2004 December 29 Wednesday
Solid Majority Of Americans See Iraq War As Mistake

Most Americans think the invasion of Iraq was not worthwhile.

President Bush heads into his second term amid deep and growing public skepticism about the Iraq war, with a solid majority saying for the first time that the war was a mistake and most people believing that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld should lose his job, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

While a slight majority believe the Iraq war contributed to the long-term security of the United States, 70 percent of Americans think these gains have come at an "unacceptable" cost in military casualties. This led 56 percent to conclude that, given the cost, the conflict there was "not worth fighting" -- an eight-point increase from when the same question was asked this summer, and the first time a decisive majority of people have reached this conclusion.

George W. Bush's approval rating is sinking.

As for Bush, 49 percent of respondents said they approved of the job the president is doing. That number is down from his November approval rating of 55 percent. Bush is the first incumbent president to have an approval rating below 50 percent one month after winning re-election. The question had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Hey, Bush is quite the precedent setter, isn't he? Boldly going places no other President has been foolish enough to go.

Americans think conditions in Iraq have been getting worse and they do not see substantial benefits from a democratic government in Iraq.

Forty-one percent polled said the elections would not lead to a stable government, and 40 percent said even if a stable government were voted in, U.S. troops would have to stay. Only 15 percent believed U.S. troops could be withdrawn within a year of the election. This question had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

When asked how the United States has handled Iraq during the past year, 47 percent said things have gotten worse. Twenty percent said the situation has improved and 32 percent said it is about the same. The differences fell outside the question's margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

My guess is that the war in Iraq and George W. Bush will continue to become more unpopular. There aren't enough troops to kill insurgents faster than Iraqis join the insurgency. The Powell Doctrine of using overwhelming force was not followed for the occupation in part because the neocons didn't take the occupation seriously. What, the whole world isn't a bunch of liberal democrats eager to vote? Some people are motivated by tribalism and religious beliefs? Can't be. That would get in the way of promoting internationalism.

Few Iraqis are motivated to fight for the government we put in power there. The neocons need to find a way tell those Iraqis that deep down they really do want a secular liberal democracy. I have an idea: Let us send all the neocons to Iraq to go door to door explaining the benefits of their ideology to the Iraqi people. Any neocons who survive the experience might become more reality oriented. The rest of you can spare yourselves the suicide mission and just read my list of some of the reasons why democracy isn't going to work well in Iraq.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 December 29 02:58 AM  Mideast Iraq


Comments
Dan said at December 29, 2004 7:21 AM:

Good post and a very informative site.

Invisible Scientist said at December 29, 2004 7:32 AM:

That the guerilla war in Iraq is strategically difficult to manage, was clear from the beginning.
Even the ruthless extermination methods of the Soviet Union, turned out to be insufficient to keep
Afghanistan occupied, because the guerillas in Aghanistan received foreign aid (from us.) Thus the
politically correct US Army cannot win a guerilla war against the hit, run and hide tactics of the insurgents.

But now, we must make some predictions and plans for the future. HOW can the US survive this trap in Iraq?

PacRim Jim said at December 29, 2004 5:53 PM:

A few dozen people are killed each week in a country of 25 million and the hand-wringers despair. Hundreds are murdered in the U.S. each month and that will not stop anytime soon. Should we withdraw the police and submit? There's a difference between a few mosquitos and a pack of lions. Please develop some perspective.

Stephen said at December 29, 2004 5:57 PM:

The US could delay the elections until June and say the following to the Iraqi people, "We're withdrawing within a month of election day. We've removed a terrible dictator and have given you a chance at democracy, but now its up to you to make the future you want for your children."

Delaying the elections for six months will give the Iraqis a bit of time to realise that they're going to have to take the elections seriously - that their vote cannot be a protest vote against the United States occupation, but must be a vote for the future of Iraq.

Then the United States could brazen it out internationally by saying, "Hey, we're not imperialists, we simply promote democracy, not impose it. We wish Iraq and its people good luck..." If the United States is worried about a land grab (ie Iran moving into the South), it could additionally promise to guarantee Iraq's borders for five years.

