June 14th, 2014

On Iraq and Obama’s role

Austin Bay has a good piece on Iraq up at PJ.

Also see this in National Review:

We had gained, at a frightful cost in lives and treasure, a priceless strategic asset, namely the possibility of Iraq as a strong military ally, hosting U.S. forces as long as we needed to keep them there, engaged against the extremists in Syria and Iran, as well as al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and their sympathizers among the Arab states. And the prospect of a successful democracy (however rudimentary and corrupt) functioning at the heart of the Middle East gave enormous hope to the pro-democracy movements of the region. In order to consolidate those gains it was absolutely vital for the U.S. to make a long-term commitment and back it up with a long-term military presence.

So what did Obama do? He did what he normally does, which is to counteract what little capacity for action the U.S. national-security establishment retains when left on autopilot. He has visited Iraq only once during his presidency, early in 2009; but even then he only visited troops, and declined to meet with any senior Iraqi officials. He has met with Prime Minister Maliki ​only twice, once in December 2011 and once in November 2013, by which time the current debacle was well in train. By all accounts, Obama barely lifted a finger to preserve a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq, even when — as Dexter Filkins recently reported in a phenomenal feature for The New Yorker — all major Iraqi factions were asking, in private if not in public, for the U.S. to stay.

From that New Yorker article, published in late April, almost two months ago:

I asked Edwar about the elections, whether change might save the country. She looked at me with tired eyes. “We are going into—how do you say it?” she said.

“The abyss?” a colleague offered.

“Yes—the abyss,” Edwar said. “Yes, yes, yes.”

But Obama, of course, had no idea.

Also, see this about the negotiations between the administration and Maliki’s government in 2011, about the withdrawal of US troops. And remember that this piece appears in the markedly pro-Obama New Yorker:

President Obama, too, was ambivalent about retaining even a small force in Iraq. For several months, American officials told me, they were unable to answer basic questions in meetings with Iraqis—like how many troops they wanted to leave behind—because the Administration had not decided. “We got no guidance from the White House,” Jeffrey told me. “We didn’t know where the President was. Maliki kept saying, ‘I don’t know what I have to sell.’ ” At one meeting, Maliki said that he was willing to sign an executive agreement granting the soldiers permission to stay, if he didn’t have to persuade the parliament to accept immunity. The Obama Administration quickly rejected the idea. “The American attitude was: Let’s get out of here as quickly as possible,” Sami al-Askari, the Iraqi member of parliament, said.

The last American combat troops departed Iraq on December 18, 2011. Some U.S. officials believe that Maliki never intended to allow soldiers to remain; in a recent e-mail, he denied ever supporting such a plan, saying, “I am the owner of the idea of withdrawing the U.S. troops.” Many Iraqi and American officials are convinced that even a modest force would have been able to prevent chaos—not by fighting but by providing training, signals intelligence, and a symbolic presence. “If you had a few hundred here, not even a few thousand, they would be coöperating with you, and they would become your partners,” Askari told me. “But, when they left, all of them left. There’s no one to talk to about anything.”

Ben Rhodes, the U.S. deputy national-security adviser, told me that Obama believes a full withdrawal was the right decision. “There is a risk of overstating the difference that American troops could make in the internal politics of Iraq,” he said. “Having troops there did not allow us to dictate sectarian alliances. Iraqis are going to respond to their own political imperatives.” But U.S. diplomats and commanders argue that they played a crucial role, acting as interlocutors among the factions—and curtailing Maliki’s sectarian tendencies.

“We used to restrain Maliki all the time,” Lieutenant General Michael Barbero, the deputy commander in Iraq until January, 2011, told me. “If Maliki was getting ready to send tanks to confront the Kurds, we would tell him and his officials, ‘We will physically block you from moving if you try to do that.’ ” Barbero was angry at the White House for not pushing harder for an agreement. “You just had this policy vacuum and this apathy,” he said. “Now we have no leverage in Iraq. Without any troops there, we’re just another group of guys.” There is no longer anyone who can serve as a referee, he said, adding, “Everything that has happened there was not just predictable—we predicted it.”

WTF does Ben Rhodes know about Iraq? Obama’s own ignorance wouldn’t be so bad if he had the brains to appoint people who weren’t ignorant (although that hardly would fix the deeper problems with Obama), but here’s what I wrote about Ben Rhodes about six weeks ago:

Obama’s foreign policy advisors: the parade of the puerile Best and Brightest—First we have Ben Rhodes, fiction writer morphed into Obama’s deputy National Security Advisor while barely in his mid-thirties, with nary a bit of foreign policy experience under his belt except what he learned on the job. But he has a way with words, and that’s what we want, don’t we?

At any rate, whoever is advising Obama, and whatever the source of the information about his role in Iraq, there is agreement on one thing: Obama was hardly engaged in Iraq at all.

It occurs to me that at present, Iraq’s situation vis a vis the Obama administration could be Benghazi write large (Rhodes was a major player in that, too). That is, Obama instituted a policy in each country—and in the case of Iraq it was his total disengagement—that he must pretend is working even if it’s not. He can’t admit making a mistake; that would be the worst thing, much worse in his opinion than what might actually happen to our people in Benghazi or Baghdad, or to the Iraqi people. To bomb ISIS forces—or even to rescue our embassy personnel as ISIS threatens to attack Baghdad—would be to admit his policies exposed them to grave danger. In this case, his policy “working” doesn’t mean peace in Iraq, it just means leaving the Iraqis to the own devices, which includes killing each other (all Bush’s fault, of course!) and pretending it’s not dangerous to American personnel still there, or to American interests in the region as a whole.

The New Yorker article—which by the way is well worth reading in its entirety—describes the situation in Iraq as it existed before the pullout:

After nine years of brokering agreements, the Americans had made themselves indispensable. “We were hardwired into the Iraqi political system,” Crocker told me. “From the very first days, they were all deeply suspicious of each other. Concession and compromise meant betrayal and death. What we could do is make them listen to us. It required constant engagement: we’d go to Maliki and explain our views, and ask him if he’d consider something. Maybe we would finally get him to say that he would, provided the Sunni leadership would do a series of things first. So we’d go back to the Sunnis. That’s the way it had to work.

“We are not doing that anymore,” Crocker said, “and the system is still too underdeveloped, and there’s too much suspicion, for their leaders to do it on their own. That trusted middleman is still us. And we are not there.”

Over time, another generation might have sprung up that would be more used to dealing with each other. Maybe so, maybe not—these things are highly recalcitrant to change, but the actual experience of working together over time might have improved things at least somewhat. At any rate, it wouldn’t have taken that many Americans being there to try, and after all the sacrifices we made it would have been worth it to try. But we ran out of time, and we ran out of interest—and Obama never really had a particle of interest in it anyway.

I didn’t see any mention in the New Yorker article of ISIS. Which is odd, because according to this article from National Review, asking for help with the brewing situation of violence in Syria spilling over into Iraq was one of the main reasons for Maliki’s trip to the US back in November of 2013:

The civil war in Syria would inevitably threaten the stability of Iraq, and potentially turn into a cataclysmic regional conflict. Hence, opponents of intervention in Syria should have realized that the only alternative to intervening in Syria was to send U.S. forces back into Iraq, in order to seal off the Iraq–Syria border and buttress the Iraqi security forces.

But instead of coopting the Syrian resistance, or — the next best thing — sealing the border between Syria and Iraq, we did nothing. By the start of 2013 we had abandoned both the Sunni resistance in Syria and the Sunni heartland in Iraq to Islamist networks, particularly ISIS. The Syrian civil war’s slide across the border into Iraq rapidly became a reality. Violence increased throughout the year until Maliki came begging for American help in November 2013. But Obama hadn’t done anything to stop the region from sliding back into chaos and there was no point in starting now. Maliki left empty-handed, with little choice but to throw himself at the mercy of the Iranians — and hope for survival in a revival of the Wahhabi-Iranian proxy war.

When Obama got to power, a tenuous peace held in the Middle East, and the U.S. stood at the height of its influence and prestige in the region. Of course, the Middle East is a devilishly tricky place; upheaval is always around the corner; and the U.S. can’t single-handedly control any region. But it should be obvious to anyone who takes an honest look at the events of the last five years that the Obama administration’s whole approach to foreign policy was bound to make the Middle East a much more dangerous place.

Obama’s skepticism of American power apparently blinded him to how vital that power was to the maintenance of peace and stability. Perhaps this discomfort with American power meant the gains of the Iraq war were a burden to him. If so, he couldn’t do anything to reverse the 4,500 lives we lost and $1 trillion we spent to liberate Iraq. But maybe he could make people stop saying the sacrifice had been worth it.

