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July 15, 2006

Comments

Good stuff.

Maybe you can comment on this.

You know, there's a lot we don't know here that it would be nice to know--about Iran's capabilities, intentions, and so on.

But one thing we do know: the party that took us to war in Iraq did so in the most completely catastrophic way possible: based on lies and deceit, with no plan for success, no concept of conseqences, no realistic understanding of the culture, the history, the dynamics.

Whatever we are uncertain about now, we may be completely certain about this one, concrete, thing: the advocates of war have proven themselves to be completely, disastrously incompetent. We ought not to trust them or take their advice about anything. They have proven beyond a doubt that they are incompetent, ill-informed, and have all the wrong instincts.

I wish we knew more about Iran. But we know a lot about the people writing titles like "war or capitulation".

War or Capitulation? This is not a serious discussion.

That is the sophmoric formulation of keyboard warmongers.

And doesn't the same logic apply doubly to North Korea, which is believed to already have a few nukes and is a more dangerous regime? Why isn't the Red State crowd berating Bush for using "capitulation" in that instance?

It is grossly irresponsible to not exhaust non-beliigerent means to solve such issues -- instead of leaping straight to war since anything less is allegedly "capitulation."

To make matters worse, the USAF is peddling the notion that it can take out Iranian programs with bombing alone (per Hersh's latest New Yorker piece). Just what we need, another foolish pipe dream for a war plan the minimizes the alleged seriousness of declaring war on Iran.

Its worth noting that the crisis has worsened precisely because the Bush regime has gone three years and refuses to discuss matters with the Iranians -- its just ultimatums and belligerence, which is a policy designed to create a war when it possibly could be avoided.

Kind of like Iraq.

These people are warmongers and should be condemned for their crazed wrecklessness. I would expect any war that they do perpetrate on Iran to be as foolishly implemented as the Iraq war, since they are irrational at the core and are not capable of running policy or wars competently.

Some Questions

Steve Clemons thinks Israel is trying to limit US diplomatic options in the ME. As I said, Clemons is honest and reliable, but I think depends too much on his State Dep't sources. To be frank, I think Cheney and Rumsfeld deliberately deceive State.

In the comments, the immortal Dan Kervick disagrees with Clemons, and thinks the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld are working with Israel in an attempt to provoke a response from Syria and/or Iran.

"Were we in a hot war with Iran with them striking at U.S. targets and they were building nuclear weapons, perhaps bombing cities could be justified." ...Andrew

I presume this is the plan, we would prefer Iran/Syria to strike first. I have half an idea that Iran/Syria thought this would be the best time to get the war started.

Follow the link and scroll down; Clemons and Kervick are good.

Truly destroying Iran's ability to build nuclear weapons requires killing or capturing the people with the key technical knowledge. Destroying machinery and facilities can only set things back. With sufficient will and money the equipment can be repaired and new sources of raw materials can be procured. Needless to say, killing the key technical people requires troops on the ground.

I think it's reasonable to assume that Iran's leaders would very much like a nuclear weapon, and they are unlikely to be persuaded to give up their ambitions without extraordinary guarantees that they will not be attacked by the US or Israel. I think the current administration will not give those guarantees, but they are probably not stupid enough to mount a ground invasion. They might try striking at nuclear facilities, but that just delays the inevitable, and makes it all the more likely that Iran will redouble its efforts.

This problem is hard, and it will not yield to simple solutions.

Is it possible that the current Israeli actions are seen by the US as a deterrent to Iran?

"We won't attack, but who knows what the Israelis might do?"

This is straight out of Schelling, I think.

Andrew: thanks for this. I generally think that one should not so much as think about military action without being very clear on what you want that action to accomplish, and how it's supposed to accomplish it. But unlike you, I'm not in a position to bring expert knowledge to bear on these questions. So posts like this are incredibly useful.

Known nails it. What we know about the people leaning toward war in this country is that they are routinely wrong, that they never admit error, that they are willing to lie about everything (even when there's no gain to it and the truth might well help), that they have a reckless disregard for the well-being of the people who will have to do the fighting, and that they are utterly incompetent at managing the basics of sound administration. We also know that they roused sentiment for the current Iranian administration through their ham-handed meddling in recent years.

The burden of proof in escalating conflicts should always be high. But it should be higher than usual on this bunch, given their proven heritage.

" like figuring out what else Iran wants that we could provide to dissuade them from the path of nuclear proliferation."

It may be worthwhile to start dealing with the Iranians as sane grownups - deal with them the way we dealt with the Soviet Union to keep them from *using* their nukes.

If we deal with them as a rational state, but make clear that it would be suicidal for them to use nuclear weapons, I think we'd be far better off than if we take the aggressive approach of assuming that the Iranian government *is* suicidal and *will* launch a first strike attack.

If we take the former stance, I think it very likely that the sane majority would halt any suicidal faction from trying to launch a first strike.

If we take the latter, aggressive, preemptive stance, I suspect that the sane majority may take on a fatalistic attitude that we're going to attack no matter what, in which case they will allow a suicidal first strike to occur.

The "they're crazy incomprehensible theocrats capable of doing anything!" assumption seems singularly unhelpful in coming up with good policy. (It's great for coming up with political propaganda, however.)

The Iranians aren't incomprehensible. They aren't aliens. They're *so* comprehensible the CIA were able to engineer a coup back in the 50s.

This thesis rests on one key assumption: that the Iranian government is determined to develop a nuclear weapon and will not negotiate it away. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing if that assumption is correct or not.

The US might have better intelligence in this field had the Bush administration not decided to leak the covert identity of a CIA agent whose field was WMD in the Middle East - causing literally incalculable damage to US intelligence.

There is the added factor that the Bush administration lied the US into one war already: no report from the Bush administration on what they claim the intelligence services have discovered can possibly be trusted.

We'd also have to be a lot more inured to civilian casualties than we've shown ourselves to be in recent years.

*blinks* As far as I can see, the US military is not only "inured" to civilian casualties: it's completely complacent about them. Further, the military tactic of refusing to count civilian casualities, the political tactic of attacking any effort to make an accurate count, and the sophistry of calling civilians killed by US attack "collateral damage" appears to work well enough to keep the US public complacent about the hundred thousand civilians killed by the US in Iraq. I don't speak of individual soldiers who have shown themselves to be compassionate about civilian casualties they have themselves witnessed: but the US military as an organization kills civilians with impunity and indifference.

Hilzoy: But unlike you, I'm not in a position to bring expert knowledge to bear on these questions. So posts like this are incredibly useful.

We know from Andrew's previous posts that he is unwilling to admit that he was grossly lied to about the causes of war with Iraq, and believed the lies enough to support war with Iraq. Therefore, whatever Andrew writes about the causes of war with Iran is suspect: these posts are useful not because Andrew has expert knowledge (he didn't have enough expert knowledge to save himself from being fooled by the lies that led to the invasion/occupation of Iraq), but because they are an insight into how intelligent but too-loyal serving military may be being fooled into supporting war with Iran, as they were fooled into supporting war with Iraq.

Wow, Jesurgislac, I used to tweak Andrew over at his old site, but even I think that may in fact be a bit too harsh.

I do however, support discussing in the comment thread, how the Bush administration will fool Andrew into supporting a war with Iran.

Jesurgislac will never let anyone forget that morals and ethics matter.

This thesis rests on one key assumption: that the Iranian government is determined to develop a nuclear weapon and will not negotiate it away. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing if that assumption is correct or not.

A fairly rational assumption, considering the consequences of not having Nukes and being on the US's shit list, see Iraq.

Correction: Jesurgislac will never let anyone forget that her morals and ethics matter.

Phil: Jesurgislac will never let anyone forget that her morals and ethics matter.

The same could be said of each one of the regular posters here, Phil: and most of the regular commenters.

Andrew:

I mostly agree with you here, specifically, I believe that to accomplish the mission:

-We would need to gain air superiority by taking out what air force they have along with the bulk of their (fairly sophisticated) AA. We would definitely lose planes and air crews.
-To insure destruction and minimize civilian casualties we would need to take and destroy the facilities on the ground rather than bombing. Insert enough SF and supporting troops to take and hold each facility long enough for sappers to destroy it. Many more casualties.
-No attempt would be made to hold any ground beyond destroying what we need to.
-The only effort at regime change would be to wipe out the existing regime as best we could then leave it up to the Iranian people.
-As noted, intelligence would be key here, and I agree with you that we likely don’t have it (although the Israelis might).

