Some Interesting Juxtapositions

From United Press International: Australia’s foreign minister, Alexander Downer, comments on the “evidence of dishonesty in the reporting out of Lebanon.” (Obviously, the world now appreciates the work of Green Helmet.) Chris Warren, spokesman for the Australian Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, responds “I don’t think journalists have got it so wrong as some governments did on weapons of mass destruction.” Pajamas Media reports on the newly declassified reports: “For those keeping score, this most recent discovery raises the total number of chemical weapons found in Iraq since 2003 to more than 700.”

Gateway Pundit graphs a decline in deaths in Iraq in August. However, even hawkish reporters have found the Pentagon downbeat this week. The AP military writer, Robert Burns, summarizes the testimony:

Sectarian violence is spreading in Iraq and the security problems have become more complex than at any time since the U.S. invasion in 2003, a Pentagon report said Friday.

In a notably gloomy report to Congress, the Pentagon reported that illegal militias have become more entrenched, especially in Baghdad neighborhoods where they are seen as providers of both security and basic social services.

The report described a rising tide of sectarian violence, fed in part by interference from neighboring Iran and Syria and driven by a “vocal minority” of religious extremists who oppose the idea of a democratic Iraq.

While the world is a complicated place and all may be true, surely each can’t be broadly representative.

30 thoughts on “Some Interesting Juxtapositions”

  1. I have been oflate getting a profound repsect for the human bei ng’s abilityh to grasp at all sorts of strawsand silly things to justify what was believed as grand truths in the first place. In sum: an inability to change a view of reality.

    700 examples of WMD? how many of these would have been of use? We lose 2 thousand of our troops to find 700 useless pieces left from some time ago?

    As for Iraq: would you walk down the main streets alone during the day or night and feel at ease? That is the test to ask yourself.

  2. fred lapides,

    The true danger presented by Saddam had nothing to do with these old weapons and everything to do with the technical cadre and industrial base he maintained to turn out new chemical weapons at anytime of his choosing.

    Given all that we know now, Saddam could have started churning out hundreds of liters of nerve gas in 3-6 weeks at anytime. If the stories of critical components for chemical weapons manufacture begin transferred to Syria are true, then he could have done so in hours of days.

    Don’t fall for The McGuffin Delusion.

    If I may quote myself:

    It’s very clear from reading the ongoing debate about the extent of Saddam’s WMDs that most people have absolutely no idea of the technological issues involved. Most people, even major politicians and media figures talk about WMDs as if they were McGuffins. They act as if we expected to find a giant throbbing orb in an underground base under Baghdad that had WMD written on it. They think that WMDs were discrete objects or things that could be located and controlled. Technology doesn’t work like that.

  3. Now now, Shannon, don’t quote facts to fred. You’ll only confuse him.

    Besides, if we hadn’t gone into Iraq, he’d just be complaining that the sanctions were “killing Iraqi babies”.

  4. Well, here’s an easy criterion for how deadly a weapon is — if some terrorists were threatening to use it in an American city, would the liberals say that it was so deadly that of course we would have to give in to the terrorists’ demands?

  5. Shannon: Name one country on the planet that lacks the potential to make nerve gas.

    It’s misleading to assess Saddam’s WMD potential without contrasting against other countries, especially Iraq’s neighbors.

    Pakistan, for example, presented a far great proliferation threat than that of pre-invasion Iraq. Iran and Algeria may be well on the way to developing nuclear weapons thanks to Pakistan’s active proliferation of the technology.

    If the prospect of WMD ending up in terrorists hands was the motive for the U.S. surely it would have tried to deal with Pakistan, North Korea and Iran before even thinking about Iraq.

    Interestingly, the professional apologists for U.S. aggression have all moved away from the WMD argument. They’re busily retailing the claim that, actually, the war was about Iraqi human rights.

  6. It always fascinates me to find out how little people comprehended Bush’s pre-war speeches. What he said was pretty much plain as day, but somehow people still managed to miss like 90% of his arguments.

    Pick out ANY significant policy speech Bush gave leading up to the Iraq war. Notice that in describing the reasons for going to war, he doesn’t dwell on WMD — he mentions stockpiles and continued pursuit, but he also gives about half a dozen other reasons to attack: support for terrorist groups, violation of numerous UN resolutions, shooting at our planes in the no fly zones, abusing Kurds, and so on. I know I didn’t imagine him saying that; it’s there in the transcripts, and it was there on live TV being stated in plain ol’ Texas talk.

