About Those Predictions If We Leave





Mr. Livingston teaches history at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. He is finishing a book called The World Turned Inside Out: American Thought and Culture at the End of the 20th Century, to be published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2008. He blogs at: politicsandletters.com.

Chaos. Civil War. Regional strife or Iranian hegemony in the Middle East. American credibility impaired in the eyes of the world. Terrorists emboldened enough to strike “the homeland.”

These are the supposed consequences of a phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Let us take a page from John Murtha’s book and ask why we should believe these dire predictions offered by Bush, Cheney, Gingrich, Perle, Frum, Kristol, & Co. Have these people been right about anything since September 2002—or, for that matter, since August 2001, when they chose to ignore all kinds of warnings about impending attacks on the US?

WMD. Nuclear capacity, mushroom clouds. Al Qaeda connection. And so on: you know the list. These people have never come close to the truth about Iraq, so why do we take them seriously now?

Because that was then and this is now. Why should we worry about the past when we’ve got important work to do in the present?

How many times have you seen an anti-war Democrat silenced by the following rhetorical questions? Don’t we have some responsibility to the Iraqis (and the region) now that we’re there? Wasn’t Colin Powell correct to say, “you break it, you own it”? How can we just pick up and leave? Don’t we have to stay until the job is done?

The logic seems to be that the past has nothing to do with the present. It goes like this. Yes, well, we were wrong about the rationale for invasion back then, but that mistake has nothing to do with the choices we have to make in the here and now. Yes, the occupation was bungled, but that mistake is already over, and has nothing to do with our strategic options today. We must now “succeed” in Iraq—we must have “victory.”

Let us test the logic and consider the predictions.

Do we have some responsibility to the Iraqi people, now that we have broken their country? Absolutely. Can we own it? Absolutely not. Can we fix it? Absolutely not. Only a genuinely multinational peace-keeping force sponsored by the UN or NATO can prevent continued civil war and genocidal violence.

As General Douglas Lute (he’s now the “czar” of the war, he’s formerly the logistical chief of CentCom) pointed out in 2005, the American occupation is the cause of the insurgency and its result, the internecine warfare of the sects and the militias. Once the expulsion of American troops became the consensual purpose of the insurgents, the sects, and the militias—not to mention the majority of non-combatant Iraqis—the original “mission,” however defined, was doomed.

Can a counter-insurgency strategy “succeed,” allowing for “victory” in Iraq? Yes, but only if we have ten years and at least 120,000 troops in Baghdad alone. This is not my arithmetic—it’s the math done by General David Petraeus, who supervised the composition of the military’s new counter-insurgency manual. You need that much time and that many troops to defeat the typical insurgency: 20 to 50 counter-insurgents per 1,000 indigenous people are required over ten to twelve years.

There is no way the American people or the US Congress will allow a ten-year occupation. And there are only three ways to muster the required numbers. First, break the military’s “one in three” rule, which stipulates that for every unit in combat, two others are training or resting. This is already happening, of course, but it can’t be sustained for long.

Second, enlarge the military. This, too, is already underway, but it can’t help the situation until about 2011. Third, train more Iraqi security forces. If there is a new strategy at work in the so-called surge, this is it. But it can’t work because the loyalties of Iraqis are so divided—except when they contemplate the presence of the American military in their midst. Only then do they come together, in opposition to the occupation.

So let us get realistic. Victory in Iraq just is withdrawal of combat troops because only that signifies the relinquishment of the imperial hubris that put us there. Only that signifies our return to multilateral sanity as represented and enforced by the United Nations as well as hundreds of NGOs.

Richard Hofstadter, the late Columbia professor of history, explained our current predicament on May 18, 1968, in the New York Times Magazine, when “only” 20,000 Americans had died in Vietnam: “To absorb the sense of guilt and failure Americans will take away from Vietnam is unquestionably a tax on our maturity. But the experience may be turned to some use if we can define more articulately than we have ever done the realistic limits of our national aspirations. It is essential for us to do so precisely because we are by far the world’s strongest power. For the rest of the world it would be reassuring to know that our aspirations are, after all, really limited. It might even be reassuring for ourselves.”

