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Bloggingheads
12-18-2007, 09:30 PM

piscivorous
12-18-2007, 11:03 PM
For those that wish to see graphically how the surge has worked http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2007/12/iraq_by_the_numbers.php. Four graphs and two other graphics that even Ezra might understand.

laffercurveball
12-18-2007, 11:06 PM
Its kind of strange that Ron Paul, who represents the very old-fashioned isolationist, libertarian, Howard Taft wing of the Republican party draws basically all of his support from the internet. I wonder how much of this support comes from the Andrew Sullivan's of the world; does anyone actually know or give a damn about his view on the gold standard?

bjkeefe
12-19-2007, 01:24 AM
http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7492?in=23:08&out=23:14

testostyrannical
12-19-2007, 01:25 AM
Yeah, I'm not much of a dingalink cheerleader, but that's pretty cool.

TwinSwords
12-19-2007, 01:29 AM
For those that wish to see graphically how the surge has worked http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2007/12/iraq_by_the_numbers.php. Four graphs and two other graphics that even Ezra might understand.
As Atrios would say, you can't unshit the bed. The disaster has happened, and that's a reality whether you like it or not. No one ever said the disaster would continue forever. Did you think that all Bush had to do to achieve success was wait for the unfolding catastrophe to eventually come to an end? You have a low bar for success, my friend.

If you kill a million people and drive four million out of the country or into hiding, it's going to have an impact: There are fewer people to kill, and to be killed. You call that "success," I call it a nightmare of epic proportions.

But the disaster has already happened. And there's no way that future reductions in violence are going to change that. If you flunk all your classes in your freshman year, you might be able to turn it around in your sophomore year, but that doesn't erase all those bad grades from your transcript. If your house burns to the ground with everything in it, eventually the flames will go out. You don't watch your house burn to the ground and then declare success when the flames go out. Because the disaster happened, even if it isn't still happening, or still happening as much.

No matter what happens in Iraq in the future, the past cannot be undone or rewritten, not by you, nor Fox News, nor anyone else. Bush is stuck with his legacy as a failure.

For all you know, the reason violence has been reduced is that al Qaeda knows that the Iraq war has been the greatest disaster in US history, save for the Civil War and maybe the Great Depression. Al Qaeda would like the disaster to continue for as long as possible. Maybe they're slowing the pace of attacks because they're afraid a Democrat will get elected and extract us from Bush's mess. Maybe they're hoping a reduced pace of violence will help elect another Republican, and keep America on the same self-destructive path. Of course that's just speculation, but I certainly wouldn't put it past Al Qaeda to try to engineer an outcome that is as damaging to the United States as possible.

TwinSwords
12-19-2007, 01:42 AM
http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7492?in=23:08&out=23:14
Don't mess with Ezra! Julian's lucky Ezra left him audio...

piscivorous
12-19-2007, 02:00 AM
Such a heartfelt warm emotional appeal and I congratulate you; your rhetoric is grandiose and eloquent. If I ever need a confessor I shall be sure to keep you in mind as your empathy must be boundless. But I believe that Machiavelli's arguments as to how one should consider foreign policy decisions are closer to the truth than those based on emotions.

TwinSwords
12-19-2007, 02:04 AM
Such a heartfelt warm emotional appeal and I congratulate you; your rhetoric is grandiose and eloquent. If I ever need a confessor I shall be sure to keep you in mind as your empathy must be boundless. But I believe that Machiavelli's arguments as to how one should consider foreign policy decisions are closer to the truth than those based on emotions.
If I fall off my bike and break my leg, it's still a disaster after I stop rolling. I've got a chart that shows the rate of my spin-out decreased steadily until I came to a complete stop. Bloody and broken, I declared victory!

I would add: You people have been declaring victory since April 9th, 2003. That has been the single most consistent thing about this entire catastophe.

bjkeefe
12-19-2007, 02:05 AM
pisc:

I'm not Ezra, but here's what I understand from the graphs you offer. Quoting from the captions (emph. added):

o The weekly attack trends are now down to or below 2004 levels ...

o The number of deaths per month nationwide is down to January 2006 levels ...

o Suicide car and vest bombs, and car bombs, are down from a peak of near 130 per month to about 30 per month, the lowest level since May 2006 ...

o The number of IED attacks are now at 2004 levels ...

So, after spending hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives, we can now claim victory if we pick the metrics carefully and, oh yeah, redefine "victory" to mean that we're back where we were when the invasion first was seen to be a disaster.

Also, let's not forget what the original purpose of the surge was: to give the national government of Iraq time to establish itself. How's that going? Last time I looked, they still can't even keep the lights on or provide clean drinking water.

Some surge!

And what about when the troop draw-down starts? Perhaps Basra (http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2228650,00.html) might serve as an early indicator as to how well we can expect that to go.

bjkeefe
12-19-2007, 02:12 AM
laffer:

... does anyone actually know or give a damn about his view on the gold standard?

Should we? I vaguely remember Ron Paul saying something once about favoring going back to the gold standard. All things considered, I think a much more sane reason to vote for him is if one is worried about the black helicopters.

daveh
12-19-2007, 03:10 AM
Which one of these guys is which?

