November 19, 2007

"What else are we supposed to do?"

The NYT portrays congressional Democratics in a not-very-pretty light:
Democrats in Congress failed once again Friday to shift President Bush’s war strategy in Iraq, but insisted that they would not let up. Their explanation for their latest foiled effort seemed to boil down to a simple question: “What else are we supposed to do?”

Frustrated by the lack of political progress in Iraq, under pressure by antiwar groups and mindful of polls showing that most Americans want the war to end, the Democrats last week put forward a $50 billion war spending bill with strings attached knowing it would fail....

All signs indicate that Democrats will continue proposing such measures as long as Mr. Bush remains in office and troops remain in Iraq. “We are going to keep plugging away,” said Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Armed Services Committee....
Meanwhile, in Baghdad: "The butchery is thriving." But don't get your hopes up, Democrats:
[B]utcher Halim Sayed Ahmed, an Egyptian with a round face and hint of a moustache, is counting his lucky stars he didn't follow the rest of his family to Cairo when the conflict began ripping Baghdad apart two years ago.

"The butchery is thriving. Sales are up 80 percent compared to the beginning of the year" when violence was at its peak, he said between mounds of freshly cut chicken pieces, mincemeat and mutton.

"I have been here 30 years and I love Baghdad," he said. "Now that the security situation is improving, my family can return."

114 comments:

rhhardin said...

If you've made a losing bet, just double up. It's guaranteed to make you a winner in the end provided there's no mechanism to bankrupt you.

It's the Democrat form of determination, corresponding to Bush's determination to make Iraq work.

Both kinds of determination are mistaken to be certainty, which they only superficially resemble.

MadisonMan said...

I will venture to say that the Republican strategy to bottle everything up by always demanding cloture votes is also a form of double or nothingism.

The question becomes: who will be blamed? Democrats for trying to do something, or Republicans for blocking it and refusing to vote yes or no?

Simon said...

The difficulty for the CDP in taking that line (effectively "we've done everything we can") is that,
- anyone who has even a basic understanding of civics knows it's not true,
- and those who don't can't believe that it could be true.

The constituency for this lie is those anti-war folks who are wilfully ignorant of the Constitution, and those people are already voting Democrat come what may, so what's the use in it?

I still think Dahlia nailed them earlier this year - "[t]he best and most comprehensive explanation for this has always been that they are gutless." The problem isn't a lack of power it's a failure of will.

Ann Althouse said...

Madison Man: Why doesn't the success of the surge affect what the Democrats want to do? It's shameful if the answer is: because they care about their own political advantage more than the success of the war. But why do they even think it's to their political advantage now? The answer seems to be: It's all we've got. That's thoroughly contemptible.

Simon said...

MadisonMan, even if they choose to point the finger at Senate Republicans -- a dubious proposition in all events, I suspect -- they're going to face at least two problems. First, the credibility gap created by putting the blame on the Senate when there isn't a huge backlog of bills passed by the House and rejected or buried by the Senate (when Newt Gingrich tried this strategy in Lessons Learned the Hard Way a decade ago, he could point to a list of bills that had passed the House yet were buried in the other chamber). And second, the inescapable fact that the Dems don't need the acquiesence of the Senate to stop funding the war: they can stop appropriating money for it in the House. But that strategy exposes them to massive political risks, and as we know, the Dems are willing to do anything to stop this imoral war short of risking political damage to their party or their career.

Simon said...

Ann Althouse said...
"Madison Man: Why doesn't the success of the surge affect what the Democrats want to do?"

They've repeatedly demanded a timetable for withdrawal that's not tethered to events on the ground, so why would we expect events on the ground to change their minds about withdrawal?

Sloanasaurus said...

The Democrats invested in defeat and their investment is going sour. Yet, they still hold on to the bitter end.

Devil takes the hindmost.

MadisonMan said...

Simon, this is, I think, a compelling graphic. (Does anyone know of a more up-to-date one?) It's been interesting to hear press coverage of bills that are passed in the House but then die in the Senate (that may or may not be related to Iraq), usually due to a filibuster. The historic nature of the cloture votes is rarely mentioned. What a poisoned atmosphere in DC. Well, I voted against all the incumbents last time; I'm inclined to do so again. The Spineless Democratic Party really should tell MoveOn.org to shove it. What are those Democrats who love MoveOn going to do? Vote Republican?

Doesn't the success of the surge mean we should be getting out? Sure, you could argue that leaving will cause things to go downhill again -- in which case the surge hasn't been very successful, has it? Or does the surge just keep on going and going and going?

On a personal note, my nephew comes home from his 3rd (and I hope and supposedly final) rotation in Baghdad at the end of the month. What a relief.

Original Mike said...

Why doesn't the success of the surge affect what the Democrats want to do? It's shameful if the answer is: because they care about their own political advantage more than the success of the war.

Of course that's the answer. It's as obvious as the nose on your face. But then, politicians are a shameless lot.

Paco Wové said...

MM: Going to this page indicates that there have been 50 cloture votes as of Nov. 16th.

George said...

Iran Halting Weapons Flow into Iraq

Excellent news.

AJ Lynch said...

Ann said:

"But don't get your hopes up Democrats".

Ann- the way you inserted that knife was so deft into the Donkey pinata, you could work for this butcher.

MadisonMan said...

Paco -- thanks. That makes the projection in the graphic I posted a little unlikely.

Simon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon said...

MM, I don't think it has any significance (even if it's accurate: I'd like to know what the projection is based on) but if we're going to use it, turnabout is fair play: notice that the number of filibusters goes up noticably from the 104th Senate onward. With the Democrats out of power, the use of the filibuster is markedly higher than it had been previously. And what's with the Democrats getting cold feet about the filibuster? Just a couple of years ago, Democrats were lining up to tell any reporter who'd listen how the evil Senate Republicans were going to destroy the inviolate rights of the Senate majority with the nuclear option, and more recently, I seem to remember Chris Dodd being lionized by the leftosphere for threatening to filibuster the telecoms immunity bill. So the filibuster is bad except when it's good, right?

"Doesn't the success of the surge mean we should be getting out?"

So... We've suppressed violence by increasing the number of troops on the ground, and so reducing the number of troops is a really good idea because...? I don't mean to suggest that the surge will never end, but I think that it would be precipitous and premature to pull the plug in media res.

John Kindley said...

Democrats care as much about putting a stop to the war as George Bush cares about promoting a "culture of life."

Simon said...

Paco - and even that number might overstate it, since a cloture vote is not per se indicative that it was preceded by a filibuster. Cloture votes aren't used uniquely to shut down a filibuster.

John Kindley said...

That is, both are all talk, no intention.

Freder Frederson said...

Why doesn't the success of the surge affect what the Democrats want to do? It's shameful if the answer is: because they care about their own political advantage more than the success of the war.

Excuse me Ann, but if you can remember all the way back to January do you happen to recall what the purpose of the surge was? Lowering the level of violence (which has occurred) was only the first step. The whole point of the surge was to create conditions on the ground that would enable political reconciliation. Viewed from that perspective, which after all was the stated purpose of the surge, the surge has been a rank failure.

In fact, the methods used to lower violence in the Sunni areas (i.e., arming, training and cooperating with Sunni tribal groups without first getting them to acknowledge the legitimacy of the central government), may very likely result in consequences that are 180degrees opposite from the purpose of the surge.

Cedarford said...

Democrats, I think, have made a central error in believing the American public accept defeat in Iraq and want it finalized by Democrats - based on their willfully misinterpreting the 2006 "Mandate" and disparate polls.

1. Voters rejected Republicans in 2006, but it was by Dems running as reformers and Centrists - not as Code Pink supporters. It was more than the War going bad. It was also about Republican corruption, corporate cronyism, moral lapses, and dislike for Bush not doing well and their stubborness - was taken out on Republican ranks in Congress.

2. mindful of polls showing that most Americans want the war to end....

