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« The irrational sanity of forgiveness | Main | Bordering on a lie: Congress said it OK’d fence for 700 miles of 1,951-mile Mexico border »

October 07, 2006

Comments

Christopher Taylor

I want our troops out soon as possible, too. But that's not until Iraq is a stable, safe, strong democracy that can fight off iran and Syria and the terrorists and death squads without our help.

jj mollo

Iraq the Model is talking about somewhat different numbers, maybe a different poll, but certainly a different interpretation. He says that approval of America is 40%, which sounds low until you realize that its higher than anywhere else in the Middle East and higher than it is in the UK.

We have little in our culture about compromise or working-out-our-differences-peacefully. Radical solutions often seem more tempting to the ordinary, less educated people. When everyone, and I mean everyone, keeps telling them America is their enemy, the common reaction would certainly involve violent means of expression…yes, that's our common way in showing our disagreement with others in this part of the world. It sucks, it's backward and it's savage but it's the fact and it will not change overnight, such changes happen slowly.

We should not expect pleasing answers from confused people, living in extremely difficult conditions, subjected to extreme emotional, physical and psychological stress and being misguided and misinformed by biased media and corrupt leaders.

After all this pressure and suffering, 40% of Iraqis still view America as their friend…now really, you can't find that in many countries that America did not fire a single bullet at especially in the Middle East.
There are 40% of Iraqis who view American soldiers (not only American people) as friends and in my opinion this should be considered a good foundation for building a much better relationship.
Some improvement in performance combined with removing some of the sources of negative influence can make the numbers change drastically.

I said in the beginning I would not apologize for or praise my people's attitude but I've changed my mind. I can't ignore the part of the poll that says 94% of Iraqis disapprove of al-Qaeda! I'm sure we can't get such a result anywhere else in the Arab or Muslim world…well, maybe not even in the west…who knows!

Frank Warner

If you asked the American people if the American people are their friends, what percent would say yes? The masochism here sometimes is so thick, you have to wonder.

centerblue

You sure have a creative way of adding up numbers in the Iraqi poll!

You take 34% of Iraqis who say the US should leave within a year (which is NOT to say they should BEGIN leaving within a year), add in 20% who want out within 2 years, and the 9% who don't want pull out ever an come up with 63% of Iraqis who want the US to stay a year or more. That's only true if the 34% number were in fact that Iraqis didn't want the US to BEGIN leaving until a year..but there is no evidence to indicate that is true. So you're really twisting the numbers in a way they don't deserve.

The Iraqi invasion has been a failure, as has been our misguided attempt to impose secular Jeffersonian democracy on a country that doesn't want it. NOTHING we can do there at this point is going to lead to a stable Iraq in our own image no matter how hard we try. It is time to accept reality of what a huge blunder we made and stop sticking our heads in the sand hoping things somehow change magically. If the Iraqis want to ditch a democracy and create semi- or fully autonomous regions with Islam as a central tenet, then so be it. We're in no position to tell them what to do.

Democrats don't want us to lose in Iraq, nobody does. What we want is for us to start getting real and start making difficult choices based on facts we know rather than on hopes and dreams that never had any grounding in reality.

Frank Warner

Centerblue,

It's hard to tell exactly what wanting U.S. troops out within a year means.

As I pointed out, when Americans were asked about withdrawing last year, 33 percent said they favored pulling out within a year. Then, almost a year later, 31 percent of Americans said they favored withdrawing within a year.

In other words, the year they were willing to wait moved back a year! (The other percentages on immediate pull-out and staying indefinitely remained about the same, too.)

The polls showed those Americans were patient and not setting a 12-month deadline. If they were setting a deadline, they'd now be insisting on immediate withdrawal, and they aren't.

Not immediate. The same appears to be true in Iraq. In any case, the Iraqis' willingness to keep U.S. troops there for up to a year more certainly does not mean "immediate" pull-out, as several reports, including your own, described it.

For the first time, more than half of Iraqis believe that, in six months, their own security forces will be able to handle democratic Iraq's security on their own. Six months from now, we'll all see if their hopes and expectations came true.

Clearly, a majority of Iraqis do want a secular democracy. It's strange you'd say they'd want something else. Except for a few fringe groups, no major party in Iraq is calling for a theocracy.

Odd as it may seem to you, all but the madmen and mercenaries want to be free.

Nicholas

I'm sorry but whenever somebody makes a statement like "The Iraqi invasion has been a failure" without any supporting evidence, then goes on to make wild assertions based on it, can't be serious about discussing this or convincing anybody about their point of view.

I can state categorically it's been a success without providing any evidence to support my view, how much is anybody reading this going to give to my views? I wouldn't expect anyone to believe me unless I explained why. The practice of asserting these things as if they're obvious truths has to stop if the level of the discussion is going to remain above the juvenile.

