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Schmedlap
05-30-2010, 08:06 PM
Itís conventional wisdom that overthrowing Saddamís regime and installing a new government was a strategic blunder. What is the rationale that explains why it was a blunder? I know all of the rhetoric (Bush is evil; American Soldiers are victims; we rape and torture everyone we meet, etc, etc). But what is the actual intellectual rationale for why it was a blunder? I'm sure there is one, but it's tough to find amidst all of the other nonsense.

From my naÔve standpoint, I see a dictatorship replaced with a democracy, many foreign debts to Iraq forgiven, the likelihood of increased oil production benefiting all Iraqis rather than just the ruling regime, a dramatic improvement in quality of life for the Kurds, removal of sanctions on all of Iraq, a government that has established friendly relations with its neighbors, creation of security forces that are far less abusive or corrupt, and a military unlikely to attack neighbors or its own government. What am I missing? There is no perpetual state of emergency (http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/05/20105116134595496.html) like in Egypt, no Theocracry and ridiculously mismanaged (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications//the-world-factbook/geos/ir.html) economy like in Iran, no entrenched extended families (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Saud#Wealth) pillaging the countryís resources like in Saudi Arabia. Even if you want to assert that Iraq will be dependent upon us for years to come, I've got one word for you: Israel.

Is it really such a disaster?

Entropy
05-30-2010, 08:48 PM
Personally, I think it's too early to tell, but here are some factors to consider:

- The apparent success of the Iraqi government may very well be transitory. I don't think it's too far-fetch to consider that it could all fall apart and go back to civil war.

- The long-standing balance of power in the Gulf was broken and overthrowing Saddam greatly strengthened Iran's strategic position. I think Iran received much greater benefit than we did from Saddam's overthrow. There isn't another regional power, except us, to confront Iran if needed.

- There is the continuing question of whether it was worth it on a cost-benefit basis. Again, too soon to tell for certain, but absent the threat of WMD's the benefit to US interests were questionable considering the costs in my estimation. Maybe in the future the benefits will more clearly outweigh the costs, but as it stands now, I don't think they do.

Schmedlap
05-30-2010, 10:08 PM
- The long-standing balance of power in the Gulf was broken and overthrowing Saddam greatly strengthened Iran's strategic position. I think Iran received much greater benefit than we did from Saddam's overthrow. There isn't another regional power, except us, to confront Iran if needed.

My understanding of Iran's benefit is that it now has significantly more influence in Iraq (really, what kind of threat was Saddam from 91 to 03?). Wouldn't that gain evaporate if the GoI collapsed?

Fuchs
05-30-2010, 11:06 PM
I wrote this in 2007:


One of the most important reasons to wage war is that people expect to win.
Well, history tells us that losing a war is statistically at least as likely as to win it, but statistics cannot reveal the true horror.

Even many victories are questionable.

So, how shall we decide whether a conflict was won or lost?
The most basic condition that needs to be fulfilled is that a won war actually improved the situation for the country that "won" it in comparison to a "defeat" or no war at all.

Well, this is remarkably difficult to fulfill. Philosophy still doesn't provide us the tools to weight variables like killed citizens, wounded citizens, money, resources other than money, influence, fame and prestige. As every war that's claimed to be "won" included both losses and gains, it's probably impossible to claim victory at all based on math. But perceptions alone as measure for victory or defeat don't help either as everyone is thoroughly manipulated in his perceptions at the end of a war.

Anyway, it cannot hold up to serious thinking that some people claim that victory or not is simply decided by mission accomplishment. To accomplish a mission doesn't tell much, as missions almost never include comprehensive cost limits.

It's certainly no victory to accomplish a small mission that benefits the own country only marginally at costs of several thousand own KIA and several ten thousand own WIA as well as some hundred billion dollars expenditure.

That's also my rationale for why it was a blunder; marginal advantages gained at very high costs.

Entropy
05-30-2010, 11:41 PM
My understanding of Iran's benefit is that it now has significantly more influence in Iraq (really, what kind of threat was Saddam from 91 to 03?). Wouldn't that gain evaporate if the GoI collapsed?

Iranian influence in Iraq is only a part of it. Before 2003, Iraq was Iran's primary threat (and vice versa). That threat is completely gone. There's no threat from Iraq WMD's, no threat from the Iraqi Army, etc. It's not coincidental the Iranians are in the midst of restructuring parts of their military.

Fuchs
05-30-2010, 11:52 PM
Actually there was no threat of Iraqi WMD in 1997-2002 either.

There was no conventional Iraqi threat to Iran in 1991-2002 either, for the Iraqi military was almost disarmed in comparison to its 1990 state and the Iranian capabilities.

Schmedlap
05-31-2010, 12:06 AM
I guess I should have added in one more question...

What time frame are we looking at when assessing this?

Obviously there is no way to determine this with great precision, but in general terms it seems almost self-evident that the mideast in 2030 will be significantly different as a result of this regime change than it would have been had we plodded away with sanctions that (as far as I know - though I'm no expert) showed no sign of weakening Saddam's grip on power. Do we have reason to believe that it will be more problematic for us in the long term?

Fuchs - I do agree there is a cost-benefit angle that needs to be considered. I'm trying to inquire into what the benefits were (advantageous versus disadvantageous changes in the situation). In my opinion, those are more difficult to ascertain than the costs, as it seems that most of the costs are either front-loaded (money, lives, limbs) or can be forecasted with reasonable accuracy (future military operations, future aid).

William F. Owen
05-31-2010, 05:23 AM
Strategic history can only be looked at as "history". Strategy can only be viewed by how it implemented the policy at the time - as it was executed.

Was the policy of getting rid of Saddam a blunder? Personally I believe not.
Personally, I think how the US invaded Iraq was done extremely badly - if the policy was to have stable, pro-US nation. That was the Strategic blunder.
It was so bad, that it is an example I use to show how people do not understand how strategy sets forth policy. Would an alternative have even worked? Dunno, but I almost any clown can show how strategy could have been bettered linked to policy.

Was Iraq worth 4,000+ KIA it cost? Dunno. What level of Iraqi support for the US - for how long - makes that all worth it? Dunno. - but strategy costs. Lives or treasure. It never comes free.

Not sure this helps, but it's free.

Dayuhan
05-31-2010, 05:47 AM
One factor that has to be considered, but which is impossible to quantify, is the degree to which the focus on Iraq diverted attention and resources from Afghanistan and from the broader effort against AQ.

I'd have to say on balance that the Iraq program has worked out better than I expected, though as mentioned above it remains to be seen whether the current government can survive, and what will replace it if it does not.

bourbon
05-31-2010, 07:39 AM
Wouldn't that gain evaporate if the GoI collapsed?
Depends on how much resources Iran would commit, and how they get bogged down by it.

Actually there was no threat of Iraqi WMD in 1997-2002 either.
However, the Iranians didn't know that. After Iraq killed 1,000,000 of their people in the 1980ís, the Iranians were going to err on the side of caution. And they did.

Fuchs
05-31-2010, 10:45 AM
One factor that has to be considered, but which is impossible to quantify, is the degree to which the focus on Iraq diverted attention and resources from Afghanistan and from the broader effort against AQ.

Even worse, stupid wars distract from urgent domestic reform needs.
Domestic problems can easily reach an annual relevance/loss of hundreds of billion USD. Few foreign policy problems come close to this, especially not a smallish already defeated dictator at the other end of the world.


A method for weighting the monetary costs is to add the discounted future debt servicing for the sum, using the appropriate debt interest rates.
In short: USD 100 billion war costs cost more than USD 100 billion. It's likely more close to USD 120 billion because of the additional interest.
This does apply similarly even in case of a debt-free state, for that one would have opportunity costs (the cost of getting no interest rate income on the sum).

Dayuhan
05-31-2010, 12:33 PM
Defeating dictators is easy. Controlling nations is difficult. Constructing new nations is more difficult. All of this could have been anticipated, and a more accurate assessment of the challenge might have affected the decision to some extent.

Against the cost + interest of the war one has to offset the cost of sustaining the stalemate that preceded it. If the current Iraqi government survives and manages to push oil production up to 6mbpd or so one would have to factor in the impact of additional supply on global oil prices. And of course the world looks better without Saddam Hussein sitting as a head of state, another of those unquantifiable benefits.

I doubt that anyone will ever come up with a full, credible, agenda-free assessment of cost and benefit, or even that it would be possible to do so, given the non-quantifiable nature of many of the factors involved. If the current Iraqi government survives, remains relatively neutral, and resumes oil production the operation will probably be slotted into the "qualified success" category, whether or not it really belongs there.

Valin
05-31-2010, 10:14 PM
My understanding of Iran's benefit is that it now has significantly more influence in Iraq

There are those that say that and it does appear to be true....but I'd also say the Iraqi Shiites also have influence in Iran. What I mean is the political debate going on in Iraq is broadcast into Iran. It seems to me that the Iranians have to be saying to themselves....Why can't we have that kind of open free wheeling debate here? Why do we have to have the Mullahs pick our candidates?

