Pre-war intelligence on Iraq after the invasion largely correct, but ignored Issues Beyond Palo Alto, posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 25, 2007 at 7:19 pm
Part II of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report found that the Intelligence community fairly accurately predicted the instability, exploitation of situation by Al Qaeda and Iran, and civil strife between Kurds, Sunnis and Shia's. It made specific recommendation including retaining much of the Iraqi army. Included in the report are declassified versions of the pre-war Intelligence Assessments.
Particularly interesting is Senator Feinstein's opinion in the appendices on what the report did not do. It did not provide any further analysis beyond the pre-war Intelligence Assessment.
Posted by Draw the Line, a resident of Stanford, on May 26, 2007 at 9:21 am
Of course you can.
"Intelligence" gives all possible best guesses, based on many bits of snapshots, develops scenarios and outcomes, with likelihood of occurence depending on many criteria.
Clinton was given "intelligence" to bomb what turned out to be an aspirin factory. He and ALL the Democrat leaders talked a lot about the necessity to take out Saddam, how great threat he was, etc, but never did. They were all waiting for the right opportunity. He had "intelligence" stating that there were people in the US training to use planes as weapons.
I don't blame him ( much) for not taking it more seriously. He got a distillation of best guesses just like Bush did.
This is just politics as usual, playing to those who don't know any better.
Right now, just as a guess, there is intelligence that shows we can take down Iran, and should, and that it is ready for it, and there is intelligence that says we should leave Iran alone, it isn't ready for democracy and Israel will take out the nuclear capability.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 26, 2007 at 10:05 am
Are we back to blaming Clinton for Iraq? How lame can you be?
I suggest you read the Senate Report. Within it are two unclassified pre-war analyses, "Principal Challenges of Post-Saddam Iraq" and "Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq." These reports were a synthesis from the 16-agency intelligence community.
The reports did not predict everything. For instance, they predict that Iraq's oil wealth would help with the reconstruction. They also predict that the insurgency would fade in 3-5 years after the fall of Saddam.
The point of the report is not that Intelligence is always right but that there was a reasonable consensus in the intelligency community along with specific recommendations which were ignored.
Posted by Draw the Line, a resident of Stanford, on May 26, 2007 at 10:16 am
By the way, it has been 4 years, not 5, since Saddam went underground, but less than a year since he was executed. It is only since he and his sons are DEAD that the Iraqis can really believe that they aren't coming back, and can wholeheartedly fight for their future without fear of the old regime coming back and massacring all of them ( again). Now they are banding together to fight against the OUTSIDE influences who are fomenting this violence. In other words, they are fighting Iranian, ex-Taliban, and Syrian influences, knowing if they lose this, they are stuck with another brutal dictatorship.
Honestly, you really want to leave them to that alone? You want another Vietnam, with millions massacred after we leave? If you know any Vietnamese, talk to them a little bit about what happened to their families after we pulled out and after we stopped funding their efforts. Ask yourself if you want that blood on your hands.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 26, 2007 at 10:53 am
Of course there was consensus on WMD's albeit with reservations. But certainly not on the nuclear program nor the connection to Al Qaeda. That intelligence was "cherry-picked" and embellished by Doug Feith's operation in the Pentagon.
I think you have enough blood on your hands. Do you really think that if the U.S. keep a few hundred thousand soldiers in Vietnam indefinitely it would have made a difference? The Vietnamese fought the French and Americans for more than a generation and they would have continued even if the U.S. remained there.
This argument that the U.S. has to continue to make the same mistake over and over again because the "only alternative" is some straw man which serves our purpose is fallacious. The egg that was Iraq is broken and it isn't going to miraculous snap back together again no matter how long or how many troops we station there.
The Kurds have a reasonably stable autonomous government. It's time to split up the rest of the country into Sunni and Shi'a regions and let them exercise "self-government." Let them hold elections. They will probably not vote in governments to your liking but that democracy for you. This isn't going to stop the civil strife but it might reduce it to a manageable level, like India and Pakistan after their split.
Posted by Draw the Line, a resident of Stanford, on May 26, 2007 at 1:02 pm
Please show me where Bush said there was a connection to AlQaeda.
There were a few reports of a meeting between an Iraqi govt official and one of AlQaeda. No agreement at all that there was a connection, though. But, the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" expression originated with ..guess who?
By the way, to clarify...The NORTH Vietnamese, with the backing of China, fought the French and the Americans. Not, the Vietnamese. You are making the same mistake as those who say the Iraqis are fighting the Americans. If that were true, there would be millions fighting us, not thousands, and the govt would be asking us to leave.
Yes, I truly believe had we not lost the propoganda war ( thanks to our media who were firmly on the side of communism) we would have won Vietnam, or at least South Vietnam, and saved millions from massacre. Militarily, we were in the North, and the South was secure. The photos with lies for stories behind them pummeled on the American people, ( research the truth behind most of the iconic photos you believe show the horrors WE caused, and be shocked, combined with the absurd stories of those who wanted to help the the Viet Cong or wanted to make political hay ( note, I mean the likes of Fonda and Kerry, both of whom are the opposite of heros to the Vietnamese here), they lost South Vietnam and are responsible for the blood of millions. Today, Vietnam would have had 40 years to have become South Korea.
At least our efforts there caused China to be occupied by us and let other parts of Asia develop into freer nations with better economies. All of which is good for the world and for us.
Thankfully, we now have more informational access. We are not sheep led by the blind and biased. Iraq is not another Vietnam, though many are trying their best to do it again.
Posted by Draw the Line, a resident of Stanford, on May 26, 2007 at 1:22 pm
I should clarify my position on Vietnam.
I support the fact that we left because we were not aggressive enough, and we were sending our men into a war without their choice to do it.
