Douglas Feith and Seth Cropsey:
Ideas matter, and especially to intellectuals like President Obama. He is not a rigid ideologue and is capable of flexible maneuvering. But his interpretation of history, his attitude toward sovereignty, and his confidence in multilateral institutions have shaped his views of American power and of American leadership in ways that distinguish him from previous presidents. On Libya, his deference to the UN Security Council and refusal to serve as coalition leader show that he cares more about restraining America than about accomplishing any particular result in Libya. He views Libya and the whole Arab Spring as relatively small distractions from his broader strategy for breaking with the history of U.S. foreign policy as it developed in the last century. The critics who accuse Obama of being adrift in foreign policy are mistaken. He has clear ideas of where he wants to go. The problem for him is that, if his strategy is set forth plainly, most Americans will not want to follow him.
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Some would call that “condemnation with faint praise.”
The American people don’t want to go there? Duh.
Who do YOU trust to be the fair and decent broker? Those that enslave their people? Those that murder their citizenry? Those who have no say in their government?
Too bad our president is not an American. He may be a citizen, but at heart he has no faith in the goodness of our country, nor belief in the citizenry to be able to take care of them self. He, who has no written record to speak of, knows better than those that have made this country great. “Fundamentally change our country.” Why?
Doug Feith’s book will be indispensable as a source when the history of the Iraq war is to be written.
Douglas Feith described by General Tommy Franks as “the dumbest fucking guy on the planet”. A little perspective.
A little perspective.
Franks is entitled to his opinion but its validity is hardly self-evident, particularly when used as a dodge to avoid discussing the substance of Feith’s argument. Perhaps one day you will read the Feith piece and explain why you think he is wrong.
Jonathan, I think someone will have to edit out all the big words before our friend reads Feith’s book.
Feith was an insider, responsible in part for the Iraq disaster. As such it should be heavily discounted as a reliable source.
That assumes it was a disaster. No one who considers it a disaster seems to have strong opinions on what the alternatives were. Iraq did not exist in a vacuum, especially after 9/11.
Feith is not an idiot, he’s an ideologue and my anecdotal impression is that Franks’ opinion is widely held in the officer corps of at least the US Army, by most standards, a pretty conservative demographic. The guy is not liked and for good reasons.
My impression of the Libya decision, while not disagreeing that Obama has weird and unpleasantly lefty revisionist beliefs about America, was that it was a chaotic cock-up with the loudest voices prevailing over the best informed in a divided administration, presided over by a very strange president.
As an ‘avoid foreign entanglements’ kinda guy, I have no problem with breaking the last century of American foreign policy. Alas, the Lightworking Zero shows the breaks aren’t mine.
Iraq was a disaster. If the members of congress who voted for the resolution could have seen the cost of the war in US blood and treasure, the vote would have very properly been 435 to 0 against it. The record that has filtered out over the years shows that the process inside the Bush administration that led to the war was incoherent, and led to an incoherent mission that got us very little of any value to the USA at enormous expense.
The military personnel who were expected to formulate everything pertaining to the war — tactics, strategy, even a rationale for being there at all — from the ground up, in a vacuum, are heroes for accomplishing as much as they did. They should not have been put in that position.
The current Libya thing is incoherent as well. It has the virtue of not having any US ground troops involved, so we can just stop participating whenever we want. Today would be good. The vice of the Libyan adventure is that we just told every country on earth that if you cut a deal with the USA to get rid of your nukes, the first chance they get, the USA will come after you. Lesson: Never trust the Americans and never give up your nukes, it’s the only sure way to keep the USA from attacking you.
“He is not a rigid ideologue”
No, he is a flexible ideologue, but he is a leftist ideologue all the same.
I still don’t see a description of the alternative to the invasion of Iraq. Sorry but the situation that existed at the time was real. THis was not a hypothetical. Tommy Franks wanted to invade, flatten the Iraqis and go home. Maybe that would have been a
I need to see other options. Should we have withdrawn from the Middle East and given up the no-fly zone ? Keeping Saddam in his “box” was a very poor option.
Lex’s point is the primary reason why Libya is a strategic fiasco. It might be easier to get noxious autocrats to enter the 12 step process for recovering dictators if we not only refrained from kicking them while their nuclear arsenal was down but gave them an option for comfortable exile in the Gulf State of their choice. If Kadafi could retire with children, tailor, and wardrobe intact, it might send a good precedent for encouraging that thin stratum of Ben Ali-like reasonable dictators to step down and go overseas.
Not shipping immediately Mubarak and sons to Saudi Arabia after Mubarak stepped down was another massive mistake that will come back to haunt us. It may be that allowing overthrow of staunch dictatorial allies by a populist mob is a positive development (time will tell) but allowing lynching of your staunch dictatorial allies by the same populist mob is not.