In the spirit of Hofstadter’s intervention, I’ll insist that the past has everything to do with the present in three related senses. First, the “mistakes” of the past were driven by the same ideological urgency that now regulates the utterance and the policies of the administration. Bush, Cheney, Gingrich, Perle, Frum, Kristol, & Co., have never backed off from their original commitment to the radical agenda of pre-emptive war and regime change, no matter the evidence or the obstacles. They now rant about Al Qaeda in Iraq, in a strangely atavistic rendition of post-9/11 rhetoric, but the offensive character of their ideas remains.

Second, the stalemate in Korea and the defeat in Vietnam had enormously beneficial effects on the conduct of both foreign policy and domestic politics. The Korean War forced us to rethink our relationships with both China and Japan—to accept, for example, the limits of our military power in East Asia. And if there is such a thing as the “Vietnam Syndrome,” it was, and is, a good thing. For it reminds us that the Peasant Wars of the 20th century—this is the title of Eric Wolf’s great book—could not be won by imperially constituted military power, no matter how large or skilled or concentrated; and so it reminds us that political engagement with our enemies, whoever they might be, is the indispensable condition of legitimate world power.

One of the great ironies—or idiocies—of the Cold War is that Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon understood this chastening effect better than Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, the architects of the disaster in Vietnam. The end of the war in Vietnam demonstrated what the Korean War could have taught us much earlier. Notice that the zealots were liberal Democrats, not conservative Republicans: the Left was, and is, complicit, in the making of the modern American empire.

And the domestic effects of this ending in Asia were just as salutary. The consent of the conscripted was forever after inscribed in our political culture (even the culture of the military, where hierarchy is supposed to thrive) and the “all-volunteer army” became the most progressive and important social program in America—it became the mystery train bound for education and social mobility for poor kids from the Bronx to South Central, with stops in Appalachia and south Texas.

Third, the past is usable as an antidote to the extremities of the present. The alternative to the Bush administration’s radicalism resides in the principles of 20th-century American diplomacy. The theory and the practice were never quite in synch, to be sure, but the multilateral, developmental assumptions of that century in US foreign policy are worth revisiting—and reinstating.

The principles and assumptions were quite simple, even though they represented a break from the colonial past. They went like this. (1) All nations, all peoples, even the poorest, deserved sovereign status. (2) Every barrier to trade, investment, and movement of people was a threat to world peace because the establishment of exclusive “spheres of influence,” as per the European colonial model, limited the transfer of technology and thus inhibited economic growth and development; trade war was the inevitable result, and trade war led directly to real war. (3) Multilateral, trans-national institutions were the key to preserving the sovereignty of all nations, all peoples, and to enacting a more “open door” world by dismantling the inherited colonial model. (4) All nations, all peoples, were approximations of each other. No one was exempt from the laws and consequences of history: civilizations were not mutually exclusive, and neither race nor religion were their defining characteristic. Development was accessible to all.

These principles are now at risk because the Bush administration has decided that a “war on terror” is the best way to restore presidential power at home and to reinstate American power abroad. The weird notion of a “clash of civilizations” drives this bizarre initiative; Paul Berman and Samuel P. Huntington here converge on a truly, literally, idiotic agenda. The intersection of foreign and domestic policy—or rather the collapse of the distinction—could not be better illustrated. But then neither could the intersection of so-called Left and Right—or rather the collapse of the distinction—be better demonstrated.

And now let us consider the predictions of chaos, civil war, regional strife, Iranian hegemony, terrorists emboldened, and so on. These predictions were originally made by the opponents of the war, and have all come true. So our question must become, why aren’t we following their lead and demanding phased redeployment of American troops? Why has the burden of proof shifted to the opponents of this war, when it is clear that the Bush administration is, as usual, unable to verify its claims?

