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Amy's Answer: It's 2002, You Decide...

| 90 Comments | 5 TrackBacks

In the comments section of "Daily Kos - Again", Amy Alkon asks:

" a sort of common-sense-loving moderate...I keep waiting for somebody to offer me a reasonable explanation of the following:

The US is attacked in the most major way ever on our shores, by Osama Bin Ladin and co. We respond, not by decimating Osama and his evil followers, but by waging war on...Iraq! ....Come on -- somebody answer me - not with defending the current administration in mind as you write every word - but by persuading me with the (supposed) common sense behind what we did."

That's an in-depth question, Amy, and it demands an in-depth answer. So let's look at the situation as if you were in charge back in 2002. Then tell me what you want to do instead....

Afghanistan's Taliban (really, al-Qaeda) government is gone, and al-Qaeda can no longer use it as a secure base. So, we did that. Most of the Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists we faced in Afghanistan now live in Pakistan.

America went in with a small number of forces because going in with overwhelming numbers was impossible given the supply lines, and because it would just repeat the Soviet approach in Afghanistan. You'll recall how poorly that turned out. So we have bases with mobile forces that can appear to crush any groups of Taliban, and go out on sweeps, while maintaining a fairly low profile. It's not like we have lots of infrastructure to protect or anything.

The warlords are being dealt with by slow political maeuvering and a slow build-up of national Afghan institutions (incl. an Afghan Army) instead of major US military operations for the same reason - you don't want them uniting against you.

Sometimes, more gets you less. This would be true no matter who was in charge back in America.

On the other hand, Tora Bora proved that the Afghans can be unreliable allies, so we're trying to use more U.S. forces in critical engagements. NATO is pledged to help, and they are helping, but not as much as they promised and requests for more international troops never got us much action even though we're talking relatively small numbers. Even if we got that aid, though, it wouldn't really change our strategy.

Bottom line: What you see is about all you can expect in Afghanistan, though a bit more aid might be nice. The "Provincial Reconstruction Team" model of paramilitary aid teams is also worth following with interest.

Pakistan already has nukes. Their ISI's links to the Taliban and al-Qaeda are a matter of record, and large sections of its "lawless frontier" provinces feature widespread support for al-Qaeda. The government is reluctant to confront the jihadis too openly, as this is dangerous for them. Especially because when they do, jihadi infiltration of the military and intel apparatus results in the jihadis being tipped off in advance. You won't get much overt help there, or permission to operate in their territory.

You're the President. Your plan to decimate al-Qaeda there, ma'am?

"Yes, it's wonderful that we got rid of a murderous dictator -- and if that's our standard for waging war on a country, there's a long list of other murderous dictators in front of us. If it's WMD we're after, well Kimmy's sitting on a bunch of nukes over there in Korea, but we're not doing too much about that."

Ah, Korea... Given that the South Koreans prefer a policy of enablement (that's "enablement" in the friend-of-alcoholic sense) toward North Korea, we have very few options there. The only thing we do know is that negotiating any more "agreements" just pays Kim et. al. to go ahead and break them, and so makes no sense at all. Current efforts are focused on drawing in the Chinese, Russians, and Japanese, but especially the Chinese who may see several new nuclear powers in their backyard (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan) if they don't find a way to put pressure on Kim. And there we sit, because it's a slow process.

If you have an idea that no-one else in the world has come up with, please share. Frankly, this one baffles everybody.

The Ideological/Financial Nexus & The Saudis

Now that you've got Afghanistan and Korea as under control as they're going to get, you have the larger problem to deal with of widespread support in the Islamic world for terrorism, an ideology of carefully cultivated hatred for West fostered by their regimes and institutions in order to distract attention from their massive societal failures, and the perception of same as a cost-free approach for regimes and other organizations that sponsor it.

If you refuse to grapple with these issues, then even destroying the Taliban will net you nothing, and the source of the decade-long war against America remains untouched. So, what do you do?

The Saudis' funding of religious extremism including al-Qaeda and many of the world-wide madrassas who teach ignorance and hate and recruit for AQ is a huge problem. Past experience with the Khobar Towers bombing and other incidents has shown that they really have no interest in dealing with this, or cooperating with America in any meaningful sense in this area. Indeed, there seems to be a quid-pro-quo deal that makes Saudi Arabia itself immune from attack in exchange for this funding and support, and the weakness of their regime means they won't give that deal up except under the most extreme pressure.

You can't isolate the Saudis because they have too much oil (they'll just buy other allies, and no sanctions will stick), and if you invade then the rallying cry of "save Mecca and Medina" will touch off an all-out war with most of the Islamic world. America would win that one, but you probably don't want to kill 100 million people or so unless you absolutely have to. Right?

Oh, and the USA has troops in Saudi Arabia, just in case Saddam decides to invade again. This is a major bone of contention in parts of the Islamic world, and as long as they're needed there your options for confronting the Saudis over their other behaviour are very limited.

Your plan for dealing with them?

Armageddon Calling

Then there's the problem of a world in which a number of Islamic regimes, answerable to no-one but themselves and with clear state ties to Islamic terrorism, are developing chemical, biological, and nuclear capabilities. They explicitly support a mentality of suicide bombing, too, which kind of throws the concept of deterrence out the window.

Take Iran. The #1 world sponsor for terrorism, including terrorist atacks far beyond the mideast. Some of their client groups have openly vowed that chemical and biological attacks are part of their long term strategy. Rafsanjani, a major figure in Iran, has openly mused that even if it resulted in the nuclear destruction of Iran, taking out Israel would be acceptable because there are other Muslims elsewhere and so this would constitute victory. They have an active nuclear and chemical weapons program, plus they're building ballistic missiles. There's discontent over there, but it isn't at the rebellion stage. Furthermore, the nation still remembers the last war with Saddam in the 80s, and sees him as a problem if they ever become weak or divided. Add one more disincentive to revolution.

There's no way that any of your Gulf allies will provide bases for an attack on Iran, because they have large Shia populations. It might be possible for the Marines to land, set up a beachhead, then bring in other forces slowly by sea. But that would be very, very risky in military and political terms. Especially since the EU is very cosy with Iran's mullahs for business reasons.

What do you propose to do about this, Mme. President?

Syria is Iran's ally. Has WMD. Major supporter and sponsor of terrorism, including several major terrorist acts against Americans. Your only routes to Syria, however, are through Turkey, Israel, or Lebabon. Turkey almost certainly won't let you. Going through Israel has problems that are self-evident. And the LAST place you want to touch is the eternal quagmire of Lebanon. Plus, Syria is run by Alawites, who are only 10% of the population. Take their Ba'athist regime out, and you'll be trying to police the remnants of 2 utterly failed, anarchic states.

You could do it, Mme. President. Do you want to?


Technically, you're still at war - and Iraq has violated the ceasefire terms. It's also refusing to cooperate with efforts to keep tabs on its WMD program. You're getting intelligence that suggests possible links to the 1993 WTC bombings, an assassination attempt on a US President, and even al-Qaeda. Like all intelligence, it's uncertain - but what if it's true? Connections with some terrorist groups are certainly a known quantity, and Saddam has a long history of making disastrous miscalculations fed by overconfidence and underestimation of risk (Iran, Kuwait, etc.).

In the "Evil Mideast dictators club," this guy is in a class by himself. Torture, mass murder on a unique scale even in that part of the world, ecocide, you name it. Plus, there are real questions about the country's stability and succession - Saddam's sons are less rational than he is, and more brutal.

The Kurds have a quasi-state under protection of a no-fly zone that costs billions to maintain. That may prove helpful, as will your bases nearby in Kuwait. The souther Shi'as have risen in revolt at least once, so they're a wild card. And Saddam's conventional military is much weaker now. That's helpful. You're certainly in a better starting position here, if you want to start somewhere (or, you can rest on your laurels after Afghanistan - your call).

The Risks of Inaction

Less helpful is the fact that the sanctions that were supposed to keep Saddam bottled up are being undermined by the Russians and especially the French, and the UN is typically ineffective in enforcing them. Pretty soon, Saddam will have a free hand again. This will be seen, widely, as a major failure of U.S. policy, will and prestige in the region.

That's a dangerous outcome.

ALL parties already question the U.S. commitment to dealing with Islamic extremism (or indeed, any threat), since there's a general belief that the USA will not risk major efforts that may result in casualties. The operation in Afghanistan, while impressive, is still seen in many quarters as proof of that because of the way it was conducted. This belief stunts their cooperation with you. As a result, very few are inclined to take risks, or end the lack of civil freedoms coupled with quiet incitement against non-Muslims that forms much of the political culture of the Middle East.

So, don't expect a whole lot of cooperation in tracking or going after al-Qaeda within those countries. Especially if efforts to contain Saddam are seen to fail.

In fact, barring something to change the equation the understated non-cooperation from the Arab world that has characterized the past decade is your best prediction. Probably coupled with quiet suggestions to radical elements that they should go off and make trouble elsewhere. Problem is, YOU'RE the elsewhere.

Iraq: Action's Potential Gains

On the other hand...

  • Iraq is very central.
  • Coup attempts against Saddam have consistently failed. There have been several of them. Volunteers are now rather hard to find.
  • Overthrowing Saddam would eliminate the dangers of Saddam's regime, currently a partly-known but dangerous variable.
  • It would also end the need for troops in Saudi Arabia.
  • In fact, overthrowing the regime and giving the Shi'ites there greater freedom would stir Saudi Arabia's Shi'ite population across the border to demand more rights of their own.
  • This could force the Saudi rulership to confront their Wahhabi clerical establishment, who will oppose this, or face increasing Shi'ite unrest. Win-win situation if you think the Saudis aren't our friends.
  • IF we can succeed in giving the Iraqi Shi'ites greater freedom. Or should we just pick a military strongman who won't give us trouble in future and isn't as brutal as Saddam? The State Department favours that latter option. Do you?
  • Iraq back in full production makes the world less dependent on Saudi oil. (Note: you can also do this the French way, via a sweetheart deal for American oil firms linked to the lifting of all sactions. Do you try?)
  • Syria and Iran would face a USA with a land bridge into their countries, and so much greater opportunity for military action or power they must respect, if you so choose.
  • A successful Iraq - and it has a history of modernity and secularism - could be a magnet for a very different kind of trend in the Arab world, as opposed to other responses to modernity which have all been based on dictatorship (socialism, clan ruled dictatorships, Islamism). This could create an Arab society that's successful on its own terms, thus mitigating the overwhelming sense of societal failure and pointing toward a different option.