To those who say we can’t do it, we are overextended in Iraq etc. etc. - I say you are wrong. We certainly can do it – I doubt we have to political will to do it.

like figuring out what else Iran wants that we could provide to dissuade them from the path of nuclear proliferation.

Well, I’m sure you understand what happens when you give a blackmailer what they want – they will be back for more. Besides, they have been offered almost anything they could want on a silver platter and rejected it out of hand each time. I am not saying don’t negotiate, but I have not seen a shred of good faith on their part.

Jesurgislac:
As far as I can see, the US military is not only "inured" to civilian casualties: it's completely complacent about them.

You do our forces a great disservice with this statement. We have lost many brave men and women simply because they do their best to avoid civilian casualties. That is true of the entire war, but take Fallujah as the best example. We did not have to clear the city door to door. That is the greatest degree of danger to our troops and many died doing it. We could have simply leveled the place with stand-off weapons and bombers and not lost a single US soldier. Surely you understand that. We gave plenty of warning and tried our best to clear civilians from the city before assaulting it. IMO, at that point we should have leveled it rather than clear it door to door – give one final warning (the city will be destroyed at noon tomorrow, leave now if you value your life) and then done it. But we did not do that did we? How do you reconcile that with your rather outrageous statement?

OCSteve: but take Fallujah as the best example. We did not have to clear the city door to door. That is the greatest degree of danger to our troops and many died doing it. We could have simply leveled the place with stand-off weapons and bombers and not lost a single US soldier. Surely you understand that.

Surely you understand that the "need" to attack Fallujah was the result of a series of errors for which the US occupation must itself take the blame - beginning with more than one instance of US soldiers firing upon demonstrators protesting the US occupation in April 2003, and continuing with other incidents which the US occupation blames on "terrorists" and the locals blame on the US occupation. (And in April 2004, the US occupation made the further mistake of aggressive collective punishment on the whole city for the deaths of four mercenaries. )

We gave plenty of warning and tried our best to clear civilians from the city before assaulting it.

If "tried our best" means that many civilians were turned back and forced to return to Fallujah before the US attacked it, sure: and that at least one brigade had orders to shoot down any civilian they saw in the street.

I agree: the US military chose to only kill the civilian population of Fallujah piecemeal, and there were many survivors: they could have committed a gigantic and atrocious massacre, killing civilians by the tens of thousands rather than by the hundreds of civilians definitely confirmed killed - and no one knows exactly how many killed and never counted. Do you really have such a low opinion of the US military that you see their refraining from atrocious massacre as a point in their favor?

The same could be said of each one of the regular posters here, Phil

Oh, sure. But each of one the regular posters here doesn't repeatedly choose to take the most damning possible characterizations of the views of people with whom they disagree, then constantly use them as a way to belittle those same people.

If you were Andrew, would you think that your 3:18 comment -- which I'm sure we'll now see in endless permutations of "Well, Andrew has already demonstrated that blah blah misled blah blah unwilling blah blah gullible blah" every time the word "Iraq" appears on Obsidian Wings -- would make you inclined to be charitable towards the commenter in the future or, indeed, to listen to the commenter at all?

If Iran's electric grid were reduced to rubble -- every generating plant, every hydro dam, every transmission facility -- would they be able to produce the materials for a bomb? Could you build a large enough generator far enough undergound to power a centrifuge facility? Could you operate a plant to produce heavy-water for a reactor to produce plutonium from unenriched uranium? Given that the rest of the country is in the midst of collapse because there's no commercial electricity?

Between satellite surveillance and GPS-guided munitions such a strategy could be executed and would not require "boots on the ground". I think it's a really dumb idea; but if carried out and repeated as necessary, would it reduce Iran to the point where they could not produce a bomb?

Phil: or, indeed, to listen to the commenter at all?

I don't think Andrew is likely to listen to me anyway - except possibly about green peas - as he's already demonstrated he's not going to pay attention to any evidence anyone provides that Bush lied the US into war with Iraq. (He claims no one has ever provided him with evidence; judging by his response to the example of evidence I provided, he routinely ignores any such evidence and then claims it has not been provided.)

I was going to stay out of this, but I will jump in here.

You have provided one piece of 'evidence' that does not stand up to critical scrutiny. Beyond that, I have been told that the evidence is 'out there.' That is not 'ignoring the evidence,' it is simply not taking the time to try and prove your case.

If you wish to convince me that President Bush lied the U.S. into war, go ahead. But understand that just because you and I interpret facts differently, it does not mean that I am refusing to believe the facts.

Presumably you don't care whether or not I listen to you, since you have assessed me as either a fool or a liar already.

"If you wish to convince me that President Bush lied the U.S. into war"

Andrew, I really don't much care about this issue anymore, but I could refer to the speech before the General Assembly of the UN, which had multiple statements of the form:"Saddam had x numbers of y that remain unaccounted for" for large values of x and scarey values of y. The statements may have been literally true, but it appears to be a problem of inadequate paperwork showing the destruction, and Hans Blix and most experts really believe that x of y weren't in existence. Now of course I can't prove what Bush believed, but the statements certainly gave a very false impression. And if Bush and the generals did believe that x of y really existed, they certainly did not wage the campaign as if they believed Bush's numbers that x of y existed. Nor the immediate aftermath.

This may not stand up in a court of law, and may not convince you that Bush was intentionally deceiving the world, but considering Bush's history, for instance on budget numbers during the campaign, I am willing to say Bush lied about the threat and problem Saddam posed.

Let me be more precise. I believe that President Bush lied in the runup to the Iraq War. I do not believe that he lied about his belief that Iraq had WMDs.

Bush at UN:

"From 1991 to 1995, the Iraqi regime said it had no biological weapons. After a senior official in its weapons program defected and exposed this lie, the regime admitted to producing tens of thousands of liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents for use with scud warheads, aerial bombs and aircraft spray tanks.

U.N. inspectors believe Iraq has produced two to four times the amount of biological agents it declared and has failed to account for more than three metric tons of material that could be used to produce biological weapons. Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.

United Nations' inspections also reviewed that Iraq like maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons."

Is the impression these statements give really defensible? Did we really invade Iraq and handle the immediate post-invasion (caches, armories, dumps) as if this information was accurate? How long did we wait ro send David Kay over to dig the desert and look under rocks?

Jes: Andrew said that he was unwilling to take the time to find the evidence. That is completely different from saying that he is unwilling to listen to the evidence. And it's a difference worth respecting.

Bob,

You raise a valid point. I confess that I have assumed that such carelessness is of a piece with an administration that didn't bother thinking about what to do after Hussein fell until (at best) a few weeks prior to the invasion, that assumed we could be out of Iraq within 90 days of the end of major combat operations, and so on. In short, the adminstration screwed up so many other things that the fact they also screwed up what should have been done had Iraq had serious quantities of WMDs didn't strike me as demonstrative of malice, but simply more incompetence.

I will note that you offer one of the better arguments I've seen for the administration knowing up front that there were not significant WMDs to be had in Iraq. The argument does not convince me, for the reasons noted above, but it is something to consider. If there were more evidence that the administration knew there were no WMDs, or that other nations believed Iraq didn't have WMDs, that would be strong confirmation. From what I recall, though, I don't remember there being many people suggesting that Iraq didn't actually have WMDs prior to the war. Can you point me to anything like that? That would provide strong corroborative evidence, in my mind.

"I don't remember there being many people suggesting that Iraq didn't actually have WMDs prior to the war."

That is a different and complex argument. The cost/benefit difference between wrong in one direction or the other was so overwhelming that really only one answer was reasonable:"Saddam might have some WMD's"

No one has been fired, demoted, or had their reputations damaged for being wrong. If French expert Jacque had said there were none, and WMD's were found and/or used, his career would be over. Nothing to lose on one side, and everything to lose on the other. I have never paid any attention to anything anyone said about the issue. I watch what people do.

The only one to whom the true answer was important was Tommy Franks, and if asked, he would say yes might be, provide some suits and pro forma preparation. But I was, based on the President's word, really worried about losing brigades or battalions. Apparently Franks wasn't worried.