I don’t have an answer, except to say that the opponents of the war don’t yet know how many people are with them. But then demonstrations don’t much matter precisely because everybody understands that the overwhelming majority of the American people are with them. We’re all sailors at Kronstadt, wondering if the Bolsheviks really mean it.



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James Livingston - 8/14/2007

Yes, I did the math at the lower end--20 as v. 50--and keep in mind that the revision was accomplished with real numbers of available troops in mind The classical texts the general studied used the baselines obtained in Malaysia and Algeria, i.e., 20 to 50.


Arnold Shcherban - 7/16/2007

Eisenhower's? It's like having testimony of defendant in court to be legally recognized as evidence...


Arnold Shcherban - 7/16/2007

That's all you can say and show in response to my arguments?
You've made a statue of haplessness of yourself, my friend!


Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 7/4/2007

The only point above on which you seem in the slightest way amenable is the one on the Korean War ending. Read "Mandate for Change," by D. D. Eisenhower, where he lays it all out.


Michael Pugliese - 7/2/2007

> Can a counter-insurgency strategy œsucceed, allowing for œvictory
in Iraq? Yes, but only if we have ten years and at least 120,000
troops in Baghdad alone. This is not my arithmetic its the math done
by General David Petraeus, who supervised the composition of the
militarys new counter-insurgency manual. You need that much time and
that many troops to defeat the typical insurgency: 20 to 50
counter-insurgents per 1,000 indigenous people are required over ten
to twelve years.

That manual was just published in pb. format, by University of
Chicago Press. Just saw it at Barnes and Noble, "published" July 4th.
http://www.amazon.com/Marine-Corps-Counterinsurgency-Field-Manual/dp/0226841510/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-1778641-0116643?ie=UTF8&;s=books&qid=1183342163&sr=8-1
>
However as to the figure above, in the WSJ on Friday, June 28th,
pg. A12, it says Petraeus et. al. call for 20-25 counter-insurgents to
protect 1,000 civilians.


Arnold Shcherban - 6/28/2007

<Pluralist notion of truth... is indispensable to working historians>.
This is exactly what's traditionally missing in the so-called "historical truth" perpetrated on the US citizenry be the mainstream media and
historians like L.B.Hughes.
Just let's take a look on the "inconsistencies" in delivering historical truth he shared with us in his last comments.
<Reagan's reputation has blossomed with distance from his contemporary critics...>
Of course, it blossomed, primarily, among those who praised it from the very beginning... Otherwise, let's see: Reagan - a slayer of international communism? Maybe in
purely physical terms, since the US
and its terrorist allies in Nicaragua
and elsewhere killed thousands of civilians and dozens of internatioanl aid workers, but only lazy doesn't know today that the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European socialist came
as the result of the objective economic and social failures of those regimes, not through the Reagan administration's agressive stance towards them. Moreover, the latter actually slowed the progress to regress;
Reagan as modernizer of the US economy? Deep economic crisis has followed his presidency, has it not?
What else is he champion of?...
Not already mentioning that Hughes' usage of Reagan's case as an example of "inconsistencies", defeats its purpose, since according to Mr. Hughes himself his reputation has blossomed in the mainstream recently. It is not popular today side of the relevant historical truth that I mentioned above that is missing from wide discussion.
<We've known since 1965 the test ban treaty was a complete disaster, violated by the Soviets from day one, which forced the U.S. to resume testing on a crash basis to recover two years in the arms race... >
This is not just an inconsistency, this a deliberate lie. Notice the assertive manner: "We've known"!
First of all, who are "we"? Historians, US governments?
Secondly, "have known" traditionally expresses an absolute certainty, the proven fact. Do such proven facts exist in regard to the Soviet violations of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963? Perhaps, in the minds of the historians at the cup of tea and the political hacks, but they are unknown to nuclear test
experts, since no consistent data exist to prove those violations either in US or Russian archives.
It is also interesting in this regard to remind the historians at tea cup that according to the official US data turned out after the the Cold War period the US performed total of over 1000 nuclear
tests, while the Soviet Union just over 700. So much for <testing on a crash basis to recover two years in the arms race...> Moreover Hughes did not even notice that according to
him the US would ocassionally secretly violate the Treaty itself(!), instead of sending the official Note of Protest to the Soviet government, which they would certainly have done (and did do upon violation of treaties) provided they had the proof of such violations, with the option to exit the Treaty if the violations by the second party continued.
What a fantasy!

<Joe McCarthy's "witch hunt," when it has been clear for decades that the Soviets stole all our atomic secrets during the war with an extensive network of spies that reached high into the New Deal. I submit the historical importance here is about our loss of the secrets, not about the excesses of a drunken senator... >
First of all when Left, or Liberals, or any objective historian condemns that "witch hunt" they do so not because they against the anti-spy or anti-loss-of-national-secrets activity of the national security agensies, who are primarily responsible for such activity, but because they are, as any honest and free people, against the creation of the atmosphere of fear, ill-intented suspicion, and persecution often based (though, admittedly, not always) just on their ideological and political preferences, the atmosphere that this country's mainstream ideologues have trationally criminalize totalitarian regimes for.
"We" also know that "historically" the majority of the Soviet spies who had been caught by FBI, not by Mc Carthy and his commission, then and later, and prosecuted by the US courts, were not communists.

<...Eisenhower brought the peace talks to a conclusion at Panmmunjam, ending the Korean War, by threatening to use nuclear weapons on the communists. >

Could Mr. Hughes support that claim
by citing the North Korean political leaders, the people whom that threat targeted? Otherwise, his claim (which I personally have no beef with) remains in the realm of unfounded speculations.
Besides, it seems to me (which is also a speculation, although well founded) that the fact the US
military had ground-leveled every city and village in North and South Korea (if one beleives the Korean war hero - US general Le May) would be quite enough a reason for the Koreans to seek peace agreement with the US.

Now let's go to the one of my all- time favorites, the one that recently became almost a passing test for neocons:
<We never hear, either, that the quid pro quo for withdrawing Russian missiles from Cuba was withdrawing American missiles from Turkey, but it was. (In fact, the JFK administration never had any foreign policy successes.)>

To all objective historians and just peaceful citizens that timid offer made in the Khruschev's letter just to save face in the eyes of international community, which was hesitantly accepted by President Kennedy under the tremendous time pressure was a very minor thing in exchange for saving this country and the Russian people of the quite possible in his (and everyone else's sober) mind nuclear disaster.
This is the point where the vicious double standards of the US mainstream ideology and propaganda come to fruition.
One has to really be an outrageous ideologue and political hack not to recognize that the US nuclear missiles located in Turkey, very close to the Soviet Southern borders and pointed specifically at the targets on the Soviet Union territory did not constitute the mortal threat to Soviet national security. Thus, the Khruschev's offer of elimination of practically identical to Cuban threat to the Soviets was absolutely and mutually justified not only in strategic sense, but well grounded in good traditions of international foreign policy.
Moreover, as it well known, the US governments did not implement that part of the obligations as they had been initially agreed upon (as the US
traditionally refuse to do to get the military advantage over other countries as well).
While the Soviet Union have removed
all its missiles with nuclear warheads from the Cuban territory, despite receiving strongest objections from Cuban leaders, the US just ceremoniously relay the handling of the missiles (upgraded by that time) to Turks.
That was a defeat in foreign policy
Mr. Hughes blames Kennedy administration for, clearly demonstrating unhuman logic.

And finally, according to the relevant US statistical data the greatest percentage of the US volunteer army, especially among privates and lower officers, and especially in the war time, do come
from the lower socio-economic strata.
That was the fact during Vietnam war, that is the fact now, which "we
really "know".

And who drives the college tuition costs if not the "consistent" supporters of Reagan's ideology?


