Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

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Not Just Another Blackwater Thread

December 7, 2008

Tomorrow, those Blackwater security guards are supposed to surrender to authorities in Utah:

WASHINGTON – Five Blackwater Worldwide security guards indicted in Washington for the 2007 shooting of Iraqi civilians plan to surrender to the federal authorities Monday in Utah, people close to the case said, setting up a court fight over the trial site.

The case already is shaping up to be a series of contentious legal battles before the guards can even go to trial. By surrendering in Utah, the home state of one of the guards, the men could argue the case should be heard in a far more conservative, pro-gun venue than Washington, some 2,000 miles away.

The five guards, all military veterans, were indicted on manslaughter charges Thursday for their roles in a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead. A sixth guard reached a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid a mandatory 30-year prison sentence.

Now, I say “just another thread”, because I did have a thread about the incident after it happened last year.  mercsribbon2And in the spirit of the other post,  I’m not sure if I want this one to focus on the incident itself or the legal situation that these five guys find themselves in.  Instead, I think I’m going to use the story as an excuse to revisit the topic that kinda flew under the radar the last time, especially now that we’re a over a year post-surge in Iraq and people are now declaring our victory and everything.  So…

Just how big of an impact have the contractors like Blackwater had on what’s transpired?  Or, asked another way, how large of a component of the “surge” have they been, and how critical to the mission’s success?

It’s a topic that doesn’t get mentioned much, so I’m mentioning it.  The effort has been more privatized than any other in our history, so I think it’s worth examining.  And while the V-I Day proponents claim to honor the sacrifice of American, Iraqi, and other coalition forces, they’re ignoring the tens of thousands of hired guns who were handsomely compensated by the American taxpayer.  How come?  After all, contractors (armed and otherwise) have suffered over 1,000 dead and 10,000 wounded, a rate of approximately one for every four of the U.S. Armed Forces.

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Official Chamber “Generation Kill” Thread

July 27, 2008

You know, I was going to cancel my HBO subscription (and save myself $12 a month) because all the good Sunday shows appear to have disappeared, but I thought I’d hang on to it a little longer to give this one a chance.


Click image for HBO’s official site

I’ve watched the first 2 episodes now, and I gotta say that so far it’s pretty entertaining.  Here’s the extended trailer:

The series is based on the book written by embedded Rolling Stone reporter Evan Wright.

My favorite character so far would probably be Lt. Nate Fick (video profile), an honor he earned in episode 1 when CPL Ray Person asked him about a silly rumor of Jennifer Lopez’s demise.  Fick looked at him and appeared to look as if he was about to bust out laughing, but quickly composed himself and cooly responded:

“Ray, the battalion commander offered no sit-rep as to J-Lo’s status”

Anyway, I just thought I’d create a thread to discuss the show, since I plan on watching all of the episodes now.  I’ll add no more updates here in the main thread (spoiler concerns), so I’ll open it to the comment section.

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Iraq Not To Go To Beijing

July 24, 2008

With all the talk lately about how dramatic the success of the “surge” has been in reducing violence and moving the Iraqis towards meeting those 18 benchmarks, I found it a little surprising and disconcerting to see this headline appear on Drudge: Iraq banned from Beijing Olympics

The reason?

The team was already the subject of an interim ban after the Iraqi government replaced the country’s Olympic committee with its own appointees.

Under the IOC charter, all committees must be free of political influence.

Iraq had been planning to send a team of at least seven athletes to the Olympics which start on 8 August.

Two rowers, a weightlifter, a sprinter, a discus thrower, a judoka and an archer were in the frame for the trip to Beijing.

“The deadline for taking up places for Beijing for all sports except athletics has now passed,” said IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies.

“The IOC very sadly has now to acknowledge that it is likely there will be no Iraqi presence at the Beijing Olympic Games, despite our best efforts.”

In other words, the Iraqis couldn’t manage to scrape together a viable NOC (perhaps having something to do with the fact that their previous president had been kidnapped and remains missing), even though they had athletes trained and ready to compete. I know its just the Olympics and all, but that isn’t exactly a great sign of progress.  In fact, since the Iraqi soccer team finished a surprising 4th in the 2004 Athens Games, this development could be symbolic of a step backwards.  After all, along with 200+ others, even the tiny nation of Tuvalu managed to complete this simple task, giving her 12,000 citizens someone to root for come 08/08.

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Update: Yay! 2 Iraqi Athletes Set for Beijing After IOC Lifts Ban

BAGHDAD, July 29 — Two Iraqi athletes will be allowed to participate in the Beijing Olympics after a last-minute pledge by the Iraqi government Tuesday not to interfere politically in the country’s Olympic movement.

