Monday, September 25, 2006

One fine day

John Kerry says America is losing Afghanistan. Bill Roggio has been warning about Afghanistan for some time now, or rather about Afghanistan and Pakistan where the deal in Waziristan was apparently backed by such luminaries as Mullah Omar. John Kerry's main claim, predictably has been that Afghanistan's woes stem from a lack of American strength there as it is "starved" by Iraq. Interestingly enough one of the main criticisms of Iraq has been that it too had been "starved" of troops. If only 400,000 troops had been deployed instead of the measely 150K -- or so goes the argument -- things would have been different. But even the Democrats appreciate that numbers are not the complete story. Trudy Rubin of the Philadelpha Inquirer, opined and not without justification that:


We must decide as a nation, and soon, whether we think it is worth trying to bring stability to Iraq, a nation whose previous system we took down. We must search harder to find the troops we need, and the right kind of troops, to stabilize Iraq over the next year — and to give its government a chance. We must also try harder to enhance a program that is showing success, that embeds U.S. units within Iraqi units and helps them fight. These special U.S. units need more men, and soon.

Of course this is a different argument -- though not necessarily an incorrect argument -- from the early positions which characterized the conduct of the War on Terror in 2003. At that time there was very little appreciation of what was really required to defeat the enemy. The Democrats were arguing for police action through multilateral alliances. Or for large half-million man troop deployments in Iraq. And the Conservatives thought that major combat operations were over in Iraq. But in truth, no one was asking the right questions. As one Marine Colonel (the reference to which I can't find at the moment) argued, more men of the wrong kind would have converted Iraq into a mud-trodden disaster. John Kerry understands this, and calls for more Special Forces to be used. But where to get them? The Los Angeles Times describes the budget disputes within the DOD. Basically the Army wants more money and the question is where to get it.

The Army, with an active-duty force of 504,000, has been stretched by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. About 400,000 have done at least one tour of combat duty, and more than a third of those have been deployed twice. Commanders have increasingly complained of the strain, saying last week that sustaining current levels will require more help from the National Guard and Reserve or an increase in the active-duty force.

Schoomaker first raised alarms with Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in June after he received new Army budget outlines from Rumsfeld's office. Those outlines called for an Army budget of about $114 billion, a $2-billion cut from previous guidelines. The cuts would grow to $7 billion a year after six years, the senior Army official said.

After Schoomaker confronted Rumsfeld with the Army's own estimates for maintaining the current size and commitments — and the steps that would have to be taken to meet the lower figure, which included cutting four combat brigades and an entire division headquarters unit — Rumsfeld agreed to set up a task force to investigate Army funding.

Of course debates over military posture are less about the present than they are about the future. The LA Times article continues:

However, a good portion of the new money the Army seeks is not directly tied to the war, Kosiak cautioned, but rather to new weapons it wants — particularly the $200-billion Future Combat System, a family of armored vehicles that is eventually to replace nearly every tank and transporter the Army has. "This isn't a problem one can totally pass off on current military operations," Kosiak said. "The FCS program is very ambitious — some would say overly ambitious."

The enemy and the military situation is a moving target and both men and capability take a long time to acquire. Through the debate over Iraq and Afghanistan runs a whole gamut of questions, which include strategy (what to do about the opium crop, reliance on certain tribes to support Karzai, the question of sanctuary in Pakistan, the role of Iran in Iraq, the idea of a central government for Iraq) and the posture of US forces. And there are no simple solutions. Not even the Democrats are united over whether Special Forces are a good idea, John Kerry's call to send more into Afghanistan notwithstanding. Newsweek for example, warned that sending Special Forces against terrorists would reprise the evil, kidnapping and murder strategy made infamous in El Salvador. One man's solution is another man's problem.

Westhawk summarized much of the thinking that is now going on in his review of Col. Mark Cancian's article in Proceedings entitled "A Civil War in the Military" which categorizes the debate into three camps. And he asks, which camp should seize the building?

1) The Angry Generals School. Col Cancian refers here to the seven retired U.S. Army and Marine Corps generals who earlier this year called on U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to resign. Looking beyond their contempt for Mr. Rumsfeld’s alleged (in their view) meddling with tactical military matters, the author classifies these officers by their allegiance to “traditional” ground warfare tactics, the large-scale attrition warfare model successfully used in American military history.

Descended from the teachings of Generals Powell and Shinseki, The Angry Generals school is highly skeptical of transformation theories, and believes the Iraq war required a far larger U.S. ground force whose heavy hand they believed would have pacified Iraq’s street corners. Perhaps oversimplifying, The Angry Generals have little confidence in the labor-saving benefits of technology or the effectiveness of local proxies.

2) The Transformation School. Secretary Rumsfeld is a member of this school but not a charter member. In the 1990s Admiral William Owens, USN, then Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, popularized “transformation.” Admiral Owens described a vision of persistent, all-seeing sensors, connected to a seamless and global command and control system. Long-range precision weapons, guided by real-time and comprehensive intelligence, and coordinated by a “networked” commander, would accomplish what previously required mass armies, navies, and air fleets. General Tommy Franks, commander and planner-in-chief of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, remains a proud Transformationist.

The Transformationists will take every opportunity to remind their listeners that transformation is about changing the U.S. military’s culture and thinking as much as high-tech sensors, satellite communications, and precision strikes. But when they are honest, Transformationists must admit that their school is all about substituting technology for American riflemen. Critics of this school point to this thinking to show why Iraq was not pacified years ago.

