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January 05, 2005

winning the peace in Iraq

Don Herzog: January 5, 2005

Here's a detailed and sobering -- no, make that gutwrenching -- account from The Economist of how the war is going on the ground.  They have been vigorous supporters of the war itself, but not, as you'll see, uncritical of its conduct.

Let's hope for much better news this year.  (Whatever you make of our launching this war, it would be repugnant to wish for it to go badly, surreal not to care.)  My fondest hopes are that this administration's insistently cheery refrains on the war are all about managing domestic public opinion, that they know better, and that they are flexible and imaginative enough to hammer out changes that will put our troops -- and the Iraqis -- in much less excruciating situations.

I just wish I had more to base those hopes on, let alone that I could have fonder hopes than that our leaders are lying to us.

Am I sprinting toward America-bashing?  Nope.  Not even tiptoeing.  In one of the wilder and woollier episodes of life on the left, Jean-Paul Sartre drew up articles -- for a war crimes tribunal fronted by Bertrand Russell, no less --  accusing the US of pursuing genocide in Vietnam.  How so?  Sartre claimed that the North Vietnamese were fighting a popular war -- that is, one all the people were involved in, not one that people there liked -- and that in their inability to follow the classic rules distinguishing combatants from noncombatants, the US was left with a choice.  They could capitulate or they could embark on a campaign of extermination.  Their intention, he continued, was made manifest in the fact that they hadn't capitulated.

That argument is absurd.  It fails to explain, just for instance, why we didn't follow General Curtis LeMay's advice (if indeed he gave it) to "bomb them back into the Stone Age."  Or why we didn't greet accounts of the My Lai massacre with jubilation.  And no, I don't introduce the memory so we can all jump up and down or point fingers or hurl accusations about Vietnam.  "Lessons" from history are always tricky, but our troops are indeed in an awful fix when they can't clearly identify who the insurgents are, who might be supporting them, and who is a passive or even friendly civilian.  (And we should be able to notice that they're in a fix without having our patriotism impugned:  indeed my anguish about that fix is all about devotion.)  I'm no expert on military affairs, but it looks like that fix is the basic problem producing the episodes The Economist reports.  Again, let's hope we can solve it.

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Comments

Posted by: DF

"Whatever you make of our launching this war, it would be repugnant to wish for it to go badly, surreal not to care."

This comment reminds me of Elizabeth Anderson's dismissal of the many of us on the left who agree with Michael Moore that Bush War II is about oil, not liberation. You too, seem oblivious to the fact that many of us want the war to end immediately. We want to stop throwing good Marines after bad, stop wasting a half billion (billion?) dollars a DAY, stop destroying Iraqi infrastructure.

If the war goes badly enough in the short term, it increases the likelihood that it will end sooner rather than later. If it goes badly enough in the short term, fewer Marines and Iraqis will die or become maimed. Less money will be wasted. Less infrastructure will be destroyed. So it is not at all perverse or repugnant to prefer that it goes badly in the short term.

Posted by: DF | Jan 5, 2005 9:10:51 AM


Posted by: slarrow

Prof. Herzog: unfortunately, that article you cite is behind a registration firewall as premium content, so those of us interested in your topic can't address the claims contained therein.

Moreover, those of us on the Right will ask: why the hell should we trust reporters for The Economist anyway? Why should we think their evaluation of what's going on has any merit (shades of Plato's distrust of the poets here)? What we on the right tend to do is visit some of the milbloggers (like Greyhawk from Mudville Gazette and 2Slick, military men with experience on the ground in Iraq). We also base our hopes on the good news in Iraq, much of which never makes the "mainstream" press; instead we rely on folks like Chrenkoff who's written up 18 roundups of overlooked good news from Iraq for the Wall Street Journal.

Perhaps that's just going to be a fundamental disconnect between the left and right. You suspect things are bad and that our leaders are lying to us. We suspect things are going pretty damn well given the magnitude of the task and the fortunes of war but that a incompent and/or ideologically driven press corps ain't giving us the straight dope. But hey, you we can talk to; at least you want there to be good news and presumably have the good sense to recognize it when you see it.

Posted by: slarrow | Jan 5, 2005 9:54:34 AM


Posted by: Bernard

slarrow,

It's actually a very good article. The Economist is a pragmatic conservative publication which fully supported the war, so the question isn't so much 'why should we trust...', because you shouldn't trust anything you read without thought. The question is why should you dimiss without consideration the reporting of a respected international publication with no leftist bias?

Of course, none of that is relevant when you have no access to it.

Posted by: Bernard | Jan 5, 2005 10:02:13 AM


Posted by: Don Herzog

Last I checked the link, you could register for free for a daypass to read whatever you like. Is that wrong?

Posted by: Don Herzog | Jan 5, 2005 10:18:13 AM


Posted by: slarrow

"The question is why should you dimiss without consideration the reporting of a respected international publication with no leftist bias?"

Sigh. Experience, Bernard. Sad experience. I wish it were otherwise. But after consuming hundreds of hours of political and war coverage over the past two years when every negative element signaled The Coming of Doom, I've grown skeptical whenever a new occasion arises. And leftist bias isn't necessary to get an incomplete picture; mere ignorance will suffice.

Journalists typically do not have backgrounds in military history, tactics, or operations. Furthermore, the inherent biases of their profession (such as emphasis on personal stories, playing up turmoil, and good visuals) militate against getting a solid comprehensive grasp of the situation. Finally, much of the second-guessing is fundamentally suspect because the ramifications of actions take much longer than the 24-hour news cycle or the daily deadline to reveal themselves. We may not know if action X will succeed for three months, but the reporter's deadline is Tuesday, and the story's going to press.

Posted by: slarrow | Jan 5, 2005 10:24:35 AM


Posted by: slarrow

Prof. Herzog: I can't see where the free day-pass registration is. I think that sometimes the free-pass is for very current articles, but I think this one may have been moved to their archive section (I see that it's from 12/29/04). The options I'm seeing are: log in, pay $2.95, or get a subscription. If you could possibly summarize the article, that would give us a bit more to work with.

(Although I am not encouraged by the blurb: "THERE is only one traffic law in Ramadi these days: when Americans approach, Iraqis scatter. Horns blaring, brakes screaming, the midday traffic skids to the side of the road as a line of Humvee jeeps ferrying American marines rolls the wrong way up the main street. Every vehicle, that is, except one beat-up old taxi..." It's a catchy start to a narrative, but narratives of necessity exclude information. I am not hopeful.)

