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February 02, 2007

Comments

I really and truly don't think they are operating with anywhere near this level of impunity against "suspected Iranian agents".

What if the point is to provoke Iranian retaliation that will help us get into, or a lot closer to, all-out war on Iran? Then normal concerns about 'impunity' are somewhat beside the point.

The opportunity to manufacture 'testimony' about Iranian involvement in attacks on U.S. troops could be a fringe benefit.

"It was actually published two weeks ago, in U.S. News and World Report:"

This is a 100% procedural/stylistic point, for which please forgive me.

I suggest that it's potentially pretty confusing to insert links into something one is quoting that weren't there, given the fact that so much of what we quote online has links in it. If one doesn't honor the practice of not changing what one quotes, how does someone tell that a writer has, in fact, inserted their own links into what someone else wrote, absent having to annoyingly check all links?

Naturally, reasonable people can differ about this; I just suggest that it's a totally unnecessary practice, since putting links in one's own words is no more difficult.

Please forgive me for the tangent; this sort of thing totally distracts me from substance, for at least a few moments (which is part of why I think it's such a bad practice, although it's hardly unusual, I readily grant).

That wasn't deliberate--either it's a formatting glitch or I somehow inserted phantom links without realizing it. Should be fixed now; thanks for pointing it out.

Katherine, I would like to take issue with your mealy-mouthed assessment of this situation exemplified by your use of phrases such as "I found this worrisome." Your wimpiness turns my stomach. Clearly this policy is bad, for reasons Nell gets into, but as the president has taught us, criticism without proposing a full alternative is the mark of a coward and a traitor. Not that I agree with him, I'm just repeating what he says.

So, let's get this rolling by considering an alternative proposal. As Nell points out, what we need is an all out war, since we clearly can't win against insurgents. To that end, I propose the Ahab plan:
1. A special surge of 30,000 poorly trained racists armed with whatever equipment they ask for. They will be told that their job is sow terror among the terrorists. Each one will be equipped with a helmet cam and the resulting footage of senseless slaughter and torture will be cut into a weekly reality show called "30,000 racists rampage across Iraq" whose advertising will pay some of our war bills.
2. Other competing shows will be produced. Mostly game shows like "Are you sure you aren't al qaeda?" and "Terrorist or millionaire?" These will be used to degrade the populace.
3. The combined effect of this will be to so enrage the populace of the region that every country will be forced to declare war on the US or have their government overturned. Now we've got a challenge we're equipped for.
4. Cheney declares himself to be the Lost Imam and begins sowing confusion among our enemies. He enters Iran as a hero and rushes them into battle. Cheney rides at the head of the Shiite brigades, his sword cloaked in fire, his loins girded with righteousness. Of course it's a trick and he'll be leading them into a trap.
5. Now we have massed forces we can attack. Your tax dollars at work! Should be a slaughter. Side note: this section will be done as a miniseries and aired under the title "Pax Americana".

You see how much better that is as an argument than your weak questions about how maybe what they're doing isn't great? You present an alternative and inspire people rather than just whining and complaining. You've got potential, you just want for training. If you work hard and follow me, you can learn to be a leader too.

Ahab, meet mcmanus.

My initial reaction was more along the lines of "holy sh*t, they really are trying to start a war," and I probably overcompensated.

Has someone switched from a Spanish novel that shall remain nameless to Melville?

Katherine: to tell you the truth I'm more alarmed by the Presidential hopefuls baiting one another on Iran.

It goes to show what remains despicable about the American political discussion around this war. People merely hate the fact that we're losing, not that we're harming others in the process.

I think that Iran has been fomenting terrorism iby supporting Hamas in Gaza, and Hizballah in Lebanon, and now terrorist groups in Iraq.

I pose a simple question: Do you think that this is true?

DaveC, I would call the evidence conflicted, only part of a more complicated picture, and in no case a justification for war or anything close. Which is to say: I'm sure that the Iranian government as a matter of policy is supporting some folks I think are terrorists - I mean, it's public law and everything. I'm also sure that some parts of the Iranian government are providing more support, and also support to other folks I think are terrorists, just because of the opportunities and requirements of various ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

But insofar as I'm right about any of that, I also think that our government is responding in nearly the worst way possible - much worse, in fact, than simply ignoring it all would be.

Dave, personally I see no reason to believe the last one is true.

The only evidence I can see that Iran was involved in the Karbala attack is that it was well done, and required intelligence about how to get through security. I cannot see why it couldn't have been any number of Iraqi groups. Former republican guard types could pull it off. While the shiite groups have not been targetting US forces a lot, they have been doing all sorts of raids and kidnappings over the last few years. Who says they couldn't pull this off? Unless we assume Arabs are just too stupid which would, I believe, be a mistake.

As for the intelligence on who would be there and how to pass themselves off as Americans and what have you, the Mahdi army has more than enough members in the Iraqi army fully trained and equiped by the US to be able to learn this. It's at least plausible anyway, which is enough to demolish the only piece of evidence there is that the Iranians did it.

As for people formenting terrorism, and to bring things back on topic(ish), how about the outbreak of deathsquads shortly after Negroponte became ambassador. Strange that at that time the main threat was seen to be Sunni groups and that Sunni started to become deathsquad targets. I'm guessing there was a task force with a number attached giving out lessons in recent south american political history.

DaveC: Clearly they're supporting Hezbollah and Hamas. Clearly, they're also supporting some groups in Iraq -- al-Dawa, SCIRI. These are, however, not the groups that are responsible for most, or even many, US casualties. The anti-Iranian factions are the Sunnis, who are responsible for a lot of our casualties; among the Shi'a, as I understand it, the major faction least tied to Iran is al Sadr's Mahdi army.

I don't find it the least surprising that Iran is involved in Iraq: they have a huge border in common, and Iraq started the horrible Iran/Iraq war, in which Iran lost a huge number of people. I also don't find it surprising that at first they tried to keep us tied down there, what with our having all but announced that they were next on our hit list.

I do find it astonishing that when we decided to invade, we didn't sit down with Iran and try to work things out in anticipation of this, and even more astonishing that when they came to us in the summer of 2003 and offered to negotiate, putting their support for Hezbollah and their nuclear program on the table, we turned them down. I mean, what sense does that make?

"Ahab, meet mcmanus."

I don't get it, but I wouldn't would I?

I have no link but there was an early story about a scientist held in NAMA I found horrifying.

Sometimes the facts are all you can really say, any further additions seem so inadequate.

Katherine: It’s early and I’m still on my first cup of joe – so forgive me if I am being dense… Can you clarify the overall point of this post? You seem to be concerned that the unit tasked with dealing with these Iranians might be guilty (or capable) of human rights abuses, but then say that due to the high visibility of this situation you doubt they will actually do anything of that nature. What am I missing?


Bruce: I also think that our government is responding in nearly the worst way possible - much worse, in fact, than simply ignoring it all would be.

Are you serious? (Not meant sarcastically, I am genuinely curious.) You would advocate that “ignoring it all” is both a possibility and a solution?

@DaveC: And we're fomenting terrorism by running covert ops in Iran.

And by wrecking Iraq, looking the other way as Saudis fund fighters, and unleashing assassination and torture squads.

Does this give anyone the right to bomb the U.S.?

"You would advocate that 'ignoring it all' is both a possibility and a solution?"

I don't speak for Bruce, of course, but I don't see that he said anything remotely like that.

I'd respectfully suggest rereading what he wrote more carefully.

