Iraq Round 3

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dick cheney

Dale responds.

Well, I hate to sound cruel here, but, speaking as a former career NCO in line units, some troops getting killed is the price of admission to the party. They are—like I was—volunteering to do the job they do. They willingly take the risks required to do it.

That's great and all, but speaking as a life-long civilian I don't see the value in having our armed services die for no reason. Not only is it morally wrong, but from my position here on the home front it doesn't protect me either. We've got a huge army, and there's no practical reason from a coldly technical perspective to lose 100 or so of them each month in the advancement of essentially zero. I don't doubt that individual soldiers and units and such believe in their mission but the fact of the matter is we're nowhere closer to the Commander In Chief's vision of Iraqi wonderland four years into the occupation. I believe the mistakes we made have essentially eliminated all options other than continuing to bang our heads against the wall or stop banging our heads against the wall. In light of that I don't think more of the same is a viable strategy.

As it happens, however, they are doing a fair amount of killing themselves. We don't do daily body counts any more, but I'm pretty sure that the casualty ratio is overwhelmingly on the side of the US soldier.

Well that was true in Vietnam too, it doesn't mean stay the course was a viable strategy.

Second, you want to keep putting in the whole history deal, saying, "What led up to the war matters because it is used daily by the right to explain away current and future behavior." So what? We're aren't talking about the Right, or what it wants to do, or the justifications it uses.

Because the administration has very explicitly tied up the politics with the strategy. They are sadly not in separate silos but as this week's funding capitulation makes clear, part and parcel of a unified policy. The manipulation of the justification for the war continues to effect what decisions are made affecting war policy. That this continues to be based on a false version of history continues to undermine the faith in the leadership's honesty on the "progress" of the war. The right continues to try to paper over this and then tries on to move on to the latest harebrained "Victory" scheme in Iraq as if they are starting from a clean slate of honesty.

I grant the Bush Administration has used horrible leadership. The question is, why is a complete reversal of that policy the only possible option? Why are there no other options?

You've given your point of view on those questions, so there's no need to repeat them, but is there any middle option that can retrieve the past bad decisions?

I don't see any options other than trying to do what has failed or changing course. There doesn't seem to be much of a third way on that because we're either still occupying Iraq or we aren't.

I don't think you can extrapolate from the fact that there's an insurgency that "the Iraqis" are sold on the insurgents aims. So, when you make blanket statements about what "the Iraqis" want, I think, since there is empirical evidence from a series of elections that contradicts your view, you need to explain a little more clearly why your assertions are true.

Would there be this much sustained violence if the Iraqi people were perfectly fine with our occupation? Would we have things like women being stoned or popular support for anti-American clerics like Al Sadr if a not-significant amount of Iraqis didn't want us there and didn't support Sharia? I don't think so.

But whatever the reason, if you're arguing that they can't, or won't willingly support a popular government, then you are at least implicitly saying that they are deficient in some way, aren't you?

I can only say what I see. Not everyone wants a democracy. I think not having democracy is a stupid way to organize one's society, but a lot of people around the world are perfectly comfortable without one.

And I don't know how you can really predict that a military deployment to country X will be safe and easy.

Well it's generally safe to assume that the best way of nation building isn't the country you invaded and occupied.

But I really have a problem with your larger point that, because we're in Iraq, Al Qaeda is getting a free pass in Pakistan. You seem terribly insouciant about invading Pakistan. Is that wholly wise? Why would an invasion of Pakistan—which is at least a nominal ally—not simply result in the same sort of things you decry in Iraq?

Because I'm not advocating invading and occupying countries. I'm advocating the slaughter of Al Qaeda wherever they might be. Pakistan's barely an ally, with a populace that is largely anti-American. I'm interested right now in killing Al Qaeda, as I have been since 9/11. Again, that we are subject to the tender mercies of an international border all of a sudden when we know Al Qaeda is operating there is kind of ridiculous. I'm not advocating us occupying more nations, I'm advocating us going in to wherever Al Qaeda is and killing them. That's the crux of why I disagreed with the invasion in the first place, how can we hope to be agile and strike Al Qaeda where they are globally when we're busy occupying a nation? We can't. The reason Al Qaeda is in Iraq, the few Al Qaeda actually there and not Joe "I'm Al Qaeda" Anti-America of the moment, is because we're sitting there babysitting.

As far your characterization if the president's motivation, I'm afraid that, again, I don't have the access to other people's inner lives that you seem to have.

I can only make observations based on evidence. The overarching motivation behind the president's "strategy" in Iraq is avoiding admitting any mistakes on his behalf. To hear them talk now is to hear a group of people acting as if the strategy from invasion to present has been going swimmingly.

And, what if we stopped trying to police Iraq, and told the Iraqis that all we cared about was killing Al Qaeda, and apart from that, they were on their own? Would the mission then be acceptable, as long as we were killing Al Qaeda members?

Well the mission would be fundamentally different. We wouldn't be an occupying power, we'd be trying to kill Al Qaeda. It would be rejecting the failed mission and getting back on track.

Well, I'm not sure the plan is to simply sit around and hope. We have tried to change the strategy and tactics via the surge. It remains to be seen whether or not it works.

I think that if it doesn't look like some sort of success by the end of the year, I'll probably come over to the withdrawal side, too. We're trying to salvage four years of political—and military—incompetence here, and I think it's our last shot.

The latest strategy seems to be hoping everything will go well and ignoring the last four years. A football team with 4 seconds left could theoretically come back from a 20 point deficit but it isn't very likely nor practical, and no lives are at stake there. I simply have zero confidence that anything good can come from this, the mismanagement is simply insurmountable. Every few months we are handed a bill of goods that says NOW WE'RE REALLY GONNA DO IT, and it's frankly a steaming pile.

Well, you haven't addressed at any time why a civil war in Iraq won't flare up into a wider regional conflict.

Maybe it will, I can't predict the future, but I don't think the response to an unknown is to continue on something that isn't working. The result of a withdrawal may be horror for the people of the middle east or maybe Iraq will get taken over by a strongman that will pacify the region. I don't pretend to have a crystal ball. But I also reject the idea that we must keep plugging away at failure because Something Bad Could Happen.

I didn't think it was a good idea to invade and occupy Iraq, but I don't see our options being set in stone simply because the President's leadership has been catastrophic.