I thought it would be interesting to look at a post from my own blog from March 2008. This was when the Democrats were planning to abandon Iraq no matter who they elected president.
Christopher Hitchens has some strong feelings about Hillary’s laughable Tuzla story. He doesn’t think it is funny, however, and says why. What is forgotten in the Democrat’s rush to abandon Iraq is how we get into these things in the first place. Saddam invaded Kuwait, imitating the Japanese who united the USA in 1941 by attacking Pearl Harbor. Had they nibbled away at Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, which is what they really wanted, they might very well have gotten away with it as we focused on Europe. What is different today is the influence of television.
We went into Somalia because CNN was showing thousands of starving Somalis and got out when Clinton’s attempt at nation-building caused casualties. Why did we go into the Balkans ? CNN was showing the massacre of Bosnian civilians by Serbs. We had no strategic interest in Somalia or Bosnia. In fact, the first Bush administration made the decision to stay out of the war, a decision criticized by Bill Clinton during the 1992 campaign. After he was elected, he dipped a toe in the water a couple of times and finally decided to bomb Serbia from high altitude to avoid casualties. The Serbs eventually got out but the example set by Clinton probably encouraged Saddam in his ambitions toward Kuwait.
What would happen if Obama were to be elected and a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq resulted ?
Zbigniew Brzezinski thinks he knows:
Contrary to Republican claims that our departure will mean calamity, a sensibly conducted disengagement will actually make Iraq more stable over the long term. The impasse in Shiite-Sunni relations is in large part the sour byproduct of the destructive U.S. occupation, which breeds Iraqi dependency even as it shatters Iraqi society. In this context, so highly reminiscent of the British colonial era, the longer we stay in Iraq, the less incentive various contending groups will have to compromise and the more reason simply to sit back. A serious dialogue with the Iraqi leaders about the forthcoming U.S. disengagement would shake them out of their stupor.
So, a pain-free withdrawal happens. Fine. What if he is wrong and genocide results ?
Kevin Drum is not concerned:
there’s no point in denying that U.S. withdrawal might lead to increased bloodshed in the short term. It most likely will. But it’s highly unlikely to lead to a catastrophic regional meltdown of the kind that the chaos hawks peddle on cable TV. What’s more, Brzezinski is also right that the risk of increased violence is inescapable at this point and, in fact, probably grows the longer we stay in Iraq. The events in Basra over the past week ought to make that clear.
What neither of them address is what happens when the TV networks show massive genocide of Sunnis followed by a Sunni intervention by the Saudis to avoid an Iranian takeover ?
They don’t say.
Obama in a clumsy interview says he would have a “strike force” ready to do whatever…. That sounds like “Blackhawk Down” all over again. If I were an Army ranger who had been yanked out of Iraq just as we were on the verge of winning, what do you think my attitude would be about being ordered back ?
Especially by a wimp like Obama ?
Emphasis added. I couldn’t resist. A couple of those links are corrupted after 6 years.
15 thoughts on “A post from March 2008.”
“to bomb Serbia from high altitude to avoid casualties”: apart from old Serbian women blown to smithereens on buses, of course.
“yanked out of Iraq just as we were on the verge of winning”: just like Vietnam? You’re kidding yourself; the US keeps on launching wars in which it is capable, more than capable, of winning battles but entirely incapable of winning the war. The great exception was the first Gulf War, because Bush the Elder had the sense to restrict it to one battle.
“yanked out of Iraq just as we were on the verge of winning”: just like Vietnam? You’re kidding yourself;”
So, you agree that withdrawal had nothing to do with ISIL ?
Whenever the US scurried away from Iraq, something awful would have happened. What label is attached to the something awful matters not a hoot. Nor does it matter whether it happened in 2013, 2014, or 2015. You had to pay tribute to various warlords to get your troops out in one piece, for heaven’s sake. Do you really class that as anything other than abject defeat? “Winning” my left foot!
69 and 61 years after the fact, we still have troops in Germany and Korea. There was absolutely no need on our part to have ‘scurried away’ at all.
Kirk, I have little idea why it is in the USA’s interest to retain troops in Germany, but the idea that her troops in Iraq would ever have been as safe as her troops are in Germany is probably wishful thinking. Anyway, why would you want to keep troops in Iraq for decades? Indeed, why on earth did you send them there in the first place? The more time rolls on without my hearing a remotely defensible reason for the US invasion, the more I fear that it was simply intended to make mountains of Arab dead as some wicked notion of revenge for 9/11.
As for Korea I have no idea what is for the best. I suppose it is another example of putting troops in being a lot easier than getting them out again. Was it in the US’s interest to put them in in the first place? Search me.
World stability is highly overrated, and a luxury good that no one really needs.
Have I got your position rightly described there?
World stability? What, as enhanced by the invasion of Iraq? God spare us all.
Come on, Dearieme, you’re smarter than this. History did not begin in early 2003.
Dearie’s philosophy in capsule form.