Posted by: slarrow | Jan 5, 2005 10:29:58 AM


Posted by: Paul Shields

"The Economist is a pragmatic conservative publication . . ."

Well, not in my view. My son gave me a subscription for Christmas last year and I dutifully read it for most of the year. I eventually decided not to continue wasting my time on it. If you want to understand conservative opinion on the war in the US, look at the links that slarrow recommends.

Posted by: Paul Shields | Jan 5, 2005 10:50:37 AM


Posted by: Don Herzog

Hmm. I'm a subscriber -- they're smart and literate, and you can find out what's going on in lots of other countries even if they haven't recently had a coup -- so it recognizes me, but if I turn off my cookies and try that link, the whole screen is occupied by the choice between watching a NYTimes ad to get a free daypass and paying. Anyway, here are some excerpts, which I think qualify as fair use, and if The Economist lets me know they're not, I'll take them down.

With elections due in a month, our “embedded” correspondent reports on how the American army is failing to persuade Iraq's sour Sunni minority to co-operate

THERE is only one traffic law in Ramadi these days: when Americans approach, Iraqis scatter. Horns blaring, brakes screaming, the midday traffic skids to the side of the road as a line of Humvee jeeps ferrying American marines rolls the wrong way up the main street. Every vehicle, that is, except one beat-up old taxi. Its elderly driver, flapping his outstretched hand, seems, amazingly, to be trying to turn the convoy back. Gun turrets swivel and lock on to him, as a hefty marine sergeant leaps into the road, levels an assault rifle at his turbanned head, and screams: “Back this bitch up, motherfucker!”

The old man should have read the bilingual notices that American soldiers tack to their rear bumpers in Iraq: “Keep 50m or deadly force will be applied”. In Ramadi, the capital of central Anbar province, where 17 suicide-bombs struck American forces during the month-long Muslim fast of Ramadan in the autumn, the marines are jumpy. Sometimes, they say, they fire on vehicles encroaching within 30 metres, sometimes they fire at 20 metres: “If anyone gets too close to us we fucking waste them,” says a bullish lieutenant. “It's kind of a shame, because it means we've killed a lot of innocent people.” ...

Since September 1st, when the battalion's 800 men were deployed to Ramadi, they have killed 400-500 people, according to one of their senior officers. A more precise estimate is impossible, because the marines rarely see their attackers. When fired upon, they retaliate by blitzing whichever buildings they think the fire is coming from: charred shells now line Ramadi's main streets. “Sometimes it works in the insurgents' favour,” admits Rick Sims, a chief warrant officer. “Because by the time we've shot up the neighbourhood, then the guys have torn up a few houses, they're four blocks away, and we just end up pissing off the locals.”

These brutal actions are what the marines have been trained for. They are superb fighters, among the best infantrymen of the most formidable force ever assembled. They are courteous—at least to their friends—and courageous. Long will this correspondent remember the coolness with which one teenage marine flicked away his cigarette and then the safety-catch on his rifle, as a sniper's bullet zipped overhead. Since arriving in Ramadi, some 20 marines have been killed and 160 wounded by suicide bombs and IEDs, in ambushes and by mortars. Many were on their second seven-month tour of Iraq and, after a seven-month break to retrain and refit, can expect to spend next Christmas there too. Yet their morale was high. ...

American marines and GIs frequently display contempt for Iraqis, civilian or official. Thus the 18-year-old Texan soldier in Mosul who, confronted by jeering schoolchildren, shot canisters of buckshot at them from his grenade-launcher. “It's not good, dude, it could be fatal, but you gotta do it,” he explained. Or the marines in Ramadi who, on a search for insurgents, kicked in the doors of houses at random, in order to scream, in English, at trembling middle-aged women within: “Where's your black mask?” and “Bitch, where's the guns?” In one of these houses was a small plastic Christmas tree, decorated with silver tinsel. “That tells us the people here are OK,” said Corporal Robert Joyce.

According to army literature, American soldiers should deliver the following message before searching a house: “We are sorry for the inconvenience, but we must search your house to make sure you are safe from anti-Iraqi forces [AIF].” In fact, many Iraqis are probably more scared of American troops than of insurgents. ...

Thus harried, American commanders have abandoned the pretence of winning the love of Iraqis ahead of the scheduled vote. “Our broad intent is to keep pressure on the insurgents as we head into elections,” says General Casey. “This is not about winning hearts and minds; we're not going to do that here in Iraq. It's about giving Iraqis the opportunity to govern themselves.”

That could be possible if Iraqis would only accept the opportunity America is offering—which is not the case in Ramadi, for example. Though the city has more than 4,000 police, they refuse to work alongside American forces. According to the marines, the police's sole act of co-operation is to collect wounded insurgents from their base. For most of the past four months, Anbar has had no provincial administration, since the governor resigned after his children were kidnapped. Elsewhere, America's forces are incapable of giving Iraqis the security they crave because, quite simply, there aren't enough of them.

Consider western Ninewa, a vast desert area dotted with fiercely xenophobic towns and ending in over 200 miles of unfenced border with Syria. America has 800 soldiers there. Yet they are barely able to subjugate the town of Tal Afar, outside which they are based. In September, American forces fought a battle (in style, a prelude to the retaking of Fallujah) to wrest it back from insurgent control after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian fanatic, was reported to be preaching in the town's mosques. Over 80 civilians were killed in the crossfire and 200 buildings flattened. In November, insurgents blew up the town's police stations. The local police chief and his bodyguards are the only police still working; he changes his disguise several times a day.

Little surprise that the Americans had not visited the nearby smugglers' town of Baij in force for three months, until they rode there one recent night in a convoy of 1,000 troops, with Apache attack helicopters flying overhead. The target was three houses in the town centre which signal intelligence had linked to Mr Zarqawi's group. The Americans had no further intelligence to support their mission except that provided by an informant from the local Ayzidi tribe, America's main ally in the area. This source claimed there was a wounded Yemeni rebel in the town. “I think it should be a great operation,” said Colonel Robert Brown, beforehand. “I think a lot of folks from Fallujah have gone there and we need to go there.”

There was no one in the three targeted houses bar women and children. Baij's police station had been blown up and its police had fled. The town's English-speaking former mayor, Abdullah Fahad, was frank about the town's allegiances. “There are terrorists here, not from Syria, not from Mosul, but from Baij. Some are Baathists and some are Islamists and before they hated each other but now they work together, and they tell people that if they don't work with them they will kill them.”