Domestically, the Prez could take the line that "we've given them their chance, but we won't hold their hand, a nation has to stand on its own two feet... {insert your own platitude here}.

crush41 said at December 29, 2004 6:13 PM:

Bill O'Reilly couldn't have said it any better. Very well put Stephen.

Stephen said at December 29, 2004 7:14 PM:

Somehow, I feel that if Mr O'Reilly were to spew something like that, then the Administration won't be far behind...

noone said at December 30, 2004 6:41 AM:

Sucker the UN and the EU into taking over,use the 6-12 month window to make "UN" synonymous with "Iraq",allowing us to wash our hands of the situation and let the UN(and assorted NGO's) take the blame("we left a democracy")and further de-legitimizing that dangerous outfit("the UN screwed the pooch...again").

When I read that Bush was letting Kofi off the hook,I wondered,very briefly,if sanity had broken out and he would use this to dump the issue in Kofi's lap("you get to keep the cushy job,Kofi,just do me a little favor").

As if!

Lurker said at December 30, 2004 7:00 AM:

The US won't delay the elections. Once Bush makes up his mind he doesn't make course corrections.

I expect the administration to make nearly the exact face-saving statement that Stephen mentioned preceeding the beginning of an incremental withdrawl. If the January election isn't a complete meltdown, they may choose that time to make it. There will certainly be an even greater increase in bombings and executions to try to disrupt the election. It will probably come down to a battle of the spin doctors, regardless of the reality. Take Afganistan for example, the election did not truly change anything, but we claimed it a victory nonetheless.

PacRim Jim, yes the US casualty numbers are not that bad if weighed vs crime, accidents, etc., but the US casualty numbers have a much higher media profile. The US has the strongest military in the world but US citizens have a low tolerence for casualties. Every country in the world knows this. This is why Europe, Russia, China, etc., are content to just wait and watch while the US runs out of political stamina. As far as the Iraqi casualties, the average US news reader probably feels a moment of sadness that last about 3 seconds, then they move on to the next news story. If this war was about saving people, we would be in Africa putting a stop to the genocide there.

Whether we withdrawl sooner or later, I think we have little or no ability to determine the political destiny of Iraq, not with our current troop levels and virtually no international legitimacy. It will be interesting to see if the planned permanent bases in Iraq become islands under seige in a sea of hostility.

One final thought, I don't want Rumsfeld to lose his job. Not because he is doing a good job, because he is one of the architects of this quagmire and should not be allow to dilute his share of the Iraq legacy.

Daveg said at December 30, 2004 7:54 AM:

PacRim Jim, the number of murders in the US and the number of casualties in Iraq have no relationship.

The question is, are the benefits of the Iraq war worth the lives and money being spent? Can these resources be better spent, or not spent at all?

Iraq was not a direct contributor to terrorism in the US (if at all). Any democracy established there will be tenuous. The US has no assurance of Iraq maintaining friendly ties to the US once we leave. Iraq may end up being a religious state after all is said and done.

So what was the point?

And are we any safer, either now or in the long run? Have US interests (economic, political, security) been served? Not really.

It has been a policy disaster that was promoted, in part, by people who have interests that lay outside the US.

We should be focusing on US security (including immigration), which will have the dual benefit of actually protecting us while also not alienating the rest of the world. If we do need to wage war against another country we should wage it because that country poses a direct threat to US interests.

-Dave

Daveg said at December 30, 2004 10:17 AM:

that should be "lie outside the US"

-d

PeterUK said at December 30, 2004 3:43 PM:

Does anyone really believe the America will be allowed to withdraw without the pictures of the helicopters on the Embassy roof?

FriendlyFire said at December 30, 2004 7:33 PM:

[quote] Please develop some perspective. [/quote]

If you feel that the casualies are so low then there shouldnt be any rush to withdraw ?
It took the Afganistainies three years to become effective fighters against the soviet union. In iraq today things are begining to slip away. While the US isnt in danger of being defeated militarily its window for success is becomming smaller and time is almost out.

