February 12, 2016

"There is no political architecture that will convince any Sunni over the age of 3 that he or she has a future with the Iraqi state."

"The administration is trying to use a limited military weapon to defeat an adversary that only a political offensive can overcome, and we’re not willing or able to make that effort."

Said Ryan C. Crocker, a former American ambassador to Iraq, quoted in "Sunni Resentment Muddles Prospect of Reunifying Iraq After ISIS" (in the NYT).
Kenneth M. Pollack, an Iraq expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, worried that military gains in Iraq without political overhauls would be counterproductive. “At some point, they make things worse,” he said....

Mr. Crocker... said he had given up hope that the Obama administration would become more deeply engaged in seeking a political accommodation between Iraq’s factions. But he and Mr. Pollack, along with other experts on Iraq, have joined a task force organized by the Atlantic Council, a research organization based in Washington, that will make policy proposals on Iraq to the next administration.

“Unfortunately, that’s 11 months away,” he said. “The Islamic State rose because of a political vacuum,” he noted. “It wasn’t a military success but a political failure that allowed it to take hold.”

140 comments:

AReasonableMan said...

Truly, what Bush hath thrust asunder no man can join together.

Michael K said...

"Truly, what Obama hath thrust asunder no man can join together."

FIFY

The Sunnis know that Obama has allied himself with Iran and Shia Islam. Why is a mystery but it might eventually become known.

Bush made a serious mistake in appointing Bremer. The rest was the result of a seies of historical events that leftists will never figure out. They get their history from movies.

David Begley said...

The eternal and forever war between Sunni and Shia is why the United States must disassociate ourselves from those lunatics and become energy independent. We were on the verge of it a year ago and could do it easily with a few political moves.

Limited blogger said...

You had a 'functioning' Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Then you had the framework of a 'functioning' Iraq at the end of the Iraq war. Now you have nothing.

Nichevo said...

ARM, you want Saddam back? Easy to say he's dead. But that ginger general of his seems to be alive and kicking. Or pick any strongman. Apparently it has to be a Sunni because the Shiites seem to be incompetent as a group. Easy enough to do. Would you like that?

Maybe this is a pro Biden move. He's the prominent advocate of a partition.

Bob Ellison said...

"Over the age of 3"? Is this guy an expert in child psychology?

J. Farmer said...

Good time to remind everyone that the vaunted surge, by its own definition of success, was a failure. The entire point of the surge was to provide increased security to foster political reconciliation. That never happened, and predictably the Sunni population had essentially no stake in the government. It was this sectarian fracturing that made Iraq susceptible to falling apart. The biggest thing Obama did to help bring about the era of ISIS was not withdrawing troops from Iraq but, along with Sunni Gulf states, supporting and stoking armed rebellion against Assad out of some ridiculously stupid, short-sighted desire to hurt Iran.

SteveR said...

Obama had choices, and they did not include going back in time. People got what they voted for, we got out. I think someone declared victory.

J. Farmer said...
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J. Farmer said...

For what it's worth, Steve, you also seem to neglect the fact that Iraq government, whose legitimacy the surge was supposed to help support, did not want a residual force in Iraq. Plus, even at the height of the occupation, Iraq was falling into civil war and guerrilla insurgency. So I have no idea where this faith that a residual force could've contained Iraq's sectarian impulses in perpetuity comes from.

J. Farmer said...

@SteveR:

Didn't someone else also declare "mission accomplished" on May 1st, 2003?

YoungHegelian said...

Unfortunately, the Iraqi Arab Sunni community seems to wholeheartedly support one political state of affairs: that they run things, just like they did for 800 years.

It's not too tough to see why the Shi'ites & Kurds, for all their faults, seem them as prickly partners.

jimbino said...

It's my feeling that all the gratuitous "god" reference around the world only feed religious incivility.

It can't be good to force "In God We Trust" on world citizens, nor to place Ten Commandments monuments or huge Christianist crosses on public lands, nor to require prayer or moments of silence at public meetings, nor to endure anthems at sports events, nor require oaths and pledges, especially those referencing god or the Bible.

Someday, I hope to see a non-Christian in the Presidency and maybe one non-Jew, non-Roman Catholic on the Supreme Court. Even our token Black there is a Roman Catholic!

J. Farmer said...

@YoungHegelian:

"just like they did for 800 years."

Uhh, for most of the last 800 years, Iraq was ruled by Mongols and Turkmen.

Bobby said...

J. Farmer,

But to be fair, political reconciliation in conflict and post-conflict societies takes a generation (or more) to achieve. None of us on the ground believed that OIF or OND were going to achieve that during the short timeframe of the surge, though perhaps that was not well-articulated to mainstream American society.

The surge was supposed to establish the conditions to start the reconciliation process- and most will probably tell you that, in 2011, Iraq certainly seemed to be trending in that direction - though it was tenuous and fragile, at best, and required sustained and vigorous American diplomatic commitment as an "honest broker." When that effort was degraded, Iraq's slide back into sectarian violence was all too predictable. And that slide may very well have occurred even if we'd successfully negotiated a SOFA that would have allowed us to retain several thousands troops in country - we'll never know.

There's lots of blame to go around on Iraq- shared by numerous administrations, bureaucracies and demographic groups- and it's a terribly complex problem set that can't really be explained in a paragraph or two. But it figures that so many losers commenting on this blog try to boil it down to either "Bush=Bad" or "Obama=Bad" (and that's not directed at you, because I know you don't take that position).

elcee said...

J. Farmer,

It was succeeding until Obama changed course from Bush. See the answer to "Was Operation Iraqi Freedom a strategic blunder or a strategic victory?".

"Didn't someone else also declare "mission accomplished" on May 1st, 2003?"

Yes, on a banner, the commander of the USS Abraham Lincoln celebrating with his crew the completion of the naval mission in support of the ground invasion. On May 1, 2003, the President said, "The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort."

elcee said...

J. Farmer:
"So I have no idea where this faith that a residual force could've contained Iraq's sectarian impulses in perpetuity comes from."

For the explanation, see these sources plus commentary on our "irresponsible exit from Iraq".

J. Farmer said...

@Bobby:

I think we probably agree on the some of the big stuff but probably diverge in our reading of the various minutiae and how they impacted the facts on the ground. But I think my question still stands: at the height of the American occupation, Iraq was falling into brutal sectarian violence, so how could much smaller residual force prevent the exact same thing from occurring?

Mike Sylwester said...

Because of the words "over the age of three", maybe this article should have the using children in politics tag.

Michael K said...

"you also seem to neglect the fact that Iraq government, whose legitimacy the surge was supposed to help support, did not want a residual force in Iraq."

This, of course, is Obama bullshit just like the Germans did not want us to stay in 1946. Until the Russians blockaded Berlin, at least. We were very lucky in finding Adenauer in Germany. South Korea was harder but, with some bipartisan cooperation, we got a stable Korea.

I don't know if Iraq would ever have been able to get to the 18th century, let alone the 21st, but it was worth a try. Now, what we have to do is keep Muslims out of our country until Islam fades away. 500 years should about do it.

J. Farmer said...

@Elcee:

"On May 1, 2003, the President said, 'The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort.'"

He also declared the end of major combat operations.

As for that link, it contains nothing new but the same old half-truths and apologia for the war in the first place. I am sorry, but when someone can write a sentence like, "Looking ahead from the COIN "Surge", post-Saddam Iraq was clearly headed the way of Germany, Japan, and South Korea as a key regional strategic partnership," I have a really hard time taking them seriously. Never mind that Germany and Japan were both the aggressor nations in huge wars that they lost unconditionally, and never mind that both were industrialized, high functioning states, and never mind that both were not plagued by the kind of sectarianism that plagues Iraq, etc. etc. etc.

As for the 2008-2011 SOFA that Bush negotiated with Iraq included a withdraw of US troops from major population areas by 2009 and a complete withdraw of US troops by the end of 2011. Bush wanted a residual force but couldn't get the Iraqis to agree, mostly over the issue of immunity from prosecution for US troops.

elcee said...
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J. Farmer said...

