October 1, 2005

"The Iraqis are going to have to stand on their own at some point."

Says Russ Feingold -- in, significantly, New Hampshire.
He called it a formula for disaster if Iraqis get the idea Americans will remain indefinitely.

"That is going to hurt us. It's going to hurt Iraq and most importantly it's going to help the terrorist elements that use the idea of an unending American occupation as a recruiting tool."
That is well-framed statement of opposition to the war.


Meade said...

It's almost enough to make one despise politics and those who practice that wicked art.

Condoleesa said...

What most people forget is how long we stayed in Germany. I don't think the Germans grew to depend on us. I am sure the Iraqi's will make it on their own too. It will take a while. Social change doesn't happen overnight.

XWL said...

I don't agree that Sen. Feingold's statement are in opposition to the war or for that matter that far different from what the generals themselves are saying (who are advocating placing a greater effort on Iraqi training and a speedy as possible draw-down of forces, but most importantly NO time-table).

The big difference, and a dangerous difference in my opinion is that Sen. Feingold is calling for a time table and a date certain for full withdrawal.

As has been stated before by many experts on military matters there is nothing more dangerous when facing an insurgency than giving the leaders of that insurgency certain foreknowledge of your operating plans. In essence a time-table would act as a signal to the nihilistic murderers that they can save their resources and make the American withdrawal look like an abject defeat by massing all of their efforts just as the Americans leave.

Militarily it would be a flea biting an elephant, but from the propaganda point-of-view the insurgents could claim victory and that they were the liberators of Iraq rather than blood thirsty murderers.

Sen. Feingold can go to New Hampshire and say what he says secure in the knowledge that his suggestions won't be followed, and that his followers will ignore any successes in Iraq and blame any bumps in the road on the current administration's refusal to accept sage advice from concerned outsiders like Sen. Feingold.

If Sen. Feingold is too dense regarding security/military matters to realize the dangers of his sugestion, then he should be considered thoroughly unqualified to even think about being president (like what happened to Dean during the primaries).

If he knows the likely results of following his plan, but advocates it anyway, then he is dangerous, calculating and seditious.

downtownlad said...

He's 100% correct. We should have left after the elections in January.

Or perhaps after Saddam was ousted.

The aim of the war was to oust Saddam and get rid of his WMD's (which it turns out he never had).

Once that was done - our mission was over. Iraqi Democracy was never our goal.

EddieP said...

It's a cheap shot. We'll go when the time is right. The Iraqis are already standing. Hundreds of their security recruits and trainees get killed all the time, but there is no shortage of volunteers. The Iraqis want us out of there as much as we want to come home, no US Official is going to convince them to keep us there longer than necessary. They'll ask us to leave. Right now the plan is working and the IDF is coming along nicely. Finegold is just playing politics and it is way too early for that for 2008. His comment might make a little more sense in about 15 months.

Drethelin said...

Democracy always was, or always should've been the goal. Otherwise you leave Iraq ripe to be taken over by some faction worse than sadam and much readier to attack you.

There's a reason we didn't leave germany after world war 2, and there's a reason we didn't leave japan.

SMGalbraith said...

That's an excellent sound bite by Feingold. Expect to hear it repeated from now on.

Forget, if you will, the substance - after all we know how politics is conducted in multi-party democracies.

Imagine yourself as an ordinary American who is increasingly frustrated ove the seemingly endless and pointless losses in Iraq. And someone says,

"The Iraqis must stand on their own because we cannot hold them up forever".

It's a winner.


ziemer said...


have lived in wisconsin (almost) my whole life.

the correct answer is, "he is dangerous, calculating, and seditious."

aidan maconachy said...

I think what is being overlooked in this discussion is that this isn't soley about Iraq. Efforts are being made throughout the Middle East to move from a past distinguished by dictatorship and/or theocracy, toward a future in which democracy can be made real (relative to the circumstances of each country of course).

