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Planning for Defeat -- How should we withdraw from Iraq ?
September 7, 2007 5:31 PM   Subscribe


 
It's not a defeat, it's just a deferred victory.
posted by IronLizard at 5:35 PM on September 7, 2007


It's like losing at solitaire. Just put the deck away.
posted by The World Famous at 5:41 PM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Here comes "Vietnamization II".

I'm old enough to remember "I", you damn kids.

Of course, as long as Bush's Imperial Palace stands, there will be no peace in the region (There won't be peace for a long time after it falls, but the edifice is both a symbol and tool of War Everlasting.)
posted by wendell at 5:46 PM on September 7, 2007


It'll be awful when we leave. Its awful now, though not quite so bad as it could be.

I can't see a good ending to the affair. America can't maintain its present deployment in Iraq indefinately, and it isn't even doing all that much good despite the lives and billions spent. I have no doubt at all that the instant US forces leave Iraq we will see a genocide as the Shiia majority slaughters the Sunni, and probably Iran coming in to defend their fellow Sunni.

I suppose the best that could be hoped for, realistically, is to use the US forces to assist any Sunni willing to relocate to Sunni majority areas so that when we leave at least they'll have a chance. Unfortunately GWB won't do that.
posted by sotonohito at 5:46 PM on September 7, 2007


"and probably Iran coming in to defend their fellow Shiia" I meant.
posted by sotonohito at 5:50 PM on September 7, 2007


It's not a question of how we should withdraw, but when, and that answer is "several years ago." We can't retreat any more wrong than we've already done in the staying. What we're doing wrong in the leaving part of all this, is that we haven't left yet.

We can't even get retreat right.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:54 PM on September 7, 2007


Planning for Defeat -- How should we withdraw from Iraq ?

As fast as fucking possible, actually.
posted by eriko at 5:55 PM on September 7, 2007


As fast as fucking possible, actually.

So invade a country, execute their leader, steal their resources, destable their bureaucracy and cause a massive refugee crisis and your response is to run away from it? America and its co-invaders have a responsibility to fix the problems but we all know they wont. Bush was right when he stood beneath the "Mission Accomplished" banner - you've got the oil so why not run?
posted by meech at 6:07 PM on September 7, 2007


meech Do you honestly think that there is anything the so-called Coalition of the Willing can do to fix Iraq? You can't unbreak an egg.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't hold the people who broke Iraq responsible for their actions, but I fail to see what anyone can possibly do to fix things over there.

Even trying to split the country into Shiia and Sunni zones is a) not likely to work, and b) will enrage the Kurds if they don't get a piece of the pie themselves. But you can't give the Kurds a nation without stepping on the toes of Turkey. You see how this goes?

Tell me, specifically, what you think the US is supposed to do?
posted by sotonohito at 6:19 PM on September 7, 2007


How should we withdraw from Iraq ?

Well I'm not a professional or anything, but I'd say: Boats.



See, we got that navy and all, so I say we have a special law that taxes Halliburton, Blackhawk et al to pay for the cost of the navy putting everyone on their boats, and then sailing through Indonesia and Australia, (it's pretty there, and some of the guys could stop off for more R & R).

They could swing by Hawaii (more of that R & R stuff), and finally end up on the West Coast.

If you really want to get home fast, we could put you on a plane, rather than going the pleasure cruise route, but one way or the other, it should be all expenses paid.
posted by Relay at 6:20 PM on September 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


I agree the eggs can't be unbroken. I don't have a solution but some, idealistic and politically naive, things I'd like to see on the table:

All business contracts signed with international global companies after the invasion are revoked.
After the withdrawal there is not one single American soldier left in the country.
Financial aid equivalent to the cost of the war is given to a third party to administer.

I honestly don't think America can fix the problem but it'd be a start to show that America is acting in good faith.
posted by meech at 6:38 PM on September 7, 2007


Bush, he said, “has the stiffest spine in the Administration,” and he described Petraeus as a man who could enter the military pantheon next to Grant, if only the American people would give him the chance. “What happens if, at the eleventh hour, we’re witnessing one of the most remarkable feats in American history on the part of a general?” he said. “If that’s the case, why do you want to give up now?”
—Peter Wehner, former Bush advisor
It's a nice place, that military pantheon, though I've always thought the red tapestries along with the newer ads to be in rather poor taste.
posted by carsonb at 6:40 PM on September 7, 2007


You know what I am struck by, at this late and horrible stage of the game?