3) The Introspective School. These officers blame the U.S. military itself for the current problem in Iraq, and the resurgent problem in Afghanistan. The Introspectionists believe the U.S. military remained focused on conventional combat operations for far too long after the end of the Cold War. During the 1990s, U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Charles Krulak described the “three-block war” and U.S. Army doctrine manuals proclaimed the necessity of preparing for “full spectrum operations,” which presumably would include stability and counterinsurgency operations.

But the Introspectionists see this as so much lip service. Habits and bureaucratic momentum are hard to break. Up until today, procurement programs, investments in training facilities, and the evaluation of officers’ careers were tied back to the “major combat operations” template. Meanwhile, very few in the U.S. military were paying any attention to cultural, language, and field training required for stability and counterinsurgency operations, even though the U.S. had been involved in similar such operations in the Balkans and Latin American during the 1990s. Generals Abizaid and Casey, the current U.S. commanders in Iraq, are now paid-up members of this school.

The debate over the War on Terror is not all about simple metrics like "numbers" or Iraq versus Afghanistan. Or simple nostrums like whether to send more Special Forces to Anbar or Afghanistan. Politicians make it all sound simple, because they have to sound wise at all times. But I think the truth is that we don't really know what works and anyone who pretends to certitude is probably mistaken. Lawrence Wright in a recent interview with Hugh Hewitt makes the case that we got nearly everything wrong in the run-up to September 11 and that, to a great extent, the military, intelligence and diplomatic establishments continue in their perverse obtuseness even today. The difference is in the rate in which they are learning.

HH: Second category. Does the American military elite understand this enemy?

LW: I think of all the branches of government, that the military is moving faster in terms of evolving its response to this threat than in any other branch of government. It’s not to say that the military can solve the problem alone. I don’t think it can. But you know, the military is really down in the weeds with the enemy, and they’ve learned a lot about the culture and how to adapt to it. So I feel better about the military’s ability to understand the enemy, if not defeat him.

In the end, the single best thing response to the attack on September 11 was simply to do something, a policy which seems to me infinitely better than doing nothing, if only because action led to learning and that was superior to sitting back and imagining that we had the answers. One day a bipartisan policy on the War on Terror may be possible. One day.

36 Comments:

Blogger Tim P said...

Wretcherd,

An informative and interesting post. I'd like to add that in addition to what was discussed, what was not discussed was the lack of any substantial help from our so called allies.

With the exception of Britain and Australia, in additon to notable though small commitments of troops by Poland, El Salvador and some others, we have had no real help from the western European countries. Notably absent are France and Germany. Spain knuckled under to extortion. The coutries of western Europe have a much more immediate stake in this conflict and to date they have not only done nothing, they have been vocal opponents of any US action.

Substantial help from European countries would help us alleviate the burden in cost and on our troops. Even if their help was confined to material and logistics, or aid to Iraqis.

The UN is another major actor who has been more of a hindrance than a help.

As for this tidbit, "Newsweek for example, warned that sending Special Forces against terrorists would reprise the evil, kidnapping and murder strategy made infamous in El Salvador." Why, because it worked? Just what do they think the terrorists are doing?

9/25/2006 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger Ash said...

All this talk of more troops whether it be in Iraq or Afghanistan just obscures the deeper problem embedded in American hubris; that somehow, through a combination of military force and benign reconstruction, we alone can fix failed nations. Unfortunately it is hubris and is doomed to failure.

9/25/2006 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger jonesy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/25/2006 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger jonesy said...

"I just did what my grand dad always told me: 'Just keep chopping. Don't worry about how far you have gone, or how much more tree needs to be chopped, or how much longer, or how many more chops it will take, just keep chopping. It will eventually come down. Just keep chopping.'" - Buster Douglas, on the night he claimed the heavyweight title from Mike Tyson in 1990 in one of the most dramatic upsets in boxing history.

As long as we are learning and adapting, we just need to keep on working and do less hand-wringing. I mean, it is incredible how un-demanding, relatively speaking, this war has been to wage on both the fiscal and human side of things. Of course, if your family has suffered loss, then it has been incredibly costly. But in an overall sense, I almost wonder if we would be more unified and resolved to win if we had been alot less successful and it had really tried us to the max the way we were in WWII.

9/25/2006 07:14:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

Hillary backs up husband's bin Laden criticism:

Even conservatives like Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol see political benefits in Bill Clinton's counterattack, saying the Democrats need a defender on the terror issue.

The ex-president -- who pioneered the use of rapid-response "truth squads" to counter negative attacks during his presidential campaigns -- has been critical of John Kerry for failing to defend himself against attacks by the Swift Boat veterans.

Hillary Backing

9/25/2006 07:28:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Ash,

Interestingly enough and without anyone quite noticing, people in the Democratic establishment have come to the conclusion that an American led solution is necessary, except that it has to be led by the Democratic party according to their formula. What has definitely lost out, probably for good, is the option of doing nothing. There was for a time a school of thought that held that today's world crisis was entirely manufactured, that 9/11 was a conspiracy. And if we could just give Osama everything he wanted and get Israel to go away the problem would be over. Thankfully that idea is now dead. Most people now understand that we were sleepwalking through a minefield in the 1990s. Not just America and not just the Democrats to be sure. But forces were building up which nobody wanted to take seriously.

Former President Clinton now claims he knew even then, but that no one would listen. But I think the truth is that nobody really knew, except maybe a few hardy souls like O'Neill and Scheuer and maybe Sam Huntington. Clinton was a clueless as the rest and I think deep down he knows this. And I'd bet anything if he really knew then what he knows now he would have acted a whole lot differently.

