Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Strategy for Success TWO AND A HALF YEARS LATER?

The article from which excerpts are posted (below) was posted on August 29, 2005. Many soldiers who have served in Iraq comment about the "GroundHog Day" effect - that is, same thing day in, day out, no progress, no regress, just a grind of the same thing again and again and again.

Today Gen. Petraeus is testifying about progress in Iraq and the "success" of the surge.

Reading excerpts from a post from OVER TWO AND A HALF YEARS AND THOUSANDS OF LIVES AGO and see if we have made any "progress" yet:

A Strategy For Success

Amid the two extremes of "stay the course" and "pull out now" comes a third option - do what it takes to win in Iraq.

The September/October edition of Foreign Affairs contains an article by Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. entitled "How to Win in Iraq."

The basic problem is that the United States and its coalition partners have never settled on a strategy for defeating the insurgency and achieving their broader objectives. On the political front, they have been working to create a democratic Iraq, but that is a goal, not a strategy. On the military front, they have sought to train Iraqi security forces and turn the war over to them. As President George W. Bush has stated, "Our strategy can be summed up this way: as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." But the president is describing a withdrawal plan rather than a strategy.

Without a clear strategy in Iraq, moreover, there is no good way to gauge progress. Senior political and military leaders have thus repeatedly made overly optimistic or even contradictory declarations. In May of 2004, for example, following the insurgent takeover of Fallujah, General Richard Myers, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated, "I think we're on the brink of success here." Six months later, before last November's offensive to recapture the city, General John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, said, "When we win this fight — and we will win — there will be nowhere left for the insurgents to hide." Following the recapture, Lieutenant General John Sattler, the Marine commander in Iraq, declared that the coalition had "broken the back of the insurgency." Yet in the subsequent months, the violence continued unabated. Nevertheless, seven months later Vice President Dick Cheney claimed that the insurgency was in its "last throes," even as Lieutenant General John Vines, commander of the multinational corps in Iraq, was conceding, "We don't see the insurgency expanding or contracting right now." Most Americans agree with this less optimistic assessment: according to the most recent polls, nearly two-thirds think the coalition is "bogged down."

The administration's critics, meanwhile, have offered as their alternative "strategy" an accelerated timetable for withdrawal. They see Iraq as another Vietnam and advocate a similar solution: pulling out U.S. troops and hoping for the best. The costs of such premature disengagement would likely be calamitous. The insurgency could morph into a bloody civil war, with the significant involvement of both Syria and Iran. Radical Islamists would see the U.S. departure as a victory, and the ensuing chaos would drive up oil prices.

Instead of a timetable for withdrawal, the United States needs a real strategy built around the principles of counterinsurgency warfare. To date, U.S. forces in Iraq have largely concentrated their efforts on hunting down and killing insurgents. The idea of such operations is to erode the enemy's strength by killing fighters more quickly than replacements can be recruited. Although it is too early to tell for sure whether this approach will ultimately bring success, its current record is not good: even when an attack manages to inflict serious insurgent casualties, there is little or no enduring improvement in security once U.S. forces withdraw from the area.

Instead, U.S. and Iraqi forces should adopt an "oil-spot strategy" in Iraq, which is essentially the opposite approach. Rather than focusing on killing insurgents, they should concentrate on providing security and opportunity to the Iraqi people, thereby denying insurgents the popular support they need. Since the U.S. and Iraqi armies cannot guarantee security to all of Iraq simultaneously, they should start by focusing on certain key areas and then, over time, broadening the effort — hence the image of an expanding oil spot. Such a strategy would have a good chance of success. But it would require a protracted commitment of U.S. resources, a willingness to risk more casualties in the short term, and an enduring U.S. presence in Iraq, albeit at far lower force levels than are engaged at present. If U.S. policymakers and the American public are unwilling to make such a commitment, they should be prepared to scale down their goals in Iraq significantly.

Simply put, we either win or fail. If failing costs more than winning then we should win. And "not losing" is failing.

Krepinevich is the author of The Army and Vietnam, and none of his ideas are new. Neither are the most effective battle drills, and for the same reasons - they have proven effective time and again.

