Victory in sight?

Kimberly Kagan, president of the Institute for the Study of War, and Frederick Kagan, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, claim in the WSJ:

America is very close to succeeding in Iraq. The "near-strategic
defeat" of al Qaeda in Iraq described by CIA Director Michael Hayden
last month in the Washington Post has been followed by the victory of
the Iraqi government’s security forces over illegal Shiite militias,
including Iranian-backed Special Groups. The enemies of Iraq and
America now cling desperately to their last bastions, while the
political process builds momentum.

These tremendous gains remain fragile and could be lost to skillful
enemy action, or errors in Baghdad or Washington. But where the U.S.
was unequivocally losing in Iraq at the end of 2006, we are just as
unequivocally winning today

(Hat tip: Youngblai.) I have no idea whether the Kagans are correct, but in general, the problem with claims like theirs is one of credibility: back in 2006, most folks on the Right did not contemporaneously admit that we were "unequivocally losing in Iraq," so it’s hard to know how much credence to lend to their claims now. (Honest query: I’d be curious if somebody can find an example of the Kagans bucking this trend back in ’06, and forthrightly admitting then that we were losing. Maybe they did; I have no idea. But many conservatives — and administration officials — didn’t.)

Listening to a hawkish conservative who always claimed we were winning say, "we were losing then, but we’re winning now," is sort of like listening to a far-left liberal who opposed the war in Afghanistan say, "we should have stayed out of Iraq and focused on Afghanistan." Maybe they’re right, but they have no credibility saying it!

Actually, though, the former example is arguably worse than the latter one, because whereas a lefty who rallies ’round a war he opposed is making a self-contradicting statement of opinion, a hawk who rewrites the war’s history is making a self-contradicting statement of fact. And, as the saying goes, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but nobody’s entitled to their own facts.

That’s what makes this Iraq debate so frustrating for someone like me — someone who is by no means an expert on what’s happening in Iraq, but who wants to support the right course of action based on sound
reasoning and properly understood facts. Both sides are so committed to their ideological preconceptions that it’s seemingly impossible for them to agree on what the facts are. The Left will claim we’re losing, or are inevitably bound to lose, and must therefore get out, whether that’s factually true or not; and the Right will claim that we’re winning, and can succeed if only we keep at it for a little longer, and must therefore stay the course, whether that’s factually true or not.

For many on both sides, I think, it’s past the point of being dishonest: they’re so committed to their argument that they convince themselves to honestly believe their version of reality. One of the reasons I’m undecided between Obama and McCain is because I feel like I’m choosing between these two camps, both of which have ideological blinders on, which is not exactly an appealing choice — and meanwhile, I don’t have the requisite information to decide whose preconceptions are closer to the truth, largely because I don’t trust either side to present that information accurately! Nor do I trust the liberal media, or the conservative media, or the right-blogosphere, or the left-blogosphere. On this issue, it seems like everybody has an agenda.

What are the actual facts? Are we winning or losing? Is there a reasonable hope of genuine success in building a reasonably stable and at least somewhat democratic Iraq, or are we just wasting our time on a quixotic and unsustainable effort to do so, and suffering needless losses in the process? If we leave, will things get better or worse — and if worse, how much worse? The "facts on the ground" that would help answer these questions are absolutely essential pieces of information for any rational decision-maker, yet they get lost in the fog of war — and, perhaps more pertinently, of politics. Argh.

79 Responses to “Victory in sight?”

  1. Angrier and Angrier says:

    You have two neo-cons from two neo-con institutions desperately wanting to vindicate the neo-con world view.

    There may be evidence that the U.S. is succeeding in Iraq, but these two clowns are not the sources you want to get it from.

  2. Brendan says:

    Yes, that was sort of my point, A&A. But, by the same token, it is just as reasonable (or nearly so, at least) to accuse committed antiwar liberals and Democrats of “desperately wanting to vindicate the [antiwar] world view,” and therefore conclude that “[t]here may be evidence that the U.S. is [failing] in Iraq, but [they] are not the sources you want to get it from.” This is exactly what I’m complaining about. What sources should I trust? Who has demonstrated consistently that they don’t have an agenda?

  3. JT says:

    Even if we agree on the facts, what to do next is still in question. You could argue that since we’re winning it’s time to start an orderly withdrawal of troops or you could argue that since we’re losing and aren’t going to win, it’s time to get out. You could make the same arguments for staying the course.

    I’m frustrated by the idea that you have to be in one camp or the other. You’re either for the war from the beginning and want to stay for 100 years or you were against it from the beginning and think we need to get out now. What about those of us that think it was one of the biggest strategic blunders in US history to start this war and said so from the beginning but think that now that we’re there that we might want to at least attempt to fix our mistake?

  4. Marty West says:

    What is wrong with having an ‘antiwar’ world view?

  5. Brendan says:

    Nothing, necessarily. Did I say there’s something wrong with it?

    If your answer is “yes,” go back and re-read please. Kthxbye.

  6. Joe Mama says:

    You have two neo-cons from two neo-con institutions desperately wanting to vindicate the neo-con world view.

    There may be evidence that the U.S. is succeeding in Iraq, but these two clowns are not the sources you want to get it from.

    That sound you heard was the chance of any debate on the merits being dragged out and pistol-whipped.

  7. David K. says:

    Until there is a clear definition of success, I’d say we are losing.

  8. Joe Mama says:

    You have two neo-cons from two neo-con institutions desperately wanting to vindicate the neo-con world view.

    There may be evidence that the U.S. is succeeding in Iraq, but these two clowns are not the sources you want to get it from.

    That sound you heard was the chance of any debate on the merits being dragged out and pistol-whipped.

  9. Marty West says:

    Did I say you said that there was something wrong with it?

    I don’t think that just because you have an antiwar mentality that you should always have to back it up with facts simply because some right-wing jerkoff says your argument is invalid without facts. I mean it’s pretty simple…war is bad mm’kay?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Until George W. Bush is out of office, I’d say we are losing.

  11. Angrier and Angrier says:

    Joe Mama-

    First, I did not say I necessarily disagree with the idea there is progress being made in Iraq. I’m saying these folks have an agenda that hasn’t been driven by facts to date, so anything they say should be viewed with an incredibly skeptical eye, even if what they are saying is true. Don’t blame me because the neo-cons have become “the boy who cried wolf.”

    Second, I think we have had sufficient time for debate on Iraq. It is time for answers. While some progress has been made on the ground in Iraq, until someone comes up with a real plan for “victory,” I like Obama’s plan to force the Iraqi leadership to take responsibility for their country. The U.S. and its forces have done enough. At some point this mess stops being our responsibility. I prefer that time be now and not 10, 50 or 100 years from now.

  12. Joe Mama says:

    Not to worry, A&A, I always view anyone with an “agenda that hasn’t been driven by facts to date” with an “incredibly skeptical eye.”

  13. Angrier and Angrier says:

    Joe Mama-

    Good to see that you are so self-aware.

  14. Anonymous says:

    “That’s what makes this Iraq debate so frustrating for someone like me — someone who is by no means an expert on what’s happening in Iraq, but who wants to support the right course of action based on sound

    reasoning and properly understood facts.”

    [Sorry, I can’t do that super-cool italics thing… :)]

    In this, Brendan, you’re exactly the same as almost all of the American public, a majority of Congress, and most of the Cabinet. This is, of course, why we put so much trust in the President to act responsibly in conducting foreign affairs – including what is (or should be) the most solemn decision to commit our country’s forces to war.

    It follows from this that the sole legitimate check on the President’s war power (besides impeachment, and unless the Congress takes the draconian step of refusing to fund the military) is to vote him out of office. We only get one chance to do that – and the nation refused to do so, in 2004.

    You grasp, however, that it’s wrong-headed – or epistemologically unsatisfying, at any rate – to debate previous failures and successes as anything other than failures in presidential judgment. Politicians can all attempt to curry favor by promising to win the war by Christmas – or to withdraw all troops by next year – but we are left unsatisfied unless we know how, why, under what circumstances and what will the consequences be?

    The primary foreign policy consideration when choosing an executive, then, boils down to a broader question of judgment. Which candidate will lead and shepherd our awesome military power most responsibly?

    The nation has already had two opportunities to pass on President Bush’s judgment. Bush’s subsequent drop in popularity explains why Obama has tried so diligently to cast his opponent, McCain, as a Bush clone – especially since Obama has little track record by which to measure his exercise of judgment. It also outlines one challenge McCain confronts as the general election season begins: to define himself as a man seasoned by years of difficult decisions, much wiser than Bush and more weathered than Obama. The extent to which he meets this challenge will be one of the major story arcs of this campaign season.

  15. Joe Mama says:

    Good to see that you are so self-aware.

    I know.

