The Iraq War in Review

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Jabbadabbado, Dec 15, 2011.

  1. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    I'd love to read everyone's summary of their personal take on the Iraq war.

    Here's my narrative:

    September 11 happened. We invaded Afghanistan in response and routed bin Laden and the Taliban. It was an appropriate response. Toppling a corrupt regime was easy, but nation building was hard, and we probably shouldn't have tried.

    George Bush and **** Cheney cynically exploited the opportunity of September 11 to fold the pre-existing neoconservative plank of taking out Saddam Hussein into a broader War on Terror. Toppling a corrupt regime was easy, but nation building was hard. Initial plans for sweeping in, privatizing state assets and selling them off to multinational corporations failed, reconstruction efforts became mired in widening circles of corruption, greed, plagued by basic failures of security and increasing insurgency. DeBaathification failed and fed the insurgency. Iran saw an opportunity and fed the insurgency, and the internal demographics of the country erupted into chaos. Our troops were forced to stand back and watch while Iraq devolved into a mutual ethnic cleansing spree. armed rebellion and regional refugee crisis. The Bush administration acknowledged its failures as soon as the reelection campaign ended, canned Rumsfeld, and poured more troops into the region. Reconstruction funds quietly ran out, with much of the money simply lost, but at least American soldiers stopped dying in large numbers, so Americans quickly forgot about the war, although it became a theme of the 2008 presidential election campaign. Since then, the Iraq war has been largely ignored in the U.S. by the people not actively involved in waging it.

    The exit strategy, in the end, was simply to exit. Obama failed to negotiate a continuation of armed occupation, but this is wonderful news. He gets credit for acknowledging Iraqi sovereignty, finally. All we're leaving behind as we evacuate the country is the largest and most comprehensive "diplomatic" mission on the face of the earth, something approaching 20,000 employees and private contractors.

    We will not have to wait long until this happens in Afghanistan. All we can do is abandon the mission eventually. There is no victory in sight, soon or ever. And I doubt when we finally exit we will leave behind the kind of massive fortified presence we will try to keep in Iraq.
  2. kingthlayer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 7, 2003
    star 4
    But this really isn't accurate. Rumsfeld was never "canned", he resigned on his own. Bush made it sound like he actively fought the resignation, which by the way didn't come until after the 2006 midterms - over two years post re-election. Its an important distinction, because it means that the administration never really pursued personal responsibility for the war's failings.
  3. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Mar 19, 1999
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    Sorry, that's right about the midterms and the timing of Rumsfeld's departure. I don't know about Rumsfeld resigning, but the strategy in Iraq changed in the last part of the Bush administration as well as civilian leadership in the Pentagon.

    There was a long time between the initial invasion, the escalation of the ethnic cleansing period, and the launching of the surge and Petraeus taking command in Iraq. The "never publicly admit you've made a mistake" attitude of the Bush administration weighed heavily on Iraq and cost many, many lives.
  4. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    A war is never right when fought for the wrong reason.

    The relative success of the entire undertaking almost shut me up. If a war is won and human rights are restored, who am I to whine?

    Well, I'm SuperWatto. And I was once kindly asked to leave this forum because I compared Cheney to Palpatine...
    That was around 2004, I think, and I hope we've all grown up a little. Well, apart from Cheney.

    Still, I might not be as critical of the whole thing as I was, my objections back when the war started are still valid today. Because if a war is sold to the public with false arguments and propped-up information, the war is undemocratic. Bush may think history will show him right - so did Napoleon. But if it's alright to go to war without the support of the people, then you may as well go the whole nine yards and steal elections, while you're at it.

    Oh, wait -
  5. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    My observations, over three deployments (2005-2006, 2007-2008, and finally, 2010-2011; I was in Afghanistan for 2003-2004)

    2005-2006.

    Iraq in 2005, for my infantry company (Alpha Company, 2-22 Infantry Regiment), was very new and exciting in the buildup for deployment. We had recently completed a very successful training rotation that had boosted my company's morale very high; it had been horribly low post-Afghanistan due to a thoroughly toxic company commander and a frustrating lack of contact with the enemy, but our new commander seemed better and we were very confident of our skills as a company team. Fallujah was still fresh in everyone's minds and we were anticipating a lot of contact in what was going to be our Area Of Operations, the Abu Ghraib neighborhood of southern Baghdad near Camp Victory/Liberty.