In the same issue is an excellent article by F. Gregory Gause III on how democratization is not automatically in our best interests.

The United States is engaged in what President George W. Bush has called a "generational challenge" to instill democracy in the Arab world. The Bush administration and its defenders contend that this push for Arab democracy will not only spread American values but also improve U.S. security. As democracy grows in the Arab world, the thinking goes, the region will stop generating anti-American terrorism. Promoting democracy in the Middle East is therefore not merely consistent with U.S. security goals; it is necessary to achieve them.

But this begs a fundamental question: Is it true that the more democratic a country becomes, the less likely it is to produce terrorists and terrorist groups? In other words, is the security rationale for promoting democracy in the Arab world based on a sound premise? Unfortunately, the answer appears to be no.

In the comments somebody called "American Citizen" wrote - TWO AND A HALF YEARS AGO - the following:

J.D. writes "Simply put, we either win or fail. If failing costs more than winning then we should win. And "not losing" is failing."

What if winning costs more than failing?

What if we win (make America safer) by losing in Iraq?

The goal we should hold above all others is to make America safer. That was the putative goal of the initial invasion - to find WMDs. The retrospective justification for the invasion - Iraqi democracy - would hopefully make us safer.

There are three large effects of "staying the course":
1) In the struggle amongst various Iraqi factions for power, we put our thumb decisively on the Iraqi government side. This means creating law and order in some places where there wouldn't be otherwise.
2) Anti-American Iraqi forces continue to attack us. the positive effect is that perhaps that draws anti-Iraqi-government fire away from the Iraqu government, troops, and police. There is a large human cost to us, and any unfortunate civilians caught in the crossfire or near bomb blasts.
3) Anti-American foreigners will sneak into Iraq. Many will lose their jihadi spirit by becoming casualties or by getting it out of their system. Others will return to their native countries, or our country, and cause trouble.

The Iraqi constitution looks set to create a fractious theocracy, so is effect #1 all that important? Once we go, would it matter so much who is in charge, given that we can't seem stage-manage a Turkish or Indonesian-type result?

I think we should do what we can in the short-term, whether it's the suggestions put forth by Mr. Krepinevich, or the recent WaPo op-ed by Gen. Wesley Clark. If that doesn't work, or if we "stay the course" with no change in strategy or tactics, we will better off conducting a staged withdrawal and accepting the loss. After all, you don't reinforce failure, and we still need to find Osama bin Laden.

I responded:

American Citizen asks "What if we win (make America safer) by losing in Iraq?"

Simple. Then we lose. And quickly. And we will be better off for it. If pulling out tomorrow helps America then we should have done it yesterday.

However, I don't think the list of reasons you have for "Staying the Course" is exhaustive. There are certainly other reasons we should stay and win besides Iraqi democracy or what is the best for the Iraqi people. I tend to view the world in views of what is best for America - period. What is best for the Iraqi people enters into my thinking only as to what impact it will have on the American people. I think "accepting the loss" should not be viewed from an "ego" standpoint, but from an honest assessment of what impact such a loss will have on our national security in both the long and short term. I think that Iraq has parallels with Vietnam (most especially when it comes to politicans ignoring sound military advice) but there is one clear difference: when we "declared victory and went home" in Vietnam our loss (for that is what it was) hurt us in the short term, but not in the long term. True, losing sucked, but we won the Cold War, our military might increased relative to the rest of the world thereafter, and the "trade" we lost in Vietnam was miniscule. Vietnam grows rice and exports shrimp. Oh well. Iraq is different. It is not only incredibly oil-rich, it is surrounded by unstable and hostile regimes vital to our national security. We don't run our economy on rice. We do on oil. And Vietnam doesn't and never did have the ability to attack us at home. Iran is working on nukes, and Pakistan has them. Iraq is much, much, much more important to our national security than Vietnam ever was. And the oil wealth in that region also translates into money, and into power. We don't want that power used against us. Even if we were self-sufficient in energy the region would be a vital national interest.

And I think I was clear that I view "staying the course" is not a recipe for winning, but merely for not losing "yet."

Just as there were an infinite number of possibilities in between the false choice of "invade or appease," there are many courses of action between "get out now" and "stay the course."

