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What can be expected of Europe in Iraq?

by Migeru Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 08:58:22 AM EST

It seems that European (Union) involvement in sorting out Bush's Iraqi misadventure has become a hot topic again:

Jörg's diary especially got me thinking about what could be expected of European Union involvement in Iraq, and what a European strategy should be. My tentative answer is based on two principles: human rights and riding the wave.


Human Rights

It may be unrealistic to think of the EU as postcolonialist, but in any case I personally would like to see European Union foreign policy built around a true concern for Human Rights (counterexample). It is true that Iraq is everyone's problem even if the blame for the current mess can be pinned almost exclusively on the US. A spillover of violence from Iraq would be of concern to Europe, the Middle East is relatively close and accessible, and we need the oil, too. But instead of traditional geopolitical power-plays and grand-chessboard strategy, assume that the EU's concern would simply be to help Iraq contain the bleeding, restore a semblance of dignity and respect for human rights, and allow a civil society to emerge from the ashes. What would be the strategy, and what would be the roadblocks along the way?

Riding the wave

One metaphor that is sometimes seen in geopolitical discussions is that of Judo - use the opponent's momentum for your own goals. This, of course, requires adapting one's goals to the direction in which the opponent is going. Or, in less adversarial terms, going with the flow, riding the wave, following the Tao.

So the first thing to consider is where the flow is going, what the likely outcome would be if things were left to themselves, and whether that can be modified slightly to conform to the EU's goal (again: dignity and human rights in Iraq). I would claim that Iraq is in a civil war and that the likely outcome of political developments in Iraq would be either partition or a loose federation, both along ethnic lines with a special treatment needed for Baghdad and Kirkuk. Also, I would claim that the EU could live with a partitioned Iraq. The goal of respect for human rights is compatible with it as long as efforts are made to accommodate minorities instead of ethnically cleansing them. Politics might become less sectarian along ethnic lines in each of the successor states to a partitioned Iraq, which would help. In a country with three large ethnic groups it is very easy for the system to degenerate into shifting alliances where two of them gang up on the third and that is inherently undesirable.

Short of partition, one could have a confederation or loose federation consisting of Sunni Iraq, Shia Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, with Baghdad and Kirkuk as multi-ethnic city-states.

Roadblocks

Who would stand in the way of such an endpoint and why? First of all, the Iraqi Sunni would be left with very little water or oil. In addition, they used to be the politically dominant ethnic group under Saddam and would resent either losing access to resources or a marginal role (compared to the Shia) in a federal Iraq.

The Shia Iraq would emerge as the strongest of the parts, to the benefit of Iran. This is not good news for Saudi Arabia. Not only is its particularly toxic  Wahhabi regime in the antipodes of Iran theologically, but also Saudi Arabia's oil is sitting under the region where its own Shia minority lives, along the border to Iraq. An independent and oil-rich Shia Iraq would appear to pose a serious internal threat. In fact, it appears that Saudi Arabia would prefer to have another Sunni leader subjugate the Shia regions. They probably would not mind a new Saddam.

It also appears that Turkey wouldn't tolerate an independent (or even an autonomous) Iraqi Kurdistan. This is for internal reasons as Turkey has an unresolved issue with its own Kurdish minority, as well as because there is a Turkmen minority in the Iraqi Kurdistan which Turkey would feel compelled to assist. The conflict around Kirkuk involves this Turkmen minority as well as oil. Note that Turkey is a NATO member.

The US would side with Saudi Arabia and the Iraqi Sunni against Iran and the Iraqi Shia and probably be ambivalent about the Kurdish/Turkish side of the conflict.

Turkey

The EU could potentially broker an understanding between the Turks and the Kurds, using EU accession to bargain with Turkey. In this respect, it would really help if the European right wing (and notably the French) stopped posturing against Turkey.

The EU would point out to Turkey that EU accession is impossible without respect for minority rights which entail recognition of the Kurds in Turkey and the granting of some sort of political autonomy.

The EU would also put pressure on the Iraqi Kurds on the issue of minority rights for the Turkmen in Iraqi Kurdistan, and point to its parallel efforts to help the Turkish Kurds. The argument would be that both problems must be solved together and that if the Iraqi Kurds don't play along and make Turkey feel threatened there's little the EU can do to prevent Turkey from attempting to occupy the Iraqi Kurdistan.

On this, one has to assume a modicum of good will and sanity on both sides. If the Kurds make Turkey feel it cannot afford not to invade them, there's nothing the EU can do to stop Turkey. And, worryingly, all the anti-Turkish rhetoric in Europe is reducing the EU's leverage.

The Sunni

The Saudi are, as I said above, a toxic regime. But could a moderate faction be found in Sunni Iraq which would be content without access to Iraq's oil in exchange for a favoured economic relationship with the EU? Is development aid and economic partnership agreements enough of a carrot to get the Sunnis to give up on a war they cannot win given the demographics?

Iran

Iran would have no problems with this scenario - except that any or all of Saudi Arabia, Israel or the US might feel tempted to attack Iran if it appears to be getting too powerful. The EU might try to tie this to the ongoing negotiations about Iran's nuclear program. The EU could provide a credible guarantee that Iran is not going for the Bomb while helping Iran use its oil wealth to develop alternative energy resources (possibly civilian nuclear but that would make those credible assurances harder to believe by a paranoid Israel, Saudi Arabia and US).

Possible bad outcomes

The first is that Turkey invades and occupies Iraqi Kurdistan.

The second is that the US extends the conflict to Iran.

It seems to me there is a relatively high likelihood that within 5 years Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan will all be in flames (and Pakistan, too) which is definitely the outcome the EU should be trying to avert.

Display:
If you think (only) Europe can save the world, I'm sorry to disappoint you.

But there are some things that the EU could work on.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 09:00:31 AM EST
European Tribune - What can be expected of Europe in Iraq?
It seems to me there is a relatively high likelihood that within 5 years Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan will all be in flames (and Pakistan, too) which is definitely the outcome the EU should be trying to avert.

At which point Obama's 'undivided Jerusalem' rhetoric starts to look like a very bad thing.

While everyone is in raptures over Obama's non-Bush-ness and the fact that his teeth aren't yellow, Obama's foreign policy may be a disaster waiting to happen.

No one likes posters who who say this over at the Big Orange Satan.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 09:35:15 AM EST
Sure. Unfortunately, so are the policies of all the other possibilities.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 01:52:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Obama's 'undivided Jerusalem' rhetoric

was appalling. It is such a grotesque ritual for US politicians to grovel before AIPAC.  And it totally stymies any chance for a resolution of the Palestinian question.  Another reason to pray that with Jim Webb's help, the Dems can peel away enough Scots-Irish to enable them to win without major support from the Jewish community.  Then we could perhaps have a rational foreign policy--at least under Democratic administrations.  But I dream.

But actually, this would be in the interest of Israel and all of their American sympathizers.  It could be the only way that we don't end up with a Monument to the "World's Three Great Monotheisms" in the area now occupied by Al Asqa Mosque and the remains of the Second Temple.  That monument being a mile wide, five hundred food deep glass lined crater where those two religious artifacts now stand.  

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 12:56:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
His rhetoric was indeed surprising.  As a neo-con, I would probably be, well, crucified if I brought that up here, so I'm glad you did.

However, I wouldn't take it too seriously.  From my perspective as a long-time consumer of US politics, it is clearly triangulation.  Obama's politics of hope may end up meaning "say everything and anything and hope for the best".

I have two, mutually exclusive theories about what Obama meant:

1) It wasn't just triangulation, it was clumsy triangulation, revealing his lack of experience and delicacy on this matter.  Obama could have easily met expectations at his AIPAC address by repeating boilerplate Democratic talking points that stop well short of what he said.  The Jewish vote in the US is influence by AIPAC, but not controlled by it; Obama's demographics favor white collars and academic robes, which is generally speaking the Jewish demographic as well.  So he already has most of their vote without pandering to AIPAC, and it isn't like he is so desperate for money that he needs AIPAC fundraising.  And AIPAC knows a pander when they see it.

Obama is a quick study, and will probably clean up his rhetoric in time for the general election.  But he will pay a certain price for absurdly and unnecessarily trying to get to the right of McCain on this.

And, it could mean that his foreign policy in office will be equally ad hoc, which could be, as you say, a disaster waiting to happen.

OR...

2) It was clever triangulation.  The purpose was to make headlines, and to insulate him from his past association with Palestinian radicals (in my opinion) like Rashid Khalidi (about whom AIPAC audience members quizzed him).  An intriguing possibility is that the undivided Jerusalem rhetoric was designed to get Hamas to withdraw its "endorsement".  Which they did, conveniently just a few days after the remark, but with remarkably mild rhetoric (for Hamas, that is).  Obama, having got what he wanted, will probably "clarify" that he meant an undivided "open" city, not an undivided Israeli city, or perhaps pretend he never said it and reiterate US policy boilerplate.  Or something like that.

This could mean that his foreign policy will be downright Machiavellian!

So, I don't know if 1) or 2) is correct, but either way, I can guarantee you he didn't mean it as a serious statement of policy.

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.

by John in Michigan USA on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 03:47:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I had to choose I'd go for 2) because Obama's campaign has proved too media savvy for a blunder like 1). After all, the timing was chosen carefully to be the first major policy speech after the end of the primary voting season.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 05:18:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you recall, a while ago his allegedly media savvy campaign leaked that they had privately reassured the Canadians that he didn't mean all that scary stuff about ending NAFTA.

But that leak blew up in his face, big time.  Progressives alienated, Canada embarrassed, advisors resigned or sidelined, etc.

If on the other hand we assume his team was being clever in the NAFTA incident, what does it mean that he reassured Canada, but not Mexico?  Under this theory, he is sending the message that his anti-NAFTA rhetoric was directed mainly against Mexico, which sounds uncomfortably like a racist pander to steal Anglo blue-collar votes away from Clinton.  And, there's plenty of anti-Hispanic animus in the African-American community, although it is taboo to talk about it.

So, you may be right, but I am still torn between 1) and 2).

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.

by John in Michigan USA on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 09:50:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I had missed that incident.

Maybe he's just the least incompetent of a field of 16 incompetent presidential candidates.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 10:16:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The second is that the US extends the conflict to Iran.

How will Europe prevent this then? "Limited" attacks on Iran by the U.S. are scheduled for August if the report in the Asia Times is to be believed? And if the U.S. doesn't attack, then Israel will likely attack Iran according to The Guardian.

If an attack on Iran is allowed to happen, what are the chances that Europe will escape being drawn into a greater conflict?

If Iran's nuclear program is for energy, which makes sense to me, then how is it any different than the nuclear programs Bush and Sarkozy have been delivering across the Middle East and North Africa?

Would Europe use its clout to tell the Bush administration and Olmert administration that if they attack Iran, then there will be considerable economic and diplomatic consequences?

What should European nations and the EU be doing to prevent the spread of war into Iran?

by Magnifico on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 02:00:43 PM EST
Asia Times: Bush 'plans Iran air strike by August' (May 28, 2008)
The George W Bush administration plans to launch an air strike against Iran within the next two months, an informed source tells Asia Times Online, echoing other reports that have surfaced in the media in the United States recently.

Two key US senators briefed on the attack planned to go public with their opposition to the move, according to the source, but their projected New York Times op-ed piece has yet to appear.

The source, a retired US career diplomat and former assistant secretary of state still active in the foreign affairs community, speaking anonymously, said last week that the US plans an air strike against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The air strike would target the headquarters of the IRGC's elite Quds force. With an estimated strength of up to 90,000 fighters, the Quds' stated mission is to spread Iran's revolution of 1979 throughout the region.

Oh, goody, and that's supposedly legal under US law, now?

AFP via Google: US Senate brands Iran Guard 'terrorist organization'
(Sep 26, 2007)

The US Senate has called for Iran's Revolutionary Guards to be officially designated a "foreign terrorist organization," a day after the House of Representatives passed a similar measure.

The Senate on Wednesday voted 76-22 for the non-binding amendment sponsored by Republican Jon Kyl and independent Joseph Lieberman to place the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or Pasdaran, on the US terrorist blacklist.

Such a designation if adopted by the US government would open the corps and affiliated companies to economic sanctions.

The Guardian: Israeli threat to attack Iran over nuclear weapons (June 7 2008)

Israel "will attack" Iran if it continues to develop nuclear weapons, one of prime minister Ehud Olmert's deputies warned yesterday. Shaul Mofaz, a former defence minister and a contender to replace the scandal-battered Olmert, said military action would be "unavoidable" if Tehran proved able to acquire the technology to manufacture atomic bombs.

Mofaz is Israel's transport minister, but he is also a former chief of staff, privy to secret defence planning as a member of the security cabinet, and leads regular strategic talks with the US. He implied that any attack on Iran would be coordinated with Washington. "If Iran continues with its programme for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it," he told the Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot. "The UN sanctions are ineffective."

The transport minister, huh?
Ehud Barak, the defence minister and Labour party leader, said Israel needed to do everything possible to ensure that the Iranians did not obtain nuclear power.
Did I read that right? Israel doesn't want Iran to obtain nuclear power? Or is this a mistranslation of become a nuclear power?

The only thing the EU can do is convince Iran of the seriousness of this threat so it takes steps to remove any excuse for an attack by either the US or Israel. This seems to be happening

Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, is shortly to lead a team of high-ranking diplomats from Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, who will present a package of incentives to persuade Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment. Iran has rejected it in advance.
Of course Iran has rejected this, but the diplomatic mission will still proceed and Iran might announce it is suspending enrichment and allowing IAES inspectors into its facilities.

As to the attack by the US... well, it cannot be prevented if the US is committed to carrying it out, but if those Senators confirm the rumours the EU diplomats should remind the US that is an illegal action.

You ask If an attack on Iran is allowed to happen, what are the chances that Europe will escape being drawn into a greater conflict? but I don't see why the EU would be attacked by Iran or its allies, or by Israel or the US, or why it should rush troops to the assistance of the US. I don't believe Iran responding to an illegal attack by the US is grounds for application of NATO's Article 5, but I could be wrong. In any case, if the US demanded it this could be the end of NATO

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security .

Iran already had a possible casus belli with the arrest of that British boat, but should know better than to give the US an excuse for an attack. Maybe the diplomatic mission by Solana will also discuss this.


