Frederick Kagan & William Kristol: Wrong on Timetables

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Frederick W. Kagan is a resident scholar at AEI. William Kristol is the editor of The Weekly Standard.]

Let's give congressional Democrats the benefit of the doubt: Assume some of them earnestly think they're doing the right thing to insist on adding to the supplemental appropriation for the Iraq war benchmarks and timetables for withdrawal. Still, their own arguments--taken at face value--don't hold up.

Democrats in Congress have made three superficially plausible claims: (1) Benchmarks and timetables will "incentivize" the Maliki government to take necessary steps it would prefer to avoid. (2) We can gradually withdraw over the next year so as to step out of sectarian conflict in Iraq while still remaining to fight al Qaeda. (3) Defeat in Iraq is inevitable, so our primary goal really has to be to get out of there. But the situation in Iraq is moving rapidly away from the assumptions underlying these propositions, and their falseness is easier to show with each passing day.

1. The Iraqi government will not act responsibly unless the imminent departure of American forces compels it to do so. Those who sincerely believe this argument were horrified by the president's decision in January to increase the American military presence in Iraq. It has now been more than ten weeks since that announcement--long enough to judge whether the Maliki government is more or less likely to behave well when U.S. support seems robust and reliable.

There can be no hope of defeating or controlling al Qaeda in Iraq without controlling the sectarian violence that it spawns and relies upon.

In fact, since January 11, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has permitted U.S. forces to sweep the major Shiite strongholds in Baghdad, including Sadr City, which he had ordered American troops away from during operations in 2006. He has allowed U.S. forces to capture and kill senior leaders of Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army--terrifying Sadr into fleeing to Iran. He fired the deputy health minister--one of Sadr's close allies--and turned a deaf ear to Sadr's complaints. He oversaw a clearing-out of the Interior Ministry, a Sadrist stronghold that was corrupting the Iraqi police. He has worked with coalition leaders to deploy all of the Iraqi Army units required by the Baghdad Security Plan. In perhaps the most dramatic move of all, Maliki visited Sunni sheikhs in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province and formerly the base of al Qaeda fighters and other Sunni Arab insurgents against his government. The visit was made possible because Anbar's sheikhs have turned against al Qaeda and are now reaching out to the government they had been fighting. Maliki is reaching back. U.S. strength has given him the confidence to take all these important steps.

2. American forces would be able to fight al Qaeda at least as well, if not better, if they were not also engaged in a sectarian civil war in Iraq. The idea of separating the fight against al Qaeda from the sectarian fighting in Iraq is a delusion. Since early 2004, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has sought to plunge Iraq into sectarian civil war, so as to critically weaken the government, which is fighting it. AQI endeavors to clear Shiites out of mixed areas, terrorize local Sunnis into tolerating and supporting AQI, and thereby establish safe havens surrounded by innocent people it then dragoons into the struggle. Now, heartened by the U.S. commitment to stay, Sunni sheikhs in Anbar have turned on AQI. In response, AQI has begun to move toward Baghdad and mixed areas in Diyala, attempting to terrorize the locals and establish new bases in the resulting chaos. The enemy understands that chaos is al Qaeda's friend. The notion that we can pull our troops back into fortresses in a climate of chaos--but still move selectively against al Qaeda--is fanciful. There can be no hope of defeating or controlling al Qaeda in Iraq without controlling the sectarian violence that it spawns and relies upon.

3. Isn't it too late? Even if we now have the right strategy and the right general, can we prevail? If there were no hope left, if the Iraqis were determined to wage full-scale civil war, if the Maliki government were weak or dominated by violent extremists, if Iran really controlled the Shiites in Iraq--if these things were true, then the new strategy would have borne no fruit at all. Maliki would have resisted or remained limp as before. Sadr's forces would have attacked. Coalition casualties would be up, and so would sectarian killings. But none of these things has happened. Sectarian killings are lower. And despite dramatically increased operations in more exposed settings, so are American casualties. This does not look like hopelessness.

Hope is not victory, of course. The surge has just begun, our enemies are adapting, and fighting is likely to intensify as U.S. and Iraqi forces begin the main clear-and-hold phase. The Maliki government could falter. But it need not, if we do not. Unfortunately, four years of setbacks have conditioned Americans to believe that any progress must be ephemeral. If the Democrats get their way and Gen. Petraeus is undermined in Congress, the progress may indeed prove short-lived. But it's time to stop thinking so hard about how to lose, and to think instead about how to reinforce and exploit the success we have begun to achieve. The debate in Washington hasn't caught up to the realities in Baghdad. Until it does, a resolute president will need to prevent defeatists in Congress from losing a winnable war in Iraq.

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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Can you quantify this improbable claim?

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Friedman, excessive blunders and excessive stupidity call for excessive denunciation. That is my opinion. It is not, and never could be, a matter of fact. It is not a factual matter whether any policy of any government is the worst ever or not. "Worst" is matter of subjective opinion or subjective definition, not fact.

Here IS a fact: At least 20 times in the past 6 months you have taken issue with a comment of mine by saying, in essence, that that comment of mine lacks sufficient facts, REGARDLESS of whether facts, logic, or belief or some other basis might best form the best means of evaluating the comment.

You have been persuaded that asking for facts is some kind of magical argument that providing instant unassailable proof for whatever you want to claim. Sorry to burst the bubble, but it aint necessarily so, if EVER so.

Suppose someone were to say: "Hitler was a good man because he was kind to his wife and dog, helped create millions of jobs, built roads, supported rocket science, and was a vegetarian. Anything bad that happened in Europe during Hitler's leadership of the German Empire was somebody else's fault." No amount of facts can change the mind of someone who wants to define vague terms like "good" and "fault" in such a weird way. With your kindergarten-like endless repetition of "Give me facts," no matter what the situation or question under consideration, you might as well concede upfront and ongoing defeat to any and every Holocaust denialist, religious cult fanatic, or snake-oil salesman who wanders off the beaten path and ovet to your direction. They'd all clobber you with facts, and the FACT that you are opposed to them for OTHER than factual reasons will get you nowhere, after you have first argued yourself blue in the fact that only facts matter.

Facts are important. They are not everything. Logic, analogy, consistency, and moral values are important too. So is relevancy.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

what "war" ?

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

1. Yes, you have found a presumably consistent and quantified measurement, from an objective source (not a neo-con or Likudnik propaganda site). Well done. We have a useful starting point for discussion based on facts, as is your latest kick, and to which I certainly have no general objection.

2. NO, these numbers do not prove this claim of yours (Re: why the rush (#108543) by N. Friedman on April 12, 2007 at 10:59 AM):

"As for the election cycle, Bush's popularity was nearly sky high since September of 2001. While, like all presidents, the political implications of events were no doubt considered, I tend to doubt that the invasion was timed for the election cycle. I think that theory is contradicted by his high popularity and the fact that it makes little sense."

Take a close look at the numbers rather than leaping to assume they prove your preconceived beliefs. Assume, first of all, that Bush, and his political minders like Rove, were paying close attention to such numbers, and secondly, that the peak figure of 86% approval in "late September, 2001" is indeed quite high, if maybe not "sky high" relative to, say, the peak levels of prior presidents, including, for instance, Papa Bush right after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.

NEVERTHELESS, however, the decision to invade Iraq by the Cheney-Bush Admin. was made in mid 2002, the approval from Congress came in October, 2002, and the final order to invade came in March of 2003. THOSE are the months where poll numbers are most relevant to the issue of whether the "election cycle" played a role in decision to invade. Look at the full picture:

February 2001 Unelected President seeks to “heal wounds” 53%

Early Sept 2001 Just before 9-11 attacks 51%

Late Sept 2001 Just after 9-11 attacks 86%

Late Aug 2002 Just before Labor Day “launch” 60%

Late Oct 2002 Just after Congress gave the blank check 59%

Mar 13-16, 2003 Just before the invasion 55%

Clearly, G.W. Bush’s popularity (as measured by these poll data) was not “sky high” SINCE September of 2001.” It WAS sky high RIGHT AFTER the Sept 2001 attacks (partly because he made reassuring and even slightly eloquent noises then, and had not yet started his long parade of post 9-11 blunders) AND THEN HIS POPULARITY FELL CONTINUOUSLY (with only a few minor ups and downs), AND BY THE EVE OF THE IRAQ INVASION WAS NEARLY ALL THE WAY BACK TO WHERE IT HAD BEEN DURING HIS LACKLUSTER FIRST 9 MONTHS IN OFFICE JAN-SEPT, 2001.

W. NEEDED ANOTHER BOOST to his poll numbers, and he got one, after the 2003 invasion, and the relatively swift fall of Baghdad (even if beneath the surface headlines nearly everything else about the invasion, occupation, and "nation-building" was badly cocked up) :

April 10-16, 2003 72% (e.g. more than half the way back up towards his late Sep ’01 peak).

When you stop recall that Junior Bush’s cabinet in his first term was heavily packed with retreads from prior Administrations, especially his Dad’s (Rummy, Cheney and Rice in particular), and that his Papa had LOST in 1992 partly because HIS popularity boost from battling Saddam 21 months prior to the election had faded, it is not hard to infer a logic here.

Junior Bush and Co would invade a few months closer to the election (March rather than January of the year before), but still far enough away to avoid (under their rosy scenario) troops not yet fully cakewalked and on their back during the next year’s primaries, and instead coming home in coffins, etc, or with Gulf II syndrome, AND THIS TIME THEY WOULD FINISH THE JOB BY TAKING OUT SADDAM. No more cat and mouse taunts, and cheat and retreat, no slaughtering of the Marsh Shiites and Kurds, etc. etc…

THERE IS NO OTHER GOOD EXPLANATION I can see, for the Cheney-Rummy-Bush not waiting another six months in 2003 to let the inspectors really inspect (having waited already 10 years, With NO inspections with real teeth) to really confront Saddam.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

What a load of pitiful BS.

When did Bush ever speak of such a vision prior to 9-11? Maybe the "different planet" you live on is actually the moon (or "Luna)."

As for the polls, I seriously doubt you will find any spokesman for Gallup or Pew or any of the others concluding what you are suggesting: that GW Bush was a more popular president than Clinton or Reagan. Maybe Gallup on Planet Luna might say such a thing. Google away, you won't find evidence for such an absurdity.

There are three logical explanations for attacking Iraq in sudden rush in 2003, after doing more or less nothing about Saddam for 8 years under Clinton and two years under Junior Bush:

1) Bush and his neocon crew were (and still are) agents of Al Qaeda, or somehow in cahoots with them through the Bush-Saudi connection (the conspiracy theory angle).

2) They are and were all nuts.

3) They choose to adopt the ideology of the PNAC coward-fools (like the two here) because it served a practical political purpose of adding legitimacy to an widely unpopular and unelected presidency.

In my classification 1) and 2) are even more lunatic than your Rovian bull that Bush gives raucous hoot about "democracy."

There is a ton of evidence for 3). Do what you like to tell me do: read the books.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I DID read what you said. You did not say "Bush's standing was rather high at the time he decided to invade." You said "Bush's popularity was nearly sky high since September of 2001." Not a trivial difference.

You have trouble reading and remembering your own words, if you think you have presented any "evidence" refuting my view on the rush to war in 2003.

I said this before but I'll say it again, you can admit a mistake and not die. Your rejection of my political motivation theory to explain the rush to invade in 2003 was initially based on polling data. The poll data offer no such proof, however. Bush has never been a very popular president. (HIS HANDLING OF THE RESPONSE TO 9-11 FOR A FEW MONTHS AFTER 9-11 WAS POPULAR, and since that was a big big deal to people then, they answered the pollster questions in a manner favorable to Bush's numbers.) He lost the popular vote in 2000. He won in 2004 but with nothing like the margins Reagan got. You can't make an apples-oranges comparison using vague "is he doing a good job" questions across 25 years intervals. No pollster would claim that.

