2005 August 18 Thursday
Bush Administration No Longer Expects Model Democracy In Iraq
A Washington Post article reports that reality is sinking in for the Bush Administration on Iraq. Another dream bites the dust.
The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges, U.S. officials say.
Some of the Bushies realize they need to shed their false beliefs.
"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."
American soldiers have been fighting for Islam and for an Islamic republic. Does this make US soldiers into Jihadists?
"We set out to establish a democracy, but we're slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic," said another U.S. official familiar with policymaking from the beginning, who like some others interviewed would speak candidly only on the condition of anonymity. "That process is being repeated all over."
The Bush Administration is slow to learn from empirical evidence. They have their dreams. They are very fond of their dreams. Reality sinks in only very slowly. Lots of people are dying to provide them with lessons in the real world. Read the whole article.
This reminds me of Ron Suskind's experience talking with a Bush White House aide.
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
Solipsism didn't work out for the Bush Administration. They should join the reality-based community.
Here's what I want to know: when will the Panglossian war hawk parts of the blogosphere realize that they are cheerleading for an Administration that no longer believes the fantasies that the Panglossian posters defend?
While the Bush Administration has been slow to figure out real score in Iraq the appointment of old Central America Cold Warrior John Negroponte as Ambassador to Iraq sent realists into policy making positions in the US government in Iraq. John Burns of the New York Times reports on how when John Negroponte's team took over from Paul Bremer's team they saw Bremer's team as delusional.
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The first signs that America's top officials in Iraq were revising their thinking about what they might accomplish in Iraq came a year ago. As Iraq resumed its sovereignty after the period of U.S. occupation, the new American team that arrived then, headed by Ambassador John D. Negroponte, had a withering term for the optimistic approach of their predecessors, led by L. Paul Bremer.
The new team called the departing Americans "the illusionists," for their conviction that America could create a Jeffersonian democracy on the ruins of Saddam Hussein's medieval brutalism. One U.S. military commander began his first encounter with American reporters by asking, "Well, gentlemen, tell me: Do you think that events here afford us the luxury of hope?"
Reasons why Iraq would not prove fertile ground for establishment of democracy were obvious to some observers before the war. See my October 2002 post "Pessimists on Muslim Democracy" for arguments that preshadowed much of what has since followed. Also see a later post of mine where I listed a number of reasons why attempts to establish democracy won't work in the Middle East and in Iraq in particular.
Burns says American officers trot out all sorts of new measures for how the Iraqi military is becoming more capable.
One example of the new "metrics" has been a rush of figures on the buildup of Iraq's army and police force -- a program known to many reporters who have been embedded on joint operations as one beset by inadequate training, poor leadership, inadequate weaponry and poor morale.
Officers involved in running the program offer impressive-sounding figures -- including the fact that, by mid-June, the Iraqi forces had been given 306 million rounds of ammunition, roughly 12 bullets for each of Iraq's 25 million people. But when one senior U.S. officer involved was asked whether the Americans might end up arming the Iraqis for a civil war, he paused for a moment, then nodded. "Maybe," he said.
The figures put out by the US military and Bush Administration on Iraqi troop readiness are nonsense. Read the Mark Ames essay "Freaky Iraqis" for an overview of just how much the Iraqi military troop readiness figures have bounced all around over the last few years.
Senator Joseph Biden claims only 3,000 Iraqi troops are fully trained.
SEN. BIDEN: Look, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the number of troops that we have trained out of 100 battalions that are in uniform--and battalions make 300 to 800 people in each battalion. These are Iraqi battalions. We have fully trained fewer than 3,000. Fully trained meaning they can take the place of an American troop. We have another probably 20 to 30 battalions out there that, with embedded U.S. military, are able to do a serious, positive job. After that, it falls off the cliff.
If we have 178,000 troops that are already trained, Andrea, why do we need 130,000 American troops which would get you over 300,000 people in Iraq, with the body counts going up, with the insurgency gaining strength? And the president continues to say he is pleased with the training schedule. I don't know any military man or woman in Iraq who's pleased with that schedule.
