2004 June 28 Monday
Shiite, Sunni Tribes May Fight Over Fallujah Killings

Paul McGeough reports on a twisted tale of tribal revenge in Iraq. The Shia Chinani tribe, part of the larger Rabia tribe, wants the Janabi Sunni tribe of the Fallujah region to turn over 2 Janabi sheikhs to the Chinanis to be killed. The Chinanis claim these Janabis killed 6 Chinanis because the Chinanis are Shias. The Chinanis are threatening to start an inter-tribal war if the Jinanis do not comply with their demands. (Syndey Morning Herald free registration required)

Control of much of Falluja has been ceded to a hard core of insurgents and their foreign Arab colleagues - Saudis, Syrians, Yemenis and Jordanians - who are imposing a local regime that is reminiscent of the defeated Taliban of Afghanistan.


They have identified two prominent Falluja identities - Sheik Abdul al-Janabi of the Janabi tribe and Sheik Dafar al-Obeidi, the imam of Falluja's imposing Al Hadra Al Muhammadia mosque - as those who should die as an act of tribal revenge for the death of the six. "Janabi, whose tribe is big, told us that it was his insurgency group that killed them," Adnan said.

This is not one young man's grief talking. Speaking to the Herald, Adnan was standing in for his father, Faisal Muthair al-Chinani al-Rabia, who is the sheik of the Chinani tribe which, in turn, is part of the several-million-strong Rabia tribe - predominantly Shiite.

His father was still receiving official condolences, but interviewed a day later he was matter-of-fact. "We don't want money. We want the criminals - and we will kill them. The Janabi people say this is not their tribe's problem - it's a resistance problem.

"But if they don't hand them over, we have many tribes and much power and we will attack Falluja as many times as we need, and we will kill as many as we have to."

The Chinanis want to fight the Janabis. But perhaps are they confused and they really ought to want to fight the local Taliban that the US helped set up in power in Fallujah? Wait, isn't the US opposed to the Taliban-style of government? So then are the real enemies of the Chinanis the local Iraqi Taliban that the US now supports? (note that there is an element of sarcasm in my writing of this paragraph - but it seems uncomfortably accurate)

The widening split between the Arabs and the Kurds is even less tractable but the Shia-Sunni split is being boosted by the fact that each tribe tends to be predominately Sunni or Shia. Weren't we supposed to be establishing a democracy to set an example of Arab democray that will cause a political transformation of the Middle East? Huh? What does democracy have to do with anything? We have tribal scores that need settling and bonds of blood that are far more important than governments.

Also, while I'm asking questions: Did the neoconservative civilian appointees to the Defense Department and the White House have to submit to testing for hallucinogenic drug use? Or are the delusions of the neocons due to organic malfunctions that aren't caused by drug use? (here I hope my sarcasm is more obvious)

Iraq is especially unwelcoming ground for a modern liberal democracy because of the practice of consanguineous marriage. See my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq as a good starting point to many previous posts I've made on the subject. For a more comprehensive list of reasons why the prospects are very dim for political transformation of the Middle East to make it more Western, liberal, and less hostile to the West see the bullet list in the middle of this post: Unilaterally Withdraw From Iraq Or First Partition? Since liberalisation isn't in the cards for the Middle East the Bush Administration's announced strategy for dealing with the terrorist threat is harmful to US interests.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 June 28 01:25 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Conflict

Michael said at June 28, 2004 2:01 PM:

I went to see David Frum speak in Toronto when he was promoting his book on Bush in Jan 2003. He said that Iraq was a likely country to start with if one wanted to reform the Middle East because there are a fairly large number of well-educated people there. He didn't mention anything about these tribes. I've heard since (maybe here) that they are a significant factor in Iraqi politics. It sounds as if you consider them to be one of the major impediments to democratization. I wonder how the new Iraqi government plans to deal with them.

Randall Parker said at June 28, 2004 2:41 PM:

Michael, I would encourage you to click back to the previous posts I've linked to here and read about the problem of consanguineous marriage as well as other problems that are obstacles to democratization.

As for Frum: The thing about the neocons is that they seem oblivious to the various obstacles to democratization. It is hard to argue with them because they ignore the evidence. Are they just plain ignorant? Or do they willfully ignore evidence? It is not clear to me.

I wish I'd appreciated much sooner A) the size of the role neocons were going to play in George W. Bush's Administration and B) the fact that they are a bunch of glib and well-spoken nutcases. I didn't expect a Republican Administration to be so deluded. I expect delusion from the Left. But then the neocons are descended from Lefties and are highly ideological in their worldviews.

Fly said at June 28, 2004 7:57 PM:

Michael, if you scroll down to the earlier posts, Zeyad explains the tribal history in Iraq and his own family connections. He understands his own culture well and is positive about Iraqís future.


