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Bait and switch

February 25th, 2006

Lawrence Kaplan (with Irving William Kristol) selling The War over Iraq

The United States may need to occupy Iraq for some time. Though the UN, European and Arab forces will, as in Afghanistan, contribute troops, the principal responsibility will doubtless fall to the country that liberates Baghdad. According to one estimate, initially as many as 75,000 US troops may be required to police the war’s aftermath, at a cost of $16 billion a year. As other countries’ forces arrive, and as Iraq rebuilds its economy and political system, that force could probably be drawn to several thousand soldiers after a year or two. After Saddam Hussein has been defeated and Iraq occupied installing a decent democratic government in Baghdad should be a manageable task for the United States. quoted here (pp19-20)

Lawrence Kaplan presenting “The Case for Staying in Iraq” in TNR

The administration intends to draw down troop levels to 100,000 by the end of the year, with the pullback already well underway as U.S. forces surrender large swaths of the countryside and hunker down in their bases. The plan infuriates many officers, who can only say privately what noncommissioned officers say openly. “In order to fix the situation here,” Sabre Squadron’s Sergeant José Chavez says, “we need at least 180,000 troops.” Iraq, however, will soon have about half that. An effective counterinsurgency strategy may require time and patience. But the war’s architects have run out of both.

Maybe if Kaplan, Kristol and others had told us this in the first place, there wouldn’t have been a war.

Kaplan makes a pretty good argument that a pullout now would lead to disaster, and the latest horrific events strengthen his case. On the other hand, whereas Kaplan uses an admittedly isolated (and partial) success story to claim that the US is seen by Iraqis as an “honest broker, more peacekeeper than belligerent”, this is hard to square with a lot of evidence that suggests the opposite. As Kaplan himself says, the focus on massive military sweeps means that the “hearts and minds” strategy he favours would be starting from scratch, three years into the occupation. And the massive civilian casualties produced by military sweeps and a single-minded focus on “force protection” means that US forces have made many deadly enemies, going far beyond Baathists and jihadists.

Unfortunately, at this point, there are no good outcomes on offer. The US doesn’t have the 180 000 troops (“at least”) needed for Kaplan’s proposal, and no one else is going to supply them. If the troops were available, there’s no reason to suppose that they would be any more successful than they have been so far.

If there is a better option than setting an immediate timetable for withdrawal, ending some time next year, it isn’t on the table.

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  1. Sinni Kal
    February 27th, 2006 at 17:06 | #1

    Hal9000 makes some interesting points. I guess if the US can control the bulk of world oil via invasion and occupation or bribery and corruption then it can keep China and India in check.

    Indeed, America, with its greed-crazed, Christian-Fundamentalist, navel-gazing population, is a country to be feared!

  2. Katz
    February 27th, 2006 at 17:11 | #2

    “Another major reason [for invading Iraq] was expressed by Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis. He said we went into Iraq “quite simply, to frighten any state that might in the future be harboring terrorists. It’s like the parking signs that Mayor Koch used to put up around New York. Remember those? ‘Don’t even think of parking here.’ Don’t even think of harboring terrorists.â€?”

    Did Gaddis’s blinding insight come via a ouija board or did Gaddis have some privileged access to the counsels of the important decisionmakers, or is Gaddis extrapolating from some overarching thesis about the nature of “unconscious” human motivation, such as psychohistory?

    In short, what on earth is the status of such an assertion?

    And Burrah has compounded poor Gaddis’s apparent foolishness by quoting him out of context.

    Here is how Gaddis continues after his remarks after the reference to Mayor Koch’s terribly scary no parking signs:

    “The problem is that, in trying to scare the pants off of future supporters of terrorism, I am afraid we have scared the pants off ourselves and our allies by what we’ve gotten into in this situation. This is where it seems to me the execution has been wretched in the sense, first of all, that there was no thought given to what to do with Iraq once we got it. This is known in the strategy business as the dog and car syndrome. Dogs spend a lot of time thinking about how to chase cars, but they think very little about what to do with cars if they actually catch one, you see. And something like this, I think, was going on here. There just was not enough thought given—and this was quite obvious from day one after we got in there—to how to run this place. ”

    http://www.cfr.org/publication/7040/surprise_security_and_the_american_experience.html

    So Burrah:

    1. I can’t help my gender.

    2. I tend to view “cosmopolitan” as a term of praise.

    3. I’m bored only by boring things. Your misrepresentation of a particularly lacklustre aside by Gaddis is, well, boring.

