View Full Version : How To or How Not To End the War

03-31-2008, 05:19 PM
The Smart Way Out of a Foolish War (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/27/AR2008032702405_pf.html) by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Washington Post, 30 March 2008.

... The case for U.S. disengagement from combat is compelling in its own right. But it must be matched by a comprehensive political and diplomatic effort to mitigate the destabilizing regional consequences of a war that the outgoing Bush administration started deliberately, justified demagogically and waged badly. (I write, of course, as a Democrat; while I prefer Sen. Barack Obama, I speak here for myself.)

The contrast between the Democratic argument for ending the war and the Republican argument for continuing is sharp and dramatic. The case for terminating the war is based on its prohibitive and tangible costs, while the case for "staying the course" draws heavily on shadowy fears of the unknown and relies on worst-case scenarios. President Bush's and Sen. John McCain's forecasts of regional catastrophe are quite reminiscent of the predictions of "falling dominoes" that were used to justify continued U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Neither has provided any real evidence that ending the war would mean disaster, but their fear-mongering makes prolonging it easier...

How Not to End the War (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/28/AR2008032801729_pf.html) by Max Boot, Washington Post, 31 March 2008.

Why am I not reassured by Zbigniew Brzezinski's breezy assurance in Sunday's Outlook section that "forecasts of regional catastrophe" after an American pullout from Iraq are as overblown as similar predictions made prior to our pullout from South Vietnam? Perhaps because the fall of Saigon in 1975 really was a catastrophe. Another domino fell at virtually the same time -- Cambodia.

Estimates vary, but a safe bet is that some two million people died in the killing fields of Cambodia. In South Vietnam, the death toll was lower, but hundreds of thousands were consigned to harsh "reeducation" camps where many perished, and hundreds of thousands more risked their lives to flee as "boat people."

The consequences of the U.S. defeat rippled outward, emboldening communist aggression from Angola to Afghanistan. Iran's willingness to hold our embassy personnel hostage -- something that Brzezinski should recall -- was probably at least in part a reaction to America's post-Vietnam malaise. Certainly the inability of the U.S. armed services to rescue those hostages was emblematic of the "hollow," post-Vietnam military. It took us more than a decade to recover from the worst military defeat in our history...

03-31-2008, 07:54 PM
Boot proves that he belongs at Commentary magazine - his essay is detached from reality in the finest neoconservative tradition.

First, the genocide red flag is waved. Boot of course does not specify exactly who this genocide's perpetrators or victims are, because it's quite difficult to construct a plausible genocide in Iraq that wouldn't involve our current "partners", the Iraqi Shiite-dominated government, as the main perpetrator upon the smaller Sunni population. Of course the actual probability of said genocide is quite low, given that neither Shia nor Sunni can cobble together anything resembling a unified front, much less a power capable of inflicting an organized genocide upon any other group (the current fumbling in Basra provides all the evidence necessary).

"If Coalition forces were withdrawn rapidly ... we judge that the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] would be unlikely to survive as a non-sectarian national institution; neighboring countries -- invited by Iraqi factions or unilaterally -- might intervene openly in the conflict; massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement would be probable; AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] would attempt to use parts of the country -- particularly al-Anbar province -- to plan increased attacks in and outside of Iraq; and spiraling violence and political disarray in Iraq... could prompt Turkey to launch a military incursion."

Only someone like Boot could actually believe the ISF is a non-sectarian national institution now. Neighboring countries are intervening now, but none including Turkey possess the conventional force capability to intervene decisively in the ongoing struggle nor, given the coalition's travails, the requisite stupidity to charge blindly into the briar patch.

Massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement have already occurred under the coalition's watch. The main drivers of this are Iraqi political and sectarian issues that the coalition can temporarily freeze but cannot solve. AQI's survival is also, to a large extent, out of the coalition's hands and depends largely on Sunni needs and AQI capability at the time. Turkey has already launched a military incursion, of course, and the presence of coalition forces did nothing to deter them.

An even more important sign of progress is the willingness of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to take up arms to fight Sunni and Shiite terrorists alongside American troops. Imagine their fate if we suddenly exit. I, for one, hope that we do not betray our allies in Iraq as we did in Southeast Asia.

Uh, right. How many tens of thousands of those Iraqis were shooting at American troops 3 months ago? Iraq is not Vietnam. There are no NLF Main Force regiments or NVA tank divisions prepping to break down the gates to the embassy. And some of our main "allies" in Iraq just visited Iran to plead with the IRGC to intercede in their latest power struggle. Somehow most of our "allies" will get along okay without us.

Ken White
03-31-2008, 08:24 PM
happens to be the point. Boot is a hack? Okay. The Sunni and Shia are themselves fragmented and chaotic internally? Okay. The coalition cannot impose a solution? Okay. Iraq is not viet Nam? Okay.

I agree with all that. Now what?

Rank amateur
04-01-2008, 01:42 AM
I'd be pretty happy if 30 years from now there were English web sites advertising Baghdad real estate in $US. (http://www.livinginvietnam.com/)

Here's what you can get for $3,800 a month in Ho Chin Mihn City.


