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October 15, 2015

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Sure, we've had troops in a lot of other places since World War II. But in all of those places, they were engaged in combat for maybe 5 years, max. And have been there since without firing a shot.

Onbce, if we got into a war, we ramped up whatever it too to win that war, got it over with, and stood down. But we've gotten better at having (I won't say better at fighting) wars which drag on at a low level for years. We never really commit to winning -- because if we did, the draft would be back, and we would have flooded in as many troops as it took to do the job.

Instead, we try to fight on the cheap. Not in casualties. Definitely not cheap in dollars. But cheap on the inconvenience to everybody outside the military. Which may be why they keep lingering.

If people on the home front were feeling the pain, there would be a lot more interest in getting it done and over with. At the same time, if people on the home front were feeling the pain, there would be a lot less willingness to get into these things in the first place.

I agree generally with WJ. We could, in theory, mobilize 3-4 million troops and exterminate the Taliban. We could then shift focus to ISIS and do the same. Twenty years from now we may regret not having done so.

For the indefinite future, we will have to fight the occasional low intensity, asymmetrical conflict that may require an ongoing presence for some indefinite period. I imagine, if we had it do over again, Obama would have left a presence in Iraq. Occasional and low intensity is much better fighting N Korea or the PRC.

I give Obama a pass on this. His instincts are very much Ugh-like, yet he is going against what drives him. That suggests he has good reason for doing so. I hope that is what lays behind this decision.

There's a big difference in fighting an organized military under the command of a "state actor", and fighting an insurgency that are only united by a common ethnic/religious/ideological identity.

Iraq, the government, was defeated in a matter of days. Iraq, the insurgency is still a problem.

That's not to say that insurgencies can't be defeated militarily, but that war looks an awful lot like 'genocide'.

six more months, paint a few more schools, they just want our American-brand™ Freedom™.

I give Obama a pass on this. His instincts are very much Ugh-like, yet he is going against what drives him. That suggests he has good reason for doing so. I hope that is what lays behind this decision.

One can hope.

Drones.

I agree generally with WJ. We could, in theory, mobilize 3-4 million troops and exterminate the Taliban. We could then shift focus to ISIS and do the same.

In both of these cases, simple military victory would likely not achieve our overall goals. Both of these groups have a significant level of indigenous support, "exterminating" them will require changing the culture and overall situation on the ground in Afghanistan/Pakistan in one case, and Syria/Iraq in the other.

They don't exist in a vacuum. If you want to eliminate them, you need to eliminate the circumstances that cause them to exist.

Or, sign up to be an occupying force, indefinitely.

And, not to put too fine a point on it, if you want to put forces of 3-4 million people in the field, for years, your taxes are going to go up.

Or, you're going to borrow a crapload of money, and your kids' taxes are going to go up.

russell,

technology and manpower are substitutes for each other, for some extent. You can reduce the technology cost by adding more manpower and accepting more losses.

For example, let us consider a patrol in an insurgency-controlled. Let us assume it is a platoon in three vehicles. The "safe" way to do it is to have:
* three IFVs
* heavy ballistic vests etc. for everyone
* an A-10 flying somewhere overhead, ready for close air support
* helicopter MEDEVAC capability

The cheap way to do it is:
* three trucks
* a steel helmet for everyone
* artillery battallion prepared to give fire support
* MEDEVAC using the trucks of the platoon

All in all, the latter way would mean that the KIA:WIA-ratio would rise from 1:6 to 1:3, and you would probably take maybe four times more casualties. To get fire cover from field artillery, you would need 400-men battallions scattered every 20 miles or so, with accompanying logistic challenges. However, your men would be able to match the insurgents in running instead of being exhausted after a mile or two.

In essence, you could wage a low-tech expeditionary war with maybe third the cost if you were willing to have four to ten times larger casualties.

we can't bomb our way into victory over an enemy who won't suit up, line up and behave the way we demand, and who can successfully use its own losses as recruitment fodder.

Snarki: Iraq, the government, was defeated in a matter of days. Iraq, the insurgency is still a problem.

In large part, this is due to an extremely bad (stupid, even) decision that was taken right at the beginning. Once we won, we simply disbanded the Iraqi Army. Which left a bunch of young guys, with military training and no jobs. But with the ability to just walk away with their weapons. Talk about asking for trouble.

If the folks in charge had had 2 brain cells to rub together, what we would have told their army would have been:
All troops will return to their bases and stand down. Pay and benefits will continue as before for those who do. Those who do not will be treated as criminals and pursued and eliminated.
Officers will be treated on a case-by-case basis. But not automatically purged.

If we'd done that, we would have saved ourselves a world of trouble. Not to mention that it would have been enormously much cheaper. And, as we replaced the officer corps (at least the senior officers), we would have had an army in place to deal with al Qaeda in Iraq or ISIS.

P.S. We should have done the same with the Iraqi civil service as well. Tell them that simple membership in the ruling party (pretty much required for the job) was not an automatic disqualification going forward. That would have maintained a functioning local government, including basic police services to maintain order.

As with the military, we'd have wanted to do housecleaning in the senior ranks. But there was no sense in puring the folks who actually do the work of running things.

this is due to an extremely bad (stupid, even) decision that was taken right at the beginning. Once we won, we simply disbanded the Iraqi Army. Which left a bunch of young guys, with military training and no jobs.

The Incompetence Dodge covered this quite well, back in 2005:

the administration ordered the disbanding of the Iraqi army and a program of far-reaching de-Baathification of the Iraqi government, moves that undermined Iraq's institutions and alienated the Sunni Arab population.

Here the dodger policy judgment seems plausible. Those measures truly have alienated Sunnis and made stability impossible. The critique, however, ignores the White House's good reason for acting the way it did: These moves were virtually demanded by Iraq's majority Shia and Kurdish communities.

On the other hand, the dodger judgement is only relevant for those who supported, better yet advocated for, the war. But the rest of us can still note the incompetence. It wouldn't have solved all the problems. But it undoubtedly aggrevated them.

Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

While I agree in general with WJ's assessment of the largest mistake made during the first stage of the invasion of Iraq, I think the notion that we could somehow overrun and pacify Afghanistan with greater commitment to be just as false a notion as it was in the case of Vietnam. Clausewitz' is clear that his statement that war is the continuation of politics/policy by other means only applies in those instances where policy ends can be achieved by military means. Irregular warfare, insurgencies, and terrorism are conceived and implemented with the exact goal of making a decisive military victory impossible and exacting as much cost as is possible in the process. All escalation ever does is shift the mode in which the insurgency operates. Insurgencies win simply by persevering. To beat them you have to take away their reason to persevere.

The only hope of long-term improvement in Afghanistan or Syria or... or... lies in resisting the conflict that the opposition seeks to provoke while giving all those involved some alternative good that is preferable to continued conflict. Armed opposition can be a part of that alternative, but only if it supports the alternative good by giving it more time to win over the many factions involved in the larger conflict.

No wj, the argument applies even to people who opposed the war. The point is, refusing to disband the army and conduct extreme debaathification could easily have lead to a civil war.

In an unrelated note, the notion that a force of a few million could solve our problems in Afghanistan seems fanciful in the extreme. These additional soldiers would be poorly motivated and don't speak Pashto. They'd be just as clueless as regular soldiers are except killing them would have much higher returns in terms of forcing the US to leave.

In large part, this is due to an extremely bad (stupid, even) decision that was taken right at the beginning. Once we won, we simply disbanded the Iraqi Army. Which left a bunch of young guys, with military training and no jobs. But with the ability to just walk away with their weapons. Talk about asking for trouble.

This particular trope has been around since criticizing the invasion became cool. I've always thought it was the stupidest idea ever. No offense.

Can someone give me one historical example of a country inflicting a military defeat and leaving the defeated army intact? Seriously? Or even leaving them on the payroll?

As for "walking away with their weapons", Iraq had several hundred thousand men under arms, months to prepare for the invasion, months to distribute arms and munitions to militia and other supporters, etc. It is bullshit to suggest that disbanding the army had any meaningful effect on an insurgency that had been planned for months before the invastion.

No one, in the run up or during the invasion ever said, "After you win this, keep the army in existence and on the payroll--that will be critical."

The only geniuses who came up with this bright idea did so with the crystal vision of hindsight. F that.

we can't bomb our way into victory over an enemy who won't suit up, line up and behave the way we demand, and who can successfully use its own losses as recruitment fodder.