If we had been more aggressive, sooner, and finished it faster, with an all volunteer army..I supported staying and finishing.
I am very happy we are getting more aggressive ( finally) in Iraq. It was a big mistake to listen to the Iraqis and stand-down in Fallujah when we had it surrounded, all the women and children out, and were ready to, frankly, take out the entire seed of the now Al-Sadr militia.
But, we listened to the Iraqis, ( which I supported)..who now agree that we have to be much more aggressive.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 26, 2007 at 1:29 pm
Fair Use allows you to quote excerpts from copyrighted material as long as you provide attribution.
The information in your link is quite old. Yes, Iraq had a nuclear arms program in the late 80's and early 90's. And no, the evidence did not indicate a nuclear arms in 2002 and 2003. Did the world suspect there was a program, yes. But there wasn't any substantial evidence either.
Posted by Draw the Line, a resident of Stanford, on May 26, 2007 at 1:47 pm
Understood. The point was that there were no inspectors allowed in for 4 years, and even when there were, they were not allowed free access, and at no time did Iraq show what they did with the "old" materials. We had to make decisions without a crystal ball, based on the best we knew, with the best guess of consequences for being wrong on either side.
Would you rather assume Saddam had them and be wrong, or that he didn't and be wrong?
I think that is the decision point where many diverge.
I prefer to make the bet where "losing" the bet means fewer people die. So, we/I bet there were weapons, we haven't found anything but "clues" that they were there ( sarin in the river, centrifuges, refined nuclear waste etc).. but fewer people are dying than were dying under Saddam, and there is hope of a free and stable democracy, the first Muslim democracy in the Middle East ( but not the world). Democracies are safer for everyone inside and outside the country than dictatorships.
If we had made the bet there WEREN'T weapons, that Saddam was just "posturing", and there actualy were WMD, and Saddma then held Israel hostage while taking over the surrounding countries again, ( as he had already tried to do twice, resulting in about a million dead Muslims) many more millions would have died fighting him at that point. I have no doubt Saddam was crazy enough to use any excuse to wipe out Israel, and wouldn't have cared if Palestine/Jordan and the borders of the other countries went with them. He would have just seen this as a great way to complete his dream of a Pan Arabia ( like his role model's dream, of a unified Europe under German rule)
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 26, 2007 at 2:09 pm
If the Mossad thought that Saddam was close to obtaining Nuclear Weapons they would have taken them out. They didn't need the U.S. the last time for this and they still wouldn't count on the U.S. for something as critical as this for them. WMD's in Iraq are more of a threat to Isreal than they ever have been to the U.S.
I still don't buy the Bush doctrine that the U.S. is entitled to a preemptive war without solid evidence of an immediate threat. No country is entitled to invade another, no matter how dreadful its government, based on suspicions alone. The U.S. should not exact "regime change" just because the current regime is a totalitarian dictatorship. There has to be a real and immediate danger to trigger such extreme measures.
Posted by Jim, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 26, 2007 at 2:35 pm
Israel made a clever, but relatively easy hit on Iraq when it bombed the nuclear ("peaceful") power plant. Saddam learned from this, and began to disperse his nuclear bomb program. Israel could no longer hit it. Even the U.S., today, would have a hard time hitting Iran's dispersed facilities.
UN inspectors (Hans Blix) declared that Iraq had very limited ability to make a bomb, after the Gulf War (1991). A few years later, Saddam's son-in-law defected and spilled the beans. Blix, by his own admission, said that he had been badly mistaken - Iraq was well along the road to a bomb.
You don't buy into preemptive war. That's nice. But it is not very realpolitic. If Hitler had been stopped by an allied invasion, prior to 1939, the world would have been spared an unnecessary and very bloddy conflict. The appeasesers made your basic argument - and they were wrong, big time. My uncle was killed in WWII and my father suffered PTSS (although there was no name for it when I was young - just the screams in the dark). I think I know, personally, some of the cost of war, and it is horrible. It is better fight a preemptive war than a major war. JMO.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 26, 2007 at 4:03 pm
Sorry Jim, but I don't equate Saddam with Hitler. The sanctions largely worked. Saddam was contained. Just because there were appeasers to Hitler doesn't mean that everyone who tries to avoid an unnecessary war is an appeaser.
Iraq had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. It does now because it has proven to be a wonderful recruiting tool for Al Qaeda and related groups. If our democratization of Iraq had been successful, maybe it could have transformed the middle East as the Neocon's predicted. But it was so badly bungled, that it has transformed the middle East in the worst way.
At some point, the war supporters need to decide if this is really the clash of cultures and a war to preserve western civilization. If it is, then the Administration should impose a draft, cancel the tax cuts and stop telling us to go shopping. If it is really that important maybe he should send his daughters to fight it. Until that happens, I don't take this rhetoric seriously.
Posted by Jim, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 26, 2007 at 9:01 pm
You say the sanctions were working. I'm not sure that is true. Saddam was breaking out, as he always had. He had the UN eating out of his palm, along with several European countries. UN inspections could not be trusted. The U.S. was stuck in a military containment posture, with no end in site. Part of that containment was to fly out of a major base in Saudi Arabia, now closed. That base was a recruitment tool for Al Qaeda, and Bin Laden referred to it often.
Yes, the neocons pushed an agenda. They are formal leftists that are ashamed of their previous accomodations of leftist aggression. They are/were trying to make ammends, and they let their ideals get in front of reality on the ground. For instance, they thought that the U.S. would be welcomed as liberators. Bush and Cheney and Wolfowitz, etc., can and should be criticized for this naivite, but their sense of right and wrong, along with the uncertainty of what Saddam would do next, led them in the right direction.