Five members still didn’t make it in (missed the registration deadline), but I suppose 2 is better than none.   Hopefully the deal is on the up-and-up, or I may have to admit that good ol’ Tex has a point.  (h/t Gateway Pundit, via Memeorandum)

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Well, Shucks, The Iraqis Want A Timetable

July 9, 2008

-First, the story: Iraq Wants Withdrawal Timetable In U.S. Pact

-Second, the obligatory memeorandum link to the discussion.

My initial thought when I saw this headline was… “duh!”.  I mean, anyone could have seen this coming from a mile away.  For years, poll after poll after poll indicated that the Iraqi people wanted this.  Heck, the Iraqi parliament voted in favor of a timetable over a year ago. 

My second thought basically revolved around wondering how the “timetable for surrender“, “cut and run” and “retreat and defeat” crowd will cope with this revelation.  Will we see the equivalent of “we know what’s best for you” type rhetoric?   After all, that’s basically how a stubborn insistence on rejecting an agreement to set dates will come across.  Kind of a tough spot there.  So if they don’t go down that road, will they take the lead from General Petraeus, and begin to use the term “disengagement” instead of “withdrawal”?  After all, the former sounds like the result of a well-thought-out and tactically sound cost/benefit analysis, and the latter sounds more like the “run for your lives!” stuff.  That might serve as a pressure relief valve for the cognitive dissonance.  Or will they spin it as consistent with their stance, and creatively conflate “they stand up, we stand down” with the news, sweeping the “timetable” part under the rug?  (Oops, asked and answered.)    And in light of this little nugget…

“There should not be any permanent bases in Iraq unless these bases are under Iraqi control”, Rubaie said

 

 

 …do you suppose their might be a revision to the idea that it is at all plausible that we’ll have a violence-free troop presence in Iraq for 100 years, just like Japan, Germany, and South Korea?

Or do they just sit there like a deer in the headlights?

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James Kirchick Didn’t Get the Memo, Apparently

June 16, 2008

I came across a post by fellow blogger Jimmie over at Sundrie’s Shack, in which he reported on an editorial in the LA Times penned by the assistant editor of New RepublicBush never lied to us about Iraq: The administration simply got bad intelligence. Critics are wrong to assert deception.

Now, as tempted as I was to dissect this over at Jimmie’s place (since it was the second time in a week that an editorial rebutting the “Bush Lied” meme was featured over there), I figured that it’d be better for me to address this over here in the Chamber, and give my pal Jimmie a couple of pingbacks instead.  That, and I do feel frustrated that when the topic comes up, the focus is always on claims about WMD intelligence and connections to al Qaeda.  And as much as I’m convinced that the administration attempted to hyperventilate the American public with ad nauseam presentations of worst-case scenarios as iron-clad fact, this misses what I feel is the actual, bigger “lie”, so if I haven’t covered this already (I have), I’m going to do it now…again

From what I remember, the “Bush Lied, People Died” really picked up steam after the publication of the famous Downing Street Memo, because the focus was primarily on the passage that read “But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy“. To be certain, that portion of the “memo” deserves a fair amount of attention, but what most people miss is the broader point, encapsulated by the sentence the preceded it, reading “Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD“.

The meeting took place in Britain on July 23, 2002, remember, and it’s fairly contradictory to what Bush himself said months later in October, when he signed the AUMF:

“Our goal is not merely to limit Iraq’s violations of Security Council resolutions, or to slow down its weapons program. Our goal is to fully and finally remove a real threat to world peace and to America. Hopefully this can be done peacefully. Hopefully we can do this without any military action. Yet, if Iraq is to avoid military action by the international community, it has the obligation to prove compliance with all the world’s demands. It’s the obligation of Iraq.”

There are plenty of reasons to believe that the Congress took him at his word here, and that the AUMF was meant as leverage to force Saddam to comply with U.N. disarmament resolutions, and not a green light for invasion.  Indeed, Congress wouldn’t have granted an AUMF under other conditions, and the administration knew this.  So, the idea was to play along, attempt to scare up public support, convince a few allies to come on board, and when they felt they had jumped through enough hoops (like sending in U.N. weapons inspectors), they went ahead and used it.  It’s really not that complicated.

