Quote of the Day II

Michael Ledeen agrees that, WRT Iran, unfortunately, nothing is up:

Those killer quotes from the Times show once again the failure of strategic vision that has plagued us from the beginning of the war. We can only win the war—the real war, the regional-or-maybe-even-global war—if we stop playing defense in Iraq and go after regime change in Damascus and Tehran. Everyone in the region, above all, the Iraqis, knows this. And everyone in the region is looking for evidence that we might be able to muster the will to win this thing.

But dumping responsibility for dealing with Iran in the quivering laps of the Iraqi leaders is precisely the wrong thing to do. We have to lead this war, we have to go after the Iranians. Otherwise, surge or no surge, fifty or a hundred thousand troops more or less, we’re gonna lose. Because the peoples of the Mideast, who have seen many armies come and go over the centuries, are going to throw in with the likely winners. And we can’t win if we refuse to engage the main enemy, which is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

24 thoughts on “Quote of the Day II”

  1. I disagree. The main enemy comes from places such as this. Until we face Saudi Arabia as the enemy it is, we will continue to at best come to a stalemate, even if a regime change in Iran brought a modern, functioning democracy there.

    But I do agree that no change in policy in Iraq will have any effect on our main enemy. However, no one in either party has the guts to face the oil shortage that would follow by hitting this problem at its root.

  2. Gotta go with John on this one; I perceive our main “software” problem as SA (the “hardware” problem being the Pak nuclear arsenal). Doesn’t mean there aren’t other bad guys to deal with, though. And I suspect that it could be demonstrated that a cutoff of ME oil would be less traumatic than the embargo of ’73.

  3. Why is it that the trough talking guys who want to m\bomb this or that cvoun tryh seldom if ever seem to have served in the military and in combat?
    Face it: we can not take on Iran and Syria: Bush has used up our money and our troops. Want a draft? Ok. then get ready for civil war in America.
    When Saddam in power, Iran held in check. Remove him as we did and now Iran running the entire region! Bush messed up bad and we are stuck with his stupidity. And now Taliban causing troubles again in Afghanistan too

  4. Those short sighted folks who wanted “regime change” in Iraq (ie invasion and occupation) are at it again. But I hope nobody listens to them this time. The invasion of Iraq brought suffering and instability, and far from democratizing the region, strengthened Iran and actually improved Assad’s standing with his people who naturally find his dictatorship to be preferable to the chaos they see in Iraq.

    Many of the neoconservative regime changers are strong supporters of Israel. That makes sense, because Iran and Syria are bitter enemies of Israel. I read that Israel is now the only country where a majority of the population approves of the invasion of Iraq. I am not sure whether regime change in Iran and Syria (let’s call it what it is: bombing and/or invasion by the United States) would be a good thing for Israel in the long run. I’m pretty sure that it would be a bad thing for the United States, Iran, and Syria. Happy Holidays, everyone.

  5. Attacking Iran is impossible. The president could not get congressional authorization for it. The public will not support it. Two of the most hawkish people I know (my mother and my sister) both think the idea of us getting into another war right now is insane. My Mom’s comment was apt: “Holy Mother of God, are we going to invade everybody?” To go to war an administration has to be trusted to run the war. This one is not, with ample reason. Those of who were against the Iraq war at the outset have been vindicated, those who supported it, like myself, can partly blame themselves but mostly blame the political and military leadership that created the disaster. We are going to end up spending a trillion dollars in Iraq and have many thousands of people dead or maimed for life, and our real enemies in the region will actually be better off. Jay is right, the heart of darkness is SA, the main risk of stray nuke is Pakistan, two of our so-called “allies”. A war with Iran is not on the table. Anyway, they are going to get nuclear weapons, and they are deterrable, at least as far as attacking the USA. China under Mao was at least as insane as current day Iran, in fact far worse, and it was deterred from using its handful of new nukes. These guys are no different. Moreover, this regime may not be around much longer, 27 years out of 2,800 years of Persian history is a blip. We should not start killing Iranians and wrecking things there. Within a few decades that country will return to a more normal role in the world. We should not make them permanent enemies by attacking them now.

