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December 06, 2006


I hope their ghosts haunt the people whose carelessness and irresponsibility cost them their lives

Um, shouldn't that be "whose carelessness and irresponsibility cost others their lives"?

Yikes. Haven't read your post yet, but Erick of Bizarro World is being interviewed on NPR right now about the ISG report. He's talking about how the RS folks favor "unleash[ing] hell" as the solution.

Or, more generally, "they" and "their" in that sentence appear to refer to two different groups of people: the careless and the dead. Just confusing to me.

Ugh: Thanks. It took a little thinking about how to avoid the ambiguity, but I think I fixed it.

He's talking about how the RS folks favor "unleash[ing] hell" as the solution.

Well yes, anything is preferable to, as he puts it:

In essence, the report calls on the United States to capitulate to its enemies, abandon its friends, and blame Israel.
if the President takes seriously this report, we will fail not just in Iraq, but in our overall global foreign policy.

It's indistinguishable from a report Jimmy Carter might have written.

Erick of Bizarro World is being interviewed on NPR right now

oh that liberal Liberal Media !

that might just be enough keep me from contributing, next fund drive.

It's indistinguishable from a report Jimmy Carter might have written.
Well, I think they left out the malevolent "muahaha!", but the person taking dictation usually realizes that's supposed to be omitted anyway.

Cleek, I continued listening and was just rewarded by their playing George Allen's farewell to the Senate.

KC, did he at least come off like a raving lunatic, or did the interviewer do his/her best to make him sound credible ??

Meet the new Baghdad Bob.

"our feckless leaders are led about by unwanted spirits, visiting families whose fathers or mothers or sons or daughters will never come home."

Greg Djerjian (sp?) has a post up quoting Mr. Gates' testimony before Congress recently in which he speaks of a woman, with sons in Iraq now, who approached him and wished him luck, but pleaded with him to bring her sons home safely.

I'm trying to let that make me feel better.
But my gorge rises when I think about what has happened, how it has happened, and where it is going.

As to Erick and Redstate and all of their favorite things:

When they are done with their unleashing, another unleashing will be due. Once they democratize (they, of course, do nothing but vomit bad ideas across the landscape) the bits of flesh left on the abattoir floor of Iraq and the surrounding region, well, cripes, can we at least change the posting rules so that hell may be unleashed verbally on them?

I'm all for the reassessment of alternatives in Iraq that the election has forced. But, really, the Ericks at the table need to be dismissed with a shut the eff up or, if need be, a thorough trashing of the table.

I must go now and throw up in private.

But, really, the Ericks at the table need to be dismissed with a shut the eff up or, if need be, a thorough trashing of the table.

Can I have a Hallelujah?

matttbastard: I believe that's Baghdad Bill.

Contrast Erick of Bizarro World with Taranto of the Bizarro Street Journal editorial page:

"The recommendations of the Iraq Study Group are out, and those who are eager for a quick American defeat will be disappointed."

Strangely I don't think anyone, not even Al Qaeda, is hoping for a quick American defeat...

What John Thullen said.

This report was solely meant for George W. Bush. This is a major government trying to get a stubborn, immature leader to see a modicum of sense. To state outright that these things have already happened will cause Dubya to do what bullies do when the grown ups get involved: either act up further or sink into a funk, which in a President means nothing will happen. Even if that something is slowing the bus down so that it hits the wall at 20 mph instead of 60.

So to say these bad things might simply be possibilities allows Bush the psychological out that "it could still work out". There will probably be more substantial messages delivered to him later in the year.....

Or maybe not. As the ISG makes clear, there aren't any good options.

As Josh Marshall says:

"But, as past history as shown, some presidents just blow."

United States Institutes for Peace is selling it's ripped of the US government. How did they get the mall real estate from Congress? Which bill gave them the property for their headquarters? How much are they due to be payed this year and for building the institute?

Looks like the Repubulican's NGO and Newt's toy.

The Iranian mullahs have been working on getting an atomic bomb for a while. It doesn't matter whether we have a presence in Iraq or not.

Al Qaeda would probably will portray any departure as a failure. They understand the Information War, and they will propagandize accordingly. But there are departures which leave al Qaeda in shreds and then there are departures that signal failure. If the ISG can help move Bush to a more competent path, then Baker et al will have done their job.

I haven’t read it all yet, but so far I see nothing really new. Stay the course, or not. Get out, but no timetable. It was all pretty much foreshadowed by the leaks leading up to it.

