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March 16, 2008

It's Not the Execution
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

The NY Times has its five year retrospective on the Iraq War and I gotta say I'm not impressed.  There are nine pieces: Bremer, Perle, Slaughter, Pollack, Pletka, Fick, Eaton, Kagan, and Cordesman.  I understand the need to bring in more conservatives for this piece, since they are the ones responsible for the execution.  But out of the nine pieces not one talks about the strategic failure of going in in the first place.

Almost 4,000 American troops have died, approximately 30,000 have been wounded, we've appropriated more than $500 billion with the costs to the actual economy estimated to be well over $1 trillion and possibly heading towards $3 trillion.  For all of this we have gotten a more powerful Al Qaeda, a more powerful Iran, a more unstable Middle East, and an overstretched military.

But all of these pieces talk about the failure of execution and foist blame at various directions as if this could have all worked out if we had just done some things differently. 
Let's face it, the failure was in the initial concept and the fact that the Times feels like it needs to give both Pletka and Kagan a spot, and can't find us a Korb, Graham, or Bacevich to make the strategic failure argument is pathetic.

And for God's sake.  With 9 Pieces about Iraq, perhaps the Times should have had at least one piece by ummm.... perhaps an Iraqi?  But after all who cares what they think.  Fred Kagan and Danielle Pletka tell it like it is.

On the bright side.  No Mike O'Hanlon.


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I understand that in the world of foreign policy grownups, and even more in the world of foreign policy wannabe grownups, it is considered terribly naïve to consider the consequences of national actions for anything or anyone in the world, except insofar as they affect the “national interest”, or can be classified as a “strategic success” or “strategic failure.”

But the greatest humanitarian catastrophe in the world today is Iraq. Not Darfur. Iraq. There have been more people killed due to violence in Iraq than Darfur; there are more internal and external refugees from the war in Iraq than from the war in Darfur; and the level of economic devastation in Iraq is far deeper and far more widespread.

Yet there is no end of liberal humanitarian hand wringing over Darfur, while discussion after discussion of Iraq focuses entirely on the 4000+ American dead, the impact of the war on our oil prices, and the costs of the war for us. It’s perverse. The moral double standards and cowardice on display here are breathtaking. Maybe an atrocity is only truly atrocious if it is perpetrated by some swarthy Arabs or Africans?

The New York Times proves once again the systematic exclusion of the left from our national discourse. It recruits nine people to comment on the war, and while it has no problem printing the ruminations of right wingers like Pletka, Perle and Kagan, the critique from the left is invisible. Is it so much to ask that there could be at least one representative of the left? Who do we get instead? The furthest left the Times is willing to go is with centrist Democrats like Slaughter and Fick. I really am not asking for much. Just one left-winger - Please.

I have a lot of despair about this country. Our national discourse is as circumscribed and orthodoxy-bound as thirteenth century Europe. How did an allegedly free people develop such a profound fear of ideas and debate, and build such an impenetrable barrier of moral obtuseness?

It appears there will be no Iraq “lessons”. We seem doomed to make the same mistakes, and spread the same kinds of human misery that have marked the insane Iraq adventure , over and over.

As is his wont, Dan says it best. I wonder why the NYT didn't print Chomsky.

McClatchy has a report from a Georgetown University task force which summarizes the Iraq War's toll.

And don't forget Afghanistan, where there is a similar humanitarian crisis after six years of undeclared war. "Food shortages in Ajristan District of Ghazni Province, central Afghanistan, have forced some families to eat dried grass in order to survive." SecDef Gates said recently that the situation requires not more food but more troops: “some allies willing to fight and die to protect people’s security, and others who are not.” Easy for him to say.

And Somalia, where there is another humanitarian crisis exacerbated by another undeclared US war.

Ilan: perhaps the Times should have had at least one piece by ummm.... perhaps an Iraqi?

It's easy to overlook this passing remark, but actually it is central to the situation of the US in the world today.

American Exceptionalism, as explained by Bush: "The advance of freedom is the calling of our time; it is the calling of our country." The US wants to change parts of the world, to incorporate it in the American Empire. They really want to control the world. The US government wants other countries to change their customs, their government and their economies for forms aligned with US norms, which not incidentally would give the rich and powerful in the US control over them.

Purportedly we have an idea of what the good life is, and what they need to do to get it, so the US, through the World Bank, trade treaties, military sales and training, invasions, and other means, forces ideas upon other countries, while control of their societies passes to the US.

