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Cutting and Running & Another victory without spoils
August 11, 2005 11:41 AM   Subscribe

If I were a journalist, I would list all the arguments that you hear against pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, the horrible things that people say would happen, and then ask: Aren’t they happening already? Would a pullout really make things worse? Maybe it would make things better... The wisest course for journalists might be to begin sustained investigations of why leading Democrats have failed so miserably to challenge the US occupation of Iraq. The first step, of course, is to establish as conventional wisdom the fact that the war was never in the US interest and has not become so. It is such an obvious case to make that I find it difficult to believe many pundits and political leaders have not already made it repeatedly.   Lieutenant General William E. Odom : What’s Wrong With Cutting and Running ? See also Early Pullout Unlikely In Iraq & Myers: Possibility of third Iraq tours for active-duty troops 'always out there'...
posted by y2karl (45 comments total)

 
& last but not least--it was all about mushroom clouds, after all--A victory without spoils. After all, the precedent has been set...
posted by y2karl at 11:41 AM on August 11, 2005


Wait -- the wisest course of action would be to figure out why Democrats have failed to challenge the US Occupation of Iraq? I think it's more productive to figure out why Republicans failed to stop it from happening.

Yes, the main reason is that they supported the invasion --that's what I'm saying. It's more important to get to the bottom of why we did it, not why Democrats couldn't stop it or challenge it.
posted by illovich at 12:22 PM on August 11, 2005


It is such an obvious case to make that I find it difficult to believe many pundits and political leaders have not already made it repeatedly.

Maybe it's obvious to this guy, but has he travelled to the midwest and south lately? I was in Ohio a month ago and in North Carolina back in May and as far as I can tell from listening to people there, Osama Bin Laden might as well be in Iraq. It sounds like political death to try to make the case that we should pull out. Although the poll numbers show about 57% disapproval for the war, so maybe I'm missing something.
posted by spicynuts at 12:29 PM on August 11, 2005


Illovich: The main reason they supported it? Well lessee, from a convenient military campaign issue foisted upon a public already in a bellicose mood, to taking out Saddam Hussein, rightly seen as a thorn in the side of US interests and a convenient target, to an opportunity to expand military contracts (thus bringing more jobs to districts that favor military employment), to the rather obvious explanation that more than a few of them truly believe their rhetoric about WMDs and spreading democracy.
posted by klangklangston at 12:31 PM on August 11, 2005


The wisest course for journalists might be to begin sustained investigations of why leading Democrats have failed so miserably to challenge the US occupation of Iraq.

Maybe they failed because—though they'd never admit it if their life depended on it—many of them, too, believed that Saddam was a dangerous entity who, for too long, had posed a threat to the MidEast and to us, and that seeding democracy in the MidEast would yield less terrorists in the future? Or maybe because they didn't have any bright ideas of their own? Monday-morning quarterback posturing will never go out of fashion.

[img src="deadhorse.jpg"]
posted by dhoyt at 12:32 PM on August 11, 2005


...Saddam was a dangerous entity who, for too long, had posed a threat to the MidEast and to us, and that seeding democracy in the MidEast would yield less terrorists in the future...

Monday-morning quarterback posturing will never go out of fashion.

And I see dhoyt is wearing a lovely Versace this evening.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:38 PM on August 11, 2005


Right. Blaming the Democrats for not successfully challenging the war in Iraq is like blaming the cat you had neutered six years ago for allowing the dog to have another litter of puppies.
posted by FYKshun at 12:50 PM on August 11, 2005


dhoyt,

no, you mean thousandsandthousandsofdeadhumans.jpg
posted by hackly_fracture at 12:52 PM on August 11, 2005


r maybe because they didn't have any bright ideas of their own?
If invading Iraq is a birght idea, I dread to see the stupid idea.
posted by nofundy at 12:56 PM on August 11, 2005


Maybe it's obvious to this guy, but has he travelled to the midwest and south lately?

Thank you! Finally someone can come to grips to what the rest of the country sees. I find the mentality of the coasts is just so different that they fail to see the Republicans very successful strategy and its genius and in failing to see this cannot counter attack effectively.

