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  • Who Attacked Us?

    Posted by Shannon Love on September 12th, 2007 (All posts by )

    I find it revealing how we project our own prejudices on others, assuming that they think the way we do. From the Washington Post:

    They attacked us,” he says as the screen turns to an image of the second hijacked airplane heading toward the smoking World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. “And they will again. They won’t stop in Iraq.”

    Every investigation has shown that Iraq did not, in fact, have anything to do with the Sept. 11 attacks.

    Of course, the WP assumes that the solider used Iraqis as the unstated antecedent of “they” when, in context, a soldier fighting in Anbar almost certainly intended Al-Qaeda as the antecedent.

    Every military source actually in Iraq refers constantly to AIQ or Al-Qaeda in Iraq as the principle opponent in the Anbar region. How likely is it that a soldier, whose very life depends on understanding the enemy, made the mistake that the WP attributes to him?

    The WP spends the rest of the article trying without success to make it appear that Republicans contend that someone in Iraq contributed to 9/11. This is clearly an editorial masquerading as a news story. I see this argument quite a bit and I think it’s some kind of straw man, fabricated to make those who support the liberation of Iraq look especially foolish. Liberation advocates cannot argue against it because they never said it in the first place.

     

    40 Responses to “Who Attacked Us?”

    1. Negritude Says:

      Al Qaeda simply means “The Base.” It has become a brand name for terrorists, with many groups adopting it even though they have no formal organizational links to bin Laden’s group. Al Qaeda in Iraq isn’t formally linked to the organization that attacked on 9/11, so the Wapo was correct to point that out.

      Meanwhile, a CBS/Bloomberg poll this month showed 40 percent of Republicans believe Saddam was personally involve in 9/11:

      “Do you think Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the Sept
      ember 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center an
      d the Pentagon?”
      % Yes No Unsure

      Republicans 40 51 9

      Democrats 27 63 10

      Independents 32 60 8

      http://www.pollingreport.com/iraq.htm

    2. Shannon Love Says:

      Negratude,

      It has become a brand name for terrorists, with many groups adopting it even though they have no formal organizational links to bin Laden’s group.

      That is incorrect. The military uses a rather strict definitions of Al-Qaeda, Al-Qaeda affiliate and unaffiliated Islamist and non-Islamist. To be considered formally a member of bin Laden’s group an individual must be oath-sworn to bin Laden or one of his senior lieutenants. Affiliates are not oath sworn but trade money and technical information. Unaffiliated Islamist have no significant contacts with anyone oath-sworn to bin Laden and act wholly independently.

      Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is led by individuals who claim to be oath-sworn to bin Laden, who communicate with other oath-sworn Al-Qaeda members and who receive money, personnel and technical support from oath-sworn Al-Qaeda sources. They are for all intents and purposes part of the same organization that carried out 9/11.

      I suppose that lay people and the media might use Al-Qaeda as a generic term for terrorism but that is an incorrect usage and I don’t understand why Bush or any other government official should be blamed for that.

    3. LotharBot Says:

      It should be noted, Republicans are only marginally worse than Democrats in the poll the first poster brought up — thinking Saddam was involved in 9/11 somehow. It’s not as though it’s 40% R and 3% D; it’s 40-27. Both parties have their fair share of people who think Saddam was involved. When you account for the number of D’s who think it was the Jews or an inside job, the total number of people who are wrong about who was involved in 9/11 may very well be higher on the D side than the R side.

      Who is to blame for the “Saddam was involved” misconception? I blame reporters and bloggers like the one Shannon brought up. I blame those who insist that, because Bush mentioned Iraq and AQ in the same sentence or the same speech, he must be saying Saddam was involved in 9/11… those who insist that, when this soldier mentions being attacked and draws a connection to a group operating in Iraq, he must be blaming Saddam for all Islamic terrorism ever… those who misquote Bush, Condi, and others in order to try to make their ideological opponents look foolish. I listened to Bush, Condi, and others when they made the case for invading Iraq, and it was obvious that the connection they drew between Saddam/Iraq and Bin Laden/AQ/9-11 was ideological rather than direct causal. But we have far too many pundits who want to make the R side look silly, so they draw the connection through misquotes and misinterpretation.

    4. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Statement of Laurie Mylroie to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, July 9, 2003, “State Sponsorship: Who are the Terrorist Masterminds?:

      * * *

      The key point I want to stress is the identity of the terrorist masterminds, individuals like Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Their identities rest on documents in Kuwait that predate Kuwait’s liberation in 1991, and those documents are unreliable, because of the Iraqi occupation.

      * * *

      Indeed, Jim Hoagland has suggested the same. Hoagland asked, “How did al Qaeda, within two or three years, go from obscurity to becoming super-terrorists capable of blowing up U.S. embassies, warships, and skyscrapers with astonishing precision?” He raised the question asked here: how did a group of Baluch who grew up in Kuwait acquire such remarkable skills as terrorist masterminds, and why would they devote their lives to killing Americans? He then hinted at an answer. “Could al Qaeda have been the target of a takeover operation by an intelligence service with good legend-manufacturing skills and a great, burning desire for revenge on the United States?”

      That is what happened, I think. After al Qaeda moved to Afghanistan, Iraqi intelligence became deeply involved with it, probably, with the full agreement of Usama bin Ladin. Al Qaeda provided the ideology, foot soldiers, and a cover for the terrorist attacks; Iraqi intelligence provided the direction, training, and expertise in the form of figures like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

      Both sides benefited: bin Ladin was able to carry out major attacks for which al Qaeda had previously lacked the skill and training; Iraq escaped detection and punishment, because every attack was blamed on al Qaeda alone.

      * * *

      On the contrary, the major terrorist strikes against the U.S. that were attributed to “loose networks” of Islamic militants, including al Qaeda, are much better explained as Iraq, working with and hiding behind the militants. In short, the 1991 Gulf War did not end with the cease-fire declared back then.

      The failure to pursue the question of the identities of the terrorist masterminds is a major lapse in the investigation. Most likely, if that issue were pursued it would provide a definitive tie between Iraqi intelligence and the 9/11 strikes, as well as other major attacks.

      It is unlikely that these Baluch masterminds are a family; it is far more likely that they are Iraqi “illegals,” given “legends” on the basis of Kuwaiti documents, while Iraq occupied Kuwait.