The great good fortune, I think, was that we did not take the view after 9/11 that inaction was hubris. Make a big show of mourning and "healing" and pretending we learned something. We haven't learned the half of it yet. Or hook our wagon to the European, tranzi star which always looks for inaction dressed up as action. America took the risk and acted, and by so doing accomplished much and erred much. But it acted. Today the Democrats are saying, "here gimme the wheel", but that's better than "stop the car". That's progress.

9/25/2006 07:38:00 PM  
Blogger rich said...

There is a very negative report Afghanistan Five Years After from a group called SENLIS.

http://www.senliscouncil.net/

Since the report was probably written in July or August -- it is pretty long -- They may have heard about the Taliban offensive and did not anticipate that Operation Medusa would blunt it. Although bad the situation in Afghanistan may not be as bad as SENLIS describes it to be.

SENLIS wants to license opium production in Afghanistan.

9/25/2006 08:11:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Hubris? Hardly.

I would characterize it as leadership.

Often times in business & other places when someone sees a problem their boss expects them to not just have the problem identified but also the solution and plan for action.

Who was going to take action after 9/11?

One aspect of leadership is stepping up and doing what is right even if it isn't popular.

9/25/2006 09:04:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Wretchard,

I think President Clinton knew. I think he was too intimidated by the Pentagon & other such services to be able to order them into action.

I think it was Byron York who summarized Richard Clarke's book as saying President Clinton tried to cajole the Pentagon & CIA into executing the hit on Bin Laden rather than ordering the hit.

This strikes directly at the "chicken-hawk" argument or others (IIRC some US NATO General referred to President Clinton in highly negative terms, he rightly lost his command over the comments) who would call the President a draft-dodging dope smoking philanderer.

9/25/2006 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

The core of GWB's resposne to 9/11 has always seemed to me very simple and very sound:

(a) Not one but two terror-sponsoring regimes were going to have to be taken out. Afghanistan was an immediately obvious target, as an actual co-conspirator, but the second target could have been any one of a number of countries, because the point was to 'encourager les autres', and to establish that sniggering on the sidelines and subsidizing terrorists would in future be highly dangerous to your health.

(b) We would in future be needing a sharpened armed capability, able to tackle third world, especially urban environments, and the only way to acquire it was to get the military into action and learning by doing.

Too bereft of nuance, it seems, for most college professors to grasp.

9/25/2006 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Wretchard:

If Samuel Huntington is a "prophet", it is one of self-fulfilling prophecy.

His definitions of "civilization" not only raised up religious bigotry and cultural chauvinism as the new idols of the modern era, but channeled the ideologies of Marxism and Fascism into a different direction. Just as Karl Marx would talk of "class war" and Nazis (and Klansmen) would talk of "race war", Samuel Huntington refers to a so-called "Clash of Civilizations". They basically refer to the same thing.

Not only is his thesis destructive, but his boundaries are infuriating, for ramming together English-speaking North America and Western Europe while hiving off former colonies of Romance countries is not only intellectually dishonest (as Argentina has far more in common with Europe than the United States, thank you very much) but it pits the US and France against each other over who is supposed to control "Western Civilization".

Moreover, I don't think one can overstate the effect that Samuel Huntington has had in Islamic countries in effectively legitimizing the ideas of the most radical Islamists. In some respects, I regard Samuel Huntington and Zbigniew Brzezinkski as founding fathers of al-Qaeda.

Islamists love Samuel Huntington, for he validates everything they are trying to say, especially the Islamist and polytheistic assumption that different "civilizations" have different essences.

Mark my words. I do not regard the United States to be part of "Western Civilization"; we are better! I can take ideas (and foods) from many lands and still be American. I am influenced not merely by "western" thought, but by "eastern" thought (including Chinese philosophy) and ideas from indigenous America.

My disagreement with "multiculturalism" isn't with the idea that one can be exposed to various cultures or that our cultural greatness comes from appropriating traditions from many different cultures, but rather to the Left's prostitution of "multiculturalism" to mean a stale ideological uniformity with racial tokenism.

America is my home and I will not let some Harvard professor with little understanding of America's interior dismantle our consciousness as a people and turn us into a mere appendage of Europe. We are a free people, not the vanguard of Europe! What we stand for is not "The American Creed" as Samuel Huntington claims but a pragmatic set of institutions designed to defend a freedom that professor doesn't seem to understand. Samuel Huntington is a man who claimed that America has "too much democracy" -- that means no referendums, no discourse outside of the mainstream media, no discussion outside of what Samuel Huntington and his pals have condescended to let us consider.

When America declared independence from the British Empire, we not only declared independence from the British Crown, but we declared independence from the institutions that defined and still define Europe. If we regard ourselves as Europeans (or even a "nation of immigrants), the real Europeans will only see us as imposters, as European wannabes. There is nothing to be gained in claiming to be something one is not.

In their different ways, I regard both Samuel Huntington and Noam Chomsky as mirror images of one another with a common decadence that seeks to devour the vitality of American culture. America, the real America, isn't the image the outside world gets presented by Hollywood and much of academe. Liberty is not a mere creed, but an animating idea that gives us the backbone to fight against tyranny.

9/25/2006 11:35:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Tim P - Substantial help from European countries would help us alleviate the burden in cost and on our troops. Even if their help was confined to material and logistics, or aid to Iraqis.

Well, we can try and blame the Euros, but we were well warned by leaders of many nations that the US and it's coalition were heading into an interminable conflict and Iraq wasn't worth it.

