Weekend reflections

This regular feature is back again. The idea is that, over the weekend, you should post your thoughts in a more leisurely fashion than in ordinary comments or the Monday Message Board.

Please post your thoughts on any topic, at whatever length seems appropriate to you. Civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

60 thoughts on “Weekend reflections

  1. I notice on the news that the last Australian peace keepers have left East Timor. I think Australia can be generally proud of how the whole thing went, especially after the shameful episode of the timor gap treaty and Australia’s recognition of Indonesian sovereignty during the occupation.

    That of course remains an outstanding issue. Is it at all morally defensible that the maritime border should be elsewhere other than the median line?

  2. In some of the American media and in the the Blogosphere too, I notice there is a growing assertion that the war in Iraq is”lost”,and that there is neither an adeguate exit strategy,or any chance of victory. Oddly Rumsfeld, who grows more and more opaque in his statements,said yesterday the the situation should not be judged by the state of “domestic tranquility ” pertaining in Iraq. It seemed to rival the famous Gen.Westmoreland statement about” the light at the end of the tunnel” in Vietnam,just a defeat borne down on them in Vietnam ,as is now happening in Iraq.Oddly there seems no debate about the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq ,among Australian politicians and commentations,and Labor seems to pretty well to follow the government’s line.Yet this coming defeat will have profound consequences in the Middle East,and everywhere else ,as the limitations of US power revealed.

  3. So farewell then John Anderson,

    Or “the Deputy PM” as Gran always called you.

    Graduate of both Kings and Sydney Uni,

    That bunyip aristo,

    Born to rule, picnic race,

    Old Country Party operative

    Bonhomie came easily to you.

    Interesting that it was your prostate

    That at last prostrated you.

    I always thought the problem

    Was that you were simply

    A pain in the arse.

  4. Nice point BJM

    During the post-Tet debacle of US disengagement from Vietnam, Australian political leaders were either too horrified or too scared to talk about the consequences of US failure.

    Conservative supporters of the US/Australian Vietnam fiasco got locked into public acceptance of the US assertion that “Vietnamization” would actually work. Meantime, they chided the anti-war movement for losing the war. Thus these supporters were trapped in an odd cognitive dissonance which both accepted the likelihood of victory and the likelihood of failure.

    The ALP was trapped into silence about the consquences of US failure in Vietnam by a different priority. Freudenberg and other Whitlamites in 1969 thought they had to shut up about Vietnam because they believed that criticising the US might be electorally unpopular. Jim Cairns made himself very unpopular for “mentioning the war”. Freudenberg blamed Cairns for losing the 1969 election.

    Howard is cleverer than 1960-vintage Tories. Iraq could collapse without appreciable electoral damage because Australians have no great emotional stake in Iraq and Australians don’t mind their leaders lying to them.

    The ALP can see no political traction arising out of discussion the looming debacle in Iraq. There is no latterday Jim Cairns in the ALP, at least since Mark Latham died from the effects of injesting both his feet.

    But US failure in Iraq may change much, especially in Indonesia. We could be in for a bumpy ride

  5. From the glass half empty lot we get the above including:

    “But US failure in Iraq may change much, especially in Indonesia. We could be in for a bumpy ride”

    The glass half full view includes:

    The Iraqi Security forces are increasing in size, capability and effectiveness (see the release of Douglas Wood).

    The terrorists operating in Iraq are largely non-Iraqi and there is increasing evidence of the Iraqi people rejecting them outright, as opposed to previously tolerating them, including the terrorists fighting amongst themselves.

    Australia has pulled out its last Peacekeepers from East Timor after six years. They were basically up against three men and a dog. Anybody who thinks the effort in Iraq is less than a 20 to 30 year job are deluding themselves.

    Those demanding a withdrawal from Iraq are directly supporting the terrorists. The US pulls out now and the terrorists win.

  6. Razor: “the terrorists operating in Iraq are largely non-Iraqi”

    Not according to senior US military sources who regularly estimate that foreign fighters make up no more than 5-10% of the insurgents.

    Razor: “Anybody who thinks the effort in Iraq is less than a 20 to 30 year job are deluding themselves.”

    I agree – obviously Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Presdient bush are amongst the deluded. Can I suggest that they should all retire from public life and take a long holiday in a nice quite private psychiatric hospital?

    Razor: “Those demanding a withdrawal from Iraq are directly supporting the terrorists. The US pulls out now and the terrorists win.”

    Yes which is why those of us who thought an early US withdrawal was always likely, especially with the US public being persistently lied to about the progress of the war, opposed the invasion in the first place.

  7. ”The Iraqi Security forces are increasing in size, capability and effectiveness”

    Razor that must be why their success is so palpable, ie the increase in the number of ‘terrorist’ attacks ‘proves’ the insurgency is on its last legs? Wood’s ‘rescue’ was about two out of a hundred, again proving your point?

    No concession to one person’s ‘terrorist’ is another’s ‘freedom fighter’? or has Bush’s propaganda become holy writ for you?