Anytime the U.S., as a major political/military power in the world, takes a course of action, there will be consequences. Does that mean that it should not act? The one question that had to haunt any U.S. administration, after 9/11 was: Will Saddam give WMD to Al Qaeda so that he could attack the U.S. without any fingerprints? UN inspections were not going to provide any assurances, because they had been so wrong in the past. This is something that cannot be left hanging. IMO action was required.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 26, 2007 at 10:49 pm
Even if you suspect that Saddam had WMD's, there was never any evidence of cooperation between Saddam and Al Qaeda. If anything each side despised and distrusted the other. Saddam gave refuge to Palestinian terrorists but never Al Qaeda.
Cheney and Wolfowitz called for the overthrow of Saddam in their work in the New American Century before the 2000 election. Al Qaeda was a convenient excuse after 9/11 to continue and justify regime change. The Saddam/Al Qaeda connection was a farce based on two different people having similar names. Any reasonable verification of intelligence would have and did reveal this mistake. I don't buy that the question of whether Saddam would give WMD's to Al Qaeda was anything more than an excuse to sell a pre-determined policy.
The rationale given in the New American Century documents was that Saddam was a threat to stability in the region and his overthrown would send a signal to the rest of the middle East of the U.S. resolve, power and strategic interest. However, the authors never seriously considered the consequences of the regime change and the potential for sectarian violence.
The sad aspect of the Iraq debacle is that if the U.S. had taken the occupation serious and headed the consensus Intelligence Analysis and recommendation, this might have worked. Unfortunately, this administration has always favored loyalty over competence. Bremer and Rumsfield pretty much blew any chance of a favorable outcome.
Posted by Jim, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 26, 2007 at 11:27 pm
I think Saddam hated Al Qaeda. Saddam was a non-religious (socialist)Stalinist. However, he was quite willing to use his enemies to kill his enemies. Al Qaeda would have been an eager recipient of any WMD that Saddam could have provided. Of course, he would not have provided a bunch of WMD, just enough to attack the U.S., and not him. Then he would have fed them a few more...then a few more. I don't see how a responsible U.S. president could have ignored Saddam's WMD threat.
The U.S. also has an interest in the Middle East, including oil and Israel and stability on the southern edge of Europe. Saddam was not the answer, even though you might want to think that he was. He was a genocidal thug, and he should only be supported if he was better than an even worse thing, like the Ayatollah Khomeni (just barely).
The Iraq war seems to be too long for a segment of impulsive, immediate-gratification Americans. It is a relatively low cost affair, even though each individual loss is of infinite value to each family of a lost soldier or civilian. The losses will be much higher if Iraq disintegrates. I simply don't understand why you cannot come to grips with the stakes at hand. You seem to demand quick and clean victories, something that is very rare in war.
There was no easy path in the Iraq war, even though you and Bush suggest that there was. You were/are both wrong. But it needs to be concluded as a success for the West (and the Middle East). Cutting and running (and that is what you are suggesting) is not the answer - things will only get worse.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 27, 2007 at 12:31 pm
I agree that there isn't any easy path to whatever we now define as success in Iraq. I'm not even sure there is a hard path to the original objective which was a secular, constitutional democracy. We already gave up on the "secular" since Iraqi law is now based on the Quoran and is subject to clerical interpretation. The current parliament can hardly be called a government since it barely controls its own military and police forces and has no jurisdiction over the coalition forces or their contractors.
The current "stay the course" path is doomed to failure no matter how long we kill our soldiers and beat our heads on the Iraqi government. The Kurds are not going to accept power in the central government. The Shi'a are not going to settle for anything short of majority control and the Sunni's will not settle on a minority position without proven oil revenues. The best course is to split the country in three and use our remaining forces to enforce the separation.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 27, 2007 at 12:40 pm
The Post-Saddam Intelligence Analysis declassified in the Senate Report is the equivalent of the NIE. These are hardly obscure documents.
No one has to dig up documents to embarrass the Administration like CIA briefings entitled "Terrorist Learn to Fly", "Al Qaeda Determined to Strike the U.S.", etc. Only the true believers can shut their eyes to the obvious.
Posted by Jim, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 27, 2007 at 1:48 pm
"The best course is to split the country in three and use our remaining forces to enforce the separation."
A reduced U.S. force in a three way conflict is worse than the current situation. Exactly how and where would the U.S. intervene is the many future 'border' fights? External forces would form allieances, to a greater degree than is currently the case, possibly spreading the conflict into a world war.
I cannot think of a better course than staying the current course, with an increasingly effective Iraqui army and police, backed by U.S. power on a selective basis. I think this course will take about ten years to be successful. If we go down your suggested path, we will have about 30 years of war, and it will be much bloodier. Your solution is cut and run, and hide your head in the sand. That dog won't hunt. I wish I could agree with your approach, but I cannot.
Posted by Draw the Line, a resident of Stanford, on May 27, 2007 at 2:38 pm
Jim: Well said. You clearly are well informed and experienced.
However, why do you believe 10 years? From the beginning every thorough analysis I have read figured about 5 years ( which I believe is still true) for a high level of US involvement, diminishing gradually as territories become well managed by the Iraqi govt after that, until we are simply a base ( assuming Iraq wants a base of US in their country, which I doubt). Or, are we saying the same thing, diminishing over the NEXT 5 years, for a total of 10 years?
I also believe that our administration believed this to be true, but understands the short-term, quick and easy out mentality of the majority of the left, so kept this to themselves. What do you think?
I think the only real surprise has been the level of ferocity of FOREIGN fighters in Iraq.
Posted by Draw the Line, a resident of Stanford, on May 27, 2007 at 2:43 pm
Peter: your link didn't come through. Please re-do.