We are already seeing a rolling back of what is acceptable "success".

crush41 said at December 30, 2004 7:44 PM:

Iraq was not a direct contributor to terrorism in the US (if at all).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Zarqawi received training in bomb-making from Iraq special forces and had several direct contacts with Saddam prior to 9-11. At the least, Iraq encouraged terrorism by being acquiesce, if not giving clandestine but direct support. That Iraq posed a real threat seems improbable, but to say the country had no ties to international terrorist activity is not fair.

Randall Parker said at December 30, 2004 8:53 PM:

Folks,

The problem is not the current casualty rate. The problem is that the casuality rate isn't moving us toward a clear victory in any reasonable time frame.

Many military experts are looking at Iraq and saying the insurgency is going to last for a decade or longer. You can find lots of retired military officers and intelligence folks saying this. Well, why do we want to go on spending $6 billion a month in Iraq for 10 years? That's $720 billion and for what exactly?

At our current level of troops we can go on fighting in Iraq as long as Congress and the American people are willing to pay for it. But at our current level of troops we can not win. At the same time, the Bush Administration has just announced that various big weapons acquisitions programs are going to have to be cut back to help balance the budget. There is clearly not enough money available to scale up the military. Bush won't ask for tax increases to fund the war. GWB is beginning to look more and more like LBJ. He can't or won't withdraw and he can't or won't scale up to provide overwhelming decisive force.

Stephen said at December 30, 2004 9:34 PM:

But what George can do is change the definition of what constitutes a "win". He just declares that the objective has been met - maybe something along the lines of Iraq being freed from a tyrant, region freed from immediate threat that Iraq has/had/will have/wants naughty weapons etc.

Everyone packs up and goes home while the Administration hypes another crisis somewhere - or maybe they'll catch Osama and put on a show trial. Whatever. The important thing is that the media spotlight moves on from Iraq.

Randall Parker said at December 31, 2004 12:09 AM:

Stephen,

You are arguing for creating a rationalization for why we can declare our mission accomplished. So then we could withdraw without seeming to have given up. Okay, I hope that happens. Any face-saving way out works for me. But I don't think Bush is ready to do that. He doesn't want a civil war to break out once we have left. He doesn't want some Sunni Jihadist to take power. He fears the political fall-out of an outcome where the new leader looks just as bad as Saddam.

The media spotlight is going to stay on Iraq as long as the body bags are coming back and the money is flowing in.

noone said at December 31, 2004 3:23 AM:

"He doesn't want a civil war to break out once we have left. He doesn't want some Sunni Jihadist to take power. He fears the political fall-out of an outcome where the new leader looks just as bad as Saddam."

Which is why,as I said above,we should sucker the UN and EU into taking over Iraq.

Randall Parker said at December 31, 2004 10:43 AM:

We can not sucker the Euros into taking over Iraq. That is not going to happen. The UN ditto.

Lurker said at December 31, 2004 11:20 AM:

It's a shame that partitioning the country isn't even on the table. The Shia are already going to be the majority ethnic group plus they occupy the large southern oilfields, so they wouldn't lose much. The Kurds WANT their own state and would fight for it and would probably be the most receptive to a democratic government. The Sunni would have their fear of being dominated by the Shia removed. We could frame that we are preemptively preventing an inevitable civil war.

We wouldn't have to guard cities, just borders. We could use each ethnic group's political, economic, and territorial self-interest to our advantage.

Kurt said at December 31, 2004 11:53 AM:

Randall, that $720 billion figure makes the Iraq thing out to be a complete joke.

For $720 billion, we could build 720 one-gigawatt nuclear power plants. Thats more than enough for all of our electrical needs and for all of the proposed petro replacements (hydrogen, fuel-cells, syngas, etc.) needed for transportation. The other choice is to use that $720 billion to implement the whole O'neill/L-5 idea of solar power satellites and space colonies. Both of these being far better alternatives than pissing it into that rat-hole called the middle-east.