  8. Immediately after 9/11, Susan Sontag wrote a newspaper article in which she said “America has lost its innocence. But don’t worry, we’ll get it back. We always do.”

    It is amazing to see how quickly the innocent and naive have come to run US foreign policy again. Iraq = Vietnam redux. The same mistakes are being made again —

    — a military action undertaken without full and honest prior public justification.

    — a military action without clearly-defined end goals (where was the Powell doctrine when it was needed?)

    — belligerent (or at least negligent) ignorance of the nature of the insurgency.

    — wilful public spin of the events on the ground.

    — the whole shebang run by a mendacious (or at least self-deluded) administration.

    The first of these mistakes will be the most damaging to our societies in the long term, just as it was in the case of Vietnam. As I argued before the Iraqi invasion, military action is an example of a public policy decision where ultimate success or failure can depend primarily on the quality of execution, rather than on the particular action-options selected. This in turn may depend on the morale of the military personnel undertaking the action, which in turn may depend on the extent of public support those military folks have back home. Without public support for a particular military action, the action is much less likely to be successful, at least in a democracy. That is why the full case for war should have been made to us before the action.

    But it never was. As Christopher Hitchens said recently, the fact is that Bush and Blair decided to use fear rather than persuasion in putting their public case for military action.

  9. In answer to 2, consider the practical and logical position as between the UK and Norway on the North Sea gas and oil fields. For their negotiating positions they started from a recognition of the ocean depths, then worked from that.

    In relation to foreigners in Iraq, there is a long history of individual involvement in pan-Islamic efforts. These were well under way a century ago, and only reversed in the First World War because many muslims found a greater common cause in combatting their greater common enemy, the Turk. But with US hegemony, the two kinds of incentive work together now. It’s just that pan-Islamism justifies the foreigners’ presence to Iraqis and so does not detract from the legitimacy (technical term) of the resistance effort. See Kissinger for some good analysis of what legitimacy is; it is only tenuously connected with “right”.

  10. Time to ‘fess up people. Is there anyone out there who seriously wants to insist that they didn’t feel even the tiniest bit like crying over tonight’s episode of Doctor Who?

    Assuming that you saw it of course.

  11. I was saddened too. I remember watching Doctor Who when I was in prep or the like, terrifying stuff, especially the Dahleks (even the music used to creep me out until I got used to it over the last year).

    Worse, I came home late from work and didn’t start watch till 8.10ish—I missed all but the end. I think I’ll need to buy the DVDs or something tho, because I’ve missed a few of the rest.

  12. A small point, but I would swear that last time I saw a Dalek, it was green and bubbly – not white and tentacly.

    I know that it is a bit forlorn to complain about plot holes or inconsistencies in Dr Who but still…

  13. Funny you should say this but I had EXACTLY the same reaction. I grew up watching Dr Who and seeing a Dalek that was afraid – well it was just sad.

  14. It’s just that pan-Islamism justifies the foreigners’ presence to Iraqis and so does not detract from the legitimacy (technical term) of the resistance effort.

    Yup. Exile.ru concurs:

    Foreigners Blamed for Rise in Violence

    RAMADI (element) — Leaders of the Iraqi insurgency yesterday once again blamed “foreign fighters” for most of the violence that plagues the country.

    Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of Al Qaeda or “The Base,” a broad association of Islamic fighters from dozens of countries, told reporters, “Most of the violence carried out in Iraq is the work of an international armed group called ‘The Coalition.'”

    al-Zarqawi insisted that his group was only there to help Iraq become an Islamic state free from foreign occupation. “We will leave as soon as The Coalition leaves, and not a day earlier,” he said.

  15. Dalek mutants have been any number of shapes; from green tentacly things, to weird crab things, to silly gorilla puppet things.

    Did anyone read that tendentious piece in the Brizzie Courier Mail on Thursday about “Dalek”? Not only did it give away the whole plot of the episode, but it had to have a tiresome attack on the “political correctness” of making the Dalek sympathetic. Not that it really is all THAT sympathetic, having killed dozens of people (only one of whom really had it coming) and given that it basically offs itself because its racial purity has been compromised. And according to the Courier Mail’s writer, Britain’s “nanny state” is to blame for this alleged softness.

    I know the Moreton Bay Courier isn’t really the place to go for insight or sophisticated cultural intepretation, but good grief!

  16. We don’t get the Courier Mail here in Melbourne, so I definitely missed that piece.

    Interesting that the CM blamed the “nanny state” for the so-called softness. If I remember correctly, “nanny state” was coined sometime in the 80s as a pejorative for “welfare state”. The same welfare state that I was a resident of when I saw my first Dalek on the goggle box one Saturday evening in 1963 (or was it 64?) and it scared the living bejazuz out of me.

    They just don’t make nanny states the way they used to, do they?

    BTW, I liked muchly the way they souped up the Dalek with that rotating mid-turret arrangement.

  17. Gummo, yes, it’s startlingly ahistoric. And it’s another example of how American conservative talking points get smuggled into Australian discourse via the Murdoch rags.