Oh, wait, the guy who made references to science (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7492?in=00:15:57&out=16:02) fiction (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7492?in=00:15:57&out16:12) movies must be the libertarian.

And the other guy is the one who has idiosyncratic (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7492?in=00:33:43&out=33:46) pronounciation (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7492?in=00:09:55&out=10:00) .

What could have possibly occurred in 2003 that lead the Iranians to drop their weapons program? I wonder.

I also question the Sam's Club Republican theory from a different angle. I believe that high earning professionals who have migrated to the Democratic Party will return to the Republicans if there are harder economic times ahead, which appear to be developing. Democrats have only been able to hang on to these voters so long as pocketbook issues have been off the table. If there are hard times, people will be thinking more about how to get the train moving again (i.e., tax cuts) and Democrats will be forced to make more demands from their interest groups for more ameliorative government action.

bjkeefe
12-19-2007, 03:42 AM
daveh:

Democrats have only been able to hang on to these voters so long as pocketbook issues have been off the table.

I don't agree. First, health care is one of the biggest planks of all the major Democratic candidates' platforms. That is a pocketbook issue, even for your high earning professionals. Second, remember how Bill Clinton won in 1992: "It's the economy, stupid."

I agree that when recessions roll around, some people think "we need to get entrepreneurship happening, and ease up on regulations and spending on new programs." But plenty of others think "big business is the problem," or "I need some help," or even "this recession happened while Bush was President." Basically, it boils down to which side can tell a better story about how the other side is to blame for the current mess, and how their own side is going to make things better.

There are also the considerations that you can't ignore when you want to focus on the pocketbook issue. I'd bet that for every h.e.p. of yours that leans back to the GOP for economic reasons, there is another that continues to stay away, out of distaste for the Christianist wing or the non-stop hawkery, or maybe just the idea that whoever becomes the GOP nominee is distasteful. There aren't any good choices for a big-tent GOP candidate this time -- every time I look at a right-wing blog, I read a pronouncement that says something like "I'll vote Democratic before I vote for that guy."

garbagecowboy
12-19-2007, 09:33 AM
For all you know, the reason violence has been reduced is that al Qaeda knows that the Iraq war has been the greatest disaster in US history, save for the Civil War and maybe the Great Depression. Al Qaeda would like the disaster to continue for as long as possible. Maybe they're slowing the pace of attacks because they're afraid a Democrat will get elected and extract us from Bush's mess. Maybe they're hoping a reduced pace of violence will help elect another Republican, and keep America on the same self-destructive path. Of course that's just speculation, but I certainly wouldn't put it past Al Qaeda to try to engineer an outcome that is as damaging to the United States as possible.

These AQ guys must be really crafty... the way that they just had 20 ready to go car bombs taken off the streets (http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/2007/11/troops-and-locals-stop-twenty-car-bombs.html) must be some really brilliant political strategy designed to affect the 2008 Presidential Election!

Think about the resources they can dedicate to these stunts, all for the benefit of the Republican candidate in the 2008 Presidential election!

Of course Iraq was a disaster, and the decision to go in was a mistake. Retroactively, you can call out people who were pro-war all you want, and be absolutely correct. But unless you have a time machine, we can only make policy in a forward-looking manner, and the Democrats seem to be stuck in a time-warp (http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2007/12/our-view-on-war.html). After such a disaster, when it finally starts to get better, the Democrats still have a foreign policy from a year ago where they want to start pulling the troops out when the situation seemed so dire it couldn't possibly get better.

To take a slightly different metaphor, if you have a blazing forest fire that has destroyed dozens of houses, at one point it seemed to be blazing out of control, and then the firefighters start to stop the rate at which houses are destroyed, but the fire is still going, what is the best strategy: say that it's already a clusterfuck and pull out the firefighters or keep fighting the fire?

garbagecowboy
12-19-2007, 09:40 AM
laffer:



Should we? I vaguely remember Ron Paul saying something once about favoring going back to the gold standard. All things considered, I think a much more sane reason to vote for him is if one is worried about the black helicopters.

From your tone it sounds as if you don't believe black helicopters exist. Clear photographic proof exists to the contrary.

http://img62.imageshack.us/img62/853/VRWCBlackHelicopters.jpg

jonphillips
12-19-2007, 09:42 AM
Long-time fan, and very happy to see so new diavlogs regularly posted. I know it must be a hassle coordinating and working them all in, but listening to political commentary from over two weeks ago is a tough one.

bjkeefe
12-19-2007, 09:59 AM
GC:

Your characterization of the Democrats' attitude about troops in Iraq is an oversimplification at best, and downright inaccurate when considering the stated views of their leading candidates for President.

