September 21st, 2012

Neo-neocon today

The euphemistically-named Arab Spring and its aftermath have made me think it might be time to offer a post re-explaining my brand of neocon thinking. After all, haven’t recent events proven neoconism to be bankrupt?

But before I reinvented the wheel, I thought I’d look back and see what I’d already written on the subject. And it turns out that in a two-part post I wrote back in February of 2007, I pretty much said what I’d want to say today. Some of the details are different—Egypt isn’t Iraq (unlike Iraq, Egypt was initially an ally when Mubarak was deposed, and unlike Irag, there was no US invasion).

No doubt there are a few things I’d change if I were writing the pieces today. But the general principles of my particular brand of neoconism (neo-neoconism?) are expressed in those essays from over five years ago. So I’ll just refer you to them:

Part I

Part II.

Note particularly the following quote, in terms of recent events in Egypt and the role of the Obama administration:

Once the decision was made that it was necessary to remove Saddam, the US faced the question of what its role should be in determining what sort of government might replace him. These were the choices: (a) walk away and let things sort themselves out without US help (likely to result in much bloodshed and a new tyrant of some sort, and perhaps a worse one); (b) in the time-honored realpolitik manner, install a dictator friendly to us who would crack down on the opposition in a Draconian way; or (c) try to help establish a functioning liberal democracy.

The Bush Administration choose (c) as the best of a bad lot (“bad” in the case of (c) only because of its difficulty in execution), and in doing so they made the error of underestimating the murderous forces arrayed against them. But those who criticize the decision are comparing choice (c) to an imaginary ideal alternative that simply did not exist.

In Egypt, it appears that Obama made choice (a).

34 Responses to “Neo-neocon today”

  1. roc scssrs Says:

    I consider myself a card-carrying member of the Neoneoconist Party (Hail, dear Leader!), but permit me an emotional outburst a la 9/12/01. I would revise (a), (b), and (c) above to these preferred outcomes: (a) Muslim nations mired in murderous civil wars who can’t harm us; (b) Muslim democracies (?) and/or Muslim autocracies who won’t harm us; and (c) Muslim nations who will have the holy hell blasted out of them if they dare harm us, with weaponry which will result in the least loss of American lives.

    Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest.

  2. DirtyJobsGuy Says:

    It started with Nasser. Good O’l King Farouk was a libertine and corrupt, but Egyptian Society was more open and modern than before and after. The post colonial influx of Soviet trained and sponsored tyrants has caused more trouble around the world than even the most conservative thinkers are willing to admit.

    Without Soviet meddling (abetted by Western fellow travelers) perhaps the Egypts and Iran’s of the world would have gradually become more tolerant and resistant to Islamists.

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    DirtyJobsGuy: yes, the USSR has been a major player in the region.

  4. Steve Says:

    Obama did not just abandon Egypt. He advocated the removal of Mubarak, an ally. He did not give the opposition enough time to organize before elections were held. He sided with Ahmadinejad and Putin after these tyrants stole their elections. Obama is anti-freedom.

  5. expat Says:

    Steve,
    I would add that if Obama had worked with the opposition in Egypt, he would have chosen the faction that hated us the most.

  6. Baltimoron Says:

    It would be more accurate to say that the Bush administration vacillated between a and c for a few years before deciding on c. And by then the job was much more difficult because of the time spent entertaining a. I think the Iraqis might spend the next 20 years paying for mistakes we made between 2003 and 2007.

  7. George Pal Says:

    A two-volume response might be insufficient to respond to so great a notion as introduced here under what would/should Neocons, Liberals, or Conservatives do when confronted with the likes Iraq, Egypt, etal.

    My answer would tend strongly to reflect John Quincy Adams who counseled that America not “go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Just like the poor, the monsters will always be with us – leading to the inevitable perpetual war should we commit ourselves to such grand ambitions as ridding the world of them. For our own consideration it should be noted that perpetual war and democracy are no more possible than ‘perpetual’ profligacy and democracy.

    Then, asserting something so nebulous as ‘human rights’ as causus belli cannot be taken seriously. It was observed of Edmund Burke that he did not know what human rights were as they had been acclaimed to be by the French revolutionists; he demanded for himself and his fellow Englishmen only their due as Englishman not human beings. The Englishman, he was sure, had a claim on certain rights because they (the English) were of kin and kind. The human being on the other hand was too widely disparate to make such a narrow claim to rights.

