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View Full Version : Interesting essay on Iraq suggesting Obama give heed to surge architects.


JonIrenicus
02-09-2009, 04:20 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/07/AR2009020702153_pf.html


I know many think Iraq is still a complete and utter failure and waste, and are not interested in hearing anything to disturb that conclusion. But Even those may find the article interesting.

As to the last appeal to "honor and justice"


.. well, after listening to Haidt I am not sure the "honor" portion ranks as high with Obama, said another way, "duty"

duty to pay for your mistakes, and not just say, eff it, not my problem.

Pottery barn principle, Powell had it, not sure the anti war types do, I think that value is pretty low on the totem pole for them. For what it is worth, Obama does not seem that rash, he is not Carter. But he is also not McCain who famously quipped about possibly staying for 100 years, willing to chain himself to the table until his debt is paid.

But the anti war psyche is just not sympathetic to that view, its more like claiming a debt was not run up by them, and even though they now head the company that charged the debt up, they will not bother with paying for the previous expenses.


Such honorable creatures the anti war people are, no? But then is honor even valued with anything near the same weight?


who knows

AemJeff
02-11-2009, 03:59 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/07/AR2009020702153_pf.html


I know many think Iraq is still a complete and utter failure and waste, and are not interested in hearing anything to disturb that conclusion. But Even those may find the article interesting.

As to the last appeal to "honor and justice"


.. well, after listening to Haidt I am not sure the "honor" portion ranks as high with Obama, said another way, "duty"

duty to pay for your mistakes, and not just say, eff it, not my problem.

Pottery barn principle, Powell had it, not sure the anti war types do, I think that value is pretty low on the totem pole for them. For what it is worth, Obama does not seem that rash, he is not Carter. But he is also not McCain who famously quipped about possibly staying for 100 years, willing to chain himself to the table until his debt is paid.

But the anti war psyche is just not sympathetic to that view, its more like claiming a debt was not run up by them, and even though they now head the company that charged the debt up, they will not bother with paying for the previous expenses.


Such honorable creatures the anti war people are, no? But then is honor even valued with anything near the same weight?


who knows

You might want to read Thomas Ricks (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1594201978/npr-5-20) before you crow too loudly. I wonder if there's any limit to the number of premature claims of success that this one little war can support.

TwinSwords
02-11-2009, 07:41 PM
I wonder if there's any limit to the number of premature claims of success that this one little war can support.

Right.

It's worth remembering that there has never been any point in this war, from the earliest days, to the darkest, until today, that the Republican Party didn't assure us that we were winning, or had already won.

bjkeefe
02-11-2009, 10:26 PM
Pottery barn principle, Powell had it, not sure the anti war types do, I think that value is pretty low on the totem pole for them.

Leaving aside your boneheadedly simplistic view of "anti war types," I'll say first that it sounds to me as though you've completely missed the point of what Powell was getting at with his Pottery Barn line, that you're looking to absolve from responsibility those who were eager to invade, while pinning it all on those who were smart enough to be opposed from the beginning.

As to the last appeal to "honor and justice"

.. well, after listening to Haidt I am not sure the "honor" portion ranks as high with Obama, said another way, "duty"

duty to pay for your mistakes, and not just say, eff it, not my problem.

See what I mean? How is Iraq suddenly Obama's mistake? And please don't try to trot out the wingnut trope that The Surge Worked!!!1! I remain convinced that those who claim this are mistaking correlation for causation, and that they fail to acknowledge several other factors that likely contributed to the reduction of sectarian violence.

Also, where is your evidence that Obama is behaving dishonorably? Show me one place where he's said Iraq is "not his problem" or that he plans to just walk away from the situation, come what may. Seems to me, rather, that he's shown every indication of looking to bring to end a no-win situation as responsibly as possible.

As one of these "anti war types" you evidently have no respect for, I'll say that I found nothing in that article to make me change my mind about what a horrible mistake it was to invade Iraq in the first place, how poorly planned and executed the invasion was, and how incompetently the occupation was conducted for the next several years. As far as I can tell, the best that can be said about Iraq, still, is that it's not as bad as it was when it was at its worst around three or four years ago. If it wasn't such a horrible situation, I'd find it hilarious that people like you simultaneously claim victory and fret that disaster is just around the corner.