Of course, there are war supporters out there who are quick to discredit the DSM (even though no one has challenged its authenticity), and I certainly wasn’t going to base my entire accusation on one document.  But lets face it, there is enough evidence out there (other documentsstatements from high-ranking officials, and other evidence) to corroborate the notion that Bush was more interested in invading than he was about finding out if the weapons inspectors were actually going to find anything.   But for some reason that just doesn’t sink in for everyone.  Heck, I’ve come across war supporters who concede that the nation was misled, but it was necessary and that the ends justify the means.  I just don’t get it;  it’s OK with them?  But make no mistake, misled we were…lied to, in fact.

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…And Now For A Little Vindication

June 4, 2008

Every once and awhile I catch something in my various RSS feeds that I find interesting, and today it was this link on my Think Progress ticker:  Iraqi Parliamentarian: 70 Percent Of Iraqis Want Withdrawal, Huge U.S. Embassy Not A ‘Positive Signal’

I guess it grabbed my attention because I was immediately reminded of something that I posted last year (October, specifically):

$750 million? For an embassy? In Baghdad? No wonder the Iraqis are resisting the occupation so passionately. It’s hard to believe that Saddam had anything that extravagantly large. I mean, what the hell would you think if you were an Iraqi looking at this:

iraqembassy1.jpg

I would think that it would send quite a message. It looks like we’re building our own acropolis in their capital.

I hate it when I’m right.

Err..um…I mean “correct”.

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Milestones In The Long Journey Back To The Line Of Scrimmage

May 24, 2008

Great news!  That rag-tag band of terrorists that didn’t exist until we invaded Iraq may have finally been defeated.  Of course, we’ve seen these “al Qaeda in Iraq is on the run” flashes before, but I’m still gonna give the h/t to Hot Air ’cause, well, maybe because I don’t remember ever posting about it. 

Anyway…

The battle against the people a little closer to those who actually attacked us is ongoing:  Taliban Attacks Spike in Afghanistan 

 

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John Kerry Gets It

April 6, 2008

I’ve never been a big fan of John Kerry (in fact, I remember rejoicing the fact that he wouldn’t be running for president this year), but Mr. “Reporting For Duty” said something today that I thought I’d comment on, since lately I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time blogging, debating and discussing the McCain “100 years in Iraq” issue.

First, the Think Progress link: Kerry: McCain’s ‘100 Years’ Remarks Show A ‘Fundamental Misunderstanding Of Iraq Itself’ 

The vid:

I say that Kerry “gets it” in the sense that he understands that Clinton and Obama really shouldn’t be issuing misleading charges that McCain wants 100 years of war in Iraq, but that they should instead be stressing that the insistence on establishing permanent bases there just might mean that’s essentially what the result would be.  He could have done a better job making the point, actually, because there is some data that backs this up pretty well:

The belief that the United States plans to have permanent bases in Iraq is highly correlated with support for attacks on U.S.-led forces. Among those who believe this, 68 percent approve of attacks. Among those who believe that the United States plans to withdraw once Iraq is stabilized, only 34 percent approve of attacks. Beliefs about whether the United States would respond to an Iraqi government request to withdraw follow the same pattern.

I suppose I could ask how many troops have died because of rhetoric like McCain’s, but I won’t go there.   It would appear that perhaps the “permanent base” propaganda is a little more dangerous than the “anti-war” propaganda that war supporters consistently lament, however.  But I’ll let my readers draw their own conclusions.

Now, I know that Maverick qualified his “100 years” comment by saying “As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, it’s fine with me”, but based on the sentiment in the region, does McCain have any reason to believe that the hostilities will stop anytime soon?  And I’m not suggesting that he’d be able to say exactly when here. I’m talking more broadly about a rational assessment on whether or not we can expect the hostilities to stop at all if our intention really is to establish permanent bases, and if we can, would it come months, years, or even decades from now?  That’s not an unfair question to pose to someone who his maintaining that a 100 year presence is possible, and it should be posed.   What Kerry did here was put the debate over what McCain suggested in the proper framework, and put the ball in McCain’s court… but it should have another follow up question attached:

“If a 100 year presence in Iraq is fine by you, on the condition that the shooting had stopped, how much of America’s time, money and bloodshed would be acceptable to achieve that condition, assuming it’s possible?”

Update: To reiterate the point that stating a policy of permanent presence is counter-productive to what we’re trying to accomplish over there, take it from this guy:

CentCom’s planning director, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, has said the building of permanent bases would not be in the US interest.

“We must continue to show that we will not become a permanent force of occupation… because we need to operate in that region in an environment of consent,” Jane’s Defence Weekly quoted him as saying.

