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January 25, 2006

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Hat tip to Obsidian Wings for analysis on a NY Times article about an audit performed by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Is There Nothing This Administration Does Competently? Short answer: No. "A new audit of American financial... [Read More]

Comments

freedom is on the march

I'm shocked. Shocked!

You keep seeing features as bugs. Repeat after me:"There is no incompetence."

What do you expect from a government program?

You only go to war with the free market ideologues you have, not the free market ideologues you wish you had...

A cynical observer might get the idea that cleaning out the US Treasury was the only part of the plan that survived contact with the enemy.

Does anyone besides Bob think the current mess in Iraq is what the Bushies actually wanted? It doesn't make that much sense to me--if I were going to go into the imperialism business, I' d prefer my conquered province to be quietly subservient to my handpicked puppet (with torture victims kept well away from digital cameras). I could privatize resources with the nifty new constitution I had foisted on the country, something that would no doubt prove profitable for some of my pals. I could build bases and stock them with troops, not for leveling recalcitrant Sunni towns like Fallujah, but in preparation for my next adventure in Syria or Iran. And if living standards improved slightly over the miserable conditions that prevailed under Saddam and sanctions, so much the better. I'd point this out to the usually compliant media and they'd praise me to the skies. It's harder to do all this with an insurgency that, among other things, blows up oil industry infrastructure.

I think, Donald Johnson, that they wanted all those things you list, but they also wanted to look after other priorities, too, among them looting the treasury, demonstrating preemption, getting clear of international institutions, and winning an election. Allowing those priorites to influence how they arrived at the priorities you note led to the Iraq seen in this month's Iraq Index.

"Does anyone besides Bob think the current mess in Iraq is what the Bushies actually wanted?"

I've wondered about that, since the FUBAR-ness is so total, so extreme, and so complete. It's hard to imagine that the sheer magnitude of the cockups - practically all of which Bush et al. were warned about ahead of time, by people in their own Administration and military - came about accidentally. I mean, my God, if they'd war-planned with a Ouija board, they could hardly have done worse.

The problem is that I can't think of a reason to deliberately make a complete botch of everything. Surely Bush and his buddies could've done something, anything right, and still get their loot, their cheap thrills, and even their political bludgeon.
In fact, looking at it from a strictly Machiavellian pov, things would've worked out better for them politically if they hadn't completely screwed the pooch in Iraq.

When I think about the quality of the people who founded this country, and the maleficent-yet-banal gang running it now, I wonder if there isn't something metaphysical going on. Bush & Co. are in every conceivable way the polar opposite of Jefferson, Adams, Franklin et al. It's like a scary bookend; a Taoist End of Days.

And, of course, there are now two reports which both conclude that our army is at the breaking point and that draw-downs must occur soon. But, no, Bush is not going to cut and run!
No, I don't think the incompetence is deliberate. I think it is an natural outgrowth of the absolute lack of honesty which is characteristic not only of Bush and his immediate administration but of elected Republicans in general. They lie to themselves as much as they lie to us. It's arrogance: reality is what they pretend it is and if it isn't than it should be because they are entitled! Rule by spoiled frat boys.

Call it Lysenkoism, magical thinking, or faith-based planning. If you let groupthink set in, it becomes pretty easy to define contrary opinions as "defeatist" or unduly pessimistic. Plus the AEI folks were actively working against post-war planning because they didn't believe in "nation building".

Lily, to piggyback off of that, Rumsfeld didn't even read the reports before deciding they were wrong. Damn activist bureaucrats.

In my darker moments I tend toward bob m, but I think really John DiIulio called it:

"When policy analysis is just backfill to support a political maneuver, you'll get a lot of oops," he says.

Ral, wow. I remember reading that Sunskind piece, vaguely, back in the day. It's slightly jarring 3 years on, no?

They just don't care.

Back in the summer of '02 I thought the war was merely a political ploy, a Rovian feuilleton. Nothing that has surfaced since then has seemed like a better explanation.

Rumsfeld's still pushing transformation. This isn't the game he wanted to play, and he isn't paying attention. He still doesn't care. No matter how badly we've done going to war with the army we've got, he remains tightly focussed on fighting a different foe entirely.

It's hardly news that this administration is staffed with marketing folk who think that perception is reality.

To be fair, though, that school they painted looks right purty.

To me the most interesting question is whether the people stealing the money will be brought to justice. We can quibble all we want about competence and motivation, but in the end of the day there is no hope for a better past. The crooks need to be severely and publicly punished, if for no other reason than to send a clear message to future crooks. That is where the left should focus its energy. Not only is bringing criminals to justice the right thing to do in its own right, but in addition trials will provide a focus around which to discuss exactly how things got FUBAR and who is responsible.

Since BBM has not yet chimed it, I will throw in his quote from a thread yesterday:

"Its would seem to me to be totally unbelievable that a two term President of this great country has not put mostly competent people in charge of most things."

Therefore, since there are mostly competent people, there cannot be incompetence.

It should be remembered that a lot of the people sent over there to be cogs in the beauraucratic wheels where young and mainly chosen because at some time or other they had been in contact with The Heritage Foundation, which we all know is totally non-partisan.

Very little training, no knowledge of the Middle East, no ability to speak the language. Of course a recipe for competent handling of the situation.

In addition, the State Department wrote up a 2500 page plan for what to do after the fall of the regime, which was not even read by Rumsfeld, and the only State Department liaison on the post-action planning committee was kicked off.

Another recipe for competent handling of the situation.

The problem here is that Bush sees himself as totally competent because everything he has done has succeeded. Well, not really, but he has been rescued from his own mistakes, so he has not had to deal with any consequences.

This, of course, is the breeding ground for unbridled arrogance and hubris.

I really question if he is even aware of most of what is happening. I question if he is because he is frequently unaware of what he himself has said in the past.

togolosh,

I generally agree, but also add that such a conviction would only be useful if such offenders were viewed as radioactive, and no longer suitable for work in government. One of the first signs to me that this administration was going to be historically bad was its insistence on hiring some of the worst Iran-Contra offenders (John Poindexter, Elliott Abrams, etc.).

But he has good character...
and is "born again"...
and an average guy...
and lives on a ranch…
and has right-wing beliefs...

The reason we fail is because the liberals are jealous and without faith...and if you really pray about it, you would realize we are really not failing.

The problem is that I can't think of a reason to deliberately make a complete botch of everything. Surely Bush and his buddies could've done something, anything right, and still get their loot, their cheap thrills, and even their political bludgeon.