    On this you last point there is this:
    “My people are going to learn the principles of democracy, the dictates of truth, and the teachings of science. Superstition must go. Let them worship as they will, every man can follow his own conscience provided it does not interfere with sane reason or bid him act against the liberty of his fellow men.”
    Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

    Atatürk’s hope’s and ambitions hadn’t lasted as much as a century to hear democratically elected Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hopes and ambitions. The kind Atatürk had hoped to foster was undermined by the kind that festered in the countryside, the kind Erdogan now champions – Islam. Some things are just incompatible and that’s just the way it is. All of which suggests a conservative outlook the best course of action – look to your own – kin, consider your own – kind, keep your house in order, and keep the powder dry.

  8. parker Says:

    First of all, I’m not a neocon. I accept some forms of societal change and oppose others. And, I do not favor long term foreign interventions or believe that some societies can be remade into something remotely sympathetic to the modern world.

    Post 9/11/01 I approved knocking down the Taliban and chasing Al Qaeda into the caves. Once that was done to the maximum extent possible I favored backing off and placing naval forces off shore to bomb the rumble whenever needed. Left to their own devices the various tribes would be fighting each other today and Iran and Pakistan would be entangled in a morass.

    In Iraq I favored taking down Saddam and the Baathists and creating a vacuum to allow regional Sunni and Shia forces to fight to the death for control of Iraq. Had we done that Shia Iran and the Sunni gulf states would still be wasting blood and treasure this very minute. What is wrong with standing off and watching the towel heads bleed themselves dry?

    The simple truth is predominately Islamic nations can not be reasoned with or placated or appeased. We have no real allies within the Islamic nations. Its long past time we admit this and leave them to their own self-destructive devices. Given the current foaming at the mouth madness in the Islamic world, IMO we have a perfect opportunity available which of course we will not use.

    However, ideally we should withdraw all diplomatic and military connections from the Islamic nations. We should close off all trade and financial interactions. We should blockade all of their ports. In other words let them eat dirt until they bow down and beg to join the modern (Western) world.

    Sound radical? So be it, but how well are the policies of Bush & BHO working today? Aside from Malaysia, Indonesia, and Nigeria, all Islamic nations begin to starve within 6 months without Western trade and Western gifts of grain. And don’t bring up the oil issue. We get very little oil from the ME and we have plenty of oil on/off shore to exploit.

    I’m not a neocon; I’m a pissed off American from Iowa tired of tip toeing around societies mired in the 7th century. I say let us burn a million copies of the Koran, wrapped in bacon, daily, and watch them turn rabid and self-destruct. A quarantine is required; not endless attempts of engagement, futile appeasement, or fruitless apologies.

    I apologize for the length of this post, but its good to get it off my chest.

  9. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    As you say, neo, after 9/11 we had several paths open to us. None of them were very desirable because the Muslim countries of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq supply a large percentage of the world’s crude oil. And they were the leading members of the OPEC cartel. Knowing that oil and oil prices were at the heart of Western energy security, the strategy that was chosen was, IMO, chosen because it would least affect oil supplies. Each step of the way, there were assurances that we weren’t at war against Islam, only a few of their radical bad boys. Each step of the way it was calculated that oil prices and supplies would not be drastically affected.

    The plan to take down al Qaida and the Taliban posed little threat to oil supplies and would show our determination to quit treating the terrorist attacks as criminal issues.

    The takeover of Afghanistan went very well and the question was, “What next?” Well, we had Saddam, who was not well liked by the Saudis or Iranians. He was sponsoring terror by Hamas ($25,000 to families of martyrs.) and he was not adhering to the conditions of the treaty signed at the end of Desert Storm. He also acted like he was pursuing WMDs. Iraq was a Muslim country that was, as Muslim countries go, fairly well developed and somewhat secular. Would it not be possible to eject Saddam and set the country on a path toward the first Muslim democracy in the Middle East? After that happened would not the whole area be likely to move in that direction? It seemed possible, but we are now recognizing that we were dreaming.

    Ejecting Saddam was easy, but putting the country onto a path of democracy turned out to be much more difficult than envisioned. It turned out that religiousity had been suppressed under the secular Saddam and the tribal divisions between Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds turned out to be a huge obstacle. Also, jihadis from all over the Muslim world rushed to Iraq in an attempt to show the Great Satan that the warriors of Allah would eject the USA from Muslim land. Things did not go well until Patraeus installed the concept of winning hearts and minds. Also, in a stroke of luck, the Iraqi Sunnis turned against the jihadis. But Muslim democracy in Iraq was going to need a longer period of supervision and coaching than the dems or most citizens wanted to engage in. So, we’re out and the Iraqi democracy is being strangled in its crib.

    There are still people in the West (Obama is apparently one) who believe the Muslim world can establish democracy and all the Arab Spring movements were pointed to as prima facie evidence of Muslims longing to be free. That there are some folks in Muslim countries that want democracy is probably true. But when 78% of the citizens of Egypt say they want to live under sharia, you have to question how strong the urges are of the majority for democracy and freedom.