To continue with your Pottery Barn mantra, I'm not sure why I should find it impressive that having let loose a bull in a china shop, we have, after the better part of a decade, hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of people displaced, and a trillion or three dollars down the drain, shown some signs that some of us know how to operate a broom.

JonIrenicus
02-11-2009, 10:29 PM
You might want to read Thomas Ricks (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1594201978/npr-5-20) before you crow too loudly. I wonder if there's any limit to the number of premature claims of success that this one little war can support.

Republicans do tend to claim success more often than not. After all, in order for many of them to be proven right, Iraq needs to turn out OK.

Conversely, for the anti-war crowd, in a twisted way, in order to be proven right, Iraq has to turn out badly. And worse, even if it already turned out badly in many areas, it cannot and will not get better, over time, the net endeavor in Iraq will ALWAYS be a net negative. It will never get better, never stabilize, and if it gets a bit better, then the argument shifts a bit to things like "missed opportunities" or negative will of the world, or simply not worth the cost.

Hence the hyperbole in seeking and reporting inflated casualty numbers. The real numbers were bad enough, but it is interesting how people latch onto the kernels that support their initial view.


In any event, the article I linked said precisely that the stability in Iraq is tenuous, that all is not well and over with in terms of strife. The entire point is that unlike early declarations of "mission accomplished" peace in places such as Iraq can be fragile things, and to the extent that that is true, why not extend the aid we can, do whatever we can to limit the downsides, even if that takes higher troop levels for just a little longer?

I too wonder about anti war peoples, is there any limit to their conceit? The conceit of the certitude that nothing would temper the strife in Iraq, the people who decried the surge and said it was doomed to failure? Is it only the neocons who deserve some humility in their predictions?


Iraq, so far, is not a success (or failure in my view), that will take far longer to determine. But I have to say this to everyone who reads it, IF Iraq turns out to be a relatively peaceful and free nation compared to the standards of the region, and to what it was before, I will NOT be sorry we went. Sorry.

It would have cost innocent lives, and the TERRIBLE crime of people not liking me ( oh no ! ), a more assertive and potentially destructive Iran and worse, and for all that, if it achieves the goal of a relatively decent Iraqi society, I consider it all worth it.


But then we get into personal ethics here. Say you could have ended slavery in the US peacefully, skipping the civil war, the only tradeoff was a delay of 40 Years to the institution of slavery, would you take the peaceful end?

after all, the blood of a civil war could have been averted! All it cost you was 4 Decades additional slavery and all the horrors that entails, and by extension say 20-30 additional years of Jim Crow type laws and sentiment.

Would you take that trade?

But what if the war was not the end of ALL trouble between races !!!! what if there was still strife and horror for a time after, what if it was not a silver bullet !!!

what if

choose, we are not always given cotton candy easy choices, I tell you this, whatever trials and destruction the civil war brought, I LIKE the idea that it ended slavery sooner rather than later, for all it cost.


Iraq may still turn into a disaster, but if we genuinely did change the trajectory of that nation and those peoples lives for the better, I am not sorry we went there. So it was in S Korea vs N Korea.

Just understand, the appeal to me is NOT whether people like us, it is at the end of the day, whether we have done net good.

And for those who cannot see even the potential for ANY good, even IF you still think the bad far outweighs it, well, I cannot say anything kind about your honesty and reason as I see it so I will stop there.

JonIrenicus
02-11-2009, 10:44 PM
Leaving aside your boneheadedly simplistic view of "anti war types," I'll say first that it sounds to me as though you've completely missed the point of what Powell was getting at with his Pottery Barn line, that you're looking to absolve from responsibility those who were eager to invade, while pinning it all on those who were smart enough to be opposed from the beginning.



See what I mean? How is Iraq suddenly Obama's mistake? And please don't try to trot out the wingnut trope that The Surge Worked!!!1! I remain convinced that those who claim this are mistaking correlation for causation, and that they fail to acknowledge several other factors that likely contributed to the reduction of sectarian violence.

