Friday, July 13, 2007

Nancy Pelosi now appears poised, in light of Congress’ recent approval ratings, to lead some bold moves against President Bush and his Iraq war policy. As we approach next year’s election, more GOP Senators are defecting from Bush’s side, which means that whatever move Pelosi makes she seems likely to have the votes to pull it off. This means that, likely, some time within the next 12 months America’s military presence in Iraq will come to an end.

I recommend people read the book “What Was Asked of Us” by Trish Wood. It’s a first hand account of what happened in Iraq, told by the soldiers and some of the government personnel who experienced it. For me, it was an impressive revelation of where we went wrong. In this book, I learned of the bitter disagreements within the Cabinet about how the war should be fought. The State Dept, led by Colin Powell, felt that the main concern should be the aftermath of the war. He wanted to keep the Iraqi military intact to help with post-war security. He felt the major problem was the potential for a terrorist-led insurgency after the war. He had the experience of being there before, and knowing the likely reason why Bush Sr. didn’t oust Saddam the first time around. In his corner were some high-ranking officials and many in the intelligence community.

On the other side was Rumsfeld and the Pentagon. They felt the threat WAS the Iraqi military and Saddam loyalists within that organization. They felt the military should be steam-rolled in an offensive operation that left them in shambles, and then what’s left should be disbanded. They wanted all Saddam loyalists out of power, and believed that if the military was left in one piece, the Iraqi people would see this as a sign that Saddam could return to power. This would discourage them from embracing their newfound liberty and would open the US troops up to a much larger insurgency than Powell feared. Rumsfeld believed that if they eliminated the military, the people would recognize that Saddam was gone for good, would embrace their freedom and would counter balance any remaining insurgency that threatened their freedom. A stable government would be established and the remnants of any insurgency could be cleaned up by US troops. Supporting this theory was the vast majority of the military leaders in the Dept of Defense, both in the Pentagon and on the ground in the Middle East.

The ultimate decision was the President’s, who had to decide who was right. Obviously, it wasn’t an easy decision. He went with Rumsfeld, and turned out to be wrong. We can blame all we want, but I’m not going to throw stones. To be honest, I probably would have done the same thing. With respect to Powell, even though he had been there before, I would have sided with what my Generals currently on the ground were telling me. Bush was wrong and he is suffering the consequences, as are the Iraqi people and the US military. What Rumsfeld and his backers failed to anticipate was: 1) the civil unrest that followed the fall of Baghdad, the riots and the looting of a newly free people, 2) the support from Iran and Syria for the insurgency, 3) what happens if we don’t find WMDs?, 4) the effect the media would have on public opinion for the war, and finally 5) the lack of action from the Iraqi people in taking charge of their own destiny. These oversights were huge, at least from hindsight perspective.

But, not to make light of the administration’s mistake, I tend to believe that if Iraq fails to become a successful democracy, that failure rests in only one place…at the feet of the Iraqi people. We’ve sacrificed blood, lives and billions of dollars. We’ve given them every opportunity imaginable to have freedom and a stable government, but they simply haven’t acted. You can make any argument you want about why they failed, but you can’t argue that they weren’t given the chance and the tools to succeed. We’ve led this horse to water, folks.

Did the media play a negative role? Yes. Did the defeatist attitude of the Dems and the mainstream media encourage and enable our enemies? Of course it did. Were there mistakes in planning? I’ve already pointed those out. Did the international community fail to act? Yes, and that could’ve prevented this entire mess. Did the Dems place unreasonable “benchmarks” on the Iraqi government? You can argue this, but I can argue that those benchmarks would not have happened if the American people supported the war, which would have been the case had the Iraqis shown some initiative, some interest in their own self-preservation. Would the Dems support this war if 70% of Americans supported it? I don’t think I have to answer that. Can Iraq succeed with more time? I think it can. I think if we had the resolve to continue the fight, eventually we would wear the insurgency down, eventually the people would take charge, eventually the Iraqi democracy would succeed. But the polls and the facts suggest that won’t happen. The people want this war to end, regardless of whether I agree with them, and Congress will do as they please. The Iraqis have only themselves to blame for it.

In the aftermath, there are over 3,000 Americans dead, many more wounded. Saddam is dead also, along with his brutal regime, many terrorist leaders and a great number of their storm trooper followers. The WMDs are still missing, God only knows where they are and the possibilities are quite frightening. After we pull out, there is no doubt in my mind what will follow. It will be genocide on a scale that mirrors the Khmer Rouge. There will be a lot of bloodshed and Iraq will likely become a Shia-fascist theocracy, akin to their neighbors in Iran. The Middle East will become drastically unstable, and the terrorists will regroup to re-target the US mainland. I’m sure many Americans know this, and I’m also sure our political leaders know this, but the fact is that less than 30% of the people, myself included, are willing to continue the fight. In a democracy like ours, that’s not enough to sustain a war.