When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 02:34:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
I don't see why the EU would be attacked by Iran or its allies, or by Israel or the US, or why it should rush troops to the assistance of the US. I don't believe Iran responding to an illegal attack by the US is grounds for application of NATO's Article 5, but I could be wrong. In any case, if the US demanded it this could be the end of NATO

It would be Iraq 2.0. And since Iraq 1.0 (the original 1990 attack was the beta release) gained almost unwavering support from a lapdog EU I wouldn't expect anything different this time around.

It's the US which needs a diplomatic onslaught, not Iran. Not that it would help the outcome, but it would put some distance between an insane US regime and an EU which so far has been complicitly compliant, offering only token resistance.

If Brussels grew a spine, Iran could turn into the US's own Suez. But Brussels won't, so we can look forward to even more expensive oil, and one last military disaster.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 03:33:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not Brussels, it's the member states.

I was shocked at the bile displayed by the guy from the Commission's US desk as he briefed us on EU-US relations when I visited the Commission last November.

No love lost, I can assure you.

But foreign policy is a National issue.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 05:14:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wasn't Barroso the host of one of those strategy meetings Bush, Blair and Aznar used to have before they started the Iraq war? And Solana was General Secretary of NATO. Are you sure this animosity isn't restricted to the lower and medium ranks?

Von überall könnte das Volk, Urbrut alles Undemokratischen, Zelle des Terrors, über die gewählten Hüter von Wachstum und Wohlstand® kommen. - flatter
by generic on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 05:30:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes and yes.

I'm talking about the career civil service people, not the political appointees.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 05:41:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Solana is European Council, not European Commission. (He's Secretary General of the Council, interestingly, as well as Mr. CFSP)

Solana was the NATO civilian head during the Serbia bombing campaign - while I still respect his intellectual and diplomatic capacity I think he's a total sell-out.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 05:43:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Iraq 1.0 (the original 1990 attack was the beta release) gained almost unwavering support from a lapdog EU

You exaggerate.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 05:14:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or not.

I mean unwavering tacit support for rendition flights, intelligence gathering and sharing, and other essentials.

Brussels is of course shocked that these things have happened - not that they continue to, naturally - but I don't remember there being a great deal of action to stop them.

The EU is good at making a disapproving noise about US adventuring, but doesn't seem interested in doing anything much that might put real pressure on the US - like sanctions, or even just giving senior US diplomats a formal stern talking to.

There certainly weren't any sanctions against any of the member states who chose to send troops to Iraq.

How illegal is a war if no one is prosecuted for it?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 06:11:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Again, all of that is the exclusive competence of the Member States individually or collegiately as the Council.

The European Parliament issued a scathing report on the rendition - completer despite their inability to subpoena anyone or to hear evidence that a member state considers critical to their "national security".

Dick Marty of the Council of Europe also produced a substantial report.

None of this is about "Brussels", it's about the national governments.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 06:15:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Scathing reports are exactly as useful as sternly worded letters.

To date Brussels has threatened sanctions against Italy, Israel, the Saudis and Iran, for various reasons.

The EU also threatened sanctions against Poland and Romania for hosting CIA jails. So Brussels certainly does have leverage, and is willing to consider using it.

But Brussels didn't threaten sanctions against any of the countries which sent troops to Iraq. In fact there was a Press Communiqué in 2004 which said:

The EU and the GCC stated their determination to assist the Iraqi people as they enter a new
era in the history of their country.

The EU and the GCC expressed concern about the security situation in Iraq, noting that this
remains a major impediment to successful political and reconstruction processes. They
condemned all violence and terrorist attacks, including the kidnappings and brutal murder of
hostages. They deplored the taking of hostages in all circumstances and called on those
responsible to release immediately and unharmed all remaining hostages and to desist from
any further such activity.

The EU and the GCC expressed their abhorrence at recent evidence of mistreatment of
prisoners in Iraqi prisons. The EU and the GCC condemned any instances of abuse and
degradation of prisoners in Iraq, which are contrary to international law, including the Geneva
Conventions. The EU and the GCC welcomed the commitment by relevant Governments to
bring to justice any individuals responsible for such acts involving the abuse of Iraqi
detainees, and their commitment to rectify any failure to adhere to international humanitarian
law.

This was in a formal statement by official representatives of the EU, speaking for the EU.

So it's not impressive that it doesn't read like a forceful condemnation of an illegal war and occupation, or of a government which had been saying since 2002 that the Geneva Conventions didn't apply to its interrogators.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 06:49:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
correct link

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 06:57:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As successful as the E.U. in building a strong economy, it seems unable to turn that economic power into diplomatic clout.

The lack of a single security policy by the E.U. member states is what I see as the Achilles' heel of the European Union. Until Europe can speak with one voice internationally, powers such as Russia, China, and the U.S. will continue to play one European nation off another nation.

I find this paradox to be an interesting, but flawed creation. I wonder what the U.S. would have been like if the member states each had their own foreign policy?

by Magnifico on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 11:18:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Europe is not powerless to prevent the U.S. from attacking Iran, but standing up to U.S. militancy has great risks.

As to the attack by the US... well, it cannot be prevented if the US is committed to carrying it out, but if those Senators confirm the rumours the EU diplomats should remind the US that is an illegal action.

It could possibly be prevented, but it depends on how badly European nations wanted to prevent it. More on this in a bit.

You ask If an attack on Iran is allowed to happen, what are the chances that Europe will escape being drawn into a greater conflict? but I don't see why the EU would be attacked by Iran or its allies...

You answer this yourself in regards to Iraq. You write, "A spillover of violence from Iraq would be of concern to Europe, the Middle East is relatively close and accessible". Spillover from Iran. Even if it is attacks on Americans in Europe, it will be messy.

So could Europe block an attack on Iran if Europe or Russia aligned itself with Iran? I do not know. Would it make the situation too hot, or would the U.S. think twice before risking war with Russia or any number of European nations and go ahead and attack Iran?

If the U.S. is not prevented from attacking and invading Iran, what is to stop the U.S. from continuing these invasions? Internal U.S. collapse?

Is U.S. being appeased by allowing it Iraq? Will it stop with just Iraq?

by Magnifico on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 11:36:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is U.S. being appeased by allowing it Iraq? Will it stop with just Iraq?

I have been convinced that yes and no for years.

If the U.S. is not prevented from attacking and invading Iran, what is to stop the U.S. from continuing these invasions? Internal U.S. collapse?

The US hasn't put itself on a war footing internally (economically and politically) as it did in WWII. I think the US has the potential to go on for much longer. Especially if the public can be told that the rest of the  world is out to get them, which is what they would be told if NATO allies allied with Russia to block an attack on Iran (or after such an attack). Eurabia, the Russians and the Chinese are coming! Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia! Like I said above, where the UK's chip would fall is an interesting question.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 02:55:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The only way the US could put itself on a war footing against - say - China is by outsourcing all of it weapons production, to China.

There isn't the industrial base needed for a war footing. Not that the next war would necessarily be industrial - at least, not for long - but politically the population wouldn't support a war without physical coercion, and physically the US doesn't have the energy needed to re-industrialise itself.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 12:59:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]

There isn't the industrial base needed for a war footing. Not that the next war would necessarily be industrial - at least, not for long - but politically the population wouldn't support a war without physical coercion, and physically the US doesn't have the energy needed to re-industrialise itself.

Boeing, Northrup, Lockheed, Ford and General Motors  might beg to differ.  The one thing we do still have is the war making ability.  It might take a coup to bring it off properly, though.  Especially if the Dems win in the fall.  If the Repubs win that might itself constitute a de facto coup.  

Victory would probably only be possible through massive genocide and the environmental consequences would likely make it pyrrhic--nuclear winter if things went nuclear; world wide plagues if biological; massive genetic damage if chemical. If the US went for control of Iran it is hard seeing Russia and China taking this quietly.  Plus we would have to deal with Pakistan and Afganistan.  The religious would truly have reason to hope for the rapture.

What would prevent this is simply lack of sufficient military capability.  To bring this off it would be necessary to double the size of the ground forces.  That would take more than a year.  With the Bush administration expiring in seven months about all we could do now is inflict the maximum damage from the air.  They might do that, figuring that that would get McCain elected and commit him to finishing what they had started.  Stay tuned.

That we are having such a discussion is itself an eloquent explanation of why I refer to us as a nation of dumb fucks.  Dumb fucks with a taste for psychopaths.

 

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 11:59:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not predicting that this will happen, but I am worried.  I consider it a real possibility.  As I have said, these people will not go quietly.  I will graciously accept my ARgeezer Crystal Ball of Doom Award.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 12:04:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But first fix the color.  Some sort of putrid purple would be more appropriate.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 12:06:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
LIke so?

[AR Geezer's Crystal Ball of Doom™ Technology]

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 01:46:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
C'est bon!

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 10:11:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
attacks on Iran by the U.S. are scheduled for August if the report in the Asia Times is to be believed

According to various worldwide "media outlets" they've been scheduled about 10 times already.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 02:08:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And we here were fretting about an October surprise for the 2006 elections.

This Iran thing is like the paradox of the unexpected hanging.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 02:10:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it will happen unexpectedly to anyone? So following that logic, as long as we constantly predict and speculate it to happen at a certain time, it will not occur?

Great! Continue!

by Nomad on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 09:33:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Inverse quantum politics - the outcome remains unknown as long as it continues to be observed.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jun 10th, 2008 at 11:06:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Quantum Zeno effect
The quantum Zeno effect is a quantum mechanical phenomenon first predicted by soviet physicist Leonid Khalfin in 1958.[1] Later it was described by George Sudarshan and Baidyanaith Misra of the University of Texas in 1977.[2] It describes the situation in which an unstable particle, if observed continuously, will never decay. This occurs because every measurement causes the wavefunction to "collapse" to a pure eigenstate of the measurement basis. In the context of this effect, an "observation" can simply be the absorption of a particle, with no observer in any conventional sense.


When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 10th, 2008 at 11:15:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The quantum equivalent of "a watched kettle never boils?"

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 10th, 2008 at 06:13:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Precisely.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 11th, 2008 at 02:18:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. The EU has very little leverage of any sort on the US, Israel or the Middle east

  2.  Hence an EU  concern for human rights there is largely moot

  3. It is in Israel's interest to keep Iraq weak, divided, and if necessary, at war with itself

  4. Iran becoming more powerful is a bad thing in itself, as far as Israel/US is concerned.  The nuclear issue is the pretext - even civilian use of nuclear power increases Iran's prestige in the region - and so must be stopped.

  5. Israel largely runs US foreign policy in the region - to a degree which is truly remarkable and which highlights the flaws in the US political system - as often this is to the detriment of US interests in themselves.

  6. Nobody cares about the Kurds - except the Kurds themselves - and they don't matter - therefore nobody cares

  7. ibid - the Palestinians - who are a non people as far as Zionists are concerned

  8. It's about Oil and power stupid.  The Saudis have it - so they can be as repressive as they like.

  9. McCain is not going to win in November if the USA is not at war at that time.  Therefore the US will be at war with Iran in November - if only to make Obama look like a naive appeaser without military experience or proper patriotic credentials.  The fact that thousands will die to make this happen doesn't even qualify as collateral damage any more - as the damage is to the enemy, the Democrats, and the US underclass who actually end up having to do the fighting..

  10. The EU will not do anything effective when this happens - so everyone will ignore it - except perhaps to plant a few terrorist bombs to get it on side...

  11. I am not a cynic.


"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 04:27:13 PM EST
[Schnittger's Crystal Ball of Doom™ Technology]

I can't say I disagree with you - but you shoud also cross-post this comment in Joerg's diary to see what he has to say.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 05:11:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, but you are being cynical. Not any disqualification of what you are writing. I for my money still don't see that the US is going to war with Iran during the remainder of the Bush presidency. They haven't got the necessary preparation, see for instance the failed war Israel waged on Hezbollah and how events have unfolded in Lebanon since.

As for your 1), the point is to acquire leverage. For instance, the EU would have more leverage in the Middle East if the UK were no longer in Iraq, and if it would help out Syria and Jordan with the Iraqi refugees.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 06:15:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]

McCain is not going to win in November if the USA is not at war at that time.  Therefore the US will be at war with Iran in November - if only to make Obama look like a naive appeaser without military experience or proper patriotic credentials.

War with Iran will not end without full scale conflict, ir oil embargo, $2000 barrel and nuclear strikes. I don't see it happening.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 10:59:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It doesn't have to be a full scale war - even the appearance of war will do to polarise opinion in the US enough to make Obama unelectable.  Remember the shock doctrine - you have to really scare people that something really awful will/could maybe happen - so that they will run to the wise old head with the experience and military credentials.

This has nothing to do with actual military preparedness or any rational analysis of what is to be gained/lost in the longer term. All that matters is what happens in November - after that the EU/UN can take over to clear up the mess.  Do you think Bush cares about the long term consequences?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 04:18:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not so sure. People in the US really seem to have had enough of the Iraq war, now that it has become personal in the form of body bags and high gas prices.

Patriotism in the US at the moment seems to be deep as a puddle. A bit of flag waving, a bit of posturing, a bit of shouting at liberals and - hey presto - you're a patriot.

When war means real sacrifice and real hardship - which a war with Iran would, in the form of even more body bags and even higher gas prices - the appetite for aggression is going fade quickly.

So it would take at least another 9/11 on US soil to make a difference. And so many people are so cynical about 9/11 already that they're just as likely to blame Bush for not protecting them as they are to vote for a militarist noob.

McCain is already taking a beating as a Bush surrogate, when his campaign has barely started. A few months from now it will be too late to break that association.

Even losing a city wouldn't do it. And I'm not sure that Bush is really all that interested in continuing for another few years after suspending the Constitution for security reasons.

I suppose Cheney might decide to nuke Washington and declare himself emperor in chief once the pesky government has been removed, but I don't think even Cheney is insane enough to do that.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 08:24:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Americans love endless war and it makes them vote for hard right candidates always and without exception. Don't you know anything?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 02:13:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It doesn't have to be a full scale war - even the appearance of war will do to polarise opinion in the US enough to make Obama unelectable.

I give up.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 02:20:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Israel largely runs US foreign policy in the region - to a degree which is truly remarkable and which highlights the flaws in the US political system - as often this is to the detriment of US interests in themselves.

This is bigoted bullshit, you should be ashamed.  The fact that the conspiracy obsessed far right agrees with you, should tell you all you need to know.

The government of Israel is separate from American Jews.  Neither of them have any special position in US law or politics that isn't available to any other well organized ethnic or other interest group.  They're just very good at what they do.  They have great influence, but they've earned it the same way everyone else does.

AIPAC and the Saudi lobby are roughly equal in power, although the basis for that is power is quite different (grass roots in one case, oil power in another case).