But numbers trained to various levels are really besides the point. Loyalty and motivation are the biggest problems with Iraqi soldiers. Since some Iraqi soldiers leave the Iraqi Army to join the insurgency perhaps the slow rate of training has an upside: fewer highly trained insurgents.
Biden's pessimism on Iraqi democracy mirrors that of the Bush Administration (and of ParaPundit's own pessimism of much longer standing).
SEN. BIDEN: Well, my definition of success from the very beginning has been not a democracy. It will not happen in my lifetime there will be a liberal democracy. What I am hoping for, along with Republicans members of the Senate, as well Hagel and Lugar and others, has been that there be a secure nation within its borders that's basically a representative government where everybody thinks they've got a piece of the action that is federated in part where there is more autonomy given to the regions than ordinarily would be assumed in a united democracy, and the institutions in place where there is enough ability for that government, whatever is elected, to secure the physical safety of its people and not be a threat to its neighbors. That is as good as it is going to get and pray God that that's what happens. But the idea of a liberal democracy with institutions that function like Western democracies is beyond my comprehension in the near term.
Henry Kissinger worries over a Taliban-style regime coming to power in Iraq.
The war in Iraq is less about geopolitics than about the clash of ideologies, cultures and religious beliefs. Because of the long reach of the Islamist challenge, the outcome in Iraq will have an even deeper significance than that in Vietnam. If a Taliban-type government or a fundamentalist radical state were to emerge in Baghdad or any part of Iraq, shock waves would ripple through the Islamic world. Radical forces in Islamic countries or Islamic minorities in non-Islamic states would be emboldened in their attacks on existing governments. The safety and internal stability of all societies within reach of militant Islam would be imperiled.
If we had never overthrown Saddam in the first place the odds of Iraq getting taken over by radical Islamists would be orders of magnitude lower than the odds are today. Clearly the US invasion of Iraq harmed US national interests. But once US soldiers leave what will happen? Will foreign Sunni Jihadists ally with the Sunni Arabs and fight against the Shias? Or will the native Sunnis lose the desire for fighting?
If the Sunni Arab Iraqis continue to fight after a US departure will they fight to secede? Or will they fight to establish supremacy over the Shias? If the Sunnis fight for supremacy will they win?
Most Americans think the war in Iraq does nothing to increase domestic security.
President Bush is losing his domestic battle for hearts and minds; new polls report that, for the first time, a majority of Americans reject his contention that the war over there is making us safer over here. Indeed, barring major immediate progress in Iraq, 2005 might well be remembered as the year when public opinion went south and never came back -- a mood shift roughly analogous to 1968, when domestic confidence in the Vietnam War began its irreversible slide.
Americans do learn. Though it takes a while. Most Americans think the Iraq invasion was a mistake.
The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, taken Aug. 5-7, found that 54 percent of those surveyed thought the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a mistake.
Lawrence Auster examines the arguments and beliefs that led the Bush circle to make such monumental mistakes in Iraq (and my major quibbles with his argument is his use of "very smart" to refer to the Bush people and "conservative" to refer to the neoconservatives).
Yet there were deeper reasons for the failure to ask fundamental questions. For one thing, if Muslims are so different from us that they can never be expected to construct societies based on liberal individual freedom, then there is no hope for a peaceful world unified around a shared belief in democracy. Irreconcilable differences of values between Muslims and Westerners, expressed in terms of political conflict and ultimately military conflict, must be perpetual, not only internationally, but, even more frighteningly, within the West itself, where millions of Middle Eastern Muslims have settled as immigrants. In the interests of maintaining both international and domestic peace, any thought of irreconcilable cultural and religious differences must be suppressed.
Beneath the fear of irresolvable conflict, there was, and is, a deeper, ideological reason for the suppression of discussion. If liberal individualism is rejected as a matter of principle by one-fifth of the world’s population who follow one of the world’s major religions, then the claim of liberal individualism to be the universal truth would lose its credibility. It would mean that there was something particular about Western culture, perhaps even about the peoples that had founded and created Western culture, that makes liberal individualism possible, which in turn would mean that religious, cultural, and ethnic differences matter politically.
