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Huh?

| 73 Comments | 3 TrackBacks
From CNN:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq will have a new transitional government with full sovereign powers by the end of June 2004, the Iraqi Governing Council said Saturday, and will have a constitution and a permanent, democratically elected government by the end of 2005.
My first reaction: sha-WHAT? On reconsideration: shaaaa-WHAT? OK, time to calm myself down. There really isn't enough information there for me to start testing Dean banners on the site yet. But the first sniff certaily does sound like a big departure from "we're done when we're done," which I've argued is the right approach. If so, it's a diplomatic disaster unparallelled during my lifetime. If we didn't have the bottom to do this, we should have stayed home. We'll know more next week. But it sure could make my decision about who I'll vote for in '04 much, much simpler.

3 TrackBacks

Tracked: November 16, 2003 8:02 PM
Excerpt: President Bush has consistently maintained that the United States and allies will "stay the course in Iraq." That course has now been given a finish line: American administrators will hand over sovereignty to a new transitional government by June, the...
Tracked: November 17, 2003 6:03 AM
Can We Bring NATO In? from Calpundit
Excerpt: CAN WE BRING NATO IN?....I took a quick stroll around the pro-war blogosphere just now because I was curious to see the reaction to the news that we're accelerating the transfer of power to the Iraqis. There's surprisingly little comment...
Tracked: November 17, 2003 6:06 PM
Dancing in the streets... from Ain't Done It!
Excerpt: DAILY KOS: "Instead, we have essentially adopted the hated plan from the hated French to hand over power to the Iraqis sooner rather than later. What a hoot! The warblogger and PNAC crowd must be dancing in the streets!" In...

73 Comments

I'm less panicked about this. (I certainly don't see how it impacts my vote in next year's presidential election at this stage). Are the timetables unrealistic? If your point is that we can't know at this point, is this point perhaps outweighed by the strategic advantage of defining a calendar and process for transfer of power? Isn't a good half of the equation the also the question of retaining a military presence, which does not seem to be directly concerned by these plans?

They can have a constitution and a functioning government without the US leaving. West Germany had these things, but we still maintained a presence there which exercised a de facto veto on their foreign policy.

I guess I'm saying that by 2005 they'll probably be running some aspects of their country again, but not all of them. Police work and anti-guerilla work, for instance, would be much better done by Iraqis, who after all speak the language. That's how we handled the Communist guerillas in South Korea -- let the ROKs deal with their internal problems while we dealt with the enemy armies. In Vietnam, we tried to do the anti-guerilla mission ourselves, and failed.

I freaked out when I first read this as well, but then I read further:

"The council did not, however, discuss the Bush administration's insistence that any transfer of power include arrangements for a continued U.S. and international military presence."

This is essentially the same we've done in Afghanistan, no?

It's their country, there's only so much we can do without finally letting go of the wheel...

Since the 2004 election was mentioned: unless Iraq were to turn into a complete sh*thole upon us leaving, this would be a huge plus for Bush. The war would be pretty much off the table as an issue.

It's the correct model. The revival of the Iraqi state is the single most effective method for wiping out the Jihadis in Iraq, especially when that state contains large Kurdish and Shi'ite components. The US Army will ensure they are democratic at the point of a gun, if need be, but the main reason for turning it over is operational tempo. The true center of enemy gravity are Saudi Arabia and Iran.

You really cannot stabilize Iraq until the House of Saud and the Mullohcracy are collapsed. It is vital to meld Iraqi assets with US forces to move against these two states as soon as possible. We are in a race with Al Qaeda over the future of Saudi Arabia and in a similar contest with Iran over their nuclear weapon. Iraq is won. It's only danger to America is as a talking point for the left on the domestic front. Therefore the situation fairly screams that we move on and maintain the tempo. We can't succumb to the 'spoiling attack' that is basically aimed at throwing our timing off.

Wretchard

Considering activities in the world these days the war seems back to full on mode.

A lot could happen between now and then. A whole lot.

Any pronouncement about events eight months hence in this environment is total wishful thinking. My bet is that it is an effort to silence the critics more so than to impliment full Iraqi soverignty.

AL:

I dearly hope I'm wrong, but my impression is that we just cut and run on Iraq. Once we're no longer an occupying power, our troops cannot patrol the streets and root out our enemies, because to do so would be an affront to the sovereignty of a "friendly" government. So we'll be dumping full responsibility for maintaining a democratic Iraq on an untested political structure, and a police force that's been constituted with unseemly haste. Rather than having time to grow into their jobs, we're just throwing them off the deep end and hoping for the best.

What that means is that we've just sacrificed our moral advantage over our enemy: rather than being faced with a determined America, they now know that we will be gone in 6 months. People will be less likely to side with us, because they will know that soon, we will not be there, but the terrorists will. The Iraqi public would be perfectly rational to start accomodating the new reality. Our accomplishments, however they are, will have to be protected by whatever force the Iraqis can assemble for the purpose in the too few months ahead. I imagine this will give hope to our enemies, and pause to our friends.

I dearly hope I'm wrong. But it seems, that for whatever reason, our government has just lost its nerve.

I keep telling my friends we are going to attack syria next year and the Iraqi army is going to help.
I think this kind of verify some of my thinking...

Derek

I couldn't believe it at first, then I thought about it. I fully backed the war in Iraq, and even if I hadn't, we have a moral obligation to stay until they can defend themselves from internal as well as external threats. June 2004 is irresponsible planning at best. I suspect it in reality, political cut and run. I have to remember that this is the same administration that is trying to kill overtime pay in a backroom maneuver, has refused to write responsible Trade Agreements protecting the American middleclass, supported the FCCs attempt to kill competition in the media, etc. etc. They don't care about those who aren't in the top levels of the economy. So, on second thought, I'm not surprised, it is typical of them.

Hasn't he earned some trust by now? My God.

Here's a thought: The announcement is bait. Remember Sun Tzu. It may be the announcement is designed to feign weakness on our part. The ~5,000 enemy forces in theatre, believing that they've outlasted us, go for the "big push", and commit all their forces. Of course, this then reveals to us their entire order of battle, allowing us to unleash the hammer blow.

Most of the US forces in Iraq will have to be elsewhere by 2005. 2005 is the first year that oil production from Iraq and Russia will be able to really squeeze or replace the Saudis.

There's Syria, Iran, Libya, Venezuela to be worried about and that's for starters.

I think we'll probably keep a division or so in Iraq long term, just to keep the country together, and cuz it's a useful base.

Several of the posters above have conflated 'self-determination' with 'full withdrawal of American troops'...

