and how well the findings would stand the test of time. Their utility was to attempt to influence US electoral debate in ways Eurosocialists would find congenial.

Desperate European attempts to influence our elections are a reflection of their impotent realization that these are the only elections that matter.

I am willing to bet that something like that will be published (via expedited review, how else) in the mid-October 2008 — like how 10 million (maybe 100 million, why not?) people died in Iraq or maybe another paper on how how health care is better in Venezuela or Cameroon than in the US or some similar crap.

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abb1 09.18.07 at 7:19 am

C’mon Soru, how does Vietnam – one country split in two in an anti-colonial struggle analogous to native Americans and your other examples?

OM, indeed, the GDP changed significantly since the 70s, but the median income hasn’t. The rich got richer by probably something close to two orders of magnitude, but they are not paying for the war, they get a tax cut. You are paying for the war and your income, unfortunately, hasn’t changed much since the 70s, certainly nowhere close to an order of magnitude.

So, how does it help you that your company CEO today is raking 5-7 hundred times your wage and paying at most 35% in taxes while in the 60s-70s he was taking only 10-15 times your wage paying 70% in taxes? I don’t see the point.

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bi 09.18.07 at 7:23 am

(As an aside, speaking of Blackwater mercenaries…)

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bi 09.18.07 at 7:30 am

abb1: Order of Magnitude’s fine logic, like Dan Simon’s, is totally indisputable. To even think of disputing his logic is simply unimaginable and unthinkable.

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Alan K. Henderson 09.18.07 at 11:47 am

And yeah, John Quiggin’s words are “not true”, period, while Henderson’s words are only “worded that a bit sloppily”, but are ‘basically’ true or something.

Okay, so I said “Vietnam” instead of “South Vietnam.” Mea culpa. I think it’s pretty clear what I was saying – that us abandoning the Vietnam War surrendered South Vietnam to the North. (Especially since I specified “S. Vietnam” in the parenthetical remark about Iraq’s multiple threats.)

Nobody rebutted my initial claim that the hawks and antiwar types are not using the same Vietnam-Iraq comparisons. Nobody has explained the error of my claim that “a fragile Iraq would be vulnerable to conquest as a vulnerable [South] Vietnam was.” Try again.

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Z 09.18.07 at 12:59 pm

Nobody has explained the error of my claim that “a fragile Iraq would be vulnerable to conquest as a vulnerable [South] Vietnam was.” Try again.

In fact, Alan, Soru ridiculed your point even before you made it (#39). But let me be charitable. You say Iraq would be vulnerable to conquest by “Iran and the al-Qaeda”, I say this is non-sense. Do you agree that the burden of proof falls on your shoulders? That you have to produce evidence that Iran has invasion plans (an idea I find ludicrous in the extreme myself) or that al-Qaeda, a sunni terrorist group, could invade a country of 25 million with a shiite majority (an idea I find beyond ludicrous)? Nobody has to explain the error of any claim, people claiming things have to produce evidence.

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Order of Magnitude 09.18.07 at 1:51 pm

bi: Order of Magnitude’s fine logic, like Dan Simon’s, is totally indisputable. To even think of disputing his logic is simply unimaginable and unthinkable.

My point is this:
Deaths: Vietnam 47k vs Iraq

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Order of Magnitude 09.18.07 at 1:52 pm

My point is this:
Deaths: Vietnam 47k vs Iraq

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Order of Magnitude 09.18.07 at 1:53 pm

I am being cut off. Continuing
Wounded VN 211k vs Iraq 27k
Hence Iraq is no Vietnam, by an order of magnitude.
The Iraq war, BTW, costs less than 1% of GDP.

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Order of Magnitude 09.18.07 at 1:57 pm

abb1: OM, indeed, the GDP changed significantly since the 70s, but the median income hasn’t. The rich got richer by probably something close to two orders of magnitude, but they are not paying for the war, they get a tax cut. You are paying for the war and your income, unfortunately, hasn’t changed much since the 70s, certainly nowhere close to an order of magnitude.

So, how does it help you that your company CEO today is raking 5-7 hundred times your wage and paying at most 35% in taxes while in the 60s-70s he was taking only 10-15 times your wage paying 70% in taxes? I don’t see the point.

1. You’re making points of potential debate interest which alas are non-sequiturs in the context of my original point that Iraq is no VN.
2. Re: my CEO income vs mine. Don’t make assumptions about me and I won’t make assumptions about you.