I do agree with your attitude of what's done is done, and that we need to think about things in terms of the present and the future. Still, it would be a lot easier if the dead-enders in this country made the same admission that you have (which I do appreciate): that the war has been a disaster and was a mistake from the beginning. This would be a courtesy and a gesture of good faith, coming from people who felt free to label my side as traitors and America-haters, just for making the right calls on this invasion all along. It might also help to convince us that there was some awareness of reality on the other side of the aisle, when discussing which steps would be best to take.

kj
12-19-2007, 10:11 AM
See Yglesias for more of what I'm about to say: http://matthewyglesias.theatlantic.com/archives/2007/12/the_long_haul.php

This is what the surge all boils down to. Do you want to commit to a minimum 5 year (probably 10-20) commitment of 120,000 troops, another 2-4 trillion dollars, and a few more thousand dead soldiers in order to see "success" in Iraq? The surge has accomplished nothing sustainable and those who argue such are engaging in the wishful thinking that has defined conservative support of this war from the beginning. So you need to make such a commitment if you want to actually accomplish a watered down version of the original goals of this war.

And even if you want to make such a commitment for our armed forces and our taxpayers, do you really think the public will support such an entanglement for another 5, 7, 10 or 20 years? I hope Pi and GarbageCowboy answer this question. And I wish Republicans had to answer it. What is your end game here? What are you selling to the American public? I really want to know what you think is going to happen if we just stay there. And at what point do you go, okay, enough is enough, let's get out. Please answer these questions, I really want to know.

kj
12-19-2007, 10:23 AM
If there are hard times, people will be thinking more about how to get the train moving again (i.e., tax cuts)

Exactly, and then when the economy turns around we can cut taxes again in order to give the money back to the people who made it happen and keep the economy buzzing and then when it inevitably goes bad again we can cut taxes again to turn the economy around and then ....

But of course this all make sense because the magic tax fairies will bring increased government revenue the more you cut taxes. It really is fun to enter the world of Conservative logic. You people are brilliantly delusional.

And of course, the invasion of Iraq was another brilliant efficient and cost-effective way of halting Iran's nuclear program. The plan would have been even more brilliant if the people who implemented it actually thought such a thing would have happened. How much credit can one get for rhetorically benefiting from unintended consequences? I'm always amazed at how prescient Conservatives become after the results come in.

kj
12-19-2007, 10:26 AM
This is a good point as Democrats have been trusted more on the economy for a long time now and now Democrats are more trusted on the deficit. No matter how much loyalist conservatives want to believe the economy will save their chances, nothing, and I mean nothing is further from the truth.

kj
12-19-2007, 10:27 AM
I agree, too much delay although I thought this one held up pretty well despite being from the distant past.

bjkeefe
12-19-2007, 10:49 AM
kj:

... and now Democrats are more trusted on the deficit.

Good point. I should have remembered that when posting my rebuttal. I'll even give partial credit to the Republican-controlled Congress of the mid- to late 1990s, provided they're willing to acknowledge Bill Clinton's role in budgetary policy.

On a related note, why do you think we can't make the label "borrow and spend Republicans" stick? I mean, considering Reagan and GWB, it's not like it's inaccurate or anything. Is it just that we don't have enough trained parrots willing to repeat this in front of every microphone and camera? Or is it too abstract an issue for the average voter, who has been conditioned by the other side's parrots to tremble upon mention of the word "taxes?"

ohcomeon
12-19-2007, 10:50 AM
As a side note to this conversation, I am hearing rumors that Charles Krauthmmer and that crazy man William Kristol are both being dropped by Time. The story, according to Think Progress, also includes on going negotiations with Ramesh Ponnuru. Although I really don't read Time any more I find this to be an interesting development.

bjkeefe
12-19-2007, 11:04 AM
ohc:

As a side note to this conversation, I am hearing rumors that Charles Krauthmmer and that crazy man William Kristol are both being dropped by Time. The story, according to Think Progress, also includes on going negotiations with Ramesh Ponnuru. Although I really don't read Time any more I find this to be an interesting development.

Mmm-hmm! That is a tasty rumor!

I don't read Time either, unless I'm trapped in a waiting room, but I'm happy to hear that they might be moving from lapdog status back to their usual niche of mediocre reporting of the conventional wisdom.

Ramesh I'm okay with. Even if I disagree with him on lots of issues, he mostly seems to have a relationship with reality that Kristol and Krauthammer lost long ago. (I admit I always have to stop and think, "Oh, yeah, that guy who I've seen on BH.tv -- he's not Dinesh D'Souza.")

I'm sure you already followed this one, but to save everybody else a step, here's a link to TP's source: http://www.observer.com/2007/kristol-krauthammer-are-out-time

garbagecowboy
12-19-2007, 12:19 PM
And even if you want to make such a commitment for our armed forces and our taxpayers, do you really think the public will support such an entanglement for another 5, 7, 10 or 20 years? I hope Pi and GarbageCowboy answer this question. And I wish Republicans had to answer it. What is your end game here? What are you selling to the American public? I really want to know what you think is going to happen if we just stay there. And at what point do you go, okay, enough is enough, let's get out. Please answer these questions, I really want to know.

Maybe Iraq the Model is not a credible source, but I think the notion that the surge has only been a temporary, tactical reversal is also a bit of an oversimplication. (http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/2007/12/how-to-eat-elephant.html)

I think a number of factors (some good, some bad) have made an eventual end to the civil war a real possibility. These would include: the success of ethnic cleansing in increasing the homogeneity of various parts of Baghdad and elsewhere in the country, the weariness of the less radical elements in the Sunni community to support the continued slaughter of fellow Iraqis, the political marginalization of Sadr after cutting down his involvement in the central gov't.