Also, where is your evidence that Obama is behaving dishonorably? Show me one place where he's said Iraq is "not his problem" or that he plans to just walk away from the situation, come what may. Seems to me, rather, that he's shown every indication of looking to bring to end a no-win situation as responsibly as possible.

As one of these "anti war types" you evidently have no respect for, I'll say that I found nothing in that article to make me change my mind about what a horrible mistake it was to invade Iraq in the first place, how poorly planned and executed the invasion was, and how incompetently the occupation was conducted for the next several years. As far as I can tell, the best that can be said about Iraq, still, is that it's not as bad as it was when it was at its worst around three or four years ago. If it wasn't such a horrible situation, I'd find it hilarious that people like you simultaneously claim victory and fret that disaster is just around the corner.

To continue with your Pottery Barn mantra, I'm not sure why I should find it impressive that having let loose a bull in a china shop, we have, after the better part of a decade, hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of people displaced, and a trillion or three dollars down the drain, shown some signs that some of us know how to operate a broom.

I blame nothing on Obama for the problems of the Iraq war, nothing. As to the invocation of the pottery barn principle, I bring it up to point out to many people against the Iraq war and trumpeting Powell for being against it that even he seemed to think if you start a war somewhere and mess things up, you have some responsibility to set things right and not just throw up your hands.

Are all the anti war people against the principle? well no, but some are, the ones saying pull the troops out asap, regardless of what happens certainly are, if ANYone says that or thinks like that, they are basically saying I do not care what happens, it is not my problem. I did not support the decision to go in there so the negative repercussions are not on me.

I find this an astonishingly degraded way to think, and many anti war types do think this way.

I only bring up Obamas role because now he our President. And like all Presidents, either of companies or nations, they do not get to choose all the legacy problems they must deal with. Obama had nothing to do with the current financial crisis, but would we say that because he was not the cause of the trouble, that he has no responsibility in addressing it now as the President?

It's like dealing with a stupid debt or deal a previous CEO made in a company. The new ceo and board members may think the earlier deal was foolish and nonsensical in hindsight, and way too costly for the gain, but for all that, the idea that the new CEO would come in as the CEO of the ENTIRE company and say that I do not intend to pay the debt because it was a bad contract.. sorry, you do not get to do that.


Also, I do not think Obama has done anything at all "dishonorable" in dealing with Iraq so far. I would if he tried an asap troop withdrawal, but he has not done that, yet. I was just making the point that appeals to "honor" and ideas like "duty" are not as effective on all types of people, and perhaps less so on Obama than they would be on say McCain.

On the more hard line anti war types I do not think such appeals to "duty" or responsibility or "pottery barn" mean anything, after all, if your nation was responsible for creating a mess, and you essentially have the mind to say sorry guys, tough luck, I did not support getting involved in the first place so its not my issue, hope things turn out O K ! bye, NOT, MY, PROBLEM

Is it so hard to see how appealing to those types with words like "duty" would fall on deaf ears, they have shown that it is not a very high value.

AemJeff
02-11-2009, 10:59 PM
Jon, Ricks' premise is that Iraq was a colossal mistake. His argument about the surge is nuanced - he doesn't believe that the additional troops were the important factor. Instead he credits improved (generally non-violent) counter-insurgency tactics that co-opted Sunni fighters and collapsed support for the Sunni resistance, for example. He also believes that at the political level the surge is a failure, strategically bankrupt.

I fail to see how you think he supports any of your arguments.

bjkeefe
02-11-2009, 11:20 PM
I blame nothing on Obama for the problems of the Iraq war, nothing.

Glad to hear it.

Are all the anti war people against the principle? well no, but some are, the ones saying pull the troops out asap, regardless of what happens certainly are, if ANYone says that or thinks like that, they are basically saying I do not care what happens, it is not my problem. I did not support the decision to go in there so the negative repercussions are not on me.

I find this an astonishingly degraded way to think, and many anti war types do think this way.

Agree with "some," remain unconvinced of "many." Still sounds to me like you're projecting a few people you have in mind onto a large, nebulous, even imaginary fraction of the population; i.e., all you're really doing is venting about a stereotype. And for no good reason, I might add, since virtually no one in power in this country thinks the way to deal with Iraq is to drop everything and leave.

I only bring up Obamas role because now he our President. And like all Presidents, either of companies or nations, they do not get to choose all the legacy problems they must deal with. Obama had nothing to do with the current financial crisis, but would we say that because he was not the cause of the trouble, that he has no responsibility in addressing it now as the President? [...]

This sounds like a straw man waiting to happen. I don't see a whole lot of people saying Obama shouldn't have to deal with the messes he inherited. Indeed, that's a big part of why he got elected -- because people figured he was the best choice to deal with the problems.

Also, I do not think Obama has done anything at all "dishonorable" in dealing with Iraq so far. I would if he tried an asap troop withdrawal, but he has not done that, yet. I was just making the point that appeals to "honor" and ideas like "duty" are not as effective on all types of people, and perhaps less so on Obama than they would be on say McCain.

On the more hard line anti war types I do not think such appeals to "duty" or responsibility or "pottery barn" mean anything, after all, if your nation was responsible for creating a mess, and you essentially have the mind to say sorry guys, tough luck, I did not support getting involved in the first place so its not my issue, hope things turn out O K ! bye, NOT, MY, PROBLEM

Is it so hard to see how appealing to those types with words like "duty" would fall on deaf ears, they have shown that it is not a very high value.

Your assertions are empty. You're basically indulging your prejudice against liberals and "anti war types" and leaping upon an oversimplification of Haidt's hypotheses because one aspect of his thinking matches what you already believe. Even if I stipulate that there's something to Haidt's belief that it's possible to separate out political categorizations based on how people prioritize various emotions, this does not mean that those on the left place no worth on concepts like honor and duty.

To see how ridiculous this is, turn it around and say that Haidt's work shows that conservatives are xenophobes and have no empathy.

And finally, while I don't want to rehash the arguments of the past campaign, I do want to say this for the record: I have seen nothing in John McCain to suggest that concepts of honor and duty are anything more in him than an image he created for media consumption to further his political ambitions.

JonIrenicus
02-11-2009, 11:22 PM
John, Ricks' premise is that Iraq was a colossal mistake. His argument about the surge is nuanced - he doesn't believe that the additional troops were the important factor. Instead he credits improved (generally non-violent) counter-insurgency tactics that co-opted Sunni fighters and collapsed support the Sunni resistance, for example. He also believes that at the political level the surge is failure, strategically bankrupt.

I fail to see how you think he supports any of your arguments.

I was referring to the to my initial article.

And I have heard a portion of his arguments already, and similar points have already been made elsewhere, the change in strategy along with events were likely a larger portion to the military change, the paying of the sunnis to stop fighting, the completion of a sizable portion of ethnic cleansing, a general change in the rules of engagement, take and hold policies as opposed to take and abandon (the part where extra manpower and smarter deployment DID come in hand).

I get all that, it was not JUST an increase in troop levels, but many of those changes were still implemented by new leadership in the military and the idea of brushing them off as nothing to do with the new policy of engagement and troop levels as a whole is what I reject in his argument and frankly, his attitude. Knowing where one is coming from is useful, he does think Iraq was a mistake, and so pointing all the cracks in the armor of any modicum of stability is certainly a task he will be eager to engage in.

For all I know, Petreus may think it was a mistake in his heart of hearts to go into Iraq in terms for the cost benefit analysis. Unfortunately for all this talk, it was a mistake, a mistake, a mistake, the die is caste. the ink dry, the seal broken, we are there.

And as such, the attitude that we should not care what happens is the bankrupt idea to me, the idea that we ought to throw up our hands and let the chips fall to the jagged earth is the bankrupt and unethical idea to me.

I wonder what he thinks should be done now? You read the book, did he say so? I am curious. I know one of the counterinsurgency wizards under Petreus was against the war, thinks it was a terrible mistake, and yet STILL thinks we have an obligation to set things right, or at least do the best we can to stop the bleeding.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2026487879554934922&ei=25WTSfqjOqq6qAPgpdDXDA&q="charlie+rose"+counterinsurgency&hl=en&dur=3


THAT is the most honorable position out there in my view, the ones that just absolve themselves of what happens are the ones who deserve some rebuke, whether they supported the decision to go in or not.