    People often argue against the invasion on the basis that, if you take any ONE of those reasons, you can find some other nation that would jump up ahead of Iraq on the list. North Korea has more and bigger WMD; Afghanistan and Iran support more terrorists; Pakistan and others proliferated certain WMD technologies; militias in Sudan are slaughtering minorities by the thousands. It’s as if they think other nations being worse in a few particular ways should have jumped them above Iraq on the target list, despite Iraq being generally worse overall.

    Of course, Iraq is currently unstable, in large part due to Iran’s continued meddling. Iran should be next on the list, IMO. Not just because of WMD, but because their regime is completely insane and dedicated to causing serious problems.

    I bet 10 years from now certain people will be harping about how, when we finally got around to pwning Iran, we didn’t find the nukes we expected to find… and they’ll conveniently forget Iranian-sponsored violence in Iraq and Lebanon. Oh well, such is life with those whose politics are their religion.

  7. “Pick out ANY significant policy speech Bush gave leading up to the Iraq war. Notice that in describing the reasons for going to war, he doesn’t dwell on WMD”

    Let’s start with Bush’s March 17, 2003 address to the nation three days before the invasion began.

    The first eight paragraphs focus exclusively on WMD. The following two paragraphs are about national security in general, then Bush returns to the WMD theme for eight more paragraphs.

    In all 20 of 25 paragraphs focus on WMD. In the five paragraphs WMD for which WMD is not mentioned or part of the theme, the focus is extremely general and/or fully rhetorical.

    On the eve of the war in what history will unmistakably recall as the key speech in the march to war, Bush focused exclusively on WMD.

    A few choice phrases from the speech:

    “Today, no nation can possibly claim that Iraq has disarmed.”

    The record shows experts both inside and out of the Bush administration pointed to doubts about the intelligence saying Saddam did have the weapon. the record also shows he didn’t have the WMD referred to in Bush’s speech.

    “It is too late for Saddam Hussein to remain in power. It is not too late for the Iraqi military to act with honor and protect your country by permitting the peaceful entry of coalition forces to eliminate weapons of mass destruction.”

    Note that Bush did not say, to eliminate Baathism, or to bring democracy or eliminate sharia or any such thing. This passage, like the speech itself, makes it sensationally obvious that Bush started this war on the claim that the U.S. had proof–not evidence, not suspicions, not concerns–PROOF, that Iraq possessed WMD.

    I urge everyone to read this key speech again. I defy anyone, even the most right-wing conservative, to read this speech and not admit that it shows how badly wrong Bush was about the reality in Iraq.

  8. bunkerbuster, For the moment let’s concede you’re 100% correct re. WMD (IMO it wasn’t a key motivating factor, although WMD were likely exsistent in Iraq, but primarily a persuasive talking point).

    What, in your opinion, was the administration’s motivation for the war in Iraq?

  9. bunkerbuster,

    Shannon: Name one country on the planet that lacks the potential to make nerve gas.

    Let’s see: Hati, Cambodia, East Timor etc. Nerve gas is easy to make if you have the money and technical talent but it still requires a little bit of base.

    How come people like you have such problem combining information? The threat pictures alters significantly when you don’t look at single factors in isolation. Answer this: How many countries possess all of the following attributes?

    (1) Has manufactured large amounts of nerve gas in the past.
    (2) Has actually used nerve gas against civilian targets.
    (3) Has started two of the 27 international wars since WWII
    (4) Has supported numerous terrorist groups
    (5) Has attempted to assassinate a former US president and provided refugee to the perpetrators of a terrorist attack on US soil.
    (6) Was not under the umbrella of another nuclear power.
    (7) Has a leadership with a pronounced track record of miscalculation.

    How many countries fit that profile?

    India can produce all chemical weapons and even nukes but has no other listed factors. North Korea has many some of the factors but sits under China’s protection. Iran comes closest to Iraq in most regards but its leadership is more distributed and they haven’t shown the same degree of misjudgment. Ditto for Pakistan.

    John Kerry made the case succinctly when he said in 2000 (from memory): “Saddam has WMDs, he has used them in the past and he has a sustained track record misjudgment. If left in power he will eventually make a major mistake that cost many lives.”

    It says a lot about the way you approach real-world problems that you cannot synthesize many different factors together. You think of problem of Iraq as being one of political rhetoric. A matter of academic logic. Its not. In the real-world practical considerations such a geography, time and military resources determine the best course of action. In a dorm room debate, the conclusion that A,B and C form an identity is an “gotcha!” moment because logically you must treat them the same. In the real-world that seldom happens.

