Wednesday, November 02, 2005
The Bush Legacy: Losing the War on Terror
US terrorism specialists Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon have reached a stark conclusion about the war on terrorism: the United States is losing.
Despite an early US victory over the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, President Bush's policies have created a haven for terrorism in Iraq that escalates the potential for Islamic violence against Europe and the United States, the two former Clinton administration officials say.
Alarm! Alarm! Two former CLINTON officials!! How can we blame them for this? Wait a minute... there I go buying the Bushovich line again. Let me put the koolaid away and proceed.
"It's been fairly disastrous," said Benjamin, who worked as a director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council from 1994 to 1999.What? The brown people over there don't like being hooked up to electrodes and having dogs sicced on them if they get tossed in the pokey? Those lousy ingrates... lets bomb 'em! Well, more... bomb 'em more that is!
"We have had some very important successes getting individual terrorists. But I think the broader story is really quite awful. We have done a lot to fuel the fires, and we have done a lot to encourage people to hate us," he added in an interview.
Ok, all snarkiness aside, what these men are saying is demonstratably true. This president has inflamed the entire "Arab street" by invading Iraq, and then poured gas on the flames by allowing for the torture and inhumane treatment of detainees. Is this really how you win a war? This type of war requires strong international co-operation due to the amorphous nature of the enemy we are fighting. And after 9/11 we had widespread international support in our justified war with Afghanistan. Yet this president saw fit to alienate nearly the entire world by a pre-emptive war with Iraq. Historians will look at this and just shake their heads at the completely idiotic way this president has conducted this war. A war that simply MUST be won. Anyway, enough of this rant... onto more of the Truthout article.
"We may be attacked by terrorists who receive their training in Iraq or attacked by terrorists who were inspired, organized, and trained by people who were in Iraq," said Simon, a Rand Corp. analyst who teaches at Georgetown University.So this really means "we are fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here" (reason 27 from the administration list of talking points to justify the Iraq debacle) could more accurately be phrased: "we are giving them targets over there so they don't target us here". It goes without saying that the military service members being killed are American citizens. Once American deaths in Iraq reach the 3k mark that will represent another 9/11 type, casualty of terrorists figure, purely of George Bush's creation. This 'fighting them over there' reasoning is the same as me determining to not get into a POTENTIAL accident in my neighborhood, by purposely driving my car over a cliff in a neighborhood 10 miles away. My neighbors aren't harmed, but my car and I are still pretty messed up, and that other neighborhood has to deal with the carnage. What to you really suppose the Iraqi people think when they hear this 'fighting them there' reasoning from the administration. Gee... thanks Mr. Bush. It certainly is nice of you to bring your war to our neighborhood. And for what? You and I both know when the 3k dead mark arrives we'll be witness to Mr. Bush (assuming he hasn't been booted from office) giving some rah rah speech and proclaiming that the only way to honor these dead is to continue the killing. What circular logic. Enough of this rant, here is a link to my original response to this 'fighting them over there' tripe. It covers a lot of the same ground I just went over. And for the sake of brevity I'll let the self evident truth that Iraq is providing our enemies real world training go without comment. Here is the final part of the article I wish to comment on.
Bush "has given them an excellent American target in Iraq but in the process has energized the jihad and given militants the kind of urban warfare experience that will raise the future threat to the United States exponentially."
And not even Osama bin Laden, they say, could have dreamed the United States would stumble so badly in the court of Muslim public opinion.I have repeatedly stated in many posts that George Bush may as well be considered the recruiting officer for the Al-Queda Washington D.C. Branch. The Iraqi war is the greatest strategic blunder in American military history which will have devastating consequences for generations to come. I have yet to say so in this blog, but I also fear that we are on the wrong side of this war of ideas. I certainly would not say the Islamo extremists are on the right side by any means. Yet we have become the ones now relying upon pre-emptive war, torture of prisoners, the curtailment of civil rights, and the alienation of once trusted allies if they don't see things exactly as we wish them too. One can only wonder what we will become when this is said and done. It is well past time for America to reclaim the moral high ground this president has so blithely thrown away. Until we choose to do so, I don't see either side in this war being right. We are just less wrong.
"Everyone says there's a war of ideas out there, and I agree. The sad fact is that we're on the wrong side,"
Don't misunderstand me, I'm not disagreeing or trying to put you down, all I ask is that you keep an open mind about the many, many people who are not capable or unwilling or unaware that they CAN participate in Public Discourse. Sometimes we need an Oligarchy to HELP these people, otherwise they would be SOL.
"The Iraqi war is the greatest strategic blunder in American military history..."