REGARDLESS OF THE POLLS, here are a few REAL facts. 1) Bush got fewer votes than Gore in 2000 2) the election was so close in the electoral college that he managed to lawsuit his way into the White House anyway, however 3) 9 months into his presidency America suffered the first major attack on its mainland territory since 1814.

It is not rocket science to realize that these were not good ingredients for a popular presidency, let alone a re-elected president. He needed to do something that would be viewed positively, if he was to avoid being a one termer like his Pappy, and an illegitmate unelected president to boot. He did do some such something, obviously.

What was it? Do you think he won re-election in 2004 because he cut average middle class taxes by a percentage point or two? Or because he found a whole new group of non-voters who hated gays? What is YOUR theory?

Forget Wolfie, unless you want to argue the Jewish Conspiracy wag the tail theory that he was calling the shots. He wasn't, by all credible accounts. He was persuasive, relatively well-informed and quite persistent. Bush listened to him, and also to Rummy, and to Cheney, and to Powell, and decided to go with Wolfie and Rummy and Cheney, not Powell. Read that in the books. It does NOT prove that Bush believed the same things Wolfie did. There is no good evidence of Bush wanting to go on a march to spread democracy around the world before it became a convenient distraction from his lousy, and by 9-11-01, clearly disastrous administration. Indeed, he talked in the 2000 campaign about having a "humble" foreign policy, and after being elected about missile defense. Did he ever say anything before 9-11 about Al Qaeda, or Bin Laden, or spreading democracy?

These were not even on the radar screen of the admin. prior to 9-11. Rummy's big focus in the first nine months of the administration was COST-CUTTING, not launching utterly fear-and-deceit-mongered and badly bungled "preventative" wars of aggression. Cheney was busy cooking up crooked deals with his oil buddies. No one gave a flying expletive about "spreading democracy." Your rote repetition of neo-con apologist propaganda about "spreading democracy" is a far far cry from "evidence." Changing your tune from one post to the next is not "evidence" either.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Matthewson speculated. I counter-speculated. I think my speculation is better informed. You might disagree, but instead are choosing to ignore the issues I raised, the points Matthewson made, and the topic of the article.
I never claimed either my scenario or my proposed alternative was factual.

You speculate regularly too. Everybody does. We don't all cry kneejerkingly again again for "facts" like a child who wants some other child's toy and will fuss on cue whenever he doesn't get it.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

You lost yourself, because you can't remember what you wrote one post ago.

"perhaps the war, bad as I may think it is, will turn out, blunders and all, to have altered the course of Arab Muslim history for the better."

See it? It is in #108207 three posts above in this thread.

My question: "What "war" are you talking about? Which identifiable opposing armed forces are violently confronting each other for which objectives?

You appear to be following the standard American stupidity of thinking that because Karl Rove says we are "at war" (and not just a metaphorical war on cavities, poverty, or drugs) therefore we ARE "at war' indeed and that one can thus just say "the war," like some '60s pothead, and everyone will know that this really means tens of thousands of American soliders acting as sitting duck targets on a missionless failed overseas distraction in a Mess-opotamian hell-hole of anarchy and thuggery, and NOT John Wayne, Iwo Jima, Normandy beach, etc.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Says who?

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

1. The so-called "war on terrorism" is not the topic here. The topic is the so-called "war in Iraq." See the article. We can discuss that 95% of your last post another time.

2. Speaking of not "thinking straight":

"Last I recall, we are losing troops fighting in Iraq. That, to me, is called war. So, in fact, we are at war."

American citizens and police officers have been dying while fighting, and with unending frequency, in violence- ravaged American inner cities for decades. It is not therefore a "fact" that American cities have been "at war" with themselves since the days of West Side Story.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

In other words, nobody but you thinks
a 60% approval rating of a president in public opinion polls is "sky high."

Does anyone other than you think that G.W. Bush's policies and politics were based more on such polls than on the electoral realities, particularly in the swing states, and the vulnerability of John Kerry to being seen as a waffler for not "staying the course" on "the war"?

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I DON'T want to call an occupation a war because Karl Rove says so. No matter how many other mush-brain Americans have been duped into this Orwellian abuse of English.

The Emperor has no clothes.

American troops WERE in a war in Iraq to overthrow Saddam, for about three weeks in 2003. Then the statue came down. Then "Mission Accomplished." Remember?
If it were a war NOW, four years later, there would an identifiable enemy. There IS a TREND towards a Civil War in Iraq, but that Americans are not fighting on one side or the other of it, so "we" are not "in" that "war."

Sorry to be abrupt, but your use of excessive language like "idiotic" is excessive and uncalled for. This time (atypically) you have millions of Americans with you and you are all full of Rovian Bull.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"The average ratings for both the Clinton and the Reagan presidencies are well below 60%. I have already posted the numbers."

But not the citations, nor the month by month numbers, which are more meaningful than comparisons across decades.

You are in any event, misattributing or misrembering or misunderstanding my views. I have NOT been arguing that "Iraq war was based on getting re-elected." It was one of several factors, obviously. My point has been and remains that electoral considerations were a major factor in TIMING - the unplanned RUSH (which, I gather, even you agree has led to many problems since).

I disagree with this statement:"A 60% rating means that pretty much all but diehards supported a president."

The question leading to that sometimes above sometimes below 60% was NOT: "do you support the president." It was NOT: "would you vote for him if the election was held today?"

The question was (according to your post above): "Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?"

I am sure Bush was happy that a solid majority of Americans "approved" of his "handling" after 9-11. I am also sure that he wanted to be reelected in 2004 (or to be more precise: ELECTED for the first time). In order to be elected convincingly, a candidate has to look better, or otherwise seem more desirable as president, AT THE TIME OF THE ELECTION than his opponent. What his "approval of handling" ratings were a year earlier don't mean beans.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"When the military fights, that fighting, in normal English, is called war."

NO thanks, I will use my Webster's dictionary which does not have this as a definition of war.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"the situation in the fall of 2002. Not only were Bush's ratings high, they led to the extremely uncommon circumstance of the party that controls the White House gaining seats in Congress. That has only happened two other times since the Civil War."

I think you are probably right on that, but I would be even more confident if you have a source to back it up.

In any event, what it suggests in that Bush, or at least the Republican Party still had a bit of the post 9-11 "rally round the leader" benefit two months later. Hardly a surprise. It does not mean that Bush's popularity like his father's wasn't likely to head back down towards a defeated attempt at a second term. Furthermore, the consensus of analysts and book-writers seems to be that basic go-ahead to attack Iraq, come hell or high water, was made BEFORE the 2002 election, e.g. late summer, early Fall, and that Bush was leaning that way already in late 2001 (but Powell was still steadfast against it).

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Okay, Mr. Full of Wit:

In World War I America fought Germany

In World War II America fought Germany and Japan

In the Korean War America fought North Korea (and China part of the time)

In the Vietnam war America fought North Vietnam

In the Gulf War America fought Iraq

In 2003 America fought a few of Saddam's soldiers for a few weeks.

Who is America fighting in Iraq in 2007?

The Shiite militias?
Bin Ladenia?
The Iraq government?
A Saddam reincarnated by aliens?

Orwell was right. Big Brother will be loved because people are too lazy to think for themselves

Your Webster's definition 2a above, the only halfway intelligent observation you have made in the last several posts, does not apply. A gang of criminals that is "hostile" in conflict" with and "antagonistic" towards the authorities, is not "at war" with them just because those authorities are stupid enough to try to use a military (designed to defend Western Europe from Soviet tanks in order to fight shadowy urban gangs, with or without shoulder-fired missiles, unlimited stocks of explosives, and of brainwashable kamikaze bombers) to do the jobs of policemen, politicians, pipeline engineers, power line specialists, cross-cultural consultants, mediators, educators, mental deprogrammers, and security patrols.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

No Friedman. I touched on this already. They couldn't wait until 2004, because they had hyped things up already in 2002, started sending troops to the Gulf, and (most importantly and as I specifically pointed out above) they knew there was a real possibility (despite the suspicion of most experts that Saddam still had something nasty tucked away) that Blix and inspectors would conduct the one of the most, if not the most, through and intrusive inspections in the history of the world, find a few minor embarassing skeletons perhaps, but no WMD. The inspectors would proclaim this as a great triumph to the UN and the world, and thus endeth for the forseeable future any good chance for a US regime chance authorized by Congress.

WHATEVER THE MIX OF MOTIVES (desire to spread democracy, dry-drunk hatred of the former Rummy and Reagan ally in Baghdad who had bit the hand that fed him, etc. or -my view- a desire to be a "war president" for the 2004 campaign), GW Bush had only two choices:

1. Invade in March 2003 when the troops (despite being undermanned and underequipped, and with an atrocious lack of a plan or strategy) were ready to roll, and get the election glow of a war presidency (a repeat of what Daddy had done, but closer to the election and with a real victory, not a limited success as in 1991)


2. Do what the best experts and common sense said was best for the country. Let the inspectors inspect. Use the precedent to force them on Iran and North Korea, etc. etc.

Bush knowingly choose what was best for his political career, not what was best for his country. It will be recorded along such lines, in the history books.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Well, the 2004 election was rather close, though not a cliff hanger like 2000, so a number of "decisive factors" might arguably be listed. But Kerry's hypocrisy on Iraq was towering. He had launched his career back in the 1970s on the basis of Congress's war powers (re Vietnam) yet voted for the 2002 blank check on Iraq, YET criticized Bush for not spending the blank check in quite the same way he (Kerry) would have. A mile high waffle.

re WMD: OF COURSE, they were not the REASON for the rush to invade Iraq in 2003. They were the EXCUSE !

"Once mobilized, the invasion was not going to be stopped. That was obviously by the fall of 2002, if not before."

NOT BEFORE. Yes, the decision to invade was made before the fall. But it is hard to believe that the Admin. would have gone ahead and invaded without the Congressional authorization of October 2002.

A clever and skillful administration (think Polk, McKinley, Wilson, FDR, Truman) might have found some new excuse -even better than WMD- and gotten a Congressional go-ahead using IT. This inept administration is a disgrace to American history. All they could do was recycle bad and cooked intelligence from the past, and fling the troops in on a wing and a few chickenhawk boasts. Their folly is utter.

The inspectors were for public consumption, true, but not ONLY that.
The inspectors (unlike the chickenhawk neo-cons' cocked-up cakewalk invasion) had legitimate international UN authorization. We are hurting badly now that we cannot force such inspections on Iran or North Korea. The Bushies blew it for us by using that silver bullet on the already mostly defanged Saddam instead.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"Had we not invaded, we would have seen other disasters."

Quite possibly, in the hands of these incompetents. But what is all this business about Turkey and Kemal? Was it being discussed by Rice, Powell, Cheney in 2002-03? Was Thomas Friedman overing it in the NYT?


"They could have sent them on any trumped up excuse or, perhaps, something real that would have occurred. The public would have accepted it."

I doubt it. They were too incompetent and too arrogant. Bush and Rove are damn good at running election campaigns. And that is what they basically did - at the expense of America's international security interests in 2002-03. In my humble opinion. See the threads above for details.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

We appear to be inching towards some kind of rare agreement, but I don't follow your logic on Iran. By saying

1. "if I were president, never have invaded Iraq"


2. "Had Bush not been elected, we would have surely taken something akin to the European approach which would have merely postponed dealing with Iran"

you seem to be implying that had there been no invasion of Iraq in 2003, or had Kerry taken over in 2004, that America would have been even more helpless against Iran than it is now.

I think just the opposite. Not that Iran isn't a nightmare waiting to happen, or that there ever have been, for the last 10 or 15 years at least, any easy ways to stop it from going nuclear. But, that the US bungling into and getting bogged down in Iraq has emboldened and empowered the radicals and hardliners in Iran like Ahmindihad and limited our scope for action, I think.