      The principle reason this issue has not been pursued is strong bureaucratic obstructionism in the US and UK, by individuals who cannot (or will not) recognize they have made a major mistake. …

      Also: “All in the Family?” by Laurie Mylroie in the New York Sun on June 26, 2004

      The 9-11 Mysteries by Edward Jay Epstein:

      3. The Mastermind Mystery

      Although it concluded that he was the “principal planner” of the 9-11 attack, the [9-11] Commission did not interview Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). KSM had begun his anti-US activities prior to his involvement with bin-Laden in 1996. In 1992, he helped fund the first attack on the 1993 World Trade Center. In 1994, he organized the aborted Bojinko plot to blow up US airliners. In organizing anti-US attacks, KSM was assisted by 6 relatives — Ramzi Yousef, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Abdul Karim, Abdul Monem, Dawood al-Badani, and Abdul Qadir Mahmoud — in at least 5 countries, including Iraq-occupied Kuwait, over 7 years.

      Where did KSM, and his crime family get financial support for these extensive operations? Prior to his association with al-Qaeda in 1996, did KSM have any state sponsorship? If so, did this state sponsorship end after his association with al-Qaeda?

      The KSM crime family also had the type of logistical support that usually requires state assistance, including at least 70 aliases, supported by fraudulent passports. Who provided KSM and his associates with these legends?

      4. The CIA Mystery

      KSM and at least of 5 of of his crime family are in US custody. Why did the CIA not permit the 9-11 Commission or any members of its staff access to either KSM, the 9-11 mastermind, or any member of his KSM crime family?

      5. The First World Trade Center Mystery

      Abdul Rahman Yasin, an indicted conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was given sanctuary by Saddam Hussein. He is not mentioned in the 9-11 Report, although he was associated with KSM member Ramzi Yousef.

      Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, an Iraqi arrested in Doha on 9-17-2001, had documents in his possession linking him to the 1993 World Trade Center attack, KSM’s 1994 Bojinko plot, and KSM’s brother Zahid. He also had assisted two 9-11 hijackers — Khalid al Midhar and Nawaz al Hamzi — when they arrived in Malaysia for a planning session in January 2000. Like Yasin, Shakir was given sanctuary by Saddam Hussein in Iraq (after his release in 2001).

      Why did Iraq provide this safe havens to Yasin and Shakir?

    5. Robert Schwartz Says:

      I posted the above to demonstrate that there are unaffiliated investigators who doubt the official story that there was no link between 9-11 and Iraq.

      We read The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright. I wanted to know how Al-Qaeda which had been a gang of poseurs and clowns became so competent so quickly.

      I think we are a very long way from knowing what really happened. But in many ways it is irrelevant. Al-Qaeda is out there and it is malevolent. We must crush it so that we can stabilize Iraq. We must stabilize Iraq, because we cannot afford to give Iran the chance to move in and use Iraq’s resources to dominate the region and establish a choke-hold over the world’s economy.

    6. Shannon Love Says:

      Robert Schwartz,

      While one could construct a plausible scenario in which Al-Queada is merely a front for Iraq, it remains, at least in the realm of public policy, mere conjecture. If that was indeed the case, then I think it safe to say that at this point, we will never know for certain.

      Regardless of the true nature of the Saddam/Al-Quaeda relationship, the very public fact remains that the Bush administration and its mainstream supporters did not base their case for the liberation of Iraq on such a relationship. The case for liberation rested solely on the Bush doctrines central idea of preempting terrorist threats before they matured by, in main part, transforming the outlaw states which nurtured them.

      Critics of the Bush doctrine do not seem to realize that under its tenets, we would have liberated Iraq even if we had gotten lucky in Afghanistan and wiped out Al-Quaeda’s leadership with one golden missile.

    7. John Jay Says:

      Prior ot 9/11 was there some relationship between AQ and Iraq’s Intelligence units? You bet – the evidence is all over the Net. Was there direct involvement of Iraqui intelligence in 9/11? Hard to say, but other than minor help, it’s unlikely. When we closed out Afghanistan to AQ, would Saddam have welcomed them with open arms? Undoubtedly.

      Semantic diddling over whether Iraq was involved in 9/11 ignores the fact that Iraq was AQ’s fall back position after Afghanistan, and that Iraqi intelligence officers met with and aided AQ over the years leading to 9/11 on various projects and in various ways.

      My blog-buddy CW has a side-bar with a list of his links to AQ – Iraq interactions.

    8. John Jay Says:

      Sorry, messed up the link: CW.

    9. david still Says:

      I fail to understand why some comments insist on assigning a direct and important link to Iraq in and directly after the 9/11 attack. This is wishful thinking and has no facts to support such an assertion. And the media? Recall, please, that it was Bush who claimed the connection between OBL’s group and Saddam after it was clear that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. And yes, there are any number of crazies who now think of themselves, or label themselves, or get called members of Al Qaeda, and though it may be difficult to sort out the real ones from the others, if there is one thing the real have in common it is that somewhere along the line they make a tri[p to Pakistan for training.

    10. Pseudo-Polymath » Blog Archive » Morning Highlights Says:

      […] On projection of bias at Chicago Boyz. […]

    11. Anonymous Says:

      “Recall, please, that it was Bush who claimed the connection between OBL’s group and Saddam after it was clear that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction”

      Of course ignoring over 500 chemical weapons which were suppose to have been turned over at the conclusion of the first Gulf War. Not that they were anymore a danger than what homegrown non-military weapons could do as demonstrated in Tokyo. /sarcasm off

      http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/pubfiles/iraqwmd.pdf

      Or the long intertwining stings of multi-faced terrorist groups operated with, though, and allied with Saddam.

      http://www.husseinandterror.com/

      or ignoring at the Authorization to Use Military Force is readily available to see the real justifications as presented and acted upon by Congress.

      http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=107_cong_public_laws&docid=f:publ243.107

      “Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;”

      What part of that is not true?
      Let’s go back to the Hague Convention of 1907; “a neutral country has the obligation not to allow its territory to be used by a belligerent. If the neutral country is unwilling or unable to prevent this, other belligerent has the right to take appropriate action.”

    12. Don Says:

      Fingers move too fast. [Anony]Moose should be me.

    13. Shannon Love Says:

      David Still,

      And the media? Recall, please, that it was Bush who claimed the connection between OBL’s group and Saddam after it was clear that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction

      Bush never implied that OBL and Saddam closely cooperated to any significant degree prior to 9/11. Bin Laden did begin major Al-Quaeda operations in Iraq after the liberation but I think that largely unrelated to pre-9/11 activity.

      I am really coming around to the view that major problem with people understanding the Iraq war is that people cannot grasp the core idea of the Bush doctrine i.e. pre-emption of terrorist attacks and the transformation of the states that foster terrorism. They try to interpret the Bush administration’s actions through every possible lens except though the one created by the doctrine.

