« Wanted: Grown-Ups | Main | The World Entire »

November 27, 2006

Comments

Cool! It actually worked!

I'm going to try to embed a YouTube clip (via Atrios) for the first time ever

Oh, great. Obsidian Wings was one of the few blogs that didn't routinely make my browser crash, too. If you must, Hilzoy, put it below the fold with a warning notice, thank you.

That said: Or perhaps we can just dispense with the semantics and just agree that it's a nightmare, and a lasting shame.

Yes.

And I agree with you about tearing up the immigration quotas, too. One of the things that drives me to speechless painful rage is that - after everything else the UK has done and helped the US do to Iraqis - the Home Office still wants to deport Iraqi asylum seekers - and even where it doesn't deport, is leaving failed asylum seekers in destitution because thet haven't "voluntarily" agreed to return to their country of origin. We are in the wrong: and furthermore, this is just complete stupidity: there will be refugees, it's only a question of whether they will be provided for sensibly and generously or survive to cause a generation's worth of new problems - or die.

This is yet another point where being generous and humane would be the sensible thing to do. And my government ought to do it too - and won't.

"Tear up the immigration quotas. Take them all in. They trusted us; we cannot leave them to be slaughtered for the supposed crime of having tried to help us."

I agree. Bringing as many Iraqis here as want to come is the only honorable thing we can do at this point.

But, supposing we did so (and we won't, you know; between Bush refusing to acknowledge any moral responsibility and his dwindling base going apesh*t at the very idea of a few million Muslims coming here in one wave) - where would they go? How would we bring them here, and how would we settle them? How would we distinguish between refugees and insurgents?

If this is something we really want to get behind, we need to work out some details.

We would need all of our troops in Iraq to secure the Green Zone and create secured corridors towards it. They'd need to abandon everything else and just do that. We'd have to keep the corridors and the Green Zone open for weeks, probably months.

How many people can the GZ hold? What provisions does it have? - not just food and water, but bathrooms, beds, medical and laundry facilities.

We would need transport. Lots of it. What's already there, and what needs to be sent, and how quickly can it get there? How quickly can people be transported out of the GZ to make room for the next wave?

Where do they go once they get here? A holding area? - how do we make sure it doesn't become a (semi-) permanent refugee camp? (There are still thousands of people stuck in poisonous trailers in NOLA, more than a year after the hurricanes.)

How do we decide where to settle the Iraqis permanently? No state, city, or town will want to be inundated with hundreds of thousands of refugees. No city, state or town has the facilities, or the money, or the manpower. Again: consider Katrina's aftermath.

The federal government would have to take charge. I'm not at all sanguine about that since the agencies responsible for this kind of project are run by the same corrupt/incompetent hacks that Bush has populated everything else with. But I don't see a way around it, either.

The one thing that should be no problem is funding. We've been running the whole Iraqi Adventure on the national credit card anyway. If we can charge a few hundred billion to destroy a nation, we can damned well charge a few hundred billion to resettle the people we dispossessed.

And we have to come up with answers, and a plan, fast.

It doesn't matter if we call it "civil war," "sectarian conflict," or "cumquat salad," the violence will continue unabated regardless of the title we grant it. Your comparison to "Bleeding Kansas" if the most apt I've seen.

There are no exit signs in Hell. You get out any damn way you can.

But did Michael Ware leave his hotel room and why is Jamil Hussein lurking in the background?

Nir Rosen's latest dispatch from his cozy hotel room.

Tear up the immigration quotas. Take them all in.

Absolutely.

The problems CaseyL mentions are legitimate, but not intractable.

There is no way to do this, politically. First of all, no Democrat has the political cover to do this. Second, people who still support Bush (some third of the country) are mostly of the "shouldn't-have-fired-Rumsfeld" and "must-fight-the-terrorists-over-there" mentality. One of the few things that will terrify them more than Hillary (Clinton) becoming Prez is importing a few hundred thousand Arabs straight from the thick of battle, within which untold numbers of jihadists may be lurking in mufti.

"How do we decide where to settle the Iraqis permanently? No state..."

Texas is like really big and more welcoming than you might think. I live next to a large Vietnamese community, my own is at least 30% Latino. Economy is ok fine and the Iraqis could maybe tough it out and adjust to the climate. Have to be inland and southern, Iraq doesn't have hurricanes and tornadoes.

I'd vote to take a couple million, maybe around Waco.

Forgot. I also see women wearing the hajib every day, tho I presume everybody else does too.

May I ask: what are 140,000+ troops doing there, such that they cannot, at this point, prevent mortar fire and shelling within Baghdad?

"May I ask: what are 140,000+ troops doing there..."

Force protection, mostly.

1875 was the year in which the KKK, the White Line, the Knights of the White Camellia, and their ilk -- terrorist militia groups founded by members of the power base of a loathsome and murderous political regime because of their unwillingness to accept the fact that that regime had been toppled by the US Army, and that people they did not want to be ruled by were winning popular elections -- succeeded in making their territory ungovernable by the powers that had replaced that regime, by the simple expedient of killing or terrorizing anyone whom they suspected of sympathizing with those powers.

To make this analogy work, you also have to assume that in your alternative universe, the North and the South were never one country, the North was thousands of miles away from the South, the North and the South had different religions and histories, the North had an inordinate interest in the South's cotten fields, and for a long period of the occupation, the majority of violent incidents by Southerners was directed towards Union troops rather than other races.

Perhaps you should consider Yugoslavia as a better analogy...

I agree about the refugee stuff. I've been thinking about writing a piece about this for months, but couldn't say anything in my old job (at an immigration court) and don't have time with my new one.

(By the way, public service announcement: never ever ever ever ever work for a law firm if you're going to react badly to basically being owned by other people. Even if it seems all cute and public interest-y it's still a law firm.)

Quotas aren't even the most immediate problem right now. We aren't even filling our refugee quotas, because we won't let anyone who's given "material support to a terrorist organization", and

--we define "terrorist organization" broadly enough that it unquestionably would have included the Continental Army
--define "material support" to include providing the most minimal aid--a bowl of rice, a day of menial labor
--do not make any exception for "material support" provided only because the alternative was death or torture. For example:

Kassab told the story of a Chaldean woman he identified only as Miriam, whose house was occupied for a week by insurgents. They forced Miriam and her daughters, ages 16 and 15, to cook for them and give them directions. On the last day of their stay, the six insurgents raped Miriam and her daughters and told them they would be killed if they ever said anything. After the ordeal, Miriam and her daughters fled to another country -- the name of which Miriam did not want disclosed for fear of the insurgents' revenge.

The family was denied U.S. entry because the cooking and directions under duress were construed by U.S. officials as providing material support.

This isn't restricted to Iraq--most known examples are from other countries since the exodus from Iraq hasn't really led to refugee camps along the border. But it's going to harm a lot of people if it's not fixed. Unfortunately, no one's taking the responsibility of doing so (except for the immigration courts in a few isolated cases--but those are rare, and do nothingto help anyone who hasn't yet reached the U.S.). Congress had a spectacularly uninformed debate about this last spring, in which Arlen Specter claimed we couldn't change the law because if we did we'd be forced to let in Hamas members (um, no, there are a half dozen other provisions that allow us to keep them out). And the administration could interpret the law to avoid these absurd results, but they choose not to--they seem to have convinced themselves that only Congress can act.

It's nuts, just nuts. We need to stop losing our minds when someone uses the word "terrorist."