    When the ABC repeated the first Dalek story about 18 months back, I was suprised at how much character the Daleks had to begin with. They were clearly rather sad creatures, crippled as much by their xenophobia and fear as they were by the limitations of their armour.

  18. I reckon the Daleks will be back. Had trouble keeping up with the demise of both the Daleks and the Bangladeshi batting order at the same time (WST).

    On the Iraq issue, if the terrorists were really interested in the Coalition Forces leaving Iraq, all they need to do is stop the violence. The question that the anti-war and anti-US lobby fail to logically answer is why the terrorists fail to understand this simple truth and act upon it?

    The second question that the anti-war and anti-US Lobby fail to adequately answer is if the terrorists are purely fighting to get the Coalition out of Iraq, how come they attack Iraqi civilians? And why aren’t they rounudly condemned for it?

  19. No Razor. The glass is completely full. The most sophisticated and expensive war machine the world has ever witnessed, the best that borrowed Chines money can buy, bogs down and stalls in a country of 25,000,000, in the face of perhaps 20,000 activists and perhaps the passive hatred of 70% of the population. (I’m willing to haggle down to 50% and up to 90%.)

    So much for the “revolution in military affairs” promised to us by the neo-cons! Loks like these Straussian elitists have entangled themselves in their own myth-making and mystifications. Happy days!

    Time to go back to the drawing board to find some other way of encouraging Islamists to find an alternative route to paradise to the IED. Think about your best teachers Razor. Were they the ones who whacked you most often with a stick?

    What I suggested about supporters of the Vietnam War also applies to you:

    “Conservative supporters of the US/Australian Vietnam fiasco got locked into public acceptance of the US assertion that “Vietnamizationâ€? would actually work. Meantime, they chided the anti-war movement for losing the war. Thus these supporters were trapped in an odd cognitive dissonance which both accepted the likelihood of victory and the likelihood of failure.”

    For you too are in a state of cognitive dissonance, “hoping and praying” as the song goes for some success, yet thrashing about blaming others for the failure that you know is coming.

    But Razor, I distinguish you from the usual run of RWDBs who blow into this blog. I believe that you’re like Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov, obsessively seeking a way to acknowledge your guilty conscience; looking for an opportunity to unburden yourself.

    Come over to the light.

  20. Katz,
    you haven’t really adressed Razor’s issues.

    for the reckon the insurgents/terrorists do not want US forces to leave as it is their easiest way to kill americans.
    A bit like their ‘support’ for the palestinians. It is merely a way to get stupids to kill themselves in the name of allah because of jihad.

    Of course what is happening was eaily predicted by those pinko’s eagelburger and Scowcroft

  21. Razor, you right about “the terrorists” as if they were a single coherent group.

    Current large-scale violence in Iraq can be attributed to all of the following groups:

    – domestic Sunni religious extremists attacking the US and the shia;
    – foreign Sunni Islamists;
    – secular Ba’athist nationalists;
    -Shia militias engaging in reprisal attacks on sunnis;
    – Tribal groups pursuing long-standing vendettas or seeking to extract protection money from the government for “protecting” pipelines and other infrastructure from their own members;
    – Shia religious extremists attmepting to enfore Sharia law;
    – Kurds attempting to expel Arabs and Turkmen from Kirkuk;
    – arabs and turkmen resisting the Kurds and attempting to terrorise Kurds trying to return to their former homes in Kirkuk.

    Many of these groups are ideologically hostile to the US. Some of these groups (such as the foreign Jihadis) want the US to remain in Iraqs long as possible because they believe the occupation is weakening the US militarily and economically.

    Others (such as the arabs and Turkmen in Kirkuk) see the US as supporting their enemies in the Kurdish/Shia dominated government and want to drive them out.

    The Ba’athists have said they want to drive the US out as the precursor to once again seizing power in Iraq.

    Why doesn’t the left condemn the terrorists more:

    1. Because some things, like “2+2 = 4” and “murder is bad” are so obvious to the overwhelming majority of people that it unnecessary to repeat them constantly.

    2. Last time I checked, the Australian taxpayer wasn’t helping to fund the terrorists.

    3. The US government and other coalition governments have shown at least some willingness to respond to criticism.

    4. I doubt Al-Zarqawi will be appearing on a ballot paper in either Australia or the US any time in the foreseeable future.

  22. Homer,

    Razor has many issues.

    I recall making the same point about the jihadist insurgency months ago.

    It is important for everyone to strive to avoid a very widespread example of cognitive dissonance: the conflation of good and evil with can and can’t.

  23. Razor ; ”The question that the anti-war and anti-US lobby fail to logically answer is why the terrorists fail to understand this simple truth [stop the violence] and act upon it?”

    History, Razor, history. The Vietnamese fighting China in days gone by, 900 years to evict. Ho Chi Minh and the French/US 30 years to evict from the end of WW2, Indonesia/Holland 400 years to eviction and countless other occupations which inevitably failed.

    What did they have in common?, uninvited guests, COLONIALISM AND BLOODY VIOLENT RESISTANCE.