Hilzoy: We lost our “reputation for invincibility”? I agree that “shock and awe” never actually showed up. But anything related to that statement is due to the fact that this is the first war in history where a combatant has gone to the extents we have to minimize civilian deaths and collateral damage. I don’t disagree that was the way to go.

Let me ask you – if we had, from the start of the occupation, ruthlessly put down any and all opposition, would we seem more invincible? If we leveled Fallujah rather than risking our Marines clearing it door to door – seems pretty invincible.

And of course we could still level the bulk of the place in a couple of days with conventional weapons only.

Not to nitpick, but I see opposite points of view between your concern for our “global standing” and your lamentation that we have now lost our “reputation for invincibility”.

there are departures which leave al Qaeda in shreds

As best I can tell, from having read Redstate for some time now, this means that the US should kill large numbers of the people living in Al Anbar province as a farewell present.

geez, i thought we had convinced even Holsclaw to abandon his make-em-suffer strategy.

Liberated? Occupied? Who knows? Who even cares? Somebody dared stand up to Uncle Sam and they must be made to pay. A little collateral damage is an essential part of shock-and-awe anyway.

Be sure to wipe the blood off your fangs, CB. It makes the floor so slippery.

For once, on my cab ride home this evening, I DIDN'T have to ask the cabbie to turn the talk-radio down: I caught the tail end of James Baker and Lee Hamilton (!) being interviewed on NPR about the ISG report. I must say one thing: they do have their act down pretty good: no dissensions, no contradictions - but the message was clear: Iraq is a "dire" situation: not hopeless -yet- as Mr. Hamilton added; but seemingly getting to that state pretty fast. The one question, though I noticed they sidestepped (fairly adroitly, too) was what they thought President Bush's reaction to the report would be. That "dire situation" they didn't seem to want to take on!

"But there are departures which leave al Qaeda in shreds"

Without also entirely shredding the Iraqi populace?

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were washing the dishes after dinner. She offered her opinion that, with the Bush Presidency, America's time as a leader in the world has passed. The American moment, she believes, is done.

I find it hard to argue against that.

Japan makes better cars. Europe makes better luxury and consumer goods. China and other, poorer Asian nations own the hands-on manufacture of basic goods. India is becoming our equal in information technology.

We live on credit. Our economy is financed by money lent by our economic rivals. It is based on the cheap and ready availability of a commodity in which are not, and never again will be, self-sufficient. We are doing close to nothing about this.

Indian pilots outflew ours in a recent war game. India, Pakistan, and North Korea are now nuclear states, perhaps soon to be joined by others.

In spite of spending more on our military than the rest of the world combined, and in spite of having what is arguably the best, most dedicated, and most professional military on earth, we've been unsuccessful in bringing two wars to a satisfactory conclusion. One of those was against a third rate power, and the other was against a small, sparsely populated, desparately poor third world country, where our enemies took the field in Toyota pickups.

Per capita, more Americans are in jail than in any other comparable country, and more than in most non-comparable countries. If you're a really bad guy, you will spend your days in a 7x12 soundproof box, cut off from all human contact and all view of the outside world, and you will, quite predictably, go insane.

And, all of above pales in comparison to our eager abandonment of our own first principles in the name of security and the "war on terror".

What, exactly, do we bring to the table when we meet the international community these days? What do we stand for anymore? What leadership can we, possibly, provide? What moral voice do we offer? What example?

We stupidly invaded Iraq, have bungled every aspect of that invasion so that the lives of ordinary Iraqis are now worse than they were under one of the standout tyrants of the modern era, and we don't know how to make it better. In fact, it's likely that we cannot make it better.

The solution offered by the Ericks of the world is to "unleash hell", which makes me wonder what, exactly, he has in mind. People are snatched from their homes, tortured with power drills, and left for dead on the street for their friends and loved ones to find them. Hasn't hell been unleashed already? What additional hell is required?

We've become a spoiled, arrogant nation, led by spoiled, arrogant people. We think the world owes us a living because we are, by God, Americans. We have lost any sense of perspective, of respect for others, or of simple common decency.

A Bible story, if you will.

Nebuchadnezzar conquered the world of his time. It made him proud. Then he went nuts and spent seven years sleeping in the fields and eating grass like a beast of the field.

That's where we are headed.

Thanks -

"Let me ask you – if we had, from the start of the occupation, ruthlessly put down any and all opposition, would we seem more invincible?"

Maybe, but more likely just as worse bullies than we are already perceived to be.

However, if we had actually gone in there and acted as if we cared about the country and the people, provided actual security, handled the needy, made sure electricity and water was available, not fired the entire army, protected munition sites, etc, then maybe we would not have had our aura damaged as much as it has been.

