Our main goal in Iraq remains an unsustainable “democracy,” not victory

This morning the following Socratic dialog occurred between me and a friend:

LA: What is the purpose of our attack on Fallujah?

Reply: To quell the insurgency permanently.

LA: How do you know that?

Reply: Why else would we do it?

Indeed, why else would we do it? Thus Ralph Peters in the New York Post calls for the rapid, utter annihilation of the insurgents in Fallujah. Iraqi national forces fighting alongside the Americans, he writes, “have performed solidly thus far. A win in Fallujah will mark the birth of their new nation.” The meaning is plain: wiping out the terrorists in Fallujah means defeating the insurgency and winning the peace and stability of a new Iraq.

But this, in fact, is not the actual reason for the attack, as can be seen from remarks that have appeared over and over in the media. USA Today writes: “The U.S.-led assault on Fallujah is the first of what promises to be a series of military operations to secure towns and cities where insurgents could disrupt upcoming elections and sow chaos throughout Iraq.” Similarly, the pro-Bush editors of National Review write: “Fallujah will be part of a larger operation to establish order in the Sunni triangle, in an attempt to create decent conditions for a January election.”

Got that? The purpose of the much-vaunted Fallujah campaign is not, as had been both promised and logically expected, to D-E-F-E-A-T the enemy, the purpose is to quiet down the enemy for a couple of months so he won’t disrupt the election. As I’ve been saying for over a year, we have placed the cart of a democratically elected government before the horse of a monopoly on the organized use of force. The point is elementary. Before a government can govern a country, let alone govern it democratically, it must have a monopoly on the use of force in that country. Without such a monopoly, there is no government. To establish such a monopoly for the sake of the Iraqi government, we must defeat the insurgency, meaning that we must destroy the insurgents’ ability to wage war, wreak havoc, blow up police stations, kill people at will on highways, and so on. But we’re not doing that, and we’re not even seeking to do that. It is as though we were trying to build a house by contructing the above-ground floors first, and leaving the foundation for later. Since we’re helping bring the new Iraqi government into existence without first defeating the enemy or even having any prospects of doing so, we are not even creating the prospect that the government will be able to survive without us. We will have to keep our forces in Iraq forever to prop up the government; which means that Iraq will not be a sovereign free and stable country, but a client state and puppet; which means that Bush’s democratization plan fails.

Perhaps Bush’s supporters will reply that as the Iraqi government gains power and the security forces become more competent, Iraq’s own forces will be able to defeat the insurgency. But since the mighty U.S. military has been unable or unwilling to defeat the insurgency, what gives us the confidence that the fledging Iraqi government and army will be able to do so? Ironically, the supporters of Bush’s policy are not even making the weak argument that the new government will be able to achieve militarily what the U.S. armed forces has not. Instead, National Review argues that “Elections will be crucial to providing legitimacy to the new order and creating a measure of political stability.” NR thus imagines that the elections themselves will create the stability that, in the real world, can only be created by military victory.

Another question: Why is this one-man website, written by a person who knows zero, zilch, nada about military and strategic affairs, seemingly the only publication in this vast country where these obvious, fatal flaws in our Iraq policy have been pointed out? Am I failing to see something here? Does our Iraq policy really make complete sense, and I am missing it? Please, someone, enlighten me. Tell me that my concerns are off-base.

I have not yet heard a persuasive argument that I am wrong. Some time back, in response to a similar article by me, a reader told me that the coming assault on the insurgency-dominated cities was the victory-oriented strategy I was looking for. I replied that beating terrorists in a few cities wouldn’t prevent them from spreading to other places in the country. And that, according to some reports is just what is happening. A military person on the NewsHour last night said that far fewer insurgents are in Fallujah than we had hoped, since they had used our long preparations (including our repeated announcements of our coming action) to decamp for other locales. (For more on this, see comment by Ken Hechtman, below.) Conquering Fallujah and a couple of similar cities will not permanently or even temporarily end the road-side bombings, the suicide attacks, the kidnappings and beheadings. We have no strategy for victory. We are treading water.

Those of us who supported the invasion of Iraq assumed that the Powell Doctrine was in effect, viz.:

No More Vietnams. Overwhelming use of force to defeat the enemy.

What happened to the Powell Doctrine?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 10, 2004 05:43 PM | Send


Either Ralph Peters is screamingly ignorant or he’s flat lying. The Iraqi forces haven’t done squat. A large fraction have deserted. The only ones who’ve done anything resembling serious work have been the Kurds in the 36th Infantry group.