    Imagine Nehru and Ghandi saying to Mountbatten,” We’d like you to stay behind, grab us by the balls economically and monopolise our natural resources, the people would really appreciate that”

  24. Good questions, Razor. I’ll have a crack at ’em.

    The fact that peaceniks will never broach these topics reveals an insight into the pathology of leftist thought.

    With the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the ascendancy of the free market, US-haters in all their varying shades of pink – artists, environmentalists, academics, unionists, public broadcasters, film industry types and the majority of journalists – were left with a dilemma.

    Where to find inspiration.

    After all, the tattered remnants of the Soviet experiment such as North Korea, Cuba and the odd Marxist dictatorship in Africa weren’t up to the job. The flame of revolution had guttered as the free-love-and-paisley set embraced the wealth of boomerdom and strode boldly into a future of lavishly superannuated retirements. Today’s young rebels were left in a bind. The class war was over.

    “What’s our cause?” they cried.

    As their parents and grandparents drove off in a puff of diesel smoke from their huge 4WD & Campervan packages, the answer was yelled through a lowered window.

    “Take care, dears. Oh, and don’t forget – the real issue isn’t what you support; it’s who you condemn.”

    Sound advice. You see, Razor, the left is not united behind any particular cause. They are united by various flavours of fear and loathing for the United States and all that it stands for.

    From the hard-core neo-revolutionaries of the Socialist Alliance and the rebels-without-a-clue in the Greens, through to the insipid hand wringing of leafy ‘burbanites, here was the glue.

    Now, you might have noticed how difficult it is to find anyone on the left who remembers ever having said a good word about the workers’ paradise of the Soviet Union. Stalin, after all, gave the whole thing a dirty name. What emerged when the press finally got in to those depressing satellite states, wasn’t all that pretty. No, when it comes to communist regimes, the left are constrained to supporting persistent Marxism in Latin America (Shining Path, anyone?).

    Similarly, the left remains assymetrically outraged over the war on terror. Driven to frothing outrage by Abu Ghraib, their silence over suicide bombings and beheadings is deafening. Funny really. Given a choice between emerging from a dungeon with a sore ass and a phobia of women with tattoos, or being left dismembered and/or decapitated by the Jihad, the choice would seem to be a matter or pragmatism. Neither outcome is desirable – the difference is that US troops have gone to gaol, and solid steps taken to prevent any repeat of that particular episode.

    The left, however, is curiously mute on the horrors of terrorism. They praise with faint damnation the heinous acts of murder and carnage committed against the fledgling democracy in Iraq. Instead they point to the Palestinian ‘refugee camps’ in Jordan, desperate to promote the root causes of the bastardry of al Zarquawi.

    Like their parents (currently sipping tea in a carpark overlooking Katherine Gorge) knew that every single death in Vietnam was soley and utterly the fault of the US, today’s generation knows who is to blame whenever some pathetically ignorant young man blows himself and forty bystanders to pieces in order to break the will of the Iraqi population.

    Indeed, it is interesting to chart the level of sophistication of any particular leftist. The simpletons will parrot the jingoism of the ‘not in our name’ lobby. The more educated deep thinkers will point to the rise of Sulafism and Wahhabism, spurred by the unpopular (but US supported, of course) reign of Saud.

    So you must feel sympathy for the left, Razor. The tortured nuance and obsfucation required for condemning the US, while struggling to avoid sounding like you support the other team can’t be easy. It’s why the silence over your original questions remain.

    Sure, GWB and co would love to have US troops home by Christmas next year. But if it meant leaving a robust and vibrant democracy in Iraq, the left would be utterly opposed. That would be a victory for capitalist imperialism, and the US must be taught a lesson for its idealism.

    I hope that you’ve found this helpful, Razor. In fact, I wouldn’t mind adding another area of questioning to the two you raised. Why are the left so threatened by Fox, Chrenkoff and anyone who dares to challenge the ‘quagmire’ paradigm? Why is it so important to keep promoting the negative?

    The only answer I’ve heard so far goes along the lines of “We have to clearly identify the problems before we can fix them.”

    Well, word up, you identifying people, you. You’re tireless identification of problems looks curiously like support for the other team. You might choose not to believe it, but Bush and Cheney are dead right on one thing. If the US loses its will to establish democracy in Iraq, the terrorists will have won. That would be one vindication I wouldn’t like to see.

  25. Another reason why the left tends to be more strident abotu condemning the terrorists is the distinct lack of a large number of vocal English-language bloggers and commentators praising their activities at every opportunity.

  26. Shane Warne and his missus have separated.

    This comes as a shock to me. Were there any hints that the marriage was in trouble?