Clearly articulated goals should be provided to the American people, along with honest and competent analysis of the costs of victory v the costs of defeat. Any blind non-reasoning "victory is always better" thinking should be recognized for what it is - a lack of thinking. Any "we must immediately pull out because we will lose more if we don't" should likewise be put into the same category. Then we can rationally decide what the better course of action is based upon the costs and benefits of various options, from immediate pull-out to a "generational commitment" to "stay the course" and everything in between.

My take now? That we are not prepared to do what it takes to win in Iraq in terms of manpower. A draft would be needed, plus more money (higher taxes are already needed given the size of our debt today), plus lots else (the military alone can not win this war).

If we are not going to win then we need to get out. I think we need to get out because we are clearly not doing what it will take to win, just "not lose just yet."

GroundHog Day, all over again.

When should we get out? Two and a half years ago would have been a good time.

Your thoughts?


FDChief said...

Ummmm...better late than never?

Actually, I think we agreed that we were doing the wrong thing two years ago. The sad part is that what might have been the right thing two years ago might be the wrong thing now. I get the sense that we're being played by our Iraqi factional "allies"...but I'm SO not sure what the hell is going on.

Bottom line: I don't think we're gonna get anything nearly like what we want out of this mess, and our hubris and the "sunk cost" meme is keeping us from thinking about what we CAN get out of it.

I'm concerned that by January 2009 we may have our ass wedged so deep in this crack that it'll be hellish getting out. IF we can get out...

Keith G said...

Petraeus: "We Haven't Seen Any lights at the end of the tunnel"

He might have added, "Hell Senator, I'm not even sure we found the tunnel."

Aviator47 said...

"but I'm SO not sure what the hell is going on."

In the final analysis, isn't the most important question, "What do the Iraqis desire", a question which is complicated by the use of the plural in referring to the Iraqis. No matre what the goals of the US may be, the people of Iraq are the final "deciderers" in this matter, and any attempt to impose an American style solution is futile in the long run, unless we want to be an occupying power. And to be an occupying power, we sure need a hell of a lot more troops on the ground and the willingness to absorb a hell of a lot more tragedy to put a lid on the populace.

Yes, FDChief, it is going to be hellish to get out. I just can't seem to find my Pollyanna costume any longer on this affair.


Corner Stone said...

"My take now? That we are not prepared to do what it takes to win in Iraq in terms of manpower. A draft would be needed, plus more money (higher taxes are already needed given the size of our debt today), plus lots else (the military alone can not win this war)."

It still is unclear to me how increased manpower, by a draft or any other means, would help us *win*. Will we ever have the resources available to influence the future outcome in Iraq on par with Iran? And by resources I mean the whole ball of wax, including soft and hard power. Sure, we control the "Government" to a large degree but...so? What has that gained us besides the scorn and hatred of a majority of Iraqi citizens? We hold the ground we have boots on *right now* and that is all.
We've done all the heavy lifiting Iran needed when we removed Saddam. Now that we've set the bull loose in the china shop the boys in Tehran can simply sit back and bide their time. IMO, the Iranians would like nothing better than to see the US flood another 50,000 or so troops into Iraq. What good would 50K, or even 150K more do us in a country of 20+ million?
Bottom line: there is no victory condition attainable, no matter the amount of blood and treasure we throw in there. If we ever had the initiative we have lost it.

bg said...

When do we get out? We get out when we "win." All we have to do is adjust our definition of "winning" to meet a perceived reality. That was the true purpose of the surge, IMO. The idea was that if we stuck enough fingers in the dike, and it stopped leaking for a reasonable period of time (perhaps 6-12 months), than we could declare victory and haul ass before the dam erupts.

The Neocons will never leave Iraq without "winning." Call it ego, call it hubris, call it psychology, but it is simply politics. One of the primary complaints Neocons had with the Clinton (and even Reagan) years, was that when things get tough, you can't cut and run or you embolden the enemy (i.e. Somalia, Lebanon, etc).

Better to prolong the fight until the Dems are in power, and when the Dems pull the troops out and the country explodes, the Neocons can say, "well, you should of stayed the course you idiots! Everything would be great if we were still in power."

