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November 20, 2005

Comments

Jebus, hilzoy. To think that the LA Times gave Jonah Goldberg a column . . .

I'd propose to you, but I suspect you have more suitors than Penelope right now.

Wow Hilzoy. I have commented here once, read the site everyday. That may be the best post I've ever read anywhere. Nuff' said.

:::standing ovation:::

George W. Bush, when asked by Bob Woodward "how is history likely to judge your Iraq war?" replied, "History, we don't know. We'll all be dead."

(Woodward Shares War Secrets, CBS News, 60 Minutes, April 18, 2004).

Some time ago I defended Charles's writing on this site when he came under attack, despite my general disagreement with his positions. After his most recent post, I was deeply embarrassed that I had done this.

Now, triply so. This should be everywhere. Thanks.

Thank you.

Well its good I agree. But I think you understate how much at fault rank and file Republicans and particularly people like Charles and Josh are for this cluster*$%#! It isn't clear to me that President Bush has the capacity for moral agency that would be required for him to take the blame for this. I don't think that most Republicans have as good an excuse.

Hilzoy, what an amazing post -- ticking off exactly what went wrong with this administration and the country that elected it.

No one, but no one, who was genuinely concerned with actually succeeding in Iraq would accept for a moment the view that tough talk and endless promises to "stay the course" were enough to win a war and transform a country

Hmm... and yet that is exactly what Charles argued in his post, for all that he subsequently denied it. So: either Charles is not in {X: X is genuinely concerned with actually succeeding in Iraq} or, your "no one" is too strong.

Hilzoy: Excellent post.

Jeremy: So: either Charles is not in {X: X is genuinely concerned with actually succeeding in Iraq} or, your "no one" is too strong.

No, Charles is not genuinely concerned with actually succeeding in Iraq. Charles is genuinely concerned with making the Bush administration look better than it is, and with attacking the critics of the Bush administration. That we know from what Charles has chosen to write about.

Second, and more interestingly, I think that there are some people who just don't see that really caring about something requires thinking about it very, very clearly.

I also think that even people who do normally see this can be driven astray by extremely strong emotions, and that this can lead to a feedback loop in which one becomes unwilling to listen to relevant types of criticism, which in turn discourages careful thinking and helps maintain the accompanying mental state.

I've spent a lot of time dealing with scientific cranks on Usenet; they unquestionably deeply care about their ideas, and often they're people with some sort of technical training who were raised to think about things rationally and critically, yet they cannot think rationally and critically about the one thing they care the most about.

In politics and foreign affairs, I think this probably happened to most of the American electorate, myself included, after the September 11th attacks; "with us or against us" is not a congenial attitude for critical thought.

But, you know, while intelligent and informed citizenry is important in a democracy, it's even more important that the people who actually get elected have the capacity to behave rationally in the crunch.

Wow. And I won't even bother reading the rationalizations for the war offered by the hapless editor of my local fishwrap this morning. The only people that have anything important and thoughtful to say about Iraq are all writing on the internet. Unbelievable.

well done

But the occupation of Iraq was neither about winning, democracy, wmd or getting rid of saddam.

It was all about letting greedy corporations run amuk with the Iraqi treasury and resources, as well as to justify expanding military control at home and abroad in order to usher in the New Weimar Republic.

Amuurikka uber alles

First, hilzoy: seconds on the wow! reviews: one of your best.
And, strange as it may sound: I hope this is one of your last posts for a while on the subject.
Not to get all historico-philosophical on a nice bright Sunday morning: but I think that the country has (whether we all realize it or not) reached a major tipping point in its contemplation of the conflict in Iraq; a "Tet" moment, if you will.
Rep. John Murtha's "withdrawal" "resolution" has been, I think, the spark that has set off a long-needed debate, both in public and (one can fervently hope)in the American peoples' minds about exactly why it is that American soldiers are stuck fighting (and losing their lives and limbs) in a dangerous and bloody sectarian conflict in a faraway place (again) with no discernable prospect of their mission being either terminated or
drawn down in the foreseeable future.
Whether or not we can actually "withdraw" personnel from Iraq; how many, where they will go, will we have bases there, etc.: those are details which can (and should) be worked out later. I think that the important point, though, is that the Bush Administration has finally been put on the spot to articulate its "exit strategy" - if it indeed even has one - and to finally have to explain to the American people what its definition of "victory" actually is, and how it actually intends to accomplish it.
Hence my comment about a "last" post: I think that the really really important part of the debate over Iraq henceforward has to be on a where-do-we-go-from-here basis, and leave the blame-fixing, error-finding and shoulda-woulda-coulda scenarios for another time. The Bush Administration's failings (and you are entirely correct: these failings come right from the top) will, one hopes, be glaringly apparent to all but the most blinkered partisans. And unlike George W. Bush, I don't think we will have wait until after our demises (or a long time at all) to hear the judgement of History on its failures.
Like you, I don't have a facile answer to the "Iraq Question" handy: but I do believe that it is time to stop raking over the past
and think -hard- about articulating alternative strategies for the future (and the nearer the future the better) than just "stay the course" and confirm this criminally incompetent Adminstration's "mandate".

One of the best bits of writing its been my pleasure to find online. Thanks Hilzoy.

Regards, Cernig @ Newshog

We will, of course, not a get a cogent response to this from our rightie friends.

If Hilzoy had a position in government and said this, she would right now be getting the "loser-defeatist" treatment, since that is the current rightie idea of proper discourse on this subject.

I am sick and tired of watching thousands of Americans be killed or maimed to prop up the rightie vanity -- a vanity that prevents them from acknowledging the horrible errors that have already occurred, and prevents them from acknowledging that under Bush, expect more of the same. A vanity that says wasting more lives is more important than acknowledging error and correcting it.

The blood of further wasted lives are on your hands.

You cannot support continuing the war based on scenarios about how it might be made right when there is no realistic possibility of those scenarios being implemented by Bush. You can support more war only if you are satsfied that it continue in its current screwed-up state.

You cannot support continuing the war based on a fanatasy as to what can allegedly be achieved by further effort -- you can support more war only if you are satisfied with the current screwed-up mess, because that is as good as it is going to get under Bush.

War-supporters need to be accountable for what they are really advocating.

Salvaging this war could happen only if Republican leadership took some control of the effort away from Bush so that something rational has a chance to be implemented. But that will never happen -- this war is unsalvageable for this political reason, and has become an immoral waste of American lives.

I put an excerpt from today's Hoagland column in a comment on the Murtha post:

U.S. military commanders are composing their own scenarios that point to a drawdown of 30,000 to 40,000 American troops -- from a current force of about 140,000 -- that will begin before the midterm elections. In private White House meetings Bush has hinted at numbers of that magnitude and roughly corresponding cuts in foreign coalition troops, authoritative sources tell me.

I agree, Hil, with your excellent post. I guess the WH is set to show us, again, that it is more serious about winning as a matter of domestic politics than in some semi-mythical war on something or other.

In case anyone is confused, I think a half-a**ed withdrawal is far worse than a real declare victory and redeploy withdrawal.

A very strong rebuttal and, if life were a cartoon, NoEndButVictory.com would at the moment be deflating like a balloon with an old Warner Bros "pffffffhhtttttt....."

Such a lengthy post that line, "And so on and so forth.", was nearly all the self incrimination I needed to quit. Everyone has a limit before the distractions come to your rescue.
This boy W was surrounded by experienced counsel (according to Time magazine among other media outlets that thought the public needed to be pacified) because it was obvious to them (the vested interests) that thinking (spare us the fundamental nuance please) was not his strong suit.
The expose by Suskind and O'Neill is excruciatingly detailed about this monumental failure.

Great post. It's becoming obvious, as CharleyCarp points out, that the Republicans' "will to victory" had only a few months left to run anyway.

Extra points from me for using Sayers.

Perhaps a tangential, but important point: the various proponents of "will" seem to be thinking as warriors: given a task from a commander, the right course is to seek victory. But politicians (and citizens) are the ones who set the task--and they should not think of victory only, but whether to undertake the task, and how to achieve it (and if it can be). There is much too much warrior thinking about--as evidenced by the willingness to call Bush "our" CinC--which, for those of us not on active duty in the armed forces, he is not, at all, at all, but the servant of the public.

Thanks for a wonderfully thoughtful post. That we're mired in Iraq is disappointing enough, but the circumstances by which we got there are truly worrisome. And the circumstances include not just the administration (who certainly carries the bulk of the blame), but the congress, the parties, the media and the electorate as well.