Mr Fahad, who claimed to have survived several assassination attempts and whose son had been kidnapped, refused to help the Americans on the grounds that he would be murdered if he did. When the American commander offered to protect him, he replied: “Thank you, but you are not always here. This is the first time I have ever seen you.” Whereupon the American troops labelled Mr Fahad a “bad guy”, and debated whether to detain him.

Instead, they detained 70 men from districts identified by their informant as “bad”. In near-freezing conditions, they sat hooded and bound in their pyjamas. They shivered uncontrollably. One wetted himself in fear. Most had been detained at random; several had been held because they had a Kalashnikov rifle, which is legal. The evidence against one man was some anti-American literature, a meat cleaver and a tin whistle. American intelligence officers moved through the ranks of detainees, raising their hoods to take mugshots: “One, two, three, jihaaad!” A middle-tier officer commented on the mission: “When we do this,” he said, “we lose.”

Posted by: Don Herzog | Jan 5, 2005 10:58:26 AM


Posted by: slarrow

Thank you for posting the salient points of the article, Prof. Herzog.

As for the Economist writer: I'll see your three unnamed quotes and three "untamed" cities and raise you a before-and-after Saddam documentary, 7200 candidates for political office, 73 political parties, return of Iraqi refugees, good economic news, a rebuilt water canal, and security successes in Samarra, Hawijah, Tikrit, and Mosul.

Seriously, what is this writer saying? That there continues to be suspicion in some of the Ba'athist strongholds? That we had some bad intel in a raid on a smuggler's town? That some enemies managed to blow up police stations in a desert town? (I also challenge the notion that a single attack implies that enemies "control" the town; it's also misleading to cite the 800 soldiers in the province of Nineveh as insufficient to keep peace in a single town. The soldiers are spread out, not concentrated in the village.)

I mean, the piece has some nice pithy quotes which do a pretty good job of getting across what this reporter wants us to think ("when we do this, we lose"; "we've killed a lot of innocent people", etc.), but why should I think these examples are evidence of a systemic breakdown instead of instances of the toughest nuts to crack? What the excerpts describe really isn't all that bad; suspicion and rough feelings pale in comparison to daily battles with hundreds of allied casualities or the wholesale destruction of cities. It's well-crafted emotionally, but once one gets past all the thud and blunder, there's not much there.

I'm afraid my suspicions were confirmed on this piece. I do hope Prof. Herzog follows the cited link, though. The good news is out there; you just have to know where to go to find it.

Posted by: slarrow | Jan 5, 2005 11:54:19 AM


Posted by: CDC

DF,
"...many of us on the left who agree with Michael Moore Bush War II is about oil, not liberation."

How do you and Moore know that? Where's your evidence for that view? His reasoning can be politely described as lacking in rigor. Let's hear your's.

"If the war goes badly enough in the short term, it increases the likelihood that it will end sooner rather than later. If it goes badly enough in the short term, fewer Marines and Iraqis will die or become maimed..."

I've read a lot of military history and that makes absolutely no sense to me. How do you know that more Marine casualties now means fewer later?

"...So it is not at all perverse or repugnant to prefer that it goes badly in the short term."

Are you saying that your preference is for an INCREASE in Marine fatalities? If so, perverse and repugnant are pretty good adjectives in this case. I have friends and family serving bravely and well in the Marine Corps. They have done multiple tours in Iraq and one very fine young man is going back.

I'm going to ask him what he thinks DF stands for.

Posted by: CDC | Jan 5, 2005 12:36:35 PM


Posted by: Terrier

Don Herzog, quite frankly, this post is a waste of time and will draw more war crows than a fresh carcass in the west Texas sun. This will be a very good example of the real problem we face as a society - people lack even a basic trust in our institutions. They will not attempt to ascertain to truth but will simply spin the dial until the voice they hear matches their opinion and this voice will then be their leaderand of those leaders I can only quote Nietzsche, "Everywhere I looked for the great men - and I found only the apes of their ideals."

Posted by: Terrier | Jan 5, 2005 1:26:20 PM


Posted by: Josh Jasper

The governor of Bagdhad was just assasinated. Iyad Allawi can't go anywhere without a huge security detail. He's at constant rist of assasination, as are any other political candidates in Iraq.

What good are elections if all of the candidates are serious fear of assasination at any point. I predict at least a tenth of the elected officials will be assasinated in the first three months of the new regime.

We have not brough "peace" to Iraq yet, and I don't see any signs of "peace" happening there. I'm not optimistic about it, and I won't be until I see that there's an Iraqi leader in palce who can take effective steps to bring peace to his (or her) country, and a police force and military that all Iraqis can feel safe to join. We can't just assume that Kurds are going to be the only trustworthy police. Non Kurdish Iraqis just won't accept it.

And FYI, I read milblogs like DaggerJAG, who provides a real rah-rah we're-going-to-win voice to ballance out the pessimist news media. I know there's *some* structural work being done. But it's so fragile. Enough bombings, and all the work will vanish.

Posted by: Josh Jasper | Jan 5, 2005 1:39:25 PM


Posted by: Bret

Don Herzog uses the word "hope(s)" three times in his short post. He wants something of substance, some "meat" to hangs those hopes on. I can't blame him for that. Unfortunately, it will be years (decades?) before we know whether our worst fears or greatest hopes are realized in Iraq and the middle east in general. We just can't know. There's too much conflicting information of which we have access to too little. Our government (i.e. Bush) has access to far, far more information than we do. He can make informed judgements (though we have no way of knowing whether or not he is doing so). We cannot make informed judgements. He may be lying to us or telling the truth (or lying for the possibly good purpose of managing domestic opinion). We cannot and will not know whether or not he is lying for years.

As an example of the information deficit from which we suffer consider the following thought experiment. Let's say it's mid-August, 1965 and you had little firsthand knowledge of a place called California. You turn on your TV or read the newspaper and there would be a huge amount of news about California - the Watts riots were occuring. There was virtually no other information about California being broadcast at the time. What would you think? You might think that California was in extremely dire straits. But outside of Watts, for 98% of California's population, life was actually fairly normal. Yet it was the 2% that caught the attention of the media. The other 98% was simply boring.

The problems in Iraq may well be limited to a relatively small area (though certainly bigger than 2%). Life may be better for Shias in the south and Kurds in the north. It's certainly no worse for the 300,000 found in Saddam's mass graves. It's impossible to tell what's going on. There's just not enough information.

Posted by: Bret | Jan 5, 2005 2:37:41 PM


Posted by: Marinewife

The large excerpt you posted smacks of what slarrow suspected. A focus on anecdotal observations, inexperience and lack of expertise in military procedures and SOP (particularly in crisis-mode, what looks to an inexperienced eye like chaos and cruelty is really well researched and studied procedures developed because they have shown to work and save the most lives).