And no, I don't think that America will support an open-ended commitment in Iraq. As I have wrote on this forum before the surge and in its opening months, I thought that basically the continuing chaos in Iraq would all but guarantee a Democrat winning the Presidency in 2008 and furthermore him or her having a political mandate to drastically pull down troop numbers.

The politics of a precipitous withdrawal are now murkier as the surge and other factors indigenous to the Iraqi people have at least succeeded tactically in reducing the amount of massive terror attacks and sectarian murders. But no, I don't think the American people will support 5 more years of war. I think that there will be an American presence of at least 50,000 or more troops for the short to medium term (1 or 2 years at least, I would imagine).

As to what will happen if we "just stay there," I have no idea. The situation is so fluid and there are so many factors that I think anyone claiming to know with any confidence what will happen in Iraq is probably overstating the case. Certainly, the massive decrease in violence that was at least partially caused by the surge was not foreseen by most people.

However, the questions of what is politically feasible and what is the right course of action, while certainly interconnected, are separate. At the height of the violence I was coming around to the notion that although the situation might get worse if we starting drawing down troop numbers, we might as well cut our losses. Now, I'm not so sure. Internal security is a precondition to any sort of long-term political reconciliation and stabilization, but as we have seen over the past few months, it is only a necessary but not sufficient condition. Will the Iraqis make progress in setting up a stable central government that will be able to maintain or improve the current security situation if we start drawing down troop levels in 2009 or 2010? I don't know.

I am not completely against the idea of some sort of draw-down or strategic repositioning of forces to Kurdistan in a year or two if the security situation holds steady or improves, as indeed, maintaining current troop levels for another 4 years seems like it will not be possible politically. However, the recent improvements in the security situation and the changing political landscape in Iraq seem to me to make precipitous draw-downs in troop levels a bad idea.

I think Bush will basically keep troop levels at a relatively high rate until he leaves office, and barring a massive resurgence in levels of violence, I think the next President (whom I think will very likely be a Democrat with a Democrat led Congress) will need to proceed cautiously in withdrawing troops simply as a matter of political expediency. As far as what the end-game is, I have no crystal ball. If a draw-down could be achieved, the central government can make some compromises that further marginalize the most radical elements in the country, with American troops remaining in, say, Kurdistan for the long term much as we have had troops stationed in Korea for 50 years, I think that would be the best we could hope for, and I think it might be politically and militarily sustainable. On the other hand, worst-case scenarios where America more or less leaves and the civil war returns with a vengeance certainly seem possible. How much the American polity values stability in Iraq versus the slow-bleed of troops being killed and wounded is questionable, indeed.

bjkeefe
12-19-2007, 02:10 PM
GC:

Very thoughtful post. Nice work.

One quibble:

I think Bush will basically keep troop levels at a relatively high rate until he leaves office ...

I expect a showy withdrawal of troops (admittedly, perhaps not really significant) before the election, especially if the Mess-o-potamia issue is still a major issue for voters.

TwinSwords
12-19-2007, 06:50 PM
These AQ guys must be really crafty... the way that they just had 20 ready to go car bombs taken off the streets (http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/2007/11/troops-and-locals-stop-twenty-car-bombs.html) must be some really brilliant political strategy designed to affect the 2008 Presidential Election!

Think about the resources they can dedicate to these stunts, all for the benefit of the Republican candidate in the 2008 Presidential election!
Love the sarcasm, but (a) I said this was just wild speculation (designed to illustrate that any one of us can come up with as many explanations for the reduction in violence as we wish, and they are all about equally provable and disprovable, and (b) I don't think all terrorist activity on earth -- or even in Iraq -- is coordinated from a central office. There may be (note the word "may") that have decided they want to prolong the war to increase the harm to America, while others are motivated by something else.

In fact, I'll ask you to examine your own premise: do you really believe that all terrorist activity on earth, or in Iraq, is coordinated by a single office?




Of course Iraq was a disaster, and the decision to go in was a mistake. Retroactively, you can call out people who were pro-war all you want
It's not really that I want to call these people out, as if to beat up on them for fun. It's that we are all obligated to call them out. They have done enormous damage to the United States, and they are hoping desperately that they can pursue an agenda that will bring more harm. We have a moral obligation to do everything we can to prevent that. So, I think it is unfair of you to use the word "want" in a context that suggest the effort is gratuitous and personal.




To take a slightly different metaphor, if you have a blazing forest fire that has destroyed dozens of houses, at one point it seemed to be blazing out of control, and then the firefighters start to stop the rate at which houses are destroyed, but the fire is still going, what is the best strategy: say that it's already a clusterfuck and pull out the firefighters or keep fighting the fire?
That's a good metaphor; an excellent one, in fact, and I think it reveals your serious approach to this discussion. I think you would probably agree that there are two schools of thought: The first says that we should stay to protect our investment, and ultimately "win" the war, while the second holds that our continued presence will only make matters worse, and that the current "success" is merely a respite, if not altogether illusory.