1) The Bush administration did not really care about Iraq. This is evident by it's lack of concern about what happened in Iraq after the invasion.

2) Prior to the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq the American people did not care about Iraq either.

3) In the months leading up to the invasion the Bush administration misled the American people into caring enough about Iraq to overwhelmingly support a war against that country.

4) The American people will not support a war based upon lies indefinately.

5) With the recognition that the rationale for the war on Iraq was never valid the American people no longer care about what happens to Iraq.

6) Charles, a hysterical whackjob, calls Murfa, a decorated veteran, a defeatist loser.

7) Osidian Wings commentators go ballistic and the always brilliant Hilzoy writes a post that makes Charles look like a kook.

But:

8) Ford just announced 4,000 job cuts, GM will be cutting over 25,000 jobs, Delphi employees will take a 2/3 pay cut, medicare recipients are confused and angry over the drug benefit fiasco, New Orleans is still a disaster, science is banned in Kansas, the nation is on the wrong track --- and Charles, I bet, still thinks people should just clap louder.

For those with an Atlantic subscription, the case for getting out now by Nir Rosen. Seems as reasonable as the stay-for-now case to me.

As to this post, I think hilzoy is just wrong about the admin's desire to win in Iraq - I still believe they were simply arrogant and incompetent and then caught up in events and then unable to see a way to get on the diritta via without losing the public will necessary to sustain any policy they considered reasonable having pushed the fer-us-or-agin-us line so hard before.

Note that "no end but victory" doesn't promise that we will be victorious. It might only promise that there is no end to this.

Whenever I read stuff like noendbutvictory.com, I always want to refer them to an essay written by the French journalist Bernard B. Fall, about the Vietnam War in 1965.

The piece begins with two quotations:

"Bernard Fall...is now convinced that American air- and fire-power will carry the field." Newsweek, September 27

"They have made it a deser, and have called it peace." Tacitus, Life of Agricola

Fall states "the influx of American military manpower and firepower, and the ruthless use of the latter, have made the South Vietnam war, in the short run, militarily, "unloseable." The italicized qualifiers are of great importance."

And there are other effects of that firepower as well:

what changed the character if the Vietnam war was not the decision to bomb North Vietnam, not the decision to use American ground troops in South Vietnam; but the decision to wage unlimited aerial warfare inside the country at the price of literally pounding the place to bits.

There are hundreds of perfectly well-substantiated stories to the effect that this merciless bombing hurt thousands of innocent bystanders and that one of the reasons why few weapons are found in many cases is that the heaps of dead in the battle zone include many local villagers who didn't get away in time....

Here, again, operations research comes to our rescue. Thus far, interrogations seem to show that there is no positively hostile association between the devastation wrought upon the countryside, and the United States and the Saigon government. In the words of one of the experts, the aerial attackks on the villages "of course cause unhappiness, no doubt on the part of the villagers, [but] do not cause them automatically to become VCs. In fact we have never met one who has become a VC as a result of this." But perhaps the answer should have read "...who has been willing to admit that he has become a VC as a result of this." Be that as it may, and punchcard stacks to the contrary, a high-level mission was sent to Vietnam a few days ago to investigate the effects of that massive firepower on the Vietnamese. It will probably split along service lines."

He documents the disastrous effects of the bombing at some length...I can stick those up if people are interested, I think this is going to be long enough.

It was a stupid, stupid way to fight the war, it killed and maimed God knows how many civilians and it did not serve our own interests in the end. And I don't actually think, for all the mismanagement of Iraq, that our current military tactics are that stupid. The bombing has killed a lot of people, and we have no idea really how many, but it's not on the same scale. Fall states elsewhere in his article that

"In my area," said an American provincial adviser to me, "we shot a half million dollars' worth of howitzer ammunition last month on unobserved targets. Yet the whole provincial budget for intelligence gathering is $300."

I don't think our military tactics in Iraq right now are that stupid. But they can still be pretty stupid. (ctd.)

ken: "Charles, a hysterical whackjob"

Posting rules, please. Actually, an apology, please.


Jes: "Charles is not genuinely concerned with actually succeeding in Iraq."

This is beneath you. CB may be inexplicably wrong-headed on Iraq policy, but this accusation makes no sense.

ken: "Charles, a hysterical whackjob"

Posting rules, please. Actually, an apology, please.

------

Ok 'hysterical whackjob' may have been out of line. I was trying to come up with something to reflect what Charles would be compared to a truely brave man like Murtha. I suppose something along the line of 'cowardly' something or other would have been better suited. Sorry Charles for getting it wrong.

By the way once ad hominem arguments are used by a poster I thought that as regards to that subject at least the posting rules against as hominens would not apply since they were put in play by the poster. No?

This is beneath you. CB may be inexplicably wrong-headed on Iraq policy, but this accusation makes no sense.

I know Charles Bird has a voluminous archive here, and on other sites. Could Charles, or anyone, point to a post where he does explicitly outline a path to success in Iraq.

I note he has advocated a "grand strategy" of Clear and Hold, and resurrection of the Combined Action Program in comments, but only in an offhand manner.

Maybe I have missed a more substantive post?

Has everyone seen this interview

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I was interrogating at the detention facility at Forward Operating Base, CALSU. I was getting prisoners that were arrested by Force Recon marines, and they -- every time Force Recon went on a raid, they would bring back prisoners who were bruised with broken bones, sometimes with burns. They were pretty brutal to these guys, and I would ask the prisoners what happened, you know, how they received these wounds, and they would tell me that it was after their capture, while they were subdued, while they were handcuffed and they were being questioned by the force recon marines.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did they say happened to them?

TONY LAGOURANIS: They were being punched, kicked, you know, hit with -- as I said the back of an axe head. One guy was forced to sit on an exhaust pipe of a humvee. I would check out that story with other people that they had been arrested with, and they were consistent. So, I tended to believe what they were telling me.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean one was forced to sit on the exhaust pipe on the back of a humvee. So, what would happen to him?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, he had a giant blister, third degree burn on the back of his leg.

AMY GOODMAN: Because it was so hot?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: And then at this point, you're supposed to question them?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Right. So I was supposed to interrogate these guys. Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And how do you go about doing that, as they're in front of you with broken bones, beaten, smashed, punched, burned?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, as you know, as I said, this was really late in the year, and I had really sort of given up using any harsh tactics, so, I was trying to get these guys to trust me, telling them I'm going to help them out, which I really couldn't help anybody out at that place, because everyone they arrested, innocent or guilty, no matter what I said, they would just send them to Abu Ghraib anyway. But --

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, you know, the interrogators-- I’m the only person who is going to talk to this guy. There's no officer that's going to talk to him. The person who decides whether to let them go or keep them is not going to interrogate them. So, my recommendation should count for something, you know, but it didn't at FOB CALSU with the 24th MEW Marines. Basically everybody who came to the prison, they determined, they were a terrorist, they were guilty and they would send them to Abu Ghraib.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you determine?

TONY LAGOURANIS: That like 98% of these guys had not done anything. I mean, they were picking up people for the stupidest things like -- there's one guy they picked up, they stopped him at a checkpoint, just a routine stop, and he had a shovel in his trunk, and he had a cell phone in his pocket. They said, well, you can use the shovel to bury an IED, you can use the cell phone to detonate it. He didn't have any explosives in his car, he had no weapons, nothing. They had no reason to believe that he was setting IED’s other than the shovel and cell phone. That was the kind of prisoner they were bringing us.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you ever call for a stop to this, or ask to speak to a higher up? Tony Lagouranis.

TONY LAGOURANIS: I did all the time. You know, at that point, I was like so pissed at the military for what they were doing, you know. And you know, I was yelling at the chief warrant officer marine who was in charge of the defense facility. I was making an issue about it to the major of the Marines, and the lieutenant colonel who was the JAG guy who was in charge of release, who organize keeping the prisoners. I mean, but they just wouldn't listen. You know? They wanted numbers. They wanted numbers of terrorists, apprehended at FOB CALSU, so they could brief that to the general?

AMY GOODMAN: Who was the general?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I don't know. Who knows. But you know, they were trying to impress somebody, so they wanted to say that we arrested this many terrorists. When I would say they were innocent in my interrogation reports, they would send the prisoner up to Abu Ghraib without my interrogation report. They would just send him up with no paperwork.