There doesn't seem to be any perspective in the piece, just a very insular and myopic view of this reporter's singular perspective. I don't discount that what he is seeing is real, I question whether he can interpret what he is seeing with objectivity.

As a wife whose husband experienced similar situations as the one documented, I think it's important for Americans to get this kind of view. What is wrong is to only get this view. So as slarrow suggests, please visit the milblogs for perspective. I'd also recommend "Iraq the Model" blog written by well-educated (and rather unbiased) brothers working and living in Baghdad.

Posted by: Marinewife | Jan 5, 2005 3:22:34 PM


Posted by: Deb Frisch

CDC,

I don't want to debate with you the question of whether Bush War II is about liberation or whether it's about control of Iraqi oil. The chance that I will convince you is approximately zero. Ditto for your chance of convincing me.

My point was that right now, Marines are dying and being maimed at a rate that Americans are willing to tolerate. I don't know the exact number of fatalities, single amputations, double amputations, etc. per month but apparently, it's not enough for Americans to say "Geez, this is nuts."

If 400 Marines died in an attack tomorrow, Americans might wake up and realize this is nuts. That might save the lives of 1000 or 2000 or 5000 that would have died over the next five or ten years in pointless wars.

I agree with you, the lower the number of total Marines, etc. killed and maimed, the better.

Get it?

Posted by: Deb Frisch | Jan 5, 2005 3:53:05 PM


Posted by: Jay Cline

Don Herzog quotes the Economist headline

"With elections due in a month, our “embedded” correspondent reports on how the American army is failing to persuade Iraq's sour Sunni minority to co-operate"

Exactly. Why should any Iraqi, who has not yet publicly agreed to cooperate, do so now when the whole political context will change in 25 days? And why is this a failure of the American army? Elections are (from our point of view, at least) the Iraqi's best hopes. Let's not count, or discount, the chickens before the eggs hatch.

Posted by: Jay Cline | Jan 5, 2005 4:02:51 PM


Posted by: Mona

I would second Marinewife's recommendation of the IraqtheModel blog. The Iraqi authors describe themselves as "liberals," and after emerging from Saddam's tyranny and leaping to Internet freedom, they were astonished to learn that in the U.S. it is those denominated as "conservatives" who gave them that which they most wanted, namely, release from murderous dictatorship. They were absolutely flummoxed that it was "liberals" here who oppose it, and have had to adjust their worldview to current Western ideological realities.

BTW, the Fadhil brothers are two dentists and a pediatrician (this last actually just left to start his own blog), and are Sunnis. They strongly disagree that most Sunnis oppose the elections, and insisted on that when they (the dentists)were stateside recently.

But I would disagree that they are not biased. They are, and are strongly in favor of removing Saddam and establishing democratic elections. They do have some criticism for Bush and some aspects of the war in Iraq, but overall they enthusiastically support it. Above all, they insist that both most of the Arab media, and that in the West, is totally biased in favor of bad news. (Not that they themselves would not like to have 24/7 electricity, which they do not remotely yet have, and among other things that impedes blogging.)

Posted by: Mona | Jan 5, 2005 4:50:01 PM


Posted by: slarrow

To extend your point further, Jay: why should this be considered an American failure when it's the Sunni minority who are cutting their own throats? While this story is pitched as the lack of control American troops have over the country, it could more credibly be considered the sad tale of people who just won't grab the lifeline that's been thrown to them.

Posted by: slarrow | Jan 5, 2005 4:52:36 PM


Posted by: Bernard

slarrow, as I said before, it might well be worth actually reading the article before commenting sweepingly on the position it takes. Here's another snippet:


'On January 30th, Iraqis are supposed to take a grand stride towards unfettered self-rule when they elect a transitional parliament that in turn will endorse a new government. Its legitimacy will depend to a large degree on the overall turnout and the geographical spread of the voting. In the predominantly Sunni Arab areas, which are overwhelmingly where the insurgency has taken root (and where this report is focused), most potential voters seem unlikely—out of conviction or fear—to go to the polls. (The Sunnis make up about a fifth of Iraqis; the Kurds, who are decidedly keen to vote, are similar in number, while Shia Muslims, who are eager to rule the roost after centuries under Sunni control, comprise about 60%.)'

80% of Iraqi's keen to go to the polls? What a grim, dystopic vision.

Posted by: Bernard | Jan 5, 2005 5:13:17 PM


Posted by: Marinewife

Exactly what I meant Mona, but your words are much more precise. Thanks for clarifying.

The lack of response (so far) to slarrow's, mine and Mona's suggestion that to get perspective on the War in Iraq (in particular) and other topical issues across the RED-BLUE divide requires exposure to many perspectives. A well read blogger might engage in reading several milblogs, some Iraqi bloggers (of which there are many), a shot over to Kos or Unfogged, and DU if you really want some entertainment, stop into instapundit, powerline, and Captain's Quarters to get just a bit of perspective on an issue. Am I wrong to think that many of the Profs. (Who, I'm sure are quite busy and read tons of material) spend very little time reading opposing ideas (excluding those presented in the comments)?

I say this because many posts seem to be naive about what "conservatives" really think (with many variations) and stumble at the first shot out the door as the way the posts are put together, where the material is from etc... are questioned before even the positions put forward.
I'm sure I could go back and find specific examples, but I haven't the energy (and I know I'm over-generalizing but it's just a comment on an impression). I don't profess to be an expert on liberal ideals but having been one previously, being surrounding by that thinking, as well as reading liberal blogs, I think gives me some idea of what progressives believe and what I can and cannot agree with. I'm not sure that's true for most liberals (as Chris Matthews said, "maybe we should send some foreign correspondents out to the red states").

Posted by: Marinewife | Jan 5, 2005 5:21:06 PM


Posted by: slarrow

Bernard, I stated initial assumptions. Prof. Herzog posted snippets of the articles. I found my assumptions validated in the section he posted. Further, even in the snippet you cite, I find the following: "Its legitimacy will depend to a large degree on the overall turnout and the geographical spread of the voting." Oh, really? Says who? I submit that (a) this is a judgment that does not belong in an alleged hard news story, and (b) it sets a bar of greater than 80% participation for legitimacy...on what basis?

As for your last statement, I have no idea what you mean. But that'll have to be my last word on the issue for a while; time to get the car serviced.