As for defeating the insurgency, if we had seriously meant to kill a large number of rebels in Fallujah, we wouldn’t have been announcing our intentions for months on end. We wouldn’t have tried to encircle a city the size of Cincinnati with a force of less than 15,000 men. The result of all this is that most of the insurgents have bugged out and left a holding force of martyrs behind. They’ll play scoot’n’shoot with the Marines for a few days as the rest of their forces spread out and redeploy.

Meanwhile, our so-called Green Zone in Baghdad is still taking regular mortar fire and attacks around the country have multiplied.

Posted by: Derek Copold on November 10, 2004 6:16 PM

Then why are we doing it? What is our purpose? Why did we conduct the campaign in such a way that most of the terrorists would be able to escape?

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 10, 2004 6:19 PM

Powell and Armitage ruffled too many feathers with the “Kill em all!” crowd of Richard Perle, Inc.

Author James Mann explores this quite well in his book, “The Rise of the Vulcans.”

Posted by: Mark on November 10, 2004 6:22 PM

I’ll give you my guess, but that’s all it is, a guess:

The Bush Administration wants to hold elections in January, and by God, that’s what it’s going to do. It can’t do this if Fallujah is still “Indian territory.” So, it has to take the town back. But Bush doesn’t want a lot of dead Americans or civilians. So, his people announce their intentions months ahead of schedule. Almost all the baddies disappear, along with half the civilian population. The Americans clean out the few remaining bitter-enders and declare victory “ahead of schedule.”

Come January, the elections take place, Sistani’s Shiite front wins, Bush pats himself on the back, and we prepare to leave (as was leaked by Novak a couple months back). After the new government comes to power, they ask us to leave, and we oblige (perhaps leaving a base in Kurdistan). At that point, the Shiites will be free to dispose of the Sunnis, and as American troops won’t be there, the press won’t really care all that much.

And the cost for all this will be about two-score American dead, five-score maimed and an incredible increase of Iranian power and influence.

Oh yeah, probably about another $20-30 billion, too.

Posted by: Derek Copold on November 10, 2004 6:33 PM

Very interesting theory by Mr. Copold. But, if this is Bush’s plan, what happens to his grand plan to “spread democracy throughout the Mideast”? Or will he just say that what we’ve achieved in Iraq IS democracy?

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 10, 2004 6:39 PM

You’re not wrong. Dahr Jamail reported a few days ago that most of
Zarqawi’s top people have relocated to other cities in the Sunni
Triangle. Jooneed Khan, a French-language reporter from Montreal has the
same item today.

The rest of them are going to take off their keffiyas, blend in with the
civilian population and only come out to ambush patrols and convoys.
This is the important part: We’re not playing capture-the-flag here. If
the green flag comes down over Fallujah and the red, white and blue goes
up, but 3 to 5 Americans a day get killed occupying the place, that’s a
net gain for the Iraqis.

Look at the number of soldiers killed recently in and around Samarra. We
just captured Samarra a couple of months ago. It doesn’t seem to have
helped. We can say we secured the area all we want — if the enemy
doesn’t agree, then it’s not secure.

We don’t have the manpower to lock down all the cities in Iraq all at
once. If we put a soldier on every street corner in Fallujah, those
soldiers have to come from somewhere. Whatever place we leave unguarded
to get them, Samarra, Ramadi, Sadr City — even Mosul, is going to
become the next Fallujah. In Vietnam they called this process “swatting
flies with a sledgehammer”.

We don’t have the ability to prevent the guerillas from moving from one
city to another because we don’t control the roads. All the highways
leading out of all the major cities are generically called “RPG Alley”
by our soldiers. It’s not a coincidence that the first organized mutiny
in Iraq was by convoy drivers.

Posted by: Ken Hechtman on November 10, 2004 6:40 PM

I think the president has been mugged by reality, but he dare not admit it. Now he’s looking for a good excuse to “declare victory” and get out while the gettings not so bad. Before the election, Bush announced that he was ready to accept an Islamist government in Iraq, and I think that’s exactly what he’ll do.

Posted by: Derek Copold on November 10, 2004 6:48 PM

I must say, Mr. Copold’s theory is plausible. It would explain a lot. But consider the levels of deviousness in Bush for him to carry it off.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 10, 2004 6:52 PM

But apart from finessing “democracy” (Bush defines Shi’ite rule as “democracy”), what about the main concern, to keep Iraq from being taken over by anti-American jihadists? I guess Mr. Copold is assuming that the Shi’ite rule would be reasonably stable and keep the worst people out of power.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 10, 2004 6:57 PM

Jim Lehrer just said (I think based on a military source) that the rapid advance of U.S. forces suggests that most of the militants have already left Fallujah.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 10, 2004 7:05 PM

The problem is that jihadis come in both flavors, Sunni and Shia. Wasn’t Al-Sadr a Shiite?