Lagouranis is one guy, and clearly one extremely disgruntled guy. (If you want to see why he's disgruntled read the harrowing section of his interview about just what his assignment was in Fallujah.)

But I wonder just how much of this comes from the fact that he, unlike so many of the people over there, speaks Arabic. And after having read and listened to two long interviews with him, he strikes me as completely credible. I can't see a motivation for lying here. He's getting death threats and he's saying he was personally involved in abuses that could get him court martialed.)

Sergeant Roger Brokaw described similar things to PBS:

So if you could generalize about the population of detainees that you were seeing, how many of them were really, really bad-guy insurgents?

Maybe 2 percent. Ninety-eight percent of people I talked to had no reason being in there. A lot of the Iraqis would squeal on their neighbor if, you know, if they had a grudge against them. And the police were bringing people in because they had grudges against somebody or didn't like somebody or something. So they'd tell us, "You know, this guy's a terrorist. We caught him doing this or that or something else." And we had a lot of people that were locked up just because their neighbor said something about them.

So whoever came in first to talk about their neighbor was the person that was believed. And I could tell you so many stories of these types of things… Our superiors didn't check these stories out. They would just take them at face value, and go in and raid this house and pull these people out and put them in the detention camps without any, you know, check or -- you're supposed to look at several sources before you do something like that, but [they only used] one source.

One fellow, he was making the rounds. He came to us and said, yeah, he knew this cell, that he fingered about 20 people that we had at Abu Ghraib there. And as time went on, and we were talking to people that were in there, not because of him but for some other reason, but they knew him, and it turned out that this guy was a con, a fraud. He was a criminal. He had been in jail under Saddam's regime for various things. And he had grudges against these people that he was fingering.

Sending them in there.

Yeah. And they believed, you know. Like I say, one person comes in, says something, our superiors treated it like gospel. And then they'd go in and pick these people up. …

So it was hard to know who were the insurgent guys that you were going to ask the really tough actionable intelligent questions.

But, well, the way it worked out was everybody that they brought in there was treated as if they were a terrorist. And that was the general attitude of just about everybody over there, was every Iraqi is a terrorist. So when they went to interrogate these people, they already had this mindset. This person is a terrorist, and I'm going to get information out of you. And most of them are just, you know, hard-working people that wanted to feed their family. And we created more terrorists, I think, than we caught, actually, because a lot of people were pretty bitter. …

They were picking up people for anything, just the drop of a hat. There was quotas, quotas on doing so many rates per week, picking up so many people per week. You know, and interrogating so many people per week, and sending reports up. …

We had our PIRs, you know -- the primary intelligence reports we had to fill out. And the questions were: Where's Saddam? Do you know where there's any weapons of mass destruction? Do you know where there's any weapons caches? Do you know any people who want to harm coalition forces? And those types of questions.



This isn't just immoral. It's also an insanely stupid way to run a counter-insurgency.

The military is an enormous bureaucracy. It is not immune to the stupidities of any bureaucracy. It's an enormous bureaucracy whose job it is to kill people. It is operating in a country where it does not speak the language and about which most of its members know very little. This is especially true now, when it has been so poorly served by it's civilian leadership in the ways the Hilzoy describes. The President think he is infallible, blames the messenger for bad news, and there seems to be nothing that will cause him to fire Donald Rumsfeld or stand against Dick Cheney.

If you're not going to dive into any of these problems at all, because to look at them might sap our will--I just don't see "no end but victory" as serious. It's a really sh*tty way to actually achieve victory. It's a good way to take no responsibility for the outcome in Iraq, and blame the failures of the war's architects on the people who point them out--because yes, at some point a majority of the American public will insist on withdrawal, at which point it will be always be open to you to blame them and to say that things had been going FINE until those liberals ruined it all and stabbed our troops in the back.

After all, that's what most of the people on the site say about Vietnam--that's how they justified the Swift Boat Stuff to themselves during the campaign. It's good politics. But as a way of actually making the situation better in Iraq? Please.

Brava hilzoy!

I think Matt McIrvin (above) puts his finger on an underlying truth.

I also think that even people who do normally see this can be driven astray by extremely strong emotions...

It seems to me, what's behind the slogan "no end but victory" is the notion that we don't care enough, and that opponents of the war (myself included) are sapping the public will.

But how much do I, for example, care? It is not measurable, perhaps not even expressible. No matter what I write, it's unlikely to convince, say, Charles that I do care what happens. All the well reasoned argument in the world is not enough.

We face a very toxic combination: an attack that shocked us, a president (and party) willing to take advantage of that attack for political gain, a political environment where demonizing the opponent is routine, a military stretched thin, a budget imbalance that cannot be sustained, a retreat from our founding principles of inherent human rights and the rule of law.

After the 2000 election, I consoled myself, thinking, "well, things are in pretty good shape. Probably George W. Bush can't do too much damage." This was a monumental failure of imagination on my part.

"Failure of will" seems to be on many peoples' minds. Sometimes I despair. I ask myself why I keep reading and posting comments. It eats up a lot of time, and often seems futile. Here are some inspiring words that help me:

We can succeed only by concert. It is not "can any of us imagine better?" but, "can we all do better?" Object whatsoever is possible, still the question recurs "can we do better?" The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall our selves, and then we shall save our country.

Abraham Lincoln, Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862

Rilkefan: CB may be inexplicably wrong-headed on Iraq policy, but this accusation makes no sense.

No. It is CB's (and other war supporters) combined claims to be both for victory in Iraq, and for a second term for the Bush administration, that make no sense.

Especially, CB's two most recent posts connected with Iraq; one an ad hominem attack on a Democratic senator who made a well-informed and cogent speech on the topic, and the other, providing a link to a website which consists primarily of attacks on anyone who opposes or criticizes the Bush administration, and which again, nonsensically, claims to be for victory in Iraq.

Thanks, everyone.

About strong emotions: I agree that they can totally unhinge us, at least at first. That's why I tend not to blame people who, in the days after 9/11, were talking about nuking Mecca and other idiotic things. But at some point it becomes possible to think about your responses; and at that point you face a choice. Do you think hard about how, exactly, to go about defeating al Qaeda? In this case your emotions drive you to think clearly. Or do you not think? In this case, I think, you're probably more concerned with something other than your ostensible goal. Venting, emotional satisfaction, being on the supposedly tough and righteous side (as opposed to actually being tough and righteous), or whatever.

And I think that the time it takes to reach this point, even after something as awful as 9/11, is measured in days or weeks, not months or years. By the time we invaded Iraq, this excuse had, imho, become inoperative.

On Bird:

Firstly, although his last post was verging on the very boundaries of madness as it tried to maintain its own credibility in the face of mounting evidence against, I think it's wiser and more in keeping with the spirit of the thing to simply let his words stand and fall on their own merits, rather than slamming his intentions in unrelated threads.

Secondly, I would very much like to see Charles Bird's response at this post, a full rebuttal if he has one.

Under an earlier topic, I commented on the Right's strange passion for remaking America into a de facto authoritarian state in order to "win," not necessarily the war itself, but public perceptions of the war.

Murtha, it should be noted, did not pull his speech from his nether regions. His speech was the result of visits to soldiers, including weekly visits to Walter Reed, as well as discussions with the military commanders who are actually trying to implement plans for fighting the war: the very people that the Bush Admin has ignored and defamed, used up and discarded.

The GOP's reaction, and the Right commentariat's reaction, to Murtha's speech can only be described as hysteria. Pure hysteria.

That convinced me (if I had any doubts) the war is indeed not only not being won, but is unwinnable. Because, as I see it, if one's position can be explained and defended by cogent reasoning, one need not become completely unhinged by a request to do exactly that. The GOP and the Right rushed right past cogency into defamatory unhingement; ergo, they have no cogent argument to fall back on. ("Stay the course!" and "Triumph of the Will!" are not cogent arguments, no matter how many rhetorical flourishes you add onto 'em.)

The sheer passion of the hatred blows my mind. I've lost count of the good, conscientious men and women - in the government, in the military, and in the intelligence community - who've been slimed and slandered for questioning Bush's war policy (or just for being married to someone who questioned it). It's gotten to the point that no opposition, no questions, and no doubts can be tolerated; the attack machine goes into full gear immediately, and leaves scorched earth behind.