  6. Lex, Iran might not be much of a conventional military threat even with nukes, but neither was Iraq. But we invaded anyway because we were trying to change the environment where terrorism begins by introducing democracy. So have we decided that this won’t work? If so, if we get another 9/11 what approach do we take then?

  7. As you know, the “environment where 9/11 began” was not Iraq. If another terrorist attack happens on US soil, which it may, I hope we will not invade states that had nothing to do with it. Actually, I hope we won’t try to use conventional warfare at all, but work to capture or kill the terrorists…who could be anywhere. Even better, I hope we’ll work with police and intelligence agencies among our allies to capture them before they strike. The notion that introducing democracy by force will eliminate terrorism was never well formed to begin with, and has not been borne out in Iraq.

  8. “…we were trying to change the environment where terrorism begins by introducing democracy.”

    I always thought this was a secondary consideration before the war, basically wrapping paper. I was wrong. Bush really was focused on this. His second inaugural was alarming in its fixation on this idea. I do not think democracy is the answer. The regimes which have successfully fended off Islamic fundamentalism are the authoritarian ones. If they became democratic, our enemies would get elected. There is no basis whatsoever to say that lack of democracy is a cause of Islamic fundamentalism. I have been reading up on Sayyid Qutb, founder of modern Islamic fundamentalism, as well as reading Osama bin Laden’s pronouncements. The things that motivate them are (1) the existence of Israel, and (2) the impact of Western culture, especially sexual mores and popular culture, (3) the American military and political dominance of the region. They feel degraded and humiliated by these realities, which show the weakness of the Muslim Umma. None of these things is negotiable, or likely to diminish or change much, so that sense of humiliation is going to go on, and that is their problem. There is no suggestion whatsoever in the writings of the fundamentalists taht they would somehow be placated by democracy. Plus, democracy is a late blooming flower. You need a lot of other stuff first. In the Anglosphere, we were developing our liberties and free institutions for a thousand years before we had widespread, one-person-one-vote democracy. Without the foundations, democracy cannot work and cannot last. Moreover, as the decolonization era in the 1950s and 1960s showed in Africa and elsewhere, democracy in a country that is divided by ethnic and tribal differences ends up just being a machine to put the biggest faction in power and to crush the rest. Apparently no one bothered to consider these facts before embarking on our current course. Anyway, this was the approach the Bush administration chose, and I am not always right, so maybe despite everything I am reading and seeing, it will somehow work in Iraq. I do not think it is working out very well, in fact it seems to be working out predictably, but it is up to the Iraqis to pull this off or not. Nonetheless, I do not think the democracy experiment in Iraq is or ought to have been our focus, nor should we be pushing it elsewhere in the region, certainly not by by means of armed force. We cannot afford another one of these.

  9. Lex,
    You may well be right. There is no doubt that democracy works for us because we feel it in our bones, it is a natural extension of an interwoven complex of beliefs, religious & civil. In areas of America where tribalism remains strong, we get disproportions: lopsided voting & a corruption that seems accepted by voters as entitlements. So, how can we expect a whole city, let alone a whole region to change rapidly?

    Nonetheless, I had thought from the beginning that the implicit goal was to change the way Iran worked. Afghanistan and Iraq would act less as pincers of armies but as pincers of examples – examples for a population more ready to accept an elected government, an open marketplace – than most other countries in that region. The point wasn’t to invade but to apply the pressure of governments that worked. That is why I’m so unwilling to call Iraq a disaster – because it seems to me to count so heavily in the more idealistic way that you dismiss. And because it is the reason I thought it was a good idea from the beginning. I knew where Bush was coming from – that speech in June on Palestine was clear.

