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Old 01-08-2006   #1
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Default DNI's Fabius Maximus: Iraq and the Future

Forecasts for the American Expedition to Iraq.

What comes next in Iraq? Here are some straight-line extrapolations. Nothing certain, but these seem like good bets.

American public support for the Iraq War has evolved to the tipping point -- the critical level at which mainstream politicos move to explicit opposition. In this sense Iraq is a second Vietnam: a foreign war in which a US President arrogantly attempts to outlast strongly-rooted local opposition.

The US will begin a major withdrawal of its forces, probably in the first half of 2006. The key election date is not December 17 (Iraq’s Parliament), but November 4, 2006 (US Congress).

Once we begin large-scale withdrawals, probably also relocating our remaining forces to bases in the Iraq deserts, our influence in Iraq will rapidly disappear.

The Iraq "National" governing structure will not long survive our departure, as they lack sufficient loyal troops to keep them in power. The ethnic militias pretending to be parts of the Iraq Army will revert to their true roles, serving local, ethnic, or sectarian interests.

Power will move to regional leaders with armed militias. Many previously powerful political and religious leaders will find themselves marginalized, as ethnic and religious hierarchies adjust to accommodate upstarts commanding young men with guns.

Neither Sunni nor Shiite Arab militia leaders have any need for our support, nor want foreign infidel armies on their soil. The Kurds will no longer need us. Hence all parties will call for rapid US withdrawal of forces once we become “lame ducks” in Iraq. This will remove any remaining support for the Iraq Expedition among global governments and the US public. Combined military action against Coalition forces is possible should we linger too long...

Implications of this forecast – what should we do next?

Rather than focus on what to do next, our political elites remain locked in a debate over responsibility for past mistakes.

Rome did well by avoiding these, even in the worst depths of the Punic Wars.

They executed the occasional general -- often for insufficient aggressiveness, almost never for failures (e.g. Cannae). But typically with no interruption in the process of crushing their enemies.

Perhaps we should turn for advice to those who warned against the Iraq Expedition. Some of this small group have recommended “exit strategies,” and here we encounter another anomaly: experts who advised against the Iraq Expedition, see that it has failed, but still search for a method to make it work on some level.

Perhaps it is an American characteristic to combine hope with tenacity. "Can do, Sir!"...
Lessons Learned from the American Expedition to Iraq.

The mainstream media remains focused on assigning blame for the war, with occasional reports on current events and discussions of exit strategies.

Let’s attempt to see the bigger picture.

Defeat seems the appropriate description for the American expedition to Iraq. Consider the cost!

Hundreds of billions of dollars spent, all in effect borrowed from Asia.

Thousands of Coalition soldiers dead, tens of thousands wounded. And, of course, uncounted thousands of Iraq civilian killed and wounded.

For what?

To establish some form of Kurdish state? The Turkish Government, among our stronger allies, will not thank us for this.

To establish Islamic State(s) in the Arab regions of Iraq? Probably difficult to sell this to the American people as “victory.” Certainly an odd aspect of our “War on Terror.”

To establish a Shiite State in southern Iraq? Good news for Iran, a charter member of the “Axis of Evil.” Bad news for Iraq’s southern neighbor, Saudi Arabia, most of whose oil fields lie in Shiite tribal areas.

Perhaps we can redeem ourselves by learning lessons of sufficient value.

Lessons learned #1: Avoid Third World colonial wars...

Lessons learned #2: The necessity for courage and integrity in our officers...

Lessons learned #3: What is the real threat to the US? How should we respond?...

Lessons learned #4: How might we adjust to defeat in Iraq?...

Lessons Learned #5: There is a flaw in our current force structure...

Lessons learned #6: There is a structural flaw in our government...
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Old 01-10-2006   #2
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Lessons learned #6: There is a structural flaw in our government.
Korea. Vietnam. Iraq.
Are we getting better at these expeditions? No.
Have we learned anything? Apparently not.
Let’s focus on the comparison of the Vietnam and Iraq expeditions. While most of the circumstances differ radically, we have committed similar process mistakes.
Based on the Pentagon Papers supplemented by extensive interviews and research, David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest is one of the definitive descriptions of how and why we fought in Vietnam. (The Fawcett Crest paperback is 850 pages.)
Try this experiment: open it at random and read 20 pages. You’ll probably find at least one description that screams “Iraq” to you.
Here is a sample, pages 49-50.
Those years would show, in the American system, how when a question of the use of force arose in government, the advocates of force were always better organized, seemed more numerous and seemed to have both logic and fear on their side, and that in fending them off in his own government, a President would need all the help he possibly could get, not the least of which should be a powerful Secretary of State.
Our failure to learn and improve must mean something. Perhaps there is a structural flaw in the US government.
This is important I fear this governmental flaw will not be fixed soon, because there is no serious debate. There is little discourse about foreign policy in the public sphere and what there is, is mostly little more than name calling on talk shows. There is no discussion about what our foreign policy objectives should be. No politician ever attempts to provoke serious talk about the structures of our government in relation to our foreign policy.
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Old 01-11-2006   #3
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I don't know that discourse in the public sphere is really the answer. Firstly, foreign policy is almost entirely the President's sole sphere. The legislative and judicial branches of government have very little to do with foreign adventures.

The problem, rather, is the lack of informed discussion and debate in the very private sphere of the oval office - a statement that goes for all administrations, really. In fact, I believe they often do undertake this debate. But the fact remains that military operations always cost more than anticipated and achieve less than advertised. Out of all the US interventions over the years, how much has the world really changed in our favor? Korea ended in stalemate - but that was better than the status quo ante which was a unified (and Communist) Korean peninsula. Vietnam ended in total strategic defeat - and yet constituents in NATO and elsewhere remained convinced of US claims to battle Communism. Just Cause didn't turn Panama into a Jeffersonian paradise, but it did result in a democratic government taking hold. Desert Storm didn't topple the Ba'ath regime in Iraq, but it liberated Kuwait.

Really, what bothers me is the "daddy knows best" routine from those in power. Regardless of whose administration it is, they all pretend to be experts - whitewashing the true risks and overselling the benefits. And so every war we get caught up short by reality.
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Old 01-11-2006   #4
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I think public sphere discussion is appropriate since the foreign policy of a democracy should come from the people. Also while the executive branch is the key player in matters of foreign policy they are dependant on congress for declarations of war (probably no longer relevant in this day and age) and money (relevant in any age).

Military operations do usually delver less than advertised for higher cost but only because people let them. Politicians that promise the absurd and then fail to deliver could be impeached instead we choose to reelect them. Nobody’s fault but our own, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
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Old 02-12-2006   #5
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You might this new article by Fabius Maximus of interest. Something a bit different.

"Top Secret US Government Documents about Iraq"

3 pages.
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Old 02-12-2006   #6
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Interesting, both in content and style.

The comparison itself is worrisome; it rings of great power doomed by its arrogance and ignorance. I fear that are current leaders are unwilling to attempt to bring any of this to be seriously debated in the public sphere and until that happens we will repeat the worst mistakes of our history.
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