That of course assumes Obama wants peace and stability there. And what about “perhaps this discomfort with American power meant the gains of the Iraq war were a burden to him”? There should be no “perhaps” there. But it wasn’t just his “discomfort” with (i.e. hatred of and desire to reduce) American power that was motivating him; with Obama it’s always politics, too. He could not stand the possibility of having the war that he and the left had so strongly opposed there have a chance of succeeding in even a modest way.

I suppose it’s possible that someone or something might push Obama to intervene in some way. He’s—thinking about it. Perhaps he’s afraid of another Benghazi, although that hardly even cramped his style. But whatever he manages to do (and my guess is that there will be no action, or an exceptionally minimal one) will not change the fact of his abandonment of the situation in Iraq when a little help might have gone a long way.

72 Responses to “On Iraq and Obama’s role”

  1. Richard Says:

    The Progs have Obama’s back to do nothing meaningful in the ME. The Jihadists know that the world now lacks the courage to oppose them(excepting the Israelis). The 7th Century mindset could thrust the region into a new Dark Ages. Western civilization must and will respond eventually…

  2. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    I refer people to David Solway’s current piece on PJ Media titled “Future Fear,” (http://pjmedia.com/blog/future-fear/) which argues that all of Obama’s “missteps”–Obama’s wrongheaded policies and actions, his appointments, his missed opportunities and catastrophes, are not the result of incompetence and/or of ignorance but are, in fact, each the interlocking and reinforcing component of a very calculated and conscious attempt to apply the Cloward-Piven strategy to the U.S.

  3. Eric Says:


    “In the century we’re leaving, America has often made the difference between chaos and community; fear and hope. Now, in a new century, we’ll have a remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful than the past — but only if we stand strong against the enemies of peace. Tonight, the United States is doing just that.”
    — President Clinton on the commencement of Operation Desert Fox, 1998

    When President Bush passed the presidential baton to President Obama, America was winning the War on Terror.

    To wit, David Schanzer, Director of the Triangle Center of Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, on the progress made by the counter-terrorism campaign:

    As the 9/11 attacks demonstrated, al Qaeda was a powerful and dangerous organization 12 years ago, but is now a shell of what it once was. Central al Qaeda and its affiliate organizations around the globe still aspire to execute attacks inside America, but their capabilities to do so are dramatically diminished. The threat is present, but no longer acute.
    . . .
    In the months after the 9/11 attacks, there was a general expectation-and dread-that 9/11 was just the first of many terrorist attacks inside the United States. Yet the total number of attacks since then is relatively few. Why is that, do you think?

    The counterterrorism strategy against al Qaeda that has been executed since 9/11 has been extremely effective. We eliminated the safe haven that al Qaeda enjoyed in Afghanistan and captured or killed hundreds of senior leaders and thousands of rank and file militants. It is also important that governments in countries like Saudi Arabia and Yemen, who were on the sidelines prior to 9/11, joined the fight because they felt threatened by al Qaeda as well. . . . we have crippled the organization that attacked us on 9/11 to the benefit of the United States and the world.

    In other words, Obama was handed a succeeding counter-terrorism campaign that had greatly reduced the physical terror threat of 9/11.

    In addition to resolving the Saddam problem, Operation Iraqi Freedom was a devastating defeat for the terrorists in the post-war contest. The terrorists who sabotaged the initial US-led peace operations and inflicted atrocities on the Iraqi people had planned for Iraq to be their Vietnam War defeat of America. Instead, the Iraqi-American alliance turned Iraq into the worst-case, nightmare scenario for the terrorists, who were decimated on the ground and, more consequentially, rebuffed in the war of ideas as Iraq’s Sunni Muslims chose to side with the Americans.

    In the context of the greater War on Terror, Obama inherited OIF from Bush as a strategic victory poised to realize Clinton’s vision of “a remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful than the past — but only if we stand strong against the enemies of peace.”

    To wit, again, President Obama on post-Saddam Iraq:

    Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict. In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy. The Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence in favor of a democratic process, even as they’ve taken full responsibility for their own security. Of course, like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress. And as they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.

    In other words, by Obama’s own description, the emerging pluralistic, liberalizing post-Saddam Iraq was set to have “a key role” in a reforming Middle East.

    The success of OIF was hard earned. In 2006, the situation in Iraq appeared bleak, reminiscent of low points that preceded other victories in US military history. However, harsh learning curves are normal in war or, in the case of OIF, the peace operations of the post-war. American, Iraqi, and allied forces learned how to succeed in Iraq, and the Petraeus-led Counterinsurgency “Surge” turned the Iraq mission around.

    For the US military, the lessons learned in Iraq set a critical methodological baseline for the 21st century. The military can replenish equipment and even men, but there is only one way for the institution to learn how to win in the evolving strategic environment.

    To wit, again, General Petraeus:

    “If we are going to fight future wars, they’re going to be very similar to Iraq,” he says, adding that this was why “we have to get it right in Iraq”.

    The American victory in Iraq should have revitalized the commitment and resolve of American leadership of the free world and the concomitant pause of our competitors.

    To wit, again, US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker:

    The key to success in Iraq, insists Crocker, was the psychological impact of Bush’s decision to add troops. “In the teeth of ferociously negative popular opinion, in the face of a lot of well-reasoned advice to the contrary, he said he was going forward, not backward.”

    Bush’s decision rocked America’s adversaries, says Crocker: “The lesson they had learned from Lebanon was, ‘Stick it to the Americans, make them feel the pain, and they won’t have the stomach to stick it out.’ That assumption was challenged by the surge.”

    With American leadership tempered by the crucible of Iraq, the next step of winning the War on Terror was building peace in the Middle East based on new norms. How? American partnership with the emerging pluralistic, liberalizing post-Saddam Iraq as the keystone building block and the Bush Freedom Agenda.

    While the Arab Spring happened during the Obama administration, the Bush Freedom Agenda had positioned America to boost liberal reform in the Middle East. Yet in the singular window to make a historic difference, in the moment America held – as President Clinton had envisioned – “a remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful than the past”, Obama astonishingly, instead, rejected the Bush Freedom Agenda and opted to ‘lead from behind’ with tragically predictable and evitable consequences.

    Bush set up Obama for victory in the War on Terror. Obama simply needed to stay the course from Bush to win the war and build the peace, like President Eisenhower stayed the course from Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. Instead, Obama claimed Bush’s liberal foreign policy goals yet disclaimed Bush’s rational, progressing means to achieve them, thus causing Obama’s irrational foreign policy and regressing foreign affairs.

    In sum, America was winning the War on Terror when President Bush left office. Operation Iraqi Freedom was a strategic victory that had resolved the festering Saddam problem (none too soon, according to the Duelfer Report), revitalized international enforcement in the defining international enforcement mission of the post-Cold War, demonstrated the mettle of American leadership and devastated the terrorists with the Counterinsurgency “Surge”, and provided the US with an emerging keystone partner in pluralistic, liberalizing post-Saddam Iraq to reform the region. However, since taking office, Obama has reversed the hard-won progress made under Bush by committing the gross strategic blunders of bungling the SOFA negotiation with Iraq and changing course from Bush’s foreign policy. Consequently, the terrorists have resurged in the gaps opened by the stumbling, diminished American leadership under President Obama.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Wolla Dalbo:

    I have come to believe that Cloward-Priven is purposely operating, particularly in the domestic arena under Obama. In the foreign arena his policy is more a devotion to undermining US power, which has the result of chaos in the world although the chaos is not the goal there, unlike the domestic situation where it is the goal in order to institute the leftist “solutions.”

    It is part of the “fool or knave?” question we’ve discussed here for years, and years ago resolved as “both, but primarily knave.” I have long argued—in fact, I think I’ve always argued, from the time Obama became a candidate for the presidency and I started paying attention to him—that he is smart ideological, and strategic, and although he makes mistakes at times, much of what seems to be his bumbling or ignorance is neither.

  5. Ymarsakar Says:

    If people thought the DHS and TSA was bad, wait until the Left comes up with a new response to the world terror attacks.

    That’s another form of Piven, engineered emergencies. The Left, after all, were the first to think that Bush created 9/11 for political benefit.

  6. neo-neocon Says:


    Are you thinking of an Enabling Act type response, or something else?

  7. Oldflyer Says:

    Excellent analysis, Neo. Have you offered your services as a National Security Advisor to Obama? Just kidding; but, as we know, he could use some adult supervision and mentoring.

  8. Bob From Virginia Says:

    “He could not stand the possibility of having the war that he and the left had so strongly opposed there have a chance of succeeding in even a modest way. ”

    Yelp, it would have meant Bush was right. Expect a “we told you so” speech soon after the fall of Baghdad, modeled after Kissenger’s “we’ll be more mature in our foreign policy” speech after the fall of Saigon.

