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October 29, 2003

A MARCH SURPRISE?....This is a little bit of an open thread. Yesterday Megan McArdle wrote a column in which she said this:

There are actually rumors that the White House is contemplating accelerating our departure, which seems lunatic to even discuss when the country doesn't appear to have a functioning anything.

That sounded odd to me. I'm hardly one to give this administration the benefit of the doubt, but I haven't heard anything from either Bush or his advisors that makes me think they're planning on pulling out of Iraq. So what's up?

Just to make my thoughts crystal clear: it wouldn't surprise me if the Bushies declared victory and started pulling out early next year. Unlike Bush's admirers, I view him as a strongly poll-driven man who undertakes only policies that he thinks are widely popular and risk free. If public support for Iraq goes in the tank, I think he's the kind of person who would indeed cut and run.

But that's just psychoanalysis. I don't have any evidence that they're really thinking along these lines.

But then this morning, almost like magic, I came across this story in The Hill, which makes it sound like Republicans are getting very nervous indeed about the war, and this post by Josh Marshall in which he says that fear of an early withdrawal is widespread among both Democrats and hawkish conservatives. So obviously something is going on, and the idea of an early pullback from Iraq is Topic A among Washington insiders at the moment.

I'm still not sure myself. There are certainly a lot of reasons to suspect that the administration is thinking of withdrawing: declining public support, increasing fatalities, growing fear that we can't win a long-term guerrilla war, and mounting strain on the military, especially around March of next year when troop rotations will reduce our strength in Iraq whether we like it or not.

Is there more to it than that? I haven't seen any evidence either in the form of statements or leaks from administration officials or leaks of secret plans for an early withdrawal. What does everyone in Washington think they know that I don't?

Posted by Kevin Drum at October 29, 2003 09:59 AM | TrackBack


Comments

Is there more to it than that?

That's a trick question. I'm not going to answer it.

Posted by: Smirky at October 29, 2003 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

Good God.

Back when we were ramping up to war, I would tell my pro-war friends that I would be a lot more willing to support it if I had some idea that things would really be better when it was over. The scenario I described was basically that I didn't want Saddam removed and then replaced a short while later with some other dictator whom we might well end up going to war to replace twenty years down the line.

If that scenario plays out....

Posted by: Jaquandor at October 29, 2003 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

There's also a story in the Washington Post:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A31534-2003Oct28?language=print

Headline: "Staying the Course, Without Choice".

The gist is that the US needs to pursue "Iraqification",
getting as many Iraqi police and soldier to provide security, and pull US troops back to where they can be used for attacks.

Posted by: Barry at October 29, 2003 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

I think what is behind the rumors is the fact that we can't find any troops anywhere else in the world to come in and help. As the congressional study showed, we're in serious trouble in maintaining troop levels past next March. Ergo, the choices are: a.) declare victory and start drawing down troop levels regardless of the situation on the ground; b.) in some fashion, find additional American troops (probably by more reserve call-ups); c.) declare defeat, so to speak, and cut a real deal with the UN.

C is extremely unlikely, because really, at this stage, what country could sell its people on putting their soldiers into harm's way, but i won't rule it out altogether (frankly, though, as i've been saying for a while, i suspect that whoever the Dems nominate is going to say that only "I" can convince the rest of the world to join with us in Iraq).

If i have to guess how Bush will choose between "a" and "b," it's hard to see anything in bush's life history (forget his psychoanlytic profile) that convinces me he'll choose "b."

Which brings us back to why people have to be thinking about/worrying about this kind of choice-making in the oval office.

Posted by: howard at October 29, 2003 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

It wouldn't surprise me if WH staff were a little more anxious about leaking to the press given the ongoing Plame fallout.

It also wouldn't surprise me if the WH/KR were devising a plan B on Iraq. President Bush is, if nothing else, compulsive about having a coordinated and organized plan (and preferably simple) plan to rid the world of terrorism/create democracy in Iraq/get re-elected. Plan A, staying until the job is done, is becoming messy indeed.

Posted by: Lisa at October 29, 2003 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

If anything, Rumsfeld has been on a campaign lately to build support inside the administration and out for a " long, hard slog ".

You could view this as his move against a Rice-Powell push for internationalizing Iraq and reducing troops or as the administrations actual position.

Either way, the concept of " turning it over to the UN " is a complete fantasy. The UN handles peacekeeping/nation-building well only where they are wanted, as in East Timor; we intervened in Somalia and Bosnia precisely because the blue-helmets are not equipped to handle suppressing hostile forces. Iraqis deeply dislike and distrust the UN and the French, Germans and Arab states that had been supportive of Saddam. The UN cannot waltz in and replace American troops without a vast escalation of chaos and terrorism.

Even when UN action is " robust " as in Korea or the Gulf War I. the United States must assume the bulk of the costs and the troops to make it work. The only real solution is a realistic number of American troops in a ratio required to suppress guerrilla activity, something the Bush people have refused to consider.

Posted by: mark safranski at October 29, 2003 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

"Fear of early withdrawal?" I always knew this was macho posturing, but I didn't relaize there was impotence anxiety too.

Posted by: McDruid at October 29, 2003 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

If Bush pulled out, I am pretty sure he would declare that the American phase was over (Mission Accomplished) and hand it over to the UN -- right?
Getting Bush's hands off of anything important seems like progress to me.

Posted by: theCoach at October 29, 2003 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

My suspicion all along has been that we would find the war easy to win, and the peace very difficult, and so we would exit after a year or so, leaving a well-armed dictator in place to run the country. Someone who will do our bidding while maintaining the veneer of a "democracy".

I can't for the life of me think who would fill this role. A Jordanian, perhaps?

Does King Abdullah have a brother?

Posted by: sockeye at October 29, 2003 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Bush, like every other member of his family, truly cares about only one thing: power. If he thinks he needs to cut and run to win the election, he will do it in a heartbeat.

Posted by: englishprofessor at October 29, 2003 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Iraqis deeply dislike and distrust the UN...

I wasn't aware of this sentiment, or at least that I wasn't aware that it had spread further than the existing guerilla forces. Do you have any cites on that?

Posted by: Anarch at October 29, 2003 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Bush is fucked no matter what he does. That's the beauty of it.

We have to leave Iraq eventually, and when we leave, Iraq will be in chaos. Doesn't matter when we pull out, could be March, or now, or whenever. We don't have nearly enough troops to pacify the country and turn it into a stable Western democracy. It was pure insanity to think that could be done.

Posted by: grytpype at October 29, 2003 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Bush had better be careful about a March surprise, because there's a substantial penalty for such early withdrawals... ;-)

Posted by: David W. at October 29, 2003 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

I can hear the monkeys revising Bush's web site even as we type.

No.References.To.Staying.The.Course

Posted by: chris at October 29, 2003 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination should do a campaign ad with before and after clips of Bush...saying something one day and denying it the next. There should be plenty of lies from which to choose.

Posted by: chris at October 29, 2003 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

My suspicion all along has been that we would find the war easy to win, and the peace very difficult, and so we would exit after a year or so, leaving a well-armed dictator in place to run the country. Someone who will do our bidding while maintaining the veneer of a "democracy".

Manuel Noriega isn't very busy these days. Or maybe Bush wants the job himself; remember how he said things would be "so much easier" if this were a dictatorship?

Posted by: Mike Jones at October 29, 2003 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

The way I see it, Bush has three major options:

1) Continue on pretty much as is - current troop levels, current rate of bringing in Iraqi forces. Problem - it is not working, and to the point where Time and Newsweek have cover stories about it.

It is probably not sustainable without making some major sacrifices (rotating troops back in with only very short stateside tours, calling up more reservists for longer tours, etc). It could easily not work by the magic time of a year from now. The end result, even if things are clearly on the mend a year from now, is that the war was much harder and unpleasant than the American people were led to believe.

2) Crank up the war. Increase troop levels by putting every possible soldier into Iraq. Stateside rotations get turned into one-month leaves + one-month retraining, and then back into Iraq. Almost all reservists and national guards are called up, the majority going to Iraq. Those troops stay there for the duration. The goal would be to have things wrapped up by May 04, so that the Summer and Fall would see lots of photo-ops of returning troops.

Problems - massive morale problems, possible collapse of forces. Any illusion that things are under control in Iraq is shattered, for ~60% of the American people (the Bush apologists, of course, will never see anything wrong).

In addition, this only *might* win the war by then. Intensive operations (i.e., killing a lot of people) might also piss off enough Iraqis that the war widens in Iraq. Possibly into Saudi Arabia.


3) Pull out and 'Iraqify' as quickly as possible. The goal would be to have the majority of troops back in the States in first quarter '04. The security situation would be handed over to local puppets^H^H^H^H^H^H leaders. Goal: minimal additional US KIA's.

Problem: this probably won't work. If 130K US troops + US tech + US logistics can't handle the guerrilla's, any local puppet is SOL. The probable result is that the Shia religious leaders take power in their regions, Sunni Baathists come back in their regions, the Kurds become an independent state. Lots and lots of inter-ethnic/provincial wars. And this would be in a large country on the Persian Gulf. No oil, and lousy terms for US companies. The Shia state would be good buddies with Iran. Saddam would probably come out of hiding, and make many videos wherein he laughed at Bush.

None of these options are appealing. Option #1 would ordinarily be, to this administration, but it does not now appear to be so, in terms of not going into November '04 with the war still going on, at, unacceptably high levels. It might work - Oct/Nov '04 might turn out to be the peak of guerrilla activity, but the Bush administration would have to have a lot of faith. And these guys don't have faith in things like that. They prefer to have a rigged game, for anything which matters.

Posted by: Barry at October 29, 2003 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

The Washington Post's Dana Priest just finished quite an amazingly blunt online chat. Well worth a look . . .

http://discuss.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/zforum/03/r_nation_loebpriest102903.htm

Posted by: penalcolony at October 29, 2003 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Many different levels at work here. Hard to find the ground to stand on. But I have a really hard time thinking that there will be a large scale pullout in March, mainly because the neocons have so much influence in the admin. I just can't figure out what's happening there that would really cause the admin to even feint this. The bodycount isn't intolerable, the public isn't up in arms over the occupation, there is at least some forward motion (the schools, the schools). I'd really be shocked if they went through with anything close to this.

It would be a terrible move on their part, and everyone would know it. The WH is too smart to really consider this. It's not a real option.

Posted by: SamAm at October 29, 2003 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

I sure wish George H.W. Bush can withdrawn prematurely...from Barb!

Then we wouldn't be in this mess.


Posted by: anon at October 29, 2003 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

I sure wish George H.W. Bush had withdrawn prematurely...from Barb!

Then we wouldn't be in this mess.

Posted by: anon at October 29, 2003 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

May I just remind everyone that Iraq has the world's second largest oil reserves... I don't think that Shia rule in southern Iraq fits in with long term US planning for those oil wells.

Posted by: R.Mutt at October 29, 2003 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Barry:
Good review. I think BushCo will go with option #3 because, although it means all was for nothing, Americans will stop being killed and that's all most Americans care about anyway. The right only started crying crocodile tears over the poor oppressed Iraqis when their plight became the last fig leaf available to support the invasion.

Posted by: chris at October 29, 2003 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Old News.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A46852-2003Oct18.html

The Pentagon has been working on a draw-down plan for a little while now, maybe the press is just now getting off it's collective ass and realizing what Ricks wrote. The current force level is unsustainable without significant reserve call-ups, something that will NOT go over well in an election year.

Posted by: Gary at October 29, 2003 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

We have to leave Iraq eventually, and when we leave, Iraq will be in chaos. Doesn't matter when we pull out, could be March, or now, or whenever.

Exactly. Iraq has a civil/regional war in its future no matter what we do. It is not possible to stay and "do it right." The "you broke it, you bought it" arguments founder on the rocks of: (1) Iraq not being purchasable; (2) our utter cluelessness as to how to fix it; and (3) nobody here (outside of oil companies) wants it anyhow. We created the power vacuum and we cannot fill it, no matter how diligently we try. Just maintaining Iraq's territorial integrity is going to take a small miracle.

Declaring victory (or defeat - it really doesn't matter, despite all the column inches devoted to it) and getting the hell out of Iraq is Bush's least bad electoral option heading into 2004, and it's still pretty bad.

Posted by: apostropher at October 29, 2003 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Well, any successful reconstruction will involve a US pullout. The Iraqis are going to have to run Iraq eventually.

What we need to do is create Iraqi institutions, such as a democratically elected government, that will not collapse as soon as we leave.

Our plan has always been to move Iraqis into positions of leadership as soon as possible. The only question is, once we do this, will the Iraqi officials CONTINUE TO behave democratically, or will they begain arresting dissidents and suspending the constitution, or creating an Islamic state?

The other main dangers after a US pullout are (a) the Iraqi government is toppled by a coup (not likely -- we won't allow it), or (b) the Iraqi government is too weak to control the country, and things slip into chaos. This is a very serious danger, becuase the Saudis, Syrians, ex-Baathists, and fundamentalists view a democratically elected Iraqi government as every bit as dangerous as 130,000 US troops. These enemies of democraracy will do everything possible to discredit the Iraqi democracy if they are smart, by making it look weak and ineffecutal. If they are not smart (and so far they haven't been particularly smart), they'll simply lash out and kill as many Iraqis as possible. Iraq might look like Columbia.