      Sometimes I wonder if big ideas frighten or disorient people. Take for example the concept of containment during the Cold War. A lot of people criticized this or that American foreign policy decision without ever placing it in the greater context of the Cold War and the idea of containment. Its as if they could not get their heads around the idea of world wide, low intensity conflict with the ideology of communism that spanned decades. Instead, they zeroed in on relatively trivial matters specific to each particular sub-conflict of the era.

    14. david still Says:

      Pre-emption? why not then invade China, Iran, N. Korea and any country we our our president decides needs prevemptive strike? And then doesn’t that give a nation the right tyo strike us too?

    15. david foster Says:

      “And then doesn’t that give a nation the right to strike us too?”…this would assume that all nations have equal rights to exist, regardless of their behavior.

      For example, it’s pretty clear that France and Britain could have put an end to the Nazi regime in Germany, anytime prior to 1937 or so, by using their then-superior military forces. Would you argue that their right to do so was no greater than Germany’s right to attack them, given that they were all sovereign nations?

    16. Larry Goldwater Says:

      The naivete required to buy into the idea of pre-emption as a viable policy is stunning.
      Such a policy entails numerous fatal flaws, only some of which are now playing out in Iraq.

      1. Reciprocity. No policy that lacks reciprocity is sustainable. Claiming the right to strike unprovoked against potential aggressors in itself makes a country a potential aggressor, inviting reciprocal pre-emptive attack.

      2. The American system of checks and balances includes giving Congress the exclusive right to declare war. This means that a majority of 400 Americans have to agree that this or that country is a potential aggressor worthy of attack. As David Still points out, the world is full of potential aggressor. Under a democratic system, it’s extremely unlikely that targets for pre-emptive strike can be indentified and executed without subverting the democratic process.

      3. The moral limits of state violence. Self defense is the only legitimate use of state violence. The only rational means of clearly identifying offense is to present evidence that it has occurred. Potential offense is far too subjective.

      Some here point out that it would have been great if France pre-emptively destroyed the Nazis. That’s a rather small-minded hypothetical. If we are thinking of ways World War II could have been prevented, surely we want to think of ways the Nazis could have been prevented from subverting the Weimar republic, dont’ we?

    17. david foster Says:

      Larry G…the people who have the power of decision at one point in history are generally not the same people who had the power of decision at an earlier point in history. Yes, it would probably have been a good idea if the Versailles Treaty had been crafted more wisely, thereby increasing the probability of survival of German democracy. But after 1933, this was pretty irrelevant. And the French and British leaders of the late 1930s did not have access to time machines that would allow them to travel back to the immediate post-WWI-era and assume the personas of Clemenceau and Lloyd George. They had to deal with the situation as it existed and, disastrously for the world, they chose against military intervention.

    18. Ginny Says:

      I suspect pre-emption much like arresting people for what they might do is the motive (sometimes a pretty thin one covering a rather large imperialism) for bad policy because it can so easily be subverted by unattractive human tendencies.

      Nonetheless, Iraq was in a category of its own because they had agreed to certain conditions after the Gulf War. (Prompted, of course, by their invasion of another sovereign nation.) Because they were not living up to those conditions, we had taken on the responsibility of a constant pattern of flyovers for a decade; the sanctions were falling apart (as we later saw, because of the greed of not just Saddam Hussein but many leaders in Western Europe and in the UN). America was going to have to decide what they were going to do. The current state was not going to last – and some might well have thought it shouldn’t. (If for no other reason than they might have believed Saddam’s propaganda about the quantity of dead babies.) Americans felt varying levels of responsibility – for the democide under Saddam, for the rights of the Kurds, for the devastation Sadddam claimed came from the sanctions. We also saw the geographic necessity of encouraging a more liberal culture in Iran that did not see destroying Israel as an inevitable good.

    19. david still Says:

      Robert S.–nonsense. Political scientist friends told me the day of the invasion that we were removing the only counterveiling force to Iran , ie, Saddam, and that would end by putting Iran in control of the region. It is coming to pass. In fact you are justifying a failed policy, and, if Iraq so bad–I do not for a moment believe it was good–then why not N. Korea, with its nukes, or Iran etc etc?

      The invasion was a bad move as we now see and what that nation seems to need is some damned dictator to keep the various factions together. Now, total chaos. And it is likely to stay that way for years to come.

      Iraq a category of its own? no. Others too. Our flyovers encircled and contained them and they were still able to send ships with oil along Iran’s coast with no penalty so our fly overs, to contain and punish them, was to no avail And our pre-empt? well, you have a nice job and no son to send over to be blown up because he has inadequate armor and is forced to return for tour after tour–a reminder of Catch-22. But nice to sit back and use keyboard to defend the mess. In fact, two million people have fled that nation that we were to democratize. Why? In fact all services much worse years after the invasion than before. But we preempted and made America safe, right? Cheer on Bush, this evening, when again he implies he will keep the same leave ([pre-surge) of troops there till he is out of office and then, apres mois etc Then, when the mess remains, the GOP will again say, see we cut and run and had Bush remained in office things would not be this bad.

    20. david still Says:

      We would not go aong with UN and invaded Iraq. We set Saddam up and armed him to fight Iran…then blowback. We messed up Afghanistan through diversion move into Iraq. Why Iraq? In Gulf One, Iraq invaded Kuwait. We knew that this would take over oil and thus drive up oil prices because our pals in Saudi controlled via OPEc prices. So we convinced Saudis to let us open base there. We fooled them (Cheny) into thinking Iraq planned to invade them. Then, war over, Saudis kicked us out but too late for OBL to get crazy about non-Muslims on holy territory. I am not justifying OBL, but the secondwar had no basis in reality and that premptive thing is an imperialistic idea that we can do what we want but no one else should. And then we messed up Afghanistan–we were right to hit them because they housed Taliban and let Al Aaeda use camps for training. But the mess we left b ecause we snt most of our forces to Iraq, where we are now mired down and at the same time Taliban coming back to Afghanistan and, in passing, opium crops the biggest they have ever been–thus our war on drugs.

      Now if you believe in iraq war, then go there. Me? I have served in our military more than once and in war zone so I prefer not to go.

    21. Shannon Love Says:

      David Still,

      The question of whether a preemptive (or technically a preventative war) is a good idea or not in any particular circumstance isn’t really the question here. The question is why so many people do not understand that the idea of a preventative war is the justification for the war in Iraq.

      How often do you read in some article or thread a statement that we shouldn’t have attack Saddam because he had nothing to do with 9/11? Whether history judges the outcome of the war favorably or not, at least those who supported the war should be judged on their actual beliefs and statements and not some fantasy construct. For example, why should the Bush administration have to answer for attacking Iraq in mistaken retaliation for 9/11 when they never argued we should do so?