@Michael K:

"This, of course, is Obama bullshit just like the Germans did not want us to stay in 1946."

Why did Bush's SOFA include a withdrawal date of December 31, 2011 for all US troops?

Bobby said...

J. Farmer,

"But I think my question still stands: at the height of the American occupation, Iraq was falling into brutal sectarian violence, so how could much smaller residual force prevent the exact same thing from occurring?"

To be sure, it might not have. Supposedly, the residual military force would have created the leverage required to sustain the diplomatic effort. Sunni tribal Awakening leaders (the so-called "Sons of Iraq") might have remained committed to the reconciliation process if the US were still financially and materially supporting their efforts. Perhaps al-Maliki doesn't systematically change out technically-capable Iraqi Army military commanders and replacing them with less competent Dawa Party cronies if American military advisors were still standing over their shoulders raising a red flag when the loyalty purge began. Maybe Barham Saleh continues to convene his provincial sector working group summits if we had remained committed, and Sunni provinces don't find themselves or believe themselves to being deliberately passed over for essential services. I could go on and on.

The point is, we'll never know. I agree that people trying to say we "won" Iraq are foolishly re-defining the definition of "win" down to some almost meaningless concept that could be applied to anything but a complete failure. But that doesn't mean Iraq was destined to fail, either.

YoungHegelian said...

@Farmer,

Uhh, for most of the last 800 years, Iraq was ruled by Mongols and Turkmen.

But, since those two groups were Sunni (the Mongols after their descendants converted), they made the Sunni Arabs the local gentry, e.g the Emirs & what not. Feudal empires always work by co-optation of the local elites, and this was no different.

For the last 800 years in Iraq everyone up & down the power hierarchy was Sunni.

J. Farmer said...

Bobby:

"The point is, we'll never know. I agree that people trying to say we "won" Iraq are foolishly re-defining the definition of "win" down to some almost meaningless concept that could be applied to anything but a complete failure. But that doesn't mean Iraq was destined to fail, either."

I certainly agree with that. But Obama won a clear electoral victory partially on criticism of Iraq and promises to withdraw troops. A majority of Americans believed that the war was a mistake, and a majority was in support of troop withdrawal. The Iraqi government did not want a residual US troops presence, and Bush himself negotiated a SOFA that included a total withdrawal of US troops. I don't see a small residual force giving us the political leverage you presume, but we could argue that point until the cows come home. In my opinion, Americans can't want Iraq to succeed more than Iraq wants Iraq to succeed.

J. Farmer said...

@YoungHegelian:

Well you specifically said Sunni Arabs. Kurds are Sunni, too, but there are more dimensions to sectarianism than broad religious labels like Sunni and Shia. Also, sectarian tensions are usually ameliorated under the rule of an outside, multiethnic empire. But when those imperial structures break down, ethnic conflict usually erupts. See the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Yugoslavia for more recent historical examples.

jimbino said...

It's my feeling that all the gratuitous "god" reference around the world only feed religious incivility.

It can't be good to force "In God We Trust" on world citizens, nor to place Ten Commandments monuments or huge Christianist crosses on public lands, nor to require prayer or moments of silence at public meetings, nor to endure anthems at sports events, nor require oaths and pledges, especially those referencing god or the Bible.

Someday, I hope to see a non-Christian in the Presidency and maybe one non-Jew, non-Roman Catholic on the Supreme Court. Even our token Black there is a Roman Catholic!

J. Farmer said...

@Jimbino:

Why are you repeating yourself?

Hagar said...

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.


Iraq is gone, Syria is gone; and there are more to come, not only in the Middle East, but also all across Africa north of the equator.

It is useless to talk of what might have been - it's gone.
What they need to do is try to estimate how bad it is going to be a year from now, and try to figure out what they want to achieve and some reasonable policy altenatives aimed at achieving that.

Richard Dolan said...

“Unfortunately, that’s 11 months away,” he said.

True at so many levels.

The disaster that Iraq has become will be a problem for a long time to come. For some, it all about Bush being too eager to get in, for others Obama being too eager to get out. But here we are. Anyone seeking the presidency needs to offer some way to deal with what's become of Iraq, even if most of the 'dealing' will be done by the Iraqis. It's quite evident that they aren't going to solve this problem on their own.

elcee said...

AReasonableMan:
"Truly, what Bush hath thrust asunder no man can join together."

For the record:
Explanation of the law and policy, fact basis for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Saddam: What We Now Know by Jim Lacey* draws from the Iraq Survey Group (re WMD) and Iraqi Perspectives Project (re terrorism).
* Dr. Lacey was a researcher and author for the Iraqi Perspectives Project.

Also see:
UN Recognizes 'Major Changes' In Iraq by VP Joe Biden on behalf of the UN Security Council.
Withdrawal Symptoms: The Bungling of the Iraq Exit by OIF senior advisor Rick Brennan.
How Obama Abandoned Democracy in Iraq by OIF official and senior advisor Emma Sky.

Dan Hossley said...

Ryan Crocker makes the same point that Putin via Lavrov made about Syria. There has to be a viable political solution or the whole thing is junk. Obama is the master of junk.

Rick said...

AReasonableMan said...
Truly, what Bush hath thrust asunder no man can join together.


If Democrats aren't capable of dealing with the world as it is we shouldn't vote for them, and if they had integrity they wouldn't run in the first place. Bush dealt with both the tech stock meltdown and 9-11 at the start of his Presidency but didn't spend the rest of his tenure blaming his predecessors for them.

It should be embarrassing Dem partisans are this idiotic but since the nuts outnumber the rest the insanity doesn't seem to have repercussions.

J. Farmer said...

@elcee:

Do you think it was just a good guess back in 1994 that when defending Bush, Sr.'s decision not to go to Baghdad and topple Hussein, Dick Cheney predicted exactly what a post-Saddam Iraq would look like: a quagmire defined by sectarian conflict?

Rick said...

J. Farmer said...

I think my question still stands: at the height of the American occupation, Iraq was falling into brutal sectarian violence, so how could much smaller residual force prevent the exact same thing from occurring?


This seems to be hinting at the resolution. Why say "the height" instead of "the end". It's an admission violence had receded so it's wrong to say "Iraq was falling". Iraq fell into such violence and was much recovered. So much so that Obama cited this fact when ordering the withdrawal.

Once the facts are corrected they no longer contradict the theory that a smaller force and / or a better transition would have been sufficient to maintain the Iraqi Army's morale.

n.n said...

This bears the telltale signs of a Rwanda massacre or social justice action. In the absence of a strong dictator, and in the wake of a premature evacuation, hopefully thy Iraqis can avoid a string of retributive change.

J. Farmer said...

@Rick:

"What they need to do is try to estimate how bad it is going to be a year from now, and try to figure out what they want to achieve and some reasonable policy altenatives aimed at achieving that."

Nobody denies that violence levels fell in Iraq. How much of that was do the surge is debatable. Most probably, it was a component and it wisely coopted the Anbar Awakening. But the completion of ethnic cleansing was also a big contributor to drops in violence. And even in this period of reduced violence, random mass killings were still occurring.

Again, the point of the surge, by its own definition, was political reconciliation. That never happened. A residual American troop presence isn't going to change the fact that Iraq is made up of three large sectarian blocs who seem incapable of sharing the same political space. Breaking it up into smaller pieces would make more sense, but the majority force knows it would be weakened by such a move. Obama tried to follow the Bush strategy on Afghanistan, and it was a total failure. In a decade and a half, US troops could not create a viable, functioning central state.

Barry Dauphin said...

Ken Pollack wrote The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq (2002).

Rick said...

Nobody denies that violence levels fell in Iraq.

So why use the earlier level of violence as evidence of facts at the end rather than the level that existed then? Hoping people won't notice?

How much of that was do the surge is debatable.

It may be debatable but it's irrelevant to the question of whether leaving a small force behind would have prevented the army's collapse.

J. Farmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick said...

n.n said...
This bears the telltale signs of a Rwanda massacre


Rwanda's an interesting comparison. For decades the left has tried to shame America for not stopping the genocide. Apparently our very existence created a responsibility on our part. But these same people argue leaving Iraqis to face the same thing is perfectly fine.