FWIW it's clear to me that most Iraqis do want the benefits of democracy but because of their lazy culture they don't want to do the work required to actually achieve it. What's more it only takes a few idiots running around blowing stuff up to give the impression of chaos. 1% of 25 million people is 25000. So clearly if 1% of the population of Iraq are unhinged enough to react violently then that 1% can create the violence we see today, even if the other 99% are totally onboard.

So the claim that it's a disaster and a failure just because a small segment of the population are either anarchists, religious fanatics or simply miss the old dictatorship which favoured them is not very convincing. Also claiming that just because in 3 years they haven't been put down it's a failure suggests you know nothing about counter-insurgency.

How long did past counter-insurgency campaigns last? Do you even know? Get serious for a second here.

Nicholas

Sorry, 1% of 25 million is 250000. That's a hell of a lot of armed thugs from such a minority, who can clearly ruin it for everyone.

Whenever you have a situation like this, it always takes time to solve it. There are a lot of problems in Iraq. Their infrastructure is run down, there are foreign terrorists running around, their culture is a problem, there are religious fanatics, countries like Iran and Syria are meddling.. you expect that just because those things can't be solved right away that they will never be solved? I'd say that's a lack of patience and perspective.

jj mollo

Well said!

Nicholas

Well, it was a poor example of typing/proofreading - I somehow left some words out. But I think my message got through OK.

I'm interested in hearing reasons why people think Iraq is a failure/quagmire/whatever but they're so rarely given - it's just asserted. I like debate and I like hearing the other side of issues. But sometimes I think I'm stuck in that Monty Python argument sketch.

jj mollo

No you're not!

jj mollo

Seriously, people usually are able to discern the truth of a situation intuitively, but when there are multiple parties interested in obscuring the truth and others with nothing more than good imagination, then in that situation intuition is much less reliable. [rant alert] People think, if they feel it strongly enough, it must be true. If they state it strongly enough, people must believe them. Sad to say, sound bytes do not make an argument.

If they were honest with themselves, they would say that they don't really know what's going on. Since they don't know, they have to resort to "experts". If you choose your experts from those who control the press, or those who tell the best stories, sing the best songs, you're not going to get reliable access to the truth. When the truth can't be published for reasons of national security, your chances are even worse.

In such a case, we should be relying on our elected officials to make the best decisions they can. If you can't stand the elected officials, that's too bad -- water under the bridge. Learn to live with them and listen to what they say. If Bush says one hundred times that the war is necessary, that it's going to be difficult, and that it may take years, then stop crying that no one told you it would be this hard, and that you don't think it's worth it. People should run for office if they think their judgment is better than the current officeholders.

Relying on filmmakers, songwriters, talking heads and green zone reporters is not going to do the job. Relying on analogies to past wars and pre-packaged slogans from feelgood sessions with protest marchers does not indicate a rational desire to discern the best policy.

jj mollo

Saying that there is "nothing" we can do is absurd. Think about this. A nation where people mix grass in with their wheat to make bread, where electricity can only be used for military purposes, is able to support a million-man army with sophisticated weaponry, build an atomic weapon and terrorize the world.

Surely a nation, such as ours, that commands a quarter of the productive capacity of the planet should be able to sustain a military strategy aimed at self-preservation just a little longer -- at least until we can no longer afford to eat deep-fried twinkies and drive 10,000 Winnebagos 300 miles to grill pork chops, drink beer and watch 50 adolescents play football under 100,000 candlepower floodlights. (Not that I don't enjoy a little football, mind you.)

Nicholas

Well, the way I see it, the people making the biggest sacrifices are those on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at least some of them seem to think that it's worth it, and that some progress is being made (even if it's not being made as fast as they or we would like).

I think they have a better handle on the situation than you or I. So given that they're making the biggest sacrifice, and they're (on the whole) willing to continue making it, I don't see the great rush to pull out.

Sure, it costs money, but if Iraq collapses it could end up being way more expensive for everyone in the long run. Not to mention the people who have to live there.

I guess I just figure if I were Iraqi I'd want the Americans to stick around until the country had fully righted itself. If and when a lot of US soldiers start saying the cause is lost, then it might be worth pulling out, but even then it would be a risky proposition for the long term.

Frank Warner

We had another guest commenter here (was it Mike?) recently saying that the Iraqis would prefer an Islamic theocracy to democracy. And of course, the argument concludes that therefore the war is lost.

I have to wonder, where does that idea come from? Which major group in Iraq actively is campaigning for a theocracy? The closest such group is Sadr's thugs. They might be kidnapping and murdering Sunnis, but they aren't ever going to take power.