It's important to remember that a US pullout doesn't mean a total pullout. We will certainly have tens of thousands of troops stationed in the desert somewhere; they will be largely immune from terrorist attack there, but they will deter any ex-Baathist or fundamentalist from trying to raise an army and take Baghdad.

We will also continue to influence the Iraqi government with money and assistance. The only question is the level of money and assistance. I think we should be able to spend $10 or $20 billion per year on aid to Iraq without paying too much of a political price for it, and to a country like Iraq, that's a vast sum.

If we pull our troops back to the desert bases in March, we'll have occupied the country for one year. That sounds like enough time to give the Iraqi government a fighting chance to stand on its own two feet. Obviously, it might be better if we stayed longer, but a pullback in one year is not a suicideally reckless move.

We will obviously be leaving more than a few loose ends untied if we pull back in March. Some of them we'll be able to deal with later, by using our economic and politcal muscle, but other problems will simply be left unresolved. For example, the restructuring of the Iraqi economy will be pretty quick and dirty. This isn't terrible; once Iraq is back on its feet, economic growth should take care of itself, but still, it would be better to break up things like the state-owned telephone compnay in an orderly rather than haphazard way. I am sure that we will have the oil situation resolved before we pull back, obviously.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 29, 2003 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

I tell you one thing- mark my words- if we do pull out early every single right-winger who visits these comments, every single right-winger whose job it is to be a pundit, every last one of them will defend the action as the most sensible thing to do. They will accuse liberals and democrats and anyone with a brain of wanting more soldiers to die, or wanting to keep Iraq from being truly free to run their own country.

They'll smear everyone who opposed the war and the occupation as hypocrites in some manner such as "gee, you all didn't want us there in the first place, now we're pulling out and you say it's a bad idea! You're all hypocrites!"

Mark my words.

I can already imagine the posts from the likes of Al and Shmoe and Reg and the rest of them.

Posted by: Tim at October 29, 2003 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Unlike Bush's admirers, I view him as a strongly poll-driven man who undertakes only policies that he thinks are widely popular and risk free.

I disagree. Bush's entire presidency has been about one thing and one thing only -- keeping the right wing happy. And I doubt they'll be very happy if we bug out of Iraq.

Posted by: Ridnik Chrome at October 29, 2003 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Fatalities

American soldiers 219
British soldiers 18
Coalition soldiers 5
---
237 Since May 2

American 358
British 51
Coalition 5
---
414 Since March 20

Wounded

American soldiers ~2080 Since March 20

Note: American forces have fallen to 130,000
British forces have risen to 11,000

Posted by: Ari at October 29, 2003 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Shmoe's already heading me off at the pass.

What did I tell you?


BTW, Shmoe-
or will they begain arresting dissidents and suspending the constitution, or creating an Islamic state?

You realize if Iraq was allowed to be a democracy it would become an islamic state, right? You realize we're not going to allow a democracy then, right?

Right?

Posted by: Tim at October 29, 2003 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, even though he's not bright enough to know it Bush has his nuts between a rock and a hard place. But in the end it is the oil. I believe that that is why the war was fought and that is why Bush and Cheney cannot pull out unless they control the oil. They really have no choice, it is not possible for them to leave without oil revenue control. The Iraq resistence, or whatever one wishes to call them, currently seem to be working on two ideas: to change the will of the American people and congress and to dissuade Iraqis from helping the US. If they change tactics to attacking oil systems then we will see if the militiary is redeployed from what they are now doing to guarding the oil facilities. Besides the oil issue, if he pulls out in a giving up sort of motion then his core voting support who have been sold down the river regarding the war will be pissed and Bush may not be able to lie his way out of the mess this time. He cannot risk that either. I really believe, unfortunately for our soldiers, that Bush cannot pull out without somehow securing the oil and the oil revenue. Power is money and oil becomes money.

Posted by: MRB at October 29, 2003 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Anarch,

According to Zogby, 6.5 % of Iraqis want the US to maintain security; 14.5 % say the UN and 27 % say a combined US-UN presence is preferable to either alone. Almost 50 % said no one ( i.e. Iraqis are on their own). On the other hand, it's difficult to find any Iraqi leaders except for Sadr who want an instant American pull-out of troops.

Posted by: mark safranski at October 29, 2003 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

It would be the worst thing Bush could do. Assuming he wins another term, it would tie his hands in terms of "remaking" the Middle East. Regardless of the merits of each individual case, the UN and the rest of the world community would never support any other US military intervention in the region. They'd be able to point to Iraq and accuse us of making a mess and then walking away from the chaos. They'd rightfully say we'd destabilized the whole area. Do you think we'd ever be able to invade Iran or Syria if we walked away from Iraq without somehow stabilizing it first? I, personally, would be very happy if we never went into Iran or Syria - but at some point there might be some legitimate reason to do so, and we'd never get anyone to support us. In a rational world, I'd say Bush wouldn't even be able to drum up domestic support for any more adventurism if we pulled out too quickly in Iraq - but he's got a solid core of supporters who would follow him off the edge of a cliff.

Posted by: Jersey Tomato at October 29, 2003 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

I take it as an article of faith that the administration is not going to withdraw. The exodus of the PNAC crew would split the ship of state right down the spine. Bush would get killed in the blogosphere, there would be a Draft Soandso movement, the cognative dischord in the Weekly Standard alone would be enough to fry all the minds inside the beltway.

If they really do withdraw it will the the single dumbest move of international and domestic politics since...Vietnam. Maybe ever, with the total media coverage we have now.

The laws of physics prevent this scenario. A house withdrawn against itself cannot stand. They CANNOT be this friggin stupid.

Posted by: SamAm at October 29, 2003 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

The one thing that bothers me about an immediate pullout is that I don't know that it's really necessary.

I have always anticipated that we would take casualties in the postwar period, and that the reconstruction would be expensive.

Frankly, I don't think the casualties are unacceptable (that's easy for me to say), or that the cost is that great.

But the defeatism bogus parsimony of Democratic elected officails and the media (Dana Priest is a prime example of this -- her contempt for the Bush Administration is almost palpable, it's disgusting) has made the American public believe that things are really bad in Iraq, when in fact they are not.

I am also appalled at officals like John Kerry and Robert Byrd who actually opposed the $87 billion in aid to Iraq. The people of Iraq desperately needs the money. The problems that we face here in the US are nothing, repeate nothing, compared to the problems faced by Iraqis. Where is their compassion? What kind of liberals are unwilling to help these poor people?

We can easily afford to fund the reconstruction. It's not going to be easy, but it's well within our grasp.

Unfortunatley, Bush has to react to these political pressures. He's trying to do the right thing, and the selfish and defeatist Democrats and liberal media are harassing him at every turn.

Fortunately, as noted above, a March pullout doesn't mean disaster. It's a little bit risky, but it might work. It would be better to stay a little longer (and I'm only talking about six months to one year here) and get everything up and running, but the Iraqis will have a decent chance at stability and democracy if we pull out in March and continue to support them thereafter.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 29, 2003 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

This is why the US should have kept the Iraqi army intact. Then the administration could just install a new dictator and have "the best of all worlds: an iron-fisted Iraqi junta without Saddam Hussein" (Thomas Friedman, NYT, July 1991)

Posted by: R.Mutt at October 29, 2003 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

We can easily afford to fund the reconstruction. It's not going to be easy...

Umm, care to rephrase that?

Posted by: apostropher at October 29, 2003 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Does King Abdullah have a brother?

No, but an uncle: maybe he will be Iraq's next leader?

Posted by: sockeye at October 29, 2003 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

According to Zogby, 6.5 % of Iraqis want the US to maintain security; 14.5 % say the UN and 27 % say a combined US-UN presence is preferable to either alone. Almost 50 % said no one ( i.e. Iraqis are on their own).

That's more or less what I thought, which means that I'm having trouble following your point: You claim that the Iraqis "deeply dislike and distrust the UN", but that the UN's approval rating -- as measured in that poll above, and I recognize that's a highly skewed measure -- is over twice ours? How then would a pound-for-pound replacement of our troops by UN troops lead to a "vast escalation" of chaos and terrorism?

[I agree that at the troop levels currently bruited there would be an escalation of chaos and terrorism, but that's a function of a reduction of total troop strength and not anything specific to the UN or the US.]

On the other hand, it's difficult to find any Iraqi leaders except for Sadr who want an instant American pull-out of troops.

I'm fairly sure that none of the Iraqi leaders (save Sadr) want a reduction in troop strength, period, so yes, that seems logical. IIRC, there were a few leaders who were fairly supportive of an internationalized force that might conceivably mean that American troop numbers would be reduced (and hence, a pull-out), but I'm on my way out the door so I can't check that at the moment.

Posted by: Anarch at October 29, 2003 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Look at Afghanistan? Do Americans care about the Afghani success story? Big fat no.

If it's polling well for him to pull out of Iraq, that's what he'll do. The reality doesn't matter. Only the Schmoes of the world actually think there can be a mythic Western-style democracy in Iraq and only then because BushCo proclaimed it so. Give Bush a couple of months to begin recrafting his message to what the polls are telling him and, like Tim said, the Schmoes and the "support the troops" folk will fall at Bush's feet and Iraqis be damned. Once our guys stop getting killed, it doesn't matter what happens to Iraqis.

Don't worry about the oil. The conglomerates will find a way to make sure it stays "safe". The fields are in a shambles and the Iraqis will need help to get production up to snuff. Deals will be cut and the oil will flow again.

Posted by: chris at October 29, 2003 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Joe, if you're really that willing to swallow Republican propaganda whole without a single critical thought, be my guest, but please have the courtesy not to repeat it back to us as if it were actually your original ideas.

Posted by: JP at October 29, 2003 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, i think we should congratulate joe schmoe. Until quite recently, his postings were all of the nature of "of course we're going to succeed in iraq."

Now he has progressed to "1 year should be enough, although it's possible that a bad outcome could happen."

I commend Joe on attending to reality. Given enough time, Joe may even recognize what a foolish policy the backbone administration pursued....

Posted by: howard at October 29, 2003 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Anarch,

14.5 % is too low level of trust for troops who are going to hail from mostly third and fourth tier armies - Bangladesh, Fiji, Nigeria, small European countries etc. The qualitative gap between a multinational UN force and US troops is vast.

Posted by: mark safranski at October 29, 2003 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

First, wrt to what dictator the US might leave in place, this article describing the reappearance of Nizam Al-Khazraji might suggest an answer.

Khazraji was spirited from from Denmark (he was awaiting possible trial for using WMDs on the Kurds) in the days before the war started--some people thought the CIA was the most likely culprit, and that they wanted him as a replacement for Sadaam. There was a rumor that he had been killed in one of the assassinations in the early days of the war (I'm not sure, perhaps when Al-Sadr's father was killed?). But now he seems to be alive again, and living comfortably in the UAE.

That said, I think in addition to the Plans A through C above, there is also a very bleak Plan D.

The reason we need to pull back in March is because of a shortage of certain kinds of troops--things like reservist MPs and such. But I suspect we could deploy other groups, such as the Air Force, in a pinch.

So I think Plan D is that some event happens to justify an Israeli invasion of Syria (probably the discovery of Iraqi WMDs, but who knows with these guys?). Israel certainly has got the reservists to spare. And then, because whatever said event was "threatened" the US as well, we send in available troops to help out. The exit strategy here could be much more clear than that in Iraq, because you could have a Syrian administration surrender, which never proved possible with Sadaam. Anyway, in the process of remobilizing to fight in Syria, you're able to increase the US forces that could threaten immediate punishment to whatever force is in power in Iraq at that time, at least until the election. And you'd also have another war with which to wag the dog.

I think the determining factors on Plan D have to do with 1) the ongoing squabbling in the WH--this would give Rummy and Cheney a victory even in the face of an Iraq failure, although I think Rove would be skeptical, and 2) whether the neo-cons in the administration get bounced out of power, in which case they call their buddy Arial Sharon and instruct him to start implementing Plan D, which allows them to get their way even if they are out of power.

Posted by: emptywheel at October 29, 2003 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

"Bush undertakes only policies that he thinks are widely popular and risk free"

Right. The war in Iraq was risk free. What we did with Iraq for the past 12 years was risk free.

And Tim, if Bush pulls out I won't defend it. I will still vote whoever is most hawkish, and unless Lieberman gets the nod for the Dems, I'd be voting for Bush again.
I do think that if the Iraqi public opinion turns massively against us and wants us to leave we ought to limit our presence. But it would be folly to cut and run simply on the basis of our own public opinion polls.

Posted by: Reg at October 29, 2003 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

If they can provide evidence that Saddam is dead/captured, I have no doubt that the Bu'ushites could sell a March withdrawal to the electorate. And no doubt that they would.

How should the Dems respond? I ask this as an academic question, to be answered from a perspective purely of political advantage.

Should Dems insist on staying the course? We could knock W down a rung or 2 but then WE become the party responsible for dead troops.

This whole thing stinks to high heaven. Someone needs to have Bush define the objectives of this mission, so we can evaluate those objectives and then hold him to them. Instead it's shifting explantions for war and whatever definition of success happens to be politically convenient.

I can see Rove rubbing his fat, pasty little hands together.

ARRGGGH!!! OK, I'm going to go give some $ to the DNC.