  27. My last post should obviously have read: “…LESS strident abotu condemning…” etc.

  28. One of the most prescient and informed American commentators,Prof. Emmanual Wallerstein,predicted in an essay 3 years ago(“The Eagle has Crash-Landed”)just the sort of outcome we see in Iraq,as did ohers of course. He said then that the world had not fully realised the steep decline of US power,which is the title of his recent book “The Decline of American Power ” US power has declined vis-a-vis China.Russia India,and Europe,and their huge budget defecit is the evidence of this.The inabilty of the US to win in Iraq,or even stabilise the situation,is further proof that it is incapable of winning against an insurgencyin what the experts are calling “4th Generation warfare” I think this is also linked to the world-wide movement against colonialism and globalisation,and ecourages the anit-colonialists forces in latin America and elsewhere. I look forward to seeing the defeat of the US and its contempible allies,Tony Bliar,and Little John Howard.Stirring times indeed !

  29. Brian,

    I don’t look forward to the defeat of the US in Iraq.

    I fear it and think it’s increasingly unavoidable without a radical change in American policy and that of other western nations.

    That radical change is needed from those countries that initially opposed the war as much as it from those who supported it.

  30. Freudian slip, Ian?

    So, let me see if I can get this straight.

    “…the left tends to be [less] strident abotu condemning the terrorists is the distinct lack of a large number of vocal English-language bloggers and commentators praising their activities at every opportunity…”

    Because nobody is praising the depravity of the terrorists in a language you can read, there’s no need to condemn it?

    Okay. Let’s follow this logic…

    Nobody is praising the number of civilian casualties of the liberation – regardless of whether you believe the Lancet’s confected confidence intervals or more conservative counts. So, er, that means there’s no need for outraged commentators or bloggers to condemn those casualties?

    Yet this is yet another area where the left has been rather vocal, gleefully bundling all deaths into the convenient basket of US responsibility. Curiously, this is pretty much the same approach being run by the terrorists and their sympathisers on the Internet and in the Arabic language press.

    This homogeneity of viewpoint is decidedly unedifying.

  31. BJM,

    That last comment justifies my concerns regarding the position of the left very nicely. The question that lingers unanswered is this:

    If the Coalition of the Willing loses, who wins?

  32. Actually, Al, if right-wingers such as yourself hadn’t extended your attack on mainstream science from evolution and climate change to statistics, the Lancet survey would probably have disappeared from the blogosphere in about a week.

    But so long as there are good Outer Party members such as yourself around willing to declare that “2+2=5” some of us feel obliged to take issue with those statements.

  33. One word, Al: Hitler.

    The one has as much to do with the contemporary right as the other has to do with the contemporary left.

  34. “Well, word up, you identifying people, you. You’re tireless identification of problems looks curiously like support for the other team. You might choose not to believe it, but Bush and Cheney are dead right on one thing. If the US loses its will to establish democracy in Iraq, the terrorists will have won. That would be one vindication I wouldn’t like to see.’

    Al, that’s what happens when you send Gomer Pyle to do a man’s job.

    Not all lefties are peaceniks.

    And not all right wingers are idiots. Trouble is, you right Wingers have hooked your wagon to a pack of morons.

    And you can’t blame the Left for failing to warn you.

  35. PK, it’s wrong to suggest that it took centuries for the Vietnamese to get the Chinese out. Vietnamese are Chinese, geographically speaking! Furthermore, culturally speaking, they are no more different from other Chinese than are many minority groups within China now. What actually happened was that an earlier round of people who moved south made their earlier claims to take over stick, in the face of later arrivals from the north (and with help from the French, which let the French in).

    In fact, most of the political layout of South East Asia today represents the layout frozen as at colonial times of a gradual drift down from the north of peoples displaced by others further north. If it hadn’t been for colonialism the Khmers probably wouldn’t have survived the pressures from the northern groups who had arrived east and west of them. The Thais were the ones on the west, but they had little in common with China culturally.

  36. I think the Federal Govt’s showing a notable lack of spine by maintaing the Pharmacists monopoly and locking out the Supermarkets. Systems like these work well overseas with no problems. I have never seen a pharmacist do anything other than hand over a blister pack anyway. Sick Australians (and the consolidated revenue) will be the losers.

  37. Marxist analysis of the Iraq insanity: America’s neo-conservative world supremacists will fail”. Enjoy.

    Even those who do not share the views of the old generals and proconsuls of the US world empire (which were those of Democratic as well as Republican administrations) will agree that there can be no rational justification of current Washington policy in terms of the interests of America’s imperial ambitions or, for that matter, the global interests of US capitalism.

    It may be that it makes sense only in terms of the calculations, electoral or otherwise, of American domestic policy. It may be a symptom of a more profound crisis within US society. It may be that it represents the – one hopes short-lived – colonisation of Washington power by a group of quasi-revolutionary doctrinaires. (At least one passionate ex-Marxist supporter of Bush has told me, only half in jest: “After all, this is the only chance of supporting world revolution that looks like coming my way.”) Such questions cannot yet be answered.

  38. The Daleks, the BBC was unable to reach agreement with the Terry nation estate for the use of the Daleks so they were not to be part of the new series.
    I conclude that the death of the LAST Dalek is an evil ploy by the BBC to stick it up the copyright holders.