Competence costs money. The old truism in projects is you can build things fast, you can build things well, and you can build things cheap, but you can only do two of the aboce simultaneously. In Iraq, during Katrina, Republicans contract for cheap and fast and keep the extra money for themselves. It takes planning to arrange to be paid in cash for no visible output. It's not incompetence; they're just focussed like a laser beam on money.

"But if we do that, the legions will come." ...Dalmation merchants, ca 165 AD

What did the Israelis do to Jenin? Who really sponsors and supports int'l and dangerous terrorists? How do you make members of a culture and religion that in some ways are commanded to show deference to secular authority(as long as it is legitimate) responsible for the actions of their leaders and elites? How do we stop Saudi geat-nephews from sending some of their Monaco money for suicide belts? Hmmm?
How would you stop that?

Rumsfeld and Cheney understand the Romans, and remember how gentleness prolonged to rebellion in Judea, how that insurrection was finally ended, and why there was a Pax Romanica for two centuries following the destruction of Jerusaleum. The living hell that is Iraq was always intended, as a warning to any who might send money or sons to al Qaeda.

If you can't be loved or respected, then you must be feared, or whatever Machiavelli said.
I just picked up Strauss on Machiavelli, haven't read it yet, but I know Wolfowitz and many of the neocons know Strauss better than I ever will. I doubt Strauss taught to turn the other cheek and be kind in your conquests.

Do I need to provide evidence at this point? ROTFL. No, you convince me that there was the sincere and serious intention to help the Iraqis toward peace and properity. And since every word from this administration, on or off the record, is a lie (even when it's the truth) I will need facts.

How does someone in Baghdad, with three hours of electricity after 4 years, feel when they read about the graft and corruption and malign indifference? War is hell, and abandon all hope.

... and to top it off, the Democrats appear completely incapable of making political hay out of this.

you'd think they could point to these things, say "look at the mess these clowns have made," and convince people that the GOP = corruption and failure, at all levels.

but no...

an American soldier in the Philippines who gambled away cash belonging to Iraq

At least the Philippine economy got a boost. *sigh*

And speaking of the Philippines, that's pretty much been what I've seen of the effect of cronysm and corruption and graft. It goes hand in hand with incompetence and shoddy work. The classic example is the building contractor who saves money by thinning the concrete and pays off the govt inspector to look the other way. Earthquake happens and down goes the building. It's the same thing, just on a larger scale.

Bob: "No, you convince me that there was the sincere and serious intention to help the Iraqis toward peace and properity."

I can't, because I don't believe there was.

That is different than saying that the current mess was in fact intentional and planned.

I really think they figured everything would be wonderful, we would be greeted as liberators and would be able to name whoever we wanted to head the ountry and leave with rich contracts and ownership of all the oil. Bush would have a statue built to him and the Republican Republic would continue for a thousand years.

Of course, those who thought otherwise, like both the State Department and the CIA thought otherwise.

Interesting how the CIA was thought to be wonderful for intelligence on WMD (which coincided with what they wanted to hear), but didn't know what it was talking about in terms of what would happen when we got there(which they didn't want to hear).

I do believe some others (maybe Cheney) thought it would be worse, but that just meant Halliburton would continue to make money for a longer period of time so he kept his mouth shut.

Pooh, yes, "jarring" is a good description. You can go back to Molly Ivins' Shrub for prescience, but by 2003 even an insider like DiIulio was pulling back the curtain. Anyone who didn't expect these results wasn't paying attention.

Is the corruption a deliberate plan or just a side effect? The result is the same so perhaps it doesn't matter but I think it's a case of the path of least resistance also leading to financial reward. In any event I agree with togolosh. This behavior will continue unless it is punished.

Why Iraq? Many reasons, but prevailing winds were an important consideration.

Nuke Iran Now Some say late March.

Ya know, we just got a really wrong guy in the White House, which we might have survived without 9/11. Now we won't survive. The uproar and chaos and division after the attack on Iran will be just another feature not a bug. Y'all will rally round the President when WWIV starts, or you will go to prison or die. And to be honest, when the rest of the world starts shooting at us, "Rule or Ruin" may become my guiding principle. The liberal armband won't protect me. I am only another American.

BTW, I see that nobody has really answered the question that comprises the title of this post.

The answer is and emphatic YES.

This administration with its allies in Congress have shown tremendous competence in:

1. Eviscerating the middle class.

2. Removing safety nets for those who suffer major economic disasters resulting from medical problems or lack of employment through no fault of their own.

3. Increasing the wealth of corporations and the wealthiest 55 of this country.

4. Cutting back on environmental protections.

5. Increasing the recruitment of al Qaeda and its spin off groups.

6. Finding and utilizing basic fears of the American people, be it terrorist threats, homosexuals running amok or atheists hell-bent on destroying anyone's desire to practice their own religious beliefs. (There are others, too numerous to mention).

I want to point out that number 5 may well be intended, because this administration needs terrorists to exist and occasionally pull off an attack (overseas) to keep the fear alive.

This administration uses fear like I use a dog biscuit to have my beagle do my bidding.

Hello Long War

Bill Arkin on the fifty-year war.

How do they ensure, guarantee that the GWOT, Patriot act, etc survive past 2008 and most of our lifetimes? The New Deal ain't gonna get killed in one or two terms. How are they gonna put us into a fifty year war, irrevocably, beyond the ability of a Clarke or Clinton or Finegold to escape or surrender? How do they create implacable enemies, with sufficient determination and endurance and antipathy that no peace offerings will ever assuage? How do we get the American people to pay for a military that will defeat Jihadism and China simultaneously?

Fever dreams of a paranoiac, probably. Probably.

I think the only thing they are good at is getting elected.

[Not a threadjack]

This kind of thing is awful, and it recalls a previous conversation we've had about what a good opposition party should be doing.

Exposing this kind of problem is exactly the kind of thing that a good opposition party should do.

Showing how corruption undermines our war aims is a classic example of constructive criticism (which incidentally or not might also benefit the opposition party).

Sebastion, do you honestly believe that members of the Democratic Party have not been trying to make these kinds of points?

The few times any criticism from the Democrats has actually made it into the news it has been met with the constant refrain of undermining the war effort and aiding and abetting the enemy, not to mention trying to politicze the war.

Only very recently has there actually been any attempt in the media to even give any exposure to the criticism.

Besides, we all know that these issues are really the isolated mistakes of a few low level people, and not representative of plans and policies of the administration.

I'm so not trying to threadjack. My point is that THESE types of criticisms are definitely within bounds. Some other types are not as advisable (and I won't get into exactly which one's I've seen because then I know I won't be able to avoid a threadjack). But if the response to THIS type of criticism is along the lines of "you aren't supporting the war", the proper and forceful response is "Yes we are, and this type of corruption is precisely what is undermining our ability to be effective in Iraq". Unlike a "We must quickly remove our troops from Iraq" argument, this issue argument isn't really subject to the spin about "cutting and running."