Publius said...

BG: As you know, I like your style. It's humbling to realize that our branch still has smart guys in it. Here we thought all of the "intelligence" left when we left. Yes, we were always arrogant pricks, but we were good. And so are you. I also fear there are lots more like you. Obviously good news, but, as I say, humbling. I rarely find anything to nitpick in your posts. Keep on truckin', bud.

JD, I recall that some five years ago, we disagreed about this whole Iraq goatfuck. You were confident that we'd skin that cat; I was the pessimist. Now you've come over to the dark side along with the rest of us naysayers. Needless to say, I agree with you.

Had a guy out to the house today to look at a minor plumbing job I want to get done. You look at him, you say, "ah, another South Carolina redneck." But not so. A very sharp guy. He saw the stickers on my car's windshield and hazarded a guess that I was retired military. I pleaded guilty. He asked how I felt about Iraq, to which I replied with my favorite term, "goatfuck." He agreed and said, "We all know it's about the oil. You'd think they'd respect us enough to tell the truth. But they've lied every step of the way. Fuck 'em. Time to end this."

This guy is Bush's "base."

J.D. said...


Poignant comment about the plumber.

Five years ago I felt invading Iraq was really stupid and dangerous, but I believed it was possible to gain a better outcome than just pulling out and leaving a huge mess behind.

And I still believe that - that FIVE YEARS AGO it was possible. In my opinion, it was always possible to do better than we have done. I felt that if we declared war we should do what it takes to win it.

We never have.

FIVE YEARS AGO, yes, I believed it was possible to stabilize Iraq, but I warned we would end up spending more of our precious blood and our treasure if we didn't do what needed to be done - in resourcing this war and in planning for it and in managing it - then we would lose it at high cost.

I still believe that, but it is clear we are not going to do what it takes to win. FIVE YEARS AGO the cost was actually lower than it is now to stabilize Iraq. FIVE YEARS AGO I think I was right, but now we are farther from success than we were FIVE YEARS AGO.

Why do I keep capitalizing FIVE YEARS? Because I still can't believe we are still in this mess. Reading posts from five, four, three, and even two years ago, and all the problems I identified remain. Plus more. Plus now the nation is pretty well damn fed up. So FIVE YEARS AGO it was possible. It isn't now. Last year I said the surge was too little, too late, and that it would temporarily reduce violence to absolutely no long-term gain.

This entire Bush presidency has been, for me, a series of never-ending incidents where I issue a warning and then really, really, really pray to be wrong, and then I am right and our nation suffers for it, and so does the rest of the world. And I suffer in attending yet more funerals for my brothers in arms, or seeing them suffer with terrible injuries, not all of them self-evident.

We get the government we deserve. What we deserve and what we want or need are often different, though. Getting what you deserve can be a really bad thing.

Bastards. Greedy, selfish, cowardly, dumbass, ignorant, Bush Bastards.

Perhaps the evil that this administration has done to us and the rest of the world is something Bushco just can't accept, so they keep telling themselves they were right all along - because they just can't face the truth, that this president led us into an unnecessary war and, despite having the finest military in history, fucked it up because he and his cronies thought they knew everything and would not listen to reason.

But I don't forgive them. Jesus would, but he forgives me for hating them so.


Aviator47 said...

You hit the finger right on the nail. It is possible to initiate an ill-advised war but gain reasonable results if the war is pursued properly from the outset. We initiated an ill-advised was and then conducted it stupidly at the strategic level.

There is a sort of pathology in this administration, and I can't quite identify exactly what is at the root of it. Perhaps it is a cultural/sociological pathology, and Bush is merely, as they say, "A product of his time", reflecting all of what is dysfunctional in contemporary America.

But then, perhaps there never was a strategic level of thought in the whole Iraq adventure. At least not one that was achievable by military means nor politically viable. In my more critical moments, I have serious doubts that GWB is capable of strategic thinking. In fact, I have long thought that he suffers from a form of arrested intellectual development, which is a rather terrible thing to say.

bg is spot on with his description of the "perceived reality" business. It is a perverted twist on the old "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing". Bragging rights seem to be the most sacred of goals. All one needs is the ability to either declare "victory" or to shift the blame for defeat on the other guy, no matter how tenuous that shifting may be. Should a Dem be elected president, we are going to be treated to four years of Iraq defeat blame delegation, even though the seeds of that defeat were sown on this fool's watch. What a wonderful national discourse to look forward to.

