Thursday, December 01, 2005

Iraqi Withdrawal?

My colleague Ray Takeyh had this to say in today's Newsday in response to the president's speech yesterday.

Two segments I wanted to share.

The first: "The president's curious logic ignores the fact that the determination of the insurgents is not predicated on the longevity of the U.S. presence. Indeed, in three years of occupation without a deadline, the insurgency has only grown - in geographic scope, in the potency of its tactics and in the sophistication of its operations."

The second: "Far from intensifying the insurgency, a responsible American withdrawal plan will compel pragmatic forces within Iraq society to step forward and renegotiate a new national compact for their country. A pledge to withdraw will alter the debate from U.S. occupation to the future of Iraq. In such a political arena the insurgency will be confined to the margins of the society."

The point for debate is this: is the U.S. presence inhibiting the "normal" political process from occurring? In other words, does the continued presence of large numbers of ground forces (rather than smaller, specialized units for training, delivering targeted airpower strikes, etc.) create a crutch for Iraqi politicians and more importantly, the local leaders and elites, not to have to deliver on security and more importantly, the political framework needed to sustain the country without significant outside involvement?

Takeyh's point would seem to be confirmed by the experience of Bosnia and then Kosovo: the "parental" theory of reconstruction--significant outside forces to allow time for new institutions to grow and take root--can easily turn into a long-term dependency that makes it more difficult, over time, for these new institutions to grow.

Comments:
Several problems with the Takeyh piece.

First is the assertion about the growth of the insurgency. The insurgency has been a failure so far in causing any serious damage to the U.S. military presence; the insurgents cannot defeat the U.S. on the battlefield, and the causalty rate is still lower than in previous conflicts. What the insurgency has been able to do is to improve its ability to attack other Iraqis and target government infrastructure.

The second is the idea that a timed withdrawal increases the chances Iraqis will be forced to do a better job in setting up a more effective government, a kind of sink or swim approach.

I think a benchmark withdrawal is a better approach--and it should be done on a regional not national basis. As a particular area improves, the U.S. can withdraw forces and concentrate elsewhere. But a timed withdrawal would be a disaster and open the possibility that Iraq would indeed become a failed state where we would have to reintervene at some point down the road.
 
I think that people will agree or disagree with Takeyh's piece depending on what you think the end goal should be in Iraq.

Takeyh's argument will appeal the most to the regime decapitators--those who wanted Saddam out of power and Iraq's WMD infrastructure neutralized but otherwise didn't have any postwar expectations.

Those who want a reasonably put-back-together Iraq will split on whether Takeyh's gamble is the right one--that withdrawal forces politicians to do the heavy lifting to keep the country together.

Obviously those in line with the administration's view will categorize this as another cut and run piece.
 
I think the main thing a withdrawal timetable would do is to put pressure on the Sunni community to accept their diminished place in the new Shi'ite-dominated Iraq. The U.S. presence does act as a bit of a constraint on the Shi'ite desire for revenge, and while the "dirty war" has already begun (Shi'ite police death squads; the torture center discovered last week by U.S. troops), Sunnis would certainly have some degree of fear that their situation could get even worse, absent a deal. As Zbigniew Brzezinski put it last summer, "Only the Iraqis can establish a modicum of stability in Iraq, and that can be achieved only by Shia-Kurdish co-operation. These two communities have the power to entice or to crush the less numerous Sunnis."

For what it's worth, though, I suspect what is going to actually happen is a civil war in slow motion, as we gradually draw down without a stated timetable, and the Shi'ites fight a "dirty war" against the Sunnis in our shadow.
 
I think the debate over withdrawal often focuses on the wrong aspects of our presence there. Often, comments are directed towards how we ended up in Iraq in the first place or, alternatively, on the casualty rates American troops face in Iraq. I think these issues, as well as most of the chatter on the withdrawal debate, are irrelevant.

The issue is how to get a stable, sustainable government which at the very least enforces the rule of law and espouses the ideas of democracy. The origins of our presence there do not factor into that. Neither do the casualty rates US soldiers face in Iraq (although the casualties themselves may, ultimately, derail the process, a relatively small rate of casualties is not justification for a continued presence). While we may face "historically low" casualty rates in Iraq, does that mean that US forces should stay? The decision to stay should be predicated on whether US forces in Iraq are acting as a positive force that moves Iraq towards being a stable, self-sustaining government.