The people in Washington DC are idiots!!!

Invisible Scientist said at December 31, 2004 3:49 PM:

Kurt wrote:
--------------------------
"The people in Washington DC are idiots!!!"
------------------------------------------------

Nothing can be further from the truth.. The people in Washington DC are indirectly profiting from their
connections with the oil industry, there is a method to their madness, they know what they are doing.
In the name of capitalism, they are doing the right thing, this is the
all American thing to do, isn't it? Aldrich sold his country to the highest bidder. Free market economics
at work.

And some people commented (with insults against me) that my idea of starting a
national Manhattan Project for energy research, is
against free markets and that it should be left exclusively to the private sector. What can I do?

Randall Parker said at December 31, 2004 4:55 PM:

Kurt,

Yes, we could spend the money that goes to military operations more profitably with construction projects and research projects.

The cost would be about $1 trillion for enough nuclear plants to provide power for all transportation needs. However, 720 plants could eliminate our need for oil imports. Of course, if we actually set out to build so many nuclear plants we might be able to achieve economies of scale. So maybe $720 billion would be enough for all transportation energy needs.

It would certainly be fun to put up a large number of solar power satellites.

The people in Washington DC are too intent on promoting their own careers and achieving higher status for themselves. We need some mechanism that would improve the quality of decisions made in Washington DC. I wish I knew what to do.

I.S., I do not think oil industry profits are the motivator for our harmful foreign policy.

Stephen said at December 31, 2004 6:48 PM:

Noone, politically I think Europe see Iraq as a US / UK problem - in a "We told you so" kind of way.

Militarily speaking, Europe simply doesn't have the military capability to mount an occupation of Iraq. Even with 100% commitment, the combined western European military capability would be significantly less than that of the United States - they would probably not even reach half the US capability (especially in the air).

Also, Europe's armies are not really set up to operate outside of Europe - this applies even if they were to use the NATO command infrastructure. The exceptions are UK & France which maintain expeditionary capability, but both are quite small.

As for the UN, people forget that it doesn't have an intrinsic military capability. If the UN security council were to agree to take over in Iraq it'd still need to get member countries to donate troops and those troops just aren't going to be made available either at all, or in sufficient quantities to make a difference.

Oh, on second thoughts there is one country that would likely make available sufficient troops for UN deployment in Iraq - Iran...

gcochran said at December 31, 2004 8:44 PM:

There are others. Certainly North Korea would be best. Fewer troops in the Korean peninsula would be a good thing. We'd start to look good to the Iraqis - compared to North Koreans, anyhow. It would hardly cost anything - I figure that the NKs would find their own food.

Kurt said at January 2, 2005 12:27 AM:

The left-wingers argument that we are in Iraq to get control of and make money off of the oil simply does not hold water. We are talking about $720 billion be poured into Iraq over the next 10 years. At $40 per barrel, we would have to pump out nearly 20 billion barrels of Iraqi oil in order to make our money back from this venture. That does not include profit.

We have consistantly spent more money on the middle-east than the market value of the oil we have bought from them, for over 20 years.

The "economic" argument in favor of intervention simply does not add up.

Stephen said at January 2, 2005 1:44 AM:

Kurt, the cynics would say that the money is being spent by the government to secure the oil, but it will be the oil companies who make the profit selling it. But don't get me wrong, I'm not entirely wedded to the "Its the Oil" motive either.

My problem is that when I stand back and look at the whole thing objectively and rationally (and I think that's where I'm going wrong), there isn't any other benefit that justifies the cost of this adventure.

Daveg said at January 2, 2005 6:50 AM:

My problem is that when I stand back and look at the whole thing objectively and rationally (and I think that's where I'm going wrong), there isn't any other benefit that justifies the cost of this adventure.

You really can't see any other benefit? You don't think that, for some, the security of Israel is a benefit on which no price can be placed?

Your discussion of the cost of the war vs economic benefit makes it clear that an emotional, not economic, motivation is in place.