Whereas I do NOT see that they are one and the same. (Germany, Republic of Korea, RoPhilippines)
A sovereign nation can, should circumstances require AT THAT TIME, invite the troops of America and other allies to stay and assist with the cleanup.

Sounds like a good thing, for any of several already-posted reasons.

Plus side:

+ The present Council wasn't governing, and some of its members weren't even in Iraq. Nothing like this kind of deadline to impress upon politicians the need to be useful or begone.

+ Impresses upon Iraqis need to take more responsibility.

Minus Side:

- Bosnia taught us that rushing these things before the country is ready can be bad.

- Could be seen as a pullout signal, disheartening allies, drying up intel, and improving Al-Awda's recruiting.

Interesting/Incidental:

  • Existence of Iraqi government does not necessarily mean U.S. troops out, probably won't
  • If it is seen as a pullout signal, may allow USA to spring traps as al-Awda pushes hard
  • Wonder how much of the Afghani experience (loya jirga selection process, interim administration, etc.) they'll try to bring in, and how well it will fit if so.

Well,Rumsfeld has just said that the transfer of power to the Iraqi is not connected to the military operations.In other words,the troops will stay.

Quote -"The time table or the way ahead that the (Iraqi) Governing Council has been describing relates to the governance aspects of the country and not to the security aspects,’’ he said. ``That’s on a separate track.’’

Accelerating the political process will not affect military planning, he said. ``This has nothing to do with U.S. troops and coalition troops in Iraq,’’ he said. -End Quote

The link

AL, chill, you sound like Misha....

Lots of things get reported. Misha gets bent out of shape every time he hears the term "road map", but in case you guys haven't noticed, the Israelis haven't HAD to do anything, because the Palis won't meet the first condition on their side: crackdown on the terrorist groups. And no matter what they come up with for cease fires etc., the consistent response from Bush is "That's nice. No crackdown? Call us when you've done that."

This will be the same thing.

The long knives are already out. Headline on Netscape:

U.S. Iraq Death Toll Passes 400; Bush Wants Out

And the Sunday news programs are in full glee mode. As far as they are concerned Bush is retreating.

I'm with A.L. on this. If we don't have the bottom for this we should have never started.

Given that - it is still a long way to June.

All in all I'd say this has been a very bad week. Bush need to respond for a change. He needs to talk about losses and progress.

OTOH Lincoln had the same problem in the last year of the war. The papers were calling for an end to the war because of the losses.

What is needed is another battle front soon. It takes our enemies six months to regroup and we can only mount operations every six months or a year. That puts them in control.

We have got to stop doing the UN dance. Because actions speak louder than words.

Joe hit it on the head and here is the #1 problem and what our enemies are counting on:

"- Could be seen as a pullout signal, disheartening allies, drying up intel, and improving Al-Awda's recruiting."

Faster please.

I read this rather differently.

Bush took a bold stand (at some sort-term cost) in circumventing the obviously-senescent old-style formal structures of multilateralism in order to accomplish his key goal -- build a police station right in the middle of the biggest Bad Neighbourhood on the planet.

The US State Department was given six months to demonstrate their effectiveness in running the place, and have just been told "don't call us, we'll call you."

It was State that wanted a long and detailed constitutional process. It was State that side-lined Chalabi and the rest of the competent and considerable Iraqi exile community, replacing them with a "democratic process." It was State that pushed to get the UN (including France) re-involved. It was State that took a prosecutorial (rather than military) approach to dealing with the troublemakers.

The State Department is full of Clinton appointees, Harvard-trained arabists, and committed transnationalists and multinationalists. Their approach has obviously failed just as badly as it did during the '90s, which is part of the reason we're in this mess in the first place.

The US are learning how to invade, occupy, and pacify an Arab country. Learning on the fly is one thing the US generally does quite well. Beyond a certain point of /course/ there was no plan. That's a sign of strength, not weakness.

The US are clearly on the strategic offence here, coupled with fluid tactical defence. That is precisely the opposite of what occured in Vietnam, I might add, and it is definitely the general configuration you want in a long war.

The Department of Defense seem now to be in charge of the Iraqi follow on. DoD would certainly prefer an accelerated transfer of civilian administration, albeit imperfect.

After June '04, I expect that US focus in Iraq will be assisting an Iraqi deal (and not the other way about). Most of our forces will be based in Iraq but focused elsewhere, especially should Mr. Bush garner re-election.

Mr. Assad, are you paying attention?

Think Sicily in 1943, not Berlin in 1946.

There is a reason college students pull all-nighters to finish term papers: there is a deadline.

A goal is worthless unless it is time bound. We will always find reasons to put in a little more time to make something perfect; and end up never actually accomplishing anything so long as there isn't an end point.

The Administration has always said that an elected government with a constitution was the goal. They have simply added a timetable - which may be changed.

Why would the terrorists push now, if all they have to do is wait 6 months for us to leave?

For that matter, if people on the ground think we're not going to be around in enough force to protect them, why would anyone help us?

One thing that's been bothering me for a year now is that W. gives no impression that he understands the reason for this war. He started off with "Saddam's evil and tried to kill my dad." Then we moved to the "he's got WMD and is an imminent threat" story. Now we're starting in on the "we're going to make them free in 6 months" story. Well, great.

We're in there to cause a cascade reaction of liberal democracy across the region. Anything less in Iraq means we've lost this battle, and the war goes on. We can't afford that, because I do think W. (or Condi? One of 'em said it) was right when (s)he pointed out that the smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud. We've got to win this one, and I'm not voting for any candidate who isn't willing to stick it out.

Steve, are you even listening? We are NOT LEAVING. 'Iraqis get local autonomy' is NOT the same thing as 'Coalition troops all pack up and go.'

You'd think that over the past three years, the Bush administration would have proven that guessing their future intentions is the easiest damn thing in the world -- listen to what they say they're gonna do, and then watch them do it.

Now please, go click on the URL above to Rumsfeld's statement re: Coalition troops, and hopefully find something reassuring.

Far be it from me to discourage Armed Liberal from voting with me against Bush, but I think his take on the announcement is not quite right. The "problem" with the announcement is not its literal meaning. The literal meaning is still linguistically consistent with massive continued American military presence. Why, if the Iraqi Government asked us to send in an additional division, we could easily accept.

So why is it that so many people see this as some sort of retreat? Well, first because it's another significant and unanticipated change of plan, and there's no particular reason to believe that the new plan is better thought out, better grounded in facts on the ground, or more likely to be effective in creating a peaceful, democratic Iraq than the plan it supersedes. And we are, like it or not, tacitly admitting that the current plan—by no means the first—isn't performing well. To add insult to injury, the new plan, IIRC, sounds a lot like the timetable suggested by those perfidious Freedoms in Paris.