While these seem to contradict each other the consistent thread is that America is always wrong. I suspect that's a large part of their belief system.

J. Farmer said...

@Rick:

"So why use the earlier level of violence as evidence of facts at the end rather than the level that existed then? Hoping people won't notice?"

No, you're missing my point. Sectarian violence and guerrilla insurgency were not preset from the very beginning of the operation. They simmered over a period of time and really took off after the al-Askari mosque bombing. My point is that when there tens of thousands of US troops in Iraq, the country was consumed by mass sectarian violence. The surge was a response to the failure of the US military to stop this growing violence over the past four years. And again, the primary goal of the surge was not a reduction of violence (that was a means to an end) but political reconciliation. This has nothing to do with "the army's collapse."

J. Farmer said...

@Rick:

"Apparently our very existence created a responsibility on our part."

That and our signature on the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

narciso said...

yet when there were no us troops, islamic state did its best recruiting, the sunnis prefer the kurds and shia, out of the public square, the golden square and the baath are the testament to that,

Rick said...

J. Farmer said...
[The surge]has nothing to do with "the army's collapse."


Right, that's my point. So why did you bring the surge into a discussion about whether leaving troops would have prevented the Iraqi Army's collapse?

J. Farmer said...

@Narciso:

Our military presence in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s didn't seem to do much to dissuade Saudis from joining a militant Islamist group.

J. Farmer said...

@Rick:

"So why did you bring the surge into a discussion about whether leaving troops would have prevented the Iraqi Army's collapse?"

I was never talking about the Iraqi Army's collapse. That was something you brought up.

Rick said...

J. Farmer said...
That and our signature on the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.


And yet Obama said preventing Genocide was not a sufficient reason to stay in Iraq. So sometimes such signatures create responsibilities and other times they don't?

Rick said...

J. Farmer said...
I was never talking about the Iraqi Army's collapse. That was something you brought up.


If the army doesn't collapse ISIS doesn't rise. When we're discussing whether US troops would have prevented "violence" aren't you including the rise of ISIS?

SteveR said...

Didn't someone else also declare "mission accomplished" on May 1st, 2003?

JFarmer. Are you really an idiot?

Bobby said...

Rick,

"And yet Obama said preventing Genocide was not a sufficient reason to stay in Iraq. So sometimes such signatures create responsibilities and other times they don't?"

Did Obama actually say that? My understanding is that he simply refused to consider that genocide was a realistic possibility because it clashed with his predetermined goal of withdrawing all US troops from Iraq (similar to how Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz refused to consider that an Iraqi insurgency was a likely consequence of regime change because it clashed with their predetermined goal of invading Iraq). In his book Perception and Misperception in International Relations (1976), Robert Jervis demonstrates how political leaders routinely psychologically wish away inconvenient outcomes because it clashes with what they already want to believe.

In any case, I rarely pay attention to the public statements of our political leaders and I was overseas during this whole period, so if Obama did say it, it's quite possible that I would have missed it so I'd like to be pointed to the source.

Michael K said...

" I have a really hard time taking them seriously."

I know.

Iraq was the result of historical forces that began, in the modern sense, with World War I. I am so tired of the left thinking that history began in 2003 or even 1993.

You might try reading "Black Flags" to get the story.

Or you could even read The Looming Tower.

It is becoming clear that Islam is not a functioning political system in the modern sense. Egypt is ruled by strongmen and a mess anyway. At least Egypt has a sense of being a nation state. So does Iran if they could only get rid of the lunatic cult ruling class.

We can thank Jimmy Carter for Iran and we can thank Obama for Iraq as it is.

I have gone to some trouble to why Bush had no good choices after 9/11.

I don't expect you to read it but some people do and have done a lot of analysis on the reasons.

The short version is that we were there and Obama pulled us out and has abandoned Syria and Libya. We are seeing the results we could have expected and many of us did expect.

What is really looney is why ruling classes in Europe and the Democrats here want to bring Muslim men of military age here where they will not, WILL NOT, assimilate.

Let them kill each other there and stay away, if you choose, but don't bring them here !

J. Farmer said...

@Rick:

"If the army doesn't collapse ISIS doesn't rise."

I am not so sure that is true. The Syrian Army is still functioning while ISIS controls parts of Syrian territory. The proximate cause of the rise of ISIS in Iraq was the Syrian Civil War. ISIS is just a new name for what were once calling Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Although earlier iterations of AQI consisted largely of foreign fighters. By late 2009, however, it mostly consisted of Iraqi fighters. It takes more than guns and training to create an effective fighting force.

Bobby said...

Rick,

"If the army doesn't collapse ISIS doesn't rise. When we're discussing whether US troops would have prevented "violence" aren't you including the rise of ISIS?"

That's highly questionable -- ISIS resurrected in Syria, fighting Assad's regime, and it's highly unlikely that even a competent and intact Iraqi Army could have prevented that. They would, however, likely have blunted ISIS's lightning-quick incursions into Iraq.

J. Farmer said...

@Rick:

"And yet Obama said preventing Genocide was not a sufficient reason to stay in Iraq. So sometimes such signatures create responsibilities and other times they don't?

No, but like all matters of written law, they rely on legalese. This is why the Clinton administration was so careful for so long not to describe the situation in Rwanda as a genocide. There was similar trepidation among world powers with labeling the violence in Sudan as such.

Anglelyne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Farmer said...

@SteveR:

"JFarmer. Are you really an idiot?"

If you have a point to make, make it. Otherwise, I haven't been interested in schoolyard taunts since I was about 8 years old.

Anglelyne said...

Barry Dauphin: Ken Pollack wrote The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq (2002).

Experts.

Top men.

Top men.

Best and Brightest.

narciso said...

Black Flags is interesting, in what it chooses not to focus on, the Jordanians released zarquawi, who promptly went back to Afghanistan, and then Iraq, the Sunni tribesman bought
his act, not once but twice, and there is little rationalization why they threw in with vandals, the Assad 'eradication' was in kind with their cleanup operations in Hama, a generation earlier,

J. Farmer said...

@Michael K:

You quoted my statement about comparing post-Saddam Iraq to post-WWII Japan and Germany, and then nothing you wrote had anything to do with that point. And the article of yours you linked to similarly has nothing to do with that point.

Rick said...

Bobby said...

Did Obama actually say that? My understanding is that he simply refused to consider that genocide was a realistic possibility because it clashed with his predetermined goal of withdrawing all US troops from Iraq


Here are some paraphrased comments:

________________________________
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/19862711/ns/politics-decision_08/t/obama-dont-stay-iraq-over-genocide/#.Vr476vkrLcs

updated 7/20/2007 3:58:09 AM ET
Print Font:
SUNAPEE, N.H. — Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn’t a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.

“Well, look, if that’s the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now — where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife — which we haven’t done,” Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.
___________________________



He rejected the criterion, he didn't say it's not going to happen.

Rick said...

J. Farmer said...
No, but like all matters of written law, they rely on legalese. This is why the Clinton administration was so careful for so long not to describe the situation in Rwanda as a genocide.


This isn't relevant then is it? My point was that people criticize America for conflicting reasons and your legalese has nothing to do with that.

J. Farmer said...

@Rick:

"He rejected the criterion, he didn't say it's not going to happen."

That is correct, and that is not how the convention works. All politically motivated violence is not genocide. And it was a correct point to say that millions have died in internecience warfare in central Africa for decades with no calls of US military intervention to stop the violence.

Michael K said...

Zarquawi was a thug before he "got religion."

The Sunnis have given up on the Shia who are convinced that Obama is an ally of Iran. Had we stayed and played honest broker, the situation might have stabilized.

Another good book is Emma Sky's The Unraveling, which gives a feel of how the Sunni tribes might have been kept on the "reservation."

To me, Bremer is the villain in all this story.

I also recommend this review of Sky's book by someone who was also there.

J. Farmer said...

@Rick:

"This isn't relevant then is it?"

I was answering a direct question you asked me.

Michael K said...

" then nothing you wrote had anything to do with that point. And the article of yours you linked to similarly has nothing to do with that point."

