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March 15, 2007

Comments

You never tire of being fooled into thinking that thest things are good ideas, do you?

Every bump in the road is not another datapoint for your grand unified theory theory of conservative evil.

I agree completely. However, both sides are guilty of this, but the right has this false argumentative technique down to an art.

Case in point: Global Warming

Why, oh why, must one party be defined as good and one bad?

When people say "Ethiopia ain't so nice", they're probably referring to actual things Ethiopia does

You never tire of being fooled into thinking that thest things are good ideas, do you?

What things? That it was a reasonably good idea to offer tepid support for Ethiopia's (quite justified) invasion? These are the kinds of proxy wars and quasi-alliances-du-jour that we should see more of: assisting a local actor with a reasonable goal (here, eliminate the threat to it and restore a legitimate government) while using the opportunity to destroy terrorist training camps. Heck, the Europeans are all for this one, as is anyone who knows what the Somalia insurgents started doing after they overthrew the government.

Spartikus, if you click through, you'll see that the actual quote was "[t]here's really no dispute that the Ethiopians are the good guys in this scenario". I shortened it for flow, but perhaps I should restore the original to avoid confusion.

Fair enough, von, but there's really no dispute that the liberal bloggers are the good guys in this scenario. Also, it's "non sequitur," as I'm sure you knew.

Not to mention that the strategy of intervening militarily seems to have backfired. Once again.

and eventually declared war on Ethiopia

From the cite: 750 Ethiopians were among forces loyal to the Somalia's weak, transitional president, Abdullahi Yusuf. They seized Buur Hakaba without firing a shot early yesterday.

Declaring Jihad - which is not the same as Declaration of War in international law - after Eithiopians occupy a Somali town.

Nutty.

Thanks, Steve. Corrected the typo.

the good guys in this scenario"

Would this be due to the extremely strict and humane RoE the Ethiopian Army operates under?

" Was Somalia a paradise prior to Ethiopia's invasion? Umm, no. Somalia has been something of a non-paradise for quite some time now."

speaking of non sequiturs...

As one alleged "conservative apologist": Hogwash, complete and utter.

I don't think Drum and Martin had people like you in mind, von. I think they were thinking more of people like the folks at RedState who were saying things like, "We should outsource the Iraqi occupation to the Ethiopians, then we wouldn't be having any problems."

"[t]here's really no dispute that the Ethiopians are the good guys in this scenario[.]"

Is there some reason to suppose that somebody involved in this continuing fiasco is a good guy?

I'm not exactly sure what point Drum was making, but Martin wasn't making the point you ascribe to him and his comments weren't directed towards those like you. They were directed towards the war in Iraq, and the particularly stupid comments of certain conservatives who seem to think that Iraqi insurgents base all their attacks on Nancy Pelosi's statements and the AP's coverage of the fighting there. All that "emboldening the enemy" nonsense.

Kenneth, I think all Drum was adding was "Heck yes!"

Von,

First of all, I didn't say that Somalia was a paradise before Ethiopia intervened. That's straw Von, and as Katherine points out, non-sequitur.

But, I think John Pendergrast was on to something when he described the situation in this article:

"Although Ethiopia's intervention this winter dislodged the potentially hostile Islamic courts -- which can be considered a short-term counterterrorism success -- it is too early for Washington to roll out the "Mission Accomplished" banners. Ethiopia's invasion has only displaced the most visible part of the Islamist movement; other elements have survived, including a network of mosques, madrasahs, and businesses, as well as a militant wing, known as the Shabaab, that has threatened to wage guerrilla war. Meanwhile, the courts' collapse has left a huge vacuum that the transitional government cannot fill. The courts had brought peace and stability, and their defeat has returned Mogadishu to the warlords who have preyed on Somalia for much of the past two decades. Two related insurgencies are likely to break out in the future, one led by the remnants of the courts, the other by disaffected clans."

The Islamic Courts brought stability to Somalia - something lacking in that country for over 15 years. Instability breeds terrorism. It is uncertain if the ICU was doing the same. But they are far from angelic.

As for Ethiopia's "undisputed good guy" status, I beg to differ. I've assembled the case here, here and here. The short version is that Ethiopia has an interest in destabilizing Somalia regardless. It has stated as much in internal policy papers. Somalia is a regional foe, and Ethiopia wants to keep it divided, destabilized and weak. In addition to being a pretty repressive regime in its own right. So, define "good guy."

As for Ethiopia being on the side of the UN, keep this in mind:

"Ethiopia is in violation of a UN-brokered peace treaty with Eritrea, which is something else that isn’t often reported. A UN commission drew a new border after hearing both sides of the dispute, which Ethipoia promptly disregarded, touching off the last couple of rounds of fighting between the two countries."

A round up of all my recent Somali posts (excluding the one that Von and Kevin linked to) can be found here.

And regarding the ICU's threats toward Ethiopia, this Somali said it best:

"...Meles said the Islamic Courts have already attacked Ethiopia by arming secessionist Ethiopian Somali groups in the Ogaden region along the Somali border, a claim opposition leaders believe is both exaggerated and hardly a justification for war.

“Our argument is that all [Somali] governments we’ve known since 1960 say they want the Ogaden,” said Beyene Petros, leader of the main opposition group, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, referring to Somalia."

One follow up: as others have mentioned, I was leveling my critique at those that claimed that Ethiopia was better at fighting insurgencies than US forces.

Cliff May, Mark Steyn and the others I quoted in that post. Not you Von.

Also, because these same premature hagiographers were trying to use Ethiopia's experience as an argument that we should be less careful with civilian lives, and that the press is causing us to lose in Iraq.

First of all, I didn't say that Somalia was a paradise before Ethiopia intervened. That's straw Von, and as Katherine points out, non-sequitur.

No? Surely you didn't write all these posts simply to grind some axe regarding the bloviations of a handful of conservative bloggers; surely, you have some positive case to make that germane to the actual issue at hand (namely, whether the US was correct to offer some support to Ethiopia in its endeavor). If your position is not (1) that Ethiopia should not have intervened and (2) that the current level of violence in Somalia as one example is not an indication of a failure on its part, please advise. Otherwise, it seems quite relevant to point out that the current level of violence is pretty damn meaningless in the larger context of Somalia qua Somalia.

Sorry, for clarity, #2 should read:

"that the current level of violence in Somalia is not an indication of a failure on its [Ethiopia's] part"

Von,

As I mentioned, the current level of violence in Somalia is typical of its general history over the past 15 years or so, but recently, the ICU had brought stability. That rare moment of stability is lost now, for little in return.

If you read my Somali posts, you can find my conclusion. I think that the Ethiopian intervention was a bad idea because very little will be gained at costs that are too high.

Ethiopia is NOT trying to help its regional rival. It is, quite rationally, trying to weaken and destabilize it. Just as Ethiopia is trying to weaken other neighbors and rivals like Eritrea, and vice versa and all around the Horn.

Here is Prendergrast followed by me:

This leaves the United States' interests in Somalia at risk. Having pursued the narrow objective of capturing or killing a few terrorist suspects, Washington has now become embroiled in Ethiopia's policies in Somalia, which may diverge significantly from its own in the long run. Focusing on hunting down suspects without also investing in state building is a strategy that could not have worked, and the decision to support Ethiopia's military invasion without devising a broader political strategy was a stunning mistake, especially considering the U.S. experience in Iraq. Predictably, resentment over foreign intervention has been building among Somalis. And U.S. air strikes against Islamist holdouts in the far south of the country have turned Somalia into a much more interesting target for al Qaeda than it once was; they could boost recruiting for the Islamists for a long time.

Me:

The flaws in our approach have revealed themselves in less spectacular ways as well. Our outright support for Ethiopia, and coddling of Sudan, have led us to turn a blind eye to brutal internal repression in those countries, as well as each nation's backing of proxy wars in neighboring states. Ethiopia and Sudan give with one hand in terms of cooperating with anti-terror initiatives, but take away with the other by continuing to sow violence, instability and conflict that provide fertile soil for terrorism and extremism to flourish. Not to mention the fact that with us openly backing certain factions in this multi-faceted conflict, we now garner an undue amount of blame for the concomitant destruction. We've volunteered to be the regional lightning rod for very little in return.

I'm stepping out now for a while, but I'll check in later if you wish to continue the conversation Von. Just didn't want you to think I was ignorin' ya.

Shorter Von: In the cosmic battle b/w good and evil, the Ethiopians are practically good.

Shorter Eric Martin: Supporting Ethiopia does us no good practically.

I'm stepping out now for a while, but I'll check in later if you wish to continue the conversation Von. Just didn't want you to think I was ignorin' ya.

Thanks, but no fear. I'm actually tied up with the filing I mentioned in the other post -- and may not be back myself until tomorrow. (I'll quickly note that, of course Ethiopia is acting in its self interest; that doesn't obviate the positive fact that it restored Somalia's legitimate government. Also, the notion that Ethiopia benefits from an unstable neighbor more than a peaceful neighbor is a notion that's supported not by history, evidence, or logic.)

Shorter Von: In the cosmic battle b/w good and evil, the Ethiopians are practically good.

Uhh, no. More like, in the battle between the Islamist Courts and Ethiopia, the Ethiopians are the good guys.