Schmedlap
06-01-2010, 03:25 AM
One factor that has to be considered, but which is impossible to quantify, is the degree to which the focus on Iraq diverted attention and resources from Afghanistan and from the broader effort against AQ.
As many times as that argument gets repeated, I fail to see any merit at all in it. The real deficit in Afghanistan has not been about dollars and boots. It is a deficit of appropriate knowledge and talent within the framework of an unworkable strategy. Throwing money and Soldiers at the problem won't (and wouldn't have) solve(d) that. The development of our strategy in Afghanistan has occurred in the same manner that building a home would occur if you built a room and then attempted to build the rest of the house around it, ad-libbing the blueprint along the way. As we attempt to stuff the foundation underneath the room and tack the kitchen onto the side of it, we're complaining that everything would have gone fine had we only gotten more nails and 2x4's when the project began.* (http://tachesdhuile.blogspot.com/2010/05/interesting-debate-is-going-on-this.html?showComment=1274480863069#c2495364808348 744851)


In short: USD 100 billion war costs cost more than USD 100 billion. It's likely more close to USD 120 billion because of the additional interest.
Doesn't that assume that we wouldn't have simply spent that money on other stuff? The Bush years weren't exactly a time of frugality on non-defense spending.

Dayuhan
06-01-2010, 08:34 AM
Dollars and boots aren't the only issue. Much of the talent and much of the attention that could have led to re-evaluation and strategic adjustment was directed elsewhere, which may be one reason why the gradual deterioration in Afghanistan was largely unnoticed. Again, we don't know how Afghanistan would have gone without the Iraq engagement, and the degree of impact is infinitely arguable. It may in fact be negligible, but I've always thought that starting a war that was not related to AQ at a time when we were going to war against AQ was perhaps not an ideal decision. Unless one absolutely must fight two enemies at once, is it not preferable to fight them one at a time?

Chris jM
06-01-2010, 08:45 AM
Schmedlap, great topic and interesting comments thus far.

What still perplexes me was the fixation on WMD. I'm sure that the US Govt were basing their decision to invade on other considerations, and the WMD justification served only as a convenient casus belli. It's hard to judge success when the commander's intent is never stated.

One observation I would like to make is that any proactive action by a dominant power is bound to cause negativity. Stability in the world is important to many, especially in the areas of sovereignty and economics. America, being the greatest power within the system, has a lot to benefit by normalising and standardising the 'rules' she plays by. Should another entity challenge the established norms (say, Iraq invading Kuwait) the general global response is to champion a response that upholds those assumed rules of international affairs. Contrariwise, having America challenge the very norms she is expected to uphold inevitably causes destabilisation.

If one reads Stratfor, they propose that the Iraq undertaking was to force policy changes onto Saudi Arabia and Iran without directly intervening in their affairs. If that's the case, then judging relative success/failure will be a very, very subjective affair.

As a parting thought: if during the paranoia that reigned post Sept 11 it was outlined to the US Govt that in order to prevent any further (substantial) terrorist attacks occurring on her territory for the next decade, two foreign wars were required in Iraq and Afghanistan for the cost paid to date, would Bush have accepted the course he did? I suspect that American (and by extension the liberal world) homeland security has benefitted, however indirectly, from the interventions. I just think it's tragic that the policy was not enacted in a better, smarter way - thus reducing the human cost that has had to be borne by many different nations, Iraq included.

Fuchs
06-01-2010, 11:54 AM
Doesn't that assume that we wouldn't have simply spent that money on other stuff? The Bush years weren't exactly a time of frugality on non-defense spending.

You can assume that, but then you need to incorporate the benefits of that spending into the (non-)equation, on the side of peace.
It's easier to keep it simple and stick to the already mobnetarised vaiable including the effect of discounted interest.

tequila
06-01-2010, 02:17 PM
From my naÔve standpoint, I see a dictatorship replaced with a democracy, many foreign debts to Iraq forgiven, the likelihood of increased oil production benefiting all Iraqis rather than just the ruling regime, a dramatic improvement in quality of life for the Kurds, removal of sanctions on all of Iraq, a government that has established friendly relations with its neighbors, creation of security forces that are far less abusive or corrupt, and a military unlikely to attack neighbors or its own government. What am I missing? There is no perpetual state of emergency (http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/05/20105116134595496.html) like in Egypt, no Theocracry and ridiculously mismanaged (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications//the-world-factbook/geos/ir.html) economy like in Iran, no entrenched extended families (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Saud#Wealth) pillaging the countryís resources like in Saudi Arabia. Even if you want to assert that Iraq will be dependent upon us for years to come, I've got one word for you: Israel.

I do not see many of these being strategic benefits accruing to the Unitd States. Most of these appear to be supposed benefits to the Iraqis themselves, which may be offset by the unknown tens of thousands of Iraqis killed and millions fled.

Also, how does Israel come into it? Is the idea that being a dependent of the U.S. is a good thing for the state involved? Again, I don't see the strategic benefit to the U.S. Also one could argue from this example that Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf countries are also to one degree or another dependent on the U.S. yet many are negative examples for you.

Uboat509
06-01-2010, 02:46 PM
My understanding of Iran's benefit is that it now has significantly more influence in Iraq (really, what kind of threat was Saddam from 91 to 03?). Wouldn't that gain evaporate if the GoI collapsed?

Be careful that you don't overstate Iran's influence in Iraq. There is a tendency in some circles to assume that now that the Shia are much more dominant in Iraq that the Shia dominated state of Iran will have much more influence and this is true to a point. Some of the Shia will accept all manner of Iranian help and certainly Iran has more influence than before but there is one important factor to consider. The Iranians are not Arabs and that matters a lot more than I think a lot of westerners realize. The Iraqi Shia may accept Iranian help and will accept Iranian influence but, by and large, they will not accept being dominated by non-Arabs. That will put limitations on just how much influence Iran has in Iraq.

Schmedlap
06-01-2010, 03:58 PM
Much of the talent and much of the attention that could have led to re-evaluation and strategic adjustment was directed elsewhere, which may be one reason why the gradual deterioration in Afghanistan was largely unnoticed. Again, we don't know how Afghanistan would have gone without the Iraq engagement, and the degree of impact is infinitely arguable.
Agreed.


... I've always thought that starting a war that was not related to AQ at a time when we were going to war against AQ was perhaps not an ideal decision. Unless one absolutely must fight two enemies at once, is it not preferable to fight them one at a time?
Yes, but some would argue that it was necessary. When else would Bush have the political capital to launch an invasion of Iraq, if not in early 2003? Support was already slipping fast at that point. See next quote/comment below...


I'm sure that the US Govt were basing their decision to invade on other considerations, and the WMD justification served only as a convenient casus belli. It's hard to judge success when the commander's intent is never stated.
...
If one reads Stratfor, they propose that the Iraq undertaking was to force policy changes onto Saudi Arabia and Iran without directly intervening in their affairs.
It's long been my view (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?p=95497#post95497) that WMD was a distraction and this was an effort to reshape the Mideast. Now if I can only figure out a way to get people to pay hundreds of dollars for access to my website, like Stratfor does. I still remember watching Powell's testimony at the UN in 2002, when I was 2LT. I thought, "that's it?" No way we invaded for WMD. It was a justification given to the masses. You can fool all of the people some of the time.


... having America challenge the very norms she is expected to uphold inevitably causes destabilisation.
Agreed. Big negative.


I suspect that American (and by extension the liberal world) homeland security has benefitted, however indirectly, from the interventions. I just think it's tragic that the policy was not enacted in a better, smarter way...
Agreed. If there was significant blundering, it was the grossly negligent handling by the military at the operational and tactical levels, in my opinion.


You can assume that, but then you need to incorporate the benefits of that spending into the (non-)equation, on the side of peace.
It's easier to keep it simple and stick to the already mobnetarised vaiable including the effect of discounted interest.
Highly unlikely that we would have spent significantly less, given the free-spending ways of our politicians from 2001 to 2009. Also highly unlikely that domestic spending would have yielded benefits - it is mostly high-cost patronage jobs, unneeded projects, and high administrative costs for programs of negligible benefit that are arguably counterproductive.


I do not see many of these being strategic benefits accruing to the Unitd States. Most of these appear to be supposed benefits to the Iraqis themselves, which may be offset by the unknown tens of thousands of Iraqis killed and millions fled.
They help to realign the balance of power, the threats, and the opportunities in the Mideast.


Also, how does Israel come into it? Is the idea that being a dependent of the U.S. is a good thing for the state involved?
No. I've heard elsewhere assertions that Iraq is a failed state because it relies on us for aid. I was merely asserting that, by that rationale, Israel is a failed state.

Dayuhan
06-02-2010, 01:29 AM
Yes, but some would argue that it was necessary. When else would Bush have the political capital to launch an invasion of Iraq, if not in early 2003? Support was already slipping fast at that point. See next quote/comment below...

Certainly there was a limited window of opportunity from the political capital perspective, but I don't see how the removal of Saddam was necessary in any event. Justifiable, certainly, but why necessary? What vital American interest was served, beyond gratifying the reflexive post-9/11 urge to whack some Ay-rabs?


It's long been my view that WMD was a distraction and this was an effort to reshape the Mideast... No way we invaded for WMD. It was a justification given to the masses. You can fool all of the people some of the time.

I don't think there's any doubt about that. WMD were blown into the issue because they were the only casus belli that could be expanded to meet an "imminent threat" standard. Many of those beating the drum for the invasion were quite open about their desire to "drain the swamp in the Middle East", and often expressed the belief that the emergence of a peaceful prosperous democracy in Iraq would generate overwhelming pressure for reform in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc. I personally thought this was pretty much a fantasy at the time, and I still think so.