If any good comes from the Iraq Debacle it will be the much wider acceptance of the argument that, yes, cultural and other differences between ethnic and religious groups do matter, that values differ between cultures, that the beliefs necessary to support a liberal democracy are not universally held, and that irreconcilable differences between religions exist. The Clash of Civilizations is real and needs careful handling. American liberals and neoconservatives alike need to abandon their mistaken belief in the universal appeal of liberal democracy.
i doubt most of the people who cheerlead on iraq are going to change their minds anytime soon. the bush term II could stretch out the withdrawl to seem like they are going to stay for longer...and longer...and then once the next president yanks the rug out from under iraq they can bitch and blame him, igorning that bush term II set the process rolling.
i was relatively agnostic and uninterested in the whole iraq war, but i idiotically transmitted an occasional defense of the possible rationales for the war that i must have seen in judy miller's articles to some of my liberal friends when started expressing lots of skepticism. not that i cared much for the war, but i was trying to be "objective." even though i wasn't too interested and stayed pretty neutral (always leaning against it, but accepting it as probably inevitable). but did i feel like a dumbass when no WMDs were found (i never though iraq was going to be a workable democracy of course).
now, as i said, i didn't put my eggs in the iraq basket. for instapundit & company to admit they were wrong, wrong, wrong is i think a psychological trauma that most of them are not willing to go through. they don't believe because they believe, they believe because that's all they can do, turning away from the belief in The War would be like denying god if you were religious. i've communicated with people here and there who had misgivings as the invasion began, and they were freaking out, because they realized that they'd really messed up, and they were totally unmoored.
anyway, that's how i see. the iraq warbloggers should be modelled as a sectarian movement. that's how they behave.
Would things have gone differently if we had killed extremists like Moqtada al Sadr? It does make one wonder.
If there is no hope for democracy in the ME and the whole area is condemned to languish under dictatorship of one type or another, there is further fallout; we cannot trust Iran with a nuclear program now or ever and must act to terminate it immediately.
Sadr is just an example of someone the world would never have heard of if western troops hadn't invaded Iraq. We're creating the extremists - more everyday. The strategic tragedy is that we can't leave because that means we'd be leaving a political vacuum behind us, and we know the kinds of loons who will fill that vacuum.
As for Iran, keep in mind that Iran has us firmly by the balls - with virtually zero effort it can turn Iraq into a real warzone. Watch the casualty rate skyrocket if they decide to smuggle across the border a few thousand sniper rifles, real AT & AP mines and shoulder launched anti-aircraft missiles...
My guess is that somewhere deep in the Whitehouse they're debating whether its better to let Iran go nuclear and hope to hell it doesn't happen until the next Administration; or whether they should lob a few cruise missiles at some production facilities and wear the inevitable retaliatory attack on troops in Iraq. My guess is that they'll opt for the former.
Both John Bolton and Scooter Libby have visited Judith Miller in jail. That tells you where she was coming from.
It is amazing such a small group of people could have pushed us into this.
And yes, they were motived by the desire to make the middle east safe for Israel. That is not saying "Jews got us into this". Most Jews were against the war.
It is saying that a particular group of people with strong feelings for, and personal ties to, Israel (and likud) lied to get us into this mess. Lots of people have died and lots of money has been spent and lots of US good will has been lost due to these fanatical idiots.
The world is full of people who say it can't be done. They are correct...it can't be done, by them.
I fail to see how one (count it! ONE) poll reflects the belief of the whole American people. Wishful thinking on your part. The poll does not ask, I note, WHY it is a mistake. Kinda matters. Some think it was a mistake because it was too small, should have gone into Syria as well. But the Democratic left see's every possible dissatifaction with Bush as a point for them, a counting system sure to lead to defeat, again. Can't defeat something with nothing.
Tried and failed? Surley you jest. The jury is still WAY out on that one. Call back in twenty years.
