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November 21, 2005

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JM Hanes

Tex T,
Can we stop with the "Mission Accomplished" already? Did we underestimate the insurgency to come? Obviously. But anybody who bothers look at the speech the Prez actually delivered will see that he mentioned a long hard row to hoe ahead as well.

JM Hanes

owl,

You pegged the "culture of corruption." Will they have better luck with it, I wonder, than they had with the "credibility gap" it's replacing?

JayDee

Thanks, JM. It's great to find someone willing to discuss this complex situation in a civilized manner.

Your post makes it clear that you envision primarily diplomatic avenues for the future in stabilizing the situation. I agree that you are quite right that the most important hurdle is for the REGION to establish security agreements between the involved nations. Is it possible Iraq will become a partner in restraining Iran? Anything's possible, but that's a best case scenario amidst a host of much worse ones. The question is what does the US do if the new democracy we are midwifing turns out to be our own worst nightmare? There's a danger hidden in all of Bush's naive hyperbole about democracy.

In the meantime maybe you can define US military goals for the nearterm. Are we there as a police force? Are we backing up Iraqi government plans to establish security and, if so, what are those plans exactly? Are there any benchmarks, any criteria, any punitive remedies for not performing?

One thing we are NOT doing in Iraq - and hopefully wingnuttia will start realizing this - is fighting a fight to the death with Islamic fundamentalism. I know this cuts Hannity's propaganda material by about 9/10ths, but the fact is we don't have the power to uproot and destroy Islamic fundamentalism, for reasons both geographic and cultural. This is a regional disease that needs a regional cure, while we need to be taking the intelligent precautions at home that we are fully capable of taking. We also need to be converting from a military role to a diplomatic one. How we will manage to do this - between the rabid anti-Americanism we've bred abroad and the hysterical hatemongering we've bred at home - is one other side to the puzzle.

boris

Spot on JM:

it's quite possible that Iraq may actually end up being able to influence events in Iran by virtue of the very ties that some find so worrisome.
I'd promote "quite possible" to "quite likely" that Iraq's Shia will influence Iran away from terrorism and confrontation.
Talabani needs to be able to say if I get your support I can send the Americans home. If we make that determination unilaterally, we'll be pulling the rug out from under him.
Abso-frakkin-lutely. But Democrats reserve nuance in negotiation advantage for the likes of Kerry. In anyone else they consider it cheating and deceitful.

Syl

JayDee

There's a danger hidden in all of Bush's naive hyperbole about democracy.

As opposed to the danger that erupted from the region during the prior decades?

I find it disturbing that your assumption seems to be that if we empower individual arabs to have a say in their own governance, they will choose to, what? destroy us?

Bush thinks, and I agree, that the vast majority of people on the planet just want to live their lives, work, and raise their kids. And that if they have optimism and a say in their own future, they will be disinclined to support extremism because it interfers with their goals.

And without the support of the umma, the extremists will eventually fade away into little pockets of madness that can be easily dealt with.

The fact is we don't have the power to uproot and destroy Islamic fundamentalism, for reasons both geographic and cultural.

That's why Bush is giving them the power and desire to do it themselves.

This is the long term goal.

Killing and capturing the jihadis is a parallel endeavor.

Fortress America is not enough.

JM Hanes

With apologies in advance for length:

JayDee,

"Your post makes it clear that you envision primarily diplomatic avenues for the future in stabilizing the situation. I agree that you are quite right that the most important hurdle is for the REGION to establish security agreements between the involved nations."

I see diplomacy as an ingredient, as opposed to a discrete choice. If the fledgling Iraqi government collapses, diplomacy will be irrelevant. I also believe it's a mistake to think in terms of traditional agreements or even traditional diplomacy as conducted between sovereign nations. Stabilization has almost nothing to do securing borders, for example; indeed, the arbitrary boundaries typical of the region are a substantial impediement. I mention the possibility that Iraq could conceivably influence Iran mainly to counter a common knee jerk assumption that a close relationship between the two is automatically to be feared.

Similarly, reference to Sharia in the constitution does not pressage the inevitable emergence of a theocratic state. It's an essential incorporation of one reality, among many, on the ground, which cannot be addressed until it's been recognized. It's on the table now, and for perhaps the first time ever, it's actually being openly debated. The enormity of that change alone has been almost entirely overlooked in commentary here at home. What's ironic to me is that the very folks who so boldly asserted that we can't expect to impose American style democracy on Iraq, seem to generate the most hysteria over the fact that the Iraqi constitution doesn't make the same guarantees as our own.

"One thing we are NOT doing in Iraq - and hopefully wingnuttia will start realizing this - is fighting a fight to the death with Islamic fundamentalism."