I don't know what drives that. A mere unwillingness to admit error can't be the only reason, although the enormity of the error might be a factor. An excess of loyalty to a Cause can't be it, either, for the reasons hilzoy mentions; but also because it must be obvious to anyone with a functioning brain that you don't support liberation and democracy abroad by destroying it at home. An excess of loyalty to a man can't be it: Bush has his personality cult, no question, but many of the unhinged hysterics no longer support Bush much, either.

An ideology? But what ideology is served by such lunacy as the GOP presented the other night? What ideology is served by calling Murtha, and the majority of Americans who agree with him, 'defeatists and losers'? What ideology is served by demanding unquestioned obedience to an unworthy leader and a discredited cause? What ideology is served by attacking the reputation, livelihood, and patriotism of anyone who isn't unquestioning obedient? What ideology is served by supporting torture as a legitimate interrogation technique? What ideology is served by supporting indefinite imprisonment of people, with no charges, no legal representation, and no hope of being released even after they're known to be innocent of whatever they were initially imprisoned for?

I certainly can't think of one.

Caseyl, a great many people are motivated to a very considerable extent by hatred of liberals and liberalism. "They" hate "us" more than they fear/loathe AQ.

I'd thought "they" must be having a very rough time of the war in Iraq these last several months, since it's not really about "us" at all -- but "they" seem to be finding plenty of ways to bring the subject to their feelings about "us" notwithstanding that "we" are not in any meaningful way responsible for the calamity the government has brought about.

In other words, the issue is not will, but skill.

There is an additional point I made in one of CB's threads which I think deserves reiteration: Getting the administration to change course is nearly impossible for liberals. Only if they see signs from their base that a change in course is needed will they be encouraged to reconsider the current course (one that leads to slow and agonizing defeat IMO).

"What ideology is served by calling Murtha, and the majority of Americans who agree with him, 'defeatists and losers'? What ideology is served by demanding unquestioned obedience to an unworthy leader and a discredited cause? What ideology is served by attacking the reputation, livelihood, and patriotism of anyone who isn't unquestioning obedient? What ideology is served by supporting torture as a legitimate interrogation technique? What ideology is served by supporting indefinite imprisonment of people, with no charges, no legal representation, and no hope of being released even after they're known to be innocent of whatever they were initially imprisoned for?

I certainly can't think of one."


Well, I can. Hint: it favored monocolor shirts and stiff-arm salutes.

Hilzoy-

I'll add my thanks to those of so many others for another of your very
thoughtful and eloquent posts (yes, I've been lurking around here
quite some time not saying anything, like so many others who seem to
have been coming out of the woodwork lately).

I think that there are some people who just don't see that really caring about something requires thinking about it very, very clearly. Admittedly, it's hard to see how someone could not see that unless there were a deep problem with his understanding of his relationship to the world; but there are people who have such problems.

I think there are not just some, but very many people who have a very
different relationship to the world, including Mr. Bush and many of
his supporters. I'm sure you recall this from Without a Doubt:

"He truly believes he's on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis."

I doubt it has ever occurred to Mr. Bush that he needed to think hard
about this. He's God's president, and as such, he's done his part in
starting the war and he expects God to handle the details. He went
to war with the reality he'd like to have had, not the one he had.

This kind of "thinking" isn't uncommon, even though one would prefer
not to have a president doing decision making this way. I expect that
many millions of people who embrace faith in Christ as savior as the
road to eternal salvation do so with the feeling that they care deeply
about the outcome and are being quite serious about it. In many cases
they just don't understand the notion that being serious about
something and really caring about it involves thinking about it at
all, it is really a matter of strong belief. And that is, after all,
very much a matter of will without analysis.

I don't mean just to pick on the religious here. There is a good
reason why ideologies with internal inconsistencies spread widely,
often among people who "think" for a living. With all due repect
Hilzoy, you are an outlier. Your posts are so eloquent because you
are so good at thinking clearly and deeply about problems. People
admire it because it's uncommon. I'm happy to join you in exhorting
our colleagues and our administration to do a better job of it, but I'm
not going to expect too much.

"Thanks, everyone."

You can't thank me for saying you're "just wrong", can you?

rilkefan: sure I can.

You could thank me for saying, "You're wrong, and here's why". I didn't really develop my argument, though. I will however try to present it at a later date.

Marvelous post. That Gaudy Night passage has been very important in my life -- I tend to remember it whenever I am about to slack off about something, or realize I just have. It was a shock, though not an unwelcome one, to see it here.

A great post, but I can think of at least 1 alternate explanation for the lack of post-invasion planning:

To admit the difficulty of it would admit a reason to consider not going to war. Hence, it had to be suppressed.

Terrific post. Exactly right.

"Caseyl, a great many people are motivated to a very considerable extent by hatred of liberals and liberalism. "They" hate "us" more than they fear/loathe AQ."

I agree, CharleyCarp, but that doesn't explain the venomous attacks on people who aren't liberals, like Murtha - unless "liberal" is now defined as "anyone who disagrees with us."

It doesn't explain the support for torture and perpetual imprisonment - unless abiding by the laws of the Constitution in particular and Western civilization in general, and upholding minimal standards of human decency, are now considered exclusively "liberal" positions.

It's this tossing-on-the-trashpile any consideration other than maintaining an undefendable position that puzzles me. The people who now believe our current leadership and strategies will fail in Iraq are not only liberals, not only armchair generals, not only ivory tower scholars.

If the Right actually cared about Iraq as anything other than something to be used for whipping themselves up into a frenzy against "liberals," why aren't they listening to the people who not only want the US to succeed, but who have actual plans for how we might do so? Why have they put themselves in a position where they have nothing but scorched-earth attacks on "liberals" to offer?

Hilzoy is correct: Iraq isn't the issue, isn't what they care about. Which begs the question of what really is in their minds.

And I submit that hating liberals is just a symptom of whatever that is, because ideologies that define themselves exclusively by hatred don't last long, don't prosper, and lead mostly to mass graves.

Casey: As usual, there's a theological heresy that covers such things. :) In this case, the word is "antinomian", which refers to the doctrine that the chosen aren't under the law. Once you're saved, that is, you can do anything, and God will never withdraw His forgiveness. The idea persists in secular ideologies that those are justified by some circumstances can't ever be too bad, while those outside it can't ever be too good.

In this case, it's rich Americans who can't be villains. Poor Americans (that is, the bottom 98% or so) can be loyal servants or insubordinate wretches - the attitude there seems basically late medieval, without the feudal sense of obligation from the top down. Foreigners of just the right sort can be buddies, like the House of Saud; others can be useful, or nuisances, or evil. But everybody's capacity for good and evil is defined by their situation, not by whether they are actually good or evil. The flow of logic is about this: because we are the best sort, therefore what we do cannot be too bad, and therefore if it looks that bad, that's just a misunderstanding, innocent or deliberate. And to persist in thinking that it's bad after you've been told that it can't be, well, that's always deliberate.

People really do think that way.

CaseyL writes: "The GOP's reaction, and the Right commentariat's reaction, to Murtha's speech can only be described as hysteria. Pure hysteria."

I was just recently thinking that Iraq is the Right's version of an entitlement program to be defended at all costs.

A new 'third rail', to be immune from all questioning.

CaseyL, others, there is one obvious ideology that is served by all of this - the power of the GOP. If you assume that the guys up top have that ideology, and that the middlemen/cheerleaders support that as a way to get whatever they want, things look simpler.

dzman writes: "A great post, but I can think of at least 1 alternate explanation for the lack of post-invasion planning:

To admit the difficulty of it would admit a reason to consider not going to war. Hence, it had to be suppressed."

I've been thinking that perhaps the lack of planning is an artifact of Cheney's malign influence.

After all, when he was SecDef for a war against Iraq, they didn't have to worry about all that post-invasion stuff.

I could completely believe Cheney thought Iraq would behave like Kuwait, despite the insanity that is clear to anyone else.

rilkefan writes: "As to this post, I think hilzoy is just wrong about the admin's desire to win in Iraq - I still believe they were simply arrogant and incompetent"

Desire is not exactly the same thing as will. You can desire something without expecting it to happen, or without exerting any effort for it to happen.

Arrogance and incompetence, about something of this scale, are pretty good indicators of a lack of will for success.

"Has everyone seen this interview...?"

I couldn't know about everyone, but I have, and I found the reaction I illustrated and discussed here interesting.

I did too Gary. Everyone: click on Gary's link.

Note that the interview I linked to is separate from Lagouranis' frontline interview, though.