Many of you will counter with saying that treating us in the Midwest/South differently is condescending, but no its not. The cultures are very different (sans the urban areas of major metropolitans) and very isolated. I've tried to do some research for my own satisfaction on the homogeneous societies and how it affects foreign policy. Most of the rest of the country is very segregated. There's nowhere near the diversity seen in NYC and LA, and I'm not just talking about racial diversity but cultural diversity. There are some basic cultural differences that are causing the "us vs them" we're seeing today, and once I get enough quality links I'll make a post about it.
posted by geoff. at 12:57 PM on August 11, 2005


Saddam a threat? Then lets go fight a war in Iraq! Should be a cakewalk over a puny 3rd world country with no air force. Three weeks tops. Then, once Saddam is deposed, the people will throw flowers at our feet and democracy will spread like honey on toast across the middle east.
posted by telstar at 12:57 PM on August 11, 2005


Here are some of the arguments against pulling out:
  1. We would leave behind a civil war.
  2. We would lose lost credibility on the world stage.
  3. It would embolden the insurgency and cripples the move toward democracy.
  4. Iraq would become is a haven for terrorists.
  5. Shiite-Sunni clashes would worsen.
posted by NewBornHippy at 12:57 PM on August 11, 2005


Colin Powell already described it as Pottery Barn rules. You break it, you own it. Do we leave before it's fixed?
posted by stevefromsparks at 12:59 PM on August 11, 2005


Maybe the Democrats are enjoying the cluster-fuck too much to do anything about it. The hellhole in Iraq makes Bush & Co. look bad, right? It worsens public opinion of the President and his party. That helps the Dems out, doesn't it? So why does anyone expect them to do anything about it this far from the next election?
posted by caution live frogs at 1:04 PM on August 11, 2005


The argument that post-pullout, things might actually be better, is exactly the same as what opponents were saying about Vietnam during the 1960s. In fact, the Kennedy administration announced intentions to withdraw in October 1963, see transcript here (bottom of page). Substitute Iraq for Vietnam, etc., and it's the script for announcing an Iraq withdrawal timetable. Especially: "Major U.S. assistance in support of this military effort is needed only until the insurgency has been suppressed or until the national security forces of the Government of South Viet-Nam are capable of suppressing it."

Except that, in the case of Vietnam, Kennedy was assassinated and Johnson decided to look for some kind of victory. Quoth LBJ: “I am not going to lose Vietnam. I am not going to be the President who saw Southeast Asia go the way China went.”

More on planned withdrawal from Vietnam here.
posted by beagle at 1:11 PM on August 11, 2005


Sorry, corrected first link in my comment above.
posted by beagle at 1:14 PM on August 11, 2005


An anarchic Iraq is a threat to Kuwait, Israel, and our regional interests. Forget the Iraqi oil; assume we never see a drop of it. The region's stability is based upon a handful of leaders who, in Democratic standards, wouldn't stand a chance in hell of being elected. Our presence is important because it ensures a modicum of regional peace. Yes, Iraq is still a mess. Yes, we are making a lot of mistakes (due to bad government policies, greed, corruption, etc.) but a Vietnam exit in such a volatile and important region of the world is impossible.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 1:15 PM on August 11, 2005


The reason why elected Demcorats can stay in the middle on this is because Republicans will use any move against the war to hurt them, whereas left-wing Democrats won't punish them for not doing so.

Left-wing Democrats opposed the war in 2002 as much as they oppose it now, yet they played along in the nomination of war-supporters Kerry and Edwards and worked hard to elect them in November, just like they opposed many of Bill Clinton's centrist initiatives and they still ended up backing him to the hilt.

If you're Hillary Clinton or Mark Warner or some other 2008 aspirant, the correct strategic course is obvious.
posted by MattD at 1:18 PM on August 11, 2005


Our presence is important because it ensures a modicum of regional peace.

"Presence" is such a nice euphemism. Do you mean occupation? Police patrolling? Strategic airbases?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:23 PM on August 11, 2005


As for the dems in 2002, it was simple game-theory.

