2006 January 03 Tuesday
Bush To Meet All Past Secretaries Of Defense, State On Iraq

George W. Bush has invited all living previous US Secretaries of Defense and State to a meeting on Jan. 5, 2006 on Iraq andd other foreign policy issues. Is Bush desperately seeking advice or trying to win support for an increasingly unpopular policy?

Among them will be several who have left little doubt that they think Mr. Bush has dangerously mishandled Iraq, ignored other looming crises, and put critical alliances at risk.

The meeting was called by the White House, which sent out invitations just before Christmas to everyone who once held those jobs.

The invitees were told that they were being asked to attend a briefing on Iraq and other issues. It was unclear, one recipient said, "how interested they are in what we are thinking."

Will Bush just try to lobby all these people with his customary demand that all good Americans must agree with him? Or is he just looking for a photo op? Or is he trying to form a consensus around a big shift in US policy toward Iraq? In the privacy of his own mind have real doubts finally intruded? Or does he still see that his main problem is with the American public? Just what is the guy thinking?

Retired Lt. Gen. and former NSA head William Odom has taken on all the reasons put forth for staying in Iraq and Odom argues that the Iraq war's proponents have got it exactly wrong on all counts. Read that link. It is a good summary of many rational arguments against the war.

Andy Berman was kind enough to send me a copy of David Pryce-Jones' The Closed Circle: An interpretation of the Arabs. I'm finally reading this book which I've wanted to read for a long time (having lost my own copy after lending it out). The book reinforces my belief that what is wrong with the Arabs, culturally, religiously, and otherwise, can not be sorted out and set in the right direction by a US invasion of an Arab country. Such an invasion does not begin to change what makes the Arabs the way they are and it ignores the waves of invasions and colonial administrations which already failed make lasting changes. The neocons and Bush are ahistorical about the Middle East. No, the whole world is not on the verge of becoming like America if only a few small obstacles can be gotten out of the way. There are deep seated reasons the world is the way it is and if only Bush and his advisors could find their way toward joining the "reality-based community" they might stand a chance of learning why.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 January 03 10:17 PM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate

Invisible Scientist said at January 3, 2006 11:08 PM:

Perhaps Bush is trying to arrange a consensus for the purpose of being able to get out of Iraq with minimal damage, both to his image, and also to the economy, just in case the oil reserves fall into the hands of fundamentalists. The oil situation will be the main topic of discussion between Bush and the experts.

It is not so much Iraq that will be lost, but the entire Gulf region, will change dramatically as a result of the misinterpretations of Bush, who did not have accurate information about the Middle East. We don't know who is going to get all the huge oil reserves that the whole world depends on. This oil situation will be the main topic Bush and the experts will be discussing.

On the plus side, if $100 billion per year can be freed from Iraq, this money can be invested in energy research.

Jorge D.C. said at January 4, 2006 1:57 AM:

We don't know who is going to get all the huge oil reserves that the whole world depends on.

You know your empire is in trouble when after a massive military campaign there are no spoils of war to be enjoyed i.e. cheaper and more plentiful oil.

The people who built the USA were ruthless warriors who bequeathed a peaceful land to their descendants. Today's American leaders are politically correct world police who are unleashing a new age of domestic chaos upon their own grandchildren.

Anyway, it's highly doubtful that Bush is interested in any viewpoints that clash with those of his inner circle...

Ned said at January 4, 2006 5:40 AM:

General Odom is brilliant, and his comments on this subject are definitive. He's not some simpering left-wing pinko but a retired US Army lieutenant general who ran the NSA under Ronald Reagan. I just finished his book, America's Inadvertent Empire, which is excellent.

diana said at January 4, 2006 9:39 AM:

"Or is he just looking for a photo op?" Bush is looking for a super photo op.

This is all interesting, but I'll take anti-war sentiment more seriously when Bill O'Reilly loses his job. He's popular, let's admit it. Last night on the Letterman show O'Reilly's gums flapped and this noise came out: Isn't it better to have a stable pro-American ally in the Middle East?

As long as this oaf has his job, it is a symbol we are in bad shape.

Hugh Angell said at January 4, 2006 4:50 PM:

It's a tough world out there folks. It does no good to say Muslims should not be allowed to
immigrate as Randall Parker does and then pretend that if we just pull out of Iraq they
will leave us alone. That is a fool's argument.

In the real world sometimes you just have to put your marker down and kill people. That's
where we are at with the Muslim world.

Like it or not we are in a war with Islamofascists. You've got to decide where you want to
make your stand. If we can't make the 2nd most powerful Arab state into a stable democracy
then we have at least busted up their military potential for decades if not forever. In
military terms, for what we lost in the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, we have removed from the
board a nation the size of North Vietnam circa 1968. That is an amazing achievement in and
of itself. We have a Kurdish North that will be our cats paw in that nation for as long as
we do not sell them out. I gather many here think you can just 'change your mind' when the
going gets tough. In a pigs eye!