The Iraq:Al Qaeda link prior to 9/11 consisted, like I said, of a meeting between a high level Saddam henchman and a high level Al Qaeda henchman. There were also some links of Al Qaeda operatives being welcomed into Iraq. But, nobody has said this was a strong or well documented link.
It is more like Jim said. There is no doubt Saddam would use ANY group that hated us and was determined to kill us to his advantage. Al Qaeda was one.
To say that we have caused more Al Qaeda recruitment because we are fighting is like saying we caused more Fascists to fight because we joined in WW2. The answer is..of course!
Posted by Jim, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 27, 2007 at 3:07 pm
I never believe optimistic views of war. War plans are worth their weight on paper as soon as the conflict begins. Montgomery had a nifty idea to end the WWII early, but there were SS panzer units sationed at Arnhem. Back to the drawing board.... The current success in Al Anbar (Iraq) has more to do with Al Qaeda overplaying its hand than any U.S. tactics/strategy. That's the way wars of insurgency go - long, semi-bloody and drip...drip...drip of the will to carry on the fight. I don't expect anything different in this case.
I foresee the U.S. being in Iraq in an active way for the next 10 years or so. I hope you are right, that it will be in a diminishing way. I see the U.S. also having an extended stay in Iraq, in bases, for many years to come, similar to Korea.
Bush had three main goals in Iraq: 1. Topple Saddam and establish a democratic process, severely hurting the Al Qaeda cause in the process, 2. Get rid of the WMD threat, 3. Establish an American presence in the region for the long run.
I think much of this agenda will be successful, if we stay the course. However, it will be bloody and long, IMO. I think Bush can and should be held accountalbe for suggesting that we would be seen as liberators, and that oil revenues would soon pay for reconstruction. The Bush team believed their own dreams about the war - ridiculous. Nevertheless, I think the Bush basic strategy was correct.
In the end, either America has the will to be in it for the long run, or we will bleed buckets of blood, probably inside our own borders, and soon. This is not Vietnam, where the victors had a focus on its own country, and did not chase us back to our home country. Al Qaeda has already attacked us, several times, and a U.S. defeat in Iraq will multiply Al Qaeda power and reach. A U.S. victory in Iraq will be a severe blow to Al Qaeda.
Posted by Frankly, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 27, 2007 at 10:40 pm
The European warned the US on the risks of the war, and they were dead on. They also warned against the evidence the US used, saying it was not conclusive that there were WMDs, and that we should resume searching (as Saddam ultimately offered).... But, of course, a Bush White House would not listen to "Old Europe"...
Posted by Jim, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 28, 2007 at 6:10 am
Hans Blix was a European. He got it immensely wrong about the nuclear program in Iraq, following the 1991 gulf war. Saddam's nuclear bomb program was much farther along than Blix could detect. Only the defection of Saddam's son-in-law exposed the truth. UN inspectors could not be trusted, because Saddam was a lot smarter than them. It is beyond naive to suggest that the resumption of inspections would have proven anything of value.
Posted by Draw the Line, a resident of Stanford, on May 28, 2007 at 11:21 am
Ok, Jim: You are more cynical than I, but we agree pretty much on the primary REAL reasons for going to Iraq and the primary results of retreating versus staying and finishing.
As for oil paying for the reconstruction: To what are you referring? I only have a vague memory of oil, and if I recall it was something about the Iraqis paying for their reconstruction from their much improved oil sales once stability was achieved. Is that what you are talking about? If so, I still think that is possible. It is simple, once it is stable, Iraq takes up its own reconstruction. We pay no more.
Two: Best I can tell, the Shias and Kurds DID and DO see us as liberators from Saddam. Nobody expected gratitude from the Sunnis, who lost their grip on the country. Why do you think it wasn't true?
NOW I believe that the Shias ( primarily) are realizing that we aren't going to protect them forever and they better step up..and they are. I agree that Al-Qaeda overplayed their hand and turned the population against them, but in the end it means the Iraqis take back their country.
The moment that happens, we had better be ready to dust the desert sand off our hands when they ask us to take off!
I agree with you, basically, about the rationale for this war in Iraq (I support it). However, I have always disagreed with the selling of the war. I think Bush should have made the case that Iraq is the place to drive a democratic wedge into the Arab/Muslim mindset, AND that this war will be long, even if its relative costs are low.
The Kurds had already been semi-liberated by the U.S. Yes, they also appreciated the fact that we invaded and got rid of Saddam. However, they have reason to distrust us, based on what has happened to them in the past. I believe the Kurds will offer bases to the U.S. for the long haul. It would be in both of our interests.
The Shias wanted the overthrow of Saddam and his Batthists, period. Once that was accomplihsed, they wanted us out. Ironically, it may end up being the Sunnis that want us to stay for while - out of fear of the Shias/Iran.
None of this mess suprises me. I expected it, although I had no idea of the particular details. I support the Iraq war, because it was the right thing to do. If the U.S. does not cut and run, this war will be a major plank in a new world order that is very positive for both the U.S. and the Islamic world. Europe will also get the benefit, even though most European nations don'twPQi deserve it.
I completely disagree with you about getting out of Iraq in the short term. A U.S. presence, in bases, would be a good thing for the medium term. Perhaps the long term. Stability and a modern democratic state should be what we are fighting for. We did it in Korea, Japan and Germany, and we should do it in Iraq (and Afghanistan). In fact, we should get out of Korea, Japan and Germany in order to focus our forces where they are needed, today.
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 28, 2007 at 12:56 pm
It is a shame that the military has been limited in the response it can make to enemy propaganda. In fact, I believe we sould use our technology to limit enemy communication and propaganda to camelback messengers. The First Amendment does not apply to enemies, and the enemy certainly understands the benefit of propaganda.
Posted by Draw the Line, a resident of Stanford, on May 28, 2007 at 3:21 pm
Jim, we are on the same page, but not the same paragraph.