I'm not certain that's dispositive. The Army has trained for decades to fight in a chem/bio environment. The idea we could have lost battalions to a chem strike is questionable at best. Fighting in an NBC environment degrades our ability to fight, and would have led to more casualties, but nothing on that magnitude.

I trained soldiers going to Iraq, and NBC was a priority for that training. Those priorities were set by the theater commander (not directly, but by his staff).

Further, everything I have read about Franks suggests that he wasn't very worried about much of anything.

"I don't remember there being many people suggesting that Iraq didn't actually have WMDs prior to the war."

This is the problem with the term "WMD", which can mean many MIRVable nukes or two WWI-era gas canisters.

"If French expert Jacque had said there were none, and WMD's were found and/or used, his career would be over."

Do you think so? Many of the same people who were fooled by Iraq in the late 1980s were in charge of investigating in the 1990s.

To be more precise, I do not recall claims that Iraq had destroyed all of its existing chemical and biological stockpiles prior to the war. (Except, of course, by Iraq.)

"I do not recall claims that Iraq had destroyed"

Well, of course Scott Ritter. Anf Blix and many others gave the impression, but they could not prove there were none, so they wouldn't say there were none.

This has never been an atgument I have been as interested in as so many others on both sides of the political spectrum. Bush was going to invade Iraq, and it has never mattered much to me as to why he was going to do it. Well I guess it matters in several scenarios and outcomes...I am just tired of it. I was a lot more active in the Democracy Promotion Domino thing way back when.

Well, of course Scott Ritter.

Based on some evidence, I'd expect?

but they could not prove there were none, so they wouldn't say there were none

I think that was the whole point: that Iraq was bound to provide evidence that the weapons in question had been destroyed, but failed to do so.

Andrew: personally, I think Bush et al did believe that there were WMDs prior to the war, and I do not regard pointing to things that would have made a thoughtful person wonder as showing anything about the Bush administration, for obvious reasons. However, there was one thing that convinced me that I should really wonder about this (I've said this before, so it will bore everyone else ;) ), even though until maybe Dec. 2002 or Jan. 2003 I assumed Saddam had WMD (meaning chem and/or bio.)

Namely: that it was so obviously in our interest for WMD to be found in Iraq prior to the war, and therefore I assumed that we were telling Blix where to look, and he was finding nothing. I inferred that we had no idea where those weapons were, and that that probably meant that we were relying on human sources, and that those human sources either did not themselves know where the WMD were, in which case it was not clear how direct their knowledge was, or were lying. But that in any case, there were Cheney and Rumsfeld on TV saying that they knew for a fact that there were WMD, and even here they were, and I thought: I don't think you do.

Of course, as Rumsfeld tells us, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but it did make me wonder, since I thought: well, the US government has better sources of info than I do, and apparently they don't know much that's concrete.

I am not particularly interested in it either, as a rule, but since it is one of the roots of the claim against me, I find my interest suddenly piqued.

hilzoy,

Would that I had made a similar deduction. Although, if memory serves, the deciding factor in my support of the war was the idea that helping Iraq move towards self-governance would undermine the attractiveness of radical Islam. I'd have to go back and check my archives, since I wrote a lot about the war in 2002 and 2003.

"Well, of course Scott Ritter."

Scott Ritter was a problematic witness because in 1998 (when his teams left/were forced out) he was convinced that Saddam was hiding all sorts of things, and in 2002 he claimed that Saddam wasn't hiding things--based on no change in evidence and with an absence of inspections for four years.

personally, I think Bush et al did believe that there were WMDs prior to the war,

Why, Hilzoy? It's still lying if he had nothing more than a gut feel.

Hilzoy: Jes: Andrew said that he was unwilling to take the time to find the evidence. That is completely different from saying that he is unwilling to listen to the evidence.

Actually, Andrew has just said that he thinks evidence that Bush lied "does not stand up to critical scrutiny" - ie, Andrew is more willing to believe that Bush innocently did not know at the time of SOTU 2003 that the IAEA, the Energy Department and the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research all said that the aluminum tubes were not suitable for nuclear centrifuges, than he willing is to believe that Bush knew what these various sources of expertise were saying and lied. To me, that's a straightforward "Andrew is not willing to listen to the evidence". Admittedly only for one specific example of one specific lie, but why should I bother finding further evidence of Bush's lies for Andrew to dismiss with "does not stand up to critical scrutiny"?

To the point: I doubt that Andrew could convince me that Bush was telling the honest truth in the run-up to Iraq, but he certainly hasn't tried to do so. He's convinced me he believes Bush was telling the truth: but by doing so, he has convinced me his judgment in this area is not to be relied on.

PIMP. Apologies.

Scott Ritter was a problematic witness because in 1998 (when his teams left/were forced out) he was convinced that Saddam was hiding all sorts of things, and in 2002 he claimed that Saddam wasn't hiding things--based on no change in evidence and with an absence of inspections for four years.

Well, as I recall, what was missing in 1998 were precursors, like cell culture material, etc., that would have expired anyway by 2002. None of that stuff has a long shelf life.

Jes,

Your evidence doesn't meet the mail. You note two facts: the CIA said the tubes were for use in centrifuges. Other agencies said they were not. This doesn't prove that the President lied by any stretch of the imagination.

You seem to be under the impression the President sees every scrap of evidence before making a decision. In fact, what the President saw was almost certainly what the CIA and George 'slam-dunk' Tenet brought to him. Further, even assuming he had seen all the evidence, is it more plausible that a) he decided that, despite the clear evidence to the contrary, he would push the WMD angle, or b) he assumed that the product produced by his own agency was more accurate?

The administration was determined to go to war. The WMD angle was deemed the simplest means of explaining the war, so it was emphasized (although not to the exclusion of others). Your thesis is that President Bush was devious enough to lie to get the country into a war, but dumb enough that he would hang that argument on the one thing that could be easily verified once the war was over. I have difficulty reconciling those concepts. Please explain to me the logic of lying about WMDs. Because that just doesn't pass the common sense test.

For me, the bottom line is as follows: I was not lied into supporting the war. I drew a bad conclusion from my understanding of radical Islam and Iraq. My assessment of where I erred in detail can be found here for those who are interested. To suggest otherwise, as you do, is about as wrong as it is possible to be.

From what I recall, though, I don't remember there being many people suggesting that Iraq didn't actually have WMDs prior to the war. Can you point me to anything like that?

In October 2002 an old KGB hand gave us his two cents’ worth:

“Russia has not in its possession any trustworthy data, Mr Putin said, that could support the existence of nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”

See, it isn’t just American leaders that he like to embarass.

Your evidence doesn't meet the mail. You note two facts: the CIA said the tubes were for use in centrifuges. Other agencies said they were not. This doesn't prove that the President lied by any stretch of the imagination.

Yes it does. Because its lying to portray something as true and conceal the extent of the disagreement, as well as the cogency of the opposing viewpoint. Just because some toady at the CIA rubber-stamps what Bush wanted said about the tubes does not then permit Bush to claim without meaningful contradiction that the tubes are for centrifuges. It is lying to present the issue as if it is conclusively true, instead of the much weaker side of the argument.

These types of issues get fleshed out in the courts every day -- particularly in securities litigation when management plays games with selective disclosure of information or unjustifiable shading of information that is released. Its considered misleading to investors, and because its deliberate, its just another form of deceit. Lay people call it lying, so no reason to quibble over the exact term for describing what was a clear intent to deceive by the Bush administration concerning the tubes.

It doesn't take any imagination to see that Bush, et al. were deceitful about that tubes, which is "lying" as far as most people are concerned.

Tim to Hilzoy:

personally, I think Bush et al did believe that there were WMDs prior to the war,

Why, Hilzoy? It's still lying if he had nothing more than a gut feel

The lie was to portray the WMD contention as factually certain, rather than nothing more than a gut feel. Meaningful debate about going to war was short-circuited because of this lie. It really does not matter that they may have had the subjective feeling that there was WMD there -- they lied to sell a war based on their subjective belief.

Its strongly analogous to the cop who believes someone is guilty, so plants fake evidence to insure a conviction. Except it turns out they did not commit the crime. Bush did the same thing, and its nonsensical to defend the deceitful wrecklessness based on their alleged honest subjective intention concerning WMD.