    Once you concede that Saddam had the physical ability to manufacture nerve gas at will then the only remaining question was whether you trusted him never to use it, again. Once you find yourself defending the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein your argument ventures onto shaky ground.

  10. What other country was not observing the terms of a treaty they contracted to at the end of a war they had lost – and so, American planes were committed to a continuous set of flights to maintain safety for an ethnic group within that country? This wasn’t a new war; it was a continuation of a war that didn’t conclude (a confused conclusion likely to happen in a war where the UN is a broker) a decade before & which America was still risking blood and spending treasure to continue.

    America was also enforcing UN treaties the UN didn’t intend to enact. And the compromised votes of those bought by oil for food are not ones we need, it seems to me, consider.

    Shannon speaks of narrowing the perspective of causes; bunkerbuster (and those with his viewpoint) seldom take a chronological view of any length.

  11. OK, bunkerbuster, fair enough… now, go back in time. Go back to before the left started arguing the WMD point and making it the main focus. Find one of the speeches from several months before and read it. (I don’t consider the later speeches to be policy speeches so much as entries into a debate that, frankly, the left won because they managed to define it… which becomes all the more clear when you realize that people as informed as you think it was “all about WMD”.)

    The further back in time you go, the less Bush talks about WMD and the more he talks about the other topics. This was a failure on a rhetorical scale, not an actual failure to have good reason to go to war — he let the arguments focus on the one area where the other side might actually have a point. Because, of course, nobody can argue against:

    “The dictator who is assembling the world’s most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages — leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind, or disfigured. Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained — by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape. If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning. (Applause.)

    And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country — your enemy is ruling your country. (Applause.) And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation. (Applause.)” (State of the Union, Jan 28 2003)

    Also read his remarks on Oct 7, 2002. Search around the site and find older speeches, if you want.

    The point is simple: yeah, there was a lot said about WMD. No, that wasn’t the only thing said — the other reasons weren’t invented after the fact. Even in the speech you mentioned above, where the focus is heavily on WMD, he says such things as: “In a free Iraq, there will be no more wars of aggression against your neighbors, no more poison factories, no more executions of dissidents, no more torture chambers and rape rooms.” Those things were referenced speech after speech after speech, yet somehow people think they weren’t mentioned at all.

    Yes, WMD became the central rallying cry (though it wasn’t just about “PROOF” of stockpiles, it was about production capability and pursuit — reread the speech you just posted!) — but no, WMD was not the only reason given.

    Am I the only one who remembers arguing with people, way back in 2002, about the no-fly zones? Am I the only one who remembers discussions, way back in 2002, about Saddam trying to assassinate Bush Sr., about Saddam gassing the Kurds, about Saddam offering money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers?

  12. “Those things were referenced speech after speech after speech, yet somehow people think they weren’t mentioned at all.”

    Yes, human rights were “referenced,” but it is more than abundantly clear that Bush–along with most Democrats and a shamelessly uncritical U.S. mainstream press–said the war was necessary because Saddam had WMD.

    The assertion that Bush’s key motive was “liberation” makes him look much worse, not better.

    Remember: one reason the U.S. lacked key allies’ support in the war is that Bush insisted in starting it before the UN had completed its inspections. France and others had suggested they understood the need to do something about Iraq, but not the need to invade before the inspections were complete.

    If Bush really had liberation in mind, his decision to rush the invasion without the support of key allies and Iraq’s pro-Western neighbors is inexplicably capricious.

    Only the claim that there was an urgent need to eliminate WMD–the clear theme of every significant pre-invasion Bush speech on Iraq, can explain the decision to rush into the war.

    That claim turned out to be false. It is unfortunate that some Bush supporters remain in denial about that widely demonstrated fact.

    Lastly, it isn’t necessary to make the false assertion that Bush presented liberation as a key argument for the invasion.

    Why not just say that while Bush got it wrong on WMD and started the war for the wrong reasons, it was right to liberate the Iraqi people. I personally don’t find that argument persuasive, but I recognize why many people would and it has the benefit of not conflicting with simple facts available in five seconds to anyone with Google.

  13. Bunkerbuster,
    You aren’t dealing with the arguments here.

    They are not that Bush didn’t believe wmd was a reason. They are that he thought it was one of many reasons – and that he had long spoken of the other ones.