We have hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have tossed their lot behind the American
effort in Iraq. We sell them out ( again?) and who will stand with us 'next time'. Better
cogitate on the implications of an American defeat in Iraq long and hard my friends because
the war isn't going to stop just because we say 'I quit'!

Hugh Angell said at January 4, 2006 5:16 PM:

Diana, where do you suppose we shall find a "stable pro American ally" in the mideast,
outside of Israel, unless we change the 'correlation of forces' in the region. Do you
imagine, in your silly little suburban mind, that by professing our 'goodness' our 'love
of peace' that you are going to change the hard minds of those who slice the heads off of
itinerant travelers, who drive car bombs into rivals mosques, who slaughter their own
countrymen who sell pork in their marketplace?

Sheesh! is this nation on stupid pills! They murdered 3000 of us on 9/11. How can you
forget? People clinging to sheer walls 1000 feet above the pavement guilty of no more than
going to work that morning. We are dealing with people who walk into a pizza parlor, a
nightclub, your own goddamned house and will kill you for being an 'infidel'.

If you won't fight them for this, do you think your 'abortion rights', 'gay rights', any
rights will last. Where are the Patrick Henry's among us?

Engineer-Poet said at January 4, 2006 6:43 PM:

The military won't take me, but I'll match ruthlessness with the Islamofascists any day.

If they want to continue to swear death to the infidels, someday there might be drone aircraft spraying Sarin on every remaining village in the Umma.  The Islamists think that the West has lost its will to live.  They are half-right.  The left has opted for self-immolation, but the rest has learned from the lesson of three world wars (two hot, one cold) and decided that some things should be fought with votes and markets instead of guns and bombs.  The Islamists don't realize that Europeans gave such things up because to continue was suicide; we are extremely good at being deadly.  Better than they'll ever be, and their only hope lies in not persuading us that we need to show them just how wrong they are.

I'm a Jacksonian German-American.  Leave me alone, I'll leave you alone.  But if you f**k with me, I'm ready to pull out all the tricks from twenty centuries of warfare, from Julius Caesar to taking back Europe from a different variety of fascism, and backing it up with the full scientific and engineering power of the Enlightenment and its offspring.  And if it takes a Final Solution to eliminate the threat, I'll look down four billion years of evolutionary history where all my ancestors were the ones willing to do what it took to make sure theirs were the ones which lived, and then do my part.

gcochran said at January 4, 2006 6:49 PM:

Hugh, we get attacked by one tiny nut group and you transmute that into a general assault by the Arab world - an assault that mandates that we invade any arab country that we're sure had nothing to do with the attack.

That's quite silly. I could put it more strongly.

Richard said at January 5, 2006 5:18 AM:

Hugh, EP,

If you guys really think we are ever going to get anything out of the forever war on terror, other than domestic fascism, than you have got to be smoking something really strong.

EP, I love your blog, but please put the bong down.

The only solution is put up the border fence and bring the troops home. Valiant as they are, they are doing us no good.

Pico said at January 5, 2006 10:03 AM:

How many of the people using the phrase "Islamofascist" speak Arabic let alone lived in the Middle East. There are a lot of clueless fools in the West who have no idea of the mentality of Arabs. The same fools never mention that israeli colonialism in West Asia and american support of israel played a part in 9/11. The only person in America who writes honestly about the Arab world is Juan Cole. The Zionists and evangelical christian propagandists are liars who cannot be trusted.

Kurt said at January 5, 2006 4:48 PM:


There is another person in America who also writes honestly about the Arab world and that is Ralph Peters. His books are "beyond Terror", "Beyond Baghdad", and "New Glory". I will add that Ralph Peters speaks both Russian and Arabic fluently and he has spent considerable time in both the Arab world as well as the former Soviet Union. His books are excellent in describing the issues surrounding terrorism, Islam, and the problems in the middle-east. I highly recommend them.

Engineer-Poet said at January 5, 2006 6:39 PM:

Richard, any fence has to block wealth and influence as well as immigrants.  We can't stop Wahhabism as long as we buy Saudi oil.  We can stop using oil, or we can take the oil away from them (and probably kill most or all of them in the process).  I favor getting rid of oil.

diana said at January 5, 2006 8:00 PM:

Hugh, you solicit my opinion in one breath, and in the next, deride me:

"Diana, where do you suppose we shall find a "stable pro American ally" in the mideast, outside of Israel, unless we change the 'correlation of forces' in the region. Do you imagine, in your silly little suburban mind...."