Jesurgislac,

As much as I agree with your general perspective, I think Andrew is more right than you here.

It's certainly the case that Bush et al consciously lied with great gusto on the WMD issue before the war. But I'm pretty sure they believed (or at least the stupider ones believed) that Iraq had *something* they could use as a justification afterward. They probably saw themselves as framing a guilty man.

I think the more important point lies elsewhere. First of all, if "everyone" (ie, not "everyone," but rather the thin strata of government, military and media types who think they comprise everyone on earth) could be so wrong about this, what ELSE are they wrong about?

The answer is, just about everything. Elites in lots of countries have often been capable of sincerely believing all kinds of things only tangentially connected to reality. So too with our elites.

So I think the more important avenue is to ask Andrew to consider whether many, many other things he quite sincerely believes may be false.

For instance, take this recent statement of Andrew's (which may have already been addressed; I didn't read the comments):

both Hezbollah and Hamas have been in a state of war with Israel since it came into existence, so Israel has every right to wage war against them.

This is factually wrong, of course. Israel was founded in 1948. Hamas and Hezbollah didn't exist until the 1980s. Moreover, the growth of Hamas was consciously stimulated by Israel.

Then there's this:

Israel is never going to grant the right of return. There's no evidence the Palestians are willing make a deal that doesn't include that right.

This is also in essence wrong. It is true Palestinians will need some kind of theoretical acceptance of the right of return. In practice, however, they've long made it clear they know it's not going to happen.

Again: the problem is not people lying. The problem is people sincerely believing all kinds of things that are false. This doesn't remove moral responsibility from people -- Saddam doesn't get off the hook because he sincerely believed he was telling the truth and acting responsibly. It's just to say it's (slightly) more complicated than you make it out to be.

I would be interested in Andrew's perspective on this -- particularly whether he's considered whether he may still be getting some very significant things wrong.

(Not that it matters, sadly -- some individuals in any country's elite can disentrall themselves from the fantasy world they tend to live in. But in the aggregate I don't think there's any example of a powerful elite anywhere doing it en masse.)

To take a break from the always-entertaining "did Bush lie" discussion, Andrew, could you comment on Iran's miltary capabilities? My understanding is that they have the second-largest military on Earth (16 million), if you count their reserves and paramilitaries, and that while their arms industry is somewhat secretive, it's rumoured to be fairly advanced.

Is this your understanding? I keep pointing this out to the let's-invade-Iran-next crowd, but I have a tough time putting together estimates of ground forces required to invade and occupy the country. 750,000 troops?

the always-entertaining "did Bush lie" discussion

I realize it's sort of boring, but it really is important to establish that they did consciously lie. It's also important to understand how -- assuming they thought they were framing a guilty man -- they were capable of living in such a fantasy world.

Of course, as I just said, it may be impossible to make this happen with US elites and thus pointless to try.

Jon,

To your first question, I think it's fair to say that Hezbollah and Hamas have been at war with Israel as long as they have existed. Please forgive the improper pronoun.

As to the second, if the Palestinians are willing to accept peace without the 'right of return,' that's terrific. I'd be thrilled to be wrong about that (and quite a few other things, to be sure).

I'm sure that there are any number of things I believe that are, in fact, wrong. That is why I enjoy posting here; when I get something factually wrong (and even sometimes when I don't), I can count on someone pointing that out to me.

Unfortunately, the office of the President has no such position. Which is probably a necessity from the consideration of time available, but it's a darn shame based on the fact the President (and any leader of a large organization, I suspect) rarely gets the benefit of a competing point of view.

I was going to request moving the Bush-lied discussion to a permanent open thread somewhere along the right sidebar, but hell why not.

Back when I was deluded into thinking that this administration somehow knew what it was doing and had the nation's best interest at heart, I would defend the decision to invade Iraq based upon the supposed WMD threat (and, really, I don't think the nation would have happily gone along with the on democracy promotion/remake the Middle East argument alone) on the grounds that the ambiguous nature of the intelligence would, pre-9/11, have counseled restraint, but post-9/11, counseled action (yes, a true "9/11 changed everything" kind of argument, but not, I think, without merit in this sort of case).

Unfortunately, the administration was, even pre-9/11, biased towards invasion; equated contradicting information with disloyalty; as a consequence heavily discounted information that went against their preferred outcome; and had a "f!ck Saddam, we're taking him out," adolescent (maybe that's too much credit) at its helm. All of which lead to its all-knowing public statements about Iraq's supposed WMDs, playing on the nation's post-9/11 bed-wetting to maximum effect (myself included).

So, whether Bush "lied" or not (i.e., deliberately said something he knew to be false, and he likely did as the certainty of the statements in the lead-up to the invasion are damning, as are the various fishing expeditions for confirming info, not to mention their heinous campagin against Joe Wilson), they (or at least Bush) were easily duped morons when it came to confirming information, and shoot the messenger types when it came to conflicting information. Not people you want in charge of a decision to go to war, especially now that we're on to our next Ira-.

double-plus ungood,

I actually know very little about Iran's military capabilities. Our focus has been pretty tightly focused on Iraq over the last few years. Global Security has a little information, but little more than saying Iran has ~350,000 men under arms.

I will personally be quite happy not to have to find out anything more about Iran's armed forces, as I have no desire to see us in combat there.

As an unnamed Bush official told reporter Ron Suskind, "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality--judiciously, as you will--we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." For those who didn't like it, another Bush adviser explained, "Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered two to one by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read the New York Times or Washington Post or the LA Times."

Nietzsche considered himself a radical aristocrat he despised liberalism and socialism and admired the “power” of self-assured elites who didn’t let the feminizing effects of Christianity and Pluralism, get them down.

I think Nietzsche would have loved Bush Jr.

Think Kagan’s whole pagan">http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0375505636/ref=si3_rdr_bb_product/102-8570898-6975368?ie=UTF8">pagan ethos thing?

Ugh,

Look on the bright side. There's not too many more Ira_ countries left.

More seriously, what I object to is being told that I was lied into war. I'm an adult. I made an error. I don't need to make excuses for that. I was wrong, I hope I have learned something from that mistake, and now I'm trying to move on.

I'm sure that there are any number of things I believe that are, in fact, wrong. That is why I enjoy posting here; when I get something factually wrong (and even sometimes when I don't), I can count on someone pointing that out to me.

Unfortunately, the office of the President has no such position.

Erm, yeah they do.

Stuart Baker: Director for Lessons Learned

Melissa M. Carson: Director of Fact Checking

As an unnamed Bush official told reporter Ron Suskind, "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality--judiciously, as you will--we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." For those who didn't like it, another Bush adviser explained, "Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered two to one by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read the New York Times or Washington Post or the LA Times."

From:
Bush's">http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20050509&s=alterman">Bush's War on the Press
by ERIC ALTERMAN

-----------------------------------------------------------

Nietzsche considered himself a radical aristocrat he despised liberalism and socialism and admired the “power” of self-assured elites who didn’t let the feminizing effects of Christianity and Pluralism, get them down.

I think Nietzsche would have loved Bush Jr.

Think Kagan’s whole pagan">http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0375505636/ref=si3_rdr_bb_product/102-8570898-6975368?ie=UTF8">pagan ethos thing?

See? You illustrate the point perfectly, Ugh.

And clearly those two aren't earning their money.

More seriously, what I object to is being told that I was lied into war.

Eh, more so that you were "over-confidented" into it, as I believe I was.

See? You illustrate the point perfectly, Ugh. And clearly those two aren't earning their money.

I can't fathom what caused them to create those posts, I can only hope that they were copying from previous administrations, otherwise....

Jon: "It's certainly the case that Bush et al consciously lied with great gusto on the WMD issue before the war. But I'm pretty sure they believed (or at least the stupider ones believed) that Iraq had *something* they could use as a justification afterward. They probably saw themselves as framing a guilty man."

This is, more or less, what I believe. I did not say above, and do not believe, that they never lied in the runup to the war. I think they did: about their confidence in the evidence, for instance. All I think is: that they probably believed that there were WMD.

I also think that this belief reflects their lack of concern with the evidence, a lack of concern that I think shows that this was not their main reason for war, or else: that they really did take the 'one percent doctrine' literally, since it basically amounts to a decision to disregard the evidence for anything that's even remotely possible. In either case, intellectual bad faith that's beyond irresponsible when one is deciding whether or not to take a country to war.