Randall: ďIt is hard to argue with them because they ignore the evidence.Ē

Randall, you build a strong case for the difficulty of building a democratic nation in Iraq. The problems are real. However I donít think the problems are any greater than what the US faced in Germany, Japan, and South Korea. The US has strong military, political, economic and social power to influence the evolution of Iraqi society. The appeal of freedom and economic prosperity shouldnít be underestimated. (According to various soldier blogs the young Iraqis soak up information and are quickly adapting to the modern world.) Mistakes have been made and will be made. That happens with any major undertaking. The US position is so strong in Iraq that the US can adjust and still make progress.

There is positive news coming from Iraq but I donít hear about it on ParaPundit.

The world is very complex. We all filter evidence and we all value evidence differently. Because others, such as myself, disagree with your conclusions doesnít mean we are ignoring evidence or are ignorant. I believe Bushís advisors have access to far better information than I have. I believe his team is far more expert in analyzing that information. I believe that what I see happening through the public media is only a small part of a much larger worldwide operation. The Bush team could still be wrong and they will still make mistakes.

I donít want to come across as being too positive. I believe the US will be very lucky is a US city isnít nuked in the next decade. I believe that a total war between the US and some Muslim countries is likely. To me the Bush plan as outlined by Stephen den Beste still seems the best hope for avoiding those outcomes.

Randall Parker said at June 28, 2004 8:20 PM:


I am not Panglossian.

Quite a few countries have failed at being democracies. In fact, below $3000 per capita GDP they all do eventually. I've linked to some relevant social science research on it. See my first link from the following list:

But since I don't get the sense that people bother to click thru on links here's the data more directly:

Here is an excerpt from Adam Przeworski's research on democracy and per capita GDP: A Flawed Blueprint: The Covert Politicization of Development Economics.

No democracy ever fell in a country with a per capita income higher than that of Argentina in 1975óUS$6055. This is a startling fact given that throughout history about 70 democracies have collapsed in poorer countries. In contrast, 35 democracies spent a total of 1,000 years under more affluent conditions, and not one collapsed. Affluent democracies survived wars, riots, scandals, and economic and governmental crises.

The probability that democracy survives increases monotonically with per capita income. Between 1951 and 1999, the probability that a democracy would fall during any particular year in countries with per capita income under US$1,000 was 0.089, implying that their expected life was about 11 years. With incomes in the range of US$1001 to US$3000, this probability was 0.037, for an expected duration of about 27 years. Between US$3001 and US$6055, the probability was 0.013, which translates into about 78 years of expected life. And above US$6055, democracies last forever.

In 2003 the CIA estimated Iraq's per capita GDP at $1600 by purchasing power parity.

With Iraq the case is also made more difficult by the fact that the bulk of its wealth comes from oil. It has been pointed out to me recently that one problem with oil as a major source of a country's wealth (especially oil that is publically owned - as compared to oil when the US was first becoming an oil producer) is that the government does not have an economic incentive to cater to the middle class since the government does not need an affluent middle class.

Fly said at June 29, 2004 12:06 PM:

ďBut since I don't get the sense that people bother to click thru on links here's the data more directly:Ē

I read most links before commenting. Iíve followed the links on the connection between democracy and income level.

My interpretation of the information is different. I find the information interesting but not very persuasive as regards Iraq.

How strong is the association between Per Capita GDP and democracy? Why did the American democracy survive all those low Per Capita GDP years? Why did the Germany democracy fail under Hitler? Or is this only a recent phenomenon? If it is a recent phenomenon could it be related to the Cold War in which communist countries sent fighters (Cubans in many cases.), trained rebels, and supplied guns and money? Are poor countries more easily destabilized by outside forces? Or perhaps the influence of English laws and customs? India is poor but democracy seems to be working. Are there any non-democratic English culture nations? (Hmmm, maybe Liberia? Complicated history there.) Are most of the failures related to Africa? If so the correlation to poverty might not be causative but due the fact that poverty and failure of democracy stem from a common cause.

I could go on but I believe my point is clear. The information is interesting but hardly persuasive that poverty precludes democracy.

Now assume for sake of argument that the link showed conclusively that no poor country had ever succeeded with democracy. Does that show the US cannot succeed in Iraq?

No it doesnít. No country before the US has ever devoted the military, economic, and political effort into making democracy work in a poor country. Before the US is done the Iraqi per capita income will be much higher. (The Iraqi bloggers say the job market is hot and salaries are rising.)

Even without the special effort of the US, history doesnít tell us that much about what might happen in poor countries in the future. Global communications and the Internet have drastically altered access to information. Even very poor people have more access to information. History helps us understand but history doesnít dictate the future.