Posted by: Carl on November 10, 2004 7:22 PM

Carl asked: “The problem is that jihadis come in both flavors, Sunni and Shia. Wasn’t Al-Sadr a Shiite?”

Indeed he is. But he’s reached out to the Sunni jihadis like no Shia in the last 150 years. There are posters of him up in Fallujah. During the first siege of Fallujah he sent a high profile aid convoy from Najaf. When Sadr City was besieged, Falluja reciprocated. A year before that, the Shia and Sunni were trading car bombs, not care packages.

Posted by: Ken Hechtman on November 10, 2004 7:30 PM

Well that’s George W. Bush, a uniter not a divider.

Posted by: Matt on November 10, 2004 7:45 PM

….and Matt comes in for the kill! LOL!!

Posted by: Carl on November 10, 2004 7:48 PM

Absent in the Bush administration rhetoric is why they respect the borders of Iraq at all. The British drew up the borders themselves to ensure that Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites would all slit each other’s throats while they (the British) could run off to London with cheap oil.

God bless the Iraqis who are fighting with us and trying to help us out. They’ll probably share the same fate that the South Vietnamese soldiers faced after April 30, 1975.

Posted by: Mark on November 10, 2004 8:07 PM

If an exclusively Shiite government comes to power, there’s at least a 75 % chance that they will be a bunch of Iranian puppets. The mullahs are chuckling with glee.

Posted by: Eugene Girin on November 10, 2004 9:59 PM

If an exclusively Shiite government comes to power, there’s at least a 75 % chance that they will be a bunch of Iranian puppets. The mullahs are chuckling with glee.

Posted by: Eugene Girin on November 10, 2004 9:59 PM

I don’t assume that a Shiite government will be “good.” What they could be is stable enough to allow us to get out. Afterwards, once U.S. troops aren’t being regularly killed, something else will come up to distract media attention, and the booboisie will forget all about this f***-up.

As for deviousness, if the past week’s betrayals don’t tell you something about the moral character of the man in the White House, nothing will. I never thought my opinion of any other American president would sink lower than that I held for Bill Clinton, but Dubya has exceeded my expectations. I truly regret supporting this b******d in 2000, as well as in 1994, when he first ran for governor.

Posted by: Derek Copold on November 10, 2004 10:23 PM

Mr. Auster wrote: “But apart from finessing “democracy” (Bush defines Shi’ite rule as “democracy”), …”

Shiite rule IS democracy. They are the majority. Bush did not promise to bring an Anglo-American constitutional republic to Iraq. He promised to bring a “democracy”. See how the abuse of the word “democracy” for all these years works out in the end?

Posted by: Clark Coleman on November 10, 2004 10:23 PM

Even if Shi’ites are the majority, Shi’ite rule by definition does not mean democracy. It means rule by Mullahs and Imams. The clerics tell people how to vote, and that’s the way they vote. The fact that the Shi’ites are the majority group in the country does not make Shi’ite rule a democracy. What makes a democracy is that the political society is articulated in terms of the individual, with the individual seen as a potential knower of truth and therefore qualified to participate in politics.

By Mr. Coleman’s definition, Iran is now a democracy because Shi’ites are the majority and Shi’ites rule.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 10, 2004 10:38 PM

Democracy indeed. Democracy is what happens when three wolves and a lamb vote on what to have for dinner.

Mr. Girin mentioned that the Mullahs must be rubbing their hands in anticipation. Absolutely. Now I know why they endorsed Bush!

Posted by: Carl on November 10, 2004 10:38 PM

I took Mr. Coleman’s post of 10:23 PM as irony, especially given the last statement: giving Bush a sort of plastic-language postmodern way to declare victory during the retreat. Hot is cold, good is evil, tyranny is tolerance, welcome to the Postmodern States of America.

But then Mr. Coleman’s posts are generally so straight-shooting that a little irony might seem uncharacteristic.

Posted by: Matt on November 10, 2004 10:43 PM

Let’s face it. We have seen some very smart analysis here, and we still have no clue as to the President’s goal. We are not alone. Our goal is unknown to us, the Iraqis, the rest of the world, and worst of all, to the President.