Nobody cares about the Kurds - except the Kurds themselves - and they don't matter - therefore nobody cares

Well, some people do care.  To me, the protection of the Kurds under the no-fly zones, and their liberation after the invasion, will go down in history.  They represent the third Middle Eastern region (other than Turkey and Israel) who have embraced democracy, pluralism, and reasonably secular government.  They are corrupt as hell, and they need to resolve their dispute with Turkey, but all that can be worked on.

As Christopher Hitches has documented, the Kurds are also a fine example of how true, secular socialist ideas can take root in the Muslim world.  Can someone please explain to me why Progressives don't embrace the Kurds, or at least, the Kurdish socialists?  Are we pretending that Saddam was somehow an authentic socialist?

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.

by John in Michigan USA on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 04:40:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Firstly, he made no mention of Jews. He said Israel, and I have no reason to believe he didn't mean Israel. Secondly, you seem to agree with him, if  for "by great influence" you  substitute "largely runs": you have a disagreement as to how great the influence is which you can't resolve by assertion. Thirdly, you left "well-funded" out of the requirements for influence in US politics.

There are other analogues to AIPAC, of course: the Cuban exiles running policy on Cuba or the Armenians having a disproportionate influence globally on policy with regard to Turkey. None of these groups have an influence that is obviously of benefit to wider US interests: AIPAC, on behalf of the extreme Israeli nationalists, is just the one with the influence in the most dangerous place on earth and is the one tied up with all sorts of bizarre and scary religious beliefs, prejudices and twisted propaganda from all sides.  Nor, of course, does AIPAC speak for American Jews, so I really don't know why you mentioned them.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 05:00:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Israel qualifies as "reasonably secular?" Alright, compared to most other states in the region it does (and compared to the other major American client state it most certainly does), but isn't that setting the bar rather low?

Further, progressives do care about the Kurds. But progressives are not in power. And those who are in power demonstrably do not care about the Kurds. Unless they can use them as a whip to bully Turkey with (or, as in the case of the no-fly zones, use them as an excuse to weaken an uncooperative former client state's hold on its natural resources).

And, well, I never understood the degree of support the US lavishes upon Israel. I can understand holding your hand under a client state, and I can understand favouring the most dependent client states over the more independent. But considering the number of enemies and other headaches the US gets out of supporting Israel, I have to wonder why they think it's worth the bother.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 07:36:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
John in Michigan USA:
To me, the protection of the Kurds under the no-fly zones, and their liberation after the invasion, will go down in history.  They represent the third Middle Eastern region (other than Turkey and Israel) who have embraced democracy, pluralism, and reasonably secular government.  They are corrupt as hell, and they need to resolve their dispute with Turkey, but all that can be worked on.
Let's see:

  • Iraqui Kurds: democracy, pluralism, secular government, corrupt as hell, dispute with Turkey (euphemism for supporting terrorists in Turkey)
  • Turkey: democracy, pluralism, secular government, to which I would add: the military interferes with politics, they don't recognise ethnic minorities, denies the Armenian genocide, probably corrupt as hell, too
  • Israel: democracy, pluralism, secular government, to which I add: corrupt as hell, illegally occupies territory since 1967 and violates human rights of its occupied population, has an official religion that even affects nationality laws, constantly at war with its neighbours

However, unlike the US the EU cannot but engage Israel and Turkey because the Mediterranean basin  must be an area of peace and security for Europe's own narrow interest.

Anyway, I pointed out in the diary that mediating in the Turkish-Kurdish conflict is an important task that the EU must attempt. I just don't think it's all that easy.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 07:50:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now crossposted at Atlantic Review by nanne.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 05:20:33 PM EST
"French" is still an insult, apparently.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 11:01:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And there is no peak oil.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 01:11:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not only that, but doubting ever so slightly that "Iraq is an independent country since 2004" or merely noting that "Iraq is in a civil war" seems to be grounds for being called a "douchebag" and being accused of "neo-colonialist, patriarchial and aggresively phallagocentric (sic) disdain for the sovereigny of 3rd world countries".

Welcome to the French club, Mig.

by Bernard on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 01:18:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Avec plaisir.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 01:49:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru,

I apologize on behalf of my American compatriots for their rude response to your thoughtful piece. Joerg's blog has been hijacked by the worst kind of extremists who respond to any criticism of the US with hate. I have pretty much stopped commenting there after they kept calling Barack Obama a "communist Muslim".

Thankfully, they represent only a fringe group: the Bushist dead-enders.

Dialog International

by DowneastDem (david.vickrey (at) post.harvard.edu) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 04:26:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Who are the American counterparts of European Atlanticists? Those commenters at Atlantic Review have nothing but contempt for Europe.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 04:32:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, you can find some at Steve Clemon's blog, The Washington Note (www.thewashingtonnote.com).

Dialog International
by DowneastDem (david.vickrey (at) post.harvard.edu) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 05:09:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm shocked, he actually engages with the Iranians!

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 05:44:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mig, now you know why we call them Yahoos.  Smearing with shit is what the Yahoos do.  But we didn't invent it.  Swift described it well 18th century England.  However, Americans may claim place of pride in the number and vociferousness of our Yahoos.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 01:47:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Swift was actually Dean of Christ Church Caτhedral in Dublin which gave him ample opportunity to observe Yahoos in action.  Come to think of it, the Christ Church restoration fund should tap Yahoo for come contributions in the light of them ripping off the name...

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 01:59:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Come to think of it, the Christ Church restoration fund should tap Yahoo for come contributions in the light of them ripping off the name.

Sounds like a plan.  Some of the corporate officers might be willing to donate.  It would be nifty to obtain an official grant of right to use, but does Christ Church have any claim on Swift's literary legacy?  Might not really matter. I once suggested to the principal of a local elementary school in L.A. that was located about a mile from JBL headquarters that he ask Sid Harmon to donate a system.  His wife, Jane Harmon, is a US Congresswoman.  JBL came through.  Not only donated the materials but performed the installation. If you are local, suggest it to someone involved with fund raising for the restoration.  Can't hurt.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 02:40:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Silly me - its St. Patrick's Cathedral - a few hundred yards down the road that Swift was Dean of.  He is also associated with St. Patrick's Hospital.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 04:12:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EURIKA!

I FOUND IT, FRANK.

What the church could provide in return for substantial donations is a blessing of the Yahoos, an exorcism of the Microsoft demons and a Te Deum.  They certainly should be willing to perform the blessing.

I couldn't tell from their web sites if they are Catholic or Anglican.  I would have thought Swift to have been Anglican, given the era and the domination of Ireland by England.  The only hint was that the Holy See would not let good Catholics enter as late as the 1970s. This shouldn't matter, as the liturgies are very similar.  Do you know what happened with St. Patrick's and Christ Church after Irish independence?

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 05:14:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They are both still in active use as Church of Ireland (= Anglican) Cathedrals a few hundred yards apart close to the current and historic centre of Dublin.  The first public performance of Handel's Messiah was in a hall close by in 1742.   Both are very beautiful buildings.


"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 06:15:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This from the guy who cites documented racists favorably, makes lame excuses about vetting, but won't give anyone he disagrees with the same benefit of the doubt or the opportunity to clarify.  Mostly, what we get from David is instant condemnation and politically correct hypocrisy.  I've tried reaching out to him, but he persists in his knee-jerk assumptions.  His attitude is a positive barrier to international dialog.

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.
by John in Michigan USA on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 04:53:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I know I've posted this quote before, but now, five years on, it is still stunningly prescient of my country's current predicament in Iraq.

Thinking About Iraq (II) - New York Times

Let's start with one simple fact: Iraq is a black box that has been sealed shut since Saddam came to dominate Iraqi politics in the late 1960's. Therefore, one needs to have a great deal of humility when it comes to predicting what sorts of bats and demons may fly out if the U.S. and its allies remove the lid. Think of it this way: If and when we take the lid off Iraq, we will find an envelope inside. It will tell us what we have won and it will say one of two things.

It could say, ''Congratulations! You've just won the Arab Germany -- a country with enormous human talent, enormous natural resources, but with an evil dictator, whom you've just removed. Now, just add a little water, a spoonful of democracy and stir, and this will be a normal nation very soon.''

Or the envelope could say, ''You've just won the Arab Yugoslavia -- an artificial country congenitally divided among Kurds, Shiites, Sunnis, Nasserites, leftists and a host of tribes and clans that can only be held together with a Saddam-like iron fist. Congratulations, you're the new Saddam.''

In the first scenario, Iraq is the way it is today because Saddam is the way he is. In the second scenario, Saddam is the way he is because Iraq is what it is. Those are two very different problems. And we will know which we've won only when we take off the lid. The conservatives and neo-cons, who have been pounding the table for war, should be a lot more humble about this question, because they don't know either.

The neocons gambled on the first scenario and found themselves utterly unprepared to deal with the second.  And nothing has changed very much since the statue came down.  Only all the numbers have gotten bigger.

I confess I am at a loss.  I do not know what anyone can do about Iraq now to salvage the situation.  I do not see any good outcomes given the current situation.  All I see is a nexus.

European Tribune - Dune

a nexus, a meeting place of countless delicate decisions, beyond which the path was hidden from the prescient eye



Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?
by budr on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 08:45:29 PM EST
[Moustache of Understanding Alert]

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 03:01:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"I do not know what anyone can do about Iraq now to salvage the situation.  I do not see any good outcomes given the current situation."

How about this: The U.S. pulls out completely and allows whatever is going to happen to happen. A new strong man (or woman, or organization) will eventually get control, and there will be a new version of Saddam Hussein or Benazir Bhutto or the Saudi family to run things. What exactly is the problem?

by asdf on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 07:52:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean other than the million or so Iraqis who will die in the crossfire?  Probably seems like a pretty big problem to them.  And even that might be counted a good outcome, in the bizarro world the neocons have made, if it could be contained in Iraq.  It can't.  It won't.

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, will be drawn in.  Now we can probably count the casualties in the millions.  Syria and Jordan are already under strain with the refugees just from our little prelude.  Wait til they become logistical side issues of a regional war.  Not likely that Israel can or will remain uninvolved.

With half the world's oil supply put at risk it doesn't stop there.  China, Russia, the US, Europe.  All of them have vested interests in what happens next and all of them have nukes.  I don't even want to go there.

Yes, we need to get American troops out of Iraq.  For any number of reasons.  But we cannot just turn our backs and pretend we don't see the bloodbath that follows.  Katrina is about five miles offshore.  The levees aren't gonna hold.  Saying just leave is not a plan.

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?

by budr on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 07:25:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See how Basra became more peaceful as the Brits left the city.

This is taken as a certainty, but I don't see why if you take away the biggest irritant, things would necessarily get worse. In any case, we won't avoid it, and the longer we wait, the more hate and hopelessness has been created - and the more people get killed by the thousands.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 09:12:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The departure of the British left Basra under control of the Sadrist militia, which was then driven out by the Iraqi army with British and American backup about 3 months later. So it's hard to tell to what extent the removal of the British made Basra more peaceful. Maybe it's just that as fight turned to being among Iraqi factions rather than involve Westerners we stopped hearing about it.

Wikipedia: Battle of Basra (2008)

The Battle of Basra began on March 25, 2008, when the Iraqi Army launched an operation (code-named Saulat al-Fursan, meaning Operation Charge of the Knights in Arabic) to drive the Mahdi Army militia out of the southern Iraqi city of Basra. The operation was the first major operation to be planned and carried out by the Iraqi Army since the invasion of 2003.

Iraqi forces faced heavier than anticipated resistance from Mahdi Army militia inside the city and the offensive stalled, requiring American and British air and artillery support, eventually resulting in a stand-off.

Following a ceasefire negotiated in Iran on March 31, Muqtada al-Sadr withdrew his fighters from the streets, but had gained a major political victory. However, the Iraqi Army, reinforced with brigades from other parts of Iraq, including the Iraqi 1st Division from al-Anbar, continued to carry out slower, more deliberate clearing operations in militia strongholds. The Hillah Special Weapons and Tactics Unit, as well as Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF), carried out a number of targeted raids on militia leaders. By April 20, the Iraqi army had taken control of the last major district controlled by the Mahdi Army and by April 24, Iraqi forces claimed to be in full control of the city centre. [17][18]



When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 09:20:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is taken as a certainty, but I don't see why if you take away the biggest irritant, things would necessarily get worse.

I wish I could believe that.  I'm sorry, but I don't.  American troops are not the biggest irritant, just to most obvious at this moment.

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?

by budr on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 09:40:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's just that at this point, there's no way Iraq regains any kind of sovereignty without going through that phase of clarification. The alternative is many years of US occupation, slowly draining both countries.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 09:58:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My case, which is more or less of an extension of Powell's Pottery Barn Principle, has been pretty thoroughly debunked by a blogger called Hurria over at BooTrib.  I don't know Hurria at all, have no idea what his or her agenda might be, but whoever it is pretty clearly knows a lot more about the situation in Iraq than I do.  And Hurria says the very best thing the US could do is get out, and the sooner the better.

Booman Tribune ~ Will the Slaughter Get Worse if the U.S. Leaves Iraq? A Common-Sense Analysis

Certainly, Iraq would not suddenly turn into Shangri-la, or become the Switzerland of the Middle East as soon as the Americans left. It IS possible that the violence and killing not directly attributable to U.S. actions might increase somewhat in the beginning, but it is extremely unlikely that it could increase enough to exceed or even replace the violence and death caused by the "coalition" forces and the resistance. The capacity simply is not there, nor very likely is the will. In addition, the primary stimulus for much if not most of the violence would have been removed.

There is simply no chance of any improvement as long as the U.S. is in Iraq. On the contrary, as the past four plus years have shown clearly, as long as the U.S. is there the violence will continue to escalate and broaden, and the overall situation will continue to deteriorate.

Iraqis have been living together without serious conflict for millennia. Sunnis and Shi`as have lived together in Iraq for about 1500 years with no history of serious sectarian civil conflict. Iraqis are the only ones who have the history, the ability, and the will to repair their society and their country.

The United States must give Iraq a chance. It must get out now, and get out completely, and leave Iraq for Iraqis.

So.  I retreat to my earlier position which was I don't have a clue.

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?

by budr on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 01:24:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Problem is that staying means that the US needs to continue indulging in the divide and conquer tactics that play sides off against each other, which isn't helpful.

Neither staying or leaving is a good option.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 09:20:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While at the same time accusing Iran of playing the various Shia factions against each other.