Posted by: bob mcmanus | January 26, 2006 at 11:37 AM

Lord have mercy!

Bob, I totally agree with that! With a twist on the narrative.

This was tribal retribution, and since they (Bush/Cheney) couldn't touch the Saudi and other Arab royalty and aristocracy, (which funds and supports those suicide missions), they made their poor distant cousins pay for 9-11.

I realize your distinction, and it is a valid one. Although I am one of those who favor a timetable tied to benchmarks approach, which is usually seen as a cut and run approach.

My point is that, even though you see it as a valid criticism, and I see it as a valid criticism, and in fact criticisms along these lines have been made re armoring the troops, troop strength, etc (also all valid criticisms), they have rarely been given sufficient play in the media, and usually the response which follows the lines of what I mentioned above, receive more play in the media.

Hopefully that will change.

Unlike a "We must quickly remove our troops from Iraq" argument, this issue argument isn't really subject to the spin about "cutting and running."

i think it should be clear by now that there's probably nothing BushCo and its enablers won't try to turn into a matter of True Patriotic Republicans v. wicked seditious librillllsss.

"Showing how corruption undermines our war aims is a classic example of constructive criticism..."

Got it hilzoy? You are actually helping our pitiful discombobulated Leader-in-Chief, by pointing out where his ungrateful and disloyal subjects are hindering the achievement of his noble ambitions.

"Incompetence" with Katrina, Part D, Iraq, whatever will never damage this President or his Party enough to make a difference. They understand that morality and values win elections, and the political graveyard is overflowing with "good government" types. Just like the AEI kids in Iraq, the incompetence and corruption is an intentional distraction that they know Democrats by their nature will focus on, and lose with.

They call us Evil, and win. If you honestly don't think they are Evil, well then, either look harder or try lying.

Bob: I don't think I have ever said, one way or the other, whether I think this administration is 'evil', so I'm not sure where the 'If you honestly don't think...' comes from. I don't agree with you about some of the consequences of our invasion of Iraq that you think were intended. And so I also don't think that the fact that Iraq is in a state of barely contained civil war, with its civil society under siege if not actually destroyed, and a lot of its infrastructure in ruins, shows that the Bush administration evilly intended all this to happen.

But if one thinks that people can be evil not just by being efficient at producing intended evil consequences, but by failing to discharge their responsibilities with even the most minimal competence, or by failing to ask basic and obvious questions about what they were doing -- the sort of evil that Hannah Arendt attributed to Eichmann -- then they are evil.

(NOTE: I am not comparing Bush to Eichmann generally; just noting the application of a point Arendt made about Eichmann to Bush.)

Kind of like manslaughter rather than murder.

""Showing how corruption undermines our war aims is a classic example of constructive criticism..."

Got it hilzoy? You are actually helping our pitiful discombobulated Leader-in-Chief, by pointing out where his ungrateful and disloyal subjects are hindering the achievement of his noble ambitions."

Umm, I don't expect hilzoy to (nor do I ask her to) support Bush. I also don't think pointing out the corruption supports Bush. What it supports is the United States of America. Supporting the United States is far more important than helping or hurting Bush one way or the other.

Bush only cares for a certain part of America.

There is a reason why he only worries about "the base"?

(What does al-Queda mean again?)

"Umm, I don't expect hilzoy to (nor do I ask her to) support Bush. I also don't think pointing out the corruption supports Bush"

I did not use the word support, I said help.

Three scenarios:Bush sends no one to reconstruct Iraq; b) Bush sends the twins to reconstruct Iraq;c) Bush sends AEI interns to reconstruct Iraq. The intention and result may be the same in all cases, but only in the last case do we ever discuss
incompetence and not intention.

Was Brownie at FEMA an accidental bad choice, or an intentional bad choice? If he had, again, put Jenna in charge of FEMA would it become clearer? I get tired of people thinking these guys are idiots.

I think I will for now just ignore the last part of that comment.

john miller, you're quite welcome to proxy my position to make your point.

And cleek, ol buddy, I agree with your political hay response post. Isn't that kinda twice in a week. A good negotiator would bring us both to the table for a prenuptial. I'm sure we disagree widely on the whys and wherefores.

I even agree in principal on your later comments regarding the patriot card. Although I did argue once that it might have that effect, I truly believe its cheap shot debating.

I really wasn't going to post because although I usually disagree with the total condemnation that hilzoy espouses, I certainly have to shake my head each and every time politicians try to direct massive amounts of dollars, domestic or abroad. In that regard flanks are exposed and arguments
pale.

Sebastian, have you heard about the Halliburton water thing? (Incidentally, I just did a search to check how many posts I've ever done that have mentioned the word "Halliburton" in four-plus years. Counting that one, the answer is "eight." In case anyone wishes to accuse me of being a leftist obsessed with Halliburton.)

"Sebastion, do you honestly believe that members of the Democratic Party have not been trying to make these kinds of points?"

For the life of me, I can't see how it's possible to derive that, even remotely, from what Sebastian wrote.

He wrote: "Exposing this kind of problem is exactly the kind of thing that a good opposition party should do."

Etc. In no place in that post did he even faintly indicate that that's not what the Democratic Party had been doing. Why would you ask him something that clearly has no basis whatever in what he wrote?

It is not, I suggest, a useful approach to conversation. It's not even a useful approach to mind-reading.

"And so I also don't think that the fact that Iraq is in a state of barely contained civil war, with its civil society under siege if not actually destroyed, and a lot of its infrastructure in ruins, shows that the Bush administration evilly intended all this to happen."

I generally try to avoid arguments with Bob, for a variety of reasons, including my respect for him.

I'll still try to. However, I might and will observe that similar logic as Bob's could be applied to "prove" that Richard Nixon intended to fail in Vietnam, for X, Y, and Z ulterior motives.

But I wouldn't believe it for a second.

I also agree with the rest of your comment, Hilzoy.

"(What does al-Queda mean again?)"

I'd still like to ask Osama if he ever read Asimov's original Foundation trilogy.

(Why am I posting? My #$%^&! DVD player died a little while ago. Damnit. With a Battlestar Galactica DVD in it, half-watched. I've had it for exactly 55 weeks.)