I must say, I haven't had such a laugh since I last watched Homer Simpson make an ass of his celluloid self.

Here is what I suggest we do. I do not believe for a moment that we will do this. It's just a wish list:

1. Improve our k-12 education, by making it clear to Americans that we are in a race against real adversaries (China, India) for industrial and intellectual supremacy.

2. Stop using oil imported from the Middle East.

3. Don't allow Muslims into the US. Period. Sorry, you are wrong, it does loads of good "to say Muslims should not be allowed to immigrate as Randall Parker does" because the more *we* say it, the more people will become emboldened to actually say it out loud and then one day we might actually vote for candidates who will enact legislation. In any case, I'm positive that there has been a quiet, behind the scenes cutback in the numbers of Islamics allowed into the country and that is one reason we haven't had another attack.

4. Regarding Israel, I do not intend to be hijacked into a side argument about this, but the situation between Israel and the Pals. was not, originally, a Muslim issue. But it has become entangled in the worldwide global jihad. We are overinvolved in the Israeli/Pal issue up to our eyeballs. We have to extricate ourselves. We should push the Israelis and the Pals into some kind of settlement, and pressure the Israelis to give some kind of symbolic restitution to those Pal. refugees who are not a threat to the Israelis, such as the Christian Palestinians of Ikrit and Biram (harmless people who were evicted from their homes and never allowed back) and then bow out of the argument. It doesn't concern us.

Will this happen? Not in a million years. I'm a realist.

diana said at January 5, 2006 8:07 PM:

PS...You know, it's amazing to be berated as insufficiently militant by people who are frightened by the concept of standing up for cultural legitimacy and the sanctity of your country's borders.

Hell yeah, America has a right to say who comes into this country legally, and moreover, it has a right to say, "I'm just not that into you. I think your cultural aggression will screw my culture." Only in the minds of the Hugh Angell's does this become wimpishness.

Randall Parker said at January 5, 2006 8:42 PM:


The term "Islamofascist" is ridiculous. The Arabs aren't thinking in the mental categories invented by Western intellectuals in the 20th century. It might be useful to think of them as pre-ideological. See my post Mark Bowden: Baathism Not The Ruling Ideology Of Iraq.

Racially and tribally based regimes predate the creation of modern fascism. Absent a European intellectual influence the Middle East would still have regimes that were centered around powerful families and clan loyalty with identification extending further out into ethnic group and religious identity. Consanguinity is the biggest underappreciated factor in Western analyses of Middle Eastern politics. Most Western political theorists seem blind to the importance of pre-ideological kinship-based political bonds in large part because those bonds are not derived from embrace of abstract Western ideological models of how societies and political systems should be organized. Samuel P. Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations argument is therefore demonstrated by the Western inability to understand societies that do not fit into any recognizeable modern Western ideological political category.

You are taking familiar intellectual categories and applying them where they do not fit.

Richard said at January 6, 2006 4:30 AM:


"I favor getting rid of oil."

I agree. That is why I read your blog.

Hugh Angell said at January 6, 2006 6:50 PM:

Yeah RP, go ahead, pretend this is a parlor debate. It isn't. You don't want to call them
Islamofascists fine. Perhaps our political lexicography has no equivalent term for what
militant Ummah International Socialists define themselves as.

I do know this. You'd better hope your genetic research finds someway to grow a new head
after they've chopped yours off! Be it in the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Iran or wherever
because they do mean business. Doesn't matter what your IQ is, your 'race' your skin color.
All they need to determine is your religion, or lack of it.

As to their lack of capability. After the first Gulf War the UN inspectors were shocked at
how far along Iraq was to building an atomic weapon. 18 months to 2 years away they said.
We didn't know North Korea had one, if you believe, until they announced they did and that
they built one right under the nose of the IAEA. Did it despite CCTV in their atomic labs.
Iran is maybe lying but they are not bluffing. In 1 year or 10 there will be lose nukes in
the Muslim world and then it won't be an 'insurgency' we are dealing with but a smoldering
city somewhere between Delhi and San Francisco, going east of west it doesn't matter.

We are at the same point today as when Hitler began to tear up the treaty of Versailles.
We either fight now or we fight later. I'm sorry there is no easy way out of this. That is
the way of it sometimes.

Bob Badour said at January 6, 2006 7:51 PM:

But Hugh, the real question is: Whom do we fight?

I believe such a thing as an islamofascist exists. I don't believe they exist in any great number among the tribes warring in Iraq, and certainly not among the Baathists.

In Hamburg? Yeah, plenty of them. In London? Lots more there. In Tikrit? Nada.

You say we busted up Iraq's military. That was true in 2003. Since then, what have we been doing if not building it back up again? Do you think we should stay there until we build it up even bigger than before? At what point have we built it back up enough to leave?