NYT: Iran Fighting Proxy War in Iraq, U.S. Envoy Says (April 12, 2008)

From Mr. Bush down, administration officials this week have been turning up the volume on Iran. Administration officials said that Iranian support for Shiite militias became increasingly evident late last month during the indecisive Iraqi operation to wrest control of Basra from Shiite militias, in addition to the rocket attacks on the Green Zone.

Administration officials have long accused Iran of supporting Shiite militias in attacks on American forces in Iraq. The difference now is that administration officials are trying to convince the Iraqi government that Iran may not be the ally it thought, and is behind attacks against Iraqi government forces. That is a harder sell, given that Iran has supported Iraq's government.

Mr. Bush this week accused Iran of arming, financing and training what he called "illegal militant groups." He said that Iran had a choice, and hinted that the United States would try to sow distrust between the governments of Iran and Iraq, if Iran did not stop backing the attacks.



When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 09:34:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems that European (Union) involvement in sorting out Bush's Iraqi misadventure has become a hot topic again...

To my ears, this echoes the isolationist argument in the U.S. for staying out of 1st World War.

It is true that Iraq is everyone's problem even if the blame for the current mess can be pinned almost exclusively on the US.

Without Blair's Britain, I doubt Bush would have went it alone. Blair gave Bush legitimacy in the U.S. If Blair had stood up to the Americans and said the evidence is cooked, then the outcome may have been different. I think Britain shares the blame.

by Magnifico on Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 11:41:48 PM EST
And, to be honest, I don't see why the US had to get involved in WWI at all.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 02:56:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The US had a plausible casus belli in ships that were being sank by German submarines. The US involvement in WWI was a largely good thing as it helped end the war. The aftermath was rather less good, not joining the League of Nations and fueling the system of reparations rather than using its lending clout to end it.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 06:54:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The British blockade was also very close to a casus belli.

War of 1812 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Great Britain had been at war with France since 1793 and in order to impede neutral trade with France in response to the Continental Blockade, Britain imposed a series of trade restrictions that the U.S. contested as illegal under international law.[7] The Americans declared war on Britain on June 18, 1812 for a combination of reasons, including outrage at the impressment (conscription) of American sailors into the British navy, frustration at British restraints on neutral trade, and anger at alleged British military support for American Indians defending their tribal lands from encroaching American settlers.[8]

If the US hadn't entered the war I doubt the winner would have been able to impose a peace treaty like Versailles. Possibly there wouldn't even have been a winner.

Von überall könnte das Volk, Urbrut alles Undemokratischen, Zelle des Terrors, über die gewählten Hüter von Wachstum und Wohlstand® kommen. - flatter

by generic on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 07:25:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excuse me, I thought what happened was that "neutral" American ships were involved in war trade with Britain while Britain blockaded even food supplies from Germany, that Germany used U-boats in an attempt to overcome British sea power, and that the British then leaked the Zimmerman telegram in a clever bit of manipulation to pull the U.S. (and her money) into the conflict.

This breaking of a long tradition of America staying out of European wars, supported by Woodrow Wilson's reneging on his anti-war campaign promises, was a dreadful mistake on the part of the U.S.A., if you ask me...

by asdf on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 08:09:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the US staying out certainly would have been bad for France and things would have been much worse for military age men in GB.  Russia was undergoing the greatest mass self-demobilization in history, so Germany would have had more, if not fresh, troops available for the western front.  

It would certainly have been much better for the Soviets.  No interventions by the US and probably none by Britain either. The Soviet Union might have expanded into east Europe twenty five years sooner. I would like to see Europeans assess the implications for this line of meta-history.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 12:27:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the US staying out certainly would have been bad for France and things would have been much worse for military age men in GB.  Russia was undergoing the greatest mass self-demobilization in history, so Germany would have had more, if not fresh, troops available for the western front.  

It would certainly have been much better for the Soviets.  No interventions by the US and probably none by Britain either. The Soviet Union might have expanded into east Europe twenty five years sooner. I would like to see Europeans assess the implications for this line of meta-history.

I do not really see this squaring. Would Soviet Russia break the treaty of Brest-Litovsk (instead of the treaty being nullified by the western powers) they would have had a potential to reconquer their lost territoy from Germany but then Germany would not have had that much troops to put into the western front. Or do you mean that Germany would have defeated the western allies and then got attacked by the SU?

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 11:18:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe that the western powers might not have helped the counter revolutionary white Russians, making the Soviets establish themselves much, much faster ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 06:07:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bingo.   The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was decades away in 1917.  The Soviets would have consolidated power much more quickly without intervention.  Germany might not have cared what they did in the Balkans. The Soviets could have used the Comintern with greater effect. In ten years Germany might have regretted sending Lenin to the Finland Station. The Treaty of Versailles, which pushed borders east, would likely never have been signed. The settlement between Germany and France & Britain could have drug out.  The Austro-Hungarian Empire would quite possibly disintegrated anyway. The settlement in the mid-east could have been less favorable to the Zionists.

Who knows?  But it would have been a very different world.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 11:02:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bingo. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was decades away in 1917.

No, it was a year away:
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, at Brest-Litovsk (now Brest, Belarus) between the Russian SFSR and the Central Powers, marking Russia's exit from World War I.

This created a rather small Russia:

I was wrong however about how it was abolished:
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk lasted only eight and a half months. Germany renounced the treaty and broke diplomatic relations with RSFSR on November 5, 1918 because of Soviet revolutionary propaganda. The Ottoman Empire broke the treaty after just two months by invading the newly created Democratic Republic of Armenia in May of 1918. Following the German capitulation, the Bolshevik government (VTsIK) annulled the treaty on November 13, 1918 (the text of the VTsIK Decision was printed in Pravda the next day). In the year after the armistice, the German Army withdrew its occupying units from the lands gained in the treaty, leaving behind a power vacuum which various forces subsequently attempted to fill. In the April 1922 Treaty of Rapallo, Germany accepted the Treaty's nullification, the two powers agreeing to abandon all war-related territorial and financial claims against each other.

But the point remains, a victorious Germany would have created less space for Soviet Russia, not more. I doubt that even Ukraine would have ended up in the Soviet Union considering the earlier treaty of Brest-Litovsk, and its establishment of an independant Ukraine with German bases and grain supplies to the Central powers.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jun 10th, 2008 at 09:27:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I stand corrected., both by yourself and Marek  I was thinking of the treaty Stalin signed with Hitler.  To borrow budr's line: "Have i told you about my bad memory?"  I should have googeled Brest Litovsk before commenting.  But it is only 47 years since I studied these things. ;-)

I think the conditions in Germany during winter 1918-1919 would have severely limited any efforts on the eastern front, had Germany not have been victorious on the western front.  Not that the Soviets were in much better shape.  France was bled dry.  By one account, don't remember the date, a French unit being sent to the front started bleating like sheep, in unison. The French high command was so freaked they marched them off into a field and called in artillery on them. England and the Commonwealth might have supplied more troops, but civilian and military morale had dropped greatly.

I suspect that without the American Expeditionary Force a negotiated peace would have been more likely.  The Ottomans were doomed either way. Probably the same for the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  One thing is certain--it would have been a very different Europe.

 

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jun 11th, 2008 at 11:42:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nope and nope.  The treaty of Brest Litovsk was not 'decades away' in 1917, but rather a year more or less, depending on what part of 1917 we're talking about. If the American intervention had an effect, it was to defeat Germany. If Germany hadn't lost it would have happily kept Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltics. Furthermore, a triumphant Ludendorf regime would have been even more likely to intervene in Russia against the Bolsheviks and given that they were sitting right in the middle of the old Tsarist empire, it would have likely been a bit more forceful than the rather minor US and British interventions.

Also, the Versailles treaty did not push the nascent USSR's borders eastwards, that would be the Treaty of Riga between the Soviets and the Poles, following the Red Army's defefat in the Russo-Polish war of 1920 (and if they couldn't defeat the rapidly improvised ragtag Polish army, they sure as hell weren't going to do well against the German army, even in its blood drained state).

But then it's not clear to me that the American intervention was decisive. With or without it, the Germans were screwed if their last ditch offensives in the spring and summer failed to end the war successfully. The cumulative effect of the blockade and the slaughter had already brought Germany to its knees.  It simply couldn't make it through another winter of war - think of what the state of Germany was in the winter of 1918-1919 even without the need to feed the war machine with fresh flesh and supplies - complete socio-economic collapse. Waging a war of attrition on a mass scale against opponents with larger populations, economies, and better access to resources is not a good idea.

by MarekNYC on Tue Jun 10th, 2008 at 09:42:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But how close was France to collapse? After the last offensive both sides might very well have run out of flesh for the meat grinder.

Von überall könnte das Volk, Urbrut alles Undemokratischen, Zelle des Terrors, über die gewählten Hüter von Wachstum und Wohlstand® kommen. - flatter
by generic on Tue Jun 10th, 2008 at 10:16:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For manpower the French were in even worse shape than the Germans but the Brits still had plenty of young men available for death. Economically France was in better shape because it didn't have a blockade to deal with. Of the major belligerents, the Austro-Hungarians were probably next in line for a total collapse after the Russian one of 1917 - their manpower losses had been staggering and their economy was in even worse shape than the German one.

It's actually pretty impressive how well Germany held up in WWI. Its combined population  and economic size was much lower than the combined strengths of Britain, France, and the Dominions, while it had to a greater share of its strength outside the Western Front than the Brits. Their military-industrial machine was very, very well run and they managed to keep their losses on the Western Front below those of their opponents. Then again the performance of the other countries was striking as well. Of course you need to try to forget about what exactly this was all about - the mass slaughter of a generation of European men, and the intense effort of everyone else to enable the destruction, if you don't I'm not sure if 'impressive' is really the right word.

by MarekNYC on Tue Jun 10th, 2008 at 10:34:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But France was also on the brink of revolution, or so I have seen the mutiny of 1917 interpreted.

French Army Mutinies (1917) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The French armies at Chemin des Dames had suffered a steadily growing number of desertions since the end of April.[2] On May 27, those desertions turned to mutiny. Up to 30,000 soldiers left the front line and reserve trenches and returned to the rear.[2] Even in regiments where there was direct confrontation, such as the 74th Infantry Regiment, the men "wished their officers no harm"; they just refused "to return to the trenches".[1] The mutinies "were not a refusal of war" simply "a certain way of waging it".[3]

In the behind-the-lines towns of Soissons, Villers-Cotterets, Fère-en-Tardenois, and Coeuvres, they refused to obey their officers' orders and refused to go to the Front.[2] On June 1, a French infantry regiment took over the town of Missy-aux-Bois. [2] The mutinies were "widespread and persistent", involving more than half the divisions in the French army.[3] On June 7, General Pétain and Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig (the British commander-in-chief in France) had a "private talk": Pétain told Haig that "two French Divisions had refused to go and relieve Two Divisions in the front line".[4] The true figure was over fifty. [5]

It was struck down:

French Army Mutinies (1917) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

On about June 8, the military authorities took swift and decisive action: mass arrests were followed by mass trials. [2] Those arrested were selected by their own officers and NCOs, "with the implicit consent of the rank and file".[1] There were 3,427[1] Conseils de guerre ("courts-martial"), at which 23,385 men were convicted of mutinous behaviours of one sort or another [2]; 554 men were sentenced to death[1]; 49 men were "actually shot"[1]; and the rest sentenced to penal servitude.[2]

Without the German losses on the western front during the hundred days offensive the risk of revolution in Germany would have been less. Without the US involvement, I would put the odds at about even for France or Germany to leave the war due to revolution. And if France had a revolution, I think Germany the Central Powers and Britain would have had come to a peace arrangment. With its two main continental allies gone, I think Britain would have wanted out.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jun 10th, 2008 at 03:02:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I said, the French manpower situation was worse than Germany's. But the risk of socio-political collapse in Germany was greater because of the effects of the blockade - they simply couldn't deal with another winter. And that's not even getting at the horrible state of the Austro-Hungarians. And the US contribution of bodies to the attrition game was paltry by WWI standards - a little over one hundred thousand dead. Would an extra fifty thousand or hundred thousand in losses finally pushed France over the edge? Maybe, but it would have had to have happened quickly to save Germany. And note that the unrest you are talking about took place in the spring of 1917. In other words the French persisted for a year before the US troops started hitting the front.
by MarekNYC on Wed Jun 11th, 2008 at 11:32:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The lack of a million Americans would probably have resulted in more French casualties than just those sustained by the Americans.

Von überall könnte das Volk, Urbrut alles Undemokratischen, Zelle des Terrors, über die gewählten Hüter von Wachstum und Wohlstand® kommen. - flatter
by generic on Wed Jun 11th, 2008 at 01:19:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To be honest, I don't know about Britain. In all the scenarios where Europe and the US find themselves at cross-purposes on the Middle East, Britain seems to fall naturally on the US side. I don't know if only Murdoch is to blame or it goes deeper, but George Orwell was probably prescient in putting Britain outside Eurasia.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 02:58:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My take on all this is that Europe is largely irrelevant.

I see Iraq as the US's "Suez moment" defining its "End of Empire" , and I believe that China (maybe plus others, but I doubt it) has read the US (by whispering in Paulson's ear) its economic fortune in the same way the US did to the Brits at Suez.

The US plan was to march in and free up Iraqi resources for Big Oil and Big Money, and having done that, to move on to Iran.

The initial military success shocked the Libyans into "going straight" and also shocked the Iranians, who offered the US everything they are are currently after.  In their arrogance, the US rejected the Iranian offer, of course.

The moment of truth subsequently was Fallujah, I think.

That's when it became clear there needed to be a Plan B.

It was after that point - if there was anything in the MSM before, I cannot remember it - that the Iranian "nuclear threat" became an issue, and has remained so ever since.

It isn't an issue of course, but it is a good excuse for sabre rattling by both sides. It suits Ahmadinejad to do this to keep attention on the Great Satan and away from domestic policy failures.

The US has come to realise since Fallujah that Iran has effective veto power in Iraq, and of course projects onto Iran its own  hegmonic ambitions, which is bonkers. Iran has never been looking for hegemony: it is looking for guarantees of security.

If there was a moment for an attack by the US on Iran, it is long past. We see the rhetoric ramped up periodically in order to try and pressure the Iraqi's into agreements, whether on oil production sharing or the related US "security" presence, and to convince the Iranians to keep their noses out of these agreements.

I wouldn't rule out an attack on Iran altogether, because there are one or two bonkers people in both the US and Iranian governments capable of precipitating it.