  3. Michael. H
    February 27th, 2006 at 19:03 | #3

    burrah,

    Do you really think that the US wanted to “destabilise” Egypt and SA?
    Or are these not “dysfunctional regimes”?

    I wouldn’t disagree if you said that part of US motives was to destabilise dysfunctional regimes who don’t play ball.

  4. John Armour
    February 27th, 2006 at 19:16 | #4

    Hal9000 is right on the money. This war is about oil. “Freedom and Democracy” is not now and never was a consideration, just a rhetorical bone tossed as a distraction for the ignorati to chew on. And that’s why Bush is not leaving, cannot leave, anytime soon.

    Corporate US has been given a straitening glimpse into the abyss: an oil depleted future and not enough time to develop alternatives.

    In parallel with the Iraq adventure has been a steady erosion and corruption of the constitutional underpinnings of the US Republic. Whether the “we the people” can rescue their largely farcical democracy over the next 2 turns of the political cycle (the mid-terms and 2008) will be a close run thing: the Bush administration is not just illegitimate and incompetent, it is also evil.

    I will not be the least bit surprised if the Republican Party, with the loyal assistance of a sycophantic US media, and some help from Diebold, prevails at the mid-terms this November, in spite of the monumental problems besetting the administration.

    But I hope to Christ I’m wrong

  5. burrah
    February 27th, 2006 at 19:49 | #5

    Katz
    Would “The Allies, however, stuffed up by not having a sufficient plan for post-Saddam Iraq.” be a summary of:

    “The problem is that, in trying to scare the pants off of future supporters of terrorism, I am afraid we have scared the pants off ourselves and our allies by what we’ve gotten into in this situation. This is where it seems to me the execution has been wretched in the sense, first of all, that there was no thought given to what to do with Iraq once we got it. This is known in the strategy business as the dog and car syndrome. Dogs spend a lot of time thinking about how to chase cars, but they think very little about what to do with cars if they actually catch one, you see. And something like this, I think, was going on here. There just was not enough thought given—and this was quite obvious from day one after we got in there—to how to run this place. �

    Or were you more taken by the “cat and car” simile?

  6. burrah
    February 27th, 2006 at 20:00 | #6

    Michael H,

    “dysfunctional regimes� in the Islamic context, is any regime where Islam holds a monopoly position, is known as a funder of terrorist militias, or allows them to operate openly and in many cases are an extension of their Security Services.

  7. Michael H.
    February 27th, 2006 at 20:10 | #7

    burrah,

    I’m having some troubleunderstanding the link between the “The question [that] has to asked” and what followed.

    If the goal was to “destabilise” as you argued, then surely having no plan, but to simply let chaos rein, was no stuff up.

  8. Katz
    February 27th, 2006 at 21:48 | #8

    “Or were you more taken by the “cat and carâ€? simile?”

    No Burrah, I was referring to your implying hat Gaddis had any basis at all for asserting the “don’t even think about it” motive on the part of US decisionmakers. The rest of the passage shows that Gaddis was not speaking on the basis of knowledge. He was merely guessing, or even thinking out loud.

    As an historian, Gaddis knows the difference between evidence and a hunch.

  9. Michael H.
    February 27th, 2006 at 22:20 | #9

    burrah wrote;
    ‘“dysfunctional regimesâ€? in the Islamic context, is any regime where Islam holds a monopoly position, is known as a funder of terrorist militias, or allows them to operate openly and in many cases are an extension of their Security Services.’

    burrah, you seem to be making this up as you go along.

    How does Iraq fit into your above definition? And I assumed that Syria was meant to be part of this ‘dysfunctional regime” idea, but it doesn’t fit either.

  10. burrah
    February 28th, 2006 at 01:14 | #10

    “burrah, you seem to be making this up as you go along.”

    Ummm, no. This is current policy of the COW (US, Australia, UK and all the other forty odd members of the Coalition of the willing.)

    http://tinyurl.com/c2vk4

  11. Michael. H
    February 28th, 2006 at 09:12 | #11

    It is? Does this include the definition of “dysfunctional regime” which only Iran fits into.

