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September 13, 2004

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Despite the fact that it may hurt my pocketbook come late October, I still believe the US must do what it takes to ensure a working democracy is in place and stable before we leave Iraq. If Bush cannot do it, because he's too stubborn to listen to the generals who disagree with Rumsfeld or Wolfowitz (or whatever is guiding him in making blunder after unforgivable blunder over there), we should get rid of him and let Kerry do it. Kerry has argued that he wants to bring the troops home within four years, but he's also argued that he understands we cannot abandon Iraq.

I don't think those two goals are mutually exclusive.

IMHO, abandoning Iraq is simply not an option. We'll just have to go back in once al Qaeda sets up it's camps on the outskirts of the Sunni triangle anyway. Deals with the devil offering cash like we're seeing in Chechnya and such, you know.

We don't need to spend any time worrying about whether to abandon Iraq in the next 4 years, or how long it takes before our departure is an abandonment. An elected government is going to ask us to leave, as soon as it has sufficient armed forces to wage it's own counter-insurgency. Less than a year.

Indeed, it might even be part of a counter-insurgency policy worth trying: the best way to win over a great number Iraqis to the new government is to demonstrate that it is not a puppet, and is not associating itself with the death and destruction our intervention there has caused.

Triangulation is worth trying. I had thought Alawi would do it, but he's apparently too weak. The new government, however, will have both greater force and greater internal legitimacy (provided we don't monkey too much with the process).

Charley
The administration has not used the "Bringing Democracy to Iraq" argument in some time so they may also be moving toward the solution you suggest.
I'm assuming that you saying, "The new government, however, will have both greater force and greater internal legitimacy" means you think stability is the highest priority.

Despite the fact that it may hurt my pocketbook come late October, I still believe the US must do what it takes to ensure a working democracy is in place and stable before we leave Iraq.

I'm curious as to what metric(s) Edward would use to define success in Iraq, enabling us to depart.

I didn't favor the invasion of Iraq. And it was obvious (at least to me) that once we were there we were going to be there for fifty years (as we have been in Germany, Japan, and Korea). Could anyone have reasonably expected anything else?

Bush breaks it down for us:

NGR: Would you say that those two traits define your leadership style today?

Bush: Yes, I would hope so. Here are the traits that I think define my leadership style: First of all, knowing where I am going to lead. I can’t lead if I don’t know where we are going. And secondly, once we know where we are going, defining it in clear terms so that everybody understands, because if I can see the goal but can’t convey what the goal is to others then we aren’t going anywhere. Thirdly, surrounding myself with smart people and motivating them to do their mission. That applies to the Guard leadership as well as any leadership. So surround yourself with people that are well motivated and concerned, and keep them motivated in the line of authority and responsibility. One of the failed areas of leadership is when people are given the responsibility to do something but not the authority because some central figure refuses to give power, power in politics, power in military tearms. Power can be very corruptive. If used properly goals are met. If used improperly reputations can get ruined.

http://www.northupinfo.com/ngdr/archive_details.asp?id=180

Carsick:

In the abstract, I have no greater interest in democracy in Iraq than I do in democracy in Mali. Or Uganda. Or Guyana. Or, for that matter, Venezuela. Would I like to see it -- you bet, and with the full Bill of Rights as I understand it as well. In each of these places, and everywhere else as well. Do I think it's worth the deaths of any of our soldiers? Not really. Do I think it's even possible for us to create/midwife such a thing in most places? I think it has to evolve locally, and, in most places, I think our presence is an obstacle (although not insurmountable, or as great an obstacle as the security situation).

Dave:

Had there been no Soviet bloc, I think our presence in Germany, Korea, and Japan would have ended long, long ago. They wanted us to stay to protect them, and we wanted to stay both because protecting them protects us, and because we didn't want them to develop militaries strong enough to protect themselves.

This logic doesn't apply here. We do not need to be in Iraq to protect ourselves. Iraq is going to develop a military sufficient to protect itself from Iran, and we're OK with that. It's not going to want us to stay. We'll be invited to leave, and that will represent, so far as I am concerned, a victory for us.