    We started taking regular contact (typically small arms fire and IEDs) almost as soon as we were in country. We never had anyone killed, and had very few combat casualties as a whole-our battalion saw less than a dozen killed out of nearly nine hundred soldiers in the battalion over the course of the deployment, and while we were using the wrong tactics (the idea was still to present overwhelming force, as opposed to focusing that force on intelligence-based raids for the most part), the battalion did have alot of success in training our portion of the Iraq Army through the use of a 40-man MiTT (Military Training Team) element, broken down into four teams. I was on one of these teams; my general opinion was that Iraqi lower enlisted and NCOs made a great amateur army. They were eager to learn, and learned very well. Their NCOs in particular were very motivated and did an excellent job of learning from their American counterparts, applyling the same twofold principles of taking care of your soldiers and mission accomplishment that American NCOs learn and practice. Their officers, OTOH, struck me as not being all that great, to put it mildly; we caugh their battalion commander selling refridgerators on the black market and stealing from the soldiers under his command, as one shining example.

    The bombing of the Great Mosque put Baghdad into a really, really bad place. We were about halfway through the deployment at that point and the level of violence really peaked. There were nightly firefights practically at the gates to Camp Liberty, which had been unheard of prior. We managed to create a level of peace by insitituting permanently manned traffic checkpoints conducting random vehicle searches with the soldiers working with our MiTTs-we basically locked down virtually every major intersection over a twenty-square-mile area. This made covert movement by the terrorists extremely difficult, and, I like to think, provided a bit of the concept Gen. Petraeus instituted over the next year or so, of pushing American & Iraq soldiers off of large bases and into small neighborhood patrol bases.

    My opinions at the time were pretty varied. On the one hand, I didn't think the terrorists were going to win-they were trying extremely hard to deny us the ability to maneuver, and to inflict casualties, and had failed in both areas. On the other hand, our forces didn't seem very effective, either-we'd managed to quell serious violence in our immediate AO by basically denying the enemy to ability to maneuver freely, but we didn't seem to be having much effect beyond that.

    I remember thinking that Saddam would have been a lot better off building sewers than buying Scuds: I was in a neighborhood in Baghdad that didn't have a sewage disposal system. At all. Not "bombed and doesn't work anymore,"; it was "never existed to begin with." One of my brighter ideas was to enroll lower-level terrorists in a kind of community service effort and make them pick up trash in the neighborhoods they caused casualties in. :p

    Note: We were hit by 21 IEDs with just my platoon (three platoons in a company) over the course of the year.


    2007-2008
    Our company started our return to Iraq with almost an air of resignment. I distinctly remem
  6. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Thank you for your service, db. Even if I didn't believe in the cause, I admire, respect, and am extremely grateful for the time you devoted to the conflict and the risks you took to do it. And thanks for a terrific post.
  7. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

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    Jun 29, 2000
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  8. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    It's good to see that the 3ID still wears the broken tv patch on the helmet. Probably because all the patches are already sewn on the helmet cover when they are issued...

    Interesting that you have an ACOG on your M4 during your last deployment.. I know the Army initially tried the ACOG, but I thought they went entirely to the Aimpoint M68 (or at least are moving in that direction) Probably no need for the OTAL laser in Iraq either, which would be a hindrance at the distances operated within?
  9. kingthlayer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 7, 2003
    star 4
    Same here, much appreciated, DB. I am glad that good people like you were representing the US to Iraqis. I hope the country remains a friendly and safe place in 10 years, so that you can return as a civilian and visit the places you once lived.
  10. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Oh, nah, the ACOG is very widely issued; it's typically twelve to fourteen per infantry platoon. My platoon at Drum and most of the Brigade PSD I was on for # 4 had nothing but ACOGs.

    The laser is very useful at short range, actually; certainly alot better than not having one. :p

    And thanks, goodfellas.
  11. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    My narrative is something along the lines that in Iraq, the setup was more complex than the execution (contrast that to Vietnam, where I think the politics remained somewhat complex all throughout):

    Firstly, we must remember Gulf War I and the original 'neo-conservatives'. There was, in Washington, people unhappy with the general state of the Middle East and wanted to change the seemingly endless array of dicatatorships.