You're wrong. Compare it to the Civil war (southern blunders) or the Vietnam war. Whether your prediction of future devastating consequences is correct, or whether history shows that planting democracy in Iraq was brilliant strategy, at this point the war is not the greatest anything.
"Yet we have become the ones now relying upon ... the alienation of once trusted allies..."
We are relying upon the alienation of allies? That is nonsense.
We are not on the wrong side of this war of ideas, you and the Islamist terrorists are.
Onto the last paragraph: For the reliance upon alienation of allies, check the wilkopedia definition of neoconservative to find this: being more inclined than other conservatives toward an interventionist foreign policy and a unilateralism that is sometimes at odds with traditional conceptions of diplomacy and international law. If you care to search google with the keywords Bush doctrine, or Neoconservative paired with unilateral there are volumes over volumes affirming this belief. Indeed it seems to be (have been hopefully) an article of faith that unilateral action demonstrated strength and was actually desirable. So I stand by my assertion.
As to great strategic blunders... I'm afraid this is one case where my thinking is indeed hardly original. But I do subscribe to the notion. Look at the 2nd to last paragraph in this link for 6 links to back up this belief. http://clublefty.blogspot.com/2005/10/secretary-rice-tries-another-iraq-war.html
I consider myself a bit of a civil war buff. And there were indeed quite a few strategic blunders to examine in that war. One may argue that the decision of the state of S. Carolina to fire on Ft. Sumter was a grand scale strategic blunder. But that did not lead to generational conflict (what did ensue was horrible to be sure but it was over in 4 years) which I believe is what the neocons have brought us to. It also did not alienate America from the rest of the world, which the neocons have done with the Iraqi blunder. I cant think of a time in our history where America has intentionally disregarded international opinion and inflamed the opposition citizenry in a war on this scale. Vietnam? That hardly cost us in the cold war, to the extent that we are being harmed in the war on terror due to the Iraqi mess, and it did not have the citizens in other communist nations enraged as we see currently is the case in the middle east. This Iraqi invasion is simply a blunder of monumental proportions, and I say this from the perspective that the west MUST win the war on terror.
Finally I will not be equated in the war of ideas with the Islamo extremists. It is not my side of the American divide that advocates militarily imposing friendly forms of government on foriegners. Or torturing detainees. Or subverting the civil rights of our citizens to further war goals. Or a whole host of other issues which America for centuries has been on the right side of, but which we currently have forsaken. I stand for that patriotism that has stood us in such good stead for many years. We now have a neoconservative cabal that has hijacked our government and they must not be allowed to drag our great nation even further down the road to ruin than they have already done. Watch the Wilkerson speech for a good conservative perspective on this. I'll link it if you cant find it, or go to the archives cuz it's there.
The effects of the Civil war lasted many generations. Even now there are unsettled issues. 600,000 deaths. And you think it was not "generational" and that the war we're in now is a greater blunder. "Generational" war usually means war betwixt generations. Using the word here is baffling. And how you can think 2k is worse than 600k deaths is beyond comprehension.
Then you claim that Vietnam "hardly cost us in the cold war." 58,000 deaths. Bill Clinton in Moscow protesting. Jane Fonda's antics. Massive protests here and abroad. Your ignorance of history is appalling.
And you are quick to point out that other leftists agree with you. Did I ever accuse leftists of being bright?
You still offer no evidence regarding RELYING upon the alienation of allies. Unilateralism means acting WITHOUT relying on the actions of others, not relying on them for alienation. And in this war there are over 20 other countries in Iraq on our side. Bush built a coalition and you think it is falling apart. But he is certainly not RELYING on it falling apart. You just got carried away in your rant and misspoke. Admit it. (Or are you capable of admitting error?)
I do believe the Neocons running the whitehouse RELIED upon alienating previously trusted allies. There was just too much that happened that was openly hostile to our allies. One instance that leaps to mind was the very public determination in the months following the invasion that only coalition partners would be allowed to participate in state funded construction projects in Iraq. Just a needless provocation of our once trusted allies. And believe me we would be joyful if they should decide to help with construction now. But of course they won't because of the situation we have created in Iraq. The neocons took it as a sign of American strength to go it alone. They thought it was a good idea and if they could have it all back knowing then what they know now, I'm sure they would take the time to build a real coalition. I know it sounds crazy Jeff but it's true. They thought it was good for us to stand alone and it sounds so insane you just cant believe it.
Entering the Vietnam war was a similar blunder seen in hindsight. The government was corrupt and the war was disastrous.