"Especially, CB's two most recent posts connected with Iraq; one an ad hominem attack on a Democratic senator who made a well-informed and cogent speech on the topic,"

If this is about Representative Murtha, he may or may not be pleased by your promotion of him to Senator.

"That convinced me (if I had any doubts) the war is indeed not only not being won, but is unwinnable. Because, as I see it, if one's position can be explained and defended by cogent reasoning, one need not become completely unhinged by a request to do exactly that. The GOP and the Right rushed right past cogency into defamatory unhingement; ergo, they have no cogent argument to fall back on."

This seems to presume that the GOP Congressional leadership is both qualified to judge on whether the war is winnable or unwinnable, and a sensible authority to look to to definitively answer the question.

I question both notions (without taking a position at the moment on whether the war is, in fact, winnable or unwinnable).

"...a great many people are motivated to a very considerable extent by hatred of liberals and liberalism. 'They' hate 'us' more than they fear/loathe AQ."

Of course, some of "them" say exactly that about how "the liberals" and "the lefties" feel about "real Americans," etc.

I always find it remarkable how much mirroring there is in the partisan extremes, and such a typically mutually identical lack of actual accurate knowledge of the Other, more often than not. (Which I'm not saying reflects you, Mr. CharlyCarp, sir. I'm just running my mouth, or in this case, my fingers.

"This seems to presume that the GOP Congressional leadership is both qualified to judge on whether the war is winnable or unwinnable, and a sensible authority to look to to definitively answer the question."

I don't agree. It assumes the GOP would be able to make a case for their point of view on the subject, correct or incorrect, rather than leaping for invective against the wrongthinker.

The fact that they leapt to silence and intimidate the opposition suggests that the GOP doesn't actually care about whether the war can be won, and are only enforcing submission to the President's will.

"Note that the interview I linked to is separate from Lagouranis' frontline interview, though."

Yes. I should have been clearer and written "the reaction to Lagouranis's various statements," or some such variant. It seemed a trivial point that made no difference to nuthin', though.

Of course, some of "them" say exactly that about how "the liberals" and "the lefties" feel about "real Americans," etc.

And it's entirely plausible that one of the two sides is correct and the other incorrect, so that the perceived rhetorical similarity need not betoken any similarity in the real world, yes? IOW simply because the rhetoric sounds the same, doesn't in and of itself mean anything.

"The fact that they leapt to silence and intimidate the opposition suggests that the GOP doesn't actually care about whether the war can be won, and are only enforcing submission to the President's will."

I'm not following how that demonstrates that the war "is unwinnable." (Maybe the war is unwinnable; that's not the question, either.)

This was the assertion: "That convinced me (if I had any doubts) the war is indeed not only not being won, but is unwinnable."

What's "that the GOP doesn't actually care about whether the war can be won, and are only enforcing submission to the President's will" got to do with it?

I would characterize neither of big "failures" as "failures of will", Hil. The lack of necessary planning was indeed a huge mistake, fundamental even. But was it a failure of will? I doubt it. Seems to me it was a failure of some other thing, or things. Overconfidence maybe. Or unimaginativeness. Or lack of resources applied to post-war planning. Or any number of other reasons and combination thereof.

On the matter of fundamental mistakes, is there not room for the possibility that someone may have thought really, really hard, but still came to the wrong conclusions? Marxists and their simpaticos thought hard and long about their ideology, but wasn't communism still a fundamental mistake anyway? It was one of the worst and most fundamental mistakes of the 20th century. Is it not possible that Murtha also used a huge percentage of his brain but that the output of those firing neurons was still wrong? I believe that was the case.

On the second big "failure", no politician has ever succeeded by insulting those who would vote for them. The people have spoken, and revisiting 2004 is spilt milk. The American people didn't trust Kerry enough to pull the lever for him and to vote against the other guy. I blame Bush that he campaigned well enough that a majority voted for him, but I also blame Kerry for campaigning poorly enough to lose. Perhaps his terrible campaign was Kerry's own failure of will.

Anyone who voted Republican because of Iraq didn't bother to look past the hype and the spin and ask themselves, seriously: is there any reason -- any reason at all -- to think that George W. Bush is capable of leading us to success? The answer was clearly: no.

The answer is not "clearly no", and how about those who voted for Bush and did look past the "hype and the spin"? Kerry offered no substantive differences to how Iraq would be handled (unless you think calling more meetings is a substantive difference), and he gave clear signals that he would prioritize withdrawing troops over achieving victory.

To come to your conclusion, you must ignore the progress made in Iraq. It's going to take longer and cost more than it should have, and mid-course corrections are too slow in coming, but because mistakes have been made does not that the situation is irreparable. This is a process, and even if we did everything perfectly, achieving victory would take years. As it is, it'll take a few years more, if we have the gumption to do it.

"IOW simply because the rhetoric sounds the same, doesn't in and of itself mean anything."

Yes, certainly. And similarly, in a dispute, although more often than not the truth lies somewhere between the version put forth by one side and the other, it's also not uncommon for one side to be completely right and the other side completely wrong.

No, Charles is not genuinely concerned with actually succeeding in Iraq. Charles is genuinely concerned with making the Bush administration look better than it is, and with attacking the critics of the Bush administration. That we know from what Charles has chosen to write about.

That is a lie, Jes.

"It's going to take longer and cost more than it should have, and mid-course corrections are too slow in coming, but because mistakes have been made does not that the situation is irreparable."

The passive voice is just the most precious gift, isn't it?

Who made the mistakes, Charles? Where does the buck stop?

"To come to your conclusion, you must ignore the progress made in Iraq."

I wonder, Charles: do you have any doubt about the possibility and probability of success in Iraq, or do you just feel it would be a bad idea to admit to any doubt?

Me, I'm nothing but doubt on Iraq. I'm doubtful of the surety of those who declare that there is no doubt, it is hopeless! And I'm doubtful of those who declare that there is no alternative but victory! (God, I love the smell of napalm in the morning.)

I just doubt those who have no doubt. That's probably doubtful of me. Don't you think?

Incidentally, John Burns' latest (maybe you know more about Iraq than Burns, but I'm inclined to think that perhaps not):

In Baghdad, Maj. Gen. William G. Webster Jr., commander of the Third Infantry Division, whose troops conducted the raid, had an answer to the query on the raid, and it was one that pointed to the shadowlands America fell into when it led the invasion of Iraq more than 30 months ago - shadows that still obscure an understanding of the landscape.

American forces, he said, had heard the stories of secret prisons and torture, many of them telephoned to hotlines set up last year for tips in the hunt for insurgents. The center, in Jadriya, he said, was "notorious" before the raid was triggered by a mother's appeal for help in finding her 15-year-old son. So why wasn't it raided sooner? Because, the general said in so many words, Iraq is so washed by rumor, and fact is so elusive, that the 153,000 American troops here have simply been overwhelmed.

As an example of the obscurities that have enveloped the American enterprise here, the general cited the difficulty the Americans have in distinguishing between the 320,000 members of the Iraqi Army and the police, and the thousands of other armed irregulars now stalking the land. Some of these irregulars, he said, were members of Kurdish and Shiite militias; some, private security forces recruited by ministers; still others, bodyguards to other prominent Iraqis. Along with these, he said there are Sunni insurgents and other killers and kidnappers who steal uniforms and unit badges and masquerade as army and police commandos. In Baghdad alone, he said, three truckloads of uniforms have been hijacked in recent weeks.

"We get lots and lots of reports, tips and rumors, and we have to sort out which are real, and which are not," he said. "We get a call and somebody tells us that these men came during the night and took 25 men, and that they were found dead in the road the next morning, and they tell us that the American Army came with these men and stood by and did nothing. By the time we get the call, the next morning, we have to figure out whether this was the Iraqi Army or police, or a militia, or a gang that has used stolen trucks and painted them and used stolen uniforms. It's very hard for those of us who are fighting this war to ferret this all out."

That's because it's not our country. We're foreigners. And we've made no competent effort to either train or recruit interpreters in even a hundredth the numbers they're needed in. And we'd still never be remotely as competent as locals at understanding the local culture and customs.

But we've, compared to what we could have done with relative ease, if this were truly even a quarter as important as WWII, done relatively little, overall, on the language front, which is just a single thread of the necessary post-invasion occupation plans that the Administration did little about for a year or more by allowing DoD to take charge from State, and throw out State's "Future of Iraq" research, preparation, and plans.