I think the optimism was a result of underestimating the amount of foreign fighters coming in and sabotaging re-built infrastructure. Crystal ball failed there. But, the result still is bad. Can't wait for Iraq to get stable and start picking up their own bill.
Here is one that is going to feed into the paranoia of the far left...I think that the selling of the war was purposefully simplistic because I think that the Bush Admin didn't believe most people would have heard, let along understood the real reasons for going in. I agree with the Admin.
All I have to do is see how much misinformation is believed because of the media spin just on the simplistic selling to know that trying to speak in sound bites to the public through the media about anything more complex ( and honest) would have been a failure.
NOBODY trusts us in Iraq. We sold out the Kurds AND the Shias already once. And the Sunnis are furious at their loss of power. I believe that we won't need bases there, with the friendly bases at Qatar and ..Kuwait is it?..developing. I believe that, unless there is a major change in Iraqi public attitudes toward Americans, any US bases there would be a pustule waiting to spread.
Even in Europe there are more than a few people who believe we are "occupiers" in Germany! And these are people with a "free press". Can you imagine the propoganda value of having a base in Iraq?
I want us completely out of "old" Europe also. Use the money to transfer bases to useful and welcoming places.
Posted by Jim, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 28, 2007 at 3:53 pm
There was no doubt in my mind that the Batthists and would fight back and that Al Qaeda would get invovled. I think the U.S. has done pretty well, considering the challenges. However, Bush and his guys, including certain press guys like Thomas Friedman, were too full of themselves. Friedman is a nervous Nelly who has since qualified all of his earlier support (cheerleading). Friedman has no balls. Bush has held his ground, but his unrealistic rah-rah was, and is, his shame. He had a good idea, but he sold a bill of goods. A war like this, with major nation building, will always require a long term effort. Bush sold it as a short term effort. Now he is stuck with unrealistic time lines in front of him. Better not to go in, if we cannot sustain the effort.
Nevertheless, we need to sustain the effort. The cost of defeat is too enormous to pull out now. This will include maintaining U.S. bases in Iraq. You may not like this, but enough Iraquis will demand it (especially the Kurds, and possibly the
Posted by A Boomer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 28, 2007 at 5:27 pm
I watched the Friedman clip with Charlie Rose from 2003 that was posted on another thread on this site. I think Jim is right about Friedman talking out of both sides of his mouth about the Iraq. He basically said it was a nation building exercise, and there would be a democratic "domino effect" that would squash the terrorists and force huge regime changes in the likes of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. In fairness, he did say there was a great deal of work to do after the war initially ended, and he more or less predicted unmitigated disaster if the US as occupiers mis-handled the situation, which clearly we have done.
I have a very low regard for the Shrub administration for a variety of reasons. Fish stinks from the head, and Shrub himself is intellectually uncurious, not at all worldly, and clearly not very agile at handling the many levers of power at his disposal. His expenditure of resources that are actually being applied to the so-called "war on terror" are at this point a tiny fraction of the treasure and lives we have spent and are spending there serves as but one example.
Since we are in a "Pottery Barn" situation over there (you break it, you own it) we need to look beyond the worst case scenario that the Shrubbies now seem to be using as reason to continue doing the same thing indefinitely (just as they used the "best case scenario about the aftermath as part of the reason for going in.)
To my way of thinking, Joe Biden's notion of creating semi-autonomous states for the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis, with some sharing of national oil revenues, still seems the most sensible thing to do at this point. The Kurds can take care of themselves, the Shiites have Iran to help them along, and the Sunnis can be baby sat until they learn how to behave. They all go back to their general parts of the country, and leave each other alone--i.e. quell the sectarian violence. This approach has certain consequences, too, but given the basket of poor choices we have in front of us, this still seems to me to be the least worst option. I haven't heard very much in opposition to the concept, although untangling everybody like a referee does two boxers will be messy for the initial period.
Posted by Jim, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 28, 2007 at 5:54 pm
"To my way of thinking, Joe Biden's notion of creating semi-autonomous states for the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis, with some sharing of national oil revenues"
Boomer, please explain how that would happen. The Kurds and the Shias would have control of the majority of the oil. How, exactly, would all three sides decide to "share" it? I think they would just fight it out. Outside allies would enter the fray, and it could turn into a world war. Joe Biden has been full of himself, and his simplistic answers to almost everyting for many years. His solution should be the last choice, not the current choice.
Posted by A Boomer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 28, 2007 at 6:07 pm
Let's not get distracted over Biden, he is not the only one suggesting this approach.
I will not pretend to know the myriad details that need to go into this or any approach for getting this Iraq situation on a better track, so don't expect me to offer something even close to complete. I will suggest that the oil resources can be controlled by a coalition force, which also would handle the disbursement of revenues on a formula that is developed as part of the demarcation.
Nobody controls oil right now, the wells and refineries are in a state of disrepair. A coalition force could protect them and get them rebuilt, and not be concerned with policing the streets or quelling the domestic violence--a much more focused mission.
Not clear to me who these "outside allies" are that you refer to Jim, and why demarcation would invite whoever they are in any more than alternate approaches, which I would welcome hearing from you what you think they are or should be.
Posted by Jim, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 28, 2007 at 7:06 pm
" I will suggest that the oil resources can be controlled by a coalition force, which also would handle the disbursement of revenues on a formula that is developed as part of the demarcation. "
I would put that one in with the overly optimistic hopper that Bush and Friedman, et. al. have pushed. It sounds good on paper, but how would it be enforced? You say coalition forces would do the job. The infrastructure to run the oil fields is not just pipelines and pumps. It has to be run by actual people. These people live in towns and cities. The supplies come through towns and cities. A three-way split will be an invitation for one or the other element to sabatoge the infrastrucre in the towns, cities, roads, etc. That pig won't fly.