As I look back on the past seven and one half years, I find that I cannot answer in the affirmative to the question, "Are you, and/or our country better off than you were in 2000?" Not by a long shot, and not in any identifiable area.


Aviator47 said...

Here's an example of of dysfunction. In an IHT article about the recent uproar over the FAA overlooking lax maintenance by airlines:

Senate Committee members said they were angry that the agency used the term "customers" to refer to the airlines rather than the public.

To me, that's a valid point.


Aviator47 said...

See, if you do nothing, or the wrong thing long enough, you will get results!


Obviously, Mother Nature is on GWB's side.


Aviator47 said...

Another try with that link:



Corner Stone said...

"It is possible to initiate an ill-advised war but gain reasonable results if the war is pursued properly from the outset."

I simply disagree with this line of thinking. I find it to be dangerous and of the slippery slope mentality. What attainable conditions were we hoping to achieve? IMO, only one existed - removal of Saddam. And of course if you believed in the WMD theory then we could have found and removed them as well. When I hear (or read) someone saying "I warned them. They better do this thing right.", I have to wonder exactly what conditions they believe could have realistically been achieved after the removal of Saddam?
If the Phase IV planning had been immaculate, DoS had been allowed to play its role, and we wisely used all available military might - what would the reasonable outcome have been? It's clear that none of us can say for sure one way or the other because these things didn't happen. However, IMO, Iran would still have played their influential games, internecine politics would still have erupted, the Kurds would still expect their own autonomous state (and have friction with our ally Turkey), blood feuds would still be settled and American soldiers and personnel would still be dying. Saddam would be gone and we would have - what? What reasonable result?
If we had done everything "right" what outcome could have been achieved? There are reasons an "ill-advised war" is labeled an "ill-advised war".

Aviator47 said...


I stand corrected, only because in trying to be brief, I failed to fully explain what I was driving at.

We never had a military large enough to achieve any lasting solution to the results of toppling Saddam by force. There just aren't enough troopies to have conducted a Phase IV operation that would have stabilized Iraq long enough to sort out or even influence a reasonably timely political solution on the ground.

My previous statement was predicated on a military that was up to a proper Phase IV task for an extended period of time. What we have done is bypassed Phase IV totally and allowed the situation to build into an insurgency/civil war.

I am not an advocate of "ill-advised wars". I am, however, an advocate of doing things properly, even if it has been initiated for less than brilliant reasons. This administration was able to completely ignore all rational thought, both military and political, in it's pursuit of the Iraqi Adventure. Fifty years from now, students of strategy will read about this and find it almost comical.


J.D. said...

Cornerstone, don't confuse (as Bushco usually does) a fact for a "line of thinking." Al's comment is simply a fact - it IS possible to initiate an ill-advised war and still gain reasonable results if the war is pursued properly from the outset. That does not mean launching ill-advised wars are a good thing or excused by gaining reasonable results. It just means what it means, that it is possible to gain reasonable results. You don't have to like that, but it is not a line of thought, just a (perhaps unfortunate) fact.

sheerahkahn said...

As most of you know I was a cheerleader at the beginning of the war, but I watched, not because I was a war junkie, rather because unlike Bush, or some of the others in my party, I take the issue of arms seriously.
What killed it for me, and this is when I knew I had been...deceived...was when Bush played peek-a-boo in the oval office of "where are those WMD's."

Thats when I knew I had been disinvited from the Republican party...and I vowed to work against Bush for the 2004 election.

However, here is my beef with people who boo-hoo Bush now...they knew who they were voting for in 2004...they knew exactly who Bush was, and what he was doing, there is no excuse. There seems to be a lot of people post-2004 election who got wise to the whole Bushit that was going on, but all that was known beforehand.