Posted by: slarrow | Jan 5, 2005 5:26:50 PM


Posted by: CDC

Deb Fritch,

"I don't want to debate with you the question of whether Bush War II is about liberation or whether it's about control of Iraqi oil. The chance that I will convince you is approximately zero. Ditto for your chance of convincing me."

Why not? I could be convinced. Present a valid argument. That argument would include true premisses and a valid argument form. Recycling Michael Moore's inane jabbering won't cut it. This is supposed to be a site for heavy-duty academics. They can grade you.

You've declared yourself impervious to persuasion but it's worth mentioning that the cheapest way of getting Iraqi oil would have been to drop sanctions and buy the stuff for the lowered market price. That's not any big news flash. The Bush administration knows how the oil market works.

Posted by: CDC | Jan 5, 2005 6:06:39 PM


Posted by: Mona

Marineswife, you go, girl! Again, I agree with your appraisals and suggestions. I read all of the blogs you specifically mentioned, as well as several others, tho I seldom post comments except here. (This has become my favorite haunt for discussion.)

One thing to be gleaned from reading the better "conservative" blogs is that that label does not necessarily fit. Instapundit, Bill at InDCJournal, Roger L. Simon and many others are not social conservatives. They are Bush supporters primarily for foreign policy reasons (and sometimes for a few others). Many would be better described as libertarian hawks, and some still consider themselves Democrats. To be sure, the fine bloggers at Power Line and Captain Ed are straightforward men of the right, and I find more to disagree with at their sites than at Instapundit's. The diversity is fascinating and enriching.

And I do, after mentally preparing myself, occasionally foray to Kos. It is important to keep up with what the left and hard left are thinking, and sometimes I even agree with them!

My friends who have heard me extol the virtues of blogs and the Internet think I'm nuts, and they still take most of their news from the TV and local papers. They assume blogs are run by, well, guys in pajamas with a six pack sitting by their keyboard, who usually are not who they pretend to be and who MUST be unreliable. It is difficult to explain how much fact-checking actually goes on out here, and why it is nearly impossible to get away with unsubstantiated BS online, but more easy for the CNN reporter to do so.

If I were a believer, I'd be thanking God for the Internet. We can actually check in with Iraqis of various opinions, and soldiers over there, to get their views on what is happening. There is no better route to maximum and prompt information than logging on.

Finally, I realize this is drifting from the original topic. If Don and/or others would prefer, we could move this to the "housekeeping" thread, where Marinewife's comments about L2R's authors misunderstanding conservatives, and my replies, are entirely salient.

Posted by: Mona | Jan 5, 2005 6:18:28 PM


Posted by: Jay Cline

As Bernard quotes from the Economist article, "most (Sunni) potential voters seem unlikely—out of conviction or fear—to go to the polls", it is noteworthy to point out two things. 1) this is merely the opinion of the author, 2) the Afghans were similarly terrorized by similar groups. Anybody remember what the voter turnout was in that election <*snicker*>?

Posted by: Jay Cline | Jan 5, 2005 6:23:52 PM


Posted by: Don Herzog

Am I wrong to think that many of the Profs. (Who, I'm sure are quite busy and read tons of material) spend very little time reading opposing ideas (excluding those presented in the comments)?

I'll speak for myself. I spend the large majority of my reading time with historical materials, not current politics. (In some straightforward sense I don't live in this century. Or the last.) On both my historical reading and my current reading I quite deliberately spend lots of time reading stuff with which I disagree. I get itchy, worse than itchy, when I'm reading someone who is stroking my characteristic prejudices, and even in academic work am on record complaining about how balkanized lots of discussions are, where like-minded readers are purring over the work of like-minded writers.

Posted by: Don Herzog | Jan 5, 2005 6:56:56 PM


Posted by: Bret

Adding to Mona's last comment, a good social/religious conservative blog (these sorts of conservatives seem to be underrepresented here yet are a large voting bloc) is http://brothersjudd.com/blog.

Posted by: Bret | Jan 5, 2005 8:19:02 PM


Posted by: Theodore Hasse

Come on now, Bret. This is a blog dedicated to finding a way to communicate left views to the right. Let's not spam everyone here with conservative blog URLs.

Posted by: Theodore Hasse | Jan 5, 2005 9:31:41 PM


Posted by: Kevin Toh

A very nice article on what may be possible in Iraq in the future is John Lewis Gaddis's lead article in the current issue of "Foreign Affairs". He, as a histrorian, is much more aware of the larger picture than a typical journalist (embedded or not). He does not try to back up his claims with the type/extent of evidence that many here seem to demand.

http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20050101faessay84101/john-lewis-gaddis/grand-strategy-in-the-second-term.html

(Sorry. I'm too web-incompetent to give you a link.)

Posted by: Kevin Toh | Jan 5, 2005 9:35:13 PM


Posted by: John Hobbins

Prof. Herzog:

I am like you, a deliberate reader of stuff with which I disagree. What I am looking for is serious analysis of the military situation from someone who is also not an out and out supporter or detractor of the war itself. The Economist piece does not qualify, though it is a fine piece of ephemeral reporting. A military historian I respect, Edward Luttwak, wrote a piece early on for the LA Times, but has now fell silent, so far as I know. Max Boot writes well and persuasively. Wretchard of Belmont Club is quite interesting. But I would like to read a piece of analysis which demonstrates the same depth of understanding of military strategy and the ethics of war conduct as does someone like Wretchard, from someone who believes our intervention in Iraq needs to be radically modified, or even suspended. Examples, anyone?
Diane Sawyer interviews with retired generals do not qualify.

John

Posted by: John Hobbins | Jan 5, 2005 9:43:59 PM


Posted by: John Hobbins

Kevin,

Gaddis' article is indeed a good one, by a moderate. The link can be found on realclearpolitics.com - under Monday, January 3.

John

Posted by: John Hobbins | Jan 5, 2005 9:47:33 PM


Posted by: frankly0

Some people seem to believe that only a military historian or strategist could pronounce on the potential for success in Iraq.

But don't the numbers here speak for themselves? Clearly, the war is wounding and killing more American soldiers today than it did a year ago. Clearly, there's no real reduction in sight in the amount of violence directed towards virtually all parties in Iraq. Why on earth should this problem abate? What can military historians add that's key to any predictions, when the empirical evidence of continued violence day after day, and month after month, and now year after year, is overwhelming? And how hard is it to figure out that if the US ever tries to pull out, it's only going to get more chaotic, not more democratic?