Well, Gary, since you won't be watching BG, I guess you'll be here. I hoping that John Thullen will pop up as well (anyone heard from him?) At any rate, I've made my own observations on this Hilzoy/Bob/Seb/Gary at HoCB, which I think marks the first post elevating Seb to the HoCB pantheon. (we are still waiting for DaveC to write a Hilzoy post over there, and Slart seems to be quiet as well. I do hope everyone is ok)

"Well, Gary, since you won't be watching BG, I guess you'll be here."

Well, it's not as if I don't have zillions of other things to also do. :-) (Aside from the internets, and many computer games, there's the VCR, and even some strange rectangular data-storage devices with print in them; plus, I just decided that the DVD player wasn't going to magically come back to life on its own, and pryed open the tray with a butter knife, removed the disk, and I do have a DVD drive in the computer, as well [I live in fear that something will go wrong with the computer, because that I can't afford to do anything about; the DVD player I do have a replacement plan on, so it will cost me ~$19 to replace, which is painful, but not impossible].)

But, really, it is nice to be wanted and all that, so many thanks, LJ. (I commented on another blog earlier tonight which has a tremendously complicated layout, and I hadn't been by in a few weeks, and I innocently and accidently commented In The Wrong Place, and got a scolding for not having memorized the proper protocols; not the most welcoming way to invite comments.)

I hope everyone else in the gang is fine, too. I know, let's find another blog and rumble!

Okay, let's not.

I actually don't expect to be awake all that much longer. I took a trazodone, and likely will be getting sleepy soon. And tomorrow I also had many errands scheduled, and now I have another. So nothing personal if I'm not around, hokay?

"...be applied to "prove" that Richard Nixon intended to fail in Vietnam..."

Is there no plausibility to speculation that Nixon/Kissinger had no confidence that North Vietnam would honor the treaty, and no expectations that South Vietnam would survive withdrawal? I have always believed that Nixon gave up on Vietnam, like most Americans gave up. Whether or not that was wise is another question. But that might start another argument.

In any case, the applicability or not of my arguments to Vietnam is distracting and not any kind of refutation.

I am not expecting immediate full peace and prosperity in Iraq as proof of Bush's good faith. I am unwilling to accept that increasing electricity in Baghdad from 3 to 6 hours a day was an impossible task for the United States to accomplish in four years. There is not adequate evidence of even a good faith effort.

Does anyone besides Bob think the current mess in Iraq is what the Bushies actually wanted?

Maybe not literally, but its become very clear that they put zero effort into making sure that a stable outcome was part of the plan.

If chaos was not expressly intended, then what was intended when you do nothing credible to avoid chaos?

Yes, there was colossal incompetence, but then its repeated even after its revealed. Even if they didn't deliberately seek chaos, they are still placing some other goal much higher than trying to get it right. Or to put it another way, when the chaos erupted, they have decided that they can leave it largely untended because they can still get what they want from the perpetual war mentality even though this particular war has diverged into chaos.

I don't think they deliberately planned for chaos -- they just didn't care. And even as chaos became obvious, they just continued to lie about it rather than address the problems in any meaningful way.

They just don't care. The war has largely served its useful domestic political purposes despite the chaos. These people want a perpetual war -- it makes for great political memes every two years.

Freedom is on the march, even if it is also stomping everything else into dust in the process.

"Is there no plausibility to speculation that Nixon/Kissinger had no confidence that North Vietnam would honor the treaty, and no expectations that South Vietnam would survive withdrawal?"

No, that's fact. I've previously discussed that here. But if they had a choice, they'd have preferred South Vietnam to continue. They didn't desire it to fail, and they didn't go into office in 1969 with that as their plan and goal.

"I am unwilling to accept that increasing electricity in Baghdad from 3 to 6 hours a day was an impossible task for the United States to accomplish in four years."

In a vacuum, sure. In the face of a massive insurgency, it's not at all hard to believe.

It's extremely easy to blow stuff up real good, or sabotage it in quieter ways. Building it is much harder, but what's almost impossible is maintaining vast and complex infrastructure in the face of a massive enemy trying to destroy it. Is there something implausible about this?

"These people want a perpetual war -- it makes for great political memes every two years."

Let's stipulate your premise, arguendo. Wouldn't it make one heck of a lot more sense for them to desire to set Iraq up as a success, gaining tremendous domestic political credit for that, as well as international clout, and then move on to Syria and/or Iran to gain yet further of the previous?

Mostly I go with incompetence, and the fish stinking from the head down.

"...complex infrastructure in the face of a massive enemy trying to destroy it."

I was aware of sabotage against the oil and water infrastructures but not so much the electric production and grid. This could be ignorance. Last I heard, the problem was in getting parts from storage in Jordan, and the fact that we don't control that road speaks for itself. I might also have heard of intimidation against engineers, but not sure.

Of course it would be trivial to sabotage an electric grid:unimpeded, a high powered rifle used against transformers could keep a city dark.

A question arises about our military changing its priorities from chasing insurgents, which hasn't been very successful, to building and protecting the infrastructure, which I think would have multiple benefits. Golly, I think I have twisted the topic into an opportunity to link to a Jeanne D'Arc post:More of This,Please which, contra conventional wisdom, speaks to the ease in which soldiers can fall into nation-building and hearts-and-minds winning.

I could also link again to Arms and Influence who has written a book online on counter-insurgency. Look to the left column.

Don't let my insomnia keep anybody else up.

...Under this new mandate, Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., who served as the CPA Inspector General since January 20, 2004, continues as the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, without the need for reappointment. He reports to both the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State for supervision. He had previously reported to the Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

As the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), he is charged with the 'independent and objective' conduct and supervision of audits and investigations relating to the programs and operations funded with amounts appropriated or otherwise made available to the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF)..... (my emphasis)

It's extremely easy to blow stuff up real good, or sabotage it in quieter ways. Building it is much harder, but what's almost impossible is maintaining vast and complex infrastructure in the face of a massive enemy trying to destroy it. Is there something implausible about this?

It's been done. You guard the power plants and the refineries, and you get a lot of response teams good at repairing the stuff you can't guard quickly, like pipelines and power lines. All it takes is a lot of money.

"A question arises about our military changing its priorities from chasing insurgents, which hasn't been very successful, to building and protecting the infrastructure, which I think would have multiple benefits."

It's my understanding that the U.S. Army has been trying hard, but, yes, the insurgency has been attacking every weak link of infrastructure, including, of course, assassinating professionals of every type, left and right.

And so a vast proportion of the money that was scheduled to go for reconstruction has been diverted to "security." More than a third, getting close to half, along with all that has simply gone to corruption and waste.

The corruption and waste have been vast, but Iraq wouldn't be in all that bad a place were it not for the insurgency/resistance/whatever, I think it's quite clear.