Considering what our goals should be would be a useful and positive effort. Based on our experience in Vietnam and Korea, I think our goal should be behind-the-lines support of Iraqi troops, ruthless annihilation, or disengagement after establishing a permanent base in the Middle East with a huge kill zone and sea access to the Indian Ocean. (There is a reasonable risk the Mediterranean is going to be hostile territory in our lifetimes as Europe becomes more and more anti-American.)

Posted by: Paul Henrí on November 10, 2004 10:46 PM

Oh, I agree that the abuse of “democracy” is what led us to this. It’s the basic contradiction of liberalism, the contradiction that, as Jim Kalb once said to me, makes it impossible for people in a liberal society to think rationally. Life involves a concern for all kinds of substantive goods. But liberalism has no language for those goods. It only has language for equality, rights, democracy. So we have no principle or approved language for the things that really matter, and we must sneak them into our world through unprincipled or illogical means. In the case of Iraq, what we really want is a stable, reasonably decent society that will be pro-American and anti-terrorist. Those are all substantive goods. But the only way a late liberal like Boilerplate Man can articulate any concept of the good is in terms of “freedom” and “democracy.” So he calls for “democracy,” even though such a democracy may lead to an Iraq that is unstable, indecent, anti-American, and pro-terrorist.

98 percent of contemporary Americans are unable to get out of this conceptual box or even realize that they are caught in it.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 10, 2004 10:54 PM

I agree with Mr. Henri that no one knows what president’s true goal is, or even whether he has one. This is, to put it mildly, troubling. It’s amazing that Bush’s main claim to being a good president is that he leads in a clear consistent direction. Well, maybe compared to Kerry! By any objective measure, Bush, leaving aside the invasion of Afghanistan and (arguably ) the decision to invade Iraq for which he laid out a clear case over and over, as I said, leaving aside those two cases, he is an unprecedented disaster as a leader because you can’t put credence in his larger statements about where he’s heading and why he’s heading there, and you don’t know where he’s heading. Bush is turning Americans (or at least Republicans) into a bunch of copies of himself: simplistic, inarticulate, hypocritical, mindlessly stubborn, and continually indulging in bragadoccio.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 10, 2004 11:06 PM

Mr. Auster wrote: “Bush is turning Americans (or at least Republicans) into a bunch of copies of himself: simplistic, inarticulate, hypocritical, mindlessly stubborn, and continually indulging in bragadoccio.”

How true, how true! A short visit to FreeRepublic will confirm this statement as completely accurate. There’s almost a cult of personality around the man. Perhaps we should view him as the Juan Peron of the Republican Party.

Posted by: Carl on November 10, 2004 11:22 PM

Hey, could all those despairing, secessionist Democrats be onto something? :-)

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 10, 2004 11:26 PM

I present to you now the rational case for optimism:

The force that is being applied to Fallujah is mind-boggling: 30 air strikes in a day is nothing to sneer at. We are waging a total war with information and precision-guided, targeted munitions (airborne and artillery) rather than terrain-clearing weaponry and brute force. For all of the predictions that the US military would be unable to wage urban warfare in the event of an insurgency, it seems to be doing just as well at that as it has in dealing with all the prior challenges it has faced—World War II and the island-hopping of the Pacific campaign comes to mind, for example.

That being said, simply being able to clear a city of insurgents is not enough if the experienced and dangerous ones are able to dissolve into the general population and regroup elsewhere, leaving a few “martyrs” to incite and guide young men in the city’s civilian population to fight the US, not really inflicting much damage but bogging us down. In the past, the terrorists have been able to do this with impunity, given our failure to secure the north part of the country (caused, I think, mostly by the affair with Turkey, which is altogether a different story of European idiocy and obstructionism) and our relative lack of understanding of the region and experience in countering the tactics of its fighters. Dismantling the Iraqi army was also in all liklihood a mistake.

However, those mistakes are being corrected for. The NEW Iraqi army is, by most accounts, doing fairly well for itself, and eventually the stability of a democratic-army will go to their favor. This is what I think Bush is counting on, in large part, with his poorly articulated (and perhaps poorly thought out) rhetoric about “democracy” being the solution to all of Iraq’s problems. But there is a case to be made that the same institutions that have allowed advanced Western nations to do so much under so many constraints—independent banking and a free economy, a citizen army with a vested interest in behaving itself and a duty to do so, and a government with many centers of power—will help stabilize Iraq and allow it to deal with much of its instability by itself… if it wants to. By most accounts it does.