"or else: that they really did take the 'one percent doctrine' literally, since it basically amounts to a decision to disregard the evidence for anything that's even remotely possible."

yeah, except that even to call it a "doctrine" is to give it far too much credit.

As I think Drum pointed out, it is really just the thinnest cover for doing exactly what you like without offering any justification for it. It's like saying that my food-choices follow the rigorous Wanna diet, and then explaining that that means I eat whatever and whenever I wanna. Pure toddler willfulness dressed up as policy.

Everything in the realm of politics has at least a one-percent chance, or close enough to fall within the margin of error. If there had really been any such "doctrine", then Bush and Cheney would have secured our ports, hunted down the Russian loose nukes, and all of the other things that would have led to genuine security. (And also closed all of the domestic auto plants, because, although the chances that they will be involved in a terrorist plot are slim, they are at least one percent, or within the margin of error for our ability to estimate it. In fact, there is no policy proposal you can name that can't fall under the 'one-percent' doctrine. It gives no guidance at all--so unaccountable tyrants just do what they want.)

Look, it was as much a "doctrine" as "compassionate conservatism" was a doctrine. It was, in other words, another lie.

Andrew: You seem to be under the impression the President sees every scrap of evidence before making a decision.

No. And I don't believe the President writes his own speeches, either. But I do believe that when the President makes a speech - when any politician makes a speech, no matter that it was written for him by a professional speechwriter or two, the facts in it were provided by a researcher or six, the policy expressed represents thousands of hours of discussion by multiple participants - that the politician takes ownership of the speech. To argue that Bush didn't lie because he didn't himself personally check all the facts in SOTU 2003 (and the lie about the aluminum tubes could have been checked in January 2003 by anyone with access to Google, but somehow I doubt Bush uses Google) is to argue that Bush has no responsibility for anything he says in public: someone else wrote it, someone else checked it, someone else thunk up the policy, Bush only mouthed the words, so how can that be lying? Is this really the argument you want to make?

(It's a good one, actually: I can see that if we regard Bush as a sockpuppet President, really responsible for nothing he says or does, he can't fairly be said to lie except about personal matters: rather than saying "Bush lied in SOTU 2003" I should say "The Bush administration lied in SOTU 2003.")

More seriously, what I object to is being told that I was lied into war. I'm an adult. I made an error. I don't need to make excuses for that.

"Fool me once, shame on you: fool me twice, shame on me."

I don't see that the fact that you believed lies that you were told by a source from which you had a reasonable expectation of good faith reflects badly on you: it reflects badly on the source that abused your reasonable expectations.

But that you still believe you weren't being told lies... that is why I don't consider your judgement about war with Iran reliable, because if you won't admit you were lied to the first time, you certainly won't admit you're being lied to the second time.

The Letter

Well a threadjack on lying, and a mention of Nietzsche, so maybe I can link to this discussion of Leo Strauss. On Balkinization,of all places.

"In the last several months, the New York Times has run four pieces defending Leo Strauss from his critics."

Hah, I say. A true Straussian would never defend Strauss publicly. Public pieces defending Strauss can be assumed to be attacks on Strauss. Straussian attacks, of course.
...
"What is becoming clearer is that the Bush Administration forces us not only to go back to constitutional fundamentals, but also to return to basic political theory."

from the comments, perhaps an explanation of why Strauss is being discussed at Balkin's place. Those guys are getting serious.

Hah, I say. A true Straussian would never defend Strauss publicly. Public pieces defending Strauss can be assumed to be attacks on Strauss. Straussian attacks, of course.

:)

From what I recall, though, I don't remember there being many people suggesting that Iraq didn't actually have WMDs prior to the war.

How I felt at the time is best put to words by Robin Cook:

The threshold for war should always be high. None of us can predict the death toll of civilians in the forthcoming bombardment of Iraq. But the US warning of a bombing campaign that will "shock and awe" makes it likely that casualties will be numbered at the very least in the thousands. Iraq's military strength is now less than half its size at the time of the last Gulf war. Ironically, it is only because Iraq's military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate invasion. And some claim his forces are so weak, so demoralised and so badly equipped that the war will be over in days.

We cannot base our military strategy on the basis that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a seri ous threat. Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of that term - namely, a credible device capable of being delivered against strategic city targets. It probably does still have biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions. But it has had them since the 1980s when the US sold Saddam the anthrax agents and the then British government built his chemical and munitions factories.

But there are similar statements by the Bush admin in the first half of 2001

There's this WaPo article from march 2003

There was more at the time, but I have not kept all the bookmarks and some of the ones I had are now either moved or disappeared in archives only available for subscribtioners.


on lying:

throughout 2002, the President assured the American people that Saddam could avoid war. We now know this to be a lie. Bush was going to find a casus belli, and, as the British intel memo shows, make one up if necessary.

Rumsfeld said, regarding the WMD, "we know where they are." Powell, at the UN, said that the US knew where the manufacturing plants were. For any acceptable meaning of the word "know", those statements were lies, becuase those gentlemen MUST have known that the evidence supporting those statements was far more tentative than they let on.

as was shown when Blix had to go public saying that all the american leads were useless.

how 'bout the mobile bio. lab that didn't even have seals? or the pilotless drones that could strike w/in 45 minutes, but turned out to be a single balsawood plane with a weedwacker engine?

conservatives have been hammering liberals for 25 years now about fuzzy thinking and too much trust of bureaucrats. all we did was try to end poverty. but when the time came for conservatives to apply those same critical skills that liberals so lack, you all checked out.

cutting taxes increases govt revenue! The case against Saddam is a slam dunk!

it's this kind of talk, and the massive conservative buy-in, that leads us liberals to use "hypocrite" as one of our greatest epithets.

Is it possible that the current Israeli actions are seen by the US as a deterrent to Iran?

Is it possible that Israel's actions are seen by Iran as all the more reason to have their own nuclear deterrant? From Iran's point of view, why should they remain vulnerable to Israeli nuclear and conventional threats without seeking their own nuclear threat?

Not to mention Russia, Pakistan and China.

Andrew: If there were more evidence that the administration knew there were no WMDs, or that other nations believed Iraq didn't have WMDs, that would be strong confirmation. From what I recall, though, I don't remember there being many people suggesting that Iraq didn't actually have WMDs prior to the war. Can you point me to anything like that? That would provide strong corroborative evidence, in my mind.

HERE you go.

You were saying?

"From Iran's point of view, why should they remain vulnerable to Israeli nuclear and conventional threats without seeking their own nuclear threat?"

They aren't particularly vulnerable to Israeli threats unless they actively meddle with Israel right? No one thinks that they will be invading and conquering Iran if Iran doesn't get nukes. Right?

What you are really saying is that Iran needs nuclear weapons so that it can step up the current campaign of killing Israeli civilians. How many Iranian citizens die of violence because of Israeli funding? How many Israeli civilians get killed because of Iranian funding of Hezbollah? How much worse will that get when Iran gets nuclear weapons?

dmbeaster: "To make matters worse, the USAF is peddling the notion that it can take out Iranian programs with bombing alone (per Hersh's latest New Yorker piece)."

Actually just about every story, for years, emphasizes that Air Force people stress that they can't take out the Iranian nuclear program with bombing alone.

Aside from getting it 180 degrees wrong, you're otherwise right.

togolosh: "I think it's reasonable to assume that Iran's leaders would very much like a nuclear weapon, and they are unlikely to be persuaded to give up their ambitions without extraordinary guarantees that they will not be attacked by the US or Israel."

What makes you think they'd give up those ambitions no matter what guarantees they got? (I'm not saying they wouldn't; I'm not a mindreader, so I don't know; I simply also don't know that they would.)

Andrew: "That is why I enjoy posting here; when I get something factually wrong (and even sometimes when I don't), I can count on someone pointing that out to me.

Unfortunately, the office of the President has no such position. Which is probably a necessity from the consideration of time available, but it's a darn shame based on the fact the President (and any leader of a large organization, I suspect) rarely gets the benefit of a competing point of view."

That's what, in international, and security, affairs, the National Security Council, and the National Security Advisor, are supposed to be for, actually.

Jes,

I'll try one final time, since it appears you're going to believe what you believe regardless of the evidence.