    This is a period where we are being forced to reconsider what we believed could be done to move the Muslim world toward modernity. Also, the old Cold War problems are still lingering. Russia, who still has oars in the water there, is only too glad to stir up trouble anyway they can. Why? Because any time the oil supplies are threatened prices go up. And who benefits from that? Russia, who is sitting on almost as much oil and more natural gas than Iran. In Fact Spengler has a good piece up on that here:
    http://tinyurl.com/bst87hy

  10. parker Says:

    “There are still people in the West (Obama is apparently one) who believe the Muslim world can establish democracy and all the Arab Spring movements were pointed to as prima facie evidence of Muslims longing to be free.”

    BHO knows Muslims are not longing to be free. He knows Muslims are longing for the Caliphate and Sharia. He knows Muslims are longing for a return to Cordova and the Balkans. Obama is not the brightest light bulb, but make no mistake, he is not dreaming of a free society in the Muslim world. He’s dreaming of a world dreamed by his absent father.

  11. foxmarks Says:

    The conversation is predicated on the fetishization of democracy. As one who has always been a sheep outvoted by wolves, I say what matters much, much more is limiting government and the power of any majority faction.

    It has never been demonstrated that neocons (GWB in particular) have developed their political theory far enough to recognize the distinction between democracy and limited gov’t. We have seen in Egyptian, and in Palestinian elections before that, the majority does not choose liberty. If the neocons were sharper students of history, they would remember that Hitler, Wilson and Roosevelt all won popular majorities in democratic elections.

    Democracy is just a mask for tyrants.

  12. parker Says:

    foxmarks,

    I’m no fan of ‘democracy’ beyond free elections. Democracy too often comes to be, as you note, wolves out voting sheep. That is why the USA was founded as a republic. The question too few are asking is: can we reclaim the republic?

    I have many doubts about this and every once in a great while I think we need another civil war and we need it now; but that is a rare thought. It is my nature to work for a gradual return to founding principals. This election is a turning point. R&R are flawed and lack steadfast allegiance to the founding principals, they are luke warm at best to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    OTOH BHO is a narcissistic monster waiting to don the mantel of supreme dictator. If at all possible that must be denied.

  13. saaf Says:

    All in all, is’t worth it that US spent billions and support corrupted thugs ending with Salafes who are balk minds and soles

  14. Eric Says:

    Neo,

    You and I are kindred in our neoconservative views, which is why I read your blog. Back when I was a student leader, I even invited you once to speak at my campus. Except I call myself a liberal – I don’t differentiate between neoconservative and liberal. (The claimed difference between neocons and liberals is that neocons are unilateralists, except we’re not, and liberals are strict multilateralists, except we’re not.)

    I agree with your highlighting of the Iraq mission as a defining fork in the road for the West in response to 9/11. I view Operation Iraqi Freedom as definitively liberal and debated and wrote a good bit in defense of OIF that doubled as my defense of Bush’s liberal foreign policy.

    I invite you to visit my ‘Perspective on Operation Iraqi Freedom’ post: http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2004/10/perspective-on-operation-iraqi-freedom.html

    It links to sources that informed my basic views on OIF as well as to a selection of my writings on the subject. If you only have time to read one, I recommend my opinion on the lawfulness of OIF based on the case and precedent established by Clinton: http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2012/05/regime-change-in-iraq-from-clinton-to.html

  15. Eric Says:

    Baltimoron: “It would be more accurate to say that the Bush administration vacillated between a and c for a few years before deciding on c.”

    I disagree. Bush wanted ‘c’ from the start and we did the best we could with the tools available. In fact, Clinton had made the goal of ‘c’ into US policy before Bush was President. The problem is as an occupier, our military simply lacked sufficient capablity to foster ‘c’ in Iraq until Petraeus’s Counterinsurgency doctrine and the Surge. For the Army, post-war occupation was someone else’s job … except when the time came to hand-off the post-war in Iraq, there was no one else to take over. It had to be the Army but occupation was anathema to the Army. Soldiers weren’t trained to do occupation. The willingness to invest American blood and treasure into building up post-Saddam Iraq simply couldn’t compensate for our shortfalls in method and mindset.

    Based on what I’ve read about the immediate post-war and, more convincingly, anecdotal evidence from friends who served in OIF I, there was a ‘golden hour’ (medical sense) in Iraq. For a while, we had the initiative, enough Iraqi cooperation and expectation, and we controlled the AO. But we lost the opportunity and lost control. I wonder what difference it would have made to the course of the War on Terror if COIN was available from the start in Iraq and we had transitioned into COIN immediately in the post-war.