    We discuss some of those reasons. I suspect all of us would acknowledge that certain kinds of wmd were not found; many of us have little confidence in our intelligence services but have come to accept that if his generals didn’t know what he had, it is not surprising the CIA didn’t. Bush may well have believed something that Saddam’s generals believed but that is not (apparently) true. That does not mean that other reasons were not true.

    You don’t deal with Lotherbot’s main points, Shannon’s, nor, indeed, with mine.

    I keep reading your arguments because I assume there are substantial arguments on your side – almost half of Americans voted for Kerry; 99% of my husbands’ colleagues would agree with your side. That it may not prove successful is something that worries all of us. That it shouldn’t have been done or that a loss there is unimportant – indeed, that it isn’t a loss – is something many, apparently, believe.

    I can believe I look at the world from a different angle than they do, but I don’t see how those that argue on the other side dispose of so many facts – from the sorties over the Kurdish areas for ten years to the effect of the bombing of the Beirut barracks on terrorist thinking to the geographic (as well as moral) importance of a liberated Iraq. I look to those who represent their view for reasoning. I would, in fact, like to see it.

    I see the Iraqi elections, I see a country trying to hold itself together when its enemies (within and without) are trying to tear it apart – and then I hear commentators on television mention in passing that a democratic Iraq is far off in the future. Again, I wonder how these are explained. And I search through your comments and find only the tired (& pretty much unimportant) argument that we haven’t found wmds. Whether they were all destroyed, they are in the Beka Valley, or they never existed – the truth was that if we want to eventually stop the terrorists, a good first step is regime change in Iraq. As Shannon observes, a regime that is pushing toward relief from sanctions, appears to be ready to go full speed into a wmd program and which we are to some extent still at war is one that we would quite naturally want to change.

    (Oh, reasoning not likely to convince is the why did he rush into war without allies – that was not terribly convincing before the oil-for-food scandal worked its way to the surface; now, it is laughable. First of all, many countries did join – the importance of countries such as France (as we can see in their helpful “leading” role in Lebanon) is surely not a serious argument. Bush and the Bushies never said the threat was “imminent” – except to use the word to say it wasn’t. The argument I heard more often was the window of appropriate weather. The time that was taken in those negotiations was time in which Saddam Hussein could do much – as he had in the first Iraq War – to move his armaments around.

  14. Ginny: Lothar wrote, “Pick out ANY significant policy speech Bush gave leading up to the Iraq war. Notice that in describing the reasons for going to war, he doesn’t dwell on WMD.”

    I demonstrated that his claim is false.

  15. I think you’d argue about what color the bomb was as it fell on you, wouldn’t you bunker? Talk about focusing on irrelevant details while missing the meat.

  16. Ginny: you suggest that opposing the war in Iraq requires that one “dispose” of facts such as overflights of Kurdish areas, etc. But opposition to the war has a simple, factual rationale: it isn’t the best way to deal with the Iraqi regime.

    No one of any consequence disputes the value of bringing democracy to Iraq. Nor is there any serious challenge to the facts showing that Iraq’s prewar regime posed a threat to its neighbors and, indeed, to Iraqis.

    Rather, opponents of the invasion have focused on the unlikeliness that the invasion would achieve its objectives.

    Some opponents also argued that the burden of WMD proof was unmet. Granted, these views were hardly audible within the mainstream media crescendo of assertions about the presence of WMD in Iraq, but the factual record shows unmistakably that some intelligence professionals, commentators and political leaders pointed to the lack of proof that WMDs were there.

    More important, opponents of the war argued that Iraq’s ethnic and religious divisions would make it too difficult to prevent a civil war following a U.S. invasion. In most cases, that argument was stated in terms of concern about expanding the influence of Iran within the region.

    In that vein, opponents of the war have argued that the Iraqi regime was one of the least likely in the region to become a significant sponsor of Islamic extremists. Rather, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran have the history, the means and the motive to provide Islamic extremists with weapons and cover for attacking the U.S.

    I’m sure you’ve heard all these arguments before, and I can only assume you found them unpersuasive.

    A good measure of intellectual integrity is the willingness to be clear about the sources of one’s convictions. To that extent, I can be very clear about what it would take to win my support of the invasion of Iraq.

    1. Evidence that an invasion would be faster, more efficient or more certain path to removing Saddam than the previous strategy of containment and multilateral sanctions. The benefits of helping Iraq rid itself of Saddam Hussein are indisputable. The evidence is paltry, however, than an invasion was the fastest, surest, most moral way to achieve that.