Agreed. If there was significant blundering, it was the grossly negligent handling by the military at the operational and tactical levels, in my opinion.


The policy/strategy level was horribly managed as well. It was simply assumed that the Iraqis would welcome their liberators with open arms and that the installation of a new government was a minor technical issue akin to changing a light bulb or tire. As a result there was very little planning for management of the immediate post-Saddam environment. The levels of manpower and other resources deployed were sufficient to defeat Saddam's armed forces, but way below what was necessary to provide security in the aftermath. Overall the challenges of managing Iraq after Saddam's defeat were ridiculously underestimated. That was a huge and costly mistake.



Highly unlikely that we would have spent significantly less, given the free-spending ways of our politicians from 2001 to 2009. Also highly unlikely that domestic spending would have yielded benefits

Agreed. I have infinite faith in the ability of the US Government to spend $100 billion without accomplishing anything. It's what they do best.

Steve the Planner
06-02-2010, 04:04 AM
Agreed that it was a startegic blunder.

Why? Somewhere between neo-con revenge, regrets about the limitations in the prior war, and the delusion of oil control or a base for democracy/bulwark against Iraq, etc... Tak any from the menu, it doesn't matter.

Interesting about advance planning, though. Lots of people actually knew lots about it, but what they knew never passed the portal into decision-making, before, during, or after. Amazing how much is known but how little knowledge an organization has.

I was particularly intrigued by the State Department's Crocker study (pre-invasion). They rounded up a bunch of folks to brainstorm Iraq. Trouble is these folks' knowledge and opinions were "political" in nature, and had no real substance as to basics like demographics, organizational structure, infrastructure, etc... It was like an amateur side show.

Again, amazing...

Now, we leave for a while having gained little in the way of structured analysis and understanding, and, after years of occupancy, and all will be shortly forgotten.

Amazing...

Steve

jkm_101_fso
06-02-2010, 05:09 PM
This is more personal than the rest. I hope that's OK:

It's hard for me to say that Iraq wasn't worth it. I spent a few years there and lost some good friends. Personally, I wouldn't want to say that it was for nothing.

However, I understand reality. Was Saddam a threat to the United States in March of 2003? Probably not. Was he a threat to neighboring countries? Maybe, but I don't think so. Probably just a toothless tiger at that point in history. Was he a threat to his own people? Certainly; but so are many other unsavory tyrants around the world. It doesn't mean that we overthrow them all. We canít do that.

So, I get it. We didn't need to invade Iraq. It was a costly war in terms of blood and treasure. It was also costly because of the irreparable damage done to the Army, in terms of individuals killed, wounded and those left the service because of it. They are not easily replaced. Additionally, all of the equipment destroyed and damaged, which can be replaced, but at high cost.

But, Iraq caused the Army to change, for the better, in many ways. We now have COIN doctrine and recent practical application of successful TTPs. We have experienced and knowledgeable counterinsurgents in our ranks. We have more adaptable and flexible leaders. We have fielded some amazing tools to our kit that amplifies our ability to succeed in these types of wars.

I look back and think about if I did more harm than good there. Was I able to help some people improve their quality of life? Yes. That is true across the board for most during this conflict. We all helped some of the people of Iraq. Not all of them, unfortunately. Did many die prematurely because of us? Yes, unfortunately.

I believe that the Civil War that occurred in Iraq during our tenure would have eventually happened (or a similar variant), even if we didn't invade. Saddam would have died at some point and I'm not sure anyone (to include his sons) would have been able to fill the vacuum. Maybe I'm wrong.

I am numb when I think about Iraq. I am glad for the people whose lives have improved. I am sad for the people who died. But I am alive and healthy. Itís a convenient view, I suppose.

Surprisingly, during my darkest days, I was not angry about the invasion of Iraq. I am most upset with HOW we fought that war for the first 3+ years. Many could see what we were doing was absolutely not working, but all I heard commanders, Generals and politicians saying was "it's getting better" and "the situation is improving" when it clearly was not. My rage then (and now) was toward green-suitors and politicians. They could not accept that we were losing and what we were doing was not working.

I am angry we didn't have enough troops. I am angry we didn't anticipate the looting, chaos and subsequent insurgency. I am angry we stupidly dissolved the Iraqi Army without much thought. I am angry we initially denied the violence was an insurgency. I am angry we put entire maneuver brigades on FOBs and asked them to drive around and get blown up. I am angry we asked Soldiers in soft-skin humvees to conduct "route clearance". I am angry that many units did not secure the AOs they were responsible for. I am angry that we prematurely turned battle space over the unready and untrained Iraqi units. I am angry we let so many police forces become death squads. I am angry that we refused to acknowledge it was a civil war. I am angry we let the bloodshed go on FOR SO LONG before we chose to change the way we were doing things. I am angry about so much of it.

It took the removal of the SECDEF and a Mid-Term election to make a change happen. I am glad that it FINALLY happened. Because it appears for now, that it worked.

I will return to Iraq very soon. I am excited to see the security improvement and (mostly) violent-free streets. I am excited to be part of the effort that "turns the light off" for US involvement. I was there at the beginning. I was there in the middle. I will be there at the end. Rather fitting, I guess. But it still doesnít bring me much closure.

Years from now, I don't know what I will think of it. Probably depends on what ends up happening there. History might remember it as a mistake, or a great victory. I don't know. But I think decades from now, the truth is that I will still be pretty unsure about it all, just like I am today.

Lest we forget.

Steve the Planner
06-02-2010, 07:14 PM
jkm:

Interesting, isn't it that, like Viet Nam, some of us have experienced a country that we will all be linked to.

Ditto on the decision-higher ups, and ditto on helping Iraqis.

I did an infrastructure, econ and pop assessment in Jan 2008, and rapidly figured out that, after decades of sanctions and mismanagement, the whole affair could have been pushed over with a few well-placed feathers, but, the pregnant question was always "What happens next?"

That was the question that all of us, and the Iraqis, participated in answering---the hard way. Like Ricks said, the final chapters will be written by the Iraqis, not us, and, despite the appearance of turmoil, I have a sneaking suspicion that, one day, some of us will go as tourists to see the now-restored monuments we saw only as dust-heaps.

My prayers are that the answers for our dead and injured come from that future, which, like a bricklayer for the Empire State Building, will always be "our" building... and even with friends who died building it.

I was very pleased to see that, after all the sturm-unt-drang about the election, it opens with Allawi, the initial winner having the first opportunity to form a new government. Far from over, but small steps for a whole troubled country are, in fact, big steps.

Schmedlap
06-02-2010, 07:29 PM
Who are you, you optimist? And what have you done with Steve?

Ken White
06-02-2010, 09:52 PM
had very little to do with WMD or even with remapping the ME. It was all about disruption and that disruption was on a world, to include Europe and Asia, scale. The number of things that were synergistically folded into the effort is huge; there were dozens of reasons, few of themselves very important but together, they created a significant change in a number of then proposed or possible actions by many players around the world. It is too early to tell how successful it was; probably about 2033 that will be fairly -- but not completely -- clear. The strategy was one of those rare long term US efforts that was not predicated on the election cycle -- indeed, it was launched at the time it occurred specifically to preclude an interruption by the vagaries of that cycle; Bush was afraid if he didn't launch, his successor would not and his second term was not a lock at the time. It was also launched to effectively commit the US to a long term course of action and it succeeded in achieving both those goals

I personally believe that, even as early as today it can be counted as a qualified success and I say that acknowledging the quite valid negative points raised by Fuchs and others and admitting that the US Government and the US Army, regrettably, screwed it up badly. Not least because of some 20-40 year old bad domestic political and military decisions that earlier locked the Bush Administration into less than optimum responses to provocations. It took entirely too long to get the course corrections in place (some needed and acknowledged important corrections are still being discussed, for Gawds sake...:mad:). That course correction comment applies to both the previous and current US Administrations, to DoD as an entity and to the Army.:eek:

Valin
06-02-2010, 10:39 PM
had very little to do with WMD or even with remapping the ME. It was all about disruption and that disruption was on a world, to include Europe and Asia, scale. The number of things that were synergistically folded into the effort is huge; there were dozens of reasons, few of themselves very important but together, they created a significant change in a number of then proposed or possible actions by many players around the world. It is too early to tell how successful it was; probably about 2033 that will be fairly -- but not completely -- clear. The strategy was one of those rare long term US efforts that was not predicated on the election cycle -- indeed, it was launched at the time it occurred specifically to preclude an interruption by the vagaries of that cycle; Bush was afraid if he didn't launch, his successor would not and his second term was not a lock at the time. It was also launched to effectively commit the US to a long term course of action and it succeeded in achieving both those goals

I personally believe that, even as early as today it can be counted as a qualified success and I say that acknowledging the quite valid negative points raised by Fuchs and others and admitting that the US Government and the US Army, regrettably, screwed it up badly. Not least because of some 20-40 year old bad domestic political and military decisions that earlier locked the Bush Administration into less than optimum responses to provocations. It took entirely too long to get the course corrections in place (some needed and acknowledged important corrections are still being discussed, for Gawds sake...:mad:). That course correction comment applies to both the previous and current US Administrations, to DoD as an entity and to the Army.:eek:

I'm trying to think of a war where we didn't screw up....at the start.

Chris jM
06-03-2010, 12:36 AM
I'm trying to think of a war where we didn't screw up....at the start.

