Thoughts on Iraq and other Foreign Policy Issues
March 17, 2003May 7, 2003
May 7, 2003
Partisanship 1: I do not particularly care that President Bush gave an address from an aircraft carrier, that the AC was diverted to give the best view, or that he didn't arrive by helo. In fact, I think a pres who is trying to coerce states from Syria to NKor and who wants to milk the intl political bennies from the Iraq war is pretty smart to inject maximum swagger on an aircraft carrier. I rather liked his remarks. Now that doesn't mean the Bush admin should continue to neglect being 'nice' in IR as it does. But swagger can be a useful tool, and Bush did a great job on that score.
Partisanship 2: I detest the fact that the Bush admin will have their republican convention in NYC in early Sept to capitalize on 9/11. Politicizing that is really an insult to the country. I'm insulted. I can see the protesters' signs now: "my dead dad on the 80th floor was a Democrat" "9/11 was a national tragedy, not a Republican photo-op," etc. And Bush will deserve all the scorn he will get.
May 1, 2003, rd 2
On Iran and the Shiites in Iraq. If the Shiites in the South make enough trouble, what will happen? The US could find itself in a combination civil war and anti-colonial war (not that we are colonizers, but the war will feel like a revolution for all concerned). It may be forced to pull out in bloody defeat. Or, it will be forced to suppress revolts, arrest fundamentalist clerics, and so forth. This might work in the long term, so long as there remains a goodly number of Shiites who reject fundamentalism and appreciate our efforts (though we won't get much congratulations). The Iran angle is fascinating. The deus ex machina for the troubles in the Shiite Iraqi south is if the hard line clerics in Iran miraculously get toppled from within. That would take the wind out of the Iraqi Shiites' sails. Hardline clerics in Iran have sent hundreds perhaps thousands of agents into Iraq to foment trouble and bring fundamentalists into political power in Southern Iraq. This may become casus belli for the US. (might we welcome that?). Surely if Iran doesn't topple the clerics, we will be sorely tempted....
Whatever happens, it will be momentous. Hopefully for the good; maybe the Iraqi Shiites will stabilize and help construct a new and pluralistic and tolerant Iraq. That would be momentous. But there could well be all sorts of other, more dangerous developments....
May 1, 2003
Quick thoughts on the where's the WMD story. 1. Those who stridently ask the question risk being embarrassed at any moment; they should calm down for awhile. 2. Not finding them reveals gaps in our intelligence, and is (once again, and again) a reminder that with intel shortcomings like this, pre-emptive aerial strikes to take out capability are highly risky. If you want to disarm a country, you have to occupy them (put a stickum to that effect on the DoD N Korea contingency planning folder). 3. There was enough evidence from UN documents and from past Iraqi behavior to convict Saddam "beyond a reasonable doubt" for WMD possession and violations of UN resolutions before the war. So even in the very unlikely event no weapons and labs are ever found, the foundation for the war was solid (although the proximate threat was overblown)
As I said in my Pyrrhic Diplomacy piece:
Some of Bush's arguments about Iraqi WMD and links to terrorism are overblown, today. Current links to terrorism are fairly minor, and Iraqi WMD capabilities are diminished albeit real. Because it helps to have a clear and present danger to mobilize domestic and international opinion, or to start a war, Bush tends to overplay these threats.
The real WMD argument for war is more subtle, and not immediate. It is harder to make, so tends to be avoided. Until Bush acted, Saddam Hussein was on track to having sanctions lifted and being "rehabilitated" by the international community. Sanctions were slipping, illegal exports of oil were skyrocketing, and Saddam's profits from these sales went from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars.
Saddam is a murdering liar and a determined proliferator. An unrestrained Saddam would use his oil money to rebuild his military and bring his WMD programs up to full speed. This is a war for oil: when Saddam has oil, it turns into weapons.
Based on his track record, Saddam kills 50,000-100,000 people a year. In just over 20 years: 1.3 million combat deaths in two wars, 250,000 Kurds, marsh Arabs and other domestic opponents, and perhaps 200,000-500,000 dead because of the sanctions (which Saddam chose over disarming). What will a 'rehabilitated' Saddam do? New wars with neighbors? Perhaps a conflict culminating in a nuclear war with Israel? Perhaps his ties with terrorists will grow and he will use them to visit a WMD attack on the U.S.? Any of these are possible, perhaps even probable and costly enough to justify an attack today to reduce the risk tomorrow. But it is hard to mobilize people based on a discussion that weighs costs and benefits in the present, much less the future.