JonIrenicus
02-11-2009, 11:35 PM
Your assertions are empty. You're basically indulging your prejudice against liberals and "anti war types" and leaping upon an oversimplification of Haidt's hypotheses because one aspect of his thinking matches what you already believe. Even if I stipulate that there's something to Haidt's belief that it's possible to separate out political categorizations based on how people prioritize various emotions, this does not mean that those on the left place no worth on concepts like honor and duty.

To see how ridiculous this is, turn it around and say that Haidt's work shows that conservatives are xenophobes and have no empathy.

And finally, while I don't want to rehash the arguments of the past campaign, I do want to say this for the record: I have seen nothing in John McCain to suggest that concepts of honor and duty are anything more in him than an image he created for media consumption to further his political ambitions.



I do not believe more liberally minded people place "no" worth on ideas like duty, simply "less" worth, and in the extreme cases, VERY little worth.

I only bring up his ideas because I am trying to tease out why people can look at the same situation and have such different takes, and I do think for the hard line anti war types, there is far less of a concern over responsibility and duty as a guiding principle in terms of what should be done, now, in terms of Iraq.

In the most extreme case, the pacifist, there is a sense the the prime value is harm, where it may even override justice, just do no harm, ever, for any reason, net good? irrelevant, just do not harm.

If my examples deal too much in the extreme flanks, then ignore them if you think they do not apply. But I challenge those who want the US out asap, no matter what, to claim that they care as much about our responsibility to make things right as much as those who favor drawing down at a slower pace.

bjkeefe
02-12-2009, 12:00 AM
I do not believe more liberally minded people place "no" worth on ideas like duty, simply "less" worth, and in the extreme cases, VERY little worth.

Well, I don't believe this is true as any sort of general principle. At most, you can come up with isolated examples of such people, to which I say, so what? Lots of people are weak in carrying out their duties and taking personal responsibility, and this shortcoming is apparent across the ideological spectrum. I could spend the next three years listing conservatives who have shown a habit of walking away from problems they created without even acknowledging for a moment that they had anything to do with them in the first place.

As to the rest: Thank you for admitting that, ultimately, you're talking about fringe elements. I'll be interested to see if anyone responds to your challenge. At a guess, I doubt you'll get any response, since I would say no one who comments on this site thinks the best thing to do with Iraq is drop everything and walk away.

JonIrenicus
02-12-2009, 12:03 AM
David Kilcullen's response to being "outed" saying he thought going into Iraq was f*cking stupid...


http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2008/07/my-views-on-iraq/


He agrees Iraq was a bad war to get into, but there are some key passages to keep in mind regarding his views.

the most important portion:

Anyone who knows me has been well aware of my position on Iraq for years. When I went to Iraq in 2007 (and on both previous occasions) it was to end the war, by suppressing the violence and defeating the insurgency. (Note: I said END the war, not abandon it half-way through, leaving the Iraqis to be slaughtered. When we invaded Iraq, we took on a moral and legal responsibility for its people’s wellbeing. Regardless of anyone’s position on the decision to invade, those obligations still stand and cannot be wished away merely because they have proven inconvenient).

that pretty much sums it up better than I ever could, I love sharp people.

bjkeefe
02-12-2009, 12:12 AM
David Kilcullen's response to being "outed" saying he thought going into Iraq was f*cking stupid...

The problem I have with the view expressed in that post is that he's bordering on two disturbing tendencies: letting those who caused all the problems be allowed to walk away without consequence, and failing to learn any lessons from the mistakes that were made. It's all well and good to pat oneself on the back for wanting to clean up spilled milk rather than crying over it, but it's a serious mistake to make that the only aspect of one's thinking about this whole mess. There will be future bottles of milk poised precariously near the edge, and rather than doing nothing but stocking up on sponges, it's worth spending some time thinking about how to prevent the next ones from toppling. This is even more key to thinking like an adult.

AemJeff
02-12-2009, 06:28 PM
I was referring to the to my initial article.