    It would be wrong to presume that many of these individuals were, in fact, conservatives or became very influential people within the Bush Administration. What is important is that on Sept. 10th 2001, they were people of a certain mindset, and on that date they were not being much more listened to than they had been during the Clinton Administration. That the Bush administration, before 9/11, had any real desire to do much differently about Saddam Hussein for the first months of their administration is something of a misnomer. Did the President want to finish his father's war? Eeeeehhh... I hardly think that sort of thing was really on Bush Jr.'s mind.

    People quickly forget: the first crisis of the Bush administration was the Chinese spy plane incident. China, at the time, was considered much more high profile than Iraq.

    So prior to Sept. 11th, there was a group of people that had ideas of what to do in the Middle East, but with only a certain amount of clout. And contrary to popular opinion, I really do believe SOME of these people, like Paul Wolfowitz, had the interests of the region in mind along with US interests. Others, like Dan Perl, I doubt a fair bit. They were all fundamentally mistaken on how to go about it, though, and had learned nothing from the lessons of trying to "export" revolutions. In fact, they had mis-judged basic human nature even more than French and Communist Revolutionaries before them.

    Sept. 11h happened. Most key in the administration, Dick Cheney became convinced that something had to be done in the Arab world to change the overall situation. He took up the neocon cause wholesale for the interests primarily of the United States.

    There was one problem. The nation considered an ideal example to start a change in the Middle East had nothing itself to do with 9/11.

    This was something that Cheney and the Administration as he pulled it along, looked to sidestep. While there were those within the Administration who would have rather concentrated on Pakistan and Afghanistan and not involved the Arab world itself much at all, they were not heeded as the Administration decided to confront the problem of Saudi Arabis hijackers by indirectly intervening in Iraq. Iraqis were also Arabs, ergo positive democracy in Iraq would pressure the Saudis to change, as well as -- as a bonus -- open up Iraqi oil again and help stabilize world oil prices and keep the US from getting gouged by the likes of Hugo Chavez.

    So, it was thought: win-win.

    This was the first steps and it was from the muddled thinking in these early steps that fell everything else. For all the talk of the issues with Iran, the effect of Iran was not seriously considered. Not to mention the entire Iraqi view was stereotyped.

    The lazy thinking can be seen in the entire WMD issue: the Administration had exactly the same information on Sept. 10th 2001 as it had on the eve of the Iraq War about the true threat of Iraqi WMDs. Which was, there was not really much of a concern. Saddam Hussein was clearly not a threat at that time and would take a good 10 years or so to reconstitute himself into a threat. But a reason to go to war and conduct this experiment was needed, and the WMD issues from the 90s seemed the most plausible justification.

    The Administration decided to press for war by justifying war as a prosecutor uninterested in real justice: while they knew Saddam had no noteworthy WMDs, they thought he had SOMETHING left, no matter how depricated. So did most other intelligence services. Everyone thought that surely Saddam would not have gotten rid of EVERYTHING.

    Was what Saddam was likely to have enough to, in practica
  12. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Thanks, Gonk, you have a knack for going right to the core of these issues.

    What do you think the region would be like were Saddam Hussein still in power in Iraq? Do you think the Arab Spring would have happened had Hussein not been cleared out and an effort not been made to set up Iraq as a parliamentary democracy?

    In my view, one of the things I think that happened in Iraq was that the U.S. squandered the mystique of its military technology superiority that was built up in the first Gulf War. A successful operation in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban and route bin Laden might have been enough of a show of force to make every point that needed to be made about the consequences of terrorism. Instead we demonstrated our capacity for being mired down in a conflict by a badly outgunned enemy. And we did it on two fronts in two very different kinds of battlefield.

    Dan Rather famously said on the ground in Kuwait during the first Gulf War "We learned the lessons of the Vietnam War."

    But then we promptly unlearned them on the battlefield in Iraq. Not that the new lessons weren't eventually instructive for our military and our political leaders.

    Which brings me to a second question: What political lessons has the U.S. learned from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and how long will we be able to retain the lessons, whatever they are?
  13. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    There you go, twelve posts in and you're already talking about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

    No matter how much it ought to, the Iraq war will just not stand by itself. It'll always be part of the whole aftermath-of-9/11 story. No 9/11, no GWB claiming victory from a warship. Almost as if 9/11 frustrated the erstwhile administration so much that one war wasn't enough.