TwinSwords
12-20-2007, 01:59 AM
I think you would probably agree that there are two schools of thought: The first says that we should stay to protect our investment, and ultimately "win" the war, while the second holds that our continued presence will only make matters worse, and that the current "success" is merely a respite, if not altogether illusory.

From Sullivan's blog:

Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of "occupying forces" as the key to national reconciliation, according to focus groups conducted for the U.S. military last month.

That is good news, according to a military analysis of the results. At the very least, analysts optimistically concluded, the findings indicate that Iraqis hold some "shared beliefs" that may eventually allow them to surmount the divisions that have led to a civil war.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/18/AR2007121802262.html

Wolfgangus
12-20-2007, 08:16 AM
Twin: If your house burns to the ground with everything in it, eventually the flames will go out. You don't watch your house burn to the ground and then declare success when the flames go out.

Ha! That's funny.

kj
12-20-2007, 10:37 AM
I think a number of factors (some good, some bad) have made an eventual end to the civil war a real possibility. These would include: the success of ethnic cleansing in increasing the homogeneity of various parts of Baghdad and elsewhere in the country, the weariness of the less radical elements in the Sunni community to support the continued slaughter of fellow Iraqis, the political marginalization of Sadr after cutting down his involvement in the central gov't.

This does not strike me as the least bit realistic. Walling in neighborhoods in Baghdad separating one group that thinks it deserves to run the country from another group that has a majority is not going to go away in less than a decade. I mean how long has this sectarian conflict been going on, hundreds of years. We can wall them off and stand guard for a couple decades while some credible institutions are built allowing the chance of reconciliation or we can leave and attempt to lessen the violence as much as possible. Those are our stark choices.

The politics of a precipitous withdrawal are now murkier as the surge and other factors indigenous to the Iraqi people have at least succeeded tactically in reducing the amount of massive terror attacks and sectarian murders. But no, I don't think the American people will support 5 more years of war. I think that there will be an American presence of at least 50,000 or more troops for the short to medium term (1 or 2 years at least, I would imagine).

In other words, you support the Democratic plan for withdrawal. This is the frustrating part as that is basically the plan put forward by many leading Democrats taking from 1 to 2 years to withdraw from the country and leaving a force in the ME to counter terrorism. IN fact, I think that is Howard Dean's plan. I don't see the point of 50k troops in Iraq. Either pull the vast majority or start drafting chickenhawks and increase the force by another 100k.

As to what will happen if we "just stay there," I have no idea. The situation is so fluid and there are so many factors that I think anyone claiming to know with any confidence what will happen in Iraq is probably overstating the case. Certainly, the massive decrease in violence that was at least partially caused by the surge was not foreseen by most people.

Perhaps the massive decrease wasn't forseen but I for one expected a decrease. What I didn't expect (but should have) was that a decrease in violence alone would be touted as some sort of victory for the surge. I forsaw three scenarios. Disaster meant that violence stayed the same or decreased minimally with no political movement. Failure meant that violence decreased measurably with no political movement. Success meant that violence decreased with political movement. In fact I think that's how the Bush administration laid it out as well. By all measures from before the surge started, we have failure. For people to argue otherwise is absurd in my mind. Remember, BJKeefe pointed out earlier, violence has simply gone back to 2004-2005 levels when the levels of violence were merely horrible instead of catastrophic. If I had asked you in 2004 if you thought we were making progress if the level of violence was roughly the same at the end of 2007 with no political progress, would you have said "yes". Recent history seems to disappear into a black hole in exchange for wishful thinking.


I am not completely against the idea of some sort of draw-down or strategic repositioning of forces to Kurdistan in a year or two if the security situation holds steady or improves, as indeed, maintaining current troop levels for another 4 years seems like it will not be possible politically. However, the recent improvements in the security situation and the changing political landscape in Iraq seem to me to make precipitous draw-downs in troop levels a bad idea.

Well why? This is like the tax cut issue with conservatives. It's never a bad time to cut taxes. Economy good, return money to tax payers. Economy bad, return money to tax payers to stimulate economy. When is a good time to withdraw? Never and always is the correct answer but that's what happens when you stupidly enter a war for no good reason.

I appreciate your well-thought out answer but it suffers from the same malady of all the dead-enders which basically amounts to putting the decision off a little longer in search of a miracle all while ignoring the billion dollars a week in spending and the dead soldiers that continue to come home.

kj
12-20-2007, 10:43 AM
Way to make your point quite well. And I'm glad you brought out that nice little piece of absurdity by the state department. You all read that right, the State department is touting it a success and a sign of potential reconciliation that both the Sunnis and Shia agree that the U.S. is the reason for violence in Iraq and that we should withdraw. Joseph Heller would have rejected this kind of stuff from Catch-22 for being too absurd.

garbagecowboy
12-20-2007, 10:49 AM
In other words, you support the Democratic plan for withdrawal.

No. I said that this is probably what will happen, and that it is politically feasible, and that it might not be horrible. It is not necessarily what I would support.