      Perhaps more importantly, shouldn’t our political dialog be based on debating the policy suggestions that people actually make?

    22. david still Says:

      to the comment above. of couse. But it changed from one thing to another over a period of time to justify the invasion. And somewhere long the line, supporters made the case for Al Qeda being in cahoots with Saddam, a claim to this day still maintained by Dick Cheney

    23. Shannon Love Says:

      David Still,

      … But it changed from one thing to another over a period of time to justify the invasion.

      Did it? Or did the emphasis that the political debate placed on this or that rational change. Remember, most of the time we hear Presidents and other politicians responding to questions other people ask them. When they give speeches, the media reports only those segments that the media thinks important at any given time.

      The Bush administration and others provided multiple justifications for the liberation from the get-go. At different times, the debate as centered on one particular justification more than any others. This might create the illusion that the justifications keep changing when in fact it is the social process of political debate that keeps shifting.

      The Bush doctrine laid out two rather simple goals/justifications for the liberation:

      (1) Eliminate the threat that Saddam would deploy chemical, biological weapons or (eventually) nuclear weapons via terrorist networks.

      (2) Transform Iraq into a liberal-democracy and thereby trigger widespread reform in the Arabic/Islamic world thereby eliminating the political, social and economic incubators of terrorism in that part of the world.

      These ideas are clearly laid out in his pre-liberation speeches such as the 2003 State of the Union address. At different times, the public debate has shifted from one to the other but that doesn’t mean they are making up new rationalizations as they go along.

      One can argue that Saddam did not present a WMD threat or that we can never hope to transform the societies that churn out terrorist but I don’t think you can argue that Bush et al did not a clearly stated idea of what they intended the liberation to accomplish.

    24. Ginny Says:

      And as early as his June 2002 speech aimed at the Palestinians.

    25. Larry Goldwater Says:

      “These ideas are clearly laid out in his pre-liberation speeches such as the 2003 State of the Union address.

      The 2003 State of the Union address focused almost exclusively on the WMD and terrorism threat from Iraq. The need for democracy in Iraq was confined to less than 10 percent of the speech and simple wasn’t featured as a main idea, either in the introduction or conclusion.

      To suggest that in that speech, Bush made some kind of nuanced, complex case for going to war is preposterous. The theme of the speech is clear: We know Saddam has WMD. Saddam is a very, very bad guy. Saddam may use the WMD against us or our allies. We must prevent that and in doing so, we will help the Iraqis themselves by banishing a tyrant.

      Bringing democracy to Iraq is clearly relegated to the status of an afterthought in that speech.

    26. david still Says:

      if this establishment (conservative ) figure says this

      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article2461214.ece

      then what is it really all about?

    27. Jonathan Says:

      then what is it really all about?

      Selling books, I guess.

      I don’t know what Greenspan said, only what has been reported by anti-Bush journalists who probably got their impressions of his book from a press release. But even if he really did say that the war was nothing more than an attempt to secure oil, does this explanation make sense? Please explain. Your argument from authority explains nothing.

    28. Ginny Says:

      The devil’s excrement may be necessary to our daily lives but as importantly it multiplies power. Would Saddam have chosen the path he did in the nineties without it? There are, however, simpler ways for a country with our resources to get oil.

    29. Tyouth Says:

      David Still said: “the speech is clear: We know Saddam has WMD. Saddam is a very, very bad guy. Saddam may use the WMD against us or our allies…”

      No, he didn’t say that David. He said that there was a good chance that WMD were there and, even not knowing for certain, the chance that they were there could not be ignored.

      Don’t forget that, while this may have been a primary selling point to the American population, it was likely seen by the admin. as a secondary motivation for action.

    30. Eric Chen Says:

      See “Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq”:
      http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/10/20021002-2.html

      You know, Bush pretty much plagiarized his case against Iraq from President Clinton’s case against Iraq … you can almost say the current President *inherited* it.

      Here’s my layperson’s primer on the why of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It’s 3 years old by now and not all the links work anymore, but it still does some good cutting throw the crap, I think: http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2004/10/perspective-on-operation-iraqi-freedom.html

      As much as our partisans do it, simplifying the justification for Operation Iraqi Freedom is a hard exercise given that there were a number of reasons that placed Iraq in its own category in our foreign policy deliberation. Just in terms of al Qaeda, recall that bin Laden et al’s conversion from their anti-Soviet mission in Afghanistan to their global anti-American mission crystallized around the Gulf War in the heartland of Islam and the US/UN’s continued region-spanning Iraq mission thereafter. In a real way, without resolving the the previous Iraq mission, we could not resolve the al Qaeda phenomenon.

      After 9/11, it became more urgent that our disarm-immediately-turned-indefinite-containment/mass-punitive mission in Iraq was both provocative and had no foreseeable resolution. After all, it was up to Saddam – not us – to fulfill the variety of conditions, WMD related and otherwise, we demanded in order to lift our mission. The Catch-22 was that, for Saddam, complying would have been political, and probably real-life, suicide. That’s where we were stuck for 12 years with Iraq and counting. Other than continuing a bad status quo until who knows when, the alternate choices for resolution in Iraq boiled down to OIF (the liberal option) or unilaterally ending the US/UN disarm-immediately-turned-indefinite-containment/mass-punitive mission and restoring full Iran-balancing sovereignty to Saddam (the realist option).

      These were all bad choices. From what I gather, realists of the poli sci kind would rather we have buddied up with Saddam again rather than go the liberal route with OIF. Or else they believe our disarm-immediately-turned-indefinite-containment/mass-punitive mission had no toxic side effects related to GWOT and should have been maintained status quo.

      During my 97-01 Army service, as we tracked the Iraq situation, it was pretty much consensus that our returning to Iraq was a matter of “when” and “how”, not “if” … and it was going to be a hard, ugly affair when we went back.

      What difference would it have made in Iraq and in our political discourse had our post-war stabilization and nation-building been as well-executed as our major combat operations?

      Unfortunately, we just didn’t have that institutional capability. In my time, I served mostly in Korea, and at the time, USFK constituted supposedly our most forward deployed units that were prepared to go to war as-is at any moment with nK. Therefore, *nothing* that has gone wrong in Iraq surprises me. Everything that has gone wrong is what I predicted as a young Intel Analyst would go wrong in Korea if we went to war with nK. Even as a lower enlisted GI, it was obvious to me we could win the war (though I would die, most likely), but we had little-to-no planning nor institutional system for ops beyond Phase 3. Worse, the military was culturally opposed to prepare for operations other than war beyond the most cursory level required to manage a hand-off to the hypothetical next guy, whoever that might be. That’s an older and deeper systemic issue than the current President; problems with our Army revealed in Iraq were not caused by him. If the Bush admin can be faulted regarding the state of the military, it should be as a war-time Commander in Chief not micro-managing enough in terms of systemic reform, and not acting quickly and aggressively enough to push deep – even radical – changes of the military as our post-major combat weaknesses, hidden by peace-time, have been (skillfully) exposed by real-world enemies in real-world situations. The same can be said of our diplomatic failings – the negative international reaction to President Clinton’s Op Desert Fox in 1998 is eerily similar to negative international reaction to OIF.