    Sure, we can’t invade Iran without destroying our own government & probably screwing up things there as well. I do think, however, that we should take the leaders at their word – that they want to destroy Israel. And keep that consideration in mind when we are dealing with them; I don’t think we should make bargains about the Middle East that don’t listen to Israel’s voice. That is not just because it is the right thing to do, but the safest in the long run.

    And I will admit that experience with Iranian students ever since I was an undergrad – which would, of course, have been under the Shah – has made me think that as a group they have a stronger sense of entitlement and a weaker sense of personal responsibility than is probably necessary for a democracy.

    On the other hand, I was struck when I read bin Laden’s fatwahs a couple of years ago was how far down and how belated his discussion of Israel was – a discomfort you put first. His sense of the appropriate expanse of Sha’ria law seems much more universal. Nor does this kind of argument mean that some kind of interpol policing is going to be all we need.

  10. I think the real problem is continuing to see the world as a game of Risk–a very twentieth century board game. If we can just regime-change and put our piece on the Iraq square, or the Iran or Saudi Arabia or Pakistan square, then they will stop hating us. It’s all the more tempting because we have, or had, the military might to do this. But what guarantees that the regime we install will be legitimate; that the people, not to mention the terrorists, will support it and us? The Bush people may have thought that by having elections in Iraq, they would eventually solve this problem. They apparently didn’t believe the troops would be greeted with flowers. The unfortunate outcome in Iraq (and even though I believe the US presence is making things worse, it seems a little patronizing to say “it’s up to the Iraqis now,” like we’ve nurtured them to where they can stand on their own two feet) will not necessarily make a dent in this mentality or prevent the US from invading somewhere else.

  11. I think we are putting pressure on Iran, certainly. However, I think we should be putting a lot more of what TM Lutas first called the “soft kill”. The model should be more like what we did with regard to Eastern Europe at the end of the Cold War. We have already filled the box marked military threat. We now need to massively undermine the regime. I literally think that the way to do this would be to drop virtually all restrictions on contact between Iranian people and Americans. That kind of thing was devastating to the USSR and its communist satellites. We should literally try get thousands of American tourists into Iran. The public is not happy with the government there, and it needs encouragement to push hard against the government to get it to change.

    Iran’s leaders cannot destroy Israel without committing suicide. They know that. Deterrance will hold. If it doesn’t, Iran is annihilated by Israeli nuclear weapons. Maybe Iran is mother of all truck bombs. I doubt it. Maoist China wasn’t, and he talked psycho, too. This guy Adahademiminadahadad or whatever it is would be shot by his own generals if he tried it. Anyway, even if they detonate something under laboratory conditions it is a long, long way from a deliverable nuclear weapon. The guy is blowing smoke. Hitler meant what he said, but Hitler had the goods: The Wehrmacht, the Ruhr, scientists, engineers. These guys have nothing like that.

    Bin Laden’s early stuff is full of comments about Israel. I think he changed his focus later as the USA became Enemy Number One.

    I think if we are going to conquer a ocuntry and try to rebuild it, democratic voting should come last on the list at the national level. Local elections, maybe. Getting a recorder of deeds set up, ala Hernando de Soto, would be near the beginning. The thinking just was not there prior to the invasion, which is something we have learned in dribs and drabs in the last few years. I recently did some digging around and found out that MacArthur began planning the occupation of Japan in early 1942, when we were not even winning the war yet. We fough Iraq previously, and were still engaged in the No Fly Zones, etc. Yet, despite this, all those years, the government had not done any planning at all for a possible occupation of the country. That is grotesque. It is inexcusable. In my initial enthusiasm for the war I forgot something very important: A war is basically a big government project. And those rarely go well. Worse, it was a defense department project, and those always cost monumentally more than they are supposed to.

    Don’t get me wrong, either. After Saddam’s tyranny, I am sure a lot of people were glad to be able to vote. And maybe they will surprise me and it will work out. I hope so. But it is not a panacea, and if it is overhyped and does not work out, then you have created an unnecessary failure for yourself.

