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  • The Sunni war on America

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on December 23rd, 2015 (All posts by )

    Angelo Codevilla, who has some of the most interesting things to say about America has a new column out in Asia Times.

    For more than a quarter century, as Americans have suffered trouble from the Muslim world’s Sunni and Shia components and as the perennial quarrel between them has intensified, the US government has taken the side of the Sunni. This has not worked out well for us. It is past time for our government to sort out our own business, and to mind it aggressively.

    To understand why hopes for help from the Sunni side are forlorn, we must be clear that jihadism in general and Daesh in particular are logical outgrowths of Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia’s (and the Gulf monarchies’) official religion, about how they fit in the broader conflict between Sunni and Shia, as well as about how the US occupation of Iraq exposed America to the vagaries of intra-Muslim conflicts.

    I have believed this for some time and am happy to see him agree with me. I spent an evening listening to him talk about our foreign policy and how the War on Terror became a war on Americans.

    The U.S. government does not understand how to combat international terrorism or respond to its threats. In an exclusive interview with Ginni Thomas of The Daily Caller, Codevilla highlighted the failure of both administrations to understand the enemy, explaining that it makes national security decisions based on a flawed paradigm.

    “After 9/11, the U.S. government instituted a system of homeland security based on the proposition that any American is as likely as anyone in the world to commit terrorist acts — and that therefore, all Americans must be screened and presumed to be terrorists until the screening clears them,” Codevilla said.

    Certainly, the government has been engaged in a faux security system with the TSA that pretends it will stop an airline hijacking or bomb threat, while allowing 90% of false bombs and guns to escape surveillance.

    “These people who attacked us had reasons, which are widely supported — in fact, vigorously promoted by the regimes from which they came,” Codevilla said. “The Saudi regime, which we count as an ally, does in fact harbor the most virulent strain of Islam, the Wahhabism. This movement inspired most of the hijackers in 9/11. The others, some of the leaders, were inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, which the Obama administration has been courting and favoring.”

    Rather than confronting the movement of Islamic radicalization, Codevilla says that both Barack Obama and George W. Bush blamed acts of terrorism on the perpetrators themselves, instead of viewing them as the incarnations of a murderously ideological movement.

    I am a little less conspiracy minded but I agree that we face a militant ideology that is as yet unacknowledged.

    US foreign policy in the Middle East had moved to the Sunni side in 1979 after the Shia Islamic Republic’s overthrow of Iran’s secular Shah. For the previous quarter century, the Shah’s Iran had taken care of US interests in the region while muting its Persian Shia people’s perennial tensions with the Sunni Arab world.

    But Iran’s Islamic Republic has been as aggressively Shia and Persian as it has been anti-American. Fatefully, rather than answering in kind the Islamic Republic’s warfare on America, all presidents since Jimmy Carter have searched the Sunni Arab world for counterweights to Iran, as well as for the kind of support that the Shah had given us.

    This attempt to outsource America’s security concerns by entering into the Sunni-Shia conflict on the Sunni side has been counterproductive because the Sunni, 85% of the Muslim world, are also the nursery of its most contagious plagues — the Wahhabi sect and the Muslim Brotherhood. Above all, it has been disastrous because it has led the US government to lose sight of our own interests by confusing them with those of Sunni states and potentates.

    Here, I agree completely. I think Bush’s attempt to see if an Arab country could rule itself was a reasonable thing to try. The disaster was turning the policy over to Arabist Paul Bremer who decided to become a viceroy and alienated the Sunnis of Iraq. Saddam began the crisis by invading Kuwait.

    The main Sunni monarchies’ congenital worse-than-uselessness is why, in the decade after Iranian Islamic Republic’s establishment, US policymakers vigorously courted Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, who ruled mostly-Shia Iraq with a bloody hand through its Sunni minority. The US policymakers who helped Saddam prevail in his war against Iran believed that, by so doing, they could strike a blow at Iran while weaning Saddam away from his reliance on the Soviet Union.

    Too clever. No sooner had Saddam established his power over the head of the Gulf than he used it to conquer Kuwait, after which the Gulf’s monarchs were helpless before his disciplined army and frightened by their own peoples’ support for Saddam. They asked the United States’ help.

    I am a bit skeptical here but he might well be correct. What we have now is a president who has elected to join the Shia and Iranian side in this Muslim civil war.

    But instead of choosing any version of America’s own interest, US statesmen confused that interest with the self-contradictory demands of the Saudis, etc. — the Sunni world’s weak reeds: Please, make war on Saddam, but not so hard as to break his Iraqi Sunni empire. This way we can all win without dealing with the consequences of victory. We can have our cake while eating it too.

    Our bipartisan ruling class, from the Bush and Clinton families to the Dick Cheneys and Colin Powells to Washington’s think tanks considered this counsel to be sophistication, and themselves to be sophisticates for accepting it. Far too clever.