Sorry, that comment contains a factual error: the quota for Iraq being 200 is a problem, and that's so low that we may be meeting it besides the "material support" idiocy. But the U.S. is not meeting its overall refugee quotas because of the "material support" issue, and it's going to have to be fixed along with Packer's plans to do the decent thing.

The security issue is real...we airlifted tens of thousands of Vietnamese people out after that war who were not a threat, but I think it was easier to identify our allies in that situation. There were basically two sides to the conflict, our allies lost, so we let a lot of them in. I was amazed at how pro-Vietnam-War the Vietnamese refugee community in Boston was--South Vietnamese flags all over the place in the community centers. In Iraq, it's a different situation, and the combination of security and political concerns will almost certainly prevent us from taking in everyone who needs it. But we could do more--we're doing almost nothing now.

They trusted us; we cannot leave them to be slaughtered for the supposed crime of having tried to help us.

Ummm... Bush's magic eightball sez "Reap the Whirlwind." America agrees, and will in any event be distracted by that shiny thing over in the corner, which is currently Pamela Anderson taking her boobs away from Kid Rock.

Bush's magic eightball sez "Mmmmm. Boobs."

Seriously, anyone here remember how much of Vietnam post-fall of Saigon concerned America and American journalism? I would guess it was "not much."

I have to say I find the Reconstruction analogy weak. Moreover, it also implies exactly the opposite of what you would like it to imply.

If Iraq is like Reconstruction, then the only moral option is to stay the course. It was shameful and wrong that the federal government abandoned the newly freed slaves to the care of the KKK. And I can hardly believe that you are suggesting that we do likewise here.

If, in fact, we owe the Iraqis the same thing that we owed the freed slaves in 1875, then -- well, let me just bid you a fond farewell as you leave the anti-war camp. Stay the course, Hilzoy. Stay the course!

(Meanwhile, I don't think that Iraq is even remotely like Reconstruction. We do not owe foreign citizens the same obligations we owe Americans. Add to this the many differences
mentioned above, then we can indeed leave once it is in our national security interests to leave. And I agree that the only humane thing would be to spend the interim issuing massive numbers of immigration visas.)

Hilzoy, this post is a prose laceration.

Jason, our national security interests have been so ignored, misrepresented, and betrayed by the authors of this war that I don't know when you are going to recognize national security the next time it raises its head in Iraq.

That's nothing to do with you; I have no answers either.

As to Iraqi refugees: begin confiscation, using the police powers of the U. S. Government, of neocon and Republican property in America and hand it over --- homes, ranches, businesses, tax shelters, boats, college scholarships, the whole ball of wax.

Make them refugees. And then build a wall.

Rangel thinks a draft would staunch these folks' war lust; give me a break.

Hurt them where they live; that's all they care about.

Jason: I meant in the levels of violence, mostly, and I was also thinking that the subtitle of Redemption, which is: The Last Battle of the Civil War (in 1875) seemed to me completely apt, and applicable here.

What options are available to us is of course a different question.

If we had any alternative available to us that would allow us not to leave people to the tender mercies of the KKK-analog, then I would be for it. I didn't come out in favor of withdrawal until about two months ago, iirc, because I thought, and think, that our obligations to the Iraqi civilians, while less than those to our citizens, are extremely serious, and that if there was any way at all to fix what we broke, then we should do it.

(Of course, a lot of the time preceding my coming out in favor of withdrawal was spent thinking: well, of course, whatever "we" do will in fact be implemented by this administration, and whatever they try to do, they will probably screw up anyways, so why not withdraw immediately, since that will at least minimize the damage they can do?)

That I think we cannot put right what we screwed up, though, means that I think that we have a deep and ineliminable shame, as a nation.

Why should Iraqis want to relocate to the US? After all, we are the most evil most racist dictatorship in the world. Give me a break, you keep telling me that every enemy of the US is better than our country. Fine. Why not send the refugees to Cuba, which has 100% literacy and the best health care system in the world?

"Give me a break, you keep telling me that every enemy of the US is better than our country."

Looking at the email address, I wonder if that's the real DaveC.

DaveC.:

"Give me a break, you keep telling me that every enemy of the U.S. is better than our country."

Speaking only for myself, my good friend, don't kid a kidder.

I suspect Hilzoy is under the illusion that America is even better than you or I really believe it to be. Thus her disgust at the underachievement.

Although, once we hand over neocon jobs, most of which are with free-market, free-trade think tanks, to Iraqi refugees, I suspect the employers might send the refugees to Cuba for gall bladder surgery because it's cheaper for the Cubans to tell the poor sods they don't really need gall bladder surgery and they should wait until the pain gets worse.

Rilkefan:

If that's the case, I retract "my good friend."

Although, DaveC. occupies weird e-mail space.

Jason Kuznicki: I don't think we can leave once it becomes in our national interest to leave. Correct me if I'm misinterpreting you. You seem to be suggesting that we cut up the world of political obligations between duties to our citizens (and duties to a group of relevant non-citizens, like resident non-citizens) and duties to the world at-large. A person is either in one of these groups, and that alone defines our obligations (as an American state) to them. It's a Realpolitik-y idea that we have no greater obligation to Iraqis than we have to, say, Swedes.

First of all, this is manifestly false -- just as a matter of international law, if nothing else -- because we have duties as an occupying force.

But I wonder if we have duties beyond that as well. I think the analogy with Sweden ends the moment we took action that ended up unjustifiably gravely harming Iraq. After all, we've now messed up their country beyond foreseeable repair. You'd think we have duties of reparation and so forth, duties to do the very best we can to repair that harm.

We do not owe foreign citizens the same obligations we owe Americans.

Just because you, you know, committed a crime against humanity against them by launching an aggressive war, murdered hundreds of thousands of them, tortured, raped and brutalised their country. Bunch of whiny assed titty babies.

God knows, no sane person expects America to show one single shred of decency these days.

And, completely off the topic, whatever happened to that Osama dude? That 9/11 thing was way cool - best TV I've ever seen. Can someone give him a nuke; having it go off over, say, LA would be great graphics!

So I've been trying to turn over a new, better leaf since the election, but this post gave me the yips to visit Red State and I find a fun punk poll regarding options in Iraq by one of the more irrelevant punks in all of the miserable world.. and therein is this quote by one Tbone:

"Americans would have been just fine with killing copious numbers of innocent Iraqis to take out the bad ones. If we had done that upfront, Iraq would not be the problem it is today.

It is not to late to start ..."

Well, then, of course, some wag questions Tbone's military bonafides and the wag is accused of crimes against punkdom and BANNED.

There are websites, too, and kittens, which should be confiscated and turned over to Iraqi refugees to do with as they please.

"Just because you, you know, committed a crime against humanity against them..." ...Phoen

"I suspect Hilzoy is under the illusion that America is even better than you or I really believe it to be..." ...JT

Well, we are not supposed to use Poland and France as analogies, but Athenians/Syracuse has been floating around. So far, I have not seen many people willing to look at the Syracuse analogy seriously.

Irrevocable. Catastrophic. I have been studying Europe in the period 1917-21 recently. I suppose everyone still thinks I am crazy, but I expect that period will soon be useful.

Lose a war followed by economic meltdown, let Hillary be Hoover or Kerensky or Weimar. Not saying it was a plan. I am officially not saying that.

Cool! It actually worked!

*surreptitiously using Mozilla at work* For a given value of "actually worked" in that it actually crashes my browser every time I look at Obsidian Wings, yes.