Perhaps I was an anomaly, but I knew exactly what had happened in2003...it was a bloodless coup of the Constitution...and apparently 56% of the American public was okay with that come 2004.

Anyone who voted for Bush in 2004 and changed their minds afterwards...only four words suffice..

Too little, too Late!

Corner Stone said...

I don't mean to be obtuse here but it seems you are now arguing a distinction without a difference. Your rebuttal again includes "gain reasonable results" if pursued properly. I will dispute the *fact* that ill-advised wars can garner reasonable results if done right. The *line of thinking* that that *fact* leads to is all too clear in our last century of hegemonic action.
Maybe I'm being too specific in just thinking about the Iraq war but since that is the topic of our day I consider it fair. Before the US ever invaded I could not identify any possible "reasonable results" as an outcome - and it should be clear by now that I am neither a Historian nor a military professional. I would please ask for a relevant example (or two) of an ill-advised war that was pursued properly and left the initiator with reasonable results and in a better position than before the action. Just the example and I will do research on my time.

"Cornerstone, don't confuse (as Bushco usually does)" - that is low. Looooowwwwww.

Aviator47 said...


I am reminded of the comments one of my PoliSci profs made in reference to the 22nd Amendment. He was an ardent fan of FDR, so one of the students asked him if he could be in favor of the two term limit when his hero was elected to four. His response was something along the line of:

We were fortunate to have FDR for an extended period, but such is not really necessary. A president can accomplish a lot of good in two terms. Yes, perhaps he could accomplish even more in three or four terms. On the other hand, it would be very difficult for a president to profoundly hurt the Republic in just two terms. Since it is easier to build on success than it is to dig your way out of a grave, the term limits provide more protection than limitation.

Obviously, just like Will Rogers, this prof never met GWB.

My estimate of GWB in 2000 was that AT BEST, he was a right wing Jimmy Carter. That is, an ideologically convinced, nice guy, who has no business in the White House. By 2004, I had dropped the "nice guy" qualifier. You will also find in some of my I-D postings that I suspect he is mentally or intellectually deficient, and I have used the term "arrested development" to identify the problem. I am beginning to think that his problem is more profound than just that, especially in light of his most recent inability to comprehend the economic disaster the country is facing.

Iraq and the economy both seems to elicit the same confused reaction (or is it lack thereof) from him. To use an insult insult that was in vogue in my high school years, his behavior is curiously similar to that of a segmented worm.


J.D. said...

Cornerstone, my apologizes for inadvertently lumping you in with Bushco. PROFUSE apologies.

As for your position that ill-advised wars can never result in reasonable results, I beg to differ.

For instance, one war that many considered "ill-advised" was a long, drawn-out, brutal war known as the American Revolution. Of course you would now, in hindsight, feel it was well-advised, but few in Europe expected the "banditti" of "traitors" and their Continental Congress to beat the most powerful nation on the planet.

Then a war that really is hard to justify: the Mexican - American War. I would say it was wrong to fight, and yet led to some reasonable results.

Semantics aside, I do believe we could have done better, although best would be not to invade.

Aviator47 said...

It is close to impossible to really understand Little Georgie's Desert Classic at this point in time, because the decision making process involved is not really known, nor are the objectives that the various players sought to achieve.

My cynical scenario focuses on the (less than) Honorable Donald Rumsnamara. I am convinced that he had no strategic political objective at all. His goal was to prove that his model of warfighting was superior to that of the serving generals and existing Army doctrine. His thinking went no further than the defeat of the Iraqi military. He wanted to prove that the Army was too big, its leaders were wrong in the size of a force that is required to achieve a military objective, and he was going to demonstrate once and for all that war need not be manpower intensive. And, he was so blinded by this obsession with his hyper-efficient "shock and awe" battle doctrine that he would not, could not address the manpower intense Phase IV requirements. And, sadly, he cowed a sufficient number of senior leaders to buy or at least be silent in the face of his drivel to get away with it.

I am further convinced that the virtually catatonic state of leadership we witnessed when Baghdad fell was due to Rummy thinking that he had proved his point, and that there was nothing left to accomplish. At least in so far as his desires were concerned. From the start, his mental processes had never progressed beyond proving his battle doctrine acumen. Thus, there was the void we witnessed when it was time to aggressively "seal the peace".