To that end, while American forces have not yet made Iraq a safe place for many Iraqi's to live, the removal of those forces (for at least the next year), would inevitably lead to the fall of the current Iraqi government. What would take its place is anyone's guess.
 
Interesting insight into this discussion. Here is how I feel about the situation. In America the debate over the war, and now the authorization of going to war, has trickled down into a he said she said nasty debate. Both sides are attacking the others stance and opinion so much that I feel like it’s an election year once again. Regardless of who said this, and who agreed to that, we are in the position we are in. This debate is supposed to be about establishing a purpose for our continued presence in Iraq and establishing a sound criterion for our victory\exit strategy.
However, it now appears that some politicians have turned this into a votes grab by trying to state their opinion, and stance, on the merits of the war, and their pretense for agreeing to go to war.
Raymond B
www.voteswagon.com
 
Tragically, debate or even any attempt at civil discourse is impossible in the current theater of the macabre and bloodsport known as American politics.

Theright, and the GOP are to blame (in my opinion) for perverting and corrupting the political process by ruthlessly advancing the politics of slime.

The politics of slime attacks the questioner, but evades, or cloaks the question. Any and every voice of opposition or alternate opinion or question, or challenge to the party line is robopathically and viciously attacked on a personal level, savaged on a human level, and slimed as anti-American, unpatriotic, or giving aid and comfort to the enemy, - and the question is dismissed, suppressed, or silenced.

This malignant disease pervasive in every political contest and through-out the current political environment effectively kills any hope of discourse, debate, or bipartisan analysis of facts, and forces each side to adopt fiercely divided and ferociously partisan positions.

In this crippling toxic environment truth, facts, the core issues are blurred or lost completely in the muck, mire, and slime. Whoever controls the media, controls the message, and effectively wins the day, - no matter how damaging that "win" might prove to be, or how deceptive, manipulative, or FALSE the message.

At this point, the only option or hope for returning America to reasoned debate, civil discourse, and a functional democracy, is removing the malignancy responsible for replicating the disease.

The day Americans can openly question and challenge the government again and be heard, without being slimed as anti-American, unpatriotic, communist, lunatic, spawn of the devil, - is the day America resumes it's standing as functioning democracy. Our system now is wildly perverted, and dangerously unhealthy. Now there is no debate, no dissent, no questioning, or challenging of policy, no right of the people to petition the government for redress of grievances, no accounting, and no accountability from our socalled leadership, who operate above, beyond, outside, and in total disdain of the law and our core principles.

America is shapeshifting into a totalitarian dictatorship commandeered by warmongers and profiteers. Our leaders have no ears, never admit mistakes, provde no accounting, or reasonable assessments, fail to recognize factbaserealities, intentionally throw sand in the face of the political and judicial system, and ruthlessly betray the public trust.

America today is not a functioning democracy and the Bush government and the GOP are the problem, not the solution.
 
I agree about the politics of slime--seen it being applied to Murtha, Scowcroft, etc. But it is a reality--if you are going to get hit by the slime, get the umbrella out and deployed. This is my point.
 
It seems to be a ubiquitous Bush Administration excuse
for everything that hurts that we're in a war. But, in
fact, we are acting as if we are at war with a global
system akin to Communism, not Jihadists. The threat to
our survival is an"axis of evil," the thesis goes,
serving "Islamofascism," to use Frank Gafney's
favorite word. Our lone outpost status is invoked by
many neocon think-tanks, insisting that so far we lost
Europe to "Islamrope" so it is imperative that we and
Israel win in the Middle East.

I'm not surprised that President Bush refered to Iraq
aplenty in his State of the Union address and sought
to deflect despair by pointing to our success in
Afghanistan as lodestar to our prospective success in
Iraq only if we persevere. I recommend that he pass
out the Kool-ade so we too can wash that down, lest we
be unable to swallow his Afghan-Iraqi analysis. At the
Defense Dept. it is said of military men who spout the
Rumsfeld-Cheney line that they "drank the Kool-ade."
Surely many did. As one begins to hallucinate one
finds one's self thus earning another star before
retiring.