Now, I am not saying something stupid like jews are responsible for the war. Most were in fact against the war.

But a select and influential few, many of whom are jews (and relatives by marriage actually), are allowing their allegiance to Israel to overwhelm their thinking regarding the best interests of the US (assuming they ever had the US' interest in mind at all).

These people lied and manipulated and continue to do so with a stunning lack of contrition given the errors of their previous predictions and the exposure of their blatant distortions. They continue to advocate expanding the war effort including overthrowing Iran or invading Syria, or both.

And many who disagree with them are not stating their case clearly enough for fear of the anti-Semitism blast. So, opponents of the war must use weaker arguments like "this is about oil" or some other such nonsense.

-d

Kate said at January 2, 2005 9:03 AM:

I'm not a big supporter of government by polls. In fact, if polls had been popular during the American Civil War, Lincoln would have thrown in the towel after First Bull Run (he wouldn't really, but the media would have and in fact did.)

And you spoke too soon. Those Iraqis, who you seem so disdainful of, actually like democracy more than you indicated. In a story buried on A12 of the WAPO it appears that Iraqis are registering for the elections in record numbers.

Go figure!

crush41 said at January 2, 2005 12:40 PM:

But a select and influential few, many of whom are jews (and relatives by marriage actually), are allowing their allegiance to Israel to overwhelm their thinking regarding the best interests of the US (assuming they ever had the US' interest in mind at all).
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Assuming the protection of Israel has little to do with the well-being of the U.S. is dangerously parochial. The MI thinks of Israel as an extension of the U.S. and Europe is as anti-semitic now as it ever has been. Had Israel not acted preemptively in 1981 (against the will of France who was actively involved in creating the Osirak nuclear facility) who knows what the world would have faced in Saddam. Throwing the truest ally we have across the Atlantic to the wolves is suicidal. It would essentially create a MI secluded from the US, protected by a nascent "United States of Europe" amalgamated by a hatred of America.

The French-led opposition to the war believed Iraq possessed wmd, as both Villepin and Chirac had made clear on numerous occasions prior to invasion, but were ACTIVELY protecting Saddam for economic and political reasons despite this. The nationalist desire of France to "become a counterweight" to the U.S. led Chirac to allign with and become endowed to several virulently anti-American MI nations (the press there referring to him as "Saladin el Chirac"). As Iraqi civilians continued to live under tyranny in desparate poverty, French, Russian, and Chinese energy companies stole resources earmarked for these civilians. They enjoyed below market oil prices at the expense of everyone else and in the process emboldened terror-sponsoring governments by guranteeing them sanctuary from U.S. military action (or so they thought).

On a macro level the war accentuated anti-Americanism among those predisposed to it because it exposed their rampant corruption, but it led to Pakistani assistance against al Quada, damage to an economy that tried to hurt the U.S. and empower terrorists, some international weapons inspections in Iran, and the abrogation of weapon-making in Qaddafi's Libya. It's the micro-management that has been disastrous.

Matra said at January 2, 2005 4:19 PM:

crush41 - "Throwing the truest ally we have across the Atlantic to the wolves is suicidal."

If Israel and its fifth column are great allies I'd hate to see what an enemy looks like.

crush41 - On three occasions you refer to "MI" nations. What does MI stand for?

Stephen said at January 2, 2005 4:37 PM:

Crush, what does MI stand for? By the way, I don't see how invading Iraq increased the security of Isreal. If Isreal was worried about Iraqi WMD developments, then Isreal would have managed to destroy them itself - just as it did in 81. (I think I'm safe in assuming that Isreal has reliable intel on all such issues throughout the region). Also, I recall reading that the French workers at Osirak didn't turn up for work that day - so I assume that France knew of the impending attack yet didn't warn Iraq.

