I am mildly disgusted with the citizens of the USA

There has been a lot of talk about polls around here lately. Have you seen any of these?

From the LATimes/Bloomberg poll conducted 1/13-1/16 this year

“In your opinion, should the United States withdraw troops from Iraq right away, or should the U.S. begin bringing troops home within the next year, or should troops stay in Iraq for as long as it takes to win the war?”

Right Away
Within Year
Stay as Long As It Takes Unsure  
    % % % %  
  1/13-16/07 19 46 30 5

“Generally speaking, do you think the U.S. has a moral obligation to help pay for the reconstruction of Iraq, or not?”

    Does Does Not Unsure    
    % % %    
  1/13-16/07 39 55 6

From two CNN opinion polls conducted recently:

“Thinking specifically about the additional troops President Bush plans to send to Iraq, what would you want your members of Congress to do? Should they vote to allow the government to spend money in order to send more troops to Iraq, or vote to block the government from spending money to send more troops to Iraq?” (Half sample, MoE ± 4.5)

    Allow Block Unsure
    % % %
  1/19-21/07 36 61 2
  1/11/07 38 60 3

At what point exactly did America come to be populated by idiots? I believe it to be well established that I am no particular fan of President Bush and I do not believe that it was a good idea to go into Iraq (and did not believe it to be a good idea at the time). However, we have made the mess and we need to deal with it.

The Iraqi people are not better off for our having been there. While living under a brutal dictator is not an ideal life (or, arguably, a very good life), it is probably preferable to living at the heart of a civil war. If we were to leave, the aggression that is currently being directed at our troops would be turned inward. Of course, there is plenty of aggression going inward right now anyway.

We created this problem. We supported Saddam back in the day. When he failed to do as we asked, we cut him off, earning his ire. We ousted the brutal dictator that was the only thing holding the country together. Blaming the Iraqis for not knowing how to handle a situation that we created (mostly to avoid talking about how we don’t know how to handle the situation either) is not the solution.

We need to accept that we are in this for the long haul. If we leave an unstable Iraq in the lurch, it will hurt the stability of the Middle East and it will hurt our national security. If we leave Iraq anytime within the next 5 years or so (probably longer), we will be leaving it in the lurch.

The other day I heard Ted Koppel on NPR. His point was simple. Our politicians are just looking for a way out of Iraq. None of the reasons why we went there have held up and now noone seems to understand the importance of our staying. We have established benchmarks for the Iraqis to meet, that will allow us to withdraw troops and give the Iraqi government more autonomy. If they fail to meet the benchmarks, we are threatening to withdraw our troops. That is so circular, backwards, and self-serving that it is ridiculous, and yet it seems to be the overriding answer we are presented with today.

I didn’t want this war, but we all have it and we all must bear the consequences of our mistakes. There is no easy way out. Anyone who tells you otherwise is running for the 2008 presidency.

The polls that I cited (along with several similar polls) can be found here.


  1. Ahhhh, Johnny Crawford returns to the fireball antics of reactionary politics. Let the games begin!!!!

  2. It sounds JC that you’re mostly upset about the second poll you cite, which would seem to imply that most americans don’t think the US should pay for Iraqi reconstruction. That one is a little tricky, I admit.

    But I see nothing wrong with wanting to bring the troops home and not wanting to send more. The mindset is this: the US is embarrassed. Iraq was a horrible mistake, everyone knows it, and now we wish we could just pretend it didn’t happen. The votes reflect this perspective, I believe.

  3. Steve,

    Who you calling “we,” eh?

  4. (The above comment was a joke, just in case that wasn’t clear.)

  5. My first reaction on reading the title was: Well maybe the citizens of the USA are also mildly disgusted with you, JDC.

  6. How does causing a problem automatically make you the best person to fix it? I think the disillusionment reflected in the polls comes from the idea that America can’t really fix Iraq if we try and are, in fact, just making it worse. Although your post indicates that we don’t know how to fix Iraq, where do you get the idea that another 5 years is all that’s needed to do the trick?

  7. JDC,

    I don’t think anyone disputes that this whole thing has become a question of damage control.

    But a great many people do disagree with your solution. There is a reasoned position on why the best way to mitigate the damages here – not just for the US, but for the entire globe (though admittedly, probably not for Iraq) is to cut-and-run.

    I heard Ted Koppel as well. And I agree with his analysis of both political parties. But it is certainly debatable whether we ought to stay.

    I’m also disgusted with the majority of Americans on this issue. But I don’t necessarily share your conclusions.

  8. Dave,
    I don’t think we have to limit it to just the citizens of the USA. Even Canadians get disgusted with me.

    I agree with your assessment of the rationale. It is a stupid rationale. As much as we might like to sweep this quickly under the rug and forget about it, we will make things much worse if we do so. Can anybody explain to me the rationale for pulling out troops within the next year or so in a manner that doesn’t smack of misplaced CYA (take that acronym machine)? It seems from those polls and from the political speech I hear that Americans simply don’t want to assume the responsibility for what they have wrought.

  9. JDC,

    Our politicians are just looking for a way out of Iraq.

    No, Americans, the large majority of them are looking for a way out of Iraq. I invite you to read this insightful commentary by Glen Greenwald on who really represents the American public in this debate about Iraq.

    Another point. This is very simple, JDC. Give Americans a victory and they’ll be behind you all the way. Give them a loss or very incompetent policies, and they’ll turn on you. To this point, just what has the Bush administration done right in Iraq? Please name something that they’ve done right. What violence have they stopped? What projects have been completed correctly without massive corruption and theft of American tax funds? Now, upon answering those questions, ask yourself, why should Americans trust President Bush to get this right anymore?

    What evidence do you have that Bush will suddenly get right what he has now for four years failed to do? What has changed? The policy and overall strategy is the exact same failing policy! There’s a real and very valid reason most Americans have turned against Bush and his war in Iraq. It is because he and his war are failures!

  10. I agree that it is incomprehensible that Americans would think we don’t have the responsibility to pay for reconstructing what “shock and awe” destroyed. I can understand their worries, however that the money is mostly going in the pockets of corrupt Iraqis and corrupt American contractors many of whom have constructed shoddy and dangerous buildings. I can also easily understand a lack of trust in a government that has for many long years proven itself utterly incapable of anything approaching a coherent strategy in Iraq.

    An interesting quote from the President of Iraq, from his profile in this week’s New Yorker, illustrates how quibbling about some minimal increase in troop numbers is really irrelevant:

    Talabani went on, “One of the main mistakes the Americans have made in fighting terrorism is tying our hands and the hands of the Shiites, while at the same time the terrorists are free to do what they want. If they let us, within one week we will clean all Kirkuk and adjacent areas.” (Talabani’s implication was clear: “to clean” is a euphemism for wiping out your opposition, for killing or capturing your enemies.)

    Talabani then adopted a high-pitched, whining voice, to mimic the Americans: “‘No-o, Kurds must not move to the Arab areas, this is sensitive.’ If they let the Shiites clean the road from Najaf to Baghdad, they can do it within days. If they permit the people of Anbar to liberate their area they will do it, but they say, ‘Ah, no, this is another kind of militia.’ They don’t understand the realities of Iraq. From the beginning, we have had this problem with them.” He added, “Wrong
    plan, wrong tactic, and wrong policy.”

  11. JDC,

    You want to fix Iraq, right? You want to get it done correctly, right? You know where you need to start? You first have to remove Bush, Cheney, Rice, and Hadley from power. They must go if you ever want things done right in Iraq. It is THEIR policies that are failing. They are at fault. They must be removed. Then we can talk about fixing Iraq.

    But Iraq will never be fixed as long as those who broke it remain in power.

  12. lief,
    I don’t believe 5 years will be sufficient. I think that 50 years might cover it. The timeline doesn’t matter, it is idea that we need to get out now. Also, I don’t mind letting other people help us solve the problem. If we can find honest partners in the area who are willing and able to help, more power to them. Bring them on board. We should have had them on board the whole time. But we bear a moral, financial, and political responsibility to see through the changes that will lead to a stable Iraq.

    I don’t mind disagreement. I have yet to hear a compelling reason for “cut-and-run” (in fact, it wasn’t that long ago that everyone was denying that was what they were advocating). I fail to understand how allowing Iraq to become a fought-over, likely warlord controlled wasteland adds to the stability of the globe.

    It is true that I think that US intervention and the military creation of democracy from outside are spectacularly bad ideas. This doesn’t mean that we should say, “Well, we tried” and hope that someone nicer comes out of the struggle to dominate Iraq that will follow.

  13. I agree with anger with Bush etc and that we need to think carefully about how to minimize the damage we have done and will continue to do. Some on the left have suggested an argument that does not get much press, which is that American troops cause more instability via resentment at territorial violation than they limit by their threat of violence. Not even the anti-Saddam groups are particularly happy with the Americans any more. I think it’s worth considering the idea–I’d be interested in analytic views of this idea.

  14. Dan,
    I don’t mind removing those folks from power. I have already stated why I support that move. However, I don’t think leaving Iraq in the lurch is the answer and, polls or no polls, it would be a tremendous mistake.

    I agree. The way the war has been fought has been abysmal and the lack of an attempt to understand the on-the-groud reality has been a large part of the problem. However, in spite of Pres. Talibani’s assurances, I doubt giving the Iraqi government the go-ahead on genocide would help the situation.

  15. In the wider context of the article, he’s talking about the elimination of Al Qaeda.

  16. Sam,
    If most of the violence that we see in Iraq today was directed at US troops, I think that would be a valid argument. However, I believe most of the violence is directed at other Iraqis, no?

    Which leads to a question, how can we stop intra-Iraqi violence? The answer is: not easily. Iraqi security needs to step up, of course. That said, the American military is arguably a good group to train Iraqi security, support Iraqi security, and see to it that Iraqi security doesn’t wholesale slaughter people. We’re still in the beginning of this process.

  17. Sure, Bill. But Talibani is talking about the Shia and the Kurds, who usually hate the once ruling Sunni. Clearly, he believes (or publically believes) that the Sunni are the problem behind Al-Qaeda in Iraq (and they are probably the biggest source of support). But do you think that statements like “If they let us, within one week we will clean all Kirkuk and adjacent areas.” indicate that Pres. Talibani is thinking about careful investigation and proportional measures?

  18. JDC,

    The problem is that, as Sam stated, our American forces are adding to the instability in Iraq by just being there. Does it really make sense to keep staying there and add even more troops to the morass?

    The solution to this problem is not a military solution. It never was, and it never will be. The solution is a political solution. Adding more troops only gives everybody in Iraq more targets, only adds to the body count at the morgue. How the heck does that solve the problem we are facing in Iraq?

    The solution lies in diplomacy, something the Bush administration has dismissed as outdated, pre-9/11 weak, liberal idealism. In their eyes, all they see is force, military might. That’s all they see as solving the world’s problems. Seriously, just what has Bush achieved diplomatically? Yeah, he got the UN to vote unanimously on a very weak resolution on Iran, but beyond that, does he really have any diplomatic victories? Nope. None.

    The solution is to get the parties in the Middle East together to find a political solution to Iraq. That includes Syria and Iran. If you do not include them, you will never find peace in Iraq.

    Redeploy the troops. Follow Murtha’s plan. Withdraw from Iraq and stop being the crutch for the Iraqis. Let them stand on their own already. Either that or flood the country with troops, up to 500,000.