Asking for military historians, or anyone else, to pronounce on this trend is like asking still another committee to study the issue of whether global warming really is taking place: in fact, the only real desire is to avoid the obvious inferences one would draw from the facts right in front of one's face.

Posted by: frankly0 | Jan 5, 2005 10:39:23 PM


Posted by: Joshua Cohen

1. I do read some of the blogs that slarrow mentions, and find them pretty useless, with the exception of chrenkoff.blogspot.com, which has useful summaries of "overlooked good news from Iraq," though if you follow the links you will see that much of the coverage that chrenkoff summarizes comes from pretty mainstream news outlets, like Reuters, for example, or CSM. (You will also see that chrenkoff's summaries leave out the darker aspects of the stories he links to: read the original report on the opinion poll for example, and note the timing of the poll and the parts of Iraq that were not polled. See http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/10478605.htm) But I am puzzled: Why is a cheerful story that appears in CSM or in a Knight-Ridder story trustworthy when chrenkoff summarizes it (which he does *because* it is favorable), whereas a less cheerful story that appears in the Economist is not trustworthy. The stories that Chrenkoff summarizes are probably accurate (within the usual limits), and part of the picture, but they are offered as partial, as "overlooked good news," not as complete. So in fact you can believe every detail in them and also believe every detail in the Economist article. It is fine to "rely on folks like Chrenkoff" (who is himself relying on the mainstream media for much of his material) for part of the story about Iraq, but completely irrational to treat his coverage as providing the full story: completely irrational because (as he says) he picks stories only if they provide good news.

2. Yesterday, the London Times ran an article that estimates the size of the resistance as 200,000. Before dismissing the assertion because you don't trust the London Times (or because it is not cheerful news), you should note the source of the estimate:

"I think the resistance is bigger than the US military in Iraq. I think the resistance is more than 200,000 people," General Muhammad Abdullah Shahwani, director of Iraq's new intelligence services, said.

General Shahwani said that there were at least 40,000 hardcore fighters attacking US and Iraqi troops, with the bulk made up of part-time guerrillas and volunteers providing logistical support, information, shelter and money.

"People are fed up after two years without improvement," he said. "People are fed up with no security, no electricity, people feel they have to do something. The army (dissolved by the American occupation authority) was hundreds of thousands. You'd expect some veterans would join with their relatives, each one has sons and brothers."

3. In the next issue of Boston Review (http://bostonreview.net/), we are publishing an article by Martin van Creveld, the distinguished Israeli military historian. The article is about Moshe Dayan's work as Vietnam correspondent for Maariv in 1966. Here is a pasage from the article (brought to mind by all the enthusiasm expressed here for military blogs): "Flying to Vietnam by way of Honolulu and Tokyo, Dayan summed up his impressions so far [Dayan had just visited the US and talked to a bunch of military officers, among others]. Everywhere he was received courteously. Everywhere the people he encountered were committed and extremely hard-working. Intensely patriotic, they seemed proud of what they were doing, yet they lacked a critical perspective. Asking whether they had changed their methods since they first went to Vietnam. Dayan was told that they did not have to: everything worked much better than expected. That day he noted in his journal that the U.S. military never made any mistakes. Yet no one could tell him how they were going to win the war." The van Creveld article, which will appear in the Feb-March issue, is about the similarities between Vietnam and Iraq.

Posted by: Joshua Cohen | Jan 5, 2005 10:45:45 PM


Posted by: Jeff Licquia

But don't the numbers here speak for themselves?

To me, they do. After reading about the loss of 24,000 men in a single day at Antietam, 15,000 in a two-month campaign in Okinawa, or even 55,000 in ten years of war in Vietnam, our current casualty rates certainly speak loudly regarding at least one aspect of the conduct of the war.

Of course, I doubt those were the words the numbers said to you. Can they really "speak for themselves" if we can't agree on their message?

What can military historians add that's key to any predictions, when the empirical evidence of continued violence day after day, and month after month, and now year after year, is overwhelming?

For one, a military historian could possibly point to parallel occupations to ours, how they were fought and won, what we are doing the same and differently, and what we could do to improve our odds.

Much has been made, for example, in parallels with occupied Germany and Japan, and at least one war commentator is fond of drawing parallels with chapters in Greek and Roman history.

As for pessimism, I do not believe that either the press or the government is giving us the whole picture. Each distorts, and each has been caught in it. Each has demonstrated an agenda. There are few trustworthy correctives one can apply, and so I fear that we are in the dark.

So I don't share in pessimism. Skepticism towards Pentagon claims are certainly justified, but not naive blindness towards a press corps that (for example) was willing to declare the march to Baghdad lost after only two weeks.

Posted by: Jeff Licquia | Jan 6, 2005 12:25:27 AM


Posted by: Marinewife

frankly0 wrote:
"Some people seem to believe that only a military historian or strategist could pronounce on the potential for success in Iraq."

They bring perspective, which seems to be lacking on both sides of the argument (though I think more so on the left). The article presented by Prof. Herzog is lacking perspective, which is my point. Also, I think it most unfair to judge military conditions and circumstances based on a lack of understanding about how the military sees things. Speaking from experience, most servicemen and women find media coverage so frustrating they completely tune it out, which I think is sad. Imagine you were a doctor and pundits and reporters were everyday critiquing why you couldn't cure someone or save a life. Is it not fair to ask the doctor what his/her thinking was in order to get perspective on the situation?

Prof. Herzog, I'd love to know your insights on how current politics is reflected in the historical texts you spend most of your time reading (someone who does that well is Victor Hanson). Is it possible for you to broase a few mentioned blogs to get a read on what's being said around the 'sphere, seeing as you are now a member of the community? It might also give you insight into your target audience for this blog, as most appear to be frequent blog readers.

Mona, thanks for your further comments, I always look forward to your blue name in the comments thread as I know you will peak my interest.
And like you, this blog has become a google I look forward to. While I mostly disagree with the posts here, I have to give kudos to the Profs. for taking the time and effort in making it interesting and relativly friendly (although I often feel out of my league).

Posted by: Marinewife | Jan 6, 2005 1:58:54 AM


Posted by: Paul Shields

Don,

I agree that the Economist tends to be better written than comparable US publications. And I also appreciated the more global perspective, the news from parts of the world that the US tends to ignore. Nevertheless, on Iraq it seems to me that they suffer from the same intrinsic limitations as their US counterparts, and that their reporting serves predictable ends. . .