Also, von: the formulation: "there's really no dispute that the Ethiopians are the good guys in this scenario" seems to be a matter of "no dispute" here mainly because you are quoting yourself from one of your own blogposts.
As I commented to Kevin Drum's post, it just seems to me that the reduction of the Ethiopia/Somalia conflict to a "good guys" vs. "bad guys" formulation is: a) an inane simplification of an extremely complex and seemingly intractable regional conflict (as Eric's AF series makes clear) - and b) wrong because it seems to define "good guys" solely in terms of "anti-Islamist"; leaving ANY other factors aside.
I realize the problems of the Horn of Africa can't be resolved by a few comments on a blog: but it is a hugely more-complicated situation that is, IMHO, ill-served by reducing the debate on it to a heroes-vs-villains cartoon. Not that you have done this, von: but, as Eric points out: this is not an uncommon practice.
(oh, and btw: that the TFG is “Somalia’s legitimate government” is, unfortunately, not a universally accepted fact in Somalia: that distinction (minor though it may be to you) lies at the core of the country’s troubles.)

Uhh, no. More like, in the battle between the Islamist Courts and Ethiopia, the Ethiopians are the good guys

This returns me to my earlier point: why, oh why, must one side always be defined as "good". You're only setting yourself up for disappointment. When the Ethiopian Army employs rape as a weapon - is this a cause you still consider worth supporting?

Ethiopia benefits from an unstable neighbor more than a peaceful neighbor is a notion that's supported not by history, evidence, or logic

Machiavelli weeps.

One further note, Eric (since there's a pause in the action on this end). You write:

As I mentioned, the current level of violence in Somalia is typical of its general history over the past 15 years or so, but recently, the ICU had brought stability. That rare moment of stability is lost now, for little in return.

That statement is simply incorrect, unless you're applying a unique definition of "stability" or a very narrow definition of "recently." The ICU started to increase its control over Somalia, and depose the transitional government, in 2006. The ICU's aggression brought an almost immediate response from clan-based warlords: some backed it, some opposed it. By spring 2006, the ICU had provoked a major civil war; by the beginning of June 2006, the ICU claimed to be in control of Mogadishu. By mid-June 2006, the last (central) town loyal to the Somalia warlords supporting the transitional government fell. There was then your recited period of stability as the ICU consolidated power, which continued until September 2006, when ICU forces took the town of Baidoa despite the Ethiopian government's statement that it would protect the legitimate government of Somalia if the town were taken. (At approximately the same time, ICU spokespeople were talking about a "Greater Somalia" that included portions of Ethiopia and actively recruiting jihadist fighters.) In December 2006, Ethiopia intervened.

So, yes, "recently, the ICU had brought stability" -- that is, when it was not provoking civil war and if we define "recently" as the two month period between the fall of Mogadishu and the ICU's attack on the legitimate government in Baidoa. Huzzah for the ICU!

(Portions of this comment rely upon the Wikipedia post on Somalia -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somalia -- as well as my memory of events.)

Jay C and Spartikus, my comments may begin to make sense when you consider the short history of the ICU and its destabilizing influence, which Eric's comments on this thread do not reflect (indeed, appear to be posted in ignorance of). I don't know if Eric accounts for this somehow in his other posts, but I'll take a look when I have a little more time.

By the way, I use the term "good" simply in the sense that one thing is "good" relative to another. I'm not calling the Ethiopian army "good" in some universal sense. That said, there is a problem among some on the lefty side in not wanting to choose sides or make moral distinctions -- as if the fact that few (if any) things are truly "good" bars us from making a moral judgment. (This habit seems selectively applied to US foreign policy.)

"That said, there is a problem among some on the lefty side in not wanting to choose sides or make moral distinctions -- as if the fact that few (if any) things are truly "good" bars us from making a moral judgment. (This habit seems selectively applied to US foreign policy.)"

Nice. Now explain how the Somalian government you refer to, Von, is "legitimate." Since you repeatedly emphasize that it is.

Please do trace out its long history of legitimacy for us.

That said, there is a problem among some on the lefty side in not wanting to choose sides or make moral distinctions -- as if the fact that few (if any) things are truly "good" bars us from making a moral judgment. (This habit seems selectively applied to US foreign policy.)

Yes, why can't they be more like the righties, and have no moral qualms whatsoever about funding, say, nun-slaughtering Latin American death squads?

Nice. Now explain how the Somalian government you refer to, Von, is "legitimate." Since you repeatedly emphasize that it is.

You ask, I deliver! (My filing is just completed.)

The Somali government to which I refer -- the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) -- was formed in 2004, when it wrote the national charter for Somalia. It is recognized by the AU and most other nations. It also enjoys the support of the EU, which is currently trying to broker a deal between it and various rival clans; the AU and UN are also discussing whether to deploy peacekeepers in its support, and the AU already has some peacekeepers on the ground -- although, admitted, violence inspired by ICU-affiliates makes this whole thing questionable. (IIRC -- can't find the source at the moment -- the ICU shelled the first AU peacekeepers to land, killing 8 Somali civilians.) As also noted in my post above, the TFG is attempting to institute a plan of national reconciliation.

The ICU, on the other hand, started a civil war in 2006 in an attempt to depose the TFG and instill Islamic order. During its very short history as a political power, it has almost continually been at war. SFAIK, it is recognized by no nation or international organization.

Accordingly, I think it fair to say that the TGF is the legitimate government of Somalia.

Also, I have had a chance to read several of Eric's posts: so far, no mention of the recent history of Somalia or the violent rise of the ICU.

Accordingly, I think it fair to say that the TGF is the legitimate government of Somalia.

Sorry, TFG. I guess it's better than writing "Accordingly, I think it fair to say that the TGFI is the legitimate government of Somalia.

surely, you have some positive case to make that germane to the actual issue at hand (namely, whether the US was correct to offer some support to Ethiopia in its endeavor)

I believe that this is an entirely new logical fallacy- dismissing the proposed argument as not lofty enough.
Call it the Fallacy Of Insufficient Loft.

[And, despite your dismissal, I think that it's a worthy cause to point out to some folks on the right (but not you, apparently) that excessive violence might not be a good counterinsurgency tactic).

[And, despite your dismissal, I think that it's a worthy cause to point out to some folks on the right (but not you, apparently) that excessive violence might not be a good counterinsurgency tactic).

To the extent that this point is made, it should not be made in ignorance of what is going on in Somalia, such that the author unhesitatingly criticizes actions that, if he considered it with some modicrum of background knowledge, he might actually find to be preferrable.

There is "we are all impure sinners" opposition to military intervention and there is "this is just making it worse" opposition to military intervention. They aren't the same thing.

There is "we are all impure sinners" opposition to military intervention and there is "this is just making it worse" opposition to military intervention. They aren't the same thing.

I'm not sure what you mean. I think it's pretty clear that the TFG is highly preferrable to the ICU, and that, in fact, the TFG (with its policy of national reconciliation and international support) is not only the legitimate government of Somalia, but is far more likely to bring stability to Somalia when compared to the ICU -- a government that has attempted to instill itself by force, has been at war for all-but-two-months of its current existence, and has engaged in all kinds of bad acts and evils.* I'm willing to hear the other side, but I'm not seeing it made by anyone; indeed, those who appear to take the other side (e.g., Eric, Kevin) seem to do so in almost total ignorance of what they're arguing for and against.

*Don't mistake me: I'm not saying the the TFG is perfect, only decidedly better than the available alternative.

The post misses the point, which isn't to dispute who are the good guys, but to point out a counterexample to the neocon maxim-cum-wet-dream that everything would be coming up roses and sweets if only we'd kill more haphazardly.

I don't purport to know enough to evaluate the argument; I'm simply identifying it.

I hasten to add that the TFG doesn't exactly have a long record or oppression or wrongdoing: indeed, the biggest rap against it is that it hasn't been as effectual as one might like (as demonstrated by the fact that the ICU was able to convince many of the clans to support its overthrow of the TFG; whether the clans would have stayed on board with the ICU is, of course, an open question).* Given the state of Somalia, however, I'm willing to forgive it this failing.

*Again, this is not to say that the TFG is pure, only much better than the alternatives.

"think it's pretty clear that the TFG is highly preferrable to the ICU"

Whether the TFG peacefully governing Somalia is preferable to the ICU doing so is not the same question as whether the U.S. should support an Ethiopian invasion on their behalf. The TFG governing peacefully as a result of the Ethiopian invasion does not seem likely to me. I don't know much about this--when I go back through the history, Jonathan Edelstein and Eric sound like they know more than you but then I have a lot more in common with them.

That said, there is a problem among some on the lefty side in not wanting to choose sides or make moral distinctions -- as if the fact that few (if any) things are truly "good" bars us from making a moral judgment.

That strikes me as a fair point, although I'm not entirely certain how important it is in the grand scheme. I'd imagine a lefty administration would support Ethiopia in this matter just as the Bush administration did.

To the extent that this point is made, it should not be made in ignorance of what is going on in Somalia, such that the author unhesitatingly criticizes actions that, if he considered it with some modicrum of background knowledge, he might actually find to be preferrable.

You understand the Presidential palace was attacked on Tuesday? This doesn't sound like your moral stand is working to me.

There was a time when the central government in Belgrade was considered the legitimate government. Then...suddenly...governments in Zagreb, Ljubljana and Sarajevo were legitimate governments. I mean, it's a consideration, but it's not the only part of the equation. If the TFG can't govern, then it's lost a crucial pillar of legitimacy.

I'd also like to clarify if Von is comfortable with the tactics of the Ethiopian Army. And if yes, would he endorse those tactics for use by the U.S. Army.

The U.S.A. will have a "lefty administration", as you put it, about the time the moon is proved to be made of green cheese after all. What's you point ?

That said, there is a problem among some on the lefty side in not wanting to choose sides or make moral distinctions -- as if the fact that few (if any) things are truly "good" bars us from making a moral judgment. (This habit seems selectively applied to US foreign policy.)

More strawmen there than a roadshow production of The Wizard of Oz.

Oh and by the way, Von, if something is beyond dispute, why even mention it? If it's beyond dispute, wouldn't it be generally accepted as fact and no one would ever question at all?

