The Classroom Lessons of Iraq

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In twenty years the Iraq war — like the Napoleonic and Peloponnesian Wars before it — will be taught in classrooms at West Point and Annapolis. It will offer lessons on tactics, strategy, leadership and politics. What will a future generation of brand-new officers learn from this war when the war itself has become old?

This afternoon a young former Marine Captain told us he’d teach Machiavelli in twenty years, that The Prince tells us to treat nobles and burghers differently, and to understand intimately the interests of everyone you’re dealing with. All lessons still applicable, he said, to a lieutenant working with tribal leaders.

What are the classroom lessons of Iraq? For platoon leaders and battalion commanders? Does the army need more civil affairs officers or more special forces, or both? What’s on the syllabus for the West Point class of 2026?

John Mearsheimer

Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago

Author, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics

P.J. Crowley

Senior Fellow and Director of National Defense and Homeland Security, Center for American Progress

Special Assistant to President Clinton for National Security Affairs

Colonel, U.S. Air Force (Retired)

Peter Mansoor

Colonel, U.S. Army

Director, U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center

Author, The GI Offensive in Europe: The Triumph of U.S. Infantry Divisions, 1941-1945

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  • Peter Bradley

    How about we teach the Constitution? You know, like the part that says CONGRESS has the power to declare war, not the President.

    Now do you understand why they did that?

    How about we teach that NOBODY’s oath of office is to “Keep the people safe from terror”. The oath says to preserve, protect and defend the CONSTITUTION.

    Every military person, every congress person, every senator, every President every official.

    How about we expand the oath requirement to include everyone in the News services?

    HOW ABOUT WE TEACH THAT?

  • enhabit

    -modern warfare is becoming more guerilla in nature…augmented by widely available and affordable technology

    -the military industrial complex knows this but won’t publically admit it

    -successful adversaries are stealthy and nebulous..not easily identified..not easily pinned down

    -successful adversaries will out wait you

    -frustrated soldiers will begin to do the unforgivable

    -the occupier will lose the propaganda war no matter how nasty the occupied get

    -military options should be reserved as a last resort for clearly imminent and deadly threats of a military nature, or for the prevention of genocide or mass murder

    -you would think that we had learned more from the viet nam experience

  • djmarroquin

    There is lots of blame to go around concerning the manner in which the Iraq War was conducted. But blame must also start with those members of the public, the civilian population, who began thumping the war drums for an Iraqi invasion.

    As a veteran, and child of war veterans, I feel compelled to say that the whole manner in which the Iraq War was conducted left much to be desired.

    The Commander-in-Chief, and his subordinates, split our military forces by invading Iraq, when Afghanistan was not secure. They broke a number one rule of military tactics/strategy—Do not split your forces without having the tactical and strategic advantage, be it reinforcements, terrain, weather, or materiel.

    The administration failed in another rule of tactics/strategy—the rule “know thy enemy”. The administration failed to understand the culture of the Middle East—a culture long mired in (to name a few) tribalism, religious animosity, sectarian strife, corrupt bureaucracies, poverty and it’s effect in all things political or religious.

    They failed to understand that a war must be conducted on its own merits, and that it may be necessary to change tactics/strategy to match the merits of the war, in order to win the war.

    They also failed to understand that modern warfare isn’t a choice of “either”/”or”—That is, “Either” we fight this war as a conventional war, “or” we fight it as a counterinsurgency. In today’s wars, leadership must plan and be prepared for both strategies within one war. Today’s wars may start as conventional wars, but may end as a counterinsurgency. Or today’s wars may start as a counterinsurgency, and end as conventional warfare.

    There are many more issues that were overlooked by the administration—enough to fill a few books. The time will come for that. For now, though, we must look to ourselves, and judge, ourselves, with regard to the direction the war has taken.

  • citizen

    It is time to consider that the US is unilaterally shouldering far too much of the world’s burden. Why are we the lone policeman on the beat? Even assuming that Saddam had WMD, did it threaten only us? Must we secure the oil supply for China, India, and the EU?

    The mindset of being the sole superpower inevitably leads to unilateralism. We are the first such sole superpower, precendent setting, it is true, now let us set another precedent by voluntarily stepping down from this role, announce it to the world, inform Israel that we are no longer it’s guarantor, make peace with the Arab world, and require everyone else to pull their own weight.

    The cold war is over, but it seems everyone but us is reaping the “peace dividend”.

  • plnelson

    What will a future generation of brand-new officers learn from this war when the war itself has become old

    This war is ALREADY old.

    Rhetorical question: Every morning on NPR they report on the latest mass killing of civilians in Iraq. WHY?? By what definition of the term is this “news”? The NY Times doesn’t report every morning that the subways and tunnels and bridges leading into NYC were filled with commuters. They don’t have a big headline observing that with the dawn the sky became light and you could see without a flashlight or headlights on. Why not? Those are all pretty impressive facts when you think about them, but they’re not “news”. Because they are routine, commonplace, predictable, fully expected. Like Iraqis killing other Iraqis. NPR should only report when something new and startling happens, like a day goes by WITHOUT mass violence against civilians.

    But back to West Point:

    US military officers have shown great courage on the field of battle in this conflict, and for this we are very proud of them. But they, especially senior officers, have shown cowardice and dereliction of duty in speaking honestly to their civilian superiors in Washington. They have failed to tell the Pentagon and the Congress, when asked, the truth about progress, about what it would take to achieve progress, and whether they had adequate troops and other resources. If you want proof of this listen to General Abizaid’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services committee last month – ducking and dodging, weaving and temporizing like a seasoned politico.

    West Point needs to teach its future officers that courage on the battlefield coupled with cowardice in Washington is a good way to lose wars.

  • huck finn

    Huh? For the life of me, I can’t see how Iraq is a “failure”. Our future officers being educated at the service academies will have many excellent simulations to study.

    Loot museums, government archives, libraries, universities, industrial intelligence – Check.

    Set up permanent bases and intell facilities – Check.

    Disrupt power, water, sewer, garbage, traffic, computer networks – Check.

    Destroy all coalitions, cooperative relations, marriages of convenience – Check.

    Engage all possible mercenaries, agent provocateurs, war profiteers – Check.

    Destoy essential assets and facilities for susequent rebuilding and redestruction – Check.

    Spend money faster than it can be counted or audited – Check.

    Create chaos that prevents law enforcement and prosecution – Check.

    Control all local resources including water, oil, minerals – Check.

    Limit coverage by legitimate press through assasination, intimidation – Check.

    Encourage crimes and violence against local populace – Check.

    Browbeat local authorities, relevant NGO’s, and international humanitarian groups – Check.

    So tell me again, how have we failed?

  • JJWFromME

    In the previous show, retired Colonel Robert Killebrew said (paraphrasing): “Understand the political problem first, and have a solution for that.” –A no brainer, isn’t it? If you take out a country’s government, you better have a good plan to replace it, otherwise you get a power vacuum and chaos ensues.

    The problem is that Tommy Franks was never given an adequate phase IV plan. (These links are mostly to pages in George Packer’s great book Assassin’s Gate.

    Office of Special Plans (brought to you by Cheney/Rumsfeld/Doug Feith) left the planning the political aspects of the problem until the last minute. There was some planning that had gone on inside the think tanks, but they “never penetrated the Pentagon or the Oval Office).

    The reason why planning had to be left to the last minute was to preserve secrecy. The Office of Special Plans wanted complete control over information about the war, and to keep things all inside the Pentagon–which was disasterous for the postwar.

    From Packer’s book: “The senior leadership at the Pentagon was very worried about the realities of the postconflict phase being known… Because if you are Feith or you are Wolfowitz, your primary concern is to achieve the war.” I think that says it all.

  • Sutter

    As a recovering “liberal hawk” (to use the current terminology) who supported the war going in, I would humbly (and penitently) put forward Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun” for the West Point curriculum. People like me, I fear, thought too little about the real human costs of war, not just to those who die and their survivors, but also to the thousands upon thousands who have been seriously injured. “Johnny Got His Gun” is a great corrective, which reminds us in very explicit detail of the costs that will be borne by those who are actually doing the fighting.

  • JJWFromME

    Whoops, some dead links in there. “Cheney/Rumsfeld/Doug Feith” should go to:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/10/26/MNG62FDUGL1.DTL

    “Adequate phase IV plan” should go to:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0374299633/ref=A9?keywords=phase%20iv%20sepp&v=search-inside

  • JJWFromME

    Just to clarify, this is the important section in the SF Gate story:

    Rumsfeld and Cheney wanted to create a “Team B,” which would have access to the CIA’s data… That’s why they set up an intelligence unit in [Undersecretary of Defense Douglas] Feith’s office,” said intelligence historian James Bamford. “The whole purpose was to get that kind of information and send it to Cheney.”