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Brainstorming An Iraq “Super-Surge”

March 28, 2008

Last night I took a few hours to watch FRONTLINE “Bush’s War” on the PBS site.  My reaction was mixed.  Part of me felt vindicated for some of the things that I’ve been posting here in the Chamber and elsewhere, another part felt angry at people like Cheney and Rumsfeld, and yet another part felt just…depressed (which is probably the overriding feeling, but I do encourage everyone to watch it in case you’ve missed it).  

I gave myself a few hours to digest what I had just watched, and although there was quite a bit of material that I was already familiar with, this documentary chronicled the entire Iraq adventure in a way that I hadn’t yet seen.  This led to a small epiphany on my part concerning what to do next, and I figured I’d just throw it out here for debate, so bear with me ’cause there may be some flaws in my thinking. 

The proposals coming from the presidential candidates for our course of action going forward in Iraq have pretty much fallen into two main categories.   McCain is politically wedded to the strategy he championed (the “surge”) in a way that would put him in the same position as Bush insofar as he’s going to keep up the “stay the course” mantra, and has even gone as far as to say that he’d support a permanent American presence in Iraq long after the period of shooting stops (and if it takes 100 years, so be it).  On the other side, Clinton and Obama have rejected the notion of an open-ended commitment, and while the rationale behind a responsible withdrawal may bounce between a few concepts,  the end game is the same:  leave Iraq for the Iraqis as soon as reasonably possible.  Critics on both sides have, rightly or wrongly, argued that McCain’s plan is untenable in the long run while the Obama/Clinton plan is a recipe for eventual chaos and genocide.

Other options for Iraq have gained much less steam.  For example, former presidential candidates Sens Brownback and Biden have proposed a sort of soft partition.  This proposal has probably been less popular because, the way I see it, it involves undoing a lot of what has been done already and is essentially going back to the drawing board in many ways.  That, and there is reason to believe that the idea isn’t popular amongst the Iraqis themselves.

So, I enter another proposal, one that I will call the “Super-Surge”, based on a few facts/assumptions gleaned from the documentary and elsewhere:

-Before the invasion, Gen Shinseki stated the opinion before Congress that success in the months after Saddam’s regime fell would require “several hundred thousand” troops, while people like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz urged a much smaller number.  The eventual plan was somewhat of a compromise, but today, it is pretty much considered conventional wisdom that one of the major errors in the mission was that there weren’t sufficient forces to keep the peace during that critical timeframe.

-The “coalition of the willing” was never much of an actual coalition, as 98% of the troop commitments came form the U.S. and Britain.  Brent Scowcroft,  national security adviser for President George H.W. Bush and a leading figure in the U.S. foreign policy establishment, believed from the very beginning that attacking Iraq would dissolve any kind of coalition we had built in the aftermath of 9/11, and more recently suggested that the best hope for pulling the country from chaos would be to turn the U.S. operation over to NATO or the United Nations — which, he said, would not be so hostilely viewed by Iraqis.

-The doctrine of “clear, hold, build” had shown itself to be successful on the micro scale in the city of Tal Afar.  Originally credited to Col. H.R. McMaster, it eventually became the rough blueprint for the “surge” in that it simply took more troops to employ such a strategy.    Or, in the words of McMaster himself, when asked if additional troops would help the mission:

Yeah. I think one of the critical elements of improving security is the number of forces you have to be able to carry out that security mission, along with the other missions that you have. Securing the population is obviously first and foremost. And this is a mission … for American and coalition forces working alongside Iraqi forces.

The other mission is to develop Iraqi security force capability, … and that takes a lot of soldiers and Marines to carry out that effort: to train these forces, to help them organize and then to introduce them initially in the context of multinational operations where we operate alongside them until they develop the ability to operate on their own.

Also, just securing critical infrastructure, lines of communication — I mean, there are a lot of demands on our forces, and our soldiers and Marines are just doing an amazing job with multiple tasks simultaneously. So I think additional forces will certainly help. Is it the answer in the long term? No. The answer in the long term is still very much the same: that the Iraqis have to develop their own ability to provide the kind of security that is necessary such that economic development and political development can proceed. …

-The current troop surge will come to an end for logistical reasons.  In fact, the troop drawdown is right around the corner:

A senior Pentagon official said earlier this week that the US “surge” is likely to end in July with more troops in Iraq than the 132,000 who were there before five extra combat brigades were sent in more than a year ago.

-Staying in Iraq until the shooting stops (and beyond), as McCain has suggested, is likely to be financially untenable.  The estimates for the cumulative cost of the war have been projected to be as high as $3 trillion.  And although many nations have a significant stake in a stable Iraq, the United States has taken on the vast majority of the burden in terms of monetary sacrifice.