On subjects like Iraq, the left and the right seem to perceive different realities (perhaps this is the thread that should have been titled ‘incommensurables’) and it is clearly difficult to discuss policy when even the facts are at issue. I have a perspective on why this is. In my view it is because the major traditional custodians of objectivity in the US, viz. the major news organizations and the academy, have abdicated their role as ‘honest brokers’ and have become increasingly politicized. This means that there are no longer arenas in which such conflicts can be effectively resolved. In my own case, for instance, the desire for objective reportage has driven me to channel switching and blog-hopping in an attempt to find some way to triangulate toward the facts. This is not an entirely satisfactory solution, but I don’t know what else to do.

I will not go into the question of major news organizations, but I do want to say something about the academy. For the last half century, in my opinion, the academy has increasingly come under the influence of theoreticians who seem to imply that objectivity in the traditional sense is not even possible. Given this, it is not surprising that motivation among scholars to be objective, and to be perceived as objective, has diminished--if objectivity is not really possible, then individual scholars naturally feel justified in discarding the chimera of objectivity and transferring allegience instead to whatever political ends seem best. I believe this has happened, and that it has resulted in a loss of public confidence in the impartiality of the academy. I know this is terribly general, but it seems to me to explain one part of how there can be such ‘alternate realities’ abroad in plain daylight. The academy has forfeited its role as a legitimate arbiter of such conflicts.

Ironically, it is philosophy that has mainly resisted this trend. This is the source of my hopes for this blog. More important than attempting to convince the right, might be attempting to recapture the center--becoming again the ‘honest brokers’ for political discourse. This would be surely be something good.

I do not know how Iraq will turn out. But I am every bit as wary of what seems to me to be undue pessimism (remember how quickly the war in Afghanistan was reported as unwinnable) as I am of undue optimism. And I am extremely grateful to the husband of Marinewife, and the other young people in Iraq who are at risk.

Posted by: Paul Shields | Jan 6, 2005 2:07:47 AM


Posted by: Don Herzog

I'm not a philosopher, I do believe in objectivity, and I think that alongside some high-profile stuff in the academy I have absolutely no patience for there is still tons of good work. I have been cruising some blogs, since joining this one. I like some and dislike others, natch. And I have found some quite startling claims about what is and isn't going on in universities these days, which maybe I'll pull together into a post at some point.

Posted by: Don Herzog | Jan 6, 2005 11:19:07 AM


Posted by: Jay Cline

frankly0 writes:

Clearly, there's no real reduction in sight in the amount of violence directed towards virtually all parties in Iraq. Why on earth should this problem abate?

In an unabashed plug and reference to my blog, I address this very question Iraqi Elections:no time for dissent .

"Regardless of one's position on going in to Iraq, wouldn't it be prudent to encourage a successful electoral process? The time to register criticism has both long past and is not yet. Wait for it. Work for real results, not 'counting coup' marks on the blackboard."

Posted by: Jay Cline | Jan 6, 2005 11:37:13 AM


Posted by: mw

Here is an excellent, in depth article on the status and nature of the insurgency:

http://www.csis.org/features/iraq_deviraqinsurgency.pdf

(link from www.stragegypage.com)

One major thing I think the report has wrong, though, is this:

One broader problem is that the various Sunni insurgent groups ultimate have a non-negotiable agenda. They cannot bring back Arab Sunni minority rule or the Ba’ath; they cannot regain the level of power, wealth, and influence they once had. They cannot reestablish the form of largely secular rule that existed under Saddam, or reestablish Iraq as a country that most Arabs see as “Sunni.”

It seems to me that the insurgency believes it *can* bring back Sunni minority rule (or at least that it has a fighting chance) and by the same methods the Ba'athists used to maintain control when they were in power--namely, the ruthless use of terror. The insurgency is not trying to persuade Iraqis to join them (not even to persuade mos Iraqi Sunnis). It is trying to make Iraqis too terrified to oppose them. So when they kill large numbers of bystanders with a car bomb and when they threaten and murder Iraqi professionals and local government leaders and election workers, this does not hurt them in the PR department, it helps them because they are not asking to be loved, they are asking to be feared (and, therefore, obeyed). Just as when Saddam was in power.

If the US were to withdraw, the insurgency would not stop it's attacks, they would redouble them. They would pull out all the stops. And who is to say they would not succeed? Saddam's ba'athists reasserted and solidified control of the country after the '91 war in the most trying of circumstances -- demoralized armed forces that had been completely routed by the coalition, mass uprisings in Shia and Kurdish areas, and 'no fly' zones over the country. Who is to say for certain that they might not prevail against long odds again?

Posted by: mw | Jan 6, 2005 11:44:35 AM


Posted by: Mona

Don Herzog intrigues me with: And I have found some quite startling claims about what is and isn't going on in universities these days, which maybe I'll pull together into a post at some point.

Superb idea. I suspect most if not all of the profs oppose David Horowitz' so-called Academic Bill of Rights, which is gaining some traction in a few state legislatures. Both his diagnosis and proposed cure would be interesting fodder for discussion.

Posted by: Mona | Jan 6, 2005 11:49:53 AM


Posted by: Mona

Please, did I end the plague of runaway italics?

Posted by: Mona | Jan 6, 2005 11:56:33 AM


Posted by: Giles

"And I have found some quite startling claims about what is and isn't going on in universities these days"

What Work? Research? Blogging?

Posted by: Giles | Jan 6, 2005 2:58:10 PM


Posted by: frankly0

Of course, I doubt those were the words the numbers said to you. Can they really "speak for themselves" if we can't agree on their message?

The numbers do indeed speak for themselves, I think, with regard to the issue of whether or not violence and disorder are likely to be a staple of Iraq's existence, so long as the US is engaged there; continued chaos is the only sensible expectation. As for your other examples, the Civil War is irrelevant because it was, obviously, winnable by ordinary fighting out in open, and the American people saw a point to the sacrifice. The Vietnam War is somewhat relevant, but any lessons there have to take into account that we ultimately lost the war.

And while people seem to think that the elections will be a turning point, that strikes me as very wishful thinking (as was, previously, the expectation that capturing Saddam's sons, then Saddam himself, would be a turning point). The insurgents are fighting because they want power. They don't want elections because they see those elections as depriving them of power, presumably because they mostly represent minority Sunnis. What is the prospect, then, that elections will solve this problem? Just about zero. There are better prospects that it will aggravate the situation.

[Military historians] bring perspective, which seems to be lacking on both sides of the argument (though I think more so on the left). The article presented by Prof. Herzog is lacking perspective, which is my point. Also, I think it most unfair to judge military conditions and circumstances based on a lack of understanding about how the military sees things.