When I read your links on tribalism I have a similar reaction. Yes, it is a problem. Yes, it requires special handling. Yes, the Bush administration made some mistakes. (Iíve also read reports by Americans actively working with the Iraqis that show at least some Americans did work through the tribal connections.) But it is not stopping the US from making progress.

Each of the issues you present strikes me this way. Islam is a problem. The Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite factions are a problem. The culture is a problem. Iraqiís neighbors are a problem. France is a problem. Political dissention in the US is a problem.

None of these issues makes the task as difficult as what faced the US during WWII or during the Cold War.

Yes, we could fail. We could have lost WWII or the Cold War. (We came very close during the Cuban missile crisis.)

If we succeed in Iraq, the US wins big. The Arabs in the surrounding countries may demand the same from their governments. (An Iraqi blogger says the Arabic online world is already showing signs of jealousy. Syrians and Egyptians have less freedom of speech.) If the US has to take over Iran, Syria, or Saudi Arabia, the transition should go more smoothly. (The problem with Saudi Arabia is what do we do with the country? Knock off the tyrants and the clerics are even worse.) All of Islam could change for the better.

If we fail, then Iraq splits into three countries. The Kurds welcome a strong military presence for their own security. The US projects military might to force change in Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. The US installs and backs strong men in the Arabic countries while the US remakes those nations. (Much as was done in South Korea.) Not good, but still better than leaving Saddam in power. Lots of turmoil and terror and international bad will but the Western economies get oil and the terrorists lose their funding.

So the Bush strategy has at least two levels. The Neo-Cons like the first and the military will accept the latter if necessary. I believe the Bush strategy is actually far more complicated and has for more contingency analysis.

I think the Bush strategy is likely to fail. Itís very hard to change 1.2 billion Muslims in the short time before WMD become easily available. I have not read a proposal that I think has a better chance for success. (The ďKerry proposalsĒ depends on cooperation from countries that I donít believe are truly our allies. Too many nations want the US to fail. And it doesnít address the problem of changing nations that donít want to change.)

Randall Parker said at June 29, 2004 12:35 PM:


It isn't that the high incomes cause democracy to work. The same factors cause both. What the US had going for it in the 18th and 19th centuries was a culture and religious beliefs that helped to support democracy. We also were not heavily threatened militarily.

The reason we can't compare previous century per capita GDPs with today is that those people did not have the capital and knowledge we have. Societies back then that were together enough to sustain democracy were better able to use technologies and build market economies too.

Of course, in the Persian Gulf there are countries that have high per capita incomes because of oil and in spite of their culture and how their governments operate.

Iraq and failure: There are a number of possible failure scenarios. In some scenarios a dictator keeps the place united.

As for Kerry's versus Bush's ideas: I think we should start from the standpoint of what we each think should be done rather than from the standpoint of whether Bush or Kerry has better ideas.

So in the end you are betting Bush's strategy will not work. Okay, then you ought to start asking yourself what ought to be done instead or in addition to what he is doing.

Fly said at June 29, 2004 2:53 PM:

ďSo in the end you are betting Bush's strategy will not work. Okay, then you ought to start asking yourself what ought to be done instead or in addition to what he is doing.Ē

Iím not betting against the Bush strategy. So far itís the best hand from a lousy deal. When someone comes up with a better plan Iíll actively promote it on the blogs. If I think the Bush administration is failing in its execution, I want people to make suggestions and get the problems fixed. Spirit of America is a good example. Saying Bush is incompetent doesnít help. Saying the war in Iraq needs to be sold to the world better than the meager Bush efforts and offering a plan, money, and labor to make it happen is helpful criticism.

I agree the past is past and we should focus on the future. Iím always looking for creative solutions. I found your post on poverty and democracy interesting because it might illuminate factors that could help the US succeed elsewhere. What is it that led to those failures? How might the US change the game so that those countries could succeed? The Bush strategy doesnít end with Iraq or the ME. Eventually the US will have to make a success of Africa. What will we need to do differently?

Iím concerned that the US is getting more and more polarized. Each side makes excuses for the bad behavior of their team while screaming about the excesses of the other team. Some people are trying to stay balanced. Agree to disagree, but with courtesy and respect. I fear those people wonít be heard.

What happens after the election? Will Republicans accept Kerry as President and unite behind him? Will Democrats accept a second Bush term? Tempers are running so high that I fear that no matter who wins an extremist minority will rebel.

When you state that Bush and his advisors ignore evidence or are ignorant or that Bush is stupid, it feeds the polarization. It is only speculation and weakens your overall argument. It only persuades those who already hate Bush.

Randall Parker said at June 29, 2004 3:43 PM:


Each side? But I'm politically very Right Wing. I'm not on the opposing team. I think Bush is the guy who is obviously not conservative. I'm talking to my own team. My team needs people who are not cheerleaders. I think I'm doing my team a valuable service by not being a yes man.