I am struck by wisdom. Not the very, extremely, expected foolishness that led the US and others into this war. I am struck by the wisdom of those at the start of this who adamantly and vociferously stated that this was the wrong thing to do at the wrong time, with the wrong people and the wrong level of planning. At the time, and this is so easily forgotten, those people were castigated for being traitors and aiding the terrorists. When it is clear now that this IS a clusterfuck, this IS failure and defeat, this IS exactly what they said would happen.

Those people, conservatives, liberals and moderates alike...deserve our thanks and an apology. The one thing they do not deserve is the blame that they will likely get, accused of being the cause of the loss of the Iraq war. That's because the foolish are still around and still in power or supporting the fools in power. The real patriots....the ones who exclaimed loudly against this overpowering tide of misplaced patriotism and ill-considered nationalism....won't get the praise they deserve.

But I'll say it now, and hope others will find those who were clear in their warnings, I appreciate their efforts and statements. It couldn't have been easy, and it's never going to make anyone happy. It was the right thing to do at the right time and it's just so very unfortunate that they couldn't be heard above the shrieks and teeth-gnashing.
posted by Kickstart70 at 7:02 PM on September 7, 2007 [10 favorites]


So, given all this, why did Bush now for the first time invoke the Vietnam analogy, which he had sedulously avoided before? I said it was part desperation, part malignity.

... So, the desperation is in the fact that the case for staying in Iraq cannot stand up to the light of day. A recent poll by Foreign Policy magazine of so-called foreign policy experts shows that 80% rate the war in Iraq as having a "very negative impact" on U.S. national security goals. If one breaks this down according to self-labeling of the respondents, even 60% of those who call themselves "conservatives" give the same answer.

But why then malignity? George W. Bush is preparing the future. The president that withdrew from Vietnam was a Republican, Gerald Ford, and he did so after a long drawdown of U.S. troops by another Republican president, Richard Nixon. Bush is not going to withdraw the troops. But he's pretty sure that the next president will be forced to do so. And he's pretty sure that the next president will be a Democrat. So he's laying the groundwork for the "stab in the back" accusation. We shall be hearing a lot about this accusation in the decade to come.
"The Vietnam Analogy"
posted by y2karl at 7:03 PM on September 7, 2007


I'm so torn over the whole mess. I want the troops out. They don't deserve to be used this way. They aren't "protecting our freedom" by patrolling Anbar. They aren't protecting anything other than the dried remains of some failed neocon wet-dream.

On the other hand, we fucking created this mess. For me the phrase "You broke it, you buy it" rings true here. As much as we might not like it, we honestly do have the responsibility of somehow getting Iraq back on its feet. Then again, I'm not sure if that's even possible, given the deep, often violent, ethnic and religious divides throughout the region.

There is no victory possible here. All that's left is a coin flip to see just how high the pile of shit will be.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:08 PM on September 7, 2007


So invade a country, execute their leader, steal their resources, destable their bureaucracy and cause a massive refugee crisis and your response is to run away from it? America and its co-invaders have a responsibility to fix the problems but we all know they wont.

It's not "we broke it, we bought it." We essentially don't have the money to buy it - the ability to fix anything. In practical terms, "we broke it, at least let's stop breaking more shit."

So, morally, we should be getting out right now. Pull back to the bases and have the marines stand guard while the helicopters and airplanes get everyone onto boats and 747 flights back home.

Actually, I think there's one way we could pull off "we broke it, we bought it," but it's not what you think and it's not going to happen. Bring any Iraqis who want to back with us. Use the money we save by ending the war to disperse them around the country, set them up with some initial housing, a farm, a job, or whatever. There's a lot of room out West, but you do have to figure out how to set it up so that you don't bring the civil war back here. I don't mean just the ones who worked with us or who basically have signed death warrants as soon as we leave plus whoever fits aboard the last helicopters (which is what might practically happen, as in Vietnam, and I'm not against it), I mean whoever wants to come, can make it to a base or convoy assembly point, and isn't a known jihadist. Millions of them, if that's what happens. Never going to happen, of course, since we can't even deal with having Mexicans come over. But that would be a real "we broke it, we bought it" scenario.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:11 PM on September 7, 2007


It's not a defeat, it's just a deferred victory.

It's a catastrophic success!
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:30 PM on September 7, 2007


Eh, we didn't learn anything from GWI, Somalia, or GWII. America is foreign-policy retarded.