    General Patraeus recently updated the counterinsurgency field manual for the Army. In this field manual, he recommends for any counterinsurgency at least 20 combat troops for every 1000 people. Combat troops. That does not include all the support troops. So let’s add up the numbers. Baghdad has 6 million people. For Baghdad alone, you need 120,000 combat troops. In the entire country, we have 70,000 combat troops. For this to work, you need to move all 70,000 combat troops into Baghdad, add the 20,000 combat troops Bush wants to escalate with, and you’re still 30,000 combat troops short. That’s just for Baghdad. What about for the rest of the country, the 27 million total residents? Well, you’re gonna need about 400,000 combat troops.

    Now, back in 1999, the Pentagon ran a secret war games in which they found that they needed at least 400,000 troops to win in Iraq. Even with that many, they still foresaw many of the problems we now see today regarding chaos and violence. Why did this administration not follow the recommendations of the Pentagon? Why did this administration not listen to General Shinseki who in 2002 recommended at least 400,000 troops? Why did they drive him out of his position as Chief of Staff!

    Can you see why so many Americans have turned against this war?

    Don’t be mad at them, JDC. They are in the right. Be mad at Bush. Be seething at this man and his vice president. History will be very harsh on them. But Americans and the world need to be very harsh on them now!

  19. It’s actually a pretty simple argument:

    Continued involvement in Iraq is harming the US economy and is gutting our military response capacity worldwide.

    Don’t get tunnel-vision and think that Iraq is the only security concern the US has.

    Russia and China are much larger strategic threats to US interests than international terrorism will ever be. We have to maintain a military that can be applied elsewhere around the globe, or we risk ceding control to other emergent powers who are not neccessarily friendly to our interests.

    Besides, the current version of cut-and-run doesn’t advocate a wholesale troop withdrawl from Iraq. Even they advocate a continuing US troop presence to help enforce Iraq’s borders with Iran and Syria, and anti-terrorism operations like what’s going on in Anbar province (spell check?).

    For the record, I’m skeptical of the cut-and-run or “go home” approach mainly due to the possibility of Iran and Saudi Arabia starting a war with each other (or proxie-wars) if the US leaves too precipitously.

    I adovocate a phased withdrawl accompanied by heavy diplomatic initiatives.

    But right now, Iraq is bleeding our capability to deal with Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, Taiwan, Sudan, Latin America, Pakistan-India, and our ability to deter increased Russian beligerence in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.

    The US military is a precious asset to more than the Iraqi people and the mere fact that they are dying does not justify crippling an asset so vital to global security.

  20. Dan,
    No, they are not in the right. The fact that President Bush convinced the country that this was the right thing to do and the manner in which he has conducted the war are separate issues. Whether or not we should have gone and whether or not we have conducted the war correctly, we are there now and we have created a scenario in which there is no government to speak of. Whatever government exists, exists solely because of our military presence.

    Honestly, if we leave what do you think will fill the void?

  21. I have no illusions about the Iraqis “standing on their own two feet.”

    They can’t. They won’t. We gutted their entire infrastructure and leadership resources when we invaded. There’s nothing there to stand up. This talk of accountability is just empty Democratic rhetoric.

    We messed the Iraqis over quite nicely.

    The most likely path to Iraqi stability today is a prolonged civil war over a period of a few years. At the end of a terrible amount of violence, ethnic cleansing, and famine, a single strongman faction will float to the surface and crush the opposition. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a dictatorship like Iran’s. If we’re unfortunate, we’ll get one like the Taliban.

  22. Brzezinski has outlined an excellent course of action by the United States to solve this problem:

    It is time for the White House to come to terms with two central realities:

    1. The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America’s global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America’s moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability.

    2. Only a political strategy that is historically relevant rather than reminiscent of colonial tutelage can provide the needed framework for a tolerable resolution of both the war in Iraq and the intensifying regional tensions.

    If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a “defensive” U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

    He recommends the following:

    1. The United States should reaffirm explicitly and unambiguously its determination to leave Iraq in a reasonably short period of time….

    …2. The United States should announce that it is undertaking talks with the Iraqi leaders to jointly set with them a date by which U.S. military disengagement should be completed, and the resulting setting of such a date should be announced as a joint decision. In the meantime, the U.S. should avoid military escalation.

    It is necessary to engage all Iraqi leaders — including those who do not reside within “the Green Zone” — in a serious discussion regarding the proposed and jointly defined date for U.S. military disengagement because the very dialogue itself will help identify the authentic Iraqi leaders with the self-confidence and capacity to stand on their own legs without U.S. military protection. Only Iraqi leaders who can exercise real power beyond “the Green Zone” can eventually reach a genuine Iraqi accommodation. The painful reality is that much of the current Iraqi regime, characterized by the Bush administration as “representative of the Iraqi people,” defines itself largely by its physical location: the 4 sq. miles-large U.S. fortress within Baghdad, protected by a wall in places 15 feet thick, manned by heavily armed U.S. military, popularly known as “the Green Zone.”

    3. The United States should issue jointly with appropriate Iraqi leaders, or perhaps let the Iraqi leaders issue, an invitation to all neighbors of Iraq (and perhaps some other Muslim countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, and Pakistan) to engage in a dialogue regarding how best to enhance stability in Iraq in conjunction with U.S. military disengagement and to participate eventually in a conference regarding regional stability….

    …4. Concurrently, the United States should activate a credible and energetic effort to finally reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace, making it clear in the process as to what the basic parameters of such a final accommodation ought to involve.

    It isn’t anything we haven’t heard before, but certainly nothing you would ever hear from Bush or any of his supporters at the American Enterprise Institute or at the Weekly Standard.

  23. Seth,
    If we pull out of Iraq too soon, where will we get the diplomatic or military clout to deal with those other international forces?

  24. JDC,

    Honestly, if we leave what do you think will fill the void?

    I don’t advocate isolationism and full withdrawal. I recommend what Brzezinski advocates. A political process with Iraq’s neighbors. This is the best way to solve this problem. It removes the United States from having to bear the burden in American lives lost. It forces Iraq and her neighbors to act positively. At this point, they’re just sitting back watching the United States make a fool of herself.

  25. I don’t know that polls ever give an accurate picture of America- somehow they never seem to reflect any reality I am familiar with…

    I mean, you ever seen Leno do “Jaywalking”? If that’s what you encounter walking down the street, and those same folks are answering the pollsers, egad- we are really in trouble.

  26. Those who advocate sudden withdrawl do not have a sense of history. I am old enough to remember the people hanging off the landing gear of our helicopters as we gave up and fled Vietnam. The three million killed after we left Vietnam will be quickly eclipsed by the slaughter after we capitulate in Iraq. The number of dead in OUR streets will be beyond comprehension. America needs to wake up to this fact. Iraq is only the beginning. There is one word that should strike fear into everyone in this country–IRAN.

  27. Should have read “pollsters”…

  28. If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a “defensive” U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

    Honestly, Dan, this strikes me as paranoia (not unfounded, but paranoid nonetheless). I think that Pres. Bush learned a lesson in Iraq (that attacking bad guys because they are bad can be a really, really bad idea) and I don’t see him rushing to war anytime soon.

  29. Timshel,

    Iran doesn’t frighten me. They are politically fractured and militarily weak. In the Middle East, their defense budget is on par with Israel’s at about $9 billion per year. Those two countries don’t have the highest military spending in the region. That prize goes to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia spends about $27 billion on defense. Now, compare those numbers to the United States. The United States spends $470 billion yearly on defense. That’s nearly half of the entire world’s spending on defense.

    No, Iran does not frighten me. Nor should you be afraid of them. They are not our enemy.

  30. Either that, or the US can decide to grow up and act like a proper imperialist power. Brush aside, or simply ignore al Maliki, stop focusing on this pointless exercise in “training” the very ethnic death squads who are a part of the problem, realize that if Iraq is going to be run, the US will have to do it, and start actually focusing on securing Iraq, by pitched battles if necessary.

    What people don’t realize is that the US military has been deliberately kept from providing Iraq with security on the streets for most of our stay there. The focus has always been on training Iraqi forces that frankly didn’t exist, and still don’t exist today.

    End that focus and start acting like a proper occupying power.

    Problem is, the political situation is different today than it was when we invaded. The Iraqi citizenry would have put up with an iron-fisted US occupation when Sadaam was toppled. I doubt they’d be so accepting today. So this prospect is unlikely as well.

    Bad options all around.

  31. Dan,
    But all of Iraq’s neighbors have vested interests in portions of Iraq’s population. I don’t believe that looking to Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran to keep Iraq stable is really going to help. Yes, it is a necessary part, but if it is the whole, we will have a situation like the one Seth described.

  32. Iran is only a regional threat (they aren’t even close to being a global threat) because US military strength is being crippled by Iraq.

    Iran wants us to stay in Iraq. It keeps us weak.

  33. JDC,

    I think that Pres. Bush learned a lesson in Iraq (that attacking bad guys because they are bad can be a really, really bad idea) and I don’t see him rushing to war anytime soon.

    Are you sure about that? Have you not noticed how many times recently the Bush administration accused Iran of instigating attacks against American soldiers, yet when pressed for evidence, backs off?

    Juan Cole says it best:

    State Dept. figure Nick Burns made a lot of vague and unsubstantiated charges against Iran on Wednesday. Most egregious was his hinting around that the US was “investigating” whether Iranians were involved in the kidnapping and killing of US troops at Karbala recently. Announcing that the US is investigating such a thing is a lazy media way of smearing someone without having to provide any evidence of the charge.

    Note the news recently that Bush is backing off showing their evidence of supposed Iranian involvement, because, well, the facts on the ground might discredit their accounts. Imagine that!

  34. Dan,
    You sound like Chamberlin in 1938.

  35. JDC,

    But all of Iraq’s neighbors have vested interests in portions of Iraq’s population. I don’t believe that looking to Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran to keep Iraq stable is really going to help.

    So then what do you recommend? How do you think we can fix this problem in Iraq? Trust Bush to fix it?

  36. Timshel,

    You sound like Chamberlin in 1938.

    That is an uncalled for attack.

    if you cannot handle responding respectfully, simply don’t respond at all. You’re only demeaning yourself with such a response.

  37. My suspicion is that Bush is gearing up to launch airstrikes on Iran. No invasion, no use of ground forces. But I can see him using the carrier groups in the Persian Gulf to bomb Iranian nuclear facillities as his own personal way of flipping the bird at the world on his way out.

    It won’t solve anything. Probably won’t do much more than set the Iranian nuclear program back a year and make them even more paranoid and aggressive. But it would add another check to the to-do list he created for himself years ago.

    Shame it doesn’t look like he can bomb North Korea too but, two out of three ain’t bad.

  38. HP/JDC, I’m about as unhappy as you are about the idea of leaving Iraq as a failed state full of people who hate us. Talk about losing the war on terror!

    On the other hand, making a rational choice isn’t always about finding a good alternative. Sometimes, it’s just about finding the least bad alternative. Most of the experts that I’m aware of believe that Bush’s “surge” of troops will have basically no effect. Obviously, our current strategy is also not accomplishing anything. Furthermore, remaining in Iraq has — let us not forget — serious costs. In addition to the money (which we just have to accept, since we as a country effectively voted to have this war in the 2002 congressional elections), staying in Iraq has the cost of continuing to erode the strength and reputation of our military. It has the very serious cost that enemies of the US around the globe feel a substantial degree of impunity, knowing that we can’t really do anything anywhere else as long as we’re in Iraq. It even has costs in Afghanistan, which — lest we forget — we’re in danger of losing to the Taliban again.

    So staying or even “surging” under current strategies doesn’t seem to be much better than leaving. I think what’s really needed here is serious creativity. Something new, something different. If that isn’t forthcoming, I suppose withdrawing might be an option we’re forced to consider.