Kate, I agree that war by opinion poll is not a reliable measure and I'd go so far as to say that they're a bane on society. Rather than seeing yet another poll of the knee jerk opinions of largely uninformed people, I'd rather see a few considered polls. The name of the methodology escapes me but it basically get a demographically representative jury of people together and they are exposed to 12 hours of debate of the issues with as much of the spin removed as is possible. The jury aren't entirely passive but can ask questions etc. Then the jury members sleep on it until the next day when the poll question is put to each member individually.

Randall Parker said at January 2, 2005 5:56 PM:

Crush41,

The US invasion of Iraq did not improve Israel's security. This is the irony of the situation. The neocons put Israel's security ahead of America's and managed to convince Americans to go fight a war mostly for Israel's benefit and yet the result is less security for Israel.

How did the overthrow of Saddam help Israel? It clearly helped Iran. Iran is a far greater threat to Israel than Saddam was. Now the US is in a weaker position to deter Iran. So Israel is worse off. The cause of preemption of nuclear proliferation is greatly weakened because its biggest supporters look like amateur bozos. Bush looks like the boy who cried wolf. The US military is tied down in Iraq and money to fund the war is going to result in less new weapons acquisition and a more rapid wearing out of existing equipment.

Arabs and Muslims in general are more anti-American as a result of the war. The money spent on Iraq could have been spent on making the CIA more capable, building better border security, and doing better internal security in America. The special forces shifted from Afghanistan to Iraq could have instead stayed in Afghanistan and intelligence agents could have been available in greater number to operate in Pakistan against Al Qaeda. But the resources were pulled away from Afghanistan and Pakistan to be put into Iraq.

Osama Bin Laden clearly benefitted from the Iraq invasion. Resources were shifted away from his base areas. Lots more Arabs are getting experience fighting against America in Iraq. More Arabs are becoming radicalized.

crush41 said at January 3, 2005 12:21 PM:

Sorry, MI=ME. I have no idea why I did that three consecutive times outside of being a moron.

Matra--Who is a stronger ally? Great Britain? How much longer is the gov't there going to be able to stave off public opinion? There are going to be economic disagreements, but trying to keep weapon capabilities from China seems like an exercise in futility.

Stephen--Probably, but the support of the U.S. must have meant longer-term protection. And if they believed he had "stockpiles" strewn throughout the country, precision bombing alone might not have been effective.
I recall the same about France, but the more important thing is they were aiding Saddam in the development of a nuclear facility that had been said would be used specifically against the "Zionist entity."

Randall--I'm only questioning, not challenging, but are you saying the invasion of Iraq had the consequence of making Iran less fearful of U.S. military action? Obviously the removal of Saddam was also the removal of an Iran "antagonist", but didn't it demonstrate that Iran may be next (as was the general consensus a year ago or so)? And in the case of Iran, Bush is more likely to gain international support, especially given that Annan is indebted to him (as Kofi's job may become contingent on Bush.) It may be naive, but I don't believe the U.S. unable to come up with the resources for a fierce campaign against Iran, even though it would be heavier from the air and less on the ground than Iraq.

Randall Parker said at January 3, 2005 12:36 PM:

crush41,

The US can't come up with the resources to properly occupy Iraq. The American population is turning hard against reckless foreign adventures that offer uncertain gain and certain losses. Yes, the invasion of Iraq has strengthened the position of the rulers of Iran.

If the US hadn't invaded Iraq first then the neocons might have been able to convince the American people to invade Iran. Now with the consequences of the Iraqi invasion clear and getting uglier every day their chances of selling such an invasion are extremely low.

Bush get more international support? No, he'd get less. Tony Blair is weakened because of Iraq. He would say no to an invasion of Iran. What other country would participate? I doubt even Australia would. Kofi Annan? How many divisions does he have? None.

gcochran said at January 3, 2005 9:18 PM:


As Nimzowitsch said, "the threat is more powerful than the execution!" You can threaten many enemies at once, and tha threat may change behavior of all those threatened, without you even lifting a finger. But it's a lot harder, a lot more expensive, to attack even one, let alone two.

Two years ago it was at least conceivable that we might invade Iran: not that made it any sense, not that we would have been better off for doing so. Now I think it is not. The Army is really busy in Iraq.