If I had been president, I would also not have invaded Iraq the inept and hypocritical way the chickenhawk tricksters did. But I would have found a way to attach a small army to the inspectors. I actually wrote Clinton a letter in the mid 1990s arguing for that. Let that armed escort also deliver supplies under the oil-for-food program rather than letting crooks steal and cheat, Let Saddam start the bloodshed with America if he wanted. That would have been in the American tradition of past foreign wars, which except for Vietnam, did not turn out too bad for America in the end. Probably "armed inspections" would not have led to a war or to a regime change in Irq, but they probably would have led to a more contained Saddam, and certainly to a welcome reassurance for us that his WMD potential was being as strictly limited as imaginable. Most importantly, armed inspections are exactly what we could have used with N Korea and Iran in recent years. And, with an Iraq precedent, and a competent US president, we could surely had found a greater "coalition of the willing" to support such armed inspections, e.g. in Iran, than W's handful of Brits, Aussies, Poles, and Micronesians in the botched cakewalk.

I am not saying that a president Gore or Kerry would necessarily have spearheaded a denuking of Iran under the auspices of armed international inspectors. But, having that option -backed up if necessary, by the firepower of an intact and not demoralized US military - would have been a credible "stick" against the Iranians, and if matched -again,through the hands of a competent US president- by a suitable "carrot," or two, the chances of keeping nukes out of Iran, while maybe not huge, would surely have been far far better than the hopeless situation actually existing now.

We are quite a ways now, in this meandering thread, from two-faced Democrat wimps posturing in Congress, and from disgraced yet shameless neo-con jerks like Kagan and Kristol trying to hypocritically attack them, but that -to me at least- partly reflects the absurd "bi-partisan" departure of the American government and "intelligensia" (sic!) from reality over the past five years.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

The arrogance, cowardly foolishness, and deceitful “wolf” cries of the egomaniacal neo-cons led America straight into the Iraqi morass. Now the real wolves are getting ready to swarm across the region. For 40 years, the world practiced non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, with only a few failures (India and Pakistan). But that was before the four I’s took over in Washington DC after 2000: Ignorance, Insolence, Incompetence, and Invertebracy.

Of course, one cannot blame nuclear proliferation entirely on the phony imperialist neo-cons of the PNAC (“Project for a New American Century”), such as its founder Kristol, represented in the article here. And, given the peaking of world oil production and the real and major growing costs of global warming, we cannot completely rule out condoning future worldwide expansion of nuclear power plants.

All the same, a world of 20 or 30 nuclear powers, with half a dozen in the Mideast where the risk of a takeover by Islamic fanatics possessed by an ironic belief in suicide as a way of life, cannot be discounted, is very bad news. And there can be little doubt that a historic turn for the worse in this respect occurred when America’s military strength and international influence was needlessly trashed in the Iraq blunderfest masterminded and cheerled by Kagan and Kristol’s PNAC. They should shut their arrogant traps and hang their heads in everlasting shame.

For the full article go to:;emc=th


April 15, 2007


Two years ago, the leaders of Saudi Arabia told international atomic regulators that they could foresee no need for the kingdom to develop nuclear power. Today, they are scrambling to hire atomic contractors, buy nuclear hardware and build support for a regional system of reactors.

So, too, Turkey is preparing for its first atomic plant. And Egypt has announced plans to build one on its Mediterranean coast. In all, roughly a dozen states in the region have recently turned to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna for help in starting their own nuclear programs. While interest in nuclear energy is rising globally, it is unusually strong in the Middle East.

“The rules have changed,” King Abdullah II of Jordan recently told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “Everybody’s going for nuclear programs.”

The Middle East states say they only want atomic power. Some probably do. But United States government and private analysts say they believe that the rush of activity is also intended to counter the threat of a nuclear Iran.

By nature, the underlying technologies of nuclear power can make electricity or, with more effort, warheads, as nations have demonstrated over the decades by turning ostensibly civilian programs into sources of bomb fuel. Iran’s uneasy neighbors, analysts say, may be positioning themselves to do the same.

“One danger of Iran going nuclear has always been that it might provoke others,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, an arms analysis group in London. “So when you see the development of nuclear power elsewhere in the region, it’s a cause for some concern.”

Some analysts ask why Arab states in the Persian Gulf, which hold nearly half the world’s oil reserves, would want to shoulder the high costs and obligations of a temperamental form of energy. They reply that they must invest in the future, for the day when the flow of oil dries up.

But with Shiite Iran increasingly ascendant in the region, Sunni countries have alluded to other motives. Officials from 21 governments in and around the Middle East warned at a meeting of Arab leaders in March that Iran’s drive for atomic technology could result in the beginning of “a grave and destructive nuclear arms race in the region.”…The Middle East has seen hints of a regional nuclear-arms race before. After Israel obtained its first weapon four decades ago, several countries took steps down the nuclear road. But many analysts say it is Iran’s atomic intransigence that has now prodded the Sunni powers into getting serious about hedging their bets and, like Iran, financing them with $65-a-barrel oil.

…No Arab country now has a power reactor, whose spent fuel can be mined for plutonium, one of the two favored materials — along with uranium — for making the cores of atom bombs. Some Arab states do, however, engage in civilian atomic research.

…Intelligence agencies and nuclear experts now estimate that the Iranians are 2 to 10 years away from having the means to make a uranium-based bomb. It says its uranium enrichment work is entirely peaceful and meant only to fuel reactors. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s concerns grew when inspectors found evidence of still-unexplained ties between Iran’s ostensibly peaceful program and its military, including work on high explosives, missiles and warheads. That combination, the inspectors said in early 2006, suggested a “military nuclear dimension.”Before such disclosures, few if any states in the Middle East attended the atomic agency’s meetings on nuclear power development. Now, roughly a dozen are doing so and drawing up atomic plans.

The newly interested states include Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates …Saudi Arabia, since reversing itself on reactors, has become a whirlwind of atomic interest. It recently invited President Vladimir V. Putin to become the first Russian head of state to visit the desert kingdom. He did so in February, offering a range of nuclear aid. Diplomats and analysts say Saudi Arabia leads the drive for nuclear power within the Gulf Cooperation Council...late last year, the council announced that it would embark on a nuclear energy program. Its officials have said they want to get it under way by 2009.

“We will develop it openly,” Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said of the council’s effort. “We want no bombs. All we want is a whole Middle East that is free from weapons of mass destruction,” an Arab reference to both Israel’s and Iran’s nuclear programs….Every gulf state except Iraq has declared an interest in nuclear power. By comparison, 15 percent of South American nations and 20 percent of African ones have done so…The council wants “its own regional initiative to counter the possible threat from an aggressive neighbor armed with nuclear weapons,” said Nicole Stracke, an analyst at the Gulf Research Center. Its members, she added, “felt they could no longer lag behind Iran.”

A similar technology push is under way in Turkey, where long-simmering plans for nuclear power have caught fire. Last year, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for three plants. “We want to benefit from nuclear energy as soon as possible,” he said. Turkey plans to put its first reactor near the Black Sea port of Sinop, and to start construction this year.

Egypt, too, is moving forward. Last year, it announced plans for a reactor at El-Dabaa, about 60 miles west of Alexandria. “We do not start from a vacuum,” President Hosni Mubarak told the governing National Democracy Party’s annual conference. His remark was understated given Cairo’s decades of atomic research.

Robert Joseph, a former under secretary of state for arms control and international security who is now Mr. Bush’s envoy on nuclear nonproliferation, visited Egypt earlier this year… “I don’t know how much of it is real,” Mr. Joseph said of a potential arms race. “But it is becoming urgent for us to shape the future expansion of nuclear energy in a way that reduces the risks of proliferation, while meeting our energy and environmental goals.”

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

The Coward "E" is also highly selective in composing his posts. Almost never having the courage to start a thread. Almost never being relevant to the topic of the page. More of full of irrelevant insults than almost any other HNN poster.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

..and these chickenhawk neocons who cheerled the mad unplanned and deceit-based rush to war in 2002-03 are a main reason that only four years later is anything remotely resembling what MIGHT HAVE BEEN a workable strategy beginning to be tokenly implimented, years too late, hundreds of thousands of US troops too few, and key allied support woefully insufficient.

When Kagan and Krisol are both in uniform patrolling the streets of a out-of-control Baghdad their past stupidity helped shape, then we might want to listen to these cowardly fools.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

This comment board started out as a discussion about the article by two disgraced arm-chair faux-imperialists lecturing Congress and the rest of on what America SHOULD be doing in Iraq.

With the exception of one poster whose sole contribution on the page so far is to insult other posters, the discussion has since drifted to the question of what Americans THINK their government IS doing in Iraq in the first place.

Not to pick on Mr. Friedman, but his inconsistency in the first thread above is quite typical of the confusion in the minds of millions of Americans (some of whom are not even supporters of the now not very credible Bush Administration) and this confusion bears a bit of closer examination.

Consider first the essence of the dialogue between Friedman and me above:

1. “The War”

N. Friedman on April 2, 2007 at 10:24 PM
perhaps the war, bad as I may think it is, will turn out, blunders and all, to have altered the course of Arab Muslim history for the better.

Peter K. Clarke on April 4, 2007 at 5:34 PM
what "war" ?

by N. Friedman on April 5, 2007 at 10:45 AM
We are losing troops fighting in Iraq. That, to me, is called war. So, in fact, we are at war.

Peter K. Clarke on April 5, 2007 at 12:24 PM
American citizens and police officers have been dying while fighting, and with unending frequency, in violence- ravaged American inner cities for decades. It is not therefore a "fact" that American cities have been "at war" with themselves since the days of West Side Story.

2. “Military fighting”

N. Friedman on April 5, 2007 at 1:20 PM
Our troops are fighting an insurgency or civil war or whatever you want to call it. When the military fights that, in normal English, is a war.

N. Friedman on April 5, 2007 at 4:34 PM
War: 2 a : a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism"
Source: Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary.

3. “The muddle of whom the military is fighting”

Peter K. Clarke on April 5, 2007 at 5:09 PM
Who is America fighting in Iraq in 2007?

N. Friedman on April 5, 2007 at 8:06 PM
In Iraq, there are discreet Sunni and Shi'a groups, Mahdist groups and Kurds. We are not fighting the Kurds. We are fighting with most of the other groups, on and off.

In this exchange, three basic delusions (under which too many Americans operate) are evident. First, it is assumed that "the war" is a clearly identified and agreed upon phenomenon. Second, the reason for this assumption is that our troops are fighting and dying, therefore there must be a war. Third, the acknowledged reality that this fighting and dying is happening in off and on "conflicts" with dozens of disparate clans and tribes whose fundamental "antagonisms" are with each other, not with Americans, is still somehow assumed to add up to "the war."

This is a basic recipe for mass delusion.

Consider how weird this sort of “reasoning” would appear if applied consistently across other modern policy challenges

When national guard troops were sent into South Central LA following riots there, or into New Orleans after the hurricane, we did not say they were being sent into "the war."

When U.S. Marines were blown up in Beirut in the early 1980s, they were not considered to have died in "the war."

The U.S. military intervention in Somalia in the early 1990s came to a similarly ignoble end. But those Americans who lost their lives when the blackhawks went down were not reported as having died in "the war."

American troops have been in the peacekeeping missions around the world for many years, in the Balkans for over a decade for example. Some of them have been involved in violent encounters in the line of that duty. NATO and the UN are not normally thought to be deploying such forces in "the war," however.

"War" is a term used to both cover a variety of armed conflicts, and
also to metaphorically refer to an even wider range of struggles ("war on poverty," "war on drugs" "turf wars" etc.).

Calling America's involvement since 2003 in Iraq "the war" differs fundamentally from past usages of that phrase, however.