But, then, Colin Powell was a loser-defeatist, just like those pansies at the CIA.

"That is a lie, Jes."

I think that's incorrect. I'd say it's inexplicably wrong-headed.

"Who made the mistakes, Charles? Where does the buck stop?"

How many times does CB have to say the admin made a mistake to satisfy GF? The world may never know.

That is a lie, Jes.

Maybe you could answer my question then. And prove it so.

We are here to learn.

I don't know, Gary, but I've never seen our side proclaim "war" on their side at, say, our quadrennial party convention.

Here is the problem. There are not very many Democrats that want to win in Iraq. Please please dont bring up John Kerry again who met with the Vietnamese (2 separate meetings with the N Vietnamese and with Viet Cong) in France to negotiate who knows what, when he was not representing the US govt, and also gave false testimony to Congress twice (Winter soldier and Xmas in Cambodia). What the heck was he negotiating anyway? He did that to further his popularity because he had political ambitions. He crapped all over our military the way you all do here, but only called them war criminals, and not Nazis, which you all regularly do with the disclaimer, "Oh I'm not calling them Nazis, but just comparing them to Nazis or making a Nazi analogy". Read your comment section, and count 'em up. Look if you want to argue that Bush has not handled the war well, but you were against the war to begin with, and have wanted to withdraw since before the Iraqi elections, ok, but I simply don't trust you to decide what policy will be, it is as simple as that. If you were kind of for the war, but then were for withdrawing before the elections in January, not ok, against the vote on the Iraq constitution, even more not ok, want to get out before the next elected Iraq govt can organize itself, even worse.

The Democrats won the 76 election by stopping support of SE Asia, and it was only the S Vietnamese, Cambodians and Hmong who paid the price. Similar politicians are ready and willing to sacrifice the Kurds now, and the rest of Iraqis who are on "our side", in order to win elections.

Why the heck would I ever trust these guys? I've got nothing against pacifists, for instance, but I don't trust them. I have a huge problem with ANSWER and other anti-American groups. I have a problem with do-gooders who are worried that the US is acting on its own self interest and against the interests of other countries. Well, hell yeah, I want the US to act in its self interest, and I also believe that especially if it promotes freedom elsewhere regardless of whether the leaders in various other countries like it so much. See, I'm an average American guy, and that is really what people think.

Charles, in both intensity and output, you've been much harsher on any target you aim at than at the only people actually responsible for the problems in Iraq, the President and his advisors. You've denounced Murtha in terms that left a lot of us feeling that you'd questioned his very patriotism (and it's really hard to see "loser-defeatist" as any sort of judgment that allows any room for respect at all); you've gone at great length about how awful it was that Amnesty International used the word "gulag" (and, if memory serves, how awful it was that they implied that the problem was or could be bigger than the most restricted reading of the evidence then available); you've harshed on the UN, liberal, European nations...

...all of whom are basically powerless and/or have been in complete acquiescence. The President got everything he asked for, for years on end. This is all the President's fault. Okay, that's a bit overbroad, but it seems to me much, much closer to the truth than the idea that anyone else bears serious blame or responsibility. Did anyone in power stop the President, or force him to act a particular way, or deny him any of his requests? At most, in detail and fiddly bits. He and his advisors got the timing they wanted, the authorization they wanted, the soldiers and materiel they wanted, the administrators and staffs they wanted.

Now, yes, it's true, they're facing growing opposition and some actual denial of their wishes. But that comes only after their enjoying an amazingly free hand. You can't, I think, point at any major Presidential or cabinet request with regard to the war that went reject or even really significantly changed from 9/11 and the early decision to attack Iraq right up through until quite recently. If you have a problem with the adequacy or appropriateness of any of that, blame the people who asked for it, not those who are expressing doubts about it.

If you were to write about the actual policy makers and implementers with even a fraction of the vitriol you direct at the critics, it would make it a lot easier to believe that you care more about victory than about the well-being of those policy makers.

DaveC: there are lots of Democrats who want to win in Iraq. In fact, I don't know any who don't want to win in Iraq.

If you want to make up your mind based on what happened thirty years ago, rather than the Bush administration's record of the last five years, fine. But I'm not sure why you think that George W. Bush's record of fighting the N. Vietnamese is somehow superior to Kerry's.

Man, Charles, if you could argue more consistently in the way you did in your 11:44 comment, you'd find more serious interlocutors here. Saying that Murtha came up with a wrong solution is leaps and bounds more civil than categorizing him outright as a loser-defeatist.

Your statement that "no politician has ever succeeded by insulting those who would vote for them" cuts both ways, as I hope you know. The public is getting really antsy about Iraq, and if there's to be any gumption to stay, it's going to require clear goals, discernable progress, and a reasoned and civil engagement with those parties deeply concerned about our policy there.

I was on the street against this war in 2002, again in 2003, and once more in 2004 on principle's sake. Public demonstration is deeply embarrassing to me, and I didn't do it lightly: I thought this war was a stupid blunder since it was first a twinkle in PNAC's eye. We're there now, however, and I recognize that the invasion and its consequences can't be wished away.

So engage with us worriers and doubters, don't insult us. What kind of progress is being made? How soon will Iraqis be able to manage their own security? Is a massive US military presence the most effective way to find intelligence about international actors?
___
On more specific points: The State department had prepared a number of plans for administering a post-war Iraq. State's research and planning were cast into outer darkness by the Powers That Be. This is not to say that State was necessarily right, that inter-departmental feuds should reflect on the White House, but there was planning available that was thrown out. "Lack of resources" as an explanation for no planning doesn't sound right, in that context.

Closer to home: but wasn't communism still a fundamental mistake anyway? If you're referring to the economic system of communal property and central administration, the answer is that the first principle doesn't necessarily lead to the horrors of Stalin. While some might point to Lenin's later economic policies, about which I'm not really educated, I would point to the early Mormons. By the time the Church moved out to Utah, all property was thoroughly communal, and Brigham Young had consolidated his power sufficiently that he could in the local area command what crops were to be produced and could handpick settlers for a planned colony on the outskirts. It worked for a while, and when it stopped working, by gum, Young scaled back the program. Principles should not become ossified, not if one hopes to continue to wield power.

This, btw, is exactly what's been driving people like me beserk these last few years. Our efforts to the contrary, the US invaded and occupied Iraq. Stupid, but there we are. And now, over and over again, we've seen a rigidifying of our national policy, rather than an open debate. Yes, we went from Garner to Bremer. Garner, an honest man, had no overarching directive for how to fix things; Bremer, well, he had a sheaf full of easy bullet-points. Since the transfer of sovereignty, since there's been no clear American spokesperson in Iraq, it's become harder and harder to understand our role there. Are our policies evolving? What are our troops doing there besides getting killed?

These are questions that I beg you to address in your capacity as a mainpage poster. Republican blogs continually kvetch that the MSM doesn't report the good news from Iraq. I don't hear the good news from Iraq either, and so it's difficult for me to take assertions of "progress made" on their face. Some months ago you posted about a highway in Afghanistan. While many--myself perhaps included, I don't recall--noted that a highway was not exactly a non-military project under the circumstances, it was a specific detail, a specific project, that reminded me that not all was bombed houses and US military dead. What is being done, exactly? What can we hope for? How realistic are the stated goals? How can we improve our efforts towards these goals, or modify them as needed?
____
This is way too long as a comment. It doesn't exactly work as a "Hating on CB" post, so I hope others will be patient with it here.

Where will can lead. The last sentence of "We Do Not 'Torture' II" captures my feeling.

DaveC, I don't think anyone's calling the soldiers Nazis.

And I include Sullivan in that, despite the clear comparison between what Navy Seals have done and what those German "scientists" did: because the Seals are following orders they believe to be consistent with preserving and advancing freedom.

"There are not very many Democrats that want to win in Iraq."

I believe that you believe this. I don't believe you have much legitimate justification for believing it, however, since it's untrue by any reasonable interpretation of what "not very many" might mean. I do believe you've read lots of other people asserting this. I don't believe you could actually support the assertion, however, with even "a preponderance of the evidence."

But, since you're accusing most Democrats of wanting our country to lose a war, I do ask that you please either support your assertion with some citations that prove your assertion, or that you withdraw it.

A credible survey reporting that, say, 55% of Democrats want to the U.S. to lose in Iraq will do. Note that saying "I interpret this to mean that..." won't do.