We're fucked if we stay, they're fucked if we leave.

Winners!
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 7:32 PM on September 7, 2007


"Eh, we didn't learn anything from..."

Anyone who believes violence of any form is a viable option has not learned from history.

You can think you win. You can rationalize to yourself all you want that under certain circumstances it's the right thing to do. You can actually even profit from it. You can spend the rest of your life satisfied with your decision, and generations after you can prosper from the blood you shed. Still don't make war right.

Might does not make right. A kid can shoot his parents in cold blood for sending him to his room without supper. Don't mean he's suddenly better than they were.

Resorting to violence means you couldn't win the argument with diplomacy, common sense, dignity, or even luck. The first to turn to violent behavior, even if it's to just pound your hand on the desk in frustration - you just lost the argument. That's all there is to it. All the rest of this is collateral damage to your inability to admit defeat.

What do two year olds do when they can't get their way? They have a temper tantrum. How are those usually expressed? Violently. War is a temper tantrum expressed by adults, all of which are supposed to know better. Warmongers deserve a good paddling. They been bad little spoiled children. I for one am not interested in cleaning up after the mess of someone else's children.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:47 PM on September 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Packer (y2karl's FPP) provides a thorough and even-handed analysis of this mess. You 'as fast as fucking possible' people ought to give it a read.
posted by found missing at 7:50 PM on September 7, 2007


Resorting to violence means you couldn't win the argument with diplomacy, common sense, dignity, or even luck. The first to turn to violent behavior, even if it's to just pound your hand on the desk in frustration - you just lost the argument. That's all there is to it. All the rest of this is collateral damage to your inability to admit defeat.

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
posted by gsteff at 7:53 PM on September 7, 2007


I am struck by wisdom. Not the very, extremely, expected foolishness that led the US and others into this war. I am struck by the wisdom of those at the start of this who adamantly and vociferously stated that this was the wrong thing to do at the wrong time, with the wrong people and the wrong level of planning.

I think you overstate the case and devalue the word 'wisdom' by doing so. Anticipating the clusterfuck wasn't wise, it was blindingly, painfully obvious.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:55 PM on September 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


I read it, and my position on the matter is still the same as it was since the war started being talked up: In practical terms, the American military cannot have positive effects in Iraq above the transient level.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:56 PM on September 7, 2007


The one thing Iraq has demonstrated conclusively is that the American concept of modern military technology being an effective force multiplier in an urban conflict, is largely a sham. Not that the kill ratios in Iraq aren't all in favor of the American Army.

It just that, as in Vietnam, the other side(s), and the world, couldn't give a damn about the numbers. And the only guys who do care about the statistics, the American Army, apparently can't afford the ones they're getting. What's worse, the command structure of the Army won't (or possibly can't) acknowledge that they're getting whipped again. Yet the American public stills feels bound to "honor the service" of people who aren't getting the job done.

That's an unconscionable failing by the Army leadership, which we've countenanced for too long. There's no point pinning the current mess on Rumsfeld's "light" strategy, without demanding accountability of the military professionals who cooked it up with him. If the men who supposed knew our military capabilities, and who now have more than 4 years experience with this conflict can't make a strategy for Iraq work, they should have the simple decency to say so, publicly, and step aside, taking the heat, so the country can change course, tactically, and if necessary, strategically. But to date, not one flag rank active Army officer has come forth to say "I was wrong." In this generation, we have no MacArthur (wrong as he might have been), and apparently, no Patton, either.

And yet the Army still spends millions running recruiting ads. In my own mind, I replace them with "We're the Army - Call us if the problem isn't any worse than Greneda."

The Packer article doesn't consider one obvious strategy, which is to replace the current U.S. Army ground presence and command structure, with a far more intensive Air Force and Navy presence in the region, directed by the minimum possible Marine contingent in country, transitioning to Iraqi control. There are immediate benefits to this, including an immediate visible reduction of U.S. targets in country, and a more effective alignment of mission with actual U.S. capabilities, which are basically an ability to control air space and run tactical bombing campaigns.

Let the U.S. Army retreat in an organized way, under Air Force and Naval cover, through the same southern Iraqi and Kuwaiti ports it came in by, and leave no tanks, equipment, or munitions to be used by those who occupy its barracks afterward. At best speed, it will take them more than a year to do so, this being a much less mobile and logistically competent Army than it would have you believe.

