Dispatches from the Creation Wars

I sure hope that Robert Novak is wrong about this:

Whether Bush or Kerry is elected, the president or president-elect will have to sit down immediately with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The military will tell the election winner there are insufficient U.S. forces in Iraq to wage effective war. That leaves three realistic options: Increase overall U.S. military strength to reinforce Iraq, stay with the present strength to continue the war, or get out.

Well-placed sources in the administration are confident Bush’s decision will be to get out. They believe that is the recommendation of his national security team and would be the recommendation of second-term officials. An informed guess might have Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, Paul Wolfowitz as defense secretary and Stephen Hadley as national security adviser. According to my sources, all would opt for a withdrawal.

Yikes. If Bush (or Kerry for that matter, should he be elected) pulls troops out of Iraq after the election, they will have pretty much destroyed American credibility for decades to come and they will insure that the Islamic radicals will have succeeded with the 9/11 attack. The result will be civil war in Iraq, probably resulting in an Islamic state. The list of potentially disasterous consequences of that could go on all day – an invigoration of Islamic radical factions in Turkey that could lead to a toppling of the only incipient democracy in the Arab world; a possible merger with Iran, Syria, or both; renewed threats against Kuwait and perhaps even Saudi Arabia, and to their oil supplies; certainly a threat to the secular Bahrain and to Israel; and unlike Hussein’s regime, the new Iraqi regime really would be a training ground for al queda terrorists.

An Islamist Iraq would be a far bigger threat to the United States and to its neighbors than Hussein could even dream of being, especially under the sanctions and the no-fly zone. We would have succeeded only in increasing al queda recruiting by a huge factor, destabilizing the entire middle east, and thus making the world a much more dangerous place.

Postscript: I just wrote this in an email and since I liked it better than what I wrote above, I thought I’d just tack it on:

Throughout the buildup to the war, I never believed the marketing campaign with which the war was sold, but I believed there were valid strategic reasons for the war. I believed that the real reason for it was to A) provide a base of operations from which to project our power in a very dangerous region of the world; and B) allow us to rebuild the Iraqi oil fields to insure a steady supply in the, in my opinion, relatively likely event that the House of Saud should fall. The fact that we would also be getting rid of a brutal dictator was also a compelling factor, and a welcome change from decades of American foreign policy that so often involved putting such men IN to power.

At the same time, I found a lot of things quite disturbing about the way the administration went about it. Rumsfeld’s public undressing of General Shinseki for testifying to Congress that the occupation would require 250,000 troops and over $100 billion, when it should have been quite obvious that Shinseki was correct, was a very bad sign that either the administration had no idea what was required to achieve success, or they were willing to lie to Congress to get the votes to do it. In retrospect, I suspect both were true. Yes, they deliberately played down the committment necessary to complete the mission, but they also vastly underestimated what that commitment really would require.

Regardless of all that, a quick pullout now would be the most disasterous possible course to take. It will virtually insure a civil war in Iraq, and that might be the BEST outcome. If the civil war ends with an Islamist state, we will have succeeded only in making the world a far more dangerous place than it was 2 years ago by essentially handing Iraq over from a secular and relatively containable dictatorship to a fanatically theocratic and boundless dictatorship, newly invigorated by their success against us. If this was, as some have suggested, a trial balloon being floated by the administration to see how it plays with the public, it is vital that we shoot it out of the sky with all due haste.

Comments

  1. #1 mist
    September 20, 2004

    The only way I see Bush pulling out of Iraq is if he is pulling into Syria or Iran.

    This seems as unlikely to me as the idea that Kerry would rely on the UN to solve his International problems.

    Like him or not, Bush has been pretty much straight forward since day 1 about what he wants to do in terms of the war on terror. And, with as few deaths as are happening (relatively) and in such isolated pars of the country, there really isn’t a loud chorus in the states to leave (which I see as different from the loud chorus saying we shouldn’t have been there in the first place).

    Strategically speaking, we couldn’t ask for a better staging area than Iraq, with access to the entire middle east. It cuts right through the Islamic crescent, and we have already installed some very expensive intelligence monitoring centers there. Pulling out entirely makes no sense whatsoever.