Sustained military operations in Afghanistan, as the Soviets proved, is problematic. 9-11 made our invasion unavoidable for all practical purposes.

Defeating the Taliban for good and for all, if it could be done, would involve genocide or the next best thing. We aren't that ruthless.

As for changing hearts and minds, good luck with that.

McKinney, I wasn't suggesting leaving the Iraqi army intact. I was suggesting keeping its members in a limited number of areas. Where they could be disarmed, rendering them a non-issue. And, since they would only continue to get paid if they stayed put, their incentive to break out and fight would be limited. (Not zero, but far lower than when they were out on the streets with no pay and no prospects.)

Now if it was suggested to leave them on their bases with their weapons. That would indeed have been a stupid idea.

Yes, there would still have been arms outside the bases. Yes, there would still have been people willing to use them. But consider how much smaller the problem would have been.

As for Afghanistan, I'm not sure there was a real solution. The most could be done productively, as far as I can see, would have been to hit al Qaeda's training areas. Without wasting resources on the Taliban or the Afghans generally.

It was one of those rare cases where "surgical strikes" actually make some sense. That wouldn't have been a permanent solution, which seemed to be the intent of the invasion. But then, there was no permanent solution -- which didn't seem to be an acceptable view.

Can someone give me one historical example of a country inflicting a military defeat and leaving the defeated army intact? Seriously? Or even leaving them on the payroll?

Royal Italian Army in WW2 good enough for you?

If you want to argue not disbanding the Iraqi army is absurd, you do need to recall your camp was holding this out both at home and abroad as a war of liberation, and absolutely not an invasion and occupation.

As for "walking away with their weapons", Iraq had several hundred thousand men under arms, months to prepare for the invasion, months to distribute arms and munitions to militia and other supporters, etc. It is bullshit to suggest that disbanding the army had any meaningful effect on an insurgency that had been planned for months before the invastion.

And yet we heard reports of troops looking on as arms depots were looted. Certainly, distribution occurred beforehand, but as active resistance was offered, a great deal of material was very much in plain sight when Baghdad fell. Munitions depots and armories that were intact when the gov't fell were subsequently looted, and large quantities of the munitions gleaned (particularly ordinance) ended up being deployed against the occupying US forces. This isn't some fanciful notion nor really controversial; it was being reported during the invasion and the subsequent period of major combat operations. That it now appears convenient to consign to the memory hole doesn't change that.

No one, in the run up or during the invasion ever said, "After you win this, keep the army in existence and on the payroll--that will be critical."

The only geniuses who came up with this bright idea did so with the crystal vision of hindsight. F that.

McKTx, there is revisionism at work here, but it's not on our side. It's very firmly on yours. These arguments damned well weren't made in "polite company", which may be why it's so easy for you to claim they weren't ever made, but they damned well were made, and in a timely manner. They were not, of course, taken seriously by the "grownups", because those'uns had it all figured out: surgical invasion on the cheap to be greeted with roses and candy, install a friendly exile regime, withdraw combat forces, rebuild with Republican cadre and economic allies, profit. But actual serious people did advance these arguments at the time, even if that doesn't fit your revisionist "how could we ever know?" narrative.

No one, in the run up or during the invasion ever said, "After you win this, keep the army in existence and on the payroll--that will be critical."

The only geniuses who came up with this bright idea did so with the crystal vision of hindsight. F that.

Five f'n minutes on Google later:

Can the Iraqis police Iraq? [Monday, November 3, 2003]

Before the war, there was a contentious debate about the role of Iraqi security forces once major fighting ended. The State Department and the cia pushed hard for a strategy that would remove only the top layers of Iraq's army and keep most of the rank-and-file intact. They argued that the army was the country's most important unifying national organization, able to transcend ethnic and religious divides.

You are literally making stuff up to support your narrative, McKTx.

"The only geniuses who came up with this bright idea did so with the crystal vision of hindsight. F that."

Let me introduce, George W. Bush, boy genius:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/04/washington/04bremer.html?_r=0

Hunh? What's the policy?

The real problem with completely purging the Sunni-dominated Army was that it fed into the Shiite-Sunni blood feud of the past kajillion years, which is a little more serious and long-standing than the naive McDonalds versus Burger King blood feud we dreamed would flower because .... ?

Good idea, taking all position and income away from a bunch of able-bodied pissed off sectarian fighters familiar with advanced armaments.

Ambassador, you say there are two bloodthirsty sects over there, the Shiites and the ... watchchamasunnis?

The entire venture in Iraq was, and now in Syria, is a hornet's nest.

I didn't need to have foresight about this stuff because it's above my pay grade. I think things would have just as badly had the Iraqi armed forces remained largely intact.

My job as a citizen is to second guess since I'm not invited to the planning meetings, and, in this case, was lied to up and down the street.

There were plenty of intellectual and policy wonk resources within and without the U.S. Government who could have been conferred with about this stuff.

But we know how it is ... expertise is elitist and shall be ignored regarding every damned thing under the sun.

My druthers, when I assume power, would be purge the U.S. Armed Forces of all those loyal to the Republican Party, but I'm going to be hiring advisors to pull me aside, and say "Hang on, son, are you sure you want to start a religious war in America?"

Now, even the Sunni regions being victimized by the largely Sunni-inspired (much more complicated than that probably) ISIS, are then further victimized by the Shia-Iraqi government:

http://www.businessinsider.com/iraqi-shia-militias-fighting-isis-are-kicking-sunnis-out-of-their-homes-2015-1

Already planting the seeds of the next conflagration just as THIS one with ISIS is getting started.

It's not the President's job to deliberately send America's armed forces into a certain wood chipper when the list of unknowns is 500 times longer than the list of known knowns which we shoulda known but didn't, unless the interests and survival of the U.S. is at stake.

Besides, what ears were available for hearing that maybe decommissioning the Iraqi military from top to bottom might be a bit precipitant:

http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2007/04/donald-rumsfeld-iraq-war

The neocons seem to think that the US isn't pursuing its proper role in the world if it isn't bombing somebody somewhere.

hairshirthedonist referenced this on another thread, but when Republican foreign policy chops depend on right-wing poseurs, liars, and cheats, why is anyone else expected to have anything BUT hindsight:

http://mediamatters.org/research/2015/10/15/wayne-simmons-right-wing-medias-benghazi-expert/206194

Turns out Simmons worked for a lot of other well-known right wing vermin besides FOX, as well as fluffing the Benghazi Committee fraud and expense to the taxpayers.

McKinneyTexas, I feel the need to juxtapose the following quotes:

"We could, in theory, mobilize 3-4 million troops and exterminate the Taliban. We could then shift focus to ISIS and do the same. Twenty years from now we may regret not having done so."

"Defeating the Taliban for good and for all, if it could be done, would involve genocide or the next best thing."

Did you actually mean to suggest that twenty years from now we may regret not committing genocide or the next best thing? I, for one, would not want to be a citizen of a country that regretted that.

The neocons seem to think that the US isn't pursuing its proper role in the world if it isn't bombing somebody somewhere.

i think that's exactly what they think: they feel obligated to use American military might to spread America-brand Democracy and Freedom (requires America-brand Grudging Acceptance of Political Differences, sold separately).

it's simply the latest manifestation of The White Man's Burden.

Scowcroft:

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2014/06/iraq_sunnis_and_shiites_the_u_s_should_never_have_withdrawn_its_troops_in.html

ISIS oil:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/b8234932-719b-11e5-ad6d-f4ed76f0900a.html#axzz3ofI5GwM8

"We could, in theory, mobilize 3-4 million troops and exterminate the Taliban. We could then shift focus to ISIS and do the same. Twenty years from now we may regret not having done so."

That's some hard-nosed wisdom right there. Maybe we should spend trillions of dollars and several decades hopping from hotspot to hotspot eradicating powerfully entrenched local militaries. Precisely the lesson to be learned from Vietnam and Iraq.

"Precisely the lesson to be learned from Vietnam and Iraq." ?

Never allow a Texan to be President.

Before the war, there was a contentious debate about the role of Iraqi security forces once major fighting ended. The State Department and the cia pushed hard for a strategy that would remove only the top layers of Iraq's army and keep most of the rank-and-file intact. They argued that the army was the country's most important unifying national organization, able to transcend ethnic and religious divides.

If someone were to make this assertion without a link to the person or people who *actually said something before the invasion*, it would be rightly dismissed as argument by assertion.