The US military, incidentally, is getting quite good at working with the Iraqi army to cordon off cities and is quickly losing its compunctions (if it had any) about imposing martial law, targeting mosques and hospitals (and other “civilian targets”) when they become a refuge for the enemy, and restricting the flow of refugees in order to pick it through for suspected terrorists or other particularly dangerous people. And commanders on the ground have expressed a desire, an intention, a will to apply the same overwhelming force and tactics against other cities, not just Fallujah, ramping up the campaign in time for elections rather than toning it down after that contentious city is pacified.

All of this may not single-handedly accomplish our real objectives, but it is a very promising start and much of it would have been unthinkable with the Democrats and other assorted pacifist lefties hampering the war effort here at home before the presidential election. The attitude (especially among the military) around the country, aside from those that prefer to sit around and complain about losing the election, seems to be that we are stuck with president Bush and his war so we ought to do our level best to win it… though there is massive disagreement about how to do this, some of the debate downright stupid, Americans, when they come round to this attitude, generally overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles—again, think WWII.

The point of all this? I’m sorry for the length, and there are good points about the war made here, but the sheer pessimism is overwhelming, and I’ve not yet read here a coherent outline for what we SHOULD be doing rather than what we are. Bush has left matters largely to the military and the administrative staff on the ground in Iraq and seems not to be bothered with the details of how the war is going. This is something Americans seem to simultaneously admire and despise in a president, and I think it’s rather obvious which the opinion on this site is. But what other alternative is there? The much-vaunted “leave it to the commanders on the ground” plan seems simple, workable, and is producing solid results after a series of setbacks that would have sent any other nation in the world running back home.

Make no mistake about it: we are in the black heart of the serpent’s nest itself, the very heart of the Middle East and the seat of the old caliphate, one of the oldest bastions of that region’s culture and also of its current insanity. The stakes are high, but the sheer magnitude of the task is something to be considered. All the naysaying about Iraq thus far has proved itself mostly false, as naysaying about other great endeavors undertaken by this country have proven false.

I realize I am making the case for optimism among a community of people whose job it is, by self-appointment and by natural design, to be pessimistic. And, when it seems like all the pessimists are on the left and all the happy-smiley optimists are on the right, someone needs to try and bridge the divide and argue for sanity. But, as I’ve said, I haven’t yet read from anyone here what should be done.

I realize that many here might advocate simply bombing those countries that pose a threat to us, attacking any infrastructure we deem fit to attack. But this would be even more profoundly destabilizing to world politics than Bush’s plan, which at least has the appearance of striving for some kind of stability in a region that knows none. The only alternative to a careful, targeted war on the terrorists (and, by extension, the insurgents) is a total war, and this is politically unacceptable, not to mention a gross impossibility given the nature of Arab terrorism.

Posted by: Jonathan Neill on November 11, 2004 2:13 AM

If Mr. Neill hasn’t read anything on this site about what should be done, he needs to look around the site’s archives more. I’m shooting from the hip, but there are basically two variants of a recommended solution.

Defeat the enemy - the jihadis who are attacking our soldiers and our Iraqi allies. Render them incapable of mounting a serious resistance. Put an end to all PC nonsense in dealing with them.The way things are going, jihaids who are captured will end up with NLG lawyers representing them before the 9th circuit. Since they desire martyrdom, give it to them.

1. Once this is accomplished, hold elections and establish a liberal democratic regime; or

2. Allow the Kurds, who’ve been faithful allies (despite our betrayal in 1991) to form their own nation. The Turks, by refusing our request to invade from the north, allowed Saddam and other Baathists to prepare for the invasion and cost American lives. We owe them zero. Set up a strongman for the remainder of Iraq who will run a stable regime and fight the jihadis so he and his clique can retain power.

We then withdraw to a well-protected base in the new nation of Kurdistan, from which we can strike jihadis anywhere in the region. I think this would be a reasonable summary of what most of us at VFR would recommend.

Posted by: Carl on November 11, 2004 3:41 AM

Bravo, Carl! I wholeheartedly agree, only can you be more specific on “where” this U.S. stategic force would be posited? The following is an excellent map site re: “Kurdistan” which in effect, no longer exists as it once did. If it did, it would take part of Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq to make it a country. How would it look now if we occupied it?


Also, Carl, how many U.S. troops were you thinking of having us posit/keep in Kurdistan? 50,000? 150,000? Won’t they be subject to terror attacks from three of four countries—Iran, Syria, Iraq and Turkey? How politically feasible is it/would it be to station so many troops in a hostile region indefinitely? How would we keep them suipplied? Certtainly not thru Turkey, Iran or Syria…

Mr. Neill would be wise to take Carl’s advice. I am still trying to catch up on all the informed and enlightening posts from Mssngrs and Mr. Auster alike on Iraq, Bush’s goals, etc.