Second, I hope A.L. takes this opportunity to revisit Wesley Clark's Iraq plan [LINK], which according to Calpundit is a lot like Bush's, except it's more pro-democracy [LINK]. What I would say is that Bush's plan resembles Clark's, except that it's even less detailed and even less persuasive that Step A will actually lead to Result B. Considering A.L.'s criticisms of Clark's plan ("a first draft"), his stomach must be twisted in knots if the new Bush plan really is an inferior copy.

Third, I can't help rolling on the floor laughing at Bart, when he wrote
It was State that side-lined Chalabi and the rest of the competent and considerable Iraqi exile community, replacing them with a "democratic process."
I don't know where to begin, except to say that I found the very visible presence of Chalabi at the announcement (he was next to or at the podium in every picture I saw) is one of the most disturbing, ominous aspects of the new plan. Competent and considerable, my foot. We couldn't install Chalabi because after we airlifted him into Iraq, we discovered his alleged internal resistance movement simply didn't exist. We couldn't install him as a leader because he had no more local power base than the Iraqi who runs the 7-11 down the street. Comparing him to Bremer, the differences are that as a plus, Chalabi speaks Arabic as his native language, and as a minus, Bremer isn't a convicted swindler. That isn't to say Chalabi isn't competent: he did an amazing job bamboozling a subset of the Defense Department by telling them exactly what they wanted to hear: that he could set up a pro-America and pro-Israel [!] Iraq. (How it could be democratic when Chalabi was too unknown to win any free election, I'll leave as an exercise to the reader.) But, as Bart appears not to have noticed, the main stream of the Defense Department has also repudiated Chalabi, finding his defectors' intelligence worthless [LINK]. Given that much of this intelligence involved specific information about WMD that we see from the ground can not have been true, the conclusion is hardly surprising.

So, in summary, A.L. has plenty to worry about in Iraq, but it's about the overall conduct of George and Dick's Excellent Adventure, not just this new episode, disappointing as it might be.

> So why is it that so many people see this as
> some sort of retreat? Well, first because it's
> another significant and unanticipated change of
> plan,

Actually, IIRC it's the plan that the Defense Department wanted all along.

> and there's no particular reason to believe
> that the new plan is better thought out, better
> grounded in facts on the ground, or more likely
> to be effective in creating a peaceful,
> democratic Iraq than the plan it supersedes.

No, there's an extremely good reason.

The old plan was largely the brainchild of the the State Department and Secretary Powell.

The new plan is the brainchild of the Department of Defense and Secretary Rumsfeld.

So far, Powell and State have managed to blow every single judgement call they've been asked to make in this entire war, and DOD and Rumsfeld have been batting at least .900.

So IMO, there's a great big reason to feel better about this plan than the other plan. Said reason being the respective track records of their authors.

I echo what Bart said up thread about State being over ruled and the Defense Department's ideas on Iraq being implemented.

I will also add the following. The "Shwerpunkt" or center of gravity of a democratic Iraq is not the Sunni Triangle. The real story of our reformation of Iraq is the relationship between the US and both the Kurds and Shia Arab tribal leaders who represent the majority of Iraqis. That is where the war in Iraq has to be won.

The death throws of the Ba'athists is a bloody media side show. It gets reported because editors of Western media outlets back home are playing by their "If it bleeds, it leads" handbook.

The time table for withdrawal means we have already won the war.

The fighting in the Sunni triangle is the merely the determination of whether America will be brutal and harsh enough to get the Sunni tribes to reconcile with their permanently diminished status in Iraq. Or whether their Kurdish and Shia neighbors in the reformed national Iraqi security forces massacre them when America leaves Iraq.

Check out this post from Strategypage.com. The American military is introducing the Iraqi Sunnis to "What's Behind Door #2":

http://www.strategypage.com/fyeo/qndguide/default.asp?target=iraq.htm&base=iraq&Prev=0&BeginCnt=31

November 11, 2003: A bomb went off in Basra, wounding eight (including some children.) Locals blamed Baath Party loyalists, and this further inflamed tensions between the Shia and the Sunni minority in the south. The Iraqi population knows that most of the violence is carried out by Saddam loyalists (or those who have been paid by Baath Party fat cats), as well as foreigners (Islamic radicals and Arab nationalists). At this point, the Baath Party and foreign Islamic radicals are not very popular among Iraqis.

Since the "war" ended on April 30th, and the "pacification" began on May 1st, 148 U.S. troops have been killed in combat. Because of the high casualties from a shot down CH-47D Chinook helicopter on November 2nd, there were 30 American military deaths in one week. This sent the American senior commanders in Iraq a message, and that was about the inability of the Sunni Arab tribal leaders to control the Baath Party strongmen and al Qaeda radicals hiding among the Sunni population. So now the policy has changed from "carrot" (reconstruction aid and negotiation) to "stick." Aid (except for the bare minimum food and medical assistance) will be withheld from areas where are attacks are made and the locals refuse to provide any information. There will be far more raids and "combat patrols" (that are looking for a fight). Movements of Sunni Arabs outside their towns and neighborhoods will be restricted. But perhaps most scary for Sunni Arabs is the threat of bringing in Kurdish or Shia police and paramilitary units to help with security. The Shia and Kurds hate the Sunni, especially those who actively supported Saddam. These new tactics are already working, as some Sunni tribal chiefs who had been uncooperative have changed their attitude. Chiefs who are defiant, or are caught aiding the attackers, will be jailed, so it can be expected that chiefs will at least appear more cooperative. But the chiefs have another incentive, and that is the presence of many anti-Saddam Sunni Arabs. These have been providing some information to the coalition, which is how the coalition knew anything at all about the Baath Party and al Qaeda networks operating in Sunni areas. But the more aggressive patrolling and stricter movement security makes it easier to follow up on any tips from informants, and harder for Sunni fighters to move around and mount attacks. These new policies will make Sunnis angrier, but the decision has been made that increased anger is not as much a problem as wiping out the Baath and al Qaeda networks in Sunni areas is.