James Livingston - 6/28/2007

(HUGHES: you haven't responded to amything I've said. Get empirical on the "all-volunteer army" or I'll assume you're making it up. Ditto on all else.)

Oh, can I also ask you to stop ranting about the Cold War from the standpoint of Joe McCarthy, just so we don't have to do professional wrestling on TV and all? Do you really think Wm. Buckley was right about these matters?

You continue to amaze me.


Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 6/27/2007

Krusten is on target when suggesting it sometimes takes time to know historical truths. Look how Reagan's reputation has blossomed with distance from his contemporary critics... When he was alive liberals can be excused for jumping to applaud JFK for his nuclear test ban treaty, but what about Edward Dallek still claiming this was a Kennedy foreign policy success as late as 2006? We've known since 1965 the test ban treaty was a complete disaster, violated by the Soviets from day one, which forced the U.S. to resume testing on a crash basis to recover two years in the arms race... To take another example, we still hear constantly about Joe McCarthy's "witch hunt," when it has been clear for decades that the Soviets stole all our atomic secrets during the war with an extensive network of spies that reached high into the New Deal. I submit the historical importance here is about our loss of the secrets, not about the excesses of a drunken senator... You still hear people praising the columnist I.F. Stone, apparently unaware he was on a cash retainer from the Kremlin for years and years... We never hear that Eisenhower brought the peace talks to a conclusion at Panmmunjam, ending the Korean War, by threatening to use nuclear weapons on the communists. Yet he did, and successfully. How wars ended should not be a matter of historical neglect... We never hear, either, that the quid pro quo for withdrawing Russian missiles from Cuba was withdrawing American missiles from Turkey, but it was. (In fact, the JFK administration never had any foreign policy successes.) (LIVINGSTON--My reference to the volunteer army was in response to your false allegation these soldiers come disproportionately from poor families. They do not. Families from every income stratum today find government-paid tuition offers attractive, because college costs have been completely out of control for many years.)


James Livingston - 6/27/2007

I appreciate this, have learned from it--and it reminds me of Woody Allen: comedy is tragedy plus time. I think the pluralist notion of truth contained herein is crucial, is indispensable to working historians, as against the folks who don't do the research but are willing to pronounce from on high about what we should be up to.

Thanks.

I would, however, reiterate my earlier claim about the intersecion of politics and history. I don't see how one happens in the absence of the other.


James Livingston - 6/27/2007

You're killin' me here.

Mr. Hughes, you know perfectly well that the Bolsheviks I have in mind are the people in the White House who have no regard whatsoever for Constitutional scruple, balance of powers, public opinion. Don't take my word for it. Read the Washington Post on Cheney (just between you and me, he is a war criminal, and knows as much, and has been trying for three years to make sure he doesn't end his life like Agosto Pinochet by trimming the law on war crimes).

If you can defend Cheney's determined derelictions of duty under the Constitution, God help us all. You've become a radical, sir.

Now, as to your other bizarre pronouncements. You say that my claim about the American military being a progressive social program is "simply not true." In the spirit of argument, as against brandishing your opinion, shouldn't you explain why? Is it because you don't like the very idea of "social programs"? Please let us know.

I for one would like to understand why your support for our troops stops at our national borders--they should die for us over there, you seem to saying, but we can't have them learning anything at government expense over here. It is a vicious and anti-American idea you're peddling, but then who's counting?

I am. My son is a United States Marine, and he deserves better from someone with your education.

And now as for your truly quaint notion that our job as historians is "simply to teach the whole truth about the past." There is no whole truth, sir, every insight contains its own peculiar idiocy. And there is no "past" as such, absent archives and books and interpreters. If you pretend to "teach the whole truth," you're misleading your students and your readers. Oh, and yourself as well.

I want to say good luck, but you seem so sure of what you know that you'll never need it. Just like the Bolsheviks--at Kronstadt and after.