"...nearly the worst way possible - much worse, in fact, than simply ignoring it all would be" says in no way whatever anything at all about a solution (obviously, anything that's possible, though, is, in fact, possible; enjoy another cup of coffee!).

But you seem to hold the premise that America is, in fact, capable of "solutions" to the problems of many nations; I'm pretty sure it doesn't have so many -- at least, not that work in the short-term.

As for advocacy of ignoring things, one might at least consider John Quincy Adams on America:

Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be.

But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.

She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force....

She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit....

[America's] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.

There's more, but the key line is: "But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy."

There are good arguments against this, starting with the fact that the world is an infinitely smaller place, metaphorically speaking, than in Adams' day. But I'd still definitely question the assumption that America is capable of all that many "solutions" to the worst problems in the world.

Amelioration is a different concept.

DaveC: I don't think ignoring terrorism would work, but I do think that ignoring it would do less collateral damage and of course be vastly cheaper than what we're now doing, and that an America not burdened with this war would probably be doing other things that had the incidental effect of reducing future terrorism. Actually good responses would include a lot of careful diplomacy, including talking to a lot of people who are pretty nasty and seeing what wants they have that we could actually help satisfy without giving up things important to us, a lot of cooperation in identifying needs and wants that many peoples can work together on, a lot of carefully monitored public and private investment in needy areas of the world to build both democracy and marketplaces (two very different things that can easily conflict if nobody pays attention in time), a lot of national and international police work aimed at the kinds of criminals who can find havens and opportunities in protest movements, and on and on.

Doing nothing would be a good thing only in comparison to a fairly limited range of alternatives, including what we're doing now, Bob's vision of American empire, and like that. It's sort of the difference between F- and F+ in grading, where American norms are probably about C to D and mid to high Bs could be had with a fresh vision and fewer resources.

Also, what John Quincy Adams said. :) Thanks for the quote, Gary, that was a good one.

OCSSteve--I don't think they wouldn't. I think they haven't yet, but they might. This was obviously unclear.

Bruce: "DaveC...."

...is not OCSteve.

"Thanks for the quote, Gary, that was a good one."

I live to serve. The way my mind works, FWIW, is that I read OCSteve's query about whether "ignoring" problems abroad was a "possibility," and it tickled my memory to think "wait, what was it JQA said about how America 'goes not abroad in search of monsters to fight'?," and pulled the full quote via Google.

But my own memory is primarily an index; if we were chatting on the street, I'd have been left far less eloquently just saying "wait, John Quincy Adams said something about how America shouldn't go abroad in search of monsters to fight...."

Dog bless internet search engines for allowing the index in my memory to be a thousand times more useful than it otherwise would be.

One point I do agree with OCSteve (and innumerable others, of course) about is that military force is a tragically necessary capability that in a few ultimate situations is necessary to use -- but in vastly more cases, is necessary simply to retain as a capability -- for certain diplomatic endeavors to suceed.

But what I'd have to caution a few thousand times, moving up to the top of my lungs if softly doesn't work, is the point that war is so very very very terrible that its horrors, and the inevitable absolute unpredictability of its unforseen effects, must be kept utterly foremost in one's mind, rather than give into the temptation to think "well, we have this great super-military -- damned if we shouldn't use it to bomb bad people because they're so very very bad, and the appeal of stopping them is so very very great" at many points sooner than an absolutely existential need.

To put it extremely simplistically, military force, while not yet, in my view, something that can safely be given up completely by all in the world, while others retain it -- and here we can digress/move to discussion of whether Gandhian philosophy can successfully be used in what situations, if we like -- or not -- is the dark side. It's the tempting shortcut to achieving one's goals -- virtuous goals, like stopping genocide, or horrific dictators -- that nonetheless definitionally leads itself to massive killing and suffering. The cure of military intervention is only rarely better in its results than the problem it seeks to cure, though there are, I believe, rare exceptions.

But I'd strongly suggest that the temptation to, as OCSTeve did in another thread yesterday, leap to advocating bombing folks (in that case, in Sudan), be resisted until it's something resembling a necessity.

And finally, I'd have to agree that -- it seems to me -- some of the toughest possible moral problems arise in the question of how far, as regards use of violence, one should go to, say, rescue another people from genocide. I don't know any simple formulas to resolve those problems/questions. I'm not sure there are any answers that aren't morally compromised, one way or another; I suspect there aren't.

I'd respectfully suggest rereading what he wrote more carefully.

After another cup and a careful rereading, what I still take away is this:

The manner in which “our government is responding” is by creating “a special operations task force to break up Iranian influence in Iraq”.

So when I read this:
I also think that our government is responding in nearly the worst way possible - much worse, in fact, than simply ignoring it all would be.

My understanding (quite possibly incorrect, which is why I asked for clarification) is this:

Creating a special operations task force to break up Iranian influence in Iraq is much worse than simply ignoring Iranian efforts to destabilize Iraq.


But you seem to hold the premise that America is, in fact, capable of "solutions" to the problems of many nations

I’m not exactly sure where you get that from. As I recall, I have recently advocated intervention in Darfur and speculated on whether something should be done about Zimbabwe. If two qualifies as “many nations” then color me guilty.

But I'd strongly suggest that the temptation to, as OCSTeve did in another thread yesterday, leap to advocating bombing folks (in that case, in Sudan), be resisted until it's something resembling a necessity.

You seem to hold the premise that an ongoing genocide does not resemble the necessity of military intervention. I disagree.

Bruce - thanks for the response and clarification. I missed it initially as it was addressed to DaveC.

Katherine: Thanks for the clarification (depressing as it is).

"You seem to hold the premise that an ongoing genocide does not resemble the necessity of military intervention. I disagree."

First of all, I didn't say that.

What I do think is that that that's not a useful question, because it's endlessly too broad, and defines no limits on either end: should the United States fight with all its might, up to a willingness to, say, have one hundred million Americans die in any and every fight against genocide? Maybe so. But I frankly doubt that, in fact, the country would be willing to sacrifice as many as one hundred million Americans in that cause any time soon.

So we start to come back to reality, rather than unbordered abstraction land: just how many Americans is America willing to sacrifice in such fights? That's not so much a moral question as a practical one with moral implications, but it's unavoidable, and thus absolutely necessary to answer, before proceeding to further outline actual specifics of a proposed policy.

What is the specific balance America should -- and will be willing to -- adopt, in the trade-off between our own lives, killing others, and the cause of saving others?

I don't have a particular answer to that. But it's a question that deals with reality, whereas it's not clear to me that advocating unlimited military effort against every genocide and ethnic cleansing in the world is.

Of course, ethnic cleansing isn't genocide, but something "less." As is "mere" mass murder. As is a "mere" horrific dictator such as Mugabe, or are the rulers of Burma/Myanmar. How much further effort should America put into overthrowing them? And establishing peace in Uganda? And the Congo? How about Chechnya? Tibet?

The list goes on.

So, what should our policy be, then? What lines do we draw, specifically?

What do you advocate that goes beyond the generality that genocide resembles the necessity of military intervention?

(Please note, by the way, that I've never, in any way, said that military intervention by the U.S. against genocide should never take place.)

First of all, I didn't say that.

Just as I didn’t say “that America is, in fact, capable of "solutions" to the problems of many nations”. In short, I was throwing the “you seem to hold the premise” line back at you. :)

"As I recall, I have recently advocated intervention in Darfur and speculated on whether something should be done about Zimbabwe. If two qualifies as “many nations” then color me guilty."

