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July 18, 2007


Nor is it good for our soldiers and the Iraqis.

my bet: significant, but not full, withdrawal sometime next spring or summer. this gives GOP candidates room to say "look, we're starting to leave! but we're not giving up!" while taking a lot of the wind out of the Dems' sails.

oh, and the Dems will run on the economy and the Republicans will win back both houses running on the Double-Gitmo and Spying For Freedom plan. this will be made possible by the minor, but scary, terrorist attack that happens sometime next summer.

aw crap... anyone have a quarter? my time on the crystal ball just ran out!

john miller: ditto.

One of the things I find really appalling about this is that whenever I hear those people on TV who apparently get to talk to Senators off the record -- David Brooks on the NewsHour, for instance -- they always say: there are a lot of Republican Senators saying privately what only a few are saying publicly: that Iraq is over.

Think about that for a moment. People are fighting and dying in Iraq. We could be starting the incredibly difficult process of getting our troops out safely, trying to have a withdrawal that works as well as possible for the Iraqis, etc., etc. Instead, there are people who believe there is no real point to going on, but are not saying so for political reasons.

I have no problem with doing a whole bunch of things for political reasons. I am not a purist. If the price of getting some very important piece of legislation passed is building a new bridge in Sen. X's home state, fine. If you think you're doing a good job and voting to renew the mohair subsidy means that the Awesomely Powerful Mohair Lobby will not mount a campaign of dishonest ads against you in your state, then -- well, maybe you should consider resisting blackmail, but I can see voting for the subsidies.

But not with people's lives.

The details of any withdrawal will be the key. Right now there appears to be a lot of talk about withdrawal save for advisors, force protection, and anti-terrorism activities. Even assuming that you can separate anti-insurgency activities from anti-terrorism activities, and the number of brigades on the ground goes down, the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq is unlikely to drop too much, because the advisor teams will require significant augmentation in order to sustain and protect themselves. Right now advisor teams are generally 10-11 men, because they can use existing U.S. infrastructure for logistics and force protection. Without those forces being available, those teams are going to have to be able to protect themselves, and that means that while the composition of U.S. forces in Iraq will change, the total numbers probably will not move as much as people are expecting.

I should also note that any U.S. withdrawal will work for the Iraqis only so far as it mandates pulling every Iraqi who has worked for the Coalition out of Iraq, alone with their families, because there are a lot of courageous Iraqis who have chosen to trust the U.S. enough to work for it, and if the U.S. leaves them behind, they're all going to pay the price for that decision. One may argue, I suppose, that they made an unwise decision, but I suspect we can generally agree that they don't deserve to die for it.

G'Kar: Completely agreed, on both points. In my ignorance, I have always favored us being somewhere in the neighborhood, so that we can do things like, oh, deter a Turkish invasion of Kurdistan, but otherwise withdraw. And I think our record on taking in Iraqi refugees is absolutely shameful.

I do not know what happened to the grammar of that last comment. I trust it's comprehensible anyways ;)

i'm fine with all that too -- i think the big point is just taking some big tangible steps to show the parties involved that we're leaving. i don't have problems with smaller residual forces for many years (depending on the details of course), but the larger point is to start the process.

"And I think our record on taking in Iraqi refugees is absolutely shameful."

As I blogged at the bottom of this post, I urge people to support the Iraqi Refugees Act of 2007, which in the House is HR 2265. Nell in comments also added a link here. And here is the update I haven't gotten around to blogging.

publius: The point is that, at the end of the day, Congress can’t really do anything to force a withdrawal even if they get to 60.

So impeach the m.f. What the hell are elections going to do? Hillary Clinton is going to keep troops there for her whole time in office.

The only antidote to my feeling like literally killing many, many politicians is this floor speech by Jim Webb, which I'm grateful to Steve for linking in a previous thread.

Barring a miracle, HRC is going to be the Democratic nominee, and the Democratic nominee will be the next President. I want to see Jim Webb make her life a living hell until all U.S. troops are completely withdrawn, except for the traditional complement of Marines guarding a normal-sized embassy.