The decision matrix had 2 rows: support vote to authorize giving carte blanche to Pres or oppose and two columns of outcomes: success or failure

(note that the dems did get language inserted into the authorization requiring the pres to (upon going to war) formally assert some things that if untrue would be impeachable, but fat chance of that happening while the Repubs control congress)

Anyhoo, looking at the expected payoffs of the 4 contingencies (success being defined as either sufficient WMDs being found or successful installation of a puppet government, we all know what the failure case looks like I assume):

Support Action, Success: 3
Support Action, Failure: 0
Oppose Action, Success: -5
Oppose Action, Failure: 1

simple game theory says going with the "Support Action" row. As the events went down, opposing the war would have earned you a cookie, but BFD really.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:38 PM on August 11, 2005


Why didn't the democrats challenge the invasion and occupation? Because they think that they are in on it; the wink wink nudge nudge about why the US really has to control the middle east. Its the same with the Republicans. And the regular Amercans to.
Its about Identity. People identify more with being an American than they do with their party.
Its about Rationalization. America was doing something shady so people found secret rationalizatoins for why it was happening. Pure human nature: its easier to decide that you secretly agree with what your 'identity' is doing than admitting you have no control over it.
Because the bottom line is that politicians and political parties don't have control. Sociopaths in the second-tier of the military do what they want and the politicians are left to rationalize it.
To simplify: the Military is rogue nation inside our democracy. Outside it really, since its decisions are made years in advance of any political debate. They have lots of objectives, but the ultimate goal is just glory in battle and domination. Human nature.
posted by Osmanthus at 1:40 PM on August 11, 2005


If Saddam Hussein was a threat to the Mideast, how come none of the countries in the Mideast participated militarily in the invasion? Bahrain, Egypt, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates supplied combat troops and fought against Iraq in the Gulf War. None of them sent combat troops to invade Iraq in 2003 (some of them provided bases).

caution live frogs: The Republicans control Congress and the Executive Branch. The Democrats, to their shame, went along with the invasion and have gone along with the Republicans on most aspects of the war. What exactly do you propose they do?

Colin Powell already described it as Pottery Barn rules. You break it, you own it.

Pottery Barn's statement that "this is certainly not our policy" was one of my two favorite corporate statements of 2004; the other one was Polaroid's statement that you should not, in fact, "shake it like a Polaroid picture."

posted by kirkaracha at 1:41 PM on August 11, 2005


Thank you! Finally someone can come to grips to what the rest of the country sees. I find the mentality of the coasts is just so different that they fail to see the Republicans very successful strategy and its genius and in failing to see this cannot counter attack effectively.

Well, I live in the middle of Iowa, and I don't know any vocal war supporters.

I don't surround myself with idiots, either.
posted by delmoi at 1:41 PM on August 11, 2005


Colin Powell already described it as Pottery Barn rules. You break it, you own it. Do we leave before it's fixed?

If you walked into a pottery barn and smashed everything in the store, "buying it" would be the least of your worries.

In any event, the Earth is not a giant pottery barn, so this point isn't eactly relevant?
posted by delmoi at 1:45 PM on August 11, 2005


Well, I live in the middle of Iowa, and I don't know any vocal war supporters.


Do you know any vocal objectors? That's not a snide question..it's out of genuine curiosity.
posted by spicynuts at 1:49 PM on August 11, 2005


The argument of "It can't get any worse, so we should pull out" is a foolish argument. History has shown repeatedly that absolutely can get worse. Somalia, Beirut, Vietnam, Afghanistan (that one's a bit ironic, because the US helped make that one worse), and so on. Power vacuums are hell to normal everyday people.
Rather than address General Odom's points one by one (I think he's mistaken in several of them).

- We would leave behind a civil war.
I agree this is likely. So which side do you support? Which side has the values in closer alignment to that of secularized liberal societies? And how do you help that side perservere?

- It would embolden the insurgency and cripples the move toward democracy.
Here I respectfully disagree with General Odom.
There is no question the insurgents and other anti-American parties will take over the government once we leave. But that will happen no matter how long we stay
I don't care if the Iraqi government is anti-American or not. What matters is what kind of government it is. Is it a government that relies on a constitution that was openly debated and inclusive? Or will it be a brutal authoritarian regime, with sham (if any) elections?

4) Iraq would become is a haven for terrorists.
On this point, not only do I disagreee, but I'm not even sure I can do it disrespectfully. I do agree it's a haven for terrorists now. But I don't see how pulling out will change that. In fact history seems to indicate that pulling out will create a larger, more emboldened terrrorist haven.

5) Iranian influence. There's a strong hispanic influence in our government of late. Maybe it's because hispanics are the largest minority? This is a non-issue for staying or going in my mind.

I don't have time to hit his other points (I think I heard a collective sigh of relief coming from my computer) ... but I do want to also mention that his estimation of the Iraqi Security Forces is dated. The information I'm reading seems to indicate that they are starting to improve and affirmatively support their government. A first hand (not completely objective) account may soon appear on Jungle Law.

I think I may have been put off by the prejudicial undertone that seemed to say the Iraqis aren't capable of governing themselves.
posted by forforf at 2:00 PM on August 11, 2005


An anarchic Iraq is a threat to Kuwait, Israel, and our regional interests.

In what way? Serious question, mind you, not snark. I mean, there are no WMD, there are hardly any significant conventional invasion-scale (e.g., tanks, planes) weapons left, so what sort of threat could an anarchic Iraq possibly be toward its neighbors?
posted by schoolgirl report at 2:00 PM on August 11, 2005


My cousin's in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and comes from a long line of draft dodging America-haters.
posted by klangklangston at 2:04 PM on August 11, 2005


I'm afraid you might be right, Osmanthus.
posted by Balisong at 2:07 PM on August 11, 2005


The wisest course for journalists might be to begin sustained investigations of why leading Democrats have failed so miserably to challenge the US occupation of Iraq.

Why didn't the democrats challenge the invasion and occupation? Because they think that they are in on it; the wink wink nudge nudge about why the US really has to control the middle east.

I don't see how this would be constructive at all, and in fact, would split the Democratic party (as if it's not split already) in half. Why dwell on the past, as if it's going to solve any problems that we have over there now? It only serves to strengthen the right, and dilute the left's message.

The reason the Democrats didn't stand up and challenge the war is a simple one: they were worried about keeping their jobs. Hyper-Patriotism was in full swing, and the democrats didn't want to look soft for the '04 elections. It's the idea of the preputial campaign, always putting the political before the necessary, so you can continue to live on the Hill and keep your power ties. The sad part is, it's two years later and they're still fucking worried about keeping their jobs, just now, the idea of leaving Iraq seems more palatable than staying to about 55% of the country. They're not being honest about this war, on either side.

There are many reasons why pulling out of Iraq is a horrible idea, the least of which is appeasing Bin Laden. Bin Laden already has what he wants, which is international exposure and support. If we pull out, it just proves that the US doesn't have the stones to support it's rhetoric.

If we pulled out of Iraq, there will be an all-out civil war. The Kurds are already attempting to claim more territory in new Iraqi constitution, and would certainly attempt a land grab if the United States pulls out. The Sunni insurgents will never let this happen, and the Shiites aren't going to like it either, so you're going to have major conflict right there.

You've also got tens of thousands of angry, pissed off Saudi teens who have been Wahhabi'zed since birth, in Iraq right now. They're just itching to blow themselves up, and if we pull out, are just going to turn their aim to the nearest apostate who doesn't worship hard enough. It would be a Muslim civil war.

Iraq would become like what Afghanistan was like in the 90's, except with better access to Oil, more infrastructure, and no Russians.

And, for the record, I've been vehemently opposed to the war from the beginning, but I'm not idealistic enough to believe that everything would be A OK if we pulled out of Iraq...
posted by SweetJesus at 2:07 PM on August 11, 2005


I don't surround myself with idiots, either.

Yes, because people who disagree with you must be an idiot!
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 2:08 PM on August 11, 2005


in this case? Yes.
posted by stenseng at 2:29 PM on August 11, 2005


"I agree (a civil war) is likely. So which side do you support? Which side has the values in closer alignment to that of secularized liberal societies?"

Certainly not the Iran-leaning Shi'a leaders who are dominating Iraq's politics today. Want to know who? The educated Sunni upperclass, many of whom were former members of the Ba'ath Party... and, to a lesser extent, the Kurds. None of the parties in Iraq are particularly liberal, but the Sunni are secular and more educated.

