Monday, May 18, 2015

Iraq War Recriminations

Sar Shalom

Of late, there has been much hand-wringing over statements by various Republican presidential candidates as to whether or not George W. Bush's war in Iraq was a mistake. Without addressing whether or not the war was inherently a mistake, the focus on that issue by those excoriating the various candidates defending the war sidesteps the issue of how the war was fought.

Discussing the merits of alternate ways of fighting the Iraq War is about more than being able to say that the war might not have turned out so bad if only it had been fought more smartly, though I am of the opinion that that is the case. It is also a matter of drawing the correct lessons from the war, lessons with consequences for how we approach the conflicts presented to us today that cannot be avoided.

Saying that the Iraq War was irredeemably a mistake and that no alternative approach to it would have changed that is saying that how the war was fought is irrelevant. If how the war was fought was irrelevant, then all that matters in war in general is whether or not to fight, and if so, how much force to bear. If that is the case, then all that matters in the conflict with Isis is bringing enough force to bear. If all that matters in fighting Isis is applying enough force, then there is no reason not to outsource the application of that force to Iran.

However, if your lessons from the Iraq War have to do with how it was fought, rather than the simple fact that it was fought, then one clear lesson is to avoid aligning yourself with those who pit one part of the population against another. In this regard, Iranian-aligned government of Iraq clearly pits Shia Iraqis against Sunni Iraqis, giving the latter no reason to support the overall state. A result of this is that the Sunni sections Iraq have become fertile ground for Isis takeover because while the locals might detest Isis, they detest the Iranian-aligned national government even more. The result is that while the Iranians might be able to remove Isis from a stronghold here and there tactically, they cannot remove the root cause of those strongholds' receptiveness to Isis because they are the root cause of those strongholds' receptiveness.

This brings up the entire justification for Obama's engagement with Iran. Obama claims that we need to go easy with Iran on nuclear negotiations and their sponsorship of instability across the world because we need their help against Isis. However, if Iran is part of the problem in terms of making the region hospitable to Isis, then there is no reason to include Iran in the coalition against Isis, let alone yield so ground in negotiations in order to procure that inclusion.


  1. If Superman and Ironman got in a fight who would win? If Saddam died of food poisoning in 2004 how would the war have unraveled differently? These are idiot questions asked by idiots and answered by idiots who never fail to fall into a trap.

    The response should be:

    Who has been the god damn president for 6+ years, what did the wholesale evacuation from Iraq accomplish? How long before the US simply admits ISIS is a nation and opens an embassy there?

    What did the red lines about chemical weapons in Syrian mean given you now have boots on the ground in Syria fighting on the side of Assad, Iran and Hezbollah after you stated you'd never have boots on the ground?

    What has your support of the Muslim Brotherhood actually offered as any sort of progress?

    How has your engineered disintegration of Libya into a former country and failed state reflected American interests?

    Now that you've abandoned countries in the mideast who were allies and other countries that were at least partners, and now that all of them have either dropped America as an ally or military partner, have started shopping for nukes on the open market and/or are looking to China and Russia for material support, can you articulate how that serves American interests?

    Now that you abandoned a missile defense system for eastern Europe against an increasingly militant Russia that is actively invading other countries what is your proposal for NATO and whether it serves any purpose? Especially in light of the fact that you're actively encouraging the second largest NATO partner, Turkey, to leave it?

    How do you view the Chinese governments' movement to quadrupling their strategic nuclear arsenal, the 300% increase in their defense spending and inexorable conquest of the South China Sea in light of your 'Asia Pivot'?

    Also in light of your Asia Pivot, how do you plan on addressing Japan's review of its own national policy of no-nukes?

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    2. All valid questions.

      In Libya, Obama unilaterally decided to remove a foreign leader. No Congress. No UN. People who lecture about Iraq look the other way. They know he lied to all of us about Benghazi, solely for political gain, but look the other way.

      I wonder what it feels like to know you are being lied to, but not be able to say so.

      In Iraq, we should have let Saddam degrade. It was happening. No no one knows what would have happened or how things would have turned out. Trying to bargain with the Islamists, however, is a deal with the devil that we may rue in the end. Legacy is what matters.