A Democrat, today, would be jubilant. Mr. Bush seems
to be stuck at a 39% approval rating for months
now-- despite his speech-making blitz-- and the
sticking point, according to the pollsters, seems to
be Iraq. While no one could rejoice at the sad fate of
Iraqis, American soldiers and international relations
in general as a result of Mr. Bush following his gut--
he now denies that he ever invoked God as his guiding
policy voice-- one can take some small comfort in the
obvious fact that the American people were not taken
in by his word-smiths' efforts to make him seem, "in
charge." White House Assistant Dan Bartlett had said
on PBS, last month, that the American people expect
President Bush to prove that-- his words-- he "can
walk and chew gum" at the same time. Apparently, he
could not convince more that 39% of us. More
interesting, when asked who should lead America in a
new direction, only 25% said Mr. Bush but 52% said
Congress!

To understand how this came about, though in its last
term Congress was notorious for little more that
outrageous pork bills and is awaiting anxiously for
the Abramoff revelations, we should really take note
of how the Bush Administration, led by a self- avowed
"war president," handles war. A good insight comes
from the court scribe, of all people, Bod Woodard. His
two books, "Bush at War" and "Plan of Attack"
dubiously place the President in the middle of things,
making decisions, but clearly the National Security
Council therein seems to fly by the collective seat of
its pants as if he were not there to make decisions.
We now also have a number of other
books from officials that add to the story
confirmation of at least my worst nightmares, leading
me to rue my past heart and soul support for Mr. Bush.

But, all the deceptions and untruths aside, the one
big question the Bush Administration never answered is
why did we thin out in Afghanistan without finishing
it off and proceeded to Iraq, where we've been stuck
in a tar pit, losing blood and money, only to be now
preparing to pull out empty-handed?

In the meantime, Afghanistan looks more and more like
a place where the Taliban decided to come back, stand
and fight, according to TERRORISM MONITOR of the most
reliable Jamestown Foundation. And Iraq looks more and
more like a place where we may be forced to choose
between Iran and alQaeda turning off the lights after
we leave.

I would argue that Mr. Bush unashamedly took the
policies John Kerry and the Democrats advocated during
the 2004 campaign and made them his own. But by then
the patient had already long been in the intensive
care unit mismanaged. What might have turned a crash
into the rocks for Uncle Sam into a soaring flight to
success in 2004, in 2006, may just be too little too
late. It thus seems that the Bush Administration seeks
to recapture public approval by November by simply
bringing back of a lot of the troops, period-- mission
UN-accomplished.

Back in 2003, I marveled at the yeoman's job the media
was doing exposing the current battered condition of
the Bush ship of state. What had from the start seemed
like a hermetically sealed vessel suddenly sprang
leaks at the waterline as middle level apolitic career
bureaucrats in government felt honor bound to let the
American people know what kind of "experts" are in
charge and what they are doing.

But after the 2004 election, Karl Rove decided to
spend Mr. Bush's "political capital" playing hardball.
Instead of just selectively giving "inside dope" to
favorite journalists, as LBJ used to do, Rove
threatened them all with loss of access if they do not
cooperate. In these days of 24/7 TV news, that's the
professional reporter's kiss of death. So the second
term saw many leaks unreported. Seymour Hersh, a
most prolific digger-upper journalist, recently
expressed utter despair at how the stories disappeared
from the media though the leaks are running as fast as
ever. But there is no need to despair. For, since the
leak to British media of utterly embarrassing
information-- the "Downing Street Memos"-- about how
the Blair Cabinet functions and then British
Ambassador to America Meyer's book, the British side
of the alliance in Iraq has been running like a fawcet
fully open and in print.