Of course, if you start out with the certainty that it cannot be done, then, ha ha, it won't be done. But the world progresses by the actions of those who do not read lists of reason why some things cannot be done. They do them anyways. No one remembers the names of the folks who made the lists.
So, what if we fail in Iraq, so what? Will the world stop turning? Will we fall into the sun? O will we just...try AGAIN. And a third time, and a fourth. A surefire plan is NOT needed, all that is required is effort. Even an IQ of 86 can figure that out. :)
I don't think it will work, either...this time. But I don't expect miracles.
There are better things to do.
Every time we try and fail a bunch of our boys come home in boxes and a larger number of our boys come back with parts missing and broken and unfixable. Plus, our treasury is that much poorer.
Most US interventions have failed. We tried again and again and again in Haiti and failed each time over a period of a century.
The people who succeed make lists of choices and for each choice list reasons why it could fail or succeed and they choose the choices that have the best prospects of success.
We do not need to turn the Middle East into model democracies. Our national interest in no way depends on it.
What is the mission? Defending Zionist Hoodlums? WMDS? OIL? UBL-RIP? A man in a hole is a threat to America? The USA installed and supported Saddam and Usama? I'm not a democrat or republican, I'm a citizen of the United United States In America. My brother died in the "global struggle against violent extremism", now another brother is heading to Iraq in a few months. If you really support the troops, enlist, 1-800-USA-ARMY! The entire US Government needs to be tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail.
USA! USA! USA!
[ParaPundit edit: I deleted a much longer rambling rant that turns out to be a post from the crusader bunnypants blog. You can go to that link and read the full rant if you'd like. If people want to draw attention to their own posts on a subject I don't object to that. But putting a whole and quite long posts in the comments of a post strikes me as going too far]
"Tried and failed? Surley you jest. The jury is still WAY out on that one. Call back in twenty years."
If we are still trying in twenty then my social security check will be measured in gazillions of dollars and the rate of inflation will be immeasurable.
"Most US interventions have failed"
If interventions work there would still be a Brit Empire and it would be the most prosperous entity in history. Heck, if they worked we would be living in the Western Diocese of the Roman Empire.
"Every time we try and fail a bunch of our boys come home in boxes and a larger number of our boys come back with parts missing and broken and unfixable. Plus, our treasury is that much poorer."
Not so. Remember Germany? Remember Japan? They worked, against the most fanactical people of the times.
The point you make about a bunch of our boys coming home in boxes is interesting. It implies that if we were not in Iraq, if we just stay home, then our boys would be safe. What a perfect world that would be. It is not the one we live in.
Some years ago, the traitor Clinton, kept our boys safe from harm. He turned his back on our people. Three thousand of my brothers and sisters lay dead on the streets of New York as a result. You don't get to be safe in this world. Stay home? Then you die at home. How many of our boys would have given their lives to prevent what happened that day? I can answer that. EVERY SINGLE ONE. I have no respect for the "boys" argument. I suspect the boys don't either.
Xiaoding, 3000 of your brothers were killed becuase the US allows far to many immigrants into the country and it does enforce the immigration laws that we have.
We make it easy for these people to conduct terrorism in our own land.
The other question is, why did they attack america, out of all the other countries in the world. What are we doing that makes us such an attractive target to these people???
Is the war in Iraq the most efficient (in terms of money, lives and and US good will) way to make the US safe. I we trying far less costly way to make us safe, such as strong immigration controls first, or in addition to invading Iraq?
Even if Iraq turns into a wonderful success story, do you think that will stop terrorism? If "helping" other people is our goal arn't there many other countries where we could improve the lives of more people with fewer dollars and less risk?
Randall Said: "If we had never overthrown Saddam in the first place the odds of Iraq getting taken over by radical Islamists would be orders of magnitude lower than the odds are today."
I say: "If we had never overthrown Saddam in the first place the odds of Iraq getting taken over by elected representatives would be orders of magnitude lower than the odds are today."
The game has always been to deliberately upset the status quo and hope that in the ensuing melee the strongest fighter (i.e., the USA) would come out on top.