Sorry, I missed this. What makes Zimbabwe more of a moral necessity for U.S. military intervention than Burma/Myanmar, or Congo, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or Chechnya, to use examples just off the top of my head? What makes you think that Darfur or Zimbabwe are unique situations, and that if we are morally obligated to military intevene in those places, no similar situations will arise in another decade, or two, or three?

In other words, if you're advocating a foreign policy that isn't a general policy that the U.S. should follow, than what are you advocating? Why pick Darfur over, say, Western Papua?

Amnesty International has estimated more than 100,000 Papuans have died as a result of government-sponsored violence against West Papuans, while others had previously specified much higher death tolls.
Is that not a large enough number?

Why not Bhutan?

The mass expulsion of southern Lhotshampas (Bhutanese of Nepalese origin) by the northern Druk majority of Bhutan in 1990. [48] The number of refugees is approximately 103,000. [49]
Why not Uganda?
The conflict in the north of the country between the Ugandan People's Defense Force (UPDF) and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has decimated the economy, retarded the development of affected areas and led to numerous gross human rights violations. Since Yoweri Museveni became president in 1986, more than 1.2 million Ugandans have been displaced and tens of thousands have been killed. An estimated 20,000 children have been kidnapped by the LRA for use as child soldiers and slaves since 1987. To avoid abduction, thousands of children leave their villages every night to hide in forests, hospitals, and churches.
The list, as I said, goes on. What makes Darfur and Zimbabwe unique?

What makes Darfur and Zimbabwe unique?

Zimbabwe because it was the topic of the post I was commenting on.

Darfur because we have officially acknowledged that it is genocide and I think we could do a lot to help with minimal resources (which is almost a requirement at this point). I think we could do a lot with a single carrier group parked in the Red Sea and our Navy is not as over-tasked as other branches, so it would seem to actually be feasible.

Why not the others? We have not labeled those conflicts as genocide. You seem to want me to specify my criteria, so that is it. When we label a conflict as genocide then we should be willing to do something about it. (The US has not officially declared West Papua to be genocide to my knowledge.)

Does that mean it’s OK if 100,000 die because we don’t want to call it genocide? Of course not.

But it seems to me to be immoral to acknowledge that genocide is occurring and then sit back and do absolutely nothing about it. That’s the long and the short of it.

This is getting pretty far OT at this point…

This is getting pretty far OT at this point…

Then, take it outside, OCSteve.

Katherine, what remains unclear to me is whether you believe, or suspect, Task Force 16 to be the same unit as the previously reported-on Task Forces 121 and 6-26. I agree that the descriptions look similar, but that may not be enough to prove identity or even continuity.

Thanks for looking into this.

"When we label a conflict as genocide then we should be willing to do something about it."

We're obligated to do so by treaty, as I not infrequently point out.

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.
"I think we could do a lot with a single carrier group parked in the Red Sea and our Navy is not as over-tasked as other branches, so it would seem to actually be feasible."

We could bomb, of course. But then what? Khartoum declares war on us; we then bomb them to our heart's content, say. This will stop the killing in Darfur, how, exactly?

Say we kill every last member of the current government in Khartoum. What have we accomplished? Do we then try to kill every individual janjaweed? Do we believe that the rest of the Sudanese of their ethnicity and persuasion will then form a nice, non-oppressive government, and make peace all around? And they'll keep out all the foreign jihadis eager to kill any Crusader occupiers? Or what?

I'm trying to understand how you see this leading to anything resembling a solution.

A different solution than the one we've achieved in Iraq by removing an evil, oppressive, government, that is.

Task Force 15 is probably the same unit as 121/6-26/145. Task Force 16 does not seem to be, but they say it's "modeled after it," so it might include some of the same people and have the potential to lead to similar abuses. It sounds like they're kept on a shorter lease now, though.

I would guess that some people on the administration want to change that, because they want to start a war with Iran, and others don't.

Cheney probably wants a war, and Cheney usually gets what he wants. But the chain of command for these task forces runs through Gates, and he is hopefully less stupid and less enamored of this paramilitary stuff than Rumsfeld.

I distrust these guys so much, and don't want us to start a war with Iran so badly, that I'm having trouble stepping back and calculating the odds. It's possible I'm being paranoid. It's possible that I'm not allowing myself to believe they'd be this stupid and wrong when all the evidence says they're exactly this stupid and wrong.

Also, the U.S. News story just isn't all that informative or well sourced. Hopefully Priest or Hersh or someone is looking into it.

"Bob's vision of American empire"

Chalmers Johnson ...the first TPM essay last week. Empire isn't necessarily my vision, it is what exists, what America is. An empire. That may be a bad thing, but there is no point in talking to people who can't see reality.

"one hundred million Americans die in any and every fight against genocide?" ...GF

Ridiculous strawman

"advocating unlimited military effort against every genocide and ethnic cleansing in the world is." ...GF

Another ridiculous strawman

And in general and more on topic, the fact that the various interrogation/torture camps that Katherine has detailed is like, a fact.
These practices and policies exist with the active cooperation of thousands and the silent assent of millions.

Simply saying this is wrong, let's stop assume a different ground, a different starting point than the one that actually exists, and I think will lead to disappointment and disillusion, bad strategy and politic tactics.

America is not what you want to to be. Sorry.

All last week I read long threads trying to parse John Edwards exact precise nuanced position on Iran, in light of remarks in Israel. The attitude was "Edwards can't believe that, he is one of us" "Edwards will try to stop the next war"

Edwards is one of us, and he will support the annihilation of Iran.

"But the chain of command for these task forces runs through Gates, and he is hopefully less stupid and less enamored of this paramilitary stuff than Rumsfeld."

I think that focusing on the preferences of the SecDef is taking your eyes off the ball of the development and institutionalization of evolving SOCOM procedures, practices, and culture, as regards what's far more important to determining what such practices will actually be.

This, however, is a fairly complicated topic, and difficult to address in under a few thousand (more like tens of thousands) words just to start (so please forgive me for not attempting even the beginning of such an essay in a blog comment).

But the forces driving "this paramilitary stuff" are institutional at this point, although ultimately the responsibility of both the President and Congress.

I'd note that one can get some hints of the issues I have in mind here, or in any number of articles about SOCOM in the last couple of years, including about "white" SOF and door-kicking "black."

The simple creation of SOCOM -- that is, "Special Operations Command," as one of the major commands, creates a gigantic dynamic of its own.
Adding to the propulsion (aside from, and setting aside for the moment, arguments about genuine need and usefulness) is -- inevitably -- stuff like this:

A proposal to create an "unconventional warfare command" was floated at June hearings held by Rep. Jim Saxton, the chairman of the special operations subcommittee. While praising direct-action successes, Saxton says, "I believe the key to our military efforts rests in the unconventional capabilities." He has not decided yet whether such a command within SOCOM is necessary but says "it is vital that policy makers in the Department of Defense not lose sight of the strategic importance of unconventional warfare and ensure that we capitalize on those capabilities."
Sorting out precisely what lines hould be drawn, and which lines shouldn't be crossed, as regards "black" SOF (Special Operations Forces, which not the same as SOCOM), is deeply problematic, particularly because ultimately much of that is done -- inevitably, and to some degree necessarily -- in secret.

Ultimately the only answer is to have a President and Congress that one can trust in these matters. (Pentultimately, we do politics, try to find out what we can about these issues, and debate them, of course.)

Problematic, innit?

But I wish it were remotely as simple as who the SecDef is.

Bob: "Ridiculous strawman"

No, it was a question. You're free to ignore it.