    The trouble is that they were complete amateurs and ideologues in their analysis of this information. And critically, when it came time to create ORHA, Feith’s office did it sloppily and at the last minute, and cut out the rest of the government in the process (for instance, the State Department).

    By the way, the OSP people called themselves the Cabal, and former Pentagon policy analyst Karen Kwiatowski has a first person account of their modus operandi.

    Anyway, it looks to me like the behavior of the oppointed and elected officials offer much better object lessons about this war than the military officers, most of whom have met or exceeded what could have been expected of them, according to George Packer’s book.

  • plnelson

    JJWFromME sez ““Understand the political problem first, and have a solution for that.” –A no brainer, isn’t it?

    No, as I’ve indicated elsewhere on ROS it is hubris to think such an understanding is possible, at least in any intellectually rigorous sense. We have no “science” of human social behavior. Despite the name “political science”, there’s nothing scientific about it. We simply do not have the cognitive capacity or theoretical models robust enough to have a political “solution” for a place like Iraq.

    The US got into this mess in the first place by overestimating their ability to understand and solve complex problems. Your suggestion, above, is just a continuation of that sort of thinking.

  • JJWFromME

    The US got into this mess in the first place by overestimating their ability to understand and solve complex problems.

    I happen to agree. I think conquering and occupying a third world country in the middle of the middle east–and building up their government from square one–was an overestimation of what we could do. I think your first reaction when you first hears that proposition is the right one. It’s a bad idea.

    But, let’s say you believe that the whole thing is feasible, and you don’t want me to think you’re completely nuts? Gosh, you better have thought of each and every contingency in a clear way, have a clear plan for the postwar politics (not just a powerpoint slide). And you should not have cooked things all up at the last minute, secretly, so no disinterested parties from the reality based community could review your work.

  • Gid.

    The BIG NEW lesson of the iraq war is pay attention to the really old lessons… Our leaders failed to heed the second most famous line of Cezar, “Omnia Gaulia est divisa in partes tres.” Cezar played this division to his adavtage. The failure to divide Iraq to our advantage has reulted in the spontainious division of Iraq to our disavantage.

  • JJWFromME

    The failure to divide Iraq to our advantage has reulted in the spontainious division of Iraq to our disavantage.

    I heard that Turkey had problems with this. They do not want a Kurdish state at their border. Secondly, a divided Iraq would likely not be equitable to the parties involved. I believe most of the oil is in once province. That would most likely cut one province out of the wealth, and would potentially cause conflict.

    I Googled this up on hte subject:

    http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=1571082006

  • plnelson

    The BIG NEW lesson of the iraq war is pay attention to the really old lessons… Our leaders failed to heed the second most famous line of Cezar, “Omnia Gaulia est divisa in partes tres.” Cezar played this division to his adavtage. The failure to divide Iraq to our advantage has reulted in the spontainious division of Iraq to our disavantage.

    Yeah, well, “Cezar” is dead.

    As I noted above, there is no intellectually-defensible basis to presume we can control or manipulat events with such subtlety.

  • enhabit

    the kurds have one major oil field and the shia have the other…along with sea access. unless a miracle happens i don’t see any way around the development of three cantons with the sunnis losing big…unless having bagdad counts for something. the kurds better start making nice with the turks. they seem to be the closest thing to friendly in the region…and they are not too happy with a kurdish held sanctuary along their border…but all that kurdish oil needs to go somewhere and the turks want to look civilized to the EU. this could play well into kurdish interests.

  • joshua hendrickson

    What if the real lesson we should learn from Iraq is simply this:

    THERE IS NOTHING “ABSTRACT” ABOUT WAR.

    All of war is force, destruction, pain, death, loss. Though those words themselves are abstractions, the human reality behind them most emphatically is not.

    That, Plnelson, is why it is important for NPR and as many other media sources as possible to remind us daily of how many Iraqi civilians have been killed as a direct or indirect result of our invasion and occupation. Their suffering is not abstract. It is real. Try to remember that.

    Quite aside from the way the neocons seemed to plan for the invasion of Iraq, we have a disastrously abstract concept in play right now: the War on Terror. It is nothing but an abstraction. In my opinion, anyone who seriously believes that there is such a thing is flat-out deluded.

  • plnelson

    joshua hendrickson sez All of war is force, destruction, pain, death, loss. Though those words themselves are abstractions, the human reality behind them most emphatically is not.

    That, Plnelson, is why it is important for NPR and as many other media sources as possible to remind us daily of how many Iraqi civilians have been killed as a direct or indirect result of our invasion and occupation. Their suffering is not abstract. It is real. Try to remember that.

    So what? Why does that make it NEWS? The sun rising, the rush of commuters, etc, are not abstract either. But they are predictable and routine and thus not newsworthy. Just like Iraqi’s massacring each other.

  • enhabit

    i should mention that there is an interesting little salient that the kurds will have to close off to gain complete control of the northern oilfields. they appear to be positioned to do so. it will be unpleasant.

    on another more obvious note…

    war is killing and destroying..disruption…sweeping opposition aside

    the honor of our youth sent into it not fully understanding its purpose. what training could? esp in this one? generations are left in a state of resentment and confusion….infants blown up and called “collateral damage”…children witnessing horrors that scar and pervert…

    imagine what could be done constructively with the price of a stealth fighter and just one mission’s ordinance and fuel.

    neighborhoods built where once there were shanties.

    schools, hospitals, libraries..relationships…

    fresh water..

    children having places to play in that wouldn’t be considered open sewers any where else.

    it all sounds dreamy but idealism requires courage. the courage to occassionally fail…or seem foolish…to be taken advantage of sometimes

    of course there are bad guys out there and they need to be dealt with…but with one out of five people living in their own excrement….DO WE NOT HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO?

    if this be niave then so be it. it is well past time for us to reign in this military-industrial monster that devours our tax money and our goodwill.

  • JJWFromME

    Well the news media should be doing its job and reporting just how bad the civilian leadership is a long time ago. It’s finally being done now. Apparently they needed an imprematur from Bob Woodward. Don’t ask me why. Probably they needed the last election to light a fire under them too. Why did they need these things to do what should have been their job? Everything was left to poor Seymour Hersch at the New Yorker. I remember him appearing on the Daily Show and he and Stewart wondering out loud, exasperatedly, why the media wasn’t reporting on the types of things he reported in Chain of Command.

    But on the subject of abstraction, Woodward got this interesting quote from Rumsfeld in one of his interviews:

    I told Rumsfeld that I understood the number of attacks was going up.

    .

    “That’s probably true,” he said. “It is also probably true that our data’s better, and we’re categorizing more things as attacks. A random round can be an attack and all the way up to killing 50 people someplace. So you’ve got a whole fruit bowl of different things—a banana and an apple and an orange.”

    .

    I was speechless. Even with the loosest and most careless use of language and analogy, I did not understand how the secretary of defense would compare insurgent attacks to a “fruit bowl,” a metaphor that stripped them of all urgency and emotion. The official categories in the classified reports that Rumsfeld regularly received were the lethal IEDs, standoff attacks with mortars, and close-engagements such as ambushes—as far from bananas, apples and oranges as possible.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15075326/site/newsweek/page/10/

  • joshua hendrickson

    plnelson,

    no, the sun rising, commuters riding the subway, et al are not abstract. They are not relevant in the way that victims of an ongoing disaster are relevant. You claim that they are not news because the phenomenon is not new. Well, there is nothing new under the sun. Because something is repetitive does not make it irrelevant; and after all, these deaths aren’t really repetitive at all: they are not the same couple dozen people being killed day after day, but new ones. That does make it news.

    I hardly believe that it’s necessary to explain this to you. What I am really curious about is why you are complaining about these reports. Do you really just not want to hear about it? From other postings, I gather that you aren’t and were not a big supporter of this war. If you’re not outraged by all of this carnage, is it just tiresome to you? Your words “predictable” and “routine” suggest the latter to me. So if it is just tiresome to you, why bother to listen to it, or comment about it? Hell, why not just forego paying any attention at all to the situation in Iraq? I’m sure you can find other subjects to divert you.