    Such bad timing. Had Clinton done it, I might not have minded. I might even have cheered if it´d meant the US troops would leave Saudi-Arabia. 9/11 might not even have happened. Bush chose to do it when he already needed all his allies logistically and politically in another war. Instead of finishing that war up properly, within the same term Bush chose to drag his allies into another war. Drag. In the "if you're not with us, you're against us" way. And Bush chose to do this at a time that the threat that Saddam posed was smaller than the threat of AQ incursion upon Saddam´s removal.

    The political outcome of the Iraq War is that all international goodwill heaped upon the US after 9/11 was squandered. I don't think they'll ever be able to play the UN that way again. The political ramifications of 9/11, now, that's a whole other story... that's where our governments took some liberties away from us.
  14. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Interesting thoughts, Watto.

    My only question would be why is it so important for some to remove an example like Iraq from every other geopolitical reality going on at the time? It's almost become a crutch, but it's a bit like proclaiming "No fair looking at the Bay of Pigs within the context of the Cold War!" When in fact, the Bay of Pigs had everything to do with the context at the time... Everything happens within a larger rationale and reason. It's also pretty gutsy to admit that you probably wouldn't have had a problem "had Clinton done the same thing," which no matter what anyone's views are, at least acknowledges that many times, the politics behind the action are more important than the action itself.

    As for the international goodwill, I'd say things are already back to the status quo, so not much has changed on the international stage, within the UN, or especially within NATO.
  15. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    ]What do you think the region would be like were Saddam Hussein still in power in Iraq? Do you think the Arab Spring would have happened had Hussein not been cleared out and an effort not been made to set up Iraq as a parliamentary democracy?


    Probably; the Arab Spring basically started because one guy got fed up and lit himself on fire in front of cameras. Saddam wouldn't have been ousted without Libya-style intervention if you ask me; the counter-Saddam revolutions immediately after the Gulf War fell apart under the (much more capable than Libya) guns of the Iraqi military, and that was with a full-fledged no-fly zone across two-thirds of the country.

    In my view, one of the things I think that happened in Iraq was that the U.S. squandered the mystique of its military technology superiority that was built up in the first Gulf War. A successful operation in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban and route bin Laden might have been enough of a show of force to make every point that needed to be made about the consequences of terrorism. Instead we demonstrated our capacity for being mired down in a conflict by a badly outgunned enemy. And we did it on two fronts in two very different kinds of battlefield.

    That's more a news media perspective than a reality, IMO. Yeah, IEDs forced a change in tactics and equipment; but, they were a one-trick show for all intents and purposes that were already seeing reduced effectiveness by 2005, barely a year since they became widespread, and were virtually worthless by 2007 with the wide introduction of MRAPs and small-unit electronic jammers. The second in particular is what made IEDs next to useless; it forced a change from cell-phone and cordless phone detonated IEDs-which were very flexible and allowed the terrorists maximum advantage-back to either "crush" wire IEDs that were nonselective (I saw one get placed on a major highway and its net accomplishment was badly injuring an Iraqi farmer driving goods to market; remember what I said earlier about the locals turning on the terrorists? non-selective IEDs had alot to do with that) and the much more expensive/rare heat-sensitive ones, which were made null by their very expense and a piece of equipment referred to as the Rhino, which was basically an extended mount, extending from the front of the Humvee/MRAP and mounting a heat source to make the IED detonate early. FWIW, AQI was absolutely gutted personnel-wise by 2007, too; the general estimate for how many genuine AQ member we killed/detained was somewhere around six thousand. That's not much more casualties than we suffered, but the scales are different; 4,500 out of nearly a million service members isn't even a percentage point. Six thousand foreign fighters for a group that's never been estimated to have more than ten thousand or so hardcore members is absolutely brutal.

    Dan Rather famously said on the ground in Kuwait during the first Gulf War "We learned the lessons of the Vietnam War."

    But then we promptly unlearned them on the battlefield in Iraq. Not that the new lessons weren't eventually instructive for our military and our political leaders.