Since the American invasion of Iraq we have seen amazing developments throughout the region, that would never have taken place otherwise. When people criticize the invasion of Iraq they are looking at this historical development through a very small lense indeed. The toppling of the Ba'athist regime had profound ramifications, not only in the obvious political/military context, but psychologically as well. It profoundly effected the "psyche" of the entire region.

Since the invasion we have seen Mohammar Quadaffi disarm and take a peaceful path; we have seen elections in Saudi Arabia; the retreat of Syrian forces from Lebanon, where there is now a burgeoning democratic movement (the same is true in Egypt). These developments are unheard of and could never have come about without this courageous intervention on the part of the U.S.A.

Recently I watched a debate on BBC world from the Middle East - part of the "Hard Talk" series that took place in Qatar. I was astounded by the english fluency displayed by the arab women who stepped up the mike in traditional dress. Their grace and deeply held convictions about the state of their culture and region was impressive. In every case when it came to a vote, the numbers were on the side of the values of freedom and equality; values that are struggling against the odds to emerge in a part of the world that has long been host to tyranny.

There is so much that is emerging that is encouraging. For example, in a recent article for Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens spoke of visiting the holy city of Qom in Iran, where he met with the grandson of the late Ayatollah Khomenei, one Hossein Khomenei (a cleric in his own right). This Shi'ite leader said these remarkable words to Hitchens :

"Only the free world led by America can bring democracy to Iran."

I'm a Canadian, and it truly saddens me to watch so many Americans work to undermine and discredit this great historical effort, and take a consistently negative attitude - especially when their troops are on the front lines. This region is enormously dangerous, and if tyranny is allowed to flourish over the next few decades, with it will come yet more terror and the eventual deployment of nuclear weapons capabilities. This intervention is crucial for the security of generations to come, as it is a catalyst for profound changes that will impact the whole region, not only Iraq.

This type of political change can never come easily, it involves sacrifice and struggle. Surely our debt is not only to ourselves; surely as a free people we owe it to the disenfranchised of the world to use our might to help them realize their own freedom.

When you consider that in the 20th century, the left rallied across the globe in a great crusade to oust the Spanish dictator Franco, it saddens me to see this call-to-arms so misrepresented. Apparently the U.S. is only there as "imperialist exploiters". Nothing could be further from the truth.

When the recent anti-war marches took place, Christopher Hitchens had a very insightful remark to make, and I'll close with it ...

"Was there a single placard saying, "No to Jihad"? Of course not. Or a single placard saying, "Yes to Kurdish self-determination" or "We support Afghan women's struggle"? Don't make me laugh."

boringmadedull said...

As noted above, technically, this is not a comment against the rightness / wrongness of the war, but a disagreement with he percieves to be the current strategy for prosecuting the war.

Also, on Saddam & WMD, it's not true that he never had them. He had them, and used them, on both the Iranians and the Kurds (his own population), which is why every intel agency, and most governments (including President Clinton's) believed that he still had them.

I also agree that sound-bite wise (without the benefit of having actually listened) this has great potential, particulary in the Democratic primaries.

ATMX said...

What most people forget is how long we stayed in Germany. I don't think the Germans grew to depend on us.

The Germans certainly did depend on us, because no one wanted Germans to be independent in terms of their ability to defend against a Soviet invasion, because that would mean they would be capable of doing what they had already done twice in the last century.

And downtownlad, democracy in Iraq has been a goal and the law of the land in the US since Clinton signed the Iraqi Liberation Act.

Ben Regenspan said...

Also, on Saddam & WMD, it's not true that he never had them. He had them, and used them, on both the Iranians and the Kurds (his own population), which is why every intel agency, and most governments (including President Clinton's) believed that he still had them.
Funny, but I've never heard anyone attempt to argue that Saddam never had WMD. Most people's objections to the WMD rationale for the war stem from the fact that the administration repeatedly claimed to have definitive evidence that the weapons did, in fact, exist, when there so clearly was not any such evidence. For a time I believed that Saddam had WMD, too, but didn't go around claiming to have proof or trumpeting obvious forgeries. The fact that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction a number of years ago, and that the US was in a good position to observe this fact given that we were on friendly terms with his regime both before and after he put them to use, does not suffice as evidence.