Now, I can still imagine that we might bomb nuclear facilities in Iran. If they're deeply buried we won't knock them out without fusion weapons. That would be ... bad. As for what the Iranians could do in response: they could stir up more trouble in Iraq. I think their optimal strategy would be to send in Arab-speaking saboteurs who would then blow up the pipelines leading to Basra: that would pretty much end Iraqi oil exports, at least for some time. It would mean that running Iraq would become considerably more expensive, and I think you'd notice it at the pump.

Stephen said at January 4, 2005 12:57 AM:

G, I agree with all but the last para. I don't see why Iran feel itself limited to only retaliating in Iraq.

An attack by the United States for any reason is a declaration of war by the United States, and in retaliation it seems to me that every US target anywhere in the world becomes an entirely justifiable and legitimate target for Iran (subject ot rules of war of course...). It doesn't really cut the mustard for Country A to attack Country B and then say that Country B isn't allowed to directly attack Country A.

If I were running Iran, after such an attack I think I'd formally announce in the UN (using sad and world weary voice) that the United States has done a Pearl Harbour on Iran and that therefore we're going to have a war. Then I'd start a series of low intensity special forces style hit and run attacks around the world - always being careful to attack US military or economic targets and not civilians per se. I'd also do what you say about stirring up trouble in Iraq - I'd especially want to send a few crates of shoulder launched missiles for the Iraqis to use (any persuasion, Sunni or Shia, I wouldn't mind who pulls the trigger). Then again, why arm the locals when I can infiltrate my own army assault squads - they could slip back into their uniforms just before the launch assaults and then fade away afterward.

I'd do my best to capture a bunch of United States soldiers - I'd of course have the international cameras there to watch them being hooded (I still have no idea why that's in fashion) and I'd probably send them to a POW camp especially renamed "Abu Ghraib" for the benefit of the cameras.

If I were feeling really hyped, I might launch a large scale incursion into Iraq. Not for keeps mind you, but just to make a point. I assume that the US has already withdrawn the majority of its armor and air support from Iraq, leaving it an essentially infantry based army. If that is the case, I might feel confident enough to occupy Basra etc with the expectation that I could hold it for a few weeks until the United States moves armor and heavy infantry back into Iraq to mount a recapture (I'm assuming that the US wouldn't want to bomb it to rubble from the air or shell it with arty as that wouldn't look nice on TV especially as I wouldn't do anything to evacuate the locals).

gcochran said at January 4, 2005 11:56 AM:

In reality, we really could do more to Iran, if we wanted to enough: anything from military occupation, to nuclear annihilation, up to biological engineering warfare that would turn them into something nonhuman, only able to experience pain. There are decisonmakers in the US who would like to do all those things (except the last, and only because they're too unimaginative to conceive of it), and who look for an excuse to do so.

Blowing up Iraqi pipelines is one of the least provocative yet msot effective options. With a litte luck, it wuld engender a recession in the US: which might could lead to regime change, eventually.

We bomb lots of Iraqi cities, pretty much every day. It's ok, mainly because A. there is little news coeverage and B. Americans don't care. I don't think we'd refrain from bombing Iranians in Basra. And we have still have _plenty_ of tanks in Iraq: between them and JDAMS, no conventional Iranian attack has a chance of causing us any real trouble.

Of course, an unrpovoked attack on Iraq pretty much seals the doom of good relations with Westem Europe: but there are those who want that, obviously. Why they want it is halfway obvious too.

Pico said at January 4, 2005 4:57 PM:

"Had Israel not acted preemptively in 1981 (against the will of France who was actively involved in creating the Osirak nuclear facility) who knows what the world would have faced in Saddam. "

Iraq and Iran would have no incentive to acquire nuclear weapons if the neighborhood bully ceased throwing its weight around. Israel is aware that a day will come when Americans will tire of the burden of carrying Israel. The aipac spy case will sweep away any doubts of israeli loyalty to america.