Just for the record, beyond dispute IMHO is a phrase that practically begs disputation. It's best avoided, especially on a blog in which people, well, dispute things.

If I knew more about this, which I don't, I'd want to investigate the following questions:

(1) Is it possible that the ICU brought more stability to the regions it controlled than they had previously had, and that that is what Eric meant above?

(2) My understanding is that the TFG is made up of various warlords. If so, then when von writes: "I hasten to add that the TFG doesn't exactly have a long record or oppression or wrongdoing", are the track records of its various constituents relevant? If so, are they good?

(3) As other people have noted, Ethiopia is no rose either. I very much hope that I have sufficiently established my willingness to draw moral distinctions, and that when I say: entangling our credibility with a country like Ethiopia is not at all obviously in our interests, I will not be suspected of thinking that we shouldn't draw moral distinctions between various shades of bad. I say this not because I don't draw moral distinctions, nor because I don't want us ever to have to deal with bad people (that's Dick Cheney's line, not mine), but because I think it is not in our interest to do so in this case.

I could probably come up with more questions, but I'll leave it at this for now.

I will also add: von is better than all this straw about lefties not being willing to draw moral distinctions, etc.

Whether the TFG peacefully governing Somalia is preferable to the ICU doing so is not the same question as whether the U.S. should support an Ethiopian invasion on their behalf. The TFG governing peacefully as a result of the Ethiopian invasion does not seem likely to me.

Katherine nailed it. Also, Hilzoy's third question. Von, you seem intent on arguing about the relative preferability of the TFG v. ICU, but that is not the question. In a vacuum, I'd take the TFG - assuming that they could exert control over the country and bring order and stability. But instead of a vacuum, we have American military action, and economic and military aid, getting entangled with the Ethiopian military and their ulterior motives.

Also, the notion that Ethiopia benefits from an unstable neighbor more than a peaceful neighbor is a notion that's supported not by history, evidence, or logic.

Really? Let me get this straight: these are long time regional rivals that have fought several wars against each other in recent memory. They both covet a certain coastline that has strategic and economic importance. Within that dynamic, it would be illogical for one side to want to destabilize and weaken the other. History doesn't support such an interpretation?

As I mentioned, documents from Ethiopia's security apparatus state that a weak and divided Somalia "no longer pose[s] a threat" to Ethiopia. Illogical? Maybe, but history is against YOU on this one Von.

Katherine:

I don't know much about this--when I go back through the history, Jonathan Edelstein and Eric sound like they know more than you but then I have a lot more in common with them.

Well, I can't help you there: If you have this belief despite the falsity of Eric's claim that the ICU brought stability to Somalia, then you are beyond persuasion.

(It's certainly acceptable to suggest that both Eric and I don't know what we're talking about, tho' I'd appreciate some evidence if the charge is directed to me.)

Randy Paul:

Oh and by the way, Von, if something is beyond dispute, why even mention it? If it's beyond dispute, wouldn't it be generally accepted as fact and no one would ever question at all?

Because it bears remembering that the ICU and the TFG are not moral equivalents. Indeed, it bears noting facts that are beyond dispute -- e.g., that water freezes when its 32 degrees -- when attempting to establish an issue that is disputed -- e.g., whether a plaintiff slipped-and-fell on a patch of ice on a 55 degree day.

Frankly, however, I don't know why I need to mention this to you: Isn't a great deal of your stance vis-a-vis the Iraq war based on the idea that the Bush administration ignored and/or lied about the facts that were (or should have been) undisputed? And that any discussion of the Iraq war must mention, and take account of, such undisputed facts? Or are you "reality based" only when reality fits your policy preferences?

Hilzoy:

(1) Is it possible that the ICU brought more stability to the regions it controlled than they had previously had, and that that is what Eric meant above?

If that was Eric's point, he should explain it and its relevance, given that the period of stability was, at most, only 2 months (and then the ICU attacked again).

(2) My understanding is that the TFG is made up of various warlords. If so, then when von writes: "I hasten to add that the TFG doesn't exactly have a long record or oppression or wrongdoing", are the track records of its various constituents relevant? If so, are they good?

The TFG and the ICU both contain, and have had the support of various warlords, in part because it is probably impossible to find anyone with political clout in Somalia who was not at some point a warlord. The relevant questions are (1) what did the TFG do and seek to do during the 2 years that it was in nominal power (2) why did the ICU decide to begin its insurrection in Spring 2006, and (3) what did the ICU do and seek to do during the 9-or-so months that it was fighting for control of Somalia?

(3) As other people have noted, Ethiopia is no rose either. I very much hope that I have sufficiently established my willingness to draw moral distinctions, and that when I say: entangling our credibility with a country like Ethiopia is not at all obviously in our interests, I will not be suspected of thinking that we shouldn't draw moral distinctions between various shades of bad.

It's also worth noting that the policy pursued by the Ethiopians -- restoration of the TFG -- has the explicit support of the EU and AU. It is not as if the US has stood alone in making a value judgement in favor of Ethiopia's actions in Somalia (and the effect of restoring the TFG). Indeed, given the widespread support for Ethiopia's actions and the TFG, you'd think that folks (such as Katherine, Eric, and Randy Paul) wouldn't immediately assume that the ICU is preferrable to the TFG or that Ethiopia, whatever its faults, has not acted in a way consistent with international norms and the political good.

Eric:

Katherine nailed it. Also, Hilzoy's third question. Von, you seem intent on arguing about the relative preferability of the TFG v. ICU, but that is not the question. In a vacuum, I'd take the TFG - assuming that they could exert control over the country and bring order and stability. But instead of a vacuum, we have American military action, and economic and military aid, getting entangled with the Ethiopian military and their ulterior motives.

We're now getting somewhere, but your proposed question is far too simplistic because Somalia is not occuring "in a vacuum" and it's not as simple as "American military action." Indeed, there are a broad range of issues, including:

1. Is the TFG preferrable to the ICU? The answer to this question is I think yes.

2. Is the TFG more likely to bring stability to Somalia, when compared to the ICU? The answer to this question is also yes, as the Europeans and African Union have rightfully concluded -- and not for a small part because of #3 below.

3. What were our options? Speaking as a practical matter, Ethiopia would not allow ICU to survive in its present, expansionist form in Somalia -- and it could not allow the ICU to continue after it crossed Ethiopia's line in the sand and attacked the Ethiopian troops guarding the remnant TFG forces. Ethiopia was going to invade. Thus, the bottom line questions are ...

4. Should we take sides? I think again the answer is undoubtably yes: we should take the same side as the AU, EU, and UN (as we did).

5. Given all of the above, and our strategic interests in Africa, should we also be involved in a limited sense? Again, I think this clearly yes, but I can see a legitimate other side to the issue -- unlike, for instance, with respect to questions 1-4, which a lot of folks are ignoring.

There are other questions that could be asked, of course.

Really? Let me get this straight: these are long time regional rivals that have fought several wars against each other in recent memory. They both covet a certain coastline that has strategic and economic importance. Within that dynamic, it would be illogical for one side to want to destabilize and weaken the other. History doesn't support such an interpretation?

Ethiopia and Somalia fought a war in the late 70s. Ethiopia and Somalia have not been long time regional rivals since 1991, when Ethiopia imploded. As for the rest, I stand on the above.

As I mentioned, documents from Ethiopia's security apparatus state that a weak and divided Somalia "no longer pose[s] a threat" to Ethiopia. Illogical? Maybe, but history is against YOU on this one Von.

Assuming that such documents exist and reflect the policy of the Ethiopian government, what is the relevance? Ethiopia may rightly conclude that a weak and divided Somalia is preferrable to an ICU-led Somalia; that does not mean that they oppose a Somalia led by the TFG or a different government structure.

Ethiopia and Somalia fought a war in the late 70s. Ethiopia and Somalia have not been long time regional rivals since 1991, when Ethiopia imploded.

Sorry, typos. It should read:

"Ethiopia and Somalia fought a war in the late 70s. Ethiopia and Somalia have not been long time regional rivals since at least 1991, when Somalia imploded."

Sorry for any confusion.

The AU already has some peacekeepers on the ground -- although, admitted, violence inspired by ICU-affiliates makes this whole thing questionable.

Not sure what "ICU-affiliates" means here, but there are several clans and warlords that were previously sitting on the sidelines - or nominally in the TFG alliance itself - during the ICU's tenure that have now begun to reassert themselves. Not necessarily as allies of the ICU, but rather as Hobbesian rivals. Lawlessness is back to the streets of Mogadishu.

As also noted in my post above, the TFG is attempting to institute a plan of national reconciliation.

This is actually not as certain as you claim. TFG leaders have been persistently resisting EU entreaties to negotiate with certain moderate elements of the ICU. The TFG initially made statements that it would attempt reconciliation with such moderate elements, but now that they've regained some momentum, they aren't quite as interested.

I'm not sure what you mean. I think it's pretty clear that the TFG is highly preferrable to the ICU, and that, in fact, the TFG (with its policy of national reconciliation and international support) is not only the legitimate government of Somalia, but is far more likely to bring stability to Somalia when compared to the ICU -- a government that has attempted to instill itself by force, has been at war for all-but-two-months of its current existence, and has engaged in all kinds of bad acts and evils.*

Again, it's not as much a question of the TFG's preferability, as it is of whether or not it is worth it to us to get involved. I will say this, though: I don't see the TFG bringing stability to Somalia, and I don't see them brokering a national reconciliation. I hope I'm wrong, and I hold out hope that we can bring them to the negotiating table kicking and screaming (and that some result could hold), but I remain agnostic at best. That's a hell of a payoff considering the costs.

In the meantime, we've inserted ourselves as a lightning rod of animosity, and created a more embittered Islamist movement.