    I've always felt the "lesson" of Vietnam was not to politically hamstring your military operations. The US military did extremely well force on force in Vietnam; as an example, the Viet Cong basically no longer existed as a cohesive fighting force after Tet, although that was probably deliberate on the part of the NVA. BUT, Vietnam was never going to be stabilized when the invasion of the North was not on the table as an option; Vietnam was the death, IMO, of the concept of warfare being an extension of politics. Politics and warfare co-exist, but warfare isn't a terrifically good extension of politics because you can't wage it half-assedly and expect anything to come out of it. FWIW, the Bush Administration never set political goals for the war, and Bush pretty clearly surrendered whatever lead he'd had (which wasn't much with Cheney and Rumsfeld, IMO) to Petraeus and Gates by 2006-ish.

    Which brings
  16. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    Thanks, Gonk, you have a knack for going right to the core of these issues.

    What do you think the region would be like were Saddam Hussein still in power in Iraq? Do you think the Arab Spring would have happened had Hussein not been cleared out and an effort not been made to set up Iraq as a parliamentary democracy?


    Would Hussein still be in power? Prior to the Arab Spring last December, I would have to say yes.

    Would the Arab Spring still have happened? Yes, most definitely: the Arab spring started in Tunisia and took hold in Egypt. There's been absolutely no indication that the population in either of these countries looked with any approval on the Iraq invasion, and there has been little to no mention of it in the popular uprisings. None of the groups have cited what happened in Iraq as an example to look well on, much less follow. The Arab Spring has its roots in North Africa, a considerable distance away from Iraq. More likely the closer proximity to Europe is having an effect.

    After all -- since when was self-immolation a familiar sight in the Iraqi occupation?

    The next question might be: would Hussein still be in power in the wake of the Arab spring. I'd have to say... probably? The Arab Spring has been slower to catch on in the fertile crescent. I think there would certainly have been protests and that Hussein might have been facing an Assad-like situation, maybe worse. But China and Russia might well have stymied action in Iraq as well as they have with Syria. That said, with yet another example of them protecting a government crackdown, they might have had to pick and choose between the two.

    I'd think right now Hussein would still be in power. But there would be a good chance that the Arab Spring might topple him going forward because of his murderous past. But I don't think he would have gone before Quadaffi. And having had held up action in Libya, the Russians and Chinese would look pretty bad supporting BOTH Assad and Hussein. And given the two, they'd probably throw Hussein under the bus first given his past and that Assad's a bit more politically palatable -- seeing as how Syria's only invaded Israel int he past 50 years.



    Which brings me to a second question: What political lessons has the U.S. learned from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and how long will we be able to retain the lessons, whatever they are?

    Well Vietnam and Iraq are completely different scenarios, and I'm not sure it's correct to say the lessons of Vietnam were learned/unlearned, or in any way applicable. At best such things could be said to apply to the singular figure of Donald Rumsfeld in how to properly wage and anti-insurgency.

    But in terms of the political lessons, it's the difference between a correct macro-strategy that was misapplied to a given situation, and a strategy that was just quasi-fantasy to begin with.

    Robert McNamara pretty much gives the overall history of how Vietnam came about: the US followed the Domino theory, which was essentially correct in the thinking of the Soviet Union: the USSR wanted to bring about global communist revoltion, but wanted to do so on the cheap. If the US was going to make things difficult somewhere, the Soviets weren't going to force the matter all that much, or only to a point.

    Problem was, Vietnam had to whole French Colonial thing going on, and the US had passed up on the opportunity -- thanks to the French, also done for other Cold War reasons -- to get on the side of the nationalist forces in Vietnam.

    So in Vietnam, the US was going into a war with the doctrine to defeat the Soviet Union. But they weren't fighting the Soviets, they were fighting the North Vietnamese.

    Iraq was largely just a confused doctrine period. While the Domino Theory was designed to see things from the Soviet POV, the Iraq War doctrine just saw everything from the American POV, despite what even the best-intentioned neocons thought. Would the Iraqis greet Americans as liberators? Sure! What role would Iran play? Who knows? Would traditional allies of the US support the invasion? Who car
  17. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Political lessons? That covert operations and intelligence agencies are vastly better options for this sort of thing than full-scale warfare. To be fair, most administrations already understood this-Reagan was a big proponent of covert operations in around Latin America, to varying degrees of success. Bush Sr. and Clinton were too. The second Bush Administration didn't grasp this, IMO. The Obama administration certainly does, and I expect future Presidents to get it as well.