Posted by: sockeye at October 29, 2003 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

I do think that if the Iraqi public opinion turns massively against us and wants us to leave we ought to limit our presence. But it would be folly to cut and run simply on the basis of our own public opinion polls.

Mr. President, the results of those new polls you requested have come in, and guess what, it looks like Iraqi public opinion has turned massively against us!

Posted by: sockeye at October 29, 2003 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

a pound-for-pound replacement of our troops by UN troops

Anarch, you do realize that there are no such thing as "UN troops," don't you?

Posted by: jw mason at October 29, 2003 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Tim-

We've discussed this a million times.

First, I don't know that Iraq will turn into a fundamentalist Islamic state if we hold free and fair democratic elections, and NEITHER DO YOU.

Second, the Iraqi constitution will undoubtedly provide for the seperation of church and state. It will have a bill of rights. We will make sure of it. The Iraqis can choose to ignore the constituion, but if they do, it's not a democracy any more, and the religious character of the government is the least of our problems.

Third, we will continue to have enormous influence in Iraq even after the Iraqis take over. We'll be (covertly) contributing to the campaigns of politicians. Our diplomats and businesses will parcel out foreign aid to Iraqis who will help us.

Finally, we can tolerate an Iraq that is very, very Muslim, and very, very conservative. The Iraiqs want to outlaw pornography and alcohol? Fine, we can live with that. Many Southern counties here in the US are dry and porn-free. The Iraqis want to have an official state version of Islam, like the Church of England? Not great, but acceptable. Clerics will be highly influential in politics? No problem, the Religious Right is highly influential here in the USA.

The only things we won't allow are stuff like burquas and a Ministry for the Protection of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Stoning is out, as are honor killings. But if the Iraqis want to have a very conservative, and very Muslim, society, that should be no problem. So long as they don't start sponsoring terrorism and issuing fatwas, everything will be all right.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 29, 2003 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

sockeye

Amazingly close to what I was thinking. But from a little different perspective.

Repubs cry withdrawal, Dems cry about withdrawal, Bush says "We're all on the same page, no withdrawal"

Posted by: Ron at October 29, 2003 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

I am not appalled at people who oppose the aid package to Iraq.

Under the "you broke it, you bought it" principle we have an obligation to rebuild the country.

I would also suggest that we have an obligation not to put the Iraqis further into debt with involuntary (we're holding a gun to their heads) loans and pilliage (privitization).

That being said, when some where between 40 and 80 cents on the dollar is not going to fix things in Iraq, but instead to pay off politically connected contractors, I think that we have to oppose the blank check that Shrub and his evil minions demand.

There was a great example on the "Baghdad Burning" blog, where Iraqi repair of a bridge was estimated to cost about $400K, but the winning bid was for $50 million, over a hundred times that.

To the degree that the aid is directed in with free market evangelical/Milton Friedman fixation, it will not help the people of Iraq, nor will it reduce the violence there.

Posted by: Matthew Saroff at October 29, 2003 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

"some needs to have Bush define the objectives of this mission, so we can evaluate those objectives and then hold him to them..."

Sockeye, you know full well what the objectives are. We need to remove Sadaam from power, take away his WMD's and stop him from developing more, and create an Iraq democracy.

Bush has always been consistent about these goals. Your charge that he has been "evasive" is unfounded.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 29, 2003 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Reg, Bush perceived the war in iraq as risk-free. I just posted this on another thread here at calpundit, but to repeat, Phil Carter had an excellent posting yesterday about an Army War College study:

Prof. Stephen Biddle of the Army War College recently presented a study to the House Armed Services Committee on lessons learned from Iraq that concluded that Iraqi ineptitude was key factor in America's victory. Speed, technology and "jointness" could not explain, by themselves, the rapid American victory over Iraqi forces. As Prof. Biddle found in his 1996 study of Gulf War I, the key determinant of victory was the synergistic interaction of American skill with the lack of skill on the Iraqis' part -- magnified by the presence of a severe technology differential.

http://philcarter.blogspot.com/2003_10_26_philcarter_archive.html#106737118245132843

The polling data all along, regardless of how people felt about the war in advance, demonstrated that if we went to war, 70% of the public would support it.

His trusted advisers who provide him objective information were convinced of the cakewalk/decapitation/everyone reports in to work the next day/we reduce troop levels to 30K in several months/oil revenues pay for reconstruction sequence.

In short, he saw no military risk, no public support risk, and no postwar risk.

Posted by: howard at October 29, 2003 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

I can't imagine any situation where a pullout of Iraq by March would be good for our long term foreign policy regarding Arab terrorism and the Middle East.

In fact, I can't imagine any realistic situation where a pullout by 2005 would be good for our long term foreign policy.

I'll admit that Bush would have to do a lot to lose my vote--I'm generally ok with what he has done so far. But a pullout leaving Iraq to the wolves would definitely cause him to lose my vote. Don't look for conservative cover for that kind of action from this corner.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at October 29, 2003 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Well, joe, you already got my one compliment for the day.

No, the Bush objectives were regime change and WMDs. The building a democracy was something that came along much later in the campaign, and although it now is the retrospective raison d'etre, it wasn't the prospective causus belli.

I have mentioned before, but i'll repeat: there are 6 key verbal "documents": Cheney at the VFW in August, '02, Bush in cincy in september '02, Bush SOTU, Powell at the UN, Cheney on Russert the Sunday before the war, and Rumsfeld's war objectives. If you review them, you'll see that they are easily 90% about saddam must go and the wmds are a threat, and at best 10% about the shining neocon vision of building democracy.

Remember, each and every one of these guys came to office disdaining "nation-building." How could it possibly have been in their character to undertake war in order to "nation-build?"

But let's, just for a moment, accept that democracy was an equal objective. The question then becomes: where are the Bush objectives and milestones for achieving this? As rumsfeld rightly said about the war on terror, but true here as well, there are no metrics.

You might ask yourself why?

Posted by: howard at October 29, 2003 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Hurrah for Sebastian! Like Joe, he is acknowledging a reality that many of us have seen for a while, and we should encourage him in his doubts about the backbone administration.

Posted by: howard at October 29, 2003 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Howard: Reg makes his "risk free" comment because he has come to realize what we realized well before the war. Only now that it has come to pass, he imagines he thought it too.

Revisionist history. The only thing Bush is good at (besides coloring within the lines).

Posted by: chris at October 29, 2003 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget that a sizable chunk of that $87B supplemental for Iraq is slated for construction of US bases, complete with walled/gated enclaves, schools, and shopping centers for US personnel.

That's infrastructure for permanent occupation.

What's the size of this permanent US occupation force? Bigger than Korea? Germany?

For it to be smaller than the 130K current level assumes that Iraqis are willing/able to provide for their own security -- "Iraqization."

That idea worked SO well in Vietnam...

Posted by: Swoosh at October 29, 2003 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

What I believe is taking place right now is a defeat of the US troops in Iraq. If we cannot protect the most secure area in all of Iraq (the Green Zone) and (if the Robert Fisk article relating the loss of a 5 mile radius of protection around Bagdad airport to a two mile radius is to be believed) we are losing. The administration never had a plan B and fully expecting to be greeted with mostly welcoming behavior. At this point we would control the oil, control a puppet government, reduced troop levels to 50K or so residing comfortably in the 5 new bases scattered around Iraq, and be basking in glory.
The really scary part here folks is I do not think the administration has a clue what to do with this mess. There are just no real viable options for them at this point. For the neocons, we needed a steady flow of oil and we needed to have a strategic presence in the Middle East to protect the oil because we HAD to get out of Saudia Arabia. So now we are out of Saudia Arabia and we have to stay in Iraq but Iraq does not want us any more than the Saudis do. And the Iraqis will only make things worse day by day. So the only other alternative is to step up the military presence and agression but there are not any where near enough troops currently available and even if there were, how bad do we have to make for the Iraqis to make it good for us? The administration has a true disaster on its hands so they are floating ideas every which way.
But as a country we are so screwed. We have let our dependence on fossil fuels be dictated by a handful of greedy jerks, which now leaves us sitting in Iraq to save our economy. Not that the greedy jerks care, just as long as China can't have it.
We may be down to the choice between our standard of living or sacrificing many, many more of our children to this disaster. And all the while the Christain right is sending millions to Isreal so as to foster conditions for Armaggaden and the "Rapture". And Isreal takes the millions and laughs behind the rights backs cause the Isrealies don't believe that rapture crap.

Posted by: Mary Ellen Moore at October 29, 2003 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think they'll withdraw, though it's more because I think it would be politically stupid than because I trust them to do the right thing.

What a mess.

Is it a vain hope that a democratic president (esp. one who originally opposed the war) could effectively internationalize this? I'm sure Europe would look more sympathetically on a President Dean or Clark than a President Bush, but would they actually send troops and money in more sig. quantities or is it too late? Of course a democratic president might offer them concessions in other areas, like climate or the ICC, as an exchange, and that could help...I don't think we could get Kyoto or the ICC treaty through the Senate, but we might pass regular CO2 legislation and a decent energy plan, and stop making bilateral agreements with some of the worst governments on earth not to cooperate with the ICC.

Posted by: Katherine at October 29, 2003 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

It's all about the O-I-L. Oil, is it that simple? Yes - it's that simple. Bush will secure the United States of Iraqi oil, declare victory... and withdraw.

And may I introduce you to the "new boss"... same as the "old boss"... Saddam Husein.

Posted by: Jay R. at October 29, 2003 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

It's amazing to see Republican stooges immeaditely rationalize the Bush administration's incompetence and deceit as part of the plan. I was hearing not long ago that we must not allow terrorist attacks to diminish our will, yet we are beginning to hear just that! Isn't that the lesson Bush wanted us to learn, that we would never appear weak to the Islamic Radicals again? But what are we doing? We are thinking about withdrawing because of politics, it appears Bush does not in fact believe what he says, he will only fight terrorists as long as his re-election numbers stay up! Unbelievable!

Posted by: Carlos at October 29, 2003 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Reg-

I have never said that the occupation of Iraq was certain to succeed. It is possible that the Iraqis will reject democracy no matter how perfectly our reconstruction is planned, executed, and funded. Maybe the tribal and ethnic divisions run too deep. Maybe the lure of fundamentalism is too strong. I have always admited this.

What I always rejected was that the United States, and the Bush administration for that matter, was incapable of turning Iraq into a democracy. What I said is that if it can be done, the United States can do it. Moreover, I argued that the USA will probably do a better job of Iraqi reconstruction than, say, the UN.

For the record, I still think that the Iraqis will empbrace democracy and a liberal, humane form of government, given the chance. Oppressed peoples throughout the world yearn for the opportunity to speak their mind freely, elect their leaders, and go about thier lives without fear of arrest by the secret police. From Central America to Africa to Eastern Europe to Asia, we have seen literally billions of people who have never known anything but dictatorship and oppresion embrace democracy when it becomes available to them.

Sometimes they don't. The Bosnians didn't. The The Somalis didn't (that one was under the auspices of the UN, by the way.) Sometimes nascent democracies elect genocidal madmen, like Hitler and Arafat. Some democracies are terribly weak, and are alawys a charismatic colonel away from dicatorship. Much of Central and South America is like this.

But we've got to give the Iraqis a chance. Democratization of the Middle East is our best chance at future acts of terrorism here at home.

I still think that the Iraqis will embrace democracy. They are educated, secular, and relatively advanced by Middle Eastern standards. They aren't blind, either. I doubt that many of them swoon at the prospect of living in a 7th century theocracy under iron-fisted rule of some dictatorial mullah. They have seen how well these governments worked out in Afghanistan and Iran.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 29, 2003 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Recent Joe: "Oppressed peoples throughout the world yearn for the opportunity to speak their mind freely, elect their leaders..."

Earlier Joe: "We will not allow..."

Posted by: apostropher at October 29, 2003 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

The "you broke it, you bought it" arguments founder on the rocks of: (1) Iraq not being purchasable; (2) our utter cluelessness as to how to fix it; and (3) nobody here (outside of oil companies) wants it anyhow.

Thank you, apostropher.

The most infuriating thing in these debates isn't that Bush lies, i sunprincipled, etc. you get used to that. The most infuriating thisg is the way the liberal position is rapidly becoming more troops and a longer occupation.

I was against the war, and, as the war is continuing, I continue to be against it. The anti-wart position is to end the war, which means bringing the troops home. The alternative is to be infundmantal agreement with teh Bush administration on Iraq. The fig leaf of "internationalization" means nothing.

Repubs cry withdrawal, Dems cry about withdrawal, Bush says "We're all on the same page, no withdrawal"

For once, Ron gets it exactly right.

Posted by: jw mason at October 29, 2003 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Remember all the things Bush said About Afghanistan? Pay no attention to what is said.

Cheney is a student of ancient Rome. Rumsfield has i think, a "locust" strategy. Attack an enemy, destroy the military infrastructure, create political chaos, set up a garrison and airbase.....move on to next country. Return as needed.

Doesn't that look like Afghanistan?

And why does everyone assume these guys want billions of barrels flowing at dirt cheap prices?
Mightn't the Iraqi oil be more valuable 5-10 years down the road?