But what’s worse, our image as a weakened unresolved nation will be reinforced. We proved in Vietnam that we don’t have the gumption for the long haul. The insurgents in Iraq followed that same playbook. Be persistent, draw out the fighting, and eventually the Americans will grow weary and give up. There are brutal dictators all over the world watching and learning that America will not, and can not, stop them from their brutality. The military once again did their job with valor and sacrifice, but we the people failed to do ours. Wars can’t be won only on the battlefield. History has taught that sad truth time and again.

Regardless how you feel about this war, and about the President, only the truly insane can argue that we didn’t try to do something good in Iraq. We ousted a horrible dictator by way of an unprecedented military campaign, and gave an entire nation hope and a chance at liberty. That does make me proud, and I know there are some who disagree, even to the point of inward glee at the possibility President Bush's failure. So be it. But we are still one nation in this together, and one nation that will have to deal with the consequences of that failure together. We’re going to have to watch the events that follow our withdrawal and know that 70% of us called for this to happen. We’re gonna have to at least accept responsibility for that eventually, even if we refuse to do it now. The Iraqis got their chance, they refused it, what else can we do?


Dan Trabue said...

Thanks for the review of the book. Sounds interesting.

Dan Trabue said...

"We’re going to have to watch the events that follow our withdrawal and know that 70% of us called for this to happen."

Well, actually no. A majority of people here and around the world disagreed with starting this little shindig in the first place and people here and around the world took to the streets in unprecedented unity and numbers (in all of history!) to try to STOP this from happening. Trying to stop EXACTLY this from happening.

Rob Scot said...

Insightful post; I'm always on the lookout for people who examine the war (and other issues) from more than a simply extreme right or left view (i.e. you were always wrong, we are still always right). You meet that criterion, and it's refreshing.

Dan Trabue, I believe you misunderstood the statement with regards to the 70% who are now calling for withdrawal, not the majority who supported the war four years ago.

Dan Trabue said...

I don't believe I misunderstood. John is suggesting that those of us (the 70%) who want to end this now will (or should) regret it when we see the Killing Fields that will result.

I was suggesting that that was EXACTLY what we were trying to prevent four years ago when we tried to stop the invasion in the first place, because it would lead to this lose/lose situation.

Do we stay in and continue to see their and our people die or do we leave and continue to possibly see their people die? It's a no-win situation and that is one of the reasons why we tried to prevent the war in the first place.

Bush says, "give me the surge a chance to be successful." How long do we give this war? It's already lasted longer than WWII to defeat an already defeated country! How many lives are we going to invest?

Five years from now if the number of US soldiers dead has risen to 10,000 (God forbid), the Bush types will say, "We can't leave now or their deaths will have been in vain. Give it time to work..."

There is no evidence that the current tack is working. Continuing a failing task with failing policies is insane to most people and we're not willing to abide by this bad decision.


Bicker and more bicker! What almost nobody
foresaw was the depth of Radical Islam's Suicidal Tenacity; Insurgents from Jordan, Egypt, No. Africa, Syria, and Saudi Arabia!

THE BIG LIE...which divided us was
WMD's. Saddam HAD a Nuclear Osiris Facility in 1981; Six Israeli Jets
took it out. He still had Gas WMD's
which were shipped to Syria just before we took Bagdad.
THE BIGGER LIE...If We Unanimously Agreed to pull out tomorrow, the
Democrats will not tell the Voters that it
would take a minimum 30 Months to
remove 160,000 troops, plus all the
hardware (Ordinance) of war, Millions of tons of it! If they should gain the Oval Office on Jan 20, 2009, We Will Still Be
In Iraq! Nobody Has A Logistical
Magic-Wand to change that reality!
Out in 6 months or a year? LIARS!
As soon as we are out, the Mass-Murder of Populations will begin. Persian vs Arab...Shia vs Sunni, Ayatollahs vs the ordinary citizen.

Allah Willing, of course. reb

John Washburn said...

Dan, Before the war started 70% of people supported it. Now, 70& of people oppose it. To be honest, I respect the 30% of you who opposed the war from the start much more than the 40% of Americans who changed their mind about it. War is serious business. If you support committing American troops to something, then BY GOD you should be prepared to maintain your position all the way to victory. Troops aren't dying so you can be wishy-washy.

It appears that 40% of Americans lack the sack to mean what they say. That's a shame.

And, there actually IS evidence that the surge is working. The commanders on the ground feel that results are already being seen. Anbar province (once a terrorist stronghold) is secure. Yes, NBC news and the New York Times say it isn't working. I guess they're more credible to you.

And, please don't give us this "I told you so" garbage. Are you actually telling us that you knew all along that there would be a mass insurgency, the war would last 5+ years, Iran and Syria would become actively involved, and the Iraqi people would take no initiative in securing their country??? Did you actually predict this?

Reb, I'm glad someone else doesn't buy this "there weren't any WMDs" crap. There's NO WAY that many intelligence agencies were wrong. Saddam had them, no doubt. And I think it's highly likely he moved them to Syria...highly likely. After all, we didn't exactly launch a surprise attack. We gave the guy plenty of time to hide his cache.

Dan Trabue said...