It happens that this quote stands alone without any supporting evidence. It is post-debacle argument by assertion. People claiming, well after the fact and after the stuff had truly hit the fan that they had a different, better plan but no one would listen to them--but never knowing who those people actually were or what they actually said--is classic CYA.

People here and elsewhere speak blithely of standing down a 3-4 hundred thousand man army, rounding up all the weapons (while securing the museums, don't forget that), and if those relatively straightforward programs had simply been implemented, why all of this post invasion violence could have and would have been readily contained. Sure. In fact, the invasion and occupation would have been a success and Iraq would be the 51st state if only the post-debacle CYA crowd had been listened to.

We know that US troops have been murdered by indigenous troops supposedly allied with us. Does anyone here have any conception of what it takes to isolate, feed and house 100,000 hostile men? 300,000? Can someone here show me the pre-invasion plans for doing so?

I'd also like to hear the logic of how long Iraq would have remained passive if this well thought out, well understood post-invastion plan had been implemented. I'm sure that's around somewhere because it was so obviously self evident that what Bremer did was stupid. After all, look at the Italian army after the Nazis were pushed into norther Italy. If ever there was a powder keg waiting to blow, it was the 1945 Italian army. We dodged a bullet there no doubt.

There are any number of general references to not disbanding the Iraqi army WELL AFTER the invasion and after things were going to hell, but as for an in-depth, well thought out analysis that actually took place and is dated prior to the invasion, I'd like to see it.

And by discussion, I don't mean some outlier who in some inapplicable form or fashion indicated that *something* needed to be done with the Iraqi army. Bremer had X number of assets available to him and was in uncharted waters. No one here, no one in DC knew what the hell to do. He may have been incompetent or he may have been the smartest guy in the room--what is for sure is that he wasn't going to straighten that mess out. Pretending that if he had just done this or that, as if we all knew what the right call was, is after-the-fact intellectual posturing. Or fraud. That's probably a better word.

That's some hard-nosed wisdom right there. Maybe we should spend trillions of dollars and several decades hopping from hotspot to hotspot eradicating powerfully entrenched local militaries. Precisely the lesson to be learned from Vietnam and Iraq.

What lesson was learned from the re-militarization of the Ruhr? A fair argument could be made that millions of lives would have been saved if France and England had faced Hitler down at that point.

I made a qualified statement referencing both the Taliban and ISIS. A more detailed analysis, projecting into the future, is that the Taliban is fairly self containing given its location, ISIS not so much. Obama dismissed ISIS not too long ago, foolishly. No Progressive I know of called him out on that--it was the Progressive consensus. If they are around and still growing five years from now, today may well be seen as a missed opportunity, and unlike disbanding the Iraqi army, there is a public record of debate and who stood where.

Just as the Neo-cons have their finger perpetually on the trigger, the Progressives seem to have had their trigger finger amputated.

The only hope of long-term improvement in Afghanistan or Syria or... or... lies in resisting the conflict that the opposition seeks to provoke while giving all those involved some alternative good that is preferable to continued conflict.

I don't doubt Nous' good faith or sincerity. I just don't this this kind of Kumbaya stuff works outside of Berkley. The ISIS lion is never going to lay down with the Progressive lamb. No country in the Middle East has the wherewithal to face down and destroy ISIS. It may implode, Putin may get lucky (or he may find himself stuck in the shit, here's hoping), or who knows what.

Iraq was a huge mistake. Withdrawing entirely from Iraq may also have been a major bad call. It is one thing to learn from past mistakes and trim our sails going forward. It is quite another to put our heads in the sand, or worse, make minimalist, pointless and ineffective gestures.

ISIS is exactly the kind of threat that merits strategic evaluation. I'm not at all suggesting any immediate or even over the horizon invasion. We are too worn down for that. Rather, we and our allies need to begin planning long range for the prospect of a major intervention if ISIS consolidates and spreads. Consolidation makes it easier to identify, meet and defeat an opponent.

Did you actually mean to suggest that twenty years from now we may regret not committing genocide or the next best thing? I, for one, would not want to be a citizen of a country that regretted that.

No, not at all. If you read my subsequent comment, above (which I thought I had posted an hour ago) I think the Taliban can be contained. I was speaking hypothetically as to the manpower requirements and the kind of destruction that would have to be visited on the Taliban to make them go away. As long as they stay where they are, there isn't much to be done.

But, in playing the 'what if' game, what if the Taliban, acting alone or in concert, obtained a nuke from Pakistan or Iran 10 or 15 years hence and managed to detonate it in NYC. I can see, in that truly unlikely event, regretting not having been more pro-active in reducing the Taliban.

To better understand where you're coming from, McKinney, do you think invading Iraq was a good idea? Do you think the post-invasion was handled well?

Ravi, further to your question: because my personal taste in literature runs to dystopic fiction, I can *conceive* of all manner of bad things happening. This flaw is compounded by the fact that, professionally, I am in the tragedy business. I defend mostly wrongful death and serious personal injury lawsuits, so I am pretty much daily doing the fun calculus of what is this life worth in front of a jury handicapped by the percentage that I will win on liability. I deal with kids and babies and moms and dads killed or horribly injured in accidents that are just bizarre, unimaginable in how they come about, e.g. a nice lady and her two kids in a nice neighborhood walk across the street on Thanksgiving Day to feed the out of town neighbor's cat. It is windy. A tree in a neighboring yard blows over, lands on the lady and makes her a paraplegic. I still can't get my arms around that. I could go on and on. Hence, I make statements of a hypothetical nature that come across as shocking if not taken as I intend them--and my intent is often impossible to read.

I'd cut my own throat before engaging in or advocating anything remotely approaching genocide.

To better understand where you're coming from, McKinney, do you think invading Iraq was a good idea? Do you think the post-invasion was handled well?

No and no. I supported the invasion. Vocally. I followed the debate closely. I was a very small part of the debate, sort of. Just this morning I renewed my relationship with a former Wall Street columnist now a Bloomberg guy named Al Hunt.

Here are a couple of links behind the paywall:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB1046921526109552840

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB110436590243412452

You can use this link and get the columns:
https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=al+hunt+andrew+mckinney+wall+street+journal+final+column.


Hunt opposed the invasion. We had an ongoing, civil and detailed back and forth. Doing my homework was part of the process. No part of the debate involved the Iraqi army post invasion, at least not in any form one would recognize today as advocated by the hind-sighters.

So you vocally supported the invasion, but you now don't think it was a good idea. And you don't think the post-invasion was handled well. What changed your mind on the former, and what do you think could have been done better on the latter?

cleek: requires America-brand Grudging Acceptance of Political Differences, sold separately

You really should note that those same people tend to refuse to embrace that particular feature of American democracy when it applies to themselves. A little bit of cognitive dissonance which they too often get away with.

What changed your mind on the former, and what do you think could have been done better on the latter?

When they weren't finding WMD pretty damn quick, I began to have doubts. Not big ones, just questions. As time passed, I had more questions. When we settled down to a seemingly endless occupation AND still no WMD, that tore it, eventually. Mission Accomplished. F that. Save the end zone dance until you've actually won the game.

As for "how to wisely occupy an Islamic pseudo country with conflicting Islamic sects?", I don't have any better idea than anyone else. Don't do it, for starters.

The premise was all wrong--cultures that are Islamic and autocratic aren't going to flip into Jeffersonian democrats overnight or possibly ever. Even if the majority might desire it. The clergy and the strongmen are ruthless to the nth power and will kill anyone who gets in their way. You can't occupy and pacify a country like that without killing huge swathes of the population.

In an existential war-WWII comes to mind--megadeath is a part of the package, as upsetting as that may be. Iraq was not even remotely an existential threat.

McKinney: Does anyone here have any conception of what it takes to isolate, feed and house 100,000 hostile men? 300,000? Can someone here show me the pre-invasion plans for doing so?

I don't know what it would have cost to feed and house (and pay, don't forget paying them!) the Iraqi Army. But consider what it cost to fight them. Do you really think the cost would have been higher? Or even close to as high?

And no, nobody here has seen any pre-invasion plans for doing so. That is, in fact, precisely the point being made: why weren't there plans to do so? Or some other kind of plans, other than just disband the army and then assume that the troops will just go home and behave peacefully? Even for those who were sure that our troops would be greeted with showers of roses, that seems incredibly naive (to put it kindly).