      In other words, President Bush was dealt a losing hand. He inherited our problems with Iraq and the region in general, a military designed for major combat and little else, and an international community already unwilling to resolve the Iraq dilemma. Meanwhile, 9/11 forced Bush – all of us – to reevaluate the US relation with the entire region, starting with our mission in Iraq. I won’t blame President Clinton (my CinC, when I served), either. Clinton inherited the disarmament, then containment/mass-punishment Iraq mission, too. Blame Bush the elder? Coming out as the victors of the Cold War and leaders of the Free World in 1990, what choice did President Bush the elder have other than intervene in Iraq-Kuwait? Maybe if the international community had been better able to protect the Shah in Iran (Carter) or intervene in the early 1980s (Reagan) to stop the Iran-Iraq war before it escalated …

      Be that as it may, it’s amazing to look back now and recognize that so much of our fate after Desert Storm depended on compliant behavior from Saddam Hussein. When we didn’t get that from him, no surprise, the course to 9/11 and where we are today was pretty much charted.

      9/11, by itself, didn’t radically change our relationship with Iraq. 9/11 just forced us to confront what we had done our best to avoid – the negative development of our relationship with the region during the decade we managed the US/UN mission in Iraq.

      It’s easy to forget now that the original post-Desert Storm disarmament mission wasn’t about regime change or even containment. It had the defined and finite goal of de-fanging Saddam Hussein enough so we could leave and he could remain in power to ‘stabilize’ Iraq and balance Iran without again threatening regional stability. But the disarmament regimen, as we all know, collapsed. By 1998, US policy for Iraq was re-set at “Iraq liberation”. President Clinton, in announcing Op Desert Fox, effectively made the crossover from disarmament to indefinite containment/mass-punishment when he stated “Iraq has abused its final chance”. Whereas the original intent had been for Saddam to bail himself out of trouble, which would have been the best outcome for everyone, over the years, the US/UN mission had evolved to the point that it was practically impossible for Saddam to submit to the terms of the international community and retain power, even assuming he was willing and able to do so. His best chance to meet the conditions of his ‘probation’ was in the early 1990s, but even before the US and UN piled on the conditions, it’s debatable whether Saddam compliance was a realistic prospect after the 1991 Shia uprising. We were demanding of Saddam that he weaken himself at the same time he needed all the strength he could muster to stay in power. If there was any room to resolve the situation with Saddam in power, it was certainly gone by 1998. Saddam was stuck indefinitely with a bad status quo and he made the best of the situation, the best way he knew how. Unfortunately, we were indefinitely stuck, too, until President Bush changed course with Operation Iraqi Freedom.

      After Op Desert Fox, we only had 3 choices – all bad – concerning Iraq:

      Choice A: Continue the status quo containment/mass-punishment mission indefinitely.

      Choice A, the pre-OIF status quo, incorporates the unwillingness both to set Saddam free and to immerse ourselves in the violent and age-old conflicts of the region. However, what was the end-state of the pre-OIF mission in Iraq? By 2002, certainly not disarmament any longer. That ship had sailed. If the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act can be accepted at face value, the end-state was to weaken the Baathist regime to the degree that civil war could take place, which implies sectarian violence, Iranian intervention, Kurdish separation, Sunni extremist intervention, secondary effects of Iraq collapse … basically, all the Doomsday stuff we apply to the current situation in Iraq, except without our (attempt at) management of the post-Saddam Iraq and any secondary regional effects.

      Note, when the Shia did revolt in 1991, after we encouraged them, the US declined to support the revolt out of fear of the consequences of an Iraq collapse. To that end, Muqtada al-Sadr’s father was one of the revolutionaries who was killed for believing in broken American promises. Keep that in mind when we consider breaking more American promises and the cost of betrayal.

      What was the long-term forecast for Choice A? The best outcome, assuming we could sustain the containment/mass-punishment mission in perpetuity, was that the “Iraq liberation” end-state would never be reached. Saddam and the US/UN would have found a comfort zone – an unoffical agreement – whereby he stayed in control of Iraq, while not threatening his neighbors, and the US/UN containment/mass-punishment mission could have continued, well, forever. In that outcome, we accept in perpetuity all the costs, harm, secondary effects (eg, provoking global political Islamist movements), and risks that came with the status quo US/UN Iraq mission.

      Choice B: Unilaterally end the containment/mass-punishment mission and (possibly) seek to make Saddam a ‘secular’ security partner in the region.

      With Choice B, in a post-9/11 evaluation, we would have recognized that the costs of the containment/mass-punishment regimen outweighed the benefits, and opted for diplomacy to negotiate with Saddam so we could end our pre-OIF mission in Iraq. Choice B is what a lot of folks *rhetorically* prefer now, especially poli sci realists, but was it ever a realistic choice, considering where we were? Or even a wise choice, considering who we’re talking about and the implications and consequences of this choice?

      Choice C: Give Saddam a hard deadline to comply with the US/UN conditions, and if he failed to do so, move ahead with regime change (ie, Operation Iraqi Freedom).

      Like Choice B, Choice C recognizes that post 9/11, the costs of the containment/mass-punishment regimen outweighed the benefits, but unlike Choice B, Choice C is not willing to forgive/forget the preceding decade of Saddam’s failure to comply nor unilaterally grant American sanction to a re-empowered, victorious Saddam. As well, Choice C, in theory, holds forth that the international community can mitigate the end-state consequences of Choice A by managing an Iraq post-Saddam transition, as opposed to the uncontrolled Iraq collapse implied by the Clinton-era Iraq Liberation Act.

      ** Choice D, made possible only with OIF: End the containment/mass-punishment regimen, remove the Saddam threat, and rather than pay the costs of managing Iraq transition, heap all responsibility onto a political scapegoat (eg, President Bush) for any consequences from abandoning Iraq.

      No matter what choice – A, B, or C – we made, it was going to be a hard, costly choice, but they were the only choices we had after Saddam failed to comply.