    The ensuing bellum interruptus was meant to tweak the balance among the Mid-East’s Sunni forces. But the result was that Saddam, who’d not been an enemy of the United States, subsequently led the Muslim world to new heights of enmity to America. Few remember that the longest and most impassioned part of Osama bin Laden’s 1996 fatwa which preceded the wave of anti-American terrorism that crested on 9/11 was a denunciation of America’s actions against Saddam’s Iraq.

    Here I tend to agree with Codevilla. Clinton was not immune to this misapprehension of our interests. “Foreign Affairs,” a journal that I used to subscribe to, ran a cover story during Bill Clinton’s feckless presidency on “Foreign Policy as Social Work.”

    the Sunni states — which had opposed the invasion strenuously — convinced Bush 43 to occupy Iraq indefinitely. That involved taking care of their business. He agreed to confuse others’ business with America’s despite having been elected in part by promising never to engage in “nation building.”

    Bush promised to build “a united, democratic Iraq.” That was always an absurdity because, since Iraq’s constituent groups loathed and feared each other, Iraq’s unity could result only from one group’s despotism over the others, whereas “democracy” — i.e. the will of the people — meant that Iraqis would go their separate ways.

    The occupation’s day-to-day practical objective however, was to hold the 83% of Iraqis who were not Sunni into a state structure in which the Sunni would salvage at least some of the privileges they had held under Saddam. That is what the Sunni states wanted, and that is what they had convinced the US government was in America’s interest as well. It was also impossible. Immediately, the occupation started a Sunni war on America that is yet to end.

    This is an interesting point of view and could explain why Bush chose Bremer over the far more capable Jay Garner.

    He has another installment coming this week. I will read it with interest.

     

    40 Responses to “The Sunni war on America”

    1. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      >>He has another installment coming this week. I will read it with interest.

      It’s out already: http://atimes.com/2015/12/romancing-the-sunni-a-us-policy-tragedy-in-three-acts-act-ii/

    2. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      BTW, David Goldman (Spengler) and Uwe Von Parpart, recently took control of Asia Times.

    3. Mike K Says:

      I added an epilogue but I don’t agree with all he says.

      Above all, we should not let Muslims come here !

    4. Brer rabbit Says:

      The best thing the US can do is walk away from the Middle East (Syria/Iraq/SA/Iran/Lybia/all off Africa et alia) – wash our hands of the matter – protect and stay loyal to Israel – and let Putin sort it out.

    5. Grurray Says:

      I don’t doubt that the civil war with Shias pressured the Sunni tribes to work with us during the surge, but here is what Kilcullen, who was on the ground at the time, wrote about it

      http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/anatomy-of-a-tribal-revolt

      He believed the spark that caused a split between the local tribes and Al Qaeda foreigners stemmed from cultural differences regarding sex and marriage


      Islam, of course, is a key identity marker when dealing with non-Muslim outsiders, but when all involved are Muslim, kinship trumps religion. And in fact, most tribal Iraqis I have spoken with consider AQ’s brand of “Islam” utterly foreign to their traditional and syncretic version of the faith. One key difference is marriage custom, the tribes only giving their women within the tribe or (on rare occasions to cement a bond or resolve a grievance, as part of a process known as sulha) to other tribes or clans in their confederation (qabila). Marrying women to strangers, let alone foreigners, is just not done. AQ, with their hyper-reductionist version of “Islam” stripped of cultural content, discounted the tribes’ view as ignorant, stupid and sinful.

      This led to violence, as these things do: AQI killed a sheikh over his refusal to give daughters of his tribe to them in marriage, which created a revenge obligation (tha’r) on his people, who attacked AQI. The terrorists retaliated with immense brutality, killing the children of a prominent sheikh in a particularly gruesome manner, witnesses told us. This was the last straw, they said, and the tribes rose up. Neighboring clans joined the fight, which escalated as AQI (who had generally worn out their welcome through high-handedness) tried to crush the revolt through more atrocities. Soon the uprising took off, spreading along kinship lines through Anbar and into neighboring provinces.

      It’s hard to say what might have been, but it’s easy to imagine a similar split between these same tribes and the hyperviolent ISIS lunatics. The difference between then and now is that then there was American leadership and military power in the region.

      Now there is only chaos breeding more chaos.

    6. Richard Says:

      @Brer Rabbit: We can’t run, because “they” are in your “patch” now. It’s kill or be killed.