So it's like the Soviets asking for help from their "socialist friends" when they got their tit caught in the Afghan wringer.

Yeah, sure. Right behind you, comrade!

The larger question is why Bush's tax cuts and determination to avoid asking Americans to sacrifice at all costs are the reason why we failed to beef up the military after we were attacked and why in most areas we are a measurably weaker military in equipment and Reserves ability to make up for long standing active duty manpower deficiencies.

Why with an Army now half the size of Reagans, why we are blubbering about the need for European manpower - instead of doing what Reagan did?

Our sharply lower Navy and AF combat forces started when Bush began burning out hundreds of fighter jets frame lifetimes flying donuts over dozens of US cities after 9/11 despite being told the threat of future hijacked aircraft was negligable...simply for appearances. Then the loss of aircraft accelerated as CAS was applied in excess as Iraq and Afghanistan has gone on. The Naval Fleet is a shadow of Reagan's and we actually lowered our carriers by one and our sub strength by 9 AFTER 9/11.

Governors have warned that Reservists equipment is not replaced, that training time not funded, and eligibility of Reservists is burning out. Existing non-deployed units are having their equipment cannibalized because the Bushies have not asked for a "reset" of attrited equipment in 3 years because it was "deferrable". The Army says that the capital costs of getting back to levels we had in 2001 will take 110 billion, and that does not include Rumsfelds pushing out replacement AF tankers and Naval capital ship acquisition - which is now at it's lowest level since pre-WWII days.

It is looking that troops in the field have been screaming for extra troops and that Congress has not been told the true nature of the urgent more manpower requests from the theater of operations. What the soldiers in the field told the senior Pentagon officials is looking like a very different story than the "transforming" believers under Rumsfeld told Congress and the media.

Instead of asking "where are the Euros??" we should be asking why we continued to lose military strength and did not significantly build it up after 9/11?

And diverted much of the augmented military funding into corporate services projects instead of more men and more equipment? And why the Bushies failed to mobilize the public and ask for any sacrifice.


This is not demanding enormous trials and tribulations of the public. Reagan built up our military tremendously - increasing weapons by 30% and manpower in front line assignments by 25%, grew the economy, and did it with deficits 1/4th the size of Bush's. But Bush has put most of his money into Big Pharma prescription drug welfare, agribiz welfare, growing the Fed Gov't by 40%, and contracts to big corporations to build and then supply Iraq mega bases.

A simple one-line answer? Marines are not Bush's donors, fatcat corporatists are - and 1st things 1st.

9/26/2006 01:37:00 AM  
Blogger trish said...

In the end, the single best thing response to the attack on September 11 was simply to do something, a policy which seems to me infinitely better than doing nothing, if only because action led to learning and that was superior to sitting back and imagining that we had the answers.

- Wretchard

Do we NOT imagine that we have the answer in our "forward strategy for freedom"?


"The United States had been impelled into war at last by attacks upon its citizens. But it had been deeply moved, too, by what we at least believed to be wanton wrongs inflicted by the Central Powers upon small European peoples. Woodrow Wilson had seized upon this second fact and had striven mightily and successfully to make our final decision for war to turn, not upon revengeful or selfish motives, but upon a high desire to make it possible for oppressed peoples to achieve our own traditional ideals of freedom and peace.

"The results of the war, it is quite true, fell short of our hopes, to a ghastly degree. Some of the ardent crusaders of that day have come to feel that it was absurd to have entertained those lofty hopes from any war - since such fruits do not grow on the tree of violence. In the disillusionment, and in the revulsion of feeling, many have been so shamed by memory of the enthusiasms of the war years as to deny them altogether and to claim that from the first we fought only in self-defense. But the fact stands that the force which drove our finest youth by the hundreds of thousands into the filth of the trenches, and which made mothers ready to see their sons march forth to die "in a quarrel not their own," was an ideal - the conviction that America was fighting, above all else, in defense of free government and of civilization and of humanity - to "win a war that shall end war."

- Willis Mason West, 1928

Not to worry. Now we're only fighting to end tyranny the world over.

9/26/2006 06:00:00 AM  
Blogger trish said...

If in this war, Wretchard, certainty is not possible for anyone and "something is infinitely preferrable to nothing" (though I don't recall "nothing" being proposed) then the whole enterprise as conceived and executed is beyond either criticism or praise or improvement. It exists in another realm, where objective conclusions, even tantative, cannot be drawn; success or failure cannot be measured; and a change of course is as good as staying it. Because, after all, no one knows.

9/26/2006 06:37:00 AM  
Blogger Ari Tai said...

re: Europe as ally

Is a lost cause. The U.S. paid the bill for their socialism and nanny-state when we didn't insist they pay their fair share for their defense against the Warsaw pact (granted, they would just as soon sacrificed their freedoms as fight, and we needed the buffer). We're guilty too - the Wall Street excesses of the 90s (including Clinton's doubling of absolute government expenditures and future commitments (v. % of GDP), and still having money left to balance the budget) were paid for with "just" reductions in the % of GDP dedicated to our ability to wage punitive war. In every other (commercial) service business costs dropped by an order of magnitude per unit of service delivered in 90s (i.e. as seen in headcount reductions or business expansion). But not our government (granted, commercial concerns with unionized workforces have had the same problem, but at least here nature works her magic and recycles resources not being efficiently and productively used - save when government intervenes).