  16. Jan of MN Says:

    How little we knew when we cheered the ouster of Saddam. Although it was a good thing to get rid of the monster, there were unforeseen consequences for Iraq, and not just Iraq. That was a tipping point for the entire Middle East, when eyes were opened to the reality that such a terrifying dictator could be deposed, and that the awful status quo in many other places could be challenged.

    At the time I was following an Egyptian’s blog, and he rejoiced at the “purple fingers” of the voters in Iraq. He thought it was a wonderful thing, although he didn’t think it likely that such a thing would happen in his country. I have to think that many millions of Arab citizens saw and pondered, and imagined what they could become if the situations in their countries could be changed.

    I think there will be decades of upheaval ahead, perhaps most of the century. People everywhere, for good and ill, have decided to take action, and much of it is violent. Where is this all going?

  17. IGotBupkis -- "Faecies Evenio", Mr. Holder? Says:

    }}}} In Egypt, it appears that Obama made choice (a).

    No, he made no choice, no decision, no plan.

    “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

    I wish I could make The One and his supporters listen to
    Freewill
    A hundred times a day, every time they start to whine.

  18. Eric Says:

    J.J.: “There are still people in the West (Obama is apparently one) who believe the Muslim world can establish democracy and all the Arab Spring movements were pointed to as prima facie evidence of Muslims longing to be free.”

    Some thoughts about Bush, Obama, and the Arab Spring:

    1. Obama has been accused by some realists that the Arab Spring was his strategy. That’s a misconception. Obama was caught off-guard by the Arab Spring revolts and the weakness of the autocrats. Obama was forced to play catch up. Earlier this week, Marc Thiessen wrote in the WP that Obama’s ME policy actually was realist in its diplomatic rapprochement with ME autocrats and cut aid to local liberal reformers: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/marc-thiessen-the-myth-of-barack-the-liberator/2012/09/17/4d1c7996-00ca-11e2-b257-e1c2b3548a4a_story.html

    In other words, Obama was forced to ‘lead from behind’ in the Arab Spring because that’s where he had positioned the US when he moved in the opposite direction of Bush’s liberal Freedom Agenda. Which leads me to …

    2. Bush apparently anticipated the Arab Spring in that a basic premise of his liberal response to 9/11 was that the US could no longer rely on autocrats for long-term stability in the ME. Bush claimed the US’s longstanding realist strategy in the ME – that Obama subsequently re-adopted – was no longer sustainable. The populist alternatives to the autocrats were either Islamists or liberals. We prefer liberals, but they’re weaker than the Islamists. Bush understood the liberals would need help to compete for dominance in the post-autocrat ME and tried to provide that help. He encouraged the autocrats to implement liberal reform, too.

    3. Realists criticize Bush for OIF and Obama for the Arab Spring, but hardly question their own premise that the best option is relying on autocrats for stability, despite that the Arab Spring is strong evidence of the unsustainable weakness of the autocrats. If our hope to rely on liberals is unrealistic, so is the realists’ hope to continue relying on autocrats. If we can’t rely on liberals nor autocrats, and can’t hope to cooperate with the Islamists, then where does that leave us?

    4. The Arab Spring reset of the ME should have triggered a thorough rethinking of our ME policy. Bush’s foreign policy still looks like the best of an unattractive set of options, but it may be too late for that now.

  19. saaf Says:

    I disagree. Bush wanted ‘c’ from the start

    Eric,
    I agree with your view, may I show you the support for what you stated?

    “Now, we didn’t go to Iraq to bring democracy to the Iraqis. And I try in the book to really explain that that wasn’t the purpose,” she said.

    Condoleezza Rice’s Retrospect on Iraq: ‘We Could Have Done Better’

    My question, Iraq war, was worth it?
    Defeat in Iraq

  20. saaf Says:

    Condoleezza Rice On Iran and Syria

  21. Eric Says:

    Saaf,

    Secretary Rice is correct that there was a bundle of reasons for Operation Iraqi Freedom and the primary legal triggers for OIF and Op Desert Fox weren’t based on liberal reform of Iraq. However, by 1998, the UNSC resolutions on Iraq included humanitarian requirements that effectively meant liberal reform. And, once Clinton articulated regime change as the solution for the Iraq problem, we then had to contemplate what ‘regime change’ in Iraq meant. For Clinton and Bush, regime change in Iraq meant liberal reform. Check out the sources in the Clinton and Bush sections of the ‘Perspective’ post I linked up upthread.

    You ask, was the Iraq War worth it? We can’t seriously answer that question without comparing it to the alternatives. After Op Desert Fox in 1998, we had 3 choices left on Iraq:

    A. Continue indefinitely and head-lining the corrupted, provocative, harmful and failing sanctions and ‘containment’ mission.