    2. Evidence that the geopolitical, economic and domestic political disruptions caused by an invasion would amount to less than the economic and political benefits of an invasion versus diplomatic and semi-diplomatic options, i.e. continued containment.

    I often ask supporters of the war what evidence would make them agree that invasion was not the best way to deal with the threat Saddam posed. The answer is always to the effect that they would need evidence that Saddam was not a really bad guy.
    I wonder if any of the war’s supporters here can come up with a more relevant answer.

  17. I left out an important point: To support this war, I’d need to be persuaded that not only that Iraq was a threat, but that it was a MORE URGENT and/or significant threat than other nations in the region such as Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

  18. Ginny and Shannon: apologies. Somehow, I hadn’t seen your previous responses before I wrote mine to Lothar. You bring up some important, substantive points that I have yet to address, but believe me, I can and will.

    Mainly, the issue isn’t whether Saddam was a threat. No one disputes that point, and it is not at issue. The issue, rather, is whether the invasion was the best strategy for dealing with that threat.

    Is there anything that’s unclear about that?

    I will give you some credit for being the first I’m aware of to even attempt to make an argument that Iraq was not only a threat, but a more significant threat than Pakistan, North Korea and Iran. Well, you sort of make that argument.

    Actually, you argue that Iraq was a real and present threat that COULD be invaded; whereas North Korea was under China’s protection. I can only describe that as a punt. Not half bad, but defensive, even desperate, and not even close to the touchdown you need.

    I do like Shannon’s formulation here: “In the real-world practical considerations such a geography, time and military resources determine the best course of action.”

    I like it because it is the basis for compelling arguments against the war.

    Geography: None of Iraq’s significant neighbor’s supported the war. Kuwait effectively had little choice. I’d love to find out what’s going on there today, but I have a feeling its leaders are rueing the day. Rumsfeld’s infamous observation that Iraq makes a better bombing target will go down in history as one brick in the wall of war crimes evidence against him.

    Time: What was the rush all about? Even Shannon admits Saddam only had “potential” not weapons. Moreover, fact that he previously did have tons of WMD makes it obvious that the sanctions had caused them to go away, i.e. the sanctions were fundamentally effective. Given the overwhelming evidence that there were no WMD, it was a critical mistake to shun potential allies by rushing into the war.
    Remember, the argument isn’t that sanctions were perfectly effective, nor that the sanctions eliminated any potential for Saddam to do harm. Rather, the argument is that sanctions were MORE effective than the invasion has been, all things considered.

    Military resources: the invasion of Iraq siphoned resources away from rebuilding afghanistan and from finishing off the taliban. apparently, the taliban are gaining ground again, now, nearly five years later. that’s exactly what opponents of the Iraq invasion said they were afraid would happen. We haven’t even begun to pay the bill. All borrowed.

  19. There is little point in going to great lengths to prove the Left wrong on this or any other points. Their arguments are emotional and cannot be overcome by facts, logic, extrapolation, analogy, and the like. They will continually construct additional semantic hurdles for you to jump over, and in the end, they will scream “Haliburton!” and throw food at you.

  20. It’s easy to criticize actors from the audience,
    it’s not so easy to write the play. It’s a lot safer and easier to do nothing but cover one’s political butt. It’s also easy to cherry-pick sound bytes from a long history public statements.

    “Rumsfeld’s infamous observation that Iraq makes a better bombing target will go down in history as one brick in the wall of war crimes evidence against him.”

    What a stupid thing (for bunkerbuster) to say – essentially saying that an offhand remark like Rumsfeld’s is a war crime. A stupid, vile, treasonous comment in this time and place; giving solace to those who wish this country harm. Of course, I’m assuming that bunkerbuster enjoys U.S. citizenship….

  21. barview “There is little point in going to great lengths to prove the Left wrong on this or any other points….”

    This maybe so barview and, to be generous, these (apparently snookered and easily fooled) folks should be asked “wither to now?”. Maybe some good ideas would come from that since the past is gone, for certain.

  22. Tyouth: You make a very good point. It is a very good idea to ask the war’s opponents, whither to now, because America’s current militarist leadership has no response to the question, other than “stay the course” rhetoric.

    At some point, there was discussion at many levels about reducing U.S. troop numbers; That “course” seems to have been abandoned for the time being. Prior and concurrent with that, there was much talk about handing things over to the Iraqis and about how the Iraqi military was rapidly being trained. That too, has, apparently, been shelved.