The endless assassinations and threats of the professionals, the doctors and professors and engineers and the knowledge base, is as bad or worse as the attacks on the physical plant, although not as specifically regards the electrical infrastructure, which, as you say, is just easy as hell to bring down.

But infrastructure is always incredibly vulnerable, no matter what you do.

Gary: "For the life of me, I can't see how it's possible to derive that, even remotely, from what Sebastian wrote."

Actually, I accept that reprimand in good grace. I overreacted, mainly due to the paranoia that has become part of my daily living.

One sees monsters under the bed after being constantly told that Dems have no policies, they only whine and complain, and any criticism is seen as treasonous.

Anyway, a more appropriate response from me would have been merely to note that I'm not sure that even that sort of constructive criticism that Seb was referring to would make a difference in todays media climate.

And it really is good to see you back.

"Wouldn't it make one heck of a lot more sense for them to desire to set Iraq up as a success, gaining tremendous domestic political credit for that, as well as international clout......"

But, why, Gary, should the Administration even bother? They have, as far as it serves their political purposes, all the domestic "credit" (i.e. 50% + one vote) that they need: no serious prospect of electoral defeat looming: and internationally, as much "clout" as they can muster already (although it only just now seems to be dawning on them that the Admin's previous attitude of chest-thumping unilateralism might not have been the most productive stance to take).
Whether Iraq is a "success" or not is, in practical terms, an irrelevancy for the Bush Adminstration, since: 1) THEY get to define the conditions of "success"; so whatever happens can be spun as a positive; 2) Failures/shortcomings that cannot be defined away can always be blamed on someone else; and 3) the situation in Iraq does not, as yet, threaten the Administration's primary (sole and overriding) priority: the maintenance of Republican hegemony over the US government - indeed, it is one of the few policy props remaining (on the "support the troops" level) that they have.

"Wouldn't it make one heck of a lot more sense for them to desire to set Iraq up as a success, gaining tremendous domestic political credit for that, as well as international clout......"

Wouldn't it make one heck of a lot more sense for them to desire to set Medicare up as a success, gaining tremendous domestic political credit for that, as well as international clout......

They'd rather have the money.

Do we know that all the assassinations of professionals are being done by the insurgents? It's sort of a convenient climate to kill one's political enemies and escape blame, it seems to me.

"...the maintenance of Republican hegemony over the US government..."

While I do believe that the political advantages of being a "war president" was the primary consideration for Bush and Rove (who had Iraq in mind in the late 90s,and would have found another war, any war, if 9/11 hadn't happened) I don't deny that there were other objectives and motivations in the invasion of Iraq.

High oil prices, pork/graft/corruption, a combat-hardened military for three.

And after my preferred MacArthur-style full occupation and reconstruction...which may not have been technically possible, let alone politically viable...I am not so sure that chaos and anarchy in Iraq is not the best possible outcome in the short term. Any strong stable central government or federalism would provoke and frighten the neighbours.

As far as the strategic and geo-political goals are concerned, after fifty years of observation, I consider that stuff to be insanely difficult or just insane. Hegemony in the Middle East? Why? Control of currencies and retention of dollar reserve status? Democratization?

I mean, the Pentagon wants 20 destroyers to disembark troops on the coast of China? Are they kidding? I have always thought the guys who were preparing for the big nation wars should be locked away.

"They have, as far as it serves their political purposes, all the domestic "credit" (i.e. 50% + one vote) that they need: no serious prospect of electoral defeat looming: and internationally, as much "clout" as they can muster already....
I fear I don't agree with either proposition. I see no reason whatever to believe that their ("they," I love talking about "they"s) political ambitions and goals extend to January 20th, 2008, and then They all plan to flee planet earth with their loot.

On the contrary, I take Grover Nordquist at his word when he explains his goal and plan to forever make the Democratic Party a permanent helpless minority, and I believe that Karl Rove is right their next to him, practicing his hand-rubbing and Evil Cackle.

And to do that, they must seek to continue to expand their Congressional majority, and to solidify their control over it (the loss of DeLay is a small bit of a blow, though not more), and to do that they do have to have grains of fact around which to base their Big Lies.

Similarly, if you want to be boss of the world, most particularly in the face of the long-term overwhelmingly strong Chinese threat (long-term being 20, 30, 50, 75 years in this context), you similarly need to increase and solidify control over other countries, and their economies, and to whatever degree you can sell your propaganda story.

For both of those, a nicely pacified and conquered Iraq -- or, if you prefer, a nicely democratic and free Iraq that naturally chooses to ally itself with us -- is far more useful than a festering example of American impotence. And moving on to add Syria and Iran to that column would again only be a massive win for these folks. (And coincidentally, it might even work out that all those countries did become democratic and "free"; no skin off anyone's back if that happens so long as the right folks wind up in power and eager to cooperate with mutual trade, military, and other agreements.)

I don't, on the other hand, see much but negatives for these guys in demonstrating American impotence and failure.

Your numbers 1, 2, and 3, certainly have a lot of truth to them, and I completely see how you get from them to your conclusion, but where we differ is that I see those facts of how they do business as their ways of coping with not having achieved the more desirable result, rather than as anything resembling primary goals.

Naturally, YMMV, and does, and that's OK.

Wouldn't it make one heck of a lot more sense for them to desire to set Medicare up as a success, gaining tremendous domestic political credit for that, as well as international clout......

They'd rather have the money.

Sure. And that's the answer there.

But if they could have the money and power and people benefited, I'm sure they'd be fine with that, so long as it in now way interfered with either the money or the power. I don't think many of them are monsters who delight in the misery of poor folk; I think they're just indifferent, callous, and have entirely different priorities. That poor people stay poor and in awful lives is only a goal if it in some ways helps them politically; it's not a goal in itself, and it's largely just a by-product of complete indifference.

In my view. I'm prepared to change said view with any good evidence.

Thanks for the good wishes, John Miller; I said a nice thing about you on the Hating blog last night, by the way.

"Do we know that all the assassinations of professionals are being done by the insurgents?"

If you mean "are some being killed by the Badr supporters in the Interior ministry and elsewhere?" well, of course, if they're seen as enemies. What else?

"...a combat-hardened military for three."

And if you want that, you don't want a half-ruined, at best highly degraded and tied-up military. You want what Rumsfeld originally wanted: a quick in-and-out, garlands and flowers, and on to the neighbors, la la la.

It's not particularly different from playing Risk, and not wanting to use up all your little red cubes, really. Best to win the roll of the dice each time, not sit there in one place, endlessly rolling.

"I mean, the Pentagon wants 20 destroyers to disembark troops on the coast of China? Are they kidding?"

