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June 26, 2007

Comments

Or must they simply shut up and fund whatever the President requests?

You have to ask?

"Or must they simply shut up and fund whatever the President requests?"

Yes, please.

von,

"A cost-benefit analysis, taking into account the limits of U.S. power and the U.S.'s national interests: how novel. I can see why Reynolds would find Lugar a bit too uppity for his taste."

Funny, but less than two years ago, this was too uppity for the taste of nearly everyone on the right side of the spectrum, yourself included.

While I appreciate that you are coming off the "No End But Victory" meme where only the cost of failure was an issue in your thinking (and at least you did not actively support the efforts of some to question the patriotism of those who were thinking about other considerations), perhaps it's time to acknowledge the costs incurred by the country in the interim by not getting here earlier.

While I don't follow Sen. Lugar, he's always a good person to look to for the mature, reality-based, opposing (to mine) view. People like Prof. Reynolds aren't worth my attention, or, I daresay, yours, von.

According to the discursive standards that seem to apply, Republicans are entitled to criticize the tactics, strategy, and policy of Democratic presidents, but neither Republicans nor Democrats are allowed to criticize the army under Bush or even to hypothesize different policies or strategies than the army under Bush. That is treason to country and king.

L'etat c'est lui. Or, as I prefer, 'Le twat, c'est l'etat. (Il pense)'

My question for the "stay the course" crowd is:

If failure is too expensive for us to contemplate, why have none of you ever been willing to raise taxes to pay for this valuable war or to put enough resources into Iraq to succeed?

Thank you, Senator Lugar, for coming around.

How about the fact that the sage Lugar, despite reaching the conclusion that the Bush policy is flawed, has no intention of doing anything about it?

From the AP article about the speech:

Lugar's spokesman Andy Fisher said the senator wanted to express his concerns publicly before Bush reviews his Iraq strategy in September.

"They've known his position on this for quite a while," Fisher said of the White House.

However, Fisher said the speech does not mean Lugar would switch his vote on the war or embrace Democratic measures setting a deadline for troop withdrawals.

Which makes Lugar another hypocritical Republican that knowingly supports disastrous Bush policies -- his criticism of Bush is meaningless if he won't act on his convictions.

Which makes Lugar another hypocritical Republican that knowingly supports disastrous Bush policies -- his criticism of Bush is meaningless if he won't act on his convictions.

Looks like Lugar is angling for the position currently occupied by Chuck Hagel.

Looks like Lugar is angling for the position currently occupied by Chuck Hagel.

Presidential wannabe who's dead last in the pre-primary polls?

Once you achieve total oneness with nature through eating a whole cheesecake, you can pretty much let any post from that disinglennuous, inexplicably popular charlatan pass.

OT - good to know that everything is all happiness and sunshine at Gittmo.">http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/26/opinion/26davis.html?pagewanted=all">Gittmo.

so you're going from "no end but victory" to "oops, no worky, let's focus on US interests" ?

that's kind of the worst of both worlds

Or must they simply shut up and fund whatever the President requests?

That's the way its been for the past 6 years (a position, I might ad that you have generally be supportive of - "time of war", "terrorists", "islomafascism", et.). Why should we expect it to change?

Sounds to me that Lugar is finally willing to admit publicly that we have been hitting the wall with what we can, realistically, accomplish.

"One could also glean from Lugar's remarks -- if one read them -- that the U.S. lacks the military muscle to stop Iranian troops from entering Iraq, much less Iranian agents, provocateurs, saboteurs, and ne'erdowells."

This may well be true, but if it is, it's time for us to admit that we're no longer a major power, ramp down our spending on an impotent military, and retire from the world stage.

Brett: it's time for us to admit that we're no longer a major power, ramp down our spending on an impotent military, and retire from the world stage.

Seconded.

*waits*

Cool, I could live with that. I just happen to think that, if we're going to be a major power, we ought to go at it seriously. Getting our own house in order would be my preference, though.

I just happen to think that, if we're going to be a major power, we ought to go at it seriously.

My comment at 12:26 ought to have had an /Fe tag, though.

I can't think of an instance where a country wielding imperial power gave it up voluntarily.

Hm, dialogue from The Lord of the Rings keeps creeping into my head...

The US is definitely not Gandalf, Galadriel, or Faramir. At best it aspires to being Boromir, and at worst it's Saruman. The notion that it could be Frodo or Samwise is just not on.

DtM, I didn't abandon a cost-benefit analysis in those posts; I weighed the costs and benefits differently. As further information came in, Bush continued in his failing strategies, and progress was not made, the costs and benefits changed -- and my view with them.

Lugar is my second-favorite Republican in the Senate; I've always thought of him as pretty reality-based and I've been relatively disappointed in his behavior under Bush. This is an encouraging sign. Of course, in Bizzaro World, you can be a loyal soldier for decades and the moment you waver, you're in the Defeatocrat Caucus sipping lemonade with Jack Murtha. But we really need people of conscience in our government when it comes to foreign policy, and blind partisan loyalty is just bad for the country.

that's kind of the worst of both worlds

I don't think that you can possibly review my writings on the subject of Iraq -- writings that have been highly critical of this Administration at every stage of the conflict -- and conclude that I don't always try to put the US national interest first. Indeed, if there's a criticism to be made of me, it's that I lack the zeal of certain war supporters and detractors regarding the rightness of their cause and/or the need to factor morality into foreign policy. I try to have no illusions regarding the nature of policy -- there are no perfect ones -- and I belong to the realist, rather than liberal hawk, neoconservative, ANSWER, or neoliberal schools of foreign policy.

Who's your most favorite Republican in the Senate, Steve?

We can't even stop the insurgents from getting into the Green Zone cafeterias. How does Reynolds propose we keep the Iranians out? (Not that I lend any credence to that story, though if they are coming into Iraq, wouldn't that just be them putting the Bush doctrine into effect?)

von,

"I didn't abandon a cost-benefit analysis in those posts; I weighed the costs and benefits differently."

Clearly, I am unqualified to gainsay you on what your thought processes were. However, no comparison of the costs of the current approach or the benefits of any other approach were mentioned by you -- only the cost of changing course and the benefits of success of the current course.

Yeah, how 'bout that "Iranian invasion"? I just did a quick Google News search, and so far, the (rather sketchy) report linked to by von and the InstaHack (from the Rupert Murdoch tabloid Sun) seems to be the sole source for this "news".

Shall we hold our breath waiting for the good Professor to post either an update or a correction?

"We can't even stop the insurgents from getting into the Green Zone cafeterias. How does Reynolds propose we keep the Iranians out?"

Well, people DO have to enter Green Zone cafeterias, so you're stuck trying to tell the insurgents from everybody else. OTOH, people DON'T have to cross the border between Iran and Iraq, so you can just establish a no-man zone, and kill anyone who enters it. Militaries are reputed to be competent at THAT sort of task...

"Well, people DO have to enter Green Zone cafeterias, so you're stuck trying to tell the insurgents from everybody else. OTOH, people DON'T have to cross the border between Iran and Iraq, so you can just establish a no-man zone, and kill anyone who enters it. Militaries are reputed to be competent at THAT sort of task..."

Yeah, that'll work.

Until the Iraqis start getting upset at the Americans interfering with cross-border commerce.

OTOH, people DON'T have to cross the border between Iran and Iraq, so you can just establish a no-man zone, and kill anyone who enters it. Militaries are reputed to be competent at THAT sort of task

OK, so we've got a roughly 900 mile border to secure.

Can we ramp up robot production fast enough to cover it all by the end of the year?

Well, they might be just a tad more upset with Iranians sending the insurgency munitions to use on Iraqis. Or so I would suppose.

One might find delight in saying "I told you so" from time to time. However the Iraq war with its accompanying casualties, destabilization of an already volatile region, and economic cost is not one of those occasions.

(Though I disagree about withdrawl, We were stupid to go to Iraq, but we started it, and we have an obligation to fix it, whatever the cost.)

"Well, they might be just a tad more upset with Iranians sending the insurgency munitions to use on Iraqis. Or so I would suppose."

Would these be the "EFP" munitions that only Iran can build, because while Iraqis can build nukes, chemical weapons, nerve gas, and aerial drones, only Iran is able to slap a copper disk on a slab of C4?

"We were stupid to go to Iraq, but we started it, and we have an obligation to fix it, whatever the cost"

Get away mr 'surgeon' smartass! I put this wooden fencepost through this guy's head, and I'll be damned if I'm going to leave before I fix it! Now give me those garden shears and that butter knife and let me work!

Who's your most favorite Republican in the Senate, Steve?

I guess I invited that question, although I totally didn't mean to be cutesy about it. The answer is John Warner.

Brett: This may well be true, but if it is, it's time for us to admit that we're no longer a major power

Brett, just because the US can't control everything that happens on a very long and highly porous border in the middle of a civil war six thousand miles away doesn't mean that it is no longer a major power. Excluded middle. You can be a major power without being omnipotent.

Or, to put it another way, Shinobi: If I rear-end your parked car, do you want me to camp out in your house while I try to fix it using inadequate tools?

Or would you rather just take my money and have it fixed in your preferred way?

"Brett, just because the US can't control everything that happens on a very long and highly porous border in the middle of a civil war six thousand miles away "

The Iranian/Iraqi border is between two countries, this rather rules out it being in the middle of a civil war. I won't dispute that it is in the middle of a war, though; That's the point. You don't win a war by declaring your foe's territory off limits. In this war, Syria and Iran are our foes, the Iraqi "insurgency" are their proxies.

In this war, Syria and Iran are our foes, the Iraqi "insurgency" are their proxies.

Are we still laboring under the illusion that the Iraqis would be throwing sweets if it weren't for the (drumroll please...) Terror Masters!!11!!? Eeeek!!!

Of course the insurgents accept help from whoever gives it. They want to win. Duh. Reducing them to puppets dancing to a tune from Damascus gets it wrong in pretty much the exact same way the Neocons have been getting it wrong for over a decade.

In this war, Syria and Iran are our foes, the Iraqi "insurgency" are their proxies.

Brett, I believe you got that wrong. In this war, the Democrats are the foes, and al qaeda are their proxies. Blowing up iraqis is sort of a proxy for blowing up democrats and moderates who might vote democrat.

And while the war is going badly, still a strong scorched-earth defense can stop democrats from gaining where republicans lose.

They were our foes all along: The purpose of the war was pretty openly to establish a free, democratic society in the middle of Islam's heartland, a threatening example that things could be better to the victims of all the middle eastern kleptocracies. We knew this was the point, and THEY knew this was the point.

This being the case, it was remarkably stupid to assume they'd stay out of it.;

Brett: The purpose of the war was pretty openly to establish a free, democratic society in the middle of Islam's heartland

No, the purpose of the war was, very openly, to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime: this was one of al-Qaeda's explicit goals, too.

An undeclared - but clear from the beginning - purpose of the war was for the US, or a puppet regime wholly owned/run by the US, to take control of Iraqi oil.

A secondary benefit of the war was that it meant the US military could be withdrawn from Saudi Arabia, because the plan was to set up permanent US military bases in Iraq. This was a secondary benefit to the Bush administration, since the bases were a thorn in the side of their Saudi allies, but it was a primary goal for al-Qaeda, which the war with Iraq accomplished for them.

That Iraq has become a country in which al-Qaeda can freely operate, instead of the only Islamic country in the Middle East in which they could not, is a tertiary benefit: a primary benefit is the US occupation of Iraq as a recruiting tool.

The Iraq war has been good for al-Qaeda.

Piling on Jes' cynicism, the rule of "follow the money" suggests that one of the purposes of the Iraq war was to provide a justification for continued diversion of money into the coffers of the Military Industrial Complex. Not explicitly, but those folks are well aware of which side their bread is buttered on, and have been quite worried about the lack of a big scary enemy since the end of the cold war. They were pushing for China as the next big threat up until 9/11, but IslamoFascism(tm) fits the bill pretty well, too.

The purpose of the war was pretty openly to establish a free, democratic society in the middle of Islam's heartland, a threatening example that things could be better to the victims of all the middle eastern kleptocracies.

Brett, you strike me as a sensible guy, so it's really hard for me to believe that you actually think Iran and others are trying to destabilize the Iraqi regime because they're like "oh no, if our people see that democracy can work, we're doomed!"

If Iran is seriously trying to undermine the Maliki government, why does Maliki ask Iran for help with security?

It seems clear to me that Iran's agenda in Iraq is strictly anti-U.S. Why wouldn't they be thrilled to have a stable, Iran-friendly, Shiite-dominated government in Iraq?

Piling on Jes' cynicism

It's kind of alarming when just pointing out what the facts are can get you labelled "cynical". Brett is just wrong when he claims that the purpose of the war was to "establish a free, democratic society in the middle of Islam's heartland": you'd think everyone had forgotten already how consistently and successfully the Bush administration resisted Iraqi pressure to be allowed elections in 2003. It's what the first casualties of Fallujah died for.

Piling on Jes' cynicism

It's kind of alarming when just pointing out what the facts are can get you labelled "cynical". Brett is just wrong when he claims that the purpose of the war was to "establish a free, democratic society in the middle of Islam's heartland": you'd think everyone had forgotten already how consistently and successfully the Bush administration resisted Iraqi pressure to be allowed elections in 2003. It's what the first casualties of Fallujah died for.

[I] always try to put the US national interest first
(...)
I belong to the realist, rather than liberal hawk, neoconservative, ANSWER, or neoliberal schools of foreign policy.

The problem with 'the national interest' is, that it's at best an amoral concept, can't be universalized and is boundless in its scope. While one might be able to argue that if every citizen just follows his interest within the given framework of the state, the net outcome is a positive one because all this aspiration creates wealth for the society as a whole, this is not the case for the global community, as it is lacking such a framework and it comes down to who's got the guns in the end.

The 'US interest' might lead to positive developments, e.g. the Marshall Plan, and then again it might not, e.g. US policy in Latin America. And unless one wants to argue that 300 million people for some reason have a superior claim to wealth and happiness than the remaining 6 and a half billion, the 'US interest' is simply not a very compelling argument.

Now, I've listened to enough hard-nosed talk pointing out that countries always act in their national interest and that that's just the way it works - that's true to an extent, but one has to ask if we want or can keep going on like this: I don't think so.
Unless we want a Mad Max 2 scenario in 30 years time, the energy and environmental issues alone compel us to see beyond national interests.

While I can see the attractiveness that a return to pursuing the national interest might have even for some on the left after the disastrous shenanigans of the neo-cons, I simply don't think that (ignoring the amorality of it all for a moment) it can serve as a meaningful basis for a future foreign policy.

And unless one wants to argue that 300 million people for some reason have a superior claim to wealth and happiness than the remaining 6 and a half billion,

That's exactly the argument.

brett,

"The purpose of the war was pretty openly to establish a free, democratic society in the middle of Islam's heartland, a threatening example that things could be better to the victims of all the middle eastern kleptocracies. We knew this was the point, and THEY knew this was the point."

Different factions in Washington had different purposes, but the policy-making center, the president, was out of his depth and never laid out any clear goals. There were certainly some who thought the goal was democracy-building, but since quite literally there was never any plan drawn up for that, or even (so far as we know) any high-level discussions about achieving that goal, it seems like a mistake to single out of the war-hyping cacophony this minority voice without any bureaucratic clout.


von,
"I try to have no illusions regarding the nature of policy -- there are no perfect ones -- and I belong to the realist, rather than liberal hawk, neoconservative, ANSWER, or neoliberal schools of foreign policy."

To be honest, I don't think you really know what 'realism' is - it's not the vague 'practical', 'tough-talking' [note - this is spin terminology, which should warn you away already] brand of FP-making that pop culture seems to think it is [people thus described are usually nationalist policymakers, like Dick Cheney]. Realism, neorealism, neoliberalism etc. are specific intellectual schools in the field of international politics/relations, and I'm having a hard time thinking of American realist thinkers, whether left or right-wing, who weren't vocal in their opposition to the invasion of Iraq [for the obvious reason that, whether you could give a damn or not about the Iraqis, the invasion would clearly end up being an American foot-shooting of historic proportions]. Most realists who are also policymakers are probably found in the military. You might recall that the civilian authorities went through a bunch of generals before they found a few craven enough to go along with their scheme.


They were our foes all along: The purpose of the war was pretty openly to establish a free, democratic society in the middle of Islam's heartland, a threatening example that things could be better to the victims of all the middle eastern kleptocracies. We knew this was the point, and THEY knew this was the point.

Yes! /snark!!!
And that was just the reason why Rumsfeld and the DoD supported Ahmed Chalabi that strongly in 2003/2004. Because a convicted criminal in Jordan (and a total liar on Iraqi WMDs) was just the honest guy "to establish a free, democratic society in the middle of Islam's heartland."
Not to mention a guy who haven´t lived in Iraq in the 20+ years before its "liberation".

And even more to the point - although I even hesitate to mention it now - back in 2002 and early 2003 the "purpose of the war was" NOT "to establish a free, democratic society in the middle of Islam's heartland".

According to Mr. Bush and Blair back then it was the imminent danger of WMDs and terrorists.
DO NOT try to rewrite history!
Democracy wasn´t even mentioned in 2002!
It was all 9/11 and imminent danger!
Democracy and nation-building - which Rumsfeld abhorred - only started after the initial plans of Chalabi taking over as the new strong man failed.

That's exactly the argument.

well, yeah, but I'll give von the chance to elaborate, if he wishes;

it sure wouldn't play well in ethics class

The Iraq war has been good for al-Qaeda.

The ones that survive will, I'm sure, wax enthusiastic.

To say that it's about Al Qaeda, though, might earn you a reputation of having an administration-enabling POV.

I'd say the Iraq war has been good for the real AQ, although, in the end, maybe not so good for its namesake AQM.

The real winner, though, is Iran. This is no surprise: anyone could have predicted that the result in Iraq was going to be a government much friendlier to Iran than the prior regime, and much friendlier to Iran, ultimately, than to US. Regardless of the form of government. Notice I'm not saying that Iraq would be a satellite, or a hopeless pawn. Just that it would be as Canada is to the US. One only had to look at what our allies in Iraq were doing in the 1990s to see this.

CC: …anyone could have predicted…

I have to take issue with this, as it is repeated often here in many contexts… So this is not directed at you specifically (although it is a little) but to the group at large.

If it is true that “anyone could have predicted” and I did not, then I have to assume that I am an idiot and well below the qualifications for “anyone”. That may well be true, but other factors indicate otherwise (overall success in life, mastery of multiple complex subjects, etc).

Many of you on the left like to make fun of “black or white, for us or against us, etc”, everything has many sides and a lot of nuance. Yet in other things, it is black or white. It gets hard to keep track without a scorecard.

The best way I can explain it is that thing I call “political filters”. I accepted without many reservations that we could remake the ME with a bold stroke or two. Understand that IMO this is the hot spot since the collapse of the SU (and before but overshadowed) – I still think it may have been possible but I readily admit it was screwed from start to (very bloody) finish. I listened to the wrong people, or at the least those people were very wrong. The best thing that I can say is that I never really demonized those against this, I just filtered them out, did not hear them or at least did not give much credence to them or stop to think about what they said.

Now many of those same people have been proven right. Beyond admitting that and trying to remember all this next time, what penance would you have me do before I am welcomed back to the ranks of “anyone”?

OCSteve--
We haven't mentioned the communion where you have to drink the transubstantiated sweat of Michael Moore?

OC Steve: you already have done it. Your penance is developing some humility with regard to the US's exercise of power.

The liberal's quick rule of thumb: How would I react if this were done to me.

so, China is disgusted at the US's refusal to comply with the NNPT and invades. The first thing they do is nationalize all natural resource assets and bring it a puppet government of US exiles living in Canada. When the financial system collapses, unemployment skyrockets to 70%. How would you feel?

how should you have seen failure coming? because the admin was telling so many lies. Powell's speech to the UN rang false to me because there had been no news reports of any of the weapons he was talking about being found. My doubts were confirmed when the weapons inspectors went to a "known" site, to find an empty and long-abandoned factory. About the same time, Rumsfeld was saying that we "knew" where the WMD were. The only explanation was the admin was lying its *ss off.

OCSteve,
If it is true that “anyone could have predicted” and I did not, then I have to assume that I am an idiot and well below the qualifications for “anyone”.

It is not true that anyone could have predicted Iraq being a disaster. It is true that anyone familar with Iraq, the region, or the history of foreign military interventions in the Third World could have predicted Iraq being a disaster. I say this with confidence because I remember 2002 and as far as I could tell everyone in the above categories did predict Iraq would be a disaster. Acedmia? Check (with the notable exceptio, at least, of Bernard Lewis - but the overwhelming majority predicted disaster). Diplomats? Check (even america's and britain's own foreign ministries were opposed). People who live in the Mideast? Check.

I personally witnessed relevant academics, state department officials, various people from the Mideast including Israeli generals (who know that the humiliation of the US is not a good exchange for the removal of a neutered opponent, an argument quite different for Iran) repeat the same mantra of doom over and over.

These people aren't geniuses. This prediction of doom wasn't hard. This is what Joe Public USA doesn't seem to get - this was never even close. It was slamdunk fubar as soon as it was suggested (and it was suggested over and over for a decade but noone paid attention because the people suggesting it were batsh*t wildeyed loons).

I basically never comment on the many legal issues discussed on this blog because I have no legal training, and would have very little to contribute of any value. Yet foreign policy, like sports, is something every wageslave male with a spreading paunch thinks he automatically has a valuable opinion on, even if he has never played the sport in question and doesn't own a passport.

CNN shows a map of Iraq and says Sunnis live here and Shia live there. That's the equivalent of me knowing that there are 9 supreme court justices and that they work on washington, but Joe Public has no problems advocating firey death from above for distant foreigners with that level of knowledge.

The Iraq war has been good for al-Qaeda.

The ones that survive will, I'm sure, wax enthusiastic.

To say that it's about Al Qaeda, though, might earn you a reputation of having an administration-enabling POV.

This comment only makes sense if the commenter is a person who cannot distinguish between things that actually are al Qaeda and things that aren't. That leads me to believe that Slarti either a) is one of those persons or b) is playing at being one for some reason known only to him. I hope it's "b."

OCSteve - are you talking about CharleyC's comment that the invasion would inure to Iran's benefit, or more generally that it would be a disaster?

That sounds more elitist than I mean it to be.

I really think the Iraq debate in 2002 was akin to a BMW fan and a Mercedes fan arguing over which car is better. There is lots of room for differing opinions, but they both know that cars are heavy, and that engines and electronics don't like water. Therefore neither would advocate driving a car into a swimming pool.

I pretty much remember the entire world except for maybe 55% of the American voting public thinking it would be a terrible idea to drive the USA into the Iraqi swimming pool.

OCS, if you were in charge of designing the policy, then I'd fault you for not making the prediction. It was obvious at the time, and it's obvious now, that people who spent a substantial part of the saddam years in Teheran aren't going to share our hostility to the Iranian regime. It's also a simple fact that Iran is going to share a long border with, and have significant interests in who is running Iraq from now until the end of time. As it is, though, you're an amateur, and have a lot of things going on. So I don't fault you in the slightest for not making the prediction.

Stated a different way, I've no doubt that you too could have predicted this. Had you looked at the realities of the situation with the issue in mind (what are post-Saddam relations between Iraq and Iran going to be like).

If you tell me, though, that you did think about the question, and thought it more likely that a pro-Israel, pro-US, anti-Iran regime was going to be likely, then I'd suggest you might want to adjust your analytical framer several degrees. Still no blame -- you weren't an architect of the policy -- and certainly no thought of non-personhood.

I don't think in terms of non-personhood. Life's pretty short, and there's plenty to fill it, so when it comes to political and policy discussion/analysis, I really have only two catrgories: those worth spending time listening too (agree or not) and those not worth my time (agree or not). FYI, the second category dwarfs the first, on both the agreement and disagreement sides.

OCSteve,

I'm not sure that this applies to you, but a number of otherwise very smart conservatives that I know came to the wrong conclusions because they went insane on 9/11. It seems to me that 9/11 scared them, and instead of dealing with their fears the way an emotional adult would, they relished their fears, continually hyping up the dangers of this "new war". I imagine having video footage of planes crashing into the towers play over and over and over on every news broadcast seemingly forever did not help. In any event, people that are scared make irrational decisions.