There was never a promise that it would be easy, or that it would happen overnight. One of the first things Bush said about the war on terror was that it was a struggle decades in the making and would continue to be decades in the fighting. He was pretty up front about that back in 2001, 2002. Was Bremer an "illusionist", as Negroponte's people claimed? Perhaps. Negroponte, as a long-time ambassador to the rough and tumble parts of the world, would know. Too bad that Bremer was appointed in the first place. Good thing "the Bushies" admitted their mistake years ago and put someone better in the job.
Randall Said: "If any good comes from the Iraq Debacle it will be the much wider acceptance of the argument that, yes, cultural and other differences between ethnic and religious groups do matter, that values differ between cultures, that the beliefs necessary to support a liberal democracy are not universally held, and that irreconcilable differences between religions exist."
And that's why we call it "a battle for hearts and minds." We already know that culture matters. Bush is very aware of that, as is the socially conservative faction that got him into office. That's why they're so concerned about "the culture of death" in this country, and "the culture of terror" in the Middle East.
Randall, what I suspect you underestimate is the speed with which culture can change once exposed to the right catalysts. Cultures appear to be monumental and unchanging, but they really aren't. The longest lasting cultures aren't stable, they just aren't exposed to change. Compare America and China over the last 50 years. Look at how much America have changed in many respects in just the last 50 years, while China remained stagnant until they opened up to new stimuli. Exposure to new cultures and new information changes people. "Culture" is just the amalgamation of the beliefs of the people who identify themselves as members of that culture, and beliefs can change.
There are certain things that are mostly inborn, such as introvertism. There is no gene for "cousin marriage". It's just a practice, and as such can be walked away from. Anyone who's met Arab-Americans who've fully integrated into the US culture understands this. Second and third generation immigrants just don't feel at home in the lands where their ancestors came from: which should prove the point that culture is not genetic. Therefore, it can change; and exposed to the catalysts of information and communication, it will.
And let me just add that if invading Iraq to make it a democracy at gun point was such an effective way to fight terrorism why didn't bush just say this his was plan from the begining? Why throw in the bogus story of WMD?
Becuase people would have scoffed at the idea. It is truly laughable.
Germany and Japan were already industrialized societies and had a number of qualities (not least high average IQs) that made intervention in those countries more successful than other US interventions the US has done. Germany and Japan are the exceptions in the history of US interventions. Stanley Kurtz described in advance what was different about Germany and Japan. History is made up of many details. You can't make broad lazy generalizations and know what you are talking about. You need to consider the differences between the many ethnic groups, religions, cultures, and locales across the world. You hawks are lazy and ignorant and disastrously wrong too.
Again, I've pointed you at arguments written before the invasion of Iraq that explained why what we have seen since the invasion would happen. These people could predict correctly in advance. This stands in stark contrast to the incorrect predictions of the Panglossian war camp. You got it all wrong. It did not turn out like the cheerleaders said it would.
The argument against stopping WMD development was a lie. They fooled me on that one I'm embarassed to admit. The rest of the arguments were plain ridiculous.
We've exposed Iraq to catalysts that have stripped women of rights. We've exposed Iraq to catalysts that have turned lots of Shia and Sunni Iraqis into holy warriors. We've catalyzed the place right into an Islamic Republic!
Anyone want to use Germany as a historical precedent? We beat it in WWI and this radicalized a portion of the German population into furious nationalists. The next war cost tens of millions of lives. The people who died in the second world war did not live to benefit from the democracy that came afterward.
Immigrants and cultural change? Well explain to me why so many Turks and Arabs in Germany are killing their daughters who stray into German culture. Explain why they watch Middle Eastern TV channels and isolate themselves. Then there are the ones who seem like they are integrated who decide to blow up lots of people. Mohammed Atta lived for years in Germany. He got an advanced degree from a German university (albeit only in urban planning).
The war on terror, ie. the war against islamist fascism, will last decades or even centuries if fought effectively, intelligently and diligently. What was done by the Bush regime in Iraq was neither effective nor intelligent nor diligent at fighting the enemy in the war on terror.