Posted by: David Levin on November 11, 2004 7:53 AM

Mr. Girin wrote: “If an exclusively Shiite government comes to power, there’s at least a 75 % chance that they will be a bunch of Iranian puppets. The mullahs are chuckling with glee.”

Where’s the missing 25%? My understanding is the Iranians have not been playing favorites among the Shia factions. They’ve been buying influence with all of them, from Chalabi to the Sadrists, so that they’ll have influence no matter which ones come out on top.

None of the factions are really perfect for the Iranians’ purposes. Sistani is not exactly a Jeffersonian liberal, but from the Iranian ayatollahs’ point of view, he’s got some weird ideas about the separation of church and state. He also told them to butt out of the Najaf cease-fire talks. Hakim is much too pro-American. Sadr has this streak of Arab nationalism that’ll prevent him from being too much of a puppet. Sadr wants an Iranian-style theocracy but he wants it run by Arabs, not subordinated to the Iranian theocracy.

Posted by: Ken Hechtman on November 11, 2004 10:15 AM

Actually, I would disagree with Carl a little about option 1: rather, most people on this site think that option 1 is to defeat the insurgency and then establish a pro-western strongman regime.

Posted by: Michael Jose on November 11, 2004 11:15 AM

I have read this series of posts with great interests. As to the Administration’s “policy,” we may be overanalyzing things. Bush and the men around him are simply addicted to making the most exaggerated claims and justifications for their actions, and then asserting that their aims were correct and their objectives achieved, whatever happens. We cannot simply aim to punish Iraq for breaking the armistice of 1991 one million times and get rid of a danger, we have to “liberate” the Iraqi people. (As though anyone cared.) And liberation can’t simply mean getting rid of a particularly vile regime, it must mean installing a “democracy.” The Administration can barely even admit to itself, much less anyone else, that its main justification for the war was wrong, that its predictions of what would happen (much less preparation or lack of such for the occupation) were wrong, or even that Saddam had no serious connections with Al Qaeda. Why should they start being sensible now? If anything, its worse, as they imagine they have a “mandate.”

Posted by: Alan Levine on November 11, 2004 12:23 PM

I would like to make one comment on one point Jonathan Neill makes in his case for optimism. I do not think anyone doubted that the US military can take a city like Falluja or is “unable to wage urban warfare in the event of an insurgency,” though it is worth noting the city fighting is normally an exceptionally bloody business. Rather, it is the persistence of the insurgency in urban areas that is the surprising and worrisome thing. It was proverbial, among older students of guerrilla warfare, that attempting to fight in and capture cities was one of the most difficult and dangerous things guerrillas could do, it was precisely there that regular armies could depend of having the advantage. The Iraq case seems to be a cause for rewriting the book.

Posted by: Alan Levine on November 11, 2004 12:30 PM

Mr. Levine writes:
“Bush and the men around him are simply addicted to making the most exaggerated claims and justifications for their actions, and then asserting that their aims were correct and their objectives achieved, whatever happens.”

That may well be so. Bush’s background is largely a corporate background, and corporations have become less and less about leaderhsip and more and more about technocratic management. “Leadership” in the corporate world these days is most often a matter of asserting hyperbolically exaggerated things that nobody believes, telling people they are “empowered”, and then putting the right spin on outcomes.

Bush is the product of a culture that has forgotten what it is to be a leader, in significant part because it has forgotten what it is to be a man.

Posted by: Matt on November 11, 2004 1:11 PM

That’s a very interesting statement by Matt. I was not aware of this “hyperbolic” style of corporate leadership, but it certainly fits Busheroni.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 11, 2004 8:14 PM

Mr. Neill presents an opus that deserves respect, not that it has been disrespected; I hope he continues to contribute. The comment’s theme is this Website is pessimistic about Bush’s handling of the victory. I agree. I disagree the pessimism is misplaced. The insurgents might blunder into their total defeat, but Mr. Bush will not have engineered it, although we here do hope he will. This is an important point: we here have no grudge against Mr. Bush. We WANT Mr. Bush to win the war. We are not Leftists who want us to lose or others who want us out for irrational reasons.

Last night I drafted a history of our defeat in Vietnam but deleted it because it was too long. But let me help to correct my rash action by encouraging commentators to consider the similarities.

Posted by: Paul Henrí on November 11, 2004 9:52 PM

Also, who would have guessed from what he wrote here that Jonathan Neill is a high school student?

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 11, 2004 10:07 PM

Bravo Mr. Neill. You have the potential to go far.