"advocating unlimited military effort against every genocide and ethnic cleansing in the world is." ...GF

Another ridiculous strawman--bob mcmanus

me-- Well, sort of a strawman, but Gary also pointed out that there are a lot of current and/or recent human rights abuses going on, some of them comparable to or worse than Darfur, so why single out one or two in particular, unless there really is a relatively easy way to stop atrocity A but not atrocity B? Pragmatic arguments make sense. I'm not in sympathy with the idea that a genocide which kills several hundred thousand people in Darfur is worse than a mere conflict which kills several million in the Congo, even if that's what the law seems to imply.

As for Western Papua, the villain there is Indonesia and in two previous instances (the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian leftists and others in the mid-60's and again in East Timor), the US was on the side of the Indonesian government. It's hard to break old habits.

Now back on the topic. I partly agree with bob's dark view of America, but have never quite understood his solution. Sometimes, bob, you seem to be saying that since we're an evil empire we might as well be good at it, so Democrats should get with the program and outdo the Republicans. Then they'll be popular and can raise the minimum wage and provide national health insurance to the tens of millions of veterans when they come home from their long stint occupying every Muslim country from Morocco to Indonesia.


since we're an evil empire we might as well be good at it

I am so going to steal that line.

Or sometimes that's the impression I've had about your view, bob. Other times (as in the recent comment you made that caused a bit of a stir) the idea seems to be that the only way to stop our evil empire is for antiwar types to get serious and get in people's faces in ways that might be obnoxious.

"Sometimes, bob, you seem to be saying that since we're an evil empire we might as well be good at it"

Yeah, that is pretty close actually. "Good" as in not what is morally acceptable, but what is possible. My concern is not even really America but all the people America has killed in my lifetime. Millions. All the destruction. All the exploitation.

Standing in the Colosseum at intermission between the baboon rapes and flaming crosses.

Klein speaks first and says:"30-50% decline in standard of living and a vast loss of security and prestige. But it is the right thing to do"

Then I say:"Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. More centurions, less ballistas."

Steve Clemons on George Soros ...the subject is "Denazification", the practical and ritual cleansing of those elements in America that enabled Iraq and NAMA.

Are we ready for that? If not then we will do it again, and the only ethical goal is to do it with less destruction overseas.

Donald: "...me-- Well, sort of a strawman...."

I asked: "What is the specific balance America should -- and will be willing to -- adopt, in the trade-off between our own lives, killing others, and the cause of saving others?"

That's a question, not a "strawman." People are free to offer their own answers, or to ignore the question, as they wish.

Myself, though, I don't have an answer; I tend to think it incumbent upon those actually urging activist policies to be able to offer a coherent answer, but that's just me.

"get in people's faces in ways that might be obnoxious."

Well, that is another alternative, violent revolution at home. We are not ready for that, either.

"Give peace a chance" makes as much sense as in Juliuis Caesar's Rome or 1937 Germany.

because they want to start a war with Iran

I’ll admit that I don’t find it inconceivable that we might be looking for a pretext to take out their nuclear program. Setting that aside though, I really don’t believe anyone wants a full blown war with Iran. Also set aside that they pretty much declared war on us in 1979 and have been waging limited warfare against us ever since – I still don’t see anyone wanting a full blown war with Iran right now.

The people who would most benefit from a war are Ahmadinejad and the mullahs. Things are getting shaky. Nothing would unite the population and keep them under the thumb (heel) of the current rulers like a war. One possible explanation for all the shenanigans they have been up to is to goad us into a war.

They don’t have to be worried about a land invasion for obvious reasons. They may figure they can easily absorb some bombing. We saw how much they value their civilian population during the Iran/Iraq war. For the purposes I am suggesting (maintaining power) - the more civilian deaths the better. If they feel they have their nuke program buried deep enough and they personally have a nice bunker to hang out in for a while, what do they have to lose?

If it happens I think my scenario is a more likely cause than BushCo wanting another war.

Gary, it probably didn't come out right, but I was defending your strawman--obviously the US can't intervene everywhere all the time (though come to think of it, we sometimes seem to come pretty close), assuming for the sake of argument the mainstream POV that imagines that the US would necessarily intervene AGAINST genocide rather than in favor of it (which is sometimes the case in reality).

We'd have to make choices and the only sensible way to make such choices is to pick the cases where we can do the most good with the least cost. (Which is why I'd prefer we focus more on non-violent efforts like the fight against AIDS, but that's getting way, way off-topic.)

Bob, that clears things up a little. You think that if we had more troops on the ground we'd kill fewer people, or so I interpret the centurion vs. ballista comment. Or anyway, you think that if we're going to intervene we should do it more humanely. I'm not actually sure the Iraq War could have been done much more humanely--it depends on whose casualty figures you accept and how responsibility for the casualties are distributed and this is why my own obsession has been the Lancet papers vs. Iraq Body Count, because they paint very different pictures. If IBC statistics are right we've already got that relatively humane military intervention force (not that IBC puts it that way)--they just aren't very good at stopping the natives from killing each other. Oh the burdens of Empire.

"I’ll admit that I don’t find it inconceivable that we might be looking for a pretext to take out their nuclear program. Setting that aside though, I really don’t believe anyone wants a full blown war with Iran."

OCSteve, if I am Fallon or Petraeus or Casey and the President orders the nuclear program taken out, I demand, considering the vulnerability of Americans in Iraq, that much or most of Iran's other military capabilities are destroyed.

I would consider it my duty to the troops.

I demand, considering the vulnerability of Americans in Iraq, that much or most of Iran's other military capabilities are destroyed.

That’s a given in my book. I think that we would destroy their C&C as well as most of their war-fighting capability (AF, anti-air assets, exposed amour units, etc.). I think we’d try to take out the mullahs (and fail, we’ve seen that it is not easy to go after individuals with an Air Force and cruise missiles). I think we would try hard to avoid civilian casualties (but there would be plenty). I also think we would leave their oil infrastructure untouched as well as other civilian infrastructure.

Note that I am not advocating this – I am simply stating how I think it will go down if it does happen.

Katherine, I'm deeply sympathetic to the mental back-and-forth of a reasonable person trying to come to grips with whether our current regime is actually so insane that they will take the 'flight forward' approach "out of" the Iraq quagmire.

For my own part, I came to the conclusion in mid-December that, yes, they will and are doing so. I'm putting into practice the lesson that I drew from the failed, reactive way in which Demcrats responded to the regime this past summer and fall on torture, habeas, and tribunals:
To have a prayer of succeeding in the power struggle between the people and this regime, you must apply your whole imagination to the task of conceiving Bush and Cheney's response to a given difficulty.

You need to be able to grasp the most pernicious and aggressive approach. Put aside the reasonable voice that says "oh, they wouldn't dare do that." Imagine what Dick and the Decider think will wrong-foot their opponents, bludgeon and bamboozle the press and public.

Any clear-eyed assessment of the last six years shows that this is their m.o., and that any supposed bipartisanship or moderation is decorative and verbal. Where they have shied away from a confrontation, it's only to avoid an outright defeat of the most damaging kind (pretty much only high court decisions), and they follow up with aggressive moves to accomplish the same goals by other methods.

Far from preventing an assault on Iran, as I long assumed the debacle in Iraq would do, it actually almost guarantees it. Grinding on and on in the same way is no longer politically possible for them, so the dynamic must be changed. It will be changed by making Iran the focus.

The regime maintains that the September 2001 AUMF gives them the right to attack anyone they can paint as terrorists, and the current propaganda is clearly designed to make that shoe fit.