  16. Alasdair says:

    Brendan – you have enough of a science background to be able to take the Kagans’ pronouncements and construct a hypothesis – and then construct ways to validate or contradict the hypothesis you construct …

    Remember that an experiment by a biased scientist ramins a valid experiment when you can recreate the experiment … and an experiment by a seemingly-unbiased scientist remains suspect if that scientist refuses to release the data and the methodology of the experiment … when you can recreate the experiment and you find you get the same results, then you can have confidence in the experiment even if you have no confidence in the biased scientist …

    To decide is the US is winning the war in Iraq, pick your metrics … check to see if they apply in other equivalent situations, than make your predictions as to where those metrics are going to go … that’s your base experiment … then see how accurate your predictions turn out to be …

    Choose your metrics wisely … by current Democrat metrics, after the results of D-Day, the US troops should have ben pulled out, and Europe left in Nazi hands … after all, Hitler had no missiles which could threaten the US, right ?

    Fortunately, there were enough folk in the right places in the US that the US didn’t stay isolationist …

    Your biggest challenge is getting the information without the filtering and editorialising of the MSM …

    And you can get a lot of information by inference …

    Hypothesis: Al Qaeda and its sympathisers in Iraq are trying to pull off another Vietnam-style US pull-out to leave them in control in Iraq …


    1) If Iraq is still a war, the coalition will be taking casualties spread out proportionately across colaition forces, with more casualties further from concentrations of coalition force …

    2) If currently, there is an attempt to create a Vietnam-style pull-out, coalition casualties will be disproportionately tilted towards US casualties and spectacularly gory casualties … since those are likely, given track record, to be the most effective at winning a propaganda war in the US …

    Given those two fairly simple metrics, are either or both or neither true ?

    How do US and British casualty rates compare ?

    Where are the casualties being caused ?

  17. Jim Hu says:

    Regarding your honest query this WaPo piece in Dec 2006 was Kagan and Ret. Gen Keane laying out what kind of surge was needed. Advocating the surge at the time strikes me as viewing the then-current tactics as a failure, and I think they say so at the end of the piece:

    The United States faces a dire situation in Iraq because of a history of half-measures. We have always sent “just enough” force to succeed if everything went according to plan. So far nothing has, and there’s no reason to believe that it will. Sound military planning doesn’t work this way. The only “surge” option that makes sense is both long and large.

    “dire situation” etc. sounds like what you are asking for, even if the phrase “unequivocally losing” isn’t there. Similarly, in this PBS interview from Dec 2006, he talks about the “principal failure of our military strategy in Iraq”.

    So I think this is a bum rap with respect to the Kagans. I don’t expect to convince A&A et al.

  18. Sandy Underpants says:

    Several years ago Joe Mama wanted to drive 1 mile from his house. He spent $8,000 in gas, three members of his family died, and it took him 6 years to get there. He got to where he wanted to go and considered it a success. While he accomplished his goal, I cannot consider that a success.

    Get it?

  19. David K. says:

    Choose your metrics wisely … by current Democrat metrics, after the results of D-Day, the US troops should have ben pulled out, and Europe left in Nazi hands … after all, Hitler had no missiles which could threaten the US, right ?

    Wow Alasdair, you are certainly trying to go out with a bang here by being more and more ridiculous aren’t you?

    World War II was in no way shape or form the same as the War in Iraq whatsoever. None. To try and equate the two, or the “metrics” they should be measured on is just plain stupid.

    Our goals in WWII were clearly defined. Our plan was clearly defined. And the costs were understood and supported by the American public. Hitler presented a legitimate threat and had invaded other countries and attacked our allies.

    In Iraq our goals have been poorly defined, if at all. The plan has been poorly defined. The costs were not honestly given and there is not the support of the American public. Hussein did not (and now does not) present a legitimate threat and he wasn’t invading other countries nor had he attacked our allies.

    How many soldiers are dying is a stupid metric unless you take it in context of what they are dying for. One soldier dying for a pointless mission would be bad, while hundreds dying for a well defined accepted and necessary mission would be, well not good, but atleast acceptable.

    In addition casualty rates for modern war are not comparable to those of WWII due to a myriad of factors, not to mention that an attempt to compare the two situations is, on its face absolutely ludricous and anyone with even a tacit understanding of WWII would realize that. One was a global war fought against an aggressor and its allies in multiple nations on multiple fronts by another group of allies. The other is a regional conflict sparked by a pre-emptive and unneccesary invasion based on faulty intelligence with poor strategic and completely lacking long term plans. It is no longer even a war, its an occupation of hostile country with no clear goal as to why we are there or how we can stop it.

    You and those like you, in order to even begin to convince everyone who isn’t allready worshipping at the foot of the great George W. Bush, need to first make a clear case as to why invading Iraq was even REMOTELY like WWII. If (and I doubt you will, since you never seem to actually provide any evidence for your “arguments”) you do that THEN you can begin to make an argument that the same metrics can apply, but you’d also have to account for the significant differences in the two situations such as geography, geopolitical alignment, technology, ideology, etc. Balls in your court Alasdair, I doubt you will pick it up, but maybe you’ll surprise us for once.

  20. David K. says:

    Sandy, you forgot that once he got to where he was going, he didn’t have a clue what to do next.

  21. Angrier and Angrier says:


    Use this for your baseline – Hitler in France.

    That is what is happening now in Iraq. You don’t win wars by taking a city and you don’t win wars by increasing your occupation. You win wars by destroying your enemy’s ability and will to fight.

    Right now the militias aren’t attacking U.S. forces because we are paying them off. It is a false peace. Until those groups are sitting at a table and working out power sharing agreements or until our forces have killed every last one of those who won’t seek peace, there is no “victory.” Perpetual occupation is not “victory.”

  22. Angrier and Angrier says:

    Jim Hu-

    The AEI is to neo-conservatives what the ACLU is to bleeding heart liberals. Do you understand why I have to question Kagan’s credibility?

    Is he right? He may be. But I’m not going to buy it coming from a bastion of the neo-con movement.

    The guy doesn’t appear to be a Bush apologist. But he may be the least blind of the blindest ideologues.

  23. Joe Mama says:

    Sandy, the only person in here who “gets” you is David. Have fun with all that . . .

  24. Joe Mama says:

    Jim Hu,

    Interesting find re the Kagans. Sadly (and predictably), Brendan’s “honest query” has no place on a thread with the usual ankle-biters.

  25. Joe Mama says:

    And the AEI is nothing at all like the ACLU, not the least of which because the former doesn’t file law suits.

  26. David K. says:

    Joe Mama, the only person in here who “gets” you is Alasdair. Have fun with all that…

  27. Joe Mama says:

    Hardly, but given the choice I’ll take Alasdair over Sandy any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

  28. Joe Mama says:

    Because anyone who makes David wet his pants as much as Alasdair does can’t be all bad.

  29. Jim says:

    Geez, when I saw the number of comments, I figured I’d find this in here. :)

    As was alluded to above, I think there is some conflation over getting into the war and what we do next. I think it’s hard to dispute that getting into the war was a bad idea in the first place, but I also think it’s fair to say that the war being a horrible idea and a long-run positive outcome aren’t mutually exclusive.

    As far as metrics, I think it’s best to look at things like the Iraq Body Count project for civilian casualties and the DoD numbers for US military maybe check out something like this.

    And then of course politically you can draw your own conclusions from news reports. I find it helpful to use google news for this, as you get sources from all over the world so you get alternative views.

    I’m a get out kind of guy. I look at the data and see a cyclical nature to the conflict. It’s unfortunate that both sides like to quote the casualties in a month as if that meant anything. Any honest assessment of the data shows the regression line essentially constant.

    What people ignore is that an insurgency can last forever. Even if we got things in reasonable shape, the insurgents can just come back in to fill the void when we leave, throwing the country back into chaos.

    The key question here is when that happens, is the military going to be nationalistic enough to quell these uprisings and maintain state power?

    That literally is the ultimate question that is relevant to this discussion. It all leads up to that.

  30. David K. says:

    What, the fact that i’ve finally decided that even attempting to be civil to Alasdair is pointless and am calling him out for what he is? Your right he pisses me off Joe Mama, he represents just about everything that is wrong with the far right.

    Believe it or not whether it be you or Andrew or some of the other right wingers on here, despite my frustrations with you all, and vehement disagreement, I have found that at the very least you are capable of making a logical argument and backing it up without having to resort to the sort of low life tactics all the time that Alasdair does. He never adds anything of value to these comment threads, EVER. Take it as a compliment if you will but you atleast, in my opinion, have at times done so.

  31. Alasdair says:

    A&A – what you and the doyenne of the D-List seem to have forgotten (or possibly really don’t realise) is that Bush, Jr didn’t singlehandedly and aggressively get us into the Irag War in 2003 …

    Bush, Jr, simply got this country off its collective thuumb and followed through on Gulf War I which ended with a Cease-Fire, not a Peace Treaty … after the umptieth time that Saddam Hussein’s forces fired on Coalition planes over the No-Fly zones (and/or committed any of the other breaches of the Cease-Fire Agreement made with Bush, Sr), the US President should have lowered the boom on Saddam Hussein … then again, from 1993 for the rest of the ’90s, both his heads were otherwise occupied, so it didn’t get done, and the US got used to being fired upon …

    The reality which the BDSers so hate is that Bush, Jr, didn’t spontaneously wake up one morning and decide “Let’s invade a peaceful and innocent country today !” … rather, he did the Presidential thing and executed what should have been done long before – and he got the required support from Congress to do so … the fact that many in Congress are now trying to mustelid their way out of their earlier decision doesn’t make ’em wise – it just shows their temperament and lack of good character …

    Given what is now known about Hussein’s corruption of the Oil-for-Food setup, and given his ability to prevent inspectors from getting unfettered access to do spot-checks, there is every rational reason to believe that at some time in the 2000s, something really REALLY unpleasant would have been financed by Hussein that would have killed a LOT of people … and the same whiners that keep repeating their mantra of “Bush Lied!” would have wanted him impeached for NOT doing something about Hussein sooner …

  32. Alasdair says:

    Joe Mama – at 5:16:16 – did you *have* to use that imagery ?

    That’s all I need, David getting all tingly over my comments !

    OY !

  33. Sandy Underpants says:

    All you need to know about why the United States didn’t continue the war with Saddam during Gulf War I is straight from the lips of Dick Cheney in this clip

    Truer words, he has never spoken.

  34. Youngblai says:

    I’m going to pull a partial Mark McGwire and only talk about the past a little bit here before I actually cover the future.

    First, full disclosure–I actually know Dr. Kagan. I will not deign to comment on the “neocon” tag people try to use as a pejorative, as epithets and slogans are the sign of an inflexible mind. What I will say is that those of you who want to curse someone you’ve never met and refuse to read what is said because of a different worldview will be the poorer for your ignorance.

    The partial Mark McGwire will be the road to Iraq. First, if you want to read why we didn’t “finish the job” in 1991, there are several books out there which cover this. Presidential Decisions for War (sorry, I can’t do the cool italic thing either) by Gary Hess is one of them. The other is Crusade by Rick Atkinson. Suffice to say that, in my humble opinion, if we’d gone north and “finished things” we would’ve been in a world of hurt. Nothing happens in a vacuum and, as you may or may not recall, the Soviet Union was still in the process of figuring out how it was going to disintegrate. Part of the reason Gorbachev gave us a green light was because we gave him our word we weren’t about to monkey stomp a client state. Seeing as how his acquiescence to our attack at all was part of the reason for the August ’91 putsch attempt, I’d hate to see what would have happened had we totally rolled Iraq.

    However, because we didn’t totally roll Iraq, we got to deal with them all through the ’90s. Has everyone here forgotten Operation Desert Fox? How is it okay to bomb the crap out of Iraq then over WMD but not invade later when no intelligence had really changed? And don’t give me the weapons inspectors in ’03 either.

    None of you Bush lied folks have answered my riddle of why our forces crossed the berm in full MOPP gear if we didn’t really believe the man had WMD. Nor have you explained why his own generals called for WMD strikes only to get the “Um, yeah, I’ve got Uday and Quasay but we haven’t figured out how to strap them to a missile yet”-response.

    The list goes on, but I long ago figured folks on both sides of the partisan divide are just going to keep screeching until some January morning next year when ol’ W and Laura will ride off into the sunset. Some of you are not going to know what to do with all your frothing at the mouth hatred which will, quite frankly, serve you right. However, for the rest of us, someone might want to start figuring out our own individual answers to these questions:

    1.) What does victory look like in Iraq? Yeah, we should’ve answered this already (you know, before kickoff), bad planning, blah, blah, blah. Well, guess what? Like the parents of a pair of pregnant teenagers, stating coulda, woulda, shoulda doesn’t unscrew things. I’m asking what people see as their way forward, not for a recounting of all the White House’s sins.

    To me, saying “We can’t stay there 50 years…” is sorta sophistry. Last I checked, we were still in Japan and Germany. While people are tired of this being brought up, it’s still the truth. Putting your head in the sand and saying, “I don’t like to talk about that, nyah, nyah, nyah!” is silly.

    2.) Is that vision of victory attainable?

    Everyone keeps talking about deaths, treasure, etc.. However, 4,000 dead is only a significant number _nationally_ (as opposed to those who knew them) if the goal they were sacrificed for is impossible to attain.

    3.) If victory is not attainable, what is the cost of losing?

    Ever wonder why every 3rd World Dictator we messed with from 1975-1991 kept making comments about things being a “another Vietnam”? Um, that would be because we got our a**es kicked. Let’s not even get into the amount of angst and bad things losing a war caused _in_ this country. So, let’s be honest–this would make the 2nd war we spit the bit on once things got past the 4 year or so mark. Think the next group of enemies we face is going to pack it up anytime before 5 years? Um, no.

    4.) What have we learned about the use of our military? About what kind of force we should have going forward? Andrew Bacevich wrote a book about how we Americans view miltiary power and its use, and he had some valid points.

    Just a few off the top of my head.

    Personally, I think we’re winning. It ain’t easy, and I think it bears investigating why we didn’t do this sooner, but it needs to be done in a manner that’s not partisan.

  35. Sandy Underpants says:

    It’s a riddle why our forces wore MOPP gear to cross into Iraq? Wouldn’t it be a little too obvious if they just walked over there with no protection?

    Why do the Republicans think Anti-Iraq war people think Clinton is flawless? Operation Desert Fox was an abomination, but lets be real– you want to compare a 4 day bombing to the 5 year disaster we have going today? Yes Clinton did unsavory things, but Bush started this war, that’s why the focus is on him, and will remain on him until this is corrected. And there is no comparison.

    1) The Japan/Germany thing again? We weren’t losing American soldiers daily 5 years after we WON WWII. We weren’t losing soldiers daily 5 months after we won that war. The Iraq War has been over for 5 years, truth be told.

    2) Wait, you ask if that vision of victory is attainable, but you didn’t mention any vision. So you want to stay and die in Iraq for another 45 years, sure that’s attainable. Victory? If you say so.

    3)We’re so worried about the cost of losing and you cite Vietnam. The day we left Vietnam was the first steps toward stopping Communism. Proof of that is the fact that no American died on the battlefield when Communism fell. If we hadn’t ever gone to Vietnam then Communism would have fallen in the 70s not the 80s because it doesn’t work. The Vietnam War gave Communists a cause to unite behind, just as the War in Iraq gives Islamic extremists a cause to rally behind. If this country starts leading by example and arresting the tiny percentage of criminals, rather than blowing up entire cities, we’ll be moving in the right direction.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Holy shit are you stupid.

  37. Youngblai says:


    1.) Fine, would you prefer Korea? Because we _do_ lose soldiers daily in Korea (accidents, etc.), and we certainly lost them at higher rates during incidents after the termination of the Korean War.

    However, the reason we weren’t losing soldiers in Germany and Japan is we conducted a rather strenuous live fire exercise on both of those countries for four years. Something about not being able to tell the difference between Aunt Miyoko’s body and that of her dog tends to make an impression. Let’s not even get into some of the things we did in order to stamp out any possible resistance in Germany. Think Gitmo’s procedures are bad? Talk to some of the occupation veterans about summary court martials followed by swift hangings.

    2.) I used Desert Fox as an example. In reality, we contained Saddam Hussein for 12 years. At great cost. Think the good soldiers at Fort Stewart liked going to Kuwait about every six months? No.

    3.) I didn’t offer a vision because that was an open question. I’m not quite sure what my vision is.

    4.) I’m glad you subscribe to the day we left Vietnam as the first day we started stopping Communism. Thankfully other folks have written actual, academic histories about that little Cold War thing. How about you go read some John Gaddis (he wrote a short CW history in 2007), then come back and talk to me about “first steps” and rallying. Because, you know, Mao and Brezhnev really rallied to Vietnam’s side post ’68. Oh, and that little matter of the Sino-Soviet conflict (you know, the one that had Brezhnev making noises about freakin’ nukin’ the Chinese) was a SURE sign those guys got along like peas in a pod. Nothing like a little exchange of kilotons, megatons, and ballistic missiles to show your Marxist love. Why, Vietnam united everyone so much that’s why China went to punish the DRV in 1979.

    Now, you want to continue talking mindless rhetoric, or have I provided enough examples of your ignorance for you to put a little thought in your next comment? Because trust me, I got plenty of bricks left in this bag if you want to poke your head back above the outhouse rim.

    5.) Boy, we sure have blown up some entire cities. While I’m not a fan of people talking about “precision weapons” like they do no harm to people, let’s not talk “Shock and Awe” like it was LeMay going upside Tokyo’s head in March 1945. Hyperbole just makes you look ignorant.

  38. Sandy Underpants says:

    1) Back up the “fact” that we lose soldiers daily in Korea, please. Yes accidents happen everywhere, even at home, but comparing accidental deaths in Korea to our soldiers being killed in Iraq erodes an already flimsy argument.

    2) Saddam was contained for 12 years and would be contained today. You say at great cost, but the cost was less than 1% the cost of the War with Iraq, in dollars and in lives.

    3)Neither you, nor Bush offer a vision of Victory. I wonder how then you could so wrecklessly continue to support a 6 year military action that neither you, nor I, nor our President knows the goals of.

    4)Did communism fall without a war or not? You quote a lot of references, but you can’t dispute the fact that I’m right. Communism fell because it doesn’t work, the economy it produces failed it’s nations and it’s people. Yes, there was high drama, and danger and leaders of ill-repute, but it is indisputable that Communism ended not with invading military vehicles bringing the Berlin wall down, but rather regular German citizens, and a financially bankrupt Soviet Union.

    5)You rely on ignorance to make your point, but I prove you wrong on everything. How do you think we gained any control over Iraq, by dropping copies of Charlie Weis’ autobiography? We dropped White Phospherous on Fallujah and people were melted alive, maybe you didn’t read about it, or maybe you don’t want to know it, but it’s the truth. Americans have killed women and children, by accident(?), but it’s only collateral damage. My point, however, was that Terrorists are criminals, a small group of criminals who ought to be found and prosecuted, and it’s actually much easier than you have been so easily conditioned to believe over the last 7 years. You don’t fight crime by invading Comptom for 5 years. And we’ll never stop terrorism going about it through war.

  39. Jim Hu says:

    Regarding #4, there was plenty of shooting in the Cold War after we pulled out of Viet Nam – we just outsourced most of the dying to others. In Indochina, a lot of people died in the killing fields after we left. Later, we were involved in aiding many counterinsurgencies and insurgencies in Latin America and Africa. Many of these were quite sordid from a human rights perspective.

    The Soviet quagmire in Afghanistan – which might not have been such a quagmire without our arming those guys who became problems for us later – was certainly a war.

    I’d argue that we’re still seeing the remnants of the Cold War in Colombia where a shooting civil war has been going on for 40+ years.

    There was no shortage of war and death in the Cold War after we flew off in our helicopters from the roofs of Saigon. So the answer to “Did communism fall without a war or not?” is no it didn’t. As far as I can tell, historians still debate the cause and effect relationships wrt the effects of the Reagan doctrine in the early 1980s on hastening the fall of the USSR. So I’m not arguing that these were anything close to universally being “good wars” (Disclaimer: I do strongly support aid to Colombia against the FARC, and for all of his faults, I was glad to see Fujimori’s success against the Sendero.).

    Regarding #5, I did find the image of bombing with copies of Weis’ autobiography to be pretty funny.

  40. toby says:

    So al-Qaeda in Iraq is being defeated. Hhm, Iraq was not invaded to defeat al-Qaeda & there was no al-Qaeda there at the time.

    So the war being “won” is not the war that was started in 2003. The 2003 war was a sham, and nothing can now vindicate it. It has led to yet untold death and destruction and the people who instigated it should be reviled and shamed.

    The question now is: can anything be rescued from the shambolic mess Bush & Cheney created? The answer is: perhaps. Since the US crated al-Qaeda in Iraq, defeating them is not enough. Even if they are defeated, there will be enough diehards left to conduct terrorist attacks there or elsewhere (maybe even in the US).

    My view is that the US should commit to an Iraq with no US bases (contrary to what it is demanding right now) and to a complete withdrawal except for special forces possibly based in Kurdistan, the area friendliest to the US.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Al Qaeda being defeated is a good thing regardless of where it occurs on the map.

  42. Angrier and Angrier says:


    Regarding the push to War, it is B.S. to think that anyone besides the Bush Administration was leading the charge to invade Iraq. To say otherwise is revisionist history.

    Regarding the UN ceasefire argument, I believed at the time, and still do, that Bush would have been far better off to use THAT argument as the rationale for going to war than WMD or the so-called links to Al Qaeda. Considering the country’s mood after 9/11, I believe most Americans would have been on board for that, but that isn’t what Bush pushed. He set himself up for failure and has only himself to blame.

  43. Anonymous says:

    And Lincoln shouldn’t have gone to the theater.

  44. Angrier and Angrier says:

    “Al Qaeda being defeated is a good thing regardless of where it occurs on the map.”

    Even if those members of Al Qaeda didn’t exist until the invasion of Iraq?

    We need to go into Afghanistan/Pakistan and kill bin Laden and Zawahiri. Killing Al Qaeda in Iraq is like U.S. forces camping out in France for 10 years and killing Nazis as they pop up instead going into Berlin after Hitler.

  45. Angrier and Angrier says:

    The difference between Bush and Lincoln is Lincoln wouldn’t have been stupid enough to go to the theater if he knew there was a good chance he was going to get shot.

  46. Joe Mama says:

    “Even if those members of Al Qaeda didn’t exist until the invasion of Iraq?”

    You know this how?

    “The difference between Bush and Lincoln is Lincoln wouldn’t have been stupid enough to go to the theater if he knew there was a good chance he was going to get shot.”

    But even if there was no way to know, you and every other Monday-morning quarterback would still be standing over his body saying, “I knew he shouldn’t have gone to the theater.”

  47. wolfwalker says:

    Brendan, you wrote: One of the reasons I’m undecided between Obama and McCain is because I feel like I’m choosing between these two camps, both of which have ideological blinders on, which is not exactly an appealing choice — and meanwhile, I don’t have the requisite information to decide whose preconceptions are closer to the truth, largely because I don’t trust either side to present that information accurately!

    Actually, I suspect you do have a lot of the information you need, and what you don’t have you can get quickly by reading a selected set of mil-blogs. What you need and haven’t got — YET — is the knowledge-base to properly interpret that information. That required knowledge-base is a general understanding of how military operations work — how they really work, rather than the shallow and superficial nonsense we get from TV talking heads.

    Getting that knowledge will require some effort, but nothing too extravagant. You just have to read some books. The right kind of books, I mean — you won’t get honest military analysis from civilians. For tactical and strategic background, look for battlefield-analytical books about Operation Desert Storm. No matter what you thought of it yourself at the time, Desert Storm was among the best-planned and -executed large military operations of the twentieth century. There’s no better topic if you want to understand how a military operation works when things work well.

    For background about how military intelligence works, look at some of the books published in the last fifteen years or so about World War II intel operations. A LOT of material from WW2 was classified under a fifty-year rule, so it started being released around 1990, and A LOT of very good books have been published using that material. I particularly recommend a book called VERY SPECIAL INTELLIGENCE, by an Englishman who was an intel officer in the Battle of the Atlantic. What’s most important here is not the actual details of who did what, who was right and who was wrong. What matters is that you get an understanding of the handicaps that intel officers routinely work under.

    When you’ve done all that, track down and read the pre- and post-Iraq War intelligence reports, the ones that were in front of President Bush when he made the decision to take Saddam down. Redacted versions of them are available online — no classified material, but the basics are still there. I think you’ll find you have a little different view of them when you approach them with the mind-set of an intel officer. I also think you’ll have a somewhat better idea of how to sort the wheat from the chaff in news reports from Iraq and Afghanistan: establish a solid base of knowledge you can use to analyze the reports in the press and on blogs, and discard anything that doesn’t jibe with the way you now know things really work.

  48. Youngblai says:


    1.) I was all set to call you an idiot (“I never said daily…”) then I realized that, indeed, I did type daily insteady of yearly. Amend to we still lose soldiers _yearly_ in Korea. For an idea of just how many soldiers die from accidents, check out this article from

    That being said, that we lose soldiers in accidents is hardly a flimsy argument, as you miss the larger point–when folks put on the uniform, they know the chances.

    2.) Saddam would be contained today? Really? Just how were we going to contain him again? Because you may recall it being reported both on CNN and BBC during the run up to the war that the Saudis had been making noises about not renewing our leases due to domestic issues. Ditto with the Turks, as there was that little issue with Germany and France basically saying, “You want in the EU? You need to stop supporting American actions against Iraq so strenuously.” (Also reported by BBC in 2003 and re-visited by the European news when Chirac and Schroeder each took their respective trips into the sunset.)

    So, in your infinite strategic wisdom, remind me again how we “contain” Saddam without bases in Saudi Arabia and Turkey? Because while the Kuwaitis love them some American troops, there are limits. Oh, wait, is this going to be another one of those things you say I quote a lot of references but you are unerringly correct?