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abb1 09.18.07 at 2:46 pm

Well OM, it was your point that cost of war as percent of GDP is more important than the dollar amount. I’m trying to demonstrate that it’s not necessarily true, because the burden is not necessarily distributed the way the GDP is distributed. How is this a non-sequitur?

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abb1 09.18.07 at 3:23 pm

Vietnam was going on for 15 years, how many casualties were there before, say, 1968? Also, don’t forget: about half of the US forces in Iraq are private contractors; their casualties are not reported.

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Order of Magnitude 09.18.07 at 3:59 pm

abb1: Good point about the distribution of cost burden. Yet I still think that we have two separate questions at hand: (1) the global $ and cost of the war relative to the GDP and (2) the distribution of the contributions. I happen to think that the latter question is immensely important and would be even if the Iraq war had not happened. Not being an economist or tax expert I am speculating here, but it has to do with the nature of internal (US) taxation, as well as with globalisation/outsourcing, the specialization of (at least a part of the) US economy in financial services to the global community and the subsets of the US population which benefit from globalisation. There seem to be immense benefits from globalisation but workers in the West are affected in contradictory ways (cheaper goods but stagnant income and a higher proportion of outlays on education/health). I am not by a far stretch discounting the importance of this questions, but I believe it is unrelated to the Iraq war’s cost/ casualty burden / poor postwar planning etc.

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abb1 09.18.07 at 4:44 pm

I believe it is unrelated to the Iraq war’s cost

It depends. Watching from Mars – fair enough, it’s unrelated; but if you’re one of the citizens – it’s a different story.

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bi 09.18.07 at 5:17 pm

\Order of Magnitude:

“My point is this:
Deaths: Vietnam 47k vs Iraq
Wounded VN 211k vs Iraq 27k
Hence Iraq is no Vietnam, by an order of magnitude.
The Iraq war, BTW, costs less than 1% of GDP.”

You know, when you state a point you’re supposed to argue it properly, not just mindlessly repeat it.

“Lest you missed it in a fit of righteous indignation I was talking about liberal INTERVENTIONISM not liberal ideology in general.

And which part of this supposed “liberal intervionism” [sic] of Iraq is “liberal” again? If it has nothing to do with liberal ideals, then why do you insist on attaching the word “liberal” to it?

“A clear case for liberal interventionism was […]”

We’re talking about _this particular war_. Not Serbia, or Rwanda, or Sudan. What does Serbia or Rwanda or Sudan have to do with whether anyone should support the current war in _Iraq_, and in particular Bush’s crappy efforts in this war? Nothing, that’s what.

It’s surprising how wingnuts keep trying again and again to turn a statement like “Bush very badly botched this whole Iraq war and now Iraq is a mess” to “I’m a namby-pamby traitor hippie who’ll willingly surrender to any external enemy”.

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Order of Magnitude 09.18.07 at 8:23 pm

bi: Facts are worth restating as they are the “proper argument” in and of themselves. My point stands: by the criteria mentioned, Iraq is no VN, and if you prefer to ignore these numbers, fine. The casualty and fatality numbers will continue to be ~1:10 whether or not this distresses you.

Second. There was a case to be made on liberal interventionist grounds to depose Saddam, and there was as a separate case on realpolitik grounds. It was the policy of the US gov’t since Pres Clinton (1998 IIRC) to depose him. I did find the liberal interventionist case (on ethical grounds) to be quite persuasive — problem is, once the rubber hit the road, things blurred rapidly and we ended up w/ smth like Iraq now.

That is however beside the point. My OP was about the statement that Iraq = VN.

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bi 09.19.07 at 5:47 am

Order of Magnitude:

“That is however beside the point.”

Oh wait, then why did you bring it up? If it’s not just to blow up a lot of smoke?

“It is a moderately important technical journal with an editorial line that is very Euro leftactivist doctors in the in the social-democratic school.”

Ah, I get it. It’s to take a chance to swipe at those treasonous science-hugging leftists, right? You can’t (or won’t) learn about the science and question the journal on its scientific merits, and you prefer to just call it names?

Well, clearly another science-hater. I guess this discussion is over.

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abb1 09.19.07 at 7:13 am

There was a case to be made on liberal interventionist grounds to depose Saddam, and there was as a separate case on realpolitik grounds.