Then consider your nation blessed that you can, generally speaking, finish wars well.

Ken White
06-03-2010, 02:45 AM
I'm trying to think of a war where we didn't screw up....at the start.ChrisjM has it right. Thus far we've mostly had time to sort it out or we've been lucky and had opponents who were even less competent than we were. :wry:

I'm not sure we should rely on that always being the case in the future... :eek:

Schmedlap
06-03-2010, 03:23 AM
Ken,
I find myself largely in agreement with what you wrote. It is reassuring to see that I am not crazy. Or, at a minimum, that the voices in my head and in yours are eavesdropping on one another.

Steve the Planner
06-03-2010, 03:46 AM
Schmedlap:

I went to Iraq to help us structure and implement our departure, which (fingers crossed) I hope we succeeded at. Gen. Petreaus proved in that instance, that COIN was a useful tool (however partially or haphazardly applied) for that withdrawal. Much of my time was, in fact, spent re-linking the effectiveness of national government to the provinces.

For all the national fretting, Gen Abdullah, Salah ad Din's Deputy Governor, is plowing ahead with his dream of an international airport in Tikrit to handle the tourists already returning. No US or national funds. I will be proud to land at that airport, which we first discussed, and organized the strategy for, in February 2008.

Several folks were killed trying to restore electricity, roads, etc... especially in and around Bayji in early 2008.

My last visit to Tikrit was for a Safe Water Working Group to, in part, restore and construct regional water systems. My last day on DoS duty, I spent on a hillside at Arlington watching services for a young soldier shot by a sniper while providing security to inspect one of those projects. Now, open.

Private First Class Christopher Lotter, a young soldier from Chester Heights, Pennsylvania, who died at age 20 on December 31, 2008 after being shot by a sniper while on patrol to inspect a water treatment plant outside Tikrit, Iraq.

If I was face-to-face with his parents today, I can honestly state that, while his death may never be explicable, the work he was doing was important, and made a real difference.

It took two months to organize the temporary replacement bridges across the Tigris at Bayji and elsewhere in the North, but the permanent ones have already opened or will soon, and have not been attacked yet. Nor, do I believe the forces that could threaten those bridges have the likely resources to do so. They would profoundly alienate a struggling post-conflict economy, and face a pretty decently organized Iraqi Army.

Last week, one of my senior advisor cohorts in Tikrit helped to organize a very successful trade and investment conference there. Very proud of him.

They have a civilian GIS mapping framework and are pushing ahead with the census. That was one of my principal responsibilities.

KRG issues have not turned into a disaster. I believe my service on the UN's disputed boundary team made a small difference in that regard.

Not every meaningful dream happens right away, and I am absolutely sure that the assurance of a functioning Iraq will come from emerging vibrance in the provinces---the national politics in Iraq, like in the US, is just one dimension of a Country's resilience.

I am very proud of our work, and very aware of all those who died or were seriously injured trying to do it.

From our little band of civilian advisors, perhaps Terry Barniche, blown up in June 2009, was the most widely covered, but there was never a time that we were not aware of the sacrifices of all the young route clearance, and patrolling soldiers that, for the most part, allowed our work to be safely accomplished.

Unlike some, I understand what we did in the surge period as very productive and successful within the limited goal of engineering our successful departure and a reasonable handoff to basically functioning civilian control.

That optimism does not extend to Afghanistan, where I have friends on the ground and am very aware of the civilian reconstruction limitations. Are they going to be able to make the kind of contributions were made in Iraq, despite multiples more hardships? I don't believe so absent substantial changes from our current set and strategy.

Afghanistan, in my opinion, will, regrettably, prove that COIN (ala Iraq) can not serve as a substitute for either quelling the materially different situation in that Country, or standing in lieu of a functional national government.

My Dad was a Royal Marines Commando (before coming to the US during the brain drain in 1960), and, among other things, travelled in the Great White Fleet (on Hood 2) after WWII. He always wanted to go through the Khyber Pass, but was prevented then, and throughout the next fifty years from taking that trip due to conflicts.

My optimism vanishes when you take the Iraq expereince and attempt to improperly apply it to Afghanistan.

I am expecting either a major course correction very soon, or both Petreaus's and McCrystal's place in US military history will not be pretty.

If somebody asks me to go to Afghanistan to get us out, or to actually tackle Afghanistan's real problems (political), I will be happy to undertake that mission as to my little skill set, but the rest is a fool's dream, playing out in an already immutable script. Small pieces of tactical successes cannot substitute for a flawed, and unimplementable strategy.

Dayuhan
06-03-2010, 11:20 PM
had very little to do with WMD or even with remapping the ME. It was all about disruption and that disruption was on a world, to include Europe and Asia, scale. The number of things that were synergistically folded into the effort is huge; there were dozens of reasons, few of themselves very important but together, they created a significant change in a number of then proposed or possible actions by many players around the world.

Can't really agree with that, but without more detail it's hard to disagree. Would you care to elaborate?

Ken White
06-04-2010, 12:04 AM
Even if most are wrong...;)

My opinions and conjectures are based on long experience with the way the government of the US really works as opposed to what most think. I also accept, believe and support the Conrad Black dictum "The US has the most consistent foreign policy in the world. They do not tolerate threats and have not for over 200 years." That does not mean Iraq, per se was a threat -- it does mean that the invasion disrupted other potential threats, some quite long term. It also means we have long done that and will almost certainly continue to do so in the future. We are not as dumb as we often deliberately and accidentally appear...:wry:

As for more detail, here's the gist of it:LINK (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showpost.php?p=95536&postcount=8). The Thread that is from contains more from me and others on the topic of this thread. There are more synergies and issues but I'm not going to put many of them on an open forum. I think you can discern some...

This LINK (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showpost.php?p=65096&postcount=10) expands on the previous link.

This LINK (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showpost.php?p=81028&postcount=11) discusses alternative methods which were not available so Bush IMO had to pursue an undesirable option.

Bush responded to provocations from the ME which four predecessors had caused through improper responses to escalate. He did the best he could with the tools available. He also set about disrupting other long term but then developing, slowly, threats.

Fuchs
06-04-2010, 09:02 PM
@Ken:
You may see a grand strategy with some 'disruption' effect doing magical things in the world.
I see a wasted decade instead.


See; I'm a German (surprise!), and Germany has learned long ago (and then re-learned and again re-learned, hopefully with lasting effect) that it's the economy, stupid!
We had the greatest expansion of our wealth in times of peace with little participation in foreign political conflict (we weren't supplying the refrigerator of the Cold War).

The U.S., UK, France and most of all Russia have not applied this insight very well. Germany didn't either for two generations, with the most spectacular effects of all.

The U.S: economy poisoned itself during the last decade. An energetic national policy could have turned this around, but the nation's attention was in great part captured by foreign affairs and partisan clashes instead.

Just as a reminder; using U.S. statistics (CIA World Factbook, bea.gov trade data) I calculated that the population of the U.S. produced 18.25% less goods in 2008 than it consumed & invested. This already assumes the services balance surplus as goods production (because it's worth the same in trade).
Roughly a fifth of the perceived material wealth was illusion, based on debt. It wasn't always like this. The situation deteriorated in the late 90's and became terrible in the 2000's, merely waiting for the bubble to burst. The "recovery" today is a return to this deficit culture, provoking the next crash.

An energetic U.S. national economic policy could have harnessed the nation's potential for urgent and necessary repairs during the GWB administrations.
Instead, the attention (and fortune) was wasted on great power games.
The Chinese were smarter, much more subtle - and much more successful.

Dayuhan
06-04-2010, 10:04 PM
You may see a grand strategy with some 'disruption' effect doing magical things in the world. I see a wasted decade instead.


The two are not incompatible. Strategies fail, as this one did. I see a poorly considered attempt to achieve results through disruption that were never likely to be achieved, and a strategy based on unacceptably fluffy assumptions about the US capacity to manage the aftermath of its military successes.



The U.S: economy poisoned itself during the last decade. An energetic national policy could have turned this around, but the nation's attention was in great part captured by foreign affairs and partisan clashes instead.


The US economy poisoned itself in the 1990s. The impact of the poison wasn't felt until 2000/2001, and in economic as well as foreign policy the Bush administration was forced into a reactive mode, which in both cases it managed very badly.

What "energetic national policy" do you think could have "turned this around"? I suspect that you overestimate the impact of policy on economic affairs, which is less than many assume it to be.

The US trade deficit has been a growing problem for decades. It's been fueled primarily by the reality that the value of the dollar has been artificially inflated since WW2, largely by factors over which US policy has little control. Of course dependence on imported energy is also a factor, especially given the volatility of prices, but you can't escape the impact of currency value distortions on trade.



The Chinese were smarter, much more subtle - and much more successful.

China has policy options unavailable in a democracy. Short-term strengths, long-term possible weaknesses. Those who expect China to enjoy an unfettered path to economic dominance may be surprised; likely there will be some bumps and ruts along that road.

I've no shortage oc complaints about both economic and foreign policy under Bush (and under Clinton) but the assumption that focus on foreign policy was a significant cause of ineffective economic policy seems to me speculative and unsupported by data or reasonable argument. I don't think Bush's economic team had their heads in Iraq, I think they had their heads up their sphincters, just as their predecessors did.