    B. End the mission and release Saddam from constraint, in power and triumphant.

    C. Give Saddam a final chance to comply, and if he triggered the final enforcement step, move ahead with regime change and nation-building.

    Bush inherited ‘A’ from Clinton and maintained ‘A’ until 9/11, which compelled him to switch to ‘C’.

    Obviously, the best outcome with ‘C’ would have been for Saddam to comply with the UNSC resolutions. But then, Saddam could and should have complied in 1991-92, let alone 2002-03.

    A 2nd alternative with ‘C’ would have been to depose Saddam, then leave Iraq and take no part in building the post-Saddam Iraq. Keep in mind the ‘Shock and Awe’ war against Saddam’s regime was completed relatively quickly with relatively few casualties. The high cost that OIF critics normally cite actually occurred in the post-war occupation and nation-building period, not the war.

    On 01MAY03, USS Abraham Lincoln, in the so-called ‘Mission Accomplished’ speech, Bush set our post-war course in Iraq: “The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done and then we will leave and we will leave behind a free Iraq.”

    Rather than help build the post-Saddam Iraq with liberal aspirations, Bush alternatively could have limited the post-war US presence in Iraq to whatever was necessary to scour all the suspected WMD sites and complete the Duelfer report, then left behind post-Saddam Iraq to its fate.

    So. Any serious argument that OIF wasn’t worth it must then defend ‘A’, ‘B’, and/or ‘C’-minus-nation-building as a better alternative than ‘C’-with-nation-building.

  22. beverly Says:

    Ann Barnhardt linked to a source that reports Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dorhn were both in the Middle East before the “Arab spring,” fomenting trouble in the Gaza Strip.

    Their hatred for our country is apparently bottomless.

  23. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Eric, I enjoyed your blog post about Iraq. It is a comprehensive review of the causus belli, and many other aspects of the decisions that were made at the time. You have a talent for organizing the material in a systematic way that makes it clear and crisp, at least for me.

    COIN seemed such a success in Iraq, but has not worked nearly as well in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan war has been off the radar for the last few years. I have kept up with it mostly through reading Michael Yon’s blog posts. It appears to me that as long as the Taliban have safe haven in Waziristan and no matter how much we try to win hearts and minds, there are certain areas of Afghanistan (the Pashtun dominated areas) that are deeply Muslim and very hostile to any change. Yon has chronicled things as the situation has gotten gradually worse. He notes from time to time that we are not losing militarily. That the Taliban have no possibility of winning a military victory, but they are wearing us down and know that time is on their side. Both Iraq and Afghanistan remind me of Vietnam in that we were not beaten militarily, we simply lost our way and our will. That is why I believe a nation should not commit to military operations without a clear cut plan for victory or knowing and planning for an operation that is going to take a generation to complete.

  24. Eric Says:

    JJ,

    Thanks. There’s a lot of misleading characterization of the Iraq mission by people who should know better. Evaluating OIF, such as Saaf’s question of ‘was it worth it’, requires an accurate understanding of OIF’s basic justification – its premises. While a legitimate argument can be made that negotiation/appeasement with Saddam was a better option to resolve the Iraq problem (that argument requires risky assumptions about Saddam that would have conflicted with the standing US policy on Iraq), the course we took with OIF was justified by case and precedent.

    Where Bush deserves blame for the enduring public controversy over OIF is his public argument for military enforcement deviated from the US policy on Iraq, although Bush faithfully followed the policy. In contrast, Clinton’s public argument for military enforcement carefully matched the policy. However, I concede Bush may have been compelled to go off Clinton’s script on Iraq because Bush needed a new UN action for OIF, whereas Clinton did not need a new UN action for ODF. Specifically, Clinton’s trigger for ODF in 1998, UNSCOM, was already in Iraq, whereas in 2002, Bush needed to convince the UN to send UNMOVIC to Iraq.

    I’ve compared the prospects of the Iraq and Afghanistan missions, too: http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2009/09/about-afghanistan.html The post is ranging because they’re copied-and-pasted from several long comments I left at the blog of one of my college professors.

    Excerpt: “Comparing the presidential decisions faced by the two presidents, Bush’s choice to double-down in Iraq was easier than Obama’s choice today: Iraq has much higher immediate, long-term, and regional strategic value (the reason why the terrorists also diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq until defeated there) and Iraq is a much better candidate for nation-building than Afghanistan, whereas we can lose a lot in Afghanistan without gaining much benefit even from a nation-building success.”

    Said more briefly, we were forced to go to Afghanistan to seek out the enemy in direct response to 9/11. But we could not win the War on Terror in Afghanistan. We could begin to win the war in Iraq.