Poverty and democracy: Look, poverty is a symptom. It doesn't cause the failure of democracy as much as the underlying reasons why there is poverty also cause democracy to be unworkable.

But look, poverty is a very very difficult thing to fix in most countries that are poor today. The underlying causes are hard to fix. The same holds for democracy. Democracy develops as a result of the right conditions. Trying to put democracy first betrays a lack of patience and a lack of critical thought. You ought to click back and read Stanley Kurtiz's articles on the British Raj and the development of democracy in India. Kurtz argues that the development of a liberal elite and rule of law takes a very long time and that they have to precede democracy. If he is right (and I think he is) then there is just no way that democracy is some sort of solution that can have much impact on the scale of the terrorist threat.

I note that you cite South Korea as a US success story in democratization. Well, that success story included more than one stretch of military dictatorship and took decades to develop into a healthy democracy. Japan and Germany were more developed. Kurtz has written about this. If you haven't read him on these subjects then you are missing out.

The US has intervened in many other countries and failed to make lasting changes. I can't remember whether I've posted on Haiti, Cuba, and other places the US has intervened in militarily multiple times each to no good lasting effect.

As for the knowledge about poverty helping the US succeed elsewhere: No, it can't do that. We have a terrible track record in trying to cause economic development. What the data on democracy and poverty tells us is that there are limits to what we can achieve and that if we ignore those limits we will do things that backfire and make conditions worse.

The irony for me is is that the argument against energy policy as a response to the terrorist threat is that energy policy can not work that quickly. Well, it can work more quickly than democratization. But to recognize that one has to take off the rose-colored glasses and stop thinking ideologically.

As for feeding polarization: If people are messing up on a massive scale there is no polite way to say so that gets the point across. I supply tons of facts and links to articles that flesh out my arguments. I don't care that there is a herd in the blogosphere and among the commentariat saying that really things are going well. These yes men aren't addressing these arguments. They seem ignorant of obstacles. At some point it becomes necessary to argue that they are fools or ignorant or pursuing secret agendas because each of them are one or more of those things.

Bob Badour said at June 29, 2004 9:27 PM:

Japan? Germany? Totally and unequivocally defeated by several orders of magnitude greater economic and policital commitment. Comparing them to Iraq is ludicrous.

Selling a losing position to the world does not transform it into a winning position. Where is Hans Christian Anderson when you need him?

Fly said at June 29, 2004 11:13 PM:

ďBut I'm politically very Right Wing.Ē

I know. (Though your views on biotech research are far from Right Wing. Nor have I noticed a religious flavor to your posts. Labels arenít that useful in politics today.) You are likely closer to Bush on some issues than I am. Ironic that Iím the one asking for more balanced rhetoric.

I think I understand where you are coming from. Bush is largely governing from the center, not the ďRight WingĒ. On a few issues such as faith-based initiatives, biotech, and marriage, Bush supports the ďRight WingĒ platform. (I donít favor any of these Bush policies.) On social spending and immigration Bush is playing to the center. (Iím ambivalent on these issues.) Bush is not a ďRight WingĒ candidate so you donít support him. So a pox on both their houses, right?

The one issue that matters to me is the WoT. On this issue we interpret the evidence differently. I believe I understand the US strategy. I believe I know why it is so unpopular outside the US. I have some understanding of why different groups in the US hate Bush. The job is tough and at times ugly. Iíve seen no better alternative.

Iíve read your suggestions for what we should do in N. Korea and Iraq. Iíve read your suggestion that the key to ending terrorism is cutting off the funding by reducing energy dependence. I favor the Bush approach to N. Korea. (Tighten the screws on N. Korea while pressuring S. Korea and China under the table.)

I favor energy research. I have done so for over thirty years. I also know that nothing the US can do in the next ten years will keep Europe or China from buying Saudi Oil. Energy independence is wise but energy research has no affect on the WoT.

Youíve stated again and again that the US canít install democracy or force cultural change. The US can try. If we fail then we can still bring down hostile governments. The war in Iraq has left the US in the position to enforce change throughout the ME. If the US had to do so, it could direct surgical strikes through the region. The US willingness to take out Saddam combined with US force positioning is a club enforcing change. (The US may not have sufficient troops for an Iraq style invasion and occupation but the US certainly has the power to massively disrupt states.) So US military force can stop ME oil from funding terrorism. (If Bush is re-elected I expect to see operations in Iran. I even wonder what seven US carrier fleets are doing this summer. That is a hell of a lot of firepower floating around.)