      @ Grurray: There is not any “other than hyper-reductionist version of “Islam” stripped of cultural content.” Yes, one might say there is something called “Traditional Islam,” but it diminishes by the day. It’s reform (“liquidation”) began more than two centuries ago, and continues today’s Jihad. Indeed, it is the continuing “reformation” of Islam, and not any Muslim dares advance a “Counter-Reformation,” because the Traditional Muslims or Moderate Muslims are being terrorized by the Wahhabi reformers (ISIS and AQ. The only Islam us today’s Islam

      Yes, there is there are the nearly perpetual Shia/Sunni divide, what I like to call the “World’s Oldest Feud,” with the Shia revenging the Sunni murder of Hussein. Meanwhile, a man with the holy name Hussein is unable to prevent indeed the Shia Iran to arm itself with nuclear armed missiles. (Of course, in America, none dare not speak the name “Hussein.”)

    7. Michael Kennedy Says:

      I agree with Kilcullen about the “Sunni Awakening” and we walked away. I don’t think there is any way to restore trust now.

      “Perfidious Albion” used to do switches like this for strategic reasons but we did it for no discernible reason, just Obama’s whim and political fashion statement.

      Maybe he always intended to switch to Shia Iran because of Valerie Jarrett but I am not that into conspiracy theory.

    8. vxxc2014 Says:

      What does one mean when one says “our” interests in the context of the Clinton’s, Bushes, Cheney’s, Obama’s?

      You’re also overlooking the vast amount of Saudi and Gulf oil money flowing through the streets of Washington, Maryland, Virginia. As Bandar al-Sultan who developed this system remarked “The Little People have to eat too.” <== which is more than we little people get from DC that is true.

      I'm not on anyone's payroll but Americans, I don't think ChiBoyz are getting Gulf money either?

      Here we are – here's the missing link.
      There's no us or ours here Gents.

      http://www.al-monitor.com/lobbying?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=d15fc57b8f-August_04_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-d15fc57b8f-93077385#

    9. Grurray Says:

      I support the theory that Obama is motivated by progressive, post-colonial neo-Marxism. He doesn’t see all these groups as separate tribes with individual conflicting agendas in a multi-polar world. He sees a bi-polar world with one end Western imperial aggression and the noble savages on the other end. Sunni tribes, Shia militias, Hamas, unemployable Muslim immigrants, inner city gang bangers are all in that latter group. If only we could just apologize, provide them safe spaces and ample trigger warnings, and transfer most of our wealth they will all live in peace.

      It’s true Obama did abandon those Arab tribes that helped us pacify Anbar. He just ended up giving the whole thing to Iran. From what I’ve read, those tribes have now been decimated by ISIS.

      On the other hand, it was at best a marriage of convenience (so to speak). As Richard alludes to, who’s to say how long they could be trusted to stay on our side or even stay a cohesive authority in the area?
      As has been pointed out, Arabs tribes are the most inbred people on earth. We were aligning with the most backward of them that refused to marry off their women folk to Al Qaeda warlords. That kind of culture doesn’t inspire much confidence for maintaining modern political order over the long term.

    10. Mike K Says:

      “Arabs tribes are the most inbred people on earth.”

      Pakistani immigrants to Britain are a close second, if that. British NHS services are seeing a lot of inherited diseases in the children of those first cousin matings.

    11. Mrs. Davis Says:

      The Amish.

    12. Mike K Says:

      More on Codevilla’s view of our policies.

      It isn’t just that the emperor has no clothes: the empire has no tailors. In the decade since President George W. Bush’s 2003 “Mission Accomplished” speech, America has gone from hyperpower to hyperventilater. The Obama administration and Republican leadership quibble about the modalities of an illusory two-state solution in Israel, or the best means to make democracy bloom in the Middle East’s deserts, or how vehemently to denounce Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, everything that could go wrong, has. Europe’s frontiers are in play for the first time since the fall of Communism; Russia and China have a new rapprochement; American enemies like Iran have a free hand while traditional American allies in the Sunni world feel betrayed; and China has all but neutralized American sea power within hundreds of miles of its coast.

      America’s credibility around the world is weaker than at any time since the Carter administration. American policy evokes contempt overseas,

      The review is by Spengler, so we have both opinions represented.

    13. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      From Spengler’s review of To Make and Keep Peace: Among Ourselves and with All Nations as it appears in the Federalist:

      Codevilla excoriated America’s nomenklatura in “America’s Ruling Class: How Political Elites Hijacked America” (2010), and the same populist tone pervades “To Make and Keep Peace.” Codevilla’s dudgeon is not directed against elites as such, however; he is a genuine intellectual who disdains frauds. He has every right to urge the peasants to burn Frankenstein’s castle. A self-perpetuating elite insulates its members from the consequences of error.

      See TARP as a prime example. That was possibly the largest theft of money from the working class by the elite class in the history of the world.

      America has lost the ability to bring forth statesmen who pursue what he calls America’s peace, rather than conjure the ideological phantom of universal peace.

      I lay part of the blame for that on the politics of personal destruction introduced by the Left in the 1970’s and taken to a crescendo against Sarah Palin and her family. Otherwise decent people with flaws in their past or vulnerable family members simply have opted out. The personal price for serving our country is now too high.