Posted by: bob mcmanus at October 29, 2003 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

I think that the prime strategy right now (and it probably reflects a compromise between the extreme hawk and more moderate hawk camps in the administration, or the Rumsfeld and Powell camps) is "Iraqization" of the war. We're seeing this now with the hasty training of Iraqi police and security forces to replace U.S. troops in urban areas, who right now might as well be walking around with big red targets on their backs. It's sort of hauntingly like Nixon's "Vietnamization" policy for that war, but that still was a multi-year plan.

Any appreciable troop pullout by March is probably pure fantasy, but Rove is probably smart enough and evil enough to pull a number of troops at a strategic point in the election cycle (e.g. around Republican convention time or shortly before election day). If they get enough security forces by, say, August, they could bring home a few troops, especially reservists, to get the headlines "20,000 troops to return home" in all the papers. Note that Nixon's "secret plan to end the war" and token troop reductions was enough to get him resoundingly reelected.

Posted by: Ted at October 29, 2003 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Is there a possibility that this is all just hysteria? All of these doom-and-gloom stories just happen to come one or two days after a string of big attacks. Could everyone be over-reacting?

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 29, 2003 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Wait and see or bait and switch!

Posted by: Gnao at October 29, 2003 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Bush is caught between a rock of Iraqi chaos destroying the active US Army and a hard place of pulling out and betraying almost all of his support. I think the eventual 2004 plan will be the unenviable task of withdrawing American troops, forming some form of Iraqi government, and maintaining enough strength to avoid another April in Saigon. Bush might no longer have the albatross of a climbing casualty count, but if Iraq turns into Afghanistan West / Lebanon East by the October debates, it's not going to be pretty.

However, there also is the rather scary thought of a kamikaze plan: If at some point Bush realizes he's toast no matter what, he furiously maintains the status quo in Iraq no matter the cost. When January 2005 rolls around, he hands off the disintigrating remains to J. Random Democrat. Meanwhile the Mighty Wurlitzer begins rehearsing it's new releases for 2008: "Who Lost Iraq?"

Posted by: CdrRayChevrolet at October 29, 2003 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Oppressed peoples throughout the world yearn for the opportunity to speak their mind freely, elect their leaders, and go about thier lives without fear of arrest by the secret police.

Better tell them to stay away from America, Ashcroft & the PATRIOT Act, then. We're only as free as they let us be.

Posted by: chris at October 29, 2003 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Going in in the first place was a mistake. But now we're there... so now what?

Many of you seem to feel that a unilateral pullout of US troops would be some sort of disaster, but I'm not convinced.

Obviously the best case scenario is the creation of a stable democratic government. But what the general consensus is that such a goal is not achievable? Frankly, judging by the track record of the current leadership of the occupation, I would put the chances of success as slim to none.

Would pulling out be so terrible? It would likely turn Iraq into a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism and a base of operations for terrorists, but I don't see that as different from the current situation.

The most sensible and moral argument for continued occupation is humanitarian. Withdrawl of our forces would likely cause internal civil war and untold humanitarian problems such as famine, disease, executions, ethnic cleansing, that go along with it. But the well being of foreign nationals is not really a proper concern of a national government. Yes, we should care for others as people, and try to help them, but we should do so as human beings, not as a national government. "Alleviation of human suffering" is hardly a sound basis for foreign policy.

Yes, the US would rightly be villified for replacing a funtioning, if oppressive and autocratic, government with a state of anarchy and civil war. Yes the suffering of the Iraqi people rightly be on the conscience of administration. Yes, we would have made ourselves less safe from terrorism while simultaneously increasing the suffering of the Iraqi people. But that was pretty much true as soon as Bush started this little adventure in the first place.

The proper way to judge policy is not what one would like to have happen, or what should happen, but what is likely to happen given the options available at the moment. Our options may be limited to staying until we rebuild Iraq to a point where it can be stable or leaving and letting the Iraqi's sort it out for themselves (likely with guns and death). If our realistic chance of actually achieving stability are nil, then this is really all a matter of timing, of how many lives we lose before we leave.

All I'm saying is that such an idea should not be dismissed out of hand. It may be the logical choice.

Posted by: IMU at October 29, 2003 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Third paragraph, second sentence. That should be "But what IF the general consensus ..."

Sorry for the typo and the no doubt rampant mispelling.

Posted by: IMU at October 29, 2003 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Shmoe's right-

Nobody knows if Iraq was a democracy they'd elect an islamist, just like nobody knows if they drop a pen it will fall to the ground- it's just the most probably outcome.

Posted by: Tim at October 29, 2003 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Schmoe thinks so much like Perle and Wolfowitz it's scary. We make a grave mistake in discounting everything he says:

It's important to remember that a US pullout doesn't mean a total pullout. We will certainly have tens of thousands of troops stationed in the desert somewhere; they will be largely immune from terrorist attack there, but they will deter any ex-Baathist or fundamentalist from trying to raise an army and take Baghdad.

There's the plan folks. Pull back, wait for the civil war to end and threaten the winner(s) with sanctions, no-fly-zones, and bombings. We keep control of the oil. Haliburton builds the PXs.

And everything goes back to sort of like it was before -- except hatred (and terrorism) will be even stonger and more wide-spread.

Posted by: Karlsfini at October 29, 2003 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

IMU

Nicely thought through. Withdrawal is an option and should be weighed. I would like to add my thoughts:

Our presence is in one way necessary for security, but in another way it is detrimental to security (since we are a target for every loon over there). Removing us removes the targets for the loons. Right now, I think we provide more of a benefit to security than detriment, but that will change.

But you say
Would pulling out be so terrible? It would likely turn Iraq into a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism and a base of operations for terrorists

This is no benefit to us, it is no benefit to the Iraqis, in fact it benefits no one we would like to see benefited. Pre-Saddam the Iraqis had some form of democratic government, some of them surely remember how to do it. I would like to think the task is doable, and I think it should be pursued.

Withdrawal should hinge on the security question: when do the Iraqis become more secure without us?

Posted by: Ron at October 29, 2003 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

bob mcmanus at 12:13: And why does everyone assume these guys want billions of barrels flowing at dirt cheap prices? Mightn't the Iraqi oil be more valuable 5-10 years down the road?

Brilliant. Anyone who skimmed over that post should go back and read it.

PNAC has been in the planning stages for maybe thirty years. It's leaders are thinking far beyond Bush. The Thousand-Year Reich.

Posted by: Karlsfini at October 29, 2003 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Schmoe, as usual your courtesy and clear writing are a refreshing contrast to most of the pro-Bush regulars here, but as usual I'm kind of amazed at your optimism.

"Our plan has always been to move Iraqis into positions of leadership as soon as possible. The only question is, once we do this, will the Iraqi officials CONTINUE TO behave democratically, or will they begain arresting dissidents and suspending the constitution, or creating an Islamic state?"

Would you agree that there is a rather high and often fatal degree of antipathy toward U.S. collaborators in Iraq? Do you really think there's a good chance that any governmental structure we set up will be seen as legitimate, or that anyone we "move into positions of leadership" will be able to survive long without ruthless authoritarian measures?

Also, your use of "continue" is very odd. Iraqis are serving in a government (using the term loosely) that is our creation and entirely under our control; there is no democracy there, thus no one can "continue to" be democratic - they will have to start being democratic after we appoint our chosen leaders and leave.

Please take a moment to imagine that the U.S. is under foreign occupation, and that the conquerors set up a provisional government and an election system, and promise to leave as soon as we elect our own leaders - as long as those leaders are acceptable to them (i.e. don't have extreme religious views no matter how popular they are, and don't threaten the foreign interests who have bought up much of our country during the occupation). Perhaps you'd take that better than I would.

"The other main dangers after a US pullout are (a) the Iraqi government is toppled by a coup (not likely -- we won't allow it), or (b) the Iraqi government is too weak to control the country, and things slip into chaos."

If we were still in a position to "allow" or "not allow" a coup, then how on earth could you say we'd "pulled out"?

Yes, there is a difference between ruling directly as an occupying force and propping up a regime through open-ended military intervention. But the latter is hardly less hazardous or more "democratic."

Posted by: Eli at October 29, 2003 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Just stopped by to see what the left-of-center world was thinking, and wow! Most folks here seem to (a) be cheering for a US defeat in Iraq and (b) to have no idea at all what they would do differently if they were in charge. How are they ever going to convince the public to give them the reins of power?

Posted by: DBL at October 29, 2003 01:07 PM | PERMALINK

Responding to Sockeye

Does King Abdullah have a brother?

His Majesty does in fact have a brother, Hassan, who was once tapped by the late Hussein to be his own successor, but was then passed over in favor of Abdullah. And Hassan was being considered by some people to be king/president of Iraq before the war began. Check out this article in the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,916248,00.html

Posted by: Garrigus at October 29, 2003 01:08 PM | PERMALINK

Ron,

Thanks for the compliment and response. I think my main disagreement is with your primary criterion for making a decision. You say that "Withdrawal should hinge on the security question: when do the Iraqis become more secure without us?" I would say, rather that "Withdrawl should hinge on the foreign policy question: is our continued presence in Iraq benificial to the long term interests of the United States?"

It is in the interests of our national policy to remain in Iraq if we can create a stable government, preferably democratic. If on the other hand, we cannot (or our chances are so small that the chance of the benifit is outweighed by the cost of the attempt) then it is in our national intrest to minimize our losses as best we can.

We have a moral obligation to help the Iraqi people, but that does not mean that fulfilling this moral obligation should be the determining factor of foreign policy. Nor does it mean, as you pointed out, that our presence is even furthering this objective. It would be a shame if we abandoned the Iraqis to chaos, but they would not be the first nor the last group of people to suffer at the foreign policy whims of the United States.

And as to the question of turning Iraq into a terrorist breeding ground, obviously this is neither good for the Iraqis nor the US. But my point was that I believe that this was accomplished with the invasion. Leaving now would not make it more of a hotbed for terrorism, but it may prevent some GI's from being the victims of terrorism.

Posted by: IMU at October 29, 2003 01:18 PM | PERMALINK

"Unlike Bush's admirers, I view him as a strongly poll-driven man who undertakes only policies that he thinks are widely popular and risk free."

Boy, I wish that were the case. Then we wouldn't have No Child Left Behind (quite risky), supply-side tax cuts (of debatable popularity).

Maybe the key words are "that he thinks . . ."

Posted by: denise at October 29, 2003 01:19 PM | PERMALINK

From Joe Schmoe:

"But the defeatism bogus parsimony of Democratic elected officials and the media (Dana Priest is a prime example of this -- her contempt for the Bush Administration is almost palpable, it's disgusting) has made the American public believe that things are really bad in Iraq, when in fact they are not.

Unfortunately, Bush has to react to these political pressures. He's trying to do the right thing, and the selfish and defeatist Democrats and liberal media are harassing him at every turn."

How anyone can think that things are not bad in Iraq is beyond me. This is as loopy as Bush?s claim that increased attacks are proof that things are getting better.

The problems in Iraq are not due to media reporting or criticism from Dems. Its because the post-war planning by Bush administration was obviously incompetent, resulting in major problems. And there is little likelihood of Bush administration improving anything when they believe that there is no problem except that created by the criticism. Really. How can adults think this way?

Posted by: DMBeaster at October 29, 2003 01:28 PM | PERMALINK

"Would you agree that there is a rather high and often fatal degree of antipathy toward U.S. collaborators in Iraq? "

Wow that is a cute phrasing. There certainly is a high degree of antipathy toward Iraqis who want to help the US bring a stable and free societ to Iraq. This antipathy comes from 2 major groups: Baathist (which is to say non-metaphorical fascists) and Islamists (which is to say those who love to institute a woman-hating theocracy).

Your comments suggest that either you have very little understanding of the options, or you actively like the idea of one of those two groups coming into power. Is there something else going on here?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at October 29, 2003 01:30 PM | PERMALINK

Another thought. The current "plan" (forced out of Bush by UN compromises) calls for Dec. 15 to set a timetable to complete the Constitution, followed at some undefined time with eletions. Best speculation is that elections are 18 months away.

So how do we pull out (or begin substantial reductions) in March when there will not be any Iraqi government or institutions in place to take over?

And one thing seems clear -- adminstration is doig very little to prepare Iraq for serious self-governance on March '04 timetable.

Posted by: DMBeaster at October 29, 2003 01:32 PM | PERMALINK

IMU

I didn't express myself well enough. If our presence is a wholesale failure and we are unable to bring a democracy* to Iraq, then yes we should withdraw as you have stated.

But I think this must be a long term process. The prerequisite to democracy* is a functioning economy. People who can't obtain food, clothing, and shelter do not have time to consider forms of government. So, in order to make this work, we must be prepared for the long term.

Time is necessary, failures are inherent. The important thing is that we adjust for our failures. (And I do not think our adjustments have been acceptable to this point, so we don't need to argue that.) So while pulling out is an option, I don't see it becoming an attractive option for some time (under either scenario).

*when I say democracy I mean "a government responsive to the people", not necessarily a pure democracy

Posted by: Ron at October 29, 2003 01:41 PM | PERMALINK

"If we do that the legions will come."

Hey folks, surprise you live in the age of the American Empire. How we got there is a little of a mystery, continuing a huge military buildup in the face of a rapidly decreasing threat maybe, but although we don't think we control the world, the rest of the world thinks we do, and that is what counts. And that is why got attacked on 9/11.

