Posted by: Jim | January 3, 2007

Step One in “The Way Forward”

In order to accomplish any mission, it’s important to understand the mission objectives, and the parameters for success.

For that reason, I believe President Bush is making it impossible for us to achieve “victory” in Iraq. The reasons he puts forth as to why we are there are creating obscure, vague, and in some cases impossible parameters for success. And our lack of success is costing us $8 Billion dollars a month.

The first step is to re-state and clarify a set of mission objectives, and parameters for success. First, here are some of GWB’s stated mission parameters that detract from our ability to succeed there:

1. To spread democracy to the region
Democracy can only be sustained when the concept of democracy is valued by the people. Quite the opposite is true in Iraq. See my earlier posting on Why “Victory” in Iraq is Impossible.

2. To ensure we live in peace.
In a speech last week, Bush said, “failure in Iraq … will condemn a generation of young Americans to permanent threat from overseas.” No it will not; that condemnation has already been bestowed upon us whether we succeed or fail in Iraq. The threats that face us cannot be found in a single nation, but in the value system shared by a multi-national culture. Waging war on any single nation will not quell that value, but only foment it, and force it into the regions we aren’t occupying. Success in Iraq has absolutely nothing to do with the threats we face from this enemy.

3. To fight terrorism.
Although an enormous case was built to connect Iraq with terrorism, those connections have been criticized as spurious at best, and possibly outright sophistry at worst. Since then, the intelligence community has agreed unanimously that the war in Iraq is actually aiding terrorists.

4. Because the Insurgents “Hate Liberty.”
This has been said often, and apparently corroborated by soldier’s testimony. But the insurgents are not being handed guns and told to kill because American “liberty” is being spread throughout the Middle East. No, the insurgents are Sunni Arabs, who are fighting to maintain the power they’ve held in Iraq for 1300 years. With the fall of Saddam and the rise of the Shiites, they know their goose is cooked, and they are trying to prevent it. The insurgents say they hate liberty, which is why our soldiers believe this glittering generality. They give the guns to the poor people and tell them only Allah has power, and that American Liberty is an act of self-will against Allah. But rich Arab oil sheiks are not funding the Sunni insurgents because of liberty—they’re doing it for power, and that story won’t work among the poor. The “liberty” argument is codswollop, and we should not buy it.

Now, following are some suggested reasons why we stay in Iraq. I may not agree entirely with these reasons, but I think they are the real reasons, and if we simply stated them, we could have a much more productive debate, and would have a much higher chance of success.

1. We need a military presence in the Middle East.
It would be naive to think that if we weren’t policing the Middle East that Russian and/or China or other emerging world powers would not rush in to take our place, and the oil. They could and they would, and the price of oil would not be in our control if that happened. Until we have found a cheaper energy source than Middle Eastern Oil, we need a military presence there to prevent the chaos being controlled by one of our competitors.

2. Our military needed to move out of Riyadh.
The Saudi family does not maintain an army, even though they are hated by the throngs of people they have oppressed. They and their oil are protected by US, and in return, they help US by manipulating the price of oil in our favor. However, our military presence in Riyadh was becoming a problem for the Saudis, as it was in violation of Muslim law. (We are infidels, after all.) So, we had to move them or risk the stability of the Saudi royal family. This, again, would disrupt the price of oil to the point of a national crisis.

3. We need to clean up the mess we created.
Regardless of our reasons for occupying Iraq, we destroyed the Iraqi infrastructure, and it would be morally wrong for us to leave without putting another one in its place. We took responsibility for Iraq when we decided to oust Saddam. Leaving them in disarray would be wrong, and would cause more disrepute for our nation—a price we cannot afford to pay.

4. We need to create a context for stability.
The stability of Iraq is not up to us. Stability in Iraq depends on the overall stability of the Middle East. The centuries of enmity between the Sunnis and Shi’as, between the Kurds and the Turks, and between everyone and Israel, seems a guarantee to lack of stability in the region. But if we simply left, there could be intense reprisals against Sunni Muslims, which could increase instability in Saudi Arabia, and put us in the enviable position of protecting them due to our hasty retreat from Iraq. Future clashes are a veritable certainty, but the U.S. would be better off to leave Iraq in such a manner that does not add to the strife more than we already have.



  1. What the hell is wrong with line breaks in WordPress? Every time I create something in MS Word and try to paste it here, it is unmanagable.

  2. Sorry for the mess, I have WordPress Tech Support looking at it.

  3. My fault. You’re not supposed to use MS Word. Bleh.

  4. You’re not supposed to use ANY Microsoft products. They’re crap, and they’re from Satan.

    * * *

  5. no, jim, i type my posts straight into word press (in firefox) and it still screws line breaks regularly, particularly if you jump back in and “edit this” (which should really be labelled, for sake of accuracy “edit this a lot more than you think as all your formatting gets a makeover”)

    after reading your new objectives, i just don’t see any way to achieve them. the historical struggle between sunnis and shias, it cannot be contained. what are you actually suggesting the US military should do to facilitate these new reframed objectives? and besides, nobody in the Middle East would believe them. it is fairly plain that without a genuine settlement of the Israel/Palestine question, the US will possess no moral authority in the Middle East (and rightly so).

    the idea i find most frustrating and take issue with is “it’s our mess, we have to stay to clean it up”, because, i think it’s like somebody drenched head to toe in blood trying to help clean up a white tiled room. there is no way to be part of the problem and part of the solution simultaneously, because the safe environment in which the mess could be cleaned up does not exist. i actually think that some kind of partition WILL have to happen, with rigorous border enforcement, because it is already happening, people are having to flee. no doubt it may resolve into cross-border rocket attacks and suicide bombers, but at least there will be territories that feel themselves to possess integrity, that are working towards their own goals and can forge their own alliances, rather than everybody simply fighting over the one big bone of controlling Iraq (a prize that i don’t think can be won). give them a small bone each! sorry for the homespun imagery, i think after six years it’s impossible not to start aping Dubya’s rhetorical style!

  6. None of the objectives proclaim us a moral authority (I don’t think) and you are right that we should not try.

    A partition seemed like a good idea to me too, but the problem is that Sunnis and Shias do not live in clearly delineated regions. It doesn’t make it impossible, but it would make it extremely costly and difficult.

  7. The partitions in my office seem to do the trick. Nobody’s killed anyone in weeks.

    * * *

  8. So, Bri, you’re implying that Bill Gates is involved with Al Qaida, right?

    Think about it: if Microsoft products are from Satan, and Satan is Saddam Hussein’s lover, and, according to Bush et al., Hussein was involved with Al Qaida, then Bill Gates is involved with Al Qaida and we should invade Redmond, WA!

    Hey, makes about as much sense as anything Bush and his buds spout.

  9. /prepares to move her family out of Redmond, WA…

  10. We’ve had this issue with Microsoft products being pasted into our content management system here at IT is not WordPress, but a global issue. The XML in Word is not parsed correctly, and the result is weird line breaks, inability to change formatting and general icky-ness.

    The answer is to type your entry into NotePad or EditPad (way cooler), copy, and paste. Format the text once you get it in there. No fuss, no muss.

    No one should use Word – it is straight from the Devil’s toolbox.

    Word to Bri.

  11. I will always be a staunch defender of MS-Excel. It’s the only good product Microsoft has ever made. I can do just about *anything* with data in Excel. I love it.

    Everything else, though, is bilge.

  12. Try Open Office – same thng, free, and made by not Microsoft (Sun). Google spreadsheets is also a worthy alternative.

    Ha – love the word ‘bilge.’

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