Just to be clear, my favorite part of Webb's statement is here:

The [first of two] concerns I have about this amendment [is that] ... it does not explicitly state that this transition of missions is only an intermediate step toward an eventual – and necessary – American withdrawal from Iraq. As such, it could be interpreted as a ratification of the idea that we should keep long-term bases in Iraq.

And yes, Webb and I are talking to you, publius, and ever other person who "[doesn't] have problems with smaller residual forces for many years." I have a problem with that; the Iraqi people have a problem with that; and the world has a problem with that.

Yes, it's important to start the process in a serious way to send the signal that we're leaving. But it's as important, actually more so, to commit to leave entirely.

Amen, Brother!
Nothing substantial here. Nothing to see.
Just move along.

Colin Powell was on Fresh Air this evening. He said that we will have to withdraw next summer because we will be out of soldiers by then.

Oddly, he doesn't want to start a withdrawal now.

Still being a shill, I guess.

Can't the Democrats in Congress simply refuse to pass a Defense appropriations bill?

Just randomly skimming the post again, a phrase I missed the first time through jumps out at me. It's a phrase that makes it difficult for me ever to take anyone who says it seriously:

"As Dick Morris correctly said..."

Why t.f. would anyone even read what Dick Morris says?

"Assuming present trends continue..." seems to me to be a shaky assumption. For example, what happens to "present trends" and key election issues (assuming there is, in fact, an election) if Bush attacks Iran? with nuclear weapons? if the Middle East en masse retaliates? Maybe Bush is inexplicably belligerent because he has no intention of leaving office until he raptured.

"...this is “political theater,” but that’s not necessarily a bad thing." -Pub

Wrong Pub,

There is no written account claiming the founding fathers were fans of Kabuki theater, instead they gave us a Republic with a constitution which contained:

"...and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."

Section 2. - Article. II - U.S. Constitution

"The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."
Section 4. - Article II - U.S. Constitution

the Vice-President's office was involved in revealing a covert CIA agent, which would seem to fit the bill of a "high crimes" which could subject the Vice-President to Impeachment should congress so will. The grand jury did make a finding that a crime had occurred and Lewis Libby was charged in connection to that crime and he was subsequently convicted for perjury regarding that crime that took place while employed by the Vice President. It would seem that this would be a case where Impeachment of the Vice-President would be a likely remedy, one which is so plausible that the American public favor such a remedy by 54%.

Unless one believes the framers were naives, it is fair to assume they meant what they said...the US President can not pardon his way out of an impeachment...regardless of which officer is being impeached (please see below).

Impeachment is the only legal remedy available for removing "civil officers of the United States" reprieves are not permissible per section 2 article II of the US Constitution in cases of impeachment.

If you want to follow the law, Impeach Cheney, let the Republicans defend Cheney during an election year. Do the right thing and you'll have plenty of drama without "political Theater".

If you want to follow the law, Impeach Cheney, let the Republicans defend Cheney during an election year.

And when Cheney skates becuase the GOP will never ever eat their own - then what?

"Why t.f. would anyone even read what Dick Morris says?"

Seeing what's out there? Wanting to know what will get some talk in Congressional circles because it's published in The Hill? Random or perverse curiosity? I can imagine a few more reasons that seem reasonable to me, and with no implication that Morris is someone's guru or that they're a fan of his.

In this case, he says a lot of things, which I won't take time to go through, noting my various disagreements or agreements, wild or mild, but I'll note that a) when he lists Wayne Allard as a possible defecting Iraq vote: "Retiring Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) might just do his party a favor on his way out," while it's true the Senator (R-Arseh*le) doesn't confide in me, I'd be extremely surprised if he does this: he really is a complete idiot, and utter toady.

b) Morris also says:

The lesson of Vietnam is clear: If the public get so turned off on a military intervention, it will force Congress to ban any further involvement, making it inevitable that our enemies win. But if the administration salvages a modicum of public support by way of a prompt but gradual withdrawal, it will preserve the option of re-entry by air or land should an adverse situation arise. We probably could have stopped the North from winning in Vietnam had Congress not banned any air or ground involvement after 1974. We must not fall into the same trap in Iraq.
Judge this advice by the fact that while we could probably have delayed the North Vietnamese victory by a few months, maybe, that's all we could have done by air, at best: it just would have prolonged and increased the killing, to no end whatever. That's the sort of foreign policy advice one gets from Dick Morris.