If someone were to make this assertion without a link to the person or people who *actually said something before the invasion*, it would be rightly dismissed as argument by assertion.

Fine. Five more minutes on Google it is. I actually am not surprised you went with this weasal-defense; I actually was looking up how we handled the dissolution of the police post-invasion and came upon the paragraph above. Good to know that you find Time to be non-credible, though.

since criticizing the invasion became cool.

WTF

Who the hell are you talking about?

Also, too:

Before the war began, retired US Army Lieutenant General Jay Garner and the US military had already laid out several plans for what to do with Iraqi security forces. Recognizing the danger posed by complete demobilization in an environment of high unemployment, poor security, and social unrest, the plan called for the dissolution of the Iraqi Republican Guard, the engagement of soldiers in the Iraqi Army in reconstruction efforts, and the foundation of a new army from three to five existing Iraqi divisions; this plan was presented to President George W. Bush by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith during a National Security Council (NSC) meeting on 12 May.

From here.

It takes about 30 seconds to reality-check this stuff, McK.

What happened next is that Garner was replaced by Bremer, and Bremer decided to disband the army, because it appeared to him that they were already de facto disbanded.

Who's idea was it in the first place?

As to who originally proposed the idea, it has been sometimes attributed to Slocombe; Feith stated that it was Bremer's idea, but Bremer has denied that and said he could not remember who had initially come up with the idea

Brave Sir Robin had nothing on these guys.

What lesson was learned from the re-militarization of the Ruhr? A fair argument could be made that millions of lives would have been saved if France and England had faced Hitler down at that point.

At least in that case we have a definite answer. Hitler had given explicit orders to the troops to immediately retreat, should they encounter any resistance. It was a test case how far the 3rd Reich could go and the non-response encouraged Hitler to go the next step.

In Munich on the other hand Hitler wanted war and did not get it (and a planned military coup by German high officers to take out Hitler in that case was scrapped consequently). Britain on the other hand was not ready for war (mentally and materially) and needed to buy time. The great mistake there was to overestimate the amount of time bought.

Russell, the title the authority for your quote is "Fateful Choice on Iraq Army Bypassed Debate". The article was written in 2008. After the fact. Five years after the fact. My point is there never was a debate; everyone who claims it was a bad idea *after the fact* has nothing in writing, of record, before Bremer made whatever decision he made, and by that I mean Powell, Rice and everyone else who years later claimed to have been out of the loop. As if "what to do with the Iraqi army" was up for discussion but no one wrote down what actually ought to be done.

Your link quoted Powell has having talked to Rice who informed Powell that Bush was backing Bremer and that was the end of the story. Breaking this down even a little bit: a hugely momentous and obviously wrong decision has just been made--or so the conventional wisdom today goes--without either Powell's or Rice's input and, based on one phone conversation between the two of them, these two decide to do and say nothing. Sure. That's what the Secretary of State and National Security Advisor do when someone has just stepped off it in in a really big way: nothing.

What happened next is that Garner was replaced by Bremer, and Bremer decided to disband the army, because it appeared to him that they were already de facto disbanded.

This actually makes sense and implicit in this statement is that no one had really given the matter any thought which leads back to my initial point: Bremer's decision wasn't so obviously and patently wrong as people now portray. He wasn't overriding a ton of contrary advice. No one was of record opposing his decision before or immediately after. No one made any efforts in the immediate aftermath of the decision to reverse it. He made a decision in what was effectively an informational vacuum and arm chair quarterbacks have been declaring how obviously wrong that decision was once everything started going to hell.

And, it is pure speculation that a different decision could have and would have been successfully implemented. It is pure speculation that giving soldiers money would have prevented them from taking potshots at US troops or supporting the insurgency.

Before the war began, retired US Army Lieutenant General Jay Garner and the US military had already laid out several plans for what to do with Iraqi security forces.

*Before the war began*, Garner had a plan for dealing with the Iraqi forces.

His plan was:

1. disband the Revolutionary Guard
2. keep 3 to 5 divisions of rank and file in place for security
3. hire the rest of the rank and file to do reconstruction work

That was his plan, *before the war began*.

He was replaced, by Bremer, who took a different direction.

McKTx, you are acting like a weasel, and refusing directly defend your truthy lies.

The only thing I'll say in your defense is that given the very exacting criteria you specified for what evidence to the contrary you'd accept (first and foremost, "primary sources only", which is not so easy to find for free online thirteen years after the fact), it took me more like twenty minutes or a half-hour on Google to find refutations of this BS talking point.

But you asked for a contemporary primary source, and here one is. Read it and weep (or more likely, change the subject): the State Department's official ruminations on how the existing Iraqi Army was to be reformed (not dismantled, reformed), circa May 2002. Hopefully, this will lay to rest your scornful dismissal of the idea that "no one could have [let alone did] considered [let alone discussed] the retention of the majority of the Iraqi Army". Given how fervently and emphatically you glommed onto this particular revisionist talking point, however, I am not entirely optimistic.

Primary source:

http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB198/FOI%20Defense%20Policy%20and%20Institutions.pdf

Context, with contemporary citations:

http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=us_occupation_of_iraq_tmln_11

Note in particular:

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/25/international/worldspecial/25IRAQ.html

Secondary sources:

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2007/09/who_disbanded_the_iraqi_army.2.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/17/world/middleeast/17bremer.html?pagewanted=all

I don't know about anybody else. But I haven't thought that Bremer (or anybody else involved) was "overriding a ton of contrary advice." Rather, it appears (from, admittedly, several years later) that nobody really thought the decision through.

If you've got something from that time which shows to the contrary, I'd love to see it. Or perhaps something (even if written some time later) which goes into what the reasoning at the time was.

It is pure speculation that giving soldiers money would have prevented them from taking potshots at US troops or supporting the insurgency.

It would have been as purely speculative had it been discussed vigorously before the invasion and rejected, even if you grant that that's not what happened. Either way, it's not an all-or-nothing proposition. Do you seriously doubt that some number of soldiers would have been happy to have a guaranteed paycheck rather than no job and just a gun?

That aside, didn't you have any reason to doubt the WMD claims before the invasion? What made you sure enough that there were WMDs for you to vocally support the invasion beforehand?

At some point in my early adulthood, I discovered that, when wrong on a point of fact, it was much better to just give it up and move on. Easier for me, easier for everybody else.

A real time-saver, as it turned out.

As a matter of plain fact, McK, you are mistaken.

There's no shame in being wrong. The fault is in hanging on to it. Why bother?

Give it up and move on.

I don't know about anybody else. But I haven't thought that Bremer (or anybody else involved) was "overriding a ton of contrary advice." Rather, it appears (from, admittedly, several years later) that nobody really thought the decision through.

wj, he very much was. Up until mere weeks before the invasion the plan was retention. Look at the secondary sources I cited in my last post.

I remember discussion of all this crap very clearly despite the fact that I was fervently against the invasion (I quite literally was in the street protesting both before and after). However, as I was in France that particular year, I plainly did not have access to the same high-quality and informative media sources that were apparently doing such a fine job of keeping the likes of McKTx in the dark about their own government's planning.

wj,
yes...my recollection is the adm. was pretty much 'winging it' in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, and it is hardly surprising to see a description of Bush unilaterally, and without employing standard consultation channels, endorsing Bremmer's decision based on a single phone call.

But I bet Cheney was consulted :)

That's the way they rolled.

And props to NV. Job well done.

More on the genesis of the decision to disband the Iraqi army.

Highlights:

Before the war Bush had approved a plan to use the Iraqi army as a national reconstruction force. It was thought to be too dangerous to demobilise all the soldiers at once, and they had been promised that they would be looked after if they surrendered. According to Frank Miller, his Special Assistant, Bush now said that he would leave it up to ‘the guy on the ground.’

No Coalition troops were killed by hostile forces in the week before the Iraqi army was disbanded; five were killed the next week. General David Petraeus, then commanding the 101st Airborne Division, said that it was getting worse week by week. He bluntly told Slocombe that his policies were killing Coalition soldiers. Iraqi soldiers had to be given the means of feeding their families.

Kind of sad, that second paragraph.

The Iraq invasion was the biggest clusterf*ck that I can think of in this nation's history. It's possible we've screwed the pooch equally badly at some other point, but if so I can't think of what that might have been.

Maybe Vietnam, but the downstream consequences of Iraq are shaping up to be orders of magnitude worse than those of our adventures in southeast Asia.