If polls had been taken in 1864 or 1944, most Americans wanted the War to end. That doesn't mean they accepted defeat and retreat then.

3. Polls show Bush has only 25% approval. This is all about the "lost war in Iraq", Dems claim.

A very bad call by Democrats to attempt to lump all sorts of disparate reasons why people from hardcore conservatives to the Iraqi exile community to Centrist Democrats to Independents and libertarians "deeply want defeat and cut and run". It is not true. Bush's unpopularity is not based on Iraq, but on many domestic matters, and the whole of his unpopularity does not indicate 75% disapproval for each reason he is unpopular.

4. Most people polled say Iraq was a mistake.

Well, yes. Duh! But that doesn't mean that having made a commitment, the people want to just walk away and accept all the consequences of walking away entails. Every person probably has a personal story or business story of a commitment they made to something or somebody they wished they hadn't - but weighed the consequences of events or damage to their own reputation and integrity if they walk away or just quit - and in many cases have decided that the correct and honorable thing and the decision that is in their best interest is to stick it out.

5. Most people say too many lives have been lost in Iraq.

A misleading poll. The natural tendency by people is to automatically say "too many lives have been lost" when told of fatalities involved in any job or event. 28 people killed traveling on Thanksgiving holiday is "too many". But that does not equate to "Therefore, people are effectively saying Thanksgiving should be ended by a Democrat vote in the House".

(People who have not served in the military, especially women who personalize and emote about "unbearable numbers of dead soldiers" - are shocked to learn that average annual soldiers fatalities were higher under Eisenhower, JFK, Carter, and the 1st 4 years of Reagan. )


BDS may have pushed the Democrats last week put forward a $50 billion war spending bill with strings attached knowing it would fail anyways, making them again look like craven idiots either out to stab the troops in the back or make symbolic gestures to Code Pink and Moveon.org.
They think they can manipulate the media into telling the public that 75% of Americans want defeat and a funds cut-off and many honestly believe they have the cover of most of the people backing them as they crawl way out on that limb.

Then, if they ever cut it off and their angry anti-American Base on the Hard Left wants - you will see House Dems holding a bag like Newt did when he cut off funds. Mass furloughs of non-essential civilian workers, families of soldiers sobbing, etc.

Freder Frederson said...

It's the Democrat form of determination, corresponding to Bush's determination to make Iraq work.

Bush has no desire to make Iraq work (or at least not in a meaningful way that would actually demand real sacrifice). He is simply trying to run out the clock and avert catastrophy so he can pass the mess he and Cheney have created to his successor. Then of course, he or she, and the Democrats, will be blamed for the the impending disaster and the breaking of the Army and Marine Corps which Bush has guaranteed through his neglect and abuse over the last six years.

Case in point. The purpose of the surge--despite your claims that it has succeeded--was to create conditions for political reconcilitation. What has Bush done to encourage political reconciliation? Not a damn thing. In fact he has made things worse by not forcing the Kurds to crack down on the PKK and siding with the Sunnis in Anbar without getting them to recognize the Central Government.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

and mindful of polls showing that most Americans want the war to end,

Governing by reading polls conducted by biased journalists who sample several hundred people and extrapolate from that the desires of the entire population of the United States.....good plan. [sarcasm]

Having conducted a poll of 3% of people in my neighborhood, I can state with certainty that the American people

1. Want the war in Iraq to end but we don't want to lose or be seen running with our tails between our legs. How about we go all out and win?

2. The American people are tired of the political posturing and the greedy piggies at the earmark trough who are not doing their job of passing constructive legislation. If we wasted this much time on diversions at our own jobs, we would all be fired.

3. The American people do not want, "Comprehensive" immigration reform or driver's licenses in the hands of illegal aliens. The people are sick of the free ride on the social welfare system that illegals seem to be getting at the expense of those who are legally here and who are paying taxes through the nose. The people want the government to quit stalling and control the borders.

There are many other things that my poll has shown the American people want... My poll is about as good as any other.

Governing by sticking your finger in the wind to see which way it blows is not a good plan... however, it seems to be what we have had for the last 20 years. My poll says the people are sick of it.

Bruce Hayden said...

I would suggest that many of the Democrats are happy with this impass. This is a lose-lose situation for them right now. With the success of the "Surge", Anbar Awakening, etc., they have lost their best excuse for a pullout - that we are spinning our wheels and wasting American lives. If they force a pullout, and Iraq slides back into chaos, we would have another Vietnam - winning on the ground, just to have the Democrats in Congress give the victory away. But if the country continues it progress, it will be seen as being despite the Democrats.

So, the best thing that they can do is to be seen by their netcrazies as trying to set a withdrawl date, but not really succeeding.

The polls and the "political" problems can be seen as moving the goal posts. The problem with polls is that they can be so easily biased. The Republicans have plenty of polls that essentially ask "Since we are on a roll right now, violence in dropping, should we cut and run, with the chance the Iraq slides back into chaos?" Phrased like that, those supporting setting a timeline for withdrawl plummets. But those aren't the polls being published by the NYT, etc. Why? Because they don't meet their agenda. Rather, they tend to publish polls whose questions are slanted the other way.

In any case, it is frankly silly to base foreign policy on polling data. We have elections coming up in about a year, and that is the only poll that counts.

As for political solutions, well, the fact that the Sunnis are now fairly eagerly joining the government is significant. Sure, the Shia would rather run it without them. But the later already have the votes to continue to run it. What is significant is that for the first time, all the major sects are trying to make the government work. I should also note that a week or two ago, the president and the chief Shiite cleric met and agreed to continue along the same path as they have been going, including reducing Shiite violence.

Our mistake before was trying for a political solution before we had a military one. We finally getting both together.

Oh, and notice that the political gains, as a result of the military ones, have been pretty much ignored by the MSM and the Democrats here. Again, more evidence of them playing defense and working off of old information.

Freder Frederson said...

What is significant is that for the first time, all the major sects are trying to make the government work.

Are you high? Where are you getting your news?

Bruce Hayden said...

There appears to be quite a bit of wishful thinking in the Democratic ranks. For example: Some, including Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the Democratic conference chairman, argue that Congressional Democrats are the only ones putting real pressure on the Iraqi government to end sectarian violence and stabilize the country.

I fail to see how cutting and running would do either. Rather, the "Surge", etc. are nicely accomplishing both. What do they expect the Iraqi government to do? Pass a law saying that sectarian violence is illegal?

Instead, the Surge, etc. are working just fine here. Sectarian violence is significantly below where it was even this summer, and now below where it was before the Sunnis blew up that Shiite mosque (the first time).

And how has it been accomplished?
- Getting a lot of the Iraqi Sunnis who have been fighting us to switch sides and fight al Qaeda - instead of the Shia. And remember, it was the Sunnis who were really driving the sectarian violence.
- Doing the same sort of embedding of U.S. troops with Iraqi troops and police at the local level that has been so successful against the Sunnis.
- The embedding and "hold and clear" tactics that are an integral part of the "Surge" are being applied to both sides of the sectarian line.
- This has put a lot of pressure on Sadr and his Mahdi Army to quit killing Sunnis.
- Pressure on the Iranians to quit exporting weapons and expertise seems to be working, as noted over this weekend. Capturing some of their Quds operatives, plus definitively identifying recent Iranian weapons in Iraq gave us the ammunition to push them.

Compared to this, what does Emanuel, et al. offer?

Bruce Hayden said...

Are you high? Where are you getting your news?

Much of it from Iraqis and embedded milbloggers, all in Iraq. Admittedly, they are typically looking at things from the bottom, and not the top, but are noting the sea change, esp. in the relationship between the Sunni and the government.

Where do you get yours? The NYT?

Freder Frederson said...

Much of it from Iraqis and embedded milbloggers, all in Iraq.

So you trust the accuracy and veracity of uncorroborated, anonymous, unsourced and biased personal accounts (who may or may not be who they claim to be).

Whatever.

Simon said...