So, you toss some of these things into a pot and stir.  I’m left with a few questions.

  1. Is it too late to deploy a peacekeeping force of “several hundred thousand” troops to stabilize Iraq, or has that ship sailed?  If not, then…
  2. Is it too late to bring together a meaningful coalition to share the burden of the effort, or have those bridges burned?  If not, then…
  3. Could a new, charismatic, inspiring and internationally popular U.S. president (*cough*Obama*cough*) bring together the nations of the world to address the issue?  If so, then…
  4. Would it work in a way that would ultimately save Iraq from descending into chaos, prohibit the formation of a terrorist safe haven, and allow the troops to come home a lot faster than the current proposals?   If so, then…

It’s something to think about.

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The Enigmatic Paradox Of A Quagmire

March 13, 2008

Or something:

Are Iraqi Insurgents Emboldened by Antiwar Reporting?

Are insurgents in Iraq emboldened by voices in the news media expressing dissent or calling for troop withdrawals from Iraq? The short answer, according to a pair of Harvard economists, is yes.

In a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the authors are quick to point out numerous caveats to their findings, based on data from mid-2003 through late 2007.

Put aside the obvious confusion over why a pair of Harvard economists would be doing this sort of study, ’cause I think this could be interesting.  Let’s see where it goes…

The paper “Is There an ‘Emboldenment’ Effect in Iraq? Evidence From the Insurgency in Iraq” concludes the following:

–In the short term, there is a small but measurable cost to open public debate in the form of higher attacks against Iraqi and American targets.

–In periods immediately after a spike in “antiresolve” statements in the American media, the level of insurgent attacks increases between 7 and 10 percent.

–Insurgent organizations are strategic actors, meaning that whatever their motivations, religious or ideological, they will respond to incentives and disincentives.

That treasonous MSM and those anti-American dissenters!  They’re getting our troops KILLED! 

Wait a second though.  This piece said something about caveats.  I better continue…

But before partisans go wild on both sides of the aisle, here are just three of the important caveats to this study:

–The city of Baghdad, for a variety of reasons, was excluded from the report. The authors contend that looking at the outside provinces, where 65 percent of insurgent attacks take place, is a better way to understand the effect they have discovered. Other population centers like Mosul, Basra, Kirkuk, and Najaf were included in the study.

–The study does not take into account overall cost and benefit of public debate. Past research has shown that public debate has a positive effect on military strategy, for example, and, in the case of Iraq, might be a factor in forcing the Iraqi government to more quickly accept responsibility for internal security.

–It was not possible, from the data available, to determine whether insurgent groups increased the overall number of attacks against American and Iraqi targets in the wake of public dissent and debate or simply changed the timing of those attacks. This means that insurgents may not be increasing the number of attacks after all but simply changing the days on which they attack in response to media reports.

Oh.

In other words, this story really doesn’t tell me much of anything, other than maybe I shouldn’t start listening to economists’ conclusions on the effect that stories in English-language mass media have on the minds of angry armed foreigners on the other side of the world in a war zone.   How many Iraqis outside of Baghdad have a subscription to the New York Times or access to CNN, anyway?  Thanks U.S. News & World Report, L.P. , I am now enlightened.  Did they study the effect of “bring ‘em on”, too?

Anyway…the inescapable reality is the fact that, without a war (as is implied by “anti-war”), there are no insurgents to embolden.   But without at least talking about ending a war, it is very unlikely to…end. 

What to do? 

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McCain’s “100 Years”

March 1, 2008

I spent the better part of the day perusing the political web, and there was an issue I stumbled upon a couple of times, so I thought I’d post some thoughts on it and dedicate a thread….

It’s pretty clear that many of the bloggers on the right are taking exception to the way that McCain’s “100 years” comment regarding Iraq was being exploited by bloggers, pundits and candidates alike, charging that his statement was being spun and misrepresented.   Nowhere did I see this theme come up more often than at my new hangout at Hot Air, encapsulated by this post from Capt. Ed:

The AP fact-checked
one of the memes that Democrats have used against John McCain, and come to the conclusion that neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama understand the term “war”. Both have tried to “make hay” out of McCain’s suggestion that we could stay in Iraq for 100 years as a proposal for an unending war, especially Obama. However, they leave out a little something from their analysis — casualties

Ed goes on to paste a section of the linked story, which attempts to make the distinction between “presence” and “war”, and that McCain’s reference was actually to the former:

No, John McCain is not proposing a 100-year war in Iraq.