Excellent; thank you for the thought and effort in putting this forward. But, I have a question that comes from not accepting part of your premise; that is, if a person really, really, really wants something badly I think he or she MAY proceed without planning. In a "rational" or "analytic" sense s/he would not do that, but that's not how we always operate.

Isn't it possible that a person DOES truly WANT something -- in fact, might even be obsessed with, or by, it -- and believe so strongly in the undeniable rightness of it (we could say "righteousness" I suppose) that the person plunges into it without diligent planning and without considering fully the potential barriers and ultimate negative consequences?

I have a couple of illustrations.

First: there are individuals who, looking back on how they got started in their own business, would say (when older and wiser) "if I had known how hard this was going to be, and realized what I didn't know going in, I probably never would have ventured into it." Indeed, if there HAD been a carefully crafted business plan, with all the scenarios laid out, they might have been scared crapless and shied away. But, they willed it to happen and persevered, and came out the other end with some ultimate success.

Second, to make this very personal, I quickly decided (after just a few weeks) to marry a woman who had two children from her first marriage. I just "knew" things would work out -- somehow; no matter that I had no money, no idea how to relate to a near-teen stepdaughter, no idea how many psychological potholes would appear around the bends in the road. Thirty-some years later, and still "planless" (but successful by all traditional measures), it has worked out. Some might say gloriously, looking at it from the outside. Great-grandchild and all. There were times when it seemed doomed. But I always "just knew" there were ways to make it work. And, ultimately, there were.

Now, I am NOT making the case that the head of state SHOULD proceed without careful thought as to the consequences, without laying out the groundwork, without having alternative action plans, without doing scenario testing.

Instead, what I'm suggesting is that a person like Bush43, especially if his convictions about having to do a higher bidding (and, by the way, I am an agnostic) are sufficiently strong, he could very well just put something in high gear because he so WANTED it, and believed in it to such an extent that he could hardly conceive of it not working out.

In the interest of not being misunderstood, let me state that I agree completely that the "Bush approach" was/is foolhardy to the point of recklessness and I agree it is unconscionable to overlook the planning component on something so complex and having such drastic potential consequences as our Iraq "adventure". All I am asking here is this: Is there not another reason why he might undertake something in what seems to be a reckless manner, not because he doesn't really care about it, as you suggest --- but rather because he wants it so strongly for some reason(s) that he'd "just do it", kind of on faith?

Gary, that really depends on what "win" means. If it means 'stay until all political violence of any kind is at an end' I'm not sure that you couldn't find a majority for not wanting to pay the prices necessary. Especially among those who do not believe that victory so defined is even possible.

I want to win. I think we've already won what is in our hands to win -- quite a bit, at that -- and that Iraqis need to get the rest of the way on their own. And that they will. No one has given me any reason to believe that secular Baathists could conquer Kurdistan, or retake any of the Shia dominated south. Or Sadr City. Given the lack of air force, helicopters, and tanks, I'm not sure the 'civil war' people are worried about would get much worse than what is happening now. Instead, I think the insurgencies start to experience real divisions, with the foreigners being the first to be driven out. It's already started in some places, and that's a great thing. If only we didn't have to ask our friends to take such risks in being identified with the occupier.

"There are not very many Democrats that want to win in Iraq."

In case it isn't clear, DaveC, this is a highly offensive thing, for at least some of us, to say.

But on wanting to win, I'd appreciate it if you could read a few things and then we can talk more. This post, but more importantly the linked Larry Diamond article.

Then the George Packer piece and Kenan Makiya pieces I link to in this post from March 2nd, 2003.

DaveC: there are lots of Democrats who want to win in Iraq. In fact, I don't know any DaveC: there are lots of Democrats who want to win in Iraq. In fact, I don't know any who don't want to win in Iraq.

OK, Friday's vote proved that. This blog isn't really addressing that the people of Thailand, Phillipines, Nigeria, Lebanon, Bangaledesh, Lebanon, Indonesia, etc. are looking at Iraq to see if the US will stand up for freedom. We can't give up.

Charles: That is a lie, Jes.

Not wishing a Karnak award, Charles, I can only go by what you've chosen to write about. You've chosen to attack critics and opponents of the Bush administration, and try to make the Bush administration look better than it is. I've seen no sign at all that you have any will for the US to win in Iraq, nor any clear idea about what victory in Iraq would mean and would require from the US. Though - as with the Bush administration - I will suppose you to have the wish, though plainly not sufficient will.

DavcC: are looking at Iraq to see if the US will stand up for freedom. We can't give up.

Right now, Dave, the US (or rather, the current administration) is "standing up" for the right to kidnap and torture; and the mess in Iraq has nothing to do with freedom for Iraqis.

Charles: I didn't see your comment when last I was on here -- I was having trouble with Typepad, and besides, DaveC's comment leapt into view, I answered it, and then Typepad froze completely. Anyways:

"The lack of necessary planning was indeed a huge mistake, fundamental even. But was it a failure of will? I doubt it."

-- It seems to me that not planning for the occupation of a country that was known to be a complete can of worms and very difficult to occupy is not a comprehensible mistake for anyone who really cared about succeeding to make. This would be true even if there were not e.g. plans in State that were discarded, etc. It is, to me, exactly like an accountant "forgetting" to add up the numbers: that's a barely conceivable mistake on a project you don't really care about and are just going through the motions on, but absolutely incomprehensible if this is the one you really, really care about getting right.

I mean: we're not talking about having plans that regrettably went wrong. We're talking about having no plans. And that's just nuts.

"On the matter of fundamental mistakes, is there not room for the possibility that someone may have thought really, really hard, but still came to the wrong conclusions?"

-- Again, I don't think that the sort of mistake I'm talking about is a normal mistake. It's not as though two serious people who were thinking hard could come to different conclusions on the question "should we, or should we not, plan for the occupation of a country that will be very difficult to occupy, if we want to undo the effects of decades of dictatorship and make it into a functioning democracy?" If the administration didn't plan, I can only conclude that they weren't paying enough attention to notice, or thought they could somehow finesse it. Again, this is not something you do if you really care about success.

"how about those who voted for Bush and did look past the "hype and the spin"?"

-- I think I am committed to denying the existence of people who cared more about Iraq than about any other issue, and who did look beyond the hype and spin. If someone thought that getting more pro-life Supreme court justices mattered more than succeeding in Iraq, then OK. But if Iraq was someone's main issue, then no.

"Kerry offered no substantive differences to how Iraq would be handled (unless you think calling more meetings is a substantive difference), and he gave clear signals that he would prioritize withdrawing troops over achieving victory."

-- Kerry offered one enormous contrast with Bush: Bush was manifestly incompetent, and Kerry was not. To anyone who cared about success in Iraq, this would have to be crucial. And what, exactly, were Kerry's signals? Oddly, I don't recall them. I do, however, recall a lot of people on the right assuming that since he was a Democrat, he must, a priori, be weak on defense. Again: not the sort of assumption one would accept uncritically if one really cared about winning.

"To come to your conclusion, you must ignore the progress made in Iraq."

-- No. The idiotic mistakes exist, progress or no progress. Personally, I think there's a lot less progress that I take it you do. But regardless of that, Bush's mistakes have, at best, needlessly placed our success in jeopardy, and cost the lives of a lot of troops and Iraqis. They have also made a lot of people lose support for the war, understandably, in my view.

In case it isn't clear, DaveC, this is a highly offensive thing, for at least some of us, to say.

There is a German word for "stab in the back" that has been used here, and I think that there are some connotations with it that I don't quite understand, but I think that they may be offensive to me. Please explain this.

DaveC: the term is 'Dolchstoßlegende', which (I think) means 'dagger-thrust legend'.

After World War I, when Germany lost, there was a theory among Germans that they had lost the war not because they had been outfought, or badly led, or any of those things, but because weak-minded and unpatriotic people at home (e.g., in Germany) had stabbed the country's war effort in the back by criticizing the war effort or not being sufficiently supportive of it. It's actually quite similar to the view that we lost Vietnam, or might lose Iraq, not because we, well, lost, but because criticism at home undermined the war effort.

Right now, Dave, the US (or rather, the current administration) is "standing up" for the right to kidnap and torture; and the mess in Iraq has nothing to do with freedom for Iraqis.

Now, the Iraqi govt is accused of torture as well, though it appears to me to be beating up on a dozen people out of 175. Were the bombings of the Shiite mosques a legitimate retaliation? No.