And I have heard a portion of his arguments already, and similar points have already been made elsewhere, the change in strategy along with events were likely a larger portion to the military change, the paying of the sunnis to stop fighting, the completion of a sizable portion of ethnic cleansing, a general change in the rules of engagement, take and hold policies as opposed to take and abandon (the part where extra manpower and smarter deployment DID come in hand).

I get all that, it was not JUST an increase in troop levels, but many of those changes were still implemented by new leadership in the military and the idea of brushing them off as nothing to do with the new policy of engagement and troop levels as a whole is what I reject in his argument and frankly, his attitude. Knowing where one is coming from is useful, he does think Iraq was a mistake, and so pointing all the cracks in the armor of any modicum of stability is certainly a task he will be eager to engage in.

For all I know, Petreus may think it was a mistake in his heart of hearts to go into Iraq in terms for the cost benefit analysis. Unfortunately for all this talk, it was a mistake, a mistake, a mistake, the die is caste. the ink dry, the seal broken, we are there.

And as such, the attitude that we should not care what happens is the bankrupt idea to me, the idea that we ought to throw up our hands and let the chips fall to the jagged earth is the bankrupt and unethical idea to me.

I wonder what he thinks should be done now? You read the book, did he say so? I am curious. I know one of the counterinsurgency wizards under Petreus was against the war, thinks it was a terrible mistake, and yet STILL thinks we have an obligation to set things right, or at least do the best we can to stop the bleeding.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2026487879554934922&ei=25WTSfqjOqq6qAPgpdDXDA&q="charlie+rose"+counterinsurgency&hl=en&dur=3


THAT is the most honorable position out there in my view, the ones that just absolve themselves of what happens are the ones who deserve some rebuke, whether they supported the decision to go in or not.

I've yet to hear from anybody who doesn't want to "set things right," though there may be substantive differences over what that means.

I don't know if Ricks has any prescriptive assertions. I do know that his reporting has crucially shaped how the conflict has been viewed, and he has enormous credibility. There's a tendency among certain folks to want to justify this travesty in terms of benefits for both the U.S. and Iraq. Journalists like Ricks help us to keep in mind the promises made (and by whom), the degree to which the promises have not been realized, and the costs - in lives, in treasure, in strategic advantage, etc... For every ten Michael Ledeens and Victor Davis Hansons there should be at least one Tom Ricks.

uncle ebeneezer
02-14-2009, 02:27 AM
Well, I don't believe this is true as any sort of general principle. At most, you can come up with isolated examples of such people, to which I say, so what? Lots of people are weak in carrying out their duties and taking personal responsibility, and this shortcoming is apparent across the ideological spectrum. I could spend the next three years listing conservatives who have shown a habit of walking away from problems they created without even acknowledging for a moment that they had anything to do with them in the first place.

The toughest part I have with this stuff is the bias. Alot of the words that Haidt refers to can have very different meanings depending on who you ask. Many of us on the relative Left, think about "honor" being about not torturing human beings, not starting false wars, being respectful of the rest of the world etc., and "duty" as it pertains to the job of defending (not re-writing or interpreting) the Constitution and not practicing extrordinary rendition, using illegal wiretaps, making sure FEMA is up to snuff, etc. But I know the types of questions that Haidt asks and they refer much more to the Republican style definitions. And then it brings to my mind the fact of how much of it also is political branding? The GOP adopted these values and stressed their importance and used them to win elections, and used them in their slogans etc., so I would not be surprised if people affiliated with the Republican Party OVER-report their feelings for these virtuous words. Sorta the way religious people almost seem to compete with each other over who loves God more.

Definitions are also the heart of the problem with any discussion of the Surge. Are we talking the actual "surge" as it was designed by the Generals? Are we talking about the specific goals that were set in it? Or just the simplified violence-dropped-so-the-surge-worked? I have tried many times to get my GOP friends to discuss the surge from the full perspective, including the timing of the Al Anbar Awakening, the effects of exile and ethnic cleansing, and the effects of the $$$ we paid for insurgents to stop killing us, but one of the biggest hinderances to any real discussion, is that they usually will only talk about their limited definition of "the surge."