"The war will continue or end depending on how the 2008 elections go."

I hate to break it to liberals like publius, but the war is really about oil-- i.e. a capitalist war. The American ruling class isn't about to let the world's most important energy region to be left up for grabs. The troops will leave the middle east when they're made to. A democrat "withdrawal" would probably at most mean retreating to somewhere like Kurdistan, Turkey, or Kuwait where they'll be ready to get back involved if things start to spin out of control.

The war in Vietnam ended for three reasons IMO:
1. Vietnamese resistance
2. Social unrest at home
3. GI rebellion

These type of social forces don't exist enough to force the US out.

drydock, I don't disagree with you, but there are some real world factors operating here: the US doesn't have the ability to keep massed troops in Iraq indefinitely. What the plan was originally was evidently to build permanent military bases in Iraq and keep a relatively small number of troops there, selling off all other Iraqi industries to be run by foreign companies, while Ahmed Chalabi was installed to run the country and administer the oil according to the wishes of the US government - and the profits from this hostile takeover would be used to rebuild Iraq, so everyone would be happy. This happy fantasy dissolved in the real world within months of invasion, but I suspect that the Bush administration is still vaguely thinking that things will work out and eventually they'll be able to have something of the kind in place. (Well, possibly. Bush, I guess, is thinking that so long as the troops don't withdraw until 2009, no one will be able to say that he lost the war in Iraq.)

But in the real world, the US cannot continue to keep using up its military in one country. Either the US will have to activate a draft (which will be even less popular than the draft for Vietnam, I should think) or the military will have to withdraw. Yes, obviously, the oil oligarchs want to keep control of Iraq's oil, but they are running out of resources to be able to do that.

In order to accomplish even the original Bush administration utterly selfish strategies, there needs to be a reduction in violence by 90%. (Via Newshoggers.)

The US military instigated the violence. But, what is now going on in Iraq is full-blown civil war, and the US military are just one of the sides in the civil war. The US doesn't have the resources to stop the war, and can't win it. All the US military in Iraq can do is keep on dying in it, and, yes, I agree that the oil oligarchs are quite happy for this to go on... but there will come a point when the US military cannot go on.

Somewhat OT, but cartoon 5 (today's) is good for a laugh.

I’ll go one further. It’s not clear that this administration would withdraw troops even if faced with a veto-proof majority.

How would they run a war without any money?

I’ll go one further. It’s not clear that this administration would withdraw troops even if faced with a veto-proof majority.

How would they run a war without any money?

"And when Cheney skates because the GOP will never ever eat their own - then what?"

Two thoughts:

1] Cheney's skating now - now what?

2] Surviving impeachment is not a legal exoneration, it is only a means for removal of office. Agents of the Republican power structure have been spinning this tale quite a bit for it's prophylactic value against impeachment and should impeachment occur it's stands as a thin wall to obstruct justice. Fortunately, the framers knew about corrupt power structures and included this:

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States; but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law. Section 3, Article 7

So the principle of double jeopardy is set aside in the case of a civil officer's impeachment according to the US Clinton found out after they came for him after an impeachment acquittal.

Years ago we were made to study the US Constitution in order to graduate. Later, I studied it prior to taking my service oath for the US Army, someplace in that service oath you'll find the words "to defend it [US constitution] from all enemies, foreign or domestic". Funny, my DD-214 never rescinded the oath and I've never felt the need, because those old-timers who formed this nation knew a thing or two. Now if everybody would stop running around like scared school children and do their duty, uphold the US Constitution by impeaching Cheney, we'd be on our way to fufilling our founders desires. Remember, upholding the constitution is a duty, not a political decision.

For every black witch the US Constitution has a bucket of water, don't be afraid to use it as it was intended.