The future Republican presidential nominee and the Democrats vying to run against him in the fall are engaged in a debate of sorts over how long U.S. troops should stay in Iraq and under what circumstances.

That’s a genuine point of contention. But Hillary Rodham Clinton and especially Barack Obama have distilled McCain’s position into sound bite oversimplifications, suggesting he foresees a war without end in anyone’s lifetime.

THE SPIN:

Obama: “We are bogged down in a war that John McCain now suggests might go on for another 100 years.”

Clinton: “I’ve also been a leader in trying to prevent President Bush from getting us committed to staying in Iraq regardless, for as long as Senator McCain and others have said it might be — 50 to 100 years.”

THE FACTS:

The Democrats leave out a vital caveat.

When McCain was asked about Bush’s theory that U.S. troops could be in Iraq for 50 years, the senator said: “Maybe 100. As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, it’s fine with me, and I hope it would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al-Qaida is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day.”

A troop presence that does not involve Americans being harmed is, by definition, not a war.

I jumped in to the discussion, making the argument that, given the dynamics of the region, “presence” and “war” are essentially one in the same:

Well, it’s fine with him, but is it fine with the Iraqis?

McCain really said a mouthful here. Perhaps the reason why groups like al Qaeda and the rest of the insurgency has had success “motivating” people is because people like McCain have stated that they have no problem with our presence in the region for 100 years? Is the perception that we are there to set up permanent bases and take over one of the reasons why we’ve encountered so much resistance? You see, this works both ways.

If McCain wants to go on the assumption that Iraq would eventually be like S. Korea or Germany in the sense that we’d have a nice friendly base there indefinitely, perhaps he is the one who is naive with regard to foreign policy. It’s a different part of the world. Sooner rather than later, they’ll want us to leave.  In all likelihood, it will continue to be a “war” as long as we’re there. Hence, the grief McCain gets over the 100 years comment.

The bottom line?  Sure, the argument can be made that the Democrats are oversimplifying McCain’s statement in the form of a quick sound bite to score political points.   In the spirit of intellectual honesty and honorable debate, at some point they should probably focus on what is at the core of this disagreement and present it in a way similar to the argument I’m making. 

Update (4/1/08):  McCain’s statement and the spin surrounding it is still getting plenty of attention.  More from me over at Hot Air:

…backing him into the very stupid assertion that Maverick wants a Germany/Japan-type occupation of Iraq that’s somehow going to cost us $150 billion a year for decades and decades and decades.

Maybe I’ve missed it, but has Maverick estimated just how much it would cost? I mean, here we are 5 years in, and the cost has stayed pretty static (if not gone up with a troop increase), with little or no reduction on the horizon. So, maybe it’s up to McCain to put forth some prediction or vision on what this 100 years will look like, and how soon we could realistically see those cost levels go down. I know that logically they would eventually (assuming that we improved the situation), but for now, all we have to go on is $150 billion a year.

Exit question: He wants to know how Bush and McCain define victory. How does he define it?

I’m not sure he has to, because unlike many, he doesn’t insist on addressing the situation in those terms. Heck, I don’t think even Gen. Petraeus thinks in those terms. For my part, I’ve long argued that we’ve both “won” and “lost” a long time ago, depending on one’s perspective. Right now it looks like we’re mitigating an internal and somewhat regional conflict, nation building, and putting down an insurgency (as opposed to “fighting a war”, in the sense that we’re not sinking battleships and expecting some formal surrender of a defined enemy). For everyone else, I think that the goal posts have been moved so many times that I’m sure if you asked 10 people to define “victory”, you’d get 10 different answers. I think the whole paradigm is counterproductive, actually.

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Why Obama, Part III: Foreign Policy

January 28, 2008

For the third installment of the Chamber’s Why Obama series, I’ve picked the foreign policy issue.  The same format applies; this is right from the Obama website.   However, in the spirit of addressing a topic that arose in the comment section of Part II, I’m going to start off with a narrower focus.  For this thread, I’m going to paste a section of an Obama speech on his ideas for restoring American leadership.  (All other aspects of Obama’s foreign policy positions and statements are fair game in this discussion and can be found here, but I’ve decided to start with this particular component).  From the 4/23/07 speech:

The horrific attacks on that clear September day awakened us to this new reality. And after 9/11, millions around the world were ready to stand with us. They were willing to rally to our cause because it was their cause too – because they knew that if America led the world toward a new era of global cooperation, it would advance the security of people in our nation and all nations.