Ken White
06-04-2010, 10:28 PM
You may see a grand strategy with some 'disruption' effect doing magical things in the world. I see a wasted decade instead.Your prerogative. We can disagree on that. I think the relative state of the ME in general to include Saudi Arabia and Iran, and of south asia to include Pakistan and India -- and of the US -- in ten or twenty years or so will be the true measure. Add China into that mix; yes they're smart and have done well -- but at a cost. We'll see what that cost is over the next decade, I think. All those ancillary efforts are low key, below a lot of radars but they are ongoing and were all part of that strategery. :wry:
See; I'm a German (surprise!), and Germany has learned long ago (and then re-learned and again re-learned, hopefully with lasting effect) that it's the economy, stupid!We had the greatest expansion of our wealth in times of peace with little participation in foreign political conflict (we weren't supplying the refrigerator of the Cold War).True -- but your economy sure did benefit from that refrigeration...;)
The U.S., UK, France and most of all Russia have not applied this insight very well...The U.S: economy poisoned itself during the last decade. An energetic national policy could have turned this around, but the nation's attention was in great part captured by foreign affairs and partisan clashes instead.Agreed. I also agree with the rest of your comment on the economic issues.
An energetic U.S. national economic policy could have harnessed the nation's potential for urgent and necessary repairs during the GWB administrations. Instead, the attention (and fortune) was wasted on great power games.
The Chinese were smarter, much more subtle - and much more successful.True to an extent. You along with many non-US commentators (and entirely too many US commentators who should know better) do not understand the dysfunction deliberately built into the US political system that precludes National efforts (other than in time of existential peril). Many also miss the political reality of two not particularly different political parties -- you did not -- who continually jockey for political power to the exclusion of concern for the nation. They really need to be reined in, both of them. :mad:

Had Bush's four predecessor's done better handling the probes from the ME from 1979 until 2000, 9/11 might likely not have occurred and things would have been different (but likely not radically different on the economic front due to the aforementioned political problems and intended dysfunction). Instead he believed he had to respond to a provocation and a potential low order threat (Islamist fundamentalism anger direct at the west) to which he believed his fellow western leaders (and his likely replacement) probably would not adequately reply. I believe that was a valid assessment.

I wouldn't have done it the way he did but he did what he believed necessary with the tools he had available in a way that worked. I do believe it or something like it was very necessary and long overdue. Had James Earl Carter not so badly mishandled the Tehran Embassy seizure in 1979, US history would almost certainly have been quite different. Had Carter's successors handled subsequent probes and actions against US interests differently...

None of them did it right and Bush had to pick up the tab.

Due to flawed execution -- not his fault, mostly but not entirely the Army's -- the success was not as great as it potentially might have been. I believe it still to be a qualified success at this point with potential to be a fully accorded success when a number of ongoing efforts come to fruition over the next ten years or so. Many make the mistake of looking at Iraq in isolation. It was only the most visible face of the entire effort -- very deliberately and purposefully distractingly so...

So while I generally agree with your comments on policies and economic aspects, that has little to do with Iraq as -- or not -- a strategic blunder. It was a strategic choice whose total impact is still to be fully determined. That it had an adverse impact on the US economy cannot be denied. As far as social and political impacts -- too early to tell. We'll see.

Dayuhan
06-04-2010, 10:45 PM
I think the relative state of the ME in general to include Saudi Arabia and Iran, and of south asia to include Pakistan and India -- and of the US -- in ten or twenty years or so will be the true measure.


Possibly, but it's not a measure we'll be able to use effectively, as we will never know what the outcome of other policy options would have been. Things may go badly or well because of or in spite of our actions: there are too many variables in the picture to clearly say what actions caused what consequences.



he believed he had to respond to a provocation and a potential low order threat (Islamist fundamentalism anger direct at the west) to which he believed his fellow western leaders (and his likely replacement) probably would not adequately reply. I believe that was a valid assessment.


Possibly so, but I can't see how that particular response was calculated to address that threat, unless our policy was to address the threat by exacerbating it. Since when do we fight our enemies by giving them what they want and need?

Ken White
06-04-2010, 11:04 PM
Possibly, but it's not a measure we'll be able to use effectively, as we will never know what the outcome of other policy options would have been. Things may go badly or well because of or in spite of our actions: there are too many variables in the picture to clearly say what actions caused what consequences.Regrettably (or fortunately, viewpoint dependent), there are few metrics that one can apply to strategic outcomes due to those variables so there is rarely a measurable effect. Was US participation in World War II a strategic blunder? Was the war a strategic success? How about Korea? Viet Nam? Desert Shield/Desert Storm?
Possibly so, but I can't see how that particular response was calculated to address that threat, unless our policy was to address the threat by exacerbating it. Since when do we fight our enemies by giving them what they want and need?It was. Exacerbate that is. Give it some thought. It was also calculated to show the collection of nations from which the threat originates that attacks on US interests world wide emanating from the ME would, contrary to previous experience, bring a disproportionate response. As Afghanistan had earlier shown that attacks on US soil would be met with even swifter and possibly more disproportionate response. Afghanistan didn't work for the ME message as it isn't in the ME.

The response notably attacked a nation only peripherally if at all involved. It also was aimed at giving the nominal enemies what they though they wanted but in a quite different place and not with results they anticipated -- so I'm not at all sure they got what they needed...

Recall this also; "It was only the most visible face of the entire effort -- very deliberately and purposefully distractingly so..."

tequila
06-04-2010, 11:20 PM
It was. Exacerbate that is. Give it some thought. It was also calculated to show the collection of nations from which the threat originates that attacks on US interests world wide emanating from the ME would, contrary to previous experience, bring a disproportionate response. As Afghanistan had earlier shown that attacks on US soil would be met with even swifter and possibly more disproportionate response. Afghanistan didn't work for the ME message as it isn't in the ME.


This might have worked if the insurgency had not broken out. Instead it gave us five years of jihadist propaganda and videos of American hummvees exploding. It made for very poor intimidation if your target was the wider Middle Eastern populace. With regards to state actors, I doubt it made much of a difference. Iran certainly did not intimidate well - it was not long before they were killing Americans with far greater success and frequency than even the worst years in Lebanon. Syria's ties with Iran are tighter than ever, and Turkey as well. Certainly anti-Americanism in the region is as strong or stronger than ever before.

As for the invisible effects, I suppose it's a bit difficult to ever argue that point. Perhaps great benefits are accruing out of sight. I suppose you could say that about any policy.

Dayuhan
06-04-2010, 11:25 PM
Give it some thought. It was also calculated to show the collection of nations from which the threat originates that attacks on US interests world wide emanating from the ME would, contrary to previous experience, bring a disproportionate response.

The response notably attacked a nation only peripherally if at all involved. It also was aimed at giving the nominal enemies what they though they wanted but in a quite different place and not with results they anticipated -- so I'm not at all sure they got what they needed...

I don't see that disproportionate response carries much deterrent force if it isn't applied to those who did whatever it is we are responding to. The message we communicate is that you can attack the US and get away with it, and benefit from it, because the response is going to be applied to somebody else, leaving you with a propaganda bonanza.

I think the people who attacked us did get what they needed, and far more of it than they expected. Fortunately for us, they were unable to exploit the opportunity we gave them to the fullest possible extent. It's useful to have incompetent enemies, but it's not something we want to rely on.

Our strategic weakness lies in long-term political will. Our vulnerability is the war of attrition. This is no secret: we know it, our allies know it, our enemies know it. They can't defeat us, but if they can maneuver us into the right position, they might be able to outlast us and achieve the same effect. We know they will try to maneuver us into long-term static occupation of Muslim nations: that's where they want us to be. It is in our interest not to permit them to place us in this position. Seems to me we haven't exactly achieved that.

Ken White
06-05-2010, 03:52 AM
It made for very poor intimidation if your target was the wider Middle Eastern populace.It was not. The "ME Street" is no more monolithic than is ours. The target was the coterie of shakers and movers that rule the various nations in the ME.
With regards to state actors, I doubt it made much of a difference.It did, all have taken steps to clean up internally at least a bit in ways that show they received the message.
Iran certainly did not intimidate well - it was not long before they were killing Americans with far greater success and frequency than even the worst years in Lebanon.I spent two years in Iran; they're a trip. They had a large empire -- several of them in fact -- before many others appeared. They are masters of bluff and bluster and are very aware of just how far they can push; they've been pushing to the limit (which has changed from time to time) since 1979. They simply took advantage of the fact we were busy with an 'insurgency' that was mostly our fault due to that flawed execution. I'd have expected no less from them. Still, there will be no Iaqi - Irani conflation and the Sunni Arabs and Turks in the ME are not about to let a bunch of Persians achieve any sort of hegemony; lot of long term antipathy there.
Syria's ties with Iran are tighter than ever, and Turkey as well. No worries IMO.Syria isn't a problem -- Turkey will be a significant problem in a few years but that was going to happen with or without our Iraq adventure. It's been building since the early '50s. The real flipping issue there was the Turkish Armed forces getting cozy with and buying from the Israelis -- the religious Turks couldn't stand that so they won the vote in '03 -- been down hill ever since and going to get worse before it gets better and Iraq had and has little to do with it...
Certainly anti-Americanism in the region is as strong or stronger than ever before.That's true and was, I believe, anticipated by us and a decision was made to accept it. Anti-Americanism has been prevalent around the world since I started traveling abroad in 1946 as a teen age military dependent. It waxes and wanes dependent upon many variables -- across the world, it's far less severe now than it wan at the height of Viet Nam.
As for the invisible effects, I suppose it's a bit difficult to ever argue that point. Perhaps great benefits are accruing out of sight. I suppose you could say that about any policy.Except as those invisible efforts -- not effects -- become visible their effect can be ascertained and are generally visible for all to see. The greatness of benefit is in the of the beneficiary... ;)

Not sure about policies -- I thought we were talking about actions...