Ethiopia and Somalia fought a war in the late 70s. Ethiopia and Somalia have not been long time regional rivals since 1991, when Ethiopia imploded. As for the rest, I stand on the above.

So let me get this straight, they haven't been rivals since Somalia imploded, but Ethiopia has no interest in keeping Somalia in a state of chaos? To continue the period of non-rivalhood? Curious.

Is the TFG preferrable to the ICU? The answer to this question is I think yes.

This question should be last not first, or at least should follow the second question about bringing stability to Somalia. I don't think the TFG is capable of doing this. The next few years will, unfortunately, bear this out. This outcome suits Ethiopia to a tee. It is a feature not a bug.

Ethiopia would not allow ICU to survive in its present, expansionist form in Somalia...

We could have influenced Ethiopia in a way to forestall such a clash. We lavish enormous sums of money on Ethiopia because they are an "ally" in the war on terror. Ethiopia now has an interest in playing up that role and tweaking us to get more.

The ICU's expansionism is much ado about nothing. Every Somali leader in recent memory made similar claims to Ogaden. The ICU did not have the means to expand or project power outward. This is Ethiopia's convenient excuse. Also, Meles has used the conflict as a pretense to further crackdown on domestic opposition groups, and to mask the dismal state of economic affairs in Ethiopia. Oh, and as a means to get more aid out of the US. It's a win all around for him.

Should we take sides? I think again the answer is undoubtably yes: we should take the same side as the AU, EU, and UN (as we did)

Take sides is not the same as "participate militarily in Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia." Now we will be credited with the results - fairly or unfairly. The EU was not up for such participation, neither was the UN or AU. None of these orgs claimed that an Ethiopian invasion was a good thing or a smart strategic move. That is a key difference.

Assuming that such documents exist and reflect the policy of the Ethiopian government, what is the relevance? Ethiopia may rightly conclude that a weak and divided Somalia is preferrable to an ICU-led Somalia; that does not mean that they oppose a Somalia led by the TFG or a different government structure.

It means their interests are at best conflicted, and most certainly divergent with ours.

One more thought: if anyone wants an amusing, irreverent take on the stability provided by the ICU, the War Nerd provides the guilty pleasure.

http://www.exile.ru/2006-December-01/war_nerd.html

The Islamic Courts brought stability to Somalia…

I think Afghanistan was pretty stable under the Taliban as well…

Really – has the wheel spun around so that the left is now comfortable with any regime so long as it keeps things stable? I thought that was the purview of the right :)

I've lost track of exactly what we're arguing about. Looking at the Drum and Martin posts that von objected to, they aren't making any terribly focused claims about what should be happening in Somalia. They're responding to a series of blog posts that appeared to be making the claim that if we, in Iraq, were more brutal and less constrained by public opinion, than matters would be going better, just as Ethiopia's brutal and unconstrained intervention in Somalia has gone smoothly. And they're pointing out that this unconstrained intervention now does not seem to be going all that smoothly, making the blog posts they're responding to look silly.

I don't know if Drum and Martin were fair in their assessment of the blog posts they're responding to, or accurate in their assessment of the situation in the Horn of Africa -- I didn't follow all the links and don't have a solid grasp of the situation myself. But they really don't seem to be making any normative, rather than descriptive, claim about that situation, and somehow we seem to be arguing as if they had.

Really – has the wheel spun around so that the left is now comfortable with any regime so long as it keeps things stable?

Von didn't answer, but I'll pose it to you OCSteve: In this great, if relative, battle against evil, you're comfortable with the conscious use of rape as a weapon? And child soldiers?

It's becoming clear that morality is not the guiding principle here. It's looking at the end of the day that the only determining factor in this is which side has aligned itself with the United States (even if that alignment is one of convenience, tentative, and ephemeral).

As for that: the policy of intervention is not working, in a practical and nuts and bolts sense, to promote the interests of the United States.

Really – has the wheel spun around so that the left is now comfortable with any regime so long as it keeps things stable? I thought that was the purview of the right :)
I'd say there are two different reasons to favor stability. One is "Because stability benefits us." That seems to be the purview of the right. The other is, "If we make things unstable, even MORE people will die, let's not mess it up until we have a better plan." I hear more of the latter from the left.

I think Afghanistan was pretty stable under the Taliban as well…

Exactly OCSteve. Instability, conflict and prolonged bloodshed lead people to support brutal, despotic regimes that can provide stability. That's one of the reasons to put a premium on avoiding instability (also breeds terrorism).

Now, I'd rather that the people of Somalia had chosen and implemented an advanced, liberal democracy with a bill of rights, but, er, that wasn't really in the cards.

And there's a lot of room in between the ICU and such a liberal state. I know. Ditto with the Taliban. And I'd rather the regime in each case be more enlightened than either the ICU or the Taliban.

But that's not the question. The question is whether or not the US should get militarily, diplomatically and economically involved in trying to usurp those regimes. Further, is Ethiopia a good partner in this endeavor?

With respect to the UCU, I tend to think that diplomatic and economic means are probably justified (depending on the particulars), but view our own military involvement and choice of Ethiopia to ride shotgun, a big miscalculation.

Stability and despotism are not qualities that should be assessed in the abstract. They should be analyzed within a context that compares them to the viable alternatives.

Stability in Somalia under the ICU compared to what?

And what can and should we, the US, do about it?

In the meantime, let's not kid ourselves about the motives, intentions, tactics and nature of either the TFG or the Ethiopians under Meles.

[Leaving aside the fact that the Taliban regime's aid and provision of sanctuary for al-Qaeda provided a whole different frame of analysis post 9/11]

In this great, if relative, battle against evil, you're comfortable with the conscious use of rape as a weapon? And child soldiers?

Use of the smiley was meant to indicate I was yanking his chain - at least to some extent. I do find it somewhat ironic that someone can be OK with Islamic courts running the show in the name of stability.

Alas, under extreme conditions even a large evil can be the lesser one.

For me, the question of the USA's interests in this conflict comes down to whether the ICU would have established a safe haven for Al Qaeda-style terrorist groups once it was in power. If yes, then we had every reason to support Ethiopia's invasion (though I would have been more circumspect and less triumphal about it). If not, then we probably should have left well-enough alone.

Because it bears remembering that the ICU and the TFG are not moral equivalents. Indeed, it bears noting facts that are beyond dispute -- e.g., that water freezes when its 32 degrees -- when attempting to establish an issue that is disputed -- e.g., whether a plaintiff slipped-and-fell on a patch of ice on a 55 degree day.

Von, I will stipulate that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and 0 Celsius, but I will reserve my right to dispute your opinion on practically anything. Indeed, saying something is beyond dispute is a sub rosa attempt to cut off discussion. How you can justify that in an open forum is beyond me.

Frankly, however, I don't know why I need to mention this to you: Isn't a great deal of your stance vis-a-vis the Iraq war based on the idea that the Bush administration ignored and/or lied about the facts that were (or should have been) undisputed? And that any discussion of the Iraq war must mention, and take account of, such undisputed facts? Or are you "reality based" only when reality fits your policy preferences?

Now you're just being petulant. In answer to your question, I cannot recall ever having made such a statement that it is undisputed. Indeed, if someone wishes to dispute such an argument - and present evidence to that effect - I'm all ears. Perhaps that illuminates a subtle difference between the two of us, I don't know.

For me, the question of the USA's interests in this conflict comes down to whether the ICU would have established a safe haven for Al Qaeda-style terrorist groups once it was in power.

Keep in mind, the AQ targets that we were gunning for were in Somalia since long before the ICU came to power. Further, they will likely be able to remain/return to Somalia in the near future.

So it is unlikely that this incursion by Ethiopia will serve to deny AQ (or like-minded groups) a safe-haven. In fact, their popularity in the region has increased as bitterness at US/Ethiopian military actions settles in.

von,
Im with LB (10:58)- you may have had disputes with Martin in the past (and, at the time, in the future) about what exactly we should do about Somalia, but the post you cited didn't have anything to do with that, I think.
Thus, you end up with the odd construction of dismissing the actual position of that post as unlofty, or being made in ignorance, without ever really discussing the point of the post itself.

The discussion that resulted is IMO more interesting than Martin's original point, but I think that explains some confusion. If you go back to your post and read the excerpt from Martin and then your "hogwash" counterpoint, I think you'll see that your arguments don't have anything to do with whether increased violence is a good counterinsurgency technique.

"I think Afghanistan was pretty stable under the Taliban as well…

Exactly OCSteve. Instability, conflict and prolonged bloodshed lead people to support brutal, despotic regimes that can provide stability. That's one of the reasons to put a premium on avoiding instability (also breeds terrorism)."

Or alternatively it shows that the stability/instability axis isn't really very useful to the discussion.

Or alternatively it shows that the stability/instability axis isn't really very useful to the discussion.

Or that it should be analyzed in context, relative to the alternatives along with an accompanying cost/benefit assessment.

Or that it should be analyzed in context, relative to the alternatives along with an accompanying cost/benefit assessment.

That requires thought (which is anathema to a lot of people) or employing a relativistic yardstick (which is also anathema).

This point was made above, but I think it bears repeating: just because A is, in some sense, better than B does not in any way make A "good", even if one restricts the domain. Goodness is not, and should never be, graded on a curve.

This is actually not as certain as you claim. TFG leaders have been persistently resisting EU entreaties to negotiate with certain moderate elements of the ICU. The TFG initially made statements that it would attempt reconciliation with such moderate elements, but now that they've regained some momentum, they aren't quite as interested.

The negotiations are ongoing, and TFG has not rejected reconciling with moderate elements supporting the ICU utterly (as, by contrast, the ICU decisively rejected cooperation with anyone who stood in their way). There are also quite legitimate fears that so-called ICU moderates will be unwilling to work within the TFG framework. That said, the negotiations are ongoing and (as you note) the EU (as well as the AU) are involved. Again, I say: the TFG is the most likely route to a Somalia that is stable in the long term.