They've also got myriad ways to provoke Iran into doing something that can then be painted as an attack from which we must defend ourselves (in an air assault on the whole country, a la the IDF response in Lebanon last summer to the capture of a few soldiers and the launching of some rockets).

Seen in this light, a possible Congressional preventives like Byrd's S.Res. 39, which asserts that specific Congressional authorization is required for offensive military action anywhere, will miss the point even if it should suddenly gather many more co-sponsors than it has now. Walter Jones' H.J.Res. 14, if it should pass, more effectively lays the groundwork for removing Bush and Cheney in the event of an attack on Iran.

Iran will do everything it can to avoid any response to provocation that could be turned into a casus belli by this hair-trigger crowd (in which I include Hillary Clinton and most other Democratic presidential candidates), but that will only buy so much time. Incidents can be fabricated, and this regime's on record as having contemplated them before when the target nation fails to cooperate in a timely way in moving toward war.

It's coming. Each of us has to do what we think will be most effective in preventing an assault on Iran, and what will most limit the damage when it occurs.

OCSteve, I believe Ahmadinejad and Bush's interests are aligned. That's one of the most frightening realities of the moment.

"Setting that aside though, I really don’t believe anyone wants a full blown war with Iran."

What, no one, let alone anyone in government, wants to overthrow the mullahs, eliminate their nuclear threat, "free" the people of Iran, strengthen our Sunni "allies" against the Shiite Threat, and is willing to use, or interested in using, military force to achieve these fine goals?

Pull my other one. We had "no plans to attack Iraq" in 2002, too. Who would have wanted such a war?

Who, who, who?: I just can't put my finger on it.

"I still don’t see anyone wanting a full blown war with Iran right now."

I'm sure that G. W. Bush and Richard Cheney would prefer if the Iranian regime were simply spontaneously collapse, and immediately coalesce into a Friendly Regime; heck, I imagine they wouldn't even mind if the new regime were democratic, too.

But otherwise I think quite a few people "want" a war with Iran. Unfortunately.

"The people who would most benefit from a war are Ahmadinejad and the mullahs. Things are getting shaky. Nothing would unite the population and keep them under the thumb (heel) of the current rulers like a war."

I agree.

"One possible explanation for all the shenanigans they have been up to is to goad us into a war."

Another possibility is that they're kinda concerned about those two big freaking countries we occupy on both their borders.

I'm inclined to think that if Iran occupied Canada and Mexico, and we had their GNP and population and power, and they ours, that we might be inclined to "meddle" (not your term -- one commonly used by Administration spokespeople) in Canada, too.

I am in no way attempting a defense of the Iranian regime, with whom I have no sympathy, to put it mildly. But it looks an awfully lot more to me like our government is trying to start the war with them, than vice versa.

The problem is that this administraion has super-cosmic-reverse-credibility on this issue, after the Iraq Big Lies. Whatever Iran may be guilty of, not a single word that comes from this administration, and its supporters, about them can be trusted.

Or in other words, pretty much what Nell said.

Damn. Ital out, and all that.

What, no one, let alone anyone in government, wants to overthrow the mullahs, eliminate their nuclear threat, "free" the people of Iran, strengthen our Sunni "allies" against the Shiite Threat, and is willing to use, or interested in using, military force to achieve these fine goals?

I tend to over generalize – fine. Someone in government wants this I’m sure.

I agree.

Let me bookmark this as well. Not even a “but…” following. :)

A promising new tactical resource to help prevent a war on Iran: deploying Gary through comment threads far and wide in the blogosphere. I'm going to be excerpting that last comment, for sure (and not the 'what Nell said' part).

If you feel the same way, go show him some material love at his blog.

OT - @Katherine:

Just wanted to make sure you saw my note to you in a previous thread re possible Arar program at U.Va.

Okay, off to do some healing physical work.

Nell--thanks. Good idea. I will try contacting him.

deploying Gary through comment threads far and wide in the blogosphere.

Well, if anyone I know (in that online kind of way) has the tenacity and stamina to take on the entire blogosphere it would be Gary. That might not be fair to the blogosphere though...

Gary: You’re like the Energizer Bunny of commenters when you get going. I mean that as a compliment. ;)

I sometimes just give up and throw in the towel because I can’t keep up with responding to you.

"I sometimes just give up and throw in the towel because I can’t keep up with responding to you."

When one is trying to avoid doing other things, even things as simple as posting to one's own blog, or answering e-mail, it can be amazing how much one can accomplish of relatively little importance and priority. Never underestimate the mighty power of procrastination!

Anyway, much better than giving up responding to me because I can't be taken seriously, am interested in nothing more than twisting the facts to support my case, it's a waste of time to respond to me, and I would do better at Democratic Underground, so thanks to you and Nell.

"...and what will most limit the damage when it occurs."

Well, I am most interested in what happens in the decade after the attack, when America has collapsed, like Europe during and after WWI. What we will initially get (I am certainly just guessing) is a Kerensky (Clinton, Edwards) and liberals will have to decide whether to supppoort the right-center.
But Kerensky will fail, and move rightwards.

Doesn't look to me like a Leninist option is out there:the Left simply isn't organized or ideological enough. Too many liberals. But there are yet possibilities here, if the blogosphere became the concious vanguard or revolution instead of reluctant support for the establishment. Unlikely, what passes for lefty bloggers all want MSM jobs with dental care.

So the country will move yet further rightwards; the welfare state will be gutted; and the decision will be whether to provide jobs and food and medical care thru cooperating with fascists, or heightening the contradictions, probably from bases in Canada and Mexico.

Anyway, much better than giving up responding to me because I can't be taken seriously, am interested in nothing more than twisting the facts to support my case, it's a waste of time to respond to me, and I would do better at Democratic Underground

Never that. Your responses are always substantive, thought provoking, and worth the time to respond to. Just some days – I can’t keep up.

Standing in the Colosseum at intermission between the baboon rapes and flaming crosses.

Huh. Someone else is watching Rome, I see.

"Huh. Someone else is watching Rome, I see."

Oh yeah. Poor Brutus. Poor Antony.
(More Cleopatra, please)
...
And for Katherine, if a major campaign against Iran has been decided and is imminent, the Army/Marines, knowing this, would demand changes in the ROE so the Revolutionary Guard, Iranian Agents, and well Iranians. The Army will be fighting the Iranian War in Iraq.

And enhanced "intelligence" capabilities will be authorized and put in theatre.

Re Iran: even Joe Klein gets it:

[...] 3. Which makes the notion of bombing Iran all the more crazy. First of all, this administration simply doesn't have the moral standing to initiate unilateral action in Iran or anyplace else. Second, our intel on what's actually happening within Iran is "non-existent," according to several high-ranking administration officials. Third, unlike Iraq, Iran is a real country that can do us real damage--especially given the fact that it controls the world's most dangerous asymmetrical operators: Hezbollah. And fourth, did I mention that this administration doesn't have the moral standing to take this country into another war?

James Fallows also gets it.

Posted by: Donald Johnson:

"If IBC statistics are right we've already got that relatively humane military intervention force (not that IBC puts it that way)--they just aren't very good at stopping the natives from killing each other. "

It's already been pointed out that the Shia death squad stuff seemed to kick into high gear after John 'Central American Death Squad' Negroponted got involved, and after US officias started using the term 'Salvador option'.

Add onto that the fact that the IBC body counts are, by their own admission, a substantial undercount: civilians, killed by violence, two *english language* news reports.