Freder Frederson said...
"Bush has no desire to make Iraq work (or at least not in a meaningful way that would actually demand real sacrifice). He is simply trying to run out the clock and avert catastrophy so he can pass the mess he and Cheney have created to his successor."

If you seriously believe that Bush would rather hand off the mess in Iraq to Giuliani rather than resolve it before the conclusion of his term, that might actually be the stupidest thing you've ever contended here, Freder. Even looked at in raw political terms, Bush has every incentive to fix Iraq before leaving office; his legacy is Iraq, period. He gets that. If Iraq isn't fixed by the time he leaves office, its successfull resolution on Giuliani's watch will lead to his being derided as having started the war and creating a mess that was resolved when a more competent pair of hands took over.

Simon said...

Freder Frederson said...
"So you trust the accuracy and veracity of uncorroborated, anonymous, unsourced and biased personal accounts (who may or may not be who they claim to be)."

As opposed to the MSM's coverage which never rests on anonymous comments, unsourced assertions, uncorroborated accounts, biased writing and lamppost journalism?

Freder Frederson said...

Much of it from Iraqis and embedded milbloggers, all in Iraq.

More correctly, that should be "all who claim to be in Iraq". I could certainly start my own blog and claim that I was reporting directly from Iraq and you wouldn't know if I was or not.

It just amazes me that people who are distrustful and skeptical of the MSM are so credulous when it comes to sources on the internet.

Freder Frederson said...

If you seriously believe that Bush would rather hand off the mess in Iraq to Giuliani rather than resolve it before the conclusion of his term, that might actually be the stupidest thing you've ever contended here, Freder.

Well Simon, Bush's whole career follows this pattern, screw up and bail. He is incapable of doing anything right. From day one in Iraq the war has been mishandled. He has never had a strategy, he doesn't even know the difference between tactic and strategy. He has consistently refused to make the hard decisions that would have been necessary to actually achieve his supposed goals on the ground.

The surge is just another example. A completely inadequate influx of troops that will achieve a temporary lull in violence but plants the seeds for more chaos down the road (by arming and emboldening Sunni tribesmen outside of the control of the central government). The surge will have to end by the end of next summer simply because the military is out of troops and equipment (because of course Bush did not expand the military and kept the Depots on a peacetime schedule creating a huge backlog and shortages).

Whoever enters office in January of 2009 will find a military that is undermanned and underequipped. Maintaining even the pre-surge levels of troops in Iraq will be impossible. The possibility always exists that our troops will be completely cut off from supplies if the Shiites in the south decide that we have given the Sunnis too many weapons. Then we are in a world of hurt, since the British are no longer there in sufficient strength to protect our supply lines from Kuwait.

Freder Frederson said...

If you seriously believe that Bush would rather hand off the mess in Iraq to Giuliani rather than resolve it before the conclusion of his term, that might actually be the stupidest thing you've ever contended here, Freder.

I'm not saying he would rather. I am saying he is so incompetent that he has been incapable of doing anything right, will be incapable of doing anything right and is now just trying to avert disaster for the next year. He probably thinks that if he can maintain the status quo until he has left office he will have done a 'heckuva job'.

He has a pretty low bar.

rhhardin said...

As opposed to the MSM's coverage which never rests on anonymous comments, unsourced assertions, uncorroborated accounts, biased writing and lamppost journalism?

I happen to have just saved ABC world news from 7am EST as an example of how wretched the news is here , for other reasons (namely to suggest that it's open for Imus satire, replacing MSNBC's awful news in that role).

1. An Imus promo (free plus, on WABC)

2. Are School Buses Safe Enough? Women scared each time all the time. It's where billable ratings come from.

3. Suicide bomber blows up GI's handing out candy to children in Iraq.

So much for today's lede's from the MSM. Everything women need to know.

Simon said...

Freder Frederson said...
"It just amazes me that people who are distrustful and skeptical of the MSM are so credulous when it comes to sources on the internet."

You're right that many milbloggers haven't earned credibility or our trust; the MSM, however, has earned over and over again our distrust and skepticism.


"From day one in Iraq the war has been mishandled. He has never had a strategy, he doesn't even know the difference between tactic and strategy. He has consistently refused to make the hard decisions that would have been necessary to actually achieve his supposed goals on the ground."

And as you should well know - I've been quite forthright about this - I totally agree with you on that point. But that doesn't help you establish that Bush has no desire or motivation "to make Iraq work" before he leaves office. It may mean that he will fail, but that wasn't the assertion you made.


"[T]he British are no longer there in sufficient strength to protect our supply lines from Kuwait."

Giving me one more reason to get grumpy if anyone calls me an expat, frankly.

Pogo said...

Freder,
For pete's sake; faking it is just near-impossible to get away with for very long now.

Alot of the Military bloggers identify who/what/where, etc., post photos and interviews with the military, and have corroboration from others on the scene.

One guy was quickly discovered to be have created a blog out of nothing, then writing a totally fabricated story. Scott Beauchamp, writing in the New Republic.

But maybe you're referring to some other confirmed lie out of Iraq.

Freder Frederson said...

But that doesn't help you establish that Bush has no desire or motivation "to make Iraq work" before he leaves office

I'm sorry, sometimes it is hard to tell if Bush's gross incompetence is by design or just sheer laziness and stupidy (e.g. was he lying or incredibly ignorant when he said "nobody anticipated the breach of the levees" and which is worse). Sometimes I think to myself nobody can fuck up that bad by accident, it must be deliberate. But then he does something even more amazingly ignorant and shockingly stupid and I reassess my opinion of his competence downward yet again.

So maybe you are right, he is doing the best he can. But if he is, that is probably worse and scarier than if he actually is trying to run out the clock because in the latter instance I was at least giving him the benefit of some self-awareness of his complete and utter incompetence.

George said...

Somewhat off topic...but....

Say Iran gets the Bomb.

Do its leaders test it or tell anyone? No. If they do, they'll get smashed.

Do they smuggle it into Israel and detonate it? No. They'll get smashed.

Use it against the US? No. They'll get smashed.

What do they do with it?

I think they'd smuggle it into Saudi Arabia and wipe out the Saud leadership by detonating it in Riyadh, Taif, or Jeddah.

Two possible consequences:

a) The Shi'ite Eastern Province (where the oil is) might become a separate country, an undeclared fiefdom of Iran, funneling part of its oil revenue to Teheran as protection money;

b) The Holy Cities come under the control of non-Saud family rulers, either possibly Jordan or the local tribes (non-Wahhabi) who were conquered by the Sauds.

Question is...would we go to war with Iran to keep the Saud family in power?

Simon said...

Freder, see Hanlon's Razor.

Freder Frederson said...

Alot of the Military bloggers identify who/what/where, etc., post photos and interviews with the military, and have corroboration from others on the scene

True, the milbloggers are very much on the ground in Iraq. But on the other hand they tend to be very biased in favor of the administration and the mission and of course report through the filter of the U.S. Military.

My point was mainly aimed at the Iraqi bloggers who allegedly post from Iraq. Their identities, locations, loyalties, and motives are often impossible to verify. They could just as easily be a CIA analyst plugging away in a cubicle in Langley as a college student in Baghdad.

Jason said...

Yes, Freder. The truth has a pro-mission bias.

Deal with it.

Freder Frederson said...

Giving me one more reason to get grumpy if anyone calls me an expat, frankly.

Given that Tony Blair was one of maybe two (Colin Powell being the other one) people in the entire world who could have stopped the madness of King George in his decision to invade Iraq, yet for some still unexplained reason decided to go along with him, I will agree with you, albeit for entirely different reasons.

Freder Frederson said...

The truth has a pro-mission bias.

The milbloggers tend to stick to personal anecdotes and the perspective of field and company grade units. They lack strategic perspective. The truth of what is happening in one neighborhood with one company or battalion doesn't necessarily reflect the totality of the situation.