I disagree, although I would call it Islamic extremism. One of the differences between Biblical & Koranic traditions is that the latter actually addresses issues of governance in a substantive way. You can see this even in the archetypal jailhouse conversions which routinely take place in our own prisons -- conversions which are as overtly political as they are inherently religious. This serves extremists' territorial ambitions even more explicitly than its Biblical counterpart served the Crusaders who set out to (re)establish the Kingdom of God in the east. As the President discovered, to his sorrow, the word crusade, even now, reverberates harshly in the muslim world. Again, those who disdained him most for ineptitude seem blissfully unaware of the implications that continuing rawness ought to convey.

Please note, I'm not suggesting that terrorism is an unavoidable product of Islam! I'm suggesting, to the contrary, that we must understand both where the extremists connect with and diverge from it, in order know how & where to confront the scourge which ultimately endangers us all.

Al Qaeda is a symptom, it is not the disease. Some wouuld refer to it in shorthand as a commitment to the "return of the caliphate," which is easy for the westerner to stumble over. Likewise, people joke about the suicide bomber's hoped for 76 virgins, because we ourselves are largely skeptical about the nature of literal belief. It's important to understand it, however, and to understand that the underlying "disease" is both religious and pragmatic. It is not simply anti-American, it is anti-Western, anti-infidel, and as we have seen with the Taliban -- not just al Qaeda -- in Afghanistan, as we see every day in Iraq and now, even more clearly, in Jordan, it is even anti-Muslim. It is infectious, it cannot be contained, it must be reversed. Warning bells just went off in France. They've been ringing from Manhattan, to Thailand, to the Philippines. We are not the root cause, we are the excuse. The idea of Saddam supplying WMD to terrorists heading our way is not even the worst case scenario, not by a long shot.

We alone are not the cure either. The answer, however, never lay in how many allies we could convince to join us in Iraq, it lies now as then in how successful we are at empowering, and yes, in specific instances forcing, those in the middle east to confront the extremists in their current breeding grounds. That's really what it means to fight them there instead of here. Democratization is part of that equation, among other calculations. At the same time, until it started becoming clear that al Qaeda would kill muslims too, there was zero incentive for anyone in that part of the world to give up the terrorists in their midst rather than encouraging them in their putative battle to deconstruct western power. I am utterly convinced that we would never have gotten to that point on a diplomatic footing alone while extremists were still weak enough to be confronted on a regional basis, and where we had the power to intervene with a decent chance of success.

You may disagree, but this is not just wingnuttery. There is a powerful case to be made for our intervention on this basis alone, though it would take more than this already long post to lay out all the particulars even on that specific score. It's also not the only basis on which our invasion of Iraq ever rested. The convergence of what -- without being tarred and feathered -- we used to call strategic interests is what complicates both discussion and assessment of the risks incurred either by action or inaction.

I also think that those who are convinced that this war has proven an unmitigated debacle are often either unable or unwilling to acknowledge any linkage between our initiative in Iraq and movement we have begun to see throughout the region. I believe they are simultaneously even less realistic than they accuse the administration of being about how and when we should be able to start measuring success.

The Administration's failure to communicate on that score is so monumental, that I must admit I'm afraid they, themselves, may end up defeating what I believe Tom Friedman once called the "most defensible war ever left undefended." What I've touched on here is barely a start. I only wish I had the energy to condense it. But that's a big part of the reason you don't get a lot of feedback when you're asking for explanations.

JM Hanes

boris,

(assuming anyone actually made it past the tome I just posted instead of abridging)

I think there's certainly a good chance of influence flowing that direction too, although I'm not sure I'd take odds on just how smoothly it will go. One can certainly understand why the Iranians might have a certain case of nerves with democracies developing on either side of it, porous borders, and a substantial reform contingent maturing within.

kim

Look, JM, just tell em Bush is a liberal, then maybe they'll understand.

And I agree, the ayatollahs are going down.
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kim

The use of 'Exit Strategy' is code for a particularly insidious view of American power, that is that we can enter and exit situations at will, exercising power, excising malignancies, etc. How surgical, and cold-blooded. And hypocritical, since the locution comes from those who haven't the power, or responsibility, to enter or exit.

Why don't you worry about an exit strategy from Germany, Jay Dee, or from the world for that matter? Like it or not, this world run by us is going to be far more valuable than were it run by The Turtle Bay Gang of 77 corruptions.
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kim

I kind of like the idea of supporting the UN because then you have all the corrupt little satrapies all gathered together in one place. It's analogous to fighting al Qaeda by attracting their most practically vicious into roach motels in Iraq.
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kim

You know, like a police action. Or the termite patrol.

War it hasn't been since mid '03. That mission, toppling Saddam(who he?) and occupation, was accomplished. And now Iraqi civil self-regulation is in place. What a wonderful world it's becoming. Why can't liberals dwell there?
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