Oil in Iraq is flowing at about the same rate as the mid 80s. However, the price of oil, currently, means that Iraq is receiving very much increased oil revenues. Iraq has huge oil potential, but Saddam found a way to mess it up. The U.S. invasion knocked it down for a while, but it is slowly coming back. A nationwide political solution would allow Iraq to become a rich nation.
You ask about outside forces that might try to 'influence' a tripartite Iraq. How about: Iran, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, U.S., Russia, China. Don't forget Al Qaeda. The Gulf could be rapidly blockaded by mines (Iran?); the U.S. could react and attack Iran or Syria; Russia and China could become very 'helpful' in supporting their own horses in the race. At that point, things could really spin out of control.
At this point, the least bloody, and the most rational approach should be to stay the course. It is slowly working, but it will be a long haul.
Posted by A Boomer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 28, 2007 at 8:52 pm
I don't understand your assertion that a 3 way demarcation leads to sabatoge by the other factions, or if it does, how that is much different than is what is going on now. What I am suggesting is that people are encouraged for the next period of time to live where they are largely with their own, there is a better chance that the whole thing will cool down more quickly. Much of what goes on right now is sectarian fighting, a demarcation may help lessen those tensions more readily than people staying put, as they are right now.
I think we agree that the oil needs to be viewed as a national resource for the entire country. How best to administer it? I offered my suggestion, would love to understand what some other alternatives are. I am not wedded to the approach I suggest, but of the ideas I have read and heard about, it seems to be the least ugly "pig" in the pen.
Your scenario for more occupiers seems pretty far fetched. What country in their right mind would commit itself to a fight in Iraq after what the United States has subjected itself to, and what country, other than Iran, wants to find itself opposite the US in such a confrontation? I again fail to see how a demarcation leads to that type of involvement more than other options, what am I missing from your contention?
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 29, 2007 at 6:55 am
Most oil exploration experts believe there are more reserves in the Sunni controlled sections of Iraq but they have been prevented by Saddam and it is too dangerous now to explore them. Iraq needs a way to divide the currently producing assets and the future reserves which isn't purely geographic.
But much of this discussion on oil is moot since a fair percentage is lost to corruption and smuggling. Without some semblance of order, no agreement is enforceable.
Posted by Draw the Line, a resident of Stanford, on May 29, 2007 at 7:16 am
Good, thought provoking thread!
BTW: We all agree that Friedman speaks with forked-tongue!
We talk long enough, we find a common ground...
Jim: Hmmm, I hear people saying Bush sold this as a cake-walk. For some reason I missed that speech and have never found it online . I never heard "easy" or "short-term". I heard PUNDITS and NEWSPAPERS and COMMENTATORS overselling the ease, though. I heard that it would be short and easy to take out the Baathist military and bring down the govt. ( It was). Maybe it is just a difference in background that heard the distinctions, or maybe I just learned to distrust any interpretation of a speech or press conference, always going directly to the source.
Maybe it is my background, but I had no doubt we were talking minimum of 5 years full conflict before beginning to decrease our numbers.
Yours is the first well-thought out analysis I have heard talking about more people for longer. I hope you are wrong. I suspect that even supporters like me will start to fade out after 5 years. I think that if we aren't drawing down before Bush leaves office, we will elect a Democratic who will precipitously and shamefully pull us out, so I think that we will begin decreasing before then.
The Middle East does have it right, in that I don't think the American people understand yet that the fascists have been building this ideology and support for it for over 20 years ( closer to 30), and the majority of Americans are short term thinkers who want to plow our way through a solution and move on. ( Some of us shorter term than others).
They have been badly educated in history, and don't realize that movements ( like our original revolution) take years to build up, or years to destroy ( like slavery). They don't understand the "powder keg" notion of human endeavors. They are in 30-60 minute Drama Resolution mode.
Islamofascism has reached its keg, and we are still long in the fuse.
Posted by Jim, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 29, 2007 at 7:53 am
Partition may have an ameliorating effect on sectarian conflict, but once it gets broken up it will be extremely hard to put it together again. The Kurds will push for an independent Kurdistan, and Turkey may invade to keep that from happening. Syria will ally with the Sunni Batthists. Iran will ally with the Shias (even more than now). Saudi Arabia will not like watching Iranian hegemony on its border, and it will probably ally with the Sunnis. Arms and men will flood into each region. It will be the end of the current Iraqui army and police. The U.S. will be sitting ducks as they drive up and down the lines trying to protect oil infrastructure. Instead of developing a national government, we will be solely a military force expected to solve all conflicts along the 'borders'. A true civil war is a possibility, one that spreads out beyond the current borders of Iraq. The big winner will be Iran, because it will control all of the southern Iraq oil, once the U.S. finally cuts and runs.
Slow progress is being made in Iraq on the current course. As painful as it is, it is the best course of action, IMO.
"Mission Accomplished" is just one example of too much enthusiasm and cheerleading. In fact, it was easy to predict that the long slug battle was just beginning.
Posted by A Boomer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 29, 2007 at 9:44 am
Thanks for being more specific. Iran is the wild card here, under any scenario.
What lessons do you derive from what has transpired in the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union, where large single states were dis-established and became multiple smaller states more or less divided along sectarian and ethnic lines?
Obviously, Milosovec was as bad a bad guy as Saddam, and many ethnic muslims were massacred while he was running Serbia. Without discounting that, by and large, the states that have emerged in the last 10 years in those parts of the world are not at each other's throats or serving as magnets for outside interests to come in and stir up trouble.