In comparison, the invasion of Iraq was inevitable. They were violating the treaty and UN orders, trying to shoot our planes down in the no-fly zone, oppressing their people, and hoping to get WMDs. Our intelligence on the WMDs was not very trustworthy because Saddam was deliberately trying to thwart the inspectors. Invading appeared to be the only way to finish the business Saddam started when he invaded Kuwait.
Funny that you would bring up the construction issue. That was offered as an incentive to bring allies on board, not to alienate them. Bush was never trying to alienate allies. And it is strange that you say we are standing alone. When you tell the world that we are standing alone in Iraq, you are disrespecting all of our allies that have troops there. If anyone is relying on alienating our allies, it would be you.
To base this action on supposed security concerns is a double slap at our former allies. Besides not allowing comapanies based in these nations to bid on the contracts, we said it was due to them being security risks. Thats is some fine outreach to those who have long been our international partners. Looking at this in hindsight, it would have been fantastic to allow nations who didn't support the invasion originally participate in the reconstruction. We'd love for them to be there now.
I think we have a semanitic argument developing over the term 'strategic blunder'. I would posit that entry into an unwise war is better termed a political blunder. Strategic blunder would tend to indicate an unwise action once the war is underway. For example General Lee made a strategic decision to invade the North after his 2nd victory of Bull Run. This turned out to be a bad strategic move based upon a tactical blunder he made on the 3rd day of Gettysburg. I suppose if Lee has chosen to flank Meade on the road to Washington as Longstreet proposed, history would judge his strategic decision in a kinder light. Thus in my way of thinking, the original decision to go to war is political in nature. The overall goals that are attempted to be reached during that war are strategic in nature. The implementation of the strategic goal boils down to tactical decisions. If these definitions are not agreeable in your way of thinking, may I ask why not?
I based my definition of "strategic blunder" on your example: invading Iraq. Now it sounds like you don't want to call entering a war strategic. Are you contradicting yourself?
It is clear from your pointing to the Wolfowitz memo that you have fallen for a favorite tactic of the neocons. You do something that is objectionable, but you say your doing the opposite. They are expanding international cooperation by exluding international bidding from countries who didn't participate? How does that work? Clear Skies by allowing more pollution, Healthy Forests by allowing clear cutting. And you've fallen for it time and again I suppose.
So now you think that the war with Iraq is part of the war on terror? It is funny how tangled your logic is getting. First you criticized Bush for hinting at a link between Iraq and terrorists, then you said Iraq was America's greatest strategic blunder, then you said the Civil war doesn't count because starting a war isn't strategic, and now you say we didn't start the war with Iraq, rather, it IS part of the war on terror. And you criticize me for not mentioning that, as if I believe it.
Well if you really want to say that our invasion didn't start the war, I would argue that the Vietnam war was just an extension of the Cold War, and invading Vietnam was a catastrophic strategic blunder that caused repercussions spanning generations. The abolitionists and slave revolts had already started the war over slavery before the Civil war officially started. So your limited definition of "strategic" fits in either case. And only in your imagination will our grandkids be fighting this war with Islamist insurgents in Iraq. Oh, wait, you think the war in Iraq is part of the war on terrorism. I guess that would make it a good thing we are fighting it.
How can you not understand that excluding countries from financial gain if they don't participate encourages participation? Even if you think it was too late for them to participate in Iraq (which it wasn't), it would be incentive for next time. And you know how every few years we're trying to build another coalition for something. It is a very simple concept: reward for participation. Of course you would expect complaints from those left out. And being a liberal, you take their side.
Also when I say "strategic military blunder" in my way of thinking means a blunder in grand scale goals in a shooting war, how can you then claim the cold war and Vietnam fit that description. Theres a reason it was called the cold war. Furthermore we certainly did not invade Vietnam, we were invited there by the government in power at the time. Unless you are approaching this from the perspective of the N. Vietmanese.
The firing on Ft. Sumter did not start the Civil War? You point to the bubbling issues and sometimes violence as the start of the Civil War? Might I remind you that it was Gen. Lee leading Federal forces who arrested John Brown at Harpers Ferry. The states did not war with each other til after Ft. Sumter and that is widely accepted as the opening salvo in the Civil War, even if you don't see fit to agree with just about every one who cares to look at the issue.
You found the proof. Quite clearly if they dont see things like we want them to they were alienated. Just look at your last post.
I hope that is what you have been trying to say. Now I'll try to show you your errors.