  • enhabit

    niave..naive…evian

  • JJWFromME

    I found the Seymour Hersh Daily Show clip:

    http://www.comedycentral.com/sitewide/media_player/play.jhtml?itemId=12515

    (Well at least we have the Internets… Oh, and congress.. they better do their job, that’s all I can say…)

  • plnelson

    If you’re not outraged by all of this carnage, is it just tiresome to you? Your words “predictable” and “routine” suggest the latter to me. So if it is just tiresome to you, why bother to listen to it, or comment about it? Hell, why not just forego paying any attention at all to the situation in Iraq? I’m sure you can find other subjects to divert you.

    Because I usually have WGBH on the radio in the morning while I’m having my breakfast and it IS tiring to keep hearing the same thing over and over again. Everybody already KNOWS that Iraq is a crazed, bloodthirsty society. The details of whether today’s bombing involved a car or a truck or Sunnis or Shiites or took place in Mosul or Bahgdad adds NOTHING of importance to that understanding. Violence is the DEFAULT condition there – we don’t have to have it described to us every morning over breakfast to assume that it’s taking place. It consumes airtime thay could devote to stories that really ARE newsworthy.

    As I said, if all they are informing us of is the same thing they informed us of yesterday, and the day before, and the day before, then it’s NOT NEWS. If they ever stop fighting THAT would be news.

    My plan is simple: Just leave. Now. As fast as possible. Promise to write. The Iraqis won’t even notice. They’ll be too busy blowing each other up or filling each other full of holes with their cordless drills. By the time their batteries run down we’ll be long gone.

  • JJWFromME

    My plan is simple: Just leave.

    The only thing is, our lovely friends in Saudi Arabia don’t want us to do that:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/13/world/middleeast/13saudi.html?ex=1323666000&en=fdd6d23b82cc8d65&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

  • enhabit

    two great american generals..often quoted but worth reading again

    “every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in Union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from Union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighbouring countries not tied together by the same governments, which their own rivalships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty. In this sense it is, that your Union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.”

    “Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.”

    George Washington

    “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

    In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

    We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

    As we peer into society’s future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

    Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

    Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

    Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war – as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years – I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight. ”

    Dwight Eisenhower

  • Gid.

    In response to JWW and enhabit:

    This is what we should be talking about these are the big questions remaining to be decided. plnelson is incorrect that there is no historical precedent for shepherding a divided nation out of a condition of civil war by dividing the populations and nursing new countries into existence. The most recent fairly successful example is the NATO intervention in the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. The real complicating factor in achieving a lasting break up in Iraq is, as pointed out by JJW, oil. This is why it is so strange to me that the discussion about Iraq is so rarely, at lest in the United States, about oil.

    Inorder the break up Iraq the Suni population of Kirkuk would most likely need to be relocated…This is a very scary and potentially violent prospect, but it may be unavoidable. The question is would a US supervised refugee crises be better than the wholesale slaughter of Sunnis by Kurds when they grab the oil fields there after a US pullout?

    Enhabit has it about right in my opinion could the Turks be bough off with big pipeline fees, a demilitarized Kurdistan and a security guarantee collateralized by a permanent US Troop presence in the new Kurdish State? Could Iran motivated by the creation of a new oil rich Shiite client state be capable of helping convert the militias into a government? As for the Sunni triangle there is a precedent for buying peace in the middle east…Could massive foreign aid like the kind extended to Egypt after the Camp David Accord paid for by the US and the wealthy emirates help reduce the sting of the loss of oil revenue?

  • mulp

    The one point that seems to be lost on almost everyone involved is:

    War does not lead to peace. It never has and never will.

    Only by coming to terms with one’s difference and agreeing to differ can peace be acheived.

    Unless all the differences are eliminated by killing everyone on one side or the other. And on the latter point, I don’t think that Bush et al have the stomach for killing those in control of 20% of the world oil market, especially the Saudis.

  • enhabit

    you’ve got it Gid. our president will likely be an outspoken obstacle to this result. more comprimise and loss of face than he can bear.

    you have described a scenario that placates the Turks, Iran and maybe the Saudis.

    something is going on in sunni Saudi Arabia. ambassadors resigning, foreign ministers in poor health..it would appear that some power shuffling is about to happen in that quarter.

    even so, they will likely bring their considerable weight to bear on the sunnis at some point…hopefully this will include Syria. Syria..largely left out of this scenario..the reduction of refugees across their border will not be enough..but Turkey is the key to the Kurds and visa versa.

  • Gid.

    The Saudis are the really tough nut. They really feel for their Sunni brothers in the Baghdad area of former Iraq, and to boot they are deathly afraid of having to manage a rising Iran. The only thing in the solution I described that might have any appeal for them at all is that a large US military installation in Kurdistan, think Okinawa with medium range missiles, might allow us to pull out of their territory completely. That is what thier Radical Clerics want. It would also and at the same time create a regional counter balance to Iran…But that is pretty short comfort for them.

    As for the president, I just don’t know?

  • searat12

    Probably the best ‘Lesson Learned’ is that we need to return to the Powell Doctrine, which states, ‘we don’t go to war with anyone, unless everyone comes to the show!’ Doing a war on the cheap, which is what Iraq has been from the beginning, is simply a recipe for disaster, even as it was shown to be in Viet Nam as well. The purpose of going in with several hundred thousand troops, as was suggested by General Shinseki, is to make sure after ‘victory,’ that there is a US squad on every street corner, and that everything is locked down solid, until an interim government can be formed!

  • searat12

    ….. And another thing…. ‘Politicians’ should NEVER tell the military how to fight, or win a war. It is the job of politicians to provide whatever the military requires in order to achieve victory, as it is the FAILURE of politicians which has brought a war on in the first place, and that includes the senior members of the Administration!

  • timmyboy

    Many of your guests have stated that if we knew what we were getting into, we would have never comitted ourselves to the invasion in Iraq. The American attention span is so short… I remember many many people throughout the world and across many disciplines (Noam Chompsky… Howard Zinn are a couple who come to mind) told us that this is exactly what would happen if we invaded Iraq. Bush and his cronies were so eager to play with the army that they didn’t listen. And we, as a nation, ultimately “went with the feeling”. Now we’re stuck in a quagmire and our troops and, more importantly, innocent Iraqis are paying the price.

  • searat12

    ……And finally, the WHOLE POINT of going in in full strength as in the Powell Doctrine, is that you NEVER ALLOW AN INSURGENCY TO GET STARTED IN THE FIRST PLACE!

  • plnelson

    Gid sez plnelson is incorrect that there is no historical precedent for shepherding a divided nation out of a condition of civil war by dividing the populations and nursing new countries into existence. The most recent fairly successful example is the NATO intervention in the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

    By what possible flight of fancy is the Balkans a success?! The only two places there that were actually in major dispute – Bosnia/Herzegovina and Kosovo – are STILL paralyzed quasi -legal “places” and not actual fully functioning states. B/H is so paralyzed by ethnic divisions that they can’t even perform a CENSUS for fear that the results will tip them into civil war. NATO still maintains a 20,000-strong Stabilisation Force (SFOR) there to keep them from getting at each other’s throats again. And Kosovo is officially still part of Serbia, and also under outside military control because we can’t trust them to play nice together.

    The only parts of the Balkans that are stable are the places where they had already managed enough “ethnic cleansing” to make the ethnic issues in Iraq moot : Slovenia and Croatia and Serbia itself.

    So, no, I’m sorry – if B/H and Kosovo are the future the Iraqis have to look forward to then we might as well just hand out sticks of dynamite to all the Iraqis right now and let them all just finish each other off quickly rather than prolonging things.

  • enhabit

    waging a war is simple, but running a country is very difficult

    -Pham Van Dong

  • plnelson

    TimmyBoy sez: Many of your guests have stated that if we knew what we were getting into, we would have never comitted ourselves to the invasion in Iraq. The American attention span is so short… I remember many many people throughout the world and across many disciplines (Noam Chompsky… Howard Zinn are a couple who come to mind) told us that this is exactly what would happen if we invaded Iraq.

    No kidding. I (me, yours truly) made a posting on BBC’s “Talking Point” website (I think it’s now called “Have Your Say”) on the eve of the invasion in which I said “If we invade Iraq we had better learn what the Arabic word for ‘quagmire’ is”.

    LOTS of people could see that this was going to be a Roach Motel (“they check in, but they never check out”). There is NO EXCUSE for anyone who was paying attention to not see this coming a mile off!

  • Potter

    One lesson I hope the country learns from this is that the Republican reputation, too long held, for being the stronger party on foreign policy and international relations, the party that will protect the country from harm, is not deserved. I hope at least the same majority that has turned against this war disabuses itself of that notion and remembers.