So how do we run an empire? Well, how did the Romans do it? (Cheney is a student of Rome). Yeah, brutality and garrisons and near genocide...but also getting the local farmer, trader, sandalmaker to stand up in the village council and say:

"But if we do that, the legions will come"

Ok, so there were utilities before, and now the Baghdad barber has been without water and electricity for six months, and his women can't go shopping....and 5 years from now what will this barber say in the town council?

Yeah, and Afghanistan is a mess, and the Taliban resurging, and maybe some young Turk gonna rise up and Karballah and wonder if we can invite Osama back, and his daddy is gonna say:

"But if we do that, the legions will come."

Posted by: bob mcmanus at October 29, 2003 01:48 PM | PERMALINK

I with ridnik,

Unlike Bush's admirers, I view him as a strongly poll-driven man who undertakes only policies that he thinks are widely popular and risk free.

Bush never does what the polls say...

The polls wanted Bush to get UN help prior to this war--did Bush do what the polls showed-hell no

After the war the polls showed that the public wanted Bush to go back to the UN and get help-did Bush get help- HELL NO.

Bush went to the UN and talk about slave trading in Europe and than left thus leaving Powell to beg for a resolution that only agreed that Bush had control over Iraq. Bush pretty much already had that agreement.

Polls show that the public doesn't like the direction of our country..Does Bush change course-hell NO.

Posted by: Cheryl at October 29, 2003 01:50 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian, the reason that you know that any opposition to the US or Iraqis working with the US (i'll avoid a loaded term like "collaborators") is....?

Joe, the reason that you don't think things are really bad in iraq is....?

In your case, joe, i'll re-tell something i posted a couple of weeks ago.

In the early '90s, i spent a couple of years working on a project in Camden, New Jersey, one of the true hell-hole American cities: high murder rate; high crime rate; high poverty rate; high addiction rate; all the negative social indicators you can imagine.

I spent a fair amount of time walking on the streets of camden, even after dark, and you know what? I never saw a murder, never saw a robbery, never saw an addict shooting up (although i did see people drinking a lot out of brown paper bags).

Now, by the standards of the bush enablers, that means that all the reports on camden's negative social indicators were merely an emphasis on the bad news, and that really, everything was actually swell in camden if sensationist media types didn't keep emphasizing all those annoying murders and robberies and suchlike.

Is that really a sensible position?

Or, to put it another way (and to steal from Hesiod), it would be possible to point out that 9/11 constituted only attacks within the "northeastern triangle," that in fact of the tens of millions living in that triangle, only a few thousand were affected by the attacks, that, in fact, all across america that day schools were open and government buildings weren't attacked.

Is that a sensible way to think about anything?

Posted by: howard at October 29, 2003 01:51 PM | PERMALINK

oops, sebastian, meant to say "the reason that you know anyone iraq opposed to the us or those working with the us is either baathist or islamist is....?"

sorry for not proofing.

Posted by: howard at October 29, 2003 01:52 PM | PERMALINK

Bush's primary motivation is payback. The remaining item on his list is election to a second term.

Failure to capture or kill Saddam is what's keeping us in Iraq.

If we get Saddam, we are out by March.

Posted by: obruni at October 29, 2003 01:53 PM | PERMALINK

"First, I don't know that Iraq will turn into a fundamentalist Islamic state if we hold free and fair democratic elections, and NEITHER DO YOU."

Every other Muslim state in the region that has held open elections (Iran, Algeria, Egypt) either is fundamentalist or would be if the ruling junta allowed the election results to stand. Do you have any historical or political basis for Iraqi exceptionalism? Cite extensively.

"Second, the Iraqi constitution will undoubtedly provide for the seperation of church and state."

Considering I have seen extensive claims from Conservatives in the U.S. that the U.S. Constitution doesn't even provide for this, why do you think this is true? Have you seen any proposed drafts of an Iraqi Constitution? Cite extensively.

"It will have a bill of rights."

Canada didn't have one until 1982. Why do you think this will be true?

"We will make sure of it."

Can you give me a single quote or document from anyone actually in charge of Iraq policy to support this?

"The Iraqis can choose to ignore the constituion, but if they do, it's not a democracy any more, and the religious character of the government is the least of our problems."

Even Japan can amend their US-created constitution. Isn't that the basis for soverignty? If Iraq is unable to amend or change their laws or constitution without US consent, they are a colony. Why would Iraqis support being a colony? What's in it for them? Cite extensively.

"Third, we will continue to have enormous influence in Iraq even after the Iraqis take over. We'll be (covertly) contributing to the campaigns of politicians."

Most independent Democracies look poorly on foreign agents trying to influence their elections. It's illegal in the US for foreign powers to contribute to American politicians. Why would Iraqis welcome this? Cite extensively.

"Our diplomats and businesses will parcel out foreign aid to Iraqis who will help us."

Bribing friendly people might work, but also cause resentment in the non-bribed. Why would Iraqi voters support this?

"Finally, we can tolerate an Iraq that is very, very Muslim,"

The 'brand' of Islam that is popular in that region is actively hostile to US interests and has a large inseperable political component. Why would a very religious Iraqi prefer the US President to his Ayatollah? Give examples of why you think this would be true.

"and very, very conservative. The Iraiqs want to outlaw pornography and alcohol? Fine, we can live with that. Many Southern counties here in the US are dry and porn-free."

I don't think the concerns are about the social morals of Islam, rather the political component that asserts hostility to US interests.

"The Iraqis want to have an official state version of Islam, like the Church of England? Not great, but acceptable."

If it's OK in Iraq, why is it not OK in Iran? You are describing the government of Iran.

"Clerics will be highly influential in politics? No problem, the Religious Right is highly influential here in the USA."

Even if you feel the Religious Right is a positive movement for America, the Religious Parties in Iraq are certainly going to be hostile to US Interests. We already have an example in the region with Iran.

"The only things we won't allow are stuff like burquas"

Not worn in Iraq or Iran. "All Muslims are alike" is not a valid argument. Because they aren't. No Iraqi will object to banning something that doesn't exist there.

"and a Ministry for the Protection of Virtue and Prevention of Vice."

Which exists in every conservative Muslim country, because the essense of political Islam is that being non-Muslim is a crime and non-Muslim activity is therefore criminal. Explain how hard-core religious Iraqis will have no objections to Conservative Christians telling them how to run their religious life. Give examples.

"Stoning is out, as are honor killings."

I'm not sure either is common in Iraq. Can you give examples?

"But if the Iraqis want to have a very conservative, and very Muslim, society, that should be no problem."

They didn't have one before. Iraq was an educated, secular country before Saddam. Everywhere else in the world there is a conservative Islamic government, it is probrlematic for the US. Why would Iraq be different? Give examples.

"So long as they don't start sponsoring terrorism and issuing fatwas, everything will be all right"

You don't mention an end to political prisoners or torture, both of which are very common in conservative Islamic governements, once. Isn't the reason we are there to liberate Iraqis? Wouldn't a lack of personal freedom be consistent with US failure in our goals?

I look forward to you very long post with lots of facts to support your arguments......sometime in the year 2075.

Posted by: MC Hawking at October 29, 2003 01:53 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Gilliard, Ex Kos dude, says the minute Saddam is captured or confirmed dead, the Shiite Imans are gonna march 200000 guys up to Bremer and say bye-bye.

hmmmm......

Posted by: bob mcmanus at October 29, 2003 01:56 PM | PERMALINK

You know, I seem to remember Shmoe getting all worked up because people wouldn't admit that things in Iraq were going to get better. He said things like:

you KNOW electricity is going to go on

you KNOW schools are going to open

You KNOW elections are going to be held,

etc.,etc.

Yet now his primary defense seems to be "We don't know if..." etc., etc.

Joe, why don't you sort out all the known and unknowns for us folks that aren't precient?

Posted by: Tim at October 29, 2003 01:57 PM | PERMALINK

Says Dana Priest about Valerie Plame matter, in online discussion noted above: "Reporters need new information to write a story. There's really not alot we have been able to unearth that's new as far as the investigation goes. That's not atypical. But I'm certain you will read many more stories about the leak investigation soon." Hope that last sentence is a promise (and think I've seen her quoted to same effect before, so it may be).

Posted by: David in NY at October 29, 2003 02:21 PM | PERMALINK

Lots of wishful thinking going on here. Iraq has three zones. The northern Kurds and the southern Shias are happy we are there, are building democracy from the ground up in local councils and will probably have a functioning democracy up by next summer. Remember the Kurds were self-governing for 10 years in the northern no-fly zone. The Sunni triangle is full of former Saddam functionaries who lived off the handouts of the big guy. They are going to be tough to move to self-government. We would help a lot if we caught Saddam. A year from now we might see a federal system with the triangle a zone of martial law ruled by the Kurds and Shias in cooperation. There is talk of a monarchy, by Bernard Lewis today in the WSJ. I don't know how realistic that is. We are not pulling out. Bush will ride this tiger even though it loses his second term. They could have done a lot better in the post-war planning but this is serious stuff, not some photo-op like you-know-who would pull.

Posted by: Mike K at October 29, 2003 02:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Not a photo-op like you know who would pull?"

Karl Rove? I think he already tried that.

Right now he is working on a weasely speech that leaves the impression of a strong and capable leader without 'technically' telling any lies.

Posted by: Tripp at October 29, 2003 02:33 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian:

"Would you agree that there is a rather high and often fatal degree of antipathy toward U.S. collaborators in Iraq?"

Wow that is a cute phrasing. There certainly is a high degree of antipathy toward Iraqis who want to help the US bring a stable and free societ to Iraq. This antipathy comes from 2 major groups: Baathist (which is to say non-metaphorical fascists) and Islamists (which is to say those who love to institute a woman-hating theocracy).

Your comments suggest that either you have very little understanding of the options, or you actively like the idea of one of those two groups coming into power. Is there something else going on here?

First, my comments were a response to Joe Schmoe's musings on whether a US-created Iraqi government could survive without turning authoritarian. My point was that any US-approved Iraqi leaders will run the same risks that Iraqi US collaborators currently face. I don't mean "collaborators" as a pejorative, I mean it simply in the literal sense of people who are cooperating with the US occupation. Such people are currently targets of denunciations and assassinations on a regular basis.

It may well be, as you say, that those who are killing collaborators are doing so because they hate the idea of "a stable and free society," and that they are all or mostly Baathists and Islamists (and no, I don't have any liking for those groups, "actively" or otherwise - thanks for the insult, though). I don't see your evidence for these assumptions; it sounds more like you're just repeating what the Bush administration says, in this instance.

But in any case, the more actively the US is involved in either appointing officials in an Iraqi government, or setting the rules for election of such officials, the more hatred those officials will face from a considerably dangerous element - regardless of whether you call that element "Baathists and Islamists" or "an unknown number of anti-occupation Iraqis from all walks of life." And if that element, as you say, actually hates safety and stability, then the new regime won't be able to protect itself just by governing well enough to win everyone over; it will have to keep fighting what amounts to a small civil war. Generally, democracy is the first thing to be thrown overboard under such circumstances.

Do I have a better idea? Maybe. How about:

1. Reform the reconstruction to eliminate the appearance of gross corruption and favoritism to US companies. End the efforts to privatize and sell off large sectors of the economy to foreign interests. Even if you support such efforts philosophically, under the circumstances they are fuel for civil war.

2. Stop propping up Chalabi and other exiles who have no popular support.

3. As long as the occupation lasts, do not let ANY incidents of civilians shot by US forces go without SOME kind of highly public investigation and restitution. This is not just because it's the right thing to do; it's because otherwise, any Iraqis who are participating in the current security force will be 1000 times more likely to (a) be killed, (b) be tossed aside in favor of tougher guys as soon as we leave, or (c) turn against us themselves.

4. Don't just talk about the desirability of handing things over to Iraqis. Show that we mean it. A clear timetable for the drafting of a constitution and elections should be the number one priority.

5. Present evidence of our good faith on #1-#4 to the UN, and lean hard on them for peacekeeping forces and election monitors to ENTIRELY replace the US presence - rather than to serve under us as cannon fodder in an open-ended occupation. Once there is a timetable for elections, the US gets out. Once there is an elected government, the UN gets out.

Feel free to tell me how all of the above is naive and uninformed, but I'm really trying to be practical here. What I hear from the Bush camp makes me think there will be war in Iraq for a long, long time.

Posted by: Eli at October 29, 2003 02:39 PM | PERMALINK

If this happens, if we leave before we have a stable situation, I will note vote for W in 2004. It's that simple. Period, end of story.

That would be a catastrophe for us and our children.

Posted by: spc67 at October 29, 2003 02:41 PM | PERMALINK

Er, us leaving that is, not my vote.

Posted by: spc67 at October 29, 2003 02:41 PM | PERMALINK

As has been mentioned by others:

1) We paint the targets on the Iraqi policemen (who are, of course, heavily infiltrated by the guerrila forces).

2) We withdraw 30,000-40,000 troops in March so Bushie can have his parades.

3) Remaining troops hide behind the Endor moon-----I mean out in the desert.

4) We purposely let the constitution/election planning drag on and on and on while pretending to be exasperated with the IGC.

5) Bush rides it out through November.

6) We secretly hand it over to Shi'ites/Iran in exchange for oil contracts.

7) Rinse and repeat in Syria in '05 or '06.