Ken White
06-05-2010, 04:23 AM
I don't see that disproportionate response carries much deterrent force if it isn't applied to those who did whatever it is we are responding to.Who would we respond to in this case? All those probes and provocations were nominally and officially performed by non-state actors from throughout the ME. No one nation was responsible, it was an area attitude that was to be deterred (actually, disrupted is a better word in the near term; the deterrent aspect rolls around to about that 2033 date I mentioned...). Iraq was chosen because it was a pariah state that had a leader even fellow Arab despots could not stand, it had little to no involvement, no Iraqi nationals had been in the attacks to that time, it was geographically central and should have been a military pushover. We were going to topple and leave.
The message we communicate is that you can attack the US and get away with it, and benefit from it, because the response is going to be applied to somebody else, leaving you with a propaganda bonanza.That's true in western terms. It is not true in the ME. They understood that we were saying "you folks need to stop allowing your citizens to attack us or this could happen to you." Recall it was preceded by the Bush speech that announced preemptive attacks were on the table (June 2002). I'd also submit that propaganda bonanzas are fleeting. ;)

news cycles and all that...
I think the people who attacked us did get what they needed, and far more of it than they expected. Fortunately for us, they were unable to exploit the opportunity we gave them to the fullest possible extent. It's useful to have incompetent enemies, but it's not something we want to rely on.In reverse order; we have been benefiting from that incompetence since 1775 but I agree it's not a good idea to rely on it. The fact that they were unable to fully exploit the situation is not totally their responsibility; we aided by striking where we did and by several other actions -- and, most of all, by the hard work of an Army that went in unprepared but turned it around the hard way. We can disagree that they achieved all their aims; they didn't and we didn't. Wars are like that.:wry:
Our strategic weakness lies in long-term political will.I agree in general. There are occasional exceptions.
Our vulnerability is the war of attrition. This is no secret: we know it, our allies know it, our enemies know it.I think there are several misperceptions there but acknowledge they are the common wisdom. The American people are a lot tougher than many think. They are not casualty averse as many believe; they simply want payback for bodies lost in the form of results. They also do a pretty good cost benefit analysis -- thus we are still in Iraq in spite of seven years of screaming to get out...
They can't defeat us, but if they can maneuver us into the right position, they might be able to outlast us and achieve the same effect. We know they will try to maneuver us into long-term static occupation of Muslim nations: that's where they want us to be.I think they are beginning to discover that wasn't quite as smart as you think and they thought. :D
It is in our interest not to permit them to place us in this position. Seems to me we haven't exactly achieved that.I agree with the first thought, obviously the second is true but I think it's a bit more complex than that. Why did we stay in both Iraq and Afghanistan; the plan in each was to topple and leave. What changed that? I believe it was a different cause for each nation but both changes hit at about the same time, May of 2003...

Seabee
06-05-2010, 05:23 AM
Personally, I think it's too early to tell, but here are some factors to consider:

- The apparent success of the Iraqi government may very well be transitory. I don't think it's too far-fetch to consider that it could all fall apart and go back to civil war.

.


indeed... the lesson in Zimbabwe...

"One man, one vote!"

became

"One man, one vote, once!"

Democracy is only interesting where a nation can make it work for a longer period of time.

I was once in a mountain top village in the mountains in Peru. We were in a small shop, not a lot for sale. In one corner there were 4 or 5 large cartons gathering dust... marked outside was the info that the contents were a certain feminen hygiene product that amongst hill people and Llamas had zero value. Sanitary pads for women wearing string Tangas. (I swear, that is true).

Somehow the shop keeper had ordered wrong.... and probably invested a lot of his capital in a product that noone in the area needed....

He probably should have burned them and cut his losses.... but pride and a desire not to loose his investment made him keep them, taking up space and gathering dust...

IMHO trying to bring democracy to certain regions is the same as importing string tanga sanitary pads to that village...

:-)

Dayuhan
06-05-2010, 07:18 AM
Who would we respond to in this case? All those probes and provocations were nominally and officially performed by non-state actors from throughout the ME.

Then we respond to the non-state actors, or - to the extent that they had them - their state sponsors.


No one nation was responsible, it was an area attitude that was to be deterred (actually, disrupted is a better word in the near term; the deterrent aspect rolls around to about that 2033 date I mentioned...). Iraq was chosen because it was a pariah state that had a leader even fellow Arab despots could not stand, it had little to no involvement, no Iraqi nationals had been in the attacks to that time, it was geographically central and should have been a military pushover.

"Area attitude" seems to me too vague a focus for blame, and far too vague a focus for retaliation, disruption, or deterrence. We were not attacked by a nation or an area, we were attacked by a specific group of individuals. Of course our response removed any immediate incentive for further attacks: once the desired goal of US military engagement in Muslim territory was accomplished, there was nothing to be gained from further attacks. I can't really see that as an outcome of disruption or deterrence, and I can't see how the invasion of Iraq was meant to disrupt or deter AQ.


That's true in western terms. It is not true in the ME. They understood that we were saying "you folks need to stop allowing your citizens to attack us or this could happen to you." Recall it was preceded by the Bush speech that announced preemptive attacks were on the table

That would have made the Iraq operation a shot across the bow of the Saudis, which would be as hollow a threat as anyone ever made. The US is not going to invade Saudi Arabia, even if more Saudi citizens have a go at the US. We know that, the Saudis know it, and AQ knows it. I'm sure OBL regrets it bitterly - a US invasion of Saudi Arabia would be AQ's wettest dream - but it's not going to happen. Of course in the remote recesses of the neocon ivory tower a few woolly-headed souls clung vaguely to the notion that the emergence of a stable, prosperous democracy would force reform in Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc, but that was fantasy from the start, and I doubt that any of the autocrats in Riyadh or Tehran lost any sleep over the prospect.


We can disagree that they achieved all their aims; they didn't and we didn't. Wars are like that.

They achieved their immediate aim: US engagement in Muslim territory. The goal was to draw the US into Afghanistan; that was achieved. Iraq was a bonus that AQ was unable to exploit fully for a number of reasons, not least their own ineptness. Whether or not they will achieve their long-term goals in Afghanistan remains to be seen, but they aren't doing badly.



The American people are a lot tougher than many think. They are not casualty averse as many believe; they simply want payback for bodies lost in the form of results. They also do a pretty good cost benefit analysis -- thus we are still in Iraq in spite of seven years of screaming to get out


Absolutely. I didn't say or mean that the American deficit of long-term political will or the American vulnerability to wars of attrition were absolute. They aren't. They remain the most vulnerable point in our edifice, and the point that our opponents, especially those with little conventional military force at their disposal, will try to exploit. Whether or not they succeed remains to be seen. Every gambit is a gamble. Osama needed a jihad; without one he and his group would have faded into oblivion. The US was the only available candidate. AQ sucked us in, they got that far successfully. Whether they can chew what they bit off - or whether we can - is still being settled.

Fuchs
06-05-2010, 08:38 AM
Ken, I think I understand that political system dysfunction, and it needs to be cleaned up sometime.

Again; attention, national energy, time was wasted by looking outward at a distant and pretty marginal (yet inflated) problem instead of bundling that for a domestic breakthrough effort.

No amount of foreign political success (if there was any to speak of) would weigh heavier than the domestic imbalances that look like they're going to capsize the ship.
The whole attitude to economic affairs needs to change, several dear myths (such as "we should improve our economy by buying more") need to be shattered, special interests groups be defeated (and not granted the right to make political donations) and the whole system of talking points and idiot pundits needs to be exposed and replaced.

The nation will never do this as long as much of its attention is bound by scaremongering and violent conflicts and its reasoning restricted by jingoism.

Dayuhan
06-05-2010, 12:17 PM
Again; attention, national energy, time was wasted by looking outward at a distant and pretty marginal (yet inflated) problem instead of bundling that for a domestic breakthrough effort.


It was difficult to argue in Sept 2001 that the problem was marginal or inflated. It looked more like what it was: a serious problem that had been swept under the rug for too long. Possibly the reaction was excessive and misdirected, but there's little doubt that the problem tself had been ignored for way too long.

The same can be said of the economic issues, many of which were stretched to near breaking in the dysfunctional economic policy environment of the 1990s, a time relatively free of jingoism and external entanglements. By the time Bush took office the economy was in such a marginal state that it's difficult to see how a "domestic breakthrough effort" could have been managed. Bush's economic and foreign policies were dominated by attempts to deal with a horde of chickens coming home to roost. Those problems were undoubtedly mismanaged in many ways, but there was little opportunity for proactive policy, and it's hard to say what that administration would have done if given the opportunity for proactive rather than reactive policies.

Fuchs
06-05-2010, 12:49 PM
Iraq didn't look like a serious problem to me ever after Desert Storm, and even in late '90 I considered it to be little more than a nuisance.

It takes a quite distorted view on what's serious and what not to rate such a distant, largely disarmed state as a serious problem while the own economy is turning to illusions and losing substance.