On that note I have a sneaking feeling that the weird US incident of nuclear armed cruise missiles "inadvertently" shipped on a B52 might have been something along those "private enterprise" quasi Strangelove lines.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 07:21:02 AM EST
The moment of truth subsequently was Fallujah, I think.

Not sure we mean it in the same way but yes, that was the turning point of the war, the day the Bushidiots dropped the only ace they had in their sleeve: military force.

by Francois in Paris on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 09:59:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, has The Surge changed the conditions on the ground sufficiently to make my analysis totally wrong?

From a commenter on Juan Cole's blog posting last December:

It is impossible to scientifically measure what portion has the surge played in improving security. So many things changed in parallel with it: the Awakening groups who are the only people who succeeded in kicking al-Qaeda out; the Mahdi Army ceasefire; the success of ethnic cleansing; the restoration of Iraqi national pride (against the wishes of the Americans) etc.
(links to wikipedia added by me)

Regarding the Mahdi Army, they apparently were in ceasefire in December, but since March things have gotten worse again. Lately the Iraqi government has been waging a campaign to disarm the Mahdi Army which began in March with the Battle of Basra.

Baghdad appears to have gone from 90% sunni to 40% Shia since 2003, and one of the ways that the US occupation forces are trying to control the sectarian violence is to build a wall separating the Sunni from the Shia.

On 22 April, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for the building work to cease. Subsequently, on 23 April, an estimated 7,000 Iraqis engaged in a peaceful demonstration against the wall, several carrying banners reading (in English) "No to the sectarian barrier."

Following the demonstration, the U.S. military issued a statement that "the construction of the wall is under review" and that they would "coordinate with the Iraq government to establish effective appropriate security measures." However, at a news conference later on the same day, spokesmen for the U.S. and Iraqi military stated that they had no plans to stop building temporary separation barriers, with Brigadier General Qassim Atta describing the media reports that the Iraqi Prime Minister was protesting about as "groundless."

At the news conference, Brigadier General Atta said: "The prime minister is in agreement with the work of the security forces and the issue of security barriers. We will continue to set up these barriers in Adhamiya and other areas." According to Atta, the barriers -- which were to consist, he said, of sand barriers, trenches, barbed wire and concrete barriers constructed from moveable sections each weighing 7.1 tons (6.3 tonnes) -- would be only a temporary measure, to secure specific areas of Baghdad, and would be moved once each area was considered secure.

So I don't know, everyone just seems to see what they want to see.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 03:04:25 PM EST
I'm about to be late for work so this has to be short.

I don't think the surge has done much of anything except kill more Americans and more Iraqis.  I'm thinking deck chairs, Titanic.

So I don't know, everyone just seems to see what they want to see.

Sound wisdom, Jeremiah.

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?

by budr on Mon Jun 9th, 2008 at 07:44:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, I am one of the despised neo-conservatives over on Atlantic Review.  My first reaction upon reading the comments in this diary was, Oh Dear, someone on Atlantic Review called someone here a bad name.  The world is ending, and of course, the Europeans are hardest hit. :-P

On the other hand, there were some interesting comments on this diary, both on- and off-topic.  So, I've decided to sign up and post.  I'm going to try and stick to the original topic.

Amidst the snark, there were at least two substantive criticisms of Migeru's original diary, posted by yours truly.  You may read these two points here.  There are follow-up comments, starting here.

My comments below won't make much sense unless you read these.

In my opinion, neither of my two substantive points were addressed adequately by the progressives, either here or at Atlantic Review.

The meaning of "true human rights" in an Iraqi context was never addressed.  Do we accept the idea that human rights are universal?  If so, irony rules the day, since this was one of the core neo-con assumptions.  Still, if we agree about universal human rights, while obviously disagreeing about the success and even the sincerity of the neo-cons re human rights, it would represent progress.  Do we agree?  If so, how does Europe plan to convince the Iraqis that European "true human rights" aren't part of a hidden agenda?

The Surge in Iraq was discussed briefly.  Given how bad things were in 2006-7, I think that to completely dismiss the obvious progress since then is unfair.  I accept the larger point that this progress could be reversed at any time, and there are many cynical yet plausible reasons to fear this.  Nevertheless, the momentum for now at least is away from civil war, not towards it, and any European engagement in Iraq must take that into account in some way..

Perhaps even more important is a larger question -- given Europe's commitment to policy by consensus, which is powerful but time-consuming, how can Europe participate meaningfully in a situation as volatile as Iraq?  Migeru proposes Judo as an analogy for how European soft power (and, I suspect, very modest resource commitment as far as Iraq is concerned!) might be leveraged in order to make a meaningful difference.  But Judo requires an ability to rapidly detect and respond to changing conditions on the ground that simply isn't compatible with the need to wait until consensus evolves.  Perhaps a more appropriate analogy might be a 'sea change' in which slow, almost invisible, but ultimately inexorable processes cause change.  This would take advantage of one of the strengths of policy by consensus:  that a true consensus, once achieved, is enduring.  But I fear this is all moot; as far as I can tell, there still no sign of any European consensus on Iraq.

I look forward to your constructive response to my criticism.  Entertaining snark is also appreciated.  Mean-spirited or preaching-to-the-choir, echo-chamber snark, not so much.

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.

by John in Michigan USA on Tue Jun 10th, 2008 at 09:58:39 PM EST
Welcome to ET. Despite your disagreement with just about everything I have to say, at least your comments are specific enough to provide handles to answer, debate, and research, which I appreciate.
The meaning of "true human rights" in an Iraqi context was never addressed.  Do we accept the idea that human rights are universal?  If so, irony rules the day, since this was one of the core neo-con assumptions.  Still, if we agree about universal human rights, while obviously disagreeing about the success and even the sincerity of the neo-cons re human rights, it would represent progress.  Do we agree?  If so, how does Europe plan to convince the Iraqis that European "true human rights" aren't part of a hidden agenda?
Yes, I still cling to naive Enlightenment ideals such as universal human rights. Unlike the neocons, though, I don't think unleashing what they did on Iraq and which is still ongoing is progress. Just consider the increased mortality rates over the Saddam-time baseline plus the internally and externally displaced refugees, the unleashing of ethnic cleansing and the destruction of basic life-supporting infrastructure (water, sanitation, health care). I wonder whether relatively free and fair elections compensate for that. I hope there is light at the end of the tunnel but, man, the tunnel goes on and on. Does the reduction in violence to pre-2006 levels since the Surge allow us to see that light?

On hidden agendas, I don't think the EU has credibility to convince anyone it doesn't have one. I have said that Turkey is the only country in the region that the EU has any leverage with, and that we're pissing that leverage away by racist islamophobic posturing, and also that thinking of the EU as "postcolonial" is "may be" (heh) naive. On the other hand, it doesn't even have an agenda as consensus among the EU is hard to come by. I am mystified that anyone, starting with the European Council of Foreign Relations, would be thinking Europe needs to get involved or else we're doomed.

The Surge in Iraq was discussed briefly.  Given how bad things were in 2006-7, I think that to completely dismiss the obvious progress since then is unfair.  I accept the larger point that this progress could be reversed at any time, and there are many cynical yet plausible reasons to fear this.  Nevertheless, the momentum for now at least is away from civil war, not towards it, and any European engagement in Iraq must take that into account in some way...
The key will be whether the government of Maliki manages to integrate the various militias into a national armed forces and demobilize a majority of each of them. This includes groups like the Mahdi Army and the Sunni Awakening groups. On the latter, this seems an example of how the US encouraged and materially suported a homegrown group to oppose Al Qaeda in Iraq relatively successfully in Anbar province, but created a new militia headache for Maliki in the process.

On the larger question I think we are basically in agreement. Consensus-based "soft power" will only get us so far. This may be the most that can be expected of Europe in Iraq, which isn't much and moreover can only take place if the players in and around Iraq are minimally cooperative. Case in point: Turkey. If Turkey decides Iraqi Kurdistan poses a credible internal separatist threat there's very little the EU can do to convince them otherwise. We're having enough trouble getting Turkey to even recognize that the Kurds are an ethnic and cultural minority.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 11th, 2008 at 02:23:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for writing.

I confess I was assuming you'd have a certain commitment to defending your original post.  Instead you seem to be treating the post as a sort of hypothetical -- if Europe had credibility on true human rights (you say it doesn't -- yet another point on which we disagree!), then here is how we might proceed re Iraq.  This gets us nowhere.  If a perfect record on human rights were a precondition for credibility on human rights, then human rights would have very few advocates indeed.  What's needed are more advocates, as many as possible, not perfect advocates.

As to colonialism, that originated before the Enlightenment, and continued in spite of the Enlightenment, not because of it.  Just as the absurd doctrine of Social Darwinism doesn't discredit Darwin's theory of evolution, Europe's colonial past doesn't discredit a true concern for human rights.

In a different comment on this diary, you asked,

Who are the American counterparts of European Atlanticists?

Well, we exist, and we want to talk, but we get frustrated.  Other than Atlantic Review, where are the European Atlanticists willing to disembark from their Utopian Isle and treat with us, mere mortals though we be?


__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.

by John in Michigan USA on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 01:36:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and engaging in this dialogue. You'll see that, while we'll certainly disagree on things, many of us are more than happy to engage with people with substantially different viewpoints.

I'd like to refer to your last comment:


where are the European Atlanticists willing to disembark from their Utopian Isle and treat with us, mere mortals though we be?

I don't know if this is addressed to us or not, because I'm not sure we'd self describe as Atlanticists (not that there's a "we" here: some might, and some might not). I'd say that a strongly expressed trend here on ET is disappointment that European politicians seem to think that Atlanticism = aligning with the US (and criticism of those Americans who also conflate "democracy" and "dialogue" with aligning with US interests and policies). I don't think people call for a hostile relationship with the USA, but for a more independent-minded one, and a willingness to standup to what could be described as US abuses or bullying (cf Guantanamo, rendition flights, anti-satellite missiles) - but such policies are often described are hostile anyway (see how the French are treated, when they are probably the USA's more reliable ally when the shit really hits the fan).

Again, we're a lot more critical of Europeans than of Americans - but we do think that, while there still can be common causes and interests between the USA and Europe, it is bad policy for Europeans to ignore the differences and in particular to let itself be tainted with complicity with all the abuses of the Bush years.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 04:10:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
a willingness to standup to what could be described as US abuses or bullying (cf Guantanamo, rendition flights, anti-satellite missiles) - but such policies are often described are hostile anyway
And if not hostile, at least outright unserious. There is not going to be a non-Atlanticist European political leader until at least 2020, by mu estimation.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 05:40:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hi Jerome,

I agree that Atlanticism must mean something different than mere Americanism (i.e. not just "aligning with the US").  I would like to think that because of our shared values and history, we are all in some sense Atlanticists.  That would mean we think N. America and Europe should have an enduring, special relationship that is more than just normal diplomatic relations between countries at peace.

Are there really that many people in Europe (or on Eurotrib) who see the Atlantic relationship as no more meaningful, special, close, enduring, or exceptional than Europe's relationships with other major powers like Russia or China?

In my opinion, the reason Atlanticism too often ends up looking like Americanism is that there is no consensus as to what Europe wants.  Naturally, you are against "US abuses or bullying"...but what are you in favor of?  As we've seen right here on this diary...in spite of the fact that European countries are some of the most democratic, open, plural, free societies the world has ever known, some European progressives still somehow feel they are not credible or worthy enough to peacefully advocate human rights!

Also, I would like to learn more about how the French "are probably the USA's more reliable ally when the shit really hits the fan".  Certainly, France has been a reliable US ally at times, but surely the UK, Canada, and perhaps even Australia or Israel have generally been more reliable?  I am not trying to attack the French, or distract anyone with UK-French rivalries...I am just wondering if there are facts that I am somehow missing?

Perhaps the word "ally" assumes that the UK and the others don't qualify as allies, but rather, are vassal states of some sort.  Therefore, of the remaining countries in the world, France has been the most reliable.  That position I could at least understand, even though it is absurd.

it is bad policy...to let itself be tainted with complicity with all the abuses of the Bush years

Again, the Utopian excuse...you don't dare speak up for human rights (except to criticise America) because you might sound like Bush.  This is indeed unserious, even petulant.  This isn't a policy, it is the abdication of a policy.

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.

by John in Michigan USA on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 08:11:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You may want to take a tour of this thread: Who is really served by the Irish "no?" by euamerican on June 14th, 2008.

John in Michigan USA:

Perhaps the word "ally" assumes that the UK and the others don't qualify as allies, but rather, are vassal states of some sort.
You know, we do refer to NATO members as vassals regularly.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 08:18:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am a bit unsure how you made the step from "[not] let itself be tainted with complicity" in American war crimes to a refusal to speak out in favour of human rights.

At the moment, the regime in Washington is not standing up for human rights or democracy; quite the contrary, in fact (I have elaborated on the reasoning behind this conclusion downthread and will not repeat it here). So I fail to see a contradiction in a pro-human rights/anti-Bush stance.

Further, you will note that there is plenty of speaking out in favour of human rights on this site, on a variety of issues arising in a variety of countries across the globe, so I am a bit unsure how you came to the conclusion that anyone here is afraid to speak up for human rights.

Finally, I am not sure why you think that geopolitics should be driven by geographical, cultural or historical sentiments. I think that politics should be driven by policy. And there is no law of nature that says that Europe and the USA will always be in better agreement on matters of policy than - say - Europe and Mercosur or Europe and the African Union.

Even if you disagree with putting policy above history and culture when forming geopolitical alliances, I would point out that Europe has an even longer history of interaction with North Africa, Russia, and the Middle East than with North America, and that the European culture(s) have as much in common with the Russian and Mediterranean cultures as with the American culture.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 09:05:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Are there really that many people in Europe (or on Eurotrib) who see the Atlantic relationship as no more meaningful, special, close, enduring, or exceptional than Europe's relationships with other major powers like Russia or China?

Yes, and this is why we hold Americans to a higher standard than "no worse than Saddam" (or "no worse than Putin", or "no worse than the French").

And this is why we are especially critical of the absolute hypocrisy of our current batch of leaders, but in particular the current White House, on  the topic of human rights, civil rights and freedoms.


how the French "are probably the USA's more reliable ally when the shit really hits the fan".  Certainly, France has been a reliable US ally at times, but surely the UK, Canada, and perhaps even Australia or Israel have generally been more reliable?

Being able to stand up to the big boy on the block to remind him of harsh truths, and being able generally to disagree, gives a higher value to agreement when it matters.