Here there are indeed a number of basic underlying metaphorical wars. The struggle with the variously perceived objective of defeating "terrorism," combating Islamic terrorist groups, suppressing "Islamism," protecting America's vital interests in stable Mideast, promoting democracy, or thwarting the spread of weapons of mass destruction, or any combination or permutation of the above, is called "the war" because of its seriousness, longevity, and violent nature.

But, America ALSO has large numbers of troops engaged in a deadly operation in Iraq, the justification for which is a floating mixture of the various objectives above (none of which -except maybe "stability"- primarily involve Iraq).

Like pigheaded generals fighting the last war, the two political parties have both bought into the fiction that these two phenomena (the metaphorical war to keep America safe from an evil terrorist-prone world, and the real deployment of US military forces to topple a government, and then stick around to get killed in the ensuing cycles of anarchy within the power vacuum which followed) ARE ONE AND THE SAME: "the war."

The basic Republican line is to insist on supporting the troops and commander-in-chief (unthinkingly and no matter what) in "the war."

The basic Democratic line NOW is to claim (without saying it directly) that is a rerun of Vietnam. A misbegotten and failed "war" for which the only solution is cut losses and pull out of “the war” or “end the war.”

Neither party has any appealing alternative to these asinine positions because alternative views would involve admission of having fomented and concurred in a major mistake in having promoted and authorized Iraq fiasco to begin with.

The mainstream news media has also bought into this delusionary terminology quite wholesale, although "war on terrorism" is increasingly preceded by "so-called." I think this is partly because the press, and the public, likes to think lazily in terms of black and white. Democrats versus Republicans, American troops versus the enemy, supporters versus critics of America's involvement in Iraq. All these dichotomies are defining their positions in terms of "the war", so most of the press does too, and thus so does much of the public.

"Popular delusions and madness of crowds" has a long history before and since the appearance of the book by that title 150+ years ago.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

RE "As for your view that we could have avoided, whether by means of a different president or different policies, most of the basic crises we now face, you are fooling yourself."

Indeed YOU are fooling YOURSELF, Friedman, if you think that long-term trends in Islam are responsible somehow for the long string of disastrous blunders committed by the G.W. Bush administration in Iraq.

It might be valid to assume that had Gore (or a McCain or someone else) been running the show in 2002-04 a different mix of mistakes would have been made instead. But, it is a matter of pure, and highly dubious, speculation to flat out assume (and suggest any opinion to the contrary is "fooling") that the blunders of a Gore or McCain or even a Kerry would have come anywhere close to matching the catastrophic recklessness and arrogant folly of Bush and his neo-con hypocrites.

What was it you said: everything they touch turns to drek ?
Not every conceivable US president is that bad. Not even close.

RE: "Your last point is nutty. They were very good at propaganda."

You evidently misunderstood. I very much meant to suggest

[ here:

"They could have sent them on any trumped up excuse or, perhaps, something real that would have occurred. The public would have accepted it."

I doubt it. They were too incompetent and too arrogant. Bush and Rove are damn good at running election campaigns. And that is what they basically did - at the expense of America's international security interests in 2002-03. In my humble opinion. See the threads above for details. ]

that the Bushies WERE good at propaganda and LAME at running a foreign policy.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

RE: "the conquest ideology will remain because it is possible, not because we do this or that thing. We are dealing with religion, not logic or reason.

If you think that we can dramatically alter this by withdrawing from Iraq or invading Iraq, ..."

I NEVER remotely suggested anything of the sort

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

In this quote you describe your own posting approach to a T, Mr. Simon.

You have not yet said anything yet on this page about (a) the argument about future policy in the article this page is hitched to, (b) my argument, in several posts, that underlying assumptions about "the war" in Iraq are an erroneous framing of the challenges facing the US, or (c) Mr. Friedman's rebuttal that calling the US intervention in Iraq "the war" IS valid terminology.

For a very different approach to making comments, see my posts
April 2, 2007 at 11:25 AM and
April 3, 2007 at 2:28 PM
and the posts by Rodden, Kazmer, and Mathewsson above.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

You are right that there is a bi-partisan and widespread tendency to call America's fiasco in Iraq "a war."
I stated as much already.

By your own definitions (with which I a NOT taking issue), however, war applies to America's involvement there only in two senses: (1) An incipient Civil War between Shias and Sunnis - in which case the U.S. is NOT IN "the war" in the usual sense, except as an intermediary power trying, so far with little success, to defuse both sides or (2) scores of off-and-on mini wars between hundreds of tribes, clans, gangs, cells and sub-tribes, -clans and -cells. You can call that "the warS" if you want, but not the war (singular). Not if you want to be consistent, at least. I would prefer "chaos," "anarchy," "rule of the jungle" or such phrases.

The American military needs, for reasons of morale, and practical policy, to play up its mission, but the reality is that it does not have a credible one. The guys on the ground are doing their best, and deserve commendation for their efforts, but they have been sent into a hopeless mess, and given a shifting set of BS-ridden and unrealistic "plans" by unfaithful, incompetent and hypocritical leaders.

The choice of terms, or the "framing," of the Iraq fiasco, though a trivial issue of semantics in theory, matters immensely in practice. It explains, to a large degree, American policy since 2002, the outcome of the 2004 and 2006 elections, and the current political posturing, including the lame article we have here which is based on bluster and BS, not on a sober assessment of what is actually at stake, or what has been massively screwed up by the Bushies, cheered on by these neo-cons, and to the point of almost completely irredemable disaster.

The Democrats and Republicans are playing an asinine blame game, for the reasons of ass-covering which I already outlined above. I hereby officially SPECULATE that a consensus of future historians will damn them both in words not much more "excessive" that what I have been using here.

When all the fog is swept away, we have here a shameful blunder ranking with the great horrors of America's past -the Red Scare, racial oppression of blacks, the incarceration of the Japanese-Americans in World War II, the Vietnam disaster. Only this is worse, in a way, because it was so needless. The neo-cons and Bush had a golden once-in-a-generation opportunity to remake geopolitics in America's favor, and they blew it royally and with the spineless acquiesence of the Democowards who are now squirming to deny their complicity.

A dozen future Al Qaedas and a score of future Saddams are the big winners out of this bungled and disgraceful mess. How big they will win, or whether other factors might mitigate the impetus given to the forces of tyranny, religious fanaticism, and to the attenuation of American power and influence, is something no one can predict. But, it is not a credible reason for belittling the cracks in a dam, and the water gushing through them, as a downpour of rain continues indefinitely, by saying "we don't know yet," how great the damage will downstream due to the coming flood.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

1. I agree that most Americans call the current US mess in Iraq, a "war."
The military I said (not the Dems) do it for reasons of rationalization and rah rah morale-boosting.

I do NOT agree that calling the current US intervention the "Iraq war" is "normal dictionary usage." At least not so far (except for a few weeks in 2003). I strongly suspect future historians will call it something else, or put in quotes. Normal English might be to call it a looming civil war (made possible by the Bushies invasion having smashed the pottery with no plan for how to put it back together again) or a labyrinthian series of multiple violent feuds and ararchy adding up to warlike conditions, or some such. A less convoluted description might simply be the aftermath of a failed occupation of a failed state.

2. I think your Vietnam analogy is misguided, for reasons which may cause you to rethink it. I think the long term threat of Islamic fundamentalism has more staying power today than the Soviet Empire did in 1970.

Vietnam seriously wounded America, but it did not have widespread repercusions elsewhere, and the doomed Soviet system (already by then in the final quarter of its existence) was unable to benefit much from it. By contrast, the Iraq mess will help both recruitment and training of future Al Qaedas, according to many recent reports. As was pointed out already years ago, Bin Laden set a trap, and the neocons and Bush dove into willingly and face first.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

From Bat Yeor's narrow and not very historically informed "Eurabian" perspective, you may be right.

But just imagine, ten or fifteen years from now, Iran and Saudi Arabia both have limited numbers of quasi-international regulated nuclear weapons (one Shia nuke power and one countervailing Sunni nuke power, somewhat like Pakistan and India). I am not advocating such a development, but it seems at least possible due to the blunders of Clinton, and the mega-blunders of Junior Bush, the recklessness of Russia, and China, spinelessness of Europe (as a group), the worthlessness of the "anti-war movement" etc. etc.. Now suppose some new little Jihadist statelet, Waziristan, Yemen, Sudan, take your pick, starts making moving moves to get its hands on nuke technology, processing, delivery capability, in the name of "true Islam." It would then be convenient, would it not, to have the OPTION or THREAT of unilateral American preemptive military action on the table?

But, would a Congress in 2017 or so, remembering the lies and blunders of 2002-? in Iraq, be inclined to authorize such a move? Would a US president dare to try to organize it? Or have the wherewithal to do so? Would the world, recalling the cries of "wolf" in 2002-03 be inclined to support it? Would it possible to carry out such a move, or credibly threaten to do so, without encouraging all sorts of roguish behavior around the world?

America's historical track record as an competent imperial power or world policeman is not very impressive. Taking on that task in the future, when it might be truly desirable (rather than doing so lamely, and very counterproductively as in 2002-04) will be more difficult due to the fiasco, ill-will, mistrust, and squandered opportunities of today.

We are going to cut and run out of Iraq, all likelihood. No matter who wins in 2008. It will probably be packaged as something else, and disguised by some other distractions, but when the realization of this great American defeat dawns on the public, the proverbial excrement is going to hit the proverbial air circulator. I will not speculate further as to when, or how, but America is under a massive delusion that it is in a "war" in Iraq than can either be "won", "negotiated" out of, or abandoned, and then everything will be hunky dory again and we can all focus on mortgage interest rates, prescription drugs for senior citizens, gay marriage, and Britney Spears. Mark my words. It won't happen. And there will be new troubles when that hits home. The genie of disorder is out of the bottle. America has peaked, and bad times are coming. And the Iraq fiasco is bound to go down on record as at least one of the key historical turning points leading to that new downtrend for western civilization.

It is time to face up to the great American defeat in Iraq inflicted on our country by the arrogant neo-cons -the two scoundrels here being not the least thereof- with the conniving and lame acquiesence of the gutless "opposition" to those neo-con blunderers.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I will look for the Foreign Affairs article in the library. I seriously doubt there will ever be any nuclear bombs built in garages, let alone nuclear tipped missiles deployed from there. But if terrorists seize a state, then they would have much greater resources for nuclearization. The lies about Saddam could be true about some future tyrant.

An Islamist despot is not likely in Europe (ultimately the Moslems in non-Moslems will assimilate or they will be suppressed. The French and Italians, for example, are lame, but not that dumb). But in the Mideast or "3rd World" it is a different matter. Many of those countries are demographically and economically headed straight up the creek of proverbial waste products without the proverbial means of propulsion, thanks to global warming, peaking oil production, etc. etc.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Ditto the above "indeed."

Frederick Kagan, the lesser known of the two, has training on Soviet and Russian history which has been applied to post-Cold War "strategizing", a supposed military analyst who, however, has no military experience, and who evidently does not know the difference between war and terrorism or between war and nation-building, and an advisor to President Junior Bush on Iraq, who evidently speaks no Arabic.

These chickenhawk windbags know no shame. They were both members of the notorious Project for a New American Century (the biggest -if unwitting- American helpers of Al Qaeda), and Kristol was the author of PNAC's focus-on-Saddam open letter sent to W just days after 9-11.

Here is what Kagan said in November, 2003 -as the UN and Red Cross were being bombed out of Iraq due to Rumsfeld's "messiness", as Iraqis were starting to try to emigrate in droves as well, and as the incompetence-generated Abu Ghraib horrors were about to start unfolding:

November 12, 2003

The American military today may be in the best position of any military in history. Its victories over Iraq and Afghanistan have transformed not merely the way the U.S. thinks about and conducts war, but the way the entire world sees violent conflict. American technological prowess and the skill of the professional American armed forces have opened a gap in capabilities between the U.S. and its closest competitors that many see as unbridgeable. Those triumphs, as well as the American people’s perception of the threats that the U.S. faces, have also served dramatically to reduce the mutual mistrust and hostility that had separated the military from the public since the Vietnam War. Trusted by its people, emulated by its friends, feared by its foes, unequalled in capability and skill, the American military is in many respects at the height of its power.

Do we now get an apology, an explanation, an attempt to atone for the military, political, and security diaster for America which they helped to foment? No, just more arrogant and incompetent warmongering from two fake-imperialist cowards.

See also:

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

How much validity Yeor's thesis about a Moslem takeover of Europe has, and what fraction of historians of Europe see more than grains of truth in it, are immaterial to the question being addressed here: Is America's Iraq predicament partly due to a fundamental confusion -including a semantic confusion- about the nature of that overseas involvement?

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

The greater insult is to the United States of America: that these two scoundrels aren't being grilled before a Congressional investigating committee on how the greatest disaster in American foreign policy history occurred, or permanently resigned from all public service and under psychiatric care. They may be small fry in the overall Iraq disaster (Congress needs to first of all reform itself), but they are small fry with big mouths.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"European countries are suppressing their own cultures and political agenda in favor of one that well serves the purposes of the Islamic agenda." is what you said.

Just as irrelevant as "Muslim takeover of Europe" to America's mess in Iraq.

Your other points are valid, but don't explain why America invaded Iraq (only) and in 2003 (not earlier or later) and has been so clueless about what to do there, or how to extricate itself, or how to recognize the consequences of its defeat there.

And of the defeat there can be little doubt. It is not within light years of any policy-wonk's radar screen that there could ever be a showing anything remotely like yesterday's anti-US demo in Iraq, to express support for US policy. We went into Iraq against the wishes of its people, against common sense, against sound diplomatic and military principles, against world public opinion, and against our own traditions. There was no strong support from the US public for such a mad rush to invade, nor was there ever a credible plan, end-objective, or strategy developed by the mad-rushers. And Bat Yeor's ideas -whatever they may be- have about as much to do with this debacle as do the ideas of Britney Spears' hairdresser.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"mad" is clearly a matter of opinion
"rush" is closer to historical fact:

1) Bush-Cheney (and their incompetent cheerleaders like the two clowns above) did not bother taking time to do their homework in a whole range of subjects, from diplomacy with NATO allies, to the role of the Iraqi army post regime-change, to the exit strategies, etc. etc.

2) They pulled resources from Afghanistan when the job there was only begun in order to pursue the pipedream of a cakewalk to Baghdad.

3) They wrecked one of the most forceful international inspection programs ever, by forcing the UN team out of Iraq prematurely, before it had completed its assignment

4) They sent Powell (well-meaning I think but loyally-dumb soldier in the end) to make a major speech to the UN based on faulty and made-up "intelligence" to his and America's everlasting shame

5) They torpedoed the "compromise" efforts of friendly countries such as Canada, who wanted to wait another 6 months or so to let the inspections run their course first

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Re "We're fighting them in Iraq so that we can fight them again somewhere else."

We are "fighting them" (while an at least equal number of Americans are being picked off like sitting ducks, and 50 times as many Iraqis are dying, many of whose families will hate the missionless Yankee invader for decades to come)


the hypocrite spineless Democrats who rubberstamped this idiocy in the beginning and haven't lifted a finger to remedy it since, can then also be blamed for the inevitable eventual cut-and-run. Either they find a backbone and force a pull-out now by terminating funding or they waffle on as usual, and then pull out after "winning" the White House in 2008. Either way, it will be they who snatched defeat from the jaws of the cakewalk victory in the accounts of Rovian mythmakers.

Never underestimate public ignorance and gullibility, notwithstanding Abe Lincoln. McCain thinks Rambo could have conquered Hanoi. 2/3 thought Saddam masterminded 9-11.

The alternative:

1. Congress repeals the anyway now obsolete 2002 blank check Iraq blunder-fest authorization.

2. All Congressional Democrats who voted for it resign for life from politics in everlasting shame. The senator from Whitewater New York can lead the way, and never have to buy another new dress to wear to Iowan porkbarrel quilting bees.

3. After the requisite special elections to fill their seats, the new Congressional replacements begin the impeachment hearings of the P and VP for treason against America.

It will at least provide a credible counterspin.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

They had time, but did not use it to properly strategize or plan. They used it crank out mounds of bull. Remember "we don't launch a new product before labor day." They focused on conning the voters, not on doing their jobs.

The WMD issue was absolutely not meant mostly for European consumption. It was front and center to what Cheney, W. and Rummy were saying regularly in 2002 and early 2003 to AMERICANS. It was the reason for the UN voting to send in inspectors. It was what Powell went before the UN to talk about it. It was what Rice was talking about with her "mushroom cloud" remarks.

It WAS a legitimate concern. What was deceptive, and a mound of bull, was the notion that the risk of WMD capability was any greater in 2002-03 then it had been in any other year since 1992. The hype that the danger was significantly greater in 2002 was THE MAIN REASON Congress, most of the press, and a lot people like Juan Cole, who ought to have known better support and acquiesed in a rush to war in 2003.


That, Mr. F., will be regarded as a rush by any future historian worth his salt. Whether it was mad, crooked, treasonous, idiotic, or as you suggest, simply "foolish" will obviously be a matter of varying interpretation. But an unplanned rush it surely was. Read Woodward, Ricks or any of a spate of recent comprehensive BOOKS if you must instinctively reject my take.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

No mass idiocy need be assumed. One clear reason they needed to rush to war in early 2003 was the considerable risk that the inspectors would not find anything if they waited and let them inspect, thus diminishing one of the main arguments for the invasion.
Another reason is that, due to the climate in Mesopotamia, they would have had to have waited until late in 2003 (if they didn't rush in in Spring, 2003), which would have taken the invasion and causalities etc, into the 2004 election season. They WERE idiots, in some cases, to think there would be a quick victory, and -making this false assumption, or gambling on it as a good possibility (which it never was)- wanted their "Mission Accomplished" before the 2004 primary season started. Their remark about launching after Labor Day (2002) is telling. The invasion was about PR, about making an unpopular and unelected president look like a war hero. The timing and hence the rush was necessary, given the election cycle.

N. Friedman - 4/15/2007


You misread my comment. My point is that the major trend in the Muslim in the Muslim region is aimed at present along the lines that dominated the Muslim regions prior to the time that the Ottoman Empire began to contract - i.e. conquest.

Such is the result of a religious revival, which plays out locally as an attempt to make Islamic law dominate, to destroy Israel, etc. and non-locally by the migration en masse of Muslims to Europe, one place where conquest aims.

The religious revival is an internal trend within Islam that accounts for 99.9% of what is occurring. We only impact on the margins. But, the conquest ideology will remain because it is possible, not because we do this or that thing. We are dealing with religion, not logic or reason.

If you think that we can dramatically alter this by withdrawing from Iraq or invading Iraq, etc., you are fooling yourself, which is my point.

N. Friedman - 4/15/2007


You write: you seem to be implying that had there been no invasion of Iraq in 2003, or had Kerry taken over in 2004, that America would have been even more helpless against Iran than it is now.

That is a broader statement than I would make.

First, regarding the war... I do not see how it benefits the US. Had we not invaded, that would be one less headache - not to mention, one less place where our soldiers would be dying.

That is different from saying that there would not be other headaches. There would be and few of them would change substantially due to the Iraq war. The politics change a bit and, to some extent, are made more complicated, but the general trends would still be in place.

Second, had Kerry been elected, there is the question whether Kerry would recognize Iran for the problem it really is. I do not know if he would.

Were he to follow the path suggested by European appeasers, we would be much worse off. Were he to take a more aggressive approach, it is hard to say what would be the case. For all that can be discerned, he would have kicked the football down the field, like Clinton, Bush I and Reagan did, which, if not quite as bad as the European approach, would not be a good thing. Would it be worse than Bush II? I have no idea.

Note my basic view about Bush. Even when he does the right thing, it turns to drek. In the one place where his approach has brought results (i.e. between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs), the achievement is, if we describe it generously, thin and tentative.

What can be said is that he allowed the Israelis to punch the fight out of the Palestinian Arabs, at least for the moment. And, in the case of Lebanon, he allowed the Israelis to set back slightly Iran's ability to make Israel a second front should the US decide to fight with Iran - an unlikely probability, at least at the moment.

You write: But, that the US bungling into and getting bogged down in Iraq has emboldened and empowered the radicals and hardliners in Iran like Ahmindihad and limited our scope for action, I think.

The overthrow of Saddam made Iran stronger. That is objectively the case since Iran now has one fewer enemy neighbor. Some Iranians may well be emboldened, as you claim.

On the other hand, some in Iran may worry that the US will pack up and move the troops to the Iranian border. Some may well fear that possibility a great deal. So, some may be motivated by fear of the US.

Both views - and maybe even more - may co-exist in an interesting juxtaposition that is exploited by the religious leadership of Iran. Iran is a theocratic state dedicated to a theocratic cause. In the end, that is the most important point, I think, to understand about modern Iran.

The Iranian leadership likely plays on both fear and perceived US weakness toward the cause that Ahmadinejad has stated, namely, that Islam will begin to reclaim land lost, among other places, in Europe. And, that trend is the main thing going on with Iran, in my humble view, while the two dominant possible understandings of US weakness or strength is merely used to garner support.

So far as sending inspectors, I would have ignored that point entirely. I do not see that it was important because Iraq was surrounded. It did not need to be inspected. If it caused problems, it should have been bombed.

Kagan and Kristol are dealing the reality that is. They think the fight is still winnable. So, that is what they are advocating. I think they are likely wrong. But, as I am fond of saying, the future is always difficult to predict.

N. Friedman - 4/15/2007


The talk about Turkey comes from the point that the administration, shortly after 9-11, met with Bernard Lewis and from the fact that some members of the administration consider themselves to be, in a sense, disciples of Lewis. I have read at least one article on the Internet in which the entire project was discussed with reference to Lewis' famed - and with good reason, famed - book The Emergence of Modern Turkey. The analysis made a lot of sense.

As for your view that we could have avoided, whether by means of a different president or different policies, most of the basic crises we now face, you are fooling yourself.

The crises we now face are the result of trends in the Muslim regions and also, as Lewis notes, due to the migration of Muslims to Europe over the last 30 years or so.

The biggest trend here is that, as Lewis notes, the millennial dream of Islam to conquer the world has reemerged. And, that is something we did not cause. As Lewis notes, it emerged based on trends in the Muslim regions, with the end of the Cold War and as a result of the migration of Muslims to Europe.

Your last point is nutty. They were very good at propaganda.

N. Friedman - 4/14/2007


I more than half agree. Iraq is a big mess. And, it has hurt us elsewhere - in fact, everywhere. And, Bush is inept. And he has not made things better. And everything he touches turns to drek. All true. And more.

But, the circumstances involved would, nonetheless, be out of control. In fairness to Bush, he has, unlike my beloved Clinton or, for that matter Gore, actually attempted to address the issues - issues that we faced but which Clinton chose to ignore and Gore would have ignored. Moreover, had we taken the European approach, we would merely have swept problems under the rug.

So, the issue with Bush is in performance. He has the virtue of recognizing that problems not addressed get worse. Kicking the can down the road in the Muslim region really is the reason for the mess, speaking overall.

Now, again, I would, if I were president, never have invaded Iraq. It was, to me, obviously an impossible task. Democracy is a nonstarter for people who believe that who rules is defined by their religion.

But, then there is Iran. And, in the end, what happens in Iran is central to the future of the West. The issue with Iran - which really is a nightmare on the not too distant horizon - needs to be addressed while Iran does not have nuclear weapons.