I was one of the early young conservatives there when
Bill Buckley started Young Americans for Freedom and
during the Goldwater Campaign. Together with the Cal
Conservatives for Political Action I helped take back
the UC Berkeley campus from the New Left in the 1960s.
I was also at one time the New Jersey Chairman of YAF.
But while there were many young conservative activists
and intellectuals back then that I will always admire,
I do recall that many were self-serving opportunists
who thought that the only way to succeed was to "think
outside of the box" and do things the opposition would
never think of. Mr. Abramoff and the K Street Project
indicate what "thinking outside the box" really means.
Corruption, graft and pork in Congress know no party
bounds. But what makes the K Street Project unique, it
seems, is that it takes the graft and spends it to
make a giant edifice, an institutionalized exclusive
Republican graft and influence peddling factory. On
the other side of the ledger, where one would hope
there would be ideas, national institutions and
policies that benefit America, Americans and the
globalized world, we get only the equivalent of toxic
brain damage from overindulging in Kool-ade. Such
incompetence I had never seen in US government. If one
were to drive a car with such reckless abandon, one
would invariably end up arrested for negligent
homicide. And yet, though it was THEIR collective sons
and daughters that died or were mutilated in Iraq (I
won't mention the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis) the
American people as a whole did not
face-up to that reckless incompetence until it hit
close to home with the assault on America by Hurricane
Katrina. That made it obvious that the top doesn't
know what's happening at the bottom.

At this point, no one-- no matter how much one might
despise Bush and the people around him-- can possibly
want an American defeat in Iraq. The cost to mankind,
the Iraqis and we Americans is incalculable; such
madness as is seen in the Jihad institutionalized
suicide-murder and terror as the best and cheapest way
to overwhelm America's power.
Now things are desperate, somehow we must all
contribute to, in some way, finding a way out that
does the maximum good for Iraq and world security and
the minimum good for the terrorists.

In Mr. Bush's first term, he was desperately seeking
advice from academia, professionals and the public.
After 9/11, that despair became hysterical; yet, many
said: no way, you stole the election, now sink as
president. But the Ship of State, for better or worse,
is the ship we are all on. It sinks, we sink. That is
why Prof. Juan Cole and other academic colleagues in
social sciences, some experts on Eastern Europe,
sought to form bodies that remove from the president's
eyes the veil of ignorance. Alas, by the time their
scholars' operation got going, the Bush Administration
was already usurped by the Cheney- Rumsfeld
axis-of-utterly-incompetence. Misjudgements and
deceptions alternated, dragging America down, down,
down. At first there was hope in Mr. Bush's second
term, for he had locked Cheney in the basement and
turned to Condi Rice to lead him out of his blindness.
In Iraq, she let loose Amb. Kalilzad, who may yet make
the best of a bad situation. Academia should contact
her and offer her all the help it can to regain global
alliances lost to past mindless hubris.

But the biggest danger now is that Bush might have had
a point when, called on to think of how he will be
viewed by history, he simply said: who cares, by then
we'll all be dead; he thuoght that with time Americans
would treat it all as history, and that they find
boring. None of us will be dead by this November,
hopefully. And, if the Democrats take at least one
House of Congress, there is much hope that the public
will be treated to numerous investigations that today
are suppressed by a Republican majority of the types
that set the record straight on things the way they
set the record streight on domestic spying-- with
silence. We also need to know how many followed
Congressman Cunningham's criminal thinking "out of the
box" at the expense of our heroes in the field of
combat.

I was, am and will remain a Republican. A life as a
refugee from Communism taught me how to hope. But I
realize that the dream I dared dream of-- Republican
control of both the Executive and Congress-- is as
close as you can get to totalitarianism, ie.
incompetence covered by lies, covered by incompetence,
covered by lies....with power maintained by erosion of
power from where it ultimately belongs, in the hands
of the citizens. If we as a nation are lucky and
survive this vicious cycle of incompetence and
deception protected
by erosion of the citizen's power, one more repeat of
such a Bush Era and we will not survive as a free
nation. Whether it be Republican or Democrat, we need
to raise much higher the bar on the minimal cognitive
ability and statesmanship skills required. The Bush
Administration cannot be allowed to remain as a lesson
unlearned about intellectual and administrative
corruption and incompetence. I would hate to leave my
American children ignorance as a legacy, even if we
are at war.

The REAL problem is that the facts were always out
there for us to imbibe. Thus, those who don't know,
don't know only because they don't want to know. With
a Democrat Congress two things will happen: (1) the
foibles and failures of this Administration totally
drunk of Kool-ade will be paraded before the voters.
(2) The American people will thus have to face up to
what was done in their name and at their
responsibility. Perhaps then, they might realize that
alQaeda came nowhere near at killing American
democracy as we came at killing it ourselves.