  • plnelson

    One lesson I hope the country learns from this is that the Republican reputation,

    This has nothing to do with Republican/Democrat. Both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry voted for this war.

    And poll after poll showed that about 3/4 of the US public also supported it.

  • Sutter

    PLN, I think you’re being somewhat unfair to Potter’s point, which spoke to the fact that Republicans designed and presided over the war, not to who supported it. Potter is right — in this respect any many others (failure to provide adequate port security and bioterror defense spring to mind, but the list is very long), the administration and its supporters in Congress have shown themselves to be too willing to take extraordinary risks with American security. And while we have evaded a follow-up attack between 9/11 and today, we’ve planted the seeds for decades of rage and thus virtually ensured future attacks on American interests.

  • David Weinstein

    A very intelligent and well informed dialogue on this thread. If only our elected officials in Washington and the US would have a fraction fo this intelligence and curiosity to inform themselves we’d be in better shape. And the courage to debate these issues in public.

    I think Chris hit the nail on the head in the last few seconds of this show when he made the observation about “the United States provocation” in what is a military occupation of Iraq. Colonel Mansoor gives me hope that the US military will be better prepared to fight a couner-insurgency war in the future, if, God forbid, we need to do so again. His and the military’s apprehension that the political/societal underpinnings of an insurgency are key is vital to success. Basically empowering local government to fight it is the right strategy. But extremist Isam thrives on the posture of defending Islam from invaders and vilifiers of the faith.

    From Osama bin Laden to the street corner Islamist rabble rouser, you hear the same discourse: we are defending the faith and the Koran against the infidels who would destroy or degrade them; we are defending Moslem land against invaders who would impose their beliefs and life-styles on you. The American troops, tanks, and airpower in Iraq only goes to prove their point, I would think.

    Counterinurgency is very difficult in any case but I fear impossible in the Middle East when foreign power is used because of the very nature of the appeal of Islamist extremism.

    One possible exception was general Massod of the Northern Alliance before we invded Afghanistan. He was very pious, even mystical. He loved Persian poetry. His intelligence and nature elevated his serious study of the Koran. At the same time he respected the freedom of the Afghan people. That is why Osam bin Laden and al Qaeda was anxious to kill him before he gained power and demonstrated a better way to integrate Islam, human dignity and freedom. And, tragically, bin Laden’s assasins succeeded.

    Unfortunately leaders like Masood are very rare in the Middle East (rare anywhere). The question still remains how can we fight Islasmist extemism when the very fight against it, certainly military, empowers this religious extremism?

  • plnelson

    PLN, I think you’re being somewhat unfair to Potter’s point, which spoke to the fact that Republicans designed and presided over the war, not to who supported it.

    I don’t think so. In a democracy “who supported it” is organically-related to what “it” is. The GOP would never have been able to advance so far in the directions you cite without the support (tacit or active) of so many voters and Democrats.

    Keep in mind that there are many other wacky things the GOP would like to do but they know they would never get off the ground.

  • Potter

    PLN: And poll after poll showed that about 3/4 of the US public also supported it.

    Two and a half points about that:

    People supported this because they were told repeatedly by the Bully Pulpit- the President, the VP, et al (the ones who’s faces and words hit the news screens first)- that there was a connection to 9/11, that there was an urgency re WMD’s and all the rest. The need for war was heavily demagogued. This at a time when the smoke was still in the air from 9/11, when people were still vulnerable.

    Remember the public did not have the facts, the intelligence. Nor did the Congress even have all that the President had.

    Still you should check the polls. You exaggerate where they were. Check the Pew polls I linked here: http://www.radioopensource.org/iraq-a-military-inquest/#comment-37545

    By Summer/Fall of 02 ( period of demagoguing) approval of foreign policy was slipping from the summer 60’s to the 50’s to the low 50’s. The public was trusting leadership but even so they were reticent and skeptical and it took a lot more demagoguing, GWB and Colin Powell at the UN and Rice’s mushroom cloud visions to puch it up.

    see NYTimes/CBS poll results. (note-the column headings are not exactly on the columns)

    By February 03- according to the NYT poll, 47% approved of the way GWB was handing foreign policy. Scroll down to when the question gets split to which is more important war on terror vs. Iraq, then the next question which again conflates the two:

    NYTimes poll results

    Scroll down to #11

    In its dealings with Iraq, do you think the Bush Administration tries hard enough to reach diplomatic solutions, or is it too quick to get American military forces involved?

    By Jan 03 55% were saying that Bush was “too quick to get forces involved”. That was 3 months before “shock and awe” By February, after Colin Powell’s speech at the UN, the number was down to 43-48%.

    *****************

    This project had a Republican label, no mistake about it. War on Iraq was driven not from the people, but from the top. Public opinion was manipulated, pushed by the pros.

    Republicans will have to bite their tongues after this costly failure before they brag about about how strong they are on foreign policy and protecting the country.

  • This war was invented and vigorously pushed by the Bush Administration. Adherence to the official line was enfored by Fox News and the other right-wing media, to the point that anyone opposed to the war or the way it was waged was accused of being a traitor, of being with the terrorists. plnelson: you can’t rewrite history here. Democrats were cowed and went along, but this was a Republican product rollout from the git go. History will be clear on this; Bush will be regarded as one of the very worst Presidents in history, and our fortunes will continue to decline for years after we pull out of Iraq because of the devastating loss of American credibility throughout the world.

    Ask youself this question: If Gore were President, would we have invaded Iraq? The answer is obviously NO, which shows that this is a Republican war.

  • plnelson

    People supported this because they were told repeatedly by the Bully Pulpit- the President, the VP, et al (the ones who’s faces and words hit the news screens first)- that there was a connection to 9/11, that there was an urgency re WMD’s and all the rest.

    Remember the public did not have the facts, the intelligence. Nor did the Congress even have all that the President had

    We’ve heard this excuse from lots of people, including Clinton and Kerry.

    And it simply doesn’t stand up.

    No one is under any obligation to give the President’s comments any special weight or any special “pass” when it comes to supporting proposals with evidence and facts. What you are suggesting is that we should somehow apply a lower or looser standard of truth or evidence to what the President says than to other people. Millions of us who had no more access to insider information than Congress did could clearly see that this was a dumb idea. If I could see that it was a stupid idea then Kerry and Clinton were perfectly capable of doing so.

    The need for war was heavily demagogued. This at a time when the smoke was still in the air from 9/11, when people were still vulnerable.

    That’s silly. You’re describing a political crime of passion. The poor voters were so riled up that they weren’t in their right minds. Again, the problem there is that millions of us could think perfectly clearly following 9/11.

    The USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup poll of July 2003 found that 76% of the public thought the invasion of Iraq was “worth it” and approved of the invasion.

  • plnelson

    Ask youself this question: If Gore were President, would we have invaded Iraq? The answer is obviously NO, which shows that this is a Republican war.

    As yourself THIS question: if the Democrats like Kerry and Clinton and Lieberman and Pelosi and most others had voted against the invasion would we have invaded Iraq? The answer is obviously NO.

    And who cares what Fox, et al said? People CHOOSE to pay attention to them. I don’t even watch TV – no one holds a gun to anyone’s head and tells them where they have to get their news from.

    I’m sorry but there is NO WAY for the liberals and the left to escape responsibility for this debacle. If your kid was arrested for helping to steal a car, and he pointed to some other kid and said, “But dad it was HIS idea!” would you accept that excuse?

  • So if the war went well, you’d be giving equal credit to the Democrats because they went along with it? Does the buck stop anywhere?

  • JJWFromME

    The USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup poll of July 2003 found that 76% of the public thought the invasion of Iraq was “worth it” and approved of the invasion.

    This was after the invasion and this always happens once we’re committed to a war, so it isn’t a good indicator of support.

    Not that I’m trying to defend Clinton and Kerry’s vote, because I think their votes were unprincipled and the result of political calculation, but the votes did not actually declare war, they authorized W to use the military if he needed to. Now, everyone knew W’s people were looking for a war, so maybe that’s a small distinction to make. But it is one. For the record, I wrote both my senators and my congressman before the war. The letter I got from Kerry said that he got Bush’s promises that he would go to the UN, consult with congress, etc. before he did anything. He should have known better, but he didn’t. And there was probably some calculation as he was angling for the presidential election. I was disgusted with the whole thing. I thought Byrd’s speech on the senate floor was right on.