Applying the Lance paper's (supported) rule of thumb gives something like 250K civilians killed by violence. Not counting people dying by other means.

Even the Iraqi government is now admitting that ~3K people are dying per month.

(re: approaching a war on Iran to be done competantly) "I would consider it my duty to the troops."

Posted by: bob mcmanus

So far, the behavior of the generals has tended to show that they consider that their duty to their own careers outweighs their duties to their troops.

Which really isn't that surprising. It's only due to our romantic views that we would expect an upper management type to favor anything other than his own career.

"James Fallows also gets it."

I don't know that they do, Gary. Certainly every effort should be made to prevent the attack. But the fact that only Wes Clark has taken a strong stand against attacking Iran, when even the media seem to be turning, well, strikes me as a clue.

The most recent comment at Pat Lang's place ask how the various players in America will react once it is underway. He has yet to get an answer.

Congress is going to try and impeach Bush/Cheney, in the middle of a very serious shooting war, with China & Russia likely infuriated, and the domestic wingnuts (heck, both ends of the spectrum) in a total frenzy?
You tell me what America looks like after the bombs start dropping on Iran, and Iran starts shooting back.

I have no crystal ball. I just know better than to misunderestimate Bush & Cheney. They are world-historical figures.

Oh. One more thing. After the second unprovoked war of aggression, this time probably with sigificant damage to the world economy and possibly Muslim demonstrations all thru Europe...

...all those American military personnel implicated in war crimes will face a world demanding justice.

And what will America tell ou military, and what will we tell the world?

Congress is going to try and impeach Bush/Cheney, in the middle of a very serious shooting war, with China & Russia likely infuriated, and the domestic wingnuts (heck, both ends of the spectrum) in a total frenzy?

If they don't, and we don't push them to do so, then we'll never get our country back. Never.

I sometimes wonder which side you'll be on, Bob.

You tell me what America looks like after the bombs start dropping on Iran, and Iran starts shooting back.

This is exactly what Phyllis Bennis talked about last weekend in her excellent briefing to the 1000-plus participants in the United for Peace and Justice lobby day. I'm trying to get myself to finish typing it up for my blog, but the short rap: No one in Congress, even the closest friends of the antiwar movement, has given any real thought to what will happen if Iraq responds.

That should be if Iran responds, of course. After five years, automatic fingers.

"No one in Congress, even the closest friends of the antiwar movement, has given any real thought to what will happen if Iraq [Iran] responds."

I think HRC and Edwards and the rest have given it plenty of thought. That is why Fallows and Klein don't get it. Real resistance to Bush likely means a shooting was in America that the liberals would lose.

"I sometimes wonder which side you'll be on, Bob."

If they care, I will be incarcerated. I have restraining my rhetoric for years. I hope I have more than rhetoric available.

One of the most serious dividing lines on this issue is between those who value American lives above all others, and those who will not do so.

Bob puts his case in terms of the effect on the people on the receiving end of U.S. military action, but that's only because he asserts that the war is inevitable one way or another. Hard for me to accept that as a humanitarian argument.

I am watching Rome this year, and eagerly wait seeing how Octavian uses the Senate to become Augustus. Augustus ceased expansion, for many reasons, but one effect was a decline in the slave trade for new territorial acquisitions.
...
"...but that's only because he asserts that the war is inevitable one way or another."

Nell, both Carter and Clinton ended up increasing defense spending. I hear very few voices in Congress wanting to slash the baseline defense budget, for a country that spends as much as whatever, the nest 20 countries combined. I haven't seen any significant change in that attitude for almost sixty years.

You give peace a chance. I have given up some of my youthful delusions.

"I hear very few voices in Congress wanting to slash the baseline defense budget, for a country that spends as much as whatever, the nest 20 countries combined."

How do you like $622 billion for the 2008 fiscal year military budget, alone?

Oh, sorry, that's not counting this:

[...] The administration is also seeking $93 billion in the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, to pay for military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the officials said.
Oh, whoops, also didn't include the "surge"/escalation money:
[...] The budget request, which takes many months to prepare, is being released as the administration is sending an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq.

A spokesman for the Pentagon, Bryan Whitman, said Friday that that the Office of Management and Budget had estimated that the additional forces would cost $5.6 billion in the current fiscal year, which ends in September.

On Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office released its estimate, which said the costs could run much higher.

I do believe this all adds up to some real money, as Everett Dirksen is (probably apocryphally) alleged to have referred to.

$622 billion for Iraq, yet the Republicans in Congress don't want to fund implementing the 9/11 Commission's recommendations here at home because the $51 billion price tag is "too expensive."

Over $1 trillion spent in Iraq, to produce a hellhole.

I keep thinking of what that money might have bought if we'd spent it on something better than Bush's vanity and the neo-cons' imperial dreams.

"The late, beloved Molly Ivins was, as usual, eloquent as hell about this, not to mention prescient, in her 2000 plea to swing staters.

"When I was your age, I was, I suspect, far angrier than most of you. Some people I loved died in Vietnam -- it was an ugly, bad, nasty time. We'll not go into it again, but in 1968, I could not bring myself to vote for Hubert Humphrey. So I helped elect Richard Nixon president by writing in Gene McCarthy; and if you ask me, 30 years on, it's hard to think of a worse turn I could have done my country ...

"I know it's hard for young people to envision age or illness, or the sick feeling of frantic despair when your old wreck of a car finally dies (it always does this in traffic) and will not start again. People who work two and even three jobs to support their kids get so tired -- you can't imagine how tired -- and guilt and depression and anxiety all pile on, too. The difference between Gore and Bush matters to those folks ...

"In the primaries, I vote to change the world; in November, I vote for a sliver more for programs that help the needy. I do not believe that things have to get worse before they can get better. I think you will find that most mothers object to the idea that you would deliberately do something to make a child's life worse in order to bring about some presumed greater good in the long run. I believe that the best can be the enemy of the better. I believe in taking half a loaf, or even a slice."

Posted by: Tracy on February 3, 2007 08:30 PM" ...from an Yglesias thread today on Nader

Why is it that people who think it morally mandatory to accept the best deal possible on domestic affairs go "all-or-nothing" when it comes to war, when "all-or-nothing" simply makes them irrelevant?

That's a great column, though I'm not sure of its direct relevance to the Iran debate--I'm not sure what action is equivalent to voting for Nader in a swing state, and what action is equivalent to voting for Gore. Bob, I often have no clue what you're suggesting we do, or not do, or you're even talking about, on a concrete level.

though I think you're quite right that Congress won't try to impeach Bush or Cheney....

maybe I should pose the question more generally: what should we be doing to oppose a war in Iran? Are there people organizing marches? I'd go to one. Is there even any relevant legislation in Congress? I really have no idea.

"$622 billion for Iraq"

In fairness, I have to point out that this isn't right: that's the requested appropriation for the entire military budget of the U.S. for fiscal '08, not the money for Iraq.

The problem here is that all these sums are almost inconceivable to most people: the difference between 600 billion dollars and 60 billion dollars tends to be as unclear to most of us as it would be to Dr. Evil.

"Over $1 trillion spent in Iraq"

No, that's off by something like three times. There are varying estimates, but about $364 billion over the past four years might not be too far off.

Really, that's more than bad enough. It wouldn't be quite so bad if it actually had accomplished much for the Iraqi people, but ha ha on them.

Despite my irrelevance, I'm up to date on the legislation in Congress. I don't feel like typing it all again, so here's a link to American Footprints.