    And these are interesting observations as well. Certainly the stuff of great discussions.

    Where does one draw the line with covert operations? Personally, I've always felt that the way Reagan played both Iran and Iraq off against each other during their war was a stroke of genius, and it kept two belligerent regional powers in check. Of course, that result was also carried on the backs of citizens inside of each country, as the Iran-Iraq War became more and more brutal because of the stalemate. The Iran-Contra Affair was also a perfect strategy from a covert standpoint, but then again, Congress actually prosecuted some within the administration at the time because of it. (although it was certainly an empty gesture, as nothing serious became of it) Personally, I never really saw the logic in officially prohibiting the targeted assassination of enemy figures as opposed to authorizing larger strikes that are even more deadly, but I also think it's an issue that is coming around, as obviously, the direction is moving in targeted strikes.

    Obama's use of basically a covert death squad was effective, but also raised a lot of criticism because of what it represented. I think the fact that bin Laden was the target muted the concern because he was universally recognized as a "win" but what about the faceless targets that are being killed right now through drone strikes? Such strikes are certainly complicating relations with Pakistan at the moment. Would the public accept a "US ninja/SOF death squad" if the target turned out to be someone like David Hicks?

    I'm not so sure how much Clinton learned the lesson of "covertness," as all of his actions, from intervention in the Balkans, to the famous "baby aspirin strikes" to Operation Desert Fox were all pretty high profile operations designed to send a very public message. I think it would be more accurate to say that Clinton was shrewd enough to only get involved enough to ensure that the outcome could be controlled from a perception standpoint, whereas Bush was just as public, it's just that Bush was idealistic.
  18. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    I suppose I should refine Clinton to a man who understood the value of keeping things small. His answer to the East Africa embassy bombings could certainly have been the invasion of Egypt; sure, it lacked the immediacy of 9/11, but he would have been entirely within his rights as President to turn Egypt-and Afghanistan by extension-into a parking lot. He did not, however, and kept the military response very limited.

    II'd say the basically imaginary debate about military detention in Sec. 1031 and 1032 of the NDAA this year illustrates how Americans would respond to ninja squads coming for American citizens, although we've killed a few already. Kinda baffles me that we can't strip them of citizenship for joining an organization whose express purpose is killing Americans and Westerners in general, though.
  19. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Gonk, DB, I have to agree about the Arab Spring, I don't think it had anything to do with the Iraq war or the government the U.S. managed to prop up there before leaving.

    McCain and his irresponsible public statements about our decision to exit Iraq. He may be right about what happens to post-occupation Iraq but he hasn't spelled out any theory about how we would have managed to continue the occupation without the cooperation or assent of the Iraqi government while retaining the illusion of Iraqi sovereignty.

    Where is that criticism coming from? Do you mean from abroad, because it seems almost nonexistent in the U.S. Most of the time I feel like a lone American critic of the Obama covert death squad approach to the war on terror among friends and online.

    Obama's foreign policy seems extraordinarily clever viewed through the lens of domestic politics. He's upped the stakes of Ugly America while getting credit for leaving Iraq. He's doing what Republicans wish they could take credit for doing but now are flummoxed. He's taken the war on terror off the table for the coming election. Granted, it's the only aspect of U.S. policy he has real control over right now, but it certainly isn't hurting him.

  20. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Yeah, Obama's shadow war is pretty ingenious. It's practically gutted AQ, and now is expanding to other groups like the LRA. The SOCOM advisory role-which is what our missions in Africa are centered on-is savagely deadly to terrorists; it acts as a force multiplier. Twelve Special Forces soldiers can train/support/advise about a company's (call it a hundred or so) worth of soldiers, and then those can go on to train eight hundred, which can go on to train 6,400, and so on. It also robs the terrorists of any nationalism-based propaganda, because the US is hardly visible when there's about a hundred SF soldiers spread across three countries. As you've said, it robs the Republicans of what used to be a traditional Republican strength, although IMO domestic politics are basically transitory-as much as we'd like to think we could just coast along and mind our own business, the world doesn't work that way. What happens outside is way more important.
  21. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    Because geopolitical realities create flows of political capital, and the Iraq war wouldn't have been fought this way if the US wasn't operating with, well, peak political capital.

    And capital doesn't always flow the same way as justice.