    But from the public’s perspective, the whole thing was a massive demagogue. The aluminum tubes/mushroom cloud thing was BS. Unvetted intelligence was stovepiped into Cheney’s office and went out to Charles Krauthammer, the Weekly Standard, etc. (At some point I’ve been meaning to read John Stauber’s book on this subject, “The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies, and the Mess in Iraq.”) But anyway, without this effort, I don’t think the public would have bought it. For instance, Bill Kristol’s ideas would never have flown if they were put out as nakedly as they were presented in this Stephen Colbert interview. The only way they could accomplish what they did was through demagoguery and disinformation.

  • plnelson

    So if the war went well, you’d be giving equal credit to the Democrats because they went along with it? Does the buck stop anywhere?

    There was no chance the war was going to go well – it was so poorly conceived, so the question is moot.

  • plnelson

    But anyway, without this effort, I don’t think the public would have bought it. For instance, Bill Kristol’s ideas would never have flown if they were put out as nakedly as they were presented in this Stephen Colbert interview. The only way they could accomplish what they did was through demagoguery and disinformation.

    We can CHOOSE how much to pay attention to such demagoguery and disinformation, and where to turn for news, opinion, and information. Demagoguery is like vice (gambling, drugs, hookers, etc): they can be all around us but we don’t have to partake. One of my favorite cities to visit is Las Vegas – I go there for professional conferences but like the glitz, the over-the-top-architecture, the shows. But I’ve NEVER gambled there – not even a slot machine. I have nothing against gambling, per se – I sometimes play blackjack at casinos in the Caribbeanor or poker with friends. But the sight of millions of empty-eyed people sitting at one-armed-bandits in Vegas is depressing, so i don’t as a matter of principle.

    I was reading a recent news report about the FEC fining the LCV (of which I’m a member), MoveOn, and the Swift Boat people, and I realized that I’ve never actually SEEN or HEARD any of the infamous Swift Boat ads! I’ve seen LCV’s material because I’m a member, and I’ve seen MoveOn’s material on their website. So I still say that demagoguery is siomething people CHOOSE to partake of.

  • Gid.

    PLN says, “By what possible flight of fancy is the Balkans a success?”

    Well perhaps he has forgotten that there was a genocide going on at the time:

    Resolution 199:

    “the policies of aggression and ethnic cleansing as implemented by Serb forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1992 and 1995 with the direct support of Serbian regime of Slobodan MiloÅ¡ević and its followers ultimately led to the displacement of more than 2,000,000 people, an estimated 200,000 killed, tens of thousands raped or otherwise tortured and abused, and the innocent civilians of Sarajevo and other urban centers repeatedly subjected to shelling and sniper attacks; meet the terms defining the crime of genocide in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, created in Paris on December 9, 1948, and entered into force on January 12, 1951.”

    It appears to me that we have traded tyranny, slaughter and chaos, for a mostly peaceful stalemate maintained by a relatively small international force. It’s not utopia… but if we could fail in Iraq the way we failed in Yugoslavia…I would consider that major progress. The Iraq war is the result of rightwing black and white thinking. Leftwing black and white thinking like PLN’s could at this point be equally damaging at this time. To abandon the Iraqis to the likely genocidal chaos that would result from a precipitous withdrawal would greatly compound the immorality of our military intervention.

  • plnelson

    To abandon the Iraqis to the likely genocidal chaos that would result from a precipitous withdrawal would greatly compound the immorality of our military intervention.

    But it’s PURE SPECULATION that the genocidal chaos would go on for long.

    Anything could happen – a new strongman (Saddam II) might emerge, or the place might partition into separate enclaves, or the Iranians (Shia) and Saudis (Sunni) might divide it up, or the Iraqi’s might stare into the abyss and decide to get their democratic **** together. Or something else we haven’t even thought of.

    Let’s keep a little history in mind: The bloody awful partition of India eventually settled down and resulted in two separate states. It did not result in total ethnic cleansing – India still has a large Islamic population.

    When we left Vietnam there were all kinds of dire predictions of massive bloodbaths and a “domino effect”. Today Vietnam has an 8.4% GDP growth rate and is entering the WTO. Who predicted that?

    YOU CANNOT PREDICT THE FUTURE so let’s stick with the present. The present involves the US paying a huge price in blood and money for nothing. There is no clear, plausible plan for improving the situation (The ISG plan is neither clear nor plausible.) So staying one minute longer is irrational.

    The US is not the policeman of the world. We need to get the idea out of our heads that we have either the mandate, duty, or ability to keep the world’s crazies away from each other’s throats.

  • Gid.

    PLN says “No kidding. I (me, yours truly) made a posting on BBC’s “Talking Point” website (I think it’s now called “Have Your Say”) on the eve of the invasion in which I said “If we invade Iraq we had better learn what the Arabic word for ‘quagmire’ is”.

    Hmmm… Sounds like a pretty good prediction of the future to me…

    As you have so clearly pointed out sometimes future events are foreseeable. This is just such a case…If we withdraw from Iraq with out taking steps to separate the warring parties the result will be a blood bath if we are lucky; it will be all out regional war if we are unlucky. Let us examine a little more closely the history you cite:

    Seks and Hindus were massacred in large numbers in 1947 as part of the spontaneous partition of India after Britton left its former colony with out first supervising the separation of contentious parties. This bitter rivalry persists today, in the form of a nuclear stand off between the two nations, over the unresolved territorial clams in Jammu and Cashmere stemming from this period. Do we really want the record of post invasion Iraq to look like this? Are we prepared to leave to our grand children the problem of a Sunni vs. Shiite nuclear stand off?

  • plnelson

    Seks and Hindus were massacred in large numbers in 1947 as part of the spontaneous partition of India after Britton left its former colony with out first supervising the separation of contentious parties. This bitter rivalry persists today, in the form of a nuclear stand off between the two nations, over the unresolved territorial clams in Jammu and Cashmere stemming from this period. Do we really want the record of post invasion Iraq to look like this? Are we prepared to leave to our grand children the problem of a Sunni vs. Shiite nuclear stand off?

    It doesn’t much matter what we want. We have no known way to effect what we want. The problem with your whole thesis is that it presumes we have any basis to think that we can PREVENT the outcomes you fear.

    India/Pakistan isn’t all that bad an outcome. India, at least, is a functioning democracy with an 8% GDP growth rate and people who are generally optimistic of their future. Pakistan has more serious problems due to primitive religious and tribal attitudes that seem to afflict much of the Islamic world including Afghanistan and Iraq and make it difficult to build modern secular states.

    When you ask whether I “want” it to turn out this way or that way, it begs the question of what the alternative scenario would consist of. It’s not as though anyone knows any way to make it turn out differently.

  • JJWFromME

    We can CHOOSE how much to pay attention to such demagoguery and disinformation

    It’s easy not to listen to Bill Kristol when you’ve got someone like Colbert to get him to say some things that show his true colors.

    But let’s say I’m a soccer mom and I’m hearing the national security advisor and the president talk about aluminum tubes, yellowcake uranium, and mushroom clouds (most likely canards cooked by the neocon Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon). I don’t blame this person for being scared–not everyone has the time to research exactly what the truth is, what’s reliable. I blame the administration for manipulating her, and possibly the press for not doing a good job of evaluating the veracity of statements and putting them in a proper context.

  • Gid.

    Good Pint JJW

    We should also remember that it was not just the far rightwing that was saying this stuff. Very thoughtful and respectable people were taken in by war fever. Colin Powell, Tony Blair, Tom Freedman…Really smart thoughtful people. It was an object lesson in how good people get involved in terrible things. And why we should be on guard against group think or nationalism in the wake of a tragedy like the September 11 attacks.

  • Michael Foburg

    Lesson #1: Don’t invade a county that has not attacked us.

    If this principle of our foreign policy, tacitly agreed to by all previous Presidents, had been heeded, end of story. I don’t hear this stated very often. If I were writing during or even before this program, I’d like to know why you commentators do not always mention this first. Then analyze what else we have learned.

    This President violated a commitment we’ve had with the rest of the world, a commitment we’ve had with ourselves, with our own history. If this First Lesson is not stated and restated, the commitment will be fade. Lip service to it may not even be paid by future administrations.

    The Last Lesson may well be, do not go into debt to finance war.

    Which leads to my request for a topic – –

    Financing our government abroad – what are the consequences?

    – what’s the history of our nations indebtedness?

    – what’s the current economic impact and what do economist, political scientists and historian see as future consequences?