So, we have Bush who, due to his ineptitude, has messed up US credibility and made alliances regarding Iran very difficult. But, the Europeans are living in a fool's paradise and, most likely, would not have done anything anyway. They have deep economic ties to Iran and, even worse, confuse their interest with the view of limiting American power.

Had Bush not been elected, we would have surely taken something akin to the European approach which would have merely postponed dealing with Iran, as if the country were not run by men dedicated to creating a modern day Armageddon, as a means to bring about the Twelfth Imam. In other words, the can would have been kicked down the road but, at some point, reality would and will catch up here.

So, I have mixed feelings. I think Bush really is inept. But, I see him as just one version of ineptitude. I see my preferred Democrats living in the world of make believe, as if the world would be the same with a nuclear Iran. That is an equally bad form of ineptitude.

N. Friedman - 4/14/2007


Read your comment. It is mere politics. It is not analysis. What you write makes no sense, on the surface. It may sound good to you but it is nuts. I'm sorry but you are not making any sense.

If the goal was the election, then they did not need to send the troops in 2002. They could have sent them on any trumped up excuse or, perhaps, something real that would have occurred. The public would have accepted it.

You present a straw man of choices. The issue was to invade, which had a certain logic based on the Turkey model, or to hold off invading, which met the realist school of thought.

Neither choice was a good one, in my humble view. The realist record in the Arab regions is a joke, one mistake after the next. You can count on problems getting worse under their able hands, as they have done after the realist nonsense associated with Bush I and that marked the time until Bush II.

The Turkey model was based on the mistaken, I think, view that Kemal was an accident to Turkish history and, hence, unnecessary to the change he unleashed, not a moving force who brought revolutionary changes by the force of his success and personality.

So, this was not a question of making good choices. This was a case of two false models presented to the ruler. And, the ruler chose poorly. But, had he taken the other road, no doubt the Islamists would have exploited it a different way. Why? Because they are on the march and, unlike the West, control the agenda of Muslim thought.

So, all we have seen is the mistakes associated with Iraq. Had we not invaded, we would have seen other disasters.

N. Friedman - 4/14/2007


If Bush was worried about the polls, he would have invaded closer to 2004, riding the events out longer. Why? The country rallies around the president at the beginning of any war. The longer it drags on, the less popular the war is. So, your theory still makes no sense.

N. Friedman - 4/14/2007


Consider the implausibility of the weapons argument, as made by the President. Bush's theory involves concern that Iraq, which was surrounded, was soon to harm the US. He never believed that argument nor did his advisers nor did any politician of any intelligence.

If, in fact, weapons were the issue and if, in fact, there were a real threat to the US from Iraq, no president I can imagine would worry about the UN or inspectors or anything of the sort. Bombs would have fallen on Iraq the very first hour a real threat was perceived. And, that would have been the end of the matter.

So weapons could never have been anything other than a cover story. Obviously, the war had little to do with WMD.

There was no rush because the inspectors were only for public consumption anyway. The decision to invade was made prior to the inspections. The decision to send troops was, for all practical purposes, the same as the decision to invade. Once mobilized, the invasion was not going to be stopped. That was obviously by the fall of 2002, if not before.

The election between Bush and Kerry did not, evidently, largely turn only on the war. For what it is worth, Kerry was a terrible candidate, an embarrassment. Bush was a terrible candidate, an embarrassment. That, I suspect, was what the public saw. In the scheme of things, the public perhaps turned to the idiot it knew rather than the idiot it did not know.

And, then there was the alleged moral issue, meaning that people were ticked off, for example, at the decision by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts that sided in favor of homosexual marriage. That decision, from the home state of Kerry, certainly had a major impact on the election results, driving traditionalists to the polls in very large numbers.

N. Friedman - 4/14/2007


I have not checked to see what other people think about a 60% approval rating. I cannot imagine anyone taking the opposite view. In fact, I would be amazed if you can find a professional pollster who claims that such is a problematic rating for a president.

Again - and this is a fact -, the average ratings for both the Clinton and the Reagan presidencies are well below 60%. I have already posted the numbers. At the time, Bush's numbers were sky high, as compared with the norms of two very popular presidents, Reagan and Clinton. That does not speak to a president in big trouble, as your argument suggests.

Consider the matter this way. Either party has about a safe 38% of the public in pretty much any situation - unless the president, like Bush now has, has lost his own base constituency. As a result, a 60% rating means that pretty much all but diehards supported a president. So, by definition, such a rating is rather stellar. It marks near the highest possible rating absent unusual circumstances.

Also consider the situation in the fall of 2002. Not only were Bush's ratings high, they led to the extremely uncommon circumstance of the party that controls the White House gaining seats in Congress. That has only happened two other times since the Civil War. And, the President's polls only really began to decline near the 50% mark after control of Iraq turned problematic late in 2003. Which is to say, it was problems with the Iraq war that likely made the 2004 election close.

In any event, my impression is that the Iraq war was not based on getting re-elected. As I noted, no president does much of anything important without considering the electoral implications. That, however, is different from saying that such is the reason for starting a war.

I recall that Republicans charged Clinton with bombing of, if I recall, a pharmaceutical factory to distract attention from his sex scandal. That was an outrageous charge, just as your charge is outrageous.

A person who is terribly partisan might believe the wag the dog scenario, notwithstanding the fact that such made no sense. I think you are doing exactly that. But note: I have no doubt that Clinton, Bush, Reagan or any other president would have spoken with his political advisers before acting, since all presidents do such things.

N. Friedman - 4/14/2007

Check it out. As I said, that number is higher, by far, than the average rating by either Clinton or Reagan.

N. Friedman - 4/13/2007


A 60% approval rating is sky high.

N. Friedman - 4/13/2007


I did not say that Bush is more popular than either Clinton or Reagan. Read what I wrote more carefully. I said that, by the historical average for Clinton or Reagan, Bush's standing was rather high at the time he decided to invade. That is shown by the evidence.

As for Bush's plans, we know the views of the advisers - as publicly stated, at least. Some thought that the weapons were an issue. Others thought the democracy idea was important, ala the views of Thomas Friedman of The New York Times. The name Wolfowitz comes to mind for that position. And, there were other opinions discussed in public. We also have evidence, from Wolfowitz, that the WMD story was a cover story, since that is what he said. I do not have this one in my cache but I know his statement to that effect was published.

Again: the logic of your view, that Bush's popularity was not high so that he invaded to help his standing for re-election, has been refuted by my evidence. It is, thus, time for you to come up with a real theory.

N. Friedman - 4/13/2007


1. We live on different planets. I think there are facts without regard to the politics of a source. Hence, the issue is the scholarship, not the viewpoint. Reading between the lines, I think your comment is borderline bigotry.

2. A rating near the 60% range is, so far as I know, sky high. But, let me make you happy. It was a high approval rating.

So, at a period of high approval rating, you think a war was started for fear that the rating would fall. This, notwithstanding the fact that the decision to start a fight with Iraq had likely been made much earlier, not in the fall of 2002.

I frankly think you do not know how to read polling data. Consider, President Reagan, who was a rather popular president, had an average approval rating for his entire time in office of 52% (Gallup). Clinton's average was 55% (Gallup).

The reason for not waiting to start a fight, in short, is not shown by you to be tied to ratings. The most likely reason was that the war did not have much to do with WMD. It had to do with Bush's "vision" to spread democracy.

N. Friedman - 4/12/2007


Polling results for early September 2001 - April 1, 2003:

Q.1 Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?


March 28-April 1, 2003 71 23 6=100
March 25-27, 2003 70 24 6=100
March 20-24, 2003 67 26 7=100
March 13-16, 2003 55 34 11=100
February, 2003 54 36 10=100
January, 2003 58 32 10=100
December, 2002 61 28 11=100
Late October, 2002 59 29 12=100
Early October, 2002 61 30 9=100
Mid-September, 2002 67 22 11=100
Early September, 2002 63 26 11=100
Late August, 2002 60 27 13=100
August, 2002 67 21 12=100
Late July, 2002 65 25 10=100
July, 2002 67 21 12=100
June, 2002 70 20 10=100
April, 2002 69 18 13=100
Early April, 2002 74 16 10=100
February, 2002 78 13 9=100
January, 2002 80 11 9=100
Mid-November, 2001 84 9 7=100
Early October, 2001 84 8 8=100
Late September, 2001 86 7 7=100
Mid-September, 2001 80 9 11=100
Early September, 2001 51 34 15=100

The first number, after the year, is the approve number. The second number is disapprove number and the last number is the don't know number.

At the point when invasion was likely decided upon, the numbers were quite high. They were not as high in 2002 as in 2001 post 9-11, but they were rather sky high. At the time the invasion was likely decided upon, they were, in fact, rather extraordinary.

N. Friedman - 4/12/2007


Some or all of your points may be true. Or, some or all may be untrue. We do not have sufficient facts to know.

Again: they clearly wanted to invade. It is the "why?" which is, still at this point, an unknown. To know, we would need to have access to material that, so far, is not in the public record.

Was it timed to elections? Maybe. Did it have to do with the inspections? Maybe. Then again, as with WWI, once the troops are in place, the engines of war take on their own momentum and logic.

Recall what the Kaiser was told by his general when he wanted to hold back his army: the troops had been mobilized and holding them in place is not feasible. Tuchman notes that point rather clearly in her book. [Note: I do not even know how true it was in 1914 - and Tuchman seems to have been skeptical of the matter - but, as we know, such excuse or fact, whatever it may have been, was presented to the Kaiser who, notwithstanding his misgivings, went along with the invasion.]

Whether such is quite as true in today's world, I do not know. But, no doubt, the expense and difficulties in mobilizing and then holding an army in place must still be enormous so that such, along with issues about the warmth of a summer invasion, were reasonably likely to have been the major considerations.

Regarding the inspectors, I kind of doubt that such held the importance to the administration that you see. It would have been fairly easy to discredit their work - without discrediting them - by noting that an inspection regime can fail to detect things. I think that would have been not a very big sell to the public.

And, in that regard, consider Iran which held its nuclear program secret for more or less 20 years. And now, if Ahmadinejad is telling the truth, the inspectors and the experts were all wrong, as, notwithstanding predictions, Iran may already have 3000 centrifuges. And supposedly Iran should, by the experts' view of things, have in the few hundreds.

Or take N. Korea. The experts thought it had weapons. Evidently, that may turn out to have been an error.

While I think Iraq a mistake, I rather doubt that weapons were the main reason and, even if weapons were the main reason, I doubt that any US president would determine an invasion based on a report by a third party inspection regime that might contradict the view of a president's advisers. That would be an irresponsible - an arguably impeachable - act.

As for the election cycle, Bush's popularity was nearly sky high since September of 2001. While, like all presidents, the political implications of events were no doubt considered, I tend to doubt that the invasion was timed for the election cycle. I think that theory is contradicted by his high popularity and the fact that it makes little sense.

N. Friedman - 4/11/2007


I may overstate in suggesting the importance of European opinion. I should have said public consumption.

Be that as it may, the evidence you cite, as I see it, is consistent with my point. Note your words: "It was the reason for the UN voting to send in inspectors. It was what Powell went before the UN to talk about it." The UN is certainly not for the consumption of Americans. That was for non-Americans.

And, as for public consumption, the rest of what you write is consistent with that. You indicate: "It was front and center to what Cheney, W. and Rummy were saying regularly in 2002 and early 2003 to AMERICANS." And: "It was what Rice was talking about with her 'mushroom cloud' remarks." In other words, that was all hype.

Now, we need to move on to their main reasons. Such, in fact, were also talked about by policy planners, such as the maligned Wolfowitz. He focussed on the democracy project. That project continued even when no WMD were found. So, either both were important or only the democracy project was important. But, it was certainly not the WMD issue as primary - except, perhaps, for public consumption.