    BTW, now that ISIS is rolling in cash is there anything to keep there from buying a NORK nuke and sailing it into NYC harbor? Between now and the Jan 2017 would be the time to do it.

  9. Sgt. Mom Says:

    Some people just want to watch the world burn. And after events of this week, I am firmly counting Our Fearless Leader as being among them.

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    Neo, merely a pretext. The Left needs a civilian security force that will obey Orders, one level above the park ranger’s ability to obey orders.

    The current police SWAT union pretext is “drug war” and “criminals” and “domestic terrorists” (or illegal wood used in guitars even under EPA). If they can expand that a little bit broader using a federal pretext, they will have Union power, armed with guns, to control local economies and states. Without necessarily involving Holder, DHS, or the IRS. MRAPs and the SWAT death squads are trained locally, funded and controlled by police unions, at a local level, but using federal supplies and money.

    The unions need an excuse to use their equipment. And the US Regime wants a better loyalty index out of places far away in America they can’t directly control.

    So out of this mutual convergence of interests, something will happen. What, exactly, hard to say at this point in the chaos wave. But the pieces are in place. It’s not like the unions can fund their military equipped units if there is no pretext for them existing.

    The current Democrat control of cities like Chicago and New Orleans is sufficient for the next phase. But their control of crumbling fiefdoms like Detroit, isn’t so good. And their control of the broad metropolitan areas and rural areas aren’t good at all. They need a local guerilla force to put the peasant revolts down. A force just as loyal to them as DC’s cops and the newly formed SS, is to whatever regime the Left installs after 2016.

    Hussein doesn’t look like he’s got enough attention span left, besides golf, for this. But the Leftist alliance is full of factions, thousands of them, working on just such things. Once the pieces are in place, it won’t take long to find a spark or a pretext. And greater “danger” from terrorists, may just be the thing needed to spark it.

  11. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “WTF does Ben Rhodes know about Iraq? Obama’s own ignorance wouldn’t be so bad if he had the brains to appoint people who weren’t ignorant” neo

    What need is there for experience and expertise when all that counts is politically correct opinion?

    “The Jihadists know that the world now lacks the courage to oppose them(excepting the Israelis).” Richard

    A bit too categorical I think. The ChiCom leadership lacks the resolve needed to deal with a serious Islamic threat? Putin of Chechnya fame lacks resolve? Really? As for our resolve, “the prospect of being hanged focuses the mind wonderfully”, in our case, it’s still possible to deny that the gallows are being erected.

    “I have come to believe that Cloward-Priven is purposely operating, particularly in the domestic arena under Obama. In the foreign arena his policy is more a devotion to undermining US power, which has the result of chaos in the world although the chaos is not the goal there, unlike the domestic situation where it is the goal in order to institute the leftist “solutions.”” neo

    To any objective observer, the domestic area is beyond dispute. As for the foreign arena;

    “the region will be far less stable and far more threatened if Iran were to have a nuclear weapon. It will spur a nuclear arms race. It has risks for greater terrorism. It will be destabilizing. ” Kerry said the threat extends beyond the possibility that Iran could actually use the weapon on its enemies, specifically Israel. Iran simply having a nuclear weapon would “spur a nuclear arms race” in the region and could be used to support terrorists groups like Hezbollah, he said. Interview with SecState John Kerry – March 5, 2013

    If Kerry knows, then Obama damn well knows. So, Obama intends for the Iranians to get nukes. He intends that nuclear proliferation spread into unstable third world regimes. He intends for terrorist groups to eventually get their hands on nukes. He’s doing nothing to secure our borders or ports, in fact he’s ensured that they are more open than ever. He’s doing nothing to address our vulnerability to an EMP attack, despite indications that both Iran and N. Korea’s nuclear programs are oriented toward development of super EMP nukes.

    “The most devastating threat is posed by an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, and a former member of the congressional EMP commission says both the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs are focused on taking out our nation’s power grids.

    “It is why Iran wants the bomb. We know that from the EMP commission because, in their open source-military writings, they describe using a nuclear weapon to eliminate the United States as an actor from the world stage by means of an EMP attack,” said Dr. Peter Pry.

    “Let’s not forget that earlier this year North Korea, which has the bomb and, in fact, we assess they probably have what are called super EMP nuclear weapons, which is a nuclear weapon specifically designed to make the EMP effect. That’s why all three of their nuclear tests have been so low yield. They’re designed to produce gamma rays, not a big explosion. It’s the gamma rays that make the EMP effect,”

    Obama also has been advised about the danger posed by a “nuclear missile system in a box”, which is hidden inside a shipping container, giving any merchant vessel the capability of launching a nuclear EMP attack, close off shore with no way to deter it. The Russians started marketing such a cruise missile system-in-a-box in 2010, it’s just a matter of scale to upgrade it to achieve an EMP attack. And BTW, what N Korea or Iran can do, China certainly can do as well. I do think it is more likely for a terrorist group to act as the agent of deliverance however, so as to give the rogue nation ‘plausible denial’.

    So besides hate for America, why is Obama literally assisting our enemies? Why because whether domestic collapse through Cloward-Priven tactics or a nuclear terrorist attack or even a partially successful EMP attack, the same US government reaction will occur; the imposition of nationwide martial law for ‘the duration of the emergency’. Martial law would allow for a unique opportunity in lawful unilateral revision of the Constitution by the President. Legal precedent exists for a US President to legally suspend constitutional provisions. And what the President can do legally, the military has no basis for opposing…

    Suspension of habeas corpus, the posse comitatus act, creative ‘revision’ of the 1st and 2nd amendment. Suspension of the 22nd amendment. Nationalization of industries deemed vital to the national emergency. Restrictions on internet usage, the cell phone network and communications. Curfews…

    Martial law allows for unprecedented abrogation of normal constitutional processes. Avoidance of the potential for massive abuse rests solely upon the integrity and good will of the President.

    Whether intentional or not, everything Obama is doing in both the domestic and foreign arenas is driving America toward the day when martial law won’t be an option but a necessity. Mere coincidence?

  12. Ann Says:

    I’m not so sure Obama won’t do anything in Iraq. He’s just sent an aircraft carrier and two guided missile ships to the Persian Gulf:

    The US is sending an aircraft carrier and two guided missile ships into the Persian Gulf, bolstering sea and airpower before a possible US strike on the jihadist army in Iraq in the coming days.

    Defense secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the USS George HW Bush into the Gulf on Saturday, a day after President Barack Obama indicated he would soon decide on air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), whose seizure of Sunni Iraqi cities has violently upended the region.

    The 103,000-tonne warship and its air wing, which had been patrolling the North Arabian Sea and earlier this year were used in the Mediterranean following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, gives Obama airstrike options in addition to air force assets on land in bases used by the US, like Qatar’s al-Udeid.

    The Bush’s air wing includes four squadrons flying F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets, one squadron flying EA-18 Growler jammer and electronic-attack planes, and other maritime helicopters and early-warning planes.

    Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the Bush would be accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxton. The ships are expected to arrive in the Gulf this evening.

    It’s just possible Obama and his administration are badly shaken by these events. Maybe he really doesn’t want to go down in the history books as the guy who left the Middle East in flames?

    Also, he actually used the word “jihadists” the other day when speaking of ISIS. Was that a first for him?

  13. Ymarsakar Says:

    He’s sending the Bush so they can watch Iraq burn, because it’s a “Bush”.

    And a carrier group with that kind of escort… I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody manages to torpedo the carrier accidentally.

  14. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Boots on the ground Ann, boots on the ground. Air and missile strikes have value as ‘softening’ agents for boots on the ground and as backup for ground troops or as a warning, which is what this is but to be effective, a warning has to be credible.

    And the particular assets deployed are ill suited to a mission of striking the jihadist army in Iraq.

    This is mere bluster on Obama’s part, he’s hoping that intimidation will do the job. It’s bluster because without the willingness to commit ground troops, no serious push back against ISIS can occur.

    If ISIS’ leader, al-Baghdadi has taken the measure of Obama, he’ll know that this is an empty warning because there’s no chance whatsoever that Obama is sending US troops into Iraq again.

    ISIS’s military tactics are fairly disciplined and that sets them above the usual terrorist group, indicating some sophistication on al-Baghdadi’s part, so its entirely possible that he’s aware that Obama is all bark and no bite.

  15. Ymarsakar Says:



    Some military intel goodies to check out.

  16. Ymarsakar Says:

    A few human shields, and no air strikes will be coming. They cannot take back the cities, because the cities have potentially civilians in them. And they can’t destroy the supply bases of ISIL because ISIL has plenty of human shields, if they stop killing their kidnapped targets.

  17. neo-neocon Says:

    Geoffrey Britain:

    Well, I added that even appointing people who weren’t ignorant “hardly would fix the deeper problems with Obama.”