S Brennan, if we don't have the 60 votes needed to stop debate, we don't have the 66 votes needed to remove Cheney. Why, then, would an attempt to impeach & remove be any less "political theater" than what occurred the other night?

"So the principle of double jeopardy is set aside in the case of a civil officer's impeachment according to the US Clinton found out after they came for him after an impeachment acquittal."

This doesn't implicate double jeopardy at all. Impeachment is about removal from office. That isn't a punishment, that is the self-defense mechanism of the polity. Failure to impeach is not an acquittal.

Dantheman: "Somewhat OT, but cartoon 5 (today's) is good for a laugh."

this one appeals to my neo-Agostic sensibilities...

that should read: neo-Agnostic

I wonder how many Iraqis can distinguish between American soldiers and American mercenaries?

What ever “withdrawal” looks like, there will be too many Americans with too many weapons creating facts on the ground.

So impeach the m.f.

Amen to that.

And when Cheney skates becuase the GOP will never ever eat their own - then what?

He can never hold elective office again. It's a start.

S Brennan, if we don't have the 60 votes needed to stop debate, we don't have the 66 votes needed to remove Cheney.

More's the pity.

The reality is that we will have some level of boots on the ground military commitment, most likely including Iraq, for the forseeable future. The oil is there.

That said, I agree wholeheartedly that Congress should exert every lever to keep every available point of pressure squarely on Bush and on his administration.

Make them sweat and give no quarter voluntarily. Bring articles of impeachment early and often, throw as many as we can out, throw anyone found to be in violation of the law in jail, and make life as uncomfortable as possible for the rest.

It ain't personal. Some of these folks are likeable. A handful are, no doubt, well meaning.

The issue at hand is whether this is a government based on rule of law, or not.

I'm fifty years old. In my entire lifetime, I've never seen the like of this crew.

Throw their sorry asses in jail. Barring that, throw them out of office. Barring that, break their chops at every possible opportunity.

Don't give them an inch. In fact, it's time to take quite a few inches back.

Thanks -

"The reality is that we will have some level of boots on the ground military commitment, most likely including Iraq, for the forseeable future. The oil is there."

I don't quite follow this. Here is a list of where we get our oil imports from. Here are the figures as of April, 2007.

We don't have boots on the ground in Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Nigeria, Algeria, Angola, Russia, Norway, Brazil, Ecuador, Congo, or Gabon, to list some of our top 15 suppliers, though Jes might wish to make a case for us occupying Britain. Neither did we have troops on the ground in Iraq before 2003. Why would we need them in Iraq now or in the future?

Whoever pumps the oil in Iraq has to sell it. And it doesn't even matter if they don't sell it to us, so long as everyone else doesn't join in; it's a commodity, it's fungible. If any given country or three does boycott us, it doesn't matter, because we'll just buy it elsewhere.

But perhaps I'm missing something.

But perhaps I'm missing something.

The problem could be on my end as well.

My general understanding of the situation is that everyone buys oil more or less from the same international market, and oil producers sell into that same market.

Although the specific barrels of oil that make their way to us may ultimately be sourced in places other than the middle east, a failure in the supply of oil from the middle east would disrupt the overall market quite a bit.

I think the capital investment of US based oil companies in the middle east is also an issue, although that's true in other places as well.

The proximity of Russia and other rivals to the middle eastern oil fields, likewise, is (I think) an issue.

Your point it apt, however. Personally, I'd be happy to see our involvement in the middle east, militarily or otherwise, dialed down.


But perhaps I'm missing something.

Oil is indeed fungible. But the producers of oil do not constitute a free market (especially the producers of easy to extract, cheap oil), so standard economic rules do not apply. The situation is:

We have a good estimate of the known and future reserves of oil. Many countries produce oil, but in twenty years time or so, the largest remaining reserves of cheap oil will be in the middle east.

This will give regimes there (especially Saudi Arabia) huge leverage to determine the price. The question is not "will the west still be able to buy oil" (yes) the question is "at what price?".