I doubt you would make the connection no matter what.

If you would like a reading list on postwar Germany and Korea, let me know.

Rick said...

J. Farmer said...
I was answering a direct question you asked me.


Yes, and your response makes clear the treaty you mention is not a motivating factor to the people I criticized and you're defending.

Michael K said...

"Why did Bush's SOFA include a withdrawal date of December 31, 2011 for all US troops?"

Another example of willful blindness on your part. They call this "negotiation." The Japanese wanted to subject US military to civilian courts for decades. Finally, I believe they got permission. No doubt it was from a Democrat.

We have a long history of negotiating SOFA with occupied countries. Read about it.

Lyle Smith said...

It's true, the Islamic State didn't exist until Obama hustled the U.S. out of Iraq. Huge strategic mistake.

Bobby said...

Rick,

" My point was that people criticize America for conflicting reasons"

I actually agree with this 100%. The worst is the internationalist notion that we should only operate through multilateral organizations when the other members of those organizations aren't also going to be contributing anything. It's like the (mostly Western and Northern) Europeans want to be able to veto anything we do, but if it's something they believe needs to happen - whether an intervention to stop genocide, a humanitarian response to a complex emergency, or protection of their territorial integrity from aggrandizement - we should be the ones doing all the work (after they "permit" us, of course). No country would ever sign up to such a ridiculous premise, but you have Leftists demanding precisely such a thing.

J. Farmer said...

@Rick:

"Yes, and your response makes clear the treaty you mention is not a motivating factor to the people I criticized and you're defending."

I was not defending anyone, and there are few things in politics more boring than partisanship. Criticizing the US for not intervening in Rwanda is legitimate, though it is not something I focus on. Clinton and Albright both acknowledged in memoirs their failures in Rwanda. But a discussion of genocide makes no sense in discussing current Iraq. Again, not all political violence is genocide.

@Michael K:

"We have a long history of negotiating SOFA with occupied countries."

Not the issue; Bush wanted a continued troop presence and could not get it. The Iraqis would not agree to immunize US troops from Iraqi prosecution, and the US would not agree to allow troops accused of crimes in Iraq to be tried and convicted in Iraqi courts.

"If you would like a reading list on postwar Germany and Korea, let me know."

Nope, don't need a reading list. I just want to know what major ethnic tensions were plaguing post-WWII Germany and Korea? I think the outcomes in those countries were due overwhelmingly to the nature of those countries and their history.

J. Farmer said...

@Lyle Smith:

"It's true, the Islamic State didn't exist until Obama hustled the U.S. out of Iraq. Huge strategic mistake."

No, that is not true. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became the leader of the organization in 2010 after the previous leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, was killed. ISIS just a new name for what was previously called Al Qaeda in Iraq. The main change after the surge was that whereas AQI had primarily consisted of foreign fighters, it then consisted primarily of Iraqi fighters.

Michael K said...

"Bush wanted a continued troop presence and could not get it."

Gosh, would share your sources with us ? Lots of people disagree but they must be wrong. Please explain. I guess you were there at the time. Emma Sky didn't think so, but what does she know compared to you ?

I am so tired of internet "experts" who know all these things and have not been out of their mom's basement.

Rick said...

J. Farmer said...
I was not defending anyone and there are few things in politics more boring than partisanship.


You tried to rebut my criticism of others, it's not partisan to show the rebuttal isn't relevant to the criticism.

But a discussion of genocide makes no sense in discussing current Iraq.

Yazidis and sectarian minorities would like a place at the table. The ones that aren't dead of course.

Criticizing the US for not intervening in Rwanda is legitimate

Yes, but you can't be both for that intervention and against the US staying in Iraq. With what we knew when we made the decision that position was at best stupid, with what we know now it's either partisan or anti-American driven hypocrisy.

n.n said...

if that’s the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now
-- Obama

That's a false analogy. America brought a dictator who invaded a neighboring nation then violated the terms of our ceasefire to trial by a jury of his peers. His absence necessitated introduction and maintenance of an honest broker to stabilize the country and mediate between the various groups. Premature evacuation was not anti-choice but an elective or opportunistic denial of responsibility.

Rick said...

bobby,

Europeans want to be able to veto anything we do, but if it's something they believe needs to happen - whether an intervention to stop genocide, a humanitarian response to a complex emergency, or protection of their territorial integrity from aggrandizement - we should be the ones doing all the work (after they "permit" us, of course).


This sounds like the left's approach to economics also. They work for government, NGOs, and academia to set the rules and we follow them to produce what society needs. It's an elitist mindset closely akin to an aristocracy. Production is vulgar, for people who can't do better as a politician, bureaucrat, professor, or administrator.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael K:

"I am so tired of internet "experts" who know all these things and have not been out of their mom's basement."

Oh, I must've forgotten all those years you spent in Iraq gaining firsthand knowledge of all that you speak. The SOFA negotiations went on for months and were reported in the press. Yes, Obama could have attempted to renegotiate the SOFA, but he didn't want to, and he had the American and Iraqi publics on his side. Hell, after the 2008 SOFA was signed, there were huge protests in Baghdad that included burning an effigy of Bush.

J. Farmer said...

@Rick:

"Yes, but you can't be both for that intervention and against the US staying in Iraq."

Yes, you can. There is a difference between a genocide that is in the progress of unfolding and a potential hypothetical genocide. We don't station troops in other countries to prevent hypothetical genocides from occurring.

J. Farmer said...

@Michal K:

Gosh, would share your sources with us ?"

Yeah, her name is Condoleezza Rice, and she wrote about in a book called No Higher Honor.

Rick said...

J. Farmer said...There is a difference between a genocide that is in the progress of unfolding and a potential hypothetical genocide.

You seem to be hanging your hat on the premise there isn't a genocide going on in Iraq. What was their hypothetical justification when the Yazidis were on the front pages fleeing from ISIS for a month? Was it too late to do anything? ISIS has killed other minorities who refuse to convert, are we supposing that something which happens regularly will somehow never happen again?

Do you think in Rwanda we could predict the massacres before they occurred? Do you believe it was a one time occurrence which was over by the time we could react? Or do you suppose we tried to convince ourselves it was largely over after each resurgence died down - just as you are doing now?

J. Farmer said...

@Rick:

" Or do you suppose we tried to convince ourselves it was largely over after each resurgence died down - just as you are doing now?

I think the Convention, while its sentiments are laudable, is a mess. Genocide has a particular definition, and even well intentioned people can disagree with whether or not a genocide is even taking place. People were defending Cambodia from charges of genoise throughout the second half of the 1970s until an invasion by Vietnam put an end to it.

I don't know who these amorphous people you are talking about who were critical of the US lack of involvement in Rwanda are. If you want to give specific names, we can discuss them. But you asserted that people advocating for a US response in Rwanda were doing so because "apparently our very existence created a responsibility on our part." The people I've read who argued for an American intervention in Rwanda were doing it precisely on the basis of the Genocide Convention. If you want to accuse them of hypocrisy, then fine. But again, name names. Who are these hypocrites? My reference to the convention was simply to correct your premise that intervention was justified by "our very existence."

SteveR said...

@ J Farmer

If you have a point to make, make it. Otherwise, I haven't been interested in schoolyard taunts since I was about 8 years old.

Then don't make a snarky comment that's you think makes you look smart when it doesn't. Your expressions of intellectual superiority are nothing but taunts that you claim to have outgrown. There are lots of people like you. Life of the party types. Get the point?

Rick said...

I think the Convention, while its sentiments are laudable, is a mess

The question has nothing to do with the convention. You're saying there isn't a genocide in Iraq - that even talking about it "makes no sense". I'm asking what exactly you think a genocide looks like.

even well intentioned people can disagree with whether or not a genocide is even taking place.

Except in Iraq of course, where disagreement "makes no sense" even when the genocide leads the news.

The people I've read who argued for an American intervention in Rwanda were doing it precisely on the basis of the Genocide Convention

This was their legalistic argument, it wasn't their motivation.