Iraq: Action's Potential Risks

Of course, you could also fail. That is always a possibility in statecraft.

  • Iraq is very tribal. That will make things complex.
  • Saddam's rule will have left deep scars. Can civil society be put back together, or is it a Humpty-Dumpty situation?
  • Syria and Iran's regimes in particular will see your efforts as a life-or-death threat, and do all they can to ensure that you fail.
  • Nor can you expect much support in the rest of the Arab world. They're less dangerous dictatorships, even tentative 'allies' at times, but still dictators with no interest in having a different model take root in the region. Their ideal is Saddam gone, followed by chaos in Iraq. That's perfect from their point of view - the threat gone, the West's attention focused on Iraq not them, and no alternative model.
  • Europe would rather pay off dictators under the table. They won't be much on board either, especially the French who are openly bought.

Yes, you could definitely try and fail here.

So, I ask again... Mme. President, what do you want to do?

5 TrackBacks

Tracked: April 12, 2004 6:01 PM
Hard Choices from Amateur Night
Excerpt: Iteration #3,975 of the Iraq Debate: "We will never get tired of going over this shit!" The indefatigable Joe Katzman at Winds of Change responds at length to the question that has provoked a steady stream of hostile, polemical answers
Tracked: April 13, 2004 1:46 AM
IRAQ: WHAT WOULD YOU DO? from Pejmanesque
Excerpt: Despite my general aversion for Monday morning quarterbacking, when a retrospective analysis is done in thorough and comprehensive fashion, it is marvelously effective at clearing up the historical fog, and making the rationale for a particular action ...
Tracked: April 13, 2004 1:16 PM
Excerpt: In the long run, I firmly believe the WMD/terrorism rationales for war will pale and the Strategic rationale - softly spoken, prior to the war for political and diplomatic reasons - will become more apparently predominant. I've written about it...
Tracked: April 15, 2004 1:53 PM
Winds of Change Full Court Press...... from The Pink Flamingo Bar Grill
Excerpt: This is a terrific article giving solid explanations of all the reasons we had for our actions. Clearly stated and well thought out. I tend to focus a great deal on the terror connections of Iraq but I can see that the full court press of Winds of Cha...
Tracked: April 18, 2004 8:38 PM
I recommend this post and from Random Jottings
Excerpt: I recommend this post and discussion at Winds of Change In the comments section of "Daily Kos - Again", Amy Alkon asks: " a sort of common-sense-loving moderate...I keep waiting for somebody to offer me a reasonable explanation of the...


You omit the single most significant reason for not hammering the Saudis as they so richly deserver: if you do YOU will be in control of Mecca and Medina.

This triggers immediate global, irrevocable, jihad against you by all the Islamics in the world, both crazed and 'moderate'.

It is a monstrously negative action.

Obviously, we (The World) need to be in the same world. Same time, but it can be a different place. Same world, one world, with lines and borders, edges if they must be that. That is, Islamists and Christians and Whatevers need to be able to be comfortable in themselves somewhere - some physical space. A physical space that lets the physic space be comfortable. Physical space, micro and macro, demand international rules and social rules of conduct. We have to figure out how to co-exist.
I know this is easy words, sappy stuff so cliche-ridden that it's a mess. How's this for a clue on how to learn to live together :
How can we remove the "America" from globalization? If globalization is a benefit to the World, then third world living standards should rise. There should be a third world middle class - of sorts. All good. The real losers will be the Americans. Real globalization will cost us jobs and any averaging we take part in will be us going down! So, why are we seen as the bad guys?
Don't everyone jump in with the answer : our awesome and wonderful Capitalist culture. The reason this is good practice for winning the Terror War is that we need everyone to see who is paying and who is willing to pay.
Of course, a best and truest measure of our sincerity would be removing bush. This has to be the strongest statement America could make to the World that we are sorry and we mean it.

Joe, you've answered a lot of questions but I'm not sure you've answered Amy's.

Amy, the invasion of Afghanistan and the dismatling of the Taliban did, in fact, decimate OBL and his evil followers. The problem here is that decimate means taking out one in ten. To date my sense is America and the rest of the world has done at least that well but still not well enough.

So why Iraq? Leaving aside the fact Saddam was a murderous pig who should ahve been taken down the last time America had the chance, the fact is the Middle East needed to be jump started.

The culture of illusion which the various despotisms in the Middle East foster in place of democracy for their people had to be destroyed. For many of the reasons Joe cites, Iraq was the best opportunity to begin that destruction. But the necessity of that destruction is critical to grasp.

So long as it suited the Arab and Islamic despotisms to encourage the culture of illusion there was very little chance that culture would change on its own. While there have been the occassional encouraging signs - the UN Commission on the Middle East showed it was possible for Arabs to tell themselves the truth about their enfeebled world - they were being undone by the state presses and state paid mullahs throughout the Middle East. Each week another Friday call to jihad went up throughout the region. Until those calls could be changed, or at least answered, OBL would continue to have an endless supply of terrorist jihadi recruits.

Taking out OBL would be satisfying and, if you could nail enough of his evil followers, it might even make a difference. Long run, that difference would be overwhelmed by the hopelessness of the Arab and much of the Islamic world.

While I have no idea if the Iraqi gambit will work, it beats the hell out of simply allowing the ideology of jihad to go unanswered in the Middle East. Because if that ideology is unchecked, generations of hopeless, humiliated, defeated and pathetic Arab and Islamic young men will accept as true that America is the "Great Satan" and that the troubles of the Islamic world are all caused by external enemies, most of all the Jews. They will flock to the banner of jihad and they will use bomb belts and trucks full of fertillizer to defeat the Crusader and the Jew.

Iraq is about changing the conditions which bred terrorists. It is the long game and the one which the West must win.

Two thoughts:

(1) Mme. President: If you decide to invade Iraq, you may want to ignore advisers and pundits who push something called a "flypaper strategy." This is the idea of leaving Iraq's borders porous so that Syrian, Saudi, Yemeni, and Lebanese jihadis can enter easily, ambush US troops, and terrorize the population with bombings. Porous borders will also facilitate the penetration of Iraq by the hostile Iranian and Syrian intelligence services. Couldn't Flypaper make a very risky operation even harder to accomplish?

(2) Mme. President, if you go ahead with Operation Iraqi Freedom, don't focus only on potential Quagmires. Also be alert to unexpected opportunities. For instance, is it possible that a demonstration of American resolve and power might influence the cost/benefit analysis of a dictator somewhere else in the Mideast. He might decide to abandon his terrorist-enabling Islamist state ideology, and come to terms with the West. What he would offer would be Information, what his Government knows about activities throughout the region. This sort of windfall might even aid WMD nonproliferation efforts. Just idle speculation at this point--but when it comes to the future, you just never know, do you?


Read it again. The issue of Mecca and Medina is definitely in there.

Joe: I appreciate your response, but the repeated snide remarks along the lines of "If you're so smart, how would YOU have done it?!?" are unnecessary and lower the tone of your argument.

In doing so, you're making the classic "engineer and bystander" error. An engineer builds a suspension bridge that collapses when the first car drives across it. A bystander rebukes the engineer for building a faulty bridge, and the engineer's response is "Oh yeah? If you're so smart, how would YOU have done it?!?"

Public policy is a complex beast, difficult to build but fairly simple to critique. The stated goal of the Iraqi invasion was to make America safer. Amy sees that particular bridge collapsing, and (being a moderate) questions whether it was well-built. Rebuking her, because she can't build a better bridge herself, is recriminatory and unnecessary. Rather, if you wish to defend the bridge's designers, you should focus on claims that we designed the bridge as well as we could, given the circumstances.

I think you lay a good foundation for the latter argument, but the framing of your overall answer is more of an attack on Amy.

Joe - you've answered ""why Iraq?" but not the more important (IMO) question "Why Iraq at the direct expense maintaining pressure on OBL?"

Going after Iraq makes sense. Doing so at the expense of removing arabic speaking military and intel assets from the Afghanistan/Pakistan border right at the point when Al Qaeda is off balance is not an obvious smart move. Having significant assets in Afghanistan not only helps suppress Taliban resurgence and keep the warlords under control (whose lawlessness is, after all, one of the reasons the Taliban was popular with some Afghans), but also keeps the pressure up on Pakistan, particularly the ISI. In the best case, by deferring the Iraq invasion by a year we could have had OBL's dead body, along with even more of the upper leadership. In addition, US pressure could help the moderates in Pakistan in their conflict with the extremists (and yes, I know the US has been applying pressure, but there's diplomatic pressure and then there's diplomatic pressure backed by a couple of divisions on the border - the difference is not trivial).

As others have said, it's about the long game. The sense of urgency over Iraq does not seem to me to have been warranted by an eye for the long game. Even the obvious explanation (electoral schedules) doesn't make sense to me - GWB was in a lot better shape politically in November of last year than he is right now - a years deferral of the Iraq war would have left him going into the election triumphant in Iraq, the jury still out on WMD, and possibly with OBL sitting in Gitmo or a freezer.

Joe, elegantly and thoughtfully stated. Perhaps Amy might enjoy reading "Democratic Realism" by Dr. Charles Krauthammer, for a discussion of the four great schools of foreign policy. It is not terribly long. The pdf can be downloaded from here:

It delineates the Bush/Blair approach to the problem quite nicely, with attention to historical context.

Joe: well done as always, dollface, but tenses, dahlink... tenses... or did I miss something and this was a past-referral predication? Maybe I need more coffee.

Ayup - I do need more coffee - I missed the entire time-premise. Oy, I'm so confused.

What a load of horse hockey! Outside of Perle, Wolfowitz and Laurie Mylroie, (talk about Larry Moe & Curley), no one believes the WTC/Saddam/al Qaeda Axis of Evil ever existed! UNSCOM and the IAEA had plenty of information before the war about the lack of WMD in Iraq. They were poopooed by the neocons who listened to Chalabi and his "inside" sources. The facts on the ground have proved Blix right and Chalabi and the Neocons wrong! With all due respect methinks Amy still awaits a credible response...

Reading comprehension not your strong point, Alagator? When you have somthing other than talking points to offer, let us know.