Well, no, but now you are. With all due respect, one doesn't disembark troops from destroyers, Bob. Particularly not Arleigh Burke-class.

Nor, I'm quite sure, are there any intentions of invading China, any more than we plan to invade Jupiter, since similar results would obtain.

"Nor, I'm quite sure, are there any intentions of invading China, any more than we plan to invade Jupiter, since similar results would obtain."

It would take several years to get there, we would not encounter any enemy soldiers, but our soldiers would run the risk of dying from methane poisoning?

"Well, no, but now you are. With all due respect, one doesn't disembark troops from destroyers, Bob".

Drum and Schactman on the QDF

"...destroyers designed for large-scale ground assaults..."

Oops. I guess I need to learn Pentagonese. On the other hand:

DD X

"For that many clams, most folks would like to see more than a couple of 155mm guns supporting the troops on shore, a primary mission of the DD(X)..."

You are correct, a primary mission of covering the disembarkment of troops is entirely unrelated to the actual disembarking of troops.

"While battleships couldn't contribute much to the current battles in Iraq or Afghanistan, two other potential hot spots (namely China and North Korea) present many opportunities for heavy bombardment by either the current low-tech 16" shells or the proposed guided and/or extended-range versions. At an estimated $1.5 billion per ship to reactivate and upgrade, they look like a steal compared to the DD(X)."

"Nor, I'm quite sure, are there any intentions of invading China, any more than we plan to invade Jupiter, since similar results would obtain."

Quite sure? If PRC were to attack Taiwan, no one in the Pentagon has wargamed grabbing a tactical footprint on the mainland, perhaps at a coastal missile battery?

"You want what Rumsfeld originally wanted: a quick in-and-out, garlands and flowers, and on to the neighbors, la la la."

Gary, as I have often said, I believe nothing said by these guys, on or off the record. I have insufficient evidence that they ever intended or desired ground assaults on Syria or Iran. If Rumsfeld actually said he wanted a quick in-and-out, I can come up with plenty of reasons he might lie. I can also provide evidence that they always intended to keep a very large force in Iraq for an extended period.

I have said here repeatedly I have never bought the "hearts and flowers" stuff. I consider it a typical example of this administration disguising its actual strategy with an admission of idealistic incompetence.

Gary, popped over to the hating blog. Thanks for the comment.

Yes, I am generally sensible, and I am as much against mid-reading as you are, although I do get sucked into at times. See my comment upthread as to how I should have handled it.

BTW, I should have said that I like to think of myself as generally sensible.

As far as nice, guess that depends on what is at stake. My wife could tell you that when I get into a political discussion on a face-to-face basis the gloves have been known to come off.

I think I will need to spend more time at the other site and eavesdrop a little.

"It would take several years to get there, we would not encounter any enemy soldiers, but our soldiers would run the risk of dying from methane poisoning?"

We'd be absorbed into the gravity well of a giant mass, and even if we sent the entire population of the U.S. there to fight, they'd disappear without a trace.

The food is much better in China, though.

Better to defend Titan, or Taiwan.

"I can also provide evidence that they always intended to keep a very large force in Iraq for an extended period."

I don't disagree with that, if by "very large force" we mean base approximately 30,000 or so in a generally peaceful and cooperative ally so they're available for regional strikes and threats and support, rather than mean keep over 100,000 troops trapped in a bloody grinder which prevents them from doing anything else elsewhere and degrades their effectiveness and equipment.

The rest we'll have to agree to disagree about. I can live with that.

John Miller: "My wife could tell you that when I get into a political discussion on a face-to-face basis the gloves have been known to come off."

Rumor has it that from time to time, I've been known to lose my temper just a tad, and that I may even -- on utterly rare occasion -- be just a wee little bit blunt, myself.

I'm sure these rumors must be wrong. Me?

Bob, if you want to disembark some troops somewhere, you want some of these. Plus a heck of a lot of other stuff for support, of course.

But you don't want to do it in China. Vinzinni was onto something.

"Quite sure? If PRC were to attack Taiwan, no one in the Pentagon has wargamed grabbing a tactical footprint on the mainland, perhaps at a coastal missile battery?"

Some quick light raids, possibly. Anything heavier? Quite sure.

Unlikely there's much to be done by infantry not better done by air or cruise missile, though. You're pretty much just offering up targets we don't like to lose; better to spend the cash on bunker-busters and other munitions.

Troops are only for doing stuff munitions can't do, like bring things back, or hold ground. It's that simple. No one has to write a letter to a Tomahawk's mother. Or pay death benefits to its family. And it doesn't even discourage other Tomahawks from enlisting!

Since occupying all of China isn't an option, and occupying even a small piece is completely pointless, draw your own conclusions. I am but an armchair warrior, but I know how to read.

If you want to brush up on or check anything military, you can do worse than either John Pike's globalsecurity.org or his former employers and site, fas.org, now that they've updated a bunch of it again (it was fallow for a couple of years after his departure).

Quite sure? If PRC were to attack Taiwan, no one in the Pentagon has wargamed grabbing a tactical footprint on the mainland, perhaps at a coastal missile battery?

This is why Okinawa remains 'the unsinkable aircraft carrier', methinks, much to the disgust of the Okinawans who live there.

Wouldn't it make one heck of a lot more sense for them to desire to set Iraq up as a success, gaining tremendous domestic political credit for that, as well as international clout, and then move on to Syria and/or Iran to gain yet further of the previous?

Mostly I go with incompetence, and the fish stinking from the head down.

It would make more sense, so incompetence explains a lot of why they can't get it right. But that still does not explain the lack of concern about trying to fix it once we reach the point when even the staggeringly incompetent would realize that something is wrong.

Incompetence cannot explain deliberately letting chaos go unchecked. They would prefer things go better, but they don't care enough to make sure that they do.

Its about more than just a stinking head.

"But that still does not explain the lack of concern about trying to fix it once we reach the point when even the staggeringly incompetent would realize that something is wrong."

It seems to me that once the insurgency got really rolling -- and that was clearly partially due, indeed, to pre-planning by Saddam and his people, and their plan all along, and our gov was too dumb to figure that out and then too dumb to figure out the extent of it, and the nature of all the other mistakes they were making, of which the largest was not comprehending just how many Iraqis they had alienated and lost early on -- the snowball had gotten so large and so powerful that all the competence in the world -- okay, all the competence the Bush administration could muster, which isn't but a small fraction of that -- couldn't do all that much to magically roll things back and make them All Better.

Just my opinion, to be sure. But it's pretty hard to make good on any occupation once it's gone sour, and, unsurprisingly to anyone but the Bush Administration, they go sour very very quickly, and very easily indeed.