And for the record: it is offensive to me (for one) to be told that Democrats don't want to win. First of all, I do want to win. I didn't want to get into the war in the first place, but once we got in, of course I wanted us to succeed. I still do. My only question is, can we?

Second, while I suspect you don't intend to, you often write about what Democrats think, without giving any sort of support for what you say. I think it would be rude of me to make assumptions about what you think, especially if those assumptions weren't like, well, the one I just made, which was charitable, but like the assumption that e.g. you don't want us to win in Iraq, which is and ought to be offensive.

CB writes:Kerry offered no substantive differences to how Iraq would be handled (unless you think calling more meetings is a substantive difference)

No Dick Cheney. (torturer in chief)
No Rumsfeld. (lowball troops fan)
No Wolfowitz (fantasist)
No Feith (idiot)
No Hadley (serial blunderer / scapegoat)
No Rove (cares only for politics)
No Condi (doesn't read footnotes)
No Libby (burns CIA agents out of personal pique)
No Bush (doesn't care)
No Bolton (loose cannon)

That's a great deal of change right there.

Do you really believe that getting rid of everyone directly culpable for getting us into this mess would not by itself be a "substantive difference"?

Do you really believe that these people are not the major obstacles to improving the situation in Iraq? (Or were not, in the case of those who've left).

OK, Friday's vote proved that.

Which vote?

This blog isn't really addressing that the people of Thailand, Phillipines, Nigeria, Lebanon, Bangaledesh, Lebanon, Indonesia, etc. are looking at Iraq to see if the US will stand up for freedom.

I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority of my Thai, Filipino, and Indonesian acquaintances aren't doing anything of the kind... or at least, not in the way you're thinking.* Got any evidence for this?

* Never really knew any Nigerians, lost track of my Bangladeshi friends and only have one Lebanese-American friend who is most definitely not someone you're going to want to invoke as an exemplar.

hilzoy writes: "It is, to me, exactly like an accountant "forgetting" to add up the numbers: that's a barely conceivable mistake on a project you don't really care about and are just going through the motions on, but absolutely incomprehensible if this is the one you really, really care about getting right."

Actually, given the year and a half or so to prepare, it's more like Microsoft starting a new version of Word from scratch, failing to reuse a lot of the components developed by other groups in the company, and in the end shipping something that completely lacks the core functions of saving or printing. (And the reason for this being that the project leaders were wishing they were working on the XBox.)

Thanks for clarifying that. I thoght it was a WWII/Nazi comparison.

It's actually quite similar to the view that we lost Vietnam, or might lose Iraq, not because we, well, lost, but because criticism at home undermined the war effort.

Well yes, the US miltary was by and large out of Vietnam and the Congress cut off funding to the S Vietnamese govt. And it was a mainly Democrat congressional decision, not Gerald Ford's, as best as I can remember. Now I can see the connection of this phrase to those who want to remove support to the fledgling Iraqi govt., and allow Al Qaeda In Iraq to take over.

Not that they Want AQ in I to take over, but that is what would happen.

Re the Dolchstosslegende:

...but because weak-minded and unpatriotic people at home (e.g., in Germany) had stabbed the country's war effort in the back by criticizing the war effort or not being sufficiently supportive of it.

What hilzoy doesn't say, but which is an important overtone when citing the Dolchstosslegende, is that this trope was a specific tool in the arsenal of Nazi propaganda, and that Hitler et al. arguably first rose to national prominence by playing on the Dolchstosslegende.

[Specifically, IIRC, repeated invocations of the "legende" gained them the support of many ex-military men including Ludendorff, which would later provide the catalyst for the Beer Hall Putsch, one of whose nominal aims was arresting the Berlin government for treason.]

DaveC writes:"Now I can see the connection of this phrase to those who want to remove support to the fledgling Iraqi govt., and allow Al Qaeda In Iraq to take over."

Funny, seems to me there was an Iraqi government in place already, that wasn't about to let Al Qaeda take over. And there was nothing called "Al Qaeda in Iraq", just a camp in the no-fly zone outside of Saddam's reach.

You may have already told us, Charles, but I'd like to ask anyway: for whom did you vote in 2004?

Given that I think we could win (via a draft and a mobilization of our smartest people and a clean-swept admin and austerity measures and 10k liters of young American blood and cancelling Desperate Housewives and the next five NFL seasons in favor of mandatory Sesame Street in Arabic), I'm a Democrat who doesn't want to win in Iraq. I think the realist choices are between an endless expensive muddlish draw (likely leading to anarchy anyway and certain to ruin the army) and an embarrassing but orderly retreat (possibly leading to the Iraqis taking control of their own destiny and our dealing with other problems).

Conservatives say, we have to win this deal. I (have come to the point where I'm about ready to) say, to do so you'd have to go all-in, so you have to go all-in or you have to fold and ante up for the next round with the chips you have. DaveC, if you are ready to go all-in, fine, let's do it. Otherwise let's get back to al Qaeda and loose nukes and the deficit and curing AIDS and ...

A good reason (and one which I think should appeal to stay-the-coursers) for us to get out now is to cut off al Qaeda's support in Iraq. As it stands, they're fighting the occupiers. When they're fighting Iraq or group x, Iraq or group x will be motivated to treat them to Saddam-style accomodation in Abu Ghraib. Not gentle, like we did, but bad.

Thai, Filipino, and Indonesian acquaintances aren't doing anything of the kind... or at least, not in the way you're thinking.* Got any evidence for this

My Buddhist Thai friend, lets call him Ood, (not as spritual a guy as you might imagine), is really distressed about the Islamic murders in southern Thailand.

2 of my friends have married Buddhist Indonesian gals, who want to get their ethnicly Chinese family the heck out of there. (not that these guys were unmarriageable otherwise).

The Filipino lady at work retired, but I'll take Wretchard at his word.

DaveC: That's all well and good, but what does it have to do with the US in Iraq?

Conservatives say, we have to win this deal. I (have come to the point where I'm about ready to) say, to do so you'd have to go all-in, so you have to go all-in or you have to fold and ante up for the next round with the chips you have.

That presumes that "going all-in" would actually win the war, instead of acting as a self-negating prophecy. I'm not convinced that I know what "going all-in" means (not your fault, btw, just that I'm unsure of the scope of potential US engagement in Iraq) but I'm fairly sure that for some values it might be just as bad, if not worse, as what we've got now. The trick isn't just to go all-in, it's to do so in a useful and ultimately productive manner and I've seen no evidence that anyone -- irrespective of political persuasion -- has really thought through all the relevant angles.

DaveC: Not that they Want AQ in I to take over, but that is what would happen.

I realize that this is the argument that the President has made on numerous occasions. It just isn't a credible argument.

In the extremely unlikely case (demographic issues, equipment, money, etc. - even if we were only guaranteeing the borders and not aiding their opponents) that Sunni Arabs could regain control over the country, the Baathists would be the faction in control.

AQ in Iraq's prospects for controlling the entire country are no greater than the Kurds' prospects of the same. This fundamental unseriousness on the President's part is not comforting.

On preview, I caught the "take Wretchard at his word" bit and intended to dig up a couple examples of why this might not be beneficial, at least on non-recent-history subjects. I got sidetracked by the first post http://www.tacitus.org/main/18>here href> though and don't think I'll continue looking tonight. My one word: priorities.

First class. Clear as a bell.

I do differ about one thing, though. We do know what Cheney is about. He is about greed and paranoia. He would be the first guest on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Covert".

As long as we're talking about what foreign observers think...

I have European friends (British and Finnish) in publishing and software design, who are all at this point hoping their work doesn't require them to come to the US. They don't think that there's a big chance of them being mistaken for terrorists or picked up for Flying While Dark-Skinned (the equivalent of Driving While Black), but they also feel that the consequences of a mistake are so grave that even a small chance of it befalling them or someone they care about is too great to risk.

And they're all horrified and appalled that they would even have such a thought about the US. From the most thorough-going socialist to the deepest-dyed conservative, they all agree that they've thought of US lapses in the past as just that - lapses, not policies enthusiastically supported from the top. None of them were America haters, even those who thought it important to build up a Europe that could be a powerful voice for alternative values and policies. None were more than America skeptics and friendly rivals. Now, they're pretty much all going to wait to see some hard tangible proof of changes in how the US does its business before they feel safe with us again.

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