In general, you still have about 80 percent of Iraqis solidly behind their constitutional democracy. However, the early Sunni Arab insurgency has caused so much havoc that the Shiite fringe finally is taking bloody revenge.

Yes, that's a ersatz civil war, waged by third parties (and occasionally by some rogue Iraqi troops), and these angry groups probably will have to fight it out a few more years before the dust settles and Iraq's security forces establish a semblance of calm.

In the meantime, al Qaida and the al Qaida wannabes are making no progress in Iraq.

The trajectory of the war seems to suggest several big battles to come, but nothing -- nothing -- suggests that any theocratic movement has the slightest chance of emerging victorious.

Democracy still is the best bet in Iraq, unless the liberators prematurely fold their cards.

centerblue

On the issue of a theocracy:

I did not say that Iraqis want a theocracy. What I said is that they do not seem to want a secular democracy, and there's a lot of space between those two extremes.

In Islam, there is no such thing as separation of church and state. To quote Wikipedia's entry on "separation of church and state":

"Islam holds that political life can only function properly within the context of Islamic law. To such believers, since God's law is universally true and beneficial to all people, any state law or action opposed to God's law would be harmful to the citizens, and displeasing to God. Many Muslims consider the Western concept of separation of Church and State to be rebellion against God's law. There is a contemporary debate in Islam whether obedience to Islamic law is ultimately compatible with the Western secular pattern, which separates religion from civic life."

So as you can see, coming in and trying to impose western style democracy on a majority Islamic country is as foolhardy as it would be if someone came here and insisted our government had to be run by Islamic law. Again this doesn't mean that Iraqis therefore want a theocracy. There are majority-Islamic countries all over the world that are not theocracies, but are also not western democracies.

On whether Iraq is a failure (responding to various people above):

Exactly how much and what kind of proof do you require in order to be convinced that the Iraqi adventure has been a failure?

Is the recent study that 650,000 Iraqis have been killed since 2003 that would not otherwise have died but for the invasion not enough for you? That's 2.5% of the entire Iraqi population. To put it in perspective, 2.5% of America's population would be 7.5 million--imagine that many members of our society dying in three years. Still not enough?

How about the thousands of US casualties?

How about the fact that most Iraqis (or even Americans in the Baghdad green zone) still have no steady access to electricity, three years after the invasion? Or that many Iraqis still have no access to jobs, education, sewage, water, hospitals, or a score of things they had before?

How about the fact that the US has frittered away the good will and respect of the world, which universally condemns what happened in Iraq and its aftermath? Are we so arrogant to believe that we are right and the rest of the world is wrong? (And please, no protests about the so called "coalition of the coerced"..when even the UK's top military general is now calling for a pullout of troops).

How about the fact that Iraq is drawing terrorists from all over the world who are being trained to fight against US troops, and has become a country that Al Qaeda calls its 'cause celebre'? Did you hear about the roadside bombs suddenly appearing in Afghanistan, as a result of terrorists taking their training back home from Iraq? Yep, your own soldiers are training terrorists to kill other US soldiers. Congratulations.

How about the fact that the National Intelligence Estimate recently revealed in the news stated bluntly that the Iraq war is WORSENING terrorism instead of defeating it?

How about the soldiers who say they have no idea what their mission is, or why they're even there? (Do a search on washingtonpost.com for that article.)

To ask these questions is not "juvenile", nor are my assertions "wild." Each and every one of them is based on official government statements, statistics, and studies, or on observations by people on the ground in Iraq.

PLEASE..tell me what it will take to convince the folks here that Iraq is a failure. How many more years do you need to make it a success? World War II was won in four years, and we're at 3.5 years and counting here. Just how many more soldiers or Iraqis have to die for the invasion to be officially deemed a "failure?" How much more red ink than the $300 billion and counting we have spent must also be spent before we realize we're throwing money away?

It's time to get real about Iraq. We made a mistake, we need to grow a set of balls to admit it, and then search for cold hard solutions based on FACTS, not dreams.

jj mollo

Iraq is not a monolith. Some may want a theocracy, but others want different things. A lot of the motivation is just ethnic hatred. You are right that Iraq is a failure, and it will continue to be a failure until the war comes to an end. Then the success can begin.

How can we bring it to an end? All we can do is keep countering the enemy, changing the strategy, tactics and rules-of-engagement until we find the combination that works. This we can do as long as the Administration stays strong and enough Americans are able to resist the defeatist propaganda.

The important question people should be asking is what will happen if we choose not to win this war? Those who councel retreat believe that the consequences have been exaggerated. The very suicidal tactics now being exported to Afghanistan should demonstrate the opposite. A large part of the enemy forces will, left to their own, do everything they can to bring chaos to the Middle East and every other place they can reach.

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