    You seem to note this ‘policy’ with approval, except that it should have been better planned so as to be more succesful.

  12. Katz
    February 28th, 2006 at 10:03 | #12

    “Ummm, no. This is current policy of the COW (US, Australia, UK and all the other forty odd members of the Coalition of the willing.)”

    No doubt, as we speak, El Salvador, Eritrea, and Estonia, and the rest, are straining their mighty thews in pursuit of functional regimes in the Islamic context.

    (A policy without a working mechanism to achieve it is called a prayer.)

  13. avaroo
    February 28th, 2006 at 10:08 | #13

    Avaroo in response to,
    “Having gone to war I think we have some moral obligation to ensure security and stability in Iraq.�, you stated that “I agree�.

    Yes. But that’s not what you claimed I said. This is what you claimed I said:

    “Avaroo makes the most common logical leap that supporters of the invasion – that it was one of moral calculations and that now it conitnues to be a moral imperative that US-British forces must ’stay the course’.”

    So, where did I say that invasion was due to moral calculations? You see, I didn’t say that. And since I never said that, the rest of your claim cannot be applied to my post either.

    “The “moralâ€? dimension has been advanced by many who support the ‘US must stay’ option.”

    I asserted no moral dimension for going to war in the first place.

    “Your initial implication seemed to be that the US is going to be somehow caught-out (eg. like the “mistake in Europeâ€?) in Iraq”

    no, didn’t say that either. Can you read?

  14. Nabakov
    February 28th, 2006 at 13:45 | #14

    “‘“dysfunctional regimesâ€? in the Islamic context, is any regime where Islam holds a monopoly position, is known as a funder of terrorist militias, or allows them to operate openly and in many cases are an extension of their Security Services.’

    Aha! You’re talking about Pakistan aren’t you?

  15. February 28th, 2006 at 16:09 | #15

    Nabakov Says: February 28th, 2006 at 1:45 pm

    Aha! You’re talking about Pakistan aren’t you?

    The US’s attempt to consolidate client states through South West Asia has been tricky and liable to blowback. The US’s two main allies in this region – Saudi Arabia and Pakistan – have populations who vehemently hate the US. This has often necessitated local swaps in order to relieve pressure.

    The main strategic aim of the US’s Afghanistan invasion, apart from deposing the Taliban, was to shore up the Paki. regime, which faced a Wahabbist threat from its security services and local jihadists who were after a fundamentalist Muslim bomb. (ditch the Pakis/hitch the Afghanis)

    Likewise, the main strategic aim of the US’s Iraqi invasion, apart from deposing the Baathists, was to shore up the Saudi regime, which also faced a Wahbbist threat from its national guard and local jihadists who were after a fundamentalist Muslim oil monopoly. (ditch the Saudis/hitch the Iraqis).

    Since the halycon days of Gulf War I the US’s recent South West Asian arms “prophylaction” has not been conspiculously successful in slowing the fundamentalist Muslim (Iranian Shiites) drive to get the bomb.

    Likewise, the US’s recent Mesopotamian regime change have not noticeablely reduced fundamentalist Muslim (Iraqi Shiites) drive to control Gulf Oil.

    Obviously there is something wrong with playing strategic politics in Islamic South Asia. Either the strategists have miscalculated or the pawns are irrational. Probably both.

    Either way the Gtreat Game appears to be “negative sum”. Calling off play is indicated.

  16. Katz
    February 28th, 2006 at 16:53 | #16

    “Obviously there is something wrong with playing strategic politics in Islamic South Asia. Either the strategists have miscalculated or the pawns are irrational. Probably both.

    “Either way the Gtreat Game appears to be “negative sumâ€?. Calling off play is indicated.”

    Can’t disagree with the prognosis Jack.

    Gotta question the diagnosis however.

    Any strategy that anchors itself on the success of a garrison force is a loser.

    One of the great force equalisers of the twentieth century, and beyond, was the theory and practice of guerrilla war.

    I’ve mentioned it before but tracts such as Carlos Marighella’s “Minimanual of the Urban Guerrillaâ€?, (still banned in the United States) has provided a technical fix against garrisons, which imperial powers as diverse as the Soviet Union and the United States have proven to be incapable of combatting. The “pawns” have learned how to be major pieces. Nothing irrational about this.