      OIF has been derided as a war of choice, but continuing the status quo of indefinite containment/mass-punishment was a choice, too. If 9/11 hadn’t happened and spotlighted the Iraq mission, I believe President Bush would have settled for maintaining Choice A and passed on the Iraq dilemma to the next guy, politically spinning it as a successful containment mission. At least, that’s how Clinton spun Iraq and how Bush spun it when he first took office in Jan 2001. Like it or not, after over 10 years of containment/mass-punishment, we were already sharing much responsibility and bearing costs for a bad situation in Iraq. One of those costs was the Al Qaeda phenomenon that focused next-generation political Islamic extremist rage on the US, no matter how justified the pre-OIF Iraq mission may have been in our context as a world leader.

      When I talk to anyone who opposes OIF (Choice C), I ask them to choose either Choice A or Choice B and defend their decision. Even knowing what we know now, should we have maintained the pre-OIF status quo in Iraq in perpetuity or ‘diplomatically’ withdrawn from Iraq and empowered a victorious Saddam? For me, the answer that emerges from that debate is that Choice C is still the best, or at least most responsible, of a set of bad choices. Our fault lies not in making the choice for OIF. Our fault likes in not reforming our systemic post-major combat weaknesses fast enough and not executing the stabilization and nation-building mission well enough. For me, the right answer is to make the necessary improvements in order to succeed in this mission, whoever leads our nation, not the abandonment of Iraq and the Iraqi people.

      In 2007, we can choose Choice D. Or we can reaffirm our commitment to Choice C and do what we must, reform/change what we must, in order to successfully achieve the end-state described by President Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003: “The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq.”

      We’ve been victorious in overcoming tough circumstances before. At the same time, we’ve also surrendered, broken promises, and abandoned allies to their deaths before, too.

    31. Ginny Says:

      Thank you Mr. Chen for devoting the time you did to a comment.

    32. Eric Chen Says:

      Ginny,

      Well, I just get riled up when folks like this David Baker of the Washington Post imply that soldiers are deluded, uninformed, or plain dumb.

      President Clinton, December 1998: “The hard fact is that so long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of his region, the security of the world. The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government — a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people.”

      Former President Clinton, July 2003: “Let me tell you what I know. When I left office, there was a substantial amount of biological and chemical material unaccounted for. That is, at the end of the first Gulf War, we knew what he had. We knew what was destroyed in all the inspection processes and that was a lot. And then we bombed with the British for four days in 1998. We might have gotten it all; we might have gotten half of it; we might have gotten none of it. But we didn’t know. So I thought it was prudent for the president to go to the U.N. and for the U.N. to say you got to let these inspectors in, and this time if you don’t cooperate the penalty could be regime change, not just continued sanctions. … I think the main thing I want to say to you is, people can quarrel with whether we should have more troops in Afghanistan or internationalize Iraq or whatever, but it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons. We might have destroyed them in ’98. We tried to, but we sure as heck didn’t know it because we never got to go back in there. And what I think — again, I would say the most important thing is we should focus on what’s the best way to build Iraq as a democracy?”

      Not being a Democrat or Republican myself, I opined early on that President Bush should have enlisted President Clinton as a spokesman for the Iraq mission, given that Bush was essentially working from Clinton’s notes on Iraq.

    33. Larry Goldwater Says:

      Eric:
      You make a very good point that each President is handed a geopolitical situation not of his own making. The way WWII was fought led inexorably into the Cold War which led inexorably into the current set of security challenges in the Middle East.

      Unfortunately, your list of alternative policies on Iraq fails to acknowledge that there was no imminent military threat from Iraq–as the Bush administration was belatedly forced to acknowledge at length. That means another option could have been to give sanctions more time. Bush insisted on rushing into the war without support from long-standing American allies and with the U.N. inspection work incomplete and, most important, against the advice and without the support of any of Iraq’s neighbors, save some lip service from Kuwait.

      Had Bush been driven by geopolitical realism, rather than by short-term domestic political calculation, he would have given himself the months or years necessary to build a global alliance against Saddam. How hard could that have been?

      The question isn’t why Bush chose invasion over the options, but why he insisted on rushing into the invasion without the support of Iraq’s neighbors.

      We now know that U.N. inspections would have eventually shown Saddam didn’t have WMD. That information would have been essential in an efficient invasion, should one have been necessary in the end. Moreover, the unmasking of what was clearly Saddam’s most desperate bluff–that he had WMD–would bring closer his demise at the hands of indigenous forces.

      Under Saddam, Iraq’s civil institutions were severely compromised and degraded, but they existed: a court system, a press, an oil production system and so on. The war destroyed so much of that, there would be no chance for any military, not even the mighty U.S. to install democracy.

      If you want to understand the situation in Iraq today, you have to watch the movie from the beginning: arguably, that’s the Cold War and the militarist imperatives it drove. The Cold War made Reaganites feel they should support Saddam at the peak of his atrocities and of his military threat to the region. The Cold War also made Reaganites support bin Laden and his ilk.

      Each of these “imperatives” led to where we are today. If we seek a better outcome this time around, we need to question the imperatives right wing militarists present as regards the Middle East.

    34. Ginny Says:

      The way WWII was fought led inexorably into the Cold War which led inexorably into the current set of security challenges in the Middle East.

      I am curious about how WWII should have been fought so that we were not led to this state today. I am also curious about how you see the Cold War as being inappropriately fought. And I wonder which of Iraq’s charming neighbors you thought we should have partnered with. You might also explain how to diplomatically handle the leaders of countries who opposed us, especially those bought by Saddam’s oil-for-food program.

    35. Eric Chen Says:

      Larry Goldwater: “Had Bush been driven by geopolitical realism, rather than by short-term domestic political calculation, he would have given himself the months or years necessary to build a global alliance against Saddam. How hard could that have been?”

      First, there is no evidence that President Bush was motivated by “short-term domestic political calculation”. He grasped early on that this was a different kind of war that would span decades and severely challenge American will, or as Rumsfeld called it, the “long hard slog” . That’s certainly not the stuff of short-term domestic political calculation.

      President Bush, June 2004: “We are confident of our cause in Iraq, but the struggle we have entered will not end with success in Iraq. Overcoming terrorism, and bringing greater freedom to the nations of the Middle East, is the work of decades. … Above all, America will need perseverance. This conflict will take many turns, with setbacks on the course to victory. … We have overcome great challenges, we face many today, and there are more ahead.”

      To me, that doesn’t sound like a President basing his difficult decisions on myopic domestic political goals.

      Second, you’re right that President Bush did not choose “geopolitical realism” in the War on Terror. Rather than side with his father’s generation of “right wing militarists” – to include his Iraqi-Shia-abandoning father – who valued the reliability of the strong arm of Saddam above all other interests, Bush the younger chose the Wilsonian progressive liberal path in the War on Terror.

      President Bush, June 2004: “Some who call themselves “realists” question whether the spread of democracy in the Middle East should be any concern of ours. But the realists in this case have lost contact with a fundamental reality. America has always been less secure when freedom is in retreat. America is always more secure when freedom is on the march.”

      Third, how hard would it have been? A “global alliance against Saddam” would have been impossibly hard, as President Clinton discovered in 1998 and President Bush re-discovered – or, rather, verified – in 2003. If anything, Bush gathered a surprisingly high level of international support given the history.

      The support of regional powers in the Gulf War coalition lasted until the moment their self-interest, the containment of an aggressive Saddam, was achieved. In the region, the subsequent US/UN disarmament/containment/mass-punishment mission was hugely unpopular, destructive of our image, and golden fodder for anti-Americans. Ours was a cynical foreign policy.

      For national powers outside of the region, contrast “Annan Says Iraq Will Never Be Fully Disarmed” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/inatl/longterm/iraq/stories/annan101798.htm, Washington Post Oct 1998) to “President Clinton explains Iraq strike” (http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1998/12/16/transcripts/clinton.html, Dec 1998).

      Clinton: “Iraq has abused its final chance.” In Clintonian terms, he took military action in Iraq as far as he was willing to take any military action. Politically, he staked a US position firmly and widely divergent from other influential players in the international community. A defiant Clinton defended his exceptionalism regarding military action against Iraq: “In the century we’re leaving, America has often made the difference between chaos and community, fear and hope. Now, in the new century, we’ll have a remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful than the past, but only if we stand strong against the enemies of peace.”

      President Clinton, Dec 1998: “Heavy as they are, the costs of action must be weighed against the price of inaction. If Saddam defies the world and we fail to respond, we will face a far greater threat in the future. Saddam will strike again at his neighbors. He will make war on his own people. And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them.”

      Clinton defined the “price of inaction” in Iraq, but then he failed to take further action in the last 2+ years of his presidency. He left that up to his successor.

      President Bush, Oct 2002: “Some believe we can address this danger by simply resuming the old approach to inspections, and applying diplomatic and economic pressure. Yet this is precisely what the world has tried to do since 1991. … Clearly, to actually work, any new inspections, sanctions or enforcement mechanisms will have to be very different. America wants the U.N. to be an effective organization that helps keep the peace. And that is why we are urging the Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting out tough, immediate requirements.”

      Again, Clinton July 2003: “I thought it was prudent for the president to go to the U.N. and for the U.N. to say you got to let these inspectors in, and this time if you don’t cooperate the penalty could be regime change, not just continued sanctions.”

      I disagree with much in these two paragraphs:

      “We now know that U.N. inspections would have eventually shown Saddam didn’t have WMD. That information would have been essential in an efficient invasion, should one have been necessary in the end. Moreover, the unmasking of what was clearly Saddam’s most desperate bluff–that he had WMD–would bring closer his demise at the hands of indigenous forces.

      Under Saddam, Iraq’s civil institutions were severely compromised and degraded, but they existed: a court system, a press, an oil production system and so on. The war destroyed so much of that, there would be no chance for any military, not even the mighty U.S. to install democracy.”

      1. The invasion was exceedingly efficient. Arguably, it was too efficient in that it bypassed securing locales for the sake of taking Baghdad as quickly and ‘surgically’ (minimizing death and destruction) as possible. A deliberate occupation of Iraq probably would have led to higher casualties in the initial invasion and a far uglier delivery of Baghdad, but it also may have helped establish security to start the post-major combat phase. Done the way we did it, we’ve been taking our lumps not in major combat but in stability and security operations, what we once called operations other than war.

      2. It’s a mistake to equate the pre-war and post-war inspections. Saddam’s “bluff” was a cornerstone of the 12-year failure of the pre-war inspections, which originally was supposed to be a 1-year process at most, given that the burden of proof was on his regime, not on the inspectors. The eventual post-war conclusions about Iraqi WMD, reached in about a year, were not different from the 12 years of pre-war failure due to a function of time.

      2. Saddam’s legacy of WMD use may have been part of his strategy in suppressing opposition, but his increasing brutality in what was already a brutal regime, plus enough revenue – illicit, foreign aid, and otherwise – to keep (bribe) his Stalinist state afloat, had more to do with maintaining his domestic power.

      3. Certainly, the goal was regime change of a bad actor. You do well, though, to point out a key point of contention between realists and liberals. Realists hold forth that in Iraq there was “no chance for any military, not even the mighty U.S. to install democracy.” For liberals, democracy is not installed, it’s organically cultivated. Even coupled with Saddam’s rotten state, the level of destruction in Iraq did not exceed other wars wherefrom better governments from a liberal democracy standpoint eventually emerged over time. Unfortunately, our military on 9/11 was not configured for nation-building, and certainly not nation-building on the scale of Iraq or even Afghanistan. Our military could only become configured for nation-building from necessity, ie, the necessary military is only recently emerging in Iraq under Petraeus’ leadership. Our other government institutions, eg State, lag even further behind. For many who have served there, especially soon after the invasion, nation-building in Iraq was not an impossible mission, but one that has frustrated with lost opportunities pounced upon by intelligent, aggressive enemies. At this point, it’s unclear whether the liberal mission has failed, or even if an eventual divergence from the present course, eg, a hard federalism or soft partition, would be a failure.

      Are we ready yet to accept the realist proposition that a Saddam-led Iraq, and our help in sustaining a Saddam-led Iraq out of self-interest, was the best we could do as a world leader and the best the Iraqi people could do for themselves? I’m not.

    36. Tyouth Says:

      “Are we ready yet to accept the realist proposition that a Saddam-led Iraq, and our help in sustaining a Saddam-led Iraq out of self-interest, was the best we could do as a world leader and the best the Iraqi people could do for themselves? I’m not.”

      Well said in the body of your comment and in the above opinion.

      The attempt being made in Iraq may or may not be successful and one may certainly argue about methods that have been or will be used to accomplish this. But without doubt it is a bold, well-intentioned, and moral mission. If it can succeed it will result in a rational country in Iraq. By extension this will result in a more secure and stable Mideast, world, and (properly the most important issue for a U.S. president) safe U. S.

      A long tough road. Godspeed our troops.

    37. Larry Goldwater Says:

      “First, there is no evidence that President Bush was motivated by “short-term domestic political calculation”.”

      Sure there is. Bush didn’t institute a draft, raise taxes or ask for special borrowing to support the war. Given those facts, he either expected the war to be cheap and easily won with existing troops or didn’t he care–either is case-closing evidence that he was seeking short-term domestic political advantage.
      You claim Bush thought it would be a “long, hard slog.” Yet he made no special provisions whatsoever for it. Sorry. The rhetoric just doesn’t wash.