And France has probably done more than any other Western country in the fight against actual Islamic terrorism, given our experience over the past 25 years.


it is bad policy...to let itself be tainted with complicity with all the abuses of the Bush years

Again, the Utopian excuse...you don't dare speak up for human rights (except to criticise America) because you might sound like Bush.  This is indeed unserious, even petulant.  This isn't a policy, it is the abdication of a policy.

You misunderstand my point. Being supportive of the Bush administration today does not only mean being supportive of its stated goals - it also means being non critical of Guantanamo, the deadly occupation of Iraq, rendition flights and the so forth. And these really make it hard to claim you have any human right credentials.

In general, "do what I say, not what I do" is not good policy. It is especially so about the rule of law.

The rightwing has hijacked a number of positive words (like "freedom", "reform", "human rights"), distorted them beyond recongition, and made a specialty of criticizing the left for renouncing these concepts whenever it criticzes the right's grotesque version of it. Now that's unserious and petulant.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 09:12:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A belated welcome to ET from me as well. May your stay be long and fruitful.

I don't think anybody argues that one must have a perfect human rights record to promote human rights or that one must solve all the world's problems in one go.

But does it not become just a little bit... discordant, shall we say, when democracy is promoted not in those countries where The West(TM) has most leverage and the human rights situation is most appalling (think Colombia and Saudi Arabia) but in countries where The West(TM) has little leverage and the human rights situation is not nearly as bad (think Venezuela).

If one did not know better, one might almost be tempted to conclude that the principal motivation for "democracy promotion" a la Iraq is to be found less in a sincere desire to promote democracy and human rights than in a desire for geopolitical dominance.

This analysis is what underpins the conclusion that Washington (and their European fellow travellers) do not have democracy and human rights as their primary objective in Iraq - or anywhere else.

I will leave it to the reader's judgement whether this stance is pragmatist or utopian.

I think that what is needed is more sincere advocates of democracy. And rather fewer damning-with-faint-praise "advocates" who use "democracy promotion" as a thin veil for otherwise naked colonialism. Because the latter kind give democracy a bad name.

Again, I will leave it to the reader's judgement whether this stance is pragmatist or utopian.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 04:10:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hi Jake,

You and others spend words trying to convince me, or someone, that the US cannot possibly be sincere about human rights or democracy in Iraq.  I of course disagree, but it would take us way off-topic to go into why.  Based on the other comments on this diary, you seem to be preaching to the choir.  I suppose you and others have to assert your bona fides out of fear you'll be attacked by your supporters for responding to me.  My supporters do that too sometimes.  But none of it addresses the topic at hand:  what should Europe do in Iraq?

I think that what is needed is more sincere advocates of democracy

Sounds good to me.  Meanwhile, "On hidden agendas, I don't think the EU has credibility to convince anyone it doesn't have one." says Migeru.  What is your response?

Forget about what you call Washington's "European fellow travellers".  Pretend you are the EU President, you speak for a majority of the EP, AND have the ear of the Commission and the Council, and that no European national governments are in a position to block your policies.  What is your plan to convince Iraqis that you are a sincere advocate?

Once you've convinced them, what do you propose to actually do to advance the cause of human rights, in Iraq specifically?

I categorically reject the idea that the powerful, prosperous countries of Europe, and the many learned diplomats who, unlike Americans, are dedicated students of world geography and culture, are somehow impotent in this matter.  If the answer is, nothing can be done, then we are back to Utopianism, aren't we?

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.

by John in Michigan USA on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 09:11:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
John in Michigan USA:
Forget about what you call Washington's "European fellow travellers".  Pretend you are the EU President, you speak for a majority of the EP, AND have the ear of the Commission and the Council, and that no European national governments are in a position to block your policies.  What is your plan to convince Iraqis that you are a sincere advocate?
What decade or planet are we talking about?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 09:16:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You and others spend words trying to convince me, or someone, that the US cannot possibly be sincere about human rights or democracy in Iraq.  I of course disagree, but it would take us way off-topic to go into why.

I would be very interested in such a diary. And I am certain that I am not the only one.

Based on the other comments on this diary, you seem to be preaching to the choir.

I was responding to your comment. Specifically, I was challenging an assumption made in your comment. The reasoning underpinning this challenge can be found elsewhere as well, but I thought it courteous to provide a summary, as you are new to the site and may not be familiar with all the idiosyncrasies of the regular contributors.

But none of it addresses the topic at hand:  what should Europe do in Iraq?

Paying war reparations would be a good start. In cash or in infrastructure, whichever the Iraqi people prefer.

Of course, finding out which the Iraqi people prefer is not necessarily easy, since the invasion and subsequent civil war seems to have done a fairly comprehensive job of smashing Iraqi civil society.

I think that what is needed is more sincere advocates of democracy

Sounds good to me.  Meanwhile, "On hidden agendas, I don't think the EU has credibility to convince anyone it doesn't have one." says Migeru.  What is your response?

I think Mig's assessment is substantially correct. Mostly because Europe as currently configured does have several not-so-very-hidden agendas in the Mideast, none of which have much to do with democracy and human rights.

And even if we were to reform ourselves completely tomorrow and start promoting democracy and human rights with complete sincerity and irregardless of dirty colonialist interests, it would likely take a while before we had convinced the rest of the world that we were sincere. Trust once lost, and all that.

Forget about what you call Washington's "European fellow travellers".  Pretend you are the EU President, you speak for a majority of the EP, AND have the ear of the Commission and the Council, and that no European national governments are in a position to block your policies.  What is your plan to convince Iraqis that you are a sincere advocate?

How many decades do I have?

Snark aside, transparency would probably be a good place to start, as would asking the locals what they would like to happen in their area. If they want a hospital, then set up a hospital. If they want a school, then set up a school. If they want to bug out, give them safe transport to wherever they want to go to. If they want us to fuck off, then leave.

Of course, in a society as smashed as the Iraqi, precisely who to ask what "the local community" wants is no simple task in and of itself. But going door-to-door and asking "what can we do for you" and "who would you trust to represent you in the community" might be a way to get a handle on it.

Also: Use local labour, use local materials, use local designs, unless the locals specifically ask for foreign stuff or manpower. The locals probably know how to build things for the local climate better than foreign contractors. And even if they don't, it's their place. If they prefer local designs even though they may be somewhat less efficient, then that's their decision.

And if they decide to change their minds midway, don't get all huffy. It's their project. They can cancel or rearrange it midway if they like.

The trickiest item to handle will probably be security, because at some point security is going to involve hitting someone over the head with a big stick. I'd like to keep the stick-hitting to an absolute minimum, though, partly because not everyone in the local community will agree on who needs to be hit over the head and how hard, and partly because so far hitting people over the head doesn't seem to have worked all that well.

At least some of the violence in Iraq is undoubtedly due to simple gangster activity. To an extent, gangsters can be bought off, and we should do that as far as it goes. Give them honest work to do (remember the part about using local labour?) and pay them a more than honest wage. That should solve most of the gangster problem. There will probably still be organised crime rings in Iraq many years from now who will trace their origins to the present civil war, but I think that vast improvements are possible with relatively little effort.

Equally undoubtedly, some of the violence is political in nature. I will leave it to those more qualified than myself to give a prescription for how to best resolve political conflicts in a society where the social contract has collapsed and the political factions do not trust one another to honour agreements. I can think of several templates, but none of them are particularly appealing.

However, assuming that the political actors are reasonably sane and are motivated primarily by material grievances - such as a desire to have reliable access to water, control natural resources, have credible guarantees that they will not be murdered in their sleep, etc., it should be possible to hammer out compromises. Especially if the rest of the world is willing to pony up enough money and resources to make political negotiations a positive-sum game.

Oh, and while I am discussing how to improve the image of Europe in the eyes of the world in general and the Iraqi people in particular, I would also point out the positive influence of an international criminal court and an international war crimes tribunal. Once we started actually prosecuting prime ministers and presidents and generals and war profiteering fatcats from Western(TM) countries, it would send a powerful message that human rights violations are not merely a pretext for colonial wars or a standard that only brown people and Russians have to adhere to.

I am also a big fan of truth and reconciliation. There has been so much death and so many crimes and so many years of war that almost everybody in Iraq is going to be a criminal in some way or another in somebody's eyes. Even if you believe that the best way to get to the truth and provide closure for the victims is a full dress trail (I don't, incidentally), the sheer scale of the devastation will make it impossible to carry out consistently in post-bellum Iraq.

One thing that we should object to - nay, condemn in the strongest possible terms - is any sign that the victors from the civil war start making kangaroo kourts and imprison/execute the losers wholesale simply for the crime of losing a civil war.

But ultimately, how Iraq - or whatever states might form from it as the result of a peace agreement - is going to deal with its victims and its executioners must be up to the Iraqi people. We can cajole, we can commend, we can recommend, we can support, we can condemn or we can argue. But if we impose a "patent solution," it would probably backfire.

Once you've convinced them, what do you propose to actually do to advance the cause of human rights, in Iraq specifically?

Well, once we've brokered a stable peace, helped them rebuild their country, brought most of the higher echelons of our own war criminals to trial, midwifed a truth and reconciliation process, there are a variety of ways in which our grandchildren could promote democracy, liberty and human rights.

Cultural exchange programmes, scientific conferences and presenting an open society that allows Iraqis to experience a society based upon equality, liberty and democracy (of course, that requires that we have such societies to embed them in, should they accept the invitation...), just to name a few of the measures at our disposal.

We may not convince them. We may not convince their children. Or their children's children. But enlightenment has a lot going for it, and it is not going to go away (well, it might, but then we have bigger problems than how to get Iraqis to trust us...).

If the answer is, nothing can be done, then we are back to Utopianism, aren't we?

Not necessarily. The situation might reach the point where nothing can be done to salvage the situation because there is literally nothing left to salvage. If Iraq is turned into a smoking, glass-rimmed crater, for instance. I would hardly call that scenario Utopian, however. Maybe Dystopian, though.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 11:16:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... as a diary. I would suggest that we continue the discussion there, as this diary is sliding off the recent diaries list (and into Archive status).

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 11:53:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Other than Atlantic Review, where are the European Atlanticists willing to disembark from their Utopian Isle and treat with us, mere mortals though we be?
Well, at Atlantic review. ET is not an Atlanticist site, and I would note with a mixture of amusement and frustration that, when European Atlanticists such as Joerg in Berlin "disembark" here, they don't linger for very long because soon the vexing question of How does NATO further Europe's strategic interests? crops up, and they refuse to attempt to answer it, even in the hypothetical. When someone writes a pro-NATO piece, it usually begs the question. I note that Gjermund E. Jansen doesn't hang out here any longer, and MarekNYC does hang out but has told us it would be pointless to argue the merits of NATO to us because we're as extreme as the freepers...

Also, you sound like "an American counterpart of European Atlanticists" but many of the commenters to nanne's cross-post on Atlantic Review sound nothing like that.

As to colonialism, that originated before the Enlightenment, and continued in spite of the Enlightenment, not because of it.  Just as the absurd doctrine of Social Darwinism doesn't discredit Darwin's theory of evolution, Europe's colonial past doesn't discredit a true concern for human rights.
I agree with that, but 1) try telling that to the victims of the last 200 years of colonialism; 2) you always have to wonder whether the "true concern for human rights" that ordinary people have is not being hijacked by the politician of the day to serve a geopolitical agenda that is not being made explicit.
I confess I was assuming you'd have a certain commitment to defending your original post.  Instead you seem to be treating the post as a sort of hypothetical -- if Europe had credibility on true human rights (you say it doesn't -- yet another point on which we disagree!), then here is how we might proceed re Iraq.
But that's how the main body of the post starts, isn't it?
But instead of traditional geopolitical power-plays and grand-chessboard strategy, assume that the EU's concern would simply be to help Iraq contain the bleeding, restore a semblance of dignity and respect for human rights, and allow a civil society to emerge from the ashes. What would be the strategy, and what would be the roadblocks along the way?
I stand by the key points behind my post (and which I have developed more in comments) which are
  • Civil conflicts are not won by external forces though external forces can strengthen viable internal factions. The Battle of Basra in March 2008 was the first operation planned by the Iraqi army, 5 years after the original invasion.
  • Neighbouring countries are large (de)stabilizing factors, especially when there are cross-border ethnic groups. Hence the focus on Arabia, Turkey or Iran.
  • Hence the look at what leverage the EU could have with either internal Iraqi factions or Iraq's neighbours.
The context of my piece was to respond to Joerg's latest On Iraq, it's time to call Europe. "Call Europe to do what, exactly?" is my answer.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 05:34:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The context of my piece was to respond to Joerg's latest On Iraq, it's time to call Europe. "Call Europe to do what, exactly?" is my answer.

OK, now I see more clearly what you're saying.

It also took me a while to understand the paradox (to me at least) that you are pro-Europe, and pro-EU, and even pro-Lisbon...and yet you also fear that most of your leaders (who are also pro-EU) are irredeemably corrupt vassals of NATO -- so corrupt that they cannot even speak legitimately on issues of human rights.  Won't these same leaders, or their colleagues drawn from Europe's bureaucracy, be responsible for implementing Lisbon (or whatever variation or subsection of Lisbon that eventually passes)?

This takes some getting used to.

I suppose the genius of the Lisbon treaty is, the language is so vague and general (except where it is technical and obscure), it becomes an empty vessel into which anyone and everyone can pour their ideals and aspirations.

I understand your skepticism re Europe's role in Iraq, and I share it, although probably for different reasons.  Still, you did tentatively answer your own question ("Call Europe to do what, exactly?"), by suggesting a Judo approach focusing on improving the human rights situation.  I just wish you had thought that through more, and were more committed to defending it, hypothetical though it may be.

What do you think of my suggestion that the right approach might look less like Judo, and more like a sea change?

Here is how a sea change strategy might work.

A 2005 UPI article (no longer available online, at least not that I can find) talks about how, in Auvergne, France they set up state-sponsored classes to address the problem that many French imams can barely preach in French.  In what I think is a separate initiative, Dominique de Villepin, as Minister of the Interior, had talked about universities to train and certify (if that's the right word) Imams.  These imams already have the training in Arabic and Koranic studies, so they can speak authentically to Muslims; they will now be also be trained (dare I say, vetted?) in the principles of French laity.

This is a model we couldn't possibly pursue in the US, due to separation of church and state.

So, a sea change strategy might be to set up an exchange program so that these French imams could meet with their Iraqi counterparts.

