Tag Archives: Iraq

To every beast of the earth

American Family Association style:

One human being is worth more than an infinite number of grizzly bears. Another way to put it is that there is no number of live grizzlies worth one dead human being. If it’s a choice between grizzlies and humans, the grizzlies have to go. And it’s time.

And another interesting moral calculation (same guy):

When President Bush sent our troops into Iraq in 2003, I remember telling my pastoral colleagues that there was one criterion and one criterion only for determining whether our invasion and attempt at nation-building would be a success: whether we left behind a nation with genuine religious liberty for Christians and Jews.

. . . .

Bottom line: God blesses nations who are kind to Christians and Jews, the descendants of Abraham, and curses those nations who are not. If we had an enlightened policy with regard to Iraq, the one thing we would have insisted on is complete freedom of religion for Christians and Jews. We did nothing of the sort, and consequently have spent seven years only to leave behind a nation that officially rests under the curse of God. What a waste.

God loves religious liberty (for some); but not bears.  God hates bears.


Credibility Problem

I should keep up on these things, but April 22nd was the sixth anniversary of the following remark by one of our favorite commentators, Charles Krauthammer:

Hans Blix had five months to find weapons. He found nothing. We’ve had five weeks. Come back to me in five months. If we haven’t found any, we will have a credibility problem.

That was 2003 (Thanks Crooked Timber).  At that same event, Krauthammer also said:

I want to talk about the meaning not just of the war in Iraq, but of the war on terrorism. There was a book written about 40 years ago by a man called Joseph Jones, who was in the State Department in 1947. He wrote a book called "15 Weeks." It was the 15 weeks between the day on which the cable arrived from London saying that the British had given up on Turkey and Greece and were pulling out and the announcement that the Harvard commencement by George Marshall of the Marshall Plan.

Those 15 weeks, in 1947, redefined the world, redefined American foreign policy, began the policy of containment, and stand as one of the great sort of intellectual revolutions in modern diplomacy.

I would argue that we have now lived through the 19 months, which stand on an equal plain in their audacity, success and revolutionary nature. The 19 months, of course, are from September 11th, 2001, to April 9th, 2003, a period which, in responding to an attack out of the blue, this administration has redefined the world, reoriented American foreign policy, and put in place a profound new approach which I think will stand with the 15 weeks in history as one of the more remarkable achievements, both intellectually, militarily and diplomatically, and done by a foreign policy team, national security team, which I believe is the most successful and the most impressive since the Truman-Atchison-Marshall team and the others of the late 1940s.

The war in Iraq is simply a battle in this larger campaign and then this larger conceptual structural, and it was characterized by the immediate understanding by the administration in 2001, after 9/11, that the successor to the great ideological wars of the 20th century had presented itself to us, that just as communism was the successor to fascism, in terms of the Cold War being a successor to the second World War, the war on terrorism was now the successor to those great ideological struggles that the 10-year period of the hiatus, the dream sleep that we had in the 1990s had evaporated, and we were in a new world.

And it correctly understood that the struggle was against terrorism in the context of weapons of mass destruction, that the war on terrorism had been entirely misconceived as a war on individuals, a war involving law enforcement, that it was seen as a matter of policing, and trials.

What was understood was the war on terrorism is a real war, and the war had to be taken to the enemy, and it was a war that involved states, that terrorism can only live among states, can only be supported by states and that the distinction had to be made between states which were supporting terrorism, which would inherently be our enemies and states which were not. The war in Afghanistan followed. The war in Iraq has followed.

It's new to me that wars have "successors" in anything but an accidental historical sense (one event or period following another).  Here's the more basic point.  We can all be wrong about predictions.  I've been wrong on occasion–this is going to be the best taco ever! (I've learned to withhold judgment on taquerias).  But Krauthammer is still employed by the Post.  If there going to continue to employ him–seems they will as pundit tenure is better than actual academic tenure–perhaps they (he if he were honest) ought to remind readers of his record as a prognosticator.  


Again via Crooked Timber, here is a very worthwhile site: http://wrongtomorrow.com/

I’m also a client

Success is hard to measure.  It's especially hard to measure when the standard moves.  So Iraq.  This, unfortunately, is how success is now described:

Gen. David Petraeus testified Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He noted that the number of security incidents in Iraq in the past week had fallen to the lowest level in over four years. And he held out the prospect, despite “tough fights and hard work” that lie ahead, of “an Iraq that is at peace with itself and its neighbors, that is an ally in the war on terror, that has a government that serves all Iraqis.”

They said there would be flowers.  Now we'll have to make due with the "prospect" of an Iraq something like the one we found when we got there. 

Of course, lest we forget, Iraq is not only an ally in the war on terror, it's also a client–I mean, it's also the central front.

Know your enemy

Don't know what to call your enemy?  Try al Qaeda.  Note how Michael Gerson twists and turns in order to make all of the fronts in Iraq a "central" front in the war on, yes, al Qaeda.  He writes [our intrusions in brackets and italics–sorry about that, but I couldn't find another way to point out all of the fudging here]:

It is a central argument of the Bush administration that the outcome in Iraq is essential to the broader war on terrorism — which is plainly true. When it comes to Sunni radicalism, the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are a single struggle. Al-Qaeda [is it the case that Sunni radicalism is the same as al Qaeda?] has latched on to local grievances, tribal conflicts and general chaos in all three nations to extend its influence [what does this influence consist in?].