The Bush Administration and Republican dominance of
Congress can only serve as a sort political flu
vaccine if we treat it as a history we must all learn
in detail. In truth, the Bush mantra-- getting them
there so they don't get us here-- was an
inappropriate, campaign gimmick that goes with the
self-anointed title "war president." In truth, Pogo
said it best: we have met the enemy and he is us.

Daniel E. Teodoru
 
I really don't know at which point is it permissible in academic-speak to use the term "imbecilic." But it seems clear to me that America has set itself on a past-practice clause of allowing itself to take out its manufactured political anxieties on nations that it could find precedence or neo-reasons for deeming complicit in the generation of the anxiety.

Our Iran policy is a case in point. The recent article by Seymour Hersh-- a journalist I loved to hate but came to hate to love but can't help it because he's been so good-- wrote in NEWYORKER an article, the second, that intimates prospects for US attack of Iraq.

http://www.newyorker.com/printables/fact/060417fa_fact

Before commenting on the above article, let me recall a previous article in NEWYORKER in which Hersh was used by the Pentagon to scare Tehran: he predicted an attack, based on "inside" sources, but it never happened. In both articles Hersh-- whom I hated since Vietnam War days but came to totally respect, even love, since 9/11-- is a leftist who became Wash. DC's most respected journalist. Keep in mind that a Hersh journalist is like an FBI agent: all he can do is ask and ask and ask.... But Hersh had this way of coming back at you, of double checking and then returning, etc-- he was not just a detective but an intelligence genius. And, he had a feel for what American democracy is all about (something we East Euros obsessed with Commies kept forgetting about). Sure he was a scoop hound, very competitive, but he had a mission and TRUTH was to be his weapon for the press, for America, for the world and for freedom.

Now he despairs over how the press has capitulated in fear of "access" cut-off since the 2004 re-election of Mr. Bush. And so, he has widened his net inevitably sacrificing the depth through revisiting and double-checking of sources that made him so famous. Now he is a known entity and people who talk to him talk to him more deliberately to transmit a message and/or work a cause. Also, Hersh cannot believe that the larceny of this regime is as shallow and "imbecilic" as it really is. So here he is putting together dozens of one-pad interviews into a cogent picture. So to him it looks like we have to go after Iran but he misses what's driving us there.

Anyone who knew Cheney and Rumsfeld over the last several decades knew that they thought leadership depended more on what you seem to have below the umbilicus more than what you seem to have above it (ie. balls matter more than brains!). And so, many deemed them both the Fix-it Keystone Cops of Republican Administrations in that they took total control and totally screwed up. Just look *carefully* at their accomplishments. As for the presidency, I can only avoid being bleeped by quoting EJ Dionne who expressed it better than anyone: this Administration is on a long holiday from complexity. What has this wrought?

First of all, it has made real admission of error impossible since the errors have been so massive and so devoid of any rationale that no one can admit to them for fear of the consequences. Bush was honest at least when he said that he always follows his gut. As a result, we are up against foreign policy by speechwriters trying to make gut-reaction seem cogent. So Bush is stuck with the speechwriters' words; it is reminiscent of how the Soviet speechwriters, editors at Pravda all, described the "Brezhnev Doctrine": What's this "doctrine," with my name on it comrades?-- asked Brezhnev. Well, O.K., comrades, since you wrote it, I hope it goes over well because I just don't understand it. And so, when next faced with a decision, Brezhnev was stuck with the "Brezhnev Doctrine" because, after all, he himself enunciated it!

The Bush doctrine is much the same. But rather than explain and debate it with newsmen, as is expected in a democracy, Bush protects himself by expressing himself as only acting from his gut. And, the only explanation his gut can offer is an odoriferous thing most would rather skip.

Hersh's problem is that he got exclusive access to a lot of bureaucratic ladder "climbers" or off the ladder retired "fallers." They are Pentagon practitioners of the art of sycophancy who are being rewarded by Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld (Mr. Cheney only appears as the "terminator" to those who fail to comply) or victims of mis-steps who had been visited by what Bush calls the "Vice," hence recently retired. Then, Hersh tries to give all these little vignettes a cogent string of beads arty necklace-like unity, spiced by the "juicy" quotes in order to make it appealing to the editor of NEWYORKER.