How long did it take Rumsfeld and the rest of the admin to admit it was an "occupation"? Has he yet? I'm not sure whether he has. Maybe it's still "dead-enders" and Baathists alone, in his head; I'm really not sure.

It helps to not be convinced that you know better than people like Shinseki, and to not intimidate your generals into being afraid to speak their mind for fear of being humiliated and forced out, it turns out.

I actually think Don Rumsfeld is a very smart man. Just not nearly as smart about everything as he thinks he is. A little humility in life can be extremely helpful, it also turns out. This is less easy to have than it seems when you are immensely powerful, and are used to such power.

But it is possible.

"Its about more than just a stinking head."

I didn't say there weren't a number of asses also involved.

Gary:

I liked the stinky asses joke -- it is a lot worse than just a problem with dead fish. But joking aside, it still seems that you would never find a clown to also be malevolent. (Eek! -- scary clowns)

Incompetence does not explain the decision by the incompetents to not bother to try to fix problems once they were hit in the face with a frying pan full of them. It may be that by that point in time, fixing them was not achievable. But so what. Our rambling exchange of comments has to do with the state of mind of the incompetents, and why they would simply not bother to try to do better when it was obvious something more needed to be done.

This crowd prefers to scream about war without ever bothering with the messy business of fighting it properly. Its about power and not about policy -- competence is willingly sacraficed if it stands in the way of power.

Or to put it another way, given the choice between fixing problems and taking political heat for it, or lying about problems and maintaining power... well, just make sure you are not standing in the way of their path to power.

Incompetence has sopmething to do with why many problems arose, but not with their perpetuation.

"Incompetence does not explain the decision by the incompetents to not bother to try to fix problems once they were hit in the face with a frying pan full of them."

I find discussing generalities when specifics are available to not be terribly useful. Perhaps you might pick three specific examples to illustrate your point?

Gary- I should probably let dmbeaster reply, but I think Iraq, Katrina, and the medicare debacle are specific enough even if you don't.

"Gary- I should probably let dmbeaster reply, but I think Iraq, Katrina, and the medicare debacle are specific enough even if you don't."

I'm afraid their effects upon the Iraq occupation are unclear to me. Perhaps you'd like to backtrack and recheck what we're discussing.

Also, when asking for a specific example of "not bother[ing] to try to fix problems" in the Iraqi occupation, and not a generality, the answer "Iraq" doesn't hone in terribly specifically, it turns out.

I think I'll go so far, however, as to say that I think that "Katrina, and the medicare debacle" really had very little effect upon the success/failure of the occupation.

But if you'd like to expand upon your reasoning, do feel free.

It might be useful, it occurs for me, to note that when or if dmbeaster points out a few examples of specifically what dmbeaster has in mind, I'm perfectly apt to simply say "thanks' for clarifying; interesting." I'm not here to defend the Bush administration, nor their running of their occupation, which I've been decrying for two and a half years, in case anyone has suddenly become confused about where I stand on that.

I merely asked dmbeaster for some specfics so as to get a better idea of what dmbeaster has in mind; not as a gambit in my fiendish sekrit campaign of defending the administration.

It seems to me that once the insurgency got really rolling -- and that was clearly partially due, indeed, to pre-planning by Saddam and his people, and their plan all along, and our gov was too dumb to figure that out and then too dumb to figure out the extent of it

Sorry to come to this a bit late, but I'm wondering about Gary's point about pre-planning. Has there been anything that 'proves' there was pre-planning, or is it just an assumption that there was pre-planning because of the depth of the insurgency? It seems to me that there was a pause immediately after the invasion when everyone was in a wait and see mode, and it also seems to me that Sadaam and his sons were pretty incompetent, which suggests that while there may have been some pre-planning, the insurgency in large part has been self organizing. Perhaps this is just a difference in emphasis, but if it is the case that the insurgency has been more self-organizing than pre-planned, rather than a campaign that we could have found success with, we have a campaign that was ill-advised from start. Also, if there was pre-planning, one could argue that the 'harsh-up' interrogation tactics were justified because we needed to try and determine what had been put in place. Given that these interrogation tactics apparently haven't yielded any substantial assistance in fighting the insurgency, this would also go against the idea of 'pre-planning', but I will admit that for me, things in Iraq has sort of settled into this sort of bad dream blur that I want to just push into the corner, so I may have missed discussions of this.

They've been totally effective at plunder. IIRC, Garner had a plan at the outset that had a chance of working: maximal Iraqi involvement in rebuilding infrastructure; giving reconstruction work to locals; getting repairs from foreign firms that were familiar with the equipment; etc. He was boned partially because that didn't get Americans a big enough cut. Instead KBR and Bechtel come in and start making surveys.

They didn't change course because doing so would have required some Republicans not getting their bags of cash. Why would they mess with a good thing?

Gary:

"Incompetence does not explain the decision by the incompetents to not bother to try to fix problems once they were hit in the face with a frying pan full of them."

I find discussing generalities when specifics are available to not be terribly useful. Perhaps you might pick three specific examples to illustrate your point?

Glad to continue the discussion with more detail -- I wrote briefly before simply to keep the comments short. I am not going to bother with three examples -- one with its many manisfestations will have to do for now (and Frank has already flagged other good examples).

I think a good example of this bigger question is the force level committed to the Iraq invasion, and the deception ever since to pretend that it was adequate as well as pretend that the problems are not the result of inadequate force. Its important to first realize the extent to which on many levels, the Bushies were told that their planned force level was wholely inadequate for the post-war situation. One aspect of that was the warnings about the likelihood of post-war looting and the drastic consequences that would ensue because of inadequate manpower for post-invasion policing.

The actual looting and lawlessness that followed was not a "surprise." What was the thinking that resulted in the decision to underpower the occupation so that, according to the experts, widespread looting became a serious risk? Contrast that with the great deal of care that did go into thoughts of infrastructure protection during the invasion in order to enhance the prospects for a stable post-war environment. Whatever was saved by those plans was rendered entirely moot by the looting. Someone cared enough and had enough competence to worry about preserving infrastrucutre for the post-war -- why then deliberately ignore the looting danger which would undo all such efforts?

Although in one sense this is "incompentence," its also a deliberate weighing of one risk and political problem (taking the political heat for the invasion force actually necessary) against another (just how much danger is created by the potential post-war looting and lawlessness). The incompentence was in making a bad judgment call -- but clearly not in failing to recognize that the issue existed. The record is too clear on that point -- the Bushies don't get to lie their way out of this one with a "we just didn't know" storyline. (although they have tried that one for Katrina)

The frying pan moment occurred in the immediate post-war environment -- the looting was devastating. Particularly criminal was the lack of forces to secure Iraqi weapons depots, allowing the insurgents to freely arm themselves with nasty weaponry for months.