      Iran may get the bomb. We should make it harder for, not easier. The same for the others that want to harm us. But we seem to believe they adhere to the golden rule. It is foolish.

      Obama has made things worse. It's got nothing to do with Bush, but with an ideology that sounds great among academics, but fails miserably when tested against the rest of the world.

    3. oldschool26,

      GW Bush created a huge mess. There was no real plan and it showed. As Mike said to paraphrase (hopefully correctly), just because GW was plainly stupid in his execution of the war, doesn't mean it was wrong.

      Obama then took GW's mess and exasperated the bad situation created by GW.

      Obama had a chance when the Iranian people were protesting the government, but instead of backing people who wanted a tolerant government, Obama did NOTHING to help them

      This goes to my ongoing point of Obama being a DISASTER in the foreign relations.

      What we can do going forward (not that it will happen) is:
      1) Fully arm and back the KURDS! Why we haven't done this (as the Kurds are not Islamic ruled) is due to Obama's muslim sympathies and not wanting to piss off Turkey. The Kurds are NOT extremists. This is a RARITY in ME states not named Israel.
      2) Strengthen sanctions on Iran. Keep crippling them. Let a worn down Iran and a ragtag ISIS beat the crap out of each other for as long as possible, not letting either side gain any type of momentum. This would be in our interests to keep the other oil producing states on the US side.
      3) While the Iran/ISIS battle of attrition happens, help the Kurds to set up their own country. This will give the US a non-extremist ally in the region besides Israel.
      4) Help/Let Israel bomb the crap out of Iranian nuclear facilities. They will have a harder time protecting them/building them up while in a war of attrition with ISIS
      My plan would be basically hated by:
      1) Turkey
      2) Iran
      3) Liberals in America who would say to keep the two groups fighting is inhumane. I would counter that point that the two groups in the war of attrition ARE inhuman to begin with!
      4) The liberals in America who WANT Iran to have a bomb so that "the evil Israel" isn't the only country in the ME with nuclear capability

    4. No doubt Bush made big mistakes. Are they any less than the mistakes Obama made and continues to make? At least Bush saw his errors and went with the surge and stabilized the mess. Obama does not seem capable of admitting error. What Obama chose to do has nothing to do with Bush. And in the case of Libya, what Obama did was worse. Guess that is what happens when twitter and selfies take precedence.

    5. Are they any less than the mistakes Obama made and continues to make?

      I did say that Obama made it WORSE

      What Obama chose to do has nothing to do with Bush.

      Actually it does to some extent as Bush set the circumstances from which Obama had to work from.

      And Obama has made even WORSE CHOICES than Bush

      Guess that is what happens when twitter and selfies take precedence.

      No, this is what happens when we have someone whose sympathies lay with our enemies.

    6. Folks, you're missing my point. While the Iraq War did teach us the pitfalls of acting without knowledge of the social and political structure of where we're acting and the cost of acting even when we do have and operate on that knowledge, we also learned that we can achieve things if we do operate from those principles. The most critical factor is winning the support of the people. Winning the support of the people is what won the battle of Ramadi and then the belts around Baghdad and losing the support of the people is what allowed Isis to take over.

      Part of the problem for the Left, other than the ardent Scoop Jackson Left, is that recognizing those facts would mean acknowledging that as of late-2006, the best option was the Surge.

      The notion that Iran and Isis weakening each other by killing each other in battle doesn't recognize some basics of the landscape. Isis' strategic buttress in Iraq is the fact that the Sunni former Iraqi officers find that Isis is a better option than the Iraqi government. Iran can kill Isis operatives, but doing so would have as much strategic effect on Isis as Westmoreland's sweeps had on the Viet Cong's strategic position. Stopping Isis will require convincing Iraq's Sunnis that they are better off without Isis, either under an inclusionary national Iraqi government or independent of Iraq.

      A further problem with Obama's approach is that he's operating through a realist lens, as documented by Michael Doran ( ), which holds that Iran should be a regional power and is thus trying to set Iran free to become what his ideology says they should be.

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    8. I don't think that is where his sympathies expressly lie. He wants a planet that is fair and just and brotherhood prevails. Who doesn't? But that is not reality, and when faced with that obstacle he tries to cram his beliefs down our throats.