    I certainly agree that the American people have an obligation to create a good Iraq after what we have done. But one of the sad facts of mortality is that what we should do and what can in fact be done don’t always overlap.

  39. Dan in # 18 has the right answer. Iraq at this point is a greater threat to overall peace in the middle east and to the other Middle Eastern countries than they ever were to us since Saddam came to power.

    I agree that since we broke it, we own it, but to pretend that more force on our part will bring about a solution is absurd. The solution is diplomatic and political. Prime Minister Al-Maliki has shown a marked reluctance to apply pressure to the Shiites who back him to stand down on the violence, and has actually pushed the US to go after the Sunni militias, and leave the Shia alone. The Kurds in the north had already been running their own show ever since the institution of the “no-fly” zone in the 90’s.

    Getting Syria, Iran, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia involved is a must. They have the most interest, and the most to lose. Other countries like Jordan and Egypt, with more moderate governments, are very frightened by violent Islamic fundamentalist parties in their own countries. We have done a very poor job of including our allies, and a pan-arabic force keeping the peace in Iraq is less likely to draw gunfire and IEDs than the US or European armies.

    It is tragic that we have lost more US troops in Iraq than US citizens killed in the 9/11 attacks, and as we should have known all along, Iraq had nothing to do with it. We have now seen that our intervention has led to the deaths of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. If a quick pullout of US troops sends the wrong message to “the enemy”, maybe it sends the right message to Iraq’s neighbors. A quick, phased pullout matched with half of the money we are currently spending on fighting the war geared towards reconstruction would be an honorable way of trying to lower the violence. Our continued presence, as noted above, is not at sufficient levels to suppress the civil war that is going on, and only continues to highlight our diplomatic failings.

  40. “I certainly agree that the American people have an obligation to create a good Iraq after what we have done. But one of the sad facts of mortality is that what we should do and what can in fact be done don’t always overlap.”
    I agree. I wish that I had the magical solution that Dan asked me for. All I can do is point that the solutions we have are bad and, as you do, ask for someone to come up with something creative. I think that a surge would be useless (an increase (meaning a troop increase that was understood as permanent) might be more helpful, but it would be political suicide, so…). The truth is that we have never been fully committed to the reconstruction of Iraq.

    I guess I am saying that staying and working to create a political solution, while not neglecting the military/security problem that we have created, would be an attempt to do what we should do. It may not be successful, but we will have tried. Pulling out now (or anytime soon) would indicate to me (and the world) that we haven’t. That will do us no good.

  41. I don’t know that polls ever give an accurate picture of America- somehow they never seem to reflect any reality I am familiar with…

    I mean, you ever seen Leno do “Jaywalking”? If that’s what you encounter walking down the street, and those same folks are answering the pollsers, egad- we are really in trouble.

    Tracy, these are common misconceptions, I assure you. Let me point out that Leno’s interview subjects are an arbitrary collection of people, while survey respondents are a random collection. The difference may seem hard to understand, but with a random sample, roughly speaking, each individual has the same chance of being selected as every other. So a farmer in Kentucky is as likely to be chosen as a businessman in Manhattan. (This clearly isn’t true for Jaywalking.) If you have a random sample, and if you choose a large number of people to interview, then (because of a statistical theorem called the Law of Large Numbers), the probability that the result is much different from the result for the country as a whole is really small.

    A lot of people end up feeling that polls don’t reflect the reality they know. But the reason is that most people know other people like them. So, for example, when I lived in Berkeley in late 2001, I heard a lot of people complaining that the surveys showing Bush with approval ratings near 90% couldn’t possibly be right — because nobody they knew approved of Bush. Similarly, when I was in Provo during Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999, a lot of people expressed amazement at Clinton’s persistent relatively high job-approval ratings — because nobody they knew thought Clinton was doing a decent job.

    Drawing inferences about public opinion from our own experience means relying really heavily on a belief that we know a representative cross-section of Americans. Because almost all of us instead know a group of people who are more similar than different, we usually get mislead. Well-administered polls are more reliable because they do choose a representative cross-section.

  42. “a pan-arabic force keeping the peace in Iraq is less likely to draw gunfire and IEDs than the US or European armies.”
    What on earth leads you to believe this? If the insurgents are happy to bomb Iraqi women and children, why wouldn’t they attack Tunisian or Syrian troops?

  43. Money toward reconstruction following a US pullout won’t do anything. You’re just trying to make yourself feel better about the mess we’ll leave. Any money we send will never reach a single hospital, waste treatment plant or school.

    It will be stolen and diverted by the warring ethnic factions to buy AK-47s and RPGs.

    The Iraqi armed factions already know what Americans don’t seem to get – the civil war is already on. And the US withdrawl is a forgone conclusion. The only question now is which group will manage to milk the most money and training from the US before we skip town and open warfare breaks out.

    In the meantime, al Maliki is hoping we’ll weed out a few of the Sunnis for him.

  44. It took me to long to post my last comment, and so I need to catch up with the other comments. Let’s talk about Iran.

    US troops recently arrested 5 Iranians from a consular mission in the Kurdish controlled region of Iraq, accusing them of being agent provocateurs. In response, it looks like, or we are being told that the recent deaths of 5 americans in Karbala, 4 killed execution style, were in retribution for the 5 Iranians detained. This could be true, but could also be more administration meddling. Is it any coincidence that the new commander of US Central Command is a Navy admiral, and that there are now currently two carrier groups in the Persian gulf? We have had almost no requirement for Naval close air support in Iraq.

    I agree that if President Bush has learned anything, that maybe another ground war in Asia might not be a good idea. But an airstrike against Iranian suspected nuclear sites might appeal to him. It’s a way of deflecting the criticism about Iraq, directing attention to Iran, which was mentioned several times in the recent State of the Union address, and hoping to reduce the suspected meddling of Iran in Iraqi affairs.

    Iran is not a threat to us. The Iranian people, at least until our misadventure in Iraq, have actually had a lot of good will towards the US because of our many humanitarian efforts after some of their devastating earthquakes. Ahmenidijab has become the new Saddam, it would appear, and our continued reluctance to approach them diplomatically, especially in concert with other middle eastern states, is only going to work against us.

    No more straw-man dictators, please. We need a foreign policy based on real Christlike behavior.

  45. Jay- I understand the statistics of arbitrary vs. random- (well, at least as far as one college statistics class constitutes “understanding”) – but I still feel like the numbers can be spun and effected so many different ways…

    The manner in which a questions is presented, the tone and/or body language of the pollster, the time of day will even stilt answers- let alone the bias of the people interpreting the data…

    That said, there is little doubt that statistics from Berkeley (I’m from just across the Bay) are going to read wildly different than, say, rural Iowa… or a street in Los Angeles.

  46. There will be no pan-arabic force in Iraq.

    Unless you’re talking about when Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Turkey and possibly Jordan invade Iraq so they can fight each other.

    But I doubt they’ll be building sewer systems.

  47. I agree with JDC. Iraqis are uniquely tribalistic, a form of nationalism that is hardly accepting of any foreign intruders.

    The IEDs and attacks from Sunnis will not go away anytime soon because Sunnis, who once had a great hold on power through the Baath party, now suffers the fate of the minority. They see that if Iraq is truly democratic, then they’ve lost out on everything except the sand in the desert to the West. The oil revenues will go to the Kurds and the Shi’ites. The power of running the country will go to the Shi’ites. What incentive do Sunnis have to participate in this kind of governance? None whatsoever.

    The Shi’ites have a lot of grudges to pay back against the Sunnis. Especially now with the bombing of the Mosque in Samarra last February. In their eyes, that was the worst move Sunni insurgents could have done. Now all Shi’ites want is the full removal (i.e. genocide) of all Sunnis from Baghdad. Toss them out to the desert!

    The Kurds are removing Sunnis from Kirkuk, which is looking like a region that will fairly soon explode into bloody violence for basically the same reason: grudges for things done in the past.

    Cheney advocates the 80% doctrine. i.e. support the Shi’ites and the Kurds in their genocide of the Sunnis. In his eyes, that’s what will solve the problem. And while it is true, most of the instability in Iraq currently comes from the Sunnis, such a policy is absolutely reprehensible! The “surge” Bush is trying to implement right now will focus mostly in Sunni pockets in Baghdad. This has caused the Shi’ites to warn each other to “lie low” until the Americans leave. I.e. sit back and let the Americans kill off Sunnis for them.

    Just how does this solve the problem?

    There is a very valid reason for Americans turning against this president and his Iraq policies. And I really ask, that if you are going to be upset at Americans not backing anything Bush says anymore about Iraq, but at the same time you want this problem fixed, that you find that creative solution soon, or you will have to accept the withdrawal which will come fairly soon.

  48. Couple things.

    Iraq is a mess for all the reasons listed above. It was in hindsight an ill advised adventure. To me the biggest mistake was not understanding the religious and tribal differences in Iraq. Saddam was continually at war with either the Kurds in the north or the Shiites in the south. Also the oldReagan and Bush people failed to listen to the state department who were warning them about this issue. I think the reason for this is that the State department was so wrong about the Soviets in the 70’s and 80’s that they had learned to ignore them.

    No easy way out no easy way to win.

    Iran is extremely dangerous and a war with Iran is probably inevitable. At least a US airstrike on Nuclear facilities is in the cards. Either Bush will do it or the next president will do it. If we do not do it we will see an Isreali airstrike at a minimum.

  49. RE # 43

    Our money certainly won’t build any hospitals if we use Halliburton and their minions. That’s why the involvement of other middle eastern nations is a must. As wrong as our involvement is, didn;t we learn anything following the second world war with the Marshall plan? We helped to rebuild our former enemies, and at least they are no longer our enemies, even though we can’t always get them to line up with our misguided foreign policies.

    As to # 42, yes, they are killing each other now. But our presence is not diminishing the violence. At least Arabic troops would understand the local customs and language better, and recognize that this civil war is on their doorsteps, even if the blood is on our hands. A totally destabilized Iraq is a threat to all of Iraq’s neighbors, including NATO member Turkey. The last think they want is an independent Kurdistan on their borders. Ditto Iraq.

    Sorry, but this has touched a nerve with me. I still remember the comments in a fast and testimony meeting shortly following the invasion in 2003 that maybe the Lord’s purpose in this war was to bring the opportunity for missionary work to Iraq. Fat chance now. The LDS community should be outraged, and trying to build bridges of understanding on this. Our continued reliance on the arm of flesh, and the “false Gods we worship” or arms and steel that President Kimball warned us about do nothing to further the Lord’s Kingdom here on earth.

  50. The manner in which a questions is presented, the tone and/or body language of the pollster, the time of day will even stilt answers- let alone the bias of the people interpreting the data…

    This is certainly true, but it also has limits. When you see almost the same results in surveys by various pollsters, using different questions, there’s really little room for doubt. That is the case for the results JDC is discussing here; there’s a lot of confirmatory data from various pollsters, with diverse agendas of their own.

    The other thing to remember is: even survey data with some serious problems in is still likely to be more representative than our own personal impressions. Our personal impressions are based on overwhelmingly biased samples; even most bad surveys do a better job of collecting representative respondents than we do in our private lives.

  51. anonymous chimp says:

    There were no weapons of mass destruction. We were not greeted as liberators. Every six months we were told things would be better iin six months and they did not get better. Why should I believe that staying, even with a surge, is better than leaving? Why should I believe that the current administration can do anything of good in the Middle East? Why should I trust foreign policy from the Bush administration?

    When it comes to Bush, perhaps we should adopt the Costanza doctrine: we listen to Bush’s opinion, then do the opposite.