But this argument, used to justify U.S. efforts in Iraq ["used to justify" has a nice passive ring to it–sounds like it doesn't actually justify], cuts another way as well. Is America taking all three related insurgencies with sufficient seriousness?[odd, that wasn't the way I was thinking]

Iraq, while consuming greater sacrifice, is now producing the most encouraging results. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is reeling. U.S. Special Forces in Mosul — a largely Sunni city north of Baghdad — are conducting [conducting–why not "succeeding at"] about eight to 12 missions against al-Qaeda each night [what makes them sure it's "al Qaeda?"  And is "al Qaeda in Iraq" the same as "al Qaeda"?]. In Baghdad, the surge strategy of securing civilians has dramatically reduced sectarian violence [This is really a different issue]. And in Basra — located in the Shiite south — Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has finally shown some fight against radical militias [what kind of "radical militias"?].  [What about general anti-American insurgency?]

Hurray for all of those things.  Maybe.  But let's not exaggerate.  These are all different things.  It's obvious from the most superficial news watching that Iraq has numerous sectarian struggles going on plus an anti-American insurgency.  The most obvious one of these sectarian struggles–that between Shiites and Sunnis–has the Sunni radicals on the losing end–as they are the religious minority in Iraq (and Iran–remember them–they're Shiites aren't they?).  That means the sectarian war does not intrinsically benefit Sunni radicalism, i.e., al Qaeda, as Gerson suggests.

But that can't be true, one might say.  The only way, I think, it could be true is if we consider "al Qaeda not to be a specific terrorist group, as it is, but rather a stand-in for all the forces of evil.  Why?  because al Qaeda is a force of evil and disorder.  Any disorder and evil is a victory for the terrorists.  And all terrorists are al Qaeda.  Well at least all terrorists share the evil aims of al Qaeda, which is the same thing. 

Except when it isn't.  

If Gerson's strategy of making al Qaeda the mother of all red herrings has done anything, it's given al Qaeda legitimacy as a global superpower.

Culpa istorum

**Quick update below I've noticed several mea-culpae about Iraq floating around lately. We talked about one of them (Ignatieff) the other day. Being wrong about such a thing as monumental as war ought probably to carry serious consequences for the credibility of the person who was wrong. In light of that obvious but completely ignored imperative, it's entertaining to watch the ones who were wrong explain themselves:

We might test judgment by asking, on the issue of Iraq, who best anticipated how events turned out. But many of those who correctly anticipated catastrophe did so not by exercising judgment but by indulging in ideology. They opposed the invasion because they believed the president was only after the oil or because they believed America is always and in every situation wrong.

So Ignatieff was wrong, but some of those who were right were right for the wrong reasons (so he claims). We might then say that they're wrong too. Because after all it's just as bad to have a true belief which is unjustified as it is to have a unjustified false belief (like Ignatieff had). Any mature person can see that Ignatieff has picked on the college socialist again–a slogan chanting and capitalistically challenged representative of the anti war left. Everyone ought to know by this point–especially a former Harvard Professor of political science–that such a lefty exists in Rush Limbaugh's mind. Pointing out that someone might have had stupid reasons for being right doesn't have anything to do with your stupid reasons for being wrong. Now to his stupid reasons:

The people who truly showed good judgment on Iraq predicted the consequences that actually ensued but also rightly evaluated the motives that led to the action. They did not necessarily possess more knowledge than the rest of us. They labored, as everyone did, with the same faulty intelligence and lack of knowledge of Iraq's fissured sectarian history. What they didn�t do was take wishes for reality. They didn't suppose, as President Bush did, that because they believed in the integrity of their own motives everyone else in the region would believe in it, too. They didn't suppose that a free state could arise on the foundations of 35 years of police terror. They didn't suppose that America had the power to shape political outcomes in a faraway country of which most Americans knew little. They didn't believe that because America defended human rights and freedom in Bosnia and Kosovo it had to be doing so in Iraq. They avoided all these mistakes.

First off, I think a good number had some knowledge of Iraq's "fissured sectarian history." It was no secret to experts in Middle East history. But the more perplexing thing (aside from its self-serving comparisons) about this mea culpa is that it puts the entire matter in terms of gambling about an uncertain future–where no one could possibly predict the outcome. And this is just the point that Ignatieff and others fail to get. A person with even a casual knowledge of the history of the region (say the recent war between Iraq and Iran) could have predicted the outcome of this war with a good deal of precision. It's not a question, as Ignatieff frames it, of being unduly critical of the motives of the administration (which one always should be in any case), it's rather a more straightforward matter of good judgment. And so this underscores the shallowness of Ignatieff's thinking about matters of life and death (which is what it was to think about invading Iraq in case that wasn't obvious). The experts he trusts don't have any knowledge of the very public and relevant facts about the history of Iraq (and the entire region). So it's not only a case of taking wishes for reality. It's simpler than that.

**Update: Here's Crooked Timber, always a worthwhile read. I'd be interested in seeing more apologiae pro errore meo if anyone knows where to find them.