The reserves of cheap oil in Iraq are very large as well; thus control of Iraq oil would allow the US to reduce Saudi Arabia's power and keep oil cheap.

(I personally don't believe the invasion was about oil to any real extent; but control of Iraq's oil reserves does have real economic benefits, that I thought should be pointed out).

"Your point it apt, however."

If so, the whole "you invaded because of oil" allegation makes no sense whatever, of course.

But people keep saying it.

For the US to have invaded because of "oil," there would have to be a benefit. What that benefit might be, no one seems to have ever have stated. Therefore the whole allegation seems to be completely meaningless and false.

But maybe I'm missing something.

What that benefit might be, no one seems to have ever have stated.

sigh... okay, again. Which of the following would you disagree with?

1. Oil is only nominally fungible, and fungibility is a continuous spectrum. (Among other things you'll note that Canada sells oil to us even though Libya and KSA haven't run out yet.)

2. Oil will become less and less fungible and more and more expensive to extract over the course of the next few decades. It's fungibility and its role as a globally accessible commodity will diminish--possibly quite rapidly--while its geostrategic and economic significance will remain roughly constant, or perhaps even increase.

3. As oil becomes less fungible and more expensive to extract, controlling the means of extraction and delivery will become increasingly important.

4. Controlling the means of extraction and delivery of oil, or any other natural resource, requires at minimum a local monopoly on the use of force.

5. While such a monopoly can be emulated through proxies, it is generally considered more reliable to have one's own armed forces on the premises or nearby.

You are indeed, quite atypically, missing something.

Whoever pumps the oil in Iraq has to sell it [to the US].

They do? Sez who? Using which currency? At what markup? For how long?


The question is not "will the west still be able to buy oil" (yes) the question is "at what price?".

Specifically, "at what price as expressed in US dollars?" Remember this is 2015-2050 we're talking about.

N.B. noticed Asia Times talking about China's approach this morning:

China's move into Somalia's oil industry is a further example of its strategy for securing access to natural resources around the world. Rather than purchasing oil on the global markets, as the US does for the most part, China prefers to secure control of the resources it needs at the source.

No doubt some folks would regard that paragraph as a refutation of the war-for-oil hypothesis. "Look here," they would say, "the US currently purchases all the oil it wants on the global markets, so ipso facto there is no benefit to controlling the source."

Oddly, there was also this recently:

The dollar was driven down against the Japanese yen this afternoon, hit by the news that Iran had asked Japan to pay for its oil purchases in the Japanese currency and not in dollars.

But, but... conspiracy theory! Irrational speculators! Irresponsible journalists! Petrodollars are just like any other dollars and oil is just oil!

Looks like those canny Iranians timed it pretty well too, since Japan's grid has clearly taken a hit and may be in worse long-term shape than anyone is admitting...

Nippon Oil Corp. expects Japan's oil and heavy fuel demand to rise by about 700,000 kiloliters in August after the shutdown of a Tokyo Electric Power Co. nuclear station, Chairman Fumiaki Watari said.

Say... there's some stuff about currency in that article too. I don't suppose this:

Iran last week asked refiners in Japan to pay for all the crude oil they buy from the Middle Eastern nation in yen to avoid potential financial sanctions that may freeze dollar payments to country and after the nation's central bank said it's cutting holdings of the U.S. dollar.

Is in any way related to this. No... I guess not. The market in oil is global and free and will always remain so. The Invisible Hand in the velvet glove will ensure that.

How about a very unhappy Kurdish MP to round things out?

Othman went off about the American pressures that undermine Iraq sovereignty, he said. The more U.S. officials talk about the oil law, he said, the more people think it's an American law to take advantage of the black gold, he complained.

"They insist and press and the Iraqi people react badly. In the last four years they haven’t gotten the message?" he asked. "When you ask America they say they don't need Iraqi oil. Then leave us alone.

I wake up and there is a declaration by the Americans about the oil law, at night there is another declaration about the oil law."

That's just things that I happened to notice, because I don't have time to go off on a research binge.

We invaded Iraq because of the oil? Inconceivable.

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