The British and Saddam Hussein both ruled an Iraq that is highly artificial as a country. That is not to say that different sects cannot identify themselves as Iraqis, they can. But the sectarian schisms within the country go back hundreds of years, and were contained but not eliminated during colonial and subsequent dictatorial rule in the last 150 or so years.
I would be willing to take my chances with Turkey. I think the Iraqi Kurds are the most peaceful group in the bunch, and the Turks should be working on getting into the Eurpoean Union--getting into a conflict over Iraqi Kurdistan would kill that for several lifetimes.
The Saudis are small in number, and a lazy nation, from what I have observed. They have no appetite for a fight, and I suspect would shrink from one outside their borders in a very short time.
I am not saying demarcation would be pretty. With my understanding, not limited, but certainly not expert, it does seem to be the closest thing to a natural order in that part of the world.
And, I think even this President could sell it domestically, which says alot, since I think his account is bankrupt.
Posted by Jim, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 29, 2007 at 12:03 pm
The scenario I outlined (above) is probably one of the reasons that countries surrounding Iraq, and even countries indirectly 'allied' with various factions in the conflict, are now holding talks with each other and the U.S. (e.g. the Iran-U.S. talks a couple of days ago). The motivation for such discussions is the fear of the unknown. For instance, Iran stands to gain a lot, if it can controll the Shias in Iraq; on the other hand, the Kurds (with major oil revenues) will push for a greater Kurdistan that includes part of Iran (and Turkey). Iran would probably prefer to see stability in Iraq, because the Shias are in the majority, and Iran could manipulate the basic politics in Iraq (at least it thinks it could!). It is a metastable siuation, and enough players want stability, so it might happen (except for Al Qaeda).
Maybe I have blinders on and I don't see the reality of the situation, but I think Iraq is slowly coming around. It is messy, and it will take a long time...but I think it is happening. I think any of the generally discussed alternatives to the current situation are likely to be much more bloody and chaotic.
On Yugoslavia, I think it was a ripple effect of the defeat of the Soviet Union in the cold war. Tito was a dictator, allied with the Soviet Union in many ways, but he was not, on balance, anywhere near what Saddam was. Milosivic was more benign than Tito, but he was caught up in the swirl of events that were triggered by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Not all dictators are the same...Saddam was in a league with Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao. I thought the Eurpoeans should have stepped up to the plate in Yugoslavia but they did not. They are pathetic, and slowly dying off. Once again, the U.S. came to the rescue. I laughed out loud when Clinton told the U.S. people that it would only take about a year of U.S. military involvement. We are still there. If we leave, it will fall apart again. Would that an American president just tell the truth about foreign military commitments....
Ask Turkey how peaceful the Kurds are. The Kurds have been fighting for an independant Kurdistan for a long time. They are quite capable of terrorism to achieve it. If the Kurds end up with major oil revenues, Turkey has a lot to fear. I think they are likely to attack the Kurds to prevent this.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 29, 2007 at 1:09 pm
Could you provide some specific evidence that "Iraq is slowly coming around?"
As far as I can tell, sectarian violence is down in the neighborhoods with remotely stationed U.S. troops and up outside of them. News reports are down but the number of U.S. and Iraqi casualties is about the same.
The Iraqi parliment is about to take a 2 month holiday.
Plus there is such an ample supply of jihadists that they are deploying to nearby countries and not necessary exacting their terror in Iraq itself.
Posted by A Boomer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 29, 2007 at 1:34 pm
Interesting how little of this exchange has included discussion of Al Quaeda, and their "terrorist designs" on the world.
Obviously, this whole thing is fraught with uncertainty, and the ultimate outcome or outcomes one can only guess, noone really knows. In some respects, it is a "first do no harm" emergency room situation where we have a patient that is prone to dying and what we are trying to do is make sure that doesn't happen before any discussion of recovery can take place. The harm was needlessly inflicted by the Shrub administration, but let's not go there, it is a tiresome discussion at this point.
What is interesting to me about what you describe is states that are in some respects also artifices that rose out of the British colonial times. Attaturk crafted what is modern Turkey from the Ottoman factions that existed there, the House of Saud created a country from a collection of nomadic feifdoms that wandered a desert, knowing little about the riches the lay beneath the sands. Iran actually does have a long history as Persia, non-Arab, Shia tradition of Islam.
These countries have been viewed by many western scholars as just what was needed to pacify unruly factions that would otherwise be at constant conflict with each other, and they were unified under state regimes that were agnostic in large part to the specific interests of the particular factions, and were more concerned about governanmce of a geography that had some boundaries with some degree of logic attached to them. In some ways, not unlike the US, which has a culture of people thinking of themselves as Americans first, and of another heritage second, if at all.
So there really are three dynamics at conflict here--first, the "natural" factions that include the Kurds, Arabs, Persians, the Sunnis and the Shiites; second the "statist" country models that were created in part to diffuse those natural factions and prevent any one of them from gaining power at the expense of the others, and thirdly, a "democratic" concept of governance in a part of the world that is unaccustomed to it, and that the Shrub administration (at best) naively thought would be easily implemented in Iraq and inexorably would infuse itself into the neighboring states.
A complicated calculus in the best of times, and one that requires very clear-minded and very smart people just to stay on top of it. Not clear to me that it is possible for any administration to be able to successfully take something of this magnitude on. This bunch clearly is not up to the task.
So, working backwards, I think the notion of democracy in the region is pyrrhic for the time being, we need a Mubarak type to control what there is of an Iraq, the accidental states that emerged in the last century may have accomplished what they were intended, but because they have an artifical foundation to start with, they may not be entirely sustainable any more than were Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union, and I will make the argument that the fastest way to get these guys to settle down is for them to go back to living amongst themselves and learn to be part of the larger world in a way that is quite different than when they were subjugated to different forms of rule intended to keep them quiet, and perhaps compliant.