  12. I thought the “introduce democracy” approach was high road and the “nuke mecca as a detterent” approach was the low road. Bush chose the high road, but I think the low road would have been infinitely more effective at zero cost to American lives. I’m just not convinced Arabs and Muslims can understand Western logic and reason. They only understand violence and power and maybe that’s the way we should have responded.

    I used to hope that IF there was another attack we’d finally respond harshly, but more and more I’m thinking the harsh response will not be through brutal attacks on Islamic states, but through brutal TSA-style restrictions on American citizens.

  13. “I’m just not convinced Arabs and Muslims can understand Western logic and reason. They only understand violence and power and maybe that’s the way we should have responded.”

    I’m sure you have been diligently studying Arab and Muslim culture and society, but I have a question for you: what were you saying before the invasion of Iraq? Did you disagree with Bush when he preached about a yearning for American style freedom in every Iraqi breast? And I’ve read that those who disagreed with the neocons about Iraq’s readiness for electoral democracy were called racist. Your views on the essence of Arabs and Muslims are, if not racist, then very convenient in letting you off the hook for supporting this disastrous invasion.

  14. I don’t value my own opinion on this subject very much. I was actually hoping to hear what others thought. But wrt to your question, before the invasion I was thinking we had a high road and a low road and we had to try the high road first because it was the right thing to do.

  15. Well, if you want my opinion on Arabs and Muslims, I would say that they are as varied as we Euro-Americans are in their ability to think logically. I think the violent rejection of the US occupation and the government we set up on the part of large segments of the Iraqi population is not a sign that “violence and power is all they understand.” I have heard the following analogy: What if the Chinese invaded the US with the benevolent purpose of reforming our electoral college system, and then, with all the good intentions in the world, stuck around to enforce the new government? Some of the patriotic folks on this list would, I suspect, be setting bombs and even,if the situation got intolerable, considering suicide bombing to free the Uniteed States of America from the invader and its client government.

  16. Gosh, where would we be without our newly resident anonymous coward?

    China invading the US to reform the Electoral College? An astonishingly inapt analogy. Political processes in the US are the equal of any in the world in efficiency, fairness, and stability. China is still a corrupt dictatorship, one that fortunately now is prioritizing economic growth over totalitarian ideology. But a 21st-century version of the Taiping Rebellion or the Cultural Revolution will remain a possibility until they routinize electoral transfer of power (as has occurred on Taiwan).

    And I’ll note that after the “disastrous invasion,” the death rate in Iraq, even with bombings every day, is maybe 1/10 what it was under the regime — with, of course, zero chance of Iraq starting a war with its neighbors. No wonder the Iraqi economy is booming.

    You want to know what the Arab/Muslim mentality is, read Now They Call Me Infidel. Quite an eye-opener. And it’s about “moderates.”

  17. “…the death rate in Iraq, even with bombings every day, is maybe 1/10 what it was under the regime.”

    The death rate for Americans is thousands of times, if not infinitely, what it was under the regime. The death rate for Americans is all I care about. Deaths of foreigners at the hands of other foreigners are sad but irrelevant unless there is some tangible impact on the USA as a result.

  18. As you know, the “environment where 9/11 began” was not Iraq.

    You know, it wasn’t Afghanistan either. It was Pakistan. Afghanistan was just the fall guy.

    Everyone knows this, but nobody says it, because they don’t want to think about what an invasion of Pakistan would entail, Pakistan being a nuclear power.

    BTW, “Elgabrogringo:” are you aware of the existance of Chinese-built IRBM’s on Saudi military bases, that are largely surrounded by Pakistani troops? Ever think through that those missiles would be pretty much useless to the Saudis without nuclear warheads? And why do the Pakistanis provide the ground security for them?

  19. “…are you aware of the existance of Chinese-built IRBM’s on Saudi military bases, that are largely surrounded by Pakistani troops?”