J. Farmer said...

@SteveR:

First, for what it's worth, I've never been described the "life of the party" in my entire life. Bush himself said that in retrospect the banner was a mistake. He did not say it was a mistake at the time, when he was declaring an end to major combat operations in Iraq. Politicians make politically expedient statements at a time when they seem correct but history proves them wrong. That's human nature. Obama declaring "victory" after troop withdrawals obviously looks stupid in retrospect, but it's entire beside the point. Just as Bush's mission accomplished speech is entirely beside the point.

J. Farmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Farmer said...

@Rick:

"This was their legalistic argument, it wasn't their motivation."

I applaud you on being a mind reader. Just for the sake of argument, do you actually have any specific person in mind? It's hard to talk about the motivation of amorphous people.

Rick said...

J. Farmer said...
I applaud you on being a mind reader.


It's not hard to figure out people who want to stop genocide are more driven by the lives lost than the piece of paper. There likely are a handful of psychopaths who disagree but I as a general rule don't think we need to qualify ourselves for outliers. You can when they give a speech and they cite the lives lost or show pictures of the dead. If it was about the piece of paper they would just cite that.

Why don't you name who you think supported intervention because of the treaty and I'll show you where they say differently.

J. Farmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Farmer said...

@Rick:

"Why don't you name who you think supported intervention because of the treaty and I'll show you where they say differently."

Nobody springs readily to mind. If your point is that there exists people who are hypocritical on the matter, then I certainly don't disagree with you. I took exception to a single sentence you wrote on the subject: "Apparently our very existence created a responsibility on our part." This is not true. In fact, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in September 1998 was the first time that the 1948 genocide convention had been invoked. It's only been invoked since then, I believe, for the events in Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Rick said...

Here's what wiki says about Susan Rice who now feels we should have intervened in Rwanda.

She subsequently acknowledged the mistakes made at the time and felt that a debt needed repaying.[15] She said of the experience: "I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.

We owe a debt to a piece of paper? Why would anyone be willing to "go down in flames" for a meaningless treaty? What happened between between Rwanda and this statement to show violating a third rate treaty mattered so much?

Do you see where your contrarianism leads you?

SteveR said...

@ J Farmer

I think the lack of effort by the Obama Administration to do anything but withdraw regardless of anything, makes the subsequent "victory" statement very much on point. At least to the "over the age of three" set. Every thing has worked out just as expected. Or maybe not. You tell me.

J. Farmer said...

@Rick:

I think we are talking past each other here. I have already conceded that the Clinton administration, already stung by the events in Somalia, were very reluctant to involve themselves in another African country for humanitarianism, and the reason they made such an effort to avoid describing the events in Rwanda as a genocide was precisely because of the connotations that word had.

J. Farmer said...

@SteveR:

I do not believe that when Obama withdrew troops from Iraq he thought that ISIS would be a major player in the area in less than two years time. After all, his administration was stupidly trying to exacerbate rebellion and insurgency against Syria. Similarly, I don't think that when Bush declared the end of major combat operation in May 2003 he believed he would be advocating a surge four years later to get control of a violent insurgency and guerrilla war.

The Obama administration had pursued a residual force in Iraq, though only around a few thousand, but negotiations ran into the same roadblock that Bush's negotiations had run into: immunity for US troops. We also know that there was a lot of opposition within Iraq for a troop presence, which many Iraqi politicians (especially Shia) believed was a surrender of Iraqi's sovereignty.

A sizable residual force could arguably have mitigating some of ISIL's lightning strike advance on Iraq, but it would not have prevented its rise in Syria, and Iraq's fundamental instability. A residual military presence won't do anything to change the underlying sectarian dynamics at play here.

wildswan said...

My Gold Star foreign and domestic policies that you can believe in policies:
We don't need an army, an air force, a navy, a CIA, a foreign policy, police or border patrols or any understanding of history. All we need to do is leave foreigners to work out their own problems on their own and have the police go unarmed into areas where there's a lot of shooting so as to make sure that they don't do any of the shooting.

Michael K said...

"Yes, Obama could have attempted to renegotiate the SOFA, but he didn't want to, and he had the American and Iraqi publics on his side"

Well, we finally have an accurate statement from you.

" he didn't want to"

The part about " the American and Iraqi publics," I think you mean Democrats and Shia, who recognize the situation as an advantage. Iran approved, also.

" many Iraqi politicians (especially Shia) believed was a surrender of Iraqi's sovereignty. "

Yes," especially Shia" who knew Obama was on their side.

Getting some truth here, at last.

I have to confess I have been no further than Turkey but have Iraqi friends. You ?

SteveR said...

@J Farmer

SOFAs get done when they want to get them done. Just like a Nuclear deal with Iran. I never bought that excuse.

J. Farmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Farmer said...

@Michael K:

"I have to confess I have been no further than Turkey but have Iraqi friends. You?"

I have Iraqi friends, though they all lived in the US well before the war, and I never relied on their opinion for my opinion. Your lame attack about me not being there was pathetically disingenuous. You're not basing any of your opinions on Iraq based on first hand experience; you do exactly what I do. Try to learn as much about the situation from the people involved and then you form an opinion. Your further reference to people living in their mom's basement was just gratuitous insult from a surly, apparently unhappy man. I'm sorry for you. But let's move on to the actual topic at hand...

My entire premise was that Bush had wanted a residual force presence but couldn't get it. You then quoted my statement and demanded to know my source. Well, it was Condoleezza Rice's memoir. She herself said that she secured an agreement from Maliki that would include 40,000 troops but after she returned to Washington, D.C. he reneged.

I've said over and over that Obama did not want a residual force and campaigned (and won) on arguing for a withdrawal from Iraq. That said, as has been well reported in the press, the US was attempting to negotiate a smaller force presence, around a few thousand. Ten thousand was briefly considered but dropped. Even with such a low residual force, the negotiations failed over the same exact issue that was a sticking point for the Bush negotiations: immunity for US troops.

So my point is that even had Obama wanted a large residual force and pursued in negotiations, there's good chance they would not have bee able to get agreement.

@SteveR:

The Iranian Nuclear deal and a SOFA are very different issues. The Iranian deal was part of multinational talks, and Iran had been cajoled to the table by sanctions. Iraq was a sovereign nation negotiating a supposedly mutually beneficial deal with a strategic partner.

elcee said...

J. Farmer:
"He also declared the end of major combat operations."

President Bush was technically - and humanely - correct.

Declaring an end to major combat operations was a device to mark the completion of the nation vs nation war against Iraq, ie, the Government of US vs Government of Iraq (the Saddam regime). Thereby the President marked the commencement of the post-war peace operations to "support Iraq’s transition to democracy by providing immediate and substantial humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people ... once the Saddam Hussein regime is removed from power in Iraq" (Iraq Liberation Act of 1998).

The post-war peace operations included “a multinational force under unified command to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq … for the purpose of ensuring necessary conditions for … key humanitarian and economic infrastructure” (UNSCR 1511).

Technically speaking, the insurgency we countered took place after the nation vs nation war - ie, the major combat operations against the Government of Iraq (Saddam's regime) - concluded. That the combat in the post-war eventually out-sized the war doesn't alter the technical character and purpose of the President's announcement on May 1, 2003. However, one may argue that the insurgency that attacked the Iraqi people and the peace operations mandated to protect them constituted a distinct war against post-Saddam Iraq and the US-led coalition, which still wouldn't change that the President's announcement on May 1, 2003 was technically (and humanely) correct.

Rusty said...

Blogger Lyle Smith said...
It's true, the Islamic State didn't exist until Obama hustled the U.S. out of Iraq. Huge strategic mistake.

Before we left AQI was intimidated by our presence and was restricted to improvised guerilla hit and runs. They lived in fear of our ability to stand off and drop ordinance. After we left they had nothing to fear.

Michael K said...

"Your lame attack about me not being there was pathetically disingenuous."

Oh yes. You were an innocent bystander.

"Oh, I must've forgotten all those years you spent in Iraq gaining firsthand knowledge of all that you speak."

Yes, just a friendly remark.

"Your further reference to people living in their mom's basement was just gratuitous insult from a surly, apparently unhappy man. I'm sorry for you."