So, as I've written elsewhere, the Europeans took their peace dividend early, with interest, and are not even capable of defending themselves from, say, the Turks marching to the channel (esp. if the TSK attack on a weekend, when the EC's unionized soldiers don't answer the phone, or in August, when they are all in Turkey :-). And when it comes to projecting power (moving and supplying soldiers over a long distance) they can only watch in envy at, say, Britain recovering the Falklands.

Re: Sacrifice.

What's even sillier than depending on Europe for our defense (or belief in their statements that they chose not to help us do something unlikely to succeed without great sacrifice v. they have little ability to help us - We see that they can barely handle Afghanistan with us doing most of the heavy lifting) is claiming that the country is not sacrificing (esp. the "fat cats" who are now paying even more of the bills than they've paid in the past). The pubs are clearly the party of mainstreet (i.e. $200 donations by ma-and-pa small business in red-and-blue America are the great majority of party contributions.. thank goodness we have transparency in reporting political donations), and the dems are the party of wall street and the litigation lobby, the fat-cat billionaires in all these segments and most of Hollywood. The dems have such great grass roots support that they have to pay them for "get out the vote" activities, v. the pubs who have real volunteers who man the phones and visit with people. Even the unions seem unable to turn out their "volunteers" relative to the pubs in suburbia and ex-urbia.

Even the energy companies are only so-so for the pubs per their and their employees' donation records. Remember that Enron and related disasters went into the arbitrage and speculation business because Mr. Gore and Mr. Clinton had promised them a carbon-trading business, yet another scam to fleece the least of us (just like regulation, one of the most regressive taxes, sold as benefiting "the common citizen" but really a purchasing choice made for the least-of-us by the government).

And what we ask of the people is support for administration and their stumbling efforts (not as bad as WW2 or the cold-war errors - yet, but give it time) to prosecute this war while keeping America the world's best market and productivity leader. But this certainly seems to be too much of a sacrifice to ask of the left. So we grit our teeth and soldier on, expecting eventually these truths will become evident to our fellow citizens.

9/26/2006 06:45:00 AM  
Blogger Faeroe said...

Marcus Aurelius said:

I think President Clinton knew. I think he was too intimidated by the Pentagon & other such services to be able to order them into action.

I think it was Byron York who summarized Richard Clarke's book as saying President Clinton tried to cajole the Pentagon & CIA into executing the hit on Bin Laden rather than ordering the hit.

This strikes directly at the "chicken-hawk" argument or others (IIRC some US NATO General referred to President Clinton in highly negative terms, he rightly lost his command over the comments) who would call the President a draft-dodging dope smoking philanderer.


It seems to me that the Clarke quote shows that Clinton was, if anything, weak. It sounds more like a sissified adolescent, "Mom, Tenet won't send the operations directorate out to rub out bin Laden!" "Mom, the FBI won't play with me." "MOM, the military is calling me names!"

Well, boo hoo. Every president faces an entrenched bureaucracy with its own agenda. Clinton had the benefit of being from the same political pot as the great body of those same bureaucrats and all he can say for himself is that they wouldn't play nice.

If he had faced half the backstabbing (not to mention a MSM that even held him to account for his actions, much less the false attacks) that GWB fields on a daily basis he probably would have died of an aneurism in office.

A president, as Wretchard intimates, has to lead and Clinton knew only how to follow - the polls. He, and his water bearers, have shown once again that he was fundamentally unserious.

9/26/2006 06:46:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

We were warned that this would be a long war, unlike any other, which would outlast the current administration and, likely, our lifetimes.

But a society conditioned to believe that sacrifice, hardship and suffering are forms of failure to be avoided at all cost, one accustomed to ignoring the astonishing progress of the human endeavor during the past few decades in favor of navel-gazing and bitching about what it doesn't have may not have the patience to accept that we are at the begining of this war's learning curve.

9/26/2006 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger Andrewdb said...

Cedarford -

Amen!

9/26/2006 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger Reocon said...

What's so fascinating about this post is what it skims over: the political equation. Perhaps it is too painful to tackle head on: the fact that the elections of '05 brought Shiite Islamists to power in a coaliton gov't while patriotic Americans blindly cheered them on as a "success". Moqtada al-Sadr killed hundreds of Americans and for his efforts he now comands 30 delegates in parliament and 6 ministries.

And to Sadr's sides are the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI, look closely to the name for the agenda) and its cousin party Dawa. These parties are pro-Hezbollah, pro-Iranian, command their own militia, and have imposed Sharia and the chador on Southern Iraq. These are the forces we are fighting for, the Islamists we are empowering, our "last, best hope" for Iraq.

What is the expectation here? That these parties, with some big gov't largesse for the US, will mellow with time instead of playing us like fools? Or is it that, amidst all the blood and anarchy, a liberal, secular party will magically arise around Ahmed Chalabi? If Maliki -- who is nothing but a front man for black-turbaned clerics -- falls, then what is the back-up, back-up plan?

There are many differences between Iraq and Vietnam, but one similarity is that the military strategy doesn't matter if you're fighting to perserve a corrupt, hollowed out, and utterly ineffectual gov't. At least the South Vietnamese weren't a bunch of Khomeinist thugs.

9/26/2006 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger Reocon said...

What's so fascinating about this post is what it skims over: the political equation. Perhaps it is too painful to tackle head on: the fact that the elections of '05 brought Shiite Islamists to power in a coaliton gov't while patriotic Americans blindly cheered them on as a "success". Moqtada al-Sadr killed hundreds of Americans and for his efforts he now comands 30 delegates in parliament and 6 ministries.