Now, if the goal were to turn Iraqi clerics into clones of French clerics, who for example would be required to support a hijab ban in schools, I could see how you might say this was neo-colonialist, or at least, inappropriate for Iraq.

But what if the point of these seminars were merely to teach, and demonstrate, the principles of sound financial management, accountability, and good government (don't fudge the accounting, have transparency in government and business, don't underpay civil servants and then expect them to steal or take bribes to feed their families, etc)?

Also, more controversially, perhaps academics could help Iraqis separate archaic tribal customs from the rest of Islamic teachings?  In 2006 Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs started a three year "Hadith project" to do just that.  Source.  Another source.

This would take years to implement, and face formidable cultural barriers, yet it seems worth trying and might even work.  It seems ideally suited to Europe's soft power, and its academic nature means it wouldn't require the sort of broad and deep consensus that would be needed for more active measures in Iraq.

What do you think?

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.

by John in Michigan USA on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 02:59:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought we were talking about a much shorter term than that. For instance, were European allies irresponsible in withdrawing troops from Iraq, should Europe be ready to step in if the next US President withdraws...

This "reform Islam" project would require a stable political climate and very low level violence if any to even begin to think about implementing it.

Anyway, it's not like the EU doesn't do anything like "teaching and demonstrating the principles of good government". Check out this list: ongoing missions include

  • Police
  • Rule of Law
  • Security reform
  • Border assistance
That's what the EU Member State's forces have been configured to do lately, and the kinds of things I think they tried to do in Iraq before the insurgency and tactical differences with US commanders kicked them out.

But I don't think that's viable as long as there is a significant insurgency. Which brings us back to Judo.

John in Michigan USA:

It also took me a while to understand the paradox (to me at least) that you are pro-Europe, and pro-EU, and even pro-Lisbon... and yet you also fear that most of your leaders (who are also pro-EU) are irredeemably corrupt vassals of NATO -- so corrupt that they cannot even speak legitimately on issues of human rights.
Why is that a paradox? Can't you be a patriotic American and like your Constitution and yet fear that most of your politicians are irredeemably corrupt, venal, in the pockets of various lobbies or out to get pork for their states? Or believe that the Bush administration has been riding roughshod over the Constitution and been generally incompetent at home and abroad? There's no paradox there.
Won't these same leaders, or their colleagues drawn from Europe's bureaucracy, be responsible for implementing Lisbon (or whatever variation or subsection of Lisbon that eventually passes)?
I have in the past said that given the character of the National leaders we've had in Europe over the past 15 years, their lack of vision, and the generally libertarian turn their economic thinking is taking (and I'm talking about the Social Democrats here - the right is mostly hopeless), a few years of institutional gridlock at the European Council while we have the Barroso Commission can't but be a good thing. Especially since this makes the European Parliament look much better. Did you know that consistently the Parliament is the most trusted EU institution, followed by the Commission (the "Eurocrats") and finally by the Council? People trust the "unaccountable" EU Commission "bureaucracy" more than they do their own national governments! As a result, I am somewhat amused by the fact that EU referendums are consistently taken as an opportunity to give the political class a big black eye. They still haven't figured out that business as usual, where everything is hashed out in secrecy at the Council in a big horse-trading spree and them approved by the National parliaments who are joined to their Heads of Government by the hip, doesn't cut it any longer. And these national leaders are afraid to press ahead with "enhanced cooperation" so they seem to prefer gridlock to progress for a "core Europe".

So, the "problem" with Europe is not the EU, it's the national governments, IMHO.

This takes some getting used to.
I think one difference between Americans and Europeans is that Europeans believe in government in the abstract and don't trust the actual government, whereas Americans don't believe in government in the abstract but rally behind their President.

You may find my diary The Bigger Picture informative, or maybe not.

Anyway, you only have to look at what happened with the CIA flight/prison scandal, with the passenger data transfers, the SWIFT data protection violation, the EU's stance on Israel's war on Lebanon in 2006, and the proposed missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, and the recognition of Kosovo, to understand why many on this site think that our governments (and the EU Council as a result) are corrupt US vassals. It seems that at the EU Commission (below the political appointee level) they have no illusions about being able to have a constructive relationship with the US...

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 06:22:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oops...upon re-reading, I see I didn't think some things through or express them the way I meant to...pot meet kettle, etc.

But what if the point of these seminars were merely to teach, and demonstrate, the principles of sound financial management, accountability, and good government

I didn't mean to suggest that Europe should teach Iraqi imams how to be good accountants. I mean that European imams trained in the principles of laic society might be able to engage Iraqi imams and establish the philosophical or theological basis for the conclusion that nothing in the nuts and bolts of good government is a threat to Islam, and that in fact, good government is required for Islam to flourish.

For example, one of the major barriers to good government is the taboo on open debate, and its corollary, an irrational obsession with conspiracy theories. Might there be some sort of positive alchemy between Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's Quietist tradition, which has ancient roots in Islam, and European-trained imams? Perhaps Europe could engage on that front.

and might even work

By that I don't mean it would directly lead to in peace or human rights in Iraq. What I mean by "work" is, set the stage for the outbreak of good government, in which imams don't necessarily have a direct role, but do preach things like accountability, open dealings as opposed to secret pacts, that sort of thing.

This is what I was getting at, way back when I asked, what does the Iraqi concept of human rights have in common with the Western view.  Human rights are universal, in the same sense that math or science are universal, but they still have to be taught.  One could start with the basics, such as addressing the Iraqi (or indeed, Middle Eastern, but not necessarily Muslim) cultural taboo against open discussion.

...

Or, maybe there is just no way that European soft power can help in Iraq...

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.

by John in Michigan USA on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 06:43:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know much about this "taboo against open debate" of which you speak. I'm tempted to ask you to elaborate this idea that the main obstacle to good governance in the Middle East is the taboo against open debate in a diary...

Now, as far as I was aware, Sistani does not agree with Khomeini's doctrine on the rule of the Jurisprudents, and that appears to be a position that he shared with his predecessors. He is not interested in leading a political movement (unlike Sadr), and he has been consistent in demanding more democratic (even secular liberal) government practices such as when he insisted (and gained that as a concession from the US) that the Iraqi Constitution be approved in referendum.

Other than that, I'm out of my depth.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 07:01:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The "taboo against open debate" is a shorthand for a preference for conspiracy theories, the more elaborate the better.  If two explanations for an incident (say, a power failure) are offered, one straightforward and one involving elaborate machinations that violate Occam's Razor and discount coincidences and common mistakes at all turns, the elaborate conspiracy will tend to be more popular and more easily discussed.  This is of course a stereotype, but it is real enough to matter in the middle east.

A few examples of many:


  1. The 2004 Xmas earthquake near Aceh, allegedly caused by CIA underground nuclear device.

  2. Top 10 Middle Eastern Conspiracy Theories

  3. The art of Middle Eastern conspiracy theories

  4. Undersea cables.

From what I've read, Iraqi domestic politics are just as byzantine.  It becomes so pervasive, people actually do engage in conspiracies preemptivly, since they're convinced everyone around them must also be conspiring.  This creates a vicious cycle of conspiracies that takes on a reality all its own.

Why not deploy some of Europe's soft power to debunk the more fantastic of these, with long-term goal of breaking the vicious cycle, while avoiding controversial issues like Colonialism, Palestine and Geopolitics in general?

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.

by John in Michigan USA on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 01:01:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe one day this comment of yours will be thrown up as evidence that the EU is engaged in a conspiracy to cover up American and Israeli conspiracies in the Middle East...

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 01:15:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think debunking is what's needed: for a start, who the hell is going to listen to Europe debunking conspiracies when it's obvious to anyone that Europe is involved in half of them.

You seem to misunderstand the reason that people create conspiracy theories.

To take an example, there is no obvious rational reason for the invasion of Iraq, and people like simple stories, so they make up the one that seems simplest to them: Iraq was invaded so the US could take the oil (with a side order of mendacity by whoever you happen not to like).

That the Iraqi invasion was the result of a collection of forces acting in their own perceive short-term interests in such a way that it became possible for the Bush regime to invade Iraq without any great overarching conspiracy is more complicated to explain than the "simple" conspiracies. On top of that, an analysis of the reasons for the Iraq war would be less than flattering to an awful lot of players in Iraq, the US, the Middle East and Europe. I'm not sure that explaining that Iraq was, in part, invaded because it meant that arms manufacturers would make more profits is going to have  a positive effect on the Iraqi zeitgeist.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 01:24:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Haven't we been doing that for a bit too long already?

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 19th, 2008 at 03:39:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, we decided to stop pretending to care and joine the Dark Side in 2006.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 19th, 2008 at 05:18:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It also took me a while to understand the paradox (to me at least) that you are pro-Europe, and pro-EU, and even pro-Lisbon...and yet you also fear that most of your leaders (who are also pro-EU) are irredeemably corrupt vassals of NATO -- so corrupt that they cannot even speak legitimately on issues of human rights.  Won't these same leaders, or their colleagues drawn from Europe's bureaucracy, be responsible for implementing Lisbon (or whatever variation or subsection of Lisbon that eventually passes)?

Well, perhaps, but the institutional framework is different.

While one should always be careful with transatlantic parallels, I think that a useful comparison would be to the civil rights movement in the US. Would you trust most of the US states to protect civil rights for gays (or for blacks thirty years ago)? Not a chance. Why, then, trust the federal government to protect them - isn't the federal government just as corrupt as the local governments?

Now, it's been a couple of years since I was up-to-date on what the American counter-creationists and gay rights people were doing. But last I heard, they still considered the federal constitution a superior platform for promoting civil rights compared to most of the state constitutions, and the federal bureaucracy was seen as less bigoted than the state bureaucracies.

In principle one can apply the same reasoning to the EU: The federal level may well be able to stand up to the neo-cons currently ruling in Washington despite the state governments being a gang of Quislings. Or at least more so than the collaborationist state governments. For whatever reason, that in fact seems to be the case (the torture flight investigation, for instance, was initiated at the federal level and opposed strongly at the state level).

As for your cultural exchange model for what Europe can do in Iraq, well, i kinda like it - at least as long as it is a part of a bigger process. In fact I believe I included academic exchange in my own suggestion. I'm not sure that the clergy would be the best venue of exchange, but then again, that may simply be my Scandinavian secularism speaking.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 07:34:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]

yet you also fear that most of your leaders (who are also pro-EU) are irredeemably corrupt vassals of NATO

They are NOT pro-EU! Brown is not, Berlusconi is not, Sarkozy is not. Just because they say they are (and I fail to see where Brown or Berlusconi even do that!) does not mean they are. Just look at their policies!

Merkel is better, and she also has, coincidentally, the most critical position towards the US nowadays.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 18th, 2008 at 09:15:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks to everyone for your thoughts.

This is a huge topic.  We have achieved a certain exchange of viewpoints (although not much agreement, but that's to be expected) based on certain common understandings or problems we identified.  However, on other points we seem to be writing from wildly divergent narratives that make it very difficult to avoid irritating misunderstandings.

For example, take 9/11.  I can understand how reasonable people might argue that the fact of 9/11 was "used", "exploited", or even "enhanced" by various, bottom-feeding Western interests and powers to produce the situation we are in today.

But the idea that 9/11 itself might not be a fact, i.e. that some or all of the 9/11 operation itself might have been non-al-Qaeda, has been hinted at far too often here.  As is typical with such rhetoric, allegations are rarely specific; it is always questions that are being raised and never answered, or if answered, never accepted.  Questions that are designed to inhibit debate, not foster it.  Questions that depend on the truism that we will never know, with metaphysical certainty, all that happened on that day and the period leading up to it.  When points are specific, they are hypothetical, or involve some other form of rhetorical legerdemain.  A certainty or perfection is demanded before committing to anything, when life demands that we commit, and even act, in the face of uncertainty, error, and failure.

I'm not suggesting those of you who use this type of rhetoric are irrational -- I assume you are all decent, rational people unless I can prove otherwise :-P  Nor am I unfamiliar with the alternative theories re 9/11 -- I have considered them, and find them...how to put this nicely...well, I find them lacking in explanatory power i.e. useless.  Too often, they are used to maintain a self-congratulatory echo chamber that is well insulated from new ideas and information.  

And yes, that happens with my supporters as well, and I try to fight it when it does.

A typical example is the persistent reliance on, and faith in, boilerplate Progressive solutions and rhetoric, all quite reasonable, but all ignoring the fact that UN envoy de Mello, who represents these progressive ideals and policies as much as is humanly possible, tragically encountered the same problems and resistance as did those trying to implement Neo-Con ideas.

But, but, but!  Having failed, the Neo-Cons changed their strategy, and now we have the so-called Surge.  The modest progress so far is nevertheless far more that conventional wisdom expected.  Will it be enough?  Have we learned anything from our failure?  Impossible to say until more time has passed...but at least we tried something new.

Meanwhile, when they even acknowledge the problem, Progressives in my experience tend to blame the US for insufficient support, or the wrong kind of support, or just for being there with guns, as if Iraq was a peaceful garden before we arrived.  Are European Progressive ideas so finely engineered that they can't possibly share space with America's more rough and muscular Progressivism?  Did Bush have de Mello killed?  Bizarrely, I find myself having to consider that some people here just might answer:  yes and yes.

Without much of a consensus on 9/11, or the state of things in Iraq, or other issues of that type, it becomes very difficult to advance complex points when I have no idea how to judge if my audience shares enough of my assumptions to make the exercise worthwhile.

So, I plan to give this topic a rest.

I like the eurotrib blogging system (scoop) and I may drop by from time to time with polite but devastating comment-fu, here and there.  So you'll have that to look forward to.

Until then,

- John

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.

by John in Michigan USA on Sat Jun 21st, 2008 at 02:09:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not quite sure where you got the impression that this place was crawling with 9/11 troofers. I have the impression that the basic facts are not considered terribly controversial: A group of hijackers operating out of Hamburg, Germany seized four planes and flew three of them into buildings in New York and Washington, causing between 2500 and 3000 fatalities. Whether the hijackers were Al Qaeda or not depends, I suppose, on your definition of Al Qaeda. It seem pretty clear that they considered themselves fedayeen of some sort, but their precise motivations are a bit hard to uncover on account of all of them having a severe case of being dead.

Where you might find some divergent opinion is the significance of this event. On the face of it, it doesn't seem too terribly important. New Yorkers were and are still more at risk for death-by-mugger or death-by-traffic-accident than death-by-fedayeen. It seems quite disproportional to start wars or suspend the constitution over something that is by any cold-blooded, statistical measure much less significant than - say - hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico or earthquakes in California.