  2. #2 Perry Willis
    September 20, 2004

    An Islamic state was the only possible outcome from the moment Bush began this mad adventure. The majority in Iraq is Islamic, and the majority of that majority is Shia, with ties to Iran. There is no other way this could have turned out. And there were other problems from the get-go . . .

    We have the exact situation in Iraq that we had in Vietnam — our soliders cannot tell who is a friend and who is an enemy, and everytime they choose wrong, and hurt a friend, we make new enemies. There is no way we can win this war, anymore than we could win in Vietnam, or the Russians could win in Afghanistan, or the British would win in Iraq after World War I.

    No great intelligence or insight was needed to foresee all of this — just a little common sense and knowledge of history. The first Bush understood these things, and many people predicted the current situation. It was obvious.

    Since no good outcome is possible, getting out is the best of the bad choices. We could soften things somewhat in other areas by, for instance, changing our policy in Israel. Specifically, we could withhold support so long as the Israeli government supports the settlements on the West Bank. If we’re not intruding in Middle Eastern affairs the terrorists have no real reason to attack us.

    I have no great concern about losing credibility in the world. That will be more than counterbalanced by the fact that no American president will be able to do anything like this again for at least a generation.

    Unless someone can come up with a way to tell a friend from an enemy in Iraq, there is no alternative to getting out, and a Shia Islamic state was going to be the outcome in any case.

  3. #3 Perry Willis
    September 20, 2004

    There is no hope of a moderate state in Iraq, not with Iran sitting next door to influence a poor Shia majority in Iraq. It was always inevitable that it would be Iran that would deterimine the fate of our invasion of Iraq, and not us.

    The British gave up in Iraq after losing 18,000 men, and they didn’t have an Islamist Iran next door to make things even more difficult. Perhaps Bush naively thought he would also be able to invade Iran, but that was never in the cards, nor will it be. Nor would it fix anything even if we did it. We’d have the same problem there. Who is a friend and who is an enemy? Just think of how many people Iran lost in the war with Iraq, and then imagine an infinite line of body bags coming home to America.

    This is the age of asymetrical warfare. Our army can always beat their army, but our army can never hold a territory in the face of a populace willing to resist. This was over before it began.

  4. #4 Dan
    September 20, 2004

    …they will have pretty much destroyed American credibility for decades to come….

    Done.

    The result will be civil war in Iraq, probably resulting in an Islamic state.

    We’re headed that way in any event, and the eventual outcome is likely to be an Islamist state, or a state with much more Islamist-leanings that the secular Islamic state ruled by Saddam.

    The list of potentially disasterous consequences of that could go on all day – an invigoration of Islamic radical factions in Turkey that could lead to a toppling of the only incipient democracy in the Arab world; a possible merger with Iran, Syria, or both; renewed threats against Kuwait and perhaps even Saudi Arabia, and to their oil supplies; certainly a threat to the secular Bahrain and to Israel; and unlike Hussein’s regime, the new Iraqi regime really would be a training ground for al queda terrorists.

    All these things are now much more likely to happen in any event.

    We would have succeeded only in increasing al queda recruiting by a huge factor, destabilizing the entire middle east, and thus making the world a much more dangerous place.

    Done, done, and done.

    As I see it, all the things you’ve described as possibilities if we leave Iraq became possibilities, or were accomplished as soon as, we stepped foot in Iraq last year. The only thing our staying will accomplish will be more dead and wounded Americans (and, of course, more dead Iraqis and others who might not be dead or wounded but for our continued presence). Bush’s Iraq policy was deeply flawed from the outset, as you note in your postscript. Our staying there will not undo or mitigate the damage already done.

    As is the case with so much that George W. Bush touches, someone else will have to come in after him and clean up the mess he’s made. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to be the President to succeed Bush. Whoever succeeds him in the Oval Office is probably looking at a one-term presidency, because the decisions that must be made and policy changes that must be implemented will be costly, painful, and embarrassing. Be careful what you ask for, Senator Kerry…you just might get it.