I appreciate your well-thought out answer but it suffers from the same malady of all the dead-enders which basically amounts to putting the decision off a little longer in search of a miracle all while ignoring the billion dollars a week in spending and the dead soldiers that continue to come home.

I appreciate your response (sort of) but it suffers from the tendency amongst people who hate Bush to fail to distinguish between the politics of reversing a domestic policy and reversing a foreign policy. A failed domestic policy (even one that has ruined thousands of lives like public housing projects) can just be abandoned. Iraq, of course, could just be abandoned but the results would be catastrophic.

For all the people on the left think Bush is the worst President ever for recklessly going to war, leading to thousands of deaths, it seems a little strange to me that there is a failure to recognize that whatever you thought of the war, the U.S. providing security in Iraq is the new status quo. Pulling the plug on that, regardless of whether it saves the U.S. a couple hundred billion dollars and a thousand or two soldiers' lives (no small beer, believe me, I know) is now risky as hell, and is rolling the dice just like Bush did to get us in there. If civil war is really inevitable and the Shiites win, and then they are doing things like becoming a staging ground for Iranian terrorism elsewhere in the ME, or there is a battle royale where literally tens of thousands of Iraqis are being killed a week, what do we do then? Just sit back and watch the fireworks? Be prepared to jump back into the fight when it gets really bad?

Just because we made one irresponsible foreign policy decision does not mean that an equal and opposite irresponsible foreign policy decision will somehow set things right.

kj
12-20-2007, 11:05 AM
I appreciate your response (sort of) but it suffers from the tendency amongst people who hate Bush to fail to distinguish between the politics of reversing a domestic policy and reversing a foreign policy. A failed domestic policy (even one that has ruined thousands of lives like public housing projects) can just be abandoned. Iraq, of course, could just be abandoned but the results would be catastrophic.

Your snark is appropriate considering my condescension.

Just because we made one irresponsible foreign policy decision does not mean that an equal and opposite irresponsible foreign policy decision will somehow set things right.

Agreed, but your evidence that pulling out over the next 1-2 years is irresponsible is quite thin especially considering that at one point in your above post you actually suggest it. The people of Iraq want us to leave. Not just one side, but both sides in this sectarian conflict. Could it be possible that the 80% of Iraqis who think it would be better if we leave might just be right? Or are Iraqis too stupid to know what is best for them? And if they are wrong, and a huge conflict breaks out, then we can reconsider going back in as peacekeepers with other nations, preferably with other nations of the ME who have a stake in keeping Iraq from flying apart at the seems.

And you are right that we can't predict what will happen. But we do know that what we have been doing for the past 4 years isn't working. So left with that choice, I'll take the unknown over that which is not working.

Wolfgangus
12-20-2007, 02:01 PM
Personally my thought on this, as it has been for over a year (I would refer to my post from then, but, you know...) is that we should build our bases in Kurdistan, stone-face Turkey's complaints on that, help Kurdistan carve out their own independent partition of Iraq (a job already 95% done) with our help as long as they do not declare sovereignty, and let the Sunnis and Shia sort out their differences in a thoughtful, reasoned manner (or however they care to do it). That gives us an American-friendly, oil producing ally that is already largely a secular democracy and wants us there to protect them against Turkey; a long term military presence in the middle east from which we can project as much power as we want, and all at very little cost in presence because we will be doing what the American army is good at: Holding a defensive position. And we don't have to do anything politically disastrous to do it; we just make a separate, secret diplomatic deal with Kurdistan and pull back to their territory.

garbagecowboy
12-20-2007, 02:27 PM
Agreed, but your evidence that pulling out over the next 1-2 years is irresponsible is quite thin especially considering that at one point in your above post you actually suggest it.

Well, I thought that since you were attacking that post as being more or less committed to a failed policy (me being a dead-ender and all) that you were suggesting something more radical.

I don't think that a draw-down and withdrawal to semi-permanent bases in Kurdistan is necessarily the best course of action, but it may be the best politically feasible course of action (because the U.S. electorate will not stand for another 2, 3, 4 or 5 years of 100,000+ soldiers doing day-to-day security work).

I think this is probably about the barest possible course of action that we should be considering, since we would at least theoretically have the ability to intervene if, say, a genocide breaks out once we leave.

Also it is not surprising that the Iraqis would tire of our presence, but yes, it is possible that their wanting the Americans out does not mean that we should leave. Presumably a lot of the people who want us out are Shi'as who think that once we leave it will be a lot easier for the Shi'as to make a grab at centralizing power (and oil revenues). A lot are probably just tired of having to go through American military checkpoints.

Again, I don't know what the best course of action is, and I can see a gradual draw-down in force being an acceptable outcome, but the key word there is gradual. There seems to be a bitterness and urgency amongst some of the anti-war cohort in this country that seems to stem not from the changing facts on the ground or a concern for our troops or the Iraqi people, but simply from a restlessness with what they see as "business as usual." But to me it's not obvious that what's going in is business as usual. The situation changes week to week, month to month, and we have just seen a rapid decrease in the amount of violence that kills both our troops and Iraqi civilians. It would seem to me to be a shame to squander those gains (even if you don't want to call it "success," you must admit that going back to the levels of violence of 6 months ago would be a failure) not because of any sort of strategic mis-calculation or tactical failure or botched diplomacy but simply because politicians in America had to rush things to fulfill promises necessary to get elected.