"There is no question the insurgents and other anti-American parties will take over the government once we leave."

Yes there is. There are no popular insurgent leaders, period, so which of them do you think would control Iraq? Zarqawi, a foriegner? Not likely. As for whether other anti-American parties taking over, who are you talking about? SCIRI, an Iranian-trained paramilitary force and arguably the most powerful force in Iraqi politics... or someone more like Ahmed Chalabi?

"I do agree it's a haven for terrorists now. But I don't see how pulling out will change that."

Iraq is not a haven for terrorists, per se. It attracts foriegners who want to attack the Americans. If the U.S. weren't there, then the biggest reason for them to go there goes away. It will be a situation like Afghanistan, with foriegn terrorists going elsewhere, only without a unified Taleban to take over the governmen. Why? Because the resistance is not unified, with no domestic leaders.
posted by insomnia_lj at 2:29 PM on August 11, 2005


Further, I don't think Iraq will ever stabilize unless Iraqis are able to take ownership of their nation and collective destiny. Not that a stable Iraq was in any way what this little adventure was about.

(or rather, stable beyond a mile or two radius of the oilfields, military bases, and pipelines)
posted by stenseng at 2:30 PM on August 11, 2005


stenseng writes "Further, I don't think Iraq will ever stabilize unless Iraqis are able to take ownership of their nation and collective destiny."

Tell that to the Afghans.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 2:36 PM on August 11, 2005


In retrospect, the ba'athists were kinda like the folks running Iran prior to the revolution. Actually Saddam had internalized this and thus was kinda surprised we decided to take him out, since he assumed we knew the shit was going to hit the fan with him out of the picture.

The SAVAK and Mukhabarat were peas in a pod, though the Shah himself cultivated a more liberal image with his ski trips. Saddam shoulda taken up skiing.

The current situation is a crock, we're fighting to support the people we were fighting last year. How anybody could want this insanity to continue is beyond me, then again if the only news you want to hear from Iraq is how many schools have been repainted then I guess it's understandable for you to be a functional idiot on the subject.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:39 PM on August 11, 2005


I would, but I doubt they could hear me over the sound of the bombing, or the explosions and small arms fire from all the munitions we hooked 'em up with under Ronnie Raygun.
posted by stenseng at 2:40 PM on August 11, 2005


klangklangston & delmoi - Hasty Generalization While you may have knowledge of people in Iowa who don't blindly follow the call to war, they are anecdotal rather than emblematic.
posted by stevis at 2:44 PM on August 11, 2005


Bin Laden already has what he wants, which is international exposure and support. If we pull out, it just proves that the US doesn't have the stones to support it's rhetoric.

You're ignoring the fact that if we pulled out of Iraq, we might have the military power to actually pursue bin Laden. Our military power isn't doing shit right now except get itself blown up. It seems to me that the most important thing our military could do right now would be the capture/assassination of OBL. The real enemy is not in Iraq, nor can we ever eliminate it by fighting in Iraq. The message we send to the rest of the world by "staying the course" in Iraq is that we don't have the stones to go after the real target.

You've also got tens of thousands of angry, pissed off Saudi teens who have been Wahhabi'zed since birth, in Iraq right now. They're just itching to blow themselves up, and if we pull out, are just going to turn their aim to the nearest apostate who doesn't worship hard enough. It would be a Muslim civil war.

So we should leave our troops there... to serve as targets? Here, blow us up, so you don't have to blow yourselves up? I don't see how acting as sitting ducks does anyone any good.

an opportunity to expand military contracts (thus bringing more jobs to districts that favor military employment)

Oh, so that's what those fat military contracts are doing, providing jobs? And here I thought that they were just padding the wallets of Cheney and Friends. So I assume that means the economy is improving in the Heartland, right?

Yes, because people who disagree with you must be an idiot!

......
posted by salad spork at 4:58 PM on August 11, 2005


Many of you will counter with saying that treating us in the Midwest/South differently is condescending, but no its not.

Tell it to John Kerry.

Two favorite quotes from all the articles:

Look at John Kerry's utterly absurd position during the presidential campaign. He said “It’s the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time," but then went on to explain how he expected to win it anyway. Even the voter with no interest in foreign affairs was able to recognize it as an absurdity.