The folks who advocated for the war in Iraq, built the case for it, planned it, and carried it out, were a cabal of f***king idiots.

Brainless, spineless, useless nitwits. All of them. And yet, insufferably full of themselves and insanely confident about their great big plans for the world.

There is nothing good to be said of any of them.

Progressives seem to have had their trigger finger amputated.

why, just the other night, Hillary C. described herself quite forcefully as a 'progressive'. I recommend you never say that to her face, as she just might cut you off at the knees, Tex.

The only thing I'll say in your defense is that given the very exacting criteria you specified for what evidence to the contrary you'd accept (first and foremost, "primary sources only", which is not so easy to find for free online thirteen years after the fact), it took me more like twenty minutes or a half-hour on Google to find refutations of this BS talking point.

Yes, contemporaneous primary sources only.

As compared to McK's photographic recollections of exactly how it all went down.

It's not a weasel thing, it's a lawyer thing. Frame the question narrowly enough, and set the bar for a response high enough, to achieve the result you want.

Nothing personal McK, it's just something I notice about comments from lawyers.

Progressives seem to have had their trigger finger amputated.

your imagination has taken over your reality.

hell, even Sanders flatly denied being a
'pacifist' and said he supported the actions in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Insisting on dealing in the realm of facts is just another liberal tactic to "shut down the discussion".

I CUNTROL TEH LANGWHICH WIT MAH VYLANSS!

Progressives seem to have had their trigger finger amputated.

At the risk of piling on, I wonder how many of the progressives, liberals or just non-conservatives (however you prefer to self-identify) commenting on this blog opposed going into Afghanistan after 9/11. That's not limited to not approving of the specific actions that were taken. I mean, who categorically opposed any sort of military action?

As I recall - not here, specifically, but in general (I wasn't on this blog at the time) - the responses to invading Afghanistan and invading Iraq were quite different. Iraq was far more divisive and controversial. Perhaps it's more a matter of exercising some amount of restraint rather than opposing any and all military action ever when it comes to "progressives" (or whatever you want to call non-conservatives).

I will give McTx this: once Dubya and his merry crew of war-criminals started screwing the pooch with the Iraq invasion, subsequent mistakes were of significantly less importance.

Once the bed has been well and truly sh*tted, it would be *nicer* if a pack of muskrats were not invited in to roll around in the filth, but the outcome was never going to be "good".

I was skeptical of the sketchy push for war with Iraq; the breaking point was when the "seeking uranium from Niger" letter was finally released, and was debunked by a junior IAEA staffer in an afternoon with teh Google.

I wonder how many of the progressives, liberals or just non-conservatives (however you prefer to self-identify) commenting on this blog opposed going into Afghanistan after 9/11.

i did.

i thought we'd go in there, mess it up and leave it worse off than it was.

since we haven't left yet, i haven't decided if i was right or not.

(i will also admit to being pretty ignorant of all things political at the time)

i thought we'd go in there, mess it up and leave it worse off than it was.

Was that a matter of not liking the specific plan or not trusting the planners, or was it a matter of not thinking attempting to kill or capture members of Al Qaeda and their Taliban supporters worthy of military action (or even a principled objection to military action in general)?

In other words, was it a form of pacifism or was it a matter of practicality?

As a matter of plain fact, McK, you are mistaken

Disagree (no surprise there); Garner's plan was not executed while Garner was in control. Even if it had been well over half the army would have been disbanded. Garner did not have authority to pay Iraqi troops and there is no contemporaneous evidence he requested that authority.

The plan, per the NYT, was documented in the form of a Power Point presentation. Nice.

It's dire warning of the impact of demobilization consisted of this clarion call: “Cannot immediately demobilize 250K-300K personnel and put on the street.”

All of the cites,except for State Department Working Paper post date the invasion by 3-6 years. The one below is five years after the fact. Notice the choice of language. It was quite tentative even then:

The broad outlines of the decision are now widely known, defended by proponents as necessary to ensure that Saddam Hussein’s influence did not outlive his ouster from power.

But with the fifth anniversary of the start of the war approaching, some participants have provided in interviews their first detailed, on-the-record accounts of a decision that is widely seen as one of the most momentous and contentious of the war, assailed by critics as all but ensuring that American forces would face a growing insurgency led by embittered Sunnis who led much of the army.

First, the army is disbanded, then the criticism follows and then, five years later, principals come forward and say, essentially, we didn't agree and we didn't know. Vague references to a plan that had been approved at the highest levels, yet no written evidence of the plan or its execution other than a freaking Power Point. No one can produce a single email or other contemporaneous document evidencing dissent with Bremer's decion. Most telling: just because Bremer made the announcement didn't mean it was a done deal. There is no evidence of a concerted, or even a scattered, effort to reverse Bremer's decision. No evidence that someone called, wrote or verbalized to Bremer words to the effect, "this is a disaster in the making".

We all know what date Bremer made the announcement. Show me, in the three month period thereafter, who of consequence, or just who, was publicly criticizing the decision. There may be one or two isolated instances, but no one was saying *at the time* "this is stupid and we will reap the whirlwind".

Which brings me to NV's State Department working paper: It is actually a series of papers, none of which were a consensus of the working group. Moreover, if you go to page 26 using your acrobat page counter, the proposal was to disband the entire Iraqi army--no different than what Bremer did.

So, I'm not lawyering anything. Self serving statements years after the fact unsupported by contemporaneous words and actions don't prove anything. Who remembers a Power Point three days later? That's a plan? NV and Russell have thrown up some links, none of which prove or establish either a plan or a consensus that disbanding the Iraqi army would be dangerous.

I realize it is conventional wisdom that Bremer was an idiot and that his decision was awful. The evidence of that is hindsight, not foresight. Not people saying that day, or the day after, or in the weeks after, "this is a really bad idea, look for an insurgency." I'm talking about one person with some degree of authority making this statement. It didn't happen. If the stupidity of Bremer's decision was so self-evident, a lot more than one person would have said something. They didn't. They were as clueless as he was.


Progressives seem to have had their trigger finger amputated.

your imagination has taken over your reality.

Ok, you got me here. A touch of hyperbole seems to be a touch too much.

At the risk of piling on, I wonder how many of the progressives, liberals or just non-conservatives (however you prefer to self-identify) commenting on this blog opposed going into Afghanistan after 9/11. That's not limited to not approving of the specific actions that were taken. I mean, who categorically opposed any sort of military action?

I suspect that will be a small number. I was speaking of now, not then. 9-11 would be hard not to respond to. Even today. I was alluding more to ISIS. And using a touch of hyperbole.

I think pretty much everyone (outside dedicated pacifists) agrees that 9/11 had to be responded to. And few (except with hindsight) would argue that going in to Afghanistan was not a valid response. Perhaps we should have realized then the perils of doing so, but few if any did.

Iraq is a whole different kettle of fish. There were lots of people who realized that 9/11 had nothing to do with Iraq. (You could have made a case for blaming the Saudis, since the hijackers were Saudi nationals. Not Iraqis.)

Instead, Iraq was sold, if memory serves, as a preemption of worse attacks which could come from Saddam and his WMDs. The WMDs did not exist, but that was far from obvious at the time. The issue, for those who disagreed, was far more about whether Saddam had the capability or inclination to make, or even covertly support, such an attack on us.

And then there is the seperate question of, once we did decide to invade Iraq, how should things be done?

P.S. Another evidence of how poorly the whole invasion was thought out: We had tanks running out of gas before they ever reached Baghdad. When we went in to liberate Kuwait, the general in charge understood logistics. But when we went into Iraq this last time, apparently logistics were not considered important . . . until lack there caused things to start hanging up.

I was alluding more to ISIS.

So the fact that so-called progressives don't support a renewed invasion to eradicate ISIS means their trigger-fingers have been amputated? You don't see any room for reasonable people to disagree on how to handle such an immensely f*cked up and complicated situation? That's the example?

Was that a matter of not liking the specific plan or not trusting the planners, or was it a matter of not thinking attempting to kill or capture members of Al Qaeda and their Taliban supporters worthy of military action (or even a principled objection to military action in general)?

my thought at the time was that we'd be better off trying to help Afghanistan become a place where the Taliban and al-Q could simply find no support. improve their lot and make it a place where terrorists weren't welcome. i thought (and still think) that bombing it would create more al-Q recruits and leave the country even more incapable of warding off extremists in the future.

so: yes, some general pacifism; plus not really knowing how fncked up Afghanistan really was/is, and not trusting Bush to do anything to improve anyone's life.

and again, i wasn't really paying attention to the details at the time. it wasn't until that war got going and the war in Iraq started shaping up that i bothered learning anything about what was really going on.

i think i would feel differently about Afghanistan now. i still think we're creating more al-Q supporters than we're killing. but still, i think the modern and sophisticated cleek of today would probably be cool with going after the Taliban, and OBL.