George Bush, and so many of his sycophants, including Ann, have never understood the difference between strategy and tactics. There have been a lot of tactics tried in this war. To this day there has been no clear strategy.

I defy anyone to tell me exactly what the strategy is for achieving our goals in Iraq or where the President has laid it out. Bruce seems awful enamoured of the milbloggers. Perhaps he can explain the strategy.

Simon said...

Freder, that implicitly buys into the totally false premise that Iraq was a mistake and that it would necessarily have turned out this way. If you want to give the administration that much credit, I think you're very much mistaken, and if you're correct that vitiates your 10:17 AM comment: if Iraq was predestined to turn out this way, the administration's performance was irrelevant. I don't believe that, and I doubt you do either.

Strayhorn said...

I was in Karrada last summer as part of a medical-education team. I made many friends and I'm pleased to think their lives are getting better. Thanks very much, Prof Althouse, for posting this. Otherwise I would have missed it.

John Stodder said...

Drifting back toward the point...

What I want to know is why aren't the Democrats doing something else? It's a given that they don't have the votes or the support of the American people to defund the war or disrupt its operations. So why aren't they developing their own legislative proposals on health care, immigration, nuclear disarmament and the other things the Democratic presidential candidates speak about in debates?

I don't have a poll, but I suspect the voters are confused when they hear the party's presidential candidates talk about how overdue action is on these various issues, and then see the Democrats use the powers they've already won to propose none of these things.

If the Democrats are so sure they've got the right combination of issues to win in 2008, I would think a strategy of developing detailed, comprehensive plans reflecting Democratic values and working to get them passed up until the point where they run into cloture or a presidential veto would add a sense of urgency to the upcoming election.

As I recall, this is exactly what Democrats did in 1990-92 leading up to Clinton's election, so Clinton could say, "If you elect me, I'll sign" things like assault weapons bans and family and medical leave. But that's when the congressional Dems were led by George Mitchell and Tom Foley who, in retrospect, have far more stature and strength than the current Democratic leadership.

Freder Frederson said...

Freder, that implicitly buys into the totally false premise that Iraq was a mistake and that it would necessarily have turned out this way.

I don't know how you can argue Iraq wasn't a mistake. The administration was wrong about everything that they used to justify the war. We will leave aside the debate whether their beliefs were justified, but even good faith decisions made on bad information can be called mistakes after the fact. Certainly, given the fact that Saddam had, as he claimed, destroyed his WMDs, eliminated even the thin causus belli we had. Nothing else justified a war.

Even if the invasion was not a mistake (and even if Saddam needed to be taken out, doing it before Afghanistan was fixed was the real mistake), it was still carried out with insufficient troops from day one. Shinseki was right but of course maintaining the kind of occupation force he anticipated would have required actual sacrifice on the part of the American people which Republicans are just unwilling to stomach.

vnjagvet said...

Freder's definition of a Bush sycophant is anyone without BDS.

vnjagvet said...

A sure way to test the tactics and strategy being employed in Iraq is to allow funding as requested.

If the current tactics and strategy fail, the pro-war faction will have no one to blame but themselves.

The Democratic Congress is setting up the "stab in the back" claim by pro-war advocates should failure result.

Freder Frederson said...

A sure way to test the tactics and strategy being employed in Iraq is to allow funding as requested.

We'll know in another six months (one FU) if the surge has created the conditions for political reconciliation, right?

Again, what exactly is the strategy?

Freder Frederson said...

If the current tactics and strategy fail, the pro-war faction will have no one to blame but themselves.

Just like they have accepted blame for all the missteps of the last four years.

AJ Lynch said...

Freder said :
"It just amazes me that people who are distrustful and skeptical of the MSM are so credulous when it comes to sources on the internet."

Freder - I learned via the internets that six of the ordinary, undecided voters at last week's Vegas debate were far from that even though that is how CNN's moderator Wolf Blitzer described them.

I would not have known this without the internets because the Philly Inquirer sure won't report it.

Freder Frederson said...

I learned via the internets that six of the ordinary, undecided voters at last week's Vegas debate were far from that even though that is how CNN's moderator Wolf Blitzer described them.

And I learned via the internets that I had won 40 million British Pounds in the lottery and that I could make my penis much larger.

reader_iam said...

And I learned via the internets that I had won 40 million British Pounds in the lottery and that I could make my penis much larger.

You been hacking into my e-mail inboxes again?

; )

Sydney Carton said...

and that I could make my penis much larger.

Unfortunately for you, I suspect that no amount of funding will produce a surge that will work.

Simon said...

Freder Frederson said...
"I don't know how you can argue Iraq wasn't a mistake. The administration was wrong about everything that they used to justify the war."

Because it was absolutely the right thing to do and it could have been done right. A lot of what has gone wrong has been a result of mistakes made by or under the auspices of this administration, and it's my own opinion that most - not all - of those mistakes were avoidable. I realize some other war supporters and military folks here may disagree with this, but that's my view, FWIW.

I completely disagree with you that nothing except posession of WMD justified the war: the primary justification for the war, in my view, was and should have been said to be that we gave Saddam the nerve gas he used on he Kurds in the 1980s, and in 1992, we stabbed the Shia in the back when we urged them to rise up against Saddam and lifted not a finger to help them. We had a moral obligation, and it absolutley astonishes me that there are some on the anti-war side who at the time (and perhaps now) have the sheer gall to suggest that these were somehow arguments against liberating Iraq. We should have finished the job in 1991; I understand the reasons that were then given and have been given since, but they are plainly wrong in retrospect and were sufficiently flawed that, in my view, they should have been understood as being wrong then.

In sum, what is wrong with this war is how it was conducted, and on that we don't disagree: "[T]he invasion," you say, was "carried out with insufficient troops from day one. Shinseki was right...." I don't disagree with that at all.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Then of course, he or she, and the Democrats, will be blamed for the the impending disaster and the breaking of the Army and Marine Corps which Bush has guaranteed through his neglect and abuse over the last six years.

If our military is 'broke' from the result of what is nothing more than a low level colonial policing action then we better pray we don't actually have to fight a real army.

Freder Frederson said...

We had a moral obligation, and it absolutley astonishes me that there are some on the anti-war side who at the time (and perhaps now) have the sheer gall to suggest that these were somehow arguments against liberating Iraq.

Gee, for someone who is supposedly so enamoured of our constitution and the instutions of government (and an advocate for limited federal government) you sure seem willing to ignore the legal arguments when it comes to the most expansive use of government power.

Come on Simon, what exactly was the legal basis for war. The constitutional basis was suspect enough.

Even your moral arguments fall far short of being compelling as the passage of time makes them very weak indeed (especially in the case of the Kurds as they were practically autonomous before the invasion).

Revenant said...

I'm glad to see that things are improving in Iraq. Hopefully the trend will continue.

Sloanasaurus said...

People forget that if it wasn't for Bush and our invasion of Iraq and for our military in winning this war, we would be stuck right now with Saddam as a totalitarian ruler at $95 per bbl oil. At 3 ml barrels a day, Saddam would be grossing over $100 billion a year in revenues. Compare/contrast this to only $20 billion in the 1980s. ($100 bl is more than the defense budgets of the UK and France. With this money he would be funding Al Qaeda's war against us in Afghanistan. He would be funding Hamas' war in Palestine. He would be the largest buyer of weapons in the world and would individually make up a majority of Russia's and China's arms industries, just as he did with the French in the 1980s. Saddam would be using his money to buy influence at all levels of world politics. In short Saddam would be a horrible menace.

Instead, today Iraq is spending this money fighting our enemies - Al Qaeda, Iranian groups, and criminal gangs. They are also spending it on infrastructure for their own people. IN sum they are spending the money to establish an ordered and peaceful society in Iraq (in contrast to Saddam who spent his money to create chaos outside Iraq).

This transfer of money from $100 billion per year to fueling chaos to $100 billion to establishing order is the greatest peace dividend of the last 50 years second only to the the fall of the USSR.