    Thanks to the WWW, even Americans can read Marighella’s important contribution to autonomy:

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/marighella-carlos/1969/06/minimanual-urban-guerrilla/

  17. Michael H.
    February 28th, 2006 at 18:16 | #17

    Avaroo, I don’t think you have much of a case for complaint.

    You wrote that “So, where did I say that invasion was due to moral calculations?�
    I was referring to your suggestion about staying on in Iraq, not about the original invasion. I said “now it continues to be a moral imperative that US-British forces must ’stay the course’� in reference to your agreement with Terjes’ statement that “ we have some moral obligation to ensure security and stability in Iraq�.

    And then you wrote “no, didn’t say that either. Can you read?� in response to this from me,
    “Your initial implication seemed to be that the US is going to be somehow caught-out (eg. like the “mistake in Europe�) in Iraq�.
    Which seems pretty reasonable given you wrote this “The US must help Iraqis ……. It cannot stay forever to guarantee Iraqi security. We’ve already made that mistake in Europe.�

    Yes, the poor old US, it can’t stay forever guaranteeing security for ungrateful types.

  18. Ian Gould
    March 1st, 2006 at 18:12 | #18

    “US actions will based now, as before, on what is best for the US.”

    Or certain privileged portions of the US population anyway.

  19. Ian Gould
    March 1st, 2006 at 18:16 | #19

    >Everyone knew that Saddam was not an immediate threat even if everyone thought that he had some WMD.

    So Blair, Powell and Rice were consciously lying when they claimed he WAS an immediate threat.

    These people are;

    a. fools; pr
    b. liars; or
    c. fools and liars.

  20. Ian Gould
    March 1st, 2006 at 18:19 | #20

    >“dysfunctional regimes� in the Islamic context, is any regime where Islam holds a monopoly position, is known as a funder of terrorist militias, or allows them to operate openly and in many cases are an extension of their Security Services.>

    Umm, doesn’t that description fit the the current Iraqi government pretty precisely?

  21. burrah
    March 2nd, 2006 at 00:53 | #21

    Muhammed and Sun Tzu have one thing in common, they both agree that “all warfare is based on deception”
    Actually the word strategy comes from the same concept. It’s not a moral issue, it’s a strategic issue which as Sun Tzu said ” The art of war is of vital importance to the State.

    # It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.’

    So hopefully “Blair, Powell and Rice were consciously lying when they claimed he WAS an immediate threat.”

  22. burrah
    March 2nd, 2006 at 01:26 | #22

    Ian Gould Says:
    “dysfunctional regimes� in the Islamic context, is any regime where Islam holds a monopoly position, is known as a funder of terrorist militias, or allows them to operate openly and in many cases are an extension of their Security Services.>

    Umm, doesn’t that description fit the the current Iraqi government pretty precisely?

    Yes, and a lot of the other regimes in the Middle east as well. That’s why a Herculean effort at cleaning out the Augean stables is not sufficient, what is needed is, as Amr Mussa the Arab League chief warned, the fiery blast from the “gates of hell” to sanitize the toxic waste dump known as The Middle East AKA Arabs Country.

  23. Katz
    March 2nd, 2006 at 07:26 | #23

    “Yes, and a lot of the other regimes in the Middle east as well. That’s why a Herculean effort at cleaning out the Augean stables is not sufficient, what is needed is, as Amr Mussa the Arab League chief warned, the fiery blast from the “gates of hellâ€? to sanitize the toxic waste dump known as The Middle East AKA Arabs Country.”

    Someone grab a rope. We’re fixin’ to have ourselves a Croosade.

  24. Michael H.
    March 2nd, 2006 at 10:44 | #24

    A “Croosude”!! Yee hah!! I’m gunna get me some Mohommadeans.

    So burrah, you do want to “clean out” Egypt and SA as well. Good luck getting the US on board with that one.

  25. Ian Gould
    March 2nd, 2006 at 17:10 | #25

    >what is needed is,… the fiery blast from the “gates of hellâ€? to sanitize the toxic waste dump known as The Middle East AKA Arabs Country.

    Yes, because only when we exterminate the subhuman arab vermin can we hope to move forward to a new world of peace, equality and amity.

  26. Michael H.
    March 2nd, 2006 at 17:22 | #26

    Yep, the Arab “toxic waste dump” is the only thing standing in the way of true global peace, a chicken in every pot and a big warm hug for everyone from Uncle George.