Ok, you got me here. A touch of hyperbole seems to be a touch too much.

Poe's law.

The WMDs did not exist, but that was far from obvious at the time.

How could it be? Wouldn't that require proving the negative? Why isn't the burden of proof (or obviousness) on the other side, the one wanting to invade another country and kill a bunch of people? Shouldn't it have been obvious that there were WMDs before going in?

It's far from obvious that I don't have the world's largest penis, but you don't see the Guinness people knocking on my door.

Well, it's obvious to me, and a few other people, but no one else can tell.

Instead, Iraq was sold, if memory serves, as a preemption of worse attacks which could come from Saddam and his WMDs.

That's what I bought into.

So the fact that so-called progressives don't support a renewed invasion to eradicate ISIS means their trigger-fingers have been amputated?

And did you read my specific thoughts on what we should be doing about ISIS?

Poe's law.

Glad you got it.

How could it be? Wouldn't that require proving the negative? Why isn't the burden of proof (or obviousness) on the other side, the one wanting to invade another country and kill a bunch of people? Shouldn't it have been obvious that there were WMDs before going in?

There was a broad consensus that Saddam had WMD. Hell, he'd used them. I'm still taken aback by, AFAICT, this unique act of unilateral disarmament.

It's far from obvious that I don't have the world's largest penis, but you don't see the Guinness people knocking on my door.

May I suggest that the conclusion that you are not Number One may be inferred from the fact that you have time enough to comment here--were you in fact Number One, there would be other demands on your time. And better uses.

Wouldn't that require proving the negative?

I phrased that badly. As I recall at the time, we were presented with evidence that there were WMDs. And not just from US intelligence. Some of it has turned out, long after the fact, to have been bogus. But that's all I meant by it being "far from obvious at the time" that the WMD's didn't exist. As I say, poorly phrased.

As I say, poorly phrased.

I absolve you. ;^)

I wonder how many of the progressives, liberals or just non-conservatives (however you prefer to self-identify) commenting on this blog opposed going into Afghanistan after 9/11.

I supported it.

My greatest-generation in-laws, who spent WWII tramping around the Philippines (him) and building Corsairs (her), did not.

Go figure.

As far as ISIS, I'm all for crushing them like bugs.

You tell me how we go about doing that. It'll take an effort far beyond what we've done in either Afghanistan or Iraq. And, the political context is orders of magnitude more complicated than either Afghanistan or Iraq. Not the domestic political context, the international one.

Everybody has at least one agenda in that area. "Everybody" including Turkey, Russia, the Kurds, Assad, the Sauds, Iran, and fifty-seven flavors of revolutionary jihadi private armies sporting all of the heavy gear we left behind over there over the last 12 years.

When you tell me you'll take a 60% top marginal rate to pay for it, I'll take your interest in "exterminating ISIS" seriously.

If you want to tell me you're gonna pay for it by picking the freaking bones of TANF, or making the new retirement age 80, you can save it for another guy.

We've had 15 years of "let's go kick some ass, but don't ask me to pay for it". Enough of that crap.

As far as Garner's plans in Iraq, Garner was there for two fucking months before they yanked him and put in Bremer.

You presented your opinion that there was no real plan to do anything other than disband the Iraqi army. Folks called you on it, you have presented not one damned thing by way of documentary evidence to support your claim.

And, you demanded, from the rest of us, not just documentary evidence, but contemporaneous documentary evidence.

Which was provided, and which you sniffed at.

So screw it. Believe what you want to believe, it doesn't make an ounce of difference at this point anyway. The dead are dead.

But don't tell me it's the progressives here who aren't dealing in facts, because that is horseshit.

There was a broad consensus that Saddam had WMD. Hell, he'd used them.

Okay. Now we're getting into how you define WMDs for the purposes of invading Iraq, W's mushroom clouds be damned.

May I suggest that the conclusion that you are not Number One may be inferred from the fact that you have time enough to comment here--were you in fact Number One, there would be other demands on your time. And better uses.

Maybe I'm just a little shy! Okay?!

I had a comment, which disappeared (maybe I'll try again), about where I stood on all of this at the time, but now that hairshirthedonist (now I'm getting the moniker) has settled the big question with the answer all of us have been seeking since the Tacitus days, I no longer see the point in comparisons.

There was a broad consensus that Saddam had WMD. Hell, he'd used them.

BEFORE the first US war against Iraq.

And there was a suspicious lack of evidence that after that war, a significant amount of time and quite some meddling by inspectors he still had considerable amounts of the stuff. In particular the nastier substances (nerve gases) have a limited shelf-life and even mustard gas needs consatnt favorable (cool*) conditions to last (the stuff will stay unhealthy but will not be overly suitable for use in ammo).

The whole stuff about yellow cake and alumnium tubes got debunked before the first US troops (officially) walked into Iraq. that cost Bush a lot of support outside the US (where the media did report on it). Over here in Europe we simply shook our heads at the horror scenarios spread in the US about Supper Saddam's bag of tricks like the fleet of freighters loaded with Scud launchers hidden in standard containers that could lob countless missiles filled with WMDs on US shores within minutes of Saddam waking up with a headache (soon followed by Iraqi nukes smuggled in by Al Qaeda).

*like 4°C at the bottom of the sea, the only reason that the stuff sunk in the Baltic Sea after WW1&2 still poses some danger.

Russell: You tell me how we go about doing that. It'll take an effort far beyond what we've done in either Afghanistan or Iraq.

Me, from my 11:04: ISIS is exactly the kind of threat that merits strategic evaluation. I'm not at all suggesting any immediate or even over the horizon invasion. We are too worn down for that. Rather, we and our allies need to begin planning long range for the prospect of a major intervention if ISIS consolidates and spreads. Consolidation makes it easier to identify, meet and defeat an opponent.

You presented your opinion that there was no real plan to do anything other than disband the Iraqi army. Folks called you on it, you have presented not one damned thing by way of documentary evidence to support your claim.

No, I made the initial statement that Bremer's decision to disband was not then or even subsequently the matter of criticism or real debate until quite some time later. People act today as if everyone then knew it was stupid. Not the case and no contemporary evidence to prove it. I took NV's pre-invasion State Departent study and pointed out by page number precisely where you and he are directly contradicted. The judgment on Bremer is pure hindsight. The idea that had he followed the Garner Power Point (seriously, a Power Point is the only documentation of this pivotal issue?), there would have been a materially different outcome in Iraq is speculation backed up by virtually no evidence.

But, whatever, it's late Friday afternoon and it's been a long week. Until next time.

W's mushroom clouds be damned.

Yeah, I saw it as chemicals and biologicals. I did not see nukes as an issue.

Hartmut, if you have a pre-invasion indication from one or more European leaders or intelligence services negating Saddam's possession of chemical or biological weapons, I'd be very interested to see that. Not saying it isn't there, just saying I don't recall having seen much dissent on that topic in the run up.

You presented your opinion that there was no real plan to do anything other than disband the Iraqi army. Folks called you on it, you have presented not one damned thing by way of documentary evidence to support your claim.

No, I made the initial statement that Bremer's decision to disband was not then or even subsequently the matter of criticism or real debate until quite some time later

From your 6:21 of 10/15:

No one, in the run up or during the invasion ever said, "After you win this, keep the army in existence and on the payroll--that will be critical."

So, whatever.

Have a nice weekend.

At the risk of piling on, I wonder how many of the progressives, liberals or just non-conservatives (however you prefer to self-identify) commenting on this blog opposed going into Afghanistan after 9/11. That's not limited to not approving of the specific actions that were taken. I mean, who categorically opposed any sort of military action?

I was. I concluded sometime around 1100 EST on 11 SEP 01 that we were going to invade Afghanistan (Massoud's assasination on the 9th and the immediate uptick of hostilities between the NA and the Taliban, plus the reported concerns about AQ attacks over the past several months (remember the SAM batteries installed at the G-8 Summit?), I was both quite convinced that I knew where the attack had originated and that we would respond horribly), that it would be an utter C-F and a humanitarian disaster, and that this was inevitable with the military we had (and its recent history of interventions) and the "anti-nationbuilding" and "transformational army" zealots in the administration. I'm quite depressed to say I feel entirely vindicated in my gloomy predictions.