Jason said...

What was the legal basis? Simple: Violation of the terms of the cease fire from 1991.

Case closed.

Freder Frederson said...

If our military is 'broke' from the result of what is nothing more than a low level colonial policing action then we better pray we don't actually have to fight a real army.

To call the war in Iraq a low level colonial policing action is delusional. By focusing only on the death toll rather than the overall casualty rate, and then only of American soldiers (and not even making a serious effort to track Iraqi casualties) the human cost of this war is hidden. Furthermore, because such a small percentage of the U.S. population is directly affected by the war, and in fact the rest of the population is encouraged to pretend that there is no war, you can claim this is just a "colonial policing action". But of course we are wearing out equipment (that is not getting repaired), people (who are now on their third or fourth tours), and draining our treasury while the president maintains the fiction that this war is cost-free.

Simon said...

Freder Frederson said...
"[F]or someone who is supposedly so enamoured of our constitution and the instutions of government (and an advocate for limited federal government) you sure seem willing to ignore the legal arguments when it comes to the most expansive use of government power. Come on Simon, what exactly was the legal basis for war. The constitutional basis was suspect enough."

I have no idea what you're talking about here. What limitation do you think the Constitution imposes in terms of valid casus belli, as opposed to procedural constraints on the initiation of hostilities by the United States (primarily that Congress consent to the initiation of hostilities by the United States, and while I'm certainly willing to agree I'd have preferred a formal and explicit declaration of war, I think PL 107-243 satisfies the functional equivalency test, certainly from an originalist's perspective: I remember very clearly what the original public meaning of that act of Congress was, and I bet you do, too).

Freder Frederson said...

People forget that if it wasn't for Bush and our invasion of Iraq and for our military in winning this war, we would be stuck right now with Saddam as a totalitarian ruler at $95 per bbl oil.

Well of course Sloan you are assuming that our invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with driving the price of oil to $95 a bbl. I can envision all kinds of alternate scenarios (provided of course Bush was not president) where not invading Iraq resulted in more stability in the oil markets, combined with a rational and sane energy policy in this country, meant that oil did not reach the levels it is at today.

George said...

Iraq is baked in the cake. Up, down, yes, no, good, bad--doesn't matter any more. We're there. We're not leaving.

The issue now is Iran. We've been at war with its terrorist government for 28 years. Or better put, the Revolutionary Islamic Republic has been at war with us for 28 years. How is that regime best contained? Or better yet eradicated?

The conflict with Islamic fanatics is going to continue for another century or two, until something resembling an Islamic Reformation occurs. Doesn't matter who is president.

PS...Freder, the price of oil, adjusted for inflation, should be about $103 now. Like gold, it is bound to seek its natural level sooner or later, especially given absence of new reserves and added demand from China and India.

Freder Frederson said...

What limitation do you think the Constitution imposes in terms of valid casus belli

You honestly believe that our limited government and our constitution (much of which is obsessed with thwarting efforts of the Federal Government to maintain a standing army) sanctions the declaration of aggressive or even preemptive wars?

Do you believe that there needs to be no other basis for war under our constitution other than a moral imperitive? And what is a moral justification for war in your world? Certainly the moral justification you cited (past, but not ongoing, crimes against humanity) is not recognized by any mainstream philosophical or religious tradition (not even that of your hero) as justification for war.

And for one who is such a stickler for constitutional formalities, you sure are willing to dispense with them when it suits you. The authoriztion to use force was not a declaration of war or the functional equivalent. The AG made clear in testimony to the Congress that we were never at war with anyone.

Freder Frederson said...

I misspoke. That should be preventive, not preemptive wars. Wars of aggression and preventative wars are clearly illegal under international law. Preemptive and defensive wars are not.

The claim is that the invasion of Iraq was preemptive. This claim is dubious at best.

Freder Frederson said...

PS...Freder, the price of oil, adjusted for inflation, should be about $103 now

The record high price of oil (during the hostage crisis in the Carter administration), adjusted for inflation, is $103. Big difference.

Revenant said...

You honestly believe that our limited government and our constitution (much of which is obsessed with thwarting efforts of the Federal Government to maintain a standing army) sanctions the declaration of aggressive or even preemptive wars?

First of all, since Iraq had fired on our forces many times during the preceding years it is doubtful any of the founders would have been stupid enough to call it "an aggressive war". Declaring war on people who've been shooting at you for years was, and is, normal.

Secondly, the Constitution says simply that "Congress shall have the power [...] to declare War". I don't see any limitation on why it is allowed to declare war. Feel free to cite the part of the Constitution that you think bans preemptive wars, though.

You're right that the founders were worried about the federal government (and, specifically, the President) acting like a European king and conquering nations. But the Iraq war enjoyed solid majority support from the American people and from Congress and has not been fought as a war of conquest; it wouldn't have worried them.

Freder Frederson said...

The issue now is Iran. We've been at war with its terrorist government for 28 years. Or better put, the Revolutionary Islamic Republic has been at war with us for 28 years. How is that regime best contained? Or better yet eradicated?

For all of you who believe in endless war in the middle east, you should be advocating massive tax increases, a draft, and draconion mandatory energy conservation and rationing because the revenues and the all volunteer force is inadequate to support such a grandiose campaign to eradicate islamic fundamentalism. Once we start the campaign in earnest, the disruption to world wide oil supplies will truly be devastating.

Revenant said...

Wars of aggression and preventative wars are clearly illegal under international law.

International law places no limitation on Congress.

Freder Frederson said...

Declaring war on people who've been shooting at you for years was, and is, normal.

Except of course you are violating those people's airspace and bombing them(the no-fly zones were never sanctioned by the U.N.).

We never claimed that the Iraqis firing on our warplanes was an illegal act because we knew it wasn't. After all we were bombing them regularly and destroying military targets in Iraq.

Freder Frederson said...

International law places no limitation on Congress.

Man, you are completely wrong. What do you think treaties do?

Revenant said...

For all of you who believe in endless war in the middle east, you should be advocating massive tax increases, a draft, and draconion mandatory energy conservation and rationing because the revenues and the all volunteer force is inadequate to support such a grandiose campaign to eradicate islamic fundamentalism.

The reason we aren't advocating those things, Freder, is that we're much smarter than you are. None of that is necessary and almost all of it would hurt us far more than it would help us.

Revenant said...

Man, you are completely wrong. What do you think treaties do?

You mean the treaties that have to be authorized by Congress? :)

Besides, that's a moot point. No treaty signed by Congress to date forbids it from launching a preemptive or preventative war.

Revenant said...

Except of course you are violating those people's airspace and bombing them(the no-fly zones were never sanctioned by the U.N.).

Iraq was a defeated nation under a cease-fire. The no-fly zones were established by the victorious nation -- us. Iraq violated the terms of the cease fire.

The UN's opinion is irrelevant. The Founders' general take on people who thought foreign powers had the right to rule over America was to shoot them.

We never claimed that the Iraqis firing on our warplanes was an illegal act because we knew it wasn't.

The notion that "illegal" acts have to be committed before war can be declared is a modern fiction the Founders would have laughed at. After all -- England did nothing "illegal" to us.

garage mahal said...

The issue now is Iran. We've been at war with its terrorist government for 28 years. Or better put, the Revolutionary Islamic Republic has been at war with us for 28 years. How is that regime best contained? Or better yet eradicated?

So, we sold a country we were supposedly at war with arms and supplies? How could that happen? Whoever was part of that should have been thrown in jail.

Freder Frederson said...

Besides, that's a moot point. No treaty signed by Congress to date forbids it from launching a preemptive or preventative war.

Umm, the U.N. charter (which we wrote btw) does prohibit preventative wars--that is why the insistence that the war against Iraq was preemptive.

Simon said...

Freder Frederson said...
"[Revenant said that International law places no limitation on Congress.] Man, you are completely wrong. What do you think treaties do?"