I didn't support the war intitally because it was too easy. in my eyes, to debunk or dismiss nearly every rationale, and I don't know how we can get out with a non-lose scenario now.
But... we've needed oil for a heck of a lot longer than communism was around and that area of the world has been unstable for even longer than we've needed their oil so...
I don't see how every nation state in the region demanding we leave will produce that result.
"You break it, you bought it."

CharleyCarp:

Had there been no Soviet bloc, I think our presence in Germany, Korea, and Japan would have ended long, long ago. They wanted us to stay to protect them, and we wanted to stay both because protecting them protects us, and because we didn't want them to develop militaries strong enough to protect themselves.

I think this is an over-simplification of history. We have retained our bases in Germany, Japan, and Korea for many reasons. One of the original purpose of our bases in Germany and Japan was to prevent the re-emergence of militarism in both of these countries. Once we were more confident in the Germans and the Japanese the rise of Soviet power meant that the alternative to retaining the bases would have been allowing the Germans and Japanese to re-arm. This was considered a less palatable alternative than retaining the bases.

And the locations of the bases had strategic significance.

This logic doesn't apply here. We do not need to be in Iraq to protect ourselves. Iraq is going to develop a military sufficient to protect itself from Iran, and we're OK with that. It's not going to want us to stay. We'll be invited to leave, and that will represent, so far as I am concerned, a victory for us.

The logic applies almost precisely. Is there any question that there is, in fact, a threat and that the source of the threat is the Middle East? A diffuse source, to be sure, but the source nonetheless. Are we okay with Iraq re-arming?

In addition it's pretty difficult for me to imagine Iraq standing on its own in four years or even ten years.

The logic applies almost precisely. Is there any question that there is, in fact, a threat and that the source of the threat is the Middle East? A diffuse source, to be sure, but the source nonetheless. Are we okay with Iraq re-arming?

The threat, as you touch on, is from stateless sources.

The fact we had a significant military presence in Saudia Arabia and the PG did exactly nothing in preventing 9/11. And, as loath as this appointed administration is to admit it, Iraq had not rearmed and had not a capability to threaten the US or its neighbors.

Jadegold, don't expect me to defend the decision to invade Iraq. I opposed it. But we're there now and the calculus has changed. How does whether the threat is from states, stateless sources, or in part from states and in part from stateless sources change whether we will need bases in the Middle East or not? My own opinion is that bases in Iraq are much better than bases in the KSA. Unless you're suggest substantially more strenuous approaches than we've used to date the problem is not going to vanish any time soon and military force will, from time to time, be needed. How does abandoning bases facilitate this?

Dave:

Re: Europe, you said what I meant. I see what you're saying, but don't agree re: Iraq. The presence of our armed forces there does not prevent/deter conflict, as it did during the Cold War, but represents both a target and a grievance. And I think we will go along with Iraq as it re-arms sufficient to hold off Iran -- as it must.

There will always be places where we can have sufficient men and material ready for the next foray against AQ (and its successors) with whom we will not have the baggage of having wrecked many lives. Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, etc. etc.

CC

Dave: Why are bases better in Iraq than KSA given the lack of stability there? And I'll ask the same question I asked Edward: what constitutes success in Iraq?

Frankly, until we're willing to address the root causes of Middle East terrorism, we're pretty much resigned to fighting an indefinite war of conquest (as opposed to a war of liberation) for decades.

Seems to me, we've only two options now--bad and worse. The bad scenario is that we muddle from crisis to crisis in the Iraq until the body count gets too high and we 'declare victory' and beat feet outta Dodge. The worse scenario is that we're drawn into a full scale regional breakup where we will lose troops at a much faster clip.

There's a third, but politically untenable, option.

"I think this is an over-simplification of history. We have retained our bases in Germany, Japan, and Korea for many reasons. One of the original purpose of our bases in Germany and Japan was to prevent the re-emergence of militarism in both of these countries. Once we were more confident in the Germans and the Japanese the rise of Soviet power meant that the alternative to retaining the bases would have been allowing the Germans and Japanese to re-arm. This was considered a less palatable alternative than retaining the bases."

This is exactly right. The problem in Iraq is that we haven't defeated the militarism which is there enough to even move on to the next phase. We allow insurgent movements to spiral out of control because we haven't been willing to fight them AND defeat them.

The problem in Iraq is that we haven't defeated the militarism which is there enough to even move on to the next phase. We allow insurgent movements to spiral out of control because we haven't been willing to fight them AND defeat them.