Your main suggestion in Iraq seems to be to give up on a unified democracy and support a separate Kurdish nation. That option will be on the table for a long time. There are many reasons why it is not appropriate at this time. (Civil war, Iraqi patriots, Turkey, model for other Arab countries.)

Randall, you make your arguments against the Bush strategy very well. However, I find your suggestions for alternatives unconvincing. Without good alternatives, Iím left supporting the Bush strategy.

So on the one issue that I believe is most important to the US today I support Bush. I could wish for a better choice. A better communicator, a more effective statesman, a person whoís other policies I could support. But my choices are Bush, Kerry, or nobody.

ďI supply tons of facts and links to articles that flesh out my arguments.Ē

Yes, you do Randall. That is why I value your site. But at times you also make assertions that are not supported by your evidence. Or claim that only your interpretation is reasonable. (Of course it is your right to do so. I just throw in my own opinions.)

Fly said at June 29, 2004 11:32 PM:

Bob: ďJapan? Germany? Totally and unequivocally defeated by several orders of magnitude greater economic and political commitment. Comparing them to Iraq is ludicrous.Ē

All comparisons of the world today to the past are ludicrous. The US military, economic, cultural, and political power is unprecedented. The global nature of communications, media, information, and commerce is unprecedented. The destructive power available to small groups is unprecedented and growing. The differences between the world today and any prior situation are enormous.

We are in a new ball game. But we have by far the biggest bat.

ďSelling a losing position to the world does not transform it into a winning position.Ē

That is why Iím trying to sell a winning position. All other positions Iíve seen are clearly losing.

So what is your ďwinning positionĒ?

Randall Parker said at June 30, 2004 12:37 AM:


We have tried to install democracy in a number of nations and failed. What I find interesting about South Korea, Germany, and Japan is that they are the exceptions. Kurtz has explained why. Have you read Kurtz on the British Raj and on what made Germany and Japan different than Iraq in terms of ability to become democracies?

Fly, on immigration Bush is not playing to the center. He's playing to the Left. A large majority favors a reduction in immigration. Bush is for an increase.

As far as options being on the table for a long time: But at what cost? We could always invade Iraq again once a dictator came to power. That would be the cost and then we could split it up.

Civil war as an outcome of partition? I think civil war is more likely if we do not partition. I'm always disappointed when Noah Millman agrees with me since he's a very sharp guy. Well, Noah thinks the Lebanon model is most likely for Iraq. See the update at the bottom of my post on Seymour Hersh, the Kurds and Israel for links to Noah's recent posts.

In spite of Robert Fisk's leftie leaning and the loathing he elicits in blogosphere (much of which loathing seems deserved IMO) Fisk's book Pity The Nation: The Abduction Of Lebanon paints a rather detailed picture of what it is like when a nation (a democracy no less) descends into warfare between religious groups and tribes. I'd rather not wait to intervene after the slaughter gets under way. If we split up Iraq and create internal borders then there will be no civil war.

The importance of Lebanon is that it was an Arab democracy and yet it did not inspire the other Arab countries to become democracies. So much for the neocon theory of an Arab democracy as an example to transform the Arab world. Of course Turkey has been a Muslim democracy for decades (except when the military has periodically stepped in and ruled) and Turkey hasn't served as a transforming example either. How come? And why did Turkey need decades of the military acting like the King dismissing governments that went too far? Why did Turkey need the military to defend democracy by booting out hopelessly corrupt or religious officials? Why is Turkey's continued democratic model even now in doubt as the embrace of Islam intensifies there?

Randall Parker said at June 30, 2004 12:41 AM:


Regarding assertions unsupported by the evidence: People who think we can transform other countries into democracies are making such assertions. We have failed in most cases.

I don't think you've read all my evidence. I keep linking back to old posts because my evidence is cumulative and you have to read the articles I link to in order to read it all. Frankly, I don't think you've read much of my cumulative case.

Fly said at June 30, 2004 9:40 AM:

Randall: ďFly, on immigration Bush is not playing to the center. He's playing to the Left.Ē

I believe Bushís views are largely shaped by his own family experience (Sister-in-law is Hispanic) and his political career in Texas. I doubt he has much direct exposure to the problems caused at the lower socioeconomic levels. This may be a common problem. We form stereotypes bases on our friends and associates. The elites have a very different experience of immigration than Middle America does.

Politically Bush may be misjudging the amnesty issue. His ďgutĒ may be leading him astray. (Iím assuming Bush is a politician who always considers the political ramifications of any policy. People who set policy strictly on principle donít go far in politics.)

WindsOfChange is discussing failure to enforce immigration laws. Expelling illegal felons is the ďlow hanging fruitĒ in the immigration battle. Focus on that issue and society will change. Small changes might lead to the larger change that you want.