April 28, 2003, rd 2
As Iraq's archives become opened and translated, all sorts of embarrassing and dangerous information will emerge. Like the stories about the French below, or about Iraqi bribes to newspaper reporters, Scott Ritter, politicians, etc <<http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/002/605fgcob.asp>>.
But how will we know if those in control of the archives are now telling us the complete truth about what is discovered? It is no surprise that any anti-French revelations will come to the fore, but what about any possible Iraqi bribes to any republicans in office or their supporters? Etc.
April 28, 2003
The allies: more on French motivations against the war and why the world faced a choice between a rehabilitated, unconstrained Saddam and war. There was no middle course of sanctions, thanks to those who opposed the war: "papers found in the Iraqi foreign ministry show how, as recently as three years ago, French diplomats from the Quai d'Orsay were colluding with agents from IRIS (the Iraqi Intelligence Service, better known as the Mukhabarat) to frustrate efforts by the Iraqi opposition and the British-based human rights group Indict to highlight atrocities in Iraq at a conference in Paris. Other documents include a warm thank-you letter from Saddam to M Chirac in response to the French president's campaign to end UN sanctions, a deal between Peugeot and Baghdad, and mysterious payments from IRIS to beneficiaries in France." From today's Telegraph, at <<http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2003/04/28/dl2802.xml>>.
Great to side with those who commit atrocities then oppose a war to oust them, all in an effort to balance the US...
I think the whole Dixie Chicks flap is a bit out of hand. Are the Repubs/Bush admin so lacking in confidence that some pop group can't be a bit sarcastic without the right wing circling their horses and castigating them? So what if they don't like Bush? Why is what they say any worse that what comes from many syndicated columnists? Besides, the line about Bush and Texas (all I heard about in all of this) was pretty tame, and not at all encouraging of massacres and US loss like DeGenova (see below). Geeps, get a grip... If anyone wants to be mad at the Dixie Chicks, go ahead. They entered the fray and have to live with that choice... But if the fray is a pop band being sarcastic, the level of debate is pretty low and trivial....
And then there was Gingrich's attack on the State Dept and Bush Administration policy. The best line I heard on that was that if that attack had come from the left, the right would vilify the attacker and call them unpatriotic and not supportive of the war, etc. On the one hand, all the war of words between the right and the left, and debates about the politics of the Movie Stars (Sarandon, Robbins, etc) is just engaging debate. If you enter the world of policy advocacy, then have at it. Everyone to their keyboards and mics. Embargoes galore!
What is wrong is when one side or other claims some over-arching morality which is then unimpeachable. Sure there are exceptions on all sides, but few should be indicted for lack of patriotism or treason, etc. I surely do not want to live in so fragile a society that give and take should be suppressed. What I would like, and try to do through teaching, is to make argumentation on all sides more factual and less windy.
Situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating. Get a summary of all that is bad <<here:http://drezner.blogspot.com/2003_04_20_drezner_archive.html#93186623>>
April 22, 2003
Chalabi mystery solved; DOD makes foreign policy. Below I wondered what the story was with how Chalabi shows up in Iraq with hundreds of armed supporters/troops. The answer:
"The State Department, for its part, sought to limit the role in Iraq for Iraqi exile leader Ahmed Chalabi because officials there viewed him as a fraud with little backing inside the country. The Pentagon's civilian leadership, populated with Chalabi supporters, responded by airlifting him into Iraq with hundreds of exile troops. He is now in Baghdad, attempting to build a political base." http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7581-2003Apr21.html It's simple: the DOD has cargo planes, while State barely has a voice. I wonder who made the decision, why, and what the debates were....
Here's a good article on NGO-Pentagon relations and the justifications for war:
Where are the WMD? And why is it important? Thoughts to come....
April 21, 2003
With anger towards all.
First, some from Safire on the French/Russian dealing over the sanctions (see 4/17 below):
Quote begins: "Why do you suppose France and Russia -- nations that for years urged the lifting of sanctions on oil production of Saddam's Iraq -- are now preventing an end to those U.N. sanctions on free Iraq?
Answer: the Chirac-Putin bedfellowship wants to maintain control of the U.N.'s oil-for-food program, under which Iraq was permitted to sell oil and ostensibly use the proceeds to buy food and medicine for its people. (In reality, Saddam skimmed a huge bundle and socked it away in Swiss, French and Asian banks.)
Iraqis now desperately need all that the country's oil production can buy. But Jacques Chirac cares little about reconstruction of basic services; he is more concerned about maintaining U.N. control -- that is, French veto control -- of Iraq's oil.