Central to this transformation is that all the goals and processes are retained in US hands, lest control be lost. The US can't allow the recipients to have any control because control is zero sum -- it they get it the US loses it.

Also key to this process is that all reportage on its success (or "success") is the purview of the change agent, the US. That's what Ilan was saying. "But after all who cares what they think."

I would add a plea for a representative of the anti-war Right. Cato could supply someone suitably credentialed.

Speaking of think tanks, has anyone else noticed that three of the nine represent the American Enterprise Institute?

Strategies shifted, of course, so your agument is completely pre-surge.

Maybe NYT sould have included Jules Crittenden:

"Iraq has become the central battlefield in the 21st century's Islamic war, and may have been destined to be, with or without us...

Saddam Hussein convinced the world he had active weapons programs. The evidence now suggests he didn't, but how active his programs were, ultimately, is irrelevant. He had demonstrated his desire to dominate the region....

Five years on, the threat Saddam Hussein posed to regional stability--global stability, if you consider the resources he sought to control--has been neutralized. The toll in American and Iraqi lives to date may well have averted a far worse toll, though we can yet get the full accounting if we withdraw precipitously....

All wars go through evolutions, and it is unrealistic to expect no missteps. In this case, however, they are cited most frequently not as arguments to improve the war effort, but as excuses for abandonment. The Bush administration has made good at last with a counterinsurgency strategy that has hobbled Al Qaeda in Iraq and has the Shiite militias in a box. Iraqi military capabilities are improving, and the next president appears likely to inherit a somewhat pacified, reconciled Iraq; an enhanced American position of influence in the Middle East; opposing terrorist organizations that are sharply compromised; and a string of nascent democracies. At considerable cost of American blood and treasure, the United States is now in a position of marked if precarious influence in the most dangerous part of the world. The new president will have to consider how much of that he or she wants to throw away or build upon."

The truth, of course, is that we're winning in Iraq, and while considerable debate over the strength of al Qaeda or other anti-democratic groups will continue, the fact remains that we can simply either recognize the phenomenal progress we've made - and commit American resources and will to seeing the job through - or we can succumb to a cost-sensitivity that will set back American foreign interests more disastrously than at any time since Vietnam - an earlier, regrettable retreat from war that left the world's correlation of forces dangerously advantageous to the evil designs of Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism.

We cannot afford to do the same today.

Crittenden's right: Iraq is now the world's ground zero in the battle against 21st century Islamic war. There's no retreat from the struggle, no matter the political dynamics at home. Our enemies won't rest until they've achieved their goal of the complete and utter destruction of the United States, by any means necessary.

That's a lesson that can never be forgotten this campaign season.

americanneocon completely misses the point:

"Our enemies won't rest until they've achieved their goal of the complete and utter destruction of the United States, by any means necessary."

Back in 2004, Bin Laden explained how his meager forces would challenge the US:

4 years ago he explained his plan, and the US *still* fell for it, and is still falling for it.

And Crittenden, and Bush, and Americanneocon still haven't bothered to see that they are following Bin Laden's plan.

It sounds as though the NYT couldn't be bothered to have someone point this out either...

All of this idiot reporting totally fails in the analysis of the the facts. Sadr's (the Iraqi Nationalist) is Radical, Malika (an Iranian Shia puppet) is a BushCo installed P.M.. Cheney is begging the Sunni governments of the gulf to lend support to bolster the Iranian controlled Shia government of Iraq, while bad mouthing Iran about support for Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Meanwhile, Bush gives safe harbor to terrorist in both the North & South of Iraq, who destabilize Afghanistan, Turkey, & Iran. Now, where's my $160K job in the State Department?

Maybe NYT sould have included Jules Crittenden:

Or maybe not. That Frummagem Minor is paid to write for a newspaper says all you need to know about the state of the American media. Are you related, perchance, Amneocon? It seems to be a requirement these days.

Well, they did get oil from $30.00BBL to $110 and climbing....certainly Exxon-Mobil appreciates the efforts of this administration's nation de-building in the ME. Exxon-Mobil ought to be good for at least $100MM towards the Bush Library

Remember, they did the same thing with Vietnam. It was all about the failed execution (primarily due to the evil antiwar movement at home). Even when the vast majority of the American people turned against the war, it was outside the bounds of respectable discourse to question the justification for our having gone in there in the first place. Decades of propaganda have succeded in wiping out any consideration of what right we had to kill two million innocent civilians. Now, they are going to use the same tactics with Iraq. And, if we remain silent, they will succeed again.

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