  39. PM Lawrence: both the Vietnamese and the Chinese would object violently to your claim that they’re the same ethnic group.

    Your comments about the Viet “arriving from the noth” are also somewhat inaccurate.

    As speakers of a Sino-Tibetan tonal language it is probably correct that the ancestors of the Vietnamese originated somewhere in what is now Tibet or south-west China. However, they probably arrived in the Red River delta (Tonkin) around 10,000 years.

    When the chinese conquered Tonkin during the Han dynasty, they also conquered the Mekong delta region to the south (Annam).

    At that time Annam was populated primarily by a Malay-speaking people – the Cham. The Chinese resettled large numbers of Vietnamese in the south and ruled the whole area as a single province.

  40. The pessimists and optimists can take whatever bites they like from Iraq. Personally I’m an optimist but here are some for all to chew on.

    Gives a breakdown of deaths in Iraq since Saddam was toppled.

    A broad discussion of insurgents.

    A breakdown of Arab volunteers killed in iraq

    On the foreign insurgent trail into Iraq.

    NYT article on insurgents fighting among themselves.

    These sorts of reports are a strong indication of flypaper in Iraq for Muslim extremists, while it could be argued this is also true for US troops. Interesting to note that suicide bombers account for most of the casualties in Iraq and approx two thirds of these casualties are due to foreign Arabs. Perhaps the dummies in Washington were aware of this threat, particularly after 9/11 and were prepared to take on the threat in Iraq, with their beacon of light approach. Obviously they are pinning their hopes here long term on Iraqis taking up the slack, which is occurring(Wood rescue), but not quickly enough for some. Would it ever be quick enough for any COW democracy? Also it is of some interest to note the insurgents fighting among themselves for some months now. Will Iraqis prevail here and what will be their long term response if they do?

    IMO COW electorates have no choice but to fully back the war in Iraq now and to muster as much Western aid for Iraqi rebuilding as they can. To fail in Iraq, will free up Islamofascists to continue on where 9/11 finished off. The West cannot afford to squander an opportunity to stave off a clash of civilisations in the longer term. Naturally if the pessimists have some useful suggestions to make, or advice on the conduct of operations, I’m sure we currently guarded optimists would all like to hear it. Whinging about the past is fairly futile I would suggest.

  41. Observa,

    The problem with your fly-paper analogy is that it is much easier to kill Americans in Iraq than it is to kill Americans in the US – US casualties, including civilians and “contractors” are rapidly approaching the 9/11 death-toll.

    While many of the people currently involved in suicide attacks in Iraq would probably have had the desire to kill Americans regardless of the invasion of Iraq, it is unlikely they would have had the opportunity.

    I imagine if you hog-tied American soldiers and dumped them on street-corners in countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan they’d make even more tempting alternative targets.

    As for “whinging about the past” – I have maintained all along that a full understanding of the likely cost (both human and financial) of the war was necessary to maintain public support.

    If the Bush adminsitration hadn’t lied persistently about the progress of the war; if it had told the American peopel from the start that, as Rumsfeld recently conceded, the insurgency was likely to last a decade or more; then the current upsurge in violence would have been less likely to produce the calls we’ve seen for immediate withdrawal.

    Of course, if they’d done so before the 2004 elections, Bush probably wouldn’t have been re-elected – and now there’s the 2006 mid-term electiosn to consider…

    I opposed the decision to go to war, now that we are at war I believe it is imperative we win. “Guarded optimism”, unless it’s based on a firm basis of realism, is not going to contribute to that.

  42. I also think it is disingenuous to suggest that all the west need do is provide “aid”.

    There is an urgent need for more troops in Iraq.

    Military experts are saying that the Iraqi government forces are 5-10 years away from being able to handle security by themselves.

    The US can’t provide more troops unless allies – including opponents of the Iraq War such as Canada, France and Germany – send additional troops to other areas such as Afghanistan to allow American troops to be relocated.

    Those countries which supported the war but provided only token military forces – and I include Australia here – need to wake up themselves and send more troops.

    The US needs to go back to the Security council seeking a new peace-keeping mandate that might draw on troops from countries such India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria (to nominate four countries with a history of supporting other UN peace-keeping missions.)

  43. Ian,
    I was using ‘aid’ in the broadest sense. I am aware that France and Germany are training Iraqis in their own countries and would applaud more. Also aid can take the form of completely shouldering the load in Afghanistan for non COW countries. Whether the US sees a need for more non-aligned troops via the UN in Iraq is really their call. Perhaps they don’t. I guess it’s hard for the US and Britain to put a time frame on Iraqi security handover and in any case that’s a gradual phased procedure. As Iraqis progressively shoulder more of the load, the effectiveness of Coalition troops that are there should improve, particularly with border security. Anyhow, the most optimistiic supporter of the overtrow of Saddam, would surely have been prepared for a 5 year engagement in Iraq. Anything less would be a case of Attention Deficit Disorder, or a serious lack of history, but to expect a firm timeline for withdrawal is grossly naive.