Negotiation, diplomacy are reserved constitutionally for the executive branch. The clique now in power just won't and can't do it. So to save lives, Iranian and American, we're going to have to get rid of Cheney and Bush if they cross Congress on this issue.

But to start with, the first branch of government has to assert its prerogatives. Should Congress cede the ground to Bush on war on Iran, it's over. Then it'll be official that we live in a nation with an elected king.

"Bob, I often have no clue what you're suggesting we do, or not do, or you're even talking about, on a concrete level." ...Katherine

Well, it is not about Iraq or Iran. My point is both prospective and retrospective. It is about Democrats being for a draft, and a million+ man army/marines.

Retrospectively, we would have had the boots for a much more humane Iraqi war, one that protected the munitions depots and disarmed the miltias.

Prospectively, in the war after Iran, the war ten years or twenty years down the line, we will not be so reliant on air/sea power or high tech artillery, or other solely destructive tactics.

And in between wars the 2 million person(sorry) army can have huge components involved in peacecorps, peacekeeping, nation-building, etc.

Andrew's very small very skilled professional army does nothing but destruction. It is not a Democratic Army, and it will not limit wars.

There are also domestic arguments involved.

Any clearer?

John Edwards and Barack Obama need to face demonstrations everywhere they go, demanding a clear rejection of the first-strike 'preventive war' doctrine.

Demonstrations may well be useful in front of and in the offices of Senators and representatives this month, to demand passage of bills that outlaw military action against Iran without explicit Congressional authorization.

Fine, Bob. We advocates of not having the war at all are the unrealistic ones.

You go sell the draft to your Senators and Rep.

"to demand passage of bills that outlaw military action against Iran without explicit Congressional authorization."

And I started this thread by mentioning StratCom. I asked those who knew more to correct me, but I do believe by law the President has complete and unquestionable control over the Strategic Assets, for the obvious Cold War rationales.

"That's a great column"

Wait, where?

"Is there even any relevant legislation in Congress?"

There's been some talk, but I'm unaware of any legislation introduced as yet as regards Iran.

IANAL, and you are, but that's rather tricky, as I understand it. Much trickier than trying to prevent the Iraq escalation via the budget, or other legislation.

Although Congress possesses the power to declare war, and the President doesn't, the President is the legal commander of the armed forces, of course, and if he orders them to bomb Iran, on the basis that there's a clear and necessary need (he says), those are legal -- if perhaps crazy -- orders.

Congress can pass legislation as regards attempting to tie the President's hands in that regard, but the Constitutionality of that may not -- as I imperfectly, and perhaps utterly wrongly, understand it -- be entirely clear, and if Bush decides to issue such orders, in defiance of such legislation, it would be unprecedented for the military to refuse to obey him. We'd be in uncharted waters, I think.

Then it would be up to Congress to perhaps impeach, which would be, of course, a political question.

I greatly, tremendously, fear an attack on Iran, but I can't say that I'm as absolutely convinced it will happen as some are. In that context, I'll gently remind folks of all the Absolute Predictions in comments on this blog -- as well as innumerable other places, of course -- that insisted that the writer knew for a fact we'd be attacking in October, thanks to the routine rotation of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group to the Persian Gulf. (I also recall that the Democrats were 100% doomed to lose the election because, of course, Diebold; some are two for two there.)

But I certainly agree that the danger seems immensely grave, and is now all too likely (nor did I exclude it then -- I simply noted that the movement of the Eisenhower Group wasn't, in fact, particularly meaningful -- but that if more than one carrier group were sent to the Gulf, that would be -- we now will soon have two groups there, of course, with the Stennis group arriving sometime towards the end of the month, in addition to the Eisenhower).

Thanks for that, Nell; my brain is melting, because I actually read something about the Byrd and Jones bills earlier today, and then it fled my brain.

"Fine, Bob. We advocates of not having the war at all are the unrealistic ones."

In 2002 we were not going to stop Iraq, and in 2007 we are not going to stop Iran.

These wars are being fought in the way they are being fought in large part because of decisions made over the last thirty years, the most important one being that Democrats can prevent wars.

After these two wars an Edwards or Obama will enter office, and decisions that will make a difference 5, 10, 30 years down the line when another hawk gets elected will be on the table.

Will y'all look around and say again:"We can stop the wars?"

Bob: the President has complete and unquestionable control over the Strategic Assets, for the obvious Cold War rationales.

Does it matter at all that we're not in the freaking Cold War anymore?

Is your position that the Constitution was changed utterly, and Congress gave up its war powers forever back when they first caved on this issue, say, on the occasion of the Korean 'police action'?

Right. Nothing at all has changed since 2002, Bob.

It's getting late. I'll say things I regret if I stay on here. Later.

The Wounded ...Robert Farley of LGM tries to project the future medical costs to Iraqi Society of all the wounded over the last few years.
...
"Is your position that the Constitution was changed utterly, and Congress gave up its war powers..."

Yes.

The Constitution was not changed, but in regard to the Strategic Assets, the ICBMS, the B52s, and the freaking "football" Congress did give up its war powers. In the service of rapid response.

That Cold War structure remains in place, and Bush/Cheney are taking advantage of it to not only exclude Congress from the decision on Iran. but to bypass the Joint Chiefs and much of the Pentagon.

"Right. Nothing at all has changed since 2002, Bob."

I kinda thought things had changed around 1976, Nell.

I was wrong.

When one is trying to avoid doing other things, even things as simple as posting to one's own blog, or answering e-mail, it can be amazing how much one can accomplish of relatively little importance and priority. Never underestimate the mighty power of procrastination!

Structured Procastination, you say?

I kinda thought things had changed around 1976, Nell.

I completely agree, though for different reasons.

"I completely agree, though for different reasons."

Explicate, please.

Not you, Anarch, what do I know.

But there is there is a very large contingent that says it is all the dirty freaking hippies fault, and the new clean-for-gene II millenial contingent can do America right this time.

Whatever. I expect to be dead before Iran ends.

Gary--

"those are legal -- if perhaps crazy -- orders."

No, I don't think so. Not at all. Not in the absence of a genuine attack on the United States or comparable emergency. Especially not if Congress specifically outlawed it or specifically did not appropriate funds for that purpose.

Would the military treat it as a lawful order, and obey? Almost certainly. I don't know what the legally correct course of action is in that situation but I would fully expect the orders to be carried out. And I would expect any attempts to get the Courts involved would fail. But the fact that no one can stop you doesn't make it legal.

I would call it a high crime or misdemeanor, in fact, but I wouldn't count on Congress calling it that.

I'm sure there are people who would argue otherwise but I'm not clear on why you think Congress has less constitutional authority here than with Iraq. Maybe you're saying there's more practical difficulty, and I agree with that--there's not going to be an annual supplemental for bombing the crap out of Iran, and the military disobeying their civilian commander would be uncharted waters where I very much doubt we'd go.

I guess that's actually a combination of legal & practical difficulties.

If they're not going to wait for the appropriations bill you'd need something veto proof. I don't think it's in the cards. But the more political opposition there is, the higher the political costs, the less likely it is to happen, and that includes legislation as well as demonstrations. I'm NOT certain it's happening but I think it's a real possibility--and I'd rather overstate the risk and overreact than the opposite.

Thanks for the clarification bob. I think in some ways the WW2 experience of everyone serving was healthier for the country. Then again, having FDR as President was healthier for the country, and if we were in WW2, we would have a much higher enlistment rate if not a draft. I'm not willing to have my husband get shot at, nor am I willing to place him under President Bush's command. Or a number of Presidents who were not quite as bad.