I can see we might gain some insight from bringing in the judgement of military historians. But the problem is that military strategy and prediction is, by the admission of those who practice it, a highly unreliable science or art. If any sensible military strategist had been obliged before the Iraq war to predict the probable good or bad ultimate outcome based, on the one hand, on the consensus of military strategists prior to the war, or based, on the other hand, on a years worth of casualty figures after the war commenced, which, do you think, he or she would choose? Clearly, the empirical data of casualty figures would carry vastly greater weight, and that's what they would choose.

My point is that we have already seen enough data out of Iraq for long enough period of time over a wide enough range of circumstances that it's very hard to see how things in the future are going to get much better. Common sense alone makes this conclusion pretty inevitable, at this stage. Military historians are not likely to deviate from those conclusions unless they themselves are caught up in some far fetched theory, ideology, or political or organizational bias.

Posted by: frankly0 | Jan 6, 2005 3:15:24 PM


Posted by: Marinewife

"My point is that we have already seen enough data out of Iraq for long enough period of time over a wide enough range of circumstances that it's very hard to see how things in the future are going to get much better."

Gee, frankly0, sounds like you've got it all figured out, we're doomed! Do you see any hope Obi Wan?

Your interpretation of the data, circumstances, and events in Iraq are in question not the data, circumstances, and events. Your perception is not the glass half-empty, it's the glass pulverized.

Perspective gives one the ability to continually reassess and reinterpret given (and ever changing) data. Perspective also allows one to not close the door on changing one's mind. Never fall in love with your own ideas, someone wise once told me. Sounds like you'd rather be right than wrong about Iraq, and that's very sad.

Posted by: Marinewife | Jan 6, 2005 4:06:44 PM


Posted by: Marinewife

Prof. Herzog, I realize this comes from the Horowitz faction of reformed activists, and many might discount it because of the source, but I hope this is not happening where you are. This is very troubling indeed.

"Dissident Arab Gets the Treatment:
I was surprised the next morning when instead of giving me a grade, Professor Woolcock verbally attacked me and my essay. He told me, “Your views are irrational.” He called me naïve for believing in the greatness of this country, and told me "America is not God's gift to the world." Then he upped the stakes and said "You need regular psychotherapy.""

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=16550

Look forward to your forthcoming post on this.

Posted by: Marinewife | Jan 6, 2005 4:19:26 PM


Posted by: frankly0

Never fall in love with your own ideas, someone wise once told me. Sounds like you'd rather be right than wrong about Iraq, and that's very sad.

I see violence in Iraq that has not decreased, but only increased, over the year and three quarters we've been there. My big, bold, but incredibly biased idea? That that trend is likely to continue.

You, on the other hand, seem to find a thousand ways to avoid this obvious, empirically based, common sense prediction.

So who's the one who can't seem to give up on a dearly held idea?

Posted by: frankly0 | Jan 6, 2005 4:32:17 PM


Posted by: Don Herzog

Briefly for now, "troubling" is putting it awfully mildly. Assuming all this is true, here are my reactions. Fine to ask students to grapple with views very critical of the Constitution, fine to ask them to critically evaluate those views for a paper or an exam, outrageous to insist that they toe the line and purr in approval, outrageous to medicalize their opposition, outrageous to whimper about being "harassed" when a student reports what happened in public.

Posted by: Don Herzog | Jan 6, 2005 4:34:24 PM


Posted by: Bret

frankly0 writes"I see violence in Iraq that has not decreased, but only increased, over the year and three quarters we've been there. My big, bold, but incredibly biased idea? That that trend is likely to continue."

Kind of a weak up trend, isn't it? The numbers I've got for monthly U.S. casualties starting March, 2004 are 52, 147, 88, 44, 61, 71, 90, 67, 141, and 75 for December. The 148 and 141 are from operations due to the al Sadr uprising last April and the Falluja operations in November. It's certainly not true that violence has "only increased". Some months it's up, some it's down. So much for empirical analysis.

Nonetheless, I agree that there will continue to be violence in Iraq. There's violence everywhere in the world, so it's easy to support that conclusion. Hopefully, the stream of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have been added to mass graves will stop, having people thrown into shredders to amuse Saddam's kids has halted, etc. It's a rough neighborhood, and will continue to be a rough neighborhood. The question I have is whether or not it will be a freer neighborhood, a democratic neighborhood.

Posted by: Bret | Jan 6, 2005 5:10:25 PM


Posted by: frankly0

Kind of a weak up trend, isn't it? The numbers I've got for monthly U.S. casualties starting March, 2004 are 52, 147, 88, 44, 61, 71, 90, 67, 141, and 75 for December.

Though I don't have the numbers directly in front of me, the more significant up trend is from 2003, immediately after the war, to 2004, not within 2004 itself. Obviously, the graph of the numbers is going to be rocky from month to month and operation to operation. And whether or not those numbers go up from year to year is far less important than that they are mostly stuck at some unacceptable level.

The point is, they ARE unacceptable, from the standpoint of permitting a stable democracy. Such a democracy cannot co-exist with such a high level of violence, particularly since it is quite deliberately directed at the institutions protecting or representing power in that democracy.

I don't know anybody who has seriously claimed that a true democracy and authentic democratic institutions could co-exist with such a degree of violence. (I have a funny feeling, though, that we're going to start to hear that argument when the violence fails to subside after the election.)

Posted by: frankly0 | Jan 6, 2005 5:30:59 PM


Posted by: frankly0

One other point about the trend in violence in the Iraq war.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this violence of late is that it has been far more often directed at Iraqis than at Americans, with an eye, obviously, to undermining prospects for a democratic election, and for democracy itself (as the recent asssassination makes clear, for example).

Those increases in violence will not be reflected in the numbers of American soldiers killed.

And, of course, one must remember too that the number of American dead is only a fraction of what it would have been in earlier wars, because of major advances in body armor and in battlefield surgery. What this means is that the level of concerted effort and commitment by the insurgents is poorly measured by the number of American soldiers killed, when comparing the numbers to previous wars. A far fairer comparison would be of the numbers wounded. And the scope of concerted effort and dedication among the insurgents is the true test of whether or not there's a real prospect of stable democracy in Iraq, since those are people who are not going to go away when we do.

Posted by: frankly0 | Jan 6, 2005 5:47:49 PM


Posted by: Bret

frankly0, you have impressive confidence in the certitude your analysis. I've bookmarked your comments and added a calendar item to look at them in June. I'm interested to see how good your predictions end up being.

Posted by: Bret | Jan 6, 2005 6:01:32 PM


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