Even assuming Bush lied about WMDs (and please not that I do not question that the administration lied in the runup to the war), that would not mean I was lied into supporting the war. For that to be true, it would mean that I supported the war solely on the basis of Iraq's possession of WMDs. If you go to my web site and go back to the runup to the war, while I discussed WMDs, the reason I supported the war ultimately came down to the belief that remaking the Middle East might undermine the appeal of radical Islam. The link I noted earlier discusses where I believe I got things wrong. Since that was the case, the administration could have lied all day about WMDs and it would not have affected my decision at the time.

To put it another way, my decision on the war was based on an independent analysis of the situation. I was not dependent on the Bush administration for this analysis, therefore whatever lies they told could not possibly affect the outcome.

On a separate note, since you feel my judgement is so terrible, and I'm opposed to a strike on Iran, does that mean you think we should attack Iran to destroy their nuclear program? Because if that's the case, I'd love to hear that explanation.

For that to be true, it would mean that I supported the war solely on the basis of Iraq's possession of WMDs. If you go to my web site and go back to the runup to the war, while I discussed WMDs, the reason I supported the war ultimately came down to the belief that remaking the Middle East might undermine the appeal of radical Islam.

Okay, well, that actually really undermines my opinion of your judgement: though thank you for clarifying that you would have supported an attack on Iraq even knowing at the time that the Bush administration were lying about Iraq's supposed WMD.

On a separate note, since you feel my judgement is so terrible, and I'm opposed to a strike on Iran, does that mean you think we should attack Iran to destroy their nuclear program? Because if that's the case, I'd love to hear that explanation.

I think you're kind of missing the point about your judgement (IMO) being so terrible. I hope you'll post on other topics than this particular one, though.

To put it another way, my decision on the war was based on an independent analysis of the situation. I was not dependent on the Bush administration for this analysis, therefore whatever lies they told could not possibly affect the outcome.

I believe that Jes is a bit (well, a lot) too harsh, but isn't 'could not possibly affect the outcome' a bit of an overstatement? Would you still have argued for the situation had, say, Wilkerson been able to convince Powell to resign rather than go to the UN? Or have Blair pull out because he became convinced (say by Robin Cook) that the intel being made to fit the case? You certainly have a better view into your own thought processes, so I'm not saying you are lying, but you seem awful certain that these points had no affect. Would you have been willing to put your reputation on the line to demand that Iraq be invaded had the administration not lied about WMDs? And related to that, do you remain as certain of administration assurances now that it has been revealed that if they weren't lies, they were akin to believing in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy?

To clarify: Do you suppose that if a Middle Eastern country bombed, invaded, and occupied the US, this would somehow undermine the appeal of right-wing conservative Christianity to its adherents? Your apparent belief that military conquest trumps religious fanaticism would appear to suggest as much.

The questions that come to mind are "How can anyone with any historical education think this? Is this a belief you still hold? Is this a belief you held about Islam, or do you think it's true for Judaism and Christianity too? If you believe that Muslims alone of the three Abrahamic religions can be made "less radical" by seeing an Islamic country suffer military conquest by a non-Islamic, what gave you that impression about Islam? Had you absorbed the idea that Muslims can only accept democracy if it's forced on them by military conquest?" And that would just be in the first five minutes. Mostly I would assume that someone that ignorant about history, religion, religious fanaticism, democracy, and military conquest couldn't have any useful opinions about any topic requiring knowledge/judgement of all of the above.

The idea that you appear to be expressing here, that the reason the US failed in Iraq was because it failed to go in with "overwhelming force" is nonsense (leave aside the reasons for failure which you don't even address, about how the "reconstruction" of Iraq was set up to benefit primarily the shareholders of US corporations, and not at all the people of Iraq).

It would suggest that you think the "solution" to Iran is the proper application of force. If so, we just don't even have a reason to talk: you've learned nothing from Iraq.

The lie was to portray the WMD contention as factually certain, rather than nothing more than a gut feel. Meaningful debate about going to war was short-circuited because of this lie. It really does not matter that they may have had the subjective feeling that there was WMD there -- they lied to sell a war based on their subjective belief.

I consider this an excellent argument. I tend to consider lies as being more strictly limited to making a statement one knows not to be true, but I believe we can agree that the administration's assumption that Iraq did have WMDs led them to overstate the case and mislead the general public into supporting the war. I'll stipulate on the lying, since that's a semantic argument.

Would you have been willing to put your reputation on the line to demand that Iraq be invaded had the administration not lied about WMDs?

That would depend on whether the administration had not said anything about WMDs or if they had been revealed as overstating the case. In the first case, I probably still would have supported the invasion, because WMDs were not the determining factor in my analysis. In the second, I would have had to withdraw my support because if the administration was willing to lie to support their case, then the odds were good (as in fact happened) that they would not be honest in what they intended for Iraq after the war. (By war I mean the initial eliminate of Hussein's forces.)

And related to that, do you remain as certain of administration assurances now that it has been revealed that if they weren't lies, they were akin to believing in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy?

I haven't believed much of anything coming out of the Administration in several years. Whether it was a question of abysmal intelligence or fixing facts around a particular outcome (the Medicare drug bill springs to mind), it's been clear for some time that the administration simply doesn't have a good grasp on the facts on the ground.

Andrew:
Perhaps before we decide that our only options are fighting or surrendering, we ought to look a lot longer and harder at other options

Jes:
It would suggest that you think the "solution" to Iran is the proper application of force.

If you can read my words and come to that conclusion, then you're right, we have no reason to talk, because you don't understand English.

That is reinforced by your belief that in a post where I state flatout that I think we shouldn't have gone into Iraq, that I was actually advocating that we should have gone in with greater force. Yes, I believe that had we used the ~350,000 troops GEN Shinseki called for, and had the military and government had a detailed plan for the occupation, things would have gone better in Iraq than they have. If you think that things were going to turn out the same way in Iraq regardless of what we did, then your world view is too skewed for me to waste any more time with. But, even had we gone in with that level of force and a plan to secure the country immediately, I think it would have been a mistake to do so because I don't think we were/are able to resolve the cultural issues. The best case would be that we might have turned Iraq over to an Iraqi government more quickly and gotten out with less pain for us, but I think that Iraq would either have ended up with some degree of civil war or another authoritarian government. Which brings me back to the point of the post: I was wrong to advocate the invasion of Iraq.

I would submit that you might learn a few things if you tried reading what I write, rather than assuming that you know what I've written based on your limited knowledge of me.

You wrote: For Iraq to have accomplished the goals I sought in 2003, we needed to go into Iraq with overwhelming force.

You wrote: the Iraqis aren't ready for representative government yet.

These comments, and others, strike me as being perfectly clear English.

As others have already pointed out: when General Shinseki said 350 000 troops would be needed, he was effectively saying that the US couldn't do it.

To argue that because the US waited till after the 2004 Presidential elections before allowing Iraqis to vote, at which time Iraq was embroiled in civil war, that this shows "the Iraqis aren't ready for representative government" - that's colonialist thinking, White Man's Burden stuff. What if Iraq really had been invaded to establish a representative democracy? I have no idea if this would be possible, but if it had been, wouldn't local elections have been held in June 2003, and a general election in January 2004 at latest? Instead, Iraqis were deprived of any access to political power until after Bush got his second term as President - and people deprived of access to political power, and suffering economically (Iraqi businesses weren't being permitted access to reconstruction funding), will turn to other forms of power available to them. Is it really possible you still don't understand this? Have you tried thinking how you would feel and react if the US were under a foreign military occupation that was promising free elections some time in the indefinite future when they figured Americans were "ready" for them? Would you sit back and think, well, our foreign conquerors know best - after all, they beat us militarily - I'll just wait without fuss while my neighbors are kidnapped and tortured and shot, while houses are bombed, while children die from the cluster bomblets our conquerors dropped. They say we're not ready. They beat us. They know best.

That's how you'd think? That's how you think the Iraqis would have behaved if they had been met with "overwhelming force"?

It wasn't a culture change in Iraq that was needed; it was - before the US put Islamic militants in charge - already one of the most "Westernized" of Middle Eastern countries. Read Riverbend - in particular the early journal entries where she writes about the difference between her life before and life afterwards.

What was needed - and still is - is a culture change in the US away from the colonialist/imperialist idea that "the natives" can't rule themselves.