I'm not willing to do that for myself either, or any number of friends. I'm just not. I don't really think it would help either. It is a specific plan, but it seems to be aimed at recreating a time that is past and gone. Massive conventional armies invading countries--I suppose it's better to invade with enough troops to restore order than not enough, but that's just not really the right approach. We'd be better off mandating that kids learn Arabic.

It's also as politically unworkable as any of my liberal pie-in-the-sky (or audaciously hopeful, if you prefer) ideas. (Well, maybe not as unworkable as mandatory Arabic lessons.)

Nell, thanks for the link. I keep hoping to go to one of Obama's constituent coffee deals if my work takes me to D.C.--so far it's not happened.

"Maybe you're saying there's more practical difficulty"

Yes.

"I guess that's actually a combination of legal & practical difficulties."

Yes.

"I'm NOT certain it's happening but I think it's a real possibility--and I'd rather overstate the risk and overreact than the opposite."

I agree.

"I think in some ways the WW2 experience of everyone serving was healthier for the country."

Just a small point, and not to disagree with your point, but just to note that there was still plenty of major resentment and fury on the part of servicemen at the many at home who managed a way out of the draft that wasn't terribly legitimate; it wasn't remotely as bad as it was in the Vietnam era, but it was part of the scene.

When Bob's around, there's never a dull moment. I think he has a point in that it's not really clear if any nation's populace has ever 'stopped' a war, but I'm wondering if the confluence of the Iraq debacle and the increasing ability to mobilize support might make a difference. One could ridicule this argument by suggesting that I am saying the blogosphere could stop us from going to Iran (and I want to make clear, if we have to depend on the blogosphere for anything, we are lost), but we might see some very disruptive events that operates in terms of public disobedience, and if the majority of Americans feel favorably inclined, it may be very hard to keep a lid on things. But that may be the triumph of optimism over experience.

I believe that Chain-Eye/Bush will start the war against Iran in the first half of 2007.
What's worse: It's easy to start a war but difficult to get out of it. Even if the perpetrators are kicked out of office or even extradited to Iran for punishment (that's not gonna happen), it would probably not stop the armed conflict. Put yourself into their shoes: would WW1 or 2 have ended, if one side had persecuted the ones that started it while the war was on? For WW2 we have the definitive (i.e. official policy) answer: NO. And even set the case that Iran would be willing to stop retaliating (unlikely), there would be enough enraged people round the world that wouldn't.
Short version: If Cheney/Bush starts it, the US (and the west in general) will be stuck with it for a long time. And they will soon in my opinion.
Looks like loose-loose for sanity.

Fred at Slacktivist pointed out that Bush's pre-political career cycled through three stages: 1. Get set up in business by Daddy's rich friends 2. Run business into disaster and failure 3. Daddy's rich and influential friends come to the rescue. And repeat.

The war with Iraq has clearly run itself into stage 3. To Bush, the obvious next thing to happen is "repeat": so, start a new war.

To everyone else, it should be clear that would be disastrous.

It really depends whether, at the highest regions of power, Bush is still being treated like the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, with power to start a war, or if he's now being sidelined and given power only to bluster in public about what he'd like to do. Are the Republicans in the White House prepared to go to war with Iran just to avoid having to admit that by now they don't trust Bush's judgement any more than the rest of us?

FWIW, I really, really doubt that Bush is just going to up and bomb Iran. Then again, I really, really doubted that Iraq would be so far out of control four years down the road, so scale accordingly.

What I can see happening, though, is Iran involving itself more and more deeply and openly in Iraq, and things escalating. But destruction of Iran's infrastructure to achieve military victory, not so much. Overturning of its government, not so much. If Iran keeps its involvement at its current, minimal level, I'm thinking we'll just be cracking down at the local level.

Again, scale accordingly.

But here's the thing, as regards Jesurgislac's Commander-in-Chief comments above: either Bush holds the office and is the legitimate Commander in Chief of the armed services, or he's out. There's no middle ground. There's no pretending that he doesn't have the power that he in fact does. If you want to remove that power, you've got to impeach him and remove him from office, or wait until he vacates two years from now. Praying that the military will just ignore him just isn't going to get you what you want.

I don't advocate impeachment, just to be clear.

I don't quite understand where authority to command strikes ends and where authority to authorize a war begins, though. I know that one power resides in the executive and the other resides in the legislature, but I don't understand at what point the authority to commit our military falls out of the president's hands in into those of Congress.

Probably there's lots out there, but I haven't yet stumbled upon it.

Responding to Barry's 8:56 post--

I suspect that what you are implying about the death squads and Negroponte may be right--that is, I think that initially the US supported very harsh anti-insurgent tactics (which would also harm innocent people) by Iraqi government forces. The US turned against death squads when they recognized that they had become as big a problem as the insurgents. Or that's my guess.

As for IBC, last year they came out with a report that said that in the third year of the war, they could clearly attribute 370 civilian deaths to coalition forces. In roughly the same period of time the Lancet II report says there were many tens of thousands of deaths caused by US forces. Roughly a factor of 100-200 larger. So there's a bit of an epistemological problem here, wouldn't you say? And yes, IBC admits they don't get all the deaths and in the press release I just alluded to they admitted there were thousands of deaths due to unknown agents, but they've been among the harshest critics of the Lancet numbers and I have a fair amount of firsthand internet experience talking to one of their members about this. Throw in all of the IBC-counted deaths and you wouldn't come close to the number attributed to the US alone by the Lancet.

This debate doesn't matter in one sense--the war is a disaster by either IBC or Lancet standards. It matters a very great deal if you think the question of how many civilians we are killing makes any difference. And not just for this war, but for any future wars.

Jes: Are the Republicans in the White House prepared to go to war with Iran just to avoid having to admit that by now they don't trust Bush's judgement any more than the rest of us?

Yes. Because 1) some of them have been prepared to go to war on Iran for a long time and 2) they know they can get leading Democrats to buy in, since they're already doing so.

But here's the thing, as regards Jesurgislac's Commander-in-Chief comments above: either Bush holds the office and is the legitimate Commander in Chief of the armed services, or he's out. There's no middle ground. There's no pretending that he doesn't have the power that he in fact does.
[...]
I don't quite understand where authority to command strikes ends and where authority to authorize a war begins, though. I know that one power resides in the executive and the other resides in the legislature, but I don't understand at what point the authority to commit our military falls out of the president's hands in into those of Congress.

This is the nub of the problem, I think. For a very long time now, American presidents have not liked the idea of someone else being able to constrain "their" military, so they engage in acts that in plain English are clearly acts of war, but they refer to them as "military strikes" or somesuch, and everyone seems to blink and not protest too much in order to avert a Constitutional crisis. Which is IMO more than slightly ridiculous; if I really don't want to get mugged, that doesn't mean that my freely giving my money to the nice fellow who asked me for it at gun point isn't me being mugged; it's me pretending I'm not being mugged.

If we send our armed forces to attack another country with the stated intention of destroying a large portion of their military, let alone to force a regime change, under what honest parsing of the word "war" is that not war?

"Acts of war" and "declaring war" are two different things.

Throughout the modern era, since the concept of "declaring war" by a nation was invented, military engagements, or attacks, by national forces have taken place about a bazillion times more often than declarations of war. It's not remotely unique to America, as it happens, either.

This is not to defend anything, but simply to make an observation of fact. Declarations of war are comparatively rare in world history compared to number of military clashes and attacks.

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