A scorecard for the war
March 27, 2003 6:41 AM   Subscribe

How Will we know America is winning? Thomas Friedman poses six questions against which to judge US success...
posted by brettski (19 comments total)
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Here's the NYTimes link.
posted by PrinceValium at 6:48 AM on March 27, 2003

Sorry about that didn't realise - just the document's formatted much better than on the normal IHT site....
posted by brettski at 6:53 AM on March 27, 2003

Has America been able to explain why some Iraqi forces are putting up such a fierce fight?

Without a doubt, the question no one can figure out right now. Weren't these guys going to lay down their weapons at the first opportunity? Rumsfeld STILL seems pissed they didn't.
posted by kgasmart at 6:55 AM on March 27, 2003

It boggles my mind that people anywhere are suprised that the Iraqis are actually fighting for their country.

Remember the variously-attributed quote "He may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch"? From what I've heard from "liberated" Iraqis, it's a perfect description of the situation.
posted by Cerebus at 7:20 AM on March 27, 2003

Without a doubt, the question no one can figure out right now. Weren't these guys going to lay down their weapons at the first opportunity? Rumsfeld STILL seems pissed they didn't.

Some insight from this article

Hussein, who is a Sunni by origin and bases his power on family and clan loyalties, has purged the Shia from the ruling secular Ba'th Party and excluded them from the bureaucracy and security forces. Iraq's elite armored fighting units, the Republican Guards, are almost exclusively composed of Sunni officers and soldiers. The poorly equipped regular army is made up mostly of Shia infantry with Sunni officers.

Iraq's Shia Muslims compose the majority of the country's population, but the community has long been eclipsed by Iraq's more powerful Sunni Muslim minority. Some of the worst treatment of the Shia has come at the hands of President Saddam Hussein, who punished them severely for revolting in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War.

They are still under Saddam's control.
posted by thomcatspike at 7:22 AM on March 27, 2003

This is the usual, uninformed, ideological nonsense that Friedman regularly writes. It would take a book just to mention the distortions and misrepresentations (or just plain ignorance) of reality that are displayed here, so let me just tackle two quotes of note:

It is not at all unusual for Arabs to detest both their own dictator and a foreign occupier. (See encyclopedia for Israel, invasion of Lebanon, 1982.)

See how many false assumptions you can count in approximately 20 words:
- its Arabs in particular that are prone to this behaviour (and not say Russians when invaded by the Nazis, or Greeks when invaded by Mussolini).
- it is (he implies) a quirk and not a rational response
- a dictator is counterposed against a foreign occupier, who obviously isn't at all dictatorial.
- Lebanon was a dictatorship when invaded by Israel
- ergo it is due to some Arabic pecularity that most Lebanese didn't appreciate the Israeli occupation.
- it is not even mentioned that it was christian arab fascist militias (falangists) that "invited" the Israeli army to Lebanon.

Both the Kurds and the Turks would like to bite off part of northern Iraq. The Bush team says it is committed to preserving Iraq's unity, in which case it had better tell both the Turks and the Kurds, "Which part of 'No' don't you understand? You Turks are not coming in, and you Kurds are not breaking away."

- Now someone who doesn't know better would imagine that the Turks and the Kurds have equal claim to Northern Iraq. In fact the Kurds are a majority there, while the Turks have a history of massacring their own (large) Kurdish population.
- Note the direct contradiction between the above statement and the concept of restoring democracy, which would require national self-determination.
posted by talos at 7:25 AM on March 27, 2003

talos, I think you're reading way too much into this. It's a fluff piece, really, saying little in the most superfluous of ways. It's just trying to point out what a definition of success in Iraq would be. His suggestions are neither original nor insightful, but they're hardly ideological nonsense.

What point is truly arguable?
Has the US occupied Baghdad without destroying it - In order to minimize the amount of time, energy, and money necessary to rebuild Iraq and set up local government, it's important to maintain much of the current infrastructure. If the US destroys the city, it's indicative of the amount of reconstruction in material and personnel they'll need.