Speaking of gratuitous. I have published my comments and opinions at several places on the web where we actually have friendly debates. I would be happy to provide links, like this.

Please show where you have posted your opinions and views for debate without the "gratuitous insults" you are so prone to include in any comment.

Your mom's basement is the most likely spot for those who provide no links and who never debate except by insult.

This site has a number of educated people who post insightful comments. It also has a few juvenile trolls. I have not yet decided where you fit. So far, you don't seem to be very well educated in spite of your superior tone.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael K:

"I have published my comments and opinions at several places on the web where we actually have friendly debates."

So what?

"Please show where you have posted your opinions and views for debate without the "gratuitous insults" you are so prone to include in any comment."

Hmm...let's see. Here's my first comment on this post:

"Good time to remind everyone that the vaunted surge, by its own definition of success, was a failure. The entire point of the surge was to provide increased security to foster political reconciliation. That never happened, and predictably the Sunni population had essentially no stake in the government. It was this sectarian fracturing that made Iraq susceptible to falling apart. The biggest thing Obama did to help bring about the era of ISIS was not withdrawing troops from Iraq but, along with Sunni Gulf states, supporting and stoking armed rebellion against Assad out of some ridiculously stupid, short-sighted desire to hurt Iran."

Then there was my second comment in response to another commenter:

"For what it's worth, Steve, you also seem to neglect the fact that Iraq government, whose legitimacy the surge was supposed to help support, did not want a residual force in Iraq. Plus, even at the height of the occupation, Iraq was falling into civil war and guerrilla insurgency. So I have no idea where this faith that a residual force could've contained Iraq's sectarian impulses in perpetuity comes from."

And then in response to another commenter my third comment:

"I think we probably agree on the some of the big stuff but probably diverge in our reading of the various minutiae and how they impacted the facts on the ground. But I think my question still stands: at the height of the American occupation, Iraq was falling into brutal sectarian violence, so how could much smaller residual force prevent the exact same thing from occurring?"

Where exactly are the gratuitous insults that I am "so prone to include?"

So far, you don't seem to be very well educated in spite of your superior tone.

Yes, I know, Michael. Your standard response is to insult the intelligence of all that disagree with you. I don't attack people, because i don't care about people. Getting into a pissing match with some anonymous Internet commenter is a waste of time. I'd much prefer to debate the issue.

And by the way, your entire response was to my first paragraph? I then spent three paragraphs responding to you, and you ignored it. You wanted to know my source, and I told you it was Condoleezza Rice's memoir.

@Elcee:

I will defer to the former president himself who said that the banner was a mistake. The speech itself contained a number of references to mission accomplished but were removed at the behest of Donald Rumsfeld, appropriately.

J. Farmer said...

p.s.

@Michael K:

Here was the comment I directed towards you before you threw your little temper tantrum:

"Not the issue; Bush wanted a continued troop presence and could not get it. The Iraqis would not agree to immunize US troops from Iraqi prosecution, and the US would not agree to allow troops accused of crimes in Iraq to be tried and convicted in Iraqi courts. "

Where's the gratuitous insult there? Seems to me I was sticking to the issues at hand.

Michael K said...

" I don't attack people, because i don't care about people. "

Somebody is posting using your ID, then. Have a nice weekend.

elcee said...

J. Farmer:
"A residual military presence won't do anything to change the underlying sectarian dynamics at play here."

Again, see the sources on our "irresponsible exit from Iraq" compiled at the link in my comment at 2/12/16, 12:13 PM. It's understood that American leadership and military presence on the ground were vital organic factor for the Iraqis working towards a reformed society.

J. Farmer:
"Even with such a low residual force, the negotiations failed over the same exact issue that was a sticking point for the Bush negotiations: immunity for US troops."

Actually, Obama's low cap as pre-condition dissuaded Iraqi officials who would pay the political cost sans commensurate benefit of US military presence. Immunity for US troops generally is a sticking point in SOFA negotiations, not just with Iraq. It's usually not a deal breaker, but the President also doesn't usually take a passive-aggressive approach to undermining them. Even with Obama's passive-aggressive approach, the US was offered a workable executive arrangement on the immunity issue that he rejected despite later accepting a weaker arrangement for US troops in the anti-ISIS campaign.

elcee said...

J. Farmer:
"A residual military presence won't do anything to change the underlying sectarian dynamics at play here."

Again, see the sources on our "irresponsible exit from Iraq" compiled at the link in my comment at 2/12/16, 12:13 PM. It's understood that American leadership and military presence on the ground were vital organic factor for the Iraqis working towards a reformed society.

J. Farmer:
"Even with such a low residual force, the negotiations failed over the same exact issue that was a sticking point for the Bush negotiations: immunity for US troops."

Actually, Obama's low cap as pre-condition dissuaded Iraqi officials who would pay the political cost sans commensurate benefit of US military presence. Immunity for US troops generally is a sticking point in SOFA negotiations, not just with Iraq. It's usually not a deal breaker, but the President also doesn't usually take a passive-aggressive approach to undermining them. Even with Obama's passive-aggressive approach, the US was offered a workable executive arrangement on the immunity issue that he rejected despite later accepting a weaker arrangement for US troops in the anti-ISIS campaign.

elcee said...

J. Farmer:
"I will defer to the former president himself who said that the banner was a mistake."

You conflated separate issues: the banner referring to the ship's mission and the President's declaration of the end of major combat operations.

Again, the President's declaration of the end of major combat operations against Iraq was a technical action, regardless of the visual backdrop of the announcement, to switch from the war condition to the post-war condition to commence peace operations with Iraq.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael K:

Somebody is posting using your ID, then. Have a nice weekend.

How very typical of you, Michael. Make a charge you can't substantiate and then when called on it, you waddle off with a smug air of superiority.

@Elcee:

Ethnic cleansing in mixed neighborhoods was largely finished by the time of the surge, and the so called Anbar Awakening is mostly seen as a reaction to AQI's violence. Not surprising that at the time AQI was mostly a foreign implant, though by 2011 it consisted mostly of Iraqi fighters. Also, the most proximate cause for the rise of ISIS was the collapse of the Syrian state.

Frankly, I wished Obama hadn't wasted anytime trying to negotiate even a small residual force. But even if we presume that Obama's SOFA negotiation was a debacle, it was nothing compared to the blunders his administration made in Syria and Libya. Obama's idiotic interventions in Syria had a lot more to do with the rise of ISIS than the Iraq withdrawal. But it's hard for people on the right to make that argument since at the time they were criticizing Obama for not being interventionist enough. We already know that some of the US-armed rebels have defected to the other side with their US-provided arms.

J. Farmer said...

@Elcee:

First, Bush's speech made similar references to "mission accomplished" before it was edited at the last minute by Rumsfeld. Second, a big political stunt on an aircraft carrier seems like an unusual venue for announcing a technical change in the nature of hostilities in Iraq.

SteveR said...

@ J Farmer

The Iranian Nuclear deal and a SOFA are very different issues.

Well of course they are different "issues" but the negotiation for the IRAQ SOFA with the Obama administration never had any serious effort to reach an agreement. They wanted out.

Different issues? Not the point.

The administration got what they wanted, in both cases. My point.

CWJ said...

I come back hours later and find J. Farmer worrying the bone as much as ritmo ever did in the old days. J and everyone else, if you haven't made your point by now, forget it!

Michael K said...

Yes, I'm afraid Farmer is sounding Ritmo-like.

J. Farmer said...

CWJ:

I've made my point repeatedly. Most of what's written has been a reply to points that others have made.

@Michael K:

Yes, I'm afraid Farmer is sounding Ritmo-like.

No idea what that means but considering the source probably not something to worry too much about.

Unknown said...

---It can't be good to force "In God We Trust" on world citizens, nor to place Ten Commandments monuments or huge Christianist crosses on public lands,---

What color is the sky on your planet?

jr565 said...