      I also lay part of the blame on corruption. Almost every part of our society touched by the government has become corrupted, and its goals are to enrich and empower the entrenched elite while providing a modicum of cover for their motives. This includes everything from the public school system to healthcare.

      Codevilla calls for the formation of a different, genuine elite aligned with the outlook of America’s founders: “America needs a new generation of statesmen,” he contends, who “would have to affirm their craft’s forgotten fundamental: that the search for peace begins with neutrality in others’ affairs and that when others trouble our peace we impose it upon them by war—war as terribly decisive as we can make it.”

      This was one of the primary lessons the military took from the loss of the Vietnam War. It’s what made Gulf War I so decisive. Define the strategic goal and realistically calculate the cost in money and lives (‘blood and treasure’) to achieve it. Then either decide either not to fight at all, or fight to win and be totally committed to victory.

    14. Eric Says:

      Michael Kennedy:
      “I agree with Kilcullen about the “Sunni Awakening” and we walked away. I don’t think there is any way to restore trust now.”

      Right. The Sunni leaders of the Sunni/Anbar Awakening who signed on with the secularist Shia-led Allawi bloc in the 2010 election signaled a promising turning point. It wasn’t the finish line – much work laid ahead – and active competitors like Syria and Iran, much like the competing Communist bloc in the prior era, opposed the post-Saddam Iraq project. Seeing post-war Iraq through the next step of the (relatively) liberal reform process critically relied on the US presence continuing in an intermediary and guarantor role as a strong-horse “honest broker” (GEN Odierno).

      Our peace operations only lasted for 8 years, 4 years counting from the COIN “Surge”, less than that in effective terms if we count from the point that President Obama signaled to the Iraqis and Iranians et al his intent to disengage from Iraq. Consider that US forces continue to rotate through the comparatively simple peace operations in Kosovo where the intervention started in 1999.

      Codevilla insists the liberal reform aspiration for Iraq was “impossible” all along. Yet the critical flaw in the narrative being pushed hard by dogmatic realists like Codevilla and Spengler is their analysis relies on ascribing the consequences of Obama’s profoundly illiberal approach as failures of Bush’s policy despite that President Bush’s approach was working at the time he left office. The subsequent failures under Obama have followed from Obama’s fundamental course changes and poor choices – led by the irresponsible exit from Iraq and feckless ‘lead from behind’ approach to the Arab Spring – not from staying the course from Bush.

      When reading Codevilla’s take, I suggest refreshing the foundational context of OIF with my explanation of operative enforcement framework for the Gulf War ceasefire and the determinative fact findings of Iraq’s breach of ceasefire that triggered enforcement with OIF.

      Recall too that in the controlling law-and-policy context, Bush’s decisions regarding post-war Iraq, including with the CPA, were not ad hoc as Codevilla implies; rather, they were consistent with standard post-war/peace-operation practices and the UNSCRs for Iraq that were enforced under US law.

    15. Mike K Says:

      failures of Bush’s policy despite that President Bush’s approach was working at the time he left office.

      The success was still not assured but what followed guaranteed failure.

      Bush botched the appointment of Bremer in my opinion but his attempt to see if an Arab country could rule itself was worth the risk.

      The best source I know on what might have been is Emma Sky’s book, The Great Unraveling. She was a skeptic but was converted by Odierno.

    16. Eric Says:

      Note: I don’t link to my OIF FAQ explanation, which I referred to in my comment at 4:35 pm, and my 10th anniversary of OIF post, which I refer to in this comment, because it appears that linking to my blog is causing the comment to be rejected as spam.

      Michael Hiteshew:
      “This was one of the primary lessons the military took from the loss of the Vietnam War.”

      The Powell Doctrine. It was a significant cause of the problems we encountered with and in Iraq from 1991 onward, not the solution. Drawing from my contemporary (albeit pre-9/11) service, I discussed the detrimental influence of the Powell Doctrine on the Iraq mission in my 10th anniversary thoughts on OIF.

      Michael Hiteshew:
      “It’s what made Gulf War I so decisive.”

      The casus belli of OIF – Iraq’s material breach of the Gulf War ceasefire – was due to that the Gulf War was not decisive. Saddam’s manifested danger to the region and violation of UN terms were not resolved when Iraq was expelled from Kuwait. The Gulf War was only suspended by a ceasefire that was contingent on Iraq complying with strict conditions – UNSCRs 687 and 688 et al – that were designed to resolve Saddam’s danger.

