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December 01, 2006


"Cheney might not be able to do this if Bush were a stronger leader..."

Good grief. The poor defenseless manipulated little puppet.

Iraq War of the Imagination ...Mark Danner summarizes Iraq, via Eric Martin and many others...long

"This is precisely what the President didn't want, particularly after September 11; deeply distrustful of the bureaucracy, desirous of quick, decisive action, impatient with bureaucrats and policy intellectuals, the President wanted to act." ...MD

Anti-intellectualism and arrogance aren't failures but choices. This is not a weak President but a bad one.

Bob: I didn't mean that he was manipulated, and I certainly didn't mean that he's not to blame. I do mean that one peculiar feature of Bush is that when wars break out in his administration -- e.g., between Powell and Rumsfeld -- he does not just settle them and then enforce his decisions; he lets them fester. Sometimes he makes a decision that comes down on one side, but he does not then prevent the losers from going on to subvert it.

I think that this is a form of weak leadership. One for which Bush is responsible; weak nonetheless. It's probably also what he wanted; weakness is not necessarily unchosen. I'm pretty sure he never actually said: hey, I'm going to deliberately set out to be weak! -- but he equally clearly didn't set out to ascertain exactly what qualities strong leadership involved and then try to develop them.

Bob: Um, that hyperlink points to something very different than "Iraq War of the Imagination".

Sorry. Backspaced away a character.

Better Mark Danner

Random readings:

'A Soldier's Story' - Powerful essay by a newly-returned Iraq veteran:

I have slowly come to understand that if we are to succeed in Iraq, we must either change the way we perceive and treat those we want to help or we must disengage the great percentage of our military from the population.


American soldiers are angry and frustrated with Iraqis. Iraqis are angry and frustrated with Americans. Many Iraqis just want American soldiers to go away, and I struggle within myself not to agree. Day after day I observe the interactions of Americans with Iraqis and am often ashamed. I see that required classes given to all American soldiers on cultural sensitivity do not work; 100,000 or more American soldiers daily interacting, engaging and fighting Iraqis within their own society for more than three years will inevitably create a wellspring of citizen hostility. In this war, none of us can change who we fundamentally are.

American military culture interacts with Iraqi Islamic culture like a head-on collision. And massive deployments of American soldiers fighting a counterinsurgency now hurts more than it helps. When we focus on the military solution to resolve a social problem, we inevitably create more insurgents than we can capture or kill. As a consequence, real "Islamic terrorists" subverting their own tolerant religion will use this popular anger and sense of resentment to their advantage. As much as they hate and fear us, they also say that we cannot just leave the mess that we have made.

Kirk Semple of the NY Times writes that many Iraqis, jaded by escalating chaos, were not reassured by this past Thursday's summit in Jordan:

Even if Sana al-Nabhani had cared about the summit meeting in Jordan on Thursday between Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and President Bush, she would not have been able to watch the news. As usual, Iraqis went without electricity from the national grid for most of the day and she could not find any gasoline to run her personal generator.

Told by a reporter later in the day about the meeting’s outcome, Ms. Nabhani, a 34-year-old homemaker, scoffed: “Is that all? Was that even worth the fuel consumed by their airplanes?”

Her dismay was common among Iraqis who managed to follow the news on Thursday. So was a range of other emotions that probably would not hearten Mr. Maliki or Mr. Bush, including disappointment, indifference and despair.

Timothy Noah confronts the 'blame Iraq' set:

[T]here's a crucial difference between the Vietnam War and the U.S. occupation of Iraq. In Vietnam, we backed a weak but indigenous military force that was already battling the North Vietnamese. In Iraq, there was no indigenous fighting force battling Saddam's regime, and none emerged after we got there (unless you count the Kurds, who've enjoyed relative success in stabilizing and governing their corner of Iraq). Overthrowing Saddam Hussein wasn't the Iraqis' idea; it was ours. Americans expected Iraqis to be grateful for ridding them of a bloodthirsty dictator, and for a brief time, they were. But it somehow doesn't compute that Iraqis, following the same logic, now blame the United States for the civil war we unleashed.


It may feel good for Americans to say that postwar Iraq is a failed society because of the Iraqis themselves. Ingratitude is a common lament of embittered visionaries, because it's usually too painful to blame oneself. But it's rarely true that the people whose lives we try to transform are at fault when we can't transform them, and it certainly isn't true in the case of Iraqis. We just have to live with that.

Here is the deal.

What ultimately happens in Iraq at this point is no longer something we have much, or any, control over. It's out of our hands. It might not have always been out of our hands, but it is now.

The issue facing the US now is which of our possible options going forward will make things the least bad.

The Iraq Study Group is about 1,000 days late and more than a few pennies short.

The administration is in a "holding pattern" because they have no freaking idea what to do.

Dick Cheney is a certifiable lunatic and should be wrapped up in a straightjacket and held under close observation at a secure facility.

It's hard for me to imagine George W Bush ever, ever, ever coming up with a better plan than staying the course until the magic pony is found. Whether it's inherent in him, or due to 20 and more years of punishing his brain with alcohol, or both, he does not demonstrate the imagination, analytic insight, or basic inclination to re-examine the faulty decisions he made three and a half years ago.

Unfortunately, he also does not appear to be willing to hand the steering wheel over to anyone better qualified to drive, and short of turning off the money tap there are no means available to force him to do so that won't also do violence to our Constitution.

The name for what we are is screwed. We are surfing on an avalanche. Maybe we'll be lucky and things won't absolutely suck when all is said and done. Maybe we won't.

The astute student of history will note that this is the way many nations have gone from being first-rate to being has-beens.

Thanks -

[T]here's a crucial difference between the Vietnam War and the U.S. occupation of Iraq. In Vietnam, we backed a weak but indigenous military force that was already battling the North Vietnamese.

Uh . . . no. I mean, he's right about Iraq, but the historical analogy is wrong.

The original conflict in Vietnam was between communist-led nationalists and colonialists and their indigenous allies. We backed the latter, financially; we paid for the French to fight the Viet Minh, and there was no North/South dimension to the conflict.

Then in 1954 the country was (supposedly) temporarily divided at the 17th parallel, but we led the way in subverting the Geneva agreements and sponsoring a "Republic of Vietnam," created from the ranks of French-backed anti-communists, in the South.

We wrote their constitution, we trained their police, we encouraged their counter-insurgency -- directed, at first, not against the North Vietnamese, but against the (communist-led) resistance in South Vietnam. We supported this counter-insurgency with military advisors, as well as arms, equipment, and other forms of aid.

Eventually there was a "weak but indigenous military force that was . . . battling the North Vietnamese" - as well as the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (known to us as the "Viet Cong") - but that was well over a decade down the road from our original involvement. Not exactly what the original analogy implies.

I'm all in favor of any argument that suggests we should get the hell out of Iraq, but bad history is still bad history.

If you want to predict Bush's future actions with respect to Iraq, I would submit that Ken Lay and Enron is a better model than Vietnam.

Tony Karon has two excellent posts covering the Hadley memo, the Obaid op-ed, and the Iraq Study Group report:


Karon consistently produces some of the most thoughtful commentary on happeinings in the Middle East that I've seen. And he's got great posts on soccer, as well.

Saddam to formally appeal death sentence.

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