    I think we should make efforts to clean up the mess. We do owe Iraq, the Middle East, the world. With different leadership, smarter, more diplomatic, more humble, staying might be better than leaving. As it stands, do I have any reason to believe that current administration policy is better than any other option on the table? What could possibly be worse than what Bush is doing right now?

  52. Apology, number 49 should read “Ditto Iran”, not Ditto Iraq.

  53. To get to JDC’s original point. Americans are highly nationalistic people. They have a sense of world altruism of course, but they are nationalists first and foremost. Their ultimate concern, with any war, is how well America is doing.

    If we’re doing poorly, support for the war fades. If we’re doing well, support surges. It happens this way regardless of any moral considerations involved in the war, or logical arguments for or against.

    The first question the American mind asks is: “are we winning?”

    If not, international obligations are quickly forgotten and suffering Iraqi children be-damned.

    Bush’s low approval ratings are really just a result of no success in Iraq, not because anyone really disagrees with his approach.

    It really is maddening because there’s an important take-away lesson from Iraq:

    Steven Segal does not represent a responsible approach to world leadership.

    Trouble is, most Americans don’t get this. They think we’re losing because Bush just doesn’t have the sort of kicking skills that would make Chuck Norris proud. It doesn’t even occur to them that we’re losing because the entire approach was stupid to begin with.

  54. Kevinf,

    You think that the Iraqis themselves will do a better job with the money than Haliburton?

    I think you’re idealizing the “common Iraqi” into some fantasy of morality – an oppressed people who would immediately rise up and cause peace to blossom throughout the land, if only Dick Cheney weren’t in the way….

    Look, I think Dick Cheney is a disagreeable troll. I even consider Haliburton to be darn-near close to secret combination land. But if you think the Iraqis themselves are less corrupt somehow, you haven’t been paying much attention to the country.

  55. Oh you silly, silly people. The answer is abundantly clear and has numerous historical examples to what has, ahem “worked”, in the past.

    We hand select from the current looneys who want power in the area. Pick the strongest of the bunch and groom him to be the next dictator. We quietly help him start a puppet government that will keep the people in line. We have the CIA secretly send him paychecks and train his goons on how to clamp down on anyone who “doesn’t stay in line”. Now we have a shiny brand new dictator in place who will most likely do what he is told for about 5 to 10 years and then we help “replace” him by destabilizing his government regime and offer back door support for a military coup. Then rinse and repeat. Voila! Problem solved. TADAAAA!

    Oh… ooops… there’s an email from the CIA in my inbox. I’ll get back to you as soon as I read it and see who is banging on my back door wearing a dark gray trenchcoat…. noo nee noo nee noo…

    {ahem} Please disregard everything he, I mean I wrote just a moment ago. Now move along, nothing to see here.

  56. Melissa De Leon Mason says:

    Wow, this is one of those super-fast moving threads.

    Going back quite a few comments ago, I don’t know that we can create a political solution while in Iraq. We’re dealing with a civil war, something that our current leadership didn’t plan for and even now is certainly still is not addressing. Civil war doesn’t lend itself to the kind of power-sharing solutions the Bush administration is waiting to magically appear so that we can take a bow and make a clean exit. Historically, this just doesn’t happen. (Alright, this rarely happens, I have to remember I can’t be as unbending on a blog where someone will call me out as I am in real life.)

    As far as our moral obligation to fix what we’ve broken, I’m deeply saddened to agree that what we should do and what can in fact be done don’t match up here. “At least we will have tried” just isn’t a good enough reason for me. We’re not going to find a quick solution, and “staying the course” is only delaying the reality of the situation. Sure, by having our troops there we’re able to somewhat limit the violence and enforce some semblance of democracy, but this is not a long term solution. And in the meantime, we’re sacrificing a lot of lives, both American and Iraqi.

    My disgust with my fellow Americans is that I don’t think “are we winning?” is even a relevant question anymore. We’ve lost. Americans (and their Congressmen & women) need to stop asking themselves that question and start asking “are we going in the right direction?”

    a disagreeable troll, hehe…

  57. “Steven Segal does not represent a responsible approach to world leadership.”

    Dude! Awesome quote!

    That is the problem. Americans only support the war when we are winning (cast your mind back to the overwhelming support the war enjoyed when we started it). The problem being that just because the war has become unpopular here, that doesn’t mean we don’t have to deal with the consequences. I know there were a lot of “Don’t blame me, I voted for Gore” bumper-stickers at one time; do people in the US seriously believe that this releases them from responsibility?

    I wish I knew what to do. Offhand, I think a permanent “surge” of many, many troops, active diplomacy, removing weapons from the streets, martial law, and so forth will have to take place before we can seriously consider other possibilities. Security must be established first, but it has to be an even-handed security.

  58. JDC,

    even-handed security means foreign troops. Iraqis cannot be trusted to be even-handed. So if foreign troops, well then take General Patraeus’s numbers and you’ll need 400,000 combat troops in Iraq. This is politically impossible. It won’t work, JDC.

  59. BTW on a more serious note than my previously posted email. I think the best thing we can do is try and look to the past. Everyone here who thinks Japan was a peaceful wonderful place after WWII was over raise your hand. Admittedly there are quite a few more Islamo-fundies in Iraq than were in post-war Japan, which certainly isn’t helping stability. However, I believe we need to look into what has been, to help get a clearer picture of where we might go.

    And I do hate to say this next line without a little bile rising in my throat coming from someone who does not agree with how everything was handled in South Africa when apartheid was dissolving. Yet, I can’t help but think perhaps we might learn something from that in finding ways to make the different factions eventually find a way to cohabitate reasonably well. Maybe even look at what we’ve learned in Northern Ireland as well. Sure these places are far from perfect, but one has to admit that things certainly are a lot better now then they were 20 years ago.

  60. Melissa,
    I just don’t think that there will be a long-term if we pull out in the short term. I agree that current policies are failing (or have failed). I am not advocating doing what we have done. I am saying that a fast pull-out is a horribly bad idea, based solely on short-term thinking.

    In the long run, the situation will have to be resolved by a combination of military, political, economic, and cultural influences and changes. It is not too late for us to do good in Iraq (I believe). Regarding the “Are we on the right track” question, if the only two options are “stay the course (ie. do what Bush has done)” or “pull out now or soon” then I would say we are definitely on the wrong track no matter what we do.

  61. One last thing. Everyone needs to stop saying things like Americans only support the war when we are winning. Americans are no different than any other people when it comes to this. Being American has nothing to do with it.

    Want proof, go ask how a soccer fan feels after their team gets embarassed on the pitch. Go ask how popular the crusades were when Saladin was waxing the troops left and right. Or, here’s a good one, how do you feel about yourself when you’ve just been completely embarassed playing a sport or any competition for that matter. It’s human nature, not American nature.

    There, I’ve said my peace. Carry on…

  62. Heres the poll that sickens me:

    Do you personally want the Iraq plan President Bush announced last week to
    Yes No (Don’t know)
    16-17 Jan 07 63% 22 15
    Democrats 51% 34 15
    Republicans 79% 11 10
    Independents 63% 19 17

    Why do 34% of democrats want us to fail in Iraq?

  63. Nick,

    Why do 11% of Republicans want us to fail in Iraq?

  64. RE # 54,

    No, I don’t think the Iraqis will do any better with the money than Halliburton. That’s why diplomacy and the involvement of other middle eastern nations are vital. Probably none of them will do as well as we would like, but the ownership for success passes to those most interested.

    I had no illusions before this war started that we would see a groundswell of democracy, or that moral characters would rise up to greet us with flowers. That’s why I was opposed to the war from the beginning. Honestly. I’m afraid that too much of our foreign policy in the past has been who can we support that will keep the oil/coffee/cheap electronics flowing, or will be the most brutal in keeping the local nationalists/communists/islamic fascists under control. You’ve got to recall that Reagan’s National Security staff was selling arms to the Iranians who had just kept our citizens hostage for over a year to finance his war against communists in El Salvador. In turn, the CIA allowed drugs to be funneled back into the US on CIA flights, as those folks were also the enemies of the communists as well.

    Can’t we see that there has been a lack of a moral center in all of this? There are bad guys out there in the rest of the world, but we seem to be able to find new ways to antagonize them, and create new ones, all in the name of our “self interest”.

    Again, what are we doing to promote democracy through education, humanitarian, and cultural efforts? The Darfur tragedy has gone on too long in the Sudan, because there was no obvious US “self interest” involved.

    Our nation can use it’s economic and moral power for good, but it seems recently (?) that we don’t act along lines that would be bringing that about.

  65. Dan- I don’t know, and I’m disgusted with them too. Can you answer mine?

  66. Nick,
    I think we can safely assume that Dan would answer similarly. Don’t pick stupid fights.

  67. Dan,

    After looking at the Fox News poll, I personally believe that one way to interpret the results is that success of President Bush’s plan could be that we actually send more troops to Iraq.

    Here is another question from the same poll:

    20. How likely do you think it is that the Iraq plan President Bush announced
    last week will succeed?
    SCALE: 1. Very likely 2. Somewhat likely 3. Not very likely 4. Not at all likely
    5. (Don’t know)
    — Likely — — Unlikely —
    TOTAL Vry Smwht TOTAL Ntvry Not (DK)
    16-17 Jan 07 39% 10 29 52 27 25 10
    Democrats 23% 8 15 72 35 37 6
    Republicans 62% 14 48 27 18 9 11
    Independents 37% 8 29 51 26 25 12

    It would seem that 27% of Republicans don’t think it will succeed, 72% of Democrats, and 51% of independents.

    Asking questions is a tricksy business, my precious. Do I wish that the president’s plan would work? Yes!.. Do I think it will? No! Do I want him to continue to send our young men and women over there and expose them to violence and death? No. I hope he doesn’t get his way, but he probably will.

    On the other hand, there are certainly folks out there who hate Bush enough to want him to ultimately fail. Even though I am a Democrat, I don’t want him to fail. I also don’t want him to throw bombs at Iran, or any other repressive dictator di jour. There’s more than enough to go around alreay.

  68. Someone needs to turn the Acronym interpreter off on those Totals up there.

  69. Well said, Kevin. The question at hand was a pretty devious question. Of course everybody wishes we would see success in Iraq. The question was framed badly. Those 34% of Democrats would love to see success in Iraq. They don’t see Bush giving them success. That’s the problem.

  70. Tracy, there is no doubt that there are some unsound polls out there. But the ones found at pollingreport are the cream of the crop and pretty reliable–ABC News and Pew are the best in the business, in my opinion as a trained social scientist.

    I don’t know if anyone else listens to the BYU Kennedy Center Lectures podcasts, but the most recent one is on this subject, and was thought-provoking.

    On NPR I heard about the disruption of Orrin Hatch’s comments to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, from a mother who shouted out that her son was a Marine who had served two tours in Iraq and had just been called for a third. I was surpised at how little media coverage there was of the incident.

    A friend who is not a veteran and whose family has few military connections was apalled at the outburst and hopes she served jail time for being so rude of the decorum of the Senate. But my brother is an MP serving in Iraq, on his third activation, and I can only feel for that woman’s frustration and desperation.

  71. Ok, I am completely politically out of the loop, but it leems like IRAQ would be better off divided into peaceful co-existing tribes, based on tribal affiliation. Of, course, the problem comes in how to “fairly” divide the pie.

  72. Matt,

    The problem there is that the Turks don’t want an independent Kurdistan on their borders, as they have been fighting a Kurdish insurgency for years. Within the boundaries of Iraq, it makes some sense (Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the middle, and Shia in the south). But all the oil is in the Kurdish and Shiite regions. The British cobbled this abomination together after the fall of the Ottoman empire following WWI, with no thought to ethnic or tribal boundaries, or perhaps specifically to try and eliminate such divisions. Either way, it has failed. Saddam and his Sunni Baathist party had to exercise brutal control over the other two ethnic groups because without them, they would have had no oil, and no economic clout.