  5. #5 Jim Anderson
    September 20, 2004

    I thought the most recent neocon spin on the situation was that (accidentally) attracting Al Qaeda to Iraq has turned the country into a barrel for shooting some very bad fish.

    I wonder if Novak’s source is the same Deep Throat who helped him out Joe Wilson?

  6. #6 JohnK
    September 20, 2004

    Ed, I admire you a great deal but I am shocked that you take this seriously.

    Isolationist Novak has long been skeptical of involvement and has found some paleocon to act as a “source” so Novak can advanced the idea that there is a legit movement in the administration for withdrawl. This may attract paleocons who are wobbly on Bush and will shape the debate. The idea that idealistic neocons like Wolfy, Rice and Hadley would drop Iraq before it is democracy-secure after Bush wins election is ridiculous, not to mention pointless from thier perspective.

    Novak has long since stopped being a journalist, certainly since his responsible partner Evans died. He is now a Great Shaper and Schemer of Politics and sees himself that way – like some Parisian propagandist during Louis XVI’s court. Please take him with a ton of NaCl in the future.

  7. #7 Steve Reuland
    September 21, 2004

    Rumsfeld’s public undressing of General Shinseki for testifying to Congress that the occupation would require 250,000 troops and over $100 billion, when it should have been quite obvious that Shinseki was correct, was a very bad sign that either the administration had no idea what was required to achieve success, or they were willing to lie to Congress to get the votes to do it. In retrospect, I suspect both were true. Yes, they deliberately played down the committment necessary to complete the mission, but they also vastly underestimated what that commitment really would require.

    I think Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and the others really and truly believed that they could conquer Iraq with a few tens of thousands of troops. I don’t think they were trying to downplay the necessary troop commitment, I think the “faster, lighter, cheaper” aspect of warfare was an integral part of their vision. Afterall, if you’re going to wage war at the drop of a hat, going around and “flipping” countries at will, then you need to be able to fight wars on the cheap. It’s just another example of modifying reality to fit one’s idealism.

    I say this because Rumsfeld reportedly asked for only 70,000 troops for the invasion of Iraq. The army wanted something closer to 400,000, and they eventually met in the middle at around 200,000. We now know that this wasn’t nearly enough, and the results have been disasterous — all of our problems over there can be traced back at least in part to the lack of security. Imagine how much bigger the mess would be if Rumsfeld had had his way.

  8. #8 ~DS~
    September 21, 2004

    A high school friend of mine, who was in the initial ‘push’, got back from Iraq a few months ago. He’s a fun guy to talk to, extremely intelligent, way too cynical to even vote, let alone support one candidate over another. He’s big into The History Channel and military history … that kind of thing.

    I said something to the effect of ‘good job; when I first saw him after his return. His reply was that “we got lucky”.

    He followed up by talking about the sandstorm that bogged down the allied advance in the early part of what he and others call “Rummy’s mad dash” for Baghdad”. He claims that had the Iraqi’s been better coordinated, perhaps more dedicated and just a tiny bit more flexible, our forward units could have over run in several places during this time. We were stretched way out and in his words ‘hung out to dry waiting a wog advance and fixing bayonets’.
    They were effectively cut from resupply for a few days, everything was running out, Iraqi’s were getting in close just by charging the units in suicide runs, and the sandstorm pretty much nullified most of the advantages of technology the US enjoys. So had Rummy indeed had his way and only gone in with 70,000 troops. There’s a real chance some of those forward elements would have been over run. You would have seen perhaps an entire company or two captured, killed, morale taken down cross the board, support in America rapidly evaporating. It could have been a very different war. Let’s be thankful someone told Rummy ‘no’ on the 70,000.

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    September 21, 2004

    John-

    I’m hoping this is false. I know Novak has his own biases. But if it IS true, it needs to be shot down, I think.

  10. #10 raj
    September 21, 2004

    I put about as much credence in this as I do in claims of JFKennedy supporters that, had he not been assassinated, he would have pulled the troops out of SVietnam after the 1964 election. In otherwords, virtually no credence whatsoever.

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