  25. saaf Says:

    The high cost that OIF critics normally cite actually occurred in the post-war occupation and nation-building period, not the war.

    Eric, agreed, the problem when US depend on crooks who were well known before and after they more Iranian than Iraqis in their heart and mind, resulting Iran meddling inside Iraq made the case for US took all the blame for series of killing by Iranian created and backing terrorists groups like Hizallah Iraq branch, Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq, most importantly Badar militia

  26. saaf Says:

    Contrary to the insistence of Bush for the invasion of Iraq was integral to the ‘war on terror’, Allawi maintains that…

    Saddam had terrible, terrible flaws and was a terrible tyrant. But one of the things he did not do was challenge the United States through terrorism, so the connection between the former regime and Al Qaeda and international terrorism directed against the United States particular and the West generally could not be established…

    …….

    What has happened is, in fact, a large number of so-called … jihadist groups have been empowered as a result of the continuing large scale American military presence in Iraq. And in the process, the threat of terrorism has increased.

    The Occupation of Iraq, by Alli A. Allawi

  27. Eric Says:

    FYI, here’s a response to the criticism – specifically from Clinton – that Bush did not allow the UNMOVIC inspectors enough time to finish their work:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A54905-2004Jun19.html

    UNMOVIC was in Iraq for 4 months (Nov 02 – Mar 03) before the start of OIF. President Bush decided on OIF based on Hans Blix’s report to the UN in Feb 03, or the 3 month mark, that showed Iraq was non-compliant.

    Why did Bush conclude UNMOVIC had finished its job with Blix’s Feb 03 report while Blix was requesting an indefinite number of additional “months” in Iraq for UNMOVIC? Because Bush understood UNMOVIC was a compliance test for Saddam’s regime and Blix’s Feb 03 report to the UN was conclusive proof that Iraq remained non-compliant. In opposition, Blix interpreted UNMOVIC’s function to be an investigation of Iraq’s possession of WMD.

    * I discuss the fundamental definitional disagreement in the public controversy over OIF here: http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2012/05/problem-of-definition-in-iraq.html

    Clinton’s criticism of Bush implies that he disagrees with Bush’s understanding of UNMOVIC and instead supports Blix’s interpretation of UNMOVIC’s function. However, Bush’s understanding of UNMOVIC followed Clinton’s precedent with UNSCOM: Clinton decided to bomb Iraq in Op Desert Fox based on a * 3 week * compliance test by UNSCOM. The same as Bush understood with UNMOVIC, Clinton understood UNSCOM was a compliance test for Saddam’s regime – NOT an investigation of Iraq’s possession of WMD.

    http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1998/12/16/transcripts/clinton.html
    Clinton announcing Op Desert Fox, Dec 98: “Now over the past three weeks, the UN weapons inspectors have carried out their plan for testing Iraq’s cooperation. The testing period ended this weekend, and last night, UNSCOM’s chairman, Richard Butler, reported the results to UN Secretary-General Annan. . . . If we had delayed for even a matter of days from Chairman Butler’s report, we would have given Saddam more time to disperse his forces and protect his weapons.”

    So, not only did Clinton deem 3 weeks was sufficient for UNSCOM to prove Iraq’s non-compliance, Clinton declared it was urgently necessary to bomb Iraq as soon as possible in order not to allow Saddam time to “disperse his forces and protect his weapons”. Yet Clinton criticizes Bush for giving 3 or 4 months to UNMOVIC’s compliance test and not granting the indefinite additional “months” requested by Blix, despite that Bush used the same compliance test as Clinton and Clinton deemed as President that rapid military action was necessary as soon as he concluded Iraq was non-compliant.

  28. saaf Says:

    UNSCOM??

    Eric,
    UNSCOM team telling at a time there are no WOD as what asked in time they requests any info available with CIA may lead to their claims there were WOD?

    May it’s important to point out that some team members actually not specialists in the field, one of them like David Kay he purely spy guy. In one of the team visits inside Baghdad David Kay acting like Rambo when he tried to jump over high brick fence of the site which very unwise and unprofessional and stupid thing to do especially with team of professionals an representing UN.

  29. Eric Says:

    Saaf,

    I recommend the ‘Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq’:
    http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/10/20021002-2.html

    You’re talking about giving Saddam the benefit of the doubt after he had long lost any benefit of our doubt. He could and should have cleared the UNSC resolutions in 1991-92. The Clinton admin had established Iraq had ambiguous links to al Qaeda, which were enough given his presumption of guilt and our heightened standard of care after 9/11, but also clear links to other terrorist groups plus Saddam’s own unconventional capability. Saddam had even tried to assassinate the 1st President Bush when he visited Kuwait.