Michael: All existing situations are real. But there was nothing about the real, existing situation pertaining to Iraq in 2003 that required us to invade it. The alternative to what we did in Iraq was to defeat Iraq the way we defeated the infinitely bigger USSR: Containment and deterrence. John Mearsheimer said so at the time and he was right. I decided that Kenneth Pollock had the better case, and I was wrong. Pollock immediately turned against Bush, et al. when the followed his logic and invaded, which is pathetic and comical. In other words, we should have continued doing what we were already doing, which was way, way cheaper. By now Saddam would probably have been dead of some ailment or been assassinated and we’d have some successor despot who was probably less psycho to deal with. But we will never know, sadly, especially sadly for our dead and wounded and their families. Invading, destroying Saddam’s regime, and handing the car keys to some general and saying, “you are president now, good luck” would have been a very distant second best alternative. What we did do, invade, stay there, and make it up off the seat of our pants as we went along, was the worst of all possible options.
Citizen Fouche: Agreed. Mubarak was “our bastard” for decades, and the instant some photogenic protesters, who are most likely Islamists who’d like nothing better than to cut our throats, appear on TV we get all sentimental and throw Mubarak and his whole regime under the bus? Who in their right mind will ever work with us again?
Whoever said it is dangerous to be America’s enemy but fatal to be America’s friend was spot on.
The fact that Obama is considered an “intellectual” clearly shows how the meaning of that term has changed. It is now merely an assertion of status, backed up by credentials and certain verbal mannerisms, rather than a statement about an individual’s knowledge, thinking ability, and interest in ideas.
I don’t think Obama, and the whole class of “intellectuals” of which he is the avatar, show any particular abilities in the handling of ideas. Rather, they reify ideas, they reduce them the catch-phrases and apply them in a stimulus-response fashion.
The alternative to what we did in Iraq was to defeat Iraq the way we defeated the infinitely bigger USSR: Containment and deterrence.
So the accelerating oil for food scandal was not having any effect ? This is the “keep Saddam in a box” strategy and it was collapsing. US troops found one billion dollars in cash in a house belonging to one of the sons! The reason why Usama attacked us, he said, was because we were occupying parts of Saudi Arabia. Sacred ground. The reason we were there was the no-fly zone enforcement.
I think continuing the “in a box” strategy would have led to failure within a year or two, just as the Afghanistan situation was coming to a head. If we had trouble defeating al Qaeda in Iraq, imagine the situation in Afghanistan with Pakistan on one border and Iran on the other.
The only realistic alternative I see, and I think Franks might have been right, was to go in and flatten Saddam and leave. Let him try to rebuild his regime with all the infrastructure destroyed. Of course, CNN would have had hysterics over the civilian casualties, already exaggerated by 100% as it was. The starving children would have gone up by another 10 times.
There are two reasons why deterrence worked with the USSR. One is that they were rational men. They punished Khrushchev when he committed a radical act. Secondly, they had a one dimensional threat, invasion of Europe. They were not sitting on a natural resource that we needed.
I just don’t think the “in his box” strategy had a chance of success. That may be one reason why so little is heard about it from the Bush opponents.
Saddam, as nasty as he was, provided a check on Iranian policy in the area. One could say our efforts in Iraq removed that and Iranian power and influence in the area has increased to the point where it looks like the Saudis are trying to cut a deal with them instead of relying on the US. Interesting times ahead, no doubt.
We will never know whether containment and deterrence would have worked in Iraq.
I can predict with some certainty that the American public will, for many decades to come, not tolerate a US invasion of a foreign country based on the say-so of the president that the foreign country presents some future threat. No one will believe the president under those circumstances. Mr. Obama is wise to have no ground troops in Libya and would be wiser to have no involvement at all. Iraq could only happen once, while the country was still angry about 9/11 and trusted the president. Even in the aftermath of a mass casualty terrorist attack, the public will never trust the president in that way again, at least until everyone who was sentient in 2003 is out of the way. And that is good. We should not trust politicians.
I don’t disagree although I think the real point when the public broke with the president was Vietnam. That was totally a war of choice. Iraq was the second act of the Gulf War and we were already committed.
I have believed for two years that we should get out of Afghanistan and as quickly as conservation of equipment allows. For example.
Then, of course, there is this .
An article in the Scotsman of May 24, 2002, reported, for example: “In Bagram, British marines returning from an operation deep in the Afghan mountains spoke last night of an alarming new threat – being propositioned by swarms of gay local farmers. An Arbroath marine, James Fletcher, said: ‘They were more terrifying than the al-Qaeda. One bloke who had painted toenails was offering to paint ours. They go about hand in hand, mincing around the village.’ While the marines failed to find any al-Qaeda during the seven-day Operation Condor, they were propositioned by dozens of men in villages the troops were ordered to search.”
Another interviewee in the article, a marine in his 20s, stated, “It was hell. Every village we went into we got a group of men wearing makeup coming up, stroking our hair and cheeks and making kissing noises.”
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