    Yes, containing Saddam from 1991-2003 was at 1% of the current Iraq War cost. If you expect me to defend the reasoning for going to war, you’re barking up the wrong tree. If you’re expecting me to defend the planning of the war, you are soooo barking up the wrong tree. (“Powell Doctrine was written for a reason, folks!”<--an earlier incarnation of myself, circa 2003.) I subscribe to the "Walnut, meet sledgehammer. Sledghammer, meet...oh, well, nevermind. Poor Mr. Walnut"-school of warfare, but our SecDef at that time thought he was the expert. Go figure. 3.) Really? Communism fell without a war? I cite a bunch of references in the futile hope that you will attempt to, you know, educate yourself. Then I realize that I'm apparently dealing with someone who has omniscent, perfect knowledge and doesn't concern himself with the piteous writings of others. Tell me where you got your Ph.D. at and then I'll take your word over Gaddis and Hess. You stated the following: -Communism was unified by Vietnam. I cited numerous examples that proved you wrong. In response you sniffled, bawled, and said, "You're citing _sources_! That's not fair." -Communism fell without a war. Um, no, I believe the common accepted frame of reference for the Cold War is 1948-1991 (with the numbers moving a couple years earlier depending on who you listen to). That would mean that there were the following wars that most folks are aware of: -Korea -Vietnam -Afghanistan. I know you seem to be troubled by that whole "sources" thing, but most people who actually get their history from books (you know, the things that have to be cleared by editors, not just thrown up at can acknowledge all three of those conflicts had something to do with Communism up and catching the flu. But, hey, you're right, we never had a war between the Soviet Union and the United States. Because, you know, no one was _suicidal_. 4.) The fact that the President doesn't offer a vision of victory is part of the reason I don't care for him. The reason _I_ didn't offer a vision of victory is because I tend to give some consideration to issues of that importance before just spewing them onto the page. How about this--I'll provide my vision of victory below, you provided your vision of defeat in your reply. Because you have never once denied that it would be a defeat, and losing wars have consequences. So explain to me how we mitigate those consequences, oh wise one. Victory, at a minimum, will have the following conditions: -An Iraqi government that possesses a monopoly on violence within its own borders (you know, like most sovereign nations do) and sufficient military strength to defend itself. -A neutralization of AQ presence in Iraq. By neutralization, I mean AQ cannot use Iraq as a secure base (you know, like Waziristan--sorry, bitterness seeping through) for planning future operations. -U.S. forces returned to the United States after 1 & 2. I don't particularly care for a SOFA or permanent bases either, as this will encourage other Presidents to get up to mischief. More importantly... will prevent the final condition: U.S. forces prepared for future operations (after the folks who hit us do it again) that will actually further our larger strategic security objectives. Now, your serve on the vision thing. 5.) No Sandy, I rely on a keen sense of logic and proportionality to make my arguments, not hyperbole and idiotic bleating. That and the ability to, you know, remember back to 2003 and my conversations with people who were actually _standing in Baghdad_ at the time. Here, I'll help you out with my comparison: Tokyo, March 1945--130,000 dead, 20-30% of the city _burned to the ground_, and the smell of burnt flesh pervading the entire prefecture. I'm going to do one of those source citations things again--go read The Night Tokyo Burned or A Torch to the Enemy, then come back and try to tell me we even came _close_ to that level of destruction. We didn't even pull a _Dresden_ on Baghdad, nevermind a Tokyo. Baghdad--Iraq body count says that 6,000+ civilians are dead from all causes in the first YEAR (that's right, combat operations, "Mission Accomplished" idiocy, botched occupation) across Iraq. In other words, we probably killed more Japanese civilians in the first ten minutes than we, the insurgents, and Al Qaeda _combined_ killed in an entire year. Now, I'm being charitable to you in including the last two causes as U.S.-induced deaths. In reality, according to the laws of war (you know, those Geneva Convention things everyone likes to bleat about), we wouldn't be, but I'm willing to give you the tie because, yeah, we cacked up the occupation. Finally, for someone who is claiming I rely on ignorance, you do seem to talk a lot about sh*t you obviously have no clue over. Once again, my sources are published and peer reviewed, your sources are...oh, that's right, you don't cite any. So that would make your sources _you_, and unless you're about to reveal to me that you were both in the CENTCOM planning cell during the run up for shock and awe and First Fallujah, this means you're merely repeating what you may have heard from a friend of a friend. Here's a hint--go read Bing West's numerous columns or his book No True Glory (because, you know, he was _AT FALLUJAH_) or the numerous autobiographies. Or, hey, talk to a veteran who was actually there. When you've done that, maybe I'll start to believe you can speak with at least an iota of authority to be a source unto yourself. When you actually start reading something about these fights, you'll realize a few things. One, our forces, including in Fallujah, have operated under some of the most stringent ROE known to man. Yes, people have died. However, that's why they call it "war," not "high velocity object rugby." Two, the case where we used Willie Pete was against said entrenched hostile forces. This after we gave civilians about four weeks to exit the city. Sorry, but you can't get out of the way of a hammer blow in four weeks and decide it's a really good idea to stand next to the fanatical whackjobs who are ready to die, you burn. Thems the breaks. More importantly, that funny Law of War thing (once again, a freakin' source--good God, you'd think that I might have learned to read at a young age or something...thanks Mom!) says the party which decides to dig in with civilians is the one liable for all civilian casualties therein. Or, allow me to put this more simply--the a**holes who decided to use innocent men and women as human shields are the people those of you who are so torn up about a little shake and bake need to talk to, not our soldies. What's that? You say they'd chop your head off? Well, nevermind then. Three, due to our restraint, we took far more casualties taking Fallujah than we needed to. Yes, we used Willie Pete (incidentally, how else were you planning on making smoke), but we did _not_ drop unguideded ordnance on the city proper or, for that matter, solved the problem with a couple of MOABS. More importantly, if you've talked to anyone who just got back from that sector (why yes, yes I have done this, and less than 48 hours ago as a matter of fact), we proceeded to completely rebuild the place rather than leaving it levelled as an example to others. But, hey, we're the bad guys, right. 6.) Could all of you guys who believe terrorism is a law enforcement issue please move to a convenient single place? That way, we can tell our current adversaries that we're going to turn them into glass (not arrest, not try, but vaporize) if they nuke any other city but the one that you folks are hanging out then. In your case, however, we'll ask pretty please and mother may we before even _attempting_ to retaliate against perpetrators of said act. The problem is _not_ that we went to war. Generally when people attack your nation, war (not litigation, not prosecution) is the considered answer. Because we've repeatedly tried that long arm of the law thing and so far all it's done is increase the population of the Supermax. Now, part of the reason I have serious, profound issues with our current conduct is, yeah, we sorta skipped going after the logistical and financial wellsprings to mire ourselves in fighting a guy who was arguably not in the top 10 of threats. Not because Saddam was contained, mind you, but because he was a buffoon. Moreover, we tried to do war on the cheap. Finally, when it came time to do some killing, we didn't kill _enough_ because we didn't want people to think badly of us. (Oh, btw, another point you never acknowledged, Sandy--the effect our rather violent repressive tendencies had on the low death toll post WW2. But you keep right on truckin' with your Youngblai = ignorant argument, and I'll keep bringing the wood. I might make a typo here and there, but at least I'm not going with the "I am a source unto myself..." approach.) So, no, I'm not one of those folks who blindly support the President and say all is good. Heck, I heartily agree with Brendan that this is the reason the Administration no longer has any credibility with regards to the war effort. I am merely saying that I have yet to hear anyone from the left / retreat crowd say what happens _after_ we pull out precipitously, how that suits our national interest, or their willingness to accept responsibility for things if they are wrong and our retreat does lead to chaos. If Obama steps up to the plate and elucidates this rather than promising Hope and Change, I just might vote for him. However, I'll take another 4 years of grinding out _something_ positive over "pack our tents and go home." (This stance subject to change if a city fireballs tomorrow. Then I'm voting for the first person who says "Punic War rules are now in effect.") On an aside, I seem to recall WashPo having an article that said the defunding option was there if Nancy Pelosi had been willing to demonstrate one iota of bipartisanship. Strange, but folks keep blaming the President for us being there but the Dem Congress keeps writing the checks. See part about responsibility and leadership. I'm not saying I'm keen on defunding as an option, but Congress has the power of the purse for a reason. That funny Constitution thing that everyone seems to ignore lately.

  49. Jamie says:

    There’s danger in demanding, or expecting, assessments of “winning” or “losing” in the middle of an operation, at least by the populace at large. Decide that your side is “losing” and it becomes much easier to stop devoting resources to your effort to win. Decide that your side is “winning” and… ditto. Best to remain committed to victory (which, for heaven’s sake, you people, is not that hard to define) and think about ways to advance that goal.