Hiroshima signaled a failure of humankind, not just that of America. The growth of technology has far outstripped our ability to use it wisely. Like a quarrelling group of monkeys on a leaky boat, armed with sticks of dynamite, we are now embarked on an uncertain journey.

Metafilter: Like a quarrelling group of monkeys on a leaky boat, armed with sticks of dynamite.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:09 PM on August 11, 2005


Nation building is so 1999.
posted by bardic at 5:22 PM on August 11, 2005


So we should leave our troops there... to serve as targets? Here, blow us up, so you don't have to blow yourselves up? I don't see how acting as sitting ducks does anyone any good.

Salad spork, noboidy is suggesting that they sit around with targets on their backs. But, I'd give a Marine in kevlar better odds than an Iraqi civilian.

The US and UK went into Iraq against the will of the majority of the planet's people. Theire armed forces killed thousands of people and further degraded Iraq's infrastructure -- a country already falling apart due to a dozen years of economic sanctions. We need to make it right.
posted by Cassford at 6:58 PM on August 11, 2005


So we should leave our troops there... to serve as targets? Here, blow us up, so you don't have to blow yourselves up? I don't see how acting as sitting ducks does anyone any good.

Because we don't live in a vacuum, and what happens in the middle east effects us in the United States. If Iraq were to descend in to a real civil war, without the support of the United States, wanted or not, the effect would be disastrous.

The oil would be the least of the problems, but forget about getting ANY oil out of Iraq for a while. For that matter, forget any oil from Kuwait, because all the infrastructure will be destroyed by the Jihadists, and quickly. Kuwait has no army, and relies on the support of the US. The Saudi's would be very worried, because there is now a theocracy located next door with thousands of angry ex-pats who think the Royal Family is worse that then infidels.

And you also have a state, with the oil money to fund it if they can get their shit together, that's stated goal is the destruction of the West. If they can get rogue nukes from the Chechens, who they have ideological ties with, than fuck, nothing can stop them. It may take a little while to get the science together, but they will attack Israel, and they will attack Europe with nuclear weapons.

If that happens, regardless of the consequences for the United States, it's fucking over. The world would descend (I think) into a collective economic depression that would have disastrous consequences.

If we can get Iraq into a position where is can take care of it's self, we're in a far better off position in the long term. The death of every solider is needless and abhorrent, and it sickens me that they've been put in that position through the actions of kakistocrats that are currently in charge. I don't care if it's a democracy, or if it turns out like Iran, but any government that is willing to communicate through international channels and use diplomacy, however little, is better than a country run by terrorists.

I'd rather have 10 Irans than that.
posted by SweetJesus at 8:30 PM on August 11, 2005


You're ignoring the fact that if we pulled out of Iraq, we might have the military power to actually pursue bin Laden. Our military power isn't doing shit right now except get itself blown up. It seems to me that the most important thing our military could do right now would be the capture/assassination of OBL. The real enemy is not in Iraq, nor can we ever eliminate it by fighting in Iraq. The message we send to the rest of the world by "staying the course" in Iraq is that we don't have the stones to go after the real target.

Don't think for a minute that capturing or killing Osama would do a damn thing to help us. If anything, it'll make him more of a martyr than he is currently. Bin Laden is nothing more than a figurehead, akin to a spiritual leader, and has little active control over the activities of the cells. Al Queda is not a terrorist group, it's a movement; an ideology. And even if Al Queda mattered, the real target is Ayman al-Zawahiri, who in all probability is the active leader.

The real point, and what politicians won't tell you, is that the monster is out of the box, and there really isn't anything we can about terrorism. With the availability of modern small arms, just about any group with the will to use them can inflict a whole hell of a lot of damage.

Overall, if you want to know why it would be a bad idea to pull out of Iraq, read On War by Clausewitz, written over one hundred years ago, it's the greatest book on war ever made.

Power = Means x Will
posted by SweetJesus at 9:03 PM on August 11, 2005


our presence is important because it ensures a modicum of regional peace.

YoOu're joking, right?
posted by nofundy at 9:28 AM on August 12, 2005


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