Ken White
04-01-2008, 02:17 AM
90:10 for it being the case...

Though I suspect that it'll be way more than $3,800 for the equivalent. :D

I wonder how they hid the mold in the HCM City pic???

04-01-2008, 04:36 PM
One of the problems with the debate on Iraq and withdrawal/no withdrawal is that discussions over troop levels seem divorced from any larger strategy or national security interest. The question of troop levels should support some larger strategy, goal or interest and cannot be a strategy by itself. Unfortunately, in the political debate, the question of troops levels IS the strategy.

Rather than debate about troop levels, we should be debating what our strategy in Iraq and the region should be and what endstate is both desirable and acheivable. Only then can one really ask what armed forces, if any, are necessary to achieve that goal.

Ken White
04-01-2008, 11:00 PM
Rather than debate about troop levels, we should be debating what our strategy in Iraq and the region should be and what endstate is both desirable and acheivable. Only then can one really ask what armed forces, if any, are necessary to achieve that goal.Here on this board? Okay, we can do that; won't make much difference but we can.

The Punditocracy? the majority of them are too ignorant to do much more than babble about it and they, too seem to be troop strength centric.

The Politicians? You've already addressed them and they're only marginally better equipped than the Pundits to debate anything above troop levels.

The great unwashed? Joe and Mary Ann don't care. Most of 'em don't even care about troop levels.

Policy wonks, political junkies ans academics? They're already debating all the issues that pertain and about 50,000 that don't.

So who is to debate? serious question and no snark; I see many calling for such a debate that "we" need to have and I truly do not know who constitutes that 'we.'

I think your goal of a desirable and achievable end state is great but likely to be exceedingly hard to define or pin down. That means it will take some time to get a decision or consensus and in the meantime, things will keep moving on and, as was pointed out before, the ME clock and the western clock are quite different. That means that your desired and achievable end state may be the proverbial moving target.

OTOH, I submit there is a strategy and it was based on a 60% solution. I further believe that most people in the west prefer a 90% or better solution and thus there is anxiety on the part of many at the uncertainties that face us.

So, given two different speeds or concepts of time and an amorphous 'we' plus the attainability of anything better that a 60 or 70 % solution in the ME and adding the fact that I think a strategy has been decided upon and is working as well as can be expected, I'm a little at a loss to see what is going to be debated by whom...

04-02-2008, 01:23 AM

Please don't destroy my wishful thinking with cold, hard, bitter reality! That's not very nice. :D

I'm always hopeful the "policymakers" will have such a debate - even if it's in private - but you're quite right it's probably a false hope.

Ken White
04-02-2008, 02:04 AM

Please don't destroy my wishful thinking with cold, hard, bitter reality! That's not very nice. :D

I'm always hopeful the "policymakers" will have such a debate - even if it's in private - but you're quite right it's probably a false hope.that what "we" think is only of minor concern. What congress may think is of some concern. What the media might say is of major concern to some, little to others.

Having been a fly on the wall in the WH Sit Room -- admittedly long ago -- the debates get pretty heated and public opinion gets discussed with some being very concerned and others being a little cavalier about it. I remember one item wherein there were four alternatives briefed over a period of a few weeks and the selected COA was an amalgam of the best briefers bad plan (squeaking wheels...) and the worst briefers good one with facets of the other two thrown in -- no one was that happy with the result but all acknowledged it was about as good as could be had. Compromises tend to be like that.

Based on all I can gather, that process hasn't changed much. Having an acquaintance who was up there in the early '02 time period, there were a lot of discussions along those lines. They resulted in probably as much a layout of the strategy for public consumption as was prudent; in rough priority order; go after the money; go after the nodes (now changed to threads) and an acknowledgement that it would take years (primarily due to the time required to ramp up of a number of agencies to do some things they hadn't done before), most would be out of sight and little could or would be said about it. Step 2 was Afghanistan. Step 3 was Iraq (on a get in and get out basis -- that also changed for some reason). Step 4 was the rest of the world (Philippines, Horn of Africa, Iguacu Falls area, West Africa, et.al. -- note that AfriCom is still not operational) and I suspect there's a 5 and possibly a 6.

04-03-2008, 08:35 PM
3 Apr 08 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Iraq 2012: What Can it Look Like, How Do We Get There?

Carole O'Leary (http://www.senate.gov/~foreign/testimony/2008/OLearyTestimony080403a.pdf), Center for Global Peace, American University

Dawn Brancati (http://www.senate.gov/~foreign/testimony/2008/BrancatiTestimony080403a.pdf), Institute of Quantitative Social Studies, Harvard University

Carlos Pascual (http://www.senate.gov/~foreign/testimony/2008/PascualTestimony080403a.pdf), The Brookings Institution

F. Gregory Gause (http://www.senate.gov/~foreign/testimony/2008/GauseTestimony080403a.pdf), University of Vermont

Terrence Kelly (http://www.senate.gov/~foreign/testimony/2008/KellyTestimony080403a.pdf), RAND