The incoherence of our Iraq policy, cont.

A (female) GI in Iraq captures the essential incoherence of what we are trying to do in that country. As the New York Times reports (“Divided Mission in Iraq Tempers Views of G.I.’s,” May 17):

“Our mission is to rebuild this country, but the thing is, the bad guys won’t let us do it,” said Specialist Jennifer Marie Bencze, 20, of Santa Rosa, Calif. “At the same time we’ve got engineers rebuilding schools, fixing roads, doing all the humanitarian projects, we’ve got infantry fighting the bad guys. So the mission is really confused.”

The confusion is that we put the cart before the horse—we began “rebuilding” the “democratizing” the country without having first defeated the enemy. Moreover, we began “rebuilding” and “democratizing” the country without first ascertaining whether we had the means and will to defeat the enemy. As I’ve been saying over and over since last summer, victory in Iraq means that we suppress and destroy the insurgent and jihadi forces there so that a stable friendly government can take shape. Not only have we not done that, we have no visible prospect of being able to do that, nor do we even have on the drawing board a policy that could theoretically do it. This is especially the case when we remember that an undetermined number of the insurgents are freely entering Iraq through the country’s porous borders. So we keep “rebuilding” and “democratizing” Iraq, even as the insurgents keep killing Americans and Iraqis and making it clear that the moment the U.S. withdraws, any government we will have set up will be unable to maintain its own existence.

The first principle of sovereign government it that it has a monopoly on the use of violence. If the Coalition occupying forces do not have a monopoly on the use of violence, how do we expect any Iraqi government that succeeds the Coalition to have such a monopoly?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 18, 2004 05:16 PM | Send


I can only add to Mr. Auster’s perfectly explained “U.S.-in-Iraq predicament” that there was simply no “vision” beyond getting rid of Saddam and his army. By our not finding WMD (beyond a few shells), and by Bush’s earlier State of The Union “gaffe” about Saddam supposedly having the centrifuges from South Africa, we were left with a void once the truth was known. Gen. Tommy Franks was brilliant in his “blitkrieg” to Baghdad. Ever since, it has been all downhill. There is also “the winner issue” to contend with. Americans want “a winner”. We won the initial part of the conflict but are losing the remaining portion because of the reasons mentioned above in Mr. Auster’s post. Rather than leveling Fallujah and Karbala, we are playing “footsies” with the enemy and it is affecting soldiers’ morale. It is also not playing well here, at home. We are losing a conflict we should have, for all intents and purposes, won. We had the superior forces and technology and training. The one thing we (the Administration) lacked was the cojones to get the job done, and “damn the civilians”. I feel badly for those soldiers we let down by not doing what we had to (leveling Fallujah, etc.).

A point that hasn’t been discussed here recently is what our pulling out in July is going to do to our Army and Marines. Will morale continueto be a problem? Will this conflict attract even better men and women to our Armed Forces? Or will the poor pay, poor planning and lack of heavy air bombardment (bynot leveling Fallujah and other such places full of the enemy) keep the truly great ones from joining up?

Posted by: David Levin on May 18, 2004 11:30 PM

Trying to find a hopeful scenario based on what the more optimistic war supporters are saying, it would go something like this:

We manage to install some kind of transitional government, even as our forces continue to fight and suppress the insurgents. The insurgency gradually dies down, the bombings and other attacks stop, even as the transitional government is succeeded by a real government. As this government takes on more and more real powers, including security, the people of Iraq have a greater sense of confidence and loyalty in it. By mid 2006, the insurgents and Jihadis have faded from the scene, there are no more terrorist attacks, and America is able to withdraw from Iraq, possibly leaving a major base in Kurdistan or elsewhere in the Gulf region to prevent the Arab regimes hosting terrorists.

There it is. There is a hopeful scenario of U.S. victory and success in Iraq. Is it possible? I suppose so, though of course it depends basically on the insurgents simply vanishing, since our actions against them (as far as one can tell) are not aimed at _eliminating_ them, but, so to speak, just _managing_ them. But at least it’s satisfying to have the outline in one’s mind of what victory _might_ look like—which, to my knowledge, is not something Bush or anyone in his adminstation has ever bothered providing us. All they tell us is: “WE MUST SHOW OUR RESOLVE … DEMOCRACY … WE MUST STAY THE COURSE … FREEDOM … WE NEVER SAID IT WOULD BE EASY … DEMOCRACY … ” blah blah blah blah.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on May 19, 2004 12:00 AM

I would love to know who it was who decided that actually winning is not necessary. Or, even worse, that they don’t understand that we are not winning militarily.
Given that Bush administration is as open as an average mafia family and establishment punditry basically flailing about, I think we will never know.

It seems that one should not fight a war if all one really wants to is to put an adversary on welfare.