In truth, there is no Iran policy, just a "Bush Doctrine" derivative that insists on: when in doubt hit and hit and hit again. It's called "preemption"; but most miss the second part of its definition: "from the gut." This means that a careful reading of Bush's last 20 speeches will give you a clear picture of what the precedent created by the words-smiths will cause him to do (as he said). However, don't forget that there's also Rove who speaks for what's "politically" good for the Republican Party and Cheneny who tries to force on Bush the promises he made to the Israeli lobby, AIPAC.

My fear is that when the Republicans are swept from power in Congress this Fall 2006, the Christian Right will look for someone to blame. Because of the neocons' obsession with their geriatric surge of testosterone through their incestuous "think-tank" and publication outlets, "the Jews" will be a very convenient outlet for blame. After all, didn't they crucify Jesus? Sounds dumb, but be ready to hear it a lot!

Don't ask for too much reason or realism in this reaction. It is only a cover-up by the leaders to cover their incompetence. After all, the Bush phenomenon is a phenomenal lowering of the bar for smarts. This is what is reminiscent of Germany circa 1930s: "Triumph of the Will" and the 2004 Scripted Republican Convention are similar cases of showmanship (purple band-aids and all that) showcasing homogeneity for the Fatherland under attack-- substituting, not light, but glitz and blinding glare for brains. Since then, our government has known little serious debate, just the "imbecility" of polarized screeching. But with an AIPAC front supporting an anti-Arab blare from Congress, the neocons managed to make Likudnik and Republican seem synonymous, according to the JERUSALEM POST. In fact, the MASS MAJORITY of Jews are as frightened of this phenomenon as any one else in America. But they kept quiet for fear of making things worse, according to the FORWARD, the Jewish newspaper I always read for its sheer genius and prescience. For insight, I offer the following Meirsheimer and Wald academic paper on the AIPAC LOBBY:

http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06-011



For those not so much into academic reading with endnotes, I offer the shorter version from the LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n06/print/mear01_.html

Below is an attempted retort from David Gergen, a White House aide for several presidents:

http://www.usnews.com/usnews/opinion/articles/060403/3edit.htm

The Likud perspective goes so far as to shadow US polices with a suggestion that America adopt Israeli ones. In that way, how can the US complain about Israel doing the same thing that America is doing?

I offer two examples:

(1) Daniel Byman's collaborative argumentation with ex-Mossad (Israeli Secret Service) Chief, Dichter, on "TARGETED KILLINGS":

http://www.brookings.edu/printme.wbs?page=/fp/saban/analysis/byman20060324.htm

(2)The Center for Immigration Studies argued in a Congressional "hearing" it set up that the problems in Paris are attributable to Islamic "false loyalty" to West as immigrants:

http://www.cis.org/articles/2005/frenchriotstranscript.html

As Anne Norton in her study of the Neocons suggests, there is an "anti-Semitic" campaign by A FEW Jews-- the neocons-- directed at Arabs and their access to political influence in the US for fear that they might balance off AIPAC. Somehow it is "kosher" to make that an issue but not to discuss Zionist-right influence.

In the end, the mix of "imbecility" at the top and censorship at the bottom suggests a possible repeat of the worst-- anti-Semitism-- of the 20th Century as backlash to the testosterone surge of a few irresponsible advocates of "WW IV." That all this is a testosterone geriatrics (prostatitis, if you will) of a few old guys who, contrary to their claim, speak only for their belated hormonal surge has been more that documented by the famous words quoted in the media from a leading neocon, Norman Podhoretz, upon the start of the Iraq War: Now I no longer feel like the scrawny Jewish kid in the schoolyard always beat up by the black kids. Whatever he may feel, he speaks only for himself, not as the Jewish leader he pretends to be; but as a self-avowed leader he has the obligation to responsibly consider the backlash from the Fundamentalist Christians when they lose power and the Mideast goes from bad to worse for the US thanks to neocon influence through Cheney and Rumsfeld on Bush. The so-called "Christian Zionist Coalition" should have been seen for what it is: a momentary tool of political convenience that could easily backfire on the innocent Jewish population in America, all at the hands of the Christian Right leadership looking for a scapegoat for their bad predictions.

Daniel E. Teodoru
 
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