DOD and Rumsfeld have been batting at least .900
Big hits like (emphases added)
SEC. RUMSFELD: Not at all. If you think -- let me take that, both pieces -- the area in the south and the west and the north that coalition forces control is substantial. It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.
Next
Wolfowitz explained that "I am reasonably certain that (the Iraqi people) will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down." Six weeks ago [–April 2003 A.J.L.], Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was still suggesting the U.S. force in Iraq could be reduced to 30,000 by the end of the year.
Now, really Rumsfeld won his battle with State, but defeat is an orphan:
The day before he was supposed to leave for the region, Garner got a call from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who ordered him to cut 16 of the 20 State officials from his roster. It seems that the State Department people were deemed to be Arabist apologists, or squishy about the United Nations, or in some way politically incorrect to the right-wing ideologues at the White House or the neocons in the office of the Secretary of Defense. The vetting process "got so bad that even doctors sent to restore medical services had to be anti-abortion," recalled one of Garner's team. Finally, Secretary of State Colin Powell tried to stand up for his troops and stop Rumsfeld's meddling. "I can take hostages, too," Powell warned the secretary of Defense. ?How hard do you want to play this thing??

Pretty hard. Powell lost, as he often does in the councils of the Bush war cabinet, and Rumsfeld had his way.

Have you already forgotten that it was the Pentagon who got first dibs at Viceroy of Iraq? It's just Jay Garner was a total flop at it, the country was in chaos, and Garner was replaced by Bremer.
The Pentagon has "the boots on the ground," said William Hartung, a foreign policy expert at the left-leaning World Policy Institute. "They won the war, they run the reconstruction, they have a lot of assets that [Secretary of State Colin] Powell and the folks at State don?t so they are in the driver's seat for the moment."

A Pentagon official, who requested anonymity, put it more bluntly: "Boots trump suits."

Garner, who will play the role in Iraq that General Douglas MacArthur played in Japan, is a man whose resume is replete with accomplishments in both the public and private sector.

There's really only one component of the DoD/neocon plan that was not implemented, and that was the rapid installation of Ahmed Charlatan Chalabi as Iraqi leader. This was not so much because of the State Department (although of course they were livid about support of a fraud they and the CIA had tried to cut off for financial improprieties) as a much-belated recognition that Chalabi and his completely-mythical internal resistance movement could no more be installed in Baghdad than a random selection from the phone book. Batting .900? TOTAL B.S.

I have to agree with the proposal that State has just ended its six (five?) month run in charge of the Iraq portfolio, and that it has returned to Defense.

We saw this patter WRT the US vs. the UN last year -- State got its way for several months, and when it couldn't deliver in March, Defense took over.

After the war, when Defense demonstrated that it had no effective plan for the postwar realities (vs. projected postwar conditions) in Iraq, Iraq returned to State.

In bureaucratic politics, it would seem Defense has (by design or circumstance) outmaneuvered State, and stuck State with the "failures". Is this a good thing or a bad thing? shrug

MG

Wow, Andrew, I could make somebody's batting average look really bad too... if I kinda forgot to, ya know, mention that they'd won two wars.

Major Sean Bannion in Baghdad shares some sobering concerns about the transition to the GC and democracy in Iraq.

http://www.coldfury.com/Sasha/archives/004425.html#004425

Damn, Andrew you seem to be buying Al Jazeera's coverage of Chalabi hook, line and sinker.

AL did you read the full text of the agreement yet? If not its here. Essentially the fundamental law is everthing I could hope for it to be EXCEPT for the expiration date part. I hope that the fundamental law is placed into the formal constitution of Iraq.

Great post, A.L., apoplexy notwithstanding. ;-) And fantastic comments here.

Remember that the Japanese popularly elected their Diet and the Diet its prime ministers through nearly the entire occupation. Though the explicit indication of sovereignty for Iraq had me raise an eyebrow, the existence of a working, indigenous government is not a de facto obstacle to establishing stability and democracy. Aside from the Tehran-imported Shiite nuts whom most Iraqis seem to dislike anyway, the Allies have drawn a pretty thick line between those who wish to debate rationally and those who wish to car-bomb their way to power. With the acknowledgment of federalism in the Governing Council speech and work already completed in Baghdad - like, say, the mind-bogglingly free-market initiatives put forth by the Ministry of Finance - sovereign Iraqis are unlikely to diverge.

Nor do I foresee any native refusal of military and domestic "aid" from the Allies. The key to this occupation is that the Iraqi people at large owe us no debt, whereas the Japanese and Germans did. So our time window for absolute control and policy dictation is much, much narrower. As for military possibilities in the future, think San Francisco System - only far more ambitious.

So right now, I'd worry less about politics than security. That's America's responsibility.

Here's my take on this.

Bush seems to follow a pattern. The PA claimed they would crack down on terrorism against Israel. Bush gave the PA a chance, and they didn't come through. Same with State in Iraq. Same with Afghanistan and the Taliban (in my view, if they had given up OBL, we wouldn't have invaded).

Bush is simply taking a different approach. It doesn't have anything to do with Vietnam, Diem, or anyone else.

Since democracies have an agency problem (elected official's goals may not be the goals of the voters, or in the voter's best interests), we must remain vigilant.

This will not impact my vote in the next presidential election.

I don't think there's any question that the Defense Dept won the conventional military war against the Iraqi Army. The guerrilla war, which Saddam might have counted on all along, is proving somewhat harder, unless you think it's the State Department that is shooting down the copters.

Why success at conventional war gives Rumsfeld a .900 batting average, or implies they will show more skill in managing the occupation, is beyond me. The Defense Dept, with Jay Garner, has already had a turn in managing Iraq, with disastrous results. Many of today's problems arise from lost opportunities at the very beginning of the invasion. We are bringing the starting pitcher back out from the showers.

As far as Chalabi, I don't watch Al Jazeera, but my view seems to be that of the CIA and the State Department. The NY Times magazine piece by David Rieff, showing how over-reliance on Chalabi was responsible for many serious errors in the immediate aftermath of the war, is no longer free at the NYT site but I found it HERE. The author was not a major opponent of the war before it took place.

I don't think there's any question that the Defense Dept won the conventional military war against the Iraqi Army. The guerrilla war, which Saddam might have counted on all along, is proving somewhat harder, unless you think it's the State Department that is shooting down the copters.

Why success at conventional war gives Rumsfeld a .900 batting average, or implies they will show more skill in managing the occupation, is beyond me. The Defense Dept, with Jay Garner, has already had a turn in managing Iraq, with disastrous results. Many of today's problems arise from lost opportunities at the very beginning of the invasion. We are bringing the starting pitcher back out from the showers.

As far as Chalabi, I don't watch Al Jazeera, but my view seems to be that of the CIA and the State Department. The NY Times magazine piece by David Rieff, showing how over-reliance on Chalabi was responsible for many serious errors in the immediate aftermath of the war, is no longer free at the NYT site but I found it HERE. The author was not a major opponent of the war before it took place.

First off, I don't think there was much of a real conventional war to start. From what I've heard, this recent "return to a state war" is more of a PR blitz than any real change of tactic.