We now know how badly this Administration squandered that opportunity. In 2002, I stated my opposition to the war in Iraq, not only because it was an unnecessary diversion from the struggle against the terrorists who attacked us on September 11th, but also because it was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the threats that 9/11 brought to light. I believed then, and believe now, that it was based on old ideologies and outdated strategies – a determination to fight a 21st century struggle with a 20th century mindset.obama08_thumblogo100.gif

There is no doubt that the mistakes of the past six years have made our current task more difficult. World opinion has turned against us. And after all the lives lost and the billions of dollars spent, many Americans may find it tempting to turn inward, and cede our claim of leadership in world affairs.

I insist, however, that such an abandonment of our leadership is a mistake we must not make. America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission – we must lead the world, by deed and example.

We must lead by building a 21st century military to ensure the security of our people and advance the security of all people. We must lead by marshalling a global effort to stop the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. We must lead by building and strengthening the partnerships and alliances necessary to meet our common challenges and defeat our common threats.

And America must lead by reaching out to all those living disconnected lives of despair in the world’s forgotten corners – because while there will always be those who succumb to hate and strap bombs to their bodies, there are millions more who want to take another path – who want our beacon of hope to shine its light their way.

This election offers us the chance to turn the page and open a new chapter in American leadership. The disappointment that so many around the world feel toward America right now is only a testament to the high expectations they hold for us. We must meet those expectations again, not because being respected is an end in itself, but because the security of America and the wider world demands it.

This will require a new spirit – not of bluster and bombast, but of quiet confidence and sober intelligence, a spirit of care and renewed competence. It will also require a new leader. And as a candidate for President of the United States, I am asking you to entrust me with that responsibility.

Obama goes on to propose five ways this can be accomplished, but in the interests of brevity, and to start the discussion, I’m going to address the small portion I bolded above.  There may be those out there who feel that our position hasn’t really changed, and the idea that Bush has made the U.S. is less popular globally is a myth and a concoction of the MSM.  I suppose if we’re going to address “restoring” something, we should probably get this right out of the way first.  So, to support Obama’s contention, I’m going to start with a single graphic:

osamabushkim.jpg

Poll:

· ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,010 adults by telephone from October 27-30. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Polling was by phone in Canada (sample 1,007), Israel (1,078) and Mexico (1,010)

In other words, its not just the Mayans. From Italy to India, from Thailand to Turkey, from Germany to Greece, there’s a pretty consistent message going out.  We could use some help in this category, to say the least.  There’s a reason why international interest in who will replace Bush has reached unprecedented levels.  I’m glad that Obama speaks honestly and frankly about it, and I think he’s got the best ideas for turning this around. 

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Why Obama, Part II: Homeland Security

January 26, 2008

For the second installment of the Chamber’s Why Obama series, I’ve picked the homeland security issue.  The same format applies; this is right from the Obama website:

Obama homeland security fact sheet (pdf)

The Problem

Five years after 9/11, our country is still unprepared for a terrorist attack. From improving security for our transit systems and chemical plants, to increasing cargo screening in our airports and seaports, the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission have been underfunded and ignored. The 9/11 Commission gave the government five F’s and 12 D’s on the implementation of its recommendations. Senator Obama is a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and has supported efforts to base homeland security spending on risk rather than pork-barrel politics. He has also introduced legislation to strengthen chemical plant and drinking water security and to enhance disaster preparedness.

Barack Obama’s Plan

Protecting Our Chemical Plants

Chemical plants are attractive terrorist targets because they are often located near cities, are relatively easy to attack, and contain multi-ton quantities of hazardous chemicals. While a number of plants have taken voluntary steps to improve security, there are still major gaps; and the federal government has never established meaningful, permanent security regulations. Senator Obama worked with Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) to introduce comprehensive chemical plant security legislation that would establish a clear set of federal regulations that all plants must follow. The bill requires chemical facilities to enhance security, including improving barriers, containment, mitigation, and safety training, and, where possible, using safer technology, such as less toxic chemicalsobama08_thumblogo100.gif

Keeping Track of Spent Nuclear Fuel

The nation has 103 operating nuclear power plants which annually produce over 2,000 metric tons of spent fuel that remains highly radioactive for many years. A report by the Government Accountability Office found inadequate tracking and security for spent nuclear fuel rods. Nuclear plants in Connecticut, Vermont and California have reported missing spent fuel in the last five years. Senator Obama introduced legislation to establish guidelines for tracking, controlling, and accounting for spent fuel at nuclear power plants.

