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August 17, 2006

Comments

@Gary: Why don't I want to read Cobra II?

It has little to do with that particular book, which I'm sure is one of the essentials for any civilian who wants to be anywhere near fully informed about the invasion.

You've hit on the primary reason: My biggest problem reading books, though, these days, is pulling myself away from the now, now, now of the interwubs. Election season has already begun, so expect to see a lot less of me in comment sections.

My secondary reason is that I'm in the middle of four books now, and at the rate I'm going, by the time I finish those, the GWB presidency will be drawing to a close.

My tertiary reason is that for reasons of mental health, I'm trying to keep my book-reading focused on topics other than war. So far, the most effective at inducing tranquility is David Thompson's Thai Food, which along with many recipes of scrupulous authenticity also offers Thai history (much less war than the average nation!), geography, and development of the various regional cuisines.

The short answer is that although I don't want to read Cobra II, I'd like to have read it. Getting a report from Donald comes as close to that as I can hope for. ;)

Can someone provide me directions to this alternate universe in which Slarti's statements are incorrect and therefore Saddam Hussein is still the leader of Iraq, the Iraqi Army having successfully repelled the US? I think I'm a super-rich multi-millionaire in that universe, so I'd like to touch base.

"Can someone provide me directions to this alternate universe in which Slarti's statements are incorrect and therefore Saddam Hussein is still the leader of Iraq, the Iraqi Army having successfully repelled the US?"

Show me Slarti's universe where the war consisted only of toppling Saddam. Because in that universe we could have bailed out immediately and left Iraq to self-destruct.

Slarti writes: "Look, this is really quite simple. Opponent: Iraqi Army."

No. The opponent is any armed combatant faction that can cause the mission to fail. The mission is the replacement of Saddam with a new government while not allowing Iraq to become the new post-Soviet Afghanistan, complete with Shia Taliban and Al Qaeda training camps.

Show me Slarti's universe where the war consisted only of toppling Saddam.

Slartibartfast, 10:39 AM:

As for the peacekeeping mission following defeat of the Iraqi military: absolutely, we needed more boots on the ground to do that properly. I'm not sure how many more times I have to say that before it takes, here.

Apparently a few more times than he has so far.

This thread has gone ka-plooey in 16 different directions, with pretty much no one talking about the same thing, everyone talking about something different, and everyone headed in a different direction, and talking past each other, so far as I can see.

It seems to me that I summed up what Slart got wrong here, and which a couple of people put their finger on.

The rest of the stuff people are on about, about whether the war was a victory or not, whether Saddam was overthrown, etc., strikes me as just bizarre irrelevancies, and/or people leaping onto their own irrelevant hobby-horses, no matter that no one is actually arguing with them. That or bad and careless reading.

Nell: "My tertiary reason is that for reasons of mental health, I'm trying to keep my book-reading focused on topics other than war."

Fair enough.

"The short answer is that although I don't want to read Cobra II, I'd like to have read it."

Ah, well, you need my patented direct-to-brain plugin book scanner, then, which will scan the book, and directly input the content to your brain! Only $14.99, but extra for extra tin-foil!

It's very handy.

kenB writes: "Apparently a few more times than he has so far"

Right in what you quote, Slarti makes the essential mistake of thinking that there was a "peacekeeping mission" that is somehow separate.

It's all one mission.

Bush only wanted to get Hussein, that was his ONLY priority.

Everything else was bullshit.

Bush wanted Hussein.Period.

What ever Bush had to say, to serve his bench warrent, he said.

Cheney had his reasons, which did not involve democracy and freedom.

They will leave office, getting their gifts from this failure....their reasons were not America's reasons, let alone the reasons their supporters are left defending.

Slarti makes the essential mistake of thinking that there was a "peacekeeping mission" that is somehow separate.

Slart, Hilzoy, Andrew, and Gary were *all* talking about the military portion of the mission vis-a-vis the Powell Doctrine. Slart wasn't trying to defend the administration or the overall war effort or do a rah-rah America thing. He was just presenting his opinion about whether it was fair to say that overwhelming force was used. This is all clear from context. You and Jes are trying to turn it into some completely different debate.

kenB writes: "Slart, Hilzoy, Andrew, and Gary were *all* talking about the military portion of the mission vis-a-vis the Powell Doctrine. Slart wasn't trying to defend the administration or the overall war effort or do a rah-rah America thing. He was just presenting his opinion about whether it was fair to say that overwhelming force was used. This is all clear from context. You and Jes are trying to turn it into some completely different debate."

Slarti was essentially responding to Friedman's use of "Powell Doctrine" to refer to a general use of overwhelming force. Friedman specifically applied the term in reference to providing security in order to successfully set up a functioning state.

At the point of Slarti's first comment, only he and Friedman had mentioned the Powell Doctrine.

Slarti is using it in a very pedantic way. Friedman used it to represent the use of overwhelming force in general, and specifically the application of it (in the form of a large deployment, not carpet bombing) to establishing the security required to set up a functioning state.

And my Zinni anecdote was introduced to support Friedman's use of the term.

Zinni ran through the Powell doctrine questions (listed in a comment above) in his argument against invading Iraq, and also invoked the need for overwhelming force and numbers in order to secure the conditions necessary to answer this question with 'yes':

Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?

The event was a panel, with other speakers representing the Bush administration viewpoint. A cadet rose during the question period to ask one of them, "What would the exit strategy be?" The reply: "Oh, you don't want to focus on an exit strategy, because that detracts from putting the necessary energy into the entrance strategy."

A distinct chill was felt in the hall, as two hundred-plus officers-to-be contemplated their future.

I'm with kenb--the argument against Slarti here is based on the peculiar notion that he said things he didn't say. He was talking strictly about the phase of the war against Saddam's conventional forces and doesn't have any quarrel with what people have been telling him about the insurgency phase.

I'm still curious about whether there was any chance (say 10 percent) that the US might have been in serious trouble in the conventional phase of the war if Saddam had fought it more cleverly. I have no idea, except maybe about the Stalingrad option.
Judging from what happened to Fallujah (we don't actually know the civilian death toll, but Iraq Body Count's undoubtedly conservative figures have it in the high hundreds for the November 2004 assault and that's with most of the civilians gone), Baghdad could have been a scene of truly horrific destruction if Saddam had chosen to do a Stalingrad there. For whatever reason, he didn't, but what would the Bush Administration have done if he had?

"He was talking strictly about the phase of the war against Saddam's conventional forces and doesn't have any quarrel with what people have been telling him about the insurgency phase."

Yes, but Friedman wasn't talking just about the conventional phase. He was saying the key principles of the Powell Doctrine should have been applied to the war as a whole, so that enough troops would have been available to secure the country, so that the new government and reconstruction would have had a snowball's chance of working.

Slarti basically made this pedantic distinction (Powell Doctrine only applies to conventional war, etc etc etc) and argued from there, when nobody had claimed ANYTHING about the force levels used to fight Saddam's armies.

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