Im with LB (10:58)- you may have had disputes with Martin in the past (and, at the time, in the future) about what exactly we should do about Somalia, but the post you cited didn't have anything to do with that, I think.
Thus, you end up with the odd construction of dismissing the actual position of that post as unlofty, or being made in ignorance, without ever really discussing the point of the post itself.

It is unlofty, and the posts are non sequiturs (as I wrote). "A couple of months ago conservative apologists were falling all over themselves lauding the success of Ethiopia's brutality-based approach to quelling the Islamist insurgency in neighboring Somalia." The problem is that Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia should be lauded -- even if you think that the US shouldn't be involved on a military level. The point that maybe a handful of conservative commentators lauded the invasion of Somalia for the wrong reasons is beside the point -- it's perhaps the least imporant axe to grind on this one. Whoo, hooo, a Cornerite got something wrong! Well, no crap. Folks all over the blogosphere, from all political persuasions, talk out their rears all the time; hell, I've been known to do it myself.

Arguing against an invasion (which Martin did) and then suggesting that you were right to argue against the invasion because a handful of conservative commentators started off on the wrong foot is a logical fallacy (as well as short-sighted). f course, the ICU insurgency isn't going to suddenly disappear with the Ethiopian version of shock-and-awe. Of course, people who suggested it might were wrong. That is not to say that the invasion wouldn't be worth it, or to advise your readership -- many of whom probably know nothing about the ICU -- that your quibble is not with the invasion itself.

The point that maybe a handful of conservative commentators lauded the invasion of Somalia for the wrong reasons is beside the point -- it's perhaps the least imporant axe to grind on this one. Whoo, hooo, a Cornerite got something wrong! Well, no crap.

Von,

For crying out loud, I've written about 8 or 9 posts on Somalia in the past few months. There was a series, and many follow up and related posts, that focused on different aspects of the story.

But grabbing one of my posts that dealt with a small aspect of the overall story and crying non-sequitur because I didn't rehash all of my arguments is a bit rich.

I mean, have you seen how long my posts are normally? I'm kind of known for being verbose. But you'd have them longer? You are most likely alone in that, although I'll take it as a compliment.

This particular post - that Drum linked to - was about one relatively minor aspect: how prominent conservative authors, bloggers, journalists and pundits tried to use Ethiopia's brutal and media disregarding approach to argue that it would be better for America to do the same when faced with insurgencies. Like in Iraq.

This from people like Mark Steyn - whose book Bush recently handed out at a White House function. Who has a job writing for The Atlantic. So, yeah, I'm going to point out when Steyn's cheap analysis falls flat on its face.

If you want to read the rest of my discussion on Ethiopia/Somalia, the links are upthread. But don't claim that my post was non-sequitur and beside the point because I chose to highlight one aspect of a much larger story that I've written more than my share on already.

The problem is that Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia should be lauded --

And von: exactly WHY should it be? Just because "Islamists" were the (assumed) target? If, e.g. the "ICU" were, in fact, the "Internal Convention of Unity" or something, without its specific "Islamist" identity*; would you be so quick to applaud a neighboring nation invading another on vague pretexts?

And no, this is NOT to dismiss the issue of an "Islamist" Somalia becoming a terrorist training haven: it was (and is) likely to become one anyway - and how Ethiopia's military adventure is likely to do anthing other than simply drive said terrorists underground is far from clear or "beyond dispute".

Oh, and btw, Eric: count my voice as one (and probably a lonely one at that)dissenting from your opinion about the verbosity of your posts.

* and remember: this is Somalia - what brand of identity did you think you think the people there would adopt??

usually requests for more careful reading are considered insults, and that's not my intent here:
"A couple of months ago conservative apologists were falling all over themselves lauding the success of Ethiopia's brutality-based approach to quelling the Islamist insurgency in neighboring Somalia." The problem is that Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia should be lauded...

Eric's post (and the quoted conservatives) say nothing about whether Ethiopia should've invaded. Eric merely points out that some commentators- and not you as far as Im aware- specifically lauded the brutal tactics of the Ethiopian troops and suggested that we might emulate those tactics in Iraq. The quotes he used to illustrate this were IMO very clear.

The point that maybe a handful of conservative commentators lauded the invasion of Somalia for the wrong reasons is beside the point.

This would be the first time I've observed a point to be beside itself. :) And a minor correction: they didn't laud the invasion for the wrong reasons, they lauded the tactics, and suggested we emulate them. People do that all the time (eg some liberals admired Delay's party discipline enforcement while loathing his legislative agenda).
If Eric wants to discuss the culinary implications of the invasion you might say he's talking about something irrelevant, but you can't reasonably claim that he's wrong, immoral, etc- as you did.

Folks all over the blogosphere, from all political persuasions, talk out their rears all the time; hell, I've been known to do it myself.

Yeah, and they deserve to get called on it when they do it.

If you want to read the rest of my discussion on Ethiopia/Somalia, the links are upthread. But don't claim that my post was non-sequitur and beside the point because I chose to highlight one aspect of a much larger story that I've written more than my share on already.

Eric, I've read your linked stories. I had thought that they indicated a general opposition to Ethiopia's attack on the ICU, as did your comment upthread about the supposed "stability" the ICU brought to Somalia. Have I misunderstood?

And von: exactly WHY should it be? Just because "Islamists" were the (assumed) target? If, e.g. the "ICU" were, in fact, the "Internal Convention of Unity" or something, without its specific "Islamist" identity*; would you be so quick to applaud a neighboring nation invading another on vague pretexts?

I suppose that if you overlooked the fact that the ICU had violently deposed the legitimate government of Somalia in mid-2006; had indicated its intentions to expand Somalia beyond its current borders; and had directly threatened Ethiopia, your statements might roughly approximate reality. Wait, wait, that's not right. You have to further ignore the facts that the TFG has the support of the EU and AU, has the best chance for long-term stability in Somalia, is at least moving in the direction of national reconciliation (something the ICU definitively rejected, of course), and is not employing child soldiers (again, unlike the ICU), now you're getting a little closer to reality.

Yeah, and they deserve to get called on it when they do it.

Not when the person doing the calling is himself proposing to substitute a bad conclusion with a bad policy, which I had understood Eric to be doing.

Eric, I've read your linked stories. I had thought that they indicated a general opposition to Ethiopia's attack on the ICU, as did your comment upthread about the supposed "stability" the ICU brought to Somalia. Have I misunderstood?

No.

But it was unfair to highlight one post making a different argument and claim that I was making a non-sequitur, irrelevant point because I wasn't discussing the aspect of the story that you wanted. Regardless of the fact that I've done so, at length, in about 7 or 8 other posts.

Obviously, I don't mind engaging in that larger discussion - which I have been with you, and had done in my earlier posts - but I think you were being a bit unfair in misconstruing my motives and intent.

Don't you think that's a possibility?

Not when the person doing the calling is himself proposing to substitute a bad conclusion with a bad policy, which I had understood Eric to be doing.

Strongly disagree. The topic that this post addressed was whether or not Ethiopia's approach to counterinsurgency (unbridled brutality, disregard for international norms on human rights, disregard for the media) would be better for the US to adopt.

That was the argument of the prominent conservative voices that I quoted. I would say that the empirical evidence did not support their previous boosterism. I very much want to disabuse Americans of the notion that our problems in Iraq and elsewhere would be solved if we just adopted a more callous, brutal means of fighting wars. That is extremely important to me, and very much deserves mention.

A separate discussion is whether or not Ethiopia should have invaded, whether or not we should have supported this, whether or not such support should have included military action, and so on.

But, again, I think you're being unfair to suggest that I have to treat everything all at once or else I'm being frivolous and employing irrelevant non-sequiturs.

Von,

Let me also state, for the record, that I generally appreciate your outlook and positions on most matters even where we disagree. You seem like an honest sort, and I believe it would be a much better world if your brand of conservatism was more prevalent on the Right.

I just think you're missing me on this one. But I've been accused of worse, with far less underlying merit. And I don't take it personal, and I don't think there's any malicious intent.

Let me also state, for the record, that I generally appreciate your outlook and positions on most matters even where we disagree. You seem like an honest sort

I certainly have the same opinon of you, Eric.

Comity!

Back to Eric's point, it's too early to tell whether the ethiopians will achieve their objectives in somalia. If they're having a few difficulties after some months that doesn't say much. It took china decades to kill all the insurgents in tibet, but they managed it eventually. Now tourists can wander around tibet in perfect safety and the chinese checkpoints stationed every 3 miles along each road don't seem to get any action at all. And half the tibetans are still alive. There may have been some hard times in the early years, but china won that insurgency completely in the end. Ethiopia might win just as completely.

It's stupid to let morality interfere with your military tactics. If we decide that it's essential for us to help ethiopia win in somalia, then we should give the ethiopians whatever tool it takes to win. Flamethrowers, poison gas, biowarfare agents, anything they need. If they can't win without killing 90% of the somalians and we need them to win, then we should give them whatever they need to kill 90% of the somalians.

Trying to apply inappropriate rules of war is as stupid as the Redcoats running around the colonies wearing, well, red coats and trying to take the field from US forces who just inflicted casualties and fell back to another field for the Redcoats to lose casualties taking. It's worthless to fight with inappropriate tactics.

So, should we try to get ethiopians to stop raping somalis? What good would it do them? Look at how the chinese are still upset about japanese soldiers raping their women after 62 years, when the youngest of the survivors is probably 74k by now. If the ethiopians stopped raping somalis how long would it take for them to get somali brownie points for it? 65 years maybe? 120 years?