Evacuating Special Needs Population in Emergencies

One of the most devastating aspects of Hurricane Katrina is that most of the stranded victims were society’s most vulnerable members – low-income families, the elderly, the homeless, and disabled Americans. Too many states and cities do not have adequate plans in place to care for special-needs populations. Senator Obama introduced and passed legislation to require mandatory planning for evacuating people with special needs.

Reuniting Families After Emergencies

After Hurricane Katrina, thousands of people struggled to contact family and friends following evacuation. Evacuees were forced to comb through dozens of databases in an effort to reconnect with loved ones. Senator Obama introduced and passed legislation to create a centralized, federal database to allow individuals displaced by an emergency to call one phone number or go to one website and post their location and condition. Family members and law enforcement officials would be able to use this same secure, centralized system to check the status of missing loved ones.

Keeping Our Drinking Water Safe

There are almost 170,000 public water systems in the United States. An attack on a drinking water system could contaminate or disrupt water service, thereby disrupting society, impacting human health and compromising critical activities such as fire protection. Senator Obama introduced legislation to provide $37.5 million over 5 years for drinking water systems to upgrade their monitoring and security efforts.

Protecting the Public from Radioactive Releases

Following reports that nuclear power plants in Illinois did not promptly notify local communities that tritium – a byproduct of nuclear generation – had leaked into the groundwater, Senator Obama introduced legislation to require nuclear plants to inform state and local officials if there is an unintentional leak of a radioactive substance. Chronic exposure to high levels of tritium can increase the risk of cancer, birth defects and genetic damage.

Barack Obama’s Record

There have been tritium leaks at other nuclear plants, though none so extensive as at Braidwood. The uproar over Braidwood prompted the Nuclear Energy Institute to outline a voluntary policy for monitoring tritium leaks and reporting such incidents. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has vowed to continue to push for federal legislation that requires reporting. “The nuclear industry already had a voluntary policy, and it hasn’t worked,” he said. Exelon’s past actions have helped to prove his point.

— Chicago Tribune, Editorial, May 25, 2006

We could kill a hundred thousand men in the deserts of the Middle East, and it still wouldn’t change the fact that a single terrorist cell here in the U.S. could strike at any number of our vulnerabilities.  Needless to say, I’ve long argued that the “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here” rhetoric lies in the domain of two-dimensional thinking (not to mention a desperate attempt at retrograde justification for the Iraq debacle).  I was glad to see that Obama’s plan addresses many of the gaps in our security (outlined in the pdf), including the need for the screening of all inbound cargo at our ports.  I’ve never really understood the logic behind spending hundreds of billions of dollars to fund an ongoing occupation in Iraq while basic steps to “terror proof” our homeland have been largely ignored.   Obama and I are also on the same page in recognising that while intelligence is vital to preventing terrorist attacks, we cannot allow fear to drive us to sacrifice the civil liberties that defines our country. 

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Why Did We Send Inspectors To Iraq, Again?

January 24, 2008

First, the story:  Interrogator: Invasion Surprised Saddam  

Saddam Hussein initially didn’t think the U.S. would invade Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction, so he kept the fact that he had none a secret to prevent an Iranian invasion he believed could happen. The Iraqi dictator revealed this thinking to George Piro, the FBI agent assigned to interrogate him after his capture…

hmmm…did Piro ask him nicely, or was there waterboarding involved? Was Saddam really playing the “peace through (perceived) strength” game?

Anyway…

Second, cue the predictable knee-jerk rightosphere reaction: Saddam lied, people died (x2) oops … (x3) darnit! (x4) you gotta be kidding me (x5)
cliffs notes: The war was necessary because Bush (and the rest of the world) believed Saddam’s lies.  Ergo, Bush exonerated.

Third, a nice stroll down memory lane, hinting at how much Bush actually believed what Saddam was saying at the time (a visual aid via the White House site):

iraq_header_final.gif

I love this.  We presumably sent in inspectors because we didn’t trust Saddam (inspectors that we may recall, were advised by us to leave Iraq, after they had found nothing).  Now these bloggers are implying that the war was necessary because…everyone believed him anyway?  Let me get this straight.  Saddam  was lying before, but not then, and he certainly wasn’t lying to the FBI guy Mr. Piro, so….I’m confused, ’cause somewhere in there Saddam became more trustworthy than the inspectors.  Wait a second…then why did we even bother sending them?

Oh!  I remember:

It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

I think the bottom line here is that Saddam didn’t think we were crazy enough to spend a trillion dollars and stir up a hornets nest by invading Iraq based on his rep and flimsy intel, especially with the reality of empty-handed U.N. weapons inspectors. He was “surprised” because he had no idea that we were going in regardless.

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