I'm guessing that the shooting you refer to before the Iraq invasion was in Afganistan. But before our invasion of North Vietnam we fought the Commies in Korea. And before the Civil war officially started, there was Turner's Rebellion (since you don't want to count Harper's Ferry) and many other shooting events. I think you know what the "grand scale goals" were in each conflict.
Sorry, I'm too dense to find where "relying upon...the alienation of" allies fits what I said. We offered incentives to be allies. We didn't offer incentives to be alienated.
I'm giving up on the greatest strategic blunder in American Military history thing. You simply refuse to concede basic concepts widely understood by people when they discuss military engagements. I would link you to the statement of Gen. Odom, (not a lefty) or even such right wing freakazoids as Bill Orielly or Tucker Carlson who also believe it is a strategic blunder, but I don't believe that would help. If you won't even give up the notion that the Civil War began with Ft. Sumter, whats the use?
(I was sweating the Ducks game bigtime)
The Civil war started with Ft. Sumter just like the Iraq war started with our invasion. You say the Iraq invasion was a blunder; I say Ft. Sumter was a much bigger blunder. You just keep changing your definition of "strategic military blunder" in futile attempts to exclude my examples without excluding Iraq. I don't think anyone with education really believes the Iraq invasion was worse, but you say it because it is inflammatory.
The cases I pointed to are:
1. Starting the Civil war by firing on Ft. Sumter
2. Entering the Vietnam war.
I've been reading and rereading your posts trying to understand how you can consider these to be not military (or not blunders) but I'm at a loss. Up until now I though you were saying they were not strategic, so I brought up the "war over slavery" and the Cold War. Could those be the 2 cases to which you refer? But I never said those were military blunders.
I'm really trying to understand you and not trying to twist anything. Sometimes I try to restate your position. If it sounds twisted, maybe it is. For example, using the word "relying" where you didn't really mean it.
The funny thing is, I thought we agreed that Saddam wasn't involved in 9/11, so invading Iraq didn't have anything to do with 9/11. That has been my position all along. I'm surprised that now you're linking the two events, by saying "How you separate that from the Iraq invasion ... is beyond me."
Oh, well. I guess we're just going to disagree on that one.
Please name me a strategic military blunder in an ongoing war. Once again starting a war is considered a failure of politics. Please do not resort to starting wars when no conflict is currently underway, because once again that is a failure of politics.
It is good to see you dispell the notion that Iraq was part of the war on terror before we invaded. However if you do not see the linkage WE created, once again, needlessly, there simply is no reaching you. You are halfway to my point on this actually. You admit Iraq prior to our invasion had nothing to do with the war on terror. I and many others say: Needlessly bogging ourselves down in Iraq when it had nothing to do with the war on terror, and thus making Iraq a central front in the war on terror (once again, when we were already fighting that war in Afghanistan) is the greatest strategic blunder in American Military History.
You criticized me with:
"How you separate (9/11) from the Iraq invasion ... is beyond me."
Then you said:
"Iraq ... had nothing to do with the war on terror..."
You just explained how I separate the two.
Now let me try to state your position in simple terms:
At the exact moment we invaded, Iraq became part of the war on terror. It "had nothing to do with" it before the invasion, yet invading made it "a central front" in the war. Therefore, we were not STARTING a war when we invaded. (Because starting a war is a failure of politics, rather than a military blunder.) And when you say "the Iraqi war is the greatest blunder" you are just referring to another "front in the war on terrorism", not an actual, separate "Iraqi war" that Bush started.
Now my position:
Bush started a war against Saddam and his army, not terrorists. (Unless you call Saddam a terrorist, but then we are back to "Iraq had nothing to do with terror.") After we defeated the army and took over the country, Iraq has attracted and produced terrorists who have been attacking Iraqi and US forces in Iraq. In that sense, we are in a military fight against terrorists in Iraq.
Yes. Iraq has become front and center in the war on terror while it was not prior to our invasion. In this sense I would say our blunder is similar (not in the scope but in the nature of the blunder) to Hitler, being engaged with the British, invading the USSR. Or Japan, being engaged in China, bombing Pearl Harbor. Both of those blunders I grant were grander in scale and consequence to the offending nation. But the case is similar.
From the perspective of the countries being invaded, although they had no cause in the original conflict, they had enormous impact on the final outcome. I see the invasion of Iraq in the same light. A needless blunder. One which I don't believe can be found in the military history of this nation.
If your last explanation was all you had said originally, I wouldn't have argued. Although not entirely accurate, it is vague enough to ignore. But when you use ludicrous superlatives and phrases, I pull out my word parsing skills to show you your errors.
But "relying upon ... alienation" is just the wrong choice of words.
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