Second, if this is some sort of "diversionary tactic" or any kind of feint by the White House, it is immensely stupid. The Guerilla attacks are never going to end until Iraqis start turning eachother in, and that will never happen if they don't think we're staying put.

Expect to see insurgent attacks go up, the more the administration flirts with an earlier exit.

So Steve, if the terrorists shut down for the next six months and wait for us to "leave", do you think that when they start killing, cutting power lines and disrupting oil flow again that they'll be more popular?

And if so, wouldn't that be the perfect cover for us to re-assert ourselves having "tried" to do what many on the left thought made sense and with even greater support from Iraqis who'd spent 6 months enjoying attack-free living?

Let's see, I counted 30 pro-war people and two anti-war people, though I may have double-counted a bit and missed one or two. The anti-war people are evenly split between the notion that this is a retreat, vs. some sort of pro-war less-than-obvious tactic. Of the 30 pro-war people 23 discount the notion that this is a Bush retreat of some sort, 4 are worried that it might be a retreat, and 3 have opinions that can't be characterized as falling into either camp (or they just went over my head). I especially like Trent's interpretation that this is all a sign that we've already won, but I'm worried that's just my wishful thinking kicking in.

I'm still worried. Bush changes direction... a lot. He did it as a Presidential candidate, and he's done it as President. Sometimes it's appropriate, but it's his pattern... and one that could be exploited by opponents. Also, he fails to ask average Americans to sacrifice so much as a barrel of oil, asks for $87B in aid, makes a big "Democratic Revolution" speech, and then says Iraq will be sovereign by June after we lose 30 soldiers to the insurgency in one week. He's placating somebody. Your guess is as good as mine.

I'd be prepared to interpret all this in a hopeful light if he had taken any steps at all to institutionalize the sort of Nation-building Corps that'll be required to achieve this long term "Democracy Revolution," or done anything else that gave form and substance to what he promotes as his "design." But I'm really afraid that we're all looking at a sort of policy ink blot here, and seeing what we want to see. Well, 23 of us anyway.

If something is real, it'll foster institutional change. I picked that up from Hugh Hecklo. I'm hopeful, but I don't see it yet.

Anderson, consider the source:

"The United States accepts that to avoid humiliating failure in Iraq it needs to bring its forces quickly under international control and speed the handover of power, Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief, has said."

Yes, but from the article, it sounds as if they have already spoken to US representatives and this has been decided. I suppose we'll find out in a few days.

#41 from Anonymous Coward #8 | November 17, 2003 5:08 AM | Reply

Make that *this* and this*

Given this administration's history it surprises me that anybody ever believed they would see this though, once the reality of the situation set in.

This all reminds me of an old proverb. "Maybe yes, maybe no." Will have to blog about that one and explain....

Is the US going to "cut and run"?It really goes down to believing either of the two groups:On the other hand,there's Bush and Rumsfeld who say one thing.On the other,there's the people on this thread who obviously seem to know better.

First off, Bush will not "cut and run".

If he did, two things would occur. First, the Jihadist International would count coup in triumph and would put paid to any thought of expanding democracy in the region.
The terrorists themselves would then be able to refocus operational assets to the North American homeland. Bush knows this.

Second, Bush knows that if he turns tail, his base voters will stay home and he will be out of a job. We like Bush precisely because he is Not Dad and Not Clinton. Bush cannot win without his base, and his base will desert him at the first sign of Neville Chamberlain's bowler. He knows this better than anyone on this board.

What this is is a change in tack, not in general direction. The glacial movement towards democracy advocated by State wasn't working; we've decided to speed things up.

As usual, when everyone thinks that Rumsfeld has lost, he ends up on top.

I don't know what to make of it; I'm not going to guess.

Bush is a superb political tactician. He outmanuvers his opponents (who describe him as a moron) time after time after time. Whether this domestic skill translates to Iraqi politics, I can't possibly say.

I can never figure out what the administration is up to, but I've learned better than to judge everything based on the first news reports. Bush has freaked me out a bunch of times, only to have things turn out the way I had hoped.

Let's just say I hope to hell we aren't pulling out one minute sooner than necessary. But I don't think we will be.

I'm certain that when we pull out, it will be no sooner or later than uor plans at the time will be.

Our policy is Panglossian: Our (Bush's) plan is the best of all possible plansWe are going to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes. When we finally get out, the Iraqis will have freedom, it might not be easy for the Iraqis, and their freedom will probably look different than ours. But they will have the best possible freedom we can give them.

Bush has freaked me out a bunch of times, only to have things turn out the way I had hoped.

That's exactly the way I feel. Up until April, my weblog had its share of "What is Bush thinking?" entries, written immediately after potentially disturbing news had broken. Within days the real meaning of Bush's initiatives were obvious, his objectives were unaltered, and his opponents had been totally suckered. Like you, I've stopped second-guessing the guy in the short term.

I don't think the establishment of a provisional government is, by definition, a "cut and run" move. It has its merits. First, the IGC has zero legitimacy. Town councils electing a new provisional government would give it more legitimacy. Two, it puts Iraqis in charge of basic rebuilding processes. Which means no more overpaying for outside (US) contractors for work that can be done internally. More importantly it means, potentially, more jobs for Iraqis, who continue to face extremely high unemployment rates. Three, it allows the new provisional government to take a stronger role in moving toward a new constitution. Ostensibly, they won't have to keep looking over their heads to see if Bremer approves of their every decision regarding the future of their country. That will build confidence on the governance front AND on the constitution writing side.

There are some serious pitfalls, however. Will the town councils be seen as legitimate enough to select the provisional government, especially when the councils themselves have been appointed in large part by the US? Does this really solve the basic problems of how Shiites and Sunnis will agree to run a common country in the future? Does this simply provide more softer and easier targets for insurgents? Will the US really listen to the "invitations" of the Provisional Government or will it carry on its own strategic decisions without regard to the wishes of the new Government (which would either turn the new Government against the US or turn the Iraqi people against the new Government)? Will the American public still support a mission that looks, at least structurally, more like Vietnam - militarily backing up a government against a growing internal insurgency? (I know there's no NVA but it will still be a "foreign government" that may or may not be popular and will be facing a deadly guerilla war).

These are questions to keep in mind. On balance I think it's the right move but, like all changes in course, it's fraught with risk. The biggest risk is that it's made with the 2004 election in mind and not the transition to a stable Iraqi government. If we end up with a government that only has effective control of the South, or of Baghdad then we've essentially failed. It must be done right even if it puts the President's re-election hopes at risk.

Instapundit *says:*

"It seems to me that Bush is managing to maneuver his critics into complaining about pulling out too soon, which will have the effect of taking the war off the table as an election issue."