Posted by: Mik on May 19, 2004 3:22 AM

Mr. Levin wrote: “Rather than leveling Fallujah and Karbala, we are playing “footsies” with the enemy…”

By all accounts, the operation in Karbala is a lot more firepower-heavy than last month’s in Fallujah and the casualty rates are consistent with that. The bad news is the possibility of extending the war to Iran. The Mosques of Imam Hussain and Imam Ali are like the Shia Vatican. When there’s a firefight 100 yards away with air support from Spectre gunships like there was yesterday, the Shia theocracy next door may want do something about it.

I’m not saying we have to respect their religious sensitivities because it’ll make us better multiculturalists or help promote peace, love and understanding. I’m just asking, “Do we want to be at war with Iran? Is that going to make our position better or worse?”

A couple of weeks ago, an Australian paper (I believe it was “The Age”) interviewed Iranian nationals fighting with the Mahdi Army and said that Sadr had gotten unofficial permission to recruit in Iran. Today, Juan Cole predicts that Iranian involvement in the war is going to be scaled up.

Posted by: Ken Hechtman on May 19, 2004 4:11 PM

Curently this month, there have been 55 coalition deaths (only counting official, non-private soldiers), 40 hostile, 13 non-hostile (e.g. accidents), and 2 not yet classified (source: ). 51 are American, and 4 are from other countries. So far, then, May 2004 is the 3rd worst month since May 1, 2003 and the 5th worst since the beginning of the war from a coalition fatality standpoint. (The worst month was April - 135 hostile and 10 non-hostile, the second November - 94 and 16).
The official line to try and reassure us right now is that the violence will get worse as we move toward the transfer of sovereignty; therefore, expect one more bad month, June, and then things will brighten up. Presumably, the current goal, public relations (PR) -wise, is to use this to explain away any increases in violence, so that no one will be discouraged if violence upticks again next month.
Unfortunately, I doubt that the violence will suddenly end or diminish a whole lot on July 1. I think that as with the capture of Saddam, the optimists are assuming that if we meet just this one more goalpost, we will get over the hump, turn the corner, see the light at the end of the tunnel, etc. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this will happen, or else it will happen only very briefly (perhaps July or August will be relatively coalition-casualty light like February was).
Bush is betting that by putting Iraqis “in charge,” he will rally Iraqis behind us to fight the insurgents. I think that he is misreading the situation.

Posted by: Michael Jose on May 19, 2004 4:34 PM

Ken Hechtman writes:

“The bad news is the possibility of extending the war to Iran…

Im not saying we have to respect their religious sensitivities because itll make us better multiculturalists or help promote peace, love and understanding. Im just asking, Do we want to be at war with Iran? Is that going to make our position better or worse?

For Iran to get involved in Iraq openly is suicidal. Iranian regime is unlikely to survive a large scale US air attack. Right now Iranians are totally in their element, agitating and terrorizing while US clumsily and incompetently deal with them in PC way. Why give up a good deal and move to the situation ideally suited for US Air Foirce?

Juan Cole is a far left academic, Middle East “expert”. As virtually all academics, he completely missed phenomena of Islamo-fascism before 9/11. It appears he closely follows Middle East Academia party line: Sharon is a Nazi, Zionism is Racism, it is all Israel fault, US is an evil empire that has no business being in ME but has to pay fortune to the PLO.

I would not trust Cole with time of day.

Posted by: Mik on May 19, 2004 11:17 PM

Mik wrote: “For Iran to get involved in Iraq openly is suicidal.”

True enough, but they can do a lot more covertly than they’re doing now. They can send Revolutionary Guard “volunteers” to fight under Sadr’s colors. They have Hezbollah’s ambush and booby-trap expertise to draw on — which is about the best in the world. They can make the army’s job considerably more difficult before anyone can prove a thing.

I put the term “Islamofascist” in the same league as “Zionazi”. They’re both pure insults, not accurate descriptions of real entities and using either one brings more heat than light to the discussion.

Juan Cole’s position on Palestine is close enough to Mik’s description that I’m not going to quibble about the semantics, nor do I want to debate that question here.

As far as him being far left, the real far left likes Moqtada Sadr, Cole does not. The far left wants immediate and unconditional withdrawal. Cole wants the Kerry formula of escalate, stablize, internationalize. The far left believes the Zarqawi letter is a forgery. Cole says it’s real.

Cole’s area of specialization is the history and politics of Iraq. As such, he was one of the very few people who was familiar with the domestic opposition before 2002. I have yet to see anything he’s said on that subject not check out. If anyone knows of an instance where he was wrong on the facts within that area, I would be very interested to hear it.

Posted by: Ken Hechtman on May 20, 2004 12:09 AM

It may be slightly off-topic, but Steve Sailer’s ( ) post is too good not to draw attention to:

“Before authorizing the use of torture [in algiers]…, the redoubtable French General Jacques Massu subjected himself to the various techniques… I wonder if anyone on our side volunteered to have himself sexually humiliated?
”And, no, I’m not going to count Andrew Sullivan.”

I laughed a whole lot at that last part.

Posted by: Michael Jose on May 20, 2004 5:08 AM
Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember info?

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):