Jay Currie said:
While I have no idea if the Iraqi gambit will work, it beats the hell out of simply allowing the ideology of jihad to go unanswered in the Middle East. Because if that ideology is unchecked, generations of hopeless, humiliated, defeated and pathetic Arab and Islamic young men will accept as true that America is the "Great Satan" and that the troubles of the Islamic world are all caused by external enemies, most of all the Jews. They will flock to the banner of jihad and they will use bomb belts and trucks full of fertillizer to defeat the Crusader and the Jew.

Iraq is about changing the conditions which bred terrorists. It is the long game and the one which the West must win.

The trouble is, the neoconservatives' reverse-domino-theory is just that: a gambit. It's true that there's an ideological current in the Middle East that's antithetical to both U.S. interests and technological progress. The assumption in your argument, however, is that the only means of addressing this problem is through military intervention. Clinton clearly didn't succeed with his bombing campaigns and sanctions, so we simply need to turn up the dial.

Admittedly, I'm not qualified to present you with a plan for broad-based cultural change in the Middle East. However, it seems to me that such a complex problem must have a complex solution, one that features military, economic, and diplomatic action to effect such change. It seems the current administration has focused principally on conquest and direct nation-building as a means of transforming Iraq, and are relying on some ill-formed notion of "democracy-by-osmosis" to handle the rest of the region.

The past year has proven that they gravely underestimated the difficulty of such a task, and have thus been forced to commit both economic and political capital that might be applied to other fronts in the reform of the Middle East. Iraq is only a piece of the puzzle, and our chosen method of dealing with it has been a failure. Now, what can we do to salvage Iraq, and how can we incorporate it into a more well-thought-out strategy for the transformation of the Arab world?

Personally, I feel that most of the political damage has been done. If we see any kind of stable democracy in Iraq within the next fifty years, it will be an independent one that is deeply suspicious of US involvement (reminiscent of some of the democracies in South America). Our hamhanded and insensitive management of the occupation has left scars that will continue to affect Iraqi policy towards the United States for a long time to come.

What we should focus on next for the Arab world is not further conquest (I doubt even the adventurous neocons have the stomach for that), but rather direct economic and political pressures both positive and negative. For example, some of the smaller Arab dictatorships (like Qatar) seem to genuinely recognize the need for development in order to survive. They are pouring their oil profits into education and infrastructure, and are actively trying to attract foreign investment in non-petroleum industries. We should in turn encourage development in such countries while pressuring them to enact reforms (particularly immigration and political changes).

Top quality work, Joe. Really great.

Right...I managed to miss that part of the paragraph, brain death. It wasn't first on the list of reasons to leave the Saudis alone, is my only excuse.

There is another angle from which to look at the justifications for invading Iraq and setting up a client state in it's place. It's based on a few premesis which may or may not be open to argument. First, assuming 9-11 changed the way we manage our immigrant-tourist population making it harder for arab/islamic men between 18 and 25 from entering the USA it makes sense that they would instead choose soft targets overseas as apposed to hardened targets in the US. Now if I was the president and I wanted to "take the fight to the enemy" knowing what I know about their desire to target "soft targets" i would look to create a situation which is sufficiently ambiguious to be construed as soft yet has the flavor of a major victory. This is what we have in Iraq, the perception of a place that is "chaos" and yet is filled with Americans with guns and tanks. Nothing serves propaganda better than a dead american inside a burning tank. So this is what we have done. We jumped inside of the hornets nest knowing that they'd all get pissed rush toward the nest where we'd wait and systematically cull them all. The point here is that we knew this would be a quagmire and it's a quagmire we wanted. We're happing that senators are complaining about insufficent troop numbers that's the message we want them to hear. The worse the situation sounds the more terrorists and borderline terrorists looking for a reson to fall off the fence, will flock to Iraq and not to the US or our allies. You see why try to pull off an operation where everybody is looking out for someone who looks just like you when you can operate in a place where everyone else looks just like you. Just my own personal insight. Comments are welcome.

Robin Roberts, you assume that the military action is the only thing going on in Iraq. But in fact, a lot is being done to address the need for wider cultural change in the region.

Let me address one modest effort of which I have personal knowledge: an effort to help Baghdad University. For a variety of reasons, the University has not had a chance to keep up with the current state of affairs in most subjects. Faculty and students have done an incredible job with the resources to hand imagine science & engineering textbooks from the late 1960s), but those were limited, as was exposure to the wider world. And, there has definitely not been a culture of open inquiry there.

A quiet effort has begun to address this. For now, it has taken the form of computer equipment donated by the US plus initial visits, consultations and some classroom lectures by West Point faculty. Although only uniformed military have visited so far, due to the relative ease of protecting them & having them contribute to defense if attacked, they are a good place to start: many of my uniformed colleagues hold PhDs from Stanford, Cornell, MIT and similar schools.

The officers aren't the only ones interested in this effort. My husband (a retired officer), myself and a few other civilian colleagues have made it clear we are volunteers too. [amusing side note: Roger and I each volunteered privately, and then reluctantly confessed to having done it only when we found out we couldn't go .... and we each backed the other in going if s/he wanted, despite worries about safety]

In the meanwhile, I emptied my professional / technical bookshelf of the volumes most likely to be useful and we sent those along, plus other books donated by USMA faculty and relevant software they could use without license fees.

This has just gotten started, and it is a modest start. However, it implies all sorts of cultural exchange. Imagine, if you can, a petite woman full Colonel with a PhD from a top university talking about applied math and systems engineering disciplines. Imagine West Point faculty telling their Iraqi university counterparts that our Army cadets are taught using a highly interactive method that limits lecturing and encourages cadets to, among other things, help each other learn. Imagine a teaching climate in which cadets are not ridiculed for asking questions or indicating difficulty with a concept -- a climate in which they are not forbidden from getting help on graded assignments -- but are held to the highest standards of the Code of Honor to openly DOCUMENT every bit of such help they receive, so that credit can be given where it is deserved and not taken where it is not earned.

Now that offers the possibility of very real cultural change over time.

One modest effort among many .....

Wonderful points, Robin, but I think you were addressing someone else.


Masterful job.

You have left out a few downside risks, however.

  • Time is not on our side. Do we have enough time for the "reverse domino" theory to work? One more attack by Middle Eastern terrorists in which we sustain substantial numbers of casualties, possibly two and the Jacksonians in the U. S. will demand a total-war response. One if the attack is with a nuclear device.
  • Opportunity costs. We are considerably less able to respond to challenges other than in Iraq with that large a force tied down there. We may need the money elsewhere, also.
  • Does the U. S. have the stomach to have a force of 50,000 - 100,000 stationed in Iraq indefinitely? And, believe me, it will be indefinitely. We still have troops in Germany, Japan, and Korea.

These are the reasons I've been skeptical about the war in Iraq. Steven Den Beste, in particular, has persuaded me that the current approach is worth a try since the alternative appears to be to reduce the Middle East to rubble. But I'm still skeptical.


Your points are reasonable but as Joe pointed out, we already had an indefinite commitment of troops to the region.

Robin Roberts:

Your points are reasonable but as Joe pointed out, we already had an indefinite commitment of troops to the region.

My point remains. Do we have the stomach for it? Only time will tell--and it's not our friend.

Will a President Kerry try to augment U. S. troops in the Iraq with NATO or U. N. troops? Or will he strive to replace U. S. troops with NATO or U. N. troops? He's appears to have committed to the idea of some kind of U. S. presence there indefinitely. But I have no real idea of what his real intentions are.


Regarding opportunity costs on the military side: where do you anticipate the troops stationed in Iraq to be needed in the near future?

If you are talking about North Korea, I believe the current layout of the American force structure assumes that a flare-up on the Korean peninsula could occur at any time--which is to say, we already have reserves waiting in anticipation of that problem, despite the major commitment in Iraq. Moreover, a large-scale conflict on the Korean peninsula would involve American Air Force and Navy participation, not Army, since the South Korean Army is 600,000 strong and as prepared for an assault from the north as troops get. For this reason, the American troops in Iraq do not detract from the Korean mission, since their specialties are unlikely to be needed in that theater.

If you are talking about other potential conflicts in the Middle East, well, Iraq is centrally located and has large borders with the three nations most likely to cause trouble: Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. The resources in place in Iraq means that the logistical tail into each of those countries is immeasurably shorter than an alternative world where Saddam's Iraq had not been invaded, and the dictator deposed. While a flare-up in any of those three countries would put a strain on our military resources in a quantifiable sense, we are still in a better position to deal with those theoretical problems now than in the non-invasion alternative world.

Is there another potential hotspot that I have missed? I'd say Pakistan, but a land invasion of Pakistan is one of those nightmare scenarios that is difficult to plan--land invasions of nuclear states have tremendous potential drawbacks, for obvious reasons. In addition, the terrain and rural population are similar to neighboring Afghanistan, and a land invasion in force would have been likely to fail, as the Soviets demonstrated.

Sam Barnes:

Regarding opportunity costs on the military side: where do you anticipate the troops stationed in Iraq to be needed in the near future?

North Korea is, of course, the most likely prospect but the real answer is we just don't know. And you're right--Iraq makes a great base for heading off problems in Syria, Iran, and Saudi.

But things in Venezuela could really head south. Or I understand there may be growing Al Qaeda bases in Paraguay for goodness sake. Or how about one of the failed/failing states in sub-Saharan Africa? Potential candidates for the next Afghanistan?

My real concern remains that while we wait for Iraq to become New Hampshire that New York will go up in a mushroom cloud.

Robin R:

I think you were addressing someone else

Ooops, you're right. I (dis)-credited you with the post above yours. Apologies!

Dave S., it's certainly true things are not what we'd like in south America. Touchy area for US intervention there, tho - in many ways touchier than the middle East.

I would expect troops for Iraq to come from, among others, a drawdown in Europe. Even more important than boots permanently on the ground (although that will happen and will continue for years) is the ability to stage logistical depots there. Airlift can get people places fast; tanks and such are another matter. You want them where you can use them quickly if necessary.

In Korea I suspect that any serious defense will need to be primarily headed by the south Koreans themselves, before or after we begin drawing down troop strength there. If they aren't willing to front that, there will be little stomach for the US to do it again. But - if they don't do so, expect Japan to militarize in a serious way, quickly, despite the constitutional issues and public resistance that might bring.