    Another reason to get the other states involved. Syria is Baathist/Sunni, Saudi Arabia is Sunni, Iran is Shiite, and Turkey is trying hard to be a secular state even though it financially supports Islam as a state religion with tax dollars. The Eastern Orthodox churches that used to dominate in Istanbul are in disrepair, failing at attracting and training new clergy, and in serious decline. Turkey has a lot at stake in this. A secular state for them is a requirement, and protection of Sunni and Shiite factions a requirement for Syria and Iran, respectively. That’s why involving them makes some sense.

  73. Matt,

    Dividing Iraq sounds like a reasonable idea, except for the fact that Iraq has oil. The location of the oil is crucial. The location of the oil happens to be in Kurdish and Shi’ite areas. What incentives are you going to give Sunnis to accept not having a say on the revenue coming in from oil?

  74. Dang, Kevin beat me to it.

  75. oh Kevin, also don’t forget that Jordan is also Sunni, and they too would not like seeing Sunnis in Iraq have nothing from oil if Iraq is broken up.

  76. Melissa De Leon Mason says:


    If we pull out in the short term, here’s what will happen in the long-term: the civil war will continue and get worse until there is a decisive victory, most likely going to the Shi’ites. The Shi’ites will set up a brutal dictatorship to repay the Sunni. Iran will be a huge influence because of their history of support. The Kurds will get crushed by both Sunni & Shi’ites with the support of Turkey. The other option is stalemate after years of civil war in which, as stated before, a power-sharing solution is unlikely. The country will be unstable for decades as factions fight and make false promises regarding oil wealth and power.

    If we stay where we are and continue to send troops (short of the overwhelming, and impossible to assemble, force that would be necessary), what will happen in the long term? See above, but add rising American death tolls, greater resentment towards America, more justification for extremism, less dignity with which to hold our heads up to the rest of the world, a serious financial bill at the expense of so many other issues that need to be addressed.

    I agree that the situation needs to be addressed with “a combination of military, political, economic and cultural influences and changes.” But as much as I wish we could go about it that way and actually do some good, I don’t think this Administration is thinking or will think on that level and I haven’t heard from any presidential candidates who are either. A failure of imagination is certainly our problem. But I’m not sure I’m patient enough to continue seeing news coverage of the day’s record-setting death toll while I wait for someone in Washington to get creative.

  77. HP/JDC-

    I think we can safely assume that Dan would answer similarly. Don’t pick stupid fights

    I could say the same about your post.

    I don’t assume he would answer similarly, that would be incredibly presumptive of me. Its an honest question, and I wanted to hear if someone had a good explanation for it. 34% is a large number of democrats, and there is a good chance some of them might be hanging around here.

  78. Nick,

    I think that your understanding of people’s responses to that poll may not be really complete. The question doesn’t ask whether people want the US to succeed in Iraq; it instead asks whether they want Bush’s plan to succeed in Iraq. It seems plausible to me that a reasonable proportion of the 34% of Democrats you’re worried about may want the US to succeed in Iraq, but not using Bush’s plan. As attitude objects, the success of Bush’s plan is not identical to US success in Iraq.

    That said, I’m not sure what those of us who do want success in Iraq can turn to if Bush’s plan doesn’t work — and we’ll know if it does or not within a few months.

  79. JNS- Thank you for your thoughtful response. I don’t agree though, when you say that success of Bush’s plan is not identical to US success in Iraq. Like it or not (I don’t), Bush’s plan IS the US’s plan right now, and if it fails, then we fail.

    To me, the poll question seemed pretty clear, but I can see that peoples’ negative attitude towards Bush might have clouded their true desire to succeed in Iraq.

  80. RE # 77

    I tried to address your question in my post number 67. Different ways of interpreting the question, where it is placed in the poll, are things to consider.

    But as a Democrat, I can understand that some of the administrations harsher critics within the beltway are so disgusted with the Bush administration that they consider it a failed presidency. I’m not there, but looking that direction. They don’t want to see a later resurrection of Bush’s reputation ala Richard Nixon during the 90’s. I for one, never like to see president’s do stupid things (see Clinton, et al). Joe Biden yesterday and Allen in Virginia during his senate campaign would seem to indicate that saying stupid things while you are seeking the presidency is a bipartisan pursuit.

    Again, I would like there to be a happy ending. I just don’t see it on any horizon. I’m reminded of the statement that insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. I’m not inferring insanity, but this President has all but ignored the Iraq Study Groups recommendations, doctored or allowed to be slanted intelligence that did not support their policies, and created straw men to knock down to show their resolve and strength. Saddam was one of those straw men, but no one thought through what would happen when he was gone.

    RE the Straw Man hypothesis. The whole uproar over the NSA wiretapping controversy was another example. We heard over and over again the statement that we shouldn’t have to hang up on a terrorist to go get a warrant when he called someone in the United States. The law and the court established already allowed the wiretaps to continue while pursuing a wiretap for domestic surveillance. And it appears from several reports, that the FISC (foreign intelligence surveillance court) rarely, if ever, turned down a request. It was all an attempt to create more cover for the executive branch to operate without accountability. Once Congress changed hands, and the likelihood that Alberto Gonzales would have to go before the Senate Intelligence committee, the administration folded their tent, and said that they had worked out a solution. In other words, they read the law as already constituted, and decided that they didn’t want to have to answer a lot of embarrassing questions.

    I so would like there to be democracy springing up in the middle east. I just think we picked probably the worst way to try and bring it about.

  81. “I could say the same about your post.”
    Nick, I don’t know what you are referring to. If you are saying that I was picking a stupid fight by writing the post, you are probably right, but I don’t see why you are commenting then.

    I thought that you were choosing the worst possible interpretation of the poll and asking Dan to respond to that worst possible interpretation as if he held that opinion. Regardless of the opinions that Dan holds, it is not fair to ask him to answer for a survey that he didn’t participate in. That he has responded is a factor of the sort of person he is, not the “honesty” of the question.

    Everyone else,
    So, as I understand it, the general consensus is: We’ve ruined everything so get out while the getting’s good.

  82. cj douglass says:

    Have you ever wondered what the Iraqi people want? This poll ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/26/AR2006092601721.html)says that they want us out immediately.

  83. cj douglass says:

    btw, the wierd wording was not intentional. I don’t think you’re a 2 year old.

  84. cj,
    If they ask us to leave, that is one thing. Certainly, we are the only thing keep the current government in power, so their opinion might differ from the populace. If they ask us to leave, we probably should leave.

    However, that is different from our desire to pull out because the pr on the war is going badly.

  85. JDC,

    If the PR on the war going badly were the reason to pull out, then that became obvious back in 2004, when the “Mission Accomplished” banner began to lose its luster. We’ve gone far beyond that now, and the war itself is going badly. We’ve finally seen what the PR was trying to hide.

    Leave tomorrow? No. Set a deadline of about a year, to give the Iraqis and their neighbors some time frame to put together their own solution, no matter how badly conceived? Yep. In a heartbeat.

  86. Kevin,
    I think that we are seriously talking about pulling out because the war has become politically unpopular. I think that if we had a series of spectacular victories over the course of the next six months then this won’t be an issue. I think that the administration seriously miscalculated what a victory would look like and gave us pictures of dead men as a result. I think that the war has been going badly, too.

    I think that the problem here is that y’all are conflating the understanding that we will have to be there for a while yet with the person who has been saying that. I won’t vote for Bush or whoever he endorses or whoever seems to be most eager to do what Bush has done come next year. This doesn’t mean that I am willing to condemn the Iraqis to further and worse chaos. Kevin, the reason that we are having this conversation is because the war has become unpopular; it has nothing to do with the tactics or the messenger (well, the messenger has become unpopular too so that might have something to do with it).

  87. JDC,

    With all due respect, this may be why you are having this conversation. I’ve been having this conversation since January 2003, when it was an unpopular position, especially within the LDS community.

    I agree with you that I don’t want to condemn the Iraqis to further and worse chaos either. But in my poor vision, our continued presence adds to that. One of the most painful news reports for me happened a few months back when a major mobilization of US troops took place in Baghdad to look for a few US soldiers that had gone missing (two or three if I recall). I wondered if the Iraqis thought that it was unfair, when dozens of their fellow citizens vanish every day, and the US doesn’t mount the same kind of effort.

    I understand the frustration. I don’t think an abrupt pullout will do any good. But on the other hand, staying until the job is done, whatever that is, only leads to more US and Iraqi deaths, more ill will against the US, and greater resistance and threat to our missionaries around the world, that fairly or not are almost always identified with the United States. With our focus on Iraq, we have over the last three years helped to strengthen the hands of Iran, the Taliban in Afghanistan, violent Islamic radicals everywhere, Hezbullah in Syria and Lebanon, and undermined Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf states, and American goodwill throughout the world. Not to mention the weakening of our armed forces, especially the Army and USMC, and seriously running up a huge budget deficit here at home.

    Convince me otherwise that a handful of additional troops will materially change the equation, or that sending 400,000 combat troops to Iraq at this point is a viable idea. Believe me, I would love to be wrong about this. I really would. Yes, PR and the upcoming presidential election cycle is driving much of the current rhetoric, and I abhor that, just as I abhorred the actions of the Swiftboat veterans, and CBS/Dan Rather’s story about Bush’s Air National Guard service that could not be documented.

    We need fewer Karl Rove’s and Scooter Libby’s, and a few more John Murthas (in his better moments) and Chuck Hagels. It’s been a long time since I felt that the presidential campaigns discussed the important topics.

  88. JDC-

    If you are saying that I was picking a stupid fight by writing the post, you are probably right

    Got it. Thanks for clarifying.

    How is a literal interpretation of a poll question “the worst possible interpretation”? When people say they don’t want Bush’s plan to succeed, I assume thats what they mean.

    KevinF- I did see your comment (after JNS’s), and that is a reasonable interpretation, but I still think that we can’t read that into such a fairly straightforward question.

  89. Steve Evans says:

    Nick, you’re being obtuse, but I can’t tell whether it’s deliberate. There is a world of difference between saying that you “personally [do not] want the Iraq plan President Bush announced last week to succeed,” (the poll you cite) and saying that you want “us to fail in Iraq” (your comment). If can honestly see no difference between those two things than I recommend you stay off of this thread.

  90. Nick, then you, unlike JNS and Kevin, are happy to assume the worst about people with whom you disagree with.

    Kevin, while I agree that staying there will cost both US and Iraqi lives, I believe that our leaving soon would result in the loss of far more Iraqi lives. We simply cannot leave until the government has the means to maintain itself.

  91. JDC,

    Then I am afraid that over the next 10 years, we can count on many more dead and wounded of both Iraqis, Americans, and who knows how many other places. Perhaps the Iraqi government we got is the one we deserve, because I don’t see them being all that inclusive. Al Maliki wants us to exclusively go after the Sunni militias, while Talibani, the figurehead Kurdish president, has no power, and probably will go home to Mosul one of these days.

    Sad for all of us, American and Iraqi.

  92. Kevin,
    I guess that I am not ready to give up on the whole country yet. I know that I sound terribly imperialistic when I say that, but I really think that if we could find the right people (who would be people who wouldn’t like the US first, but people who would like Iraq over personal affiliation) and help them into power we might have a chance. I do, however, agree that the window of time for this to take place is close to closing.

  93. wow. What made you think I was happy about people thinking that? Looks like you’re the one who could be a little more charitable in reading other’s intentions.