And in that year, either the Iraqi armed forces will learn to use American air cover and intelligence assets, as Bosnians and Serbians did, or they won't. The relative lack of visible American targets will, by then, have materially changed the inevitable Iraqi civil war into a series of pitched battles between factions, which we can continue to influence through air power, in ways we never will with ground troops.
posted by paulsc at 8:23 PM on September 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


stavros: yeah maybe. Unfortunately "common sense" has been devalued so much that I can't use that term. Too many people think that common sense means what the majority believe, which is painfully obvious not to be the case.
posted by Kickstart70 at 8:23 PM on September 7, 2007


We're not stabilizing the region with our presence, as far as we can tell, and the fact of American troops seems to actually be galvanizing the civil war in progress, and it gives the insurgents a clear enemy and a recruiting tool. How should we exit? Does it matter? All that matter is that we exit, and soon.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:33 PM on September 7, 2007


I wish I could think of a lengthy well-reasoned article to refute that simplistic argument.
posted by found missing at 8:36 PM on September 7, 2007


"We're not stabilizing the region with our presence"

If We The American People were there to stabilize the region? It'd be stabilized by now. I am still idealistic enough to believe that when Americans put our minds to it, we can accomplish anything. We obviously haven't put our proverbial minds to this particular conundrum.

However, a bunch of fundamentalist Christians going into Muslim countries and telling them how to live is not unlike a mother-in-law entering her son's kitchen and telling his wife how to cook a turkey. Who's right and who's wrong? Doesn't matter. Before it's over, the son/husband is gonna feel more basted than the bird does. Even if he doesn't open his mouth, he just can't win in this scenario. Poor guy.

Stability??? That's SO not why the people orchestrating this war wanted "US" in there. For some in this planet, peace does not equal profit, but war equals dollar signs. Follow the money, and you'll see why we're still in there, and why we're not getting out any time soon, unless forces more powerful than those currently in there figure out how to profit from the pullout.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:56 PM on September 7, 2007


Circa World War II, a common truism was that "we", the US, do not understand the Oriental mind. We forgot that.

In the 1950s, the French (DeGaulle) advised us never to get involved in a land war in Asia. So we got involved in Korea and Viet Nam.

In the 1960s, when Eisenhower left Washington after his presidency, his advice was never to trust the military-industrial complex. Can you say Halliburton?

In 2003, the French (again!) declined to participate in the invasion of Iraq. We retaliated by eating Freedom fries.

Why don't we learn?
posted by Cranberry at 10:19 PM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Cranberry There's nothing mysterious about the "Oriental" mind.

Bush [1] wanted something dramatic and easy, and while finding Bin Ladin and putting him on trial would be dramatic, it wouldn't be easy. Virtually all of his cabinet is made up of people from the Project for a New American Century, which has been advocating an invasion of Iraq ever since GHWB ended the first gulf war. According to Clarke at the Sept 12, 2001 meeting Rumsfeld urged an attack on Iraq becuase there "are no good targets in Afghanistan".

It takes no failure to understand the mysterious and enigmatic "Oriental Mind" to see why Bush completely and horribly fucked up. He and his cabinet were obsessed with getting Iraq from day one, they were completely ignorant of the ethnic and sectarian strife in the country [2]. Add to the mix the fact that, like all the other conservatives, they seemed convinced that they could do it on a shoestring budget, screw the people doing the actual work, and funnel wads of cash to their already fantastically wealthy cronies. Oh, and the little, minor, detail that apparently no one bothred actually planning for the occupation.

That's how Bush screwed both America and Iraq. The "Oriental Mind" you seem to believe in was not a factor.

[1] I'm using "Bush" in a somewhat general sense here, to mean the decisions reached by the administration as a whole. I remain unconvinced that Bush himself has sufficient intelligence and autonomy to pick out his own clothes, much less decide which country to invade.

[2] Peter Galbraith has claimed that GWB was unaware that there were sects in Islam, and apparently was confused by the terms "Shiia" and "Sunni" as late as January of 2003. Think about that, if its true it means that the Commander in Chief of the military that was about to invade the country lacked even the simplest and most basic facts about the country.
posted by sotonohito at 4:59 AM on September 8, 2007




From the article: "Before the U.S. can persuade the world to unite around a shared responsibility for Iraq, Americans will have to do it first."

True. First, the US govt has to be held account in The Hague for the criminal invasion, then the US cut-n-run crowd has to stop thinking about US troops and start thinking about their responsibility to Iraqis. Then it should be internationalised under UN command, which will be the end of the 'War on Terror' and the end of American superpower era.