    But even given Obama’s actual goals, wouldn’t it be better for him to appoint people who agreed with him politically, agreed with his goals, and were competent?

    You might say that’s an oxymoron. Someone wouldn’t agree with Obama’s more nefarious goals and also be competent. I think that a person certainly could have those two somewhat competing characteristics—or certainly, to agree with Obama and yet be a lot less ignorant than Ben Rhodes. It would help Obama if he appointed more competent people so as to not have events blow up in his face so readily, as this threatens to.

    Of course, you might say that he doesn’t have to worry about that, because (a) the MSM and his party members will continue to protect him, and (b) if he grabs enough power beforehand it won’t matter what people come to realize about him, because it will be too late.

  18. neo-neocon Says:

    Geoffrey Britain:

    Al Baghdadi doesn’t even have to take the measure of Obama to figure it out. Obama has explicitly said that he will not put boots on the ground. Nothing to figure out—unless, of course, Obama is bluffing (yeah, right).

  19. Eric Says:

    For close air support to work, especially as precisely needed for this kind of fight, you need ground observers calling it in. Usually that means our own troops. But if we don’t have regular boots on the ground, that means Special Forces.

    If we don’t have at least SF on the ground, then it’s just a show of force.

    Ann, Obama has a long record of putting on a show that’s effectively lip service, speaking out of both sides of his mouth and ultimately moving the chains to American foreign policy failure.

    Plussing up troops in Afghanistan, but limiting the increase, limiting the scope, and setting a deadline guaranteeing failure. He can claim he tried on one side and ‘ended the war’ (aka retreat and surrender) on the other side. But ultimately, the US fails.

    Not pulling troops from Iraq precipitously, but passive-aggressively sabotaging the SOFA negotiation. He can claim he ‘ended the war’ on one side while claiming he tried on the other side. But ultimately, the US fails.

    His intervention, but non-intervention in Syria and Libya.

    The list goes on.

    Leaving sign on both sides supplies the Dems/Left propagandists, for whom the narrative is elastic and molded as needed for the situation.

    I hope Obama does the harder right with Iraq, even belatedly, but until he proves otherwise, I assume it’s just another show that ultimately ends in another US failure.

  20. Ymarsakar Says:

    Plussing up troops in Afghanistan, but limiting the increase, limiting the scope, and setting a deadline guaranteeing failure.

    The troop increase in Afghanistan in 2009 was a fake. Hussein intentionally reassigned Stryker brigades that were training for Iraq, to Afghanistan, pulled units from Afghanistan and re routed them to Iraq. He just kept doing this, and that was the ‘facade’.

  21. Ann Says:

    Eric, according to the Wash. Post: “There are now about 250 U.S. troops in Iraq, Pentagon officials said. That’s down from 157,800 at the height of the U.S. military surge there in 2009. About half of those who remain are Marine Corps embassy security guards who protect diplomatic compounds. Many others work for the Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq, which still provides some advice to the Iraqi military.”

    And there are “private military advisers to the Iraqi government”, and “the CIA also ramped up its support of Iraqi counter-terrorism units last year.”

    Could any of those people work as those “ground observers” you mention?

  22. Eric Says:


    Security personnel aren’t leaving their posts. They’re not calling in anything unless their post is under assault. High-level advisors – probably not. Contractors – no.

    Best bet is CIA.

  23. Eric Says:

    Anecdote about how completely unhinged the popular narrative is for the Iraq mission, including ‘experts’ who should know better:

    A highly respected celebrity law professor posted on his blog about Iraq, saying that OIF was based on lies and an “undeclared war”.

    So, on the 1st point, I commented with my usual correction that the trigger for OIF was Saddam’s noncompliance, not the intel, because Saddam held the entire burden of proof, which was the operative enforcement procedure from day 1 of the Gulf War ceasefire (UNSC Res 687, 1991).

    Now, I realize that a lot of people, even supporters, are skeptical about the legalistic explanation. I can only point out that burden-shifting entirely changes the consideration of a case.

    Fine. I said my bit. Move on to the next point.

    My correction on the 2nd point called out the crazy.

    The OP’s assertion of an ‘undeclared war’ pointed to the War Powers Act, specifically 50 USC 1541. It’s the legislative check on executive war powers. However a ‘declaration of war’ is only one way to fulfill the standard. The 2nd way is a statutory authorization to use the military.

    OIF had not 1, but 2 authorizing statutes: PL 102-1 (1991) and PL 107-243 (2002).

    Calling OIF an undeclared war is technically true, but disingenuous, since it’s statutorily authorized, which has equal legal weight and is actually the norm for modern US military actions.

    So I quoted and cited to the laws and the US code. Asked and answered – dispositive, right?

    Nope. I was roundly called a liar, along with a bunch of questionable propaganda sources about the criminal illegality of OIF.

    Pre-9/11, I would have believed only fringe nut jobs think like that. But in this case, a highly respected celebrity law professor was spreading the lie to the mainstream, not just the nut jobs.

  24. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    neo @ 6:24,

    Yes you did say that, I stand corrected.

    Yes, it would be better for him to appoint people who agreed with him politically, agreed with his goals, and were competent… if he could find any. When was the last time you saw a competent leftist who wasn’t also a raving Stalinist? Rahm Emanuel comes to mind.

    The reason those on the left aren’t competent is that all isms of the left, to one degree or another are disconnected from reality. It is of course, difficult to maintain competence and simultaneous disconnection from reality. Their mind set is revealed just by what they say and support. They are indeed oxymorons and it’s their disconnection from reality that enables them to maintain that inherent contradiction.

    And yes, MSM support and an utter disregard for political fallout outside his base, enables him to seize what power he may.

    neo @ 6:28,

    That’s right I’d forgotten. But in the larger scheme of things, al Baghdadi has taken the measure of America’s political climate and has… smiled.

    Eric @ 6:36,
    Guided missile ships and the carrier’s complement of aircraft, F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets do not excel at close ground support, which is exactly what is needed by the Iraqi Gov. forces.

    An indication of exactly how unsuited to close air support the Super Hornet is that, “the United States Marine Corps has avoided the Super Hornet program and their resistance is so high that they would rather fly former Navy F/A-18Cs that have been replaced with Super Hornets.”

    Ymarsakar @ 6:41,

    The ‘official’ troop increase in Afghanistan in 2009 was also about 2/3 what was requested by Petraeus. Nothing guarantees eventual failure better than ‘accidentally’ failing to provide the tools needed by the craftsman.

  25. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    A recent story—forget where—profiling the key members of Obama’s “National Security team” termed them–and apparently with good reason—as being “political hacks.”

    Mostly young, on the make people with backgrounds in political campaigns, political PR, political operators all, but apparently not one with any training in the kinds of areas—foreign affairs, history, national defense studies, diplomacy, area studies, or the additional brilliant records of years of solid accomplishments that you would think were the absolute minimum necessary to be on a President’s “National Security Team”——all of that totally absent, thus the current “cockup.”

    I’m sure that there are subordinate staff members, support staff behind the scenes who do have the right background, who can at least point the hacks in the approximate right direction, but they aren’t the ones “advising“ the President.

  26. Eric Says:

    Wolla Dalbo: “not one with any training”

    I don’t think that’s their main fault.

    I think their main fault, from the guy they work for on down, is a lack of care for the short and long-term consequences from the perspective of the US as a responsible world leader. That’s not their personal priority nor interest, even if they had the training. Their priorities and interests are elsewhere.

  27. Ymarsakar Says:

    foreign affairs, history, national defense studies, diplomacy, area studies,

    half the people here have more training and better competence in those fields, than them.

    As for military advisers, they had Casey, Shinseki, Duckworth, etc. But strangely enough, not any Westmorelands or Colin Powells. It’s like word spread, and all the Democrat military leaders either choose higher mil rank or VA positions.

    all of that totally absent, thus the current “cockup.

    But like Eric mentioned, even if they had it, they wouldn’t be using it for America’s benefit. UN’s benefit, perhaps, but not patriotic Americans.

    A highly respected celebrity law professor posted on his blog about Iraq, saying that OIF was based on lies and an “undeclared war”.

    These days I automatically catalog them as weak minds. Easily shattered with counter propaganda, once the funding and powers are unlocked.

  28. Geoffrey Britain Says:


    You know that in today’s academic world, highly respected celebrity law professors are fringe nut jobs, it’s a job requirement for tenure.

  29. NeoConScum Says:

    His Infantile Majesty completely abandoned our huge Victory in Iraq. Vanished from its borders. Retreated in full. When the loathsome twit took office far fewer Americans were dying violently in Iraq than in Chicago. FAR, Far Fewer.

    Imagine Ike abandoning South Korea upon taking office.

  30. Matt_SE Says:

    Geoffrey Britain said, @ 8:21:
    “The reason those on the left aren’t competent is that all isms of the left, to one degree or another are disconnected from reality.”