I supported the war going into it. Even without the WMD justification, had Bush prosecuted the war effectively, the US could have won an important battle in the opening of the war on terror. My heart sank the day after the statue came down when the looting began. One does not win a war as an impotent observer of anarchy. (So much for "making reality"... the looters did the making that day.)
War by half measures is evil, and sadly Bush is a flawed man whose pride, arrogance and rigidity cause him to listen too intently to the devil at his ear. For the sake of humanity and for all things good, he needs to repent.
Xiaoding is wrong when he says the outcome will be decided 20 years from now. The war that began with the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was decided in 2003 on the day the looting began and Iraq fell into a state of totaly anarchy. The US lost the war.
Twenty years from now, the US might win a different war. But what we call The War in Iraq was already lost 2 years ago. The casualties of the war then and now are an infuriating waste and betrayal of the people of the United States of America by the man who holds the Office of President.
Germany and Japan were different - their civilian population were totally exhausted by years of total war and the destruction in detail of their homeland - their will was broken and they wanted it to all just end. Contrast that with modern wars which tend to be so surgical that the majority of the civilian population is unaffected. Consequently, if the conquered population then decides that it doesn't like the new owners, they've got the energy, time and infrastructure to do something about it.
The argument against stopping WMD development was a lie. They fooled me on that one I'm embarassed to admit.
Hey, wait a minute. That's nothing to be embarrassed about. Saddam had a stockpile of WMD chemicals and used them against Kurd civilian populations. Those are facts. In light of his history it wasn't foolish to go along with every western intelligence agency's estimate of the situation. What's foolish is going along with mission creep to the point where establishing democracy in Iraq is now the goal.
Germany and Japan were different - their will was broken and they wanted it to all just end.
As War Nerd says guerrilla wars are impossible for democracies to win. At least for those nations which have matured into extremo-democracies where tolerance is the highest virtue. The bottom line is that as an occupier you must be willing to exterminate all violent opposition. 1940's America was ready and willing to do this in Japan and Germany. 2005 America is not ready to do this in Iraq or anywhere else. Therefore we are ill-equipped for nation building. Damn, we aren't even able to crush the belief systems of our enemies. How can we crush them when we are so busy tolerating them at home: Wahabi Islam Mosque building continues across America.
From day 1 Iraq has just screamed: another PC-infected war with one hand tied behind our back. The icing on the cake is that our -- yes the U.S. -- ambassador to Iraq is Arab/Muslim. Do you think Truman would've sent a Shinto Japanese-American as ambassador to post-war Japan? What sort of message would that have sent?
Bush [along with the rest of our elites] is a hyper-tolerant appeaser masquerading as a traditional American warrior. Of course it doesn't work.
The dumbest/saddest part was all the talk of "intellectual firepower". When planning strategy to actually win a war the first thing you do is LOCK THE EGGHEADS OUT OF THE BUILDING.
The conflation of chemical weapons with biological and nuclear weapons into "WMD" is a propaganda technique. Chemical weapons are not in the same order of magnitude with nuclear. Chemicals are hard to deliver, hard to store. They aren't that effective. A single small nuke could kill millions.
Before the war my doubt on nuclear was that Saddam had much less money than he had before Gulf War I and his economy and military were heavily severely damaged. The first Gulf War did lots of damage to Iraq's infrastructure. The UN weapons inspectors carted away lots of stuff. He had on-going expenses from the occasional air strikes by the US and UK. His economy was deteriorating. Plus, what money he had he used either to build palaces or to pay his ruling elite.
Look at Iran by comparison. They have 3 times the population, hundreds of Russians working on their nuclear program, a totally undamaged nuclear program, no sanctions. So how could Saddam possibly have been in the same league as Iran in terms of nuclear weapons development?
I had all these doubts before the war. The nuclear weapons argument for Iraq didn't make sense. But all those weapons inspectors and governments were claiming Iraq had a serious effort underway. What nonsense. I should have had more confidence in my doubts and less trust of the liars in the Bush Administration and their neocon allies writing op-eds.