Posted by: Jimmy Jazz at October 29, 2003 02:43 PM | PERMALINK

[I]Would you agree that there is a rather high and often fatal degree of antipathy toward U.S. collaborators in Iraq?[/I]

No, I do not agree. What you, and many Democrats, fail to understand is that the US has liberated the Iraqi people, and many of them undoubtedly appreciate it.

There was no free speech under Sadaam. Today there is free speech in Iraq. Sadaam tortured and murdered political dissidents; we don't. Sadaam stole Iraq's oil wealth and used it to build lavish presidential palaces and pay bounties to Palestinian suicide bombers. We're not only *not* stealing Iraq's oil wealth -- we're *losing* money on the reconstruction.

(And the rest of you, please, don't start crying Hailburton. I have no doubt that there is inexcusable waste in Iraq, but you grossly exxagerate the extent of it. Also, the Iraqis aren't footing Hailburton's bill -- your tax dollars and mine are paying for the reconstruction.)

In short, while Sadaam was oppressing the Iraqi people, we are helping them. He didn't respect human rights; we do. This is a key distinction.

The other thing that the US has brought to Iraq is hope for the future. Under Sadaam, Iraqis had no hope whatever that their lives would improve in the future. They could look forward to oppresion and a declining standard of living until Sadaam died, and then more decades of oppression and poverty under Uday, Qsay, or some other strongman.

The United States has brought uncertainty, but it has also brought hope. Iraq might become Lebannon -- but it might become South Korea, or Japan. We have brought hope of democracy, hope of prosperity, and hope of modernity and greatness. This, too, makes a great deal of difference.

Even our appointed governing council is far more representative and responsive to the Iraqi people than Sadaam ever was.

For these reasons, I do not accept the notion that the US occupation is automatically viewed as illegitimate by the Iraqi people, and that our appointed Iraqi officials are automatically viewed as collaborators.

[I]Also, your use of "continue" is very odd. Iraqis are serving in a government (using the term loosely) that is our creation and entirely under our control; there is no democracy there, thus no one can "continue to" be democratic - they will have to start being democratic after we appoint our chosen leaders and leave.[/I]

There are two flawed assumptions here. First, we have *already* held elections on the local level. Only the governing council and certain key national figures have been appointed. Second, Bush has announced that we will leave after a national election has been held. Iraq already has a democratically elected government on the local level, and will have one on the national level when we leave.

[I]Please take a moment to imagine that the U.S. is under foreign occupation, and that the conquerors set up a provisional government and an election system, and promise to leave as soon as we elect our own leaders - as long as those leaders are acceptable to them (i.e. don't have extreme religious views no matter how popular they are, and don't threaten the foreign interests who have bought up much of our country during the occupation). Perhaps you'd take that better than I would.[/I}

Everyone seems to think that this is a great paradox, but it isn't for two reasons. First, and this cannot be overemphasized, it's better than Sadaam. Even if the US does place constraints on the Iraqi democracy, and we don't permit them to create a theocracy (assuming that they'd want to) it's still better than being ruled by the whims and edicts of Sadaam, Uday, Qsay, and Chemical Ali.

Second, it works. In postwar Japan, we didn't permit them to elect former members of the regime, or Communists. The 1947 elections didn't go our way (a bunch of reds were elected), so we repudiated them. The Japanese constitutional convention didn't come up with a constitution that we deemed acceptable, so we wrote the Japanes Constitution ourselves. Was this undemocratic, in the short run? Yes, certianly. But it worked. Japan has been a stable, functioning democracy for over fifty years. Ditto for Germany. In fact, I'd say that these early antidemocratic moves probably helped democracy establish itself in the long run. If Japan had gone red, I doubt that there would have been elections for very long thereafter, and the place obviously would not be as prosperous. Goodness knows what would have happened in Germany if we'd simply called an election and pulled out.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 29, 2003 02:56 PM | PERMALINK

Bush lied about the need for, the cost of and likely nature of the war and its aftermath in order to get the congressional and public approval he needed to wage it. Had he told the truth, he never would have gotten his war. Now that it is clear that he did not plan for the worst case, let alone the 'likely,' scenario, he has little choice but to bail now given what it would take to do it right.

Look at the public reaction to the $78 billion request. The public rejected it by 60%+ because their leader never prepared them for it; they were told a fairy tale instead. Any reckoning with the truth on a braoder scale is likely to elicit a similar reaction, and that means Bush is history if he does. (Watch the next round of poll numbers. I predict the low at 45% and the high at 49%, next week.)

Before the war, there were lots of knowledgable people saying we would have to be in Iraq at least 7-10 years to accomplish the goal of rebuilding and introducing democratic government. It looks like they were right. But when you look at the price in lives and dollars spent so far, and Bush's poll numbers, the post-war political feasibility of such an effort seems doubtful. So maybe Bush will punt.

Is there any doubt that Karl is looking out 12 months and has scoped out what would be the best possible outcome for Bush to win reelection. It would be for there to be an end in sight in Iraq, and troops withdrawing. It would not be for Bush to be seeking to extend occupation by years more, and asking the US taxpayer to finance it.

They took a gamble (against the advice of many) that this would be a cakewalk and lost. We all lost. Hopefully Bush will lose now, too, come 11/04. It's about time someone hold him accountable for his failures.

Posted by: obe at October 29, 2003 02:59 PM | PERMALINK

"...but this is serious stuff, not some photo-op like you-know-who would pull."

Hmmm. Who could that be?

Oh, Oh I Know!

Mr. Flight Suit, Mr. 'Mission Accomplished'!


Posted by: Barry at October 29, 2003 02:59 PM | PERMALINK

We will certainly have tens of thousands of troops stationed in the desert somewhere; they will be largely immune from terrorist attack there

One word: Habbaniya.

Of course, we recently vacated Prince Sultan AFB in Saudi, Qatar is too unstable for our longterm needs, Diego Garcia too isolated, so I knew going in that we'd be building strategic bases in the desert areas of our new colony.

Posted by: Troy at October 29, 2003 03:00 PM | PERMALINK

The troops have been on a roller-coaster as to when they'll be going home. When Bagdhad fell my brother in law was told he'd be home by Christmas. Then he was told he'd be there a year. Now they've told him he might go home between February and May.

He thinks it's a bunch of BS. He's also planning on not reenlisting after this... and he's been in the army for about 4 of 5 years now.

Posted by: John In TX at October 29, 2003 03:01 PM | PERMALINK

"First, my comments were a response to Joe Schmoe's musings on whether a US-created Iraqi government could survive without turning authoritarian. My point was that any US-approved Iraqi leaders will run the same risks that Iraqi US collaborators currently face."

The Iraqi leaders will be able to call on their own forces to deal with the bad guys. They speak the language, which our troops don't. The reduced US presence in the streets will cool off some resentment.

"It may well be, as you say, that those who are killing collaborators are doing so because they hate the idea of "a stable and free society," and that they are all or mostly Baathists and Islamists." Exchange of insults snipped. "I don't see your evidence for these assumptions"

The troops have some evidence in the people they have caught and from intel from the local residents. There are lots of foreign passports being found.


"But in any case, the more actively the US is involved in either appointing officials in an Iraqi government, or setting the rules for election of such officials, the more hatred those officials will face from a considerably dangerous element"

Agreed

snip

"the new regime won't be able to protect itself just by governing well enough to win everyone over; it will have to keep fighting what amounts to a small civil war. Generally, democracy is the first thing to be thrown overboard under such circumstances."

A real risk but some degree of autocracy may be preferrable to what they had. The Kurds took 10 years to improve their system.


"Do I have a better idea? Maybe. How about:

1. Reform the reconstruction to eliminate the appearance of gross corruption and favoritism to US companies."

You can't get away from US companies because the alternative is the guys who were propping up Saddam, like the French. I do think that gold plating of such things as buying AK-47s and training Iraqi police and troops in Jordan, should stop.

" End the efforts to privatize and sell off large sectors of the economy to foreign interests. Even if you support such efforts philosophically, under the circumstances they are fuel for civil war."

We have stopped hearing about the concept of a trust ownership, like that in Alaska, for the oil. I hope that idea doesn't get lost.


"2. Stop propping up Chalabi and other exiles who have no popular support."

I'm not sure that is true. He will need to develop local support but the State Dept hatred of him is a plus IMHO.


"3. As long as the occupation lasts, do not let ANY incidents of civilians shot by US forces go without SOME kind of highly public investigation and restitution."

Blood-money style restitution is going on now and has been for months.

snip

"4. Don't just talk about the desirability of handing things over to Iraqis. Show that we mean it. A clear timetable for the drafting of a constitution and elections should be the number one priority."

That has been the topic related to Dec. 15, etc.

"5. Present evidence of our good faith on #1-#4 to the UN, and lean hard on them for peacekeeping forces and election monitors to ENTIRELY replace the US presence"

This is the first dumb idea you have come up with. The UN and Annan are deeply corrupted with the oil-for-food program. They were very close to being allies with Saddam.

snip

"Feel free to tell me how all of the above is naive and uninformed, but I'm really trying to be practical here. What I hear from the Bush camp makes me think there will be war in Iraq for a long, long time."

See above. Most were good ideas. We have to leave the UN out though until we get an accounting for the billions in oil-for-food that became oil-for-palaces.

Posted by: Mike K at October 29, 2003 03:08 PM | PERMALINK

you KNOW electricity is going to go on

you KNOW schools are going to open

You KNOW elections are going to be held

I was right about the first two. We'll see about the last.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 29, 2003 03:11 PM | PERMALINK

joe, you were making some progress towards reality earlier today, but now you're regressing to the old favorites.

Go review the Zogby poll, which is as close as any of us can come to an insight into the thinking of the iraqi people (mandatory disclaimer: given that there is no history of polling in iraq, given that there is a history of police state in iraq, even given the efforts of the zogby folks to correct for these problems, the poll probably still isn't really profoundly acccurate), and you'll discover that we are not beloved in iraq.

The logical thing for the typical iraqi citizen to think is; thanks for getting rid of saddam, now please go home.

Meanwhile, if you haven't noticed that it is dangerous to the health of any iraqi citizen who works for the IGC, the police, or the americans, you just aren't paying attention.

it doesn't require the population at large to hate america for this insurgency to continue; it only requires the population at large to be willing to tolerate the insurgents and not rat them out, and that's what we're seeing.

The US military claims the quality of their intel is improving, and who am i to doubt that, but sadly, the quality of the opposition intel is also improving, which couldn't happen if there weren't plenty of people willing to provide aid and comfort to the actual attackers.

Look, Joe, at the conditions for decades in northern ireland: if the populace is willing to tolerate armed struggle, there is really nothing that an outsider can do. Thus far, the iraqi populace has been willing to tolerate armed struggle.

And don't forget: during the war, we killed some 10,000 - 25,000 iraqi civilians and soldiers. To put that into context, given that the american population is 12x the iraqi population, that would be 120,000 - 300,000 americans. You think maybe there aren't some bitter individuals out there willing to do anything to resist the americans, even if they're glad saddam is gone? You think the sweeps and arrests and disappearances of people don't contribute to anti-american feelings?

Opposing the american presence isn't a vote for saddam, and it's simplistic to say that we're wildly popular because we deposed saddam.

As for the people being "better off;" well, that's actually very hard to say. On the one hand, you have to weigh the incalculable value of no longer living in a dictatorial police state; on the other, you have to weigh the continued power problems, the resultant continued hospital problems, the unemployment problem, the crime problem.

Me? i think by now that it's probably improved enough compared to the conditions in may/june to say that the scales just weight towards "better," but it's a closely weighed thing.

Posted by: howard at October 29, 2003 03:11 PM | PERMALINK

There was no free speech under Sadaam.

Aside: like we have it here [Dixie Chicks].

Today there is free speech in Iraq. Sadaam tortured and murdered political dissidents; we don't.

ooh saddam bad man. Let's throw hundreds of billions of dollars to help the poor Iraqis. ex post facto smokescreen.

Where's your outrage for the noble Coalition of the Willing partner Uzbekistan? Hmm?

Sadaam stole Iraq's oil wealth and used it to build lavish presidential palaces

oooh Saddam bad man.

and pay bounties to Palestinian suicide bombers.

peanuts -- and when are we invading Saudi for the same crime, hmmmm?


In postwar Japan, we didn't permit them to elect former members of the regime

WTH? The entire bureaucracy, including the hated Naimusho, was kept on in continuity.

Goodness knows what would have happened in Germany if we'd simply called an election and pulled out

I have far less faith in the normative powers of US Military Occupation than you. From what I see, we've got a bunch of carpetbagging clowns running the show in Iraq. Hell, they couldn't even get sanitized textbooks to the schools in time.

Posted by: Troy at October 29, 2003 03:13 PM | PERMALINK

Joe, as a simple statement of fact, the total amount of electricity being generated is approaching pre-war levels, but the distribution is rather different, since saddam robbed the rest of the country to pay baghdad, and now we're distributing the power somewhat more equally.

However, that said, it was no big deal to say that power and schools would be on: what you used to say is that you know that we are going to succeed.

I didn't know why believed that then, and i don't know why you believe that now.

Posted by: howard at October 29, 2003 03:16 PM | PERMALINK

The only things we won't allow are stuff like burquas and a Ministry for the Protection of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Stoning is out, as are honor killings.