Remember the insurgency was very slow in happening. I think most Iraqi's were willing to give us a chance and we blew it. Abu Ghraib was probably the turning point.

Plus we allowed Sadr to build his following in much the same way that Hamas and Hezbollah did, by basically just letting him provide services to the people, instead of our doing so.

This was never meant to be a totally military situation, but we treayted it that way. The non-military people we sent in were incompetent and with little to no knowledge of the country or the religious and cultural situations. We were arrogant and demeaning to the Iraqis.

Al Qaeda wouldn't have survived one month in Iraq if we had been at all competent and putting the Iraqi people before corporate greed.

Russell, thanks for cheering me up.

OCSteve: I think it's a good thing to have a reputation for invincibility. When you have one, other people tend to be more wary of taking you on.

One way to maintain such a reputation is to pick your battles carefully. Maintaining it is not (according to me, and I would suspect most sane people) the most important aim of our foreign policy, so the fact that some battle might risk it is just a cost that should be borne in mind, not some sort of veto. In this particular case, my preferred way of maintaining it would have been: not invading.

What galls me about this is that there's a reasonable-sized strain in the thinking of people who supported the war that goes: we needed to show people in the Middle East who's boss, and this is a good way. For instance:

" In State of Denial, Woodward recounts how Michael Gerson, at the time Bush's chief speechwriter, asked Henry Kissinger why he had supported the Iraq war:

"Because Afghanistan wasn't enough," Kissinger answered. In the conflict with radical Islam, he said, they want to humiliate us. "And we need to humiliate them." The American response to 9/11 had essentially to be more than proportionate—on a larger scale than simply invading Afghanistan and overthrowing the Taliban. Something else was essential. The Iraq war was essential to send a larger message, "in order to make a point that we're not going to live in this world that they want for us.""

If you're going to support a war on that basis, you must, must, MUST ask yourself: are we actually going to win it? And if, like Kissinger, you're actually talking to the people who are planning/running it, you need to make absolutely sure that you do everything in your power to ensure that you actually win.

The combination of waging war to show someone who's boss (almost always a bad idea, imho, and the 'almost' is only there just in case I think of some bizzarro case that I haven't thought of yet) and not making sure you win is total and complete idiocy, and the idea that the consequences of this idiocy will be visited on people other than the idiots -- well, it just makes me fantasize about spirits.

Maybe, but more likely just as worse bullies than we are already perceived to be.

Well again, anyone who is invincible is going to get the bully tag. If you want to be perceived that way, you don’t give anyone a chance. You put them down hard from the start. That was never our approach beyond the first couple of weeks.

I’m going to bow out and say I am in fact nit-picking. I know what Hilzoy means. It’s just a discrepancy that jumped out at me. I should resist the temptation to nit-pick the front pagers. The job is tough enough. Lord knows the pay and benefits suck.

I'd like to propose what is, apparently, a radical idea.

You don't go to war to show that you're a tough guy. You don't go to war to send a message. You don't go to war to demonstrate your invincibility.

You go to war to protect yourself from harm.

All other reasons for going to war amount to being a bully and, if I may be permitted an obscenity here on ObWi, a prick. Often, they also amount to being an idiot, because wars are by their nature chaotic, and you never know how they will turn out.

Oddly enough, this simple rule clarifies many issues discussed upthread.

The reason we are, correctly, so picky about not killing Iraqis unnecessarily is because this war was one of our choosing. They did not come looking for us.

The reason it's obscene to talk about "unleashing hell" on the Iraqis as a way to, perhaps, force a conclusive military result is because we started the fight. Granted, they have not been uniformly cooperative, but we've contributed enormously to that situation as well.

The reason the issues that face us in Iraq are so problematic is that we are, fundamentally, in the wrong. We screwed up from beginning to end, and now we are floundering to find the path to the least bad result.

That is the best that we will be able to do. Unleashing hell will not be that path.

Thanks -

you need to make absolutely sure that you do everything in your power to ensure that you actually win.

Can’t argue with that, except I doubt you would agree with the “everything in your power to ensure that you actually win” part.

Cross-posted a bit. Again, I was in fact nit-picking, Apologies. I knew what you meant but I went after a perceived discrepancy anyway.

It is too easy to be an ass online.

Our troops won the war but Bush lost Iraq.

OCSteve, you have never beren an ass. And to steal from you, you have disrupted my carefully cultured stereotypes of conservatives.