A little further out from the next few years, it is quite possible that we will be deploying unmanned systems with very expanded abilities for reconnaisance, defense and attack, on land and in the air both. That changes the dynamics about troop strength a lot.

There's more going on right now about that than may be obvious, too, especially with regard to homeland defense.

Good discussion, all. Pity we haven't yet heard from Amy despite sending her an email, I'm curious.

Richard... Your premises are flawed through and through. To frame 9/11 as some kind of globalization/economic derivative is the argument of people who can't image any other dimension to one's worldview. Many of the key terrorists are in fact relatively wealthy, and belong to professions benefitted by globalization. This is a religious conflict, and you haven't the faintest glimmer of a clue concerning the other side. You need to understand them on their terms, not as a sock-puppet for your own political positions. When/if you do, you might be able to talk about coexistence in a meaningful way - but it certainly won't be the same way.

Matt... The framing of the blog post is not an attack on Amy - it is an effort to have readers think through the problem, and realize from first-hand experience the difficulty of adequate responses in several of these key areas. Given the fact that presenting new options in many of these areas was/is one of Iraq's biggest potential upsides, that experience is highly relevant to the exercise.

The other thing I'd invite you to consider is that conflict is risky. Period. There's never any guarantee the other side will react the way you think, events get in the way, and there is no such thing as a perfect plan. ANY plan, looked at 2 years later, will have all kinds of holes and difficulties underestimated. In fact, the more complex the plan, the MORE holes it will have.

Which is why will and adaptability, not perfect plans, are trump in wartime.

Britain built a whole empire on that, with a long history of losing the first battles but winning its wars. The Germans preferred meticulous planning. Their record... kind of the reverse. Das is nicht gut.

Diplomacy and cultural efforts are definitely important, but they do not suffice on their own. They must be backed by force, something you yourself acknwoedge. What I'd like to see you defend is the idea that we could leave Saddam Hussein, Iran's mullahs (and ultimately the Saudis too) et. al. alone, and have other efforts produce significant change in the region. I can't see it myself... maybe you could offer me a common sense explanation making THAT particular case.

My counter-thesis: The minor efforts you describe in minor Arab countries will mean nothing (and indeed, are likely to serve as negative lessons when larger players exploit the resulting weaknesses) if some of the key bad actors in the region are not removed.

I'm assuming, of course, that looking at 9/11 and then going back to sleep is not an option any more.


Ok, so you're worried about possible problems in South America or sub-Saharan Africa. Bluntly, though, are the problems you've heard about of more significance than the problems we are confronting (and hopefully solving) in the Middle East?

I do not mean to minimize the horrors occurring right now in the Sudan, for instance. Unfortunately, I'd argue that ending Saddam's regime in Iraq and putting pressure on the other dictators of the Middle East are of more importance to our own national security. I hate the fact that national security interests must trump humanitarian interests when it comes to potential foreign invasions, but that's the way it is.

I don't want to see New York going up in a mushroom cloud either, but it seems to me that the most likely potential sources of nuclear weaponry have U.S. troops camped on their border right now. Last I checked, neither South America nor Africa contained a nuclear state or a borderline-nuclear state (with the exception of Libya, and that situation looks to be well in hand).

Our intelligence apparatus is certainly not perfect, but I'm willing to believe that, by and large, they are comprised of patriotic men and women who are doing their best to protect the rest of us. I hope that, should Venezuela, Paraguay, or one of the troubled African states go the way of Afghanistan in terms of full, overt terrorist control of a sovereign state, we'd have the sufficient warning needed to reconfigure our international force posture.

Finally, we can't know everything, and we can't let the lack of perfect knowledge paralyze us. "The perfect is the enemy of the good." The list of international problems confronting the U.S. will only continue to grow unless we proactively work on whittling down the list.

Sam, I was going to add you to our Prospects blogroll in the Pinch-Hitter ® slot... the only thing that stopped me was your lack of a blog.

But I haven't said this enough, so I'll say it here - your intelligence and level-headed commentary over many Winds of Change.NET discussion threads is much appreciated.

While I'm at it, how about a plug for Dave Schuler's blog, as a thanks for his consistently interesting commentary.

Thanks for being valued regulars at our online establishment.

Thanks, Joe. It's really a privilege to be even a minor participant of such an important enterprise as WoC. (Mostly) Soundly reasoned discourse, in predominantly temperate tones is a true rarity in the blogosphere.

As combined learning/argument-honing/therapy it can't be beat!

BTW (and off-topic) does anyone know what praktike's up to? American Footprint just comes up with an "On Hiatus" message.


Thank you so much for your kind words. Sorry, I have no plans to start a blog of my own, but I greatly enjoy the forum you have provided here, and the many thoughtful discussions I've read and participated in. I'd like to thank the other posters and commenters here as well--I have learned so much from many of you, both in terms of the facts themeselves and the crafting of a well-made argument. Have a nice day. =)

P.S. I hope Porphyrogenitus was going to get a promotion! I'd be honored for the mention, but Porphy is an invaluable part of the blogosphere--up there with den Beste and Wretchard, in my opinion.

Many good points by all, but all one has to do is look to the skies to visually see why the Failed Left is in a hurry to internally and externally destabilize and empower Socialism and Socialist Global Government control over America - what looks like "stars" are not stars but "emplaced"
US SATWAR/SPAWAR assets, and those "streaks" of nearby meteors are NOT natural objects, ie meteors, comets, and asteroids, etc., just as most of those low-atmospheric "twinklers", as the Aussies call them, are also NOT "au naturale"!
The Cold War US doctrine of maintaining technological superiority, now DOMINANCE, is STILL in force and unlikely to change - if, propanganda aside, organized and NUCLEARIZED Communist China and Communist-centric "Fascist" Russia, etal. thanks to Leftist Absolutism can anticipate remaining MINOR, albeit geographically large, STATES for a long, long, LONG while to come, what chance does more primitive and decentralized Radical Islam have BY ITSELF!? BTW, the news this AM reports that the Chinese hotages have been released, while the Russians are being considered for early release - the Americans and their allies are still being held without similar considerations. Iff true, the question again becomes why are self-proclaimed Faith-based Theocrats/IslamoSocialists/Jihadists, ie dedicated-militant anti-Secularists, now prioritizing release consideration to those citizens from Leftist Secular Socialist or Secular Absolutist centralist great nations!?

WOW, what a GREAT post! Thank you very much!

Assume for the moment that the strategy you have adopted is bigger than just pressuring al Qaeda, because the problem is bigger than just al Qaeda. (A strategy like this.

Your overall goal is to bring democracy to the Muslim world because where Muslims live under fascists, you get fundamentalist terrorists. Really, you could look it up.

The Muslim world stretches from the Straits of Gibraltar to the South China Sea. Just look at the map - dead center is South West Asia. And the big baddies in the support of terror (not just AQ) are Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and Saudi Arabia gets no pass, either.

Iraq has the largest military. And it is bordered by an ally (Kuwait) with seaports, so we have a land route to approach. And it borders on Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.


Want to know why Iraq? Look at the map.

What happened to the PR campaign to present the case to the American people? My guess is that you might argue too much ignorance - and I wouldn‘t disagree. But Tony Blair recently gave a fairly eloquent speech that captured the ‘flavor’ of the effort without diagramming the military operations. Something wrong I think.

The US is attacked in the most major way ever on our shores,
they just don't seem to be teaching History anymore are they?

Some tell the girl that less than 200 years ago the Nation was invaded and our capital burned?

British forces march on Washington. At a brief battle on the road, known as the Battle of Bladensburg; the British forces defeat the American forces, who withdraw in disarray, thus opening the road to Washington. The British burn the White House and the Capitol, but the rest of Washington is saved by a strong rain storm. The British, under orders not to hold any territory, withdrew.

Of course that is not all that happened:

On December 18, 1813, the British capture American Fort Niagara. They went on to capture Buffalo.
She probably also thinks the Evil Christian Crusaders attacked the Peaceful Muslim Empire for not reason whatsoever.


Great post on this topic!

I would like to amplify your statement about Iraq not keeping the 'ceasefire'. They were actively firing missiles at our planes!!! I think that is a much overlooked point in how ridiculous the situation with Iraq had become. Everyone knew that Saddam was pocketing the oil proceeds to build his next palace. We just didn't know how much he was shipping underneath the sand to his French buddies.

I would like to also address one very annoying tactic of our more liberal commenters. Instead of using 'neocon', why not just say the bogeyman? Or at the very least develop a rotation of interesting variants(i.e. crazycon or hellbentonworlddestructioncon). It wasn't until Vast Right Wing Conspiracy was used to the point of absurdness, that neocon came to town. I happen to prefer the variations on a candidates name, like FrankenKerry or DizzyDean. So please work on your euphemisms for my sake and entertainment.

Sweet dreams,
Crazycon in Houston

Joe, with all due respect, I enjoyed most of your analysis (especially the first half), but the Iraq side of things really misses the mark....In considering national security, the operating question is always, what will make us safer? By "us" I mean all the people we are responsible for, which pre-Iraq meant all Americans, and post-Iraq meant all Americans and Iraqis.... I mean, looking at the situation and deciding it is untenable does not give you a blank check to act anyway you please. If that action does not make us safer, then how is it an improvement. All the long-term analyses pointed to the strong possibility of the development of either an Islamic republic or a civil war in Iraq if Saddam Hussein were removed through war without an international presence to stabilize governance afterwards. History has shown us that "nation-building" is a long-term project (one at which we have failed 14 out of 16 times we have tried it). Admittedly, it is a choice between many lesser and greater evils, but it is not at all clear that the action we took was a lesser evil, let alone a good in and of itself. I think it became clear to many people that Bush and Co. were right on the merits that action had to be taken, but it became just as clear that their incompetence at the task was going to ruin any chances of success, and that the outcome of any action on their part was unlikely to make any of us -- Iraqi or American -- safer in both the short and long run. In other words, it would be "mixing it up" for no good whatsoever. Hard to support such an action.

What choices were made -- after the choice to act had been made -- which decreased the chances of success (note: not "victory"!)?

- utter humiliation of the great powers ("we're so great that we can go it alone"): only fools would be surprised that their reaction to a proposal to a risky adventure wrapped up in a "we don't need you" attitude would get anything but a "well then go it alone" reply.