    It certainly didn’t help Saddam look any less guilty when his supporters welcomed al Qaeda’s help to fight the US-led occupation.

    From Clinton’s statement accompanying the Iraq Liberation Act, Oct 98:
    “The United States wants Iraq to rejoin the family of nations as a freedom-loving and law- abiding member. This is in our interest and that of our allies within the region.
    The United States favors an Iraq that offers its people freedom at home. I categorically reject arguments that this is unattainable due to Iraq’s history or its ethnic or sectarian make-up. Iraqis deserve and desire freedom like everyone else.
    The United States looks forward to a democratically supported regime that would permit us to enter into a dialogue leading to the reintegration of Iraq into normal international life.”

    That is the approach to the Iraqi people and hope for Iraq with which America began its post-war occupation of Iraq.

    You can blame Shiites for their ties with Iran and the Shia insurgency, but the Sunnis had a real opportunity at the beginning of the occupation to be a healthy partner in the US-led nation-building of the post-Saddam Iraq. What the heck possessed the Sunnis to accept the help of al Qaeda and fight the coalition? I believe there was a ‘golden hour’ in Iraq where Clinton and Bush’s faith in all the Iraqi peoples could have been rewarded, if all the Iraqi peoples had come together to help us help Iraq. But the Sunnis made an all-time miscalculation by fighting the American post-war efforts, resulting in a tragedy of lost opportunities, not to mention lost lives and great suffering.

    America’s faith in the Iraqi people is dismissed as naive now, but once upon a time, we believed Iraq could become a ‘beacon on the hill’ for the region.

  30. Eric Says:

    Saaf,

    Iraq’s WMD programs and intent were presumed after the Gulf War. It was never UNSCOM’s responsibillity to prove Iraq possessed WMD. UNSCOM’s role was to verify Iraq’s compliance with the UNSC resolutions. It was Iraq’s responsibility to prove compliance, and therefore rehabilitated and no longer guilty. Iraq never did that.

    General Hussein Kamel al-Majid’s revelation in 1995 that Iraq had successfully hidden weapons stocks only raised the standard of compliance imposed on Iraq. As I said, Saddam could and should have cleared the UNSC resolutions on Iraq in 1991-92. Why didn’t he?

  31. Saaf Says:

    General Hussein Kamel al-Majid’s revelation in 1995??

    As always you stick beside liars, just what Iraq have right now bunch of lairs, thugs, corrupted gangster. Hussein Kamel al-Majid’s make his case to be believed who dreamed to be ruler for Iraq but unfortunately his dream were vanished with his proved stupidly all long his job from very small police guy to top Military post after marry the tyrant daughter.
    Whoever responsible for proving tyrant piles of WOD which clearly the job that hold to UN agency who were staring demolishing, destroying, taken off sites and installed 24 surveillance monitoring system in all sites, we all that there is one criminal on top of al-Majid criminals who is tyrant Saddam. But 2o millions Iraqis rewinds their life for one criminal, even after 10 years of war that we hoped to see Al-Ojah town vanished as the source of evils that control Iraq for 35 years what we saw that US protecting that town and the resident there!!!!

  32. ziontruth Says:

    With the caveat that I’ve never been a neocon, and that I’ve always believed in taking care of the Islamic imperialists at home first instead of sending troops abroad, I think it’s so easy to say “I told you so” and point how things should have been. With the benefit of a little hindsight, it seems to me the neocon misadventures, condemn them as we may, were inevitable. After the fall of the two towers, what was on everybody’s mind if not invading the country harboring those responsible? Everyone except the most blatantly treasonous (the most far-out on the Left) called for it. It has taken much later, notably because of different affairs like the Danish Cartoons, as well as the debacles of democratization in the Islamic world, until it dawned on a critical mass of people that this threat is not primarily state-based and that the enemy troopers consist of every Muslim immigrant man, woman and child on free soil—a very politically incorrect idea that hadn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of being mainstream right after 9/11.

    Yes, lament the lives and treasury expended on learning the hard way that Democracy as a reflection of the Will of the People is inevitably going to lead to shariah-ruled jihadist states, because that is the Will of the People, the people, not just “the leaders” or “an extreme and vocal minority” as the Narrative has always put it. But do not lament that this path had to be taken, for it could never have been otherwise—in 2001 the truthful message would simply have been rejected even by those not debilitated by appeasocratic stupidity.

    The guilty today are not those who once used to be neocons, but those who still haven’t learned the lessons that were necessary for abandoning neoconism. I’m talking about anyone who believes the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq have been “making the people over there hate us.” Whether on the Marxist Left or on the Buchananite Right, these are appeasers and are responsible more than anyone else for the advance of Islamic imperialism, rewarding its aggression with capitulation. It’s time to leave both appeasement and neocon fantasies behind and realize that the way to peace lies in the free nations’ standing up to their exclusive national rights which trump everything and must run roughshod over any Islamic imperialist onslaught made on their soil.