    Steve- Whats with the name-calling? You’re better than that.

  94. Steve Evans says:

    Nick, I am not trying to call you a name. I was just amazed at your prior comment, and really could not understand why you would seemingly make such an obvious error.

  95. Steve-

    Look, I don’t think its unreasonable to think that when someone says they don’t want Bush’s plan to succeed, that they mean they don’t want it to succeed. And like it or not (I don’t), Bush is the commander in chief and his policy is the US’s policy in Iraq, so if his plan fails in iraq, the US fails in iraq.

  96. Then Nick, you are indeed being obtuse.

  97. Nick, you do it so naturally, I assumed it brought you joy.

  98. OK, OK.

    Here’s an example, Nick, to illustrate: Bush’s plan may not “succeed” because it may never even get a shot at being implemented. Is that a “failure of the US in Iraq”?

  99. Theres that name-calling again. Like it or not, calling someone obtuse is namecalling.

    I’ll reply to your example later though, I need to go…

  100. Well Nick is right. The President is the one who has responsibility for foreign policy in America today. Congress can only do an end-run around him in very unusual and rare circumstances. So the expectation that Congress will get us out of this mess is rather misplaced. Congress will only be able to counter George Bush when things have gotten so bad that it no longer matters what we do in Iraq (and possibly the entire Middle East).

  101. But never forget!

    Most people in the United States supported President Bush in this invasion. What exactly was the President’s approval rating in the summer of 2003? Hmm?

    And most of the media was right there along with the rest of you. Anyone remember those CNN news reports as early as the spring of 2002 with slobbery titles like “Showdown Iraq?” Remember watching MSNBC coverage of the “Shock and Awe” campaign? As far as the news organizations were concerned, it was better than sex. CNN never forgot that it’s popularity began with 24-7 coverage of smart bombs hitting Iraqi targets in the Persian Gulf War.

    Back then, just about every last mother’s son in this misguided nation thought the invasion was going just great. Everyone thought this would play out like one big Tom Clancy novel.

    “A few good men and enough high tech weaponry can accomplish anything!”

    We all rallied around the President because to do otherwise would be “unpatriotic.” Back then the entire nation was one big embarassing exercise in “my flag is bigger than your flag.” And politicians would trip over each other trying to appear more sanctimoniously indignant than each other. Everyone was absolutely convinced we had to overhaul the entire American democratic thing just because of a few mad hijackers and about 10 anthrax letters.

    The entire nation was on one big orgiastic witch-hunt. By golly, we wanted blood!

    So we stormed out the door with our pitchforks and trampled everything in our way. This whole thing has been one big national reenactment of The Ox-Bow Incident.

    100 years from now, it’s entirely possible that people will look back and shake their heads at how cheap patriotism ruined the world. Nationalism. The scourge of the 20th century.

    So take down that stupid bumper-sticker, stop waving the flag for a moment, shut up for a while and hope that responsible minds can fix the mess we all got ourselves into.

    Like it or not, Bush was always 100% one of us. He simply gave us what we always wanted: a great Crusade of moral clarity. A chance to show the world just how righteous we are.

    I hope everyone is good and ashamed of this wretched display. Because, by and large, we asked for it.

  102. JDC,

    I know that I sound terribly imperialistic when I say that, but I really think that if we could find the right people (who would be people who wouldn’t like the US first, but people who would like Iraq over personal affiliation) and help them into power we might have a chance.

    This kind of thought has consistently troubled me about Iraq. Read again what you say here. There’s a chance, if we but have hope, if we but find the right person. Since when does America do anything based on a chance? Not before Bush came to power!

    See, there’s a chance that it could go right or it could go wrong, but when you are dealing with an action that has, as its consequences, some very severely negative results, you don’t go on chances! You’ve gotta be right, or you don’t do it at all!

  103. We all rallied around the President because to do otherwise would be “unpatriotic.”

    I was “unpatriotic” and I lost friends because of it. Such a sad period in American history.

  104. Steve Evans says:

    Seth, it’s unlikely that it would come to direct Congressional intervention for Bush’s latest strategy to not get implemented. Agreed that such intervention is rare — but usually that’s because it’s unnecessary, as Presidents tend to get the point when their entire nation is against them.

  105. You willing to bet money on George proving that trend?

  106. I’m with Seth. This president is still attempting to frame this as a loss due to Democrats. Read Rosa Brooks’ fine op-ed in the LA Times from a few weeks back on the comparisons between now and the Vietnam War. Note how, even though it was Nixon that lost the war, they managed to frame it so the Democrats took the blame for cutting off funding. Would Bush not just love to see Democrats cut funding! He’s nearly daring them to do so!

  107. We all rallied around the President

    With a clear conscience, I can gladly admit to never, not for a single second, being included in your “we all”. I called the invasion of Iraq as a completely immoral action from the getgo, for which I was called numerous names in different public web forums at the time.

    An administration run by war criminals is responsible for this mess. To treat them as anything more honorable than that is to attempt a whitewash of their actions (such as fixing the intelligence to match their already-decided-upon plans) and goals. Sadly, true justice is never going to be brought to pass in this lifetime for all those who caused this mess, and indeed, if they are ever going to be able to work out their own salvation, much fear and trembling will rightly be involved.

  108. Steve #98

    Saying “do you want the president’s plan to succeed” does not mean “do you want the president’s plan to go forward”. I still don’t buy your arguement that people misinterpreted the question, as shockingly obtuse that may be of me.

    Is Bush going to back down? Ha! Of course not. Congress doesn’t have the power to make him, and he’s too stubborn to listen to even the majority of his own party.

    I admit I did support the invasion, but the administration has basically botched it. It could have worked, but too many mistakes have been made. I say lets just declare that our objectives were met (we removed any capability they might have had to produce WMDs, we removed Saddam and we established a “democracy”), and let them determine their own future from here on out without us muddling it up for them.

  109. Actually Dan, I think Dick Cheney did actually dare them to do it.

  110. kristine N says:

    I have to agree Bush’s surge is really kind of a waste of effort. We’ve never been serious about this war, and I fear we’ve waited too long to accomplish what needs to be accomplished for the country to be stable. We needed to go in with a truly overwhelming force and we needed to rebuild what we broke. I wish we could go in now and fix at least the infrastructure. We won’t because it’ll cost too much and require too many people. If Bush really wanted to win he’d sent much more than a 20,000 person “surge”–he’d bring back the draft and ask of us the sacrifice that war really requires. ‘Course, we’d REALLY balk at that.

    Bush used this rhetoric that people want freedom, meaning democracy. Except, of course, evil terrorists, who don’t want freedom. Not sure what they want, but it isn’t freedom. I think everyone wants freedom, but I disagree that democracy equals freedom. I think stability is a much more meaningful type of freedom (it certainly is for me) and I think we should have been much more serious about providing that kind of concrete freedom than the abstract and somewhat meaningless democracy we focused on instead.

    great discussion!

  111. Steve Evans says:

    Nick: “I still don’t buy your arguement that people misinterpreted the question, as shockingly obtuse that may be of me.”

    Fair enough Nick; let me apologize for the remark and let’s move on.

  112. Steve-
    I suppose I did rush to judgement, and didn’t mean to be so snappy towards you. I really do see your point.

    (ps- I prefer apologies accompanied by candy bars. I can send you my address…)

  113. Wow, there is truly a heavy dose of arrogance in the threads that talk about Iraq or party politics on the bloggernacle lately.

    Often the same people, spewing out the same recycled poop. Always thinking that they “truly” understand the situation and everyone who doesn’t agree is obviously an unenlightened boob.

    I bet so many more people would love to participate in these conversations, but you’re so busy getting into these irritating p—ing contests that it makes most people just want to avoid it altogether.

    I thought I was a know-it-all jerk, but I continually get blown away by how belittling and condescending people have gotten.

    I used to agree with the bretheren that immorality will be our greatest downfall. Now I’m convinced it will be politics that tear us apart.

    And yes, I realize the hypocrisy of my post. Now, I’m being the jerk. Feel free to flame me. I’ve no doubt I deserve it. However, I feel much better, so carry on.

  114. Well cew smoke,

    You’re right. I am condescending about this. I don’t like it. But I seem to keep ending up there on this subject.

    I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed another episode in US politics that outraged and disgusted me more than the so-called “war on terror.” It’s a hard topic to stay measured about.

    But I suppose I ought to at least try…

  115. Seth R,

    I do understand outrage. My comment was mainly meant in frustration at so often stumbling across a great topic starter on the ‘nacle and realizing that it has already turned bitter and divisive.

    I have no doubt if there was blogging back during the Dredd Scott decision, or the Bay of Pigs, or when they introduced New Coke or any other painful time in our history that it would be much the same.

    I fear we have all plugged our ears as tight as can be and have begun to scream at the top of our lungs. We will never hear what the other side is saying and eventually dehumanize them to the point that we hate them as much as we hate the original cause.

    Bah. Don’t listen to me. I’m all doom and gloom because of people arguing in the comments section of a blog. Maybe I’ve just lost my perspective on it all.

  116. Steve Evans says:

    cew-smokey, don’t let the insults and snarks get you down. We love ya.

  117. I will support a “surge” in Iraq only if we bring back the draft.

  118. Um… Ronan…

    Aren’t you British?

  119. and doesn’t live like in Vienna and all?

  120. Um, there’s this place called Basra and this bloke called Blair.

  121. I actually don’t have a problem with bringing back the draft (so long as it is fairly done). That might be the only answer if we are going to keep getting into wars.

    Every choice we make right now involves chance. Every choice we have ever made involves chance (well, except for when Nancy Reagan was consulting that psychic, right?). I don’t understand the thrust of that objection.

  122. Hey,

    You guys have as much chance of having a productive and enlightening conversation about this topic as…..

    1.The Shiites, the Sunnis and the jihadists singing kumbaya with each other and stopping the fighting.

    2. Diplomatic measures stopping Iran from getting the bomb

  123. A draft may be a nice idea on paper (or not). But politically, it’s a pipe dream.

    It’s a simple matter of history that a “citizen army” (which is basically what a draft means) is premised on our nation’s wars being limited to:

    1) Clear-cut defense of the homeland (and no, Iraq doesn’t qualify, whatever Bush says) and

    2) Grand moral crusades that can capture the popular imagination (like World Wars I and II)

    Otherwise, you simply can’t muster the kind of popular support you need to make war politically doable.

    For proof, look no further than today. Can you honestly, with a straight face, tell me that any proposal to reinstitute the draft has a snowballs chance in hell of making it through Congress (with either party in control) in the next 30 years?

    Most of the support for a draft comes from militant conservatives, with a few other types thrown in. I’d wager they don’t make up much more than 10% of the US public.

    You’ll never get a draft law through on those kind of numbers. So I think the point is really moot.

  124. Sorry Ronan, my understanding was that Britain was in the process of pulling out of Basra.

    Besides, I think a draft would be even less likely in Britain than in the US.

  125. Well…

    I know nothing of politics, but I’m sure of this; if the American people continue with the war of words on who’s right and who’s wrong we don’t have a chance. We need to be united, destruction starts with the breakdown of respect for our leaders.

  126. Steve Evans says:

    Yanina, yer darned tootin’. I mean, Alma got nothing but grief for rebelling against his King.

  127. Seth, the thing is that the “war on terror” does represent both of those problems. It’s just that horrible mismanagement in Iraq (a war that wasn’t originally tied in but has become so) has gotten us off track. A draft is probably necessary right now to drum up the numbers sufficient to restore order to Iraq.