That wouldn't surprise me. The Dems are unfortunatly in ABB mode, which means he can make them say pretty much whatever he wants by doing a head fake in the "wrong" direction. Then he can look statesmanlike and "bipartisan" by taking their advice.

Wait and see...

Why does Bush hate America?

Chalabi is a homosexual.

The Iraqis know it and is not going to accept an “Americanized degenerate” calling shots. He comes off like some flaming fortuneteller and spooks out most Arabs that meet him. He is so obviously a “hustler” and does nothing for the image of American might.

You can either believe what others say he, Bush, means and what he, Bush, intends, or you can take what he, Bush, says as what he means and intends.
What the President is saying:

http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2003531173,00.html

Bush: Your troops
did not die in vain

Meet the president ... Sun's Trevor talks with George Bush

RELATED STORIES
• The Sun Says
• Bush must stand firm



By TREVOR KAVANAGH
Political Editor
in the Oval Office

PRESIDENT Bush sent a heartfelt message to the British people yesterday: Your troops killed in Iraq did not die in vain.

He said that by fighting alongside Americans, our soldiers had made the world a safer place.

Mr. Bush spoke movingly of the grief suffered by families of Allied soldiers killed while fighting the war on terror.

Speaking on the eve of a two-day State Visit to the UK, the US President said: “I can’t imagine what it would be like if I were a mother or a dad to have lost a child.

“I’m a proud dad. It’s got to shatter a person’s heart to lose a loved one.”

But in a world exclusive interview with The Sun, Mr. Bush WARNED of the horrifying consequences for peace if America and Britain duck the threat from fanatical extremists.

He also PRAISED the “tough and capable Brits” fighting side-by-side with US troops in Iraq.

Sun beats
the world
THE Sun scooped the world with its interview with Mr. Bush — and it hasn’t gone down well with our rivals.

The President has given no one-on-one interviews this year with major US papers.

When asked why he chose The Sun, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told miffed reporters: “It has a large readership.”

And he PROMISED the Allies will not leave until Saddam’s tyranny is swept away and the ravaged country has a free and effective interim government.

I sat in an armchair and listened as Mr. Bush, who arrives in London tomorrow, spoke animatedly in his office at the White House about his determination to make the world safe from men of terror.

He went on: “I can understand why citizens in Great Britain are anxious about war, wonder why a president would commit to war.

“Nobody likes war. See, I understand the consequences of war. I understand particularly when I go and hug the moms and dads and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of those who died. I can see also the consequences of NOT acting, of hoping for the best in the face of tyrannical killers.”

And Mr. Bush vowed to offer comfort to relatives of British dead in Afghanistan, Iraq and the catastrophe of September 11, 2001.

He said: “I understand how bad they hurt. I will do the best I can to provide some comfort. I have done this in America as well.

“It’s part of my duty as the leader of this country to comfort those who have sacrificed.

“I’ll explain to them as best as I can that the sacrifice their loved one has made is for a noble cause — and that’s peace and freedom.”

Mr. Bush then told me: “I want your readers to know the military is my LAST choice, not first choice.”

In a blunt message to protesters threatening to gridlock London during his visit, he said: “I would tell the skeptics that I have a job to protect the security of the United States of America — that Saddam Hussein was a security risk.”

The President confirmed that US envoy Paul Bremer is speeding up the formation of an interim Iraqi government to end the coalition occupation by the middle of 2004.

Making a point ... Bush explains
But it does NOT mean US troops will run from the fight against Saddam’s thugs.

I asked Mr. Bush if he stood by the famous Stars and Stripes slogan, “These Colours Don’t Run.”

He replied: “Yes, absolutely. You don’t have to worry about us pulling out. We’re not leaving. We’re staying there to get a job done.”

The President praised UK troops and applauded the steadfast support from Prime Minister Tony Blair.

He said: “Your troops are well trained, they are well motivated and they’re really good at what they do.

“Our soldiers and commanders really appreciate being side-by-side with the Brits. They trust them, and that’s important.”

President Bush said UK squaddies based in Southern Iraq had taught their US allies lessons learned on the streets of Northern Ireland.

“The Brits have brought an interesting strategy in dealing with the situation in Basra. It was kind of a transfer of experience that has been incredibly useful and important.

“I am really proud of our alliance, because it’s close now and I intend to keep it that way.”

The President said he had learned to trust Tony Blair as a leader who stood by his word. He said: “I have a great personal relationship with Tony Blair. Let me tell you something about him. As they say in Texas, you can book him when he says he’s going to do something, you can take it to the bank.

“Because every time he has said something, he has done it — and I appreciate that a lot.”

In what appeared to be a swipe at France and Germany, who deserted the Allies in the run-up to war in Iraq, he added:

“It’s not always the way in politics. Sometimes they’ll come and look you in the eye and say, ‘Oh, don’t worry, Mr. President, we’re with you and behind you’.

'Tough and capable' ... president
praised British troops
“And it turns out they’re way behind you. You can’t find them when the heat gets on.

“That’s not the way Tony Blair is and that’s not the way the Brits’ command structure is and that’s not the way the soldiers in the field have been. They’ve been tough and capable and decent people.

"Not only are we chasing down people and bringing them to justice, but there are schools being built, orphanages opened, hospitals supplied, thanks to compassionate British troops and American troops. These are honourable people.”

Mr. Bush accused “elitists” of scorning the right of the Iraqi people to a chance of proving they prefer freedom to tyranny.

He said: “There’s a debate going on as to whether people like the Iraqis will ever adapt to the habits of freedom. There’s an elitism that feels they can’t adapt the habits of democracy. I strongly disagree.”

I then asked President Bush the question asked recently by thousands of Sun readers: Is the world a safer place since the war in Iraq? He replied: “Yes, much safer. The free world has recognized the threat.

“In order to make the world safe, you’ve got to see reality.

“And the reality is that there are cold-blooded killers who are trying to intimidate, create fear and shape the will of the civilized world.

Determined ... Bush says he won't
forget lessons of September 11
“They are killers capable of hiding in societies. They are patient, they are lethal, they pop up and they will destroy. They don’t care who they destroy. They will kill children just as soon as they’ll kill somebody in a military uniform.”

In Friday’s exclusive interview, the President said coalition forces ended Saddam’s tyranny, smashed the grip of al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan and forced the United Nations to stop turning its back on terror.

But America would act again, alone if necessary, for the long-term safety of the world. And he told how the US had learned not to rely on hand wringing do-gooders.

He said: “One of my vows to the American people is, I won’t forget the lessons of September 11, 2001.

“I was at Ground Zero after the attacks. I remember this haze and the smells and the death and destruction. I’ll always remember that.