    We’re told to “stay the course” but no one can say what, exactly, the course is. When pressed for an answer on that, the Cheney-Bush team response is: “stuff happens” and “war is complicated.”

    Planning, it seems, is on a day-to-day basis. One day, we here troops are “crushing” Fallujah AGAIN. The next, their rushing back to Baghdad, where the wheels are coming off the semi-elected government and the Interior Ministry is running a death squad, apparently with both U.S. and Iranian support.

    Indeed, there is a vast unmet need for a plan in Iraq. And surely the Democratic Party’s leaders are little better than the Cheney-Bush team on that score.

    Here are some starting points I could support:

    1. Declare all oil service contracts will be put up for open, international bidding, with provisions favoring local contractors to the extent reasonable and excluding U.S. companies, out of fairness and to avoid the appearance that oil contracts could be a motive for the invasion.

    2. Set a tentative date for the formation of an Arab-led international peacekeeping force, that will take over security from the U.S. in phases. If Iraqis are fully capable of democracy, surely their Arab and Persian neighbors are equally capable of cooperation. Any country that declines to play a role in the force will not be eligible for U.S. economic or military assistance.

    3. Demand that Saudi Arabia fund at least a third of the enterprise, or face a U.S.-led international boycott of its oil. Why is it we always assume the Saudis and OPEC have the world over the barrel. It could almost as easily be the other way around. The Saudis have had to buy every single friend they have in the world, including, notably, the House of Bush, and many, if not all, of these fair-weather friends are waiting for a reasonable opportunity to feel good about letting go.

    4. Demand that Israel fulfill all U.N. resolutions or get by without U.S. economic or military assistance. Offer to expand U.S. military support to include permanent U.S. military bases if Israel complies in full with UN resolution 242 and all others.

    True, my presciption is radical, but far less so that the current debacle brought on by the least rational speculative military aggression in American history.

  23. bunkerbuster, you dodged the point quite effectively there. You pretend that I argued “the key motive was liberation”, when I merely stated it was ONE of the motives given.

    The key motive was time. Not necessarily “time until Saddam built nukes”, but certainly “time until Bush was no longer in office”, “time until international sanctions failed”, and so on. Rebuilding WMD was the key reason GIVEN for why we had to QUICKLY go to war, but only because “some of our so-called allies in the UN want the sanctions to fail, and the next president probably won’t be willing to invade” couldn’t be stated publicly. Saddam needed removed, and I can’t think of a single decent reason for waiting longer. The WMD evidence turned out to be mostly false (Saddam *did* retain capacity and expertise, probably intended to create weapons as soon as the sanctions failed, and had some remaining weapons, but he didn’t have the massive stockpiles expected) but it was the best excuse we had for the TIMING of the Iraq war. There were lots of reasons to go — frankly, it WAS the right thing to do for far more reasons than WMD — and WMD gave us an excuse to push for going sooner rather than later (where “later” probably meant “never”.)

    There was absolutely NO WAY France or Russia were going to get on board with an Iraq invasion, whether the motivation was WMD or liberation, so complaining about “rushing to war” without their assistance is not a compelling counterargument. They wouldn’t have gotten involved either way.

    Now, you argue at length about how invasion might not have been the best option. In particular, you say some people argued that it would be difficult to prevent civil war post-invasion, though I never saw that argument during the lead-up to invasion. Can you substantiate the actual existance of such an argument? You also stated that Iraq was the “least likely” government in the area to assist Islamic extremists, but it’s widely known Saddam was giving out money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers and otherwise had ties to various extremist groups. He wasn’t like the Mullahs — he isn’t an Islamic Extremist himself — but he knew an ally when he saw one.

    You requested the following:
    1. Evidence that an invasion would be faster, more efficient or more certain path to removing Saddam than the previous strategy of containment and multilateral sanctions.

    It was definitely faster. There’s not even room to argue that. IMO it was also more certain — depending on how various other nations reacted to the sanctions, Saddam may very well have lived out the rest of his life in power. There was a strong move to end the sanctions because they were “harmful to the Iraqi people”, and there were plenty of bribed officials sneaking around the sanctions anyway. In light of this point, “more efficient” isn’t even a valid measure — if something takes less effort but doesn’t work, it’s not efficient in any sense.

    “2. Evidence that the geopolitical, economic and domestic political disruptions caused by an invasion would amount to less than the economic and political benefits of an invasion versus diplomatic and semi-diplomatic options, i.e. continued containment.”