      Yet Saddam interpreted the US stopping short of regime change in 1991 (and then in 1998) in favor of a ceasefire to be a victory over the US and a sign that American enforcement was weak enough so he could defeat the ceasefire with brinkmanship. He took to violating – testing – the ceasefire enforcement from the outset. President HW Bush set US policy that Iraq must fully comply with the ceasefire mandates. Yet handicapped significantly by the Powell Doctrine, the President also responded inadequately to Saddam’s provocative acts of noncompliance. Saddam set his position in the contest accordingly. HW Bush’s contradiction between policy vs practice with Saddam set the road to OIF in concrete for his successors in the White House.

      The HW Bush administration fooled you into believing the Gulf War was “decisive”, when it was anything but. In fact, HW Bush kicked the can on an “intransigent” (Clinton) Saddam who had no intention to comply with the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441), while at the same time, US law and policy mandated that the President make Iraq compliant with the terms of ceasefire.

      Michael Hiteshew:
      “Define the strategic goal and realistically calculate the cost in money and lives (‘blood and treasure’) to achieve it. Then either decide either not to fight at all, or fight to win and be totally committed to victory.”

      A preemptive cost accounting is not a normally expected standard for war and, for that matter, post-war. War and its aftermath don’t work like that. When we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, did FDR program in the spreadsheets for the costs of the war and still-ongoing post-war for WW2? War and post-war are pay as you go.

      Instead, we pin a value on the strategic goal, which was defined in the law and policy for the Iraq intervention and by precedent of American leadership of the free world. As evinced by the COIN “Surge”, under Bush, we were committed to winning the peace after the war with Iraq.

      American leadership of the free world did not break new ground with OIF. 2002-2003 was not 1940-1941. For that matter, modern US history did not zero out and re-set due to one American generation’s pathological phobic reaction to their failure with Vietnam. But Obama changed course from Bush instead of following Eisenhower’s precedent of staying the course from Truman for the normally longer contest to win the peace that follows winning a war.

    17. Mike K Says:

      “The HW Bush administration fooled you into believing the Gulf War was “decisive”,

      This is the basis of Codevilla’s assertion that the Sunni states limited what we could do. He may have a point here although I am not as conspiracy minded as he seems to be.

      “When we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, did FDR program in the spreadsheets for the costs of the war and still-ongoing post-war for WW2? War and post-war are pay as you go.”

      FDR did not have a rival party that was intent on sabotaging his efforts. Certainly the America First movement was holding back until Pearl Harbor but more people died on 9/11 than on December 7, 1941. Roosevelt overreacted with Lindbergh and the Japanese in California but there was little real obstruction.

      The Democrats were a fifth column in Gulf War I and their post 9/11 patriotism lasted until they got the TSA unionized and that was about it. The NY Times was writing “quagmire” stories early in the Afghan campaign. I am still convinced that Bush I’s disastrous tax increase was a price extracted by Rostenkowski for Democrat support in 1991.

      Roosevelt had a united country which lasted until Johnson. I don’t know if Johnson is more to blame or the Baby Boomers.

    18. Eric Says:

      Me:
      “Note: I don’t link to my OIF FAQ explanation, which I referred to in my comment at 4:35 pm, and my 10th anniversary of OIF post, which I refer to in this comment, because it appears that linking to my blog is causing the comment to be rejected as spam.”

      I forgot my blog, Learning Curve, is linked in the blogroll on the right-hand column.

      The OIF FAQ explanation and my 10th anniversary of OIF post are linked in the top post of my blog. In my 10th anniversary of OIF post, to skip ahead to where I discuss the detrimental influence of the Powell Doctrine on the Iraq mission, search for “powell”, which should take you about where the last quarter of the post begins.

    19. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      >>The casus belli of OIF – Iraq’s material breach of the Gulf War ceasefire – was due to that the Gulf War was not decisive.

      I think you’re confusing what YOU think the strategic goals SHOULD have been with what they actually were. They achieved all the strategic goals that were laid out by the coalition. Those goals included driving the Iraqis out of Kuwait but leaving Saddam in power. And they did that, decisively. With very few casualties to boot.

    20. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      >> I am still convinced that Bush I’s disastrous tax increase was a price extracted by Rostenkowski for Democrat support in 1991.

      I’ve never considered that before. Might be true.

    21. Mike K Says:

      “I think you’re confusing what YOU think the strategic goals SHOULD have been with what they actually were.”

      My concern is with Codevilla’s theory that the Saudis and other Sunnis established our goals.

      I think Bush I believed that Saddam could not survive the defeat and expected his overthrow by a more malleable dictator. I did too.

    22. Eric Says:

      Michael Hiteshew:
      “I think you’re confusing what YOU think the strategic goals SHOULD have been with what they actually were. They achieved all the strategic goals that were laid out by the coalition. Those goals included driving the Iraqis out of Kuwait but leaving Saddam in power. And they did that, decisively. With very few casualties to boot.”

      The achievment of a proximate objective in the Gulf War doesn’t negate that the casus belli for OIF was due to the Gulf War was not decisive.