    I suppose the question is, do we really want to be the world’s policeman? Part of the problem with this war is the Bush didn’t want to be the world’s policeman, but he figured 9/11 meant that he had to be. That meant putting bad guys behind bars and Hussein wasn’t his favorite bad guy (and the favorite bad guy of neo-cons in general). But he wasn’t prepared to actually become the world’s policeman (or even Iraq’s policeman). Thus, we have had a very ineffective time in Iraq.

    cew-smoke, I apologize for getting you down or grumpy. The only person whom I have actively tried to persecute in this thread is Nick and that is because I believe he was asking an insincere question (and I still do believe this in spite of his many protests to the contrary). I hope that I haven’t offended you. I would like to either come up with a solution that I find acceptable or encounter a proposal that I think would be acceptable. The fact that we only have bad choices before us depresses me to no end. So, I wrote the thread.

    I suppose that I shouldn’t blame Americans for being tired of the war (heaven knows that I am tired of it). But I don’t believe that being tired of it releases us from the responsibility to do something about it. And I believe that just pulling out (which appears to be the most popular option right now) is not what we should do.

    bbell, I really would like to have a productive conversation on this topic. I am not joking in that.

  128. Yanina, I don’t believe that Americans have ever genuinely respected their leaders to the degree that we thought they were above criticism. If there have been high points of respect, we have certainly been on a downward trend since Nixon (arguably since Kennedy)

  129. Seth R., you may find it interesting that the U.S. Selective Service inducted conscripts every year from 1940 to 1973 except for 1947. I suppose the circumstances met your conditions, the Cold War being the grand moral crusade. Still, it is interesting to me that the draft could continue for 34 years. In 1958, the year Elvis Presley was sent to Germany, 142,000 other men were also drafted. That’s a third of the peak induction level during Vietnam, but in the shadow of WWII, it seems like nothing.

  130. John Taber says:

    Dan (#103):

    I stumbled into a new ward in January 2003, and it seemed like all anyone wanted to talk about was the war. I felt so unwelcome (and that the ward wasn’t meeting my spiritual needs) that it took me almost a year to start coming regularly.

    And part of those spiritual needs included a refuge on Sunday from all the war rhetoric I was getting thrown at me the other six days of the week. It is safe to say that 2003 was one of the worst years of my life, and it is only now that I feel safe expressing publicly things I started feeling then.

  131. JDC,

    Every choice we make right now involves chance.

    While every single action of ours in any setting is based on chance in one way or another (the chance of me getting hit by another car today by going to drive home from work is there, no doubt), we used to base our decisions on far more calculating and realistic assessments than what I’ve seen under Bush these past six years.

    Just look at what you are saying. You are saying there’s a chance it could work, if we but find the right person, etc. Now, let’s look at that realistically. What are the actual chances of it working and of us finding the right person. Out of 100% what chance do you have of finding the “right person” in Iraq today? Out of 100% what chance does an increase of 20,000 combat troops have of stopping the violence when you’ve got evidence it won’t actually do anything but delay the inevitable? For example, this is not the first surge into Baghdad. This was attempted just last August in an operation called Together Forward. It failed. Miserably. Not only did it not stop the violence, but violence increased by 22% over the next several months. Secondly, Shi’ites are telling each other right now to “lie low and wait it out.” Basically they are saying the surge will take care of their work for them, in cleaning out Sunni areas.

    These are not things to take a wild chance at. And that’s what it sure sounds like when you hear Bill Kristol and his buddies talk. If we but….there’s a chance….yet they never talk about the actual percentage of chance. In reality, the percentage of us getting Iraq correct at this point is probably about 11% chance. That’s not only dismal, but not worth our efforts.

  132. John Taber,

    It is safe to say that 2003 was one of the worst years of my life, and it is only now that I feel safe expressing publicly things I started feeling then.

    I couldn’t empathize more. I expressed my views publicly then and had a horrendous response. 2003 was one of the worst years of my life also.

  133. John Taber says:

    I didn’t have views to express publicly, yet. The feelings I had were just starting to develop. I was plenty repulsed by what I heard day in and day out, including in church (but fortunately not in the temple.)

    Dan, do you have an email address where I can contact you?

  134. sure, email me at bluejack74@yahoo.com

  135. Dan,
    what is the chance that Iraq will descend into chaos the second we leave? I would put it into the upper 90’s. If our staying for a bit longer reduces those odds, which I think they could, then I believe it is worth the risk.

  136. JDC,

    You’re asking that under the assumption, I presume, that Iraq is not currently in chaos.

  137. No, I am asking it under the assumption that, as bad as things are now, and they are very, very bad, they will get much, much worse were we to leave.

  138. So what is the chance that Iraq will get much worse if there is no US presence? Probably about 70% chance.

    What is the chance that Iraq will get much worse if there is a US presence? According to the just released NIE, I’d put that chance at about 60%.

    What is the chance that adding 20,000 additional American combat troops into Iraq will lower the overall violence and lead to more stability? I give it about a 15% chance.

    What is the chance that the overall lack of security and strong violence will overwhelm the 15% chance of success by adding the additional troops? 60% in my view.

    It comes down to the numbers, JDC. It always does. Continual losses will bring utter failure.

  139. How can it get any worse? Over half a million Iraqi citizens have died since we showed up. That tells me either that we’re directly responsible for those deaths, or, if not, then we’re completely incapable of reducing the death toll in any meaningful way.

    What could “worse” possibly look like?

  140. Dan, you’re numbers don’t make any sense to me and I have no idea where you are getting them. The same is true of my numbers, to be honest, so I don’t have much of a leg to stand on. My point was that, as bad as things are, they will almost certainly get worse when we leave. So, I think, continued presence would be helpful. You seem to be arguing that things are going to be equally bad if we stay or if we don’t, so why stay? Am I capturing your thoughts correctly?

    Mark N., a couple million killed in the couple of months after an immediate pull out? I’m just pulling that out of the air, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me (especially if the half-million number of those killed already is accurate).

  141. I stumbled into a new ward in January 2003, and it seemed like all anyone wanted to talk about was the war. I felt so unwelcome (and that the ward wasn’t meeting my spiritual needs) that it took me almost a year to start coming regularly.

    Ah, one of those wards. I feel for you. Mine was similar during that time, though thankfully we moved a year later. I remember an EQ president telling us joyfully that the war in Iraq was only good for us, and we would be baptizing in Baghdad by 2005.

  142. JDC,

    You seem to be arguing that things are going to be equally bad if we stay or if we don’t, so why stay? Am I capturing your thoughts correctly?

    That’s what I’m saying essentially. The problem with US forces in Iraq is that they are on the one hand holding back the tide while on the other hand exacerbating the problem through their tactics and their very presence. On my blog I’ve linked to two videos from Youtube showing examples of things soldiers have done, small and simple things, that completely undermine our efforts and give America a vile name. In one video, American soldiers are taunting Iraqi children who are running after their Humvee. The American soldiers are waving a bottle of water, clean water Iraqi children would not otherwise have. They taunt these children for a full minute, until only one child is left running behind them. They finally throw the bottle to him, but alas, other people on the side of the road get the bottle and the child that had run several blocks got nothing. In the other video, an American military humvee recklessly plows through traffic, shoving Iraqi cars and even buses aside. Now, it’s understandable, from a security standpoint that it is not wise for an American military humvee to be at a standstill in traffic, but think about the anger added towards Americans by that very simple act. Finally, I cannot tell you how many times on the evening news I saw Americans knock down Iraqi doors, rather than knock ON Iraqi doors to enter. That small and simple act, the small and simple difference, means so much in a country and culture as you have in Iraq. To smash into someone’s home and take the father, humiliate him in front of his family….boy, do Americans realize what they do every single time they do this? Are Americans really that surprised when they get an IED planted on the side of the road?

    American forces exacerbate the problem by just being there. And by the fact that there are such few troops when for the size of the country in question, at minimum 400,000 troops would be required, really, what’s the point? Having the troops there does not in any way increase the security for regular Iraqis.

    What a horrible horrible mess we’ve created there.

  143. oh when you go to my blog, you’ve gotta click on one of the two “And you wonder why Iraqis don’t like Americans” links. Then you can see the videos.

  144. Dan, this is my confusion.
    You say:

    The problem with US forces in Iraq is that they are on the one hand holding back the tide while on the other hand exacerbating the problem through their tactics and their very presence.

    I agree that the videos you cite are awful. I don’t know that I would agree that a large percentage of our soldiers are behaving thusly, but that’s not something I have the data to proof. Anyhoo, you agree that they are holding back the tide, but then you say

    Having the troops there does not in any way increase the security for regular Iraqis.

    What tide are they holding back exactly?

  145. For what it’s worth, the actual Lancet Journal’s “Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey” document (which estimates that “there have been 654,965 [392,979–942,636] excess Iraqi deaths as a consequence of the war”) can be found here.

  146. JDC,

    I say they are holding back the tide (here I agree with you that things could get worse without American soldiers there), but what I’m saying is that American soldiers in Iraq are not INCREASING security, i.e. making things better. If they don’t make things better, why do we use them? if they exacerbate the problem, rather than making it better, why do we use them? That’s what I’m saying.

  147. I don’t understand how they exacerbate the violence between Iraqis (which is the chief problem) by making people hate Americans (which obviously isn’t their chief goal). If nothing, if the Americans were the chief problem, then the Sunni and Shia would set aside their differences and equally attack the US to drive them out (as the Palestinians and Israelis did to the British during the mandate).

  148. As the wife of a military man and someone who
    has lost loved ones and dear friends in this
    horrible war, I think that getting out of Iraq is the only
    possible, rational solution.
    President Bush knows he made a mistake by
    even invading Iraq to begin with and if you make a
    mistake, you fix it, not think of other ways
    to bandage that mistake. Everyone seems to
    forget the innocent lives of our military men
    and women who are not asked to go to Iraq, but
    who are TOLD to go there, sometimes for 2 or 3 yeras
    at a time for a war that makes no sense
    and has done no good! Their innocent lives
    are lost for no good reason. The waste disgusts
    me. If Bush was any kind of a president who realizes
    that his choice to send us to war was wrong,
    he should fix it by refusing to send more of our good
    men and women to war to die, and stop leaving
    children fatherless and women widows. I am sick of it
    And I care not what anyone else says, it is
    not a war that is good or that the Lord approves of.
    And anyone else who says so should be questioned
    on their authority to speak for the Lord.
    Unless the Prophet himself says so, it is not
    from God. Yes the men and women in the military
    signed up for military service, but that doesn’t mean
    that they signed up to die in a useless war that
    means nothing and has no end in sight
    ..what a waste.

  149. JDC,

    I didn’t say they exacerbated the violence between Iraqis. If we’re going to get into the details, here is where Americans do the wrong things.

    The main focus of the American military has been Sunni strongholds, both in Baghdad and in Anbar. In both areas, they’ve made problems worse by the various things we have seen and heard in the news, whether you get the killing of civilians in Haditha, or Abu Ghraib, or the smaller and simpler things like knocking down doors rather than knocking on doors. This pushes the Sunnis further away from a political resolution (the only way to quell their violence at this point), because Sunnis see Americans hitting them, Shi’ites exacting revenge, and Kurds shoving them away from oil-rich lands in the north. What actions are Americans taking in bringing Sunnis in? Does not military offensives into Sunni strongholds completely counter any attempt to lure Sunnis into the political sphere?