If we need ethiopia to win this war then we need to help them do whatever it takes to win. Real honest-to-goodness genocide or whatever. All this mamby-pamby "We're the good guys so we always fight fair" silliness will just blow up in our faces whether we actually try to follow it or not. If we pretend they'll ding us for hypocrisy, and if we really go through with it they'll kill us for stupidity.


If we want to avoid atrocities and war crimes etc, then we need to either come up with a strategy that wins without them (and also keep our troops from doing atrocities anyway), or else we need to not fight.

As it happens, there are two opposed strategies for occupations that work well, and anything inbetween works worse. In the one case you come in with massive force and you destroy all opposition. Everybody will hate you for it but they won't be able to do anything effective. Eventually they'll settle down and wait. That worked for a long time for the USSR in eastern europe. It's working now in tibet. It worked in the philippines. But you have to do as much violence as it takes. Starvation works better than rape. If you can starve out a whole province until the women don't look at all worth raping, and then give them just enough food, they'll get the point.

The other approach is to set up a democracy. Do it right. Free speech. Anybody can run for office. Let them legislate whatever they want and enforce what they want and once they're reasonably stable you bow out. It starts out with militia leaders, warlords or their proxies, getting the votes. It isn't "one gun, one vote" but it approximates that. You look at how the votes go and that's some indication how the battles would go if you fought. Does the other voting coalition push you hard enough you fight? Not if they're careful. If you lose the votes you'd likely lose the war, and you get enough that you have something to lose. And then as the violence gets avoided for longer and longer the warlords morph into politicians. At the beginning you move in with overwhelming force but you try not to use it. You're just there to enforce the rules while they find out that playing by the rules works better. By the time you pull out they have a functioning democracy. Minorities lose out if they don't have the votes, and they'll know better than to fight -- the numbers are against them either way. They're better off with the scraps the legislators give them than what they'd get if they revolted.

I think usually the first approach isn't worth trying. It costs us too much of our own unity, it costs too much money and men, it keeps our military busy for too long, our enemies get a natural ally, it's just generally impractical. The second approach might work sometimes. What never works is trying both approaches at once, or something halfway in between.

We went into iraq and afghanistan without enough force to back up either approach. As we get attacked we gradually hit back harder, until now we're halfway between the winning approaches. Looking at ethiopia's approach isn't a wrong thing to do, except they haven't won yet and might never win. Also we don't have a big enough army in iraq to win that way, unless maybe we try massive indescriminate retaliation with airstrikes etc, or maybe an outright genocide. We have the force structure for that. We don't begin to have the force in iraq to enforce a peace, by either workable method.

J Thomas: Harsh dude. Too much truth there, but harsh.

J Thomas:

I hate saying things that could sound mean, but it really does say a lot about someone when they see, oh, opposing the use of gang rape as a weapon not as a moral responsibility, but an opportunity for accumulating PR points.

If we pretend they'll ding us for hypocrisy, and if we really go through with it they'll kill us for stupidity.

It's a sad, pitiable world that you seem to inhabit. I'm sorry.

OCSteve, I disagree with you a lot but I'd expect better of you than agreeing with that.

I disagree with you a lot but I'd expect better of you than agreeing with that.

I don’t think I agreed – I said there was “too much truth there” and it was harsh.

I should have noted it was regarding the second post and not the first.

This is IMO pretty accurate and pretty harsh:

As it happens, there are two opposed strategies for occupations that work well, and anything inbetween works worse. In the one case you come in with massive force and you destroy all opposition. Everybody will hate you for it but they won't be able to do anything effective. Eventually they'll settle down and wait. That worked for a long time for the USSR in eastern europe. It's working now in tibet. It worked in the philippines. But you have to do as much violence as it takes.

I didn’t endorse it or say I liked it. I said there was too much truth there and it was pretty harsh.

There's little question that Ethopia's invasion of Somalia will create more, not less, Islamic terrorism. It will create more, not less, gross violations of human rights. It will create more, not less instability. All of these things are a virtual guarantee.

There's a strong argument that our invasion of Iraq did all of those things, for Pete's sake, and our troops operate in an environment with vastly greater accountability, and vastly greater emphasis on morality, than Ethiopian troops. They're also much more competent.

The AU and EU supporting the TCF is a lame canard. It's status quo to support the status quo, and that's all there is behind it. The TCF is yet another iteration of the non-government warlordism that has prevailed in Somalia since 1993. It was virtually hopeless, and that's why it collapsed quite so easily.

Whether the ICU would be better for Somalia than the TCF, nevertheless, is a reasonable question for debate. But to consider the Ethiopian invasion a good thing for Somalia is very, very naive. They might kill some Islamic radicals, but more likely the radicals will bribe their way to safety with Saudi money and the easy targets, the relative liberals, will pay. Within six months the Ethiopians will just be another layer of warlords on top of the old layers. They arrived to plunder, and that's the end of it.

When you have a problem with Islamic radicalism, sending in small numbers incompetent but brutal anti-Islamic troops to rob the locals blind does not help weaken Islamic radicalism. It's a joke.

The only good news about the invasion is that it will help to weaken Ethiopia's dictator.

Nevertheless, Eric Martin's post definitely wasn't about the invasion itself. It was about how violent insurgencies can survive, somehow, without being "cheered for" by the "Democrats and media leftists".
That really was it. That wasn't peripheral. Maybe von thinks that idea is too inane to be taken seriously, but that's wishful thinking. This is a prolific belief, or at least statement of belief, in the nuttier right-wing circles - that kid-gloves tactics enforced by bleeding-heart liberals are making us lose in Iraq.

It's good to know that, if von doesn't recognize the point of Eric's post as disproving that, that hopefully means he doesn't take such an idea seriously himself.

I agree with J Thomas to an extent, but the caveat is that there is no foreign counter-insurgency worth winning at the moral cost of Approach 1. With Approach 1, even if you 'win', at the cost of seriously and genuinely stunting your territory to a large extent.

Our foreign policy, broadly stated, should be based on helping continue the movement to make Approach 1 extinct.

"It's stupid to let morality interfere with your military tactics."

Morality aside(!), it's politically stupid to get our handy dirty with the tactics you suggest. Any benefit we'd get from having the Ethiopians win would be far outweighted by the righteous condemnation of the world.
Thinking like that ("If we need ethiopia to win this war then we need to help them do whatever it takes to win") is seriously lacking in the ability to weigh more than one thing at a time. Remember how we just had to do everything we could to help the Muhajadeen? That worked out pretty well.

"If the ethiopians stopped raping somalis how long would it take for them to get somali brownie points for it?"

Sometimes, just for kicks, some of us do the right thing because it's the right thing. Is lack of browie points all that stops you from committing rape?
And again, morality aside (apparently, that's your zone), the Chinese would probably be quite a bit more pissed if the Japanese were *still* raping Chinese women. So yes, when you stop doing something bad you don't get credit as if you'd never done it, but things do get better over time.

[Im half-convinced that you're just pretending to be a righty troll, your enthusiasm for genocide is either a giveaway or a bad, bad sign.]

"That worked for a long time for the USSR in eastern europe."

The USSR was certainly repressive in Eastern Europe, but I don't remember anything resembling the starving of entire populations, exterminations, etc that you heartily recommend.
This sounds to me like you've developed a theory & are interpreting historical events to fit your theory. If a country defeats an insurgency, they must've been violent enough, and if they failed, they must not have been violent enough.
It's pretty clear, for example, that Vietnam suffered much more than Eastern Europe- yet the 'insurgents' won in Vietnam.

Categorizing like this is a good way to prove that you are correct. Not so useful for understanding the world.

As for your second approach:
Some examples would be nice.
I don't want to point out all of the obvious problems with it, I'll satisfy myself by point out that minorities have, in fact, launched insurgencies despite being outnumbered. Turns out, they don't "know better". And, sometimes they win- concessions, outright control, or autonomy for a region where they are a more significant population.

"What never works is trying both approaches at once, or something halfway in between."

I'd offer the counterexample of the USSR in Eastern Europe. There were no free elections. There was no enforced starvation until capitulation. The USSR only had to intervene militarily a few times, and never fought a sustained insurgency.

Jeff Eaton, I think that all of us including you should be relieved that you are not in charge of US military strategy or tactics. You aren't suited for it.

I want to point out, though, that since we have no reason to suppose that the ethiopian army will give up rape as a tool unless we follow them around and stop them in each individual case, we should think out whether the goals we hope to accomplish by assisting in their war are important enough to overcome whatever moral or PR problems we might get from that assistance. If we *have to* make them win, then we have to do whatever it takes. If we might achieve our most important goals some other way, then we do have a choice.

If gang rape is essential to win a war we must win, then we can and must do it. But if it isn't an essential tactic, or if that particular war isn't essential for us to win, then we get to choose. We don't have to intervene in every war everywhere. We don't have to use the same tactics others use -- provided we can find something better.

Bricks without straw. Don't tell the army how they have to win. We get to tell them what we want to win, and they tell us how they can do it, and if to win we have to let them do things that aren't worth it -- then don't start that war. Or negotiate a settlement, or whatever. But don't tell them they have to win and also tell them they can't use whatever methods happen to work.

Note that I'm not saying that rape is effective for anything in particular militarily. I tend to doubt that it is, apart from speeding up ethnic cleansing. I'm saying that we don't get to choose what methods lead to victory, and so we must either do whatever works or accept that we aren't going to get that victory.

"It's stupid to let morality interfere with your military tactics."

Morality aside(!), it's politically stupid to get our handy dirty with the tactics you suggest. Any benefit we'd get from having the Ethiopians win would be far outweighted by the righteous condemnation of the world.