ďRegarding assertions unsupported by the evidence: People who think we can transform other countries into democracies are making such assertions. We have failed in most cases.Ē

I agree. The policy is highly risky. One reason the Bush strategy is unpopular is that the risks are clear and the reward is uncertain. I still havenít seen a better approach. Itís a very tough problem.

ďI don't think you've read all my evidence.Ē

Iím sure I havenít. I do read at least some of the direct links before commenting. I read quite a bit on how the NeoCons were selling out the US to Israel before giving up on the article. The author was cherry picking the evidence and asserting motive without proof. Any truth the author had discovered was lost in the garbage.

I have read the Kurtz article. I just scanned it again. I read it when you first linked to it. It is interesting and valuable. It might open eyes into the difficulties in changing a culture. Kurtz did not conclude that US could not instill a democracy in Iraq. He said it would be difficult and might take a long time. He doubted America had the will or patience required. He presented an argument for a political policy. He spent little time discussing ways in which it might be easier to change Iraq than it was Japan. That wasnít his purpose. No mention was made of global communications or the Internet. Western values are transmitted through movies, TV, videos, and music. Clearly that is important. Why didnít Kurtz discuss it? Because it didnít support his assertion. He also didnít present an alternative policy.

I try to balance understanding the subject against having to read a book to argue a point. We each bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to a subject. We donít have to have the same background information to fruitfully discuss a topic.

In some areas I do lack the knowledge or experience to comment intelligently. When Audrey de Grey posted on the SciExtension newsgroup, I read without commenting. I learned more by following the discussion than if Iíd participated.

I do understand the frustration of rehashing old material because a person wonít go read the original. Stephen den Beste has done an excellent job of analyzing the Bush strategy and the WoT. He addresses most questions that come up in discussion. Often I just want to say, ďGo read SDB.Ē It doesnít work. Some people donít like the way he writes and thinks. Others want an active interchange, not a data dump.

Fly said at June 30, 2004 10:06 AM:

Randall, your examples of Lebanon and Turkey deserve a better response than I now have. I could point out differences between those countries and Iraq but doing so reminds me too much of the communists arguing that true communism has never been given a chance. When is enough enough? Well at least there have been a few successful democracies built.

What else can we do?

By expending the lives and treasure on Iraq we may accomplish nothing. But we will have tried. If we then use military force to change the ME, we will be in a stronger moral position. Americans may feel we did our best and the ungrateful bastards just didnít appreciate it. (It is important to get Main Street America behind US government policy.) If we do end up in a total war, at least it will come about as a last resort.

(I totally reject the European strategy of containing Saddam and treating terrorism as a police matter. After 911 the terror sponsors of the world have to go.)

Randall Parker said at June 30, 2004 12:34 PM:


There is more than one relevant Kurtz article that I'm pointing you to. Again, I've posted links to them. Have you read the pair of Kurtz articles on Turkey and the veil? Have you read both the City Journal and Policy Review articles tha I have paired in that link above?

Look, you are better off reading the various analysis essays by Kurtz and others that I've linked to than in reading the latest breaking news or the vast bulk of what gets written by bloggers. Go back and read the meatier articles that I've linked to in old posts. So much of what gets argued about today has had better essays written about it in the past but the essays do not attract the attention they deserve because they are not brand new.

As for SDB: I used to debate him in Stardock's news groups and found him sloppy and frequently inaccurate in what he presented as facts. I go read him occasionally but frankly do not understand what people see in him. There are minds far better educated in various relevant subjects who cover those subjects better. Even more recently when I argued with him about energy policy here on this blog he just repeated asssertions and when I supplied real data he ignored it. That is typical of his style. See this post of mine and check who posted in the comments and then also see this later post of mine where I further examine surface area needed for photovoltaics. It is obvious we need not much (if any) increase in our use of surface area in order to use photovoltaics.

I think you have a misconception about the level of knowledgeability of Bush and his advisors. There are better minds outside the government who know more. The analysts in the CIA are not the great minds of political science or cultural anthropology. At best the only information advantage Bush has is in secret activities by other governments. But even on that topic people outside national security circles can (and sometimes are) right while the CIA and the Bushies get it wrong. Look at the Iraq WMD fiasco. There were physicists at Los Alamos and ex-Los Alamos (e.g. Greg Cochran) who saw the Bush Administration analysis as obviously wrong because the physicists knew enough about nuke physics and engineering to far better assess Iraqi capabilities. But the Bushies never asked the Los Alamos guys their opinions.

In general government is less competent than you seem to assume. I lost sight of this fact in the run-up to the Iraq war. I should have put less weight on the CIA and the "bureaucratic" weapons experts (meaning people who had been associated with the UN, CIA, etc) and more on what real scientists were saying. My mistake.