- overt mockery of UN's legitimate role as peacemaker, however flawed: was it not obvious to all that any Security Council resolutions proposed by the US were designed to paper over real conflict over if/when/how to proceed? Did we act in good faith? Obviously not.

- Outright public exaggerations, disingenuity, misinformation, and benign neglect for truth or any necessary public trust on the part of leaders who wished to lead the whole nation to war: cynicism defined

- "Success" defined as victory in war rather than Iraqi state stability, and post-war planning to complement that task -- an utter failure of common sense -- a lack of vision on a colossal scale -- short-sightedness, narrow-mindedness and wishful thinking instead. These are, needless to say, poor substitutes.

- Finally, a lack of sound judgment in the person at which the buck stops -- a failure to control subordinates running their own show, to America's detriment -- an inability to recognize risky, unactionable intelligence -- a borderline pathological unwillingness to see fault in oneself or one's words or actions -- a fundamental lack of authority as it concerns the executive branch's business -- a lack of awareness for the reality of the world outside of Texas....

The dilemma facing all of us is: when presented with a just war, but a terrible war leader, what do you do? What kind of success can you expect from a leader who has a sound understanding of the issue at hand -- Iraq -- but will bungle the job to be done as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow? Is it possible to support the project, but not the leader, or do the lines between them blur? It seems like they do, but they don't. If Americans have any good sense in their heads this November, they will vote for he who will most likely lead them to success. Bush has been making the case against himself since the beginning. We shall see if November is also a question of the lesser of two evils.


You say: "utter humiliation of the great powers"-- Sorry, the US is a unipolar power now. You also might enjoy Dr.Krauthammer.

"overt mockery of the UN's legitimate role"-- I take it you have not been following the oil-for-food scandal?

"exaggerations, disingenuity, misinformation, and benign neglect"-- Empirical data please.

""Success" defined as victory in war rather than Iraqi state stability"-- I argue that the jury is still out on that.

"a lack of sound judgment in the person at which the buck stops"-- Again, empirical data please. This is your opinion, and seems very subjective.

Consommée (7:30pm):

Thanks for posting. You list obstacles and problems that the US has encountered since deciding to invade Iraq. Believe it or not, many pro-war people have worried about such things, from the onset--as well as other plausible setbacks that, thankfully, haven't come to pass yet.

The point of Joe's post was, I think, to focus on alternatives. And, no fair using the retrospectoscope--alternatives as they appeared in 2002, the time period under consideration here.

Most of us pro-war types will agree that invading Iraq was a bad option. The key issue: identifying alternatives that were likely to lead to better outcomes.

Many people are not very diligent in exploring the consequences of the alternatives. I'll point out some issues that would have had to have been addressed in 2002 in just one area: "We should have acted in concert with our Allies, the International Community, and the UN."

--The domestic political benefits of anti-Americanism made it difficult for the governments of three key NATO members to support any US action.
--Philosophically, most of the EU elite was opposed to the use of force.
--The common EU-elite opinion was that "American hegemony" was the largest international problem.
--By and large, the EU found the status quo of 2002 to be acceptable regarding Iraq.
--France and Russia had major above-board economic stakes in the continuation of the Ba'athist regime (e.g. oil-field exploitation contracts; the Oil-for-Food scandal was unknown in 2002).
--'Progressive' and Islamist organizations were decrying enforcers of the relaxed UN sanctions on Iraq as "baby killers."
--France, Russia, Turkey, Jordan, Syria, and other states were actively undermining UN sanctions.
--Most member-states of the UN were authoritarian or worse; their governments had no reason to support regime-change in Baghdad.
--Iraq's neighbors were ruled by unpopular theocratic mullahs (Iran), unpopular royalty (Kuwait), unpopular Wahibbi royalty (Saudi Arabia), an unstable, Islamist-influenced monarchist democracy (Jordan), unpopular Alawite Ba'athists (Syria), and an elected Islamist government in conflict with its Kurds (Turkey). None of their governments would benefit from a prosperous, secular, democratic Iraq (with the possible exceptions of Kuwait, Jordan, or Turkey).
--Governments of the nations of the Arab League and other Muslim countries had similar perspectives for similar reasons.

So, given this set of facts on the ground in 2002, what did "We should have acted in concert with our Allies, the International Community, and the UN" mean, in practical, concrete terms? As best I can tell, this alternative was to do very little beyond maintaining the no-fly zones. We would have been faced with the collapse of sanctions, and then growing pressure to end them altogether. A gradual rehabilitation of the Saddam/Quasay/Uday regime would seem to me to have been the likely "endgame".

Perhaps I've missed something important in the "Multilateral would have been better" argument, and that it would have been reasonable to expect a better outcome. I hope you can develop this point (if it's what you think) if you have time for a follow-up post.


Nice recap.

Can anyone doubt that a more multi-lateral approach would have been better? But whether any substantial multi-lateral approach could have been achieved is speculative.

Dan Darling has cited sources that suggest that French compliance could have been achieved so long as we did not attempt to secure a second U. N. resolution. But my recollection is that we pursued the second U. N. resolution to secure the support of Tony Blair.

Sanctions had already collapsed de facto and that they would collapse de jure was foreseeable. I also believe that removal of our troops from Saudi Arabia was foreseeable as well.

Does anyone have any good guesses as to what Saddam Hussein would have done in the absence of both sanctions and our troops in Saudi?

I have it on good authority that Bob Novak is going to leak a document that outs Amy Alkon as Skippy The Flame Porn King.

/end attitude/

Those who hold principled objections to the war should not be marginalized by close proximity to caricatures of ‘little girls named Amy.’ I decided the Iraq campaign was defensible after reading Paul Berman and I still think that peace and stability have been repositioned front and center in a region where violence was stuck in an escalating spiral many levels removed from diplomatic access.

I will not argue too strenuously about diplomatic failures in Europe because my reading suggests that the continent is plagued with serious multi-faceted problems that were exposed by the Iraq engagement, but I will argue that direct communication with the American people was a little precious and denial of responsibility suggests lack of political character. And don’t bother asking for a cite. In the arena of public opinion, you don’t need one.

So, given this set of facts on the ground in 2002, what did "We should have acted in concert with our Allies, the International Community, and the UN" mean, in practical, concrete terms?


Consommée (pourquoi au féminin : s'agit-il d'une femme ?) raises an excellent set of legimate criticisms of the Bush Administration's handling of pre-war diplomacy and post-war approach to 'reconstruction'. Regarding the botched diplomacy, the U.S. could have done a lot more to avoid alienating its allies, including France. The contrary incentives of our allies (economic ties to the Hussein regime, domestic political difficulties, etc.) don't excuse the arrogance of Bush's approach and I think that Bush Senior for example or Kissinger (not to mention Bill Clinton) would have done a much better job in that respect. I don't view this necessarily as an all or nothing question - ie, do you have full French and German support or none at all. It may have been sufficient to at least voice enough concern for the issues raised by France and Germany and others to maintain them as 'sympathetic' (rather than 'hostile') neutrals in a way that could have had a positive knock-on effect in the post-war debate int he U.N. as well.

It is also not clear to me that French non-participation in the war was inevitable. France after all sent its aircraft carrier to the persian gulf region in anticipation of the war and Chirac even ordered the French army to prepare for an intervention (in early January, I think). At that point, public opinion was not as firmly set against the U.S. and the French after all are largely sheep and will to a great extent lean whatever way its elites tell it to (save in this case the far left and the far right which would have been against the intervention). French peevishness and obstructionism - and German skitishness - were all well known in advance and should have been better dealt with. Smarter diplomacy could have led the way to greater European involvement, a constructive role for the U.N., greater global "legitimacy" and ultimately shaped events in a way more conducive to a more successful outcome.

W blew this aspect big time. His father would have done a better job.

alk (4:19pm):

Those who hold principled objections to the war should not be marginalized by close proximity to caricatures of ‘little girls named Amy.’


I mean, I think Joe Katzman gave a good explanation of why he structured this entry the way he did.

There are many positions that make sense at first glance. Some withstand thoughtful scrutiny. Others don't. Still others turn out to be quite different from what they seemed to be. These sorts of questions are reasonable, even necessary. It's hard for me to see comments in this thread by Sam Barnes, Dave Schuler, Consommee, twisterella, and others as caricatures.

This is the article in question with regard to the position of the French government concerning Iraq.

As for Russia, they were planning a coup prior last fall in an effort to avert the US-led invasion of Iraq. Russia had pretty much compromised the Iraqi Mukhabarat (many members of which were originally trained by the Soviet Bloc) prior to the war and used the country as a means to keep tabs on the Chechens and their al-Qaeda backers in the Gulf. This is the primary reason why Russia wasn't too concerned about Collin Powell's claims of a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda - they were already well aware of such link that they preferred to monitor for their own purposes.

When the Russian-backed coup attempt failed as a result of Iraq's ruthlessly effective security services, the Russian elites (who hold the real power over there anyway) were quite willing to offer the US a deal in which Russia would let the US move against Iraq in return for a blank check by the US for moving against the Chechen al-Qaeda holed up in northern Georgia. Why we didn't agree to this is beyond me, though Joe and I have speculated that some of it may be due to an extreme reluctance on behalf of the American political class to admit either the anti-democratic character of Shevardnadze's state, his tacit complicity regarding what was going on in the Pankisi Gorge, and an extreme reluctance by Western politicians and analysts in general to acknowledge Chechen ties with al-Qaeda for fear of justifying Russian policy with regard to Chechnya. I don't condone what the Russians have done in Chechnya, but that doesn't change the fact of who Shamil Basayev and Co are in cahoots with.


Thanks for repeating the citation. This brings up the extremely interesting of why, under the circumstances, did Tony Blair insist on the second resolution? It sounds suspiciously like Anglo-French squabbling to me--a pretty much successful move to marginalize the French. But to some degree at our expense. Curiouser and curiouser.

I'm certainly not a member of the "the Bush Administration can do no wrong" club. But doesn't this seem to undercut the "it's all because of the incompetence of the Bush Administration's diplomacy" argument?

That should be "extremly interesting question".

The hand is quicker than the eye.


I read this analogy somewhere else on the web. I paraphase.

You are given the job of draining a swamp.

The swamp is full of alligators who crawl out, destroy livestock, and are a danger to local inhabitants. The alligators have no reason to stay in the swamp when pickings are so good outside of it.