And to Sadr's sides are the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI, look closely to the name for the agenda) and its cousin party Dawa. These parties are pro-Hezbollah, pro-Iranian, command their own militia, and have imposed Sharia and the chador on Southern Iraq. These are the forces we are fighting for, the Islamists we are empowering, our "last, best hope" for Iraq.

What is the expectation here? That these parties, with some big gov't largesse for the US, will mellow with time instead of playing us like fools? Or is it that, amidst all the blood and anarchy, a liberal, secular party will magically arise around Ahmed Chalabi? If Maliki -- who is nothing but a front man for black-turbaned clerics -- falls, then what is the back-up, back-up plan?

There are many differences between Iraq and Vietnam, but one similarity is that the military strategy doesn't matter if you're fighting to perserve a corrupt, hollowed out, and utterly ineffectual gov't. At least the South Vietnamese weren't a bunch of Khomeinist thugs.

9/26/2006 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

wretchard I beleive you are simply setting up a straw man to knock down in your 7:38:37 comment. This is exemplified by your line:

"What has definitely lost out, probably for good, is the option of doing nothing."

I agree with you that the Democrats have been caught in the Chinese finger trap that is Iraq as you have, for they are exhibiting the American hubris as well; thinking that they, in their way, could engineer success. This is the problem, the Chinese finger trap, that has the US engulfed - that they can somehow engineer success - more troops, more money, better management, 3 states - but that is a fools errand and the interventionist can do American spirit is sinking in the shifting sands of the desert.

The people of the US need to learn, and we are, slowly, seemingly ahead of our politicians, that we can not solve the problems in Iraq, or Afghanistan. We can try to help, but we can't solve the problems, they have to.

By the way, your straw man argument, it is impossible to do nothing, something is always being done, the question though, is what to do.

9/26/2006 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Trish 06:37:12 AM,
I don't see why it necessarily follows that criticism or praise is precluded by Wretchard's statement.
Any ideas you have for improvement would certainly be welcomed by me.
Constructive Criticism would be fine also.

9/26/2006 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

A thorough outing of the NY Times/Dems Leaking Sabotage of our efforts is my suggestion for today.

9/26/2006 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger lugh lampfhota said...

Alexis

To suggest that Samuel Huntington is a "self-prophesizing prophet" is absurd. Do you really believe that droves of Islamists read Huntington?

I believe Huntington basically has it right, that culture is everything in the post Cold War world. Mainstream American culture has been Western culture but that is changing as America has more immigrants from non-Western civilizations. I find Huntington's civilizational model helpful when trying to understand why people behave as they do in this seemingly modern world.

Blaming Huntington for the clash of civilizations and history is ridiculous.

9/26/2006 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

ll:

Samuel Huntington also predicts a racial civil war within the United States. Do you want that too? He has also claimed America has too much democracy. Do you want that too?

Do you really believe that droves of Islamists read Huntington?

YES! Islamists are far more likely to read Huntington than most other people. He is the perfect foil for them.

And that’s not including all the Muslims out there who have heard about Samuel Huntington but haven’t read him, but have read Arabic language refutations of his ideas. Samuel Huntington is very well known in the Middle East, far more so than in his native land.

To quote Khaled al-Khater, “most Arab intellectuals and analysts rely on their perceptions of an outdated, classical, traditional intellectual platform and shabby culture (politically, economically, and socially) when analyzing Arab-American relations or their relations with each other or with the rest of the world. Because of that outdated mode of thinking, they invariably conclude, incorrectly, that the objective of the Americans is domination, control, neo-imperialism, and empire-building. Hence, they have only taken, out of all of the many theories developed regarding the present situation, Samuel Huntington's theory of the clash of civilizations and upgraded it into a prophecy. They have accepted it, believe in it, and work hard to convince their people to see the West through it.”

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EG25Ak02.html

Samuel Huntington was a major topic of discussion among Muslims one decade ago. Arabic language commentaries on his incendiary book have been very popular.

General Musharraf wrote, “I'm afraid Huntington has created unnecessary hype against Islam, he has created this thought in the mind of the West that Islam is the threat of the future and I don't think this has been a very productive exercise.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/talking_point/850793.stm

So, you don’t think Islamists read? They read alright, and Samuel Huntington’s construct fits into the radical Islamist worldview like a glove. Not only do Islamists agree with his basic thesis, but they use him as a foil claiming that America is really out to crush Islam.


Here’s a short list of references to Professor Huntington by various Muslims, Islamists, and Edward Said. I don’t agree with them, but the existence of these comments bolsters my thesis that Professor Huntington’s comments created alarm among the Muslim intelligentsia in the 1990's and a massive ideological opportunity for Osama bin Laden. Remember, the “Clash of Civilizations” theme came before Osama bin Laden’s declaration of war against the United States. Think about that, if you can.


http://www.islamonline.net/english/Contemporary/2004/08/article01b.shtml

http://www.muslimparliament.org.uk/ploy.htm

http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/HAM410A.html

http://www.ranadasgupta.com/notes.asp?note_id=28

http://www.islamic-world.net/warnews/quote/week053.htm

http://www.arabnews.com/?page=5§ion=0&article=9314&d=28&m=9&y=2001

http://www.drsoroush.com/English/On_DrSoroush/E-CMO-20040422-Mission_Reforming_Islam.html

http://www.islamonline.net/english/Politics/2001/03/article6.shtml

http://www.unesco.org/dialogue/en/kahlifa.htm

http://www.islamway.com/newenglish/bindex.php?section=article&id=211

http://www.counterpunch.org/alam02282003.html

http://groups.google.com/group/soc.religion.islam/browse_thread/thread/5f1b6e2f2fd7991d/97d2f7b6da296aa8?lnk=st&q=%22samuel+huntington%22+group%3Asoc.religion.islam&rnum=3&hl=en#97d2f7b6da296aa8

http://groups.google.com/group/soc.religion.islam/browse_thread/thread/6881e1d9f43514ec/0b7f089b87f77392?lnk=st&q=%22samuel+huntington%22+group%3Asoc.religion.islam&rnum=17&hl=en#0b7f089b87f77392

9/26/2006 09:32:00 PM  
Blogger Cutler said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/26/2006 11:24:00 PM  
Blogger Cutler said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/26/2006 11:32:00 PM  
Blogger Cutler said...