All of the cites,except for State Department Working Paper post date the invasion by 3-6 years.

Except, ofc, those that didn't. Did you actually look at the dates on all the cites? Or is my memory bad and did the invasion happen somewhere in the range of 1997-2000? Or did you already forget the cite from Nov. 2003 that you so scornfully dismissed yesterday? And - my personal favorite - did you somehow miss the article TWO F'N DAYS AFTER Bremer dissolved the Iraqi Army?

We all know what date Bremer made the announcement. Show me, in the three month period thereafter, who of consequence, or just who, was publicly criticizing the decision. There may be one or two isolated instances, but no one was saying *at the time* "this is stupid and we will reap the whirlwind".

Why do I even bother? You're plainly not reading the links I gave you. Here, again, from two days after:

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/25/international/worldspecial/25IRAQ.html

Notice that it's a contemporaneous source. Notice it's an influential one. Notice it's raising concerns immediately after the G-D fact, not 3-6 years later. This was not uncommon, nor were these concerns new or surprising, if you weren't buried to the neck in a hermetically sealed bubble.

There was a broad consensus that Saddam had WMD.

There was also a broad consensus that he didn't have active NBC programs (which was the transparent BS moonshine that Bush&Co were peddling), nor were their remaining stocks within their shelf-lives. As Harmut points out, the alleged "broad consensus" only existed in the mainstream US line of sight. Powell at the UN was taken very seriously by the pious US media, but his performance was torn to pieces overseas (and in the "unserious" press that "grownups" like you ignored). This was not something taken seriously outside the US media bubble.

I realize it is conventional wisdom that Bremer was an idiot and that his decision was awful.

It's conventional wisdom now, but it was unserious defeatism and pro-Ba'athist "aid and comfort" immediately after the fact.

The evidence of that is hindsight, not foresight.

Bull F'n SH*T. I've been listening to this BS for somewhere between 12-14 years, depending on when you start counting, so I'm quite familiar with it, I've been repeatedly reminded of and revisited it, and it's obviously a lot fresher in my memory than it is in yours.

Not people saying that day, or the day after, or in the weeks after, "this is a really bad idea, look for an insurgency."

Bull F'n SH*T.

I'm talking about one person with some degree of authority making this statement. It didn't happen.

Bull F'n SH*T.

If the stupidity of Bremer's decision was so self-evident, a lot more than one person would have said something.

- and plenty of people did, even if the likes of you didn't want to hear them -

They didn't.

Bull F'n SH*T.

They were as clueless as he was.

And here, at last, we have the ultimate thesis of the "I was f'r it, a'fore I were ag'n it" crowd. They have proven to have included many of the loudest voices that shouted down any and all doubts or criticisms leading up to the invasion as unserious, unpatriotic, defeatist, treacherous, pro-Ba'athist, racist ("why you fiend, of course the Arabs will embrace Freedom as soon as we offer it to them; you're a monster for suggesting they won't!"), etc. etc. etc. And as soon as things began to sour - as McKTx so elegantly put it "since criticizing the invasion became cool", they changed their tune and tempered their enthusiasm. It was a noble endeavor, you see, but Mistakes Were Made. We had the very best of plans, but Stuff Happens and Democracy is Messy. There were miscalculations, but no one could have guessed we'd not be greeted with candy, roses, and crude!

And we come back again and again to the claim that no one could have conceived the problems that inevitably arose. Even though many did, at the top of their lungs. We come back to the notion that everyone was for it, until it became popular to be against it (though naturally whatever flip-flopper is doing the lecturing changed their mind strictly due to careful consideration, unlike the hypocritical hind-sighted leftist bleeters). We come back to the notion that everyone agreed it was the best of plans. That the intelligence looked watertight and was never questioned. That no serious objections were raised, and that only pure pacifists were against it "before it was cool" to "jump on the bandwagon". McKTx did a good job of hitting all the flip-flopper high points. The keys are, again, that all credible data pointed to invasion being The Right and Only Thing to Do, until suddenly it didn't, so the flip-flopper manages to have always been right.

Is the above a rant? Ofc. But that's 12-14 years of frustration at having the likes of McKTx rewrite history so as to never have been on the wrong side of it for even a moment. That's 12-14 years of being right over and over, and being called unserious, traitorous, or delusional... right up until they start telling us that neither I nor anyone else ever said what they previously denounced us for saying.

McKTx, you're flat-out wrong on this. You're remembering what you want to remember, and you're wrong. I gave you ample citations. I don't really feel like fishing on the Wayback Machine to find contemporary articles that weren't excluded from archiving on the off-chance you might actually bother to read it before find some way to further narrow your range of inquiry and exclude it so You're Still Right. I gave you an hour or two of my life on this. Bas. You're not worth more. Believe your self-aggrandizing delusions if you want. I'm not going to stop you.

As far as Garner's plans in Iraq, Garner was there for two fucking months before they yanked him and put in Bremer.

I mis-spoke.

Garner's tenure as Our Man In Iraq lasted from April 21 2003 until May 11 of the same year.

So, about three weeks.

If you supported the Iraqi invasion, you were wrong. It was a stupid thing to do, even if carried out well, and nothing leading up to it indicated that it would, remotely, be carried out well.

If you thought Saddam was going to supply WMD to terrorists, you were wrong. If you thought Saddam had anything whatsoever to do with 9/11, you were wrong. If you thought Saddam had any way to deliver WMD to the US on his own initiative, you were wrong.

You were wrong about all of those things, and the information was available *at that time* for you to understand that you were wrong.

We were all disturbed by 9/11, and a desire to do something in response was and is understandable.

But that particular response was as wrong-headed as could be. And it wasn't that freaking hard to figure that out at the time, if you were open to the idea and not prone to assuming that anyone who thought it was a bad idea was some kind of soft-headed liberal jerkoff.

It was wrong. If you thought it was a good idea, you were wrong.

Sometimes people are wrong. It happens.

I'd be delighted if folks could just suck that up and quite trying to justify the positions they took 12 or 13 years ago.

The folks who are dead are dead. It doesn't matter what you thought at the time, or for what reasons. It was a bad idea, planned badly, and executed badly.

Just freaking let it go, already.

took NV's pre-invasion State Departent study and pointed out by page number precisely where you and he are directly contradicted.

...yet conveniently, you somehow glossed over all the earlier inconvenient bits discussing the necessity of reforming the Army and which specific portions needed dissolved, and how the reservists in particular needed de-mobilized, etc. Huh. Funny, that. Also, on this topic, WRS. You're moving the damned goalposts Yet Again IOT remain ever in the right.

Hartmut, if you have a pre-invasion indication from one or more European leaders or intelligence services negating Saddam's possession of chemical or biological weapons, I'd be very interested to see that. Not saying it isn't there, just saying I don't recall having seen much dissent on that topic in the run up.

Do your own G-D research. If you want to do it for free and online, and with only primary sources, that's probably going to mean a whole lot of fishing on the Wayback Machine, and it'll be frustrating as hell dodging the robots.txt exclusions. You're welcome to it. You're not worth the effort. You seriously aren't.

Have a good weekend, all.

Note that NV's first source, up there at 6:06 PM, says: "Iraqi soldiers complained bitterly today of the allies' plans to disband the country's armed forces, with some threatening to take up arms against occupying American and British troops unless their salaries were continued." (emphasis added)

Which is to say exactly what I said up there at 3:08 yesterday: if we had told the Iraqi soldiers that their pay would be continued if they returned to their bases, disarmed, and stood down . . . a huge amount of fighting by our troops could have been avoided. Along with the related costs. And that position was put forth pretty early on -- early enough that we could still have changed our minds.

Yes, NV is correct that Iraqi soldiers did complain immediately. I was unclear. I meant that American criticism of Bremervwas not contemporaneous--it was after the fact, made in hindsight. I stand by this.

I stand by this.

Live it up.

Next time you feel inclined to lecture all of us about how we're blinkered by our knee-jerk lefty mindset, keep it to yourself.

Because I don't want to hear about it. Not from you.

OK?

I can do better than that.


NV: You are literally making stuff up to support your narrative, McKTx.

Call it the McKnarrative, for short. It will save typing in the long run.