BroD - couldn't have been said any better


OCSteve: can't remember you being an ass online, so it can't be as easy for you as all that.

And you're right about me: I should have said that we should do everything in our power to win, so long as it's not morally abhorrent and doesn't have other costs so huge that they outweigh the cost of losing. I was, of course, thinking of things like planning for the occupation, not nuking Fallujah.

Be sure to wipe the blood off your fangs, CB. It makes the floor so slippery.

You should really make a better effort at understanding what I wrote before making such a stupid comment, Francis.

For what it's worth the "No End but Victory" website's main post is entitled someting about how we have just lost the war. I read the post, skimmed it actually, and the author is serious. The author starts with the Gates quote about how we are currently losing in Iraq and goes to some other recent references before detailing out all the steps the US took to get out of Viet Nam.
He may be right. I mean he may be right in his implication that the administration will start tippy toeing out, incrementally, of course, without any offical announcement and with lots of talk about how great everything is. Who knows?

Via Josh Marshall:

The Bush administration routinely has underreported the level of violence in Iraq in order to disguise its policy failings, the Iraq Study Group report said Wednesday.


On page 94 of its report, the Iraq Study Group found that there had been "significant under-reporting of the violence in Iraq." The reason, the group said, was because the tracking system was designed in a way that minimized the deaths of Iraqis.

"The standard for recording attacks acts a filter to keep events out of reports and databases," the report said. "A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn't hurt U.S. personnel doesn't count."

Something interesting: the Executive Summary clearly states that all of the Report's recommendations need to followed, and in a coordinated fashion.

I'm not sure if that's an attempted end-run around Bush's habit of cherry-picking every report that comes his way in search of justifications to do what he wanted to do anyway (and not do what he had no desire to do anyway), or a pre-emptive justification for Bush ignoring the report altogether.

can't remember you being an ass online, so it can't be as easy for you as all that.

I was sniping, looking for a “gotcha” moment. Carry over from other threads. Frustration that you marshal such good arguments that are often difficult to counter. I was being an ass.

It won’t be the last time :)

Let me ask you – if we had, from the start of the occupation, ruthlessly put down any and all opposition, would we seem more invincible?

Destroying an opponent does not actually contribute to a reputation for invincibility. Especially not when you're the attacker. It may or may not contribute to a reputation as a bully, but not to a reputation as invincible. Also, it reduces trust, and trust is a valuable asset in both negotiations and conflicts.

Well again, anyone who is invincible is going to get the bully tag.

Say what!? Ah, now I see where I went wrong. All this time the inheritors of thousands of years of martial tradition have been telling me that in order to be invincible one should avoid bullying at all costs, and even to avoid fighting whenever possible. Now you tell me the exact opposite? Let me sweep your floors and study with you, Worthy Sifu. The elder masters have led me to stray.

More seriously, as dsquared put it recently, a deterrent reputation that's worth having may not be worth getting.

There's actually a basis for this in game theory. The value of a deterrent reputation in a single-round game is null (since you can't develop a reputation in one round of a game anyway). In multi-round games you have to weigh the cost of building your reputation against its future value. If you believe that your eventual probability of winning rises steeply enough in later rounds to offset the additional risk associated with reputation-building in earlier rounds, and you are also certain that your opponent can in fact be deterred, then sure. In those circumstances it may be a good strategy. It's sorta like drawing to an inside straight though -- if you're not willing to fall back to a bluff then you shouldn't be trying it.

Bring MAD into the equation (i.e. set up the game so that either party can cause both parties to "lose") and it gets really interesting.

Radish: I’m too tired. I give :)

Hey that was just the "tough love" -- you shoulda seen the parts I deleted ;-)

Get some rest though. Sooner or later it'll be time to push the pendulum back the other way.

The "unleash hell" poll.

What's precisely involved in unleashing hell, and should I buy safety googles?

There's actually a basis for this in game theory. The value of a deterrent reputation in a single-round game is null

OK not to derail things and whatnot but there was a game theory analysis of Prisoner's Dilemma in that a tit-for tat strategy always works out the best over other strategies:

"Axelrod discovered that when these encounters were repeated over a long period of time with many players, each with different strategies, "greedy" strategies tended to do very poorly in the long run while more "altruistic" strategies did better, as judged purely by self-interest. He used this to show a possible mechanism for the evolution of altruistic behavior from mechanisms that are initially purely selfish, by natural selection.

The best deterministic strategy was found to be "Tit for Tat", which Anatol Rapoport developed and entered into the tournament. It was the simplest of any program entered, containing only four lines of BASIC, and won the contest."

Fledermaus, if encounters are repeated, then it's not a single round.

I was going to comment on that RS thread at the time but I'm not sure I actually did, I got so mad that I had trouble writing coherently. I may have, though, in which case I will be repeating myself.

Some excerpts:

"Breaking up an determined insurgency is hard, bloody work. I suspect it means killing a lot more civilians than we're accustomed to. But this is the fault of those who turned to outlawry, not we who fight them."

"Will we kill civilians? I hope so. What we need to do is make it so risky and so expensive in terms of lives lost that "civilians" will decide it's not worth hiding a terrorist."

"Unfortunately in war, it takes despair, destruction and suffering to win the hearts and minds."

"Americans would have been okay with killing copious amounts of innocent Iraqis to take out the bad ones. If we had done that upfront, Iraq would not be the problem it is today. It is not to late to start that now."

"We can not fight a politically correct war. As long as our troops are hampered by political correctness and not wanting to "offend" the muslim world we can not win. We need do what it takes whether it means bombing masques, assasinations, or worrying about collateral damange after the fact."

"The "unleash hell" option isn't about protecting people. It's about killing the killers. And anyone who might be a killer. And anyone who might be supporting the killers with resources or encouragement. And anyone near enough to these people to be caught in the fighting."


It's the utter lack of self awareness that gets me....This is the exact same logic that has bombs going killing dozens of people in marketplaces and mutilated corpses all over Baghdad. Just substitute "Sunni" for American and "Shi'a" for Iraqi, or the other way around. The arguments are exactly the same. No one on RedState is doing the killing, but then, they're not having close family members murdered either.

And they're no longer even suggesting these tactics to crush an insurgency--they're suggesting that to stop Sunnis and Shi'as from massacreing civilians, we need to kill more civilians. Why let the Iraqis have all the fun, I guess.

Unfortunately in war, it takes despair, destruction and suffering to win the hearts and minds.

Without intending any general disrespect to the folks at RS, comments like the above are why I simply don't read, post, or otherwise participate on that site anymore. It makes my head hurt too much, and it makes me too freaking sad.

The fundamental fact to be faced is that it was a mistake to invade Iraq. Folks can, and will, try rewrite history and otherwise rearrange reality to make it seem like that fact is not so, but it is so. It is so, and it will always be so.

There's no value in arguing the point anymore. The consequences of the decision are manifested every day, for all to see. You may as well debate whether gravity exists. The only question now is how to mitigate the harm done. Any strategy for moving forward which ignores the fundamental folly of our invasion of Iraq will only make things worse.

If you want to create any kind of constructive change in the real world, you have to live in the real world. If you insist on your fantasy, you will only make things worse, and you'll probably also make yourself nuts.

What I expect to happen over the next two years is that we will engage in some kind of kabuki dance in which relatively more responsible actors walk Bush through some form of disengagement from Iraq that lets him pretend he's not responsible for the outcome. That process will be expensive both to us and to the Iraqis, and most likely to the broader middle east.

I'm not sure what things will look like when all is said and done, but it probably will not look good from our point of view. But, the President and lots of other folks who thought this was all a good idea will be able look back and believe, if they choose to, that they meant well, and that they really did try to do the right thing.

The rest of us will pick up the mess.

That's two gloomy jeremiads from me in one thread, which is probably one (or two) more than is really needed. I'll leave off until I have something more positive to contribute.

Thanks -

This report was solely meant for George W. Bush.

This report is much more than that -- try this variation.

It was primarily an effort by the those that supported the war, and have still not issued a mea culpa, to find a face-saving way out. Obviously, Bush is the primary target, but it is intended for that much broader audience.

But there are departures which leave al Qaeda in shreds and then there are departures that signal failure.

Al Queda is not a major player in Iraq, and to the extent that it is, just try rooting them out of Anbar. From recent reports, the province is already lost, so there is no means to leave them "in shreds." The best hope is that once we are gone, the locals will want to drive them out. What is unknown is the extent to which it has become a home grown product and an integral part of Iraq Sunni resistance.

If the ISG can help move Bush to a more competent path, then Baker et al will have done their job.

This is true in part -- even though the ISG recommendations are not that valid, they just happen to be better than Bush policies to date. It is a plus if they can induce better policies.

But I doubt that Bush will be influenced that much. Whatever small measure of good the ISG adds to the situation, they will have failed if all that results in Bush cherry-picking a few points while continuing an overall dismal policy.

It is not enough for the tutor to improve a pupil's performance from F minus to F plus, and the tutoring was a failure if that is all that results.

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