      To this day, Bush has yet to even so much as ask the war’s supporters to enlist. That’s because he’s STILL gunning for short-term political gains, only now, even more desperately so.
      Like him or not, you’ve got to at least acknowledge that Bush is a politician. Anyone who chooses to believe his rhetoric over his actions is begging to be fooled.

      Mr. Chen even quotes the president: “The struggle we have entered will not end with success in Iraq.”

      This and every shred of evidence I’m aware of shows Bush–and a good many elected leaders on BOTH sides of the aisle–thought the war would be an easy victory and expected to reap the political gains.

      Mr. Chen writes: “A “global alliance against Saddam” would have been impossibly hard, as President Clinton discovered in 1998 and President Bush re-discovered – or, rather, verified – in 2003.”

      Just such an alliance was formed a decade earlier. How can you now say it’s impossible? That alliance demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that Iraq’s neighbors and America’s traditional allies–and even some of its enemies–considered Saddam a significant threat.
      Certainly things had changed in the ensuing decade plus and Saddam was widely seen as a spent force militarily, with only a potential ability to cause problems. Still, under the right terms, a global alliance could have been formed.
      Mr. Chen seems to suggest that because a global alliance could not be formed that would reliably execute the Bush administration’s planned invasion, an alliance was “impossible.” But none of the countries that refused to participate denied that Saddam was a threat, they simply disagreed on the Bush strategy for removing it.

      Mr Chen writes: “In the region, the subsequent US/UN disarmament/containment/mass-punishment mission was hugely unpopular, destructive of our image, and golden fodder for anti-Americans. Ours was a cynical foreign policy.”

      Relative to what? The mission was far, far more popular than the war, far less destructive of our image and far less credible as fodder for anti-Americans.

      Mr. Chen writes:
      “In Clintonian terms, he took military action in Iraq as far as he was willing to take any military action.”

      Hardly. Clinton led the campaign to directly intervene in Bosnia. Are you forgetting that, or ignoring it? With Clinton, as with Bush, it’s a huge mistake to judge him by his rhetoric rather than this actions. Much of what Clinton said about the threat Saddam posed is indistinguishable from what Bush has said. But their actions were very different. Clinton was smart enough to sense the huge risks and thus was satisfied reaping the short-term political gains that cruise missile attacks and militarist rhetoric provided without the risk.

      Mr. Chen writes: “The invasion was exceedingly efficient.”

      At achieving what? Huge caches of weapons were left unguarded and quickly found their way into insurgents’ hands. Oil production facilities were looted. Saddam eluded capture for many long months, while entire civilian neighborhoods were leveled in the attempt to assassinate him via bombing raids.
      Given the obvious weakness of Saddam’s regime on the day of the invasion, I hardly think the U.S. military would lay any claim to “efficiency.”

      Mr. Chen goes on to acknowledge that the invasion was not even construed as an occupation–still more evidence Bush thought it would be over quickly.

      Mr. Chen writes: “Saddam’s legacy of WMD use may have been part of his strategy in suppressing opposition, but his increasing brutality in what was already a brutal regime, plus enough revenue – illicit, foreign aid, and otherwise – to keep (bribe) his Stalinist state afloat, had more to do with maintaining his domestic power.”

      Yes. He didn’t keep power by WMD bluff alone. But where are you getting that his brutality was increasing? By numbers, Saddam was killing many more, much faster when he was a client of the Reagan administration. He was hanged not for jailing or torturing or assasinating political opponents in the months before the 2003 invasion, but for the executions of what his regime called suspects in an assassination attempt many years earlier. The worst massacres of Kurds took place when Republican congressmen were going to bat for Saddam, fighting off efforts to put sanctions on his regime. If anything, he’d calmed down in the years after Kuwait, his regime slowly self-destructing by the day.

      Mr. Chen writes: “Even coupled with Saddam’s rotten state, the level of destruction in Iraq did not exceed other wars wherefrom better governments from a liberal democracy standpoint eventually emerged over time.”

      No democracy has ever emerged from a Third World country the U.S. invaded to remove a dictator, unless by “over time” you mean decades post U.S. withdrawal. I’d like to hear what examples you have in mind. I see nothing but failure on that score. Sure, the allies destroyed Germany and Japan, which emerged some time later as strong democracies. But those countries had very well developed industrial bases and civil societies with very long traditions of global trade and diplomacy. It would surprise no one that once the fascist irritants were removed from their socieities, they bounced back strongly.

      Mr. Chen writes:
      “Are we ready yet to accept the realist proposition that a Saddam-led Iraq, and our help in sustaining a Saddam-led Iraq out of self-interest, was the best we could do as a world leader and the best the Iraqi people could do for themselves? I’m not.”

      Sure, we can dream up any number of scenarios in which we could have done better, but why start those hypothetical musings in March of 2003? We could have done better than to back Saddam when his atrocities were at their peak in the mid-1980s. We could have established a clear policy of opposing despots in the Middle East, regardless. But there were, of course, complications.
      Just as its better to just politicians by their actions rather than their rhetoric, it’s also better to deal with what actually happened and what options are on or near the table, rather than hypotheticals.

    38. Tyouth Says:

      Eric said: ” First, there is no evidence that President Bush was motivated by “short-term domestic political calculation”. ”

      Larry G. replies: “Sure there is. Bush didn’t institute a draft, raise taxes or ask for special borrowing to support the war. Given those facts, he either expected the war to be cheap and easily won with existing troops or didn’t he care–either is case-closing evidence that he was seeking short-term domestic political advantage.
      You claim Bush thought it would be a “long, hard slog.” Yet he made no special provisions whatsoever for it. Sorry. The rhetoric just doesn’t wash.

      Larry I can’t see how not doing something (Bush didn’t ….draft, tax or borrow) can be used as proof of motivation. Afterall he could have been mistaken about these things or the things you mention are not necessarily, to date, required. You’re not making sense here.

    39. Larry Goldwater Says:

      “I can’t see how not doing something (Bush didn’t ….draft, tax or borrow) can be used as proof of motivation.”

      Good point.

      [edited by admin]

    40. Tyouth Says:

      “Had Bush been driven by geopolitical realism, rather than by short-term domestic political calculation, he would have given himself the months or years necessary to build a global alliance against Saddam.”

      Proof OR evidence is not provided either by something not happening.

      Even more to the point; Bush not doing those things (taxing, drafting soldiers, borrowing funds) doesn’t speak to motivation at all but are simply ancillary tactical decisions.