""The administration is trying to use a limited military weapon to defeat an adversary that only a political offensive can overcome, and we’re not willing or able to make that effort."
while he is right that Obama is negligent he is wrong about the political solution. a political solution cannot occur until ISIS is smashed. And that requires a military solution.
You see this in Afghanistan now. The taliban is resurgent. So Obama needs to send in more troops. Only he's not sending in enough.
You can't have your cake and eat it too. If you want to take on ISIS or Al Qaeda, you need to use your military. Once ISIS is quashed THEN you need a political solution. And you need to keep troops there until the political solution has a chance to flourish. Exactly like what happened in Iraq. And this is exactly why we are now having a problem in Iraq (and Syria, and Afghanistan, and Iran)
Obama wants to fight wars on the cheap. He thinks he can get by dropping a few bombs. Then restating the victory conditions so as to pretend like he isn't leaving his successor quagmires on top of quagmires, where they will be screwed if they don't do anything but will also be screwed if they do.
But you know what? At least by engaging with the enemy you get to implement the political solution everything thinks is required to solve the issue.

jr565 said...

"First, Bush's speech made similar references to "mission accomplished" before it was edited at the last minute by Rumsfeld. Second, a big political stunt on an aircraft carrier seems like an unusual venue for announcing a technical change in the nature of hostilities in Iraq. "

the aircraft carries mission was accomplished not the entire war. Holy jesus. Are you guys still on this issue?

jr565 said...

J Farmer wrote:
"Good time to remind everyone that the vaunted surge, by its own definition of success, was a failure. The entire point of the surge was to provide increased security to foster political reconciliation. That never happened, and predictably the Sunni population had essentially no stake in the government.

Well no. It was not a failure. It was a resounding success. The issue that needed to be dealt with, so that reconciliation could occur was security. We resolved it so thoroughly that Maliki could argue we weren't needed there any more. Because there was little to no violence.
Any idiot could have told you though that if you withdrew troops at that point reconciliation could very well stall. If we had troops there we could have kept Maliki in check so he didnt exceed his authority. As such he was ousted DEMOCRATICALLY. The system then, that Bush set up, works. It didn't devolve into a dictatorship. That is a better Iraq than Obama will leave his successor. Who also is leaving Syria in the shit hole, and Irans sanctions in the shithole. All of which we'd have more control over if we hadn't bugged out because Obama is a pussy.

Roughcoat said...

Late to the party here, but what the heck.

This is an interesting discussion despite all the rancor. Good points being made by all participants. I'm staying on the sidelines except to say this. Some of you here know that I have an active role in what's going on in Iraq. I'm working with the region's Christian Assyrians in their effort to defend themselves and their homeland and in so doing to establish an Assyrian autonomous entity in the Nineveh Plain. Pursuant to that effort we have been meeting with U.S. government representatives to seek support for having ISIS actions against the Assyrians (and Yazidis, among other) to have met the official criteria of genocide. The Assyrians and Yazidis will tell anyone who cares to ask that a genocide against them is indeed underway. I may soon be deploying downrange to embed with the Assyrians forces in the field and if and when that happens I'll be able to see for myself whether that is the case. But of course I already believe it is.

David said...

I think that political vacuum had deeper roots. A certain Saddam Hussein. Brutal dictatorships tend to do that. Bush at least recognized the void and tried to nurture a political mechanism that would fill it. His success was mixed but there was still a chance. Obama never even tried so whatever chance of success there was evaporated.

David said...

Obama foreign policy has been a disastrous failure. Hilary was a big part of the disaster. Yet we may still elect her President, and lots of serious people are supporting the idea of electing her.

David said...

"Nope, don't need a reading list. I just want to know what major ethnic tensions were plaguing post-WWII Germany and Korea? I think the outcomes in those countries were due overwhelmingly to the nature of those countries and their history."

Ethnic tensions are not always internal. So try the Germans and the Russians. Also try the Koreans and the Chinese. Things were pretty tense between those groups after WW II.

You talk as though the hundreds of thousands of American troops in these countries meant nothing (including the 50,000 or so American lives lost in Korea 1950-53.) Politics is easy if you ignore the parts you don't like to deal with.

J. Farmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Farmer said...

@Roughcoat:

"Pursuant to that effort we have been meeting with U.S. government representatives to seek support for having ISIS actions against the Assyrians (and Yazidis, among other) to have met the official criteria of genocide."

The Yazidis are certainly the strongest case for a genocide argument. At the absolute least ISIS was engaged in ethnic cleansing. But given that the Yazidis had no realistic option for a source of rogue, ethnic cleansing was tantamount to genocide as they were targeted on social identity traits. Even though my compass generally points in a non-interventionist direction, I would not have a particular problem with using air power to provide a safe haven for Yazidis against outside attack. That is a much different level of intervention than destroying a state (e.g. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya). For what it's worth, I've also argued that it's perfectly fine for Americans to discriminate in favor of Christians, even though I myself am not a Christian (or any other religion). I would similar expect Muslim states to prioritize care of other Muslims. That's what culture is all about.

@David:

"Obama foreign policy has been a disastrous failure. Hilary was a big part of the disaster. Yet we may still elect her President, and lots of serious people are supporting the idea of electing her."

Nothing I disagree with in that statement.

"Ethnic tensions are not always internal. So try the Germans and the Russians. Also try the Koreans and the Chinese. Things were pretty tense between those groups after WW II."

I don't disagree. But I am speaking specifically to the invocation of post-WWII Japan and Germany as an argument for post-occupation Iraq. I fundamentally disagree with any such comparison. There is no meaningful similarity between the two outside of American involvement. The US pursued a pretty good policy in post-war Japan and Germany. The US was able to be generally magnanimous with Germany and Japan primarily because both nations had been unconditionally defeated in aggressive wars they initiated. The Western powers, I think, were fundamentally right to seek unconditional surrender because they rightly feared another Versaille scenario where political leaders of the respective nations could argue that they had not actually been defeated but were instead sold out by internal traitors, etc. Also, prior to the war, both Japan and Germany were coherent nations with deep historical, linguistic, and cultural ties within their respective countries. No similar equivalent in Iraq.

Iraq is a state without a nation. The Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and Shiite populations are simply too divided too share a similar space. Hell, the Czechs and the Slovaks didn't want to share a common space. Southern Italy barely functions because of its tribal, familial structure. What did Yugoslavia look like post-Tito? The history of multi-ethnic states is not a good one. The first thing post-colonial India did was fight a civil war in which a million people died as the Muslim and Hindu populations sorted themselves out. The deadliest war America ever fought was the one against itself. The tribal forces at play here are so primeval that I think it is simply farce to argue over the niggardly contribution of some imaginary "residual force."

J. Farmer said...

@jr565:

"the aircraft carries mission was accomplished not the entire war. Holy jesus. Are you guys still on this issue?"

No, the speech itself made similar references to "mission accomplished" but these were sensibly excised by Rumsfeld at the last minute. Bush himself as admitted that the banner was a huge mistake.

"Well no. It was not a failure. It was a resounding success. The issue that needed to be dealt with, so that reconciliation could occur was security."

Agree with the last sentence. Since apparently according to Michael Kennedy the strength of our arguments rest on our ability to link to books that agree with us, let me recommend Why We Lost by Lieutenant General Daniel Bolger. The benchmarks that the White House set itself for the surge were not achieved. This is not an indictment of the US military or the Bush administration. The fact of the matter is that the United States cannot reconcile Iraq's political differences. Despite billions of dollars and years of training, the Iraqi military crumbled in the face of ISIS. Again, this is not the fault of America. Effective fighting forces are built on so much more than training and weapons. Ask any soldier on the frontline. They will tell you that they are not motivated to fight by some abstract political goal but by a desire to support their comrades. The sense of nationalist pride and patriotism is potent and an essential component for cohesion. It is next to impossible to understand by people who are removed from that world. We can train an Iraqi in how to use an M-16, but we cannot train in Iraqi in how to have a sense of true nationalism, to truly understand what it means to surround ones ego in service of a greater cause. Given the choice, most people would rather be alive than die for an abstract principle. During the Mumbai attack, Indian police officers fled the scene instead of risking their life to engage the attackers. And India is not a country devoid of nationalism.