No, Revenant is completely correct. "Functionally-speaking, treaties are only binding on the states and the conduct of the executive (and perhaps judicial) branches, but not on Congress, since "an act of Congress, by definition, cannot violate a treaty. When a treaty provision and an act of Congress conflict, neither has any intrinsic superiority over the other and that therefore the one of later date will prevail leges posteriores priores contrarias abrogant."

Freder Frederson said...
"You honestly believe that our limited government and our constitution ... sanctions the declaration of aggressive or even preemptive wars?"

Of course it does. It sanctions the declaration of war for any purpose Congress deems worthy. Nor does it prohibit standing armies, although you are correct that the framers viewed standing armies as potential tools to be used against liberty and consistent with that desire created a regime that made it possible for a standing army to exist but very difficult for it to be used for nefarious purposes. What astounds me about your position, Freder, is that it isn't even merely ignorant of history, it's ignorant of what the document itself says.

Freder Frederson said...

England did nothing "illegal" to us.

You might want to bone up on your history and read a little document called the Declaration of Independence.

Simon said...

Freder Frederson said...
"[T]he U.N. charter (which we wrote btw) does prohibit preventative wars--that is why the insistence that the war against Iraq was preemptive."

And to the extent that it's inconsistent with the act of Congress authorizing force in Iraq, we have abrogated that treaty. A treaty doesn't enjoy superior status to Congressional legislation, and although Charming Betsy requires us to avoid a construction that clashes with a treaty, just as if Congress passes law X and later passes law Y, law Y prevails to the extent they are in tension (even if Congress doesn't expressly say it's repudiating law X), if Congress approves treaty X and later passes law Y, law Y prevails to the extent they are in tension.

Freder Frederson said...

No, Revenant is completely correct.

Okay Simon. So Congress can declare an illegal war but the President is prohibited by treaty from carrying it out. It is nice to know that only the president and not everyone in congress who authorizes an illegal war is guilty of a war crime.

And thank you for proving my point about your being a stickler for the constitutional formalities.

Simon said...

Freder Frederson said...
"Okay Simon. So Congress can declare an illegal war but the President is prohibited by treaty from carrying it out."

Why would the President be prohibited from carrying out by a war by a treaty that Congress has abrogated? You're not getting this, so let me spell it out for you: the President is obligated to follow the law of the United States. If a treaty forbids military action, the President cannot take military action; if a treaty forbids military action and Congress passes a statute authorizing military action, the President can take military action because the treaty has been superceded or abrogated, depending on how you want to look at it.

And you didn't have a serious point about my observance of Constitutional formalities, which is why I didn't deem it worthy of response. And since you've demonstrated in this very thread an almost complete ignorance of what the Constitution says, you're in no position to cast aspersions on my fidelity to the Constitution.

Freder Frederson said...

Simon, you are an idiot. Your lack of formal legal training is once again showing.

As you admitted yourself the treaty is binding on the Executive. Congress, in passing a declaration of war that clearly contradicts the U.N. charter is not abrogating the treaty they are just declaring an illegal war. The Executive has a declared war he cannot wage.

Now of course the Congress could first say that the U.N. definitions of preventative and aggressive wars are no longer valid and redefine them--that would be abrogating the treaty. But simply passing a declaration of war that says we declare war on East Elbonia because they dress funny does not abrogate any treaty. If the president subsequently took the country to war he has violated the treaty no matter how valid the Congress' declaration.

Freder Frederson said...

What astounds me about your position, Freder, is that it isn't even merely ignorant of history, it's ignorant of what the document itself says.

What astounds me, Simon, is that in your amateur pursuit of the law you are so astoundingly ignorant of legal history while accusing me of historical ignorance.

I would assume you would know that it was the Americans, led by Justice Jackson, that insisted that the Nazi leadership be charged and tried for waging aggressive war in the Nuremburg trials. Yet you claim there is nothing in our tradition our jurisprudence that would stop us from waging war for whatever reason we choose.

Unbelieveable.

Simon said...

Freder, you're wrong. I can't make it any clearer than I already have. When the President acts pursuant to an express authorization from Congress, he acts legally.

Simon said...

Freder:
"[Y]ou claim there is nothing in our tradition our jurisprudence that would stop us from waging war for whatever reason we choose."

I didn't say anything about there being "nothing in our tradition our jurisprudence that would stop us from waging war for whatever reason we choose," I pointed out (as did Rev) that your ludicrous claim in your 2:35 PM comment that "our limited government and our constitution [sic.] ... [does not permit] the declaration of aggressive or even preemptive wars" was incorrect. The Constitution does no such thing, and by pivoting from that to a new claim - that rather than being prohibited by the Constitution itself, the kinds of wars that can be launched by the United States are limited by "our tradition our jurisprudence." Really - by our jurisprudence? Point to one case where the Supreme Court (or any federal court, for that matter) has declared that a declaration of war (or authorization to use military force) by Congress was ultra vires because it wasn't defensive. By our tradition? "[T]radition [can] giv[e] content only to ambiguous constitutional text; no tradition can supersede the Constitution," Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois, 497 U.S. 62, 96 n.1 (Scalia, J., dissenting), and the Constitution's text is absolutely clear. Whatever limits there are on when and why the United States goes to war, they are purely political questions. If you don't want to go to war, go talk to the political branch. Ask Nancy Pelosi why she values that pretty gavel more than the lives of the soldiers she claims are being wasted in the war she claims is so unethical.

Revenant said...

So Congress can declare an illegal war

No, it can't. It is impossible for Congress to declare an illegal war, because any war declared by Congress is, by definition, legal under the one and only standard that matters to American law.

You might want to bone up on your history and read a little document called the Declaration of Independence.

It sounds like you might want to read it yourself, because at no point in the Declaration did the founders accuse the British government or its king of doing anything illegal. They argued that the actions of the King were cruel, unjust, immoral, and despotic -- not illegal. The listed actions were in fact entirely legal under both English and international law, as the colonies were British possessions populated by British subjects.

The Declaration was written to explain why, even though the King was legally in the right, he was morally in the wrong.

Simon said...

Revenant said...
"It is impossible for Congress to declare an illegal war, because any war declared by Congress is, by definition, legal under the one and only standard that matters to American law."

...And to argue otherwise would be to advance the position that the United States can make a treaty that has superior authority to the Constitution itself, a position that would fall afoul of the basic principle of limited government understood as being embodied in the Constitution for over two hundred years. Talk about throwing out the baby with the bushwater, Freder.

James said...

It seems like a lot of the posters here seem to interpret the progress made in the surge as a clear cut sign of victory. While the progress is certainly great, there are many questions left, and I think Democrats are definitely justified in remaining skeptical of the overall success of the war.

1) What happens when we start drawing back the troops, as we will be doing quite soon? While progress has been good in curbing violence throughout the country, what happens when the pressure put on al qaeda and the other insurgents fades due to drawbacks?

2) What progress has the Iraqi government, as well as the army and police, made? On the political front, it appears there has been very little to suggest anything will be different there. As for the army and police forces, we will have to wait and see how they do without the surge.

3) If we were somehow able to eradicate Al Qaeda in Iraq (which some people here seem to take for granted) what about all those militant sects who joined up with us to boot Al Qaeda. Many of them were the same ones going around killing each other (as well as some U.S. forces) before they realized AQ was the greatest threat to them. With AQ out of the way, do they go back to their old, petty religious wars?

Like I said, while there certainly has been definite progress made, there is still much there to point to an outcome other than "victory."

Hoosier Daddy said...

To call the war in Iraq a low level colonial policing action is delusional. By focusing only on the death toll rather than the overall casualty rate, and then only of American soldiers (and not even making a serious effort to track Iraqi casualties) the human cost of this war is hidden.

I was responding particularly to your comment that the Army and Marines were broken. Again, if 3800 dead in a 5 year period breaks the US military, then something is fundamentally wrong. If you want to move the goalposts by tossing in Iraqi casualties, knock yourself out.