Andrew: "Even assuming Bush lied about WMDs (and please not that I do not question that the administration lied in the runup to the war), that would not mean I was lied into supporting the war. For that to be true, it would mean that I supported the war solely on the basis of Iraq's possession of WMDs. If you go to my web site and go back to the runup to the war, while I discussed WMDs, the reason I supported the war ultimately came down to the belief that remaking the Middle East might undermine the appeal of radical Islam."

Jes: "thank you for clarifying that you would have supported an attack on Iraq even knowing at the time that the Bush administration were lying about Iraq's supposed WMD."

Jes: what you say that Andrew said is just not what he said at all. I mean, it just isn't. He is saying that since his reasons for supporting the war did not concern WMDs, what the administration said about WMDs wasn't decisive for him, and thus if they lied, then it wouldn't follow that he was "lied into war". That is completely different from saying that he knew they were lying at the time and didn't care.

You've been doing this since Andrew arrived: misconstruing things he says, and attributing to him views there's no reason to think he holds. As far as I'm concerned, you're pretty close to violating posting rules, if you're not there already.

If you want to attribute some view to Andrew and back it up with things he's said, be my guest. But don't just flatly misread what he has said, or engage in mindreading.

This is a warning under the posting rules. I would hate for it to go further, since I value your comments, and hey, I like you too. But this really isn't OK. (Plus, why you'd think it's a productive way to argue is a mystery to me.)

To argue that because the US waited till after the 2004 Presidential elections before allowing Iraqis to vote, at which time Iraq was embroiled in civil war, that this shows "the Iraqis aren't ready for representative government"

This is what I said regarding Iraqis and representative government:

Unfortunately, there's a lot of evidence (much of which was available prior to the war) that the Iraqis aren't ready for representative government yet. That is in no way a slur on Iraqis or Arabs or Muslims; it's just a harsh truth. By the time the United States broke off from England, we had been governing ourselves for about 150 years. Expanding local government to the national level required some work, and it's plausible that we're still not proficient at it yet, but at least we had an idea of how it all worked. Iraqis have not had that opportunity. Asking them to take this foreign concept (sure, people may want to be free, but the devil is in the details) and apply it to a country where even self-government at the local level is the exception rather than the rule is asking a great deal.

Please explain where I argued that the fact we failed to hold elections quickly demonstrates that the Iraqis aren't ready for representative government yet, because I don't see that in that paragraph.

That's how you'd think? That's how you think the Iraqis would have behaved if they had been met with "overwhelming force"?

Er...no, that's not what I think, and I'm once again at a loss as to how you're coming up with it. In everything I've read about the invasion (in particular, Cobra II, The Assassin's Gate, and Night Draws Near), in the immediate aftermath of the invasion the Iraqis expected us to maintain order, and our failure to do so immediately undermined our legitimacy in the eyes of the people. (A perfectly understandable reaction.) I don't believe for a second that they would have turned to us and asked us for our wisdom, but I think that we would have had a lot more credibility had we gone in with enough forces to maintain order at the start. Had we combined that with a detailed plan for postwar Iraq that included holding electons at the lowest levels to give the Iraqis a stake in the government, I think we'd be much better off today. That is what I think, and I think that is a defensible proposition.

What was needed - and still is - is a culture change in the US away from the colonialist/imperialist idea that "the natives" can't rule themselves.

I take it you don't realize that we're in agreement on this point.

"But don't just flatly misread what he has said, or engage in mindreading."

Since this very thing is responsible for at least half (in my estimation) of the senseless back-and-forth between J and myself, I'm very interested in seeing how this pans out.

Slarti,

"Since this very thing is responsible for at least half (in my estimation) of the senseless back-and-forth between J and myself, I'm very interested in seeing how this pans out."

I hope this does not turn the discussion between Jes and Andrew into a wider dispute (which should not be construed as saying either that I agree or disagree with you).

I hope this does not turn the discussion between Jes and Andrew into a wider dispute

Indeed. Like hilzoy, (albeit with much less experience), I like Jes. I think we can work this out civilly in time. There's no point in making this an us-vs-them issue, because there is neither an us or a them, just a small dispute between Jes and I.

I'm not interested in turning it into a wider dispute (I'm not interested in any discussion of Jesurgislac in general, just whether this debating technique will turn out to be off limits); I'm interested in seeing how this one turns out. For the reason I mentioned.

Clarification: it's not that I find Jesurgislac uninteresting, just that I have no desire to make this personal.

here's a hypothetical to try to clarify some of the differences between the commenters:

In 2001, after the fall of the Twin Towers, Bush addresses the American people as follows:

Our traditional methods of diplomacy and war making have failed. We have too often allowed and even created failed states. The people of Afghanistan will soon learn how America will exercise its new understanding. The Taliban, Al Qaeda and the enemies of freedom will be utterly destroyed. At which point America, supported by the world community, will deploy a massive reconstruction force with the intent of completely demining the country, building civilian government from the ground up, and bringing Afghanistan into the world community.

In order to do this, I am today submitting a bill to Congress to fund the creation of a 300,000-strong Afghan reconstruction force under the direction of the DOD. But drawing on the teaching of Gen. George Marshall, this force will be headed not by the Army, but by its own generals who will report directly to the Joint Chiefs and to me.

But the lesson of failed states does not end with Afghanistan. The US bears a terrible responsibility for the awful effects of the sanctions regime on Iraq. Saddam Hussein has shown himself to be unwelcome as a leader in the community of nations, having twice invaded sovereign foreign countries and having launched terrible acts of genocide against his own people. We also believe that he continues to fund terrorist groups around the world and that he harbors grand ambitions to rebuild his weapons of mass destruction to immunize himself against further attack.

Much as the Marcos regime in the Phillipines finally ended without war due to US and international pressure, I am now calling on the world community to force Saddam to step down. But if he will not do so voluntarily, I direct the DOD to prepare to do so by force.

Once Saddam leaves power, a country that has rarely known peace without oppressive totalitarianism will suddenly be leaderless. As the US rebuilt Europe after WWII, the US will once again take on the responsibility for providing security as the Iraqis form their new government.

So, today, along with the bill establishing the Afghanistan Reconstruction forces, I am simultaneously submitting legislation authorizing the creation of a 1 million man Iraq reconstruction force.

Like the Cold War, this war on failed states will take a generation or more. And it will be very expensive. So I am also submitting legislation to amend the tax code to raise the revenue necessary to pay for these operations.

I call on Democrats and Republicans alike to join hands and support this legislation in a bi-partisan way.

[Jes, how do you feel about this? Andrew?]

Francis,

While I would quibble on many of the details, I think that would certainly have been a wiser course of action than the one we adopted.

what details are worthy of quibble?

Oh, they're just on the margin. Command of the force, how to pay for it, things like that. Nothing substantive regarding the actual idea.

Jes writes: "that this shows "the Iraqis aren't ready for representative government" - that's colonialist thinking, White Man's Burden stuff. "

Okay, how about this: "There are significant armed factions in Iraq which are not ready for representative government, preferring to use violence and intimidation to acheive their ends, with no concern for the health of the nation as a whole".

Because those factions prevent ANY Iraqis from having a functional representative government, it's just as well to say that "Iraqis aren't ready for representative government".

Whether you like it or not, the simple fact is that Iraqis are preventing Iraq from having a functional representative government, and removing the foreign troops won't make a bit of difference. The Sunnis and Shiites aren't killing each other to spite the US.

Breaking out in leftist anticolonialist cant just looks silly given the reality of the situation.

Francis: I think that that would have been an improvement over what actually happened, but I'd have preferred our taking the time to really do Afghanistan right while keeping our powder dry over either option. I did not think that Iraq was that much of a threat to us; I think we were doing a good job of containing it; and I really, really think that other problems -- N. Korea, Iran -- were a lot more urgent.

Really doing Afghanistan right -- establishing the rule of law, doing some very serious reconstruction, etc. -- would have had the demonstration effects we hoped for in a much more favorable environment, and would have done so on the border with Iran and Pakistan. Unlike Iraq, it would not have played into al Qaeda's hands by doing exactly what they were saying we would do, and it would have allowed us to keep our focus on capturing al Qaeda. It would also, as a nice side effect, have had good effects on narcotrafficking.