    Different geopolitical reality, different flow of political capital. Your president didn't say "you're with us or you're against us", and my president wasn't a wimp. The US would have needed better reasons, or a better strategy. More to bring to the table.

    But I should think that what's more important to you, the Americans, is that your administration lied and cheated in order to get your country to go to war.
  22. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Where is that criticism coming from? Do you mean from abroad, because it seems almost nonexistent in the U.S.

    Yeah. It's basically what you just said in that it brings the ugly American concept to a new level. I didn't mean domestically, or even among the other allied powers. It's along the same lines of old discussions about Gitmo, when it was always pointed out that the UK, France, Australia, etc... all have their own versions of Gitmo, but that the US was supposed to act as Superman to their Batman. Finally, I think the US has developed its own Batman persona that is accepted, because a country like France or Britain can say, "yeah, we'd probably do the same thing." But it is certainly creating a scorched Earth reality among many other regional countries like Pakistan and Iran because it targets the feeling. That's not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but it certainly comes with some blowback of the "keeping negative feelings for US" variety...

    This is why each response comes with its own level of consequence. I don't think Iraq doomed direct military intervention, as the international community tends to favor a conventional military response, all other things being equal. (ie..Libya which was predicated on the same rationales) It just showed that it's more complicated in a multipolar world. It's also why Iraq didn't really impact international relations among powers in any meaningful or long term way because international relations are interest driven. As a counter, I don't think a super secret ninja route should be all the rage either, as it too involves bluntly targeted killings and the possibly of indefinite detentions and the like, which means that the public is going to have to develop a stomach for such things... As an example, if Iran continues to heat up, would the public accept a Israeli targeted strike within Iran, even if it means the US "unofficially" provided the support which isn't really confirmed or denied? It would be the most desirable from the US's point of view, but would also come with some serious consequences.

    In a nutshell, pretty much Reagan, Caspar Weinberger, Ollie North and the gang got it right, it was just an administration before his time.... :p
  23. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    The question is not with the methods overmuch, but with the policy it extends. Seek and Destroy teams have their place, but it's not going to do much good if there's no give and take.

    For instance, killing Osama Bin Laden won us no friends in Pakistan. But you have to consider that, really, nobody else seemed to care, even in the Muslim world. Does your average Syrian care what goes on in Pakistan? I'd wager they care a lot more about what goes on in Egypt and Libya. The religion might be common to the two, but that makes them no closer than me and my closest Mexican equivalent, El Gonko.

    So you can do these things as long as you're clearly doing some things that many Muslims care about. Support the Arab spring and the countries of the Middle East might not get so emotionally invested in your comeuppance. See, that's the thing about a lot of Mideast rage, because it's the same thing about human rage: you have to realize that a lot of the time you're just a convenient target, and they're really upset about other things. Which isn't to say that Israel doesn't tick off a LOT of Muslims, but what's going on is a little more complex than just that.

    That said, should we care about ticking off the populations of Iran and Pakistan? I've long been of the opinion that Pakistan is a thoroughly dysfunctional nation that's slowly been brainwashing itself with its own fantasies. Sure there are great people living there as with anywhere else, but observing its foreign policy and some of its popular culture is like watching a nation that has little to mourn convincing itself that it is a victim. Of... something. What it is isn't as important as long as they are a victim to be avenged.

    Iran I'm more passive on because Iran itself is more passive. It's nuclear ambitions should concern everyone for the mere fact a country has nuclear ambitions, but frankly both North Korea and Pakistan at this point are more likely to use their nuclear weapons in anger than Iran would. But the concern with Iran is not the use of nuclear weapons, but proliferation of said weapons. Will stopping Iran from getting the bomb stop Saudi Arabia or Egypt from wanting the bomb? If that's the case, maybe action is justified: it might even be for Iran's own good in the long run that they are prevented from having nuclear weapons.
  24. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Eh, that's where I both agree and disagree with your post. I'd say that your entire post could also be used wholesale to justify the US's invasion of Iraq. I know, because I used some of the same points back during those debates here. If the average Syrian doesn't care what happens in Pakistan, do you think the average Syrian cares what happens anywhere else that sits beyond the block? For the same anti-US feelings that were fostered because of Iraq are still being fostered because of a lower key response. Maybe not due to the same reasons, but overall, it probably breaks even on the "US is Great Satan!" scale. It's not like Syria is lining up to become a most favored nation trading partner with the US because Iraq is officially over and the US is only sending out ninja death squads now. I mean, when you ask "should we care about ticking off Pakistan and Iran?" Part of me answers back "you're preaching to the choir, brother..." But the real answer lies somewhere between yes and no. Sure, back in 2003, the difference was that France complained, but the same concept applies. But then again, that country had their own self-centered reasons to do so, and as we've seen, those objections only lasted up until France needed something, even going back to US Marines helping French troops "exile" Haiti's Jean-Bertrand Aristide's to France and transitioning the Haitian government to a more pro-French/US one, not even a year after Iraq was initiated and continuing with other military operations since then. Basically, the "butterfly effect" is very much alive and well in international relations, and every action has its own reaction, then every nation is going to act out of its own best interests.