Revenant said...

While the progress is certainly great, there are many questions left, and I think Democrats are definitely justified in remaining skeptical of the overall success of the war.

"Skepticism"? They are, for the most part, still declaring the war lost and demanding our troops be brought home ASAP. If they were merely skeptical -- i.e., saying things like "victory is by no means assured" or the like -- then I wouldn't have any complaint.

But sure, it still remains to be seen if the current strategy has yielded long-term positive results. After all, if there weren't still "unanswered questions", the war would be over already. :)

Simon said...

James, if you're arguing that the "Democrats are definitely justified in remaining skeptical of the overall success of the war" in part because there is a concern as to "what happens when the pressure put on al qaeda and the other insurgents fades due to [troop] drawbacks," how can they at the same time maintain a policy of surrender and retreat? Isn't that trying to have it both ways? While that's a valid concern, how can "the surge hasn't worked because withdrawing the troops will presage a return to violence" coexist with a policy of withdrawing troops?

George said...

Freder--

I don't "believe in endless war" in the Middle East, nor do I have "grandiose" notions.

It's just that I see no end in sight.

Iran wants the Bomb, and it seems more likely than not to want to use it. Meanwhile, Iran and back Hezbollah which has de facto control over Lebanon and wants to destroy Israel.

How should the West end this conflict? Surrender?

Sloanasaurus said...

you are assuming that our invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with driving the price of oil to $95 a bbl. I can envision all kinds of alternate scenarios (provided of course Bush was not president) where not invading Iraq resulted in more stability in the oil markets

As someone mentioned, demand and not supply interruptions has mostly been responsible for high oil prices.

Given Saddam's prior behavior, the scenario I outlined above would have been the most likely. Saddam would have been a world menace. He would have technically been the most powerful individual in the world because Saddam was an absolute ruler.

Assuming that Saddam would have spent most of his new wealth on arms, one has to assume that all of his neighbors would have been forced to match him; i.e., Saudi and Kuwait would have likely matched Saddam's military spending adding more instability to world peace. Instead, Saudi and Kuwait are investing in multinational business.

Also, it is likely that the oil for food scandal would have remained secret allowing Saddam to pour even more money into the pockets of corrupt UN types making the UN an even more corrupt orgainzation than it is today.

James said...

Simon - the point is that there will be a withdrawal of troops soon, not because of the Democrats, but because it isn't feasible to keep that many troops there for any longer, a fact that Bush and Patreus have stated. So, you can't blame the small, upcoming withdrawals on the Democrats strategies.

I did not say "the surge hasn't worked because withdrawing the troops will presage a return to violence." The surge worked in that it drastically reduced the amount of violence in Iraq. However, the goal of the surge was to reduce violence so that the government could work out its problems, Iraqi army could actually become competent, etc. Like I said in the earlier post, it doesn't seem like the government has done so, and we won't be able to judge the army's capabilities until we can compare their abilities when the U.S. presence is back to its normal levels.

If neither of these goals have been met, the Democrats can have some justification for saying that the surge didn't work - If the Iraqi's could not hammer out their problems and create stability when protected by a maxed-out U.S. military presence and successful violence-reducing strategy, how will they solve the problems without such protection?

James said...

Rev - I am by no means defending the Congressional Dems exaggerations and rhetoric. I had simply noticed that a lot of posters on here seemed to believe that the progress shown by the surge meant that we were necessarily winning the war.

Though personally I don't think it is possible to win this war, (for the same general reasons - Iraq doesn't seem to be able to maintain a peaceful democracy, even if we get rid of AQ, we'll have to deal with the renewed Sunni vs. Shiite wars, etc. etc.), I do not agree with the positions of the Democrats in blindly opposing everything Iraq and ignoring the progress made in the surge. The real test will be to see what happens when the troop levels return to "normal" pre-surge levels. If the violence stays down/decreases even after the reductions, and Democrats continue to stick to their guns, they will get absolutely blasted in the Congressional elections (as they have essentially made this term all about Iraq), and probably the Presidency (though issues about the economy, health care, social issues, etc. could possibly outweigh Iraq by the time the election comes).

Personally, I do expect a resurgence of violence at some point after the surge troops leave. It's not that I'm "hoping" for it to happen so that Democrats win, as some posters on here seem to believe all liberals are doing, but it's simply what I believe after looking at everything. And if not, then I will have no problem saying I'm wrong and ridiculing anyone that doesn't. However, it's still way too early to ridicule Democrats for still thinking the war will not be won.

Freder Frederson said...

No, it can't. It is impossible for Congress to declare an illegal war, because any war declared by Congress is, by definition, legal under the one and only standard that matters to American law.

This is a ridiculous assertion especially considering this country asserts the right to go to war to enforce international laws and has participated in international tribunals where the indictment has included the waging of illegal war(and tried and executed leaders of other countries for waging illegal wars).

You and Simon have put yourselves in the interesting position of claiming that the right (in fact Simon goes one better and claims the moral duty) to enforce laws that it has no obligation to follow.

Btw Simon, you never answered what exactly constitutes a "just war" in your screwed up morality.

jeff said...

"However, it's still way too early to ridicule Democrats for still thinking the war will not be won."

Can we ridicule them for thinking the war is absolutely lost? No matter what actually happens?

AlphaLiberal said...

So while the right wing celebrates the US military's alignment with Saddam's Sunnis, let's look at some other trends.

Ethnic cleansing has created a more segregated Iraq.

Millions of people have fled their homes to destinations in-county and beyond.

And the dying continues.

"The question becomes: who will be blamed? Democrats for trying to do something, or Republicans for blocking it and refusing to vote yes or no?"

Republicans, for their blind lockstep support for this occupation.

Revenant said...

This is a ridiculous assertion especially considering this country asserts the right to go to war to enforce international laws and has participated in international tribunals where the indictment has included the waging of illegal war(and tried and executed leaders of other countries for waging illegal wars).

This country asserts "the right to go to war to enforce international laws" because telling residents of foreign countries the truth -- that we're the most powerful nation in the history of the world and are restrained from invading their country solely by the fact that the American people don't WANT to invade their country -- makes those residents of foreign countries understandably nervous. They therefore like to think that we need the UN's permission to wage war, and we usually allow them to think it. We use international tribunals for the same reason. We do it, in other words, to be diplomatic.

You and Simon have put yourselves in the interesting position of claiming that the right (in fact Simon goes one better and claims the moral duty) to enforce laws that it has no obligation to follow.

You left our some words. "Claiming that ________ the right to enforce laws"? I'm assuming "the United States has" goes in the blank?

Simon's argument, which I partly agree with, is that we had a moral obligation to remove Hussein from power. Inasmuch as international law was on our side and able to help us achieve that morally imperative end, international law was worth taking advantage of. Inasmuch as international law got in our way, it was to be ignored.

Now, do I think we have "the right" to enforce international laws that we ourselves are free to ignore? My answer is simply this: we have the power to force other nations to obey international laws that we ourselves are not bound by. This is the real world, Freder, not a playground. We're under no obligation to make sure that everything's fair and genocidal dictators get all the same rights and powers as the democratic government of the USA.

If you want to accuse the US Government of being hypocritical, all I can say is... it took you THIS long to notice?

reader_iam said...

Did Simon actually make a "we have a right ('cause we're right)" argument, much less a "'cause-we-can" definition of power argument?

You know, I don't think so--and this comment is directed to Revenant as well.

I think Simon cited specific situations in which he thinks we failed, or even committed wrongdoing, which over time (immediate or displaced) led to consequences and injustice which he feels carries an obligation of redress.

Now, one can agree or disagree with that, in whole or in part. But it's quite a different argument than the re-characterizations/recastings.

I stand open to correction by Simon--and etc., for that matter, with regard to how I'm viewing the relevant exchanges here.

Good faith would be appreciated ... .

Gedaliya said...

Millions of people have fled their homes to destinations in-county and beyond.