    Hard to say on the economic front. The war was certainly expensive for us. That’s a cost we have to evaluate vs. the benefit of not having Saddam in power anymore.

    Geopolitically and domestic-politically? War tends to destablilize these things. But I’m OK with that. “Stability” is not some grand state that we should always seek. If we end up with realigned political parties as a result of the war, good for us. Globally speaking, I don’t think we’ve made the Iranian regime hate us any more than they did before — we’ve just made it more clear that we’re a threat to them, and made them more active about declaring their intentions. Again, good for us. And we have made allies of the vast majority of the Iraqi people, which is of significant value.

    “I often ask supporters of the war what evidence would make them agree that invasion was not the best way to deal with the threat Saddam posed.”

    Any sort of evidence along the lines of “sanctions would actually lead to him being marginalized and driven out of power” would’ve done it for me. But, as stated in response to #1 above, sanctions weren’t working and weren’t going to work.

    “I’d need to be persuaded that not only that Iraq was a threat, but that it was a MORE URGENT and/or significant threat than other nations in the region such as Iran, Pakistan [North Korea] and Afghanistan.”

    Afghanistan doesn’t matter. The threat was actively being dealt with. The US military is big enough to be engaged in 2 countries at once.

    Pakistan is not an urgent threat in a military sense. They’re a threat we actually CAN deal with diplomatically, both directly and via India.

    North Korea has 2 issues: first, they’re protected by their own nuclear arsenal AND they’re friendly with other nuclear powers. Second, because they have no significant natural resources and nobody is taking Oil-for-food type bribes from them, sanctions are actually a mostly-workable solution, as long as we can get China and Russia on board.

    I’ve always thought that Iran was just as dangerous as Iraq, or perhaps even moreso, but was a more significant challenge. In particular, we’d have had to invade Iran while simultaneously maintaining military presence in Iraq (no-fly zones etc.) AND Afghanistan. I think that would’ve been a far bigger mess than the current situation.

    But, to be blunt, I think you’re trying to pull one over on us. If we all agreed Iran was the most significant threat, would you have agreed we should invade them? Or would you have found reason to insist on sanctions, etc.?

    “We’re told to “stay the course” but no one can say what, exactly, the course is.”

    Continue to take the fight to the Islamofascists. Continue to support non-Islamofascists in the region. How exactly that looks on the ground depends on how effective our troops are, how effective enemies are, and what tactics they and we choose.

    If you’re looking for some sort of timeline, again, I think you’re trying to pull one over on us (or else you don’t understand warfare.)

    Some of the specific details you give for what the course SHOULD be are decent, but others are asinine. Put an Arab/Persian peacekeeping force in place? Seriously? No; the “local” peacekeeping force needs to be built from scratch. We can’t have Ba’athists or Hezb’allah running the show. Demand Saudi funding? Not really reasonable; if they fund it, they’re going to want to direct things, and while their leadership is mostly not as nuts as Iran’s, I don’t trust them. Demand Israel fulfill various UN resolutions? Appeasement doesn’t work. There are UN resolutions Israel should follow, but not many. And none of them will lead to the rest of the middle east letting up on their meddling in Iraq.

  24. Lotharbot: I appreciate that you provide some rationale for your view that speculative military aggression in Iraq was the better than the alternatives. (A lot of the invasion’s supporters begin and end their arguments without even acknowledging that there were alternative ways to neutralize Saddam’s regime.)

    I especially appreciate your acknowledgement that time and predictability
    are relevant measures of the costs/benefits of military aggression.

    On this point, you provide us with the best argument against the invasion being timelier and more predictable than the alternatives. You write: “If you’re looking for some sort of timeline, again, I think you’re trying to pull
    one over on us (or else don’t understand warfare.” So we agree, Lothar. The
    invasion of Iraq has NO PLAUSIBLE TIMELINE for success.

    The demise of Saddam’s regime, however, was to be expected virtually at any time. Given the rapid collapse of his regime, he could not have been expected to hold onto power much longer. He was FAKING having WMD so his OWN GENERALS would be afraid of him, or, perhaps, less afraid
    of Iran. Had the UN inspections been allowed to continue, this would have eventually been known, and may have helped Saddam’s Iraqi opponents gain leverage.

    Your frankness in admiring the use of WMD as an “excuse” for rushing aninvasion — even though the WMD propaganda represents one of American history’s biggest, costliest intelligence and political failures — is refreshing as well.