To remove the alligators you have two choices:

1. Fort up on the edge of the swamp and wait for alligators to swim by. Shoot them. The alligators that get by you and attack must be tracked down individually.

2. Hop in a skiff and look for alligator nests. Destroy them. Be prepared for major attacks by alligators in their natural element.

We have been shooting at them for over 30 we are trying to destroy nests.

Once the decision is taken to drain the swamp and destroy alligators, it doesn't matter that the nest never did you harm or where the nest is in the swamp. The nest has to go because the alligator it shelters will harm you.

The two choices are equally valid. Choice #1 is safer for you, but takes a long time and is harder on the livestock. Choice #2 is dangerous for you, but is quicker and the alligators stay in the swamp to defend their nests.

You are not asked to analyze how we got to this point in our dealings with swamps and are simply tasked with removing the swamp and the alligators.

Gabriel Gonzalez:

I think you also would benefit from reading Democratic Realism. Liberal multinationalism is a bankrupt policy. Consider how well it worked under Clinton-- genocide in Rwanda, genocide in NK, nuclear proliferation everywhere, and the run-up to 911.

I also reccommend Machiavelli,especially-- "allies make you weak-- the enemy makes you strong".

But doesn't this seem to undercut the "it's all because of the incompetence of the Bush Administration's diplomacy" argument?

That the French are treacherous, the British foolish and the Bush administration incompetent are propositions that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The Guardian article reports speculation (with a distinct conspiratorial 'they planned it all along' tone to it). The details are too sparse and general to know how any of the options would have played out in the real world.

Over and beyond following one alternative or trade-off as opposed to another (no second resolution, French agreement to give the U.S. a pass on the invasion, etc.), Bush's diplomacy problem has been as much one of style as of substance adn after a while the stlye begins to flow over into the substance. Bush is hated in Europe, and with that reputation he makes it hard for European leaders to publicly support him.

The isolate-the-French gambit doesn't seem to have paid off too well: indeed, they have fairly successfully triangulated with a weak hand and their capacity for trouble-making has only been enhanced, especially in the Arab world. The trick would have been to associate the French as much with the upside of the Iraq invasion as the downside to encourage good behavior towards a successful outcome as well as maintain some level of support when the chips were down.

LOL, that is the best metaphor I have enjoyed in many a day! May I admire you?

I think you also would benefit from reading Democratic Realism.

I haven't read it, but I have read some of Krauthammer's articles (and recent speech) discussing the main themes, with which I basically sympathize. But you seem to be posing as extreme alternatives "Multinationalism" and "Democratic Realism". My point about the pre-war and post-war diplomacy is not really about general foreign policy orientations at that level. Even in a "democratically realist" world, I assume we still have embassies, treaties, alliances, etc?

Credit where credit is due. I first read the alligator/swamp analogy on Donald Sensing's blog.


In all fairness to Tony Blair, I think he was banking on a second UN resolution reinforcing his own domestic stance among the British Labourites, a fair number of whom were fairly adamantly dead-set against going to war. Had the Tories not decided to back Blair on this one, the UK would not have taken part in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

My own view is that (and I may get some flack for saying it) it appears that some factions within the administration are entirely too enamoured with Tony Blair that they were willing to go to the UN for a second resolution in order to shore him up domestically - a move that ultimately ended in a failure and created the current trans-Atlantic divide that we see today. I think that it was a mistake on the part of the administration, although one of the things that probably should be factored into the equation is that at the same time all of this was going on the UK was jostling with France over influence with regard to the EU, so we might want to factor that into the equation as well.

Another factor, which I brought up in my Distorted Intelligence special analysis was that the German security services (as well as Newsweek's Isikoff and Hosenball) were entirely suckered by Shadi Abdallah into believing that Zarqawi didn't have any connections to al-Qaeda, which is why they didn't regard the alliance between his mob and the Iraqi Baathists as being the kind of threat that the US painted it out to be. The German security services passed Abdallah's claims on to their French counterparts and it was before the fall of 2003 that the French and German intelligence agencies amended their conclusions, by which time it was already too late to alter the perception of a majority of both nations' electorates, to say nothing of many officials in either government.

My own view is that the administration is doing a fairly good job on the tactical and strategic front as far as the WoT is concerned but that there have been a number of exceedingly costly PR debacles that have cost us dearly on the diplomatic front. Particularly with regard to articulating why the US is doing what it does with regard to Iraq and its implications for the global war on terrorism. Then again, that assumes that there'd be somebody there who was willing to listen ...

AMac - Inside joke - don't worry about it.

All righty then.


That analysis makes a good deal of sense.

My own view is that the administration is doing a fairly good job on the tactical and strategic front as far as the WoT is concerned but that there have been a number of exceedingly costly PR debacles that have cost us dearly on the diplomatic front. Particularly with regard to articulating why the US is doing what it does with regard to Iraq and its implications for the global war on terrorism.

The question for domestic politics is whether anyone else could have done any better. My own view is that, while Bush is far from perfect, anyone else would have been in the same soup.


From a domestic political perspective, I pretty much agree with you. Certainly I can't see Gore being willing to give the Russians Georgia or not seeking a second UN resolution on Iraq. Part of the reasoning as to why I think Bush was able to obtain these kinds of potential offers (some of which, such as that in the case of Russia, I think that he would have been much better inclined to follow up on) from our allies was due to the knowledge that he would move against Iraq even in the absence of a UN resolution in the wake of such high levels of international oppositions - I'll be up front here and say that I don't think that you could imagine that kind of a threat coming from Gore.

Then again, perhaps I'm wrong - Gore was quite willing to back Operation Allied Force against Serbia despite strong Russian opposition that could have easily translated into military intervention. I have a pet theory that some of the Democratic ideologues have more or less unconsciously ideologically subordinated themselves to their counterparts in Europe with regard to foreign policy that perhaps I'll get around to expressing more articulately some time in the near future.

Then again, that assumes that there'd be somebody there who was willing to listen …


Michael Kinsley’s “Big Babies” and James Fallows “Breaking the News.” Both were published in the 1990’s, a decade that will not be remembered for much more than the overheated engine of the American Dream collapsing (I should say course-correcting - still an issue of irresponsibility for me) in a mushroom cloud of - fill-in-the-blank with your partisan pathology. David Brooks’ “Bobos in Paradise.”

We listen to the extent that our judgment tells us is required. Should the drumbeat have been louder? I don’t think that would have been wise, but history is replete with examples of what good speeches can accomplish. The Gettysburg Address. Kinsley’s issue of insufficient activism, or even insufficient awareness, is a valid, but hopelessly amorphous, position from which to suggest structural changes, too often suggesting less than perfect solutions like Fallows ‘public journalism.’

I'll be up front here and say that I don't think that you could imagine that kind of a threat coming from Gore.

Dan: And thank you for articulating a (possible) conclusion that was hovering around the edges of my radar - that Bush’s willingness to engage was a strategic asset that has been subsumed by the malignant ‘cowboy’ image propagated throughout the media. History has yet to be written.

Tais toi and read, Gabriel. When you can legitimately argue for liberal multinationalism, I would be pleased to hold discourse with you.

twisterella -- if the genocide in Rwanda is reason to discredit Liberal Multilateralism, then what does the genocide in Sudan right now discredit?

Presumably the National Islamic Front, who served as bin Laden's hosts from 1991-1996 and are responsible for most of the genocide in the south, much of which has now ceased under US pressure.

Or if you're referring to Darfur, there is currently a tentative cease-fire in place there as a result of Western pressure on the NIF.

AMac --

I don't quite understand what you mean by focusing on alternatives? Do you mean lay out an alternate path that could have been taken circa early 2003? Do you speak of the project or the leader, because given the same leader, what alternative path could have been taken besides the one we took? Or in other words, what good is speculation? Any alternatives presented are surely going to come as critiques of what was done, or they will contain dreamy "if only it hadn't been Rumsfeld as SecDef..." assumptions which I think would render any argument rather useless.

I think what you propose is "What if a Democrat had been in office?" or somesuch question -- i.e. given the same unchangeables (which you took the time to list, thank you), what could have been changed to render the outcome of the Iraq Project more palatable?

I think of it in terms of building software -- perhaps you are familiar with that analogy or have your own professional equivalent. When you are building something from scratch, engaging in the process of invention, you need a vision of what the end product will look like, how it will work and what it will do. From there all the "process" to getting there is revealed -- how to proceed in building it, how to coordinate tasks, which steps first, etc. Problems will necessarily arise -- we can't envision everything or it's not invention! -- and these will be accomodated, but ultimately there must be a plan, a blueprint which largely if not structurally details the map from here to there (and any unforeseen problems will not contradict the fundamental assumptions underlying said map, or otherwise the whole thing needs to be rehauled). In other words, the ends dictate the means.

So, what would acceptable ends concerning Iraq have been? The establishment of a pro-American regime giving its citizens some semblance of freedom so they won't be tempted by Islamic terrorism which seduces all oppressed Muslim peoples, that rules over a unified Iraq (Kurds, Shi'a, Sunni, et al.) and is a threat to no nation, near or far from its borders.

It doesn't appear to me that this was the goal of the current administration, based on their actions thus far (the most obvious being our small troop presence going in), but it's entirely plausible that their intentions have been clouded over by so many unexpected problems that the first goal has been abandoned (i.e. "we will be greeted as liberators and they will throw flowers on us") and another goal or many successive goals have been adopted (in effect, rolling with the punches). As any software developer knows, when you lose sight of the final product, chances are, you'll get lackluster results.

Assuming for a moment that the Administration had in mind the end I outlined above, I believe the majority of the "unexpected problems" which derailed them derived from a less-than-realistic understanding of Iraq and the world (I think they had a good understanding of the American populace). For instance:

- I do not detect that among the principal actors in this nation-building exercise that there was an understanding of the psychology of peoples emerging from oppression. History has provided numerous examples to consult on this one. For one thing, they don't know how to live in a way that doesn't include oppression, so a massive education campaign is in order. For another, they don't know how to be responsible for each other and are likely to let their immediate self-interest govern their actions... Third, they are unmotivated, having been beaten down to the ground by an Authority with seemingly endless power and cruelty -- quite different from the national projects of Japan and Germany in which citizens were engaged in realizing a vision of the world which even if it failed, at least they can say they tried....

- I do not detect that among the principal actors in this nation-building exercise that there was an understanding of Iraqi culture and history, or even a broad understanding of Islam.

(- Disbanding the Iraqi army which fled and crumbled in our wake during the war was a catastrophic military decision. Anyone who understands any military knows what it means to leave young men with arms undisciplined.)

- I believe that while the "national security threat" argument was necessary for the UN, and NATO (I wish this organization had been used), public opinion in Europe would have responded a lot more to the humanitarian argument, i.e. rather than an appeal for action (which galvanizes America but turns off Europe), the argument in Europe to go to war would have appealed to their reason and to their heart. When you see a product, you have to know your consumer, right? American has a fundamentally different set of consumers than Europe, which is more educated, more engaged, and more emotional.

- I would not have let anyone run roughshod over me (had I been president) with scurrilous arguments of legitimacy concerning the UN and whatnot when the "right thing to do" was as clear as day. A more articulate spokesman and a less-dismissive attitude would have not bogged us down as we were in UN deliberations. Instead of answering the question "why does the US have the right to wage war when it wants?" we could have turned the tables and asked "why does Iraq have the right to flout UN conventions on peace and good governance?" In other words, I would have taken the information campaign just as seriously as the military one. We offered them no vision. I think Gabriel Gonzalez and I both winced when we saw Bush "diplomacy" in action last year, in France and elsewhere. What a disaster. It's not like we don't have Europhiles lining the entire East Coast of the United States that could have helped us with this one.

- A nice addendum to the above point would have been to present an alternative vision of the UN for the world (another organization I mean), as it is clear that the organization is useful on many many levels, but fails again and again when it concerns responsible governance (read: genocide). The UN charter is a SHAME on all those who participate in the organization, including the US. Continuing that charade is really not in our interests and yet we did.

I must admit I'm getting distracted as I write this (kids running around, etc.), so my argument probably devolved as I went on. Hopefully there is stuff for some of you to chew on.

Funny. I write up my post here and then I visit Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly and find he has roughly the same thoughts (with his own take of course):

I keep seeing comments about "our" decision to "disband" the Iraqi army. This really is mostly nonsense, the Iraqi army disbanded itself. What the Coalition forces decided to do was not try to round them all up as they spontaneously fled, and if you think of how the Iraqi people would have reacted to that, it is hard to fault that decision.

Consummee (10:24pm):

A quick response, then I'll re-read your thoughtful piece and check out the Kevin Drum cite (kids here too).

Re. alternatives--I take Joe's post to be an exploration of the commonly- and loudly- voiced complaint that post-911, post-Afghanistan, Bush Blew It. Specifically, that he blew it because instead of his Screwed-Up Invasion of Iraq, the US clearly should have done Something Else.

So, then, what exact Something Else should Bush, or President Gore, or President Amy have done in 2002?

Re. your post--I'm in overall agreement with what you just wrote (now I'll have to re-read your earlier post too!). You certainly aren't making the standard-model anti-war critique.

As an aside (perhaps), I've been struck by how we tend to conflate hurricaines and people in some of these political debates. By which I mean that hurricaines, earthquakes, and floods can visit terrible destruction on familes, towns, and countries, as can bad government, crime, and war. To state the obvious, hurricaines etc. are not part of any "decision loop"--they are as they are. Us humans, by contrast, observe our environment and modify our actions accordingly.

So a common observation such as "If only Bush had done [something different], then [a certain bad result] would have been avoided" contains an implicit assumption. In this case ", since the US' adversaries wouldn't have altered their behavior."

Except in all likelihood they would have. So trying to not-disband the Iraqi army would have averted certain consequences, at the cost of creating certain other consequences, some easily guessed (Ba'athists in CPA-sanctioned uniform gunning down civilians), others not.

(1) Mme. President: If you decide to invade Iraq, you may want to ignore advisers and pundits who push something called a "flypaper strategy." This is the idea of leaving Iraq's borders porous so that Syrian, Saudi, Yemeni, and Lebanese jihadis can enter easily, ambush US troops, and terrorize the population with bombings. Porous borders will also facilitate the penetration of Iraq by the hostile Iranian and Syrian intelligence services. Couldn't Flypaper make a very risky operation even harder to accomplish?

One of the reasons many Arab nations oppose the US is because they have radicals of their own to deal with. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the Arab nations convinced the radicals to fight in Afghanistan (and hopefully die there). Now I believe they are doing the same in Iraq. The advantage to this is it allows the Arab nations to reform without the radical threat which means the US won't have to worry about them later.

Yes things might look hairy now, but when the fog of war clears and the Arab people see how one-sided the battle of Falujia really was they will learn to respect American again. It was a lack of respect over the last two decades that convinced them to take us on in the first place.

If globalization is a benefit to the World, then third world living standards should rise. There should be a third world middle class - of sorts. All good. The real losers will be the Americans. Real globalization will cost us jobs and any averaging we take part in will be us going down!

Richard, if the third world develops a middle class they will buy more stuff. A lot of that stuff is likely to be American made stuff which is the real reason why businesses favor globalization. If American companies sell more stuff they often hire more people to keep up with the demand. In the long run real globalization leads to more employment not less. If you look around the web you will find the US has gained more (and far better) jobs due to globalization than we have lost.

And those third world middle class workers have also gained because they are selling something, and if they've managed to work their way up to the middle class they're are clearly selling something people around the world want. Their companies are also going to expand and hire more. Probably the lower wage, lower skilled jobs but they're working their way up.

Your economic world view dooms the third world to poverty and the first world to paying too much for products that can be produced far cheaper in other areas. That's either foolish, or racist.

Consommee: OK then. Sorry, I really don't really buy the software design metaphor. That's a luxury presidents can't afford.

So, Amy, it's much more like extreme bugfix, with your hair on fire, and DT&E ('Design Test and Evaluation' for non-softwarepukes) starts tomorrow. What do you do? Do you try for the second resolution? Do you un-deploy and cut and run? Do you give the UN more time to cowboy up, knowing full well your soldiers may have to fight in MOP suits in 120 degree weather if you wait?

I know what I would do. :-)

Merci, Dan Darling, toujors les preaux chevalier?

Consommée -

Thoughtful to an extreme (and that's a compliment). The only criticism I'd have on first reading is that you don't put a timescale on the expected events. One think I keep hearing from people is that "it should be better"; but when?

I think there was a kind of time-distorting expectation that three months after the war was won, there'd be a Starbucks on every corner.

It took years to rebuild and restart Europe's economy after WW I and WW II. What makes anyone think this is going to go faster?

Based on a five-or-ten year timeline, I think we're doing pretty much OK.

I think we have some problems, because management hasn't budgeted for a five-or-ten year timeline, and because they haven't set the expectations of the stakeholders that it's going to take that long.

It's funny, but I think the one place Bush has blown it is in communicating with the American people.


Perhaps its time to stop saying Bush is a poor communicator of a good policy and recognize that what he's saying is the policy, and it's bad.

There's no way that any of your Gulf allies will provide bases for an attack on Iran, because they have large Shia populations.

What about Afghanistan? After we toppled the Taliban, we didn't really need to deal with a government that worried about its Shia minority.

Dunno if their territory is suitable for bases, though.

A.L. -- I'm with you on the 5-to-10 year timeline. I don't think the Administration is though.

Vesicle Trafficker:

I'll believe that as soon as I start seeing the policy stated accurately by the majority of his self-styled European opponents. You could start a deadly fire with all those straw men.


Je fais des excuses si mon Français est terrible, mais je ne pourrais pas comprendre ce que vous essayiez de dire.

V.T. Nope, not that time.

Robin Roberts -- Matthew Yglesias does a pretty good job of fisking your Iraqi military disbandment was wise argument here:

Dan -

Always the (not brave but bold? something on those lines)knight...


Dan, A.L.: perfect :-)

Dan Darling,

Going back a bit to a point of yours regarding the Bush/Blair relationship...I think you are right that Bush's loyalty to Blair has had nontrivial drawbacks (I'd add the WMD-centered arguments at the U.N. necessary to get Resolution 1441). It would have been much rougher on several fronts to engage in the Iraq operation without full military and diplomatic support from the British, though, so I think the drawbacks have been outweighed by the positive aspects of Blair's full support.

If you've noticed, Bush regards personal loyalty VERY highly in the people with whom he associates. Blair, as the head of the Labour Party, enjoyed a tight trans-Atlantic partnership with Bill Clinton. Given the historical associations of the political parties in Britain and America (Labour/Democrats, Tories/Republicans), Bush could have anticipated a cooling-off in the Anglo-American relationship after 2000, if the Clinton/Blair closeness had been due to a common Center-Left ideology.

However, based on Blair's talking points and actions as PM, I think it's clear that his top foreign policy goal is to maintain and strengthen the Anglo-American alliance, no matter which party dominates either London or Washington. Thus he was able to segue neatly from his rapport with Clinton to a firm partnership with Bush. From Bush's perspective, this is the best possible world as far as the British PM's outlook on foreign policy goes, and it means that Blair deserves as much reciprocal loyalty as Bush can muster.

So when Blair said that he needed a Security Council Resolution to bolster his support at home, Bush did what it took to get unanimous consent to Resolution 1441. (To a certain extent, I agree that Blair was engaging in some cross-Channel gamesmanship with the French, and trying to knock them down a few pegs in internal European politics--and I'm not sure the matter has shaken out sufficiently to tell how successful this gambit was for Blair and Britain as a whole.) When Blair said he needed another resolution, Bush pushed the idea until it was clear to the British people that the French were stonewalling on Saddam's behalf, mitigating the pressure on Blair.

Bush tends to value loyalty quite highly and reward it generously. Blair's loyalty has been beneficial for both men, on balance, but as you note, there have been difficulties as well.

OK, Dan. But still at least 100,000 are estimated to die in the coming months. And Sudan commemorated the cease-fire on Monday by bombing the town of Anka. The question still stands. If Rwanda discredits "Liberal Multilateralism" (however vague and preposterous as it sounds), what is its equivalent during the Bush years since we may surmise that nothing was done to prevent this atrocity from occurring?

Vous ferez bien de répondre en anglais, vu l'état abominable de votre francais.