    Nailed it.
    Although getting the history right is important, I’m more focused on how to fix the situation.
    From reports of entire Iraqi divisions fleeing in the face of vastly inferior forces, I conclude that the diversity push was to blame. U.S. advisers made sure that Iraqi divisions were composed of multi-ethnic troops so that no one faction could co-opt the army.

    This led to a lack of unit cohesion, in the sense that the soldiers saw the army as a jobs program, not as a fighting force. Since dying is a poor way to collect a paycheck, the forces disbanded as soon as they encountered real fighting.

    Conversely, the only forces that stand and fight seem to be the Kurds. I think Kurdish nationalism and tribal affinity are the reasons.

    So, I’m leaning toward the idea that Iraq should be partitioned into 3 ethnic states. That way, at least they each have internal unity and something to fight for.

    In the current situation, I’m thinking we should promise to support a Kurdish state if the Peshmerga can hold the northern front against ISIS. That would then leave only the western front of Anbar to deal with…I think…I’m no expert on Iraqi geography.

    I wonder if this plan has merit.

  31. Matt_SE Says:

    Also, as much as it pains me to say, perhaps we should stop opposing or start supporting Assad. We could then catch ISIS in an east-west pincer. Turkey might even support from the north.

    Lesser of two evils, and all that.

  32. Matt_SE Says:

    Though, if we support a Kurdish state, that may preclude any helpful involvement by Turkey from the north.
    Not sure we need their involvement, though.

  33. Matt_SE Says:

    On fourth thought, this is all academic since Obama won’t pursue any of the suggestions above.
    By the time he’s out of office, the situation may be quite different from today.

    Still, it’s good to have a plan of action ready.

  34. RickZ Says:

    Ann Says:

    I’m not so sure Obama won’t do anything in Iraq. He’s just sent an aircraft carrier and two guided missile ships to the Persian Gulf:

    With President Histoic Forst, sending the Navy mattes little. What really matters is the Rules of Engagement orders they are under. We saw with Afghanistan, Barry cut off our military’s ability to wage war with increasingly ridiculous rules of engagement such as seeing a sniper, and having to have JAG permission to take him out. Owebama’s all bluster and he’ll bloviate that he’s doing something. But like everything with this clown, one must look at the details. I’d bet that task/strike force cannot engage in any shooting, even if shot at. Our C-in-C wants our military to fight with both hands ties behind their back, that is to say, not at all. But he’ll look damn good saying he ordered the Navy into that theater of operation. He just won’t want them to do anything, just like Benghazi.

  35. Tonawanda Says:

    To put this post and the thread into perspective, please read Andrew McCarthy:


    Then read the brilliant, soft-spoken but trenchant Fernandez who comments on McCarthy:


    Then read the article cited by Fernandez, an essay he wrote in 2003 called Three Conjectures:


    Three Conjectures remains the perfect explanation/description of what we face. I read it at the time and am amazed it never gained currency (and lately I remembered it as being written by Stephen den Beste — creeping senility).

    The following words are mine, not McCarthy’s or Fernandez’.

    Bush condemned us to lose when he chose to announce islam as a religion of peace. Bush thought (Obama-like) that the magic of his words was going to mollify our sworn enemy. Islam was our sworn enemy centuries before America existed.

    Bush specifically condemned us to lose when he chose sharia over America. True, Bush did not want to choose the only other alternative, the utter destruction of islam as an idea. It was not in his temperament or “philosophy,” Yankee noblesse oblige, the charming and sincere way some rich people assuage their consciences – – honor and generosity to the little people.

    Bush confronted a race, one between the destruction of islam as an idea, and the intersection of barbarous islam with capability for mass destruction, soon to happen in Iran. He chose niceness and futility.

    As an idea, islam is ridiculous, even assuming (and I do not) the absurdity of religion. There is nothing deep about islam. It has all the charm and heft of a motorcycle gang.

    We have wasted thirteen years. Really, in 2014 Pamela Gellar is one of the few folks representing the thinking which is the sole way to avoid catastrophe?? Nothing against Ms. Gellar, but we don’t have thousands more of weightier spokesmen?

    And OT but to address a comment by neo: yes, an enabling act seems likely, and it is being preceded by the same sort of political theatre which preceded that terrible moment in the history of mankind.

  36. NeoConScum Says:

    Eric… AMEN to your 2:27pm comment yesterday and your other follow-ups on this thread.

    President Bush—God Bless that strong, steadfast, resolute Leader—handed the Anointed Majesty a HUGE Victory in Iraq. And a settled, growing, burgeoning Republic. His intention=plan was that a strong American force stay there, as in South Korea, to insure the success of the Victory and the young rooted representative government. A Big Presence in a vital area to steady the region and base our War on Islamist Terror in that part of the world.

    Barack the Scrawny delivered his mind & morality bending speech in Cairo and abandoned America’s hard fought Victory in Iraq.

    “Noblesse Oblige” my 30+year Neoconservative Arse.

  37. Tonawanda Says:

    Have to respectfully disagree. Bush and America did not gain a victory which ever could have been as successful or long-lasting as South Korea.

    South Korea is not an islamic state.

    Bush created an islamic state in Iraq. Bush did, no one else did.

    Bush had no choice but to create an islamic state because he had already conceded victory by declaring islam a religion of peace. Bush thought appeasement of evil was the way to go, because of a fuzzy let us reason together noblesse oblige mentality.

    Bush agreed to the removal of every American troop from Iraq, not Obama.

    The pride and arrogance of thinking America could create anything but islamic hell without removing islam was foolish.

    American troops and removal of islam would have given the enterprise a chance of success, like Japan or Germany.

    But crushing the opposition is not what the Bush clan does, unless you are a lowly member of the Republican party who is embarrassingly not “moderate,” whatever moderation happens to be that day.

    Happy talk is happy talk. You can drag out all sorts of government officials who will talk happy talk.

    I get it, like with Nixon a lot of folks want to defend Bush because of the vile attacks made upon him by vile people.

    But also like Nixon, the fact that he has been unfairly attacked does not mean he was a desirable president. He was not. Like Nixon, he was a “moderate,” meaning his bedrock point of view was nobless oblige.

    We can’t say anything as harsh or true as “islam is unmitigated evil”. No, no, that wouldn’t do.

  38. Tonawanda Says:

    BTW, I spent a number of years active in Massachusetts politics.

    I don’t know what it is like now, but then it was roughly 50 % blue blood noblesse oblige, and then the rest of us, icky “conservatives” who were an embarrassment.

    Folks who have not had this experience might actually have been misled by the Bushes into thinking they are something other than what they are. That has been done on purpose.

    I am not saying Bush or the Bushes do not have good qualities.
    I am not saying what Bush did in Iraq was insincere or deliberately wrong. I am sure it was sincere.

    It simply never could succeed because of the constitutional inability to see islam for what it is.

    Those sorts of thoughts are reserved exclusively for “conservatives.”

  39. neo-neocon Says:


    I was never sure whether Bush’s soft statements about Islam were what he really felt, or whether it was PR in order to sound more PC than he really was. I’m still unsure about that, although you could be right and it might have been heartfelt.

    Bush was no “strict conservative,” that much we know.

    As far as him negotiating the withdrawal of troops, however, he assumed that his successor and Iraq would renegotiate a new agreement by the end of the agreement. He could not have predicted how awful Obama would be.

    I am tired of people on the right doing the left’s work for them and insisting that it was Bush who wanted all troops out and who signed such an agreement. That was not the common understanding of the agreement he signed. See this for the way it was understood at the time it was signed:

    Even though the agreement with the Iraqi government calls for all American combat troops to be out of the cities by the end of June, military planners are now quietly acknowledging that many will stay behind as renamed “trainers” and “advisers” in what are effectively combat roles. In other words, they will still be engaged in combat, just called something else.

    “Trainers sometimes do get shot at, and they do sometimes have to shoot back,” said John A. Nagl, a retired lieutenant colonel who is one of the authors of the Army’s new counterinsurgency field manual.

    The issue is a difficult one for Mr. Obama, whose campaign pledge to “end the war” ignited his supporters and helped catapult him into the White House. But as Mr. Obama has begun meeting with his new military advisers — the top two, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are holdovers from the Bush administration — it has become clear that his definition of ending the war means leaving behind many thousands of American troops…

    Either way, no one expects the American presence to end soon, clearly not Defense Secretary Gates. When asked by Charlie Rose in a PBS interview last week how big the American “residual” force would be in Iraq after 2011, Mr. Gates replied that although the mission would change, “my guess is that you’re looking at perhaps several tens of thousands of American troops.”