It was also obvious by basic statistics that the PRC deserved much more attention already in the early 2000's than the whole ME.

A proper reaction would have reduced the oil addiction to a ME-oil-independent level and a focus on increasing the industrial output instead of outsourcing it (alternatively, reducing consumption to a sustainable level).
Great power gaming in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Mid East and Far East did not offer any solution for the real national domestic problems. They were at best opium for the people, helping the government in an election or two.

I'm quite sure that historians in 50 years will call the 2000's a lost decade for the whole West (Europe had its parallel follies) and won't find much if any good policy. I'm also quite sure that they won't be amazed by some disruption grand strategy or whatever Ken thinks about.

Ken White
06-05-2010, 02:22 PM
W is a gambler... :cool:
Then we respond to the non-state actors, or - to the extent that they had them - their state sponsors.I totally agree as do many in the government -- unfortunately, there are others who do not agree and the result is we have no mechanism to do that and the previously used mechanisms are no longer politically acceptable. Would you be among the first to condemn such quasi legal operations?
"Area attitude" seems to me too vague a focus for blame, and far too vague a focus for retaliation, disruption, or deterrence. We were not attacked by a nation or an area, we were attacked by a specific group of individuals.Those individuals came from a specific area of the globe and from a specific subset of persons from that area. Don't know how much time you've spent in the ME but if you've been there, you should have picked up on the fact that they are clannish, xenophobic, anti-western in cultural orientation and consider the US the most evil batch of Kuffars around. That attitude is endemic. They understood what we were doing and why. Didn't appreciate it, either -- but they had to and did respect it, no matter how reluctantly and no matter what they said in public for consumption in the west. They had to and do respect it in spite of the errors in execution which certainly adversely impacted the 'lesson' value. While adversely impacted and extended in time, it still conveyed the message that we are capable of dismantling your country and will do so if you provoke us beyond the point of your safety. That BTW is also one reason the current administration is continuing many earlier policies and is tougher than its base likes; a little unwanted but forced sense of continuity and will there... :D
Of course our response removed any immediate incentive for further attacks: once the desired goal of US military engagement in Muslim territory was accomplished, there was nothing to be gained from further attacks. I can't really see that as an outcome of disruption or deterrence, and I can't see how the invasion of Iraq was meant to disrupt or deter AQ.Do not conflate AQ with Islamist fundamentalism in totality. There have been further attacks, they were themselves disrupted. The intent was not to disrupt AQ -- how do you disrupt a Starfish? How do you deter an aggregation with no population or infrastructure to protect? -- it was to disrupt the ability of wealthy persons in the ME to fund and foster anti western fomentation and terrorism and even more specifically, to disrupt and deter tacit support by some governments in the ME and south Asia (which do have populations and infrastructure...) to and for such actions and of which we were very much aware but which previous administrations had been reluctant to address.

Iraq was to divert attention and to send a message, the rest of the strategy was long term and designed to be out of sight to most while Iraq was sucking the news streams -- as Afghanistan is now doing. And, yes, that is an expensive diversion as was expected. The slow success of shutting of the money and turning governments that do not wish to turn is proceeding glacially -- but pretty much unstoppably in the background.
That would have made the Iraq operation a shot across the bow of the Saudis, which would be as hollow a threat as anyone ever made. The US is not going to invade Saudi Arabia, even if more Saudi citizens have a go at the US. We know that, the Saudis know it, and AQ knows it. I'm sure OBL regrets it bitterly - a US invasion of Saudi Arabia would be AQ's wettest dream - but it's not going to happen.True but perhaps not for the reasons that many believe. What the Iraqi operation did with respect to Saudi Arabia was allow us to remove the US forces based in there which in turn allowed the Saudis to dismantle their own AQ. It also will eventually allow Iraqi oil to assist in diluting the Kingdom's net clout. :wry:
Of course in the remote recesses of the neocon ivory tower a few woolly-headed souls clung vaguely to the notion that the emergence of a stable, prosperous democracy would force reform in Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc, but that was fantasy from the start, and I doubt that any of the autocrats in Riyadh or Tehran lost any sleep over the prospect.I also do not think Bush bought into the neocon stupidity, he simply used them to further his own agenda.
They achieved their immediate aim: US engagement in Muslim territory. The goal was to draw the US into Afghanistan; that was achieved. Iraq was a bonus that AQ was unable to exploit fully for a number of reasons, not least their own ineptness. Whether or not they will achieve their long-term goals in Afghanistan remains to be seen, but they aren't doing badly.In order; not in the form they expected or wanted;it wasn't so much their own ineptenss as it was a matter of scale in a venue where they had no presence. They got outflanked. It was far from a bonus, really,it was a diversion with which they were unable to cope due to that scale. They're not doing nearly as well in Afghanistan or Pakistan (the latter nation is why we're still in Afghanistan...) as many think. We'll see.
AQ sucked us in, they got that far successfully. Whether they can chew what they bit off - or whether we can - is still being settled.Did we get sucked in or did we willingly take the bait for several less obvious reasons? ;)

As for still being settled, true. But the goat entrails are reading well...

Ken White
06-05-2010, 02:33 PM
from the British and the rest of Europe that have not done the US any great favor. We were and are a bit different. British and European attitudes are fine and they work over there, many do not transfer here at all well...:o
Ken, I think I understand that political system dysfunction, and it needs to be cleaned up sometime.Totally agree; I keep telling everyone who'll listen to vote out all incumbents until Congress gets the message and reforms itself -- they're the problem and they're pretty much untouchable -- except at the ballot box.
Again; attention, national energy, time was wasted by looking outward at a distant and pretty marginal (yet inflated) problem instead of bundling that for a domestic breakthrough effort.True but there were valid domestic political reasons for that inflation and though distant and marginal, it could have later been a major problem. We don't like threats, even vague ones... :eek:
The nation will never do this as long as much of its attention is bound by scaremongering and violent conflicts and its reasoning restricted by jingoism.Probably correct in many senses but I doubt we'll see any significant change in the near term. We'll keep muddling along. Most Americans can and will live with that... :cool:

Ken White
06-05-2010, 02:37 PM
I'm quite sure that historians in 50 years will call the 2000's a lost decade for the whole West (Europe had its parallel follies) and won't find much if any good policy.Not on that, I agree with that...
I'm also quite sure that they won't be amazed by some disruption grand strategy or whatever Ken thinks about.That. You're wrong about that. I'll be long gone but you can send down a note with the apology for your error... :D

Dayuhan
06-05-2010, 11:36 PM
It takes a quite distorted view on what's serious and what not to rate such a distant, largely disarmed state as a serious problem while the own economy is turning to illusions and losing substance.

9/11 distorted lots of views; that's what it was meant to do, and it succeeded. As I've said before, I wasn't in favor of the Iraq operation; it was justified but it wasn't smart. However, assuming that if it hadn't happened the US could, or far more remotely would, have managed some sort of burst of economic enlightenment is beyond far fetched. Certainly the Iraq war ran parallel to a run of bad economic policy, but there's lettle meaningful evidence to suggest a causative link. Economic policy was no better in the relatively peaceful 90s.

I do suspect that if 9/11 hadn't happened, the Bush administration's handlling of the 2000/2001 recession might have been much better, and much trouble down the line might have been prevented. That, however, is pure conjecture.

Again, on both the economic and foreign policy levels the Bush administration was defined by the need to deal with problems that the Clinton administration had declined to manage. These problems were poorly managed in both cases, but there was in either event little opportunity for major reforms in the reactive mode that was imposed by prior neglect.



It was also obvious by basic statistics that the PRC deserved much more attention already in the early 2000's than the whole ME.


China's emergence received plenty of attention, but it's not something that required action on the part of the US or anyone else. Again, assuming that relations with China would have been managed better if the ME had not been an issue is conjecture. What would you have done with respect to China that was not done?



A proper reaction would have reduced the oil addiction to a ME-oil-independent level and a focus on increasing the industrial output instead of outsourcing it (alternatively, reducing consumption to a sustainable level).


And how would you propose to do that? You ascribe to government powers that government does not have.

First the notion of being independent of "ME oil" is a farce. Everyone who depends on oil depends on ME oil, whether or not they actually import any. Oil is globally priced and the removal of any major ME producer imposes the same price penalty on all consumers.

The US is about as likely to become independent of ME oil as Europe is to become independent of Russian gas. For the forseeable future we simply have to accept and manage the reality that our energy supplies are controlled by powers that are unreliable and potentially hostile. I'd actually rather depend on the Saudis than on the Russians, who seem more inclined to manipulate energy supplies for political gain.

Oil dependence was deeply entrenched by the extended glut, and as long as oil remained cheap any action taken by government to reduce dependence was going to be insignificant, short of imposing a massive tax on energy, which no American administration will do as long as democracy is in place. In the last few years we've entered what appears likely to be an extended period of high oil prices, which opens a real opportunity to reduce dependence. The oil-dependent powers of the world may or may not make use of that opportunity.

American manufacturing has been hampered by half a century of a seriously overvalued dollar, which imposed a massive disincentive to any American entrepreneur or corporation entering a line of business that required it to export or to compete with imports. That reality has shaped the US economy to a degree that will require decades to reverse. Again, as long as the dollar was overvalued any policy government adopted to promote manufacturing was equivalent to spitting into a typhoon. That problem has now been alleviated to some extent, though ideally the dollar would fall more. Again, that opens an opportunity, but it's an opportunity that didn't exist for most of the 00s.

Certainly the last decade has seen an abundance of bad decisions in both economic and foreign policy, but claiming a causative relationship between the latter and the former is conjecture, I suspect with a bit of wishful thinking mixed in. An absence of foreign entanglement is no assurance of good economic policy, as we saw in the 90s.



I'm quite sure that historians in 50 years will call the 2000's a lost decade for the whole West (Europe had its parallel follies) and won't find much if any good policy.

I suspect that historians in 50 years will see the 2000s as a desperately needed wake-up call to the West, on a variety of levels. How the West responds to that call is still being defined. Easy to say the response has been unimpressive (not just from the US), but we were very deep in our rut and it's still the early going.

Fuchs
06-06-2010, 12:13 AM
I disagree on several points.

...the usual disagreement about justification of OIF.

PRC's economic growth: An active economic policy could have changed a lot. Much of the U.S. trade balance deficit is from trade with the PRC. Such simple things as increasing the savings rate and discouraging private debt would have reduced the imbalance and slowed down China's economic growth a lot. The West could also at least have talked about whether to prohibit the export of investment goods to China.
There were hundreds of policy options.

A government has the power to break the oil addiction. Imagine the effect of a gasoline tax of European proportions beginning in 2000, for example. U.S. cars would consume about 10-25% less fuel on average now.
Other sectors would have had similar fuel savings.

The global pricing of crude oil is a farce. Much of the oil trade is not on the market, but arranged in long-term treaties or simply transferred inside of multinational corporations. The oil price from the TV news is merely applicable to the oil that's still being traded freely.
So yes, it's possible to become independent from both ME oil and the global crude oil market price.
CTL is also competitive, it's been competitive since the oil price exceeded about 50 USD/barrel.


Certainly the last decade has seen an abundance of bad decisions in both economic and foreign policy, but claiming a causative relationship between the latter and the former is conjecture, I suspect with a bit of wishful thinking mixed in. An absence of foreign entanglement is no assurance of good economic policy, as we saw in the 90s.

I didn't mean to assert such a mechanism. Nevertheless, a country has a limited attention span and cannot cope with many great projects at once. There's little hope for domestic reforms of grand scale as long as much of the attention span is being wasted on (inflated) external threats.



Besides; I don't share the attitude that Iraq was a problem that had to be dealt with and was wrongly not dealt with by Clinton.
Post-'96 Iraq was no problem at all. There was merely a crazy illusion of a problem. This illusion was based on irrational behaviour (asking another power to prove the non-existence of non-existing items) and crazy scaremongering.
The only real issue was the question how the Kurds could be protected against Saddam's revenge, especially considering Turkey's stance. A guaranteed autonomy for the Kurds, reinforced with a UNSC threat of renewed sanctions might have worked.

Ken White
06-06-2010, 03:54 AM
Besides; I don't share the attitude that Iraq was a problem that had to be dealt with and was wrongly not dealt with by Clinton.
Post-'96 Iraq was no problem at all. There was merely a crazy illusion of a problem. This illusion was based on irrational behaviour (asking another power to prove the non-existence of non-existing items) and crazy scaremongering...that Iraq was a 'problem.' Most seem to realize it was not a threat but was posed as one for some reason or other, the discussion is over what was the 'other.'. US domestic politics were a large part of that. As they are for the reason there is no healthy, sensible petroleum tax in the US.

While Iraq was not a problem -- it was really a target of opportunity -- the Clinton Administration's failures in responding to provocations from the ME and those of Carter, Reagan and Bush 41 before that all added their own synergies to why we are where we are.
The only real issue was the question how the Kurds could be protected against Saddam's revenge, especially considering Turkey's stance. A guaranteed autonomy for the Kurds, reinforced with a UNSC threat of renewed sanctions might have worked.That and Southern Watch which had problems of its own and which impacted Saudi Arabia. I doubt the UNSC would've acted -- China, France and Russia would all have been opposed.

Dayuhan
06-06-2010, 03:58 AM
PRC's economic growth: An active economic policy could have changed a lot. Much of the U.S. trade balance deficit is from trade with the PRC. Such simple things as increasing the savings rate and discouraging private debt would have reduced the imbalance and slowed down China's economic growth a lot. The West could also at least have talked about whether to prohibit the export of investment goods to China.


Why would you want to slow down China's growth? And why in any vestigially sane world would you want to prohibit the export of investment goods to China? Even if the US government had the capacity to compel citizens to save (it doesn't), I can't see how that would have had any impact on US trade with hina. Certainly the US could have used higher interest rates to discourage borrowing, but that goes back to the mismanagement of the 2000/2001 recession, which is intimately tied to the economic and political impact of 9/11.


A government has the power to break the oil addiction. Imagine the effect of a gasoline tax of European proportions beginning in 2000, for example. U.S. cars would consume about 10-25% less fuel on average now.

The US government doesn't have that power. Maybe in theory it does, but in practice it does not. For better or for worse the US remains a democracy, and the citizenry wouldn't stand for it. Reform isn't just about leadership, needs some followership as well.

Oil consumption patterns worldwide are inextricably linked to the incentive to consume created by the oil glut and consequent low prices that prevalied from 1985-2005. High prices will change that, but it will take time. Trying to oppose an overwhelming macroeconomic incentive with policy is generally pretty futile.


The global pricing of crude oil is a farce. Much of the oil trade is not on the market, but arranged in long-term treaties or simply transferred inside of multinational corporations. The oil price from the TV news is merely applicable to the oil that's still being traded freely.
So yes, it's possible to become independent from both ME oil and the global crude oil market price.

Unrealistic, I fear. I don't think there's a supplier on the planet that would commit to supply oil to the US at significantly below market price. Certainly the Saudis, Venezuelans, and Nigerians won't, and I very much doubt that the Canadians would.



CTL is also competitive, it's been competitive since the oil price exceeded about 50 USD/barrel.

Lots of alternatives are competitive if prices stay high. It will take at least a decade of high prices for those alternatives to draw the needed investment and develop into meaningful contributors... and when they do, it will be a response to high prices, not to government policy.



Besides; I don't share the attitude that Iraq was a problem that had to be dealt with and was wrongly not dealt with by Clinton.
Post-'96 Iraq was no problem at all. There was merely a crazy illusion of a problem. This illusion was based on irrational behaviour (asking another power to prove the non-existence of non-existing items) and crazy scaremongering.
The only real issue was the question how the Kurds could be protected against Saddam's revenge, especially considering Turkey's stance. A guaranteed autonomy for the Kurds, reinforced with a UNSC threat of renewed sanctions might have worked.

Lots of things might have worked. Nothing will work if it's not tried, and nothing was tried. The problem was simply allowed to fester. Of course it was only an irritant, but an irritant that isn't dealt with ultimately provides an incentive to overaction.

It was actually rather complicated. Realistically, no alternative that left Saddam in power would have been suitable or acceptable. Saddam's side deals with France and Russia had the UNSC effectively bottled. The status quo was almost universally perceived as unacceptable.

The Clinton administration made no attempt at all to resolve the festering sore that the Iraq situation had become. They made no attempt beyond a few cursory high tech drive-by shootings to deal with the clearly emerging problem of AQ. They sat by and watched while an enormous equity bubble blew beyond all reasonable proportions, with a devastating impact on the S economy. These situations might not have been completely solved, but some attempt might have been made to manage them. None was. All the chickens came home to roost on poor George's lap, and while the Bushies managed those problems badly, we'd do well to recall how and when those problems cane to be.

Fuchs
06-06-2010, 07:43 AM
While Iraq was not a problem -- it was really a target of opportunity -- the Clinton Administration's failures in responding to provocations from the ME and those of Carter, Reagan and Bush 41 before that all added their own synergies to why we are where we are.

Strange. Why didn't you add Reagan, who ran away from Lebanon in response to a few car bombs, yielding to the threat of 'terrorists'?
It would be funny to see how republicans would think about that if someone convinced them for a day that Reagan was a democrat while he made the decision to run away.

Ken White
06-06-2010, 02:25 PM
Read your own quote of my comment, he's in the list for the very reason you cite... :eek: :confused:

Selective attention -- or neglect -- on your part to make a point? :D

Just FYI, I'm not a Republican -- or a Democrat; I despise both parties for their fostering of incompetence and their venality and corruption. :mad:

Fuchs
06-06-2010, 02:44 PM
Dunno, but I won't ask a psychologist. :)

AmericanPride
01-03-2012, 02:20 PM
From my nave standpoint, I see a dictatorship replaced with a democracy, many foreign debts to Iraq forgiven, the likelihood of increased oil production benefiting all Iraqis rather than just the ruling regime, a dramatic improvement in quality of life for the Kurds, removal of sanctions on all of Iraq, a government that has established friendly relations with its neighbors, creation of security forces that are far less abusive or corrupt, and a military unlikely to attack neighbors or its own government. What am I missing?

I understand this post originated a few years ago. However, it is interesting to note that the original post asks the question "How was Iraq a strategic blunder" and then proceeds to discuss the positive outcomes for Iraq without once mentioning any benefits for the United States. The continued low-level violence in Iraq is not an indicator of failure in my opinion; nor is the unfolding political drama in Iraq's government. The concern is what enduring economic or political advantage has the United States gained from the war. The failure therefore is not in the haphazard execution of the war or even its outcome but the purpose for it in the first place.