Posted by: Paul Henrí on November 11, 2004 10:21 PM

Mr. Neill,

Here’s some advice from another young conservative (I’m 20): some situations just don’t warrant optimism, no matter how much you want them to.
As for solutions to the current dire state of affairs in Iraq, Mr. Auster offered one last week and I expanded on it.
Here it is: we should withdraw from the bloody quagmire of central Iraq, redislocate to Kurdistan and the extreme south of the country (Al Nasiriya to Basra), and let the Iraqis clean up the Sunni triangle and fight the Shiite insurgents in Najaf and Sadr City.

Posted by: Eugene Girin on November 11, 2004 11:10 PM

I am not at all saying that “pessimism” here is misplaced, in a political environment that seems solidly optimistic (with the exception of the insane left, who don’t count).

That being said, the first reply to my comment (by Carl) seems to articulate a widely held belief that we should “defeat the terrorists” before anything else. Unfortunately, I believe this view is an example of misunderstanding of just how impossible it is to actually do that: they are a small, well-trained, loosely organized and nebulous force, and if we withdraw from cities—that is, if we give up all the holding power that gives, for example, policemen the advantage in fighting street crime—and abandon central Iraq to the jihadis, we will never kill or capture them.

Political correctness was also mentioned: I made a point of discussing the assaults on mosques and hospitals, both of which would have been widely slammed by the media and the international community but now, for some reason, are being mostly ignored; that is, the military is being left to win the war on its own, and people are gradually realizing that the 1960s era antiwar people who continutally attack the military are the enemy, and that our boys are the good guys here.

Retreating to Kurdistan and southern Iraq is probably out of the question. As Mr. Levin said, these troop stations would likely be subject to constant terror attacks from the Sunni triangle and from foreign terror networks, while sitting there and essentially accomplishing nothing other than holding territory that is already mostly secure. The Clintonesque approach of launching cruise missles at the center of Iraq from these bases has already been discredited, and can anyway be done without significant troop numbers in the region.

Striking at jihadis is not something that can be accomplished by retreating; the enemy must be denied possession of cities and all the advantages they convey (not least of which are access to commerce and recruitment). Letting Iraqi troops do most of the grunt work in taking and holding cities is an interesting idea, but once one accepts the premise that the cities must be taken and held, refusing to allow our troops to do it seems a bit illogical.

And one more thing, in response to Mr. Levine. Urban warfare was, of course, typically an affair of rural areas, disrupting of supply lines and so forth. But “the book” was written before the days of easily-made, easily-acquired high explosives, before the days of assault rifles and heavy munitions. The terrorists have all of these, and the inherent difficulty in locating a car bomb or a booby-trapped building in a dense urban area is a huge advantage for guerillas that they have not possessed in the past. While they simply lack the resources to TAKE a city (where many of its modern advantages work to our benefit) they can make use of small numbers, tactics designed to confuse, and powerful weaponry to establish and effectively hold fortified positions.

The fact that they are no longer able to do this speaks volumes about our military’s potential for winning this conflict now and in the future.

Posted by: Jonathan Neill on November 12, 2004 9:43 AM

“The fact that they are no longer able to [hold fortified positions in a city] speaks volumes about our military’s potential for winning this conflict now and in the future.”

Actually, I think they just decided that it would be more advantageous to leave the city, let us level it without too many of them in it, and thereby turn all of the now homeless citizens of Fallujah against us.

I’m not certain that I see the problem as one of us not trying to defeat the insurgents. I see the problem being that I am not certain how we will defeat the insurgents, unless we decide to kill every single Sunni Arab (at which point another group might decide that it is time for them to rise up). The harder we push to kill the terrorists, the more collateral damage, and the more Iraqis angered at us and willing to join the insurgency.

Posted by: Michael Jose on November 12, 2004 10:04 AM

I urge participants in these discussions to make their comments concise. If you have a more complex argument to make, fine. But in that case you must edit out all secondary points so that your main points can be clearly understood.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 12, 2004 10:33 AM

Matt wrote:

“Bush’s background is largely a corporate background”.

There is an interesting look at Bush as a bad manager by a liberal analyst. Main point:

“Based on no knowledge at all except what I’ve read in Suskind, Woodward, etc, I have always imagined that the president is one of those bad managers who is so focused on making the decision (“I’m the one who decides”) and on short, conclusive meetings that he doesn’t allow a full airing of information to come out, or to hear disagreements. The meeting that in the Clinton White House would have stretched into two hours, blowing the entire day’s schedule but ultimately leading to a smarter result, is in the Bush White House “resolved” when the CEO speaks, and everyone leaves the room, most of them a little doubtful about the choice but loyal to the commander-in-chief”.