“I made up my mind right then. We were at war and we were going to win the war. And I still feel that determination today that I did then.

“Presidents and Prime Ministers should never worry about how they are viewed in short-term history. I think in terms of long-term history.

“I set big goals. And I know what we’re doing is going to have a positive effect on this world.”

Good grief! I was sitting here reading some very excellent comments on this subject (which I find often here at Winds of Change), but then out of the blue come these bizzaro comments from "Brained Conservative" and "O". Somehow, I have to set my internal tolerance meter to ignore stuff like that, but I have no idea how.

I dunno, Chalabi put the "con" in neoconservative. All flash, promises, fraudulent convictions, with no real substance to offer. Maybe the perfect qualifications for our chosen leader of a "free and democratic Iraq."

The decision to cut and run will be decided by the Rover test. If Karl thinks Dubya's reelection chances are improved by withdrawal, then that's what we'll do. This administration has always substituted short term political gain for a substantive national policy. They did it in the run up towards war (remember when the new product was introduced?) with an eye towards capturing the Senate, and they're theorizing now about any political gain they can realize by changing course. It never had anything to do with national interests, eminent threats, WMDs, liberation, or democracy. That's the reality. It's like building your house on a foundation of sand. Maybe quicker in the near term, but over time you have to expend a lot of resources to keep things on the level, and eventually the damn thing collapses. Too bad for the true conservatives of America, the collapse will cause them greivous damage, and that would be a real tragedy.

Unfortunately though, in the pursuit of short sighted political gain, Dubya pissed off our longstanding allies, friends, and prett much the entire world. Does anyone seriously think that either our allies or enemies want to see Dubya reelected? Ceptin -- OF COURSE -- Osama Bin Laden, who found Bush a very useful recruiting tool. Look to see the international community use our intemperance as a political tool too. This one being a crudgel in the upcoming elections to knock Bush out of office. Expect no real sympathy or cooperation from them until Dubya is either reelected or is completely out of office. Hard to say which right now, but unless Bush gets Iraq in order, and the economy roaring, he's probably toast. Although, it's interesting to note that no Republicans have come forward to cosponsor (with the more than 70 Democrats) a bill in the House that would require the "Touch Screen" voting machines that are showing up in precincts across the land to leave a paper trail. And we thought that hanging chads were a hoot. Call me cynical, but what's up with that?

I dunno, Chalabi put the "con" in neoconservative. All flash, promises, fraudulent convictions, with no real substance to offer. Maybe the perfect qualifications for our chosen leader of a "free and democratic Iraq."

The decision to cut and run will be decided by the Rover test. If Karl thinks Dubya's reelection chances are improved by withdrawal, then that's what we'll do. This administration has always substituted short term political gain for a substantive national policy. They did it in the run up towards war (remember when the new product was introduced?) with an eye towards capturing the Senate, and they're theorizing now about any political gain they can realize by changing course. It never had anything to do with national interests, eminent threats, WMDs, liberation, or democracy. That's the reality. It's like building your house on a foundation of sand. Maybe quicker in the near term, but over time you have to expend a lot of resources to keep things on the level, and eventually the damn thing collapses. Too bad for the true conservatives of America, the collapse will cause them greivous damage, and that would be a real tragedy.

Unfortunately though, in the pursuit of short sighted political gain, Dubya pissed off our longstanding allies, friends, and prett much the entire world. Does anyone seriously think that either our allies or enemies want to see Dubya reelected? Ceptin -- OF COURSE -- Osama Bin Laden, who found Bush a very useful recruiting tool. Look to see the international community use our intemperance as a political tool too. This one being a crudgel in the upcoming elections to knock Bush out of office. Expect no real sympathy or cooperation from them until Dubya is either reelected or is completely out of office. Hard to say which right now, but unless Bush gets Iraq in order, and the economy roaring, he's probably toast. Although, it's interesting to note that no Republicans have come forward to cosponsor (with the more than 70 Democrats) a bill in the House that would require the "Touch Screen" voting machines that are showing up in precincts across the land to leave a paper trail. And we thought that hanging chads were a hoot. Call me cynical, but what's up with that?

Sorry about the double post. Some glitch I suppose.

Mike -- "The Sun" sure did scoop the other papers, which is weird considering "The Sun" is notorious for printing photos of naked ladies, sex scandals, and other lurid stories. Maybe there's an unseen irony in that. "The Sun" is't really a newpaper at all but is an excellent tabloid (note the sarcasm).

Of course the fact that "The Sun" is owned by rightwing media mogul Rupert Murdoch who also owns, wait for it -- FOX NEWS -- might have something to do with the scoop.

The Sun has a huge readership which has not been ideologically primed for 2 years to hate Bush. It is also the paper of the "masses" rather than the "elites." If I were Bush visiting England at this point, it would be glaringly common sense to pick the Sun. But feel free to invent a conspiracy theory if you enjoy that sort of thing.

I'm willing to wait and see how this all turns out. To me, though, this plans smacks of the "Declare Victory and leave" approach. If we're willing to stick around and ensure that they get a real democracy and then defend it, that's one thing. However, this plan sounds like a way for W. to hastily install a government, leave enough troops scattered around and safely ensconced in bases to deter a Turkish or Iranian invasion, and then Run Away just in time to go into November with a couple of months of near-zero U.S. military casualties.

"The decision to cut and run will be decided by the Rover test. If Karl thinks Dubya's reelection chances are improved by withdrawal, then that's what we'll do. This administration has always substituted short term political gain for a substantive national policy."

Is that not true of all politicians to some extent? Many could make the same case of the rhetoric coming from the current Democratic contenders? Certainly, the same could be said of Bill Clinton or other presidents before him? Besides, what is so bad about our leaders taking public opinion into account in forming national policy? Would you prefer a dictatorship where they could care less what people think? (Of course, I guess I'm playing right into the hands of people who think we are already living under a dictator.)

Not so much a conspiracy theory Yehudit, probably just coincidental, although I should point out that Dubya would have sold more copies if he had posed for "The Sun" wearing a G-string.

The stateside equivalent would be if his interview appeared in the "National Enquirer" between the two headed baby photo layout and the most recent stir about the image of Elvis appearing on somebody's screen door. I'm guessing Dubya was advised that "The Sun" was a friendly paper, and that's why he interviewed with them. "The Guardian" would have asked too many embarassing questions.

I kinda agree Steve. Although, I'm not sure how you scramble out of a swamp with an alligator clamped firmly on you ass. Seems like the first thing to do is to lose the 'gator, but the 'gator in this case realizes that his best chance is to hang on until the election.