Do you favor a gradual draw-down over the next 2 or 3 years, keeping our foot on the brake and seeing how the security situation goes? Because I can't tell from what you're saying whether this is what you want or not. I am assuming from your tone and from what you've written on the board before that you favor something faster. So which is it? If we start pulling out troops and violence starts to climb back to late 2006 levels do we keep pulling the troops out?

kj
12-21-2007, 02:03 PM
Do you favor a gradual draw-down over the next 2 or 3 years, keeping our foot on the brake and seeing how the security situation goes? Because I can't tell from what you're saying whether this is what you want or not. I am assuming from your tone and from what you've written on the board before that you favor something faster. So which is it? If we start pulling out troops and violence starts to climb back to late 2006 levels do we keep pulling the troops out?

Here's what I want. A withdraw date because of the blazingly obvious fact that we are not keeping 150k troops in Iraq for 5+ years. That withdraw date should absolutely occur within 2 years, no exceptions, perhaps sooner. The pace of the withdraw is can be contingent on how the security situation shifts. If it goes well than we speed up withdrawal and vice versa. The most important thing is a certain withdraw date. That is the key as it ensures we end this mess and it gives the Iraqis the sense that we are leaving and they need to figure out what to do. It's like welfare reform for Iraq. This is basically the plan Dems have on the table and would readily accept. Hell, even the crowd at Daily Kos would be slightly happy with this.

Most of the get out tomorrow rhetoric is fueled by the stay-in-forever rhetoric on the right. If 20 republicans in the Senate suddenly get sane and agree to setting a date a compromise like above could be worked out quite easily. Are you okay with it?

garbagecowboy
12-21-2007, 02:48 PM
Most of the get out tomorrow rhetoric is fueled by the stay-in-forever rhetoric on the right. If 20 republicans in the Senate suddenly get sane and agree to setting a date a compromise like above could be worked out quite easily. Are you okay with it?

It depends... when you say a withdrawal date, does this mean a date by which all American forces are out of Iraq, which is going to happen before January 2010? Because if so, then no, I would not be OK with it.

I do think that the facts on the ground have changed to a large extent, which makes setting a timetable for drawing down troops seem like a reasonable outcome. So if there was a compromise that said "troop levels will fall below 80,000 in Iraq by January 2009" with a goal of hitting 50,000 by 2010 if there was not a sudden surge in violence, I would find probably find this acceptable.

But if the goal is to have 0 troops in Iraq by 2010 or 2011, I think that this is too drastic a course of action. What happens if 10s of thousands of Sunnis a week are being rounded up by death-squads after there are no troops in Iraq in 2010?

To rehash the Korea analogy, I don't think that an open-ended commitment of a certain amount of forces (30-50k) in a strategically viable region of the country (Kurdistan) would be either a) militarily untenable, as the current troop commitments are or b) politically untenable. Now, whether those troops would stay for 50 years like they did in Korea is another story, but staying for another decade in that kind of strategic posture, with ebbing violence and a relatively non-chaotic political situation, seems like it would be the best outcome we could hope for.

To bring out another historical analogy, I think this is a very different situation from Vietnam, where the fall of Saigon in 1975 presaged a regional genocide (in Cambodia) but not the perceived strategic disaster that the Domino Theory entailed. I think simply leaving Iraq to its fate would not only possibly be the U.S. authoring another human rights crisis, but it could also turn Iraq into an anarchic land of fiefdoms run by warlords, which given its location could be a nightmare for U.S. foreign policy. It would not surprise me if complete withdrawal (even if it happened over 2 years and was contingent on a concomitant stability in the level of violence) did not end up requiring the U.S. to go back in a few years later to crush some sort of neo-Taliban in, say, what are now the Anbar or Diyala provinces.

kj
12-22-2007, 02:59 PM
I do think that the facts on the ground have changed to a large extent, which makes setting a timetable for drawing down troops seem like a reasonable outcome. So if there was a compromise that said "troop levels will fall below 80,000 in Iraq by January 2009" with a goal of hitting 50,000 by 2010 if there was not a sudden surge in violence, I would find probably find this acceptable.

But if the goal is to have 0 troops in Iraq by 2010 or 2011, I think that this is too drastic a course of action. What happens if 10s of thousands of Sunnis a week are being rounded up by death-squads after there are no troops in Iraq in 2010?

This would make sense to me if you had some evidence that half the troops we have now would do any good in stopping this possible scenario. We had 120k there for years and couldn't stop the violence, why would half the troops accomplish it? I guess I don't see the point especially when you consider that having 50-80k troops would set back security in this scenario and make political progress even tougher, we are simply back to the stay-in-Iraq for 10 years model that we both agree is unsustainable.


To rehash the Korea analogy, I don't think that an open-ended commitment of a certain amount of forces (30-50k) in a strategically viable region of the country (Kurdistan) would be either a) militarily untenable, as the current troop commitments are or b) politically untenable. Now, whether those troops would stay for 50 years like they did in Korea is another story, but staying for another decade in that kind of strategic posture, with ebbing violence and a relatively non-chaotic political situation, seems like it would be the best outcome we could hope for.