How likely is that chain of events?
posted by dydecker at 8:11 AM on September 8, 2007


How should we withdraw from Iraq ?

Go that way, very fast. If something gets in your way, turn.

he described Petraeus as a man who could enter the military pantheon next to Grant, if only the American people would give him the chance

Next to Grant? The Grant that won the Civil War, or that guy Grant that sits down the hall? Petraeus hasn't done shit. He trained the Iraqi police that needs to be replaced. He made Mosul safe for ethnic cleansing. He wrote the book [PDF] on counterinsurgency and is presiding over an escalation of force that's the opposite of counterinsurgency.

Peter Galbraith has claimed that GWB was unaware that there were sects in Islam, and apparently was confused by the terms 'Shiia' and 'Sunni' as late as January of 2003

That puts him ahead of the curve. Some senior politicians are still having trouble with the distinction.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:06 AM on September 8, 2007


The last time I posted in this thread was a day ago, and as of a second ago, we still got American military personel in Iraq.

See. This is what I'm talking about. We can't even retreat right. This is what we're doing wrong. We're NOT getting the heck outta there. We're not gonna. Nothing short of impeaching Bush will get us outta there before January of 2009, and it'd take too long to mess with impeaching him now.

By then, if the people really running the show get their way, we'll be on the scrimmage line with Iran, and there will be no retreating from that one. There will just be a lot of dead yet courageous men and women on both sides, thinking they're fighting for ideals, when really they're fighting so that the super rich can afford an extra pony or camel.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:39 PM on September 8, 2007


to replace the current U.S. Army ground presence and command structure, with a far more intensive Air Force and Navy presence in the region, directed by the minimum possible Marine contingent in country, transitioning to Iraqi control.

That didn't work when the British tried it in the 1930s in Iraq (complete with aerial chemical gas attacks in their arsenal), and it didn't work in Vietnam before and after the Johnson troop buildup. Why do you think it would work now? If implemented, all you'll get will be an Iraqi moonscape of craters, a lot of munitions expended, several hundred thousand more dead Iraqis, and you'll still have to quit eventually.
posted by meehawl at 12:53 PM on September 9, 2007


This is all described in like the first chapter of Machiavelli's The Prince. Iran seems to be both stoking the fire and practically daring the U.S. to leave the country [economist link] and they would be greeted by many in the country as liberators, at least initially. It would be the wrong thing to pull out of Iraq right now on so many levels, no matter how utterly wrongheaded the reasons for being there in the first place were.

I think that the only redemption for the U.S after all of the instability that it has created is to do their absolute damnedest to help build a prosperous, self-sufficient Iraq. This is not to say that operations there should continue to be military based. Cutting and running is the most irresponsible and unaccountable thing that the U.S could do, after all that it has done.

The future doesn't look bright for anybody (except Iran in the short-term) the current administration has demonstrated that it is unable to cultivate anything that grows in the desert with their ham-fisted warmongering and utter lack of cultural understanding, and the future one -- that might even be capable of establishing a viable Iraq strategy -- is still riding the politically popular anti-Iraq sentiment.
posted by dobie at 3:23 PM on September 9, 2007


*looks at watch*

*taps foot*
posted by ZachsMind at 8:51 PM on September 9, 2007


"It would be the wrong thing to pull out of Iraq right now on so many levels"

It was the wrong thing to go in there in the first place, yet we did it twice. Why don't we do the wrong thing JUST ONCE that doesn't leave all this bloodshed on our hands? Let's let someone else have blood on their hands for a change. Out, out, damned spot!
posted by ZachsMind at 8:53 PM on September 9, 2007




homunculus well, duh.... Its been obvious ever since (surprise!) Iraq turned out not to be the cakewalk they all predicted that Bush was going to leave the whole mess to his successor so that someone else (ideally a Democrat) could take the blame for the inevitable catastrophy.

"We were winning, but that awful Defeatocrat pulled us out and thereby caused a horrible genocide, see why you should always vote Republican?"

Honestly, I wonder if the "confusion" in the Republican party over their presidential candidate is deliberate, if I were a high ranking Republican Party apparatchik I'd seriously consider throwing the '08 presidential election specifically to leave a Democrat holding the bag when Iraq finally falls completely apart.
posted by sotonohito at 9:49 AM on September 11, 2007


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