    Victory in Iraq: * Stable, effective, democratically elected central government that is allied with the U.S. * So little need for American troop presence that, if the Iraqi government decides we may stay on, we stay on in the same capacity as in (yes, again) Germany, Korea, etc.: for our own strategic interests and just-in-case ally support, nothing else. Because we do indeed have strategic interests in the area. (Cue chant: No blood for oil!!one!) * Such profound interruption of our enemies’ operations that they are no longer able to “field a team.” Metrics that can be used: US casualty rate; Iraqi casualty rate (civilian, police, and military); al Qaeda and other bad guy casualty rate (I use “rate” for all these because you have to have a denominator, and so that denominator is also important: American military denominator has been largely constant, Iraqi police/military denominators growing, al Qaeda/other bad guy denominators shrinking); number of attempted strikes against us and our Iraqi allies, at home and abroad; number of successful strikes ditto; infrastructure and economy growth (positive/negative); “happiness” measures. These trends are all moving in the right direction. The goal ought to be to keep them doing so, NOT to rest on our not-yet-fully-realized laurels.

    Hence, McCain for me. Obama is now and has always been a lightweight and a demogogue.

  50. Jamie says:

    Crossed in the ether with the pretty much infinitely better informed Youngblai… Boy, am I relieved my definition of victory is substantially the same as (I assume) his!

  51. Youngblai says:


    Yeah, our definitions of victory pretty much match and, yes, you put the reasons for not buying into defeat much more succintly than I did.

    I’m not saying we should never retreat from Iraq. As I’ve said before, New Madrid slips or some other natural disaster rears it’s head, the equation changes and radically. However, at the moment, the “troops out now” crowd hasn’t provided a viable strategic framework for what happens _after_ that. (And no, basing troops in Okinawa is _not_ a reasonable framework.)

  52. Jamie says:

    Too right. It’s important to be able to recognize the truly unwinnable. But going into every conflict with two diametrically opposed templates in mind – either a three-week perfectly executed war followed by immediate withdrawal to prior bases, or Vietnam – is self-limiting and really can’t survive contact with the enemy, as the saying goes.

    I don’t understand why the Democrats have decided to stand pat on the “unwinnable” thing, even when trend lines are against them. I could sort of understand it – not condone it, but understand it – when things were darkest and some important trend lines did indeed point to bad mojo, but now? Why own the side of the debate that roots for ignominious defeat, both for us and for Iraqis?

  53. David K. says:

    Jamie, its not just about whether we CAN win the war (which given the nature of what we are trying to do i find highly unlikely short of massive millitary action) but whether the cost of winning it is even worth it. Personally I don’t think it is, i don’t think its in the best interest of the United States to continue fighting what boils down to a civil war. There reaches a point where we have to let the Iraqi’s stand on their own two feet and deal with their own problems. We are pouring ridiculous amounts of resources into the region and the cost for many of us is far to high. Its dramatically affected the economy at home and abroad and frankly not made me or you any safer than we were while Saddaam was in power. The war in Afghanistan was both necessary and justified. The war in Iraq was neither and beyond that it continues to hold little chance of success (since we don’t have a clear definition of success) and even less chance of being beneficial to Americans.

  54. Sandy Underpants says:

    Youngblai, I’m writing opinion based on fact, not a PHD thesis, so all you need do is reference your memory or knowledge, not multiple authors from my replies.

    1) US soldiers die every day, 8 die a year in Korea, about 45 times that have died in Iraq the past 12 months. “When people put on the uniform, they know the chances”, but that doesn’t mean their lives are meaningless and can be discarded and devalued. Soldiers expect the government to respect their lives, and if the government is doing wrong with regards to them, it is up to the people, (ie me) to speak up for them, since they gave away the right for speaking up for themselves when they signed up to join the military.

    2)If there was no one in support of containing Hussein any longer– His neighbors, Europe, the UN, then I think you ought to ask yourself Why the US found it so necessary to begin a war with Iraq, when 80% of the nations of the world knew the truth (not to suggest the US didn’t know the truth as well), that Sadaam was not a threat.

    Furthermore, you act like Hussein was an agressor to the United States and that was never true, not only did we sell him weapons (including chemical and biological weapons in the 80s) the United States attacked Iraq, not the other way around. I understand Iraq invaded Kuwait, but with the blessing of the United States, via the Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie.

    In a meeting with Saddam Huessein on the issue of Kuwait, days before the invasion, the US Ambassador to Iraq stated:

    “[The US has] no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late ’60s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction. We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods. All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly.”

    3) Communism did not fall because of the Vietnam War, the Korean War or the Afghan War. Those wars took place during the Cold War, but if those wars were never fought, the same result would have come. If you believe Russia fell due to the Afghan war, then again you should take your own advice and support an end to the war with Iraq, because we will have spent trillions of dollars essentially treading water after the 8th year, and owe a massive debt to China amongst many other nations we are borrowing money from at present. Essentially, we will have a giant military, a debt so massive it will cause our bankruptcy and any foreign government will be able to knock us over with a feather at some point.

    4)I don’t need a vision of Victory in Iraq, as the War with Iraq was won years ago. Our goals were to disarm Saddam (check!), Regime Change (check!), Kill Hussein and his family (check!), install a democratically elected parliament (check!). I don’t know why we are still there. Rumsfeld said the US had 200,000 trained Iraqi security forces in 2004, so surely 4 years after he said that, we must have trained significantly more.

    What we have wrought for Iraq, is a representative democracy, it is up to them to keep it. Don’t Republicans always say they want personal responsibility? Yet they created the world’s biggest welfare mother in the middle east. Thanks, guys.

    As for the Al Queda nonsenese, you actually believe that they make up a big part of the war in Iraq, too bad for you. Most of the AQ terrorists are college educated and live in Saudi Arabia, England, France, and safe places. They aren’t stupid barefoot morons wearing dirty robes. But you are welcome to believe whatever is spoonfed you.

    My sources are the 9/11 attackers lived in the US, England and Saudi Arabia. The shoe bomber was from England. The England bus/subway bombers were English citizens. Those are just the most significant AQ attacks off the top of my head.

    5)Okay, so we agree that US Soldiers and innocent people are being killed to catch criminals who may or may not actually be criminals if the United States weren’t in Iraq. I don’t think we need to sit in on a Centcom meeting to determine that.

    6)”Generally when people attack your nation, war is the considered answer.”

    I can accept that, but we were attacked by 15 Saudi Arabians and 4 Pakistanis, but we went to war with Iraq, how do you justify that one?

    This group that the 19 hijackers were a part of is a criminal organization, not much unlike the mob, all we have to do is be prepared (like the boyscouts) and be aggressive in pursuing and capturing these criminals and everything is gonna be alright.

    That may sound silly, but again, that’s how we succeeded in winning the Cold War, being smart, not militarized.

    Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats are just weak cowards like all the politicians. The only benefit of having a Democratic majority is to prevent the Republican majority from rubber stamping everything that Bush wants.

    Things will change when we finally get an adult in the White House in about 7 months. And don’t be upset, Youngblai, The Republicans had 6 years to get it done in Iraq and failed. That’s a damn long time in the modern era.

  55. Anonymous says:


  56. Angrier and Angrier says:


    God, I’m going to miss the intellectual ballet that is

  57. Alasdair says:

    Youngblai – thank you for your service in trying to take on the blatherings of Sandy Underpants …

    You have also tied some things together which were loose ends in my mind … it does help to have more of the picture when trying to talk with the SUs and A&As and Davids of the planet …

    Your comments about Intel officers are very much to the point … folk over here in the US are gradually becoming information competent, but way too many of ’em implicitly believe what they see and hear Rosie telling them on morning talk shows … when something “doesn’t quite fit”, then Rosie obviously knows more than the biased warmongers in Iraq …

    Sandy’s #4 is an example of that … “My sources are the 9/11 attackers lived in the US, England and Saudi Arabia. The shoe bomber was from England. The England bus/subway bombers were English citizens. Those are just the most significant AQ attacks off the top of my head.” – he has some information, yet lacks the ability to understand the difference between Information and Knowledge, just as he lacks the ability to understand the difference between each of those two and Wisdom …

    The then-current citizenship of those who carried out the attacks he cited is just about as relevant about them as the brand of clothing each wore … for those individuals, specific citizenship only mattered where it made a difference to the potential success or failure of their mission …

    I’m also guessing that Sany U is literally *incapable* of understanding that part of why the ones he mentioned were the “most significant AQ attacks ” at least partially because a lot of Al Qaeda’s best efforts were poured into Iraq where they subsequently got decimated repeatedly (and I use “decimated” with its true meaning of 1/10th of the group was wiped out) … fortunately for our side, often enough, that 10% contained some of the then-leaders who were left …

    I also have to suspect that Sandy is equally unaware of just how unambiguous a message Bush gave to the others in the Middle East and elsewhere who had been contemplating any similar adventures …

    Anyway, thank you for the time you took typing all that … those of us whose minds aren’t rusted open (or shut) have learned new Information that can be added/transformed/refined into Knowledge …

  58. Jamie says:

    David K., I disagree about the cost-benefit analysis the U.S. has performed with regard to Iraq. There are significant benefits to establishing Iraq as an ally rather than an unfriendly: look at a map of the Middle East, for example, noting that Iraq was the big puzzle piece missing from a supply route between the Med and the Persian Gulf. And think of the balance of powers in the Middle East with Iraq as an ally (with some religio-cultural ties to Iran, which appear increasingly to be less important to Iraqi Shiites than their security and stability – just what we want! A nationalist Iraq allied with us) rather than as an unfriendly opposed to Iran in an unsteady three-way eyeballing of one another. Think of the large number of translators and cultural experts (in an area in which the United States has little understanding or expertise) that we gain if we make Iraqis our friends. Think of the Hussein regime’s total inability to pursue its goal to renew its weapons programs – indeed, of its total dissolution. (I reference the findings of the Duelfer Report, of course.) Think of the giant eraser that Iraq – an Iraq that we help to rebuild and continue to support – is to the “paper tiger” meme that has dogged the United States since Vietnam.