I post links to news articles for relevant facts. But I also look around for the best minds and link to them since are great analysts out there on particular topics. Kurtz is one of those guys. I bet you have read 10 or 100 times more from Den Beste than from Kurtz and if that is true then you've been misallocating your time. Kurtz spends most of his time these days arguing about gay marriage but his Ph.D. is on South Asian cultures and he is the first guy I came across to draw attention to the role of consanguineous marriages for understanding the political backwardness. You should read all his stuff on democracy and social structure in the Middle East. Here is a link to all my mentions and links to Kurtz's writings and at those posts you will find other higher quality articles by other writers that I've linked to.

Kurtz isn't the only one you ought to read. Again, follow back on my links and read the original articles. You need a better foundation.

Randall Parker said at June 30, 2004 1:09 PM:


Regarding Joe Katzman's link to Heather Mac Donald's Crime & the Illegal Alien: The Fallout from Crippled Immigration Enforcement article: I think that is the same article of Heather's that she originally wrote for City Journal. I linked to it in my post Heather Mac Donald On The Illegal Alien Crime Wave.

Randall Parker said at June 30, 2004 1:22 PM:

Fly, There are opportunity costs to a strategy that is doomed to failure. We could instead spend the money on energy research, training more CIA, DIA, and special forces guys in Arabic, bribing Arabs to be informers, building better immigration and border control systems, and other pursuits that will reduce the threat we face.

If you approach a problem determined to find a single bold stroke that will solve it and there isn't a single bold stroke that will solve it then the temptation is deceive yourself that there is one and choose some bold action to take. That is the problem with Bush's approach. The neocons were there to sell him on the bold action which they had already been in favor of for other reasons unrelated to US national security. I've posted links to some relevant material on this point in my post Seymour Hersh: Israel Helping Kurds Financially, Militarily.

Bob Badour said at July 1, 2004 9:13 AM:


War by half measures is inexcusable. By failing to deploy sufficient forces to leave some semblance of order in the wake of the war, Bush failed as a leader and turned a promising opportunity into a counter-productive waste.

Even still, it is well within the grasp of the US to create a relatively liberal democracy in the middle-east. A liberal democracy that is also a devoted and grateful ally who will support massive deployment of American troops and advanced military technology to the region--including theatrical nukes. The low-hanging fruit of the Iraqi invasion is an independent Kurdistan supported and protected by the US military. Build the next Rammstein in Kurdistan and turn Kurdistan into the West Germany of WWIV.

Trying to prevent the partition of Iraq would be like attempting to maintain the geographic integrity of the Third Reich.

The appropriate consequence for the baathist sunni triangle is to let them live on their own resources.

By creating a small protectorate on the gulf a la Hong Kong or Singapore, the US can concentrate its occupation in hostile territory with sufficient effect to transform it fully to accept liberal values. Hell, even lease it from Shia Iraq a la Hong Kong if necessary. At the same time, the US can safeguard shipping in the region and the world supply of oil.

Replacing despotism with anarchy is a null operation given sufficient time because the natural outcome of anarchy is despotism.

Fly said at July 1, 2004 9:15 AM:

Randall, I believe we can learn from history. I donít believe history dictates the future.

In history there are too many variables to guarantee outcomes. During the Cuban missile crisis, if two Russian commanders had made different decisions, the US would have been destroyed. History doesnít say what must happen. History only provides a guide to human and social factors. When I read Kurtz I donít see reasons why the US must fail. I see factors we must consider to help us achieve our goals.

I checked out your Google list but didnít see much to help me. Over the last three years Iíve averaged reading over a hundred articles a day. (Probably 2-5 with significant depth per day.) Some of those articles were from your links. (I spend a third of my day reading about world events, a third reading science news, and a third studying a special subject.) Iím open to new information and ideas but the new information has to mesh with my worldview. I donít discard data that doesnít fit, but I give it less weight.

I like the SDB analysis because he and I think in a similar manner and the explanations he provides meshes well with what Iíve learned from reading about the world. (I visit German, French, S. Korean, Iraqi, Iranian, Saudi sites. All English speakers and that may distort the data.) In my view the information Iíve gathered tends to support SDBís conjectures.

I have confidence in the US and her people. We can solve tough problems. We make mistakes. We will lose some battles. But in the long run our system and our people are successful. That is my worldview based on a lifetime of experience. Your message that the US canít successfully create a democracy in Iraq doesnít mesh with my worldview and doesnít match the evidence Iím getting from Iraq. I donít know the outcome and I donít believe you do either. (The outcome could even depend on small chance events such as single person dying in a roadside bombing.)

If I thought there was a better way to wage this war Iíd support changing course. Iíve been looking for that better way. Iíve read what the Europeans recommend. Iíve seen what some of the more leftish people in the US recommend. Iíve read the people that felt we should have gone into Iran first. Iíve read your suggestions. So far I havenít seen a better plan.