So, your explanation is consistent with all of the advisers being idiots. I do not place the Bush family high on the intellect scale, all told. But, no one is that dumb. Your analysis makes no sense, as it assumes that not only Bush but all of his advisers are too dumb for words. And, we know that is not so. Wolfowitz was no dummy. Neither was Rumsfeld. Arrogant - no doubt but hardly dumb.

I reiterate Martin Gilbert's point. What goes on behind closed doors is not always quite the same as what is said in public. So, the story of why we invaded, since it is difficult to imagine that the WMD was the main issue - for reasons you have stated as reasons why the adventure made no sense and given that, whatever dope Bush may be, his advisers are not all dopes -, is, at this point, not known.

Hence, we cannot reach your conclusions. They are very much premature.

You cannot even reach my views yet. Again, we need to see the internal discussions to know. We have not seen them. Neither has anyone you cite.

N. Friedman - 4/10/2007


Again, they had more than enough time to do their homework. So, I do not buy the rush or mad theory. I think they merely were wrong.

I think that the weapons had almost nothing to do with the war. I think that was a red herring intended mostly for European consumption. I think the issue was always the democracy campaign. That was intended to begin undermining Jihad as an ideology and was understood, from the outset, to be a very, very long term project.

My view is that such is a fool's errand but, nonetheless, it was the errand the Bushites had in mind in Iraq.

N. Friedman - 4/10/2007


The Bat Ye'or comment was in response to your comment above. I then wrote:

I agree that it is likely that the Jihad has a potential long shelf life. We are, as Bat Ye'or argues, the third great Jihad. I think that is likely the case and that our children and grandchildren will be in the same battles. But, I doubt the Iraq war or Iraq "x" will be more than a bleep on the map, long term.

You then went on one of your bizarre anti-Bat Ye'or campaigns. I attempted thereafter to clarify her position and, now, here we are, with you claiming that your inability to read correctly is my changing the topic - when I merely noted her in the first place in direct connection with a comment you made.

The reason for 2003 is that it was not possible to invade earlier. It took time to build up sufficient support in the US and then to move forces into place. But note: by the time of 2003, even Bill Clinton supported the invasion.

I do not think it was a mad rush to war. I think it was a mistake. How bad a mistake remains to be seen.

N. Friedman - 4/9/2007

Let's try it again,

I am going to place an extra symbol in the mix so it all works.

I place a "<a" and then a "href=" and then the URL within quotation marks and then followed by ">" and the name of the page (not in quotation marks) followed by </a>.

I hope this works.

N. Friedman - 4/9/2007

Mr. Simon,

I place " and then follow it with the name of the page followed by.

N. Friedman - 4/9/2007


I write you an explanation of some of Bat Ye'or's views and you, again, repeat views she does not hold. Do you know how to read?

In answer to your question (i.e. in answer to "Is America's Iraq predicament partly due to a fundamental confusion -including a semantic confusion- about the nature of that overseas involvement?"), No. America's predicament in Iraq has to do with a lot of things including changes in our society regarding casualties and regarding expectations that results come instantaneously and our lack of understanding of the Eastern model of war (see, John Keegan on this point), on the nature of Islamic society, on the nature of the groups that make up Iraq, on the interests in the various Muslim Arab states to preserves the existing order and also on the political immaturity of the Arab regions, among many other things.

I hope you read my comment before you react. Again, you clearly did not read my comment regarding Bat Ye'or.

E. Simon - 4/8/2007

Friedman - how do you create hypertext links in this forum? I'm used to using "href=....", but I'm not sure that works here. Does it?

N. Friedman - 4/8/2007


The Zimmerman/Lewis article is in Foreign Policy, not Foreign Affairs.

I do not think anyone is claiming that an Islamist despot will take control of any European country - at least not in the foreseeable future. Such is not even the argument being made by Bat Ye'or.

What she is arguing is that European countries are suppressing their own cultures and political agenda in favor of one that well serves the purposes of the Islamic agenda. That is quite a bit different from what you would have her arguing. In any event, a reasonably fair summary of some of her views is set out in this review of her book Eurabia by Bruce Thornton, a professor and chair of the Humanities Department at California State University, Fresno. Among other things, Thornton explains:

Ye'or's thesis in Eurabia is that in the last thirty years jihad has reappeared as "a powerful factor in European affairs," one that has been virtually ignored in contemporary analyses. From the high tide of Muslim ascendancy on September 11, 1683 before the walls of Vienna, the subsequent centuries saw the contraction of Muslim power and the growing interference of Europe in the affairs of the Middle East, a retreat confirmed by the deep humiliation of the Ottoman Empire's dismemberment after World War I. And any hopes that Islam could regain its lost glory militarily were dashed when a tiny Israel three times defeated Arab armies. These further defeats confirmed that jihad could not be pursued with military force and that other means would have to be pursued. King Hassan II of Morocco said as much at the meeting of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers in 1980: "The significance of Jihad, in Islam," the summary of his remarks states, "did not lie in religious wars or crusades. Rather, it was strategic political and military action, and psychological warfare, which, if employed by the Islamic Umma [the worldwide Islamic community], would ensure victory over the enemy."

For thirty years, these other means of waging jihad have been remarkably successful in effecting "Europe's evolution from a Judeo-Christian civilization, with important post-Enlightenment secular elements, into a post-Judeo-Christian civilization that is subservient to the ideology of jihad and the Islamic powers that propagate it," with the result that Europe is turning into Eurabia—a "civilization of dhimmitude," content to sacrifice Israel today, and its own cultural identity in the future, for temporary peace of mind and economic benefits.

In Eurabia Ye'or documents both the "jihad by other means" that the Arab states have waged against its traditional enemy, and the craven appeasement with which the European political elite has faced a threat that their ancestors met and turned back at Poitiers, Andalusia, Lepanto, and Vienna. In contrast, "Europe, as reflected by the institutions of the EU, has abandoned resistance for dhimmitude, and independence for integration with the Islamic world of North Africa and the Middle East." Ye'or's analysis shows us the various ways that this slow-motion Munich has taken place, and the interests and pathologies that facilitated this appeasement.

David Pryce-Jones explains in his review of Eurabia:

Much of what she records looks like the routine of international meetings that keep diplomats immersed in tedious routines of their own design. There they go from Barcelona, to Lahore, to Naples and Hamburg and Venice. But out pour the resolutions, in pours the European taxpayer's money, and lo and behold, shoals of new organizations are spawned, a Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation, a Euro-Mediterranean Partnership program, a Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership, and so on, as in the reproductive process of the amoeba.

By definition, representatives of European democracies have a different standing from representatives of Arab tyrannies, and ought to have different values. Instead, they are determined to give the Arabs whatever they demand. In the face of such surrender, the Arabs--skillful negotiators--naturally raise their demands, and so are incorporating Europe into imperial designs of their own. Arabs must be allowed to immigrate into Europe with full and guaranteed rights, and they must be shown a tolerance that they would never consider granting any Europeans who immigrated into their countries. The figures are uncertain, but something on the order of 20 million Arabs are now in Europe, and whether they will integrate or choose Islamist separatism is an urgent question.

Separatism is in effect jihad, that is to say a contemporary version of the traditional Muslim conquest by war of the infidel, with subsequent dhimmitude as the other side of the coin. A main ingredient of European anti-Americanism stems from the determination of the U.S. to resist jihad, indeed to break it by all available means. In Bat Ye'or's view, Europeans are being pressured by their leaders into dhimmitude; their continent is being remade as Eurabia. That is the real purpose of the Euro-Arab Dialogue.

Dhimmitude, she writes, is based on "peaceful surrender, subjection, tribute and praise." Signs of all this are everywhere present. European statesmen and intellectuals line up to assert that Western civilization stems from Islam and its learning, ignoring or deprecating the Judeo-Christian heritage and the contributions of Greece and Rome. "Europe's roots are as much Muslim as Christian," was the bizarre assertion of Jacques Chirac, an apostle of dhimmitude. Muslims claim Abraham as a prophet, and churchmen accept this nonsensical distortion of chronology and Judaism. The Muslim occupation of Spain, known as al-Andalus at the time, was an occupation like any other, but academics and publications pretend that it was a golden period of multicultural togetherness.

N. Friedman - 4/8/2007


1. Bat Ye'or Eurabian theory seems to be held by Walter Laqueur, Sir Martin Gilbert, in large part by Niall Ferguson and Bernard Lewis. That is a who's who of famed writers. So, perhaps you might ask yourself whether it is you who merely enjoys sticking your tongue out at a writer you have never bothered to study and who attempts, at times, to employ coinages that sound odd.

2. It is certainly possible - maybe even a likelihood - that the US will withdraw soon from Iraq. Whether that will signal a major defeat for the US is an open question. That, after all, was my point about the US withdraw from Vietnam. It appeared, in the West, as a major defeat. Evidently, however, it was seen somewhat differently in the USSR in that the US did not seem any less formidable overall.

In the case of the Middle East, there would no doubt be euphoria among the religiously drunk. More sober people, however, would look and still see that the US is the strongest nation on Earth, the richest nation on Earth and the dominant nation on Earth. So, while there would be the thought that defying the US might, in a war, lead the US to cut and run after a certain point, there would also be the thought that the mess left behind by the US is no real victory for the enemies of the US.

3. Your comment about a world in which statelets have nukes is a scary one. That, frankly, could be a possible future no matter what the US does, short of conquering the entire region. In this regard, see Walter Laqueur's excellent book No End to War: Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century. Also see Peter D. Zimmerman and Jeffrey G. Lewis's excellent article, "The Bomb in the Backyard," Foreign Policy, November/December 2006. According to the article:

Could a nuclear attack by bin Laden, or any other terrorist, actually happen? Some say it would be impossible, mistakenly believing that terrorists do not have the motivation, or the ability, to assemble the highly sophisticated, modern tools necessary for the task. Most observers, however, agree that a small group could construct a lethal nuclear weapon since they are conceptually simple devices. After all, the technology involved in creating a nuclear weapon is more than 60 years old. In fact, it is perhaps easier to make a gun-assembled nuclear bomb than it is to develop biological or chemical weapons.

If you do not subscribe to Foreign Policy, the article can nonetheless be found online. The authors are rather expert on the subject. According to the article:

Peter D. Zimmerman is professor of science and security in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. He was previously chief scientist of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chief scientist of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Age

Jeffrey G. Lewis is executive director of the Managing the Atom Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He publishes the leading arms control blog,

The article proceeds to show how a bunch of somewhat competent fanatics could, in a garage in the US, build a functioning nuclear bomb. So, this is not all some future issue of statelets. It is current issue that requires substantial public attention. More than likely, this issue will be with us no matter what the US does. As Laqueur notes, the fewer involved in a lunatic group, the less controllable it is and the more likely it will be totally irrational and, given modern weaponry, dangerous.

N. Friedman - 4/7/2007


You indicate that the Iraq war will recruit more Jihadists. That may prove true. My view, however, is that such is the least important of the issues because there are already more Jihadists than their leaders can manage. And, that was true before the Iraq war.

I agree that it is likely that the Jihad has a potential long shelf life. We are, as Bat Ye'or argues, the third great Jihad. I think that is likely the case and that our children and grandchildren will be in the same battles. But, I doubt the Iraq war or Iraq "x" will be more than a bleep on the map, long term.

N. Friedman - 4/7/2007


Now you have stated - and I must applaud you for a change - a real argument. While you do not cite to facts, you still raise your position in a coherent manner.

I note, first, that you now have conceded that by common usage, we are in a war. You question whether that terminology is appropriate - which is fair - but you do not deny the obvious fact that, by normal dictionary usage - we are at war.

You argue that Democrats, etc., play up the fact for whatever reasons. That may be so. I do not think that the point is to boost morale. I think that there is no better available terminology that summarizes the circumstances.