Also, the insurgency started to sputter to life in the Summer of 2003. Liberal Japonicus wondered to what extent this was pre-planned. From what I have read, the only meaningful preplanning on this point was to stash large sums of cash (and that may have also been motivated for other reasons) -- otherwise, it seems that there was little such planning, and it was self-generating. I think Saddam would have a hard time planning for a guerilla war in advance --- it might make discipline difficult if the official line became "expect the Americans to walk over us, so just melt into the background and carry on the war that way." Dictatorships have a hard time maintaining control if that is official policy.

I also remember a moment in the invasion in which it was clear to me that the Iraqi leadership (reportedly mostly Saddam's sons at that time) had no idea how to put up a meaningful resistance. As the US forces approached Baghdad, the Guard forces advanced out from Baghdad to occupy narrow gaps about 50 miles south of the city (Karbala, the resevoir, etc.) Though someone schooled in military strategy by playing Stratego may have thought this sensible, it guaranteed the easy destruction of the strongest Iraqi forces, as well as the stripping of those forces from the urban environment of Baghdad where they could have been a real pain. My speculation is that it reflected an Iraqi desire to avoid the devastating street fighting (which would level Baghdad) and guerilla fighting that was their only effective means of resistance -- it seems unlikely that anyone in high command was thinking of such strategies.

So the rising insurgency was a second frying pan moment. I disagree with those who argue that that quelling the insurgency quickly became impossible -- a proper response when the problem became obvious in 2003 could have greatly increased the chances of success.

Bremer has temporarily broken form on the official lying by commenting how so much was not possible post-war because of inadequate force levels. It is clear that the Bushies were getting this message big time throughout 2003 -- their response? Official lying that no more force was necessary, and furthermore that it was the military leaders in the field telling them this. In other words, lie about the issue and lie about who is allegedly making the decision concerning an increase in force. The decision to not fix the problem -- it was a carefully crafted caluclation and not atributable to incompetence.

What was the calculation? It seems entirely political. Significantly increasing force level would be an admission of a mistake that could cause huge political problems and threaten re-election in 2004. Better to lie and allow chaos to florish than risk thr political fallout of correcting the problem.

So much of the chaos has resulted from this type of thinking, and its deliberate calculation rather than incompetence. Its choosing chaos to preserve power; and once choas is a given, actually manipulating it to further one's power goals (No End But Victory is a great political tool for painting the opposition as treasonous losers, even though you aren't doing crap to ensure victory). It's this after the fact manipulation that, I suspect, causes many to believe that choas was always the intended goal. I don't go quite so far, but I do believe that the Bushies could care less about chaos so long as they can hold onto power, or even increase it by manipulating their own messes.

What started this conversation was bob macmanus' point that "You keep seeing features as bugs. Repeat after me: 'There is no incompetence.'" This was followed by Donald Johnson's query "Does anyone besides Bob think the current mess in Iraq is what the Bushies actually wanted?" I then wrote my point that although incompetence may have a lot to do with getting the ball rolling, the mess has much more to do with deliberate decisions to allow the mess to fester (or even exploit their own mess rather than fix it) rather than incompetence.

Gary -- I don't see any of your comments as defending the Bushies, but I would argue that you underplay their venality.

"They didn't change course because doing so would have required some Republicans not getting their bags of cash."

I think that was a huge factor, yes.

"I think a good example of this bigger question is the force level committed to the Iraq invasion, and the deception ever since to pretend that it was adequate as well as pretend that the problems are not the result of inadequate force."

I think that was another huge problem, yes.

"What was the thinking that resulted in the decision to underpower the occupation so that, according to the experts, widespread looting became a serious risk?"

I think, but could, of course, be wrong, that the thinking initially by Rumsfeld was that it would be unnecessary to have more boots, that he didn't consider that there would be much looting, and that he didn't expect the civil governmental infrastructure to melt away and disappear, and for utter chaos to instead emerge. I think he wasn't interested in listening to any of the experts who tried to inform him differently.

"The frying pan moment occurred in the immediate post-war environment -- the looting was devastating. Particularly criminal was the lack of forces to secure Iraqi weapons depots, allowing the insurgents to freely arm themselves with nasty weaponry for months."

Certainly, although whether there were deliberately hidden caches as well, and if so, how many, is an interesting question, but in the event it seems they weren't, at least for quite a long time, in the least necessary, anyway.

"I think Saddam would have a hard time planning for a guerilla war in advance --- it might make discipline difficult if the official line became "expect the Americans to walk over us, so just melt into the background and carry on the war that way."

Not if you keep your plan to a limited number of trusted people; no need to send out a general announcement, which as you say, would be counter-productive, although in the event the Iraqi Army did melt relatively quickly (although not without some determined fighting first). But I have no desire to make a meal out of the "pre-planning" speculation/limited knowledge aspect; as a contributing factor, I rate it as at best giving an encouraging push to an insurgency that would have wound up in the same place very quickly, due to American misjudgments and overwhelming incompetence in engaging in occupation. I'd just as soon drop it from the conversation, despite having mentioned it in what was intended to be a more passing manner than it wound up coming across as.

"What started this conversation was bob macmanus' point that "You keep seeing features as bugs. Repeat after me: 'There is no incompetence.'" This was followed by Donald Johnson's query "Does anyone besides Bob think the current mess in Iraq is what the Bushies actually wanted?" I then wrote my point that although incompetence may have a lot to do with getting the ball rolling, the mess has much more to do with deliberate decisions to allow the mess to fester (or even exploit their own mess rather than fix it) rather than incompetence."

I don't have any issue with any of that; my issue is only with the root assertion that Bob made: that the goal and intention of the United States government was and has been to have a failed occupation. That I still find myself entirely skeptical of. That's all.

Thanks for taking the time and trouble to detail your thoughts.

"...but I would argue that you underplay their venality."

I don't think so. I underplay Bob's notion that their venality was in service of a strategic goal of failure. I underplay Bob's assertion that "Repeat after me:'There is no incompetence.'" That's what I underplay.

"...that the thinking initially by Rumsfeld was that it would be unnecessary..."

That is what he said he thought, or that we were told Rumsfeld thought. I am no mind reader and am unwilling to claim I know what Rumsfeld actually thought. However, Occam's Razor and other tools make the "Rumsfeld & Cheney were idealistic optimistic idiots" story the more difficult one to accept. That does not comport with my thirty year experience with the gentlemen.

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