Kill Saddam - Both in and out of Iraq, if Saddam is still in control of the country at the end of this he becomes a hero who has bested two generations of American leaders bent on destroying him.

why the fight - The fact this question is even being asked is telling. That the US leadership (excluding the military, from what I understand) misjudged the reaction to their invasion is at the heart of most anti-war protests. They were completely unwilling to consider there were reasons not to invade as well.

territorial integrity - Sure, the Turks and Kurds both want some of Iraq, without having a claim. But a conqueror invades and divvies up the spoils, while a liberator keeps things intact. If it's the will of the Kurdish people to break away, they will have to do that on their own rather than through the largess of the Americans.

local leadership and accepted by neighbours - this is really the same thing, because it relates to stability. Will post-war Iraq stand on its own or be a puppet of the US? Again, if this is a war of liberation, Iraq must be fully sovereign. If it's a war for oil, Iraq will just be a subsidiary of USA Enterprises, Inc.

So there's nothing controversial or nonsensical here. In fact, it's hardly worth mentioning because it's all so obvious. If post-war Iraq isn't in better shape than pre-war Iraq, then Bush was wrong to attack. If it becomes a model of democracy for the region, then Bush was right in spite of all the nay-sayers.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:19 AM on March 27, 2003

Tom Friedman is a weenie, and he realy should do domething about that moustache.

But here are a few alternative metrics for "success":

1) Fewer Muslims, and people around the world, hate the US

2) The world spends less on weapons, more on human needs

3) (related to 1) Fewer people around the globe are so gripped by fury and feelings of impotent rage at perceived injustices that they committ suicidal acts of terrorism against civilians.

4) Iraq hangs together and gets to rule itself, and pump it's own damn oil.
posted by troutfishing at 8:55 AM on March 27, 2003

GhostintheMachine: What point is truly arguable?
How about the central premise of the article, that America's goals are indeed the ones stated by the Bush-Cheney gang (as opposed to, say, oil)? He seems to accept this as a given:
If you see these things happening, you'll know that the political ends for which this war was begun are being achieved.
To me this central assumption seems ridiculous.
posted by talos at 9:05 AM on March 27, 2003

This is the usual, uninformed, ideological nonsense that Friedman regularly writes.

Are you kidding me? Friedman has won FOUR Pulitzers; he's widely considered one of the most balanced, intelligent columnists out there. As for your nit-pick, none of his statement is untrue, as much as you would like it to be.
posted by norm at 9:28 AM on March 27, 2003

So unless I missed something, we're 0 for 6 so far, right?

I agree with Talos' second post: the political ends for which this war was begun have already been achieved. The war was started to a) increase the sales of hi-tech weapons, defense systems, and para-military services b) take military control of Iraq to censor outgoing media and cash flow and c) "uncover smoking guns" to prove that Saddam was, after all, painting murals of planes flying into towers, and, AND, had SCUD missiles that he launched at Kuwait. (I'm not sure which is harder to believe, that he had SCUD missiles, or that our patriot missiles actually intercepted them.)
posted by zekinskia at 9:34 AM on March 27, 2003

2) The world spends less on weapons, more on human needs

What if humans need weapons?
posted by kindall at 9:42 AM on March 27, 2003

"the document's formatted much better than on the normal IHT site...."

Bah! The IHT.com web site is one of the best, easiest to read newspaper sites on the web.
posted by DragonBoy at 9:43 AM on March 27, 2003

Ridiculous is a little strong. Regime change and a democratic Iraq have at least been the stated or inferred goals of this war. The "war for oil" argument falls into the legitimate government question. For this truly to be a success for the Americans, they need to have a low-cost victory resulting in a stable, friendly Iraqi government that is both accepted internationally and is a steady reliable source of oil.

Better still, the oil question itself is moot. The US has already achieved that goal, of guaranteeing the oil supply. No matter what government results in Iraq, it will be providing oil to the US for decades at favourable rates.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:53 AM on March 27, 2003

Well, let's use these metrics to see how well we've done in Afghanistan.

1. Have U.S. forces occupied Baghdad - without leveling the whole city?
- Not too much infrastructure as it was, but we haven't exactly been hemoraging money to the Afghani people. In fact, we spent more per day on military action there than we have spent to "rebuild" the place.

2. Have U.S. forces killed, captured or expelled Saddam?
- Saddam being the bad guy, his Afghani comparison would be Osama bin Laden. And according to our intelligence community, he's still alive. Emmanuel Goldstein probably never aged, either.