    – an exploration of the current trip to China by several cabinet Secretaries, led by Treasury and Sec’ty Paulson. Paulson

    Thnaks,

    Michael Fosburg or “The Foz”

    978-762-5544

  • Sutter

    I said: “PLN, I think you’re being somewhat unfair to Potter’s point, which spoke to the fact that Republicans designed and presided over the war, not to who supported it.”

    PLN said: “I don’t think so. In a democracy ‘who supported it’ is organically-related to what ‘it’ is. The GOP would never have been able to advance so far in the directions you cite without the support (tacit or active) of so many voters and Democrats.”

    Sorry, but this argument fails on all fronts. In a representative democracy, we give up some direct control for the purpose of manageability. But with that surrender comes the prerogative — indeed, the responsibility — to criticize the execution of an operation even if one supported the operation itself (i.e., to criticize the way in which power is used, even if one supported the lodging of that power where it is lodged). This is certainly true in corporate America, where managers can breach their duties to directors and other representatives of the owners, and it is no less true in political life. Even those who voted for Bush (I did not) didn’t vote for every aspect of the war’s conduct. Indeed, this position quickly collapses into nonsense: If one views the vote for Bush as a vote for anything Bush would do with his authority as president (and thus a vote for Rumsfeld), how is it not equally a vote for Powell, or even for Shinseki? And how can support for the war be viewed as tantamount to support for handling it ineptly, if there was no basis for predicting just how ineptly it would be handled? (You say it could only have gone one way, but that’s not everyone’s view.) Given the chasm between the average citizen’s understanding of the choice whether to go to war and the average citizen’s understanding of the operational details, even people who supported Bush, or who supported the war, can lament its terrible execution. The two were not inextricably linked.

  • plnelson

    JJW says But let’s say I’m a soccer mom and I’m hearing the national security advisor and the president talk about aluminum tubes, yellowcake uranium, and mushroom clouds (most likely canards cooked by the neocon Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon). I don’t blame this person for being scared–not everyone has the time to research exactly what the truth is, what’s reliable. I blame the administration for manipulating her,

    I think that’s condescending toward “soccer moms” (whatever a “soccer mom” is). Next thing you’ll be saying that she she shouldn’t be worrying her pretty little head about such big worldly things – she should just ask her husband.

    and possibly the press for not doing a good job of evaluating the veracity of statements and putting them in a proper context.

  • plnelson

    Good Pint JJW

    We should also remember that it was not just the far rightwing that was saying this stuff. Very thoughtful and respectable people were taken in by war fever. Colin Powell, Tony Blair, Tom Freedman…Really smart thoughtful people.

    This invasion violated Powell’s own “Powell Doctrine”. So it would be better to say “really smart hypocritical people”. Anyway, what does this mean: “really smart people” William Shockley, the inventor of the transistor, was a really smart person but held some extreme right wing views on that were anything but smart. Being smart is not the same as bing right and ALL of us have an obligation to think things through on our own, and to exercise an appropriate degree of skepticism, especially where politicians are concerned.

    Friedman is a journalist, Bush, Blair, et al, are politicians. Every poll on “trustworthiness” I’ve ever seen place politicians and journalists near the bottom of the list. So it would be hypocritical for people to turn around and say that in the absence of any hard intelligence data of their own they supported the invasion because politicians and journalists did. Logically that should have INCREASED their doubts.

  • plnelson

    Lesson #1: Don’t invade a county that has not attacked us.

    If this principle of our foreign policy, tacitly agreed to by all previous Presidents, had been heeded, end of story.

    While I agree this would be a good principle that I could support wholeheartedly, I totally disagree that this has been followed by previous presidents. The Spanish American War was based on the fabrication that the Spanish had blown up the USS Maine. (The Mexican War was mostly a set-up job too – read John Eisenhower’s “So Far From God”) . Then there was our involvement in Panama in 1903. And then there was the “Polar Bear Expedition” (ANREF) in Russia in 1919. And then there was a whole series of interventions in Nicaragua between 1910 and 1933. And then there was Vietnam, or course. And let’s not forget Grenada and Panama, again. And I don’t know where you want to put things like Lebanon under Reagan or Somalia later, but none of those places attacked us.

  • Gid.

    PLN Said: This invasion violated Powell’s own “Powell Doctrine”. So it would be better to say “really smart hypocritical people”. Anyway, what does this mean: “really smart people”

    What I was trying to get at is that I think the Iraq War was supported by most people for emotional reasons…Rather than logical ones. Even in the case of the national leaders that created the pretext and then prosecuted the adventure. If you look at what happened it makes no sense at all as a national strategy:

    We were horribly attacked (I was there it really was horrible…) we gathered our national resources and then unleashed our army on….This other guy that had nothing to do with it, but had a similar accent and skin complexion to the actual perpetrator. We declare our selves in a national war on ascetic cave dwelling terrorists who operate extra-nationally ….and then attack a sovereign country and apprehend a dictator that lives in places decorated with pornographic paintings.

    We really need to try to understand the motivations that lead to this.

    I don’t think the United States in the year 2001 was a inherently bad county and yet we managed to get atrociously off course…How this happened bares examination, but to engage in that examination it is important to accept that many of the supporters of the Iraq war were not fools or operating on some evil ulterior motivation. Rather they we caought up in some kind of national mania.

    I fear, at some point in the next few years, there will be another major terrorist attack. Will we go mad again? Or can we learn from this last round of mistakes.

  • jazzman

    Unfortunately or fortunately depending on one’s point of view – plnelson is correct. Everyone picks & chooses (consciously, emotionally or passively) that which becomes their focus or experience. Wetware (humans, biological systems) is not like deterministic software or hardware and is not predictable except in a generic sense (like competition for resources in a closed system.) There is history as an heuristic but again circumstances vary (shift happens) and history is subjective and may be unreliable and any correlations could be totally coincidental. The hard data that plnelson wants adduced is non-existent vis a vis human experience so it’s a safe bet that his assertions that tinkering (social engineering) by bureaucrats or politicians to solve perceived human difficulties or injustice is likely to run afoul of the law of unintended consequences.

    The only way to adduce a cause and effect relationship is retrospection and even then there is no concrete way to determine whether the results are due to the engineering or in spite of it. In this democracy (representative republic) we agree to be subject to the will of our representatives. It makes no difference whether that will is ill-advised, foolish or blinded by emotion. The citizens who elected them bear the responsibility for the politician’s choices as do the ones who didn’t.

    This is an object lesson for those who don’t like the results of their choices. Let your opinion be heard – work to make your desires reality. If you want peace – love peace, work for peace and you will achieve it – even if the rest of society is bellicose. I have peace – it seems like plnelson is relatively at peace (except with the social engineers) and when one realizes that the power of peace is within themselves and only they are responsible for their experiences, the hard data will adduce itself.

    Peace,

    Jazzman

  • plnelson

    What I was trying to get at is that I think the Iraq War was supported by most people for emotional reasons…Rather than logical ones.

    That would make sense if we were talking about an individual, going off his nut because someone shot his kid or he found his wife in bed with another man. But even then it wouldn’t excuse it.

    But we’re the most militarily powerful nation in the world; we can’t just go on a rampage because we get all emotionally worked up over something. And, as I said, PLENTY of us didn’t.

    Being a citizen of a democracy takes work and commitment, because, ultimately, WE are the rulers. All those politicos in Washington are working at OUR pleasure and we need to take that responsibility seriously. I’m fed up with “loyal patriotic” Americans who don’t have a clue what’s in the Constitution, don’t have any idea who their elected officials are or what their voting records are, can’t name the top few items in the federal budget, and don’t know any US history. But they say the love their country. That’s like someone saying they love their kids but they don’t know their names, what grade they’re in, or any of their interests, hobbies, or activities.

  • Gid.

    I rather like the word rampage…I think it’s apt. I think we need as a country to come to terms with how this happened. And I don’t think that those who were against the war from the beginning get a completely free pass… They were unable to make their case well enough to engender any really effective political opposition…Yes… Yes there was a big peace rally in New York…Fat lot of good that did.

    All the conversation at this point is focused on how to get out of Iraq with out doing further harm…Some of the conversation might focus on how we got caught up in frenzy in the first place, and went to war for no reason at all. This is not something we should repeat.

  • JJWFromME

    So, as John Mearsheimer said, the neocons thought that phase four was trivial, that government would spring out of the ground with a couple of neoconservative magic beans tossed into the soil. George Will had a 6th-grade-civics-class level observation about that belief:

    Condoleezza Rice, a political scientist, believes there is scholarly evidence that democratic institutions do not merely spring from a hospitable culture, but that they also can help create such a culture. She is correct; they can. They did so in the young American republic. But it would be reassuring to see more evidence that the administration is being empirical, believing that this can happen in some places, as opposed to ideological, believing that it must happen everywhere it is tried.