  44. Observa: the official US position immediately post-invasion was that troop strength could be reduced significantly within six motnhs and that US forces would be down to a semi-permanent garrison of around 20-30,000 troops within two years. (Oddly, back then, they had no hesitation about setting such timetables.)

  45. As far as I was aware, there was some debate that the COW could/would achieve an interim appointed Iraqi governing authority in 6 months and then an elected one in another 6 months time. That timetable has been achieved. Have you any sources as to firm timetabling of troop reductions Ian? I was a bit aghast when the wife suggested at the time Baghdad fell that the COW could largely withdraw in 6 months or so. I said I couldn’t foresee any commitment less than 2 years and more probably 5-10 years. Perhaps her hopelessly optimistic view was more typical than mine, unless as you say, COW leadership was singing her tune. I don’t recall it.

  46. The US government has done a good job of confusing various culprits by not setting timetables for withdrawal of troops from Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Turkey, Portugal, Iceland, Greece, Netherlands, Egypt, Afghanistan, Panama, Colombia, etc, etc, etc. Basically everywhere. I don’t see why they should start with Iraq. What’s so special about Iraq?

  47. “Basically everywhere. I don’t see why they should start with Iraq. What’s so special about Iraq?”

    Ah, but they wouldn’t be starting with Iraq. Two years ago, they announced that they would be starting with Saudi Arabia.

    I guess the thinking at the time was that they’d appease Bin Laden by withdrawing from Saudi Arabia, and just move next door to Iraq. Doesn’t seem to have gone quite according to plan, though. C’est la guerre.

  48. The rest of the list, Abb, except for Afghanistan, does not contain a shooting war.

    I wonder how much it would cost the Americans to rent the Vietnamese army for a couple of years? Besides being cheaper than the current solution, it would lead either to a) the Vietnamese winning on account of they are dead tough and understand the war or b) they would lose and get trashed, since they would be occupying the American position in Vietnam. Either way, the Americans would be very, very happy.

  49. The rest of the list, Abb, except for Afghanistan, does not contain a shooting war.

    Exactly. They never leave; okay – almost never. What would make anyone think that they intend to leave Iraq?

  50. Observa: It’ll take some time to find references to the initial post-war draw-down plans. (You don’t to know how mnay hits Google returns for “Iraq Rumsfeld withdrawal.)

    Here’s a quote from Paul Wolfowitz that’s relevant:

    >Testimony by then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz, one of the chief architects of Iraq policy, before a House subcommittee on Feb. 28, 2003, just weeks before the invasion, illustrated the optimistic view the administration had of postwar Iraq. He said containment of Hussein the previous 12 years had cost “slightly over $30 billion,” adding, “I can’t imagine anyone here wanting to spend another $30 billion to be there for another 12 years.” As of May, the Congressional Research Service estimated that Congress has approved $208 billion for the war in Iraq since 2003.


  51. “We could not burn the candle on the Cav prematurely,” he said. Others said that civilian officials in the Pentagon were so convinced that these “follow-on forces” wouldn’t be needed in Iraq that they thought they could withdraw 50,000 troops from Iraq in June 2003; 50,000 more in July; and a final 50,000 in August. By September 2003, Rumsfeld and his aides thought, there would be very few American troops left in Iraq.


    This article also reports that Rumsfeld originally thought 40,000 troops woudl be sufficient for the initial invasion, that requests by US government agencies to pre-position relief supplies in Kuwait were ignored and that at least one division originally intended for immediate post-war occupation duty was never sent.

  52. From an interview with Dan Rather in September 2003 (by which time remember, most US troops were initially expected to have been withdrawn.)

    Rather: He [William Kristol] says, “Rumsfeld lost credibility with the White House because he screwed up post-war planning.” His words not mine. “He wanted to do the post-war with fewer troops than many people advised and that turned out to be a mistake.” Now Mr. Secretary, you know I don’t have any joy in putting that quote in front of you, but what are the American people to make of that?

    Rumsfeld: I don’t know. (long pause) I guess what I would say is the Combatant Commander Tommy Franks, succeeded by general John Abizaid and General Sanchez here with the responsibility for this particular country of Iraq all have indicated that the level of troops are exactly what they believe is appropriate, what they requested. And I therefore would suggest that the individual you are quoting will prove to have been wrong.

    Rather: Mr. Secretary, just this week there have been quotes in the paper, rank and file Americans, saying are we into a tar baby situation? Are we into quick sand? Is this going to be another quagmire? This is the way people talk around coffee in the morning. I want to give you an opportunity to respond to those deep concerns.

    Rumsfeld: (long pause) Well, time will tell. The 23 million people have been liberated in an important country, in an important part of the world and that was about five and a half months ago, not five and a half years but five and a half months. Now is five and a half months a quagmire? Well everyone can look it up in the dictionary. I think that it’s tough, but I’m hopeful that we’ll be successful and I think the American people have a very good center of gravity.