    Perhaps one reason we disagree on these issues is that we appear to be working off a different set of facts. You claim, for example, that “we have made allies of the vast majority of the Iraqi people.” Every poll I’ve seen shows most Iraqis want the U.S. out now. Moreover, the anecdotal evidence is even more overwhelming
    that most Iraqis either want U.S. troops out now, or dead.

  25. You’re engaging in some of the most unusual reasoning (or, twisting of my words) I’ve ever seen when you say “you provide us with the best argument against the invasion… NO PLAUSIBLE TIMELINE for success”. I spoke of the invasion being timelier than other methods based on YOUR OWN REQUIREMENT of being timelier to *remove Saddam* — yet now you’re trying to argue about its timeliness in having overall success in completely changing Iraq. But in your next paragraph, you go back to arguing about timeliness in deposing Saddam! Make up your mind, please.

    IMO, invasion was faster/better on both counts, but I only argued the one you asked about, so here’s the other: You argue that Saddam’s regime was inherently unstable and he would’ve possibly been deposed soon anyway. I think you’re assuming far too much about Saddam’s weakness (and relying too much on “possibly”), but for the sake of argument I’ll grant it to you just so I can address the next point: if Saddam’s regime fell without American intervention (which would’ve taken longer, but “possibly” not much longer), the situation would be inherently WORSE, MESSIER, and LESS STABLE than it is now. Honestly, you suggest we shouldn’t have invaded because of the risk of sparking Iraqi civil war… yet you suggest the “better” alternative of having Saddam taken down in what would almost certainly be an Iraqi civil war? I think it’s reasonable to assume things will settle down much faster, and with much less overall bloodshed, with Coalition forces overseeing the construction of a new government than in a civil war brought on by Saddam’s weakening grasp on power. And the end result will be much better.

    In terms of an overall timeline for success, I didn’t argue that success itself is implausible… I just argued that trying to force it to fit an arbitrary calendar schedule is stupid. No competent military leader would ever do such a thing, because war doesn’t take place on the calendar, it takes place on the battlefield. You have to plan based on your capabilities and those of your enemies, accounting for changing capabilities and changing conditions (from weather to the attitudes of local populations.) This is almost certainly a decade-plus war, and I see no reason to try to set a timeline for when exactly certain conditions emerge. The goal is to make the conditions emerge, not to get out by August 8 2007.

    I’ve been saying since like ’02 that WMD made for a convenient “icing on the cake” type reason for invasion. I wouldn’t call it an excuse, so much as one of many reasons that happened to have the most rhetorical strength. It’s not as though someone decided “we need to invade Iraq, let’s invent a story about WMD”; they had a list of reasons and decided to focus on WMD because it was the most powerful argument. (I’ve also been saying since ’02 that the administration should’ve focused more on other reasons, especially as opponents focused more on arguing about WMD, because the other reasons were compelling on their own.)

    In terms of “most Iraqis want the US out (or dead) now”, there are several things to remember:
    1) I don’t trust the polls for the same reason I don’t trust opinion polls in the US: you can get the reaction you want just by wording the question the right way. The ones I’ve seen the full text of have been “leading” toward “US out” type answers.
    2) When I’ve seen longer (ie, not “true/false” type) answers from Iraqis, they’ve generally said something along the lines of “of course we’d like the US out of our country… that would mean we’d have peace. But don’t leave until the job is done.” In other words, they have opposed goals of getting the US out and having their country stable and safe, and they generally care more about the second.
    3) The stories I hear from soldiers on the ground make it clear people like having us there. Not as much as they’d like having a safe, non-occupied country, of course, but a lot more than the alternatives. I don’t know where you get your anecdotal evidence, but mine’s coming from enough different in-country forces that I trust it quite a bit more than I trust anything in “the news”…

  26. I was kind of hoping for a response on these points:

    1) How do you reconcile your fears that the Coalition might not be able to stop Iraqi civil war with your suggested alternative of using sanctions and diplomacy to bring about Saddam’s fall via what would almost certainly be civil war?

    2) Since you’ve argued so much about time… how long do you think it would’ve taken for the aftermath of Saddam falling via diplomacy/sanctions to settle? How long do you think the current aftermath will take to settle? On what do you base those estimates?

    3) What’s your overall reading of Iraqi desires regarding US troops? How does their “US out” desire compare with their “secure our country” desire, their “rebuild our stuff” desire, or even their “go invade Iran” desire?

  27. Aw nuts… I had him, too. No way out of “I’m worried about civil war… we should’ve let them have a civil war instead.”

    Oh well… thanks for letting me know.

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