Maarja Krusten - 6/27/2007

People look for such different things on this website, it is impossible to satsify everyone. (In a discussion about insularity of outlook, I once suggested to an historian that he consider studying management science in order to more effectively look at Presidential decisionmaking but was told that was irrelevant to HNN.) Mr. Hughes is on to something when he says “The appropriate job for the historian is simply to teach the whole truth about the past, no more and no less.” However, even that is difficult. Time provides perspective -- issues painted starkly in black and white while a President is in office sometimes reveal more shades of gray later.

Consider the revelation about Lyndon Johnson from his wife’s diary (I think in 1965) that "In talking about the Vietnam situation, Lyndon summed it up quite simply -- 'I can't get out and I can't finish it with what I have got. And I don't know what the hell to do.' " Surely most historians would write about LBJ differently based on that and other once secret records (such as his Oval Office tapes) than they would if they only had contemporaneous newspaper articles and press releases to rely on.

The internal deliberations, if captured in records, only become available over time. And some material remains classified for a long time, as in the case of the “family jewels,” portions of which were declassified this week – see
http://www.foia.cia.gov/
or
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB222/index.htm
and Gen. Hayden’s speech at
http://tinyurl.com/32spsk

The process of disclosure is not easy – there are people, no less human than you and I, behind everything that happens within the government. I often ask my fellow historians, how easy would it be for you to throw open for examination by outsiders the complete record of your career?

One of the documents from yesterday’s declassification posting reveals that the Inspector General in 1973 told the DCI about the “high degree of resentment” by many agency employees who had to participate in surveillance of dissidents. See
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB222/top05.pdf
That information could not have been revealed in 1973 but is considered releasable now, 35 years later, during Gen. Hayden’s tenure.

For good historians, time provides perspective, as emotions cool and more information becomes available. However, whether we consider this website political or historical in orientation, it itself provides in its articles and the posted comments some interesting snapshots for scholars to study in years to come.


Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 6/27/2007

Yes and no. The history of the past and the politics of the present are inseparable to some degree or other, yes. But you do not have the first principle right when you say the job of the historian is to teach how we can learn from people with whom we differ. The appropriate job for the historian is simply to teach the whole truth about the past, no more and no less. And you don't do that when you lay out a litany of "Bush, Cheney, Gingrich, Perle, Frum and Kristol" without including Levin, Rockefeller, Biden, H. Clinton, Kerry and many others who also favored the war in Iraq, and who also believed the awful intelligence furnished by a useless CIA--which had itself been emasculated in the Frank Church era by the Democrats! Half the truth is not the truth. .. Your postulate that the All-Volunteer Army is a "social program for poor kids," by the way, is simply not true... Unfortunately, none of the anti-war Democrats have ever been silenced about anything, but instead have been allowed to encourage the enemy and make the job harder for our fighting forces... Your Kronstadt sailors reference is quite appropriate, though, since precisely all of America's current bolsheviki can be found in the anti-war crowd.


James Livingston - 6/27/2007

I'm afraid I don't get the inconsistency. I'm with Mr. Besch, I think, in insisting that writing history and getting political are pretty much the same urges, imperatives, and events.

You don't want political heat, get out of the historiographical kitchen.

The cultural function of the modern historian is to teach us how to learn from people with whom we differ due to historical circumstances (and these include the range of ideological commitments they can profess with plausibility).

These people with whom we differ, and from whom we must learn, are, to begin with, other historians--for there is no way to peek over the edges of our present as if they aren't there, standing between us and the archive, telling us how to approach it.

In this sense, history is not the past as such, just as the canon is not literature as such. It is the ongoing argument about what qualifies as an event, a document, an epoch. It is the endless argument about what the future holds.

For the form and the content of the past matter only to those with political commitments in the present, and so to the future.

So why don't we just start from the simple fact that history and politics are inseparable? An "attitude toward history," as Kenneth Burke put it, prepares us not for the future as such but for a certain kind of future.