      When a Commander in Chief is compelled to say, “Do I think the answer is now for Saddam Hussein to be kicked out? Absolutely. Because there will not be … normalized relations with the United States — and I think this is true for most coalition partners — until Saddam Hussein is out of there” (HW Bush, 16APR91) less than 2 months after the suspension of a military engagement, that fairly well answers whether the military engagement was decisive.

      I agree “those goals included driving the Iraqis out of Kuwait but leaving Saddam in power.” However, “leaving Saddam in power” was conditional from the outset. When President HW Bush declared on 27FEB91, “all United States and coalition forces will suspend offensive combat operations”, he also determined, “It is up to Iraq whether this suspension on the part of the coalition becomes a permanent cease-fire. … We must meet the challenge of securing the peace.” UNSCR 1441 (2002): “in its resolution 687 (1991) the Council declared that a ceasefire would be based on acceptance by Iraq of the provisions of that resolution, including the obligations on Iraq contained therein”.

      We’re not talking about the 1990-1991 stage of the (suspended) Gulf War in a vacuum, but as a reference for the 2002-2003 resumption of the Gulf War caused by Iraq’s continued breach of the 1991 ceasefire in Saddam’s “final opportunity to comply” (UNSCR 1441).

      Analogy: An excision of a cancerous tumor that relieves pressing symptoms is praiseworthy and buys time, but an initial emergency treatment is not a decisive cure for the cancer. Citing the Gulf War to criticize OIF by contrast is like citing an excision of a cancerous tumor to oppose the subsequent more complicated, costly, painful, etc, treatment for the cancer. In other words, the enforcement of the UNSCR 660-series mandates for Iraq starting with the 1990 sanctions, 1991 Gulf War, then the 1991-2003 ceasefire and 2003-2011 peace operations shared a continuum.

    23. Eric Says:

      Mike K:
      “My concern is with Codevilla’s theory that the Saudis and other Sunnis established our goals.”

      It’s normal for us to cook with other nations in our kitchen in our conduct of foreign affairs since America the leader of the free world is a hegemon, not an empire.

      As such, the pursuit of our national interest beyond our homeland, whether in the Middle East, Asia, Europe – anywhere, even the Americas – normally include the context of regional partnerships in the vein of, “We must meet the challenge of securing the peace. In the future, as before, we will consult with our coalition partners. We’ve already done a good deal of thinking and planning for the postwar period, and Secretary Baker has already begun to consult with our coalition partners on the region’s challenges. There can be, and will be, no solely American answer to all these challenges. But we can assist and support the countries of the region and be a catalyst for peace.” (HW Bush, 27FEB91)

      That’s not to say our relationship with “the Saudis and other Sunnis” has necessarily been normal, but Codevilla’s characterization on its face is not abnormal, either.

    24. Jim Says:

      We’re always trying to figure out “Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?” in the Middle East. It’s a puerile question. One day we decide it’s the Kurds who are the “good guys” then another day we decide that it’s the Shia who are the “good guys”. The simple and correct answer to the question “Whom should we trust in the Middle East?” is “Nobody.”.

    25. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      MH: “Define the strategic goal and realistically calculate the cost in money and lives (‘blood and treasure’) to achieve it. Then either decide either not to fight at all, or fight to win and be totally committed to victory.”

      Eric: A preemptive cost accounting is not a normally expected standard for war and, for that matter, post-war. War and its aftermath don’t work like that. When we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, did FDR program in the spreadsheets for the costs of the war and still-ongoing post-war for WW2? War and post-war are pay as you go.

      Actually, I would argue FDR did do that, although after war was upon us and already declared. A number of committees were established in the War Dept and elsewhere to determine how to defeat the Third Reich and the Empire of Japan, what it would take, how long, at what cost, etc. And FDR and the USA were totally committed to victory from the outset. Unconditional surrender was the goal and they achieved it on both fronts. But at enormous cost in lives (ours and theirs) and money.

    26. Mike K Says:

      The “unconditional surrender” theme was undoubtedly related to the WWI “stab in the back” theme. That myth cost the Germans dearly.

    27. Mike K Says:

      Hugh Hewitt has an interview worth reading with the author of a new book on the rise and origins of ISIS . It is called “Black Flags, the rise of ISIS” and I ordered it after reading the transcript.