Now, Rummy was the perfect foil for GWB, Cheney and Co. He had "proven" his light model against the Taliban. (At least it appeared that way at the time) Now he needed a more conventional and formidable opponent to expand his ideas from the specific to the general. It was vital to his ego to show that Afghanistan wasn't a one off.

What Rummy sought was immediate gratification, but this is not what one can achieve in war. Each and every war has long term consequences and long term responsibilities. Neither of these long term issues were in Rummy's thought processes.

There, in a nutshell, is what I see as the key issue. Had there been a more responsible Sec Dec, GWB would have had a more difficult time selling Iraq. A more responsible SecDef would have invested his energy in pressing GWB to wrap up the campaign and post hostilities situation in Afghanistan. He would have seen the size and complexity of Iraq, and would have advised against an invasion, from both a lack of available manpower standpoint as well as the political complexity of the region.

But we didn't have a more responsible SecDef. We had an ego maniacal quipster with an extremely short attention span.

That's the way I see it. I hope to live long enough to find out how accurate my assessment is.


Anonymous said...

Hello, basilbeast here. I'll confess and inform here, it's the name of our old black cat.

It seems this thread is one of retrospection.

BTW, John Stewart did an excellent piece on Gen. Petraeus; I'll still give him the honor of his name, not the one my buds at MoveOn gave him. You can catch the Stewart piece tonight or at the CC site.

Reading I-D over the years has seemed like watching a slow-motion car accident in the movies, like the "Matrix". Except that it's real people and real blood and real feelings.

About the nature of Bush's psyche and why his 2-term preznitency will be remembered as one of the worst if not THE worst ever, James Moore's "Bush's Brain" seems to be close to what is going on. I haven't read the book, but he's been on Olbermann's show regularly enough that I get an idea of what is in it. A lot about besting his dad, Bush Sr.

Sheerakahn and I have crossed swords before on who bears the responsibility of installing the Bush administration, the American Public ( AP ) or the media.

My answer: YES.

I have a "plumber" story, sort of. I know a retired high school English teacher, well-travelled, so she's not provincial in any way, still very intelligent, well-read and also writes an occasional opinion column in the local paper. I had a conversation with her a while ago, and the conversation got round to politics, and she said she couldn't get excited about any of the 3 major presidential candidates. She preferred Hillary, but with her recent gaffes is now turned off her.

Well, I mentioned Iraq and a couple of other things, like Iraq, the FUBAR and corrupt Department of Justice, warrantless wiretaps, etc. Her reply was Iraq seemed to be doing pretty well these days and she didn't know enough to form an opinion about the others.

So it's a sad situation when Publius' plumber and "goatfuck" trumps a person like my teacher buddy.

So what's the cure for an ill-informed populace and complacent or worse media?

I'm thinking the old-time Missouri farmer's cure for changing the habits of a stubborn mule, a vigorous application of a 2 x 4 'cross the thick skull.

IMO we got out of Vietnam with most of our faculties intact, but this second time around, I find myself feeling much more anxious.


Publius said...

Just to keep up with things (boy, Buggieboy is really taking off). Cornerstone and JD have been going back and forth on this whole issue of ill-advised war coupled with positive results. In other words, what my Mom used to call making lemonade out of lemons. JD's given two examples, but bearing in mind that it's my sense that Cornerstone is really talking morality as well as stupidity, I'll agree with JD on one, the Mexican War. Our Revolutionary War may have been viewed as ill-advised in some quarters—mostly Tories—but the morality was never an issue. The Mexican War, OTOH, was one of those things where, when you look back over 150 or so years, you say, "What were they thinking?" That's like Iraq, but in that case, it redounded to the U.S.'s advantage.

And I'll give you another one: the Spanish-American War. Totally wrong on our part, but we made out big time.

I like Al's discussion of Rumsfeld and find little with which to disagree. Rumsfeld proved to be an evil, egomaniacal man and I think he should be in the docket if there are ever any trials. But he's only number three in this particular Axis of Evil. Bush and Cheney still lead the pack, IMO. And despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, I wouldn't allow "diminished mental capacity" as a defense for Bush. He, too, is evil.