Pretending that politics and history are different, and mutually exclusive, compartments of our intellectual equipment is something like pretending that the mind/body problem still haunts philosophy.

We got over it a while back. The ghost has evacuated the machine. So let's get on with the argument, but let's not behave as if politics is the property of my side--or yours.

We're all complicit. And it's a good thing, too.


James Livingston - 6/27/2007

I like the idea of listening to the region. The best piece I've ever read on the problem is called "Iran is America's best hope for stability in the Gulf," an op-ed in the Financial Times by Selig Harrison, 6/20/07, which follows the recent arguments of Chuck Hagel to their logical conclusion, and with empirical grounding from Iranian officials.

Please don't do the Hitler analogy if you feel like responding. Paul Berman and Donald Rumsfeld notwithstanding, it ain't 1939. The "informed and the thoughtful" R Us, too.

My position has always been that the US military occupation is the cause of American and Iraqi deaths, so I'm a little confused by the accusatory reference to "Arab blood."

My position has always been that withdrawal of American ("coalition") troops will reduce, not magnify, the bloodshed in Iraq. So I'm also confused by the rhetorical equation of ivory tower and genocidal violence flowing from withdrawal. Clarification appreciated.

Messrs. Ewener and Besch sound closer to the course of my thinking over the last two years, when the military brass became the most effective critics of the war.


James Livingston - 6/27/2007

I would point you toward my "Vietnam Analogies" at the blog, www.politicsandletters.com, or at DailyKos, for pre-emptive commentary.

But I would also ask you to consider the question, or problem, of guilt, by asking whether this war in Iraq was--or is--a just war.

The consensus Mr. Hughes cites ("everybody agrees") is non-existent, because nobody agrees on the aftermath of American withdrawal from Iraq unless they also assume that a regional settlement involving Iran is impossible.

Yeah, if we just stop, all hell breaks loose. And if we continue to pour more troops into the maw of internecine war? Hell is already breaking loose, people, what do we do about that?

I'm with Mr. Courts, we ain't got a lot of face to save.


James Livingston - 6/27/2007

My point, I thought, was that imperial military power can't win wars against peasants who have become components of revolutionary movements. The cross-class coalitions that made the paradigmatic revolutions of the 20th century were, by and large, those animated but not dominated by peasant movements. My list of these successful revolutions would include those in took place in Russia, Mexico, China, Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Salvador. Vietnam was the hinge on which everything else turned. So, as for the question about where I've been. In Jersey, in the library, in the archive, in the classroom--where I belong. And you?


Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 6/26/2007

For your proof read the diatribe above by Mr. Livingston... No one can make a comment on it which is not entirely political. The complaints by Rennar and Willis are clearly directed at those who have chosen the material to comment on at this site, not at those who make comments.


Randll Reese Besch - 6/26/2007

How much better were the USA/Isreal trained death squads and people herded into the "trategic hamlets" under armed guard working for corporations to the premature death?
Pick your poison,both will kill you,just in different ways.


Randll Reese Besch - 6/26/2007

When is history and politics inseperable? Instead of empty complaints and lack of examples and the inevitable "I don't contribute anymore" pouting,that is inconsistant.
Show proof of your position or you are merely blowing empty air.


Rob Willis - 6/26/2007

AMEN!!! This site has become a politics blog, not a place for the study of history. One of the reasons I no longer try to contribute.


Arnold Shcherban - 6/26/2007

So there is absolutely no guilt felt
by the ones like you that, perhaps,
there (in South-East Asia) would not have been such a bloodbath perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge if this divine nation together with its satellites had not killed millions of the aborigens in that region of the world (as in the other regions mentioned in preceeding comments) through mass bombing of cities and villages and the use of chemical weapons (WMD)?
So if "we" would not have left Vietnam so "soon", i.e. after the 10-year bloodbath, and will not leave Iraq now, if we had continued/ continue (together with our Vietnamese/Shiite allies) to kill Sunnis and Shiites, those of them who are not our allies, after maybe two miilions of more deaths we could have prevented the two million bloodbath, but that potential bloodbath is much dangerous,... since it have been (in case of Iraq -will be perpetrated
not by our noble hands, but by the evil hands of our enemies.
Such a highly moral and fine logic!