    Interesting. First I’ve heard of this. Sources?

  20. Lex: see this link:


    I wonder what’s in those missiles; Saudi Arabia did pay for Pakistan’s bomb program, did they do it with the understanding that they’d get nothing in return? And their CEP makes them useless for conventional military attacks, unless they’ve invented some sort of advanced guidance system of their own for them.

    And regarding this:

    The death rate for Americans is thousands of times, if not infinitely, what it was under the regime. The death rate for Americans is all I care about. Deaths of foreigners at the hands of other foreigners are sad but irrelevant unless there is some tangible impact on the USA as a result.

    First of all, there was a death rate associated with the strategy of trying to leave Saddam in power but keeping him from being a threat to his neighbors… several hundred in the first (or the second, depending on how you count the Iran/Iraq war) Gulf War, and constant terrorist attacks on the troops we had in surrounding nations to “contain” him afterwards… the Khobar Towers attack, or the Cole attack… (isn’t it funny how AQ would attack troops dedicated to containing Saddam, or for that matter, cooperate with Iran in the Khobar Towers attack? We’re told constantly that AQ never cooperated with Iraq, and would never cooperate with a “secularist” like Saddam, or shi’ites like the Iranians… but that’s a subject for another time). Heck, there was even the Stark attack, back before the first war with Iraq.

    You could even wonder how much it contributed to 9/11 that no matter what Saddam did, we’d contain him and leave him in power, like he was some sort of protected species like the spotted owl or something.

    Second, unless you’re willing to put a much larger number of troops on the ground and at risk of further attack, you would have to do what we have more or less done: decided to work with those Iraqis who have decided to ally themselves with us. In order for this to be effective we have to be effective in protecting them from terrorist attacks.

    Al Qaeda apparently sees it as a worthwhile strategic goal to attack civilian populations that have aligned themselves with the United States. I think we need to do a better job of protecting them.(*)

    (*): At the beginning of the insurgency, I thought that the US needed to create local militia groups that would be more capable of protecting the population than the (in a historical sense) relatively small force we have maintained there. Many people replied that this would increace the amount of sectarian violence there. Well, it turns out that similar militias got trained and stood up, but by Moqtada al Sadr and other Iranian proxies. Just because we didn’t do it doesn’t mean it didn’t got done, and in a much more sectarian way than they would have if we had done it.

  21. Oh, and about the earlier comments about planning for the occupation: I find myself wondering what the situation would be today if a couple months or so into the occupation the authority for running it hadn’t been taken away from the Defense Department (and General Gardner) and given to the State Department (and Paul Bremer) instead?

    We’ve been repeatedly told the military didn’t have a plan, but really, how can we tell?

  22. Also, a minor correction:

    Al Qaeda apparently sees it as a worthwhile strategic goal to attack civilian populations that have aligned themselves with the United States. I think we need to do a better job of protecting them.(*)

    I mean protecting the civilians, of course. Sorry about the clumsy grammar.

  23. AQ attacked our people in Khobar Towers because they were on the “sacred soil” of Saudi Arabia, or some such mystical bs.

    The number of people lost in containing Saddam, even if we attribute all of these losses to that, is still a fraction, on the order of one percent, of our killed and wounded since we invaded. And it is the loss of Americans that I care about. The deaths of foreigners at the hands of other foreigners is their problem.

  24. There are practical reasons to worry about the deaths of foreigners at the hands of other foreigners even if you only care about the lives of Americans.

    And the point of mentioning Khobar Towers was that AQ cooperated with The Hated Shi’ites, something they’ve always said is anamathea to them…

    You can’t take everything the AQ spokespeople say at face value. For example: they _say_ they want to overthrow the royal family of Saudi Arabia too, but when was the last time they attacked any member of said royal family? Out of 1400 or so members, they can’t manage to penetrate anyone’s security?

Comments are closed.