And that, Sebastian, is one of the main reasons that I didn't support the invasion of Iraq to begin with. I didn't see us as having the national will to achieve victory. I still don't. And anything less than victory is not an adequate result for the level of commitment required.

And surely the best evidence of our inability to pursue the war to victory, prior to Falluja etc., is Afghanistan. That was the theater for Sebastian's victory that deters, and not only did we not win all the way, we left the senior leadership of the enemy free to mock our seeming impotence.

"And surely the best evidence of our inability to pursue the war to victory, prior to Falluja etc., is Afghanistan."

I presume you mean unwillingness?

I think "inability" works.

Clearly, the vast majority of Americans--if not the world--were quite willing to see Al Qaeda and their Taliban hosts crushed. It was Bush who decided that objective wasn't so important as compared to the nonexistant threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

As a result, Afghanistan is now a patchwork of fiefdoms controlled by various warlords or Taliban diehards. And Iraq is, well....

"As a result, Afghanistan is now a patchwork of fiefdoms controlled by various warlords or Taliban diehards."

Now?

The whole problem with Afghanistan is that it has always been a patchwork of fiefdoms controlled by various warlords.

Keeping in mind, von, that I cautiously, trepeditiously, and reluctanctly, supported the invasion of Iraq, although not for any reasons President Bush gave, but for those such as Paul Berman and others gave (as expressed many times on my blog), and that I still fully agree that we should make all reasonable efforts to support bringing democracy, or at least stability, to Iraq, I commented on this item before you here.

It's true: I've become very shrill. Alas, and alack, but it actually doesn't come at all naturally to me, as anyone can check via Google nearly a decade of my writing.

In a lot of circumstances I'd vote for a McCain or other centrist/liberal Republican. I worked enthusiastically for John Anderson in 1980. What I don't understand is the phenomenon of takers of that sort of line who hold their nose and support Bush today in the face of his horrendous incompetence (which is, in point of fact, not remotely like his father, nor resembling that of Ronald Reagan; it is sui generis, and the only two major reasons (there are a bunch of minor reasons I won't discuss here) I see folks voting for him are... come to think of it, things I won't go into here. I just hope everyone continues to think hard, examine the facts, and keep an open mind.

Gary -- I actually became a Republican for Anderson ;)

The whole problem with Afghanistan is that it has always been a patchwork of fiefdoms controlled by various warlords.

Actually I remember people telling me how wonderfull the country was. In the seventies it was hippy paradize. Peacefull and filled with western peaceniks.

And they were using how much opium? ;)

Hash was much more common ;-).

But on a serious note; opiumproduction was a lot less in those days.
In Southwest Asia (Iran, Afghanistan, India, Turkey) opium production dropped from 1,126 tons in 1934 to 381 tons in 1970.
The US addict population rose from 20,000 in 1945, to 68,000 in 1969, to an estimated 559,000 in 1973 (a large percentage of the troops in Vietnam used opium, that might have had a lot to do with it). Nixon started the war on Drugs, pressuring Turkey to stop its (small) production - a gap happily filled by others in the area. In Southwest Asia (Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan), opium production rose from 504 tons in 1971 to an estimated 1,400 tons in 1978.
In 1972, a US cabinet committee reported that Afghan farmers made $300-$360 per hectare from opium, twice the average of $175 for fruit: There is no substitute crop--except for hashish--that can...provide anywhere near an equal income.
According to Brezinsky the US tried to get the Russians to invade Afghanistan in 1979 - which they did in December. That lead to rebels and guerilla's like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who (conveniently)kept the Russians occupied the next ten years. As you know fighting is expensive, and they needed the opium to finance their operations...
Afghanistan ranked, in 1993 estimates, as the world's second largest suppliers of illicit heroin.

After Soviet support for the Kabul regime and US arms shipments to the rebels ended in January 1992, Afghanistan's role as a major heroin supplier increased sharply. Indeed, in late 1991 the United Nations anti-drug commission had reported that the Afghan guerrillas, anticipating a cut in US covert support, were already planting a greatly expanded opium crop as an alternative source of finance.

Which neatly brings us back to Islamic guerilla's, invasions and the cost of war...

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