3. Has America been able to explain why some Iraqi forces are putting up such a fierce fight?
- As Afghanistan has fallen back into tribalistic feudalism, we're still getting sniped at. The repression of women under the fundamentalist Taliban is still being practiced, though it's not state-sanctioned any longer, which is good. One point.

4. Has America won this war and preserved the territorial integrity of Iraq?
- Afghanistan now has less centralized power than before.

5. Has an authentic Iraqi liberal nationalist emerged from the U.S. occupation to lead the country?
- In Afghanistan, no.

6. Is the Iraqi state that emerges from this war accepted as legitimate by Iraq's Arab and Muslim neighbors?
- I don't know how the Arab world feels about Afghanistan, but to most of the educated Arab world, it was an abomination. The current situation isn't great, but it may be considered the lesser of two evils.

In general, however, our nation-building acumen is rather piss-poor. It would be better for Iraq's internal stability for the different groups (Kurds, Shiites and Sunni's) to rally together against the U.S.'s occupation -- at least they would be allowed to keep some dignity.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:11 PM on March 27, 2003

norm I don't care how many Pulitzers the guy won. This transcends the war issue. This guy is a pet peeve of mine. He has never written on a subject I know something about and failed to enrage me with his superficiality, paraded as pithy commentary, and his total lack of background knowledge on any issue outside the US borders, not to mention the fact that, IMHO, he is, stylistically, one of the most predictably boring writers in the English language.
He never fails to enrage me even in the rare occasions I agree with him, because it is still obvious that he doesn't really know the subjects he is writing about.
Good PR and a permanent column in the NYT will get you tons of awards apparently.
As for the article, I've already pointed out a few of its obvious preconceptions/contradictions/falsities, but because this is fun (in a very depressing day news-wise), I'll continue with a part by part analysis of his first point:

This war is not being fought simply to disarm the regime of Saddam Hussein. It is being fought to replace that regime with a decent, accountable Iraqi government.
Here we have government propaganda about Iraq, presented as fact. One could equally say: This war is not being fought at all to disarm Saddam Hussein. Neither is it fought to replace that regime with a decent, accountable Iraqi government, unless by "decent and accountable" one means "obedient and reliable quisling regime". In this Friedman is a master: he presents a very contentious, central assertion as fact, and continues from there hoping no one will notice his sleight of hand.

That is the real prize here, because only such a government can stabilize Iraq and ensure that another Saddam-like general does not emerge.

Again, TF presumes that the US government gives a hoot about a Saddam-like general emerging. Another, at least equally supported statement based on known facts, would be that since the US has installed in many-a-country, many-a-homicidal dictator (the Shah, Pinochet, Suharto etc.) the aim is to plant anyone who can hold the country together regardless of means. Notice also that he assumes that any US installed puppet government can "stabilize" Iraq, which isn't at all obvious unless you redefine "stable" to mean "under an iron military backed occupation" and even then it's questionable.

That can't even begin to happen until the capital has been taken by U.S. and British forces.

This is not false (if you accept the preceeding argument) but rather obvious... Really, you have to take the capital, which is the largest city, main supply center and a historic Arab metropolis, in order to install a new government? I never would have guessed.

Um... sorry about the rant. I realy can't stand Thomas Friedman... I promise I won't write about TF again ever- well at least for a couple of days...
posted by talos at 2:27 PM on March 27, 2003

At the end of the war:

(1) Probably not.
(2) Saddam will probably walk.
(3) No, thanks to the total cluelessness of the chickenhawks running the war.
(4) No, the Turks will be allowed to carve off a piece of N. Iraq as "payment". The U.S. will turn a blind eye to the subsequent butchering of the Kurds. "I see noooothing! Noooothing!"
(5) Get real. Conan O'Brian called it: "Tostitos will get it's choice of one of three U.S. puppet warlords."
(6) If they want U.S. $$$, you better believe that they will.
posted by mark13 at 2:59 PM on March 27, 2003

Bah! The IHT.com web site is one of the best, easiest to read newspaper sites on the web.

No it's not. The fixed width design is annoying, and those custom page turning widgets are nasty (plus they break the back button, which makes it the single most annoying news site on the web, IMHO natch).
posted by inpHilltr8r at 3:32 PM on March 27, 2003

"Sure, the Turks and Kurds both want some of Iraq, without having a claim."

Except for Mosul
posted by RobbieFal at 4:35 PM on March 28, 2003

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