J. Farmer said...

Let me finally add, at the risk of sounding pompous (heaven forbid), I am talking about forces that are much more primal to the human experience than boring, narrow questions like whose better (or more properly, whose worse), the Democrats or the Republicans. "Iraq," in its modern sense, is a 20th century creation. Why should the borders carved out of the Ottoman Empire be presumed to contain a coherent nation. As far as I can tell, it doesn't. And I think it is a very foolish endeavor to try to create a nation-state with no nation. Particularly one built on parliamentary democracy.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael K:

"This site has a number of educated people who post insightful comments. It also has a few juvenile trolls. I have not yet decided where you fit. So far, you don't seem to be very well educated in spite of your superior tone."

Fair enough. For what its worth, you have referred to me in previous threads variably as "intelligent" and "well read." I wouldn't mind if these were merely insincere civilities, but it's otherwise comforting to think you could manage (however temporary) to muster such positive regard for my character.

So, in the interest of fair, honest debate, perhaps you would be interested in narrowing in on a seeming point of contention. As you perhaps know, I have consistently derided comparisons to post-war Iraq with post-war Germany and Japan. On the other hand, you seem to find these historical comparisons useful to your argument. Can you start by telling us which actions the US took in the latter half of the 1940s that you find instructive for its policy towards Iraq?

Jonathan Graehl said...

J. Farmer seems to have the facts as written by others, and arrays them consistently [disclaimer: I don't, so how could I judge?]. I think a bit of the conflict here comes from people who are less extensively prepared for the topic not wanting to back down to a stranger.

Jonathan Graehl said...

That was a bit unclear. I just mean Farmer seems well-read to a layman, and seems to be acting in good faith.

Mark said...

Jonathan, it doesn't take much experience here to see that Michael K acts like a surly child every time he is intellectually bested.

For someone who claims others act in bad faith, he sure acts in bad faith anlot.

Aging related declines are sad to watch.

Gary Rosen said...

"you waddle off with a smug air of superiority."

No one can accuse J. Farmer of lacking a rich sense of irony.

Rusty said...

Ah. The Iranian nuclear deal.
What a win.
Seem like Iran, with their new found wealth have gotten better at lobbing missles with more accuracy.
And stockpiles of enriched uranium have gone missing. In Iran of all places.
Pakistani centrfuges are in the offing. But , hell Russia loves them some Iran. Maybe they'll help.
Speaking of Russia. Putin has activated the army group of their SW military region and has deployed warships in the Black Sea off the shores of Turkey.
Russia has also built two new army groups in her western and northern military districts. Poland is arming civilians and Sweden is increasing her military spending in the convinced that Russia will start a war in the next couple of years.
Our children are going to curse the generation tht put this man in office.


Bobby said...

J. Farmer,

"The tribal forces at play here are so primeval that I think it is simply farce to argue over the niggardly contribution of some imaginary "residual force."

Again, the specific size and capability of the residual force- while important- was less important than the support it provided to the diplomatic and security assistance missions. Without the residual force to provide extended movement capabilities, the Mission was no longer able to visit significant areas of Iraq and independently assess what al-Maliki's government was doing and how it was doing it. Without the residual force to provide military advisors, the Mission was no longer able to identify when al-Maliki started the purge of his Iraqi Army subordinate commanders, relieving competent officers and replacing them with loyalist Dawa cronies. And so on and so on.

To be clear, I agree with you about the extreme complexities of the Iraqi "nation"-state- I'm not one of these guys who pretends that we had "won" and Iraq was Paris, but for Obama not leaving the residual force. The ethnosectarian and political divides of Iraq are almost incomprehensible to the American mind. The lack of civil society and functioning economy- both legacies of Ba'ath Party socialism- would have made long-term progress without resorting to violence quite unlikely. The social fabric of Iraq, always hanging on by seams, was in tatters, and no, the Surge did not put it all back together. The potential that the mission would have failed likely outnumbered the probability for success. But you're looking only at the troop numbers in the residual force and declaring that it couldn't have done anything, instead of acknowledging that it served more to provide leverage to other, more strategically important components of the US Government. Given our different experiences, I can understand why we see it differently, but it's not necessarily "farcical" to believe that the residual force might have made a difference.

That said, the lack of residual force could not- and would not- have substituted for appropriate and competent leadership of the Mission in Baghdad. Christopher Hill, James Jeffrey and Richard Beecroft are fine men, but none of them was up for the challenge of being Ryan Crocker. Perhaps the initial choice, Anthony Zinni, whom I disagree with in so many ways on so many different things, might very well have been able to make it work- I will give him that. But we'll never know.

Rusty said...

And yet J. Farmer while we were there there was much less violence perpetrated aginst minority Iraqis.
Strategically we had strong mitigating influence in the area. [
Now Russia and Iran are going to call the shots in the Middle east.

Rusty said...

How many kilos of 50% refined uranium 235 is needed to create a nuclear bomb?

Michael K said...

My God ! This is still going on !

"Can you start by telling us which actions the US took in the latter half of the 1940s that you find instructive for its policy towards Iraq?"

OK. We occupied Germany and Japan. Personally, I find the occupation of Germany less helpful but I do find a good parallel with something Patton said, which got him into a lot of trouble. DeNazification was an obsession with Morgenthau, FDR's Treasury Secretary who also controlled some of the agencies that were searching for Nazis. Patton wanted to allow many, who had been Nazi party members and who were not serious war criminals, to resume their jobs in the government. He made the mistake of telling some reporters, who were no more responsible than reporters today, that Nazis were like Democrats and Republicans. The press pilloried him and he was relieved.

Fortunately, Truman was far less of an ideologue than Morganthau (who was Jewish) and many Nazis were allowed to keep the country running.

We made Morganthau's mistake in Iraq and fired thousands of Baath Party members. I blame Bremer for most of that and also for the disbandment of the Iraqi army. Many of the Shia privates had deserted but there was still a nucleus of Sunni officers who should have been retained to recruit a new smaller army.

Japan also was an example of practical policies in allowing the Emperor, who was a war criminal, to retain his throne but surrender all real power to McArthur. Neither Japan nor Germany were tribal societies and we made serious mistakes in not recognizing how important that was.

Rusty said...

Michael K said...
My God ! This is still going on !


Some people need to prove that they're the smartest person in the room.

Livermoron said...

My brother worked closely with Bremer in Iraq and was there two years in a very senior position. He was wounded by an IED in the process. In our discussions he very clearly has the position that Michael K is espousing.

He would laugh J Farmer out of the room.

Take that for what it's worth.

Rusty said...

About 40.
I answered my own question.
And now that Iran has the materials and the money and the method of delivery, it is only a matter of time.

J. Farmer said...

@Bobby:

"Given our different experiences, I can understand why we see it differently, but it's not necessarily "farcical" to believe that the residual force might have made a difference."

Okay, you are correct; my use of the world "farcical" was rhetorical flourish too far. I do not deny that a plausible scenario can be drawn, but it seems that even you concede it would have been long shot. I probably agree with you, but I don't want to risk US military lives for a long-shot political goal. I want to risk their lives in serious defense of our country, not to defend Iraq from other Iraqis. Let me just say that while some residual force may have provided diplomatic leverage at the fringes, I don't think it would have been anywhere potent enough to counter the prevailing sectarian trend. A country that needs an outside military force to ensure its cohesion is a fundamentally volatile one. Our objectives in Afghanistan, after all, have mostly been a total failure.

@Michael K:

I have always agreed with you that Bremmer's disbanding of the Iraqi military, and the process of debaathification was a disaster. The point I have always taken issue with is the argument that because post-war occupation of Germany and Japan resulted in cohesive, high functioning states, the same was possible in Iraq. I have always rejected that argument because Iraq, on so many fundamental levels, is so different than either post-war Germany or Japan.

@Livermoron:

"Take that for what it's worth."

I will take that for what it's worth: nothing. If you have an argument to make, make it. No, I am not going to take the word of an anonymous brother of an anonymous Internet commenter.

@Rusty:

Nobody's talk about Iran. We're talking about Iraq. The Iranian nuclear deal is a completely separate issue that has little to nothing to do with the issues being discussed here.