    But George, empiricism is “not the way the world really works anymore“:

    The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality…”

    Of course, if you’re Green Lantern, you don’t have to worry about that problem, as long as you’re not a lesser, weak-willed mortal:

    [T]he main criterion for becoming a Green Lantern is that you need to be a person capable of “overcoming fear” which allows you to unleash the ring’s full capacities. It used to be the case that the rings wouldn’t function against yellow objects, but this is now understood to be a consequence of the “Parallax fear anomaly” which, along with all the ring’s other limits, can be overcome with sufficient willpower.

    .

    Suffice it to say that I think all this makes an okay premise for a comic book. But a lot of people seem to think that American military might is like one of these power rings. They seem to think that, roughly speaking, we can accomplish absolutely anything in the world through the application of sufficient military force. The only thing limiting us is a lack of willpower.

  • rc21

    To Gid your lesson #1 do not attack a country that has not attacked us. We attacked Germany in WW2. That worked out pretty well.

    As to this war plenty of blame on all sides. Bush much to short sighted on what was going to happen after the Iraqui govt fell. Democrats want their cake and want to eat it to. At first they gave support, Then they decided to withdraw support. Inteligence seems to have been all over the place. It would be nice if both parties could work togeather to solve this mess. Unfortunately I don’t see this happening to soon.

  • Potter

    RC21 says: We attacked Germany in WW2. That worked out pretty well.

    History policeman says: the Tripartite Treaty between Germany Japan and Italy was signed September 1940. December 7 1941 Japan attacked the US at Pearl Harbor Naval Base. Four days after that Germany declared war on the US.

  • rc21

    Your right Potter I knew technicaly That’s the way it went. But I’ll bet we could have worked out an agreement with Germany. Hitler did not want war with the US. If he could have he would have avoided it at least in the short term. Either way it worked out ok for us.

  • Potter

    War does not work out okay.

    I don’t get Harper’s via subscription but dKos website has a diarist that posts excerpts from Louis Lapham’s essay in the January 2007 issue on the need to impeach Bush contrary to what Nancy Pelosi has said about impeachment being off the table. I re-post Lapham’s list, the evidence warranting impeachment as per dKos diary ( linked below)

    1. A foreign war conceived as a means of advancing the Bush Administration’s imposition on the American people of a not-so-benevolent despotism, the army sent to fight and die not for the defense of country but for a corporate cream of commercial empire.

    2. A government that tortures people classified as enemy combatants, denies their right to hear all the evidence bearing on their confinement and arrest, forbids their resort to petitions of habeas corpus.

    3.The administration’s systematic plundering of the Federal Treasury on behalf of its accomplices in the arms and construction trades.

    4. The National Security Agency directed to monitor, without first obtaining a court order, any and al telephone and email traffic suspected of carrying the germs of terrorism.

    5. The president’s use of 136 signing statements since he took office to exempt himself from the rule of more than 1,000 federal laws.

    Lapham ( my bold) : …..How much longer do we wish to pretend that nothing really happened, or that nothing really valuable is lost; that the crime is the losing of the Iraq war, not the making of it? That in place of the constitutional questions asking why, to what end, and whose interest, we can afford to substitute the questions of logistics – how many troops to dispatch or withdraw over a period of how many days or months…

    what deals to cut with Syria and Iran.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/12/17/11928/503

    Unless we as a country say that this is not acceptable, it sets a precedent, it means it okay, it means this is who we are as a country.

  • rc21

    Potter : Actually WW2 did work out ok.The American revolution,as well as the civil war also turned out for the best. Unless you are in support of slavery.

  • JJWFromME

    Here is NYU Professor Jay Rosen’s latest post on the realism vs. idealism meme now circulating in the media:

    Suskind had figured a lot of it out: “A cluster of particularly vivid qualities was shaping George W. Bush’s White House through the summer of 2001: a disdain for contemplation or deliberation, an embrace of decisiveness, a retreat from empiricism, a sometimes bullying impatience with doubters and even friendly questioners.”

    .

    That “cluster” is not idealism. In the current New York Review of Books, Mark Danner talks of a “war of imagination” that Bush and his advisers preferred to fight. The thing is, it takes a leap of imagination to realize they did it that way. As Danner puts it, anyone trying to understand how the current mess in Iraq started “has to confront the monumental fact that the United States, the most powerful country in the world, invaded Iraq with no particular and specific idea of what it was going to do there, and then must try to explain how this could have happened.”

    .

    And remember the British diplomat who in July 2002 took notes on the way it went down, so as to inform his colleagues: “The facts were being fixed around the policy.”

    .

    Or consider Lawrence D. Freedman’s observation in Foreign Affairs (Jan./Feb. 2006) “It suited the White House to take at face value assertions from Iraqi exiles that solving postwar problems would be relatively straightforward.” There was no attempt to ascertain. Empiricism wasn’t policy. Those who would supply it had to learn about the absence of demand at the top, but word did get around.

    .

    Now here’s what Glenn Kessler and Thomas E. Ricks reported in the Dec. 7 Washington Post: “The Iraq Study Group report released yesterday might well be titled ‘The Realist Manifesto.’” And I suppose it might. But what if our problems in Iraq are due not to a lack of realism, but to the total breakdown of reality-based policy making, a deliberate withdrawal from an empirical mindest in order to conduct abroad a war of choice and expand executive power at home?

    .

    Ricks and Kessler drew me up short when they wrote: “The report’s description of the violence in Iraq, which amounts to an attack on the administration’s understanding of the facts on the ground, will likely set the new baseline for how the Iraq conflict is portrayed.” A new baseline for how the Iraq conflict is portrayed… How are baselines for description normally set? Who has the authority to do that and where do they get it? We’re deep into the reality-making machinery with that phrase…

    You bet we’re deep into the machinery. What’s up with Ricks’ passive voice here? Who the heck are “the portrayers” that have previously been out of joint?? It’s the obsequious media. Rosen has an explanation for how this could happen (but I’m afraid it’s not very comforting):

    If they tried to narrate the expansion of executive power (led by the vice president) through a revolt against empiricism (led by the chief executive) their story would be more accurate (to what happened) but less credible to more people. Because it sounds so extreme.

    .

    This is in fact a way to discredit the press that the press has not fully appreciated. Take extreme action and a press that mistrusts “the extremes” will mistrust initial reports of that action— like Suskind’s. This gives you time to re-make the scene and overawe people. There are all kinds of costs to changing a master narrative that has been built up by beat reporters and career pundits. When the press can hang on to an old and proven one it will. The Bush people understood that. They knew they could change the game on the press because the press finds it hard to act in reply. Therefore it tends to behave.

    OK, so maybe the media should stop futzing with the obsequious behavior and start reporting the truth? And it’s not that the “idealists” have had a falling out. We’re talking anti-empiricists, not “idealists.” They’re magical thinkers with Green Lantern power rings.

  • plnelson

    JJW notes – – “We’re talking anti-empiricists, not “idealists.” They’re magical thinkers with Green Lantern power rings.”

    But this tension between empiricism and fantasy; between being practical, fact-based, and realistic versus believing in something based on mere will or emotion is at the root of LOTS of things in our culture. America is a very religious country, but religion is certainly not empirically-based, for example. People will demand facts and empirical justifications for all kinds of things during the week and then on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, will go to a house of worship and imagine they are holding a conference with an omnipotent invisible being up in the sky.

    Or consider capitalism. I’m an outspoken capitalist. But what drives capitalism has less to do with facts and empiricism and more to do with emotions. Take entrepreneurship: America is the greatest country in the world for entrepreneurs, and it is at the heart of of job-creation and our economic growth engine. I’ve worked for two start-ups and I’ve been friends with several entrepreneurs. And anyone who has spent much time around hard-core entrepreneurs knows that most of them are NOT empirically-grounded. They may have their empirical facts that someone made them write down on a business plan, but that’s not what drives them – They have a dream, a fantasy, and a belief that through sheer hard work and willpower they will succeed. They’ll sacrifice everything including their health and family’s savings by way of trying. And most of the time it turns out like Iraq – a failure DESPITE the empirical facts. The SBA says that 90% of small businesses fail in the first 2 years.

    But we should be grateful that such anti-empiricists exist because millions of Americans work for companies today that started off in a garage or basement someplace and a visionary fanatic.