Sam Barnes:

You have to understand that I myself never regarded WMDs as a necessary casus belli for invasion to begin with, so I expect my distaste for what I regard as Blair's influence in the administration having to base a lot of the loudest rationale for going to war upon that very issue that I think has done a lot to hurt us diplomatically in terms of long-term consequences for how our intelligence is viewed around the rest of the world, especially if we eventually have to go into Iran to stop them from developing nuclear weapons.

A question that needs to be asked, I think is whether the level of British support that we received was necessary to the extent that it placed us in an antagonistic relationship with France and to a certain extent Russia during the run-up to war. A war in Iraq certainly would have been a much easier sell internationally without two of the planet's most powerful nations actively opposing us. Given Tariq Aziz's account to his interrogators that Saddam Hussein believed that Franco-Russian diplomatic pressure would forestall any US invasion, an absence of the existence of such pressure might well have been an interesting scenario as far as the Baathist leadership is concerned, but this is all 20/20 hindsight in any event.

I agree with you regarding Bush and personal loyalty as far as Blair is concerned. However, regarding the European political alignment, my understanding is that Blair has sided with the Franco-German approach to the EU that he had previously opposed, which hardly strikes me as the actions of a superior player on the international stage. With the addition of Spain to the Franco-German camp, it would appear that the French and the Germans are going to get what they want regarding the EU quite apart from any of Blair's pre-war ambitions from the perspective of this observer.

Understand, I am not castigating Blair on this one. However, one must acknowledge that there were alternate diplomatic routes that were not pursued during the run-up to the war in Iraq. Certainly I would have had no qualms of Russia removing a threat to the West as a whole by cleaning out the Pankisi Gorge.


Vous êtes le plus aimable. Comme je disais, mon Français est loin de la perfection ou même bon. Si vous voulez jamais un vrai défi, essayez d'apprendre l'arabe.

I am quite familiar with the situation in Darfur, as the number of articles (including one just today) that I've posted on the subject over at Rantburg certainly attests to. Read my blog posts on Sudan over at Regnum Crucis, I'm certainly no fan of Omar Bashir's NIF and consider it to be just as bad as its secular Baathist equivalent over in Iraq, though at least Saddam didn't decide to revive the slave trade.

I would venture to say that most conservative critiques of liberal internationalism have more to due with the apparently demonstrable impotence of multinational institutions like the UN and similar bodies, which have done little if anything to stop the carnage in Darfur ... or the Congo or Zimbabwe. Now the Bush administration hasn't done as much as I'd like as far as Africa is concerned (and understandably so, given everything they've had to deal with in the international arena), but they have helped to stop the carnage in southern Sudan as well as bring an end to Charles Taylor's thrall over the good people of Liberia, just as the French have stepped in to prevent the fall of the Ivorian government.

Unfortunately, any long-term solution in Sudan is ultimately going to require the removal of the NIF from power (which I advocate for a number of reasons), i.e. a war with Sudan. I somehow doubt that many internationalists are going to be


Oh Gabriel, please use your own name. You are not very convincing as a Ride fan-- I doubt you've ever heard of them. Thank you for reading the article, and I'm sorry if I offended you.

You said: "If Rwanda discredits liberal multilateralism...what is its equivalent..." I agree that Rwanda discredits LM. What is the chief engine of LM? The UN. I think the UN is undergoing some healthy evolution at this point.

But the idea behind Democratic Realism is this-- if we are going to expend our own blood and treasure, we have to put it where we will get the best return. Reliance on allies has failed us. It failed in Gulf II, North Korea, and Rwanda. I don't think the Sudan presents a good insertion point for a change vector right now.

Joe, have you heard from Amy? I hope she is listening to all the discussion evolving from her question.


Your original (4/13, 7:30am) and subsequent (10:14pm) posts withstand later re-reads. Good points. For the most part, I’m inclined to leave our part of this conversation as it stands rather than repeat things that have been presented more eloquently by others. Most of our disagreements are of degree rather than kind. I don’t think that your (or Kevin Drum’s) position necessarily follows from the observations you each make.

A closing point, for you, Gabriel Gonzalez (4/13, 5:04pm), and Kevin Drum. Can you name an American war, no matter how justified it seemed at the time or in retrospect, where bungling-leadership criticism hasn’t been leveled against the President and his team?

Abraham Lincoln was reviled for his conduct during the Civil War.

I suppose FDR got off lightly during WW2, thanks to censorship and patriotic fever, but the Western Allies made grievous errors in judgement that led to thousands and tens of thousands of casualties. Some day, I’ll go back and compile a list of US (or US and UK) casualties from the “side shows” of that war; it is an instructive comparison.

This observation does not invalidate your criticisms--it just suggests a different, historical context for evaluating them.

Thanks for the dialogue, additional thanx to Dan Darling, per usual.

Twisterello (6:12am):

Snark may be better received at “Max Speaks” or “LGF” than here. It takes away from the substantive points you are trying to make.

A.L. nails it as ususal. In the context of his timeline, everything works beautifully, especially the software metaphor! But we do have to consider that term limitations and elections nearly always force the current administration to work off of the previous administration's design.

This was a splendid discussion, and I hope Amy got to hear some of it.

As for me, I feel like the 'biker chick' that's been allowed to prectice with the Olympic Fencing team!

Merci mille fois por tous vos infinites de gentillesse! -- LGF Twisterella

Dave Schuler:
"why ... did Tony Blair insist on the second resolution"
I think I can answer that. It was a mistake, but based on premises that looked reasonable at the time:

- UNSC approval would firm up public support and avoid problems within the Labour Party.
Clause 4, Section 7 of the Labour Party constituion gives as a party objective:
"... to support the United Nations Organisation and its various agencies and other international organisations for the promotion of peace, the adjustment and settlement of international
disputes by conciliation of judicial arbitration, the establishment and defence of human rights... "

- This was not an absolute requirement; nobody had bothered during Kossovo crisis. Difference being a sizable section of the Left was restive anyway, either out of their dislike of Blair, or from distaste for aligning with the Bush adminsistration, especially against a "third world other" state, and/or because they had become fixated upon the Arab/Israeli conflict as the 'root cause' in the ME. So UNSC approval was worth going for, IF France and Russia would play along.

- What made this ploy counter-productive was that France changed position. I have come across several accounts of de Villepin and Chirac promising Powell and Straw they would not block. Likely reasons for shift related to desire to exploit German domestic situation for long term objectives.

- Problem was that because UNSC discussions tended to focus on WMD and inspections, other factors which both Blair and Bush and their ministers referred to were eclipsed in the media.

"Any minute you will feel
The chemistry
Vibrations in the brain
Can't ever be explained"

Still think 'OX4' or 'Here and Now' are the best though ;)

Too small troop presence.

Might I suggest "On Strategy" by Col. Summers for how America fights. There is an important principle: "Economy of Force".

No one thinks the number of troops in country is insufficient to put down the rebellion.

Thus the number of troops is adequate.

To prevent uprisings we would need 10X what we have plus a secret police. Not possible. Any way I just read a morale report showing re-enlistments of deployed troops is (except for some specialized MOSes) 5% to 20% above normal.

We are stretched a bit. We are no where near overstretched. If war does not stretch the military you have too much military.

Opening of famous Patton speech:

"Men, this stuff that some sources sling around about America wanting out of this war, not wanting to fight, is a crock of bullshit. Americans love to fight, traditionally. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle."

Note Patton's opening criticism of the critics. Not even WW2 silenced the ankle biters.

It is America, get used to it.

WHAT IS IT WITH AMY ALKON ????????????????
I recently sent a Press Release to Amy Alkon who writes a
syndicated column called "Advice Goddess" and got a
diatribe about our company on her website.

Here are some of her nasty comments. For complete text
see at

The following statements you made about me and our
company, Sew Beautiful, ( on
your Blog are libelous and they are false. You have no
basis for making these remarks.

Amy wrote..

"I especially love your argument that your customers like
it. I'm sure the guy who gets a stolen TV really cheaply
from a fence is thrilled as well.

"DOES Chanel really know what you're doing? I doubt it."
"I'm loath to believe anything you say"

"...there's much you're doing that's illegal"
"Your rationalization of it is absolutely disgusting"
"Clearly, you are utterly unconcerned with much but
making a profit."

"Your business practices make me retch, and your
disrespect for others' creative work and intellectual
property is creepy."

"Hey, there were lots of Nazis in WWII. Doesn't make it
right to murder Jews, homosexuals, and gypsies.
"Everybody's doing it" doesn't make it moral. What's so
disturbing is the energy you put into defending your
taking the work of others and profiting from it. All of the
above knockoff artists sicken me. It's wrong to profit from
work that is not yours -- whether or not there's some hole
in the fence of the law that permits you to sneak through
and do it."


“Cat Fight” Now Playing

I recently sent a Press Release to Amy Alkon who writes a
syndicated column called "Advice Goddess" and got a
diatribe about our company on her website. The statements are false.

Here are some of her nasty comments. For complete text see
So I have published an amusing Blog about her at

Amy...The following statements you made about me and our
company, Sew Beautiful, on
your Blog are libelous and they are false. You have no basis
for making these remarks. Here are Amy’s remarks...

"I especially love your argument that your customers like it.
I'm sure the guy who gets a stolen TV really cheaply from a
fence is thrilled as well.

"DOES Chanel really know what you're doing? I doubt it."
"I'm loath to believe anything you say"

"...there's much you're doing that's illegal"
"Your rationalization of it is absolutely disgusting"
"Clearly, you are utterly unconcerned with much but
making a profit."

"Your business practices make me retch, and your
disrespect for others' creative work and intellectual property
is creepy."

"Hey, there were lots of Nazis in WWII. Doesn't make it right to murder Jews, homosexuals, and gypsies.
"Everybody's doing it" doesn't make it moral. What's so
disturbing is the energy you put into defending your taking
the work of others and profiting from it. All of the above
knockoff artists sicken me. It's wrong to profit from work
that is not yours -- whether or not there's some hole in the
fence of the law that permits you to sneak through and do it."

I am sorry we have had such a negative
correspondence about my site. I am really a good person
who wanted to help people who had trouble taking their
medications. My sister-in-law has Parkinson's. It all started
with our PILL PROOF kit and just expanded from there. I
was in a bad car accident and was unable to work for 10
years from a back injury. My doctor said I should start an
internet business so I would be able to work around my
injury. I never thought I would have so many businesses. I
am truly blessed and mean no bad will towards you.

Jane Langdon

Complete Text

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