If, for some reason, we absolutely had to depose some other government in the Muslim world, I would have preferred Sudan.

hilzoy,

The trouble with Sudan would have been a casus belli. WMDs aside, because Hussein never fully complied with the terms of the 1991 cease fire, we had a legal basis for resuming the war. (Again, noting I'm not saying it was a good idea, just that we were on sound legal ground.) What would our rationale for invading Sudan be?

Hil: first, the point of the hypo. was to draw out the fundamental differences between Jes and Andrew on acceptable US foreign policy (in a civil manner).

second, the sanctions regime against iraq and the food for oil program were ongoing problems that needed some kind of resolution. while the janaweed problem is bad, it doesn't implicate the rest of the international community nearly as much as Iraq did.

Francis: I agree that the problems needed resolution; I thought that intrusive inspections and smarter sanctions would have been just dandy. (I mean, non-ideal, but perfectly OK.) -- I am often (not always) fine with kicking cans down the road, when the alternative is war. This is partly because I have some confidence that in the long run, regimes like Saddam's do not last. Admittedly, the long run is often much too long, and so of course if war were a cost-free alternative, I'd favor it to e.g. the continuing brutalization of the IRaq populace, but I'd also favor changing the government of N Korea with a magic wand, and having little elves spirit Iran's nuclear enrichment program away in the dead of night, and of course ponies for all.

On the matter of the casus belli, one of the many casualties of the Iraq war was the idea of humanitarian intervention in extraordinary circumstances. I would have been fine with counting Darfur as such a circumstance. Again, though, the idea was just: IF we had to invade some country...

But I take the point about the gentle drawing out of contrasts, and will henceforth desist.

Francis, with regard to Afghanistan, I agree with Hilzoy: something needed to be done (something had been needed to be done since 1989, aside from just helping the two sides to kill each other and everyone else) and doing it right would have been a major international project in itself.

(Andrew's point that it would have been tough to fund it is also true: it was estimated early in 2002 that $15 billion dollars was needed over 5 years for Afghanistan. Anyone think that the President of the US would have been willing to come up with that much money for an action with no direct profit for any US corporation? Don't all wave hands at once.)

We also believe that he continues to fund terrorist groups around the world

Except that this wasn't true...

and that he harbors grand ambitions to rebuild his weapons of mass destruction to immunize himself against further attack.

But there's no clue there why Saddam Hussein's grand ambitions should have been considered any more threatening than any other dictator's grand ambitions. Certainly Iraq's neighbors did not think so.

Continuing the international policy of killing Iraqi civilians by sanctions (and making their lives miserable if they survived) in the hope that eventually this would cause Saddam Hussein's regime to fall, was plainly immoral: not quite as immoral as invading/occupying, but still a crime against human rights.

Instead of trying to argue that Saddam Hussein's grand ambitions were more threatening than any other dictator's, it would have been better for the US to support the efforts of the international community in establishing and enforcing international law, without fear or favor. If Saddam Hussein is a criminal who should be put on trial, let there be established an international criminal court with the authority to convene a trial: and let it be clear that no one is exempt from this court.

We know what happened instead: almost as if the Bush administration knew in advance they intended to commit war crimes and cause US soldiers to commit war crimes, the US withdrew from the International Criminal Court.

Jon H, I think you'll have to admit that as a Brit, I do have some experience with how imperialists/colonialists think and speak: it's part of my national heritage. Arguing that a country's armed resistance against a foreign occupation or a government established/maintained by foreign occupation proves that the people of that country are "not ready" for representative government, is an imperialist argument: I recognize not as a leftist but as someone who grew up in a country that used to have an Empire.

I'm a little confused as to how that bestows special Empire-detecting vision on you, J.

I mean, that's roughly akin to me saying that I know what it's like to be a subjected people, because once upon a time this country was subject to someone else's Empire.

Arguing that a country's armed resistance against a foreign occupation or a government established/maintained by foreign occupation proves that the people of that country are "not ready" for representative government, is an imperialist argument

Maybe so...but that argument was never made.

Maybe so...but that argument was never made.

Jon H. was making that argument, Andrew.

About Andrew's argument: I took it to be a relative of the one I was making in this post (but you have to scroll down to: "The more important change, I suspect, will be in the Palestinian people...") Excerpt, after huge caveats about the metaphor I was about to use, which I'd ask anyone who wants to criticize it to please read first:

"One part of being an adolescent is negotiating the transition from being a child, most of the features of whose life are determined by parents, to being an adult, who is responsible for him- or herself. When you're a child, you don't have to take responsibility for the really big decisions. Your parents may put you in charge of feeding the dog or cleaning your room, but they will typically not allow you to decide whether to drop out of school, or to train full-time to be an Olympic athlete, or to stow away on a ship bound for South America (as I once tried to do. I didn't get very far.) For this reason, it's easy for a child to think: I could be an Olympic athlete, if only my stupid parents would let me train enough; and never have either to confront the actual consequences of that decision, or to appreciate the fact that his or her parents might have good reasons for deciding as they did.

Likewise, when a people is not allowed to make political decisions for themselves, or to elect people to make decisions for them, it's easy for them to make parallel mistakes. If people adopt some idiotic view or other, this may get them in trouble with the government, but that in no way forces them to recognize why that view is idiotic (any more than being punished for trying to run away forces a kid to realize why running away, if successful, would be a really bad idea.) Their political choices, and the political ideas they adopt, have no consequences, and there is nothing other than their own innate good judgement to ensure that their political views and decisions will be responsible.

When a kid goes through adolescence, one of the things that kid does is to try on various views and identities for size, trying to figure out which ones fit. This is often not a particularly pretty process -- it certainly wasn't in my case. But it's essential that one go through it, because it's by making those mistakes, and seeing why they are mistakes, that we grow up and become responsible adults. I'm sure there are some people who have so much innate good sense that they don't need to learn from their errors, but I am equally certain that they are not the majority.

I think it's similar with countries. If you take a people whose political decisions have never had any consequences, because they have never been allowed the freedom to make their own mistakes and learn from them, it is (it seems to me) very likely that some of their initial decisions will be bad. They have never had to develop the skills they need to figure out who is a leader and who is a demagogue, or which policies are realistic and which are not, or which accommodations need to be made to the rest of the world and which are craven capitulation. Creating an Islamic republic: a way of securing God's blessing, or an invitation to repression? A Marxist state: worker's paradise, or totalitarian nightmare? As long as a people doesn't have to live with the consequences, there's no particular need to develop the skills needed to answer these sorts of questions correctly (especially when there are no object lessons ready to hand, as there now are in the case of Marxism.)

Just as I'm sure there are people whose adolescence is uncomplicated owing to their innate good sense, I'm sure that there are some peoples who navigate this process with grace. (South Africa leaps to mind. Not that it has been flawless; just miraculously good given the history.) But I'm also sure that there are a lot who don't. Because figuring out how to govern either your own life or your own country is a difficult and tricky business, and for most of us it takes mistakes, sometimes very serious ones."

Jes,

Whoops...so he was. Sorry.

Although I think that his argument isn't remotely related to 'white man's burden.' It might be more precise to say that there are factions in Iraq who are not interested in representative government, and who are willing to fight to stop it. As Freud once observed, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Anyone else see this:

In the first week of May, the Iranian military sent hundreds of artillery shells and Katyusha rockets whistling over the mountaintops into Iraq's Qandil region.

I first saw this today, and AFAICT there's been no (overt) response from the administration. Very strange.

"What would our rationale for invading Sudan be?"

Our treaty obligations, which we are presently arguably in violation of, as regards the Convention on Genocide.

Article 1
The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.
We're neither preventing nor punishing; we are in violation of Article 1.

Mind, I'm not saying that invading Sudan, now or then, would have then or now necessarily would have been or be a good idea, or at least the best idea; it's, at the least, an idea fraught with complications and surrounded by the law of unknown consequences, and I could write a list of powerful reasons not to do it, given the list of accompanying dangers and potentially very bad scenarios that wouldn't be all that unlikely to follow.

I'm just responding to your query.

Thank you, Gary. Precisely what I was looking for.

No wonder nobody ever commits genocide anymore, as far as the powers that be are concerned.

Ugh: Anyone else see this:

About the same time, Turkey fired shells into Iraq for the same reason.

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