    The forthcoming age, if it is not to be an age of dhimmitude or of genocide brought about by a belated and therefore acute reaction to dhimmitude, will have to be an age of mass expulsions. Once the unrealistic option of turning Islamic societies to free ones by means of democracy is relinquished, and the cowardly and self-defeating philosophy of “We must have done something to make them hate us, let’s try to win their hearts and minds” (pay the Danegeld, in other words) is rejected, the only route left is national and cultural survivalism that expunges any threat to it by non-genocidal yet brutal action.

  33. Eric Says:

    ziontruth,

    I would differentiate between Islam with its multiple strains and Qutbist political Islam that is seeking to clear the field.

    Democracy can be reduced to the will of the mob. With that understanding, also a suspicion articulated by our Founding Fathers, I normally use the term ‘liberalise’, which implies an enshrined set of values together with popular will, rather than ‘democratize’.

    I disagree that ‘winning hearts and minds’ means ‘pay the Danegeld’. Winning hearts and minds is a tactic, not a strategy. I agree that the tactic of winning hearts and minds should be in the service of winning the war of ideas, not currying favor for the sake of currying favor.

    For neocons/liberals, the historic tragedy of the Iraq mission is that (arguably) there was a real opportunity in Iraq to establish a model of liberal reform in the heart of the Middle East with a pluralistic society. Iraq is not Egypt. We had a promising ‘golden hour’ in the initial post-war period of OIF where conditions, including the expectations and belief of Iraqis, were in our favor. But we fell short and the golden hour passed.

    Liberal reform does not have equal chance of success everywhere and not with instantaneous success anywhere. Due to persistent Iraqi non-compliance with the UNSC resolutions and the existing US/UN mission in Iraq, however, the Iraq situation invited Western intervention. Our hope for Iraq in replacing the model autocrat in Saddam was that if we could end the 360-degree threat of Iraq to all its neighbors, make liberal reform work in the relatively promising conditions of Iraq, then given Iraq’s influence in the region, perhaps an intra-regional trend could take root and spread from Iraq.

    According to the NY Times, there also appears to have been a 2nd-chance ‘golden hour’ in the post-Surge period, which America had paid for dearly, but Obama fumbled it away:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/world/middleeast/failed-efforts-of-americas-last-months-in-iraq.html?smid=pl-share

  34. ziontruth Says:

    “I would differentiate between Islam with its multiple strains and Qutbist political Islam that is seeking to clear the field.”

    I wouldn’t. The doctrine of forcibly installing the rule of shariah law over the whole world is all Islam, mainstream Islam. The only ones who don’t support the imperialistic agenda integral to Islam are those that don’t take Islam seriously—the Muslim world’s equivalent of Cafeteria Christians, but they are a far smaller proportion, and seldom vocal, for fear of their lives.

    “For neocons/liberals, the historic tragedy of the Iraq mission is that (arguably) there was a real opportunity in Iraq to establish a model of liberal reform in the heart of the Middle East with a pluralistic society. Iraq is not Egypt.”

    Other people have mentioned the backsliding of Turkey in this thread. I think Turkey is a sobering example that should wean whoever contemplates it of any fantasies of “liberalization” and “a pluralistic society” anywhere in the Muslim world. Turkey used to be the brightest hope of modern, moderate and secularized Islam, and now it has succumbed to the superior demography of the mainstream Islam (see above), just as it has happened in Lebanon (once Christian-majority, now under the thrall of both Sunni and Shia jihadism) and the Muslim colonial settlements in Western Europe (no-go zones for any non-Muslims, where women not dressed properly can expect the Lara Logan treatment—in Europe, not in Egypt!).

    This tree could never bear the fruit you want it to bear. It was a colossal waste of men, money and materials to send troops abroad after 9/11. It is irrational to keep thinking within the paradigm of state-conflict while the free world’s homelands—India, Israel, Western Europe, and did I mention Dearbornistan, Michigan?—are themselves teeming with enemy colonists. Maybe in a couple of decades or so the petrodollar states bankrolling the worldwide jihad will need to be addressed, but for the time being, home is where the war is taking place.

    World politics has been tied to the “one world, one global village” thinking about events ever since 1914 at least, but today this kind of thinking makes things so much worse. Though the problem besetting all the free nations, the problem of Islamic imperialists and its Marxist enabler-allies, is global, the only way to deal with it is locally, each nation-state separately as best it can. This is also why supranational organizations like the U.N. are part of the problem.

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About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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