I hate YouTube.

This is exactly why I have a problem with people calling for an immediate withdrawal. Your predictions here are all too plausible.

I can understand being against the war. I can understand people who think it was entirely misguided, or even criminal. I can understand (and agree) with people who believe it was badly managed.

I can not understand people who believe we should just walk away at this point and allow this to happen.

It's a fight for power and therefore survival in the world the Iraqis expect to encounter after we withdraw which they now expect to happen in the next year or so.

Where did that expectation come from?

Assuming you believe the war was a huge mistake, how can you now believe that the answer to that mistake is to compound it a hundredfold by allowing this to happen? (Not you as in hilzoy, generic you.)

While it is a noble idea and must be executed in some form - how does one prevent some of the terrorists from joining the exodus out of Iraq?

While it is a noble idea and must be executed in some form - how does one prevent some of the terrorists from joining the exodus out of Iraq?

Well, this assumes that the terrorists are implacable and infinitely patient, and will come as sleeper agents until they can strike. This would seem to require not only almost complete and total indoctrination of the terrorists who chose to come, it would imply some sort of command and control structure that would make it possible for the refugee-terrorists to be chosen and controlled. This goes counter to what I think is the strength of the islamic terrorist movement (to put a broad umbrella over groups that may have vastly different goals and may actually be in conflict with each other) which is decentralization.

OCSteve: Assuming you believe the war was a huge mistake, how can you now believe that the answer to that mistake is to compound it a hundredfold by allowing this to happen?

You mistake, Steve: It's not an answer.

It will happen whether the US is in Iraq or not, eventually: it's merely a question of whether you think that the US army should be destroyed along with the Iraqi people, or whether the US should withdraw from Iraq with the army and with as many of the Iraqi people as wish to leave. (The latter, I fear, won't happen: but it ought to.)

What's your vision for the US army, OCSteve? Thermopylae or Dunkirque?

Simonides (556 BC - 468 BC) wrote a two-line elegy, an epitaph for the Spartans at Thermopylae. A more or less literal translation runs: "Stranger, go tell the Spartans that here we are buried, obedient to their orders."

Other more poetic translations:

Go, stranger, and to Lacedaemon tell
That here, obeying her behests, we fell.

Go tell the Spartans, you who have read;
That we have followed their orders, and now are dead.

Go, tell the Spartans, you who read this stone
That we lie here, and that their will was done.

Tell them in Lacadaemon, passer-by
Obedient to our orders, here we lie

Stranger, report to the Spartans
we lie here, mission accomplished.

On June 4, 1940, Winston Churchill to the House of Commons: "A miracle of deliverance, achieved by valor, by perseverance, by perfect discipline, by faultless service, by resource, by skill, by unconquerable fidelity, is manifest to us all."

If I were in the US army in Iraq right now, or knew anyone who was, I would infinitely rather the plan were to get the US army out of Iraq safely than to tell them to stay and die to the last. Hasn't it sunk in, yet, Steve, that the US is defeated?

For a given value of "actually worked" in that it actually crashes my browser every time I look at Obsidian Wings, yes

The problem would be your browser, your computer, your operating system, or a combination thereof, not YouTube or ObWi. YouTube is becoming as ubiquitous on the web as HTML and it works well on millions of browsers, so you might want to look into the causes for the failures you're seeing.

What browser are you using, Jes? Which version of Flash is installed?

OCSteve: As Jesurgliac says, I don't think it's an answer, just a necessity. We are as incapable now of doing any general good in Iraq as we were in the nascent Soviet Union in 1920.

Well, I suspect OCSteve (not speaking for him) is just as miserably disgusted as everyone else here at the engulfing but maddeningly narrow choices left to us vis a vis Iraq.

The conumdrum of course is contained in the words "allowing this to happen."

I'm not in a position to allow anything to happen. My completely uninformed (which, as it happens, makes me the equal of every idiot recruited by the American people in 2000 and 2004 to allow this war to happen) opinion is that we require a Conradian Kurtz (the TBone option) or a Lawrence of Arabia (in other words, someone even crazier and more childish than the pre-pubescent mental patients now running things) if we are to avoid some version of Hilzoy's unfortunate vision.

America is a cipher. It expects its virgin goodness to be obvious to all AND it believes that virgin goodness will remain intact after whatever brutal ruthlessness it uses to remain pristine.

America's vision of itself is a cheap romance novel with heaving bosums, which, at the last minute, requires a little punched up editing by Cormac McCarthy to make the plot plausible.

Then we congratulate ourselves that we've written some realistic fiction.

Speaking of "Lawrence of Arabia", while watching the movie the other night, I was struck by how Peter O'Toole, shot by David Lean with his mouth covered in mufti and his shockingly blue eyes and beautiful facial bone structure and blond visage is an exact cinemagraphic, androgynous twin of Julie Christie, as cast by David Lean in "Dr. Zhivago".

YouTube is becoming as ubiquitous on the web as HTML and it works well on millions of browsers, so you might want to look into the causes for the failures you're seeing.

It also crashes millions of browsers. It doesn't crash my browser on Windows 98 at home, where I am now: it doesn't crash if I use Mozilla: it does crash if I use the version of IE that's mandated for my use at work, on Windows XP. YouTube is so ubiquitous that I have downloaded Mozilla Firefox at work and am prepared to defend it on the grounds that while I never play You Tube at work - no point, my computer at work has no sound card - there's no point having a browser that reliably crashes whenever someone posts a YouTube video to a website.

It's just peculiarly annoying that it should be a website I like to visit at work that usually has no discernable connection to work, just for a teabreak: I don't risk Pandagon any more either, because the bloggers there love YouTube and never, ever post below the fold. Posting below the fold would resolve most of the problems too, but, *shrug*.

Relatedly: I don't always like George Packer

Out of curiousity, what is it you dislike about Packer? I haven't read everything he's written but he seems to be a fairly insightful and straightforward reporter.

s/b "curiosity"

Speaking of awful choices, Washington Monthly folks at Kevin Drum are noting that Cheney was basically summoned to Saudi Arabia for a jolly good hilzoying.

I hope he brought his long pants for the adult part of the consultation. Mallards everywhere fly at will and land on his shoulders, knowing his aim stinks.

No doubt the disposition of refugees was on the list.

Poor Tom Tancredo may get his wall built only to have Iraqis catapaulted over it.

Considering that the death ratio for Iraqi civilians vs. US soldiers in this conflict is at the very least around 15:1 and may be much higher and also considering that it's an all volunteer force, I really don't see why they shouldn't stick around to prevent the worst. The worst being something along the lines of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, in which case the international community would have to do something anyway. The plan to bring the boys back home is a bit disingenous anyway, since they will most likely only retreat to either their highly fortified bases in Iraq or to neighbouring countries, as the US will never give up their foothold in the region. So the US would let the ethnic conflict explode while watching from the sidelines minding their interests which I would find morally unacceptable.

So while the current situation is awful, it can, but not necessarily has to, get much, much worse. It's not about the US winning or losing anymore, but about the US preventing a genocide.

Paul, Packer is an important member of the Wrong-about-the-war-and-still-won't-admit-it-frankly Those-dirty-hippies-were-wrong-regardless crowd. Check out his Talk of the Town comment in the 27 Nov New Yorker for his strawman argument against those who want to withdraw. He has an obsessive need to pretend those who disagree with him on the left haven't weighed the consequences.