I say it was the right size in 2003. Every life we lost since then has been wasted to stroke W's ego.

Richard said at January 7, 2006 4:47 AM:

"We either fight now or we fight later. I'm sorry there is no easy way out of this. That is
the way of it sometimes."

So Hugh, who is this "we" you bandy about? Are you posting after coming off patrol in Tikrit or is it my draft age son you want to send into battle?

diana said at January 7, 2006 8:44 AM:

Hugh, how are "they" going to put me in a burkha if "we" don't let them in "our" country? How are "they" going to chop anyone's head off if "we" don't let them in our country?

Randall Parker said at January 7, 2006 9:58 AM:


Parlor debate? Look, you are being completely unrealistic while posing as the tough hardliner. Your preferred strategy makes our security worse, not better.

Nutcase ex-Trotskyite Christopher Hitchens coined the term "Islamofascist". It is a retarded and highly misleading term. It is even ironic considering that the Middle East was very accurately summed up by Charles Glass (he a former hostage in Beirut) in the title of his book Tribes With Flags. No, those are not nations we are looking at over there.

Fascism has to do with state control of the means of production and an extreme nationalism with the abstract idea of the nation raised above the individual or family in importance. Humans exist for the fascist state. By huge contrast, the Middle Eastern societies can not form real functioning states in the Western sense of the term because their kinship-based systems prevent them from feeling any loyalty to an abstract entity so distant from their kin networks.

I mean, it really is retarded to say that Arab tribal groupings have anything to do with fascism. I'd be embarrassed to use the term because I hate to make such a fool of myself if I can easily avoid it.

As long as you carry on using the standard ideological Western categories as a substitute for real learning when discussing the Middle East you are going to keep advocating foolish and counter-productive policies.

Oh, and if you think you are a right-winger, consider that you are even embracing a very left-wing interpretation of fascism that attempts to distance fascism from the Left even though fascism has a lot in common with the leftists.

diana said at January 8, 2006 9:36 AM:


The hell with Hugh. I want to ask you this: where do we go from here, realistically? Do you think that at some point, reality will set in and the US will realize that trying to bring democracy to the arabs, and, trying to force an agreement between Israel/Palestine is like herding cats? Or will we continue to drain our resources and our emotions on these fruitless endevors?

BTW, Sir John Glubb, who knew and loved Arabs said this about them & democracy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glubb_Pasha):

"We have given them self-government for which they are totally unsuited. They veer naturally towards dictatorship. Democratic institutions are promptly twisted into engines of intrigue -- thus the same bunch crop up after each coup in a different guise, until disposed of by assassination."

Can any rational person disagree with this?

Randall Parker said at January 8, 2006 10:02 AM:


Realistically we have to wait for the next US election. We need a new President to pull the troops out of Iraq. It might be done under the guise of declaring victory. Or maybe conditions will be too bad to allow that pretense. I do not know.

The big problem we have is that the Democrats are not seen as credible by the public on national security issues. So a Democrat in 2008 might be reluctant to run on withdrawal as a campaign plank. If we are lucky someone with Nixon's attitude will run as the Republican candidate. Then whoever wins will look for a way out.

In the mean time we will withdraw some troops with Bush declaring the withdrawals as a sign of progress. But the real reasons for the withdrawals will be:

A) The US military isn't big enough to maintain current deployment levels. This problem would exist even without recruitment problems. But recruitment problems aren't going to be totally solved by lowering average IQs of recruits (which Marine veteran Rep. John Murtha says the US military is doing - and see see here for confirmation that lower IQ recruits are being used heavily in violation of the law). Of course, lowering average recruit IQ will increase casualties too and make the US military less capable in the future.

B) The war is increasingly unpopular with the American public.

C) The war is expensive, we have a large budget deficit, and the baby boomers are starting to retire. Gotta pay for their retirement benefits somehow or other. What optional spending can we cut?

As for Israelis and Palestinians: There's no solution beyond better walls. The Palestinians will eventually start shooting off lots of rockets. But the rockets are less accurate than human bombs.

Fruitless endeavors: The US will continue to make noises along the line that peace is an achievable goal between the Israelis and Arabs if we just have another negotiation or three. Is this because Americans want to hear an optimistic note from their leaders. Or is it done for Middle Eastern consumption?

As for democracy to dictatorship: We ought to start a betting pool on when the first top Iraqi leader will be killed. We'd have to categorize the leaders. e.g. someone bagging a Prime Minister counts. But don't they also have a guy who has the title of President? Does the position have real power?

Also, how long after a US withdrawal (and we'd need to have a clear definition on what "withdrawal" means) will a coup put an end to an elected government there? Will Shias or Sunnis conduct the coup?

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