      The Syrian Civil War gets underway, and Assad tries, rejects King Abdullah’s advice to try and deal with it, and goes brutal. And into that develops this vacuum which, what, did Baghdadi send al-Nusra in? Or did al-Nusra go in by itself?
      JW: Yeah, so Baghdadi sees an opportunity, and he sends what becomes al-Nusa Front. They want to try to create a branch of this al Qaeda in Iraq movement inside Syria taking advantage of this security vacuum. And so they send in people of Syrian descent, or people who have been Syrian nationals into the country to try to start their own little branch there. But the problem quickly arises that al-Nusra isn’t really, is really more interested in the struggle against Assad, and isn’t as committed to developing a caliphate for Baghdadi and his friends. And so a rift develops fairly early on, but that was the original mission, was to essentially spread this ideology, this methodology into Syria.
      HH: How did Baghdadi get the cred to be the new Zarqawi? Why was he the new caliph?
      JW: It’s interesting how he arose, because he was, you know, as we said before, he was a religious scholar, and because of the way that ISIS structures itself, it has its commanders, its military commanders, operational leaders, but always very high up in the chain of command is the spiritual advisor. And this is the role that Baghdadi ends up taking in 2010 after others in the organization are killed. And through sort of the deaths of successive leaders in the organization, he ends up rising to the top. And what makes him stick, I think, is the fact that he is, does become a very brutal individual who embraces everything that Zarqawi did, and then wants to do even more. So he gives kind of religious cover, and also kind of this symbolic religious leadership to an organization that claims to be religious, but really is about murder and criminality.

      Hewitt had him on for two hours. The transcript is very interesting and I am looking forward to reading the book.

    28. Eric Says:

      Mike K:

      In the same genre, I suggest you take a look at this book, too:
      http://books.simonandschuster.com/ISIS/Michael-Weiss/9781941393574

      I haven’t read it, but this and other reviews are interesting:
      https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/under-the-black-flag/

      According to the review, authors Weiss and Hassan report the terrorist campaign against the Assad regime followed Assad’s logistical support for the terrorist campaign against post-Saddam Iraq, such that the terrorists Assad hosted turned on him when they seized the opportunity of the Syrian civil war.

      Michael Hiteshew,

      I don’t imagine FDR’s fiscal-year accounting process for WW2 was too different than Bush or any other war-time President’s process, although, as you point out, there doesn’t seem to have been a recognizable budget constraint for WW2.

      Check out http://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22926.pdf from CRS. It’s an ‘apples-to-apples’ adjusted-dollar comparison of war costs for all US wars as of 2010. Note: “All estimates are of the costs of military operations only and do not reflect costs of veterans’ benefits, interest on war-related debt, or assistance to allies.”

      In terms of the Powell Doctrine, compared to HW Bush, Clinton, and Bush’s forethought on Iraqi regime change as it grew apparent that Saddam would not comply with the Gulf War ceasefire, as far as I know, FDR didn’t look ahead to the post-war that would follow victory over the governments of Germany and Japan beyond some broad-stroke planning with allies.

      A long-term plan for post-WW2 didn’t crystallize until the Eisenhower administration, which stayed the course from Truman’s ad hoc conduct of post-WW2 despite missteps, especially with Korea, that dwarfed the setbacks on our learning curve with post-war Iraq. Lesson learned, OIF progressed better on that score except Obama decided to break the paradigm of modern American leadership of the free world.

    29. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      Eric, interesting. WWII come in at $4.1 trillion, four times the aggregate cost of post 9/11 war spending. I’d like to casualties charted as well.

    30. Grurray Says:

      Try it on this website: http://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/

      There is more than one way to compare prices over time. $4 trillion is the low estimate using CPI. In terms of other measures it goes up to as much as $14.7 trillion.

    31. Mike K Says:

      “FDR didn’t look ahead to the post-war that would follow victory over the governments of Germany and Japan beyond some broad-stroke planning with allies.”

      Churchill did and the occupation zones were planned by Churchill about 1943.

      At the Tehran Conference in late 1943, the western border of postwar Poland and the division of Germany were among the topics discussed. As a result of the conference, a commission began to work out detailed plans for the occupation and administration of Germany after the war. At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, participants decided that in addition to United States, British, and Soviet occupation zones in Germany, the French were also to have an occupation zone, carved out of the United States and British zones.

      There has been some controversy about this but it was the reason why Eisenhower did not want to try to take Berlin,

    32. Eric Says:

      Michael Hiteshew,

      Yep. Plus, the WW2 cost in the CRS report doesn’t include the manifold, still adding cost of post-WW2, unlike how war and post-war costs are combined for OIF and the War on Terror generally.

    33. Eric Says:

      Grurray,

      That’s cool. I’m bookmarking that site to play around with later.

      An observation I’ve heard about OIF and OEF is that the basic cost of the military operations has been higher than expected. Which is interesting considering that it seems like the military did a lot more in the 20th century interventions than we have in the War on Terror. Does everything just cost a lot more now? Or, as the CRS report and the measuringworth website imply, do the startling figures from the War on Terror make more sense when they’re adjusted for inflation?

    34. Grurray Says:

      “Does everything just cost a lot more now?”

      A lot of people think the defense procurement process is fatally damaged, the armed forces personnel and force structures hopelessly out of date (per Don Vandergriff), the Pentagon is more concerned about protecting it’s army of bureaucrats than it’s army of soldiers, etc.