If one wants to be even more cold-blooded, one might actually even argue that the casualties on 9/11 were "collateral damage" - it's been reported that there was a CIA office in one of the towers, which by Israeli Defence Force standards make the entire city bloc a legitimate military target in the hunt for terrorists (if you disagree with my designation of the CIA as a terrorist organisation, I refer you to the School of the Americas and the ongoing, CIA-supported terrorist campaign against the civilian population of Colombia).

Now, I disagree vehemently with the Israeli definition of military target, but it seems a little bit hypocritical to endorse IDF murders in the Gaza concentration camp out of one side of the mouth and complain out of the other side of the mouth about terrorists when what goes around eventually comes around.

But I digress. My core point is that the fundamental facts - the identities of the hijackers, the serial numbers of the planes, etc. are substantially (albeit, I must admit, not universally) accepted hereabout.

Nor am I quite sure how de Mello's demise, however tragic, signals a massive failure of any progressive agenda. Aid workers sometimes get shot when they go into war zones. That's always tragic, but Iraq is hardly unique in this respect.

Yes, some engineers, diplomats and doctors will be injured and killed if we send them to help rebuild Iraq. Those who choose to go should be aware of that fact. And stuff is going to get blown up as well, sometimes even before (or frustratingly fast after) it's completed. However, from looking at conflicts past and present, I would hazard the guess that the cost both in money and human lives would be lower than that of continued occupation.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jun 23rd, 2008 at 11:19:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
John in Michigan USA:
But, but, but!  Having failed, the Neo-Cons changed their strategy, and now we have the so-called Surge.  The modest progress so far is nevertheless far more that conventional wisdom expected.  Will it be enough?  Have we learned anything from our failure?  Impossible to say until more time has passed...but at least we tried something new.

Now that has me interested, In what way was it "Different?" to my mind it just appears to be "More of the same" and what would you call the major achievements of the surge?

As for the 9/11 denialists, people do appear here every now and then and get subjected to reasonable rigour. I've not seen anyone whose denial has survived examination, although there are some questions that still deserve examination.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Jun 23rd, 2008 at 11:36:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here are some articles that describe how the Surge is different.

"The Patton of Counterinsurgency" -- Don't be distracted by the tone of the article, which may seem a bit over the top, but concentrate on the details of the strategy.  The Surge's modest increase in troop strength was only a part of the change, and probably not even the most important part.   That is why I sometimes call it the "Surge" or "the so-called Surge".

"Anatomy of the Surge" -- defines the pre-Surge policies that failed, discusses the blunders and false starts that preceded the Surge, and looks at the source of the perception that the Surge was just more of the same.

"Perseverance Pays Off in Baghdad" -- discusses the indigenous Shiite efforts similar to the Sunni Awakening Councils.

Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) -- these are the engineers and civil society types that go in after understandings have been reached with local powers (e.g. Awakening Councils, which go by various names depending on what part of Iraq you're talking about), and after Iraqi or coalition forces have cleared an area.  I don't have articles handy at the moment, but Google should provide.

I have suggested, and other commenters here have acknowledged, that the situation in Iraq might be improving, based on coalition casualty reports, Iraq Body Count, media reports, bloggers in-country, etc. I will leave you to do your own research.

The question of how much of this is due to the Surge, and how much due to other factors, will have to wait for another diary or comment; for now, I just want to convince you that in fact we are not just doing more of the same in Iraq.

There are some reports that even the UN is slowly coming back into the picture in Iraq.  But my point is that after the de Mello disaster, the UN, and by extension, the non-coalition community, gave up on the Iraqis, whereas we did not.  That is why it is sometimes so frustrating to be lectured erm advised by our UN EU friends about how we need to try this and that instead of guns.  Your thoughtful suggestions did occur to us, and we are implementing them.  In spite of all the boys and their toys stuff on YouTube, we really don't just ride around Iraq blowing things away.  But it is a very, very tough neighborhood.

Could it be that whatever media sources you are using for information on Iraq, simply haven't picked up on these stories yet?

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.

by John in Michigan USA on Mon Jun 23rd, 2008 at 06:26:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the links, although I am sure that you could find more reputable sources if you tried. The Weekly Standard and WSJ have an unfortunate habit of playing fast and loose with the facts (or, to put it a bit more bluntly, lying through their teeth) to the extent that I am not entirely comfortable relying on their descriptions of reality (or, to put it a bit more bluntly, if the Weekly Standard told me that the sky is blue, I'd look out my window before agreeing).

The second thing I note is that the articles describe a shift emphasis away from empowering the central government and towards empowering existing local power structures. They describe negotiated peace and even alliances with local armed groups that may or may not support the central Iraqi government. They describe infrastructure projects (using primarily local labour, I note :-P). Pay off the young men who would otherwise form the militias (or - even better - give them honest work to do for an honest wage). [1]

In other words, it looks like the US strategy is moving towards what has been suggested here on ET already. I have to admit that this surprises me. It appears that even the Bushies' strategy for Iraq is saner than I have been giving them credit for so far.

Further, this movement is correlated with the apparent success (at least as measured by the metrics we have examined so far). So - keeping in mind that correlation is not quite the same thing as causation - I would be tempted to claim some level of vindication for The Plan(TM).

- Jake

[1] As an aside, I cannot help but note that this kind of program would never get approval if it were proposed to mitigate crime in the slums of a US city. Why, using state-created jobs for the explicit purpose of reducing unemployment and unemployment-related crime, that's positively Socialist! Or at least French :-P

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jun 25th, 2008 at 07:05:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... describe a shift emphasis...

That should be "a shift in emphasis" obviously.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jun 25th, 2008 at 10:47:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it looks like the US strategy is moving towards what has been suggested here on ET already.

The temptation to snark the hell out of this remark is very hard to resist.

But I will.

Instead, I will just say that I would very be interested in seeing links showing that The Plan(TM), or something like it, was seriously considered on ET 18 or more months ago i.e before or during the time when we were formulating the Surge strategy.

Absent that, wouldn't be more accurate to say that JakeS has just unintentionally appropriated, and implicitly validated, major elements of the current US strategy in Iraq?

Seriously, you ET'ers need to realize that whatever sources of information you rely on for Iraq have not served you well in this case.

Maybe you should broaden your reading list?  I'm not talking about Commentary, Weekly Review, and the WSJ editorial page, which are of course partisan sources.  Thank you for being willing to read them at least.

Start with Michael Yon:

...whose work is endorsed by none other than Joe Galloway...yes, The Joe Galloway.

Also check out:


and go from there.

You may have heard of some of these, but based on your general take on Iraq you need to pay more attention to them.  They are invaluable, first hand sources.  They tell the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Only a close-minded partisan would dismiss them as partisan.

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.

by John in Michigan USA on Wed Jun 25th, 2008 at 11:30:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Instead, I will just say that I would very be interested in seeing links showing that The Plan(TM), or something like it, was seriously considered on ET 18 or more months ago i.e before or during the time when we were formulating the Surge strategy.

Absent that, wouldn't be more accurate to say that JakeS has just unintentionally appropriated, and implicitly validated, major elements of the current US strategy in Iraq?

It validates the reconstruction part of the US strategy. I won't attempt to asses the military part of it, because my information regarding that part is insufficient and so is my expertise in the area. But the emphasis still given to the military component in the official propaganda (see your links, for instance) gives me the impression that the Surge is 1/3 sanity and 2/3 staying the course.

I expressed surprise at the presence of any sanity at all, because frankly I didn't expect that. But that doesn't make it impressive.

Since I didn't sneak peek at the Pentagon's Iraq strategy while formulating mine - and since I haven't kept abreast of the developments in Iraq beyond noting the development in the American casualty figures occasionally, I think it's fair to say that this is a case of parallel evolution. We can argue about who discovered the strategy first, but I am happy to concede the honours, because I haven't seen it spelled out before.

But the major premises - that the central government isn't viable, that there needs to be more building and negotiation and considerably less reliance on purely military solutions have been around since forever, or at least since before I started frequenting the site (which was before the Surge started).

Seriously, you ET'ers need to realize that whatever sources of information you rely on for Iraq have not served you well in this case.

I am not sure I see how they failed us. The task was to come up with a viable strategy for Iraq. We did.

You raised a number of objections in another thread, and I made a number of replies, but I haven't seen anything so far that would kill my plan dead if sufficient political will to implement it existed.

Another task was to determine whether it would be wise for Europe to support the current US stance in Iraq. So far my impression is that it is not.

This is based partially on the fact that the US strategic stance still appears to be sufficiently far removed from what I think would be most effective that it might very well be more effective to use European resources to set up a separate effort. And partly on the fact that the apparent long-term objectives of the US in Iraq (basing rights, containment of Iran, installation of one or more pliable client states, securing the Iraqi oil for US-based corporations, padding the pocketbooks of various and sundry war profiteers, etc.) are not particularly savoury.

Finally, none of the current American stance addresses the part of the problem that resides at least partially outside Iraq, namely documenting and dealing with the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed fairly massively by all sides in the conflict. So far, the US and their European fellow-travellers appear to be in complete denial that there might be a problem here, which is not exactly the most constructive attitude, to put it mildly...

So while our information was incomplete, it wasn't sufficiently incomplete to substantially change the strategic picture; at least not from where I sit.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jun 25th, 2008 at 12:43:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Instead, I will just say that I would very be interested in seeing links showing that The Plan(TM), or something like it, was seriously considered on ET 18 or more months ago i.e before or during the time when we were formulating the Surge strategy.

So I went trawling for diaries and stories on Iraq deom 18+ months ago, and I found this:

A few notes: both "plans" were proposed by Americans and were not particularly well received in the comments. Cskendrick's "part 2" contains a putative "neocon dream scenario", part 3 is his own "plan" and "Fixing iraq is his idea of what ETers would propose to do based on feedback to part 3. I have to say that the basic stance of ETers seemed to be "Iraq is FUBAR", so the only reason we propose plans of action for Iraq, if we do, is when provoked with "you need to do something" or "what would you do?".

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 25th, 2008 at 02:14:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As an aside, I cannot help but note that this kind of program would never get approval if it were proposed to mitigate crime in the slums of a US city.

Surely you must be kidding me?  In the US we do this stuff all the time.

Well, not the Surge, but community-building.  The difference is, it is done primarily on the local level, recently quite successfully in cities like New York which were supposed to be the intractable, textbook examples of the failure of capitalism.

Unlike the socialists, we haven't lost site of the fact that government doesn't create jobs, it just re-allocates them, usually badly and with "unexpected" side-effects.  That is why we try to keep the efforts local, and try to keep in mind that the only long-term solution involves jobs that are real, i.e. self-sustaining without subsidy.  Unfortunately, we too often forget, (arrg! Ethanol! How I hate thee!) and disaster ensues.

One of the enduring misunderstandings that Europeans have about the USA is, they assume that if the national government isn't doing something, then nothing real or substantial is being done.  And in most European countries, that would be a fair assumption.  

Worse, the European press, reflecting and reinforcing the group-think of the European governing elites, goes to ridiculous extremes to perpetuate this stereotype.

But in the US it is the opposite:  All the real work goes on in the private sector, both for-profit and non-profit, and at the state and local level.  Our federal anti-poverty, etc. programs are some of the least effective American institutions that exist.

Indeed, part of the reason the so-called "Surge" strategy has been so popular with the troops is, community building comes naturally to them.

They are citizen-soldiers.

Will it work?  I dunno.  But Iraqis are certainly beginning to take notice.  Europe should too.

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.

by John in Michigan USA on Wed Jun 25th, 2008 at 12:53:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
John in Michigan USA:
One of the enduring misunderstandings that Europeans have about the USA is, they assume that if the national government isn't doing something, then nothing real or substantial is being done.

It's not a misunderstanding, because it mostly isn't.

It's nice that the US is a veritable capitalist utopia of convivial communality, but if all anyone can see is the shanty-town poor when you visit the rougher areas, it's hard to be convinced that there's a plan at all, never mind that the plan is working.

If you don't have a government ethic of communality - which the US doesn't, particularly - then it's no surprise that federal programs don't currently work.

That doesn't mean they can't in principle, it means you no longer have the culture to do them properly, which isn't quite the same thing.

So if you're going to tell me that the glories of free enterprise have stepped in to fill the gap across the US, I'm going to have to ask what evidence there is that this has made any real difference.

If the private sector is so all-powerful, it should surely have solved the problem by now. It's not as if there's been a lot of hostility to private efforts from Washington for the last decade or so.

And yet - the trend has been for lower wages, longer hours, poorer infrastructure, and more unemployment. What's wrong with this picture?

As for job creation - are you saying the New Deal didn't actually work at all? The freeways, the dams, the infrastructure were just pointless make-work?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 25th, 2008 at 01:36:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know whose comment you are replying to, it doesn't appear to be mine.  I never said or implied that the US was capitalist utopia, I just said that the private sector, and state and local government, is where the real action is.  Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

__
I am the most conservative Unitarian-Universalist you will ever meet.
by John in Michigan USA on Fri Jun 27th, 2008 at 06:49:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unlike the socialists, we haven't lost site of the fact that government doesn't create jobs, it just re-allocates them,

This is simply false. If you have involuntary unemployment, the state can indeed create jobs out of thin air.

They may not be meaningful (then again, they may be - railroad construction and operation, for instance, is something The Market(TM) does badly if at all). But even if they aren't meaningful - even if it is just a matter of digging holes in the ground - it will still stimulate demand for other, worthwhile production.

If the government finances this through direct taxation of wealth (and/or the high incomes that usually correlate with wealth), or runs a temporary deficit, the net result is a transfer of demand to the present - where it can pull an economy out of a recession - from the future - where it, if the economy has been managed properly - will be recouped during a boom. Or from such excess demand harvested during a past boom.

All the real work goes on in the private sector, both for-profit and non-profit, and at the state and local level. [My emphasis]

If you need charity, then the government isn't doing its job.

Snark aside, you're not even right about the government not doing constructive work. Right off the bat, I can think of only two parts of US infrastructure that works as well as or better than the German equivalent: The National Park Service and the Interstate Highways. Both are Federal operations.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 26th, 2008 at 12:07:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why wasn't any of this viable in the first couple of months after the invasion? Or, if it was, why wasn't it attempted? If I am not mistaken the level of violence is still higher than it was in 2003.

So, Bremmer and Rumsfeld are out of the picture and saner heads are finally taking charge of the US strategy, and hopefully once Bush and Cheney are out as well things will improve some more?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 25th, 2008 at 07:12:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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