George E. Rennar - 6/26/2007

You are spending so much space on politics that I conclude there is very little history available. Permit me to suggest that you change this site's name to something which does not contain the misleading term "history."


Guy D Courts - 6/26/2007

Mr. Hughes,
"Nobody knows how bad the carnage will be if we make a precipitate retreat from Iraq, but everyone agrees it would be much worse than the carnage at present, as well as a loss of face in that region and a loss of credibility all over the world for the U.S., and a double-cross of our allies in Iraq... once again. "

So both the house and senate and all of the citizens of this fair country agree 100% it would be a disaster to pull out of Iraq? As far as saving face goes, we don't have much left to save. We don't have a dimes worth of credibility left either. When exactly do the newly freed citizens in Iraq get to have a say in the matter? Or were we just kidding about democracy in the region?

Guy Courts


Randll Reese Besch - 6/25/2007

Neither the UN or NATO are fit either regionally or in training to help with a 'smooth transition',if it is at all possible. Such a collapse as predicted was inevitable from what transpired---bombing of infastructure et al literally wrecked Iraq to its foundations.
The USA and the other occuping countries must orderly and quietly retreat,along with their Iraqi collaberators as quickly as possible and let other Arab countries supply & minister aid. It might minimize some deaths.
By the way the secret bombings of Cambodia lead directly to the Cemer rouge taking strength and taking over Cambodia.


Jeffery Ewener - 6/25/2007

I believe a majority of the Iraqi parliament has voted in favour of a short timeline for a speedy US withdrawal.

It may be that hefty and long-term financial reparations, for the colossal damage and unspeakable heartbreak the US has wrought in Iraq, would help smooth its transition to a safe, viable independent state. If you're really all that anxious.


Frank Jenista - 6/25/2007

Nowhere do you incorporate the voices of the people of Iraq and the region. The informed and thoughtful, whether pro or anti the U.S. invasion, concur that your recipe - get out regardless of the consequences - will result in masive instability and genocidal bloodshed.

Are you ready to assume that responsibility? Are you comfortable saying "As long as no Americans are dying, I'm good. It's only Arab blood."

And by the way - your suggestion that only UN or NATO could prevent genocidal civil warfare in Iraq is ludicrous.

Al Qaeda successfully bombed the UN out of Iraq. Please tell us - which UN members do you expect to contribute soldiers to a war in Iraq?

Ditto for NATO. Most members refuse to put their soldiers into harm's way even in Afghanistan. Iraq?? Get real!

You need a healthy dose of Middle Eastern reality injected into your Americo/Euro-centric ivory tower.


Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 6/25/2007

Let us not forget the two million Cambodians clubbed to death and the 1.5 million Vietnamese "boat people" --an enormous bloodbath following our exit from Saigon--despite the assurances from John F. Kerry to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that nothing of the kind would ensue... Nobody knows how bad the carnage will be if we make a precipitate retreat from Iraq, but everyone agrees it would be much worse than the carnage at present, as well as a loss of face in that region and a loss of credibility all over the world for the U.S., and a double-cross of our allies in Iraq... once again.


Nancy REYES - 6/25/2007

You state:
And if there is such a thing as the “Vietnam Syndrome,” it was, and is, a good thing. For it reminds us that the Peasant Wars of the 20th century—this is the title of Eric Wolf’s great book—could not be won by imperially constituted military power, no matter how large or skilled or concentrated...

Gee, then I wonder how the Brits managed to win in Malaysia and the Philippine government managed to stop the Communist take over here.

Then there was Peru, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatamala and Colombia.
You might not like the deaths in these wars, or the fascist governments that won, but one could argue that they were better than the massive refugees and concentration camps that Marxist governments would have spawned...

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