    Everyone at the time understood that a residual force would remain in Iraq, and they had no reason to assume Obama didn’t mean it as well. They didn’t know he would go back on his word (he’d stated the intent to keep such a force in a speech in 2008, as well; see this post of mine for a discussion of that speech).

  40. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “I’m leaning toward the idea that Iraq should be partitioned into 3 ethnic states. …I wonder if this plan has merit.” Matt_SE

    IMO, it’s problematic. Who gets Baghdad? Look at a map of Iraq and you’ll see that the entire population of Iraq lies in a shallow crescent of cities stretching north-south in the eastern side of the country bordering Iran. The western side is desert. Mix is 65% Shia and 35% Sunni and Muslims make up 97% of the pop. No easy way to separate them. Great for the Kurds though.


    I agree that Bush’s first mistake was in buying into the meme that Islam is a ‘religion of peace’.

    His second mistake arose out of the first, that a religion of peace would welcome democracy.

    His third mistake was in underestimating the mendacious sedition of the MSM and congressional democrats.

    In all fairness however, the majority of Americans are still not ready to acknowledge Islam’s true nature. Had Bush disregarded that, he would have been politically crucified in the media and then been unable to mount any kind of defense against al Qaeda. He couldn’t go after the heart of the beast, so he was forced to settle for the heads of the Islamic hydra. Hoping his fellow citizens would be wise enough to elect a successor who would continue his policies.

    Though doubtful, Bush may even have privately understood that Islamic terrorism is reactive, it is a subconscious reaction by Islam’s Mullahs and Imams to the unavoidable cultural intrusion of the modern world, which Islam’s 7th century ideology cannot survive permanent exposure to… for Islam, it’s literally a fight to the death. Either the world goes back to the 7th century or Islam gradually loses adherents and fades away.

  41. Ymarsakar Says:

    Bush and America did not gain a victory which ever could have been as successful or long-lasting as South Korea.

    That depends on whose side you are on. If you are on the Leftist alliance and Islamic Jihad’s side, you generally convince yourself that’s the inevitable destination, because that’s what your actions aim towards.

    The idea that wars are guaranteed, that nations have a guaranteed prosperity fate, coming from someone living off George Washington’s success, is rich.

  42. Eric Says:

    All of our great war-time Presidents had massive failures that preceded victory.

    The Bush admin is criticized, even by supporters, but when you take a step back and factor in the context of the deep intractable mess with Saddam that Bush inherited, then 9/11 (also from a problem he inherited), the normal error that happens with this scale of endeavor, and the all-time level of complexities and difficulties, Bush and his team did a very impressive job of navigating the project to where Obama said, “In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy. The Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence in favor of a democratic process”.

    Bush had done the heavy lifting with Iraq, the ‘hump’ was crossed, and he handed Iraq to Obama as a trending success and doable project with a proven, dedicated team to do it.

    People act like Iraq was our 1st venture as leader of the free world. It’s not like we’re new at transitioning from war, to post-war peace-building, to strategic partnership. It’s not like we haven’t renegotiated SOFA periodically with other nations where our presence is politically unpopular yet ultimately tolerated as necessary. When I was in Korea, anti-US protests were weekly scheduled events. They were part of our regular safety brief. As happened elsewhere, the presence of US troops in Iraq was normalized to routine. It’s not like our military presence in other countries hasn’t evolved as the host nation evolved.

    In overarching pattern, if not in detail, the Iraq mission was more or less conventional. Conventionally, Bush did the job. Unconventionally, Obama did not.

    Words matter, and Left activists are expert at taking terms with severe values and stretching those terms, with their severe values, to cover a broader range. In Iraq, our post-war peace-building project was assigned the value of ‘war’.

    The language of “ending the war” or we were at “war” in Iraq after we toppled Saddam’s regime in 2003 grossly misled the public perception of our actual mission in Iraq.

    We were actually in a post-war phase, analogous to post-war Japan, Germany, Korea, South (USA), Balkans, etc..

    Yes, the post-war was bloodier than the war itself, but that didn’t change the post-war peace-building character of the mission.

    There’s a reason I use the term ‘war’ sparingly. ‘War’ carries connotations that don’t fit our actually mission in Iraq post-regime change. Usually, I call it the Iraq ‘mission’ because of its diverse evolution. The ‘war’ part only lasted several weeks in 1991 and then in 2003.

    It’s a mouthful, but the 2003-2011 part of the Iraq mission is best described as post-war peace operations. (Peace operations is a technocratic term.)

    War, at least modern war for us, does not normally require many years. However, our modern process of securing and building the peace has normally required a scale of decades.

    The misconception that we were at war in Iraq from 2003-2011, rather than securing and building the peace in the post-war of 2003, helped Obama pull the plug prematurely from securing and building the peace in Iraq.

  43. Eric Says:

    Add: Words matter. When I speak more specifically about the ‘Iraq mission’, I say something like 1991-2003 Iraq enforcement and 2003-2011 post-war peace operations.

  44. neo-neocon Says:


    That’s the confusion the whole “mission accomplished” flap fed into. The left mocked Bush because the “mission” was in its early phases only rather than “accomplished.” The “mission” to which the banner was actually referring, however, was the “war” part (and the carrier’s role in that war and its return home). The other “mission”—the “post-war peace operations”—was just beginning.

    The left exploited the difference to mock Bush, and the mockery and misunderstanding stuck.

  45. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “Bush and America did not gain a victory which ever could have been as successful or long-lasting as South Korea.”

    “That depends on whose side you are on.”

    Sides have nothing to do with it, that’s a factually objective statement. South Korea welcomed our intervention and welcomed democracy, having little to no cultural objections to it.

    M.E. Muslim countries have to reject Islam in order to truly and culturally embrace democracy. That is because M.E. Muslim society’s organizational dynamic is tribal and Islam’s theological tenets are entirely incompatible with and even diametrically opposed to the West’s classical liberal democratic premises.

  46. Eric Says:


    Setting aside the Islam factor, I’m surprised at your view that “Bush agreed to the removal of every American troop from Iraq, not Obama”, per Neo’s response. You’re usually more sophisticated about the mechanistic nuances on the ground.

  47. neo-neocon Says:

    Geoffrey Britain:

    At the beginning some Iraqis welcomed our intervention as well. We’ll never know the percentages—certainly not all welcomed them—but a substantial number did.

    As for Korea, see this [emphasis mine]:

    The country in this period was plagued by political and economic chaos, which arose from a variety of causes. The aftereffects of the Japanese occupation were still felt in the occupation zone, as well as in the Soviet zone in the North. Popular discontent stemmed from the U.S. Military Government’s support of the Japanese colonial government; then once removed, keeping the former Japanese governors on as advisors; by ignoring, censoring and forcibly disbanding the functional and popular People’s Republic of Korea (PRK); and finally by supporting United Nations elections that divided the country.

    In addition, the U.S. military was largely unprepared for the challenge of administering the country, arriving with no knowledge of the language or political situation. Thus, many of their policies had unintended destabilizing effects. Waves of refugees from North Korea (estimated at 400,000) and returnees from abroad also helped to keep the country in turmoil

    In the south the interim legislature and the interim government were headed by Kim Kyu-shik and Syngman Rhee, respectively, and the elections for which were met with a large uprising.

    The USMGIK tried to contain civil violence in the south by banning strikes on December 8 and outlawing the revolutionary government and the people’s committees on December 12. Things spiraled quickly out of control however, with a massive strike on September 23, 1946 by 8,000 railway workers in Busan which quickly spread to other cities in the South. On October 1, police attempts to control rioters in Daegu caused the death of three student demonstrators and injuries to many others, sparking a mass counter-attack killing 38 policemen. In Yeongcheon, a police station came under attack by a 10,000-strong crowd on October 3, killing over 40 policemen and the county chief. Other attacks killed about 20 landlords and pro-Japanese officials. The US administration responded by declaring martial law, firing into crowds of demonstrators and killing a publically unknown number of people.

    There’s lots, lots more. Do you think today’s MSM and public would have let it all continue? Or would an Obama have withdrawn prematurely? Of course he would have.

  48. NeoConScum Says:

    N-Neocon… Thank You for the well stated, reasoned and evidence of the facts above at 11:23am. That resolute Wartime Leader had much to contend with, not least of which was the undercutting-at-home. With you, the early-on use of “religion of peace” gave me a rash, but I also understood the context including many American citizens of Muslim persuasion, particularly in the upper Midwest. His main job after 9-11-2001 was Wartime Leader and Wartime C-in-C. The rock ribbed conservatism came after those duties. His Second Inaugural on January 20, 2005 was inspired, great and a clear statement of what us Neocons have long been about.