The above-mentioned comment.

In my alternate universe, the Republican party would follow suit...
Texas had that one Republican Governor who used the state police as his own private death squad...

Paul: I would like to be high-minded and say that I dislike Packer exclusively for rilkefan's reasons. These do weigh with me quite a lot. However, I've never been entirely sure that the fact that he used to go out with someone I know, and that while I didn't know him or anything, I didn't think much of what I heard of his conduct back then (before he was A Famous Writer), isn't affecting things as well. No doubt it shouldn't, since it's ancient history, people change, blah blah blah, but I can never be sure I've entirely gotten it out of my head.

The last couple of times I've responded to Rilkefan or followed up to a Rilkefan comment, it was to disagree in some way. So it makes me happy to just point at Rilkefan's explanation of why Packer is annoying (to me, too) and say "That covers it from front to back."

Hilzoy:

God, the web of your life goes everywhere.

I got picked up hitchhiking once decades ago by Mr. (Fred) Rogers and he was EXACTLY as he was on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

John T,

"I got picked up hitchhiking once decades ago by Mr. (Fred) Rogers and he was EXACTLY as he was on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood."

Did he take off his shoes and replace them with sneakers once he got in the car?

More seriously, it's funny you should mention Mr. Rogers, as earlier in the month I attended used lots of TV and movie clips to illustrate different archetypes in negotiation, including the leading resident of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, as showing how to get cooperative, win-win results. It got quite a chuckle from the assembled crowd.

Jes:What's your vision for the US army, OCSteve? Thermopylae or Dunkirque?

Neither. I just don’t agree with you that this possible outcome is a foregone conclusion. I think it is a certainty only if we throw our hands in the air and walk away. I don’t have any answers about what the solution is – I just strongly believe that the solution is not giving up and abandoning these people at this point.

As for the Army, they would seem for the most part to believe in what they are doing. Even while bearing the bulk of the casualties, reenlistment rates have exceeded goals since the war began. 2005 saw the highest rate in 5 years. These are folks raising their hand again while in Iraq or knowing they are certain to end up in Iraq. Combat units see the highest rates. I’m going to suggest that these are people who want to see the job through.

If they thought it was hopeless we simply would not see that level of reenlistment. I take some faith from that. I’ll take not just the words, but the actions of these soldiers over any of our talking heads.

Packer is an important member of the Wrong-about-the-war-and-still-won't-admit-it-frankly Those-dirty-hippies-were-wrong-regardless crowd

I see where that attitude peeps through Assassin's Gate in places. But was Packer an early supporter of the war? (I confess I've forgotten--or never knew). In spite of his friendship with Makiya and his horror at Baathist crimes, I didn't get the impression that he thought the war was anything--or could've been anything--but an unmitigated disaster. Maybe I'm misreading him.

I see more strongly where you're coming from in the "Talk" piece; but this remark seems apt:

"The argument that Iraq would be better off on its own is a self-serving illusion that seems to offer Americans a win-win solution to a lose-lose problem.

Hilzoy: I see. :)

OCSteve: Hope is not a plan.

OCSteve--

I agree, for the most part, with your assessment of the reenlistment rates. I do think, however, that a lot of their motivation has less to do with any belief that they can succeed as it does with their overwhelming committment to seeing each other through and bringing everyone home. They will not leave their comrades in a tight situation without relief. In the mean time, they continue to do their best and hope that they are doing some good -- which they are on the community level even if the political situation is rapidly going pear shaped.

That said, I'm not sure that "they want to stay" is the best guide for policy.

I think we're all on different points on the "how bad is it" and "how much can the US prevent" scale. For many of us who pointed out that things were going from bad to worse a few years ago the only thing we head from the GOP and its allies were "shut your mouth, loser-defeatist, things are great; you just want us to lose" And, of course, those in charge of policy during that time were happy to say that things are great and getting better as we watched them get worse and worse.

To the point where I, for one, don't know what can be done to make things better, violence has been increasing and, indeed, perhaps even made worse with the militias infiltrating the army ans security forces. Quite simply there is little loyalty to the government and a lot of old grudges that will be settled and our presence or absence in Iraq will not change this. 20K more troops will not have the slightest effect.

Of course this is just how I see things. I understand your (OCSteve) reluctance to "throw our hands in the air and walk away." And as you note this is not a solution - but where we part ways is my belief that there are now, at this point, no solutions. That's what happens when a war is lost.

As far as re-enlistment rates I would be careful about reading too much into that. It could easily be that those soldiers are simply reluctant to walk away when people they served and fought with are still in the excrement.

OCSteve is right about the attitude of people in the military. Of course they don't all think alike, but there is a very strong bias toward seeing things through, finishing the mission. If the Democrats were to force a withdrawal by cutting off the money, the soldiers in Iraq would NOT be resoundingly grateful.. Some might be, but many would feel that their sacrifices had been turned to naught and that they had been cheated out of the chance to finish their job.
Alsoh while a Dunkirque senario might happen to our soldiers, its the Sunnis who will die in a metaphorical Thermopoli. I don't think our decision about what to do in Iraq should be made primarily to benefit our soldiers. After allh they are volunteersh and even in the worst case senario most of them will get home. The Sunnis, on the other hand, ARE home, the most dangerous place they could possibly be, and they don't have a way to leave. I really feel that our decision about what to do should give at least, as much if not more, consideration to their future than to ours.
I just wish we had competent leadership because, no matter what the plan is, the Bush administration will screw it up.

OCSteve: I just don’t agree with you that this possible outcome is a foregone conclusion.

Why do you disagree? What do you see as the alternative?

Even while bearing the bulk of the casualties, reenlistment rates have exceeded goals since the war began. 2005 saw the highest rate in 5 years.

Yeah. Friend of mine who was in Iraq tried to re-enlist (and was turned down, I gather, for medical reasons). Reason: totally, wholly, financial. Having got into a thorough financial hole entirely thanks to having spent a year in Iraq, the only way out of it seemed to be to take the re-enlistment bonus once they'd upped it to an amount that would fill in the financial hole. Even knowing that re-enlisting meant being sent back to Iraq: and, no, my friend does not share your optimism.

If they thought it was hopeless we simply would not see that level of reenlistment.

Depends how much of a financial hole they're in.

Lily, I doubt very very much that the Democrats are likely to turn off the money spigot.

OCSteve, as mentioend by a couple folks above, the reenlistment rates can be deceiving. Undoubtedly, there are many who believe in the job they are doing. Probably an equal number do not even know what job they are supposed to be doing (in terms of what the over-all mission is) but reenlist either to avoid leaving their comrades in this situation or because of the very healthy bonuses offered. (Some, by the way, have yet to see their bonuses despite waiting several months.)

Then there are those who feel we never should have gone in, can't really do anything from a military standpoint to better things, but reenlist solely out of loyalty to their fellow soldiers.

It should also be noted that although reenlistment is high, the number of junior grade officers who are leaving the military is at its highest since the end of Vietnam, when the military was downsized.

OT: good news: Nastings Out.

Nastings = Hastings.

oh how i hate this skinny little comment box when posting URLs.

Paul, my interpretation of _Assassin's Gate_ (made based on reviews and blog discussions, so ...) is that Packer was doing good reporting calculated to help make the argument that the war's execution was so bad that one can't make any conclusion about the whole idea of getting in. He says in the book, "The Iraq war was always winnable. It still is."