    Meanwhile, Al-Qaida (a small but violent presence in Iraq) sowed chaos even further by getting Shi’ites to attack Sunnis, by getting Shi’ites to trust their own militias more than the central government. It didn’t help that our security was so weak because we had such few troops from the beginning. It didn’t help that we disbanded the professional Iraqi army right from the start, and effectively put on the street hundreds of thousands of professionally trained killers. Neither Shi’ites nor Sunnis have any incentive to align themselves fully with a central body, a central unifying force called “Iraq.” Why should they? They’ll participate, but only to take advantage of the military training they will receive from the Americans.

    I’ve wracked my brain enough on this subject. You know my views. This is a humiliating experience for Americans, but Americans are still in denial. Americans are not used to defeat and have a hard time accepting that they’ve failed. They think their indefatigable optimism will be enough. If only….there’s a chance, if only….

    Clear-headed foreign policy seems to be a relic of the 20th century.

  150. “I think that if we had a series of spectacular victories over the course of the next six months then this won’t be an issue.”

    1. What would be an example of a potential “spectacular victory”?

    2. How will we know if we have “won” this war?


    Some thought experiments, that make me wonder whether it would really be irresponsible to leave.

    In retrospect, was it not wrong for Great Britain to abandon the Colonies in the late 1700s, just because the people or Parliament lost the “political will” to stay, in light of the expense and the deaths of British soldiers at the hands of colonial terrorists? (Ronan, please correct me if I have my history incorrect as to why the British decided to “cut and run.”) Could not a good case be made that if Great Britain had stayed, slavery would have ended sooner, and the bloodbath of the U.S. Civil War/War Between the States would have been avoided?


    Was it irresponsible for Great Britain, France, Canada, and other members of a willing coalition to refrain from invading this continent in the mid- 1800s to prevent or stop the bloodshed of our Civil War? Was it not immoral for them to refrain from invading to end the human rights travesty of slavery?

    Or suppose they had invaded, and declared that slavery was outlawed. To enforce the decree, the “willing coalition” established a new constitution (because the old one was too pro-slavery), held an election under the new structure, and they determined that northern state anti-slavery advocates won under a “free and fair election.”

    Suppose that whites in the southern states revolted, and a civil war began between white pro-slavery residents of the south and white anti-slavery residents of the north–perhaps even becoming a race war.

    Could it not be said that it was the invasion of the “willing coalition” countries that brought about that civil war, that the coaltion “broke it” and must therefore “fix it”, and that it would be irresponsible to leave the country, because then the war between the north and south would escalate.

    But I do not know how the willing coalition in that case would know when it had “won” in America, or how long they should stay. Until the equivalent of Appomattix? Through Reconstruction, to put down the Ku Klux Klan terrorists? Through the equivalent of the 1960s Civil Rights Acts?

  151. “we would be baptizing in Baghdad by 2005”

    A significant number of Latter-day Saints told me that the reason for the invasion was to spread the gospel into the middle east. Really. I kid you not. Just like that was the reason for World War II, to spread the gospel to Japan (it was already present in Germany).

  152. Yes I have heard this from almost every LDS member in my ward and from many LDS military members who need some kind of a clear cut reason for risking their lives in the first place. You can bet that is what my widow friend is holding onto to give her peace that her 30 year old husband was killed in the Mess Hall bombing. For her it was so that the Iraqis could join the church. Ugh.

  153. From a recent column by the late kick-ass Texan Molly Ivin, may she rest in peace:

    This war is being prosecuted in our names, with our money, with our blood, against our will. Polls consistently show that less than 30 percent of the people want to maintain current troop levels. It is obscene and wrong for the president to go against the people in this fashion. And it’s doubly wrong for him to send 20,0000 more soldiers into this hellhole, as he reportedly will announce next week.

    What happened to the nation that never tortured? The nation that wasn’t supposed to start wars of choice? The nation that respected human rights and life? A nation that from the beginning was against tyranny? Where have we gone? How did we let these people take us there? How did we let them fool us?

    I have always thought that the war was a stupid mistake. I have also always thought that we have made a horrible mess over there, and that we should clean it up. But it’s starting to look like we can’t.

  154. First point, I don’t like George W. Bush. Really. See here.

    Second, Stephanie, crap. I don’t know what to say. I sincerely hope that your husband makes it home safely. I know that getting out of the armed forces right now is difficult. Good luck and God bless.

    Third, my point is that, although I don’t think that we should have ever gone into Iraq and although I think that the current administration has made one bone-headed decision after another, we are there and we have, through a series of bone-headed decisions, placed ourselves in a position where, should we leave, genocidal civil war will almost certainly break out and (arguably) our being there is the only thing that is currently keeping it at the level of mere civil war. Abandoning Iraq to what almost everyone believes to be a much worse fate is not an option that I find morally justifiable.

    Fourth, DavidH, you realize that this is a false comparison, right? Great Britain didn’t invade the 13 colonies, topple their leader (oppresive or otherwise), and then decide to let the North and South kill each other in the aftermath (outside of the fact that the North and South weren’t at each other’s throats at the time of the Revolution in any case). Please be reasonable.

    Finally, we get it. People in the church made some awfully stupid statements. Let’s just move along, okay?

  155. Geez, why don’t we just turn the government over to you so that you can run things. That’s exactly what we need: Someone in charge who holds those over whom he rules in utter contempt. Class act, you are.

  156. It’s a model that worked for thousands of years DKL. Still works today, you might say.

  157. Someone in charge who holds those over whom he rules in utter contempt.

    Sounds like Bush alright.

  158. Seth R: It’s a model that worked for thousands of years DKL. Still works today, you might say.


  159. The Iraqi people are not better off for our having been there. While living under a brutal dictator is not an ideal life (or, arguably, a very good life), it is probably preferable to living at the heart of a civil war. If we were to leave, the aggression that is currently being directed at our troops would be turned inward.

    The assumption here is that the aggression towards US forces exists anyway, and is not caused by the US. That we are just standing in the path of pre-existing agression that is going to be out there, whether Americans are in Iraq or not.

    I don’t think that is a fair assumption. It might have been in the early days of the war, but now it is not. Our US forces nowadays are pretty paranoid and act defensively, with good reason due to being so often attacked by suicide bombers, IEDs and those wearing Iraqi defense force uniforms.

    I think the Iraqi in the street sees Americans as invaders and dictators, who have no respect for Iraqis as people and wield brute force in a bullying sort of way.

    My brother is currently serving in Iraq, and part of the personal hell he will endure the rest of his life (even if he comes back physically sound) is knowing that he has killed a lot of innocent Iraqis. He does not give anyone the benefit of the doubt anymore; if they start to take a step out of line, they are guilty until proven innocent and if there is no other choice, he kills them if they seem to pose any threat to his men.

    My brother is not some aberration or substandard soldier who needs more training. He is an experienced noncom and one of the finest soldiers you could find. When he served on active duty, he was assigned to some of the elite airborne units, and served with distinction in various hot spots around the world. He tried to learn Iraqi before he left (his previous deployment involved Afghans, and they speak Persian whereas the Iraqi speak a form of Arabic, or perhaps I have it vice versa). He reads military strategy and history journals, and opposed the invasion of Iraq right from the beginning. (I couldn’t stop laughing and crying to hear a recent interview with Pres. Bush about how he is reading a book about the French experience in Algiers….a lot of us read that book in 2003; why didn’t he or his advisors read it then!?)

    But for all my brother’s past experience, he has never had an assignment that is so emotionally exhausting, where he was shot at everyday, from snipers and civilians and the police with whom he is supposed to be working. And so his reaction is to be more harsh and trigger happy than in previous assignments. It creates a vicious circle.

    I know how I would feel if someone invaded my town and shot my uncle and declared that the state legislature had to have a certain number of people of different types in a manner that is against my culture. I would do everything I can to fight against them. So I have a certain amount of symptathy for the Iraqi mom on the street.

    But my brother’s unit is a reserve unit and he knows the wives and families of his men, and he is going to protect them all he can. That’s where his loyalty lies.

  160. Lessons (for Iraq)?:

    1. we misjudge[d] the geopolitical intentions of our adversaries and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of thier actions

    2. We viewed the people and leaders…in terms of our own experience. We saw in them a thrist for-and a determination to fight for-freedom and democracy. We totally misjudged the political forces within the country.

    3. We underestimated the power of Nationalism to motivate a people to fight and die for thier beliefs and values

    4. Our misjudgement of friend and foe alike reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area…

    5. We failed to recognize the limitations of modern, high-technology military equipment, forces and doctrine in confronting unventional, highly motivated … movements. We failed as well to adapt our military tactics to the task of winning the hears and minds of people from a totally different culture

    6. we failed to draw…the American people into a full and frank discussion and debate of the pros and cons of a large-scale U.S. military involvement…before we initiated action

    7. After action got underway and unaticiapted events forced us off our planned course, we failed to retain popular support in part because we did not fully explain what was happening and why we were doing what we did. We had not prepared the public to understand the complex events we faced….

    8. We did not recgonize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient… We do not have a God-given right to shape every nation in our own image or as we choose

    9. We did not hold to the principle that US military action – other than in response to direct threats to our own security – should be carried out only in conjunction with multinational forces supported fully (an not merely cosmetically) by teh internation community

    10. We failed to recognize that in international affirs, as in other aspects of life, ther may be problems for which there are no immediate solutions

    these where our major failures, in their essence. though set forth seperately, they are all in some way linked: Failure in one are contributed to or compounded failure in another. Each became a turn in a terrible knot..


    Sound familiar?

    This was written by Robert McNamara, secretary of defense for Kennedy and Johnson during the Vietnam War, reflecting on that War. taken from in his book on the subject “In Retrospect” The book was published in 1995.

    Scary! History is doomed to repeat itself….

  161. Re: Iran,
    I think we need to look closely t the situation before we make any decisions here. We can say whatever we want to about diplomacy vs. military action, but if we don’t know whether they are instigating violence in Iraq, we’re really setting ourselves up. If they are, then I belive them when they say they could stop it. Certainly, just tell the guys you are having kill people to stop killing people. Good way to make yourself look great and make the US look like abunch of chumps. I don’t, of course, know that they are setting us up in this way. I don’t think we’ll find that out for a while in any reliable fashion. In the mean time, I think taking Iran at its word is a BIG risk.
    Re: Giving the sunnis a reason to participate in governance.
    It seems like the solutions being offered are quite unimaginative. Why not tie oil revenues to percentage representation in the Iraqi legislature? Divide the country into territories along logical lines, but give room for politcal maneuvering as parties manifest themselves. This would not only provide some sort of framework in which regional and ethnic tensions could work themselves out, but would provide the basis for something like political parties that could provide stability and robust debate in public life within the context of Iraq’s diversity. The problem is that the principle players aren’t going to be ken on giving up any of the revenues, and will want disproportion in their favor at the very least.

  162. JDC,

    The Washington Post had a very relevant article just in this morning’s paper that really highlighted my point:

    The success of the Bush administration’s new Iraq strategy depends on a series of rapid and dramatic political and economic reforms that even the plan’s authors have little confidence will work.

    In the current go-for-broke atmosphere, administration officials say they are aware that failure to achieve the reforms would result in a repeat of last year’s unsuccessful Baghdad offensive, when efforts to consolidate military gains with lasting stability on the ground did not work. This time, they acknowledge, there will be no second chance.

    Well I’m glad that even the authors of this doomed plan see some reality in their plan. Too bad they are not as forthcoming with the American public. I wonder why…….

  163. I’m just glad that all those people who have been gleefully awaiting a chance to bemoan America’s failure have finally found something they can stick their teeth into. After so many terribly clean military victories, I was beginning to think that they’d never again be able to exploit the ambiguity of history to push their anti-American agenda.

  164. DKL,

    anti-American? Wouldn’t your very comments be considered anti-American? After all, you’re criticizing Americans….

  165. cj douglass says: