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February 21, 2007


here's No More Mister Nice Blog's response to that poll. and here is the Carpetbagger Report's response to it.

bottom line: Push Poll

I agree on the poll, having read the pdf at OTB. Consider Question 4, in which you get to choose one of four options::

"The US should immediately withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Whether Iraq is stable or not, the US should set and hold to set a strict timetable for withdrawing troops.

While I don’t agree that the US should be in the war, our troops should stay there and do whatever it takes to restore order until the Iraqis can govern and provide security to their country.

The Iraq War is the front line in the battle against terrorism and our troops should stay there and do whatever it takes to restore order until the Iraqis can govern and provide security to their country."

Now: I do not favor the immediate and total withdrawal of troops, since I think that it's pretty likely that there will be at least some cases in which we will be able to minimize bloodshed and chaos by doing things a bit more slowly. I'm not wild about timetables either; the only reason I support Democratic calls for them is because I think that nothing else will force Bush's hand. Suppose I didn't think that, but instead thought: we should draw down our troops as quickly as we can, given the need to minimize chaos (disagreement with option 1), but we should not have a timetable (disagreement with point 2.) What am I left with? 3 or 4.

What am I left with? 3 or 4.

Don't keep us in suspense... Which did you choose? ;)

It would be interesting to come up with a series of 4 answers that would not be push-poll-ish. I'm thinking it would take at least 7 or 8 at least.

"I would hate to think that we could win the War Against Militant Islamism by promoting grinding poverty and school closings in Muslim-majority countries."

Maybe this is what Bush means when he says we're succeeding in Iraq.

OCSteve: if I could choose 3, but add: regrettably, I don't think it's possible for the US to do anything that would restore order until the Iraqis can govern and provide security to their country, and therefore, much to my regret, I have to opt for a reasonably quick, though not precipitous, withdrawal (i.e., no needless delay, but also no needless courting of avoidable disasters) -- then that would capture my views quite nicely.

Of course, without the addition, 3 doesn't work at all for me.

As the difference between 3 and 4 seems to be whether you agree/agreed with the war at all I’d have to go 3.5 but add: regrettably, I now believe that our military is too overtaxed to be asked to continue in limbo or sorta-surge mode, and therefore, much to my regret (at the chaos to follow) I have to opt for a reasonably quick, though not precipitous, withdrawal, with the focus on force protection.

Yeah, didn’t see that choice there either.

Juan Cole on the British drawdown, via Kevin Drum

"This is a rout, there should be no mistake. The fractious Shiite militias and tribes of Iraq's South have made it impossible for the British to stay. They already left Sadr-controlled Maysan province, as well as sleepy Muthanna. They moved the British consulate to the airport because they couldn't protect it in Basra. They are taking mortar and rocket fire at their bases every night. Raiding militia HQs has not resulted in any permanent change in the situation. Basra is dominated by 4 paramilitaries, who are fighting turf wars with one another and with the Iraqi government over oil smuggling rights.

Blair is not leaving Basra because the British mission has been accomplished. He is leaving because he has concluded that it cannot be, and that if he tries any further it will completely sink the Labor Party, perhaps for decades to come."

It wouldn't take that many of Cole's facts to be right for this to be really bad news.

Looking at the above, and accepting the rumour that al-Sadr is vacationing in Kufah, and remembering that Hakim wanted to split off the Basra oil field as a separate (SCIRI?) province, Iraq has me very confused.

Does Sadr or Hakim control Basra? Neither? Nobody?

here is another response to the poll, from "David Johnson, the CEO of the GOP firm Strategic Vision" (TPM's words).

Johnson says :

    "This poll is not the quality we've come to expect from national polling firms,"

The real test for the Kurds is coming up with Kirkuk. There is supposed to be an election to settle the question later this year. Any predictions on what might happen? It is probably one of the biggest challenges in Iraq over the next 12 months. The Kurds would probably win an election -- will the Shia cede power to them? Will the election even be held?


For once, I'm going to have to opine that Juan Cole is wildly off-the-mark with his analysis of Tony Blair's troop-drawdown policy - on any kind of objective judgment, "defeat" is, at best, only tangentially applicable. In the history of British arms, a redeployment like this is scarcely even an embarrassment: New Orleans was a rout; Mons was a rout; Dunkirk was a rout: at worst British involvement with OIF was a draw (and I think their military record in Iraq was far from a worst-case scenario).
However, on the political level, things are quite different, IMO: and Mr. Blair has an entirely separate plate of issues to have to deal with (and I agree with Juan Cole somewhat about old Tone's electoral trepidations).

Strategypage has an update on the Battle for Baghdad. The challenge, of course, will be the "hold" phase of operations. ... It'll be a while before we know whether or not the operation will be successful.

Charles, thanks for the articles about the Kurds and the link the poll. All very interesting.

Regarding the Strategypage analysis, I think it's time for Americans to recognize that we no longer have a lot to say about how things play out in Iraq. It appears to be out of our hands.

Our continued presence there might make the unfolding of events incrementally less violent and chaotic. Then again, they might make things worse. It's hard to say.

At this point, it should be obvious that the credibility and good faith that would allow us to act as, and be seen as, an agent of positive change in Iraq is gone, irretrievably. Noone with a stake in Iraq will trust us, or believe anything we say, for as long as anyone now alive is still living. Does anyone disagree with that?

Without that trust, the only real lever left to us is military strength. At this point, if we put a million troops into Iraq, it probably would not be enough to secure the situation. We would have to disarm all of the militias, secure the borders, police all of the mixed population areas to prevent internecine feuding, etc etc etc. It would take an order of magnitude larger commitment of troops, and it would take years.

IMO all of that would actually be a good and worthwhile thing to do, even if it cost us a lot, but it ain't gonna happen. Americans just don't care that much about the Iraqis as people, and as a nation. Does anyone disagree with that?

We beat Saddam. That's done. Creating a stable, integrated nation, based on Western democratic principles, is not going to happen. Not in this generation. Transforming the middle east via an injection of political reform is not going to happen. Not due to anything we're going to do, anyway. In Iraq specifically, something like a holding action might be possible for a while, but the American people are going to run out of patience with that pretty quickly.

Iraq is looking at a period, perhaps a long period, of contentious, probably violent, chaos. Through great effort, we might be able to make a tiny dent in the degree of violence and chaos, but that's our best available outcome. Our attention will best be spent figuring out how to maximize the size of that tiny dent.

That's the reality.

As a final point, I'll offer my opinion that dealing with "militant Islam" as a political movement is something the Muslim nations will have to work out for themselves. If we leave them alone, they will do so. We have every right to defend ourselves from threats, and should do so, but nothing we do is going to help or hinder that particular political dialog from finding its own resolution.

Thanks -

I don't find those poll results surprising.

Radicalism is a not a luxury of the poor. They tend to be too busy working to concern themselves with ideology. They might join the mob when it eventually forms, but they don't tend to go philosophizing about injustice. One has to have a certain amount of leisure time before one spends hours brooding over what one hasn't got, and scheming to get it. There's a good bit of writing on this subject, actually.

It isn't surprising that radicals favor democracy more than non radicals. People will favor the political system they believe will give them the most power. If you believe that 1) you're in the majority, and/or 2) that through violence and franchise suppression you can maintain a voting majority, why wouldn't you want a democracy? And if you're a moderate who believes you're outnumbered by radicals, why would you want a general franchise? You'd prefer a government that will stop the radicals from harming you and your family. Democracy just means that everyone votes. It doesn't mean liberalism. History should make that clear.

I'm not surprised that women believe in equal rights simultaneously with the Sharia, even though it doesn't grant them equal rights. Look at christianity. Most christians believe that christianity should be the guiding force of our society, but also that women should have rights. Try convincing one of them that rape victims should have to marry their rapists, or that a soldier who participates in a battle has sexual rights to virgin girls captured if he goes through a farcical, temporary pseudo marriage ceremony. Tell them its in the bible. They either won't believe you, or will go through mental gymnastics to explain how the words on the page aren't what christianity is "really" about. Islam will get its chance as well to replace the horrific nature of its religious history with a much more neighborly religious hypocrisy. In this case, the women in the survey want equal rights, and the Sharia. That's obtainable. They'll just redefine "Sharia" to mean whatever they want, claim that it was the true original intent of Allah, and move on. Progress ever sidles forwards.

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