    35. Whitehall Says:

      As much as I admire and relish Spengler’s work, his take on Iraq always seemed to suffer a major logical fallacy at its heart – his assertion that Arabs in Iraq could NEVER reorder themselves into a pluralistic, stable, and orderly republic. (Eric makes the same point above.)

      In fact, the evidence, preliminary as it was, is to the contrary. It was Obama’s deliberate action that made that stillborn by pulling out all our troops. In the long run, it might have turned out differently without Obama’s error but never say never!

      Codevilla and Spengler both ignore the reason we’re involved, our real national interest, in the Middle East. It is not some ideology or religious quest but the fact that so much oil is produced and transported through the area. That oil fuels our global economy – cut it off and everyone, American and others, suffers.

      Remember the Tanker Wars? We flagged a number of tankers then used the US Navy to protect their transit, shooting up the Iranian navy in the process. If production and export were again disrupted, Putin would be the winner and Japan, Europe, and America the losers (unless you’re an American who owns a few oil wells!)

    36. Whitehall Says:

      Another thing – military procurement.

      Just finished “First to Fight” a history of the US Marine Corps. The author, General Bruly, makes the same complaint and offers concrete examples. The Marines used to design and build or procure their own gear and Bruly claims that made them much better at tailoring their gear to meet their needs, and at least cost.

    37. Jonathan Says:

      I agree with Eric:

      Codevilla insists the liberal reform aspiration for Iraq was “impossible” all along. Yet the critical flaw in the narrative being pushed hard by dogmatic realists like Codevilla and Spengler is their analysis relies on ascribing the consequences of Obama’s profoundly illiberal approach as failures of Bush’s policy despite that President Bush’s approach was working at the time he left office. The subsequent failures under Obama have followed from Obama’s fundamental course changes and poor choices – led by the irresponsible exit from Iraq and feckless ‘lead from behind’ approach to the Arab Spring – not from staying the course from Bush.

      The flaw in Codevilla’s argument is that he takes as a given the premature US withdrawal under Obama. But the withdrawal didn’t have to happen, and it seems likely that much of the disaster that followed it would not have occurred if Obama had not been determined for his own reasons to break with our previous policies. Compared to now, the Middle East was relatively stable in 2008 even though we botched our initial occupation of Iraq and Iraq continued to be a hotbed of sectarian strife. The key determinant of this stability was our will to stay in the region and suppress violence. Once Obama made clear that we no longer had that will the region began to fall apart. How would Germany have looked in 1955 if the non-communist occupying powers had left in 1947?

      Codevilla makes valid points otherwise. Western and especially US leaders in recent decades have repeatedly failed in the Middle East by pursuing policies of appeasement towards the people we should have been punishing or ignoring. He is also correct in arguing that we have needlessly complicated and weakened our policies by trying to get other countries and groups to implement them for us, making us hostage to agendas not our own, rather than first using our own forces to pursue our interests and encouraging alliances of convenience when they benefit us.

    38. Mike K Says:

      The consequences of Obama’s precipitous withdrawal from Iraq resemble the consequences in Vietnam of the 1975 Democrat Congress rejection of the agreement on aid to South Vietnam that was an intrinsic part of the Paris Accords.

      That was less dangerous for us as the North Vietnamese had no intention of following us here for revenge. Obama’s action will be much more dangerous for us. The Democrats in 1975 punished only our allies among the South Vietnamese.

    39. Eric Says:

      Mike K:
      “That was less dangerous for us as the North Vietnamese had no intention of following us here for revenge.”

      That and, as Whitehall points out, the national interest from the intrinsic value of the region, which also informs our various competitors’ interest in the region.

      Related, I saw some of your facebook comments at Powerline where you provided the link to the May 2015 CB post with your broader strategic, historic explanation of OIF.

      When the demonstrably false narrative of OIF rears up as it did in the Powerline thread, I suggest also citing to my OIF FAQ explanation that, according to the controlling law and policy that defined the operative enforcement procedure for the Gulf War ceasefire and the determinative fact findings that confirmed Iraq’s material breach of the ceasefire, the decision for OIF was correct on the law and the facts. The off-set perspectives of our explanations complement.

    40. Eric Says:

      Jonathan:
      “How would Germany have looked in 1955 if the non-communist occupying powers had left in 1947?”

      No 1948-1949 Berlin airlift to begin with. Heck, how would Germany have looked in 1955 if we had left in 1953 because Ike reacted to the Korean War by pulling back everywhere that risked another confrontation with the Communists while, like Obama, signaling to the world a post-FDR/Truman cap on American intervention?

      Instead, Ike reacted by staying the course and setting a strong-horse posture wherever the Communists threatened, including the ROK. Obama chose to take a different tack than Eisenhower.