“I have no idea what is for the best”
South Korea was little better than Iraq in 1953. Three years of war, Syngman Rhee was a dictator who had a rather sketchy record General Park was not much better . Yet South Korea is a booming economy with free institutions.
I doubt a Muslim society can establish a similar successful economy but Iraq was a reasonable place to try. It was foolish to try democracy in such a society but benign dictatorships have a history in Arab societies. Saudi Arabia jus such a country and so is Egypt. Egypt has very little natural resource potential and I would, for one, support their annexation of eastern Libya. I am a little surprised they haven’t done it, but Obama has so screwed up the middle east that nobody knows what will happen.
We had a pretty good chance to keep Iraq on the level with a modest occupation force. It would have been a good location for a base to keep an eye on the rest of the area. We have done that for years but, since 1968, the Democrats have been schizophrenic about foreign policy. Look at what Dodd and some of his allies did with Nicaragua in the 1980s.
Vietnam, which we should have stayed out of except for deniable special forces aid, was their disaster and they have still not returned to sense. Clinton got carried await in Somalia. GHW Bush sent crews to feed the people because of CNN agitation but left the local warlords, some of whom were US citizens, alone. Clinton decided to “build democracy” and got his fingers burned and some soldiers killed. Then he bailed out of all intervention even when al Qeada was blowing up embassies and ships. When the rangers got trapped, we had borrow a couple of tanks from the Pakistanis. Clinton and Democrat fecklessness can be seen in Les Aspin’s ban on US tanks in Somalia.
They just aren’t serious people. The people around Obama are college kids.
That’s a great post. It sure does demonstrate that many of the most highly referenced pundits have no clue about the short, intermediate or probably the long term consequences of their policy recommendations.
Our Iraq strategy was never adequately resourced or fully thought through. We do often win battles, but fail to win because we lack the bottom to see it through. This comes from having such short term limited objectives (such as containing IRIS for example). If you aren’t willing to cut the cancer out (as we did with Germany and Japan) it will come back and spread. Given the largely containment of violence strategy we had in Iraq, coupled with no control of external support to the jihadis, I was surprised we had as much success as we did. If we had implemented a reconstruction of the political and economic systems of Iraq as we did in Japan and saw it through, the outcome would have been different. Not only did we not have a plan to do so and fail to mobilize the non-military assets needed, we placed Barry in power who then embarked on path that compounded our earlier mistakes and invented new ones through out the wider area.
We have validated the impression that we are a paper tiger. Each time we do that, we strengthen the resolve of those who want us dead. We come to accept such reverses as inevitable and any reversal of these self fulfilling prophecies and limited strategies becomes more difficult. Anyone can be killed by a thousand cuts or even less. Reagan said words to the effect, “We win, they lose.” Apparently our new strategy is “OK, slap me, then I’ll leave but I get some time for R&R since you hurt my face. You have short arms and I am humongus so I hope you get tired of slapping me. Can’t we be friends? We both want the same thing, you want to hurt me and I deserve it. Can I give you some of my stuff and we can hug it out!”
I doubt a Muslim society can establish a similar successful economy but Iraq was a reasonable place to try.
Worth thousands of American and European deaths, tens of thousands of injuries, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths and the destruction of its ancient Christian population (which didn’t just begin with ISIL)? Some, if not all, of these consequences were predicted by most observers of the region. Only the ideologically driven neoconservatives and a handful of liberal hawks (few of whom were neutral Middle East observers) thought otherwise. Unfortunately, if the Americans who participate in the blogosphere are anything to go on virtually all see even foreign policy through a partisan lens. When something goes wrong it is always the fault of the other guy’s party not of the original policy or the premises upon which the policy was based.
They just aren’t serious people
The last serious, grown up Secretary of State was James Baker. He was far from perfect, of course, but he was worldly enough to understand what could be done and what was pure fantasy. It was his diplomatic skills that had to be called upon in late 2003 to sort out Iraq’s credit situation after the initial bungling by the neocons alienated most of the world. Unsurprisingly, the ideologues who advised Dubya hated his guts.
“Some, if not all, of these consequences were predicted by most observers of the region.”
And those were ? As a self proclaimed expert, you have certainly read “The Looming Tower.” Right ?
How about Fouad Ajami ? Did you read this ?
In the end, the battle for a secular, modernist order in the Arab world is an endeavor for the Arabs themselves. But power matters, and a great power’s will and prestige can help tip the scales in favor of modernity and change. “The Americans are coming,” the Islamists proclaimed after the swift defeat of the Taliban. They scrambled for cover as their “charities,” their incitement, and their networks of finance and recruitment came under new scrutiny.
Sound familiar ?
I doubt it.
Unsurprisingly, the ideologues who advised Dubya hated his guts.
Baker still enjoys a favorable reputation among media people and naive observers, because like Colin Powell he practiced hardball politics by selectively leaking privileged information to the press. He was probably a good political advisor, but his performance as Treasury Secretary and later at State left something to be desired.
bitrotted link replacements
The video on that last link is not loading for me but the page is preserved.
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