Randall Parker said at January 4, 2005 5:05 PM:

Pico,

No, countries have lots of motivations for getting nuclear weapons. Iran's motivations were strengthened by Saddam's attack on Iran. Saddam wanted nukes to intimidate many countries, not just only Iran or only Israel.

Each country that gets nuclear weapons increases the incentives for neighboring countries to get them as well.

crush41 said at January 4, 2005 7:06 PM:

The spy case has a long road ahead of it before it proves much of anything. AIPAC was trying to get it's hands on intelligence concerning Iran for the purposes of Israeli self-preservation, and the FBI has been incredibly slow in it's follow-up to the initial information-sharing lunch. I wouldn't bank on this revealing anything earth-shattering.

-----------------------------------------------------------------
Of course, an unrpovoked attack on Iraq pretty much seals the doom of good relations with Westem Europe
-----------------------------------------------------------------

Doesn't that depend on whether certain European nations perceive self-interest in an "unprovoked" attack? The opposition to U.S.-led military action can change on a dime if Europe feels threatened by Iran (something they pay lip-service to). China and Russia are supplying Iran with what could potentially launch missiles into most of Europe, an obvious cause for alarm, and this time around western Europe may be forced to the U.S. side out of self-interest; same goes with the support of the UN secretary general.

Randall, why do you believe U.S. Jews vote so strongly against the "neocons" given that they are much more pro-Israel than the Democrats, especially far-left sources like moveon and Michael Moore, and given that their median income is higher than that for all U.S. citizens? Geography probably explains a bit of it but not everything.

crush41 said at January 4, 2005 7:08 PM:

Randall, why do you believe U.S. Jews vote so strongly against the "neocons" given that they are much more pro-Israel than the Democrats, especially far-left sources like moveon and Michael Moore, and given that their median income is higher than that for all U.S. citizens? Geography probably explains a bit of it but not everything.
----

The first "they" refers to neocons, the following "their" refers to U.S. Jews. Sorry for the lack of grammar.

Randall Parker said at January 4, 2005 8:18 PM:

Crush41,

The Jews as a group are both much more informed and smarter than the average American. The Jews read a lot about what was going on in Iraq after the invasion and most came to understand that the result has been harmful to both American and Israeli interests. So of course they are not going to vote for Bush and the neocons.

Look, under the best of conditions Republicans are going to have a hard time appealing to the Jews. On many domestic policy issues Jews are, on average, much more left-wing than Republicans. But these are not even the best of conditions. Bush's support for Ariel Sharon's policies appeals to some more Zionistic Jews in America. But not all American Jews think Sharon's policies are particularly wise anyhow.

Events in Iraq are not going well. I realize that you can find cheerleading blogs that would argue otherwise. But compare how things are going now to how the Bush Administration expected them to go. The Administration expected to be down to 30,000 troops in Iraq by the end of 2003 and to be out by the end of 2005. Well doesn't that look like an incredibly unrealistic dream today? For some people that looked ridiculous not just retrospetively but prospectively as well. Then Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki told Congress that the US might need somewhere on the order of 350,000 to 450,000 troops (I forget his exact figure but it was in that range). Some guys at the Rand Corporation had come up with a formula of 1 "peacekeeper" solder in occupation forces per about 50 citizens based on previous occupations. That would put the need in Iraq at about 440,000.

Keep that bottom line in mind. The Bush Administration did not plan for the current outcome. They were surprised by the current outcome. They have been unwilling to pay the political cost of going to get the money to scale up to the needed size of occupation force. Though I do not see how it is in US national interest to occupy Iraq and so I do not see that price as worth paying. But if it is not worth paying then the current occupation costs are probably not worth paying either.

So we have to go along the current learning curve while the US military and policy makers try inadequate ways of handling the situation. It is a high price for learning. But apparently it is necessary.

Misteri said at March 10, 2005 7:57 PM:

British and American oil workers will be sent to locate, extract and produce the Iraqi oil once the place stabilises. The Iraqis are too useless to be expected to create/maintain an oil industry.


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