    A not-really-side note: those who say we have somehow “lost respect” in the world by doing what we said we would do have a mighty strange idea of what garners respect. Perhaps they’re talking about the “We are all Americans now” thing, in which we gained temporary and conditional sympathy from our “natural allies” in Europe, just-post 9/11, because we’d been victimized as they had been. That’s not respect; that’s sympathy, perhaps, albeit short-lived and fickle. I love Europe; certain parts of it – and by no means the most pro-US parts – are my favorite holiday spots on Earth. But many Europeans, who decided in the ’40s not to study war no more but rather to make us do it for them, seem to fail to think through the consequences of their decision.

  59. Jamie says:

    And now Sandy. Come now. You must know that the US was, and is, the only country left that had both the resources and the political will to take down the Hussein regime. And that to do so only made sense. The Middle East was (and to a great extent still is) the greatest extant threat to the liberal (in the sense of “free,” not in the sense of “ruled by its feelings and the way the world ought to be”) global community, and in all the Middle East, Iraq was the low-hanging fruit: a dictator who daily violated the cease-fire that gave him continued legitimacy; a regime that oppressed, tortured, and murdered, and supported those who did all these with money and ideology – using the tools of terror both within and outside its borders, in a time when the US had declared that any state that sponsored or condoned terror was its enemy; a thorn in our military side that had been causing us to spend resources to no avail for a decade; a government that had sought, developed, and used WMDs, and that virtually all intelligence services believed was still in the biz. More than these: a multi-ethnic society that had taken some steps toward democracy in the past, only to be halted by Saddam Hussein’s ascension; a nation comprising an oppressed majority and an even more sorely oppressed minority that could be expected to support regime change, even if imposed from the outside – which is what happened.

    But no. Michael Moore took some footage of kites, after all; Iraq must have been a peaceful place if kites would fly there.

    Those on the Left have embraced realpolitik. I never thought it’d happen. But it saves me some strange bedfellows, I guess, since I’m fully behind the Bush Doctrine of promoting democracy wherever it either threatens to crop up (phrasing intentional) or can be fostered, not just because it’s the liberal thing to do, but because it’s the way to minimize armed conflicts with your neighbors, trading partners, and even sometime enemies.

  60. Alasdair says:

    Jamie – you think like a Scot ! Lang may yer lum reek !

  61. Youngblai says:

    Sandy, et. al.

    -If I’m arguing with opinion, then I’m done. Sorry, but you have to be willing to consider facts and maybe change an opinion to have a discussion. Otherwise you’re just wasting time trying to move an immoveable object. If you had presented me with something that I had not considered, I’d be willing to change my mind. Trust me, my worldview has changed a great deal since 2000.

    -Terrorists are not criminals, they are ununiformed guerillas. Those can be shot out of hand according to the Law of War. You can only treat terrorists as criminals if you’re willing to accept the constraints that puts on you or, even worse, radically change our current judicial system, treaties with other countries, etc., etc.. Moreover, how do you pursue a criminal like, say, OBL if he flees to a nominal “ally”? (Oh, wait…) If Pakistan refuses to arrest him, then what?

    -I can honestly say that I don’t support the Bush Doctrine. The general idea sounds good, but then it starts getting into the “entangling alliances” thing. To me, if you’re not ready to go to war for someone, you shouldn’t give them the impression you are. (See why I don’t think NATO should be expanded.) It’s the same reason I hate it when people start talking about Darfur or intervention in Myanmar. War is not something that should be entered into at a whim and you better

    be prepared to finish things once you do.

    -I don’t think we’re ready to do what’s necessary to bring democracy to some corners of the world, nor do I necessarily think we have the right. Others’ mileage may vary. I just think when you go to break someone’s culture, you better have a really, really good plan and reason. Oh, and it better be something your country’s going to support for several decades.

    -War also needs to be planned well. Everyone has their opinion on Iraq. As you can probably tell from above, I think it’s a case of “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” Sure, Saddam Hussein had it coming for all the above mentioned reasons. However, I don’t think we’d be having this victory / defeat discussion if there’d just been a little more reflection and forethought on whether we wanted to finish routing the Taliban before taking on another major engagement or not. But hey, I’m also a firm believer that a second front is something that is forced upon you rather than chosen. Unless you have a sovereign name involving the word “Great” and enemies who have one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel. Or more industrial capacity than all your opponents combined plus a really pissed off population.

    -Speaking of pissed off population and their motivation, I never said that I thought we _shouldn’t_ have punished other nations for 9/11. Indeed, my exact words about two hours after the event, when asked, were “We are about to unleash Hell on some f*ckers.” If you’d told me that 7 years later OBL would still be alive, Pakistan was dictating to us on when we could conduct hot pursuit, and gas was $4 an hour–well, my response wouldn’t be suitable for mixed company. Of course, I started getting disillusioned when there wasn’t a draft and generally clearance of the snake den.

  62. Joe Mama says:


    Your comments are intelligent, thoughtful and well-informed. I don’t think Sandy or David will like them.

  63. David K. says:

    Jamie, you may feel like it was worth the cost, others might, but thats an argument that can be made, not proof. You’re claim was that the only reason opponents and critics of Bush were against the war was because we believe its “un-winnable”. Thats not the only reason, although I think its pretty much true that its not winnable, but even if it was winnable, we’d first need a definition of what a win is, something Bush has NEVER clearly provided us with, it has to be WORTH it. You could point out that a phyrric victory is still a victory, but what’s the point?

    Its great to do things for ideals, but when you mis-represent those things, the ideals aren’t enough to justify it, especially when its done POORLY. Bush has executed the war in a spectacularly bad fashion, why should we stick witha broken plan because there is an outside chance, eventually things MIGHT be ok? Seriously, if Bush were an executive at any major company he’d have been fired years ago. He’s had his chance, his plan has had its chance. WWII didn’t take this long for results. The Civil War didn’t take this long for results. The Revolutionary War didn’t take this long for results. Korea was over in less time. The one war that did drag on? Vietnam, and its hauntingly similar to where we are now. That was another war fought on idealism alone with poor leadership, and idealism isn’t enough.

  64. Sandy Underpants says:

    Alice, “wisdom” like yours got us into this mess. I’m astounded at the ignorance actually, especially when you factor that the only legitimate country who pledged military aid to America in this Iraqi debacle, England, “cut and ran” almost a year ago (and Dick Cheney applauded their success in doing so) and left us to fend off the insurgents with a couple hundred Pollocks backing us up.

    Is there any critical thinking by pro-Iraq war types that asks why Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait and 80% of the countries of the world all opposed the idea of starting this war in the first place? They weren’t all out to get us, believe it or not. Do you need to read it in a book, because you are incapable of reasearch and critical thinking?

    If you have to read a book to learn anything, I suggest reading “THE PRICE OF LOYALTY” by Ron Suskind. In it the former Secretary of the Treasury, Paul O’Neil states that Bush/Cheney began planning the Iraq war from the very first National Security Council meeting in January 2001, 9 months before 9/11. The second NSC meeting was also about regime change in Iraq, how to build a democracy from a post-war Iraq, and how to get the American people to support such a war, this was 8 months before 9/11. The book was published in 2004.

    I sincerely doubt most folks here do read, so here’s a quick synopsis of the book, a reference if you wheeeeeeeeeeeeeel:

  65. David K. says:


    Your comments are intelligent, thoughtful and well-informed. I don’t think Sandy or David will like them.

    Wow, just after I compliment you for being different than Alasdair you go and act exactly like him. Bringing nothing to the discussion at hand, a discussion between Jaime and myself which involves points and arguments and respect, and have to try and drag it down to your petty little feud with people who won’t worship you for your “wisdom”. Guess I might have been wrong, maybe you aren’t any better than Al.