McKinney passes for a serious, reasonable commenter around here. But he has been indulging in McKnarratives since 2010 at least, w.r.t. Dick and Dubya's Excellent Adventure. Given an electorate containing serious, reasonable voters like McKinney, no POTUS will ever get foreign policy right. I stand by this.

--TP

Hartmut, if you have a pre-invasion indication from one or more European leaders or intelligence services negating Saddam's possession of chemical or biological weapons, I'd be very interested to see that.

Without even having to google it, I can name Germany's foreign minister who famously commented on Powell's UN fairy-tale with "I am not convinced". And his boss (chancellor Schröder) narrowly avoided losing the next election only by not falling for it either while his conservative opponent was eager to join Cheney/Bush*. My general impression was that those German's that did care to inform themselves were actively repelled by the WMD narrative. In other words, even those that would have initially agreed that it was good idea to get rid of Saddam changed their opinion when they saw the (to us) obvious fabrications used as tools of persuasion and the constant changes when yet another claim got debunked. Blair too quickly lost all credibility (the '45 minutes' talking point was the tipping point for many around here).
I cannot remember when it became publicly known that Germany had told the US that 'Curveball' (the chief witness in the Chney/Bush propaganda campaign) was seen as totally untrustworthy by those that had interrogated him. But this too clearly played a role in the German leadership's incredulity as far as the WMD claims were concerned. In short, the general German reaction was 'if they have to lie so blatantly to get their war, then the whole war must be unjustified/able and we want to have no part in it.'

*I cannot say for sure what Stoiber personally believed but he clearly saw the chance to put a dent in the prior consent that Germany would never again engage militarily abroad (at least not outside a UN action and preferably without boots on the ground even then).

McTx: There was a broad consensus that Saddam had WMD. Hell, he'd used them. I'm still taken aback by, AFAICT, this unique act of unilateral disarmament.

I do love the convenient washing down the memory hole of Hans Blix and the 3+ months he spent running around Iraq looking hither and yon for these WMD stockpiles and finding JACK SH!T. The Bush administration invaded anyway. Defenders of the decision to invade always like to reference the supposed "consensus" circa October 2002, before any time was spent in-country by the UN weapons inspectors, which again by the March 2003 had found nothing.

Also, too:

In an unusual move, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz earlier this year asked the CIA to investigate the performance of Swedish diplomat Hans Blix, chairman of the new United Nations team that was formed to carry out inspections of Iraq's weapons programs.
...
Officials gave contradictory accounts of Wolfowitz's reaction to the CIA report, which the agency returned in late January with the conclusion that Blix had conducted inspections of Iraq's declared nuclear power plants "fully within the parameters he could operate" as chief of the Vienna-based agency between 1981 and 1997.

A former State Department official familiar with the report said Wolfowitz "hit the ceiling" because it failed to provide sufficient ammunition to undermine Blix and, by association, the new U.N. weapons inspection program.

9/11 gave the Bush Administration the excuse they needed to invade Iraq. It's the first damn thing they thought of that day, and they weren't going to let inconvenient facts get in their way and were willing to fight dirty.

We will be paying for the consequences for another 50+ years.

Also everything NV said up thread. This too.

When the Vietnam War ended, I thought, "Well, at least we've learned something." Wrong. Even on the VN War the "revisionists" started right away finding new arguments about how they were right all along and all those who had opposed it were wrong or - worse - actually caused our defeat.

And now McKT is carrying on the same fine old (dis)honorable tradition WRT Iraq. If you screw up just keep lying about it, adjusting the lie as necessary to slightly changed circumstances, and hoping that sooner or later the defenders of the truth - or whatever approximates to truth in these cloudy conditions - will get tired of calling you out on those lies.

Sigh. Those who distort the past may be condemned to repeat it.

"Officials gave contradictory accounts of Wolfowitz's reaction to the CIA report,"

I love t his, in YOUR quote, it says there were contradictory reports. One paragraph later he "hit the roof" because....

In this argument everybody reads and remembers the source that supports them. There us far more nuance to every point here than "This is the facts". In a very long and complicated decision tree, what might have happened on other branches is pretty unknowable.

In your view Marty after 3+ months of searching for these "stockpiles" of WMDs and not finding any - facts not in dispute by anyone - the reasonable decision was to invade anyway?

Also not in dispute - that Wolfowitz asked the CIA to investigate blix. I'm sure his motives were pure.

I'm trying really hard to stop commenting, for various reasons, but for the record:

1. I was (to my subsequent regret) for the Afghanistan war.
2. I was unequivocally against the Iraq war, as was almost everybody I knew, foretelling many of the consequences (you didn't need to be a genius) before the fact, except that as a side-effect it would make the object of the Afghanistan invasion unachievable. Although I remembered the State Department project which NV provided, before he provided it, (but I thought it had been called Project for a New Iraq which delayed my finding it for 5 minutes), when I read it I decided McKinney would reject it for various reasons, including the ones he gave, so I did not overcome my self-denying ordinance to post it, and
3. Although I agree with Russell, and NV, and numerous others, I wish to God discussion could stay civil because I think McKTx's contribution to this site is important: he's no Brett, and when I remember e.g. Hilzoy's stated rationale for blogging, in her last post:

But I've always thought that a good citizenry is also composed of people who assume, until proven wrong, that many of the people who disagree with them are acting in good faith.

This matters for policy: you're unlikely to choose sound policies if you assume that anyone who disagrees with you is a depraved, corrupt imbecile. It's hard to learn anything from people you have completely written off.

I can't help thinking that an actual dialogue is necessary, between people of differing views. But you may think that anyone who is trying to stop commenting is not entitled to propose behaviours for those who still do so, in which case, fair enough.

Well, was it the "ceiling" or was it the "roof", that Wolfowitz hit?

If he hit the ceiling, that implies he was propelled upward by some inner emotional force, or perhaps catapulted toward the ceiling, within a enclosed area. Was he in a sitting or a standing position when thus propelled?

If he instead hit the roof, that implies that he found himself in a downward, falling motion toward the topmost covering of a building. Did he jump from a higher point? Was he thrown?

Could he have perhaps hit the ceiling with such force from inside that it propelled him through the roof as well and some distance above it, perhaps having his wax wings melted by the near proximity of the sun, only to fall back by gravity's cruel embrace to a different point on the roof, meeting it with the top of his skull, one can only hope.

These are subtle, important differences that will help us determine whether the Iraq venture was either a total clusterf*ck perpetrated by malignant, lying knaves (this latter was the word Tacitus -the younger- used to indicate his superiority over all who protested his mad schemes) or merely a well-intentioned, completely inadvertent clusterf*ck perpetrated by innocents.

Each costing two trillion dollars and rivers of blood, even though you'd of thought there might have been a discount proffered for well intentioned innocence.

And now the rancid, deadbeat step children of these dear innocents are refusing to pay the f*cking bill, proffered politely before in the offer of a modest tax surcharge, and refused, and now proffered in form of a debt collection, also refused.

How many filth do we have to f*cking kill to make this right?

I agree that McKT's contribution is important.

He's arguing the defense for condemned parties.

Ugh, In my view the stop and start baiting of the inspectors over several years meant the hunt and peck for 3 months was to be completely distrusted by any reasonable person. And, with MckT, I was stunned that no chemical weapons were found. I'm sure the administration was also surprised.

I'm impressed that the Germans were so smart, there were many other countries/governments who were sure Saddam had a WMD program.

The dissolution of the army was stupid, but, the ethic/religious civil strife was unlikely to be averted either way.

If one expects a dramatic turn in the discussion points after 12 or 13 years I suspect that's a problem. Just because the supporters of the intent behind the war quit actively debating it doesn't mean they quit thinking it was a good idea poorly executed, or a bad idea with good intent.

If you could, imagine the difference in the perception and discussion if one sizable chemical weapons cache had been found.

"The dissolution of the army was stupid, but, the ethic/religious civil strife was unlikely to be averted either way."

I agree with that. We lowered ourselves into the whirling blades of an internecine wood chipper either way.

"If you could, imagine the difference in the perception and discussion if one sizable chemical weapons cache had been found."

Imagine Jeb Bush's words, let alone Trump's, "He kept us safe", applied to Al Gore's efforts if we hadn't been cheated out of the latter's Presidency and 9/11 had been on Gore's watch.

There are all kinds of brain-teasers out there to keep the imagination percolating.

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