Sebastian said...

What most people forget is how long we stayed in Germany

We're still in Germany, 60 years later. Reduction in force has just started there. I fully expect Iraq will be another half century commitment. Hopefully we won't be fighting a low level conflict for that long though.

aidan maconachy said...

It really amazes me that people still raise this business of a "lack of evidence" re WMD.

Look, if you are a small country facing invasion by a superpower, and the pretext for the invasion ... trumpeted around the four corners of the globe ... is that you possess WMD that threatens the peace of the region, what are you going to do? You are going to get rid of any serious weaponry you possess, so that when the U.S. invades they look like frauds thus enabling you to seize the high moral ground, and appear like a wronged and abused victim of American malice.

Saddam was a fox ... crafty and subversive. There had been a Russian weapons pipeline operating through Syria for years and he was deep in debt to the Russkies to the tune of mega millions. It wasn't in the Russian interest to have the extent of their military collusion with the regime exposed, and there is a body of opinion which contends that Russian Spetsnatz units collaborated with the Iraqis in moving weaponry (now suspected to be in Syria and the Bekaa Valley region). This isn't idle speculation either - the Al-Qaqaa facility outside Baghdad was mysteriously stripped of all chemicals and munitions, to the tune of some 400 tons of ordinance, a fact attested to by IAEA inspectors.

I'm not arguing the small print of these claims okay, I'm simply saying that if I was a seasoned desert fighter like Saddam, it would seem logical to "lose" the evidence, allow the Americans an easy victory while preparing the ground for an insurgency. There was no way the Iraqis could have won that war, and Saddam knew it.

So the skepticism and disbelief of some about the Bush administration's claims serve to undermine American credibility, without actually offering any hard evidence to PROVE the administration's contentions WRONG.

Just because the regime didn't leave stockpiles of weaponry sitting around with ribbons and "welcome to Iraq" cards on them - didn't mean the regime was never in possession of them.

PatCA said...

It's a good Kerry-esque argument against the war UNTIL Feingold has to face an opponent in debate or from the press.

Does he think the Iraqis are not standing on their own? They are signing up in droves and fighting. It could be better, but it takes more than a year to undo the damage from 35 years of hell.
Iraq has a legitimately elected govt and has met every deadline for state building. Does he think they have been dilatory?
Will he set a timetable? The US electorate already rejected that as surrender.

ATMX said...

Clinton said in 2003 that it was a certain fact that Iraq had WMDs up through the end of his administration. So don't pretend that this administration was the only one who believed that Saddam had WMDs. And let's not forget those who died for the containment of Iraq and their weapons, including the sailor's on the Cole in 2000 and the troops who died in barracks bombings in Saudi Arabia in the 90s.

aidan maconachy said...

Good point amx

vbspurs said...

Do you tell the burglars what time you'll be leaving your home?


OddD said...

Do you tell the burglars what time you'll be leaving your home?

Yes, and I leave the door and safe open, lay out the jewelry, and plug and box up all the electronics for easy transportation.

Would you believe those bastards still insist on peeing on the couch every single time?

Gerry said...

Ann, it is. I wish I had faith, however, that Senator Feingold would be mindful in other regards over the risks and downsides towards fostering dependency.

Sloanasaurus said...

We stayed in Germany because 1) it was the front line against Stalin, and 2) to shore up the German Gov. from domestic coup attempts so it remained a liberal democracy. We don't have problem No. 1 in Iraq, and we can accomplish No. 2 with a presence in the Gulf. I think we can start drawing down our troops in Iraq after the elections in December. We should probably stay there for a while to prevent a foreign invasion, but the Iraqis should take over the fight against the insurgency, which will probably take another 5 years to defeat.

Sloanasaurus said...