    Likewise the stock market. A sage once observed that the stock market is driven by two things: fear and greed. All of us who invest in the market can line up LOTS of empirical facts : earnings, cash-flow, debt, revenue, etc. But the value of all that empiricism is doubtful: no one has EVER shown that there is any systematic way to use those empirical facts to actually pick stocks that will beat the market. If there was, we could all just plug our empirical facts into a computer program and always beat the market. Instead we just use those empirical facts to bolster what are basically emotional decisions.

    I’ve beat the S&P500 every year for the last 10 years. (by contrast the average mutual fund UNDERperforms the S&P500 by about 0.3%) Sure, I have my empirical facts that I use to screen OUT stocks, but I still have to pick from what’s left. And I do that the same way we screwed up in Iraq – UNempirically.

    So where does that leave us? Leaning on empiricism too much is ALSO hubris. Because it assumes we would have any idea what to do with empirical facts if we had them. I’ve been saying on ROS all along that there IS no science to human social behavior or geopolitics. We have no algorithm to plug those facts into. We don’t even know which facts matter. Ask 5 different people what the most important fact is that predicts whether a non-democratic country can successfully adopt democracy and you’ll get 5 differerent answers.

  • Potter

    JJWFromME Thanks for the link to Jay Rosen’s post which links to numerous articles ( some I read some not) but is principally about by Ron Suskind’s NYTimes article “Without a Doubt” which I read at the time and added to my growing outrage. The Rosen post gives an excellent short list of what the press could have done, how they failed. It would be good news if it was the prevailing opinion in this country that what happened on 9/11 was not more disturbing and frightening than what ensued.

  • plnelson

    “The Rosen post gives an excellent short list of what the press could have done, how they failed”

    The reason why it’s called “the media” and not “the medium is because media are plural, and so are news outlets. “The press” consists of THOUSANDS of newspapers and magazines, TV and radio stations, blogs, etc.

    i didn’t have ANY DIFFICULTY WHATSOEVER finding news and information sources that exercised greater skepticism than the NY Times.

    But even the NY Times’ main failing was to fail to question the Administration’s justifications for the invasion, and degree of planning and preparation for the post invasion period. Lack of skepticism on the part of the Gray Lady does not absolve its readers from the responsibility to be skeptical.

    So excessive compliance by the Times and CNN, et al, should not have prevented any Americans from doubting it themselves. If someone is unsure whether the Administration has thought this through enough, it would be NICE if the NY Times demanded evidence that the Administration has actually thought it through. But in the absense of such demands or such evidence, there is NO LOGICAL REASON to just ASSUME that the Administration has it figured out.

    So the bottom line remains that the ultimate responsibility for this mess is the failure of the American public to exercise due diligence and due skepticism, i.e., to perform their patriotic duty as citizens of a democracy. They cannot fob this off on their press or politicians.

  • Potter

    The really frightening thing, ans that has to be examined is how and why our system of checks and balances did not work for us and how as a result the executive branch managed to widen it’s powers.

    As I said in this post, MOST PEOPLE polled ( September 02- Feb 03) were not so sure we should be invading. There was a concerted effort to convince the public and the Congress that invading Iraq was necesssary. The administration held it’s evidence as secret only allowing as little out as necessary (Colin Powell at the UN). The bottom line was “trust us” we know what you don’t know. The bottom line is that people put their trust in their leadership as they went about their business, as they were urged to go about their business.The bottom line is that also the mass media was compliant and not diligent.

    The bottom line is that MOST people do NOT read the esoteric journals, the right articles in low readership magazines ( like The Nation) certain web sites and special articles and STILL they were skeptical. There WAS a discussion going on and there was a difference of opinion between knowlegeable people. Even those citizens, who did read up and pay attention could have been either certain OR uncertain, skeptical. IN FACT THEY WERE SKEPTICAL by at least half their numbers. Check the polls. Read the questions and answers (the least due diligence required to presume to assign “ulitmate” responsibility).

    And with all due diligence possible without priviledged information, what would it have mattered? Would it have mattered if the skepticism were overwhelming? What did it matter with a leadership hell-bent on war?

    Still, EVENTUALLY, the public gets wise. It may take a while, it may take a steady stream of consequences: pictures of blood and violence on FOX and CNN, ABC/CBS/NBC, and on the front pages of the daily newspapers and weekly newsmagazines. And this was registered in the last election.

    See The Most Astonishing Poll of All

  • plnelson

    Potter says ” The bottom line is that MOST people do NOT read the esoteric journals, the right articles in low readership magazines ( like The Nation) certain web sites and special articles and STILL they were skeptical. There WAS a discussion going on and there was a difference of opinion between knowlegeable people. Even those citizens, who did read up and pay attention could have been either certain OR uncertain, skeptical. IN FACT THEY WERE SKEPTICAL by at least half their numbers. Check the polls. Read the questions and answers (the least due diligence required to presume to assign “ulitmate” responsibility).”

    They might have SAID they were skeptical but action speaks louder than words and their BEHAVIOR supported the Administrations’s invasion plans. People like Clinton and Kerry might have FELT skeptical, but the only “poll” that MATTERED was their vote. Likewise, their constituents. Now some of those constituents are seeing their kids come home in boxes, and lots of voters who might PREFER that money be spent on stuff like healthcare, education, or Social Security, will be told that we can’t afford that stuff because we have to pay for the war, or the debt on the money we already borrowed from the Chinese to pay for the war.

    Prior to the US’ little experiment in democracy in the 18th century, the widespread view in Europe was that democracy was impractical because the common people could not grasp the weighty and demanding issues and decisions that kings and nobles had to address, and that just earning their daily bread would prevent them from having the time time and energy to study them, and anyway they were too given to passions too easily stirred by rousers of the common rabble.

    Today in places like China there are STILL many people who hold to those views.

    And you, Potter, seem to be taking the same position as the monarchists of Europe or the leaders of the PRC – that democracy is a peculiar political affectation, and that it’s just not practical to expect ordinary people to have the commitment, the intellectual capacity, the clarity of dispassionate thought, and the other requirements needed to make wise decisions. Do you actually BELIEVE in democracy as a concept?

  • Potter

    PLN: Do you actually BELIEVE in democracy as a concept?

    We don’t have a direct democracy. The founders apparently felt that, given human nature, we would be better served by a representative democracy: a republic Our particular form of government would not have survived this long if it did not accept human nature. Knowledge and experience of human nature is everywhere in the Constitution beginning with checks and balances. The idea of having elected representatives that serve for limited terms is based on human nature.

    In a perfect but fantasy democracy, the likes of which has not been seen on earth to my knowledge, all citizens, all members of a society able to vote, would in fact vote having complete knowledge and understanding of the issues. In addition they would vote with wisdom ,after some deliberation with their fellow citizens, for the good of the whole. AS WELL that vote would happen on all vital issues as they come up (not once every two years or four years).

    In reality, not only do we not get all of the information we need to make informed decisions ( and sometimes we get lies), not everyone is of such able mind; not everyone is interested or even mentally equipped to have an informed vote/opinion Moreover, not every vote/opinion reflects the same conclusion that you have (or I have). There is substantial disagreement for instance about which way to go and what to do regarding the situation in Iraq.

    After voting day, regardless of how many voted, people put their trust in their elected leaders.

    *******************

    Are folks who see their kids come home in boxes are against the war? They would rather think that it was for some good, not for naught right? I have heard those who have convinced themselves that “we have to fight them there so we will not have to fight them here” etc. and they will probably go to their own graves believing that. The soldier on the ground in Iraq will tell you the same and perhaps tell you we are “winning”.

    The current polls say that a good majority are for leaving in a phased withdrawal and a minority or for escalating. Does matter what the people think? GWB is talking about escalation! We have no say, just as a good portion of us had no say about whether to go to war in the first place, REGARDLESS of our vote in 2000, in 2004, REGARDLESS of Clinton or Kerry’s vote in a Republican Congress, REGARDLESS of public skepticism and opinion in the polls.

    What could be happening now, hearings, is not, the Republican Congress being shamefully uninterested checking the executive. With the change in Congress from election of 2006, and hopefully in 2008, we will hopefully have hearings and an accounting and even change/reversal in/of laws that have been enacted, eroding our freedoms, moving us frightfully towards authoritarian rule.

    That would serve democracy, representatives answerable to the people

  • Potter

    (Sorry about my typos and lack of punctuation)

    Please see pollingreport.com on Iraq which has the most recent results of the leading polls and tracks some questions back to 2003. Where possible also note how things break down according to party loyalty/afffiliation.

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