Then Basil weighs in with the retrospection angle. Good post, Basil. I especially like where you look at Vietnam and our mental faculties and suggest that we collectively just ain't got that any more. And, you know, I agree. This nation has really gone round the bend. We are just not smart any more as a people.

And we are paying the price. Today's WaPo has two articles that brought me close to tears. The first addresses a survey of younger folks and outlines how they're fast losing faith in their own futures, how they believe there will be nothing for them at retirement. The second, another economic piece, outlines the problems middle class people are having with debt and savings, etc., etc. The harder side of me says, actually screams, "Then, why in the hell did you vote for these thieves?" You see, many of the people in such dire straits are of course part of the Bush "base." But my softer side realizes that the common man in our nation—no doubt a demeaning term these days, but once the norm—has been so dumbed down over the past couple of generations that he (and she) just doesn't know any better.

The greatest sin the people who provided the extra millions of votes and accordingly put Bush into office are guilty of is love of country. This doesn't include the investment bankers, the oil dudes and all of the rest of the plutocrats who've thrived with GWB. I'm talking about Joe Six-Pack, the poor under-educated guy who loves his country, and who was raised to believe in his president. And, yes, unfortunately, a lot of the Joe Six-Packs out there are racists, principally because they're under-educated; this also led them to only one candidate, the guy who waves the flag every chance he gets.

We hear a lot about staying in Iraq because we somehow "owe" the Iraqis something. Fuck them. What about our own? What about the betrayal?

Keith G said...

Pardon me, but this is going to wander for a bit. I have spent the day digesting testimony, news reports, interviews and comments here. Luckily my head didn’t pop….yet. I’ll outline what I’m mulling over. Feel free to correct any erroneous thinking.

What’s happened to AQI? I believe I remember that its number was between 1,000 and 2,000. Haven’t they been penned for over 1,000 suicide attacks? MNF-I certainly has killed off a few hundred. About a dozen of their #3s have been killed or captured. My point is, while they certainly can still kill and blow things all to hell, they have got to have a real numbers issue.

OBL received some education in engineering so at one time he was a numbers person with the ability to be logical (maybe he still is). With numbers low (and maybe recruitment a bit off for folks willing to go all jihadi in Iraq) he might have a hankerin to invest scarce resources in more fertile ground. Could he be possibly thinking that the summers are a lot better in Afghanistan and Pakistan than in Iraq? Certainly those two places are already showing some momentum toward going all to hell. Causing what passes as order in Pakistan to flame out would seem to me to be quite a trophy.

My line of conjecture starts with: Assuming OBL is acting along those line and our war leaders are clued in (a big leap?), that would “connect some dots” that I have been wondering about.

Petreaus and Crocker talked about AQ not AQI. Also, while they were not happy with the outcome, they seemed to agree with the goal of Maliki’s charge of the light brigade. And then there is the “pause”. And today the announcement that deployments will be shortened after Aug. 1.

If AQI is wounded and undermanned and if they suspect that pouring more man power into Iraq is not at the top of OBL’s (or whomever's) list, wouldn’t there be a window to try to put a really big hurt on al Sadr? Americans, including many Repubs want troop to start coming home: after all the surged worked. They can’t keep additional fire power around forever.

Is it probable that sometime this summer, well before the provincial elections so things can have a chance to calm down, there will be a concentrated push to smash up the Madi Army and its leader?

I know I am possibly singing at gnats. Maybe I have been watching too much Miss Marple on PBS, but this is where the dots have taken me.

Aviator47 said...


Would like to start a thread. How do I e-mail it to you?


Publius said...

Al, I'd love to see a thread of yours. Bet it'd be a doozy.

Burning question is: where is JD? Nothing from him in some time.

J.D. said...

Al, sorry, I have been really busy with work. Email me! spamsucks@charter.net. Please put in the subject heading in all caps: THIS IS FROM AL FOR BUGGIEBOY. That account is, as you might guess by the name, the one I use when I expect to get spammed. Once I have your email address I will respond to you with a message on how you can post.

And I was hoping you would have something to post - thanks!