Article is here: markschmitt.typepad.com/decembrist/2004/10/the_bad_ceo_get.html.

It strikes me as a plausible model for understanding Bush admin.

Posted by: Mik on November 12, 2004 11:36 AM

A question for Matt:

If Bush is best understood as a corporate personality, then why has his background in the corporate sector been so mediocre, in stark contrast to his amazing political success? It is a common leftist attack line that his private career has been marked by mostly either mixed success at best and failure at worst, and that he has had to have daddy bail him out of business troubles.

I’m not an expert on Bush as a corporate personality, or his private-sector past, but I think that to characterize his thought as a CEO is an analysis that is missing something.

Posted by: Jonathan Neill on November 12, 2004 7:28 PM

Well I’ve only met Bush in person once, and then very briefly and surrounded by many other people. He had just given a talk to a bunch of corporate executives and CEO’s of which I was one. My impression was that politically there were large differences between the various personalities present, but that on a certain level it was all the same crowd, if you will. And Bush is after all a Harvard guy, a type I understand fairly well as I’ve made use of them in business as employees and business partners of one sort or another. My understanding of modern business management is an (former) insider’s perspective that suffers from all of the liabilities that implies, but frankly Scott Adams who writes the _Dilbert_ cartoon is not far off in his satirical assessment.

There are lots of different approaches to technocratic management, from command-and-control to encourage-and-empower and everywhere in between, along many dimensions and using many variations on how things are structured and executed. But what there is not much of (in my own view) is _leadership_. There are exceptions, mind you, but the thing about exceptions is that they are exceptional. I’ve seen many modern corporatist managers go through the motions of “leadership” as I described above. That isn’t to say that there aren’t good technocratic managers and bad, and that Bush might not also be substandard as a technocratic manager. Its just that the pattern of articulating a big goal (democratic Iraq), asserting that people are empowered to achieve it (the Iraqis want freedom, we will bring it to them), and then declaring victory no matter what happens (the appearance of democratic elections) is a pattern I’ve seen time and time again in the corporate world as a substitute for leadership.

Clinton was despicable as a president, but he did have the quality of leadership; as did Reagan. Neither of the Bush men do. I think part of the reason may be that corporate America wrings the leadership out of people. The assert-empower-declare victory pattern is all that remains.

I don’t know how helpful this is to the discussion, but it is my personal impression.

Posted by: Matt on November 12, 2004 8:15 PM

Given Matt’s insights into styles of corporate mangagement and leadership, it would be interesting to hear his thoughts on the Donald Trump tv show, which I saw for the first time last night. A small group of executives (selected with exquisite attention to race and sex balance) is assigned to accomplish a given entrepreneurial task, then they critique their own and each other’s performance in front of Trump. With the group last night, what Trump concluded was that the group had no “fire,” and he fired the leader.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 12, 2004 8:22 PM

Re: Donald Trump, I don’t watch it, haven’t seen it. I expect it has as much connection to actual corporate reality as “Survivor” has to actual survival in the wilderness, but I can’t say. I don’t watch much TV in general these days.

As they say, though, often the best way to improve morale is to fire all the unhappy people.

Posted by: Matt on November 12, 2004 8:39 PM

Possibly, substantial reasons for the leadership styles criticized are the various antidiscrimination laws, which the thought police, the EEOC, interprets arbitrarily in favor of the classes it thinks deserve privilege. It is difficult to lead when dealing with employees who have dropped to the L.C.D. in performance.

Years ago, my white mother had to fire an entire office of about 8-10 white females who had decided to give her the cold shoulder because of the Evil Eye. She was blatantly adored by her superiors for her talent and good looks (and who I am proud to say I look like). Such action would be impossible today if the office were multicultural.

Perhaps also the styles in some way can be attributed to current business ethics. After 20 years, my mother had to quit when her greedy, wealthy superiors tried to get her involved in a penny-ante tax evasion scheme. One of her outstanding qualities was she could be trusted completely, and her superiors praised her for this because she handled a large amount of cash! What would make them think she would change her stripes—their immense egos and arrogance? I am a professional and not a businessman, so perhaps I am not in the know; but I have dealt with many employer-employee disputes on the side of management mostly, and the ethics of employers and employees is bad. I suppose my high and mighty attitude is due in part to the fact that I have the luxury of being free to act completely ethically.

(Almost needless to say, the slimes did not contest her claim for unemployment benefits.)

Posted by: Paul Henrí on November 13, 2004 1:20 AM
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