Then we don't all that much need them to win. Fine with me. Maybe our best interests are served by the ethiopians moving into somalia and killing a bunch of people while losing lots of casualties themselves. A bunch of people we don't like kill each other, we win. It bothers me that some of our prestige went into telling africans that we could do oh so much good for the ethiopian military, if it turns out they don't win. But we've already lost so much prestige in iraq a little more wouldn't hurt us too bad.

Remember how we just had to do everything we could to help the Muhajadeen? That worked out pretty well.

If you look at it from a pre-1991 point of view, it did. The USSR had a lot of nukes pointed at us. Big ones. They were a world power. KGB found secrets we didn't want anybody to know and published them, embarrassing us. What we did in afghanistan had a lot to do with the USSR collapsing. OK, so ten years later afghanistan was getting run by our former allies that we didn't like, and they let al qaeda train a bunch of Marine battalions there (with cut-down US Marine manuals!). Are they a worse enemy than the USSR? If we'd treated them better they might have learned to accept us, but all we cared about was hurting the russians, so when the russians pulled out we did too. We didn't think they mattered to us. *And we were right!* We later decided they mattered because Bin Ladin was hiding there. If Bin Ladin had been somewhere else we would have ignored afghanistan. When Bin Ladin got away and Bush lost interest in him, we'd have pulled out except we couldn't come up with any graceful exit strategy. Comparing our enemies back then with our enemies now, we're incomparably better off. We invaded afghanistan because US public opinion felt like we had to invade somebody, and we decided our new doctrine was going to be that no third-world hellhole in the world would be safe for a terrorist to hide in.

Yes, helping the Mujahidin worked out very well, considering how it looked back then. They couldn't have known we'd go crazy in 2001.

The USSR was certainly repressive in Eastern Europe, but I don't remember anything resembling the starving of entire populations, exterminations, etc that you heartily recommend.

In the first years, before the soviet army withdrew, there were certainly some big food shortages. Nobody but poor people actually starved, but it wasn't all that easy to survive without a ration card and the russians could take yours away any time they felt like it. People certainly got the idea. If it happened that the russians didn't need to impose mass starvation to bring the subject peoples to heel, I'm sure they were fine with that. But everybody involved knew they were willing to do whatever it takes. East germany was maybe a special case. A couple of million east germans disappeared before things got sorted out. Were they killed? Sent to siberia? Probably not the latter, there would be siberian records of them. Is that close enough to extermination to suit you?

This sounds to me like you've developed a theory & are interpreting historical events to fit your theory. If a country defeats an insurgency, they must've been violent enough, and if they failed, they must not have been violent enough.

Yes, exactly. If they didn't want to resist very hard and there wasn't any need for obvious atrocities, then fine. If the counterinsurgency wasn't strong enough or got called off, then they failed. If they switched to a policy of forgiveness and negotiated to give the insurgents their fair share of political power and the insurgents accepted, that fits my other theory. So the french in algeria tried to be harsh enough but they couldn't do it and lost. The chinese in tibet could be harsh enough and they won. If you try to scare the insurgents into giving up, then the insurgents decide how far you have to go. But if you offer them political power if they turn nonviolent then again they individually decide whether to accept.

As for your second approach:
Some examples would be nice.

The US south. They'd lost a war and they knew they'd lost, an insurgency really couldn't win. Still there was a lot of behavior that would be called insurgency today. Once the insurgents were allowed to vote and run for office and the federal troops were removed, there was very little political violence in the south for around 80 years.

The Boers. First the british used extreme measures against civilians to get a surrender. *Then* they let the former insurgents vote and run for office and they let the Boers do self-government, and there was essentially no more political violence until the black population started to awaken.

Lebanon. They had had a democracy, where christians were guaranteed political power by the pretense that they were a majority. They went a long time without a census because they couldn't stand to examine that pretense. Then under various stresses the system broke down and they had their civil war. Afterward they patched up a government where voters got represented, and hardly any lebanese-on-lebanese political violence is reported there.

There are lots and lots of examples, but the times when the fighting dwindles down and everybody lays down their arms and switches to doing politics don't generate the excitement of bloody war.

"What never works is trying both approaches at once, or something halfway in between."

I'd offer the counterexample of the USSR in Eastern Europe. There were no free elections. There was no enforced starvation until capitulation. The USSR only had to intervene militarily a few times, and never fought a sustained insurgency.

The russians were as brutal as they needed to be, during the initial occupation. It's the locals who decide how bad that needs to be. Compare what we ran into in panama versus iraq. Part of the difference is that panama has been repeatedly conquered and occupied, and they fully understand that resistance is hopeless. Since WWI iraq had only been conquered by the british, and didn't know what to expect from us. (Plus we were very slow to establish a puppet government, something we did very fast the last time around in panama.)

"If you look at it from a pre-1991 point of view, it did. The USSR had a lot of nukes pointed at us. Big ones. They were a world power. KGB found secrets we didn't want anybody to know and published them, embarrassing us. What we did in Afghanistan had a lot to do with the USSR collapsing. OK, so ten years later Afghanistan was getting run by our former allies that we didn't like, and they let al qaeda train a bunch of Marine battalions there (with cut-down US Marine manuals!). Are they a worse enemy than the USSR?"

Thing is, I don't think that it's a 1-to-1 trade; supporting the rebels in Afghanistan certainly wasn't sufficient to topple the USSR, and I doubt it was even necessary.
So we didn't trade a major adversary for a minor one IMO; we created a minor one in a side-skirmish.


"Note that I'm not saying that rape is effective for anything in particular militarily.... we must either do whatever works or accept that we aren't going to get that victory."

In a general sense this seems tautological (we either need to accept the only methods that work or abandon the goal). The objectionable part is where you say that morality plays no part in the decision-making process.
Because this thinking applies to any goal that we might set for ourselves, nationally or personally. If I decide that I want to retire at 40, does that necessarily imply that I must rob a bank? Or can I not decide that I want to retire at 40 with the given that Ill not do anything I consider immoral to reach that goal? That is, can I not have multiple goals at one time, both to retire at 40 and to live by a moral code? Because that seems to be the state of both nations and people (ie having multiple goals on different levels).


"In the first years, before the soviet army withdrew, there were certainly some big food shortages. Nobody but poor people actually starved, but it wasn't all that easy to survive without a ration card and the russians could take yours away any time they felt like it. People certainly got the idea. If it happened that the russians didn't need to impose mass starvation to bring the subject peoples to heel, I'm sure they were fine with that. But everybody involved knew they were willing to do whatever it takes.
Yes, exactly. If they didn't want to resist very hard and there wasn't any need for obvious atrocities, then fine. If the counterinsurgency wasn't strong enough or got called off, then they failed....
The russians were as brutal as they needed to be, during the initial occupation. It's the locals who decide how bad that needs to be."

This is my point- your theory is not predictive. It's reactive: if the insurgency wins, the victors weren't harsh enough. If they lose, the victors were harsh enough (or communicated their intention to be harsh enough).
Being non-predictive, I would say that it doesn't explain anything. I could just as easily claim that insurgencies are stopped by farting. Vietnam- not enough farting. Tibet- enough farting. Since the quantity (quality?) of farting required is different in each case & not determinable beforehand, I am just as correct as you are.
Imagine two worlds: in one world, your theory is correct. In the other world, your theory is completely wrong. In the second world you will never see your error; you will be equally convinced in both that you are correct. Thus, your theory isn't a theory at all- it's an article of faith.

[For a more serious counterexample, Id say that satisfying the demands on insurgents is a significant factor in pacifying them. Not necessarily giving them freedom, just giving them things that they want- keeping a national language and culture for example].

your examples of the 2nd method:
The US South- Id say that civil wars aren't germane. They're fundamentally different than attempting to subjugate a foreign people.

The Boers- The British won the war with harsh methods, but they didn't subjugate the Boers, and dictate the settlement- there was a negotiated peace.
This is like claiming that the war of 1812 vindicates your theory bc the US was allowed to keep its democratic institutions. I think you need examples where democratic institutions are created by the victor, not merely continued after a negotiated peace settlement.

Lebanon- civil war again.

"There are lots and lots of examples, but the times when the fighting dwindles down and everybody lays down their arms and switches to doing politics..."

That's not what we're talking about. We're supposed to be talking about cases where a foreign victor unilaterally creates democratic institutions in order to pacify a conquered nation.

"There are lots and lots of examples, but the times when the fighting dwindles down and everybody lays down their arms and switches to doing politics..."

That's not what we're talking about. We're supposed to be talking about cases where a foreign victor unilaterally creates democratic institutions in order to pacify a conquered nation.

You're defining it far too strictly. Many things that some people classify as counterinsurgency are also civil wars. When Titov pacified yugoslavia it's usually considered the end of a civil war, but from today's perspective he was temporarily pacifying a collection of conquered nations. The british in malaya were doing counterinsurgency against the some of malayans they themselves had armed to fight the japanese, but it was also civil war -- chinese against malay, poor against rich, etc.

It's hard to find examples of successful counterinsurgency by foreign powers. The turks against the armenians, that was successful. The english against the dutch colonists in new amsterdam -- the dutch saw they couldn't win and hardly resisted. Americans against mexicans in texas, arizona, new mexico, california likewise. Americans against filipinos, we butchered them and starved them into submission, the men didn't want to fight away from home while we were killing their families. Chinese in tibet, americans against native americans, spanish against aztecs, etc.

The definitions are all murky and run into each other. If you want to define away all my examples as something else, go ahead. But you're only playing definition games.

I think you need examples where democratic institutions are created by the victor, not merely continued after a negotiated peace settlement.

More definition games. I'm talking about successful outcomes versus unsuccessful outcomes. Success means either you bring in massive force and crush the opposition, or you negotiate with them and reach a settlement both can agree with. Failure means you try to crush them and fail and get humiliated into negotiating, or you fight for a long long time with no clear outcome, or you fail and get butchered yourself, or you try to negotiate and they laugh at you and you slink away in disgrace.