    GWB’s unwillingness to answer and condemn the blathering, whining, hating, weakness preaching Dems, MSMs, etc. was known to make me gnaw my arm off at the shoulder, but that’s the way he chose to do it. Unfortunately it made their voices the lying-leftist crap that was heard day in-day out. I wanted our man to hold the Shrillary Clintons and John Boy Kerrys to all the faux stand-up patriotism and pro-Iraq War and VOTES at the beginning of things. They could have justifiably had the s*** smacked out of them. Tempermantally, he’s far more coolie wired than us with very sensitive gag reflexes for Lib-Lefty Lies and undercutting.

    One other fact worth mentioning that is absolutely undebatable: Our Warriors loved that man. They absolutely knew he had their backs and was their champion. Their distrust and barely veiled contempt for their Undercutter in Chief can be seen by anyone with eyes and ears.

    The Bush Bashing by one of the number on this(and other recent)threads hits the reflex I mentioned above. But, also induces snickering. Thank you, Land Lady, for your clarity.

  49. neo-neocon Says:


    I’ve seen Bush-bashing on many many blogs since the Iraq situation heated up. It seems endemic from the right, who love to blame their own (unlike the Democrats). It’s one of the things that did Romney in, too. I understand that neither Bush nor Romney was the conservatives’ dream of a candidate (neither was mine, either, so I guess I’m a conservative), but we all too often (as I said) seem to do the left’s work for it. They left is amused and contemptuous of that.

  50. Eric Says:

    Geoffrey Britain: “South Korea welcomed our intervention and welcomed democracy, having little to no cultural objections to it.”

    Iraqis welcomed our intervention, too, if you condition the analogy with imagining that nK was inside the ROK (so not all Koreans welcome/d our intervention), and we hadn’t just spent over 10 years first betraying the Koreans to Saddam’s crushing response to the 1991 uprising after Bush’s feckless call to action, and followed up that cruel act by marinating Korea and the whole region with harsh anti-US propaganda that was confirmed in real terms by our compounding Saddam’s repression with real-life brutalizing sanctions whose harms Saddam passed onto the Iraqi people and regular, at times intense, missile/airstrikes.

    As I’ve said, it’s a wonder to me that the Iraqi people were willing to work with us at all after everything we did to them for over a decade because of Bush’s ‘anti-war’ choice in 1991.

    As far as welcoming democracy in Korea, that took a while.

    In its way, Korea was just as dysfunctional as Iraq for a long time. We had just as much, maybe more, doubt about Korea, its leaders, and its military than we have about Iraq.

    As far as welcoming democracy in Iraq, remember this? http://andiamnotlyingforreal.blogspot.com/2005/01/like-millions-of-iraqis-i-made-long.html

    Again, while analogizing imperfectly to Korea, imagine nK was inside the ROK rather than across a border.

    In my view, the essential problem is basic security, not the religion/culture at large. With security and stabilization at foundation, the rest can evolve. Or at least, we can’t know Iraq can evolve or not unless it’s secured for the long term. Just like the ROK was secured for the long term and proved the doubters wrong.

    Our last reliable data point for what Iraq might be able to accomplish when we secured it – as we have with other enemies-turned-partners – was Iraq at the point that Obama abandoned it.

  51. Eric Says:

    Para 1 analogy fix: … whose harms Saddam passed onto the Korean people and regular, at times intense, missile/airstrikes.

  52. neo-neocon Says:


    Did you see my comment at 12:35?

  53. Eric Says:

    You know, we work with many nations with peoples that are majority Muslim. Many of the people who have died working with us, sharing our vision, have been Muslim.

    I don’t understand how anyone believes that a religious frame could ever be realistic for us.

    The bar is set at a system that is compatible with us that works for them. Their system doesn’t need to be the platonic ideal of the US.

  54. Ymarsakar Says:

    People blame Bush because it’s a way of avoiding blaming themselves or people they know.

    So Bush was in charge of US propaganda actions and had to treat Islam this way and treat Leftists that way.

    No where is it mentioned or thought that the American people were the ones charged with treating Islamos facists and their American allies, a certain way, that Bush was merely copying and following along America’s “moderate path of equality”. The leader follows the public? What’s that, a democracy? Not in Obamaca.

    If the American people weren’t chewing out Leftist propaganda, why did they deserve Bush doing it for them? That’s laziness on an entirely different level. When a people are not ready to fight, the leader can’t make them. Not even FDR could get into WWII without the pretext of Pearl Harbor. Even FDR, the warmonger that he was, wanted to deceive the American people by telling the people what they wanted to hear, meanwhile planning war.

    Bush said straight out what he was doing. Although the reasons weren’t so good later on.

    Every time the Left came up with a propaganda point about this that or the other, body armor in Iraq, I could physically hear Republicans and patriots cringe, back down, and lick the hand of the master beating them (Democrats). To then expect Bush to lead the charge for this spit brigade, was unrealistic.

  55. Ymarsakar Says:

    Contradiction is what I call blaming Muslims overseas for religious theocracy while keeping quiet, tolerating, compromising with their family, friends, and fellow American neighbors on the Left’s theocracy here at home. Where they are doing actual damage every day.

    This contradiction is then resolved with “Blame Bush” or “Somebody save me, I’m helpless and innocent”.

  56. Eric Says:


    At 12:46 you mean? Now I have. Not before I wrote the comment.

    While serving there, I learned to appreciate the beginning of our engagement with Korea. Mostly Army in the Korean War. But also some appreciation for 1945-1950, after we took over Korea from the Japanese.

    Basically, we screwed up repeatedly and the Koreans were screw-ups. A lot of stuff happened analogous to the ‘insurgency’ experience in Iraq.

    As much as the Vietnam War dominated our popular culture, I believe the groundwork for that propaganda was laid by the controversies of Korea and our often dysfunctional and, for a period, very bloody engagement there. Name me any battle of the Vietnam – heck, add together any 2 battles – that compares to what our guys endured at the Chosin Reservoir, which was a not-exceptionally masterful Chinese trap that worked because we blundered right into it. The Korean War was vicious, more than Vietnam.

    There’s a reason that MASH, set in Korea, was used to protest the Vietnam War. Korea was not a success story at that point.

    Regarding your comment to NeoConScum at 1:01, again, the Right needs to learn to be activists.

    That’s the why for my comment at June 14th, 2014 at 2:27 pm, which I’ve excerpted here before. The Bush-bashing over current events in Iraq is a propaganda device that relies on replacing the proximate cause with attenuated causes. More than the facial presentation, propaganda relies on a twisting of the premises.

    My comment is meant to reset the contextual frame as to the state of Iraq and the War on Terror at the point when Obama took the presidential baton from Bush. With that baseline, we then can relate the proximate cause of the current problems in Iraq to post-Bush events with Obama’s pivotal course changes from Bush.

  57. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    neo @ 12:46,

    I’m doubtful that the actual reason that the great majority of Iraqis that originally welcomed our overthrow of Saddam did so out of an ideological embrace of democracy and minority rights. Instead it was seen as a means of increasing their individual and tribal groups influence and power.

    Thank you for the background on Korea of which I must confess I was unaware. Reading over the information, the objections to US presence did not consist of theological objections, nor apparently was cultural tribalism a factor. So, while S. Korea did not welcome us with open arms, the societal infrastructural impediments were not nearly of the strength of M.E. Muslim societies. Thus my position on the difference between S. Korea and ME societies remains.

  58. Eric Says:

    Add: Korea was Rumsfeld’s go-to analogy for the Iraq mission.

  59. Geoffrey Britain Says:


    Regarding Iraqis ‘welcoming’ our intervention, see my response to neo above.

    Regarding, “the Iraqi people being willing to work with us at all after everything we did to them for over a decade because of Bush’s ‘anti-war’ choice in 1991”, they expect no less from any other group, self-interest rules in tribal societies.

    Korea was just as dysfunctional as Iraq in the short run but no fundamental impediments existed to prevent democracy from taking root.

    Again, Iraqi participation in voting was and is a reflection of maintaining tribal position vis a vis other tribes. I strongly suspect that very few if any Sunnis vote for Shia candidates or vice versa.

    Asserting that “the essential problem is basic security” ignores centuries long, deeply held, tribal animosities, cultural imperatives and theological schisms.

    “we can’t know [if] Iraq can evolve or not unless it’s secured for the long term”

    But we do know that Islam cannot evolve, for to revise Islam is to implicitly declare that Muhammad was either delusional or a liar when he asserted that Allah through the archangel Gabriel directly dictated the Qur’an to him.

    Revising Islam requires that you declare that Allah is ‘correctable’… thus, Iraq or any ME Muslim society to ‘evolve’… has to reject Islam.

  60. Eric Says:


    That goes to my view that the Right needs an activist social movement and stop relying on fantasies of messianic savior Republicans to do the work that properly belongs to the people, led by activists.

    Bush did his job properly. Not mistake free – no President has ever been mistake free – but properly, and more than that, normally in exceptional circumstances. With moments of extraordinary leadership.