"America is my home and I will not let some Harvard professor with little understanding of America's interior dismantle our consciousness as a people and turn us into a mere appendage of Europe."

Wow, Alexis - you sure don't like Huntington.

Question, have you ever read "Who Are We?" What do you think of it?

Furthermore, I generally don't buy these broad ideologies - realism, constructivism, whatever, to be all encompassing. But a little bit of each can be used for specific situations. Obviously the US and Europe are not monolithic, but I don't see anything atrocious or out of ordinary about considering our collision with the general Muslim world as being something beyond states or regions.

That Islamists love the idea does not mean it is wrong, imo.

9/26/2006 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger Cutler said...

Ugh, sorry about triple - my ISP vomited them out.

9/26/2006 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger Cutler said...

"Samuel Huntington also predicts a racial civil war within the United States. Do you want that too? He has also claimed America has too much democracy. Do you want that too?"

What someone wants and what they believe are obviously distinct. Mark Steyn also predicts a racial civil war within Europe in the coming decades, doesn't mean he wants it. "Democracy" can mean any number of things up to and including tyranny of the majority.

9/27/2006 12:43:00 AM  
Blogger lugh lampfhota said...

Alexis,

It's not a matter of what I want. It is important to try to understand why the Islam world is resurgent, Asia is a rising power and the West is in decline. Huntington seems to have it about right. To suggest he caused it is a reach.

Islamists will use any situation, any idea, any event, any perceived wrong to make their case of their superiority and right to rule. If they use Huntington I cannot be surprised. But I cannot condemn Huntington for it.

Everything changed when the Soviet Union collapsed. The world is the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Even Americans of non-Western descent are African-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Muslim-Americans first and Americans a distant second. Culture is king in the 21st century.

Buckle-up, until the Muslim demographic declines we are in for a rough ride.

9/27/2006 12:53:00 AM  
Blogger Cutler said...

"What someone wants and what they believe are obviously distinct. Mark Steyn also predicts a religious civil war within Europe in the coming decades, doesn't mean he wants it. "Democracy" can mean any number of things up to and including tyranny of the majority."

9/27/2006 01:18:00 AM  
Blogger Cutler said...

Bah, I'm having no luck with italics lately.

9/27/2006 01:19:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Cutler:

You’re right that I dislike Mr. Huntington. Although his research was reasonably good in “The Soldier and the State”, his reputation since has outstripped his scholarship.

Cutler & ll:

“Who We Are” is one of the few books by Samuel Huntington I have not read. As I have read editorial reviews and many of his other books, I can readily guess what his main points are given how he tends to repeats the points he made in earlier books in his later ones. I might get around to reading his latest book, although I doubt I’d learn anything new.

(Mr. Huntington’s idea of restricting democracy was ironically denounced by most of the membership of the Trilateral Commission. Most of the Trilateralist membership has been far more responsible than men like Huntington, Kissinger, and Brzezinski.)

The values of liberty embodied in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution are not specifically American ideals. Other nations have also adopted them, and indeed criticize us according to those ideals. If adopting American culture were necessary to adopt the ideals of liberty, the rest of the world would be far more tyrannical than it presently is.

To call the ideals of the United States of America “The American Creed” does a horrible disservice to the nature of our system of government. Many people who have come to America have been refugees of religious wars, whether the Thirty Years War, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, religious strife in the British Isles, pogroms in Russia, civil war in Bosnia, or oppression in Sudan. Part of our founding ideal is of a refuge against religious tyranny. Religious freedom is not some “American Creed” – it is the freedom to believe in any creed so long as one doesn’t interfere with the liberty of others.

By attacking us on September 11, al-Qaeda has sought to erase any sense of refuge for those who believe in religious freedom. America, as part of its political order, is a refuge against exactly the kind of tyranny al-Qaeda represents. And they attacked us here because they hate liberty.

Anybody aware of the polemics of Sayyid Qutb knows the power of culture – one of the things he hated the most about America was jazz. Yes, I like classical music. Yes, I like medieval music. Yes, I like British comedies. That doesn’t keep me from being American, for ours is a land of liberty. Furthermore, that doesn’t keep America from being a rock and roll nation. Let’s face it – more Americans have listened to Guns & Roses than Samuel Huntington.

Rock and roll started in America, specifically as Delta Blues and New Orleans Jazz. It has roots from music of Europeans, Africans, and American Indians. It didn’t come from “western civilization”. It is indigenous to America.

Cultures change. And politics can help change culture. To say that torture and terrorism is part of Middle Eastern society doesn’t mean we must accept that, and to say that genocidal imperialism is part of the fiber of Saudi society doesn’t mean it will always be the case.