Bush could never be 100% sure that Saddam had WMD. But immediate possession of them was not the issue. It was possession of them in the future (after sanctions came down). It was quite clear that sactions were falling apart. France, Russia, and China wanted to end the sanctions and were doing everything to end the sanctions.

If Saddam would have met every demand of the inspectors and got a clean bill. People would have been calling that a joke, knowing that once the inspectors left, Saddam would just restart his programs. Thus, it is true that the real WMD in Iraq was Saddam himself.

At the time, Saddam was the most dangerous individual in the world. He had totalitarian control over $40 billon in oil wealth cash flow per year. No individual in the world can even come close to this power. Saddam alone almost funded the entire French arms industry during the 1980s. He was ready to fund the industry again. He had a recent history of aggression (invading two of his neighbors with land armies) and attacking most of the others. (Neither Iran or N. Korea has a history of such aggression). He had a history of supporting terrorism...overtly with the terrorists in Palestine and covertly with his coddling of Zarqawi.

It goes on and on. Eventually we would have had to go to war to get rid of Saddam. It would have been a lot more bloody in 2010 than 2003.

People hark that we should not have gone into Iraq to get rid of Saddam. That is because we will never know for sure how bad Saddam could have gotten. We could be in 2010 with 100,000 Americans dead, blaming Bush for not attacking Saddam in 2003 when we had the chance and Saddam was weak just as we now blame Roosevelt/French/British (and rightly so) for not taking out Hitler in 1936.

Ann Althouse said...

Gerry: I think Feingold knows he has to build out confidence about this. I expect him to do a damned good job of figuring out how.

Adam said...

You are going to get rid of any serious weaponry you possess, so that when the U.S. invades they look like frauds thus enabling you to seize the high moral ground, and appear like a wronged and abused victim of American malice.

Great. So where are those weapons now? Syria? Iran? With al Qaida operatives? If you believe that such weapons exist, then you have to conclude that Americans are less safe not knowing where they are then pre-invasion, when we "knew" where they were and had a regime we could deter from using them.

As far as progress on Iraqis defending themselves . . .

One of the few measures the Pentagon has offered the public to judge the capabilities of Iraqi security forces has been the number of battalions that can go into combat with insurgents without the help of the U.S. military.

During congressional testimony on Thursday, Gen. George Casey, top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Gen. John Abizaid, top U.S. commander in the Middle East, said the number of such battalions had dropped since July to one from three, out of the roughly 100 Iraqi battalions.

Sloanasaurus said...

Adam, do you think the U.S. military is incompetent? After all, they are charged with training the Iraqi army.

PatCA said...

Tigerhawk.blogspot.com has a good recap on General Petraeus' speech about Iraq preparedness at Princeton yesterday. It's comprehensive and very heartening.

XWL said...

After going over to the Tigerhawk blog and seeing the full context of General Patraeus' comments, why couldn't have Gen. Abazaid made sure that before he said only one battalion was at level one preparedness that this fact wasn't the failure it seems like.

By answering that question at the hearing too directly he added ammunition to every late night comedian and every anti-war activist to attack the administration with a soundbite that fits perfectly the defeatist narrative that so many secretly or openly root for.

If General Abazaid doesn't understand that the battle over public opinion is one of the key fronts on the ongoing war against the nihilistic murderous Islamist then someone else needs to be briefing congress or they need to start game-planning their public hearings so that they can anticipate these kind of questions and answers and avoid helping the propagandist on the wrong side of this issue.

DaveG said...

If you believe that such weapons exist, then you have to conclude that Americans are less safe not knowing where they are...

Which is exactly why wasting months at the corrupt UN prior to the invasion was criminally stupid. Whose idea was that again?

Adam said...

Adam, do you think the U.S. military is incompetent? After all, they are charged with training the Iraqi army.

No, but I do believe we invaded with too few personnel, which is what allowed the insurgency to rise and mount in the first place. "Broken windows" applies equally in NYC and Baghdad, and I find it noxious to believe that any criticism of military *results* entails a criticism of the men and women who are risking their lives out there.