Packer was tepidly pro-war pre-war. A number of people I respect were as well - Kevin Drum and Mark Kleiman, for example. I thought that there were sensible or non-irrational reasons to want to invade but that real-world considerations greatly outweighed those reasons. Drum (I think) and Kleiman see that now and acknowledge that people like me had a better case than them. Packer needs to confront the smart people who disagree with him, of whom it can't be said "The argument that Iraq would be better off on its own is a self-serving illusion that seems to offer Americans a win-win solution to a lose-lose problem." It's just childish for him to pursue this line. (Leaving aside the argument that the short-term outcome in Iraq of withdrawal will be worse than the status quo but that the long-term outcome might be better.)


cleek, here's hoping Harman's out next.

totally OT, I'm posting the following link at PZ Myers' request.

here

"God, the web of your life goes everywhere."

Yep...

How's abouts an open thread? Not that I have much to say.

Bruce Baugh, I've been quite perplexed to find some of my recent comments being disagreed with by you or Anarch or others; I'm pleased I haven't entirely lost my moorings.

America is a cipher. It expects its virgin goodness to be obvious to all AND it believes that virgin goodness will remain intact after whatever brutal ruthlessness it uses to remain pristine.

And, indeed, let us not forget there's a specific virgin to fetishise, this time.

nous: They will not leave their comrades in a tight situation without relief.

Fledermaus: As far as re-enlistment rates I would be careful about reading too much into that. It could easily be that those soldiers are simply reluctant to walk away when people they served and fought with are still in the excrement.

lily: Some might be, but many would feel that their sacrifices had been turned to naught and that they had been cheated out of the chance to finish their job.

JT: …but reenlist solely out of loyalty to their fellow soldiers.


There is a lot of truth there. No disagreement. Undoubtedly that influences some people. I’ve never experienced combat, but from all I know that bond is much, much tighter after that. I think though that you still have to believe you can accomplish what you set out to. You don’t pass up a chance to go home for what you feel will be certain failure (or death).


Jes: Reason: …totally, wholly, financial.

JT: …or because of the very healthy bonuses offered.

No agreement here. It might tip the scales in some cases, but I won’t believe it is the primary reason for most. The bonuses are mostly contingent on completing your next enlistment period.

Top bonus I have heard of was like $150,000 for specific and senior special ops dudes – for a 10 year commitment. So if you continue to do the most dangerous job in the military, you get $15,000 per year bonus – if you survive. I hope the family gets it anyway if you do not. Average is like $10,000 for a 3-4 year commitment. Do you believe that $2,500 per year bonus is enough to put your life on the line for the next 4 years? If you had “been there and done that” would you take that deal?

Personal anecdote: When I PCS’d to Germany, they let me ship 100 lbs. of household goods. The wife and the rest of the household were to follow. When I got there, they said Yo, you have to have three years remaining time in service for us to pay your wife’s way and ship the rest of your household goods (and ship it all and her back at the end of your tour). You have to re-up for at least 3 years to get that. Plus, we’ll give you more education benefits and a $5,000 bonus (a lot of $ in the early 80’s). Now this was the cold war, no actual bullets flying. No IEDs (some terrorist activity, some bombings) but other than some scary moments, all of our casualties were in training accidents. I saluted and told the Lt. very politely what he could do with his offer. I found a place on the economy (didn’t qualify for military quarters at that point), paid for my wife’s ticket out of pocket – and we furnished the place mostly on junk days – when people put furniture etc. out on the street for garbage collection. When we came home years later – we mailed what we really wanted to keep and threw the rest out. We walked on to the plane home with carry-on only.

So when you imply that all those soldiers are re-upping primarily for the bonuses, or any other monetary factor – I have a hard time accepting that. Not just my experience, but the experience of most of the active duty I knew in piece time disprove that. If you have actually been shot at on a regular basis? No way.

I can see some – but not a majority. It would be a huge stretch for me to get there.

OCS - you weren't by chance in Darmstadt, were you?

I urge everybody to read this article, which confirms how drastic the situation is for the Sunnis right now in the Anbar province. One doesn't even want to imagine what's gonna happen to them if they're totally left to their own devices.

The author of the report quoted in the article, a Col. Peter Devlin, says

"that without the deployment of an additional U.S. military division -- 15,000 to 20,000 troops -- plus billions of dollars in aid to the province, "there is nothing" U.S. troops "can do to influence" the insurgency.

Devlin ended the assessment by saying that while violence has surged, the presence of U.S. troops in Anbar has had "a real suppressive effect on the insurgency." He said the suffering of "Anbar's citizens undoubtedly would be far worse now if it was not for the very effective efforts" of U.S. forces.

So there you have it, that's the crux of the matter. Devlin seems to be knowing what he's talking about and maybe it's time to listen to him when wheighing our options and the moral consequences of our decisions.

OCSteve, when I talked about bonuses, I indicated it would be a minority of a minority.

Everybody can bring up anecdotal evidence of things, so take the following with a grain of salt. I was talking with two captians about two months after they returned from Iraq and just after they had attended a memorial service for those that didn't make it back alive.

One of the captains said "They all died in vain." The other disagreed, saying "They died defending their brothers in the army."

Both had considered leaving after their 6 year commitment was up, but both decided to stay (and I believe one is about to be redepolyed.) There were three reasons for staying.

1. Unless they put in a full 8 years they would be subject to recall at any time.

2. They feel a sense of loyalty to their troops, and being officers they mean the troops under their command.

3. If you leave the army early, you lose all benefits. There is no vesting of pension, etc. So unless they went into another branch of government they would be starting from scratch.

Correction, they do not lose treatment through the VA system.

As one of them told me, "We took out the major stabilizing influence in the Middle East, and our leadership has no idea what to do about it."

So when you imply that all those soldiers are re-upping primarily for the bonuses, or any other monetary factor – I have a hard time accepting that.

If you'd been $5,000 in debt, and the only way you saw of getting out of debt was to accept the army's offer, would that have affected your decision?

But, that's not really relevant to the discussion: if you think that the US military in Iraq has other choices than Thermopylae or Dunkirque, what are they?

you weren't by chance in Darmstadt, were you?

Indeed I was. A Company, 11th AD Signal Battalion, Cambri Fritch Kaserne. I was there from 84-90. Previous visit to the area in 83 in support of Able Archer. SP4 at the time, ETS Dec 86. Lived there as a civi for another 4 years.

Curious – but please tell me you are not 1st Sgt. Hines :)

John Miller:

"As one of them told me, 'We took out the major stabilizing influence in the Middle East, and our leadership has no idea what to do about it."

Anecdotal, yes, but ouchedy ouch ouch all the same.

Before OCSteve gets to pick between Thermopylae and Dunkirque and thus feeling like he is spending a hot day in the sun on Iwo Jima ;), I second Ugh's suggestion of an intervening open thread.

Subject: The Six Degrees of Separation Between Hilzoy and Everything Else in the World, But How Is It That Hilzoy Occupies All Intervening Degrees.

That's the title, not the entire post.

Dang, small world - I was at the Technische Hochschule Darmstadt in '87-'88. Probably walked past you a few times downtown - I was the hungry- and unhappy-looking Ami kid in need of a haircut.

john miller: I agree about anecdotal evidence – I labeled mine as such. Your anecdote has equal weight (meaning I value it and take it into consideration, not discard it). My only quibble is your No. 3 point: “If you leave the army early, you lose all benefits. There is no vesting of pension, etc”. That is not a matter of 6, or 8 or even 10 years. It’s 20 or none. So the decision is not about one more term, it is a decision about a career.