If trends continue, millions will soon be returning home. When they do, this war will be won, and those Democrats who preached retreat and surrender will be decisively defeated at the polls next November.

James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

Jeff -

I suppose you can, but then we also must ridicule those who seem to think progress made in a temporary surge = winning

(Once again, adding the qualification that no one can consider this winning until we see what happens when the surge ends)

Simon said...

I'll just add that I think Reader's characterization of what I've said here is exactly right, as I read it.

Revenant said...

Did Simon actually make a "we have a right ('cause we're right)" argument, much less a "'cause-we-can" definition of power argument? You know, I don't think so--and this comment is directed to Revenant as well.

I don't think he was making a "cause-we-can" argument, but I don't see the distinction between "we have a right because we're right" and "we have an obligation, so that makes it ok".

I don't think "cause-we-can" is a fair summary of my argument, either. Governments aren't people. They don't have rights -- they have powers and obligations. Asking "does America have the right to force other nations to obey laws it ignores" is like asking "does the equator have a right to be hotter than the North Pole". It IS hotter than the North Pole.

I'm not saying might makes right. I'm saying that international law is irrelevant to the question of what is "right", and our "might" means that we don't have to pretend otherwise if we don't want to.

reader_iam said...

and this comment is directed to Revenant as well.

Rev, to be more precise, it wasn't directed to your argument in and of itself, but rather to what I saw as your description or summary of Simon's. This struck me because it was at that point that it occurred to me that what I saw as the essence of Simon's argument was being seeing entirely differently by others--others from very different parts of the spectrum from each other but who nonetheless were arguing from a shared perspective on ( and in my view, elliding of, though for different reasons) Simon's argument. I found that interesting.

That said, given Simon's comment, and it notwithstanding, I'm not sure but what I got this wrong, in the end, after all.

Revenant said...

I suppose you can, but then we also must ridicule those who seem to think progress made in a temporary surge = winning

Winning -- not "won".

Let's see. We're killing a lot more of them than they are of us. We have them outnumbered and outgunned. We have the economic, military, and demographic capacity to continue fighting the war for the next hundred years if we feel like it.

Explain to me why, exactly, this counts as anything other than "we're winning"? There's no bad here. Where are the grounds for ridicule?

Fen said...

"Much of it from Iraqis and embedded milbloggers, all in Iraq"

Freder: So you trust the accuracy and veracity of uncorroborated, anonymous, unsourced and biased personal accounts (who may or may not be who they claim to be).

As opposed to what? The uncorroborated, anonymous, unsourced and biased personal accounts of the MSM?

Freder: if you can remember all the way back to January do you happen to recall what the purpose of the surge was? Lowering the level of violence (which has occurred) was only the first step. The whole point of the surge was to create conditions on the ground that would enable political reconciliation. Viewed from that perspective, which after all was the stated purpose of the surge, the surge has been a rank failure.

The Surge was not in place until June. Its only November. Have a little patience please.

Why is the Left so invested in failure in Iraq?

James said...

Rev-

I suppose I am hesitant to consider it "winning" mainly for the reasons I listed in my first post. In addition, I'll add another reason. Many people here seemed to think (most likely, rightly) that AQ and the other insurgents were smart enough to increase their violence around the time of the 06 election and immediately afterwards, where the chances of the U.S. pulling out of Iraq actually seemed relatively likely. If we are going to grant that they are smart enough to come up with that strategy, can't we also assume that they are smart enough to hold back a little bit in the face of a temporary, large increase in troops?

Technically, this strategy would be risky in that it's possible that both the Iraqi gov't and armed forces could actually become cohesive units capable of battling the insurgents ably, but I think most people around the world were betting against that happening to begin with.

In the end, I can't see it as winning when everyone knew this increase would only last for a relatively short period of time. Come back to me a few months after we return to pre-surge levels, and if this decrease in violence still exists, then I will certainly consider it winning.

Bruce Hayden said...

Ethnic cleansing - It was a very reasonable respose by the Shi'a to the terrorist attacks on civilians by the Sunni Arabs. Mixed neighborhoods gave the terrorists more opportunity to hide near by.

But ther has been a decided move back into mixed neighborhoods and those who fled the country returning, due to the success of the "Surge". Ethnic cleansing was last year's problem, not this year's.

As for the Iraqi military - it has stood up well in the Surge. Interestingly, many Iraqis give it more credit than they do our military for the recent successes.

What must be remembered is that part of the Surge involves our troops living and working closely with the Iraqi military and sometimes police. Joint operations are the norm in many areas, with there typically being more Iraqis involved than Americans, unless they are Iraqi only operations. Living and working closely together, esp. under fire, has ratched up the Iraqi compentence even more.

I should also note that in the Sunni areas, Sunni militias are also joining the Iraqi and American troops on operations. Many of the Sunni militia members were shooting at us a year ago. It is interesting when they are confronted by American troops about this.

Much of the country is now under almost full Iraqi control, as far as responsibility for security goes. Much of the Iraqi army has come up quite a ways. Their biggest lack is support. They don't have the transports, the artillery, gunships, tanks, and definately not the JDAMs in planes circling above. Much of this will come with time. What they do have is a lot of reasonably good, and getting better, infantry.

The police though are a different story - more corrupt and less competent. They are getting better, esp. with the embedding.

Bruce Hayden said...

In the end, I can't see it as winning when everyone knew this increase would only last for a relatively short period of time. Come back to me a few months after we return to pre-surge levels, and if this decrease in violence still exists, then I will certainly consider it winning.

I understand the scepticism. However, the goal, and it seems, at least so far, to be working, is to increase the security across the country enough with the Surge that the Iraqis can handle the security after we draw back down.

What the Surge has allowed us to do is to clear and hold significant portions of the country that were subject to violence before, and were safe havens for terrorists. As for al Qaeda, it has been done very carefully, boxing them in and cutting off their lines of supply and retreat. Combining this with the combined forces living in the areas they have cleared, has increased intelligence to the point that much of the al Qaeda leadership has been compromised, as well as their safe houses, supply lines, etc. After we draw down our troop levels, it is going to take years to rebuild that, and the hope is that the Iraqi military, etc. will be able to maintain the cleared areas and keep the pressure up without our help.

But, as you note, time will tell.

Revenant said...

If we are going to grant that they are smart enough to come up with that strategy, can't we also assume that they are smart enough to hold back a little bit in the face of a temporary, large increase in troops?

I don't find it credible that they timed their attacks to influence the 2006 elections. It is a clever idea, but it isn't one that an organization structured the way Al Qaeda is -- i.e., non-hierarchically -- can pull off. In any case, there doesn't seem to be any evidence that they've responded to the surge with a temporary retreat.

In the end, I can't see it as winning when everyone knew this increase would only last for a relatively short period of time.

James, even BEFORE the surge, we were winning the war by any of the usual measures -- the enemy was weaker, taking heavier losses, and less able to sustain the conflict. There are just a lot of Americans who panic if a conflict lasts too long without obvious signs of ending, that's all.

What the surge has established is that there can, indeed, be a military solution here. That demolishes the one and only argument that we were doomed to lose in Iraq, namely that using military force to stabilize the country is impossible. Now the only question is whether or not we will choose to win the war, or choose to go home before we do.

Revenant said...

Ethnic cleansing

This is a term with a meaning so broad that it is effectively without meaning. It covers everything from "genocide" (which is obviously very bad) to "members of an ethnic group moving elsewhere" (which is not necessarily bad at all). It is usually identified with the former, since most people first encountered the term in reference to the mass killings in Bosnia.

And that is why it is so often used -- as it was here -- as a dishonest rhetorical tactic. Saying that Shiites are being "ethnically cleansed", without clarification, promotes the impression that Shiites are the victims of a campaign of genocide. The reality is that Shiites and Sunnis, during this period of heightened ethnic tension, have simply moved away from each other, which is an entirely sensible and, indeed, helpful thing for them to do.