    Terrorists welcome war. War is the terrorists’ vehicle for unraveling the existing order. Terrorists, instead, cannot tolerate our peace. A trend-setting pluralistic liberal Iraq at peace is offensive and an existential threat to the terrorists.

    Iraq was the key to victory in the War on Terror.

    Geoffrey Britain,

    Yet Iraq was progressing in a pattern analogous to Korea.

    Just because Korea didn’t have the same sects as Iraq doesn’t mean the Koreans didn’t have explosive differences.

    The COIN “surge” could only work if the Iraqis joined in, and joining in was a life or death decision to accept the longer course set by COIN – assuming lack of prior knowledge about Obama.

    It seems apparent that the pivotal element in Iraq has been security and stabilization. It’s telling that while some Iraqis certainly want revolution, outside elements of the usual suspects have been required to raise a fracturing civil war.

  61. Eric Says:

    Geoffrey Britain,

    They’re people. The activist method can reify any cause.

  62. NeoConScum Says:

    Another Mideast Truth that is unshakeable: George W. Bush was the greatest presidential friend to Israel and Obama is its weakest, most untrustworthy and quite possibly anti-Israeli American president ever.

  63. NeoConScum Says:

    Eric..2:27pm: AMEN.

  64. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “They’re people. The activist method can reify any cause.”

    prior to the invasion of Iraq, Bush, the neocons and myself included, posited that the individual’s ‘universal aspiration for self-determination’ would supersede any cultural imperative.

    We were wrong.

    reify: verb, to make (something abstract) more concrete or real.

    The activist method’s ability to make democracy and minority rights more concrete or real does not confer dominance. Certainly over generations of commitment, such activity can lead to conversions to the cause but the majority of Americans were never willing to make such a commitment and Bush, the neocons and myself never gave that reality proper consideration.

    What could have been, if only… is disconnection from the reality of what is…

  65. Eric Says:

    Discussing this issue also rounds back to Paul Wolfowitz’s contextual point that:

    We went to war in both places because we saw those regimes as a threat to the United States. Once they were overthrown, what else were we going to do? No one argues that we should have imposed a dictatorship in Afghanistan having liberated the country. Similarly, we weren’t about to impose a dictatorship in Iraq having liberated the country.

    If we take a step back to the original problem of Saddam and agree that, one, the containment was broken (see the Duelfer Report), two, freeing a noncompliant, unreconstructed Saddam was out of the question, three, Saddam has just failed his last-chance compliance test despite the credible threat of regime change, and four, in addition to the establish threat of Saddam as a “clear and present danger” (Clinton) before 9/11, the intel indicates he’s reconstituting (which the Duelfer Report corroborated he was, just not in the same way indicated by the pre-war intel) . . .

    . . . Saddam just failed to prove compliance with UNMOVIC. Now what?

    We can’t return to a toxic ‘containment’ that’s already broken.

    For 12 years, we’ve deemed that a re/armed Saddam was intolerable. More so after 9/11, we can’t free a noncompliant, unreconstructed Saddam who, if anything, has grown worse since 1991. (Or can we? How?)

    It’s Spring 2003 and Saddam just our called our bluff. A basic problem needs to be solved.

    Now what?

  66. Eric Says:

    Geoffrey Britain,

    I agree that commitment is a required element in activism. You only need to look at the cultish fanaticism of leftists.

    However, I disagree that a “majority of Americans were never willing to make such a commitment”.

    In the activist game, consent of the people is manufactured. Same as for the Founders as for now. We’re not talking about a majority of aggregated individual opinion. We’re talking about consent as the majority view of the general will.

    Remember, most Americans have been untouched directly by the Iraq mission or even the War on Terror in general.

    It’s engaged as a social phenomenon, and activism is sociology weaponized.

    Reifying that social commitment is also a function of the activist method.

  67. Eric Says:

    Geoffrey Britain: “prior to the invasion of Iraq, Bush, the neocons and myself included, posited that the individual’s ‘universal aspiration for self-determination’ would supersede any cultural imperative. ”

    I didn’t posit it that way, because I had a soldier’s view and an activist’s insight as well.

    Choice is an element, but the superseding would be through contest.

    The Soviet system falling apart isn’t the norm. Normally, the activist game is the only social-political game there is, and it’s a competition where violence is a difference of degree, not kind.

  68. NeoConScum Says:

    Another Historical Truth and vast, horrendous lesson of the 20th Century(and, now on breathtaking display for 5+years of the Obama bunch): WEAKNESS IS PROVOCATIVE.

    2001-2008: Our friends trusted us and our enemies feared us.

    2009-2016: Our friends neither trust us nor believe us. Our enemies(and potential enemies)are laughing, testing, pushing and time & again proving to themselves that we’ve become Far Weaker and irresolute.

    Neville Chamberlain is high-fiving you, Barack. Winston Churchill and so many others are shaking their heads in sadness and disbelief. Stalin is saying,”Where was this fool when we needed him, Comrades?”

  69. neo-neocon Says:

    Geoffrey Britain:

    I didn’t believe it would just happen. I thought we would actually occupy Iraq, for a longer time, and with more control. Otherwise it didn’t make sense. You’re either in or out.

    The thing I underestimated was the success of the relentless propaganda drive of the left and the MSM and the Democrats to put a negative spin on the “occupation” part of the war. I knew they would try, but I didn’t think their propaganda would work as well as it did.

    If they hadn’t been so relentless and extreme in their negativity and distortions, I do not think the American people would have turned. Most people just read headlines, etc. (if that), and are fairly susceptible to propaganda.

  70. Eric Says:


    They made 2+2=5. The Saddam problem was headline, frontpage news for over a decade. Clinton officials defined Saddam a “clear and present danger” that required regime change to solve. Yet overnight, it was like Bush invented the Saddam problem from whole cloth as a ‘neocon’ plot with those same, now ex-Clinton officials leading the ‘fraud’ charge.


    December 19, 1998 President Clinton speaks to the role of American and British troops fighting to generate Iraqi compliance with UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. The President announces that U.S. policy toward Iraq would seek the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power.

    December 16, 1998 President Clinton orders air-strikes against Iraq in response to Iraq’s lack of compliance with UN inspectors, as outlined in UNSCOM Chairman Richard Butler’s report to the UN Secretary General. President Clinton describes Iraqi actions as a failure in their “last chance” to prove willingness to comply.


    The hard fact is that so long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of his region, the security of the world. The best way to end that threat once and for all is with the new Iraqi government, a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people.

    Heavy as they are, the costs of action must be weighed against the price of inaction. If Saddam defies the world and we fail to respond, we will face a far greater threat in the future. Saddam will strike again at his neighbors; he will make war on his own people. And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them.


    I thought it was prudent for the president to go to the U.N. and for the U.N. to say you got to let these inspectors in, and this time if you don’t cooperate the penalty could be regime change, not just continued sanctions. I mean, we’re all more sensitive to any possible stocks of chemical and biological weapons. … it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons.


    Noting that Bush had to be “reeling” in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, Clinton said Bush’s first priority was to keep al Qaeda and other terrorist networks from obtaining “chemical and biological weapons or small amounts of fissile material.”

    “That’s why I supported the Iraq thing. There was a lot of stuff unaccounted for,” Clinton said in reference to Iraq and the fact that U.N. weapons inspectors left the country in 1998.

    “So I thought the president had an absolute responsibility to go to the U.N. and say, ‘Look, guys, after 9/11, you have got to demand that Saddam Hussein lets us finish the inspection process.’ You couldn’t responsibly ignore [the possibility that] a tyrant had these stocks,” Clinton said.

    If they could spin the Iraq mission, they can spin anything. The activist game is the only social-political game there is.

  71. Eric Says:

    I’ll remind that the zealous, relentless propaganda about the Iraq mission isn’t only about the Iraq mission.

    Every essential element and premise of American hegemonic leadership of the free world was invested in the Iraq mission.

    Killing it in popular and political perception is a crippling blow to the exercise of American global leadership by making the essential elements and premises taboo. Stigmatized. This is why opponents of the particular foreign policy type – from the Left and Right – are dedicated to upholding the false narrative on the Iraq mission and enforcing the mission’s failure.

    The US intervention in WW2 and Korea spawned a US foreign policy course for the next era. The Iraq mission could have done that, too. It was meant to do that in Bush’s strategic vision as well as solve the proximate Saddam problem.

    The enemy with our own isolationists learn from our history, too, and they were going to stop a revitalized second era of American hegemonic leadership from taking root in Iraq.

  72. ISIS | Iraq | Obama | Yazidi | genocide Says:

    […] yesterday evening the horror and the pressure grew too great, and Obama announced limited, targeted airstrikes for humanitarian reasons, with […]

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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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