Jes:
Why do you disagree? What do you see as the alternative?
if you think that the US military in Iraq has other choices than Thermopylae or Dunkirque, what are they?


Well….

I’m more of a tactical guy. If you tell me “secure this block” or “take that hill”, I have a pretty good idea of how to accomplish that, even after all these years. But my experience is at the squad, platoon, and company level.

At the strategic level – I’m not your guy. If you ask me “how do we win the war”, assuming you can even define what “win” is – I don’t have the answer.

I have some thoughts – but trust me, it will not endear me to you…

I could expound on it some more, but I really don’t think you want to hear it :)

I was the hungry- and unhappy-looking Ami kid in need of a haircut.

Too funny. We may have indeed met. My wife and I loved to hang out at the Luisenplatz. Especially at this time of year. We lived in Kranichstein mostly. Almost every weekend we’d just jump on the H bus and hang out at the Kris Kringle fest. Uhm – gluhwein.

Seriously – what did I ever post that led you to guess Darmstadt? I have no idea how you came up with that…

As one of them told me, "We took out the major stabilizing influence in the Middle East, and our leadership has no idea what to do about it."

Bingo! Not saying that Saddam was a 'good guy' but a lot of the pre-war body counts probably come from supressing various rebellions in Kurdistan or the Shia areas. Random violence is never in the interest of a dictator, rather it is in discrete punishment of those who violate certain rules. Random killings and/or bombings will not a stable society make. The rationale behind such cruelty (or evil, if you will) is to make people behave in the way you like them to behave.

Contrast this with the violence we see now - no rhyme or reason. Nothing you can do will make you safe, there are no rules to follow that will keep you alive. Are we to blame? Of course not, but when you remove a stabilizing force in an area without providing for security this is the predictable result.

For more I highly recommend this article on how poorly BushCo understood what they were doing.

"Seriously – what did I ever post that led you to guess Darmstadt? I have no idea how you came up with that…"

A case of looking under the lamppost.

OCSteve: I have one friend who reenlisted last year because the alternative, it was made clear to him, was a stop-loss order and less consideration of his preferences for details of assignment. He'd like to be able to actually resign and return to his family, which is splitting up, but that's not an option. So he went for the one that gives him some dough and any measure of input.

I haven't the foggiest idea how common this is - I haven't seen anything like a survey of reenlister's attitudes, and it would be hard to earn the trust of a lot of strangers to find out. But I do feel confident raising it as one contributing reason for reenlistment rates being so high.

OCSteve: I have some thoughts – but trust me, it will not endear me to you…

I could expound on it some more, but I really don’t think you want to hear it :)

You know, a little smiley attached to a sentence like that, given what I've heard Americans seriously suggest that the US military should do in Iraq, doesn't actually make that sentence more chilling.

You're right: I don't want to hear you expound on your plans for mass murder.

In true "It's A Small World After All" fashion, my family was stationed in Darmstadt from 1976-79. My father had just made Warrant Officer and was with the 94th Engineers, B Co., working mostly at Ernst Ludwig Kaserne, but his HQ -- and my and my sister's schools -- were on Cambrai. (Go Trojans!) This was near the peak of deployment over there, so they didn't have sufficient base housing, so we, along with hundreds of other families, lived in Biebesheim.

I was back there a few years ago, in 2002, while I spent a month working in Frankfurt. Very little has changed there. It was like walking into a time machine.

Bruce: No doubt you are right and stop-loss does have something to do with it.

Phil: I actually liked ELK the best out of the 3 (my wife worked at Kelly Barracks). It always seemed so remote – quiet and peaceful compared to the other two.
It’s somehow comforting to see you write that nothing has changed. I always wanted to go back for a visit, but I thought, why bother; it won’t be anything like I remember.

Jes: I’m not sure what I ever said that leads you to believe I would advocate mass murder (in this situation anyway). My thoughts are more along the line of – well, the “small footprint” thing hasn’t worked out so well, let’s try out the large footprint theory. An influx of troops (as previously discussed, I do believe that is possible), martial law in Baghdad and other trouble spots, strict curfews (no one out after dark, excepting say a medical emergency), disarming the militias (by force if necessary), locking up the known troublemakers (and quelling any violent protests that result), doing a better job of vetting the Iraqi military and police (with harsh penalties for anyone abusing their position of authority). On the carrot side, get religious/tribal authorities to cooperate more by any means necessary (no, I don’t know how to do that, it’s a half-baked thought). Actually it’s all half-baked thoughts, as I said I’m no expert in this area – but it doesn’t actually include mass murder.

. An influx of troops (as previously discussed, I do believe that is possible), martial law in Baghdad and other trouble spots, strict curfews...

for how long ?

how long would we have to keep people in their houses ? what's the half-life of the typical vow of vengeance ?

seems futile.

"Or perhaps we can just dispense with the semantics and just agree that it's a nightmare, and a lasting shame."

The most important quote.

Can't we get off the semantics?!?!?

In other news, leaks are now finely honed statecraft rather than treason, at least as far as giving Maliki the shiv, according to the virtuous folks at Red State.

And, according to Josh Marshall, Jim Webb was asked by President Bush in a glad-handing session at the White House how his son was doing in Iraq. He answered that the kid would like to come home. Bush shot back that he didn't ask Webb that.

Webb reportedly considered decking the Commander-in-Chief.

I'm not a great fan of Jim Webb because of his loose cannon possibilities in coming years, but it's about time smarmy petulance was answered by a good spanking.

"So there you have it, that's the crux of the matter. Devlin seems to be knowing what he's talking about and maybe it's time to listen to him when wheighing our options and the moral consequences of our decisions."

I read the article--what I noticed was that Devlin regards Al Qaeda as the dominant force in Anbar province and yet another expert said that al Qaeda, while important, is not the dominant force in the area. That's not a minor point, because there's a huge difference between an insurgency dominated by groups supported by most Sunnis and one dominated by an outside group that attacks most Sunnis. Devlin is painting a picture where the US military is trying to help the Sunnis in Anbar, but the Sunnis are unable to support them for fear of Al Qaeda. I have trouble reconciling this picture with polls which suggest that the overwhelming majority of Sunnis support attacks on US forces.

I don't have a clear picture of what's happening in Iraq (I mean, aside from the obvious fact that many people are being killed) because it seems like much of what we read gets filtered through "experts" who have axes to grind. I'm not saying I know which experts are correct, because I don't. But I do wonder if it would be difficult for people within the military to speak frankly if it is indeed true that the people they are ostensibly protecting want to kill them.

I’m not sure what I ever said that leads you to believe I would advocate mass murder (in this situation anyway).

You said I wouldn't want to know what your solution was. The only thing I could think of that you would think was a solution that you wouldn't want to express publicly was the mass murder solution - the one very popular with the US right-wing: kill even more Iraqis, be even more brutal. You didn't mean that, and I'm glad.

An influx of troops (as previously discussed, I do believe that is possible)

Where from? As previously discussed, the various resources which you assumed were still available, aren't, actually. Stepping up recruitment/training levels? Would have had to have started in 2001, probably, or 2003 at latest, and didn't. Step them up now? Aside from the difficulty of persuading people to fight and die in a lost cause, how long would it take for a raw recruit to be any particular use in Iraq? From NATO allies? The UK is already stretched to the limit, with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and most of the other NATO allies don't support the US's venture in Iraq - and have already been insulted and vilified by the current government, so considerable public grovelling would be needed, and a committment that troops would be used responsibly, not thrown away.

A major international force? Same problems as NATO, only larger: plus no one trusts the US military any more - and the US military famously will never agree to be commanded by an international authority, not to mention that the US army is too wussy to wear UN blue helmets.

So, where is this influx of troops to come from? On that your notions of martial law and curfews depend.

locking up the known troublemakers (and quelling any violent protests that result)

Who is to judge who's a "known troublemaker"? And how will protests be quelled? Remember when a non-violent protest marched to the US military base in Fallujah in 2003, demanding elections, and the US military fired on them, killing several? That's the standard of policing protests that the Iraqis have come to expect from their American military overlords - again, without more (and more reliable) troops, how do you plan to ensure that this doesn't turn into more Abu Ghraibs, more Fallujahs? Extrajudicial imprisonment, torture, and murder by American soldiers of Iraq civilians and PoWs is only what Iraqis have come to expect from their American occupiers - this part of your plan sounds like going back to that, only more so. And without any committment from the Bush administration that when US soldiers commit torture and murder they will be subject to the same discipline that they would be if they tortured and murdered American civilians, that's what it will be. And that won't quell any insurrection: it will multiply it.

doing a better job of vetting the Iraqi military and police (with harsh penalties for anyone abusing their position of authority)

How do you plan to do that? Who is going to vet the Iraqi military and police? And when the Iraqi military and police are subject to harsh penalties for abusing their position, but US military get away with a slap on the wrist or nothing at all when they do, don't you think that the Iraqi military and police will presume that they are being mistreated, and their job is to conceal from their American overlords the crimes that Americans can commit with impunity, but that Iraqis are harshly punished for?

On the carrot side, get religious/tribal authorities to cooperate more by any means necessary (no, I don’t know how to do that, it’s a half-baked thought).

Well, I do, but that would have needed to happen in 2003, not in 2007. Too late now to convince them that the US is sincere. But I notice that it didn't even occur to you to suggest as a "carrot" that the US should root out from the Defense Department and the US military everyone responsible for the kidnapping, torturing, and murder of Iraqi soldiers and civilians, and try them for those crimes, with appropriate penalties, not just the current slap-on-the-wrist who-cares-if-you-tortured-an-Iraqi penalties. Perhaps because you know the Bush administration will never do that: that would imply that an Iraqi civilian's life is equal in value to that of an American.

Actually it’s all half-baked thoughts, as I said I’m no expert in this area

Nor am I. But I'd hoped you'd be more realistic. Those half-baked ideas are all dependent on (a) the Iraqis believing that despite everything the US military has done since they invaded, under the new Defense Secretary OCSteve*, they now mean well (b) more troops. You might as well have proposed ponies for all.

*And you would be better than the previous incompetent or the prospective pro-terrorist candidate. Bit of a backhanded compliment, but true: you mean well, and you'd likely be willing to take expert advice. Which means Bush would likely have you sacked within a week. :-(

John Thullen: I'm not a great fan of Jim Webb

Nor am I. But if he had decked Bush, I'd have made t-shirts and sold them at Cafepress: WebbFan!

Jes might want to take a look at The FlashBlock extension for FireFox. It might help, although I suspect something else is significantly messed up and is causing her problem.

Jes, so what else apart from "sorry lads, you're f@cked, wasn't my fault, I'm outta here" can you tell Iraqi civilians fearing for their lives?

Why shouldn't at least the current number of US troops stay if they can prevent an even worse situation? Why shouldn't the US make a real financial and human sacrifice to prevent another ex-Yugoslavia or worse, especially since we would have to intervene at a certain point in the future anyway, should it come to a humanitarian crisis?

I am as disillusioned as the next guy both as as far as the situation on the ground and the Bush admin are concerned, but I don't think all your certainties are as certain as you try to make them seem. Why do you refuse to look for any kind of solution? The Iraqis themselves can't all emigrate (that's just silly) or give up all hope for their country and their lives. Life in Iraq will go on and we still have a role to play in what that's gonna look like.

via CorrenteWire, here's the brief conversation between Webb and Dubya that JT referred to:

At a recent White House reception for freshman members of Congress, Virginia’s newest senator tried to avoid President Bush. Democrat James Webb declined to stand in a presidential receiving line or to have his picture taken with the man he had often criticized on the stump this fall. But it wasn’t long before Bush found him.

“How’s your boy?” Bush asked, referring to Webb’s son, a Marine serving in Iraq.

“I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President,” Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.

“That’s not what I asked you,” Bush said. “How’s your boy?”

“That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President,” Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.

Novakant: so what else apart from "sorry lads, you're f@cked, wasn't my fault, I'm outta here" can you tell Iraqi civilians fearing for their lives?

How about "Sorry my government invaded your country and f*cked it up beyond repair, we have to leave now or die, but we'll help you get out of here and I'll be your sponsor for immigration to the United States"? As discussed upthread and on other threads.

Okay, and this is not especially directed at any one commentator: Why do you refuse to look for any kind of solution?

Oh FOR F*CK'S SAKE.

For YEARS I've been writing about any kind of solution. I've been hopeful for any kind of solution. I think that invading Iraq was exactly the wrong thing to do, but once done it's done. Lacking any power whatsoever to influence events directly, I've written letters to MPs and Ministers and newspapers, I've written blog posts and comments, I've argued and I've cried and I've come to a bloody standstill.

THERE IS NO SOLUTION ANY MORE. In 2002, there was (don't invade). In 2003, there was (run the occupation sensibly). In 2004, there was (get a new administration).

I don't hate the US military. I've been accused of that so many times. But if I did hate the US military, I'd say yeah, stay in Iraq. Stay to the end. Die like the Spartans.

I don't hate the many individual Americans in the US military who are guilty of no crime but being sent to fight in a stupid war. I don't hate the many individual Iraqis who are guilty of no crime but being in a country that Bush wanted to invade. I wish there was a fix. I wish there was a solution. For years I kept hoping. But now it's clear that there isn't - that the choice is, shall we watch the US military die in Iraq with the Iraqis as Iraq goes up in flames, or shall we just watch Iraqis die in Iraq as it goes up in flames? And NEITHER OPTION is a good one. But, the lesser of two evils is the one the Iraqis themselves want, and the one that will at least save the Americans still in Iraq.

If the British army had stayed to fight in France after they had been defeated, they would have died there, or been taken prisoner. Whether that would have affected the course of WWII I do not know: but for the sake of their families and friends, and for the sake of morale in the UK at the time, I am glad they got out.

Let the Spartans have their everlasting fame.

but we'll help you get out of here and I'll be your sponsor for immigration to the United States

sorry, but this is at best an evasion (maybe a well intended one) that can't be taken seriously on any large scale: just ask yourself how many people could theoretically and how many will actually emigrate to the US - besides you simply can't empty a whole country of its civilian population, leaving the spoils to the thugs; you might help out a few thousand, maybe even a hundred thousand, and good for them, but the rest will still be f@cked

As for solutions, I'm not talking about any grand designs, I'm talking about preventing something much worse. I'm talking about something like the current state of the Ex-Yugoslav countries as a result and all I want is to prevent the genocide bit, while there's at least a chance of doing so; because if genocide was to break out in Iraq we would have to come back anyway under even more difficult circumstances, so we might as well try to prevent something like that from happening, while we still have some leverage and boots on the ground.

I understand your frustration, I was against this war from the get go, fearing that something like this would happen, but now that it has happened I find it unacceptable to just let the Iraqis rot. Or should we just say "right, we'll ignore you for a while, meanwhile let God sort them out", while we pussfoot around the definition of genocide as we did in e.g. Cambodia, Ruanda, Kongo?

god, I fear I'm repeating myself, but this really gets me

Novakant: Or should we just say "right, we'll ignore you for a while, meanwhile let God sort them out", while we pussfoot around the definition of genocide as we did in e.g. Cambodia, Ruanda, Kongo?

Well, Cambodia is an apt analogy. In Cambodia, the genocide happened because of US military attacks on the country allowing Pol Pot to gain control. Then the US sat back and let it happen, treating Pol Pot as an ally even after he'd been kicked out. Yes, I think it likely that the US will do just that once the army leaves. But the army is doing no good in Iraq, so what's the point of it staying there?

At the moment, the point of the army staying in Iraq is that Bush is hoping it can be the next guy's problem to get them out.

As for solutions, I'm not talking about any grand designs, I'm talking about preventing something much worse.

Fine. What do you suggest?

I'm talking about something like the current state of the Ex-Yugoslav countries as a result and all I want is to prevent the genocide bit, while there's at least a chance of doing so; because if genocide was to break out in Iraq we would have to come back anyway under even more difficult circumstances

Oh no. As you point out yourself, if genocide breaks out, the last thing that's going to happen is the US military going back to Iraq. And if genocide breaks out right now, what do you imagine that the US military will do? Again, if you see solutions - even if they're solutions that are sensible and practical and will therefore not be implemented while the Bush administration is in control - why aren't you proposing them, instead of complaining that I don't see that any solution is possible?

For years I thought there were possible solutions, I just didn't have any confidence that Bush would implement them. Now I see none. If you've got one, go on: show me why I'm wrong.

Jes: I did mention they were half-baked thoughts…

More troops – as mentioned previously, between the Army and the Marines there are currently about 665,000 of what we consider to be ground forces on active duty. There are about 140,000 in Iraq. Of the remaining 525,000 let’s say that 20% are not deployable for whatever reason. That still leaves close about 420,000 active duty ground troops who are not currently in Iraq – they are stateside or deployed elsewhere in the world. Some need to stay where they are (South Korea-25,000 for example). My position is based on the belief that we could if we so desired redeploy another 100,000 troops out of that number to Iraq. Equipping them, getting them there and up to speed, and making the most of the extra boots are all legitimate concerns. I just don’t believe they are insurmountable.

On your other points – OK, I wish for a pony too.

Now if you want a plan from more of a strategic thinker, here is a Marine Reserve officer with some interesting ideas. I need to think about some more, but I think I can get behind his plan.

Yes, deploying more troops is definitely possible. Also, spending a lot more money is definitely possible. We're talking about the world's richest nation with the by far biggest military expenditure here.

But even if there isn't an increase in troop levels and money, the current military presence prevents and will prevent a full-blown genocide from breaking out, simply because none of the factions can claim a monopoly on power. And the US, while far from controlling the situation, is a player to be reckoned with. It could contain any large-scale, organized campaign of ethnic cleansing or proper military campaign. We're talking about sectarian warfare or even civil war, but not about internment camps and mass graves yet, but as soon as the US pulls out that will become a very real possibility. So I think it's a moral imperative to stay and at least prevent that from happening.

novakant: So I think it's a moral imperative to stay and at least prevent that from happening.

Well said. I’d obviously like to see progress as well – but you have nailed what I think is our absolute minimum responsibility here.

"Yes, deploying more troops is definitely possible."

We would have had to start a Friedman ago to be in a position to deploy them now. And doing so will further degrade readiness/morale/etc which is bad for various reasons, in particular reacting to future problems. If the country were willing to put the effort into doubling or trebling the current force and maintaining it for 10 years - that is, abandon all our other projects (growing the economy, dealing with Katrina, fixing health care, paying down the deficit, ...) - there might be a possibility of leaving Iraq in stableish shape. Of course it might make more sense to put that sort of effort into eradicating AIDS in Africa, or heading off the global warming catastrophe that is likely to devastate the low countries, or ...

Yes, deploying more troops is definitely possible.

How? As was noted in previous thread (and as a quick google confirmed), units deployed elsewhere are already sending troops to Iraq (at least, from Germany and from Japan, and I understand there's a problem called North Korea which makes removing large numbers of troops from South Korea problematic). I suspect that the troops deployed in Kuwait are also providing support for Iraq forces - I doubt very much if they're just sitting there kicking their heels doing nothing.

But even if there isn't an increase in troop levels and money, the current military presence prevents and will prevent a full-blown genocide from breaking out, simply because none of the factions can claim a monopoly on power.

I hope you're right. But, I think it's just a question of time before the US military is left sitting inside its safe zones, not venturing outside to stop Shi'ites killing Sunnis (or Sunnis killing Shi'ites) because there is nothing that they can physically do except go out and get killed themselves. Further, the will to stop genocide has to be there - and thus far, what we've seen is a pattern of steady denial from official military outlets that really bad
things are happening.

Take the immolation of six Sunnis leaving a mosque, reported by an Iraqi police captain, formally denied by the US military, confirmed by AP reporters talking to eyewitnesses: how long before that turns into the mass killing of every Sunni in a mosque on Friday and the US military carefully look the other way and say they had no idea it was happening?

Three thousand prisoners were massacred in Afghanistan with US military involvement. And they may not be the only ones. Thousands more extra-judicial prisoners taken by the US have "disappeared" - and after years of waiting by their families, have never reappeared. They may all be "ghost detainees" in the US gulags, but the sheer numbers that have vanished - vastly outnumbering the known prisoners in Guantanamo Bay or Bagram Airbase - suggest that they are dead, killed with US complicity.

And you think that the US military will risk their lives to stop genocide?

The part of the plan OC Steve cited which sounds most unlikely is point 4:

"4. If he [Maliki] can't do it [purge the militias from the Iraqi security forces], then declare Iraq's security forces to be in receivership. What does this mean? It means that the security forces of Iraq no longer answer to the Iraqi government, they answer to the US military. The government will still exist. It will still be a democracy. But it will temporarily lose control of its military. After doing this, purge the Iraqi forces of those loyal to Shi'ite militias."

Saying that the Iraqi security forces will answer to US military, rather than the Iraqi government or more likely the side in the civil war they feel closest to, seems doubtful at best. It is more likely a recipe for wholesale desertions, with many of those remaining being sleepers who will wait for opportunities to attack us.

Purging those loyal to Shi'ite (and Sunni) militias prior to gaining language and cultural proficiency also seems problematic, as we will be faced with a choice of purging far too many people of questionable loyalty (as in de-Ba'athification) or far too few (again, allowing sleeper cells) if we try to do this before we become competent at determining who is on our side.

Sorry for the sudden outburst, novakant.

I am actually certain that there will come a time when the US military in Iraq will not be able to stop genocide. But I also think that genocide is likely to come not all at once but by creeping pieces - six people, fifty, a hundred. Who will report it? If there are no witnesses left alive, what will be said happened? It won't be a case of the US military noting that someone is building death camps and herding people into them: it will be - perhaps - a convoy outside the Green Zone realizing that one of the villages they pass through is silent not because the people who live there are afraid but because they are all dead.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad