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September 02, 2010

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When did war stop being hell?

This latest mea sorta culpa from Ross Douthat seems germane:

Ultimately, though, what the war in Iraq has really impressed upon me is the bluntness of military force as an instrument of state, and the difficulty of predicting any of the long-term consequences that flow from a decision to make war.

It took him the unmitigated horror of Iraq to realize that war is a "blunt instrument" that's inherently unpredictable.

A Very Serious Person indeed.

I'm not going to call him evil, or an idiot. I'm merely going to suggest that he retake his high school history classes (including the tests -- and show your work!) before he deigns to share his thoughts with us on the pages of the New York Times.

Clearly Shahid ignores the real tragedy of war: smugness by war opponents when the obviously-false evidence in support of the war turns out to be false and when the easily-predicted death, displacement, ethnic cleansing, rape, torture, and civil war comes to pass.

Don't any of you realize that by now Saddam would have ICBMs poised to obliterate the entire American heartland? (By which I mean both Wasilla and Jerusalem.) And that Mooslim in the White House wouldn't even have the guts to fire back. He'd apologize instead.

I wish someone would call out these conservatives who are complaining that Bush be given credit for the surge. Why? There never should have been a reason for a surge to begin with.

It took him the unmitigated horror of Iraq to realize that war is a "blunt instrument" that's inherently unpredictable.

I'm not sure that's a fair reading of what he said. He didn't say that he hadn't realized those things about war until after seeing Iraq, but rather that Iraq impressed those things on him. I think by that he's saying that Iraq changed those ideas from abstract intellectual concepts into something more deep seated and visceral. It's easy to ignore the lessons of history when your only grasp of them is what you've gotten by reading, but much harder when they represent your own life experience.

Generally speaking wars have few winners. This one in particular.

Winner: George W. Bush. Two-term President. Ousted Saddam when Daddy didnt. Free and living a life of luxury.

Winner: Richard B. Cheney. Most powerful Vice President in U.S. history. Set out to reclaim absolute power for the Presidency, up to and including the indiscriminate use of torture without consequence and indefinite detention without due process, and (mostly) succeeded. Free and living a life of luxury.

Winner: The United States defense industry. When world markets cratered in 2008 and 2009, it kept on churning out wonderful profits. See, e.g., Lockheed Martin's net income:
2006 $3.6B
2007 $4.5B
2008 $5.1B
2009 $4.5B

Winner: The Pentagon. Ever bigger budgets to create even better killing machines, now brought to you by remote control.

Winner: The CIA. Free to torture and conduct extrajudicial killings without criminal consequence. Budget unknown.

Probably worth a couple hundred thousand dead Iraqis for the winners (and of course dead U.S. servicemen and women, but they volunteered for it, so it must be ok).

Debbie, your wish is granted.

I think by that he's saying that Iraq changed those ideas from abstract intellectual concepts into something more deep seated and visceral. It's easy to ignore the lessons of history when your only grasp of them is what you've gotten by reading, but much harder when they represent your own life experience.

Speaking as someone who grew up long after Vietnam, this sounds...very wrong to me. I had no trouble reading about various 20th century wars and feeling something quite visceral and deep seated. What kind of sociopath could read about, say, the Cambodian genocide, and not have a visceral response? And what kind of idiot could read about that and not conclude that "gee, maybe sometimes wars get out of control and lead to horrific and unexpected consequences"?

It is a frequent vice of radical polemic to assert, and even to believe, that once you have found the lowest motive for an antagonist, you have identified the correct one.
-- Christopher Hitchens, "Reactionary Prophet", The Atlantic, April 2004

But, the SURGE fixed all this, and now we have a new strategy and COIN model to do all this right from now on.

The Hitchens quote is ironic on a couple of levels, given the source. Anyway, I don't sob too much over the poor people who receive some harsh criticism for eagerly pushing the Iraq War. For one thing, you know that if Saddam really had possessed WMD's or something that could be passed off as WMD's, there would be no mercy for the war critics in public debate. More importantly, the lowest motives are usually present when it comes to starting wars based on flimsy evidence. They may not be present in everyone, but they were almost certainly present in most of the people pushing the hardest who should have known better.

Besides, what I really want for a few people are prison terms. There ought to be a law against starting wars on false pretenses, and also a law against torture. Oh wait...

I'd be more willing to give credit for the surge if it had been a response to the horrific situation in Iraq rather than to losing the midterm elections.

It was a victory.

1. The Saddam regime in Iraq was deposed and replaced by a weak and divided client government.

2. The US garrison is well established and now almost unopposed. Troops are now ready for operations elsewhere.

3. The financial cost was low. The war was financed mostly by debt. That debt was denominated in the USA's own currency which can repaid later in inflated dollars.

The deficit financing did not affect in the least the interest rates on US debt. Just take one look at the yield on long-term US bonds, and consider how favourably capitalists around the world regard a country that wages aggressive war.

Further, Americans were able to vote themselves lower taxes during the war.

4. The human cost to the USA was very low, even after one accounts for the deceptive way they count casualties. The Americans killed were almost all volunteers. Recruitment and retention rates, while faltering somewhat at the peak of the fighting, have not suffered any apparent long-term effect.

5. Diplomatically the cost was low. No allies have deserted the USA. There were no embargoes or trade sanctions imposed on the USA (contrast even 1973 when the US suffered an embargo because of a war it didn't even fight). No other power dared to openly interfere in Iraq. Nobody aided the Iraqi guerrillas like the British helped the Spanish against Napoleon, or how the USSR supported the Vietnamese.


Summary: the USA lied to start a war. They invaded and crushed a fair-sized country on the other side of the planet. They got away with it, virtually unscathed. They fully retain the capability to repeat the process, anytime and anywhere they desire.

Now an American can fairly ask, "what did I gain from this glorious victory of ours?"

Well, that depends. Long-term, the American veto power over the Iraqi energy resources may prove useful to the US people as a whole.

Put it this way: right now oil is fungible. But it doesn't always have to be that way. If at some point, say, peak oil were correct, then if the worst came to worse the USA could secede from world energy markets, simply because it owns so much of the supply. In that scenario, physical, geographical control of energy resources does matter.

Another scenario is that China and India face rapidly growing need for petroleum. If either of these countries should ever behave in a manner threatening US interests, then as part of an escalating package of coercive measures, the USA could selectively deprive China or India of access to much of the Middle East's energy--basically putting the 1973-style screws to a geopolitical rival. Even if this never more than an unspoken threat, it cannot fail to modify Chinese or Indian behaviour.

Short-term, however, the average US taxpayer is not any better off. Only corporations and institutions associated with the war effort have come out ahead.

Nevertheless, it is unmistakeable that even many of the poorest, least-well-connected Americans take a great deal of simple nationalistic pride in the feats of their armed forces. Economically speaking, it would be fair to say that the median American citizen is quite willing to tolerate no little hardship in exchange for the psychological benefits of these worldwide displays of their national power.

As for the Iraqis:

1. Vae victis.

2. An Iraqi can console himself that while the resistance factions in their country were in the end overwhelmed, their tenacity and ingenuity were impressive.

There can be no question that the Iraqi guerrillas forced an enormously stronger aggressor to take much more time and spend much more money than was ever planned.

The guerrillas also forced the conquerors to grant more concessions to the Iraqi client regime than was originally conceived.

The guerrillas arguably spared other countries a similar invasion, at least for a few years. They forced the Bush regime to shelve its ambitious plans in other parts of the region.

Whether the rest of the world has made good use of the time the Iraqi guerrillas so gallantly and dearly bought, is a separate question.

ral, calling out Fleisher's okay, I'd like to see Boehner himself directly and very specifically called out by someone more mouthy like Biden or Frank. Make Boehner and the Republicans go on the record as to what they see as the concrete benefits of having invaded Iraq.

Make Boehner and the Republicans go on the record as to what they see as the concrete benefits of having invaded Iraq.

they'd just say something stupid and false like "it has made America safe by denying our enemies safe haven and an ally in terrorism!"

and nobody would point and laugh.

If either of these countries should ever behave in a manner threatening US interests, then as part of an escalating package of coercive measures, the USA could selectively deprive China or India of access to much of the Middle East's energy

Sherman, set the way-back machine to 1940.

Not that I find this scenario particularly likely, I was just struck by the historical parallel.

Uncle Kvetch: I'm not going to call him evil, or an idiot. I'm merely going to suggest that he retake his high school history classes (including the tests -- and show your work!) before he deigns to share his thoughts with us on the pages of the New York Times.

But however ignorant his initial situation, at least he is demonstrating an ability to learn from his mistakes. I think we should save our contempt for those who are proving unable to even acknowledge that they might have made a mistake.

"Whether the rest of the world has made good use of the time the Iraqi guerrillas so gallantly ..."

You are romanticizing the guerillas, as some people who oppose American imperialism tend to do. They weren't some unified movement bent solely on fighting foreign troops--they spent a fair amount of time murdering other Iraqis. The Surge wasn't a partial success because of some extra troops--it was a success because the Sunni tribes turned against the Al Qaeda types. And also because the Shiite death squads chased so many Sunnis (and Sunni guerillas) out of Baghdad. Or so I've read. The war was a moral wasteland on all sides, so far as I can tell.

I agree with much of what you say about the US, though I think you're underestimating the costs even from the cynical amoral view that you assume (correctly, IMO) policymakers take.

But however ignorant his initial situation, at least he is demonstrating an ability to learn from his mistakes.

I'm sorry, wj, but talk is cheap. The only way we'll know what Douthat has learned, if anything, is the way he reacts next time the war drums start pounding in earnest.

Given how much our political and military elites were supposed to have "learned" from Vietnam, I think my skepticism is well-founded.

I've read very little of Douthat; what I've read makes me want to throw things, and what I've seen quoted makes me want to throw up.

Like other pundits and eminences one could name, he seems to have no ability to understand that there are real people out here in the world outside his head. As long as he gets a bunch of pretty words strung together into profound(to hm)- and weighty-sounding thought trains, he's done his job. (That says a lot right there.) While out here, real people are ... in the case of Iraq ... dying by the hundreds of thousans.

Really learning something from this war would have meant an expression of profound horror, not this kind of precious navel-staring about what he realized about foreign policy.

Gah, I need breakfast.

And the president asked Elie Wiesel - Nobel Peace Prize winner, Holocaust survivor - should he remove Saddam.

Wiesel said yes, and then he added, "If only the world had listened to Winston Churchill in 1938 or 1939, World War II and the Holocaust could have been avoided. And I thought to myself, if the world had listened to Churchill in '38, people probably would've said "you exaggerated the threat of Hitler. You know, who says there was a World War coming?" We'll never know what we averted by getting rid of Saddam and how many lives were saved as a result of removing the threat of Saddam Hussein.

-ari fleisher on morning joe

when the means prove fantastically bad, push up the fantasy for your ends. so simple

I'm sorry, wj, but talk is cheap. The only way we'll know what Douthat has learned, if anything, is the way he reacts next time the war drums start pounding in earnest.

Agreed that actions speak louder than words. On the other hand, given a choice of those like Douthat who say they were wrong, or those who insist that they were right all along, which would you bet on next time? I'm thinking that Douthat might or might not act differently next time, but those who insist that they were right all along are extremely likely to do the same again.

Janie, since the U.S. has, all in all, really suffered negligibly in terms of infrastructure, and there were no dogfights between American Spitfires and Iraqi Me-109s over New York, pretty much you're going to get these gee-whiz readings of war from guys like Douthat and a lot of other Americans because they haven't had to really pay all that much for it. Indeed, the fact that we got an unnecessary tax cut out of it shows that literally, we didn't pay anything at all - the real costs are, like so much anymore, passed on to the next generation as just one more thing of debt to lard them down with.

Like the debt, war is an abstract thing until it's directly in your face with the barrel of a gun. Ask any Vietnam/Gulf/Iraq War veteran. Funny thing - there's a ton of them around to attest to the fact that all corpses stink and that blood is the same color, but who listens to them? Not when we haven't had a single person from any of those wars ever elected as President. I would say that with the exception of the first George Bush, the last few presidents up to Obama didn't serve in combat, or at all.

For as long as we are able to get off relatively easy like this, war will be done this way in America and Ross Douthat will go duh and get paid more than me for saying it.

I'm thinking that Douthat might or might not act differently next time, but those who insist that they were right all along are extremely likely to do the same again.

Fair enough. "Better than Ari Fleischer" is an awfully low bar...but it's a bar nonetheless. 8^)

sekaijin, Douthat's failure of imagination applies to more than just the war. He is the same about gay marriage; in fact his "the world inside my head is the real world" rhetoric soars to unbelievably nauseating heights in relation to "the unique quality of lifelong heterosexual monogamy."

Gag me.

The link is to one of Andrew Sullivan's responses; there was a lot of bloggy back and forth after the original column.

This sh*t makes my blood run cold.

given a choice of those like Douthat who say they were wrong, or those who insist that they were right all along, which would you bet on next time?

Neither. I would "bet on" the folks whose analysis last time around was actually correct.

we didn't pay anything at all

"We" here needs some qualification.

Something north of 4,000 Americans have been killed, and some multiple of that wounded, many of them quite horribly.

So yeah, not too many pundits paid much of a price. In fact, the market for punditry has been quite robust, and seems to not really require much in the way of knowing WTF you're talking about.

But for lots of other folks the price was high. "Lots" is just not that big of a number relative to the overall population.

Cleek, I guess expecting Democrats to follow through after those stupid things are said is asking too much. Silly me.

It does seem like something right up Franks' alley, though.

I don't think our "elites" learned a damned thing. If they learned anything, I suspect they learned stuff I'd rather they hadn't:

Wow, a President lied us into an unnecessary war. His lies were eventually exposed as such. Some dirty hippies were upset, but that's about it. He has a nifty Presidential library now...

The "American People" barely suffered b/c of the Iraq War. The casualties, when measured against other wars, were few (each death a tragedy - please don't think I'm claiming otherwise). The families of those men & women paid a real price. The rest of us, not so much. The $$ cost of the war was kicked down the road (war financed by debt). By the time it "comes due" it will be blamed on entitlement spending.

They will do this again. Next time, I will get off my ass and at least protest it. Last time I just watched incredulously and made a few indignant posts on the internet.

This wouldn't be the first time that we were dragged into war by a lie.

It's sad that people don't consider the drawbacks of something when it doesn't affect them.

Next time, I will get off my ass and at least protest it. Last time I just watched incredulously and made a few indignant posts on the internet.

I marched last time, on a number of occasions, along with literally millions of other people all over the world. The net result of all that marching was precisely nothing.

To be brutally honest, I have a hard time seeing myself getting off my ass next time.

OT but related to Iraq, I have had occasion to peruse some of the job postings on major U.S. defense contractor websites lately and some of the positions advertised are quite...strange, disturbing even.

As just one example I came across today:

Advisor to the General Counsel of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior (MoI). Advises, mentors and assists MoI legal officers and advisors to be effective in providing legal assistance to all levels of personnel at MoI, including providing legal advice to the Minister of Interior, senior management and Iraqi police officers. Trains MoI legal officers regarding Iraqi Constitution, criminal law, criminal procedure and judicial systems. Interacts with senior MOI officials and other Iraqi ministries on matters involving anti-corruption and compliance with human rights Iraqi and international laws. Works with MoI legal officers in drafting legislation. Liaison between U.S. and Coalition military and various non-military organizations (such as State Department, United Nations, USAID, DFID) on numerous matters, including Iraqi legislation and laws. Works with Iraqi, Coalition and international non-governmental agencies to obtain funding for the development of MoI legal resources.

You must have or be able to obtain a U.S. secret clearance for this position. The ability to speak Arabic, OTOH, is not required (albeit "Highly Preferred.")

We're never leaving.

Or how about this one:

Targeter/Intelligence Analyst 2
...
[XCo] is seeking a motivated intelligence analyst to work as targeter/desk officer for a restricted government customer. The selected candidate will assist in operational planning and analysis to identify targets; analyze and determine operational and technical capabilities; review, create, format, and edit cables and other classified written correspondence; conduct traces; and make skilled use of customer data mining tools.
...
Preferred candidates will have working knowledge of information technology and a focus on disciplines relevant to information operations (e.g. information security, remote intrusions or “hacking”, computer network architecture, malware research and analysis). Chinese language skills are a plus

Ugh, it's at least a step up from the original proconsulship in Iraq where knowledge of Arabic was considered a disqualifying flaw (almost as bad as having voted Democratic in any of the prior elections).

As Plato said, Only the dead see the end of war. I say we draft all chickenhawks, Neocons and sunshine patriots and stick their asses in front of the next war machine

Sounds like Geoff's been tokin' from the Thullen pipe... god bless it.

Rather late in the day as I'm in a different time zone - to Janie & others: in no way, shape or form was I implying that no Americans suffered re my post. What I was saying is that in proportion to the fiscal expenditures for this war, we got off statistically quite lightly.

But there's the rub: those who make the decisions to send these folks to war only look at these statistical costs. It's like all those stereotypical Dr. Strangelove scenarios about projected casualty numbers come to life: "only" 60,000 here, or 30,000 there, or 3,000 in such-and-such place, or 8,000 elsewhere. At the end of the day, while no-one may out-and-out say it loud, any number of lost lives is "only" a number, always rationalized to some
"acceptable" level whatever it is. I see little to no evidence that any thinking about the murder machine people will be put through is considered, no matter how much our leaders pretend otherwise.

In truth, I couldn't agree more that every death, regardless of uniform or affiliation, American, British, Iraqi or other, is a tragedy somewhere to somebody. Too bad it's not to politicians, or just belatedly to pundits.

The Iraq war was not about oil. If oil was the issue, we could always have cut the same sordid deals with Saddam as France and Germany, whom progressives hold up as our moral betters, did.

Why should Saddam have cut deals with the US when there were enough others he could sell to? Would you in his position? Btw, I have few illusions about the morality of our (German) government. The elections at the time of Dubya's call to arms were extremly close. Schröder (notorious for dirty energy deals) won by a tiny margin only because he cynically waved the anti-war banner. His opponent squandered his significant lead by applying for the Bush Poodle #2 position.

In addition to Harmut's (very true) points, consider also that the same smug moral superiority evident in your comment was present in those you would hold up as paragons of right action; i.e., the Bush regime. Why would they want to dirty their pristine hands with "sordid deals" when they could "free" the Iraqi oil market by righteous application of military force?

The Iraq war was not about oil.

If Iraq was not situated on top of the second largest proven reserve of crude oil, we would have little to no interest in the place.

Period.

A sad story about the morgue...

And if Iran gets to put nuclear warheads on its ballistic missiles, there will be more sad stories.

If you're going to convince me to let the Mullahs have nukes, you're going to need more than sad stories. You have to tell me what those nukes and ballistic missiles are really for. And back it up with evidence.

Iran has no enemies that aren't caused by their nuclear weapons program, so why does it exist?

"And if Iran gets to put nuclear warheads on its ballistic missiles, there will be more sad stories."

What I'm really worried about is what could happen if a massive superpower ideologically directed to overthrow our government and that of our allies was armed with tens of thousands of nuclear-tipped ICBMs, SBLMs, and millions of troops, as well as dozens of other countries in alliance, and we had to face such enemies for over half a century. It would surely mean intolerable peril and death for all of us.

Iran has no enemies that aren't caused by their nuclear weapons program, so why does it exist?

So, on your planet the US and Israel would both be bestest buddies with Iran if Iran were to abandon its nuclear program? Interesting.

If you're going to convince me to let the Mullahs have nukes, you're going to need more than sad stories. You have to tell me what those nukes and ballistic missiles are really for.

Does that apply to all countries? Or, does the US get to have weapons because we're the good guys but the Iranians don't because they're the bad guys.
Even if that is your thinking, you have to recognize that this belief system is unlikely to find much purchase in Iran. Or anywhere else that isn't considered a US ally & ergo one of the good guys.

If you're going to convince me to let the Mullahs have nukes

I wasn't aware that we all got a vote on this.

@Donald:

"You are romanticizing the guerillas, as some people who oppose American imperialism tend to do. They weren't some unified movement bent solely on fighting foreign troops--they spent a fair amount of time murdering other Iraqis. The Surge wasn't a partial success because of some extra troops--it was a success because the Sunni tribes turned against the Al Qaeda types. And also because the Shiite death squads chased so many Sunnis (and Sunni guerillas) out of Baghdad. Or so I've read. The war was a moral wasteland on all sides, so far as I can tell."

I romanticize little.

1. Most guerrilla wars feature multiple factions and shifting alliances. Check Spain 1809-12, which was the prototype of modern guerrilla warfare.

It's a rare country that doesn't have lines of fracture between races, religions, languages, regions, or classes. When playing the old game divide and rule, a powerful invader has plenty of scope to experiment and provoke.

In Iraq's case, what's astonishing is not that there was civil strife, but that it took until 2006 for the Americans to really get it started (I wonder to this day whether the Samarra mosque bombing was not done by provocateurs, but we'll never know).

It's impressive testimony to most Iraqi Arabs' commitment to the idea of an Iraqi state. The oft-bruited notion of Iraq being an "artificial" entity can therefore be dismissed as propaganda.

2. It is not unusual for a guerrilla faction to flip back and forth not only in their alliances with each other, but for and against the invader. e.g. in Yugoslavia and in the Ukraine during WWII, among many, many others.

3. Guerrillas usually operate along a spectrum with "fighting the occupier" at one end, and "sheer brigandage" at the other. Guerrillas resort to banditry, hostage taking, and extortion, and then the bandits shift back to killing imperialists. That's the nature of guerrilla warfare. Indeed all wars must be financed and fed, whether formally or informally.

4. Never forget that perhaps a guerrilla's most important job consists in murdering the collaborators. A guerrilla must spend at least half of his operations doing this. For this reason, any foreign occupation, if protracted, inevitably takes on many of the characteristics of a civil war.

Without quality collaborators, a foreign occupation is difficult to sustain. By killing the smartest, most dedicated and most honest of the collaborators, the guerrilla can at least "cull the collaborator pool" and leave the occupier with a bunch of untrustworthy slimeballs, good for nothing but skimming aid funds. e.g. look at some of the types the Americans were reduced to relying upon in Vietname toward the end.

5. It is not unusual for the majority of casualties in a guerrilla war to be inflicted by the occupied, upon the occupied. This was true in both Greece and Yugoslavia during WWII, and probably also in Napoleonic Spain. Nevertheless, when historians place the blame for the killings, they place it upon the invaders, which is naturally where it belongs.

6. The "surge" succeeded because of negotiation with some of the Anbar guerrilla factions. But note that unless those factions had fought their way to the table, they would never have gained a position to negotiate. War is politics.

7. The involvement of a foreign major power in support, supply, and funding of the guerrillas can often mitigate the disunion and banditry. e.g. the French resistance factions in WWII only came under one national front because that was the only they could receive arms.

The Iraqi guerrillas never enjoyed any significant support from a foreign major power. If they had, the course of events would have been rather different.


But even given all the undeniable and horrible realities of guerrilla, which is the worst kind of war there can be, the guerrilla still shines.

Most people in a country under foreign occupation do not resist. Collaborators always outnumber guerrillas, and the passive outnumber both of those groups together.

A guerrilla is always starts at a "dead end." If his country wasn't at a dead end, there would be no need for a guerrilla. Just because the war is lost doesn't mean it has to end. Just because the war is unwinnable, does not mean that some battles cannot yet be won.

Churchill and de Gaulle both understood this perfectly well. So did John Milton when he composed "Samson Agonistes." So why is it that the contemporary Westerner is so clueless?

The Iraqi guerrillas could not expel the USA, which was several orders of magnitude more powerful than the Iraqis. Worse, most recent technological changes favour the imperial forces rather than the guerrilla (think night vision eqpt, modern body armour, modern wireless communication).

But the Iraqis surprised everybody by their tenacity and ingenuity. They forced the Americans to take much more time, spend much more money than they had planned. They forced the US gov't to delay a bigger agenda of aggression (most recently described by Blair in his memoirs).

The Iraqis also showed all other Arabs that it is possible for brave, self-sacrificing men to fight to a standstill the richest and most powerful country that has ever existed in all of history. Throughout the Arab world, and elsewhere, the guerrillas' actions have gained attention and admiration. Arabs in particular are fully aware of the daunting odds that the Iraqis faced.

Was there no romance in this?

Was there no romance in this?

Is there an Arabic word for "Wolverines!"?

The Iraq war was not about oil. If oil was the issue, we could always have cut the same sordid deals with Saddam as France and Germany, whom progressives hold up as our moral betters, did.

Well, US companies cut deals with Saddam too.

France and Germany, whom progressives hold up as our moral betters

Of course France and Germany are our moral betters. Look at child poverty or infant mortality rates.

Well, US companies cut deals with Saddam too.

And by SI's standards, that means "the US" cut sordid deals with Saddam. After all, it was French and German companies, not governments, that cut those deals.

Haha, "let the Mullahs have nukes." As if WE GET TO DECIDE. As if we can really effectively stop them (long-run) anyway.

This is pure hubris. The idea that we get to pick who gets nukes & who doesn't. That we have either the moral right or the power to do so...

The arrogance is staggering.

That was an extremely interesting response, Roland, which I mean in a non-snarky way. A lot to think about, though as you describe it guerilla warfare is something that only something very extreme (like a planned or ongoing genocide) could justify. I understand the logic you describe, but if guerillas have to kill the most dedicated honest collaborators and leave the slimeballs alone, then it's as Chomsky once described Vietnam--you have a war where only the most ruthless can prevail and that doesn't bode well for the kind of government you will have afterwards if the guerillas win.

I'm a little confused who the "resistance" was in Iraq anyway--too many factions shooting in too many different directions. Iraq was much more of a mess that way than Vietnam.

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