Burqas were never worn in Iraq, but they are worn in Afghanistan, and the US military used to require women in the military to wear burqas any time they left US military bases in Saudi Arabia. So I'm not sure on what you're basing your belief that the US military occupation would oppose burqas. I see no evidence of it. Stonings and honor killings continue in Afghanistan - which you describe as a "success story". So again, what makes you think that the "success story" that is Afghanistan won't be repeated in Iraq?

Posted by: Jesurgislac at October 29, 2003 03:25 PM | PERMALINK

Joe,

The problem with the "it's better than Saddam" argument is that this is not a binary opposition. Getting beaten with a belt is better than getting beaten with a 2x4, but that doesn't mean you're gonna take a shine to the guy who chased off the 2x4-wielder and then started taking off his belt.

Life is not better for all Iraqis now than it was under Saddam. For some, absolutely. It's very easy for us in our safe American homes to take the long and philosophical view here, but if you are an Iraqi that just had your brother or husband killed during the invasion, your job disappear, food, water, and electricity turn sporadic, while soldiers that don't even speak your language point guns and search you regularly, and I could make this the longest run-on sentence in Calpundit history, but you get my point.

High-minded ideals are one thing, but if you believe that you and your countrymen are capable of achieving those on your own, then what is left? Just the day-to-day reality of a country on which we rained full-on air wars twice, enforced crippling sanctions upon for a dozen years between the two, and now is militarily occupying your country. Not abstractly, but rolling armored vehicles down your street and searching your neighbors' houses. And still killing people.

For every soldier coming home in a flag-draped coffin, there are dozens more dead Iraqis. And you could hate the very memory of Saddam for your friends that died at his hands and simultaneously hate the forces that killed friends at a checkpoint. It isn't either the US or Saddam - you don't want anybody telling you what to do. And least of all the United States.

Posted by: apostropher at October 29, 2003 03:35 PM | PERMALINK

There is no chance that the Bush administration is going to pull out of Iraq soon and leave it in chaos. It would destroy Bush with much of his base, it wouldn't win over any of the left who hate him no matter what he does, and it would leave him looking weak and vacillating with independents.

With the economy beginning to crank up now, Iraq is the only issue the Democrats are likely to have left in their bag next year to attack Bush with. As long as progress continues being made there, though, most Americans will be willing to stay the course. Pulling out would be monumentally stupid.

Turning it over to the UN wouldn't do any good anyway. Who in the hell do you think would have to supply most of the troops and money if the UN was running the show? The U.S. of course.

Posted by: Randal Robinson at October 29, 2003 03:40 PM | PERMALINK

(My overt snarky tone toward Joe is driven underneath by a similar worldview to what apostropher just said -- the US military is a blunt-trauma instrument, really usable only against enemies in a declared state of war, not amongst civilian populations).

Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Serbia.

This line of thinking is not radical liberalism, it is exactly what stopped the tanks at the Euphrates in 1991.

Posted by: Troy at October 29, 2003 03:45 PM | PERMALINK

Both Josh and the neocons are wrong on this one.
Its Sophie's choice -- go and many die, stay and many more die.
Declaring victory and leaving is the best that you can do for the Iraquis now -- staying until everything is "stable" is not an option, whether for six months or six years, because there is no chance of any stability as long as the US military is there -- and the US will have to continue to pour money into the country regardless, as they are obliged to under UN resolutions -- so, basically, its a no-win situation, a mess.
This is exactly why people around the world kept telling you guys not to start this war in the first place!

Posted by: CathiefromCanada at October 29, 2003 03:50 PM | PERMALINK

MC Hawking-

Every other Muslim state in the region that has held open elections (Iran, Algeria, Egypt) either is fundamentalist or would be if the ruling junta allowed the election results to stand. Do you have any historical or political basis for Iraqi exceptionalism? Cite extensively.

I admit that this is a risk. However, there are four factors which help mitigate the risk. First, the Arab world is slowy coming to see the shortcomings of the theocratic form of goverment. The Arab street is not blind. They saw what went on in Afghanistan and Iran, and those theocratic "paradises" didn't do so well after all. They know that the Iranian mullahs wound up being just as corrupt and brutal as the Shah, and that the Iranian people are struggling to rid themselves of them. Second, modernity and things western are not categorically rejected by the Arab street; on the contrary, they are embraced. They can't get enough of our popular culture, for example; our television shows and music have a huge following there.

Third, though I don't know a whole lot about it, Iraq appears to be far more secular than, say, Yemen or Saudi Arabia. The people of Iraq are not used to living under a 7th century theocracy. Finally, to the extent that the Iraqi Shi'ite leaders will depend on Iranian support for any theocratic revloution, they can't count on that support. The situation is very unstable in Iran, and the mullahs might be toppled at any moment. If they continue to press ahead with their their nuclear weapons program, we may have to invade or destroy the weapons facilities, assuming that we can find them. If I were an Iraqi Sh'ite leader, therefore, I would be hedging my bets; I may have enjoyed a good relationship with the mullahs in Iran for the past 20 years, but I would realize that they might not be there 5 years from now.

Have you seen any proposed drafts of an Iraqi Constitution? Cite extensively.

No, nor have you. But the US constitution provides for the separation of church and state. It's an accepted way of minimizing the influence of religious leaders in civic affairs. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that the Iraqi constituion will contain a similar provision. Note that the separation need not be total. The judicial system, for instance, can be based on traditional priniples of Islamic family, inheritance, and contract law.

Canada didn't have one until 1982. Why do you think this will be true?

We have different cultural perspectives here. It is inconceivable that any constituion drafted by Americans, or under American supervison, would lack a Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is one of the cornerstones of our Constitution. We regard it as one of the main guarantors of liberty and would never consent to any form of constitutonal government which failed to include a Bill of Rights. There is an almost religious reverence for our written Constitution, and the Bill of Rights is its most important component. It is obviously not indespensible -- Britan doesn't have one, so far as I know -- but any Constitution written under American supervsion will certainly have one.

Even Japan can amend their US-created constitution. Isn't that the basis for soverignty? If Iraq is unable to amend or change their laws or constitution without US consent, they are a colony. Why would Iraqis support being a colony? What's in it for them? Cite extensively.

The simple answer is that there are degrees of democracy. At one end is Sadaam; absolute dictatorship, rule by fiat, legislature is a rubber stamp. At the other is pure democracy. No written constitution; no bill of rights. Just regular legislative sessions.

Somewhere in between is democracy with limits imposed by outsiders. These limits come in varying degrees of severity. At one end is a the form of "democracy" found in former Soviet client states of Eastern Europe. There were legisatures and heads of state, but everyone knew that they were not legitimate and autonomous. The elected officials never dared to challenge Soviet Union, becuase they knew that if they did they'd wind up like Yugoslavia. At the other is Japan and Germany in the immediate postwar era. Once the Americans left, those nations were theoretically free to re-militarize (the Japanese would have needed to amend their Constitution to accomplish this), but they knew that we'd never tolerate it. Nor would we permit them to go Communist. Other than that, they were on their own. We interfered very little in the internal affairs of these nations. As the years went by, and the nations prospered, we often came into conflict; we had destructive trade wars with Japan, and had differences over Reagan's foreign polciy in the case of Germany.

I trust you will agree that Japan and Germany are genuine, functioning democracies.

Most independent Democracies look poorly on foreign agents trying to influence their elections. It's illegal in the US for foreign powers to contribute to American politicians. Why would Iraqis welcome this? Cite extensively.

See my refernces to Japan and Germany above. This also happens quite often in Central and South America. We don't directly influence the elections, but everyone knows that if a pro-American leader is elected, their governments will recieve loan guarantees and more favorable treatment from the United States. Mexico's President Fox regularly calls on President Bush, despite the fact that Mexico, like most Latin American countries, has elevated anti-Americanism to a form of art. They are always having street protests against America. They didn't support us on the war in Iraq. Nonetheless, they tolerate our interfernce in their affairs. There is no reason to think that Iraqis won't tolerate something similar.

The 'brand' of Islam that is popular in that region is actively hostile to US interests and has a large inseperable political component. Why would a very religious Iraqi prefer the US President to his Ayatollah?

Your question poses a false choice. An Iraqi will not be forced to choose between a US President and his Ayatollah. He will be forced to choose between a democratically-elected Iraqi government and his Ayatollah. As was stated earlier in response to one of Tim's posts, the US can certainly tolerate an Iraq that is very Muslim and very conservative if that's how the Iraqis want it.

Also, again, there is a great deal of evidence that not everyone in the Middle East wishes to live in a 7th century theocracy. The Arab street knows that the mullahs in Iran were not able to deliver the paradise they once promised. The Iraqi who enjoys Britney Spears and the occasional beer doesn't crave theocracy. The tens of millions of Arabs who tuned into "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?" and "American Idol" haven't rejected material goods and western culture.

Even if you feel the Religious Right is a positive movement for America, the Religious Parties in Iraq are certainly going to be hostile to US Interests. We already have an example in the region with Iran.

Islam and democracy are not incompatable. I personally know several American muslims. They get along just fine here. They are free to practice their religion, and if they don't want to use drugs or become sexually active before they marry, they don't have to. I dated a Muslim girl once. You should have seen her bathing suit; I never imagined that a one-piece Speedo could be less revealing.

I submit that the the Arab street's hostility to the west is founded on three things. I admit that I am not that familiar with the Arab street, aside from having a few friends from the Middle East, and having read a few books about it, so take this for what it is worth.

First, there are genuine cultural and religous differences. It must be acknowledged that these do exist. But again, they are not incompatable with democracy. In the US, Muslims can and do wear hijabs and abstain from tobacco and alcohol. Acquaintances have entered into arranged marriages. (I guess this is a custom in Pakistan.) Yet they still vote in elections and participate fully in the American economy and society.

The second reason for the Arab street's hostility to the west is paranoia. Before we invaded Iraq, a lot of Muslims appeared to sincerely believe that we went to Iraq to rape the women, convert everyone to Christianity, and steal the oil. The Arab street is slowing beginning to realize that their paranoid fears were simply wrong.

The third reason for the hostility is that it is born out of hopelessness and despair. Young Arab men living in places like Syria and Egypt do not have bright futures ahead of them. They live in moribund economies under dysfunctional governments. Islam is the only available outlet for their frustration. They can't agitate for democracy; they'd be tortured and executed if they did. But they can still go to the mosque. They turn to fundamentalist Islam not because they believe in it wholeheartedly (again, they like our material goods, music, and TV), but because it is the only thing that they can turn to.

If we can create a decent and humane government in Iraq, the people of the Middle East will have another alternative.

"All Muslims are alike" is not a valid argument. Because they aren't.

Really? Thank you for enlightening me.

Which exists in every conservative Muslim country, because the essense of political Islam is that being non-Muslim is a crime and non-Muslim activity is therefore criminal. Explain how hard-core religious Iraqis will have no objections to Conservative Christians telling them how to run their religious life. Give examples.

They don't exist in every Muslim country (Turkey...). And conservative Christians won't be telling them what to do. Iraqis will be telling them. That's the difference.

"But if the Iraqis want to have a very conservative, and very Muslim, society, that should be no problem."

They didn't have one before. Iraq was an educated, secular country before Saddam. Everywhere else in the world there is a conservative Islamic government, it is probrlematic for the US. Why would Iraq be different? Give examples.

What is it that you are trying to say? You spent the entire post arguing that the Iraqis will want a theocracy, and now you appear to be claiming that they will be secular. I don't get it.

You don't mention an end to political prisoners or torture, both of which are very common in conservative Islamic governements, once. Isn't the reason we are there to liberate Iraqis? Wouldn't a lack of personal freedom be consistent with US failure in our goals?

That would be a problem. But again, conservative Islamic mores are not incompatable with freedom and democracy. I gave many examples of this.

I look forward to you very long post with lots of facts to support your arguments......sometime in the year 2075.

Don't worry, you won't have to wait that long.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 29, 2003 04:08 PM | PERMALINK

Joe:
"Would you agree that there is a rather high and often fatal degree of antipathy toward U.S. collaborators in Iraq?"

No, I do not agree. What you, and many Democrats, fail to understand is that the US has liberated the Iraqi people, and many of them undoubtedly appreciate it.

Joe, I didn't say "Would you agree that all or most Iraqis are violently anti-occupation?" I'm just asking you to acknowledge the fact that along with the frequent attacks on U.S. forces, there are attacks on Iraqis who cooperate with U.S. forces, and not trivial ones either. That is a fact. Go to Google News and search for "Iraqi" and "collaborators," and then tell me that this isn't a factor that any government with strong ties to the U.S. will have to contend with.

Besides that your response didn't answer my question, I'm not sure it really answers your own questions either. I mean, why can't Iraqis both (a) be grateful for being liberated, and (b) desire complete political independence, even to the point of being willing to fight their former liberators if that independence is postponed too long. My experience of human nature is that gratitude is not infinite.

Posted by: Eli at October 29, 2003 04:17 PM | PERMALINK

1. Reform the reconstruction to eliminate the appearance of gross corruption and favoritism to US companies. End the efforts to privatize and sell off large sectors of the economy to foreign interests. Even if you support such efforts philosophically, under the circumstances they are fuel for civil war.