      I do think he is not nearly as together as he and his supporters believe. I think he is petty, lacks sense, and has NO ability to hear or accept the opinions of others. He just thinks he is smarter than all the rest, including our enemies. What else should he believe, being fawned over his whole life. When has he EVER faced adversity? While everyone was kissing his butt?

      His speech about the smallness and cynicism of politics, so hollow, looking back. He is right there playing politics while cultivating an image he is above it. It was a surprise to see he was so enamored with identity politics, and so quick to stray from democratic principles in running the government. Now he has perfected a new way, built on manipulation of his own and demonization of the other, so that he can act on many issues without a whimper from the base. Clinton will follow suit, flaunting it.

      I think America has regressed under him. He has reinforced much of the worst of our culture in society and created division, rather than acted like president and understanding the responsibilities of his office to represent ALL of the people.

    9. As any defense lawyer will tell you you take your clients as you find them. My response would be decidedly un-PC. To whit – “It’s never an entirely bad idea to topple and kill one of these genocidal fascist maniacs”. Now one can argue how the ‘peace’ unraveled but the short blunt certainty of kicking over the murderous Baath regime shouldn’t be something anyone considers a bad thing. Do we, after all, worry about how the Vietnamese managed the post Khmer Rouge era after they stormed into Cambodia and toppled Pol Pot? No of course not. Was it chaotic? Yes but compared to the Khmer Rouge anything, objectively, factually anything, anything you could do or think of would have been an improvement.

      Similarly, and setting aside nonsense from the British medical journal The Lancet which set out to assert that every single death every single sick person in the entire nation of Iraq from 2003 until the end of time was George Bush's personal fault, the brutal truth remains that killing Saddam and killing his colleagues and his sons and wiping the whole plague of them away probably did no worse for the Iraqis than Saddam himself would have done to his own people and any and all neighbors. But had he been left to do just that, Americans would be as indifferent as they are to Syria's deathcount which is approaching 300,000 men women and babies today. And why not BE indifferent? The west was unfazed by the second Algerian civil war in the 1990's that killed 150,000. They were largely indifferent to the Iran Iraq war which claimed 1 million dead. They were indifferent to the Lebanese civil war, Darfur and Rwanda. I'm not suggesting we should all bleed and tweet for them but to suddenly moan for the miserable folk of Iraq when their own leadership was massacring hundreds of thousands of them rings...false.

      Americans aren't upset about 'the Iraq war' they're upset they have to consider their role in it. They couldn't care less how many 100's of thousands of Sunni and Shiias butcher rape kill terrorize blow up persecute one another. For America the 'war' has always been nearly 100% about DOMESTIC politics. It's been about how we view US.

    10. "For America the 'war' has always been nearly 100% about DOMESTIC politics. It's been about how we view US."
      4 stars

  2. Now it turns out that Obama and Queen Hillary knew about an impending attack in Libya fully 10 days before. Moreover, there's clear evidence that the US was running guns from Libya to Syria. So we gave guns to the people in Syria we now have 'boots on the ground' deployed to fight against on behalf of Assad, Iran and Hezbollah. We now have troops deployed IN Syria to backstop the IRGC and Assad, he of red lines for using chemical weapons against women and children.

    Obama isn't incompetent, he's gone over to the other side.

  3. Professor Robert Wistrich has passed away.

    1. I feel almost as bad as when Barry Rubin left us.

      There should be a bit of mourning in anyone's heart who cares about Israel and the Jewish people.

    2. Yes, certainly, although we knew Barry was very ill. This one was more unexpected.

    3. Jeff,

      I once referenced Rubin in a piece as a man from the right and he emailed me personally to say that he was a supporter of Labour.

      What I liked about that guy was that he was balls-to-the-wall.

      He just flat-out said it like he saw it and, I am pretty damn sure, he was more often right than he was wrong.

    4. Yes, I once saw a youtube from the AIPAC conference where he straightened out the interviewer by telling him that he was indeed left of center.
      In fact, Barry Rubin started out way, way to the left and as his knowledge grew he evolved. My kind of guy.