  53. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/19/international/19war.html?ei=5090&en=7149e007ead63381&ex=1255924800&partner=rssuserland&pagewanted=print&position=

    en. Tommy R. Franks climbed out of a C-130 plane at the Baghdad airport on April 16, 2003, and pumped his fist into the air. American troops had pushed into the capital of liberated Iraq little more than a week before, and it was the war commander’s first visit to the city.

    Much of the Sunni Triangle was only sparsely patrolled, and Baghdad was still reeling from a spasm of looting. Apache attack helicopters prowled the skies as General Franks headed to the Abu Ghraib North Palace, a retreat for Saddam Hussein that now served as the military’s headquarters.

    Huddling in a drawing room with his top commanders, General Franks told them it was time to make plans to leave. Combat forces should be prepared to start pulling out within 60 days if all went as expected, he said. By September, the more than 140,000 troops in Iraq could be down to little more than a division, about 30,000 troops.

    To help bring stability and allow the Americans to exit, President Bush had reviewed a plan the day before seeking four foreign divisions – including Arab and NATO troops – to take on peacekeeping duties.

    Military aides on the National Security Council prepared a confidential briefing for Ms. Rice and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, that examined what previous nation-building efforts had required.

    The review, called “Force Security in Seven Recent Stability Operations,” noted that no single rule of thumb applied in every case. But it underscored a basic principle well known to military planners: However many forces might be required to defeat the foe, maintaining security afterward was determined by an entirely different set of calculations, including the population, the scope of the terrain and the necessary tasks.

    If the United States and its allies wanted to maintain the same ratio of peacekeepers to population as it had in Kosovo, the briefing said, they would have to station 480,000 troops in Iraq. If Bosnia was used as benchmark, 364,000 troops would be needed. If Afghanistan served as the model, only 13,900 would be needed in Iraq. The higher numbers were consistent with projections later provided to Congress by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, then the Army chief of staff, that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in Iraq. But Mr. Rumsfeld dismissed that estimate as off the mark.

    More forces generally are required to control countries with large urban populations. The briefing pointed out that three-quarters of Iraq’s population lived in urban areas. In Bosnia and Kosovo, city dwellers made up half of the population. In Afghanistan, it was only 18 percent.

    In mid-April, Lawrence Di Rita, one of Mr. Rumsfeld’s closest aides, arrived in Kuwait to join the team assembled by General Garner, the civil administrator, which was to oversee post-Hussein Iraq. Mr. Bush had agreed in January that the Defense Department was to have authority for postwar Iraq. It was the first time since World War II that the State Department would not take charge of a post-conflict situation.

    Speaking to Garner aides at their hotel headquarters in Kuwait, Mr. Di Rita outlined the Pentagon’s vision, one that seemed to echo the themes in Mr. Rumsfeld’s Feb. 14 address. According to Col. Paul Hughes of the Army, who was present at the session, Mr. Di Rita said the Pentagon was determined to avoid open-ended military commitments like those in Bosnia and Kosovo, and to withdraw the vast majority of the American forces in three to four months.

    Thomas E. White, then the secretary of the Army, said he had received similar guidance from Mr. Rumsfeld’s office. “Our working budgetary assumption was that 90 days after completion of the operation, we would withdraw the first 50,000 and then every 30 days we’d take out another 50,000 until everybody was back,” he recalled. “The view was that whatever was left in Iraq would be de minimis.”
    General Franks, for his part, said the United States had sufficient combat forces in Iraq but did not initially have enough civil affairs, military police and other units that are intended to establish order after major combat is over. The issue, he said, was not the level of forces, but their composition.

    While saying he was not criticizing Mr. Rumsfeld, General Franks suggested that this was partly a result of difficulties in getting all of the Central Command’s force requests approved quickly at the Pentagon. He also said delays in obtaining funds from Congress for reconstruction efforts and the decision of many foreign governments not to send troops had contributed to the continuing turmoil in Iraq.

  54. IG, you’d better go and look at my careful use of geographical and cultural, not ethnic, and at the fact that I carefully didn’t suggest equivalence but rather pointed out a smaller distintion than between existing groups now considered politically Chinese. I was being very careful to point out that these things are not what they seem on casual scrutiny – not inviting further casual scrutiny.

    For what it’s worth, the Chinese, that is to say the Han, are themselves a group that “came down from the north” and displaced existing groups. I made no mention of the time scale of all this; it is short in cultural terms, but only long in current affairs terms.

  55. Defenders of the initial decision to invade Iraq often talk abotu how that country has been “liberated”.

    In order to do so they have to ignroe reports such as this:


    “BASRA, Iraq — Physicians have been beaten for treating female patients. Liquor salesmen have been killed. Even barbers have faced threats for giving haircuts judged too short or too fashionable.”

  56. I really DON”T want to turn this into link of the day – but anyone who is interested in events in Iraq really needs to read this Knight-Ridder article which appears to make a very strong case for numerous extra-legal killings (30 in one week in Baghdad alone) of Sunnis by the government security forces. This includes, a group of farmers from the town of Madain detained, apparently at random, after Sunni insurgents in Madain murdered shi’ite hostages.


Comments are closed.