2. Stop propping up Chalabi and other exiles who have no popular support.

3. As long as the occupation lasts, do not let ANY incidents of civilians shot by US forces go without SOME kind of highly public investigation and restitution. This is not just because it's the right thing to do; it's because otherwise, any Iraqis who are participating in the current security force will be 1000 times more likely to (a) be killed, (b) be tossed aside in favor of tougher guys as soon as we leave, or (c) turn against us themselves.

4. Don't just talk about the desirability of handing things over to Iraqis. Show that we mean it. A clear timetable for the drafting of a constitution and elections should be the number one priority.

5. Present evidence of our good faith on #1-#4 to the UN, and lean hard on them for peacekeeping forces and election monitors to ENTIRELY replace the US presence - rather than to serve under us as cannon fodder in an open-ended occupation. Once there is a timetable for elections, the US gets out. Once there is an elected government, the UN gets out.

1. I think you may be out of control with rhetoric here. I don't see much evidence of trying to 'sell off large sectors of the economy to foreign interests'. I think this is far more of a western lefty concern than something that Iraqis care about. But maybe...

2. Pretty much already done. That is why Chalabi has turned to the French for support.

3. Absolutely. And it is already happening.

4. This is where you are getting naive. You don't set a timetable, because if Baathists and Islamists stir things up in such a way as to cause you to have to break the timetable they get a huge publicity coup. And if you try to avoid that by ignoring them, they have a great chance of taking over the new government. You have to do what we did with the NAZIs and the Japanese: destroy the backbone of the bad political elements and never let them back in to power. With both Japan and Germany it took more than 5 years. I suspect it will take at least as long in Iraq. If you want a 5-8 year timetable you might be more realistic. I suspect you are talking about a much shorter period of time.

5. I'm afraid this one is completely unrealistic, even if we were willing to trust the UN. The UN does not have the man power to replace us. Period. Full Stop. They don't have it.

They also have a relatively abysmal history of 'peacekeeping' in area where there is still active fighting. (Srebrenica being the most classic case.)

The Japanese and German cases are instructive on the 'get out' level as well. We still aren't out of either and it has been more than 50 years. All the objections about the disanalogy between Iraq and Japan are based on the idea that bringing democracy to Iraq will be more difficult. Therefore I see no reason to believe that a shorter period of fairly intrusive American control would be a good idea.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at October 29, 2003 04:23 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see much evidence of trying to 'sell off large sectors of the economy to foreign interests'

"[Foley] will be in charge of 200 state-owned enterprises, including mining, chemical, cement and tobacco companies. Oil production and two state owned banks are the only industries that will not be under his supervision, he said.

"Second, over the next six months, he will draft a privatization plan for the state-owned businesses."

http://www.casi.org.uk/discuss/2003/msg03865.html

You have to do what we did with the NAZIs and the Japanese: destroy the backbone of the bad political elements and never let them back in to power

The Nazi and Japanese nationalists discredited themselves by bringing utter defeat and devastation onto their populations -- populations that came to understand that the disaster was reaping the bad seeds of war that they had themselves had sown.

Even with the 'rape rooms' and secret police state of Saddam, Ba'athist nationalism has not been discredited in the Sunni areas, and the cultural and religious divisions of the country to a "democracy" make the hand-over incredibly problematic.

The Japanese and German cases are instructive on the 'get out' level as well.

no they're not. These were established as Cold War forward bases, not occupations per s?. FDR wanted the US totally out of Germany in months, not years.

Posted by: Troy at October 29, 2003 04:53 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K-

The troops have some evidence in the people they have caught and from intel from the local residents. There are lots of foreign passports being found.

I realize neither of us is providing citations, but still, that's an awfully vague statement if you want to support the contention that there is no serious element of home-grown resistance in the targeting of US-supported Iraqis - which is what I was talking about, not all anti-US attacks in general. In fact I'd kind of expect a higher presence of foreign fighters and Saddam loyalists in the attacks on US forces, since those require more military organization and hardware, whereas a less organized resistance can easily knock off a local informer or policeman.

"the new regime won't be able to protect itself just by governing well enough to win everyone over; it will have to keep fighting what amounts to a small civil war. Generally, democracy is the first thing to be thrown overboard under such circumstances."

A real risk but some degree of autocracy may be preferrable to what they had. The Kurds took 10 years to improve their system.

I don't think I said anything at all about what is or isn't "preferable" to Saddam - I was responding specifically to Joe's qualified optimism about a US-supported regime being able to avoid becoming an autocracy.

You can't get away from US companies because the alternative is the guys who were propping up Saddam, like the French. I do think that gold plating of such things as buying AK-47s and training Iraqi police and troops in Jordan, should stop.

I was mainly talking about the "gold-plating" - and the gross favoritism toward specific outfits like Bechtel. I do question your assumptions that (a) France was "propping up Saddam" because it didn't favor the invasion, (b) the only other foreign option is the US, and (c) the reconstruction must depend so heavily on foreign workers rather than locals.

[regarding Chalabi's lack of popular support] I'm not sure that is true. He will need to develop local support but the State Dept hatred of him is a plus IMHO.

Huh? You're not sure he lacks popular support? Then why will he need to develop it? Even if you think he's a great guy with a ton of potential, do you really think he would be where he is today if he hadn't been inserted by the US?

Blood-money style restitution is going on now and has been for months.

That's a positive development (though not as positive as preventing these incidents in the first place) but I haven't heard of it becoming a widespread practice. I've also seen reports of US troops simply abandoning the scene after blowing up a car, without stopping to find out who was involved - as if they were in a combat situation and everyone they engaged was by definition just another enemy soldier - in which case restitution is hardly possible.

We have to leave the UN out though until we get an accounting for the billions in oil-for-food that became oil-for-palaces.

I agree that the UN is a tainted actor in Iraq. However, they do not have the same corrupt incentives that we have in the present situation. Saddam is out of the picture. The US military has a direct, obvious, incestuous relationship with the reconstruction contractors, who have an obvious financial incentive to drag out the occupation. The US has an announced policy of preemptive regime change based on its sole determination of a threat to its interests, making it totally unfit to set up or monitor a national election. And any UN-based conspiracy to predetermine the makeup of Iraqi government would have to withstand the scrutiny of UN member states with varying allegiances. I'm talking about a peacekeeping force and election monitoring, not a long-term bureaucratic construct like the oil-for-food program.

Posted by: Eli at October 29, 2003 04:53 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian - Troy said pretty much what I would say to your main points. I would only add that I'm not at all convinced by your Bosnia analogy. I'm not talking about the UN intervening in an active civil war in which cities were besieged by armies. And I'm not talking about them stepping in to replace the US in the same role the US is currently filling, either. We've created a colonial apparatus requiring massive security; we've handed over the reconstruction to US companies which also require massive security; and we're still pursuing combat operations against elusive fighters whose intentions are unknown, but we have to keep fighting them because, well, they're fighting us.

We have combat troops serving as combat troops, as police, and as aid workers. And these are combat troops who've been through a war and are serving overextended tours of duty in roles they weren't trained for... which is hardly conducive to order and good relations with the locals. More isn't necessarily better in that case.

Anyway, I'm all typed out now so I'll cede the floor to y'all.

Posted by: Eli at October 29, 2003 05:13 PM | PERMALINK

Modest proposal to whom it may concern:

Stop carelessly using historical analogies to support your arguments!

90% of the time there are more differences than similarities between any two stages/countries in history - that is, if you bother to look close enough and study the stuff you're talking about...

Posted by: novakant at October 29, 2003 05:37 PM | PERMALINK

90% of the time there are more differences than similarities between any two stages/countries in history - that is, if you bother to look close enough and study the stuff you're talking about...

yeah but the same mistakes can certainly be repeated...

Posted by: Troy at October 29, 2003 06:08 PM | PERMALINK

A few months ago I wandered into the CIA online site, to see what I could see. For a laugh, I poked around various declassified studies about oil. Projects for the mid future say that the USA will be importing almost exclusively from the Atlantic basin. Europe, Japan, and China, if memory serves, will be the prime customers in the middle east.
This raises two questions.
1 If this is true, we are carrying the allies water here, so why were they opposed?
2 If we leave, won't they be forced to step up and stabilize Iraq?
The answer is...because they are smarter than us, and knew that invasion would trigger destablization that was the worst thing we could do. They know that we are now in the realm of diminishing returns, hand over to the locals as quickly as possible, per the French, surround, contain, and influence, and hold on for dear life for the next decade.
Bush is a criminal, inept moron. He couldn't have fucked this up more if he tried.

Posted by: PeteyPuck at October 29, 2003 07:23 PM | PERMALINK

The options for the US are: leave soon; or, hang on at increasing cost in lives and treasure until the situation has become much worse and then leave. Staying indefinitely just isn't one of the choices.

If there had been a competent government -- well, of course, if there had been such a thing, this war would not have been launched in the first place. But if someone sane had been allowed to control US actions after the statue was toppled, it would have been difficult, but... just barely possible, to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis in a sensible, orderly fashion.

Instead, there has been stupid decision after stupid decision, each one making the situation worse.

I have no idea whether the Bush administration will eventually choose to leave Iraq or stay. I doubt they know, either. I expect there will be a lot of high level in-fighting, and in the absence of leadership, one faction or another will eventually prevail. No way to predict who will win out.

What I am confident of, based on their exceedingly consistent track record, is that whichever course the administration chooses, they will choose it for venal reasons unrelated to any of the reasonable arguments offered in this thread. Because their reasons are bad, they are guaranteed to execute the plan, whatever it is, badly.

If they leave, they will leave behind them a puppet government that lacks legitimacy in the eyes of Iraqis. (It doesn't matter what pretty words are in the constitution -- ever read the fine-sounding language of the constitution of the People's Republic of China?) There is sure to be a civil war. Perhaps, given the divisions in Iraqi society, a civil war was always inevitable after the fall of Saddam. We can hope that it is only a little one, but... I am not optimistic.

If they stay, then an incoming Democratic administration will be faced with impossible choices. Really, I don't know how you will extricate yourselves. You'll have to. But there won't be any clear path left.

Posted by: Canadian Reader at October 29, 2003 07:49 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, I thought you meant privitization in an exploitive sense. The Ba'ath regime was a facist state, which is to say it believed in government control of the means of production. If you want to have a productive, capitalist economy in Iraq you have to take these assests out of government control. That doesn't mean that Americans get to gain the profits from these privatized firms, certainly not over any long term.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at October 29, 2003 08:01 PM | PERMALINK

"But if someone sane had been allowed to control US actions after the statue was toppled, it would have been difficult, but... just barely possible, to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis in a sensible, orderly fashion."

I'm not at all convinced that the Iraqis could handle a rising tide of Islamists and a separate group of Ba'athists without major help from the US.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at October 29, 2003 08:06 PM | PERMALINK

yeah but the same mistakes can certainly be repeated...

Troy, I didn't want to say that one could not "learn from history" to a certain extent or that references to historical events in discussions about current events should be forbidden in general - sometimes they might be useful and let's face it: it's just too much fun to play the historian in op-ed columns or in discussions like these, so one wouldn't want to outlaw this kind of amateur activity.
That's why I carefully inserted the qualifier carelessly ;).
What I see being brought up as analogies in discussions about the occupation in Iraq lately, however, is mostly just plain silly: the right likes to compare it to the situation in postwar Japan and Germany, some on the left want to establish Vietnam as an apt analogy. All these efforts are fundamentally flawed, mainly because of the broad historical brushstrokes being applied and the historical cases being different in such obvious ways, that comparisons are just not very economical, because the differences outweigh the similarities by far. There are a few similarities in each case, sure, but playing them up, while ignoring the cultural, religious, political and ethnic differences that exist between the cases mentioned is just not genuine for a historian, even at the amateur level. It's just pseudo-historical cherry picking.

P.S.

Schmoe: constantly repeating that Hitler was elected doesn't make it any more true cf. e.g.

http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/L-hitlerdemo.htm

(to be precise in case you want to nitpick: his party never got a majority of the popular vote, after a lot of pressure and backroom dealing the Reichstag disgracefully passed the Enabling Act, thus dissolving itself and handing him dictatorial powers for four years, he then was appointed Reichskanzler by Hindenburg; that is a far cry from your blunt statement that "Hitler was elected")

Posted by: novakant at October 30, 2003 03:25 AM | PERMALINK

jw mason: Anarch, you do realize that there are no such thing as "UN troops," don't you?

Of course. I sometimes use that phrase as a convenient shorthand for "international troops operating under a UN Security Council mandate and led by UN-approved commanders" (or its nearest equivalent) when I'm in a hurry.

mark safranski: 14.5 % is too low level of trust for troops who are going to hail from mostly third and fourth tier armies - Bangladesh, Fiji, Nigeria, small European countries etc. The qualitative gap between a multinational UN force and US troops is vast.

I happen to agree that that's a problem -- and there's a similar command-related problem as well -- but that's a qualitatively different point than the one you originally made. It's not that the UN is "deeply disliked and distrusted", ergo "chaos and terrorism" will break out; it's that you believe that the reduction in animosity won't outweigh the loss of operational capability.

[FWIW, I believe that the reduction in animosity would outweigh the loss, but that's highly dependent on the way the UNSC mandate is authored, the way the command structure is organized, and the level of participation of the various countries involved.]

I'm sorry for harping on this point, but the way you originally structured your argument bore with it an implicit condemnation of the UN as being -more- disliked and distrusted than the US, when the exact reverse is the case.

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