    Bring on the “Croosade”!

  27. burrah
    March 3rd, 2006 at 01:29 | #27

    Ummm

    Katz, Michael H, Ian Gould dont ya read newspapers?
    What do you think the election of Hamas in the palestenian elections , and the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran means?
    A group hug where we will all live in a milticoloured utopia ?
    Baby baby baby lets all loooove each other.
    : )

    You guys must be tenured. nobody else could be so off the planet.

  28. Katz
    March 3rd, 2006 at 07:31 | #28

    “When your a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

    Burrah, you’re a very special sort of hammer — one with a tiny head and a very big handle.

    Don’t you think that there is a powerful coincidence between the rise of the Bush Clique, GWOT (sorry I mean The Long War), Crusade (sorry I mean Struggle for Freedom) and the enormous popularity of radical Islamism?

    Cast your mind back only four short years. Radical Islamism, though in existence, was marginalised and of no political weight in any countries, with the exception of Afghanistan.

    And remember, the Soviet Union had brought its own version of “Shock and Awe” to Afghanistan in the late 1970s.

    Here’s a take-home message for you Burrah: when superpowers turn up bent on destruction, their targets turn to Allah.

    It’ll take decades to undo the harm perpetrated by the Bush Clique. The way forward is less clear now than it has been for a long time.

    However, one thing is for sure: you don’t get out of the hole that Bush dug by digging it deeper.

  29. Katz
    March 3rd, 2006 at 13:49 | #29

    “You guys must be tenured. nobody else could be so off the planet.”

    Oh, oh … tenure addles the brain.

    No, on second thoughts, that ‘s excellent!

    My employers forced dangerous job security on me.

    I may therefore have a claim for compensation under Occupational Health and Safety.

    Thanks Burrah!

  30. Ian Gould
    March 3rd, 2006 at 17:50 | #30

    >You guys must be tenured. nobody else could be so off the planet.

    Sorry, I own and manage my own business.

    You are probably either a forex trader or a stock broker since they appear to be the only two professions that regularly churn out peopel so absolutely convinced of their own monopoly on truth and their unique grasp of reality.

  31. Ian Gould
    March 3rd, 2006 at 18:01 | #31

    Further Burrah, ask yourself this: have the results of the invasion of Iraq been what you expected or closer to what peopel such as myself have been predicting.

    An ability to predict the likely course of future events is generally regarded as an an indicator of one’s connection to reality.

    On this measure, you and your fellow-travellers are the ones detached from reality.

    Here’s another prediction for you: hysterical hatemongering anti-arab racism has passed its high-water mark.

    But don’t worry in a decade or so’s time I’ll sure you’ll ooze back out of your sewer to scream for war with Beijing or explain how if that panty-waist McCain hadn’t been a crypto-liberal closet homo, President Rice wouldn’t have had to nuke Caracas.

  32. Steve Munn
    March 3rd, 2006 at 18:35 | #32

    burrah says: “Katz, Michael H, Ian Gould dont ya read newspapers?
    What do you think the election of Hamas in the palestenian elections , and the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran means?”

    I suggest you change your newspaper, burrah.

    It was widely reported for weeks before the Iranian election that all of the moderate candidates had been banned from participating.

  33. burrah
    March 4th, 2006 at 01:51 | #33

    To Katz, Steve Munn and Ian Gould , I will simply post a link.
    If that doesn’t send a shiver up your spine about what the future may hold, I give up.
    The ostrich sticking it’s head in the sand springs to mind.
    http://tinyurl.com/obxmn

  34. Michael H.
    March 4th, 2006 at 12:17 | #34

    What’s your point burrah? Initially you were talking about the desirability of ‘destabilising’ invasions in the ME and sanitizing the “toxic waste dump”.

    You’re confusing symptoms and causes. The extremists (and minority) response to the Danish cartoons is fueled by the approach you suggest above, and increases their appeal as their anti-US conspiracy theories increasing look accurate.

  35. Ian Gould
    March 4th, 2006 at 13:24 | #35

    Yes, these islamist extremeists think the west is innately hostile to islam.

    Let’s kill all muslims, that’ll show them.

    You, Mr. burrah are the exact mirror-image of the people you claim to hate.

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