James,

British (and European) tabloids generally are taken much more seriously than ours. The National Enquirer rarely does anything remotely resembling politics; that's standard fare for tabloids "over there."

They also do naked women, it's true. But it isn't the same as American tabloids.

Ramman31 -- Politically skullduggery is common to both parties. One difference is the the current administration obsessively addresses the concerns of its politcal base first, the rest of America appears to be so much excess baggage. That seems unusual in modern politics, and dangerous to the extent that the Republican party is largely captured by radicalized fundamental and neoconservative ideology.

Another difference is that the current administration is readily willing to distort, exaggerate, or blantantly lie about anything that serves their ideology. The leadup to the war in Iraq is irrefutable proof of their methodology in this regard, but there are many examples. The reality is that this administration wasn't elected with a mandate, so the way they achieve their goals is to pretend they're faithfully representing all America while they work to destroy those programs and people they hate. Even Clinton for all the blame laid at his feet by the fringe elements, was basically a centrist, who developed his policies as solutions to agreed upon problems. The current administration is entirely idealogical in its approach to the world, and that is the crux of the problem (so to speak).

Ideology requires consistency, most politicians are simply too busy practicing their fibbing to stand by much.

Ramman: there's a difference between not letting the polls determine your actions & running a dictatorship. Anybody can say what they think "the masses" want, that's actually part of the problem: how are we supposed to filter out the incompetant & corrupt when everyone's saying the same thing? We need for our elected officials to let their actual beliefs come out, so we can toss the loons instead of leaving them with the keys.

If a "sovereign" Iraqi government wants U.S. forces to leave, it will be replaced with another "sovereign" government that has a different attitude.

A couple of days ago there was talk about how Republicans had largely purged their party of the isolationist wing.

I'm curious: to what extent do you guys think this wing was isolationist only insofar as it hated "foreign entanglements?" Isn't it possible that much of these forces have been mollified by unilateralism?

Thanks,
praktike

Here are two different takes on the sped up hand over of Iraqi sovereignty, and neither is about cutting and running:

November 17, 2003, 9:32 a.m.
Shakedown in the Souk
Potential risks and rewards of a policy reversal in Iraq.

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/cullinan200311170932.asp

November 15, 2003
Iron Hammer

David Warren
© Ottawa Citizen

http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/Comment/Nov03/index175.shtml

James:
Ramman31 -- Politically skullduggery is common to both parties. One difference is the the current administration obsessively addresses the concerns of its politcal base first, the rest of America appears to be so much excess baggage. That seems unusual in modern politics, and dangerous to the extent that the Republican party is largely captured by radicalized fundamental and neoconservative ideology.

Just the opposite. The US is founded on an ideology rather than a common ethnic identity. And it's an ideology that ties in pretty closely to Lockean individual sovereignty, equality of opportunity, and religious sectarianism. And the fact is that Bush is simply a lot closer to that whiggish consensus than his opponents.

Another difference is that the current administration is readily willing to distort, exaggerate, or blantantly lie about anything that serves their ideology. The leadup to the war in Iraq is irrefutable proof of their methodology in this regard, but there are many examples. The reality is that this administration wasn't elected with a mandate, so the way they achieve their goals is to pretend they're faithfully representing all America while they work to destroy those programs and people they hate. Even Clinton for all the blame laid at his feet by the fringe elements, was basically a centrist, who developed his policies as solutions to agreed upon problems. The current administration is entirely idealogical in its approach to the world, and that is the crux of the problem (so to speak).

You know, I've never seen any evidence that the Bush administration ever did anything more severe than oversell their case a little. And that's in marked distinction to some of his critics, with the initials M.M., surname "Moore" and a given name of "Michael" who not only obviously lied and distorted, but still maintain that lying is OK if it's vaguely humorous (but not necessarily funny).

Of course Bush is "entirely ideological.' He's an American.

I like seeing Bush using Kucinic's ideas.

Scott, shouldn't Michael Moore be compared to the hysterical liar Ann Coulter and not to Bush? Apples and apples?

I've never seen any evidence that Bill Clinton did anything more than undersell his relationship with Miss Lewinsky.

Praktik:

If so, then those forces weren't too "isolationist" to begin with IMO. Unilateralism alone cannot cancel out the numerous reasons for not wanting to be the world's policemen. Sovereignty is very important, but if an intervention turns out to be a bad call then no amount of self-overconfidence in having done it without an international body behind us can rectify that.

I'd say that the breakdown would go like this:

50% - willing to go the hawk route for the most shallow of personal/political reasons.
25% - consider it preventative maintenance for some unexplained reason: "we intervene now and we won't have to later"
20% - were loosely isolationist before 9/11, and have now in a fit of panic decided to sign onto ANY intervention.
5% - sincerely isolationist. No realpolitik, no preventative maintenance, none of that, if it does not directly concern the US they do not care.

James Emerson: This administration has always substituted short term political gain for a substantive national policy.

Right. And in the liberal lexicon, a substantive national policy means becoming a continental-sized Sweden. Short term political gain? Going to war doesn't produce short term political gain - that honor goes to fattening up government entitlements, a consistently Democratic ploy that puts future generations in debt in order to buy off the Democratic base.

James Emerson: The reality is that this administration wasn't elected with a mandate.

Right. Clinton wasn't elected with a mandate in either election - he won a lower % of the popular vote than Bush, and proceeded to dismantle the military that had been built under Reagan and Bush. He also appointed liberal judge after liberal judge, and got us involved in Bosnia and Kosovo - not to mention the disaster in Somalia. We kept the research, but drew down supplies and maintenance to the extent that it took over a year to gear up for Iraq after a mere skirmish in Afghanistan.

James Emerson: it's interesting to note that no Republicans have come forward to cosponsor (with the more than 70 Democrats) a bill in the House that would require the "Touch Screen" voting machines that are showing up in precincts across the land to leave a paper trail. And we thought that hanging chads were a hoot. Call me cynical, but what's up with that?

Call me cynical, but that's probably another Democratic ploy to increase the felon, non-citizen and illegal immigrant vote. They already get the votes of the embalmed, so ethically-speaking, getting warm bodies in the voting booth is probably not particularly troubling to them.

Andrew Lazarus: Scott, shouldn't Michael Moore be compared to the hysterical liar Ann Coulter and not to Bush? Apples and apples?

The basic difference here is that Mike Moore lies, whereas Ann Coulter tells the truth. Putting the two of them together is standard liberal horse manure, kind of like their comparisons between Stalin/Hitler and Bush.

^^^^this is something I will never understand.

Ann Coulter seems to me like a reactionary nutcase, even if one agrees with her on general issues I don't see how she doesn't hurt more than help conservatives.

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