I also oppose affirmative action, multiculturalism, foreign imperialism dressed up as illegal immigration, and making Spanish our second official language. But that doesn’t mean I regard America as an essentially White Anglo Saxon Protestant country. Yes, most of my ancestors may be English, but I accept all of my heritage, not merely the heritage I may share with Samuel Huntington. I accept those whose heritage is different from my own as fellow citizens so long as their allegiance is to our Constitution and to our People.

My sentiments mirror those of George Washington in a letter he sent in 1790 to a Jewish community leader in Rhode Island, from page 179 of Bernard Lewis’s book “Islam and the West”:

“The citizens of the United States of America…all possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

The ideology of al-Qaeda is no more or less alien to America than the Romanian Fascism of Zelea Codreanu it unconsciously appears to imitate. Was the “Final Solution” merely a “Clash of Civilizations” against the Civilization of the Jew? Adolf Hitler wanted to portray it that way! Take away the word “Volk” and insert the word “civilization” and the similarity between Samuel Huntington and Fascism becomes quite obvious.

Remember the disaster of the Morgenthau Plan. It proposed to erase German industry and was used to great propagandistic effect by Joseph Goebbels.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morgenthau_Plan

Likewise, our enemies latch onto the concepts of Samuel Huntington not merely because they fit into their preconceived notions but also because his association with the Trilateral Commission fans Arab conspiracy theories. To win against al-Qaeda, we must not shut our doors against those Muslims who would be our allies. To call our armed struggle a “Clash of Civilizations” is essentially to tell our Muslim allies that they are effectively traitors to their own religion, whereas to call our armed struggle a defense of civilization against a totalitarian ideology of terrorism is to reassure our Muslim allies that they are on the right side when they take our side. Don’t make the life of al-Qaeda any easier by adopting their worldview as our own.

9/27/2006 08:20:00 PM  
Blogger InklingBooks said...

In Iraq, the lack of U.S. troops is one of our smarter moves. Our largest failure in Vietnam came when LBJ, illustrating his big government proclivities, Americanized the war, making it us rather than the South Vietnamese, who must win the war.

In Iraq, the fact that our troop presence is woefully inadequte to protect a population of 27 million, is a wise move. Either the Iraqis do it themselves, or they descend in chaos. The choice is theirs and a good case can be made that they're going to succeed. And if their 'history' of how they became a respectable nation emphazes their role over ours, so much the better. It's the result that matters, not who gets the glory.

Our press makes a big deal over WMD deaths, but Israel has lived with that sort of terrorism throughout its almost 60-year history and has managed to grow into a lively, sophisticated democracy. There's no reason why Iraq can't do the same. Tragic as these deaths are, they're no more destructive of a nation's strength than deaths in highway accidents.

Finally, as far as I'm concerned we have "won" the war in the sense that we've given the Iraqis a good shot at having a government that's vastly better than that under Saddam. I doubt Iraq will descend into chaos. Those warning of that are often the same ones who claimed that Reagan would bring on WW3. But if Iraq fails as a nation, that no more counts as a failure on our part than it would if something similar had happened to Germany or Japan after WW2. Italy, we often forget, almost went communist after the war.

In the end, it's the people of the country who're responsible for what sort of place it is. LBJ took that right away from the South Vietnamese. We haven't taken the right to succeed or fail away for Iraq. And that's the wisest part of our Iraqi policy.

--Mike Perry, Seattle

9/28/2006 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger The Mad Fiddler said...

Alexis is right. America is the place that beckoned to the folks that elected a different life and set of values than Europe would have imposed on them.

Here’s an excerpt from something I posted back in October, 2004

“Continental Drift”

Europe is the First-born son in an old wealthy family, of which America is the later born. Europe stayed home, waiting patiently for Papa to age and eventually die, so as to inherit the family groves and fields and business interests. Biding its time, gritting its teeth, putting up with indignities and whippings and even the contempt of its elders, Europe opted to set aside pride and independence for the guarantee of eventual inheritance of the hoarded treasure of earlier generations. In doing so, Europe learned to shun risk-taking, to avoid the rigors of exploration, adventure, challenge, the examination of exotic options. Europe traded independence for security.

America packed its few bits of belongings in a kerchief and hiked off down the lane to seek its fortune elsewhere. It learned to think for itself, to assess and face difficulties and find its own solutions in the absence of guidance and advice. On its own, working out its own fate gradually made it more able to see the world as it is instead of how it wishes it were. But America's choice of freedom instead of the comfort of staying home also allowed it to dream; to imagine that its dreams could be realized.

Now, Europe has come into its inheritance, but for all its grudging tedious waiting, it has learned rather to sit on its hoard like some arthritic dragon, than to boldly flex and exercise its powerful sinews. With flinty eyes Europe views with alarm the confident stride of its younger sibling, at once jealous of the success gained by adventure, luck and daring, and fearful of an America that having proved its own fiber, cannot be cowed by Europe's bullying or tempted by its wealth.

Worse, Europe is shamed to see what it might have become had it not opted for the safe and comfortable way, instead of the challenge of freedom.

Admittedly, this is only a convenient metaphor.

But I think it captures the essence of the relationship between the European collective mind, and the attitude of America, particularly since 9-11-01. That attack is conceptually a continental divide. On one side of that event, logic and beliefs all were governed by a gravitic force pulling one way: toward insularity. timidity, conformity, passivity. On the other side of that discontinuity, perceptions, logic, and motives are pulled by an opposing force, drawing America toward awareness, purpose, will, sobriety, responsibility.

9/28/2006 06:57:00 PM  

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