As for reaching conclusions, I hesitate to reach final conclusions. Why? Because I recall just how awful the Vietnam war was and the fiasco it was thought to be at the time. I protested that war, marching in Washington (e.g. the Moratorium march) and hearing Martin Luther King at the UN, etc., etc. But, in fact, that war did not have the impact it was thought, at the time, to have. So, that makes me cautious about reaching conclusions that suggest fiasco or anything of the sort. I think we need to stay tuned and see.

But note: were I president, we would not have started this particular fight. And, if I had done so, by now our troops would withdraw to secure areas between Sunni and Shi'a and Kurd districts with an eye toward separating the fighting parties and keeping our troops far from the fighting. While, no doubt, the fighting would follow us, I think our withdraw from cities would tend to allow the civil war to form into separate states which would allow us a more graceful exit. Alternatively, I would pull the troops out now.

N. Friedman - 4/7/2007


By the dictionary, it is a war. I have consistently called it a war. So, I have not been inconsistent.

Your comparison to the LA riots is interesting but irrelevant. Riots can, depending on the circumstances, be called a war where actual troops are required in order to put down the riots. And, were 2000 or so US soldiers were killed in the battles, it surely could be called a war. It might not be akin to WWII, but it could be called a war, if we go by the dictionary.

Now, that does not mean buying into the government's propaganda. It means using words as they have been used. Many years ago, I defended a client accused of false advertising. My opposite number in the case argued that the meaning of words should be prescribed, as some dictionaries do. I argued that words mean what they are understood to mean, as many dictionaries - e.g. Webster's Third New International - do. That, in effect, is our debate except that you fail to realize that even prescriptive style dictionaries use the word "war" to cover what is going on in Iraq.

You, by contrast, want to use the word "war" in a very narrow sense that you would prescribe. Presumably, you have a political motive since your posts are filled with invective. Hence, you can dump on the Bushites for their foolishness by casting doubt even on whether there is a war going on.

I, by contrast, while not being a supporter of the War or the Bushites, do not have your motive as I think it serves no imaginable purpose other than to further confuse the situation. Rather than being political, I am merely using the word "war" in its common dictionary sense, as it will be discussed in history books and as it is used in the press and by pretty much every commentator. Maybe we are all wrong. However, it is how the word is being used and such use does seem to be supported by dictionaries of both the prescriptive and descriptive kind.

I have not suggested we are winning. I have suggested the possibility that the outcome of the war is uncertain. In that sense, I pointed out the obvious, namely, that one result of all of the fighting is that the steam might be lost in the Jihad. That remains possible. If that occurs, then the result will be different than what appears reasonably likely. I am not saying that knocking the steam out of the Jihad is likely to happen. I am merely saying it is a possibility.

That the US will come to control Iraq to me seems, at least now, rather doubtful. That also could prove a premature judgment but it is my best guess.

Thus far, I see no rational point - other than pure politics - to your discussion directed to showing that we are not in a war. You suggest it is a Republican or Rove line that we are at war. But, in fact, people from the party I tend to vote for, the Democrats, also call it a war. Such is what, so far as I know, Rep. Murpha, Senator Clinton, Senator Obama and, so far as I know, every politician in the country calls it. The European press calls it a war. The Israelis call it a war. All the Arab states and, so far as I know, their papers call it a war. So far as I know, military historians also pretty much all call it a war. See e.g. Costly Withdrawal Is the Price To Be Paid for a Foolish War , by Martin Van Creveld. By the way, Van Creveld one ups you, thinking the Iraq war - which you do not call a war - to be "the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them."

In my view, the distinction you draw is unimportant. Call the event an "X" if that makes you happy. The reality is soldiers fighting and dying in what unfortunately appear to be - and I believe actually are - futile circumstances in order to accomplish whatever the policy objectives now allegedly are.

E. Simon - 4/6/2007

I notice you never address the observations noted in the post, and just redirect it around so as to instead attack the person posting it - as if the appropriateness of your behavior in itself depends on who observes and notes it. Someone whose threshold for questioning - let alone confronting - himself is so defensively high that he typically resorts to castigating others as a way to avoid addressing such things at all, is certainly not secure with himself, and all talk of bravery thus merely underscores the hypocrisy he must embrace in order to cover-up that amazingly extraordinary shortcoming.

E. Simon - 4/5/2007

Working on one's emotional intelligence can actually improve cognitive functioning!

E. Simon - 4/5/2007

The Pseudonym is also incredibly selective with facts. Some facts he believes are worthy of exploratio-, strike that, worthy of publication, and those that are inconvenient or contrary to his cause he merely ignores. His interest in exploration is 100% restricted to the hypotheticals, the "speculation" necessary for his cause du jour, and he glosses over the facts as if they were unimportant afterthoughts - unimportant to anything other than as a pretext for his rabidly expressed speculating.

N. Friedman - 4/5/2007


In the Vietnam War, the US also fought the Vietcong.

In Iraq, there are discreet Sunni and Shi'a groups, Mahdist groups and Kurds. We are not fighting the Kurds. We are fighting with most of the other groups, on and off.

The rest of what you write is too stupid for words.

N. Friedman - 4/5/2007


You are never abrupt. What you do is play games, rather than admit that you are wrong.

By the common use of language - the plain meaning, in this case -, the US is in a war in Iraq. Our troops are being killed and maimed. Such is due to acts of violence by those Iraqis who think they are at war with the US and/or otherwise want to kill and maim people including American soldiers. That makes it a war.

That you do not know who the enemy is does not much impress me. That you do not know what a war is does not much surprise me. It is par for the course from you.

N. Friedman - 4/5/2007



a. A state of open, armed, often prolonged conflict carried on between nations, states, or parties."

Source: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

"2 a : a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism"

Source: Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary.

In other words, you are full of baloney.

N. Friedman - 4/5/2007


Strike: "When the military fights that, in normal English, is a war."


When the military fights, that fighting, in normal English, is called war.

N. Friedman - 4/5/2007


Are you for real?

We sent our troops to Iraq. They invaded the country. That is called war. Now, our troops are fighting an insurgency or civil war or whatever you want to call it. When the military fights that, in normal English, is a war.

Frankly, your entire line of discussion is idiotic.

N. Friedman - 4/5/2007


Last I recall, we are losing troops fighting in Iraq. That, to me, is called war. So, in fact, we are at war.

Further, there is a declared Jihad against the US and the West. That Jihad has very widespread support across the Muslim regions and, most particular - as polling shows - in Europe.

Jihad is a type of war. It has a long history that can and has been carefully studied. Jihad includes the very sorts of things that have occurred including raids into enemy territory that are done for a variety of purposes. Such raids are called razzias.

Those engaged in such activity are called, depending on the circumstances and time, gazis or mujahadim or Jihadis. Such activity may occur at the behest of the sultan or, in some instances, despite the policy of the Sultan. Such activity may be purely destructive in character - as in burning fields and churches - or to obtain slaves and concubines, etc.

Patricia Crone chronicles such razzias that were a regular feature of Islamic society. She notes the point that such occurred, as noted above, in some cases notwithstanding the policy of a given sultan - and in other cases as part of official policy. Bat Ye'or chronicles such activity as official policy most particularly out of Andalusia into France. She notes in particular that such raids - which would occur more than once per year over the course of centuries - included the burning of fields, the taking of women for harems, the burning of churches, the massacring of towns, etc., etc.

Bernard Lewis writes, with reference to razzias, out of Egypt as late as the 19th Century, that were carried out in order to obtain slaves:

In the nineteenth century, black military slaves reappeared in Egypt in considerable numbers; their recruitment was indeed one of the main purposes of the Egyptian advance up the Nile under Muhammad 'Ali Pasha (reigned 1805-49) and his successors. Collected by annual razzias (raids) from Darfur and Kordofan, they constituted an important part of the Khedivial armies and incidentally furnished the bulk of the Egyptian expeditionary force which Sa'id Pasha sent to Mexico in 1863, in support of the French.

Source: Race and Slavery in the Middle East, by Bernard Lewis (1994).

Now, if your point is that the West may choose to defend itself by means other than classical battles on the battle field, that certainly makes sense. But, if your point is that there is no state of war - as if a war exists only if we admit it exists, notwithstanding the fact that millions of people think they are at war with us -, you are fooling yourself, confusing your disdain for the Bushites for clearheaded analysis. And, in the case of Iraq, there is no doubt we are at war.

Now, it is certainly the case that the Bushites say and do all sorts of things that seem, at least to me, to serve no useful purpose. Perhaps they will prove me mistaken in thinking they are barking up the wrong tree. More likely, I think not. If that is your point, I agree. If, on the other hand, you really think that we are not engaged in a war, I think you are not thinking straight.

N. Friedman - 4/5/2007


It is how you speculate. Your version of speculation fails to distinguish facts from your speculation.

And, to note: you assert speculation as if it were fact.

N. Friedman - 4/4/2007


But, all you have done is speculate. Then, you act as if your speculation is fact. Which is to say, you fail to distinguish what you are doing.

N. Friedman - 4/4/2007

Now you have lost me.

N. Friedman - 4/3/2007


Again, if your point needs all the excessive language you employ, it is reasonable to ask whether your points are as strong as you believe them to be? Clearly, you feel the need to convince yourself.

Why not try making points with facts instead of invective? That would help you immeasurably.

Tim Matthewson - 4/3/2007

Thank God we invaded Iraq

As the New York Times reports this morning, a "new generation" of al-Qaida leaders has "emerged" under the control of Osama bin Laden, which has led to "surprise and dismay within United States intelligence agencies about the group's ability to rebound from" America's post-9/11 offensive.

What does that have to do with the war in Iraq? Well, not much, except for this:

"Experts ... believe the fighting in Iraq will produce future Qaeda leaders," the Times reports. Robert Richer, a former associate director of operations for the CIA, puts this fine point on the matter: "The jihadis returning from Iraq are far more capable than the mujahedeen who fought the Soviets ever were. They have been fighting the best military in the world, with the best technology and tactics."

Translation: We're fighting them in Iraq so that we can fight them again somewhere else.

-- Tim Grieve

N. Friedman - 4/2/2007


You are engaged in speculation as if you were talking about facts. Do you know the difference?

As I am fond of saying, there is no way, at this point, to claim that the mistakes in Iraq are the greatest in US history. That is a very premature comment.

Perhaps the US role in the settlement to WWI was the greatest blunder in US history. Then again, who knows?

The point here is that you confuse your opinions with facts. And, at this point, we do not even know the end of the story. Maybe the creation of a civil war between Sunni and Shi'a will take the steam out of the Jihad. In that case, perhaps the war, bad as I may think it is, will turn out, blunders and all, to have altered the course of Arab Muslim history for the better. That would be a latent effect which must be factored into things before we judge where the Iraq war fits into the scheme of things.

Again, it is much too early to judge exactly whether the mistakes are the worst in US history or just plain mistakes. And, we may all turn out to be wrong, most especially if the Jihad dies a premature death.

N. Friedman - 4/2/2007


I did not know you had it in you to cite sources and argue based on facts. If only, on the topics you post most on, you did such. Then there would be something to discuss other than your debating style.

As for the substance of your comment, except for your invective - which is entirely unnecessary and detracts from your argument -, you make some good points. I agree with some of it as well.

As for the use of invective, consider that a good argument is correct if it is consistent with fact and logical. The use of invective makes your reader think that there may be something wrong with your points, since, otherwise, there is no reason to insult.

Lisa Kazmier - 4/2/2007

Indeed, these two helped feed the whole "greeted as liberators" garbage. I'm sure they bought into the "End of History" thesis and thought Iraq would fall into line w/o trouble. NOW they want different?

Doesn't the term "discredited" shut them up? Ever?

Glenn Rodden - 4/1/2007

Are not these the same two gentleman who argued a few short years ago, against the advice of the military, that the US did not need more troops to fight in Iraq? Now, they are claiming that we need to send more troops to Iraq with no timetable for withdraw. Why does anyone listen to these people?