"Dan, Before the war started 70% of people supported it."

Oh really? In what circles? Not in the US population at large or most places elsewhere in the world.
According to wikipedia and

"A January 2003 CBS News/New York Times poll found that 63% of Americans wanted President Bush to find a diplomatic solution to the Iraq situation, compared with 31% who favored immediate military intervention. That poll also found, however, that if diplomacy failed, support for military action to remove Saddam Hussein was above 60 percent."

There has never in history been such a united pre-emptive opposition to an invasion of a nation as there was for Iraq. That there was any support at all for an invasion was mostly due to Team Bush connecting 9/11 and "mushroom clouds over NYC" to Iraq.

The support came AFTER we began an invasion because people are wary of opposing a president once a war was started. But certainly, in the real world, there was not popular support for this invasion before it happened.

Dan Trabue said...

"Are you actually telling us that you knew all along that there would be a mass insurgency, the war would last 5+ years, ... Did you actually predict this?"

Not the specifics, but the general opinions, yes.

In the circles I run in and the articles I read at the time by folk I respect, the opinion was that things would go badly. That the Iraqi people would not take kindly to an invasion. We said that it would encourage, not discourage, terrorism.

Did you see the news story saying that al Qaeda is stronger than ever?

Not only that, but we also said it was a bad idea to support strongman dictators back when Reagan/Bush were supporting Saddam.

We're not mystics. It's just common sense. How would we take to being invaded by another country? Would we thank them for ridding us of our horrible Bush-master (even those of us who don't like Bush-policy)? No.

It's not in human nature to welcome invading hordes - especially when friends and family are dying because of their actions.

John Washburn said...

"When the Iraq war began, 68 percent of Americans said they felt the situation in the country was worth fighting over. Now, 61 percent of those surveyed say it was not worth invading Iraq, according to the poll"

And this is from the Communist News Network.

I'm not sure where you're getting your Kool Aid but you're sucking it down hard, my friend. There were diplomatic efforts, many of them. The UN failed, as did many of America's traditional allies, to help the diplomatic situation.

And the "mushroom cloud" thing...Dan, hate to break this to you, but there WAS a connection between Hussein and Al Qaeda, not that it was a major driving factor for war, but the connection was there nonetheless.

It amazes me to no end that you people stand by your notion that Hussein was not connected to terrorism, did not possess WMDs nor did he intend to, and was willing to come to a diplomatic solution regarding his human rights abuses, that forcefully removing him was not necessary.

Just exactly how DOES that Kool Aid taste?

John Washburn said...

Regardless, based on the numbers, I've learned something from Iraq. I've learned that 30% of Americans won't fight no matter what.

That 30% of Americans are willing to fight if necessary, and continue that fight until victory is achieved.

And the majority of Americans - 40% - are willing to fight if necessary, but only until that fight becomes difficult, then they want to quit.

In dangerous times like these, that spells doom for this country.

Dan Trabue said...

You're wrong, John. We've been fighting this mistake for 4 years now. The American people are not cowards. They will fight for a just cause.

But not an injust one. And we won't suffer gladly the fools who'd take us into an injust fight.

How many Americans - even those strongly opposed to Bush's policies - have you seen calling for an end to Afghanistan.

Just because we disagree with you and find this war highly immoral does not mean that the American people are cowards. Shame on you for suggesting that. You're just wrong on that count, John.

Dan Trabue said...

"Just exactly how DOES that Kool Aid taste?"

And John, you're the one "remembering" that there was a majority of support for this war before it started, so be careful about casting stones.

John Washburn said...

So, are you actually suggesting that the 40% of Americans who changed their mind about this war did so because it is "unjust" and they just now realized it? And not because the going got tough? Seriously?

Come on! Following your thinking, if things were going well and the insurgency was fading and the Iraqis were standing up their govt, there would STILL only be 30% support for the war - all because it was "unjust". Gimmee a break.

Those 40% changed their minds because it became more difficult than they imagined. That's all. If you want to call that cowardice (not my word) then fine, I probably wouldn't argue with you. But don't give me this "they became enlightened and realized the truth" mess. They gave up because the war became extra difficult.

Dan Trabue said...

No. A majority of the country disagreed with going to war because they thought it was wrong. Once we went to war anyway - against the People's wishes - they through their support over to the president and hoped for the best.

When the President didn't luck out and things turned predictably wrong, that support - which was tentative at best to begin with - gradually faded away.

It was a wrong idea to begin with, I believe the facts support this being the popular position, and they could only extend the benefit of the doubt so far. Bush pushed it to the breaking point so the People returned to their original position.

Seems to me.

John Washburn said...

Feb 26, 2003 CBS news poll 66% of Americans support US military action against Iraq

Yes, the day the war started that support jumped to 71%. But, Bush DID have solid support before that.

But we're splitting hairs here. The fact is, the support for the war would be higher if things were going well, as they are in Afghanistan. 60-70% supported the war at first, that has dropped to 30% now, mainly because it has become a difficult task. Draw your own conclusion, but don't try to revise history because it sounds better for your agenda.