This is my point- your theory is not predictive. It's reactive: if the insurgency wins, the victors weren't harsh enough. If they lose, the victors were harsh enough (or communicated their intention to be harsh enough).

It's definitional. If you refuse to negotiate and they resist, then either you crush the opposition or you fail to crush it. I can't predict whether you'll succeed in crushing them except in some specific cases.

I could just as easily claim that insurgencies are stopped by farting. Vietnam- not enough farting. Tibet- enough farting.

Measure the farting and see if your theory stands up. Vietnam -- less than 10% of the population killed. Failure. Tibet -- more than 50% of the population killed. Success. As a rule of thumb I'd guess they'll usually crumble when you kill 10 to 15% of the population, it rarely takes more than 20%. In iraq we started with 5 million sunnis and we've killed maybe 400,000 of them so far. We have a ways to go and we might prefer to negotiate, except the shias might prefer we don't. But it's only a rule of thumb.

Here's another example -- puerto rico. At one point we were getting a little bit of political violence from there. Like, some terrorists got into the gallery of the US Senate and shot at the senators to point out their discontent with US rule. We set up a democracy and gave them a repeated plebiscite -- apply to join the USA as a state, become independent, or keep the status quo. So far they've always voted to keep the status quo. They aren't attacking us about it because we don't repress them. If they want independence all they have to do is convince a majority of puerto ricans. Dramatically successful counterinsurgency.

You could argue that there wasn't a significant insurgency there in the first place. That's because we didn't do the stupid things that create a strong insurgency before we applied this superbly successful countereinsurgency program. The best examples are almost invisible, you don't incite a big insurgency in the first place so you don't have to fight it very hard.

"The definitions are all murky and run into each other. If you want to define away all my examples as something else, go ahead. But you're only playing definition games."

We've got to play *some* definitional games, or we won't know what we're talking about. I see a civil war & aftermath as very different than a foreign power attempting to stop an insurgency. Unless you think "overwhelming force and genocide OR grant democracy" is a sort of catch-all foreign policy solution.

"Success means either you bring in massive force and crush the opposition, or you negotiate with them and reach a settlement both can agree with."

This is getting tautological. Yes, one either negotiates, fights and wins, or fights and loses. Id say that that's indisputable, and pointless.
Earlier, you stated that the only ways to beat an insurgency were to decimate them or to give them a democracy. Now you appear to have climbed down to the tautology above, bc there are obvious cases where an insurgency is neither crushed nor granted democratic institutions.
If you've ceded that point, I think we're done.

"Measure the farting and see if your theory stands up. Vietnam -- less than 10% of the population killed. Failure. Tibet -- more than 50% of the population killed. Success. As a rule of thumb I'd guess they'll usually crumble when you kill 10 to 15% of the population..."

Eastern Europe- not a very high fatality rate. Success. But lots of gas (have you ever eaten kielbasa?)
See, the farting also goes by rules of thumb- when an insurgency fails, the rule of thumb says "that was enough farting". By making your theory untestable, you can't tell if you've truly isolated the important factor(s). Maybe percentage of casualties is less decisive than loss in per-capita GDP, or destroyed infrastructure. Maybe starvation and disease are much more (or less) debilitating than combat casualties. Maybe farting, etc.

btw, is your idea a theory or a definition? When I try to define things, you say it's a theory. When I try to show that it's non-predictive, it's a definition. These are very different things.
And it's pointless to point out Tibet-type scenarios. No one is disputing that overwhelming force *can* stop insurgencies. Im disputing whether the only alternative to overwhelming force is, in fact, creating a quick-bake democracy.

"The best examples are almost invisible, you don't incite a big insurgency in the first place so you don't have to fight it very hard."

The best examples of what? I thought we were talking about how to fight insurgencies, not how to prevent them. And if we're going to try to judge effectiveness in preventing insurgencies, we'll need to move past argument via anecdote- after all, there have been *so many* not-insurgencies in the past, one could draw almost any lesson one liked.

This is getting tautological. Yes, one either negotiates, fights and wins, or fights and loses. Id say that that's indisputable, and pointless.

You keep missing my points. Oh well. I say that if you really pummel them into submission then you can "give them a democracy" and the survivors will go through the motions of playing along with doing what you say.

And if you act nice to them and you let them work out their own negotiations with each other that you respect, then they wind up with some sort of rough democracy. Sometimes that amounts to one-gun, one vote. Sometimes they'll have fanatics that a majority of the people go along with, and minorities of various kinds get mistreated. But on average the governed give their consent.

It's the in-between case that I say doesn't work. Kill 3% of them and look like you aren't strong enough to do a lot more. Then you tell them "Let's all make nicey-nice and I'll set up a democracy for you to vote in." And they're going "You killed my mama." The government you set up will be tainted by its association with you. It won't have the support to stop a civil war, unless you bring in sufficient troops.

You can play nice-guy or you can play brutal-guy. And if you play brutal-guy enough that they hate you, then you have to keep it up until they're beaten. You usually can't switch horses from brutal-guy to nice-guy until they *are* beaten.

I think you know what I mean. If not, I don't much want to get all pedantic about it.

Again, Id say there's nothing predictive- suppression of an insurgency will always involve *some* deaths. Was it 'too many' deaths to play nice guy? Was it 'not enough' to them to be beaten?
You can't tell us until you see the results. For example, you used the Boer War as an example of the 2nd class of solutions (ie solutions where the government didn't kill enough people to get 'bad guy' status). That is laughable considering the history of that conflict.

You can still claim that your theory has some value, but I say that it doesn't- because it isn't predictive and because the numbers change to suit the definitions as necessary to produce a 'successful' test, there is no way to tell if you've isolated the critical factor in insurgency suppression or not.
It's entirely possible that Vietnam would've ended differently with an identical kill ratio but a different set of tactics, or a different strategy. To me, anyway- to you, kill-ratio is the deciding factor.

So, your theory can't help us decide how many troops to employ or how many casualties to inflict or how brutal our occupation should be- but it *does* preclude us from considering the complexities of suppressing an insurgency.

Finally, this is nonsense if you're talking about Iraq:It's the in-between case that I say doesn't work. Kill 3% of them and look like you aren't strong enough to do a lot more.
We could kill a lot more of them, and that's clear to every participant. A conquering power almost always has the power to *kill more* (I can't think of a counterexample, where a conquering power didn't have the military might to massacre civilians. I'd even say that that's nonsensical- if they can't hurt civilians, they haven't conquered the country).
What we don't have is the military might to pacify the country. Oh, but that sort of complex stuff is outside of your theory- according to you all we need to do is nuke Baghdad & then everything will suddenly be ok.

Carleton, I didn't mean to consider the Boer war as second-strategy. The british were brutal enough to get their victory -- and then they didn't maintain the sort of puppet government that would consistently obey them, they let their old enemies run the local government.

There's a question how brutal you have to be to get that kind of victory. My rule of thumb is that something in the range of 10% to 20% deaths will usually do it. 10% was not enough for the french in algeria. I don't have an example where 15% to 20% was not enough. There may be an example but if so it's an outlier.

I don't have a good estimate of how brutal you have to be before you can't just reverse course and make it work. At some point you can say "We've changed our minds, let bygones be bygones, we're going to offer an amnesty and anybody who wants to can run for office in the puppet government we set up" and they'll keep shooting. I believe we're past that point in iraq now.

I don't see what your point is about iraq. I'm not saying it's practical for the USA to run a sufficiently brutal campaign in iraq. And without that, the iraqi government won't get much public support until they show they're independent of us, so it's no-win.

We have our own public opinion to think about, and our former allies, and so on, if we try to be extra-brutal. We could starve them. Somewhere in the range of 50% to 80% of the iraqi public depends on food distributed by the iraqi government for their survival, and we could cut that off without a lot of trouble, and we wouldn't have to take the blame. We probably *are* cutting off food to Anbar province. I haven't seen any clear statement that we are but I've seen some claims that sound like that, which are still a bit vague.

However, cambodia comes close to a counterexample to my 10% to 20% estimate. Cambodia had missed their harvests, and we offered them a deal -- support the Lon Nol government and we'd feed them, fail to support it and they'd starve. The cambodians didn't support the Lon Nol government enough to keep the insurgents from taking over. And then instead of negotiating with us to get the food they had to have, they herded the surplus people into rural areas and put them to work growing as much rice as they could. They may have come close to minimising casualties that way, I don't know. The people killed for insubordination and the food supplies hoarded while people starved would tend to argue against that, but they had to keep the slaves cowed or they'd get less farming and more killing, and they had to have supplies in case they got invaded. It's possible that what they did came close to minimising deaths, given that they couldn't persuade us to feed them. Again, an outlier. Most people will surrender rather than lose a big fraction of their population.

I claim that we *have the resources* to be brutal enough in iraq to subdue the people. But we can't do it without the US public etc noticing, so we won't. And it's too late to persuade them to cooperate with us. So we can't win. You can say there's nothing predictive here, but I disagree.

I say that we can't undo past brutality enough to win one way, and it doesn't fit our needs to be brutal enough to "win" the other way, and we're going to lose.

If you want to discuss the complexities of suppressing the iraqi insurgency I'll be glad to listen, but I don't think there's much hope. I think the iraqis are fighting each other now more than they're fighting us, because they believe we're basicly beaten and we're going to leave. Like in afghanistan when the russians were there -- after a point the afghans we were arming tried to stockpile weapons and attack each other more than attack the russians, because the russians were no longer a priority. They had to pay more attention to the enemies who'd still be there after the inevitable russian retreat.

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