ďI linked to it in my post Heather Mac Donald On The Illegal Alien Crime Wave.Ē

I know. I think it is the best link youíve posted on immigration. I thought you might want to participate in the discussion at WindsOfChange or encourage viewers to visit your site. This issue seems like a no brainer. We should be able to shame local, state, and federal authorities into fixing the problem. That success could lead to further enforcement of immigration laws. Start with the low hanging fruit and eventually the whole tree can be picked.

ďFly, There are opportunity costs to a strategy that is doomed to failure. We could instead spend the money on energy research, training more CIA, DIA, and special forces guys in Arabic, bribing Arabs to be informers, building better immigration and border control systems, and other pursuits that will reduce the threat we face.Ē

As Iíve said, I support energy research but it has little effect on the WoT. I agree we need to get control of our borders. Some steps have been taken but many more are needed. I favor a national biometric ID and extensive information analysis in the US. (A little Big Brother might save a lot of lives.) I believe the other steps you recommend are already being adequately funded.

Without the Bush strategy, I donít see that any of the steps you recommend will keep a US city from being nuked. As long as Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia spread terrorism and extremist Islam throughout the Islamic world, the US is not safe. Some day a terrorist group will get a nuke and will find a way to deliver it to an American city. I believe the swamp must be drained. Bush seems to be the only one with a plan for doing that.

Fly said at July 1, 2004 9:50 AM:

Bob: ďWar by half measures is inexcusable. By failing to deploy sufficient forces to leave some semblance of order in the wake of the war, Bush failed as a leader and turned a promising opportunity into a counter-productive waste.Ē

So far Iíve been very impressed with the military success in Iraq.

Consider the Fallujah situation. Many people recommended bombing the place to the ground. I followed the Iraqi bloggers during that time. Even some of the most pro-American Shiites were affected by seeing America attacking a Sunni Iraqi city. I read about Shiites organizing charity and sending food and medical supplies. Smashing the city could well have united Iraq against the US.

The US commanders assessed what was happening and backed off.

Now the Iraqis are in control and Fallujah is an Iraqi problem. Those Iraqi bloggers now want the terrorists in Fallujah to be eradicated. Now itís okay for the US to bomb safe houses.

Iím not an expert on military and political strategy but I am impressed with what the US military is accomplishing.

Bob, there are many ways to fight a war. People will always differ on what should be done. They will use hindsight to say what should have been done. The war could have gone very badly. It hasnít. I give credit to the Bush administration and the US military.

ďThe low-hanging fruit of the Iraqi invasion is an independent Kurdistan supported and protected by the US military.Ē

I believe this is a fallback plan for the Bush strategy. I donít believe that it is time for it yet. Right now the Kurds are still reclaiming important Iraqi cities. Try to form a Kurdish nation too soon and those cities will be flash points for civil war. The Kurds arenít evicting all Arabs. Those that lived in the cities before Saddam forcibly evicted the Kurds are being allowed to stay and seem to be on fairly good terms with their neighbors. As long as the displaced Arabs are given new homes elsewhere in Iraq the situation could resolve itself peacefully.

If the situation severely deteriorates, many Iraqiís will want to split the country. Then it wonít be seen as the US forcing partition. The Iraqiís can negotiate their own division of territory and oil wealth. The US will be a major player but wonít be seen as dictating to Iraqis.

If the Shiites see that the Kurds could separate and cause the rest of Iraq considerable problems I believe the minority Kurdish rights will be protected in the new democracy. Iíve seen signs that the Iraqi leaders are politically astute enough to understand that giving the minority Kurdish and Sunni rights under a democracy is in their own best interests. The threat of partition might mean that partition isnít necessary.

Democracy seems to be very successful at the local and city level in Iraq. The candidates who win have been secular. Very little support at the local level for clerics.

Bob Badour said at July 1, 2004 9:59 PM:

I have been very impressed with the US military as well. They did a wonderful job at defeating the regime, and they have done admirable work at restoring the country given how totally undermanned they have been. Given that the soldiers who won the war lacked the manpower to be little more than passive witnesses to total anarchy in the aftermath of victory, I think they have done a terrific job with what they were given.

The failure is entirely Bush's. He left the army without the manpower for "magnanimity in victory."

Bob Badour said at July 1, 2004 10:00 PM:

I have been very impressed with the US military as well. They did a wonderful job at defeating the regime, and they have done admirable work at restoring the country given how totally undermanned they have been. Given that the soldiers who won the war lacked the manpower to be little more than passive witnesses to total anarchy in the aftermath of victory, I think they have done a terrific job with what they were given.

The failure is entirely Bush's. He left the army without the manpower for "magnanimity in victory."

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