This I could potentially accept as long as we were willing to revisit the decision and our troops were basically as safe as they are in Korea. I've heard too many stories, in the media and personally, lately of maltreated soldiers (by our nation), lonely kids, divorced military wives and husbands, etc. to ever argue for a small percentage of our citizens to continue to carry such a burden for such a long time. It's really horrible what we've done to our soldiers.

To bring out another historical analogy, I think this is a very different situation from Vietnam, where the fall of Saigon in 1975 presaged a regional genocide (in Cambodia) but not the perceived strategic disaster that the Domino Theory entailed. I think simply leaving Iraq to its fate would not only possibly be the U.S. authoring another human rights crisis, but it could also turn Iraq into an anarchic land of fiefdoms run by warlords, which given its location could be a nightmare for U.S. foreign policy. It would not surprise me if complete withdrawal (even if it happened over 2 years and was contingent on a concomitant stability in the level of violence) did not end up requiring the U.S. to go back in a few years later to crush some sort of neo-Taliban in, say, what are now the Anbar or Diyala provinces.

So we are back to the 10+ year commitment. It's not that I disagree with all your scenarios which all seem possible, it's just that we have a choice: commit to a decade or longer or pull out. The middle ground does not work. And you know as well as I that we don't have the military personal or the political will to sustain what we need to to make this work. Since we don't, it is pointless to pretend otherwise. No?

garbagecowboy
12-22-2007, 03:25 PM
So we are back to the 10+ year commitment. It's not that I disagree with all your scenarios which all seem possible, it's just that we have a choice: commit to a decade or longer or pull out. The middle ground does not work. And you know as well as I that we don't have the military personal or the political will to sustain what we need to to make this work. Since we don't, it is pointless to pretend otherwise. No?


I do not see how the middle ground doesn't work. The facts on the ground have changed substantially. Security in Anbar is much better and no longer probably depends as greatly on an American troop presence.

With that said, having a significant number of American troops with "boots on the ground," ready to go kick ass of any militia that thinks they can swoop in on some city and kill all the men there would be a real deterrent against the worst excesses that might happen if the only military assets we had in the region were aircraft carriers, bombers and surface-to-surface and air-to-surface missiles.

I agree about the fact that folks in the miltary have really gotten the shaft since the war began. I also agree that it is time for them to go back to the amounts of active duty they were accustomed to before the war began. I just think that it's probably possible to do that and still maintain some bases in Iraq, which I think might do a lot to keep the worst excesses at bay.

It might take 10 years, but it's not 10 years at the current rate where the military is stretching so much it's about to burst at the seams. The point being, you said in your post that we couldn't secure the country with 100,000 troops for 4 years, why would less than that work in the future? Well, a lot of things are different now. It is simplistic to simply say "well in 2006 100,000 troops on the ground meant X number of murders and now in 2007 130,000 troops on the ground means .5 * X murders. Therefore it is that extra 30,000 troops which made the difference." This is giving Bush a lot of credit; who knew that 30,000 extra soldiers would halve the violence in the country? Why didn't we just do that in 2004?

Sarcasm aside, the fact is that a lot has changed since 2004, or even 2006. The Sunnis now seem much less welling to harbor Al Queada, and even if a national reconciliation where all political disputes are settled is not just around the bend, I can imagine how the changing dynamics of power in Iraq might mean that a long-term commitment of 30,000 soldiers in Kirkuk and Erbil might (might, might, might) be effective in keeping a lid on the country, keeping it from disintegrating, and allowing the U.S. to lick its wounds and allow the military some breathing room.

Again, this all or none strategy you seem to have seems a bit fatalistic. Either we're there at current troop levels for another 10 years, or we get out completely. Why? The security situation in Iraq is a complex mix of things, only a couple of factors of which we control-- those being the number, location and mission of American troops. The rest of the picture comes from the relative influence and power of terrorist groups and extremest militias versus less radical groups, the demographics of the country as regions that were once heterogeneous now become homogenuous, the will of the average Iraqi to continue in armed struggle, the ability of Al Queada to smuggle in suicide bombers, the disposition of Iran to either ramp up or ramp down the chaos. I could go on and on. And the surge only adjusted those factors which we control, it might just be a coincidence that it happened to coincide with an exogenous drop in violence. Or who knows (I'm sure you'll like this one) perhaps the fact that the U.S. seemed to be rededicating itself and not on the verge of pulling out gave, say, the Sunnis who threw out Al Queada the confidence to do so without fearing grave repercussions.

At any rate, with the situation so dynamic and being so complex, I don't see how you can look at the range of possible outcomes and say that only two are viable: the U.S. stays, at near current troop levels for 10 years or else violence spikes back to its old levels, or we just get out completely. (What exactly do you see as the consequences of a complete pullout, by the way? Does it matter if they are horrible?) I think there are almost certainly multiple paths down the middle between those two, and I bet that the next President likely navigates one. I wish him or her the best of luck in navigating it successfully, because this is one hell of a clusterfuck.