Posted by Jim, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 29, 2007 at 1:59 pm
I understand your doubts. I am basing my assesment on the current tactics of 'taking and holding'. For instance, Fallujah and Al Anbar province. They were considered permanently lost a year or two ago. Now there is some hope. Baghdad is the big enchilada, and it is showing some signs of stability. Yes, there is a pushout effect (those chased out of Baghdad get it on somewhere else), but that is not surprising - dedicated fighters find a place to fight. U.S. casualties are up, somewhat, but that is to be expected if the fight is being taken to the fighters.
I agree with some of the Democratic crtics of the war that this is, at this point, a largely political problem. However, I disagree with them when they suggest that the military component can be removed on an arbitrary (or concocted) timeline.
I hate war. My family suffered from it. But I am not a pacifist, and I believe that limited (even preemptive) war is better than larger wars. I wish Iraq to be at peace and prosperous. It has the oil potential, and the educated population and the history to be a flourishing nation in the Middle East, and the world at large. I think it is worth the effort to see it through. A major benefit would be the blow delivered to Al Qaeda, if a domocratic and flourishing Iraq evolves.
Posted by Draw, a resident of Stanford, on May 29, 2007 at 2:15 pm
Jim: You are putting a lot of time and thought into your work here, and I don't want to diss you at all. But, I have to correct the "mission accomplished" thing. I hear that all the time as proof of Bush lying/overselling etc.
That was a banner, put up on a ship, in celebration BY the MILITARY who was, understandably, elated, about accomplishing ONE of the Missions, which was to topple Saddam. You can say that nothing happens without Bush's consent, but I doubt sincerely that anyone called him up or that he specifically ordered any kind of banner.
I may have selective memory, which I know I am prone to, but I have only heard him say that it will be a long and hard fight, and that we leave when our mission is finished, which is a stable democracy in Iraq. He has added about 2 times, ( maybe 3, the first being about 1 1/2 years ago), that we will leave if the Iraqi govt asks us to leave.
I am a stickler for attributions. I have a lot of problems with Bush ( different from the ones you have stated), but making this seem like it would be a cake-walk is not one of them.
But, I know the buck stops with him, and it is legitimate to hold him accountable for allowing misperceptions to continue. THAT I hold him and his admin responsible for...extremely poor communication. I wish they would all stand up and fight back verbally, loudly, long, and repetitively.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 29, 2007 at 10:52 pm
The Sunni insurgents pushed out of Bagdad are now cleansing Mosul of Kurds. There will be a defacto separation into Kurd and Sunni by the time of the referendum on "disputed territories" at the end of the year.
Bush had a photo-op that was designed to portray a victory in Iraq. The public read it that way. Major combat operations were not over (e.g. Falluja). The truth was that is was an unstable situation, and Bush knew it. He should have waited to do his celebrating until the mission was actually accomplished (a stable democratic state).
Posted by Draw, a resident of Stanford, on May 30, 2007 at 7:27 am
Ok, Jim, I see how you mean it. I still disagree, because we WERE greeted as liberators by Kurds and Shias, and the LOCAl insurgency WAS in the last throes ( the foreign component being the surprise, I think), and we HAD just toppled Saddam, but I can understand how people could take the statements in other ways. I take such things as progress reports, in front of a backdrop of "of course, we have to get Iraq stable before we leave", and you are saying most people take such statements without the backdrop.
Ok, fair enough. I can see that. Thanks for taking the time to explain it to me.
As for the Banner..very interesting. I can't read your link yet, but will, but given how honest you have been, I believe you. I didn't know Bush had it made. Should have said "Mission #1 Accomplished" in that case!
Like I said, communication is a big problem I have with this Admin. Sucks, frankly.
Posted by Jim, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on May 30, 2007 at 11:05 am
You and I are in basic agreement with the rationale for the war and the importance of finishing the job. Our disagreements are minor by comparison.
Nevertheless, you are a stickler for details, and I admire that trait, thus my followup.
Just to continue with the discusiion:
The insurgency is not just foreign Al Qaeda types. It is also Baathists who have been thrown out of power. They were the former power structure, and they have plenty of military officers who were and are brutal to the max. If the Al Qaeda types had not entered the fray, we would still have a big fight on our hands (but not as big a fight). There is a certain irony in this, because Al Qaeda has overplayed its hand, and it will be severely punished in the Arab world - if we stay the course.
Posted by Draw, a resident of Stanford, on May 30, 2007 at 2:47 pm
Jim, completely agree. Any ONE of the groups fighting to wrest control of Iraq from the govt would be causing LOTS of bloodshed. I think that the West underestimates the mentality which is commited to "winning" at all costs, including loss of life. We, here, don't understand people who value death more than we value life. I think that is where we screwed up. And will continue to screw up until we get it. ( Though, I think most in the current Admin get it)
This is a case where "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" is going to help Iraq out. First, they will kick out foreign Al Qaeda, and in the process of doing that, I can only hope they realize they have more in common than not, and start to work together to at least set up a Republic type entity. Not being Iraqi, I know I am being presumptuous, but I believe that they could have, essentially, 3 states, share all the oil income equally on a per capita basis, and each state run itself more or less to their liking, having in common only a federal govt with a constitution and bill of rights that each state must adhere to, with a limited power and function. I am betting that will be the outcome. Trying to get any one of the groups to agree to be "run by" the ohter will be extremely difficult.
I think trying to go the "central govt" route has led to more problems than not.
Your thoughts? ( If any beyond what you have already expressed?)
Posted by A Boomer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 30, 2007 at 2:53 pm
Gee Draw, seems like you have an approach that resembles the one I teed up on this thread a few days ago. Maybe Jim has a different POV coming from another poster, but I did not detect much enthusiasm when I brought it up