There’s a case to be made for pretty much anything, OM.

There’s a case to be made, for example, for euthanasing the mentally retarded and terminally ill. Case to be made for eliminating the exploiter classes or, say, the infidels.

Now, the fact that “there’s a case to be made” for a mass-slaughter of one kind or another – that’s what really is irrelevant.

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Alan K. Henderson 09.19.07 at 2:50 pm

Re comment 39:

I stated (per comment 45) that what the two wars have in common is that US military abandonment makes the allied government in question vulnerable to conquest. I did not realize that Soru was responding to my comment, because none of the four listed points were relevant to what I said. (Point 3 is certainly true regarding al-Qaeda and the govt of the Islamic Republic of Iran.) I know that Iran is not claiming that Iraq is some wayward province a la Saddam vs. Kuwait, I have no idea what percentage of the “insurgent” violence in Iraq is sponsored by Iran (or by al-Qaeda or by any other factions), and I suspect that moderates agree with everyone else on Point 1 and are divided over whether the totalitarian government of Iran can be reasoned with.

Re comment 71:

Evidently you do not know what the phrase “Y is vulnerable to conquest by X” means. It doesn’t mean that X has definite invasion plans. It means that X has shown a desire to invade Y in the past (which is definitely true in Iran’s case – PDF file), and that Y would indeed be vulnerable if it happened. Iraq may have 25 mil population, but Iran has a pretty stout military, and I don’t doubt its capacity to reduce that by a few million.

We know for certain that Iran and al-Qaeda want to destroy the current Iraqi government, have the capacity to do so with us gone, and will continue to wage war with Iraq (Iran through its proxies) at least until an anti-Western government emerges. As for conquest…actually I think the strongest likelihood is that Iraq would be conquered by multiple regimes – Iran (or an Iran-friendly and Iran-backed insurgency) in Shiitestan and one or more Sunni factions in Sunnistan, with some very nervous Kurds holding the north for the time being. I do not believe a Sunni government can take over all of Iraq as one did before, or as a Shiite regime maintains hold over Sunni Syria, mainly because of Iran – I don’t think the mullahs would sit by and let that happen.

As for al-Qaeda…I do not believe it will ever coalesce into the unified insurrectionist army that it never was. I do believe that it will serve as a critical breeding ground for Sunni insurgent parties, and that it will influence those parties and fight in conjunction with them – especially if a Shiite insurgency or an outright Iranian invasion emerges.

If the US is out of Iraq, somebody will seek to fill the power vaccum when and if the Iraqi government is destroyed.

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Order of Magnitude 09.19.07 at 10:52 pm

bi: regarding Lancet
You can’t (or won’t) learn about the science and question the journal on its scientific merits, and you prefer to just call it names?

I am an academic physician, I read a lot of issues of Lancet. You may disagree with me – however unfortunately you choose to express it – but at least I know what I am talking about.

Well, clearly another science-hater. I guess this discussion is over.”

You’re funny, in an involuntary way. Tell me a bit about YOUR science background, particularly your sophisticated understanding of sampling methodology and other epi and pub health issues. Would you kindly hold a journal club for me about the two papers? I am always ready to learn.

Ah, I get it. It’s to take a chance to swipe at those treasonous science-hugging leftists, right?

I stopped reading Lancet largely because the important stuff is usually published elsewhere (with the caveat, as I noted, of an occasional review or RCT). I also got tired of the overtly political editorials and its Euro-socialist bias — also the model of care delivery in the NHS is different enough that a lot of that stuff was irrelevant for me anyways. Plus they had a lot of focus on tropical medicine and emerging countries med — no doubt important, but a bit outside of my concentration.

If you compare the editorials in Lancet with those from Science or Nature or NEJM you ‘ll get my point. Not holding my breath, though.

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Order of Magnitude 09.19.07 at 10:58 pm

RE abb1′ s comment #84.

I am not advocating any of the positions you’ve mentioned.

I agreed with the US/NATO Balkans campaigns and I support liberal interventionism. At the same time, I support realpolitik reasons in foreign policy — unlike many (most? all?) liberals. I think isolationism is bad for the Us and ultimately bad for the world, regardless of whether it comes from Pat Buchanan or the left wing.

Against this background I found the liberal interventionist case to topple Saddam convincing.

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