  66. Joe Mama says:

    Saying I’m different than someone you obsess over is hardly a compliment. And no offense, but you’re not really adding much to the discussion at hand either when you regurgitate the same exact talking points over and over and over again . . . are you just cutting and pasting at this point?

  67. David K. says:

    Gee, I have an opinion and I express it in discussions with people, and because I don’t always change my opinion thats a bad thing? So what, every time this topic comes up i should pick a new postion to take on it? Well yeah that sure makes sense. Glad for the constructive input there Joe Mama.

    You can dismiss them as talking points all you want, but they are the points that matter to people who haven’t blindly bought in to what George W. Bush is selling. Even if you support the man and his plan, questions like “can we win, is it worth the cost, what is the definition of victory” etc should be rather important to you. It’s pretty sad that you consider such fundementally important issues mere “talking points”. Just goes to show how out of touch you are with the rest of the country.

  68. Joe Mama says:

    There’s nothing wrong with expressing opinion, David, even yours. But it helps when it’s informed opinion. There’s also nothing wrong with “not always changing” that opinion (although I’ve never, not once seen you change your opinion about anything of substance on this blog, but I’m of course open to you proving me wrong), but again, when that opinion — “failed”, “not worth it”, “worst ever”, etc — doesn’t appear to be made with any consideration whatsoever of anything that’s happened in Iraq in the last year, then yes, it’s tantamount to spewing talking points. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that if I went back to see what you were saying about Iraq 2-3 years ago on this blog, it wouldn’t sound much different from what what you’re saying now. Needless to say, the facts on the ground in Iraq now are much different than 2-3 years ago.

    For example, did you stop once to think, hey, maybe since the Iraqi army has finally taken Basra, driven out the Mahdi Army and seized the ports from Iranian-backed militias, that maybe things are getting better?

    Or maybe Iraqis are finally beginning to “stand up on their own two feet” given that the Iraqi army has taken and held Sadr City, the Mahdi Army stronghold?

    Is your opinion changed at all by the fact that many of the major benchmarks for political reconciliation (you know, that favorite talking point after violence was so drastically reduced after the surge) have finally been met, such as the de-Baathification law, amnesty laws, a provincial elections and powers law, and a law allowing for oil revenue to be distributed to the Iraqi provinces? Or the Sunnis in the Iraqi parliament finally negotiating to join the Shiite-led gov’t? Does any of that matter? Hell, did you even know any of that was happening?

    As long as you keep mindlessly blathering that people who think the war is winnable and worth it based on facts such as the aforementioned have “blindly bought in to what George W. Bush is selling”, then you better believe your hackneyed talking points are going to be called what they are.

  69. David K. says:

    Yes Joe Mama, I have looked at what is happening in Iraq. There has been isolated progress in some areas, but by and large its still a mess, and we are still pumping ungodly ammounts of resources into the Iraq War with no end in sight. So progress, yeah its good, but its not nearly enough. It’s like your baseball team stops losing by 10 runs per game and is now down to 8 runs per game. Congratulations on your improvment, but you still suck. As has been brought up in this thread, its not JUST about victory, its about the cost of victory, in money, lives and time. What progress we are making does not seem indivative of any dramatic changes in the situation in Iraq and the policies in place haven’t given me any reason to believe that will change anytime soon. But even if they did change, wouldl the change enough to make it worth a continued investment on our part? No, I don’t think so. Especially since I believe the evidence presented that shows that our presence may in fact be part of the problem in the first place.

  70. Joe Mama says:

    I suppose that is what you would see, David.

    It’s like your baseball team stops losing by 10 runs per game and is now down to 8 runs per game. Congratulations on your improvment, but you still suck.

    What a stupid analogy. That makes no sense. The game isn’t over. The proper analogy, which I believe Andrew correctly pointed on a previous thread, would be your team coming from behind with time left to play, but you wanting to forfeit because you think the game is “unwinnable.”

  71. Joe Mama says:

    There has been isolated progress in some areas, but by and large its still a mess.

    Really? I couldn’t agree less. On the contrary, there has been isolated acts of violence in some areas, but by and large the trend in violence and political reconciliation in Iraq is trending positive.

  72. WobblyH says:

    Fair point, Joe. Davie tits, you should stay away from the analogies. They don’t prove anything and don’t ever really help your arguments.


  73. Joe Mama says:

    This Is Why Facts Matter

    Senior Brookings fellows Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack gave a report today and entertained questions at a Brookings briefing on Iraq. It was the single most illuminating presentation I have witnessed on the status of Iraq and the potential way forward. Neither man can be accused of shilling for either the administration or John McCain for numerous reasons: both have been strong critics of the war and O’Hanlon opposed the war and still believes on balance it has not made us safer. I understand from Brookings that the entire transcript will be posted, but I offer some highlights below.

    (from Instapundit)

  74. David K. says:

    So a conservative columnist reference vague postive comments by people who describe them selves as critics of the war, yet whose records show them as proponents of the war and I’m supposed to take that as FACTS that matter? Sorry, not buying it.

    As for the analogy, like msot analogies when you start digging to deep of course they don’t make sense. You ignored the entire point of the analogy, it wasn’t about winning or losing, it was about pointless improvement. You want a better sports analogy? Fine, you are losing by a score of 72 to 3 in the first quarter and by half time you are only down 93 to 24. You’ve closed the gap but you are still pretty much screwed.

    The problem with equating the sports analogy to the entire war situation ignores the fact that in war its a perfectly acceptable and sometimes strategically superior choice to cut your losses. So maybe this analogy would be better. Prior to Steve Jobs return to Apple, there was an effort to make a new better version of the MacOS called Copland. They spent YEARS and boatloads of money on the project and it never got anywhere. Finally someone smart said, you know what, screw it, we could keep wasting our time and money on this albatross of a project or we can just junk it and try a completely different approach. They tried that completely different approach and it saved the company. This is not a unique story. In life, in buisness, people are faced with situations where the costs just aren’t worth what you put into it, and eventually you are better off if you admit its not worth it, cut your losses and move on.

    Oh, and if the situation in Iraq is as rosy as the linked article says it is, than, um, why do they need us there anymore? Unless you can make a strong case that its in our best interests to stay there (and vague “the terrorists are out to get us” threats aren’t gonna cut it) and can give a definitive set of goals and steps to achieve them then its in our best interests to cut our losses and move on so we can start diverting those valuable resources elsewhere, like our own economy.

  75. Alasdair says:

    Joe Mama – to be fair to David, he *is* consistent in that the facts just don’t matter to him …

    Rational people are pleased that the situation in Iraq has moved up beyond the allegorical glass being ‘half-full’ and it is probably past ‘three-quarters full’ at this point … David characteristically and consistenly continues to whine along the lines of “But Bush *promised* the glass would be full by , and it’s NO-O-O-O-OOOOOT !”

    If they ever come out with an emoticon for “stamp one’s foot and grimace”, David will use it in over 90% of his political posts about anything Republican …

    Darnit – it’s starting to sound as though I’ll miss David (in his own unique way) when Brendan closes the blog …

  76. David K. says:

    Alasdair, provide some facts and I’ll listen to them, so far you have been unable to do so.

  77. Anonymous says:

    But you do not listen to facts. That is the problem.

  78. Alasdair says:

    David – try reading the cited article … her summary at the end is remarkably on-point …

    “I think this presentation highlighted several things. First, facts do matter and they are readily available to anyone who cares to find them. Second, the wisdom of the war and the mismanagement of the war for a number of years needs, for the sake of the country’s national security, to be separated from what we do now. As O’Hanlon said “we are where we are.” Third, Democrats can save face and claim credit for pressuring the Iraqi government if they are inclined to depart from their defeat at all costs approach. Fourth, no one should be Pollyannaish about the success to date but a better outcome than almost anyone would be imagined is now possible. Fifth, the military success of the surge followed by the remarkable progress of the Iraqi military has now empowered Maliki as a truly national political leader. That is what we had hoped when the surge began and that is the basis by which we can achieve a decent outcome and eventually draw down our troops. Finally, I am considerably less optimistic than O’Hanlon that there is now a political window during which the Democrats can be weaned from their defeatist perspective. I fear it would be too great a shift for Obama and the Democrats who have banked on failure. I hope I am wrong and pray that this is the beginning of a reconciliation with reality.”

    {my emphasis}

  79. David K. says:

    Alasdair, I’m not about to go digging up your facts for you, if you have a point to make then its up to YOU to present the facts that support it. As I suspected you would be incapable of doing so. I read the article and it contained nothing but vague allusions. No citations, no information, just vague assertions. And its by people who claim they have been critical of the war, but have been in fact supportive of it. When the authors of the article are already misrepresenting themselves I’m even LESS likely to believe them.

    Bring up some facts, supported substantiated facts and I’ll be glad to consider your arguments. Of course I’ll just be impressed you’ve been able to move past your above pointless attempts at wit and wisdom so that alone will be a miracle of epic proportions.