    I do think your statement of "it's not the methods overmuch, but with the policy it extends." is the controlling one here, because the two are linked. As I mentioned, no one cared about the targeted killing of bin Laden, but his persona represented the exception to the rule. Would people still not care as much if it was Moussa Zemmouri who was gunned down? Or Anwar Al-Awlaki? The public tends to like exceptions, but a policy applies beyond the high profile wins. One of my frustrations still extends to the double standard that was applied to Iraq. Really? Iraq is the example that was supposed to represent the US's overreach? Where where those concerns when the US was beating down North Korea? Vietnam? Grenada? Panama? Haiti? Kosovo? and just about every other example in any region we can think of? It doesn't make Iraq automatically "correct," any more than it makes any of those examples correct in their own context. But I do think the perception about Iraq greatly overstepped beyond what it represented as any kind of anomaly, or anything outside the norm when it comes to US foreign policy.
  25. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    My stance on Iraq remains much the same as I continue to be one of an insanely small minority of Americans that have gone through my stances on this.

    I consider the invasion of Iraq in 2003 to be a mistake. I have considered it to be a mistake since 2002/2003 when it was being discussed. I had, and still have, large doubts that the country's factions will allow for a stable country, although I hope to be proven wrong, but the sectarian violence that has happened over the last 8 years play into that. I also do not feel, nor did I feel in 2003, that the war was sold as Iraq=Al-Qaeda (and again, I held that stance while opposing it). I do feel I should explain why I think it happened, though.

    I'm of the opinion that the rationale behind the invasion of Iraq was an attempt to show that after going into Afghanistan, the US was going to try to stop terror, period. Not just terrorism that was against us directly. There were a number of countries that were supporting terrorism, and so they picked the one that still had a partially open door that could ease choosing it as a target, namely the leftover attempts to remove all WMDs from Iraq. Saddam was the low-hanging fruit, and the people that were looking into this were willing to believe the claims that Saddam had WMDs not because it was the most credible, but because it agreed with what they believed, so of course that information was right. The goal being to use Iraq as an example of how supporting terrorism wasn't going to be tolerated across the board.

    As soon as we set foot in the country, and greatly disrupted it, I feel we bought ourselves a commitment to restore a stable and secure country before we could leave. And I think that American politics utterly destroyed that, with the policies of many Democrats that I found/find contemptible, and the stupidly stubborn response from Bush. Once we were in, the focus in the US should have been how to balance out and secure Iraq as fast as possible to allow a speedy end to the war. Instead, we became bogged down in rehashing the debate of if we should have invaded in the first place, which was something we couldn't undo. On one side, Democrats pushed a deadline for withdrawal, which would accomplish no goals other than indicate to brutal groups just how long they had to hold out to take control of the country. Bush, in an action that characterizes the glorious leadership he showed, responded to that by refusing to ever discuss when the US would leave Iraq in anything other than nebulous "when the job is done" terms that was just as unproductive. What should have happened was someone, anyone, should have come up with a clear list of what objectives would need to occur to trigger the US leaving Iraq (e.g. retrained police force, stable government elected, etc) and put the troops in that would help stabilize and reduce violence while we worked with Iraq to help them achieve those other goals. This didn't happen because of petty American politics of refusing to concede to the other party in the face of pragmatism. I am shocked, shocked that political parties would do that at the expense of a country's future.


    It was a war that was a bad idea, and after the initial mistake, no one stepped up to address how to get past that first mistake for far too long.