I know that when I spoke to my friends that were chemists and biologists about Iraq keeping chem/bio weapons in 2002, they literally laughed in my face. It was a joke. And knowing something about Islam, the notion that Iraq would "loan" a nuclear device to AQ was beyond a joke; it was just insane. Did you discuss the war with any of your arab or moslem friends?

In my experience, people in the United States are just insane when it comes to evaluating the efficacy of military force. And that includes people in the military. Most people haven't realized that 1. the world is awash in small arms and asymmetry matters, 2. you can't bomb your way out of a modern conflict in the middle east.

As a first order approximation, I like to ask people why they think that an occupation of Baghdad would have gone down any differently than what was portrayed in "Blackhawk Down". People who are rather well informed can make reasonable arguments, but most people I spoke with couldn't produce a coherent answer. At the end of the day, they end up with a pathetic wrapper around "Americans are the good guys and they always win" or "the military can do (literally) anything".

OCS, I put you in the worth listening to category when you are talking about something as to which it is obvious that you are completely and uniquely competent: your own views, and the basis for them. I'm not sure whether I'd pay attention to your analysis of the NFL draft because I'm not aware (and this could just be ignorance on my part) of expertise on your part. Well, I'd listen and see if the logic worked -- it's not just information, that makes the difference, but whether the logical train works.

Actually I do know the answer re; the NFL draft -- there's no one who could get me to spend much time at all on the subject because I'm not interested in it.

What the Iraq invasion would mean for Iran should have been the very top question for policy makers, and pretty much any serious advocate of the policy. I recall repeating, tiresomely I'm sure, that the Administration saying that the road to Jerusalem leads through Baghdad was only true if one is starting in Teheran. Who were the people who would run Iraq? The Pentagon's golden boy was an Iranian agent. Everyone else had been there in exile, for a time at least.

Now it's true that I've had a couple of cases involving things Iranian -- and spent much of the first month of 2003 writing a brief on Executive power to deter and punish Iran-sponsored terrorism -- none of which makes me an expert of any kind, but made me think about Iran more than the average Joe. Nonetheless, conceit of bloggers and commenters aside, policy isn't actually made by the average Joe, and i really can't see how any of the people we were paying to do the heavy lifting wrren't thinking hard at the beginning about Iran -- and especially getting ready for what actually happened: the 2003 approach from iran to coordinate Iraq policy.

OCSteve: welcome back!

About this: "If it is true that “anyone could have predicted” and I did not, then I have to assume that I am an idiot and well below the qualifications for “anyone”." -- I'd take it another way. I'd say either: (a) anyone could have predicted it, if /he was willing to read up a lot on the Middle East and Iran, where "reading up" means making an effort not just to read the stuff that people on one's own side recommend, but reading histories etc. from all over, or (b) the great majority of people who already had that level of knowledge would have been able to predict it without further effort.

Now: I don't think that most people actually made the kind of effort in (a) before the war. And a lot of those who tried got their reading recommendations from people with an agenda. (I mean: reading the stuff that, say, Bill Kristol recommends will give you a sort of veneer of knowledge, but nothing like an objective view. Same goes for reading what Chomsky recommends, I'd guess -- though before people jump on me, I'll say that while I have followed Kristol enough to know who he thinks of as a luminary, I haven't followed Chomsky that way, so I'm just surmising.)

The best thing, I've always thought, is to acquire a decent working knowledge of various parts of the world before you need it. Since you do that before some partisan issue has arisen, you'll be less likely to get only what suits some particular partisan agenda -- after all, no one knows what their partisan agenda requires yet, so they can't exactly tailor things to it. Given that kind of background, one would be in a position to see who is playing straight and who is full of it, the way I imagine each of us would be able to do on issues we deal with professionally.

I was lucky: having lived and travelled in the ME, I had a decent sense of what it was like, and that also made it much easier to follow the area afterwards. I didn't really have to try. That made it a lot easier to listen to the likes of Wolfowitz talking about remaking the ME and think: what on earth have you been smoking?

It (the background nowledge) also made the following thoughts really obvious: Iraq and Iran had been at each other's throats for ages. This was in large part because they were both guning for the role of regional dominant power, but it also wasn't helped by the massive ideological differences between the two, the fact that Iraq was oppressing its Shi'a population, and the absolutely horrific Iran/Iraq war. One really obvious effect of toppling Saddam would be: removing Iran's most serious enemy in the region. That would help Iran enormously all by itself. If, in addition, Iraq became very weak and/or got a Shi'a government, it would be helped even more.

I mean: If you think of Europe, say during the 19th century, imagine Iran as Germany and Iraq as France, and imagine further that there is no Russia or Britain (the other countries are smaller and weaker, more like Spain or Italy.) Now imagine that someone proposes to topple the French government. It's hard to imagine how that doesn't benefit Germany.

But not seeing this is not (imho) a sign of being an idiot, which you plainly aren't. I would guess that it's a sign of unfamiliarity.

To be clear OCS, as highly as I think of Hil, I don't think she could get me to read a whole post on her thoughts about the NFL draft.

CharleyCarp: Sure I could, since that post would read, in its entirety:

Thoughts? What thoughts?

Dammit. I did read the whole thing.

Heh heh heh.

The NFL drafts people?

Francis: The liberal's quick rule of thumb: How would I react if this were done to me.

That’s not really going to work out as a rule of thumb unfortunately. Not to drag things OT, but turn that around… How would I react if it was legal for my 15 year old daughter to be taken out of state for an abortion without my consent or even knowledge? How would I react if I was a victim of the Duke 88? How did I react when the lesser talented, experienced, and senior person got the promotion based solely on race? How did I react when it happened based solely on gender? If we restrict this to only US foreign policy – how would I have reacted as a person in Rwanda? Again, I don’t want to go OT, and admittedly none of that equates to having your country invaded, I am just throwing out the first things that come to mind based on “liberal’s quick rule of thumb” and how would I react if…, but I can’t really sign on to any rule of thumb, liberal or otherwise…

On the lies? I am seeing that now, I did not then – or at least I did not acknowledge them even to myself.


Byrningman: Didn’t pay a lot of attention to academics or state department officials at the time. I do pay attention to state now, although the left is very quick to demonize Condi when she gets out of step. Also, I do pay more attention to academics based on Hilzoy’s single handed restoration of my faith in that breed. It hasn’t extended much beyond her though, I must admit. ;)


Ugh: are you talking about CharleyC's comment that the invasion would inure to Iran's benefit, or more generally that it would be a disaster?

More generally period. … anyone could have predicted that… Iraq… Iran…

Specifically, that “anyone”, meaning me, could have predicted with certainty the result in Iraq. If I could not, I am an idiot. If I could, then this is what I wanted. More generally, now that the early proponents of this war have been proven right, I hear more and more that “anyone could see this coming”.

Anyone could predict Iraq would be a disaster. Many of the same people say that any meddling with Iran will be a disaster, therefore… I don’t know what to do about Iran, but at least I acknowledge that now. But I’m not comfortable with saying these folks were proven right about Iraq, therefore they have some kind of authority on what to do about Iran. It adds weight I admit, and frankly the whole thing has made me form the opinion we should just go turtle – pull our head and limbs into our shell for 50 years then peak out and see what’s up. Not practical I know, but it would make so many factors happy…

I don’t know squat but now I know that.


CC: Agreed on your responses. Life is way too short. Again, not to pin this to you, it has just started to rankle a bit that anyone should have known, it was obvious - so you are just the catalyst.


Common Sense: I did go “insane on 9/11”. I wouldn’t call it scared, more like vengeful. Old Testament crap. I wanted to blow sh*t up. I would have been A-OK with nuking most of Afghanistan in the couple of weeks following that. I would regret it now I’m sure, but in the month after that? Nothing was too much…


CC: You are spot on with the NFL draft. I look on it mainly as an opportunity to order pizza and wings and consume mass quantities of beer. Once it is done it is just something to gripe about for the next year.

Wow, that got long.

"How did I react when the lesser talented, experienced, and senior person got the promotion based solely on race? How did I react when it happened based solely on gender?"

You should sue, because that's against the law.

"Joe Public USA" still thinks that Saddam was in cahoots with Bin Laden on 09.11.01.

Still.

So don't worry about being an 'idiot' for going temporarily insane, OCSteve. At least you've taken the initiative to educate yourself, unlike 41% of the US.

Re: what to do with Iran - Dave Schuler thinks the situation may be the "perfect test case for the application of realism".

Thoughts?

Hilzoy: welcome back

As a general restorative, I have to recommend a few days of beach (hot sun, blue skies, and low humidity), seafood (substitute steak or veggie of choice), large quantities of alcohol in all its various forms (sans umbrella), and a strict prohibition on going anywhere near a computer. Ahhhh…

Catching up – your series on Cheney was great, or extremely depressing depending on how you look at it. As always I’m torn between your skillful and compelling treatment of the subject with the realities it makes me face.

On the rest of your comment – you are right of course.


Also, I do pay more attention to academics based on Hilzoy’s single handed restoration of my faith in that breed. It hasn’t extended much beyond her though, I must admit.

On second thought, not single handed. I would be remiss in not mentioning LJ, dr ngo, and others I am sure I am missing. Call it a group effort with Hilzoy at the lead.


Gary: You should sue, because that's against the law.

I think I passed a thread or two about lawyer jokes? …


NFL draft

OK – I have to admit that I watch football mainly as an excuse to eat junk food and drink beer. Also, I watch the super bowl for that plus the new commercials, although the last few years have been a disappointment there (with a few exceptions).

"Again, not to pin this to you, it has just started to rankle a bit that anyone should have known, it was obvious...."

As it should. I certainly think very badly of myself for not having done more than maintain ambivalence and a position on the fence, leading up to and during the invasion, and didn't come out against it until Abu Ghraib. Yes, it rankles me deeply that I was so stupid. I was never pro-war, but I wasn't sufficiently anti this time, either. It's easy for me to have long since seen what was wrong with my position in February of 2003, but that's what I thought then. (At least I was still asking for more arguments against the war, since that was where I wanted to come down, and I did specify that "I'm not ready to go march for war": but that wasn't remotely close enough to where I should have been.)

But that's my fault, and no one else's, and certainly not the fault of anyone who points out to me that I was capable of knowing better and should have known better. (Although if someone is unnecessarily rude about it, that's another thing.)

OCSteve,

Thanks for responding. Just out of curiosity, why were you so vengeful? Did you have friends who died on 9/11? I can understand the need for vengeance among people that have lost friends or family, but some of the most vengeful people I've known literally lost nothing except their sense of invulnerability.

OCSteve, it is great to hear from you again!

I'll take issue with one part of the "anyone could have predicted" scenario: I'm middling-knowledgeable about the Mid East, and I would not have predicted "that the result in Iraq was going to be a government much friendlier to Iran than the prior regime, and much friendlier to Iran." Iran and Iraq have been bitter enemies for quite a long time, and memories of the 1980s war, which wiped out most of a generation on both sides, are still very fresh.

But the other parts - the sectarian/ethnic meltdown, the destruction of US standing in the region, the general breakdown of security, the refugees fleeing the country - yes, that was predictable.

It was predictable because those consequences weren't, aren't, unique to Iraq. They're the usual outcome of removing a strongman dictator from a region where nothing less than brutish tactics kept the inherent sectarian/ethnic divides tightly controlled. It happened in Yugoslavia, in The Congo, in Liberia, in the former Soviet Union's Central Asian republics, and in Afghanistan.

There might be no way to head such eruptions off. But the Bush Administration started out with a stubborn ignorance of the region - I think it was Wolfowitz who came right out and said that Iraq had no history of sectarian/ethnic strike - and, on top of that, went in with no post-war planning whatsoever.

Having little knowledge of the region's history is bad enough for voters who decide whether to support a drive to war. It's downright criminal when the architects of policy and war are that ignorant, and willfully stay ignorant, as the Bush Administration did by dismissing and ostracizing officials who tried to talk sense into them.

That's a profound violation of the trust we put in our elected officials. I don't expect you, or I, or anyone on this blog, or any random individual, to be experts in foreign policy or war. I damned well do expect it of the people whose job is to protect and defend us, and who presume to lead us into war.

OCSteve:

I did go “insane on 9/11”. I wouldn’t call it scared, more like vengeful. Old Testament crap. I wanted to blow sh*t up. I would have been A-OK with nuking most of Afghanistan in the couple of weeks following that. I would regret it now I’m sure, but in the month after that? Nothing was too much…

Why do you think you went "insane"? I ask because I know that I did not. I was frightened and anxious and grief-stricken, but by no means what I'd call "insane". I certainly wasn't hugely *angry* to a nuke-em-all level.

I don't know if I was protected from those feelings because we turned off the TV that morning and didn't turn it back on for anything except PBS children's shows for *months*. We were on the internet incessantly, of course, but we were still on dialup so we didn't see more than 30 seconds of video footage.

Perhaps more important, though, was that I live within 50 miles of Ground Zero, and like everyone in that zone I spent 9/11 wondering who that I knew was dead. By great good luck I had no first-order losses, but *everyone* in this part of the world had second-order losses (knowing someone who knew someone who was killed). Having a comparatively direct focus for my feelings made them less insane.

CaseyL "I would not have predicted "that the result in Iraq was going to be a government much friendlier to Iran than the prior regime"

-- Well, that is something I do think anyone could have predicted, if only because Saddam was so hostile to Iraq. (Similarly, I think it was predictable that whatever government succeeded Hitler's would be more sympathetic to Jews.)

I don't think it was predictable that the new government would be actually friendly towards Iran. Too many variables. But I do think it was predictable (with background) that Iran would benefit from our toppling Saddam, since the likelihood that Iraq would end up with a weak government was pretty high, and substituting a weakened country for your erstwhile worst enemy pretty much has to be a plus.

"Common Sense: I did go 'insane on 9/11.'"

Someone pointed out to me on September 11th, 2002, that I showed all the traits of post-traumatic stress disorder over the event, no matter that I was several miles away on Long Island at the time.

I didn't even know anyone who was killed; just various friends of friends, although I did have friends who just barely made it; although I once worked in the WTC, and had been in it endless numbers of times in subsequent years, being a tour guide for out of town friends, and had lived for quite a while a not huge walk from it on the Lower East Side, my connection wasn't closer.

But the fact is that my emotional reaction was, in fact, extreme. I don't think I really started to come down from it -- the trauma, the shock, the weeping, the getting drunk on the anniversary, the horror, the anger, the entire package of OMG -- for another two years, at the least, and probably not really for another year or two after that. (It should be noted that I'm not the world's most emotionally stable person, overall, although in emergencies I'm usually great, as a rule; it's normal life that throws me.)

So I do sympathize entirely.

On the other hand, you've been posting generally very sensibly about related topics for years now. Some others, I would note without naming names, are still writing and reacting as if it were still 2002. You've learned and dealt. Some are still on 9/12.

They really need to get sane again. Like thee and me.

As regards academic credentials and culture, I wouldn't grant credence to all academics, just because there are excellent ones, anymore than I'd dismiss all academics, just because there are cretinous ones.

Personally, I've never noted a particular correlation between education and judgment, but, then, as an auto-didact, I may be poorly positioned to.

Education tends to, if practiced decently, bring knowledge; the more relevant knowledge one has, the better able to use that knowledge one is, but the wisdom of judgment is a separate and different thing, in my observation.

There are clearly endless numbers of highly knowledgeable people who are prone to foolish judgments. Just as there are endless numbers of ignorant people who are so prone.

And academia seems to do better at teaching knowledge, than judgment, though of course they try to convey both. The judgment is more difficult to instill, I think.

So whether one is an academic or not doesn't seem to be particularly connected to how terrific one's judgment is, although I'm perfectly willing to be convinced by data that this hypothesis is incorrect.

common sense: "...but some of the most vengeful people I've known literally lost nothing except their sense of invulnerability."

Losing a sense of invulnerability is a pretty damn basic thing. Rational or not, and regardless of whether the resulting judgments make any sense or not.

I mention this since you seem to be phrasing it as some sort of "only that trivial thing," whereas fear of death and loss seems to obviously be one of the most basic and normal of psychological responses.

It's not as if people are prone to being rational about such things, after all. We're not robots, we're animals.

"-- Well, that is something I do think anyone could have predicted, if only because Saddam was so hostile to Iraq."

Return that stolen "n" to Hilzoy, foul keyboard! Your tricks will never fool us!

I did predict something like the current problems in iraq, but I wasn't at all sure.

What if we beat the iraqi military and set up a democracy with free elections. Spent a little time telling them how great democracy worked for us. Did whatever reconstruction the military could do quick and pulled out. Gave the new iraqi government lots of money to do more reconstruction themselves.

Could we have gotten a solid iraqi democracy that way? I thought, maybe. If the elected leaders got a reputation for being corrupt and ineffectual and there was a military coup, maybe the iraqi public wouldn't mind much -- people care a lot more about democracy when they fought to get it for themselves, not so much when it was given to them. But I thought there was a fair chance that it might work, done well. The claim was that most of the troops would be gone in 6 months, which sounded reasonable to me. Sooner would be better but 6 months would probably be OK. I didn't trust the Bush administration to do it well, but I could imagine it might work out.

Then the actual war came. We used far too many cluster bombs for an invasion intended to save iraqis from Saddam. Too many civilians killed. Too little planning for the aftermath, too much confusion in the rear. It seemed like our troops were *ignoring* iraqi civilians in the areas they'd freed, except the ones who attacked them.

Then the war was over and we had no plan for the looting, it was like we'd planned to ignore the civilians. It looked bad.

And there was one story about a US special forces guy, fluent in arabic, who walked into a baghdad video shop to buy a video. He was acting like we do in liberated countries, just being a normal off-duty soldier. And while he was standing in line with his videos, somebody standing behind him put a handgun to the base of his skull and killed him, and got away. I could extrapolate from that one story, though it took a lot of other stuff to be sure. We weren't going to act like iraqi civilians were liberated civilians, we were going to act like they were the enemy. And that would make them the enemy if they weren't already.

I still don't know whether it could have worked if it was done well enough. I thought it was unlikely it would get done well enough, but it took me until about 5 days after baghdad fell to be pretty sure. And when Bush announced we weren't going to pull out or even reduce the numbers, that got rid of the last doubt.

Sometimes people get caught up in an idea, and all the history that says it can't work just falls away. Democracy could have been an idea like that for iraq. I couldn't say it was impossible. We contracted out with guys from RTI to spread the democracy idea, and they were getting people all enthusiastic about democratic city councils and such. But Bremer threw out the local elections and put in people he selected.

And then when the military first went after fallujah and al Sadr at the same time, all of a sudden the RTI democracy guys couldn't go anywhere with just their armed guards, they couldn't do anything without the military directly backing them up. They gave up and left the country.

But iraqis were still enthusiastic about democracy when Bremer left and let them actually start preparing for elections. It could have worked out. But the polling put our guy Allawi at around 3%, and then in the actual election he got 14%. A lot of iraqis thought that was fraud. And then it turned out the iraqi government didn't actually have much control of anything. The iraqi army was commanded entirely by the USA, and the prime minister's advice was mostly ignored. He couldn't keep us from bombing his own cities.

Democracy promotion was our big chance. All the data that said it would be fubar might possibly have been made irrelevant if iraqis got caught up in it. And that might possibly still work for them, but not until we're gone and can no longer prevent it.

I don't see iran as the big winner from the iraq mess.

Gary Brecher is starting to get some kind of reputation as an expert just from publishing simple basic realist common sense.

Gary's take /A>

i agree with him, this is one where the big winners are the guys who have the least to do with it.

He didn't say this: iran may come out better off than they were with Saddam for a neighbor, but there's no guarantee of that. What they might gain in influence over a shia government in iraq they may more than lose having an independent kurdish neighbor.

The big winner is china. Our losses are good for china. They get iranian oil contracts that they might not haven gotten if iran didn't have to deal with our threat.

When the excrement hits the fan, the people who come out best from it are far away.

A non-threatening Iraq is a huge asset to Iran. A US victory -- the outcome proponents of the policy most wanted: a stable, democratic, medium secular Iraq -- would be non-threatening to Iran. A chaotic Iraq is only non-threatening if it can be assured that whatever faction prevails owes a substantial debt to Iran. Again, it doesn't have to be a client, or subservient, just non-threatening.

Of course, Iran can do better than a neutral non-threatening state. It didn't host Dawa and SCIRI all those years for nothing. Or Talabani.

I have no idea why anyone ever thought that Dawa and SCIRI weren't going to do well in elections. Or why a democratic Iraq wouldn't be more or less like a democratic Pakistan, wrt the US struggle with Islamists etc.

OCS, what always surprises me about contemporary conservative discourse is a certain 'soft bigotry of low expectations.' The Iraqis vote, so it's a triumph -- even though the winners of the election are people with long and deep ties to Iran. Or, to take an example from today's NYT -- we don't starve our prisoners to death, therefore holding them for years without trial must be OK. They're eating lemon chicken! As if what the thing is about is the quality of the food, rather than the hopelessness of being locked up by mistake.

JT, I suppose it's relative. Iran's principal strategic issue from the Revolution to 2003 was sharing a border with a hostile Iraq. Not the only issue, but the one that led to countless deaths, and which always threatened.

A lesser issue was Taliban controlled-Afghanistan. Not a threat, it seems to me, but serious enough that Iran was funding opposition groups long before we got involved.

China's position is obviously enhanced, but I'm not sure it's getting anything in Iran (and the Sudan, where it's apprently the premier obstacle to doing something about Darfur) it wouldn't have gotten absent our invasion of Iraq.

America will end up leaving Iraq for its own reasons, which is why we ended up leaving Vietnam: because the public doesn't see a good enough reason to stay and keeping seeing their children killed for a cause that has, if it wasn't always, long become nebulous, with any other outcome not on the visible horizon for any who are not, for one reason or another, terminally optimistic.

Not having a draft makes this effect less strong than it was during the Vietnam War, but it will still ultimately conquer, absent a drastic change of circumstances.

Witness:

[...] n the latest CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll released Tuesday, 69 percent of those polled believe things are going badly in Iraq. Seventeen percent think the situation is improving. (View the latest poll results)

Thirty percent of Americans polled say they favor the war, the lowest level of support on record. Two-thirds are opposed.

Anti-war sentiment among Republican poll respondents has suddenly increased with 38 percent of Republicans now saying they oppose the war.

Moreover, 63 percent of Americans are ready to withdraw at least some troops from Iraq. Forty-two percent of Republicans agree.

Fifty-four percent of Americans do not believe U.S. action in Iraq is morally justified.

Those numbers won't improve, absent circumstances drastically and dramatically improving in Iraq in the next couple of months. And I don't advise anyone to invest much in that possibility.

Every seriously wounded American soldier turns another couple or more Americans against the war. It's that simple.

matttbastard: Thoughts?

Being so wrong before, I have retired from the pundit business. I’ll just say that I think it is going to be bad, moderates or extremists there, D or R here.


Gary: But that's my fault, and no one else's, and certainly not the fault of anyone who points out to me that I was capable of knowing better and should have known better.

You are correct, of course. I should have included that more explicitly. It’s just a matter of being beaten over the head with it day after day. Yup – I was wrong. Yup – I should have seen it and I did not. To be clear, I have great respect for CharleyCarp and many others here, so it is not a matter of blaming the messenger. It is just a matter of seeing that same sentiment in so many threads on many blogs. So maybe it was a senseless comment… You were wrong so suck it up (man up, deal with it, etc). Noted.


Common Sense: Just out of curiosity, why were you so vengeful?

Doctor Science Why do you think you went "insane"?

I had a grandstand seat with many people who did have a loss. Innocence lost? My “sense of invulnerability” may strike very close to the truth. Maybe that is the same thing as fear, but it felt like a loss I wanted revenge for, if that makes any sense. I expected follow up attacks, but I was not really afraid of them. It did not keep me from going into a high-rise to do my job or the mall on my day off. So I do not think of it as fear. Loss of a sense of invulnerability or innocence comes closest I think. The blue skies with a total lack of contrails hit hard. I lived close to an airport – the lack of jet liners was eerie, only to be punctuated by (obviously) military jets. Blind white-hot rage is most accurate. I cheered when I (finally) heard that bombs were falling in Afghanistan. I’m not proud of that now, but at the time, it was the bare minimum I needed for some kind of payback.

I have a cork board to the left of my desk. It says “Nicht vergessen!” (Don’t forget) a memoir of Germany from many years ago. The only things thumb-tacked up there are the stub from an Amtrak ticket, Philly to Newark Penn Station, arrival 9/11/2001 8:50AM, and an unused Amtrak return ticket for that same day. They are faded from the sun. I look at them every day. My wife gets upset whenever I watch any kind of anniversary coverage on TV because “it makes me weird”.

Kind of rambling but I’m trying to tell you about a day almost 6 years ago. One look at those tickets can still bring it all back.


CaseyL: Agreed. No argument.

This comment only makes sense if the commenter is a person who cannot distinguish between things that actually are al Qaeda and things that aren't. That leads me to believe that Slarti either a) is one of those persons or b) is playing at being one for some reason known only to him. I hope it's "b."

I'd respond, but I can't understand what point you're trying to make. Clarify, please.

Really: I haven't a clue. Until you do, I'd suggest that there's a "c" out there that you've overlooked.

"So maybe it was a senseless comment… You were wrong so suck it up (man up, deal with it, etc). Noted."

I do tend to strongly prefer that people who point out that they were right, and someone else was wrong, be at least vaguely polite about it, as a rule, although naturally I tend to particularly feel so if they're addressing me, and have the gall to be more or less correct. It's in my interest to prefer the not being too rude, of course, but it does also mean that I'm not much with the kicking people. Myself, right or wrong, one point I did emphasize at the time, and for a while thereafter, until it started to get near being self-serving, was that I thought there were lots of good arguments on both sides of the war argument, and that plenty of people of good faith and sense were on each side.

Naturally, that still riles some people, and is, of course, arguably wrong, but I still think it's perfectly true. One side was definitely right, I came to think by late '03, but the ways in which people went wrong were multitudinous, and I persist in differentiating between those reasons I think were reasonably plausible at the time, and those that were more culpable.

Myself, I have to say that I vastly, hugely, overwhelmingly, underestimated how deep the Bush/Cheney administration had and would reach below the obvious, traditional, surface political level of political control, into the bureaucracy, to control decisions they way they wanted to control them, and thus produce the vastly horrific results they produced, both in the war, and across-the-board in the federal government.

My vast primary mistake was in not realizing that point. It's an unbelievable mistake in hindsight, but there it is: I didn't realize how precedent-shattering they would be in the degree of political control they would undertake to exercise over the professional bureaucracy of government -- in the case of war, in particular in regard to the Departments of State and Defense and into the uniformed military.

I underestimated Donald Rumsfeld ability to do evil in a huge way. Ditto Cheney.

So as regards the war, my tentative assumption was that the political level would screw things up, but that the damage would be limited, and the professionals in the Army and State and the civil service would be able to carry off getting us out fairly quickly, leaving us with a doubtless bad situation in Iraq, but not actually leaving us holding the bag all that much, if it went really to hell.

I don't need to outline the details of just how wrong that underestimation was. But if anyone wonders why I didn't see it coming for sure, there's the fracture point of my primary error, so far as I know (forgive me if I don't comprehensively list all the sub-errors I additionally see myself as having made).

OCSteve and Gary,

I'm sorry, I hadn't meant to imply that losing a sense of invulnerability was trivial...I was trying (unsuccessfully) to get at a distinction between people who were affected because they were somehow connected to the event (i.e., they knew people, or lived next door, or often visited the place, or used to work there, or had family that lived in NYC, or had suffered some sort of trauma in the past, etc.) from people who literally had no connection but still had this need for vengeance.

Both of your reactions seem like exactly what I might expect and are easy for me to understand. Well, I can't claim to understand, but I can see why you might feel the way you do pretty easily.

There are people I know however, who had no connection whatsoever, who in fact talked about NYC being the worst place on earth on 9/10 and would ramble on about how New Yorkers were awful people, how they weren't real Americans, how they were destroying this country, etc. Seeing an insatiable need for vengeance from those people is what confused me.

And yeah, I know that people aren't rational. What bothers me is the sense that some people (starting with the President) expropriated a private grief for their own ends. I wouldn't begrudge anyone who had some connection, any connection. And know I'm being irrational.

Gary: "I thought there were lots of good arguments on both sides of the war argument"

Hmm, I thought there were colorable, well-intentioned, but wrong arguments on the other side. I spent a lot of time leading up to the war trying to explain this point to my European friends, who couldn't decide whether America had gone insane or Bush was just evil.

"and that plenty of people of good faith and sense were on each side"

Yes.


Anyway, mostly chiming in to say I think your point is important and will continue to be as we try to put our civic discourse back together. As it stands I often have to suppress the impulse to say to someone I'm arguing with, "You were 100% wrong on Iraq, why should I listen to you?" - and that's not me.

I should say: I don't like it when people start making demands on those who were wrong. (Penance! Jump through hoops!)

What I think provokes this -- at least in me -- is that there are enough people out there who were wrong in 2003 and know it, but who go on to do one of two things: (1) be wrong now in strikingly similar ways, including a similar assumption that their opponents are idiots, and start lecturing us on e.g. our lack of seriousness about Iran, or (2) say something like: well, I was wrong, of course, but since the only people who were right were all those annoying far-left granola-eating Neville Camberlain-channelling appeasers, while all the genuinely serious people got it wrong, who can blame me?

Now: those people are annoying. But they are annoying because of some positive form of silliness, not because of the absence of jumping through hoops, abject apologies, etc. Absent those special new annoyances, I just think: well, who doesn't get stuff wrong? I got this one, but I surely don't have some sort of record of infallibility. All I can do is try to do better next time. And for my money, getting to hash things out here helps my odds.

...spent much of the first month of 2003 writing a brief on Executive power to deter and punish Iran-sponsored terrorism

That sounds like a very interesting document. Is it available to the public?

Gary: So whether one is an academic or not doesn't seem to be particularly connected to how terrific one's judgment is

Agreed. I’m a right winger though so I disregard them by nature. But then you come here for some innocent discussion on something and Hilzoy just lures you in. Next thing you know LJ is working the edges and then Gary works you over like a punching bag. That’s where it all starts – but then….


CharleyCarp: …what always surprises me about contemporary conservative discourse is a certain 'soft bigotry of low expectations.'

They're eating lemon chicken! As if what the thing is about is the quality of the food, rather than the hopelessness of being locked up by mistake.

And I mostly learned of this right here on this blog from you and Hilzoy and Katherine. So what does that say about the state of our country? (Don’t say right-wing media…)


Gary: Myself, I have to say that I vastly, hugely, overwhelmingly, underestimated how deep the Bush/Cheney administration had and would reach below the obvious, traditional, surface political level of political control, into the bureaucracy, to control decisions they way they wanted to control them, and thus produce the vastly horrific results they produced, both in the war, and across-the-board in the federal government.

I’m slow to this but getting there... Blinders, filters, whatever.


Common Sense: I hadn't meant to imply…

No foul. Question honestly asked. I did my best to give an honest answer. Enough time has gone by that that gets hard. I’m pretty sure that each time I give that answer it changes. It gets harder to pin down. I suppose that some people have that (rational) response in the first few hours, and others like me take years to get there. I can just say for sure that there is a huge emotional/irrational element tied up in this for me. I do not claim to be sane about it. ;(

Next thing you know LJ is working the edges

I prefer to think of it as *finishing* the edges, preferably with decorative stitching so as to make a suitable fashion statement _and_ prevent fraying. I'm all about the twofer...

Finishing? Hah. You underrate yourself sir.
;)

"Both of your reactions seem like exactly what I might expect and are easy for me to understand. Well, I can't claim to understand, but I can see why you might feel the way you do pretty easily."

I'd like to be clear that while I was greatly emotionally affected by September 11th, my own reactions didn't at all involved feeling moved to violence, or to desire to see violence done to anyone, or for vengeance against anyone.

While I'm not a pacifist in philosophy (save for a day every month or three), by nature I'm pretty pacificistic, save for verbally. My last fight was when I was 10 years old. I just mostly don't really get urges towards physical violence; this doesn't mean I don't get furious with people -- it just means I don't then connect it to and therefore I want to punch them. Or shoot them. Or bomb them.

Not losing sleep over ill coming towards them, on the other hand, I'm not at all above.

But as regards 9/11, I thought that the overthrow of the Taliban was entirely called for and desirable and wise, but not because I thought anyone's death or suffering would be particularly useful or good per se, and not because I had any desire for such deaths or suffering per se, but because I thought it was good policy, cold as that is.

(Which is one reason I certainly don't think this lack of personal enthusiasm for vengeance or violence is of any particular moral virtue: as I said, I'm not a pacifist, and I do at times support policies that involve bombing and killing of others while I sit safe at home, even if I do have qualms about it for a day once a month or so.)

I should also clarify that I'm pretty idiosyncratic in a lot of ways, few of which do I hold out as models for other people, and I don't see anything wrong with some desire for vengeance and violence in response to the death of loved ones, or friends, or friends of friends, or simply one one's country -- so long as the desires are within reasonable balance sanity insofar as the desires actually matter in the real word. In other words, if it means you punched a punching bag, and uttered a lot of curses in the bar, and wrote angry blog posts, and the like, that's fine -- if you were actually president of the United States and were making decisions about whom to invade, purely out of anger, that's not a good idea.

Anger is a perfectly sane response to lots of things, and having one's neighborhood, or city, or state, or nation, attacked, is one of them; it's letting the anger only affect so much in terms of serious responses that matters.

Boy, this was far too long and rambly. Must shut up now.

Someone up above mentioned watching nothing but children's shows for months afterward as a possible factor in reducing the ongoing tensions and hysteria associated in the US with 9/11/2001. I want to second this very strongly, and in fact recommend it as a lifestyle thing. If you do not have a genuine need to watch the mainstream news channels and read the big papers...then don't. Just don't.

If there's something you truly need to know, figure that you will likely hear about it, because the world is full of people like Hilzoy and Gary and Publius who do a great job keeping the rest of us informed. Skim Google News if you want a good general sense of what's being reported. And let the rest go hang. When it interferes with your ability to live calmly and responsibly with the people you actually share your life with, let the media go rather than your own life.

"Hmm, I thought there were colorable, well-intentioned, but wrong arguments on the other side."

I didn't say anyone had to agree with any arguments on the other side.

I simply was trying to say that I believed that there were some reasonable arguments on each side (and for that matter, some people making bad arguments on each side).

And, of course, this doesn't imply that any given person on either side ever made a good argument, since both sides had a certain number of people who spared themselves that burden.

OCSteve:

Gary: Myself, I have to say that I vastly, hugely, overwhelmingly, underestimated how deep the Bush/Cheney administration had and would reach below the obvious, traditional, surface political level of political control, into the bureaucracy, to control decisions they way they wanted to control them, and thus produce the vastly horrific results they produced, both in the war, and across-the-board in the federal government.

I’m slow to this but getting there... Blinders, filters, whatever.

Of course, by now I could write a book on the width, depth, and persistence of the Bush/Cheney administration's maleficence, because the equivalent of several books has now been compiled in the press and blogs.

It goes to show how overly prone to moderation I am, I should think, that I didn't anticipate in advance just how thoroughly revolutionary Bush/Cheney and their crew intended to be, despite my being utterly steeped in Republican history in great depth, and accompanied by vast and writhing contempt for much of it.

But I looked at Cheney and Rumsfeld and while I regarded them as stone conservatives, and villains, I saw them as Ford Republicans.

And while I had nothing but contempt for Bush, I didn't realize his minions were going to be so effective and comprehensive at destroying our government, albeit I was sure that they would do vast damage.

(Keep in mind that I have very little kind to say about the Reagan administration, save that in retrospect it wasn't as bad as the G. W. Bush admin -- and I wasn't all that fond of Ford or G. H. W. Bush, either, although I'll put them as less bad than the other three, to be sure [I seriously hold each president's pardons against him].)

So insofar as you had "[b]linders, filters, whatever," against seeing or forseeing ill of this administration, I had vastly fewer, or arguably ones with opposing polarization, and I still didn't think they'd do this level of damage to the country. I mean, I could be typing until morning listing all the ways.

"I didn't say anyone had to agree with any arguments on the other side."

I was expanding on your comment by reaching the same conclusion from a slightly different perspective.

Gary: So whether one is an academic or not doesn't seem to be particularly connected to how terrific one's judgment is

Agreed. I’m a right winger though so I disregard them by nature.

I think a mild presumption that, until some indication otherwise is revealed by a check, a seasoned academic expert on a topic has views at least worth listening to and considering when speaking on their topic, is sensible, myself, though I wouldn't be any stronger than that. Automatic disgarding of anyone's opinion, if you've had no prior experience or knowledge of them as an individual, strikes me as a bit hasty.

(Naturally, if you've had experience with them being an idiot, that's not something to be disregarded, either, although even the biggest idiot occasionally is right about something.)

But then you come here for some innocent discussion on something and Hilzoy just lures you in. Next thing you know LJ is working the edges and then Gary works you over like a punching bag. That’s where it all starts – but then….
I'm reasonably sure you've picked up on this, but for the record, you do know that I have all of three months of college (and a couple of later course), having dropped out after my first semester, right? (I was 16, and did intend to get back to it later, but it didn't work out that way.)

While we're talking about things that were and weren't predictable four years ago, let me note that if we assume if not the worst, but that things at least continue to devolve in Iraq, so that in a couple of years' or so time, what little there is of the central Iraqi government collapses or turns thoroughly and wholeheartedly clearly outright malevolent to us, to the point where even the U.S. government won't deny it, or simply by which time we've largely withdrawn, well, then, all the endless amount of weaponry we've pour into Iraq in the past few years, and will have ended up leaving behind in this hypothetical downbeat outcome, will wind up in the hands of.. . well, in that outcome, they're not likely to wind up mostly in the hands of people who feel friendly towards us, will it?

Remember how after 9/11 suddenly a gazillion people noted that funding the mujheddin against the Russians in Afghanistan might not have been an entirely wonderful idea? Well, here's a moment to think about what we're still doing now.

I really would love to get Charles to finally explain to me how one can "training the Iraqi army," no matter how successfully, will be remotely useful while there's no coherent and non-sectarian Iraqi government. Or to get anyone who doesn't think we should be pulling out now, because they still think it's plausible that we may yet be Turning The Corner Within Six Months, to explain why any point at all about military success is remotely relevant in the face of the lack of a workable Iraqi government. (Note the current wave of enthusiasm for arming tribes: what does that say about the Iraqi government's progress?) Don't suppose I can get Von to pick that one up? :-)

Charley, it isn't a big important thing to decide who's hurt the least by the iraq debacle, but ....

Maybe the "count no man lucky until he's dead" idea ought to apply to nations too. If iran winds up getting nuked out of this we probably aren't going to feel like they won.

Similarly, we make a big deal about al qaeda getting free rein in iraq, but what can they do with it? It's a *terrible* base of operations for actions outside iraq. I can see it as a live-fire training ground, and that's about it. No banking system. Not much internet. A chance to get killed crossing the border. A chance to get randomly killed driving down the street. Build a training facility and the US military is likely to do an airstrike without even figuring out who it belongs to. This is a state so thoroughly failed that it's mostly useless to international terrorists.

Saddam was weak and mostly contained. He wasn't strong enough to put down the kurds, which was a problem for syria, turkey, and iran. But there's a reasonable chance iran won't come out of this stronger than they went in. China, on the other hand, is winning nicely without being involved much. Before they had the USA to deal with -- overwhelming military might and a bunch of allies. Now they have the USA, a trillion dollars poorer, military reputation shattered, moral reputation shattered, no allies worthy of the name (poland, I forgot poland). China wins without doing anything. Everybody close to the problem is likely to get spattered.

But I agree with you, iran is likely to get hurt much less than we are, and might even wind up ahead. Maybe they'll get to be the one who sends neverending reconstruction money for their allies to spread around to their supporters. Maybe they'll get to send troops. But maybe they'll come out just fine.

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