"Sophisticated international blackmail" is what Senator Arlen Specter called it yesterday. Blackmail is the apt word: unless the U.S. and Britain turn over primary control of Iraq to the U.N. -- none of this secondary "vital role" stuff -- Chiracism threatens to hobble oil sales and prevent recovery." Quote ends, from <<http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/21/opinion/21SAFI.html>>
Second: The Bush administration, so diplomatically inept in gearing up support for the war, continues apace in the post-war effort. There were many good arguments for war, but to hear the Bush administration lobby tended to increase cynicism, not support. And their deaf ear and headlong policies continue, from Bob Herbert: Quote begins: "Under the headline "Act Now; The Danger Is Immediate," Mr. Shultz, in an op-ed article in The Washington Post last September, wrote: "A strong foundation exists for immediate military action against Hussein and for a multilateral effort to rebuild Iraq after he is gone."
Gee, I wonder which company he thought might lead that effort.
Last week Mr. Shultz's Bechtel Group was able to demonstrate exactly what wars are good for. The Bush administration gave it the first big Iraqi reconstruction contract, a prized $680 million deal over 18 months that puts Bechtel in the driver's seat for the long-term reconstruction of the country, which could cost $100 billion or more." Quote ends. <<http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/21/opinion/21HERB.html>>
Even though I do not believe that this was a war for oil, or any particular company or companies, the appearance (and probable reality) of insider-business is strong. What fools. The thought that we need emergency contracts for a war fought at a time of our choosing is ludicrous. Either there is insider business, or the war/aftermath was even more poorly planned than I have argued. To quote Michael Kinsley: "But this is nation-building Republican-style, with huge contracts awarded in secret to politically connected companies. They now say that the "emergency" oil-field contract to Halliburton, formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney--and, gosh, who would have predicted that Iraq's oil fields might need to be repaired after a war?--is only worth $600 million, not the $7 billion originally reported." Emphasis added. <<http://slate.msn.com/id/2081640/>>
A counterargument is offered by Chris Hitchens, a writer with impeccable lefty credentials (though he came out pro-Iraq War) at <<http://slate.msn.com/id/2081707/>> He notes that the Cheney-affiliated Halliburton subsidiary Boots and Coots got the oil fire contracts and asks:
Quote begins: Well, if that doesn't give away the true motive for the war, I don't know what does. But unless the anti-war forces believe Saddam's fires should be allowed to burn out of control indefinitely, they must presumably have an idea of which outfit should have got the contract instead of Boots and Coots. I think we can be sure that the contract would not have gone to some windmill-power concern run by Naomi Klein or the anti-Starbucks Seattle coalition, in the hope of just blowing out the flames or of extinguishing them with Buddhist mantras. The number of companies able to deliver such expertise is very limited. The chief one is American and was personified for years by "Red" Adair--the movie version of his exploits (played by John Wayne himself!) was titled Hellfighters. The other main potential bidder, according to a recent letter in the London Times, is French. But would it not also be "blood for oil" to award the contract in that direction? After all, didn't the French habitually put profits in Iraq ahead of human rights and human life? More to the point, don't they still? Quote ends.
Of course, I'd like to hear what Red Adair has to say about the bidding process....
April 17, 2003
The Allies/Friends: Russia and France are now refusing the US request to lift sanctions against Iraq, now that Saddam's regime is gone. No, they say with legal sanctimony, not until the UN inspectors declare that Iraq is free of WMD. After all, they say, the UN Resolutions that established the sanctions did not call for regime change, but disarmament. This is of course a transparent ploy to use whatever leverage they have left to get some money out of the Iraq reconstruction effort and to maintain their existing deals and credit lines. And it ignores a wee bit of substance related to Iraqi disarmament: the massive US/coalition military victory ending up with massive US forces all over Iraq.
Let's see how France and Russia really feel about the sanctions and legal arguments. Let us look at Ken Pollack's Threatening Storm, p. 217. He notes that UN resolution 670 barred any flights into Iraq not authorized by the UNSC. Did France and Russia take the rule of UN law seriously?
Quote: "The ban stood for ten years, until August 2000, when...the Russians flew a commercial aircraft into Baghdad without permission from the United Nations or an inspection. This opened the floodgates. Iraq demanded that countries resume flying to Baghdad [DL note: an explicit demand to break the UN resolution] if they wanted a share of its oil-for-food contracts. [DL note: law or money, you pick], and since the Security Council did nothing, Iraq's trade partners fuly lined up. Jordan followed the Russian lead, followed by planes from Yemen, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, the UAE, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Ireland, Iceland, Greece, and France."
Should we take their legal arguments seriously? I take seriously their perceptions of national interest, France's apparent view that the US is more of a threat to be contained than a partner. But their legal arguments disguising narrow commercial interests are simple hypocrisy.
Final note. Any guesses as to why France and Russia might jump (appease is another word) to Saddam's cynical, lawless demand? Here's the answer, posted below with the source link from Drezner:
Oil for food revenues in 2001:
"France-- $650 million
China -- $225 million
Russia -- $220 million
U.K. -- $100 million
U.S.A. -- $50 million
This is just the official stuff -- it doesn't count illicit arms purchases or smuggling."
April 16, 2003
Ok, so I've done some carping about France's diplomacy, and about the US' diplomacy. But I never expected to see this penned by someone with such a mighty and usually mainstream pen (Thomas Friedman, NYT):
"There are many good reasons for the U.S. to promote reform or regime change in Syria, but we have no legal basis to do it now by military means and are not likely to try. Yet Syria, and countries like it, will be a problem, and we need a new strategic doctrine in the post-Saddam era to deal with them.
Let's explore this in detail. For me, the best argument for pressuring Syria is the fact that France's foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said on Sunday that this was not the time to be pressuring Syria. Ever since he blocked any U.N. military action against Saddam, Mr. de Villepin has become my moral compass: whatever he is for, I am against. And whatever he is against, I am for." [bolded by me, see: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/16/opinion/16FRIE.html ]
This is a devastating remark, and surely seems to indicate that things with France will not be getting better anytime soon. As Daniel Drezner argues: "You know France is screwed, however, when Tom Friedman writes this paragraph [the one I cited above]... Ouch" http://drezner.blogspot.com/2003_04_13_drezner_archive.html#92697066
It appears the French played a key role in building up Syria's dual/use pharmaceutical/chem weps capabilities, too. Things will go further downhill if/when the US publishes a paper on sanctions violations and other misdeeds found in Iraq (this may not happen if the US was too complicit. But, if we were 1-5% complicit, France and others range around 20%-35%+ more complicit. See below for more facts confirming this.
See also this on the informal, but apparently quite substantial, boycott of French goods: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A33986-2003Apr15.html
April 14, 2003
Syria: Uh Oh... This will get interesting... Where will the Iraqi elites fly to if (when) Syria pressures them to leave? Interesting twist on the 'where's the WMD?' story... If the US really knows where the stuff is in Syria, one might see a special operations mission (pure speculation, but it would remove the kinds of doubts that some harbor about the Iraq operation.
N Korea: new flexibility: perhaps the first 'peace dividend' of the Iraq War.
The looting of the Antiquities Museum: one of the worst historical tragedies in recent memory. Perhaps and probably worse than the destruction huge sculptures in the Afghan mountains.
Was there a plan to deal with looters? It sure seems not.
HERE's FROM A BRIEFING LAST FRIDAY, 4/12, w/Rumsfeld responding about looting. http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2003/tr20030411-secdef0090.html Lot of words, but this is essentially a NON-ANSWER (hint: clearly they were not ready for "catastrophic success"):
Q: Given how predictable the lack of law and order was, as you said, from past conflicts, was there part of General Franks' plan to deal with it? And --
Rumsfeld: Of course.
Q: Well, what is it?
Rumsfeld: This is fascinating. This is just fascinating. From the very beginning, we were convinced that we would succeed, and that means that that regime would end. And we were convinced that as we went from the end of that regime to something other than that regime, there would be a period of transition. And, you cannot do everything instantaneously; it's never been done, everything instantaneously. We did, however, recognize that there was at least a chance of catastrophic success, if you will, to reverse the phrase, that you could in a given place or places have a victory that occurred well before reasonable people might have expected it, and that we needed to be ready for that; we needed to be ready with medicine, with food, with water. And, we have been.
And, you say, "Well, what was it in the plan?" The plan is a complex set of conclusions or ideas that then have a whole series of alternative excursions that one can do, depending on what happens. And, they have been doing that as they've been going along. And, they've been doing a darn good job.
Q: Yes, but Mr. Secretary, I'm asking about what plan was there to restore law and order?
Rumsfeld: Well, let's just take a city. Take the port city, Umm Qasr -- what the plan was. Well, the British went in, they built a pipeline bringing water in from Kuwait; they cleared the mine of ports (sic); they brought ships in with food; they've been providing security. In fact, they've done such a lousy job, that the city has gone from 15,000 to 40,000. Now think of that. Why would people vote with their feet and go into this place that's so bad? The reason they're going in is because they're food, there's water, there's medicine and there's jobs. That's why. The British have done a fantastic job. They've done an excellent job.
And, does that mean you couldn't go in there and take a television camera or get a still photographer and take a picture of something that was imperfect, untidy? I could do that in any city in America. Think what's happened in our cities when we've had riots, and problems, and looting. Stuff happens! But in terms of what's going on in that country, it is a fundamental misunderstanding to see those images over, and over, and over again of some boy walking out with a vase and say, "Oh, my goodness, you didn't have a plan." That's nonsense. They know what they're doing, and they're doing a terrific job. Andm it's untidy, and freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things, and that's what's going to happen here.
After all the hubbub about going in with too few forces, etc., maybe this is where we are seeing a clearer price being paid: not enough forces to cover for looting, not enough forces to bring in aid into areas where there may be looting. And not even enough forces to guard suspected WMD sites, including major ones like the principal nuclear facility at Al Tuwaitha. None of this is excusable in a war of choice, however justified.
I foresee new plans and RFPs issued for armored humanitarian relief vehicles, that can penetrate riots and light arms fire.
For more on post-war plans for looting, and lack thereof, see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19587-2003Apr13.html Also, I heard on NPR, that archeologists (this one from the Oriental Inst in Chicago) had put the Antiquities Museum at the top of a list for US forces to protect, and had (tried to, anyway) circ this list to the US Govt and military.... So sad and angering....
Finally, here is a very angering editorial from Le Monde, in part (L'éditorial du Monde,
La troïka du refus, Samedi 12 avril 2003) at: http://www.lemonde.fr/recherche_articleweb/1,9687,316620,00.html?query=troika&query2=&booleen=et&num_page=1&auteur=&dans=dansarticle&periode=30&ordre=pertinence&debutjour=&debutmois=&debutannee=&finjour=&finmois=&finannee=&G_NBARCHIVES=770+728,
Le "camp de la paix" a pour lui la morale, la légalité, voire la raison. Les arguments qu'il a développés, parfois avec fougue, avant les hostilités, n'ont rien perdu de leur valeur. Pour régler les conflits internationaux, la guerre - qui, selon Kant, "crée plus de méchants qu'elle n'en supprime" - doit rester un ultime recours. Aucun pays, si puissant soit-il, n'a le droit de s'ériger en juge et en gendarme du monde. Le droit international doit être respecté. La lutte contre la prolifération des armes de destruction massive doit être menée selon des règles soutenues par l'ensemble de la communauté internationale, au moment où se profilent de vraies menaces, par exemple en Corée du Nord.
A ces arguments généraux s'ajoutent des craintes liées à la situation du Moyen-Orient. La tournure des événements en Irak ne les a pas apaisées. Bien au contraire. Le pays risque d'être ingouvernable, la région déstabilisée, le terrorisme encouragé, quand il s'agissait de l'éradiquer.
L'histoire donnera peut-être raison à la troïka du refus. En attendant, Jacques Chirac, Vladimir Poutine et Gerhard Schröder sont bien obligés d'admettre qu'ils ont échoué à empêcher la guerre. Ils sont contraints de se féliciter, mezza voce, de la chute d'une dictature à laquelle ils n'ont pas contribué. En continuant à se montrer intransigeants sur le rôle de l'ONU, ils risquent d'encourager Washington à se passer encore une fois de l'organisation internationale. Ce n'est pas dans leur intérêt puisque leur statut international dépend largement de leur siège au Conseil de sécurité.
Les dernières semaines ont montré qu'une posture morale ne garantit pas un succès diplomatique. Il ne s'agit pas de tomber dans la position cynique consistant à s'accommoder de la toute-puissance américaine. Mais la sagesse commande de renouer les fils du dialogue, de reconstruire une attitude européenne, de rechercher des compromis sans brader les principes. Ce serait certes plus facile s'il n'y avait à Washington une administration à la fois hautaine et autiste.
Briefly translated: the countries of the peace camp [ie the Three Countries of Refusal] have with them the morality, legality, and reason. Despite the outcome, all their arguments are still valid, and history may show this. Even though they have to give to thanks for the downfall of the dictator. And their continued intransigence at the UN may lead Washington to again bypass the UN. Which is not in their interest since they depend for much of their international stature on their Security Council seats [note: not clear here who Le Monde is speaking for here]. However, recent weeks have shown that moral superiority does not guarantee political success. But this doesn't mean that one should fall into a cynical position and give in to American power. Wisdom suggests renewing threads of dialogue, reconstructing a European view, and looking for compromise without sacrificing principles. This would be easier if the administration in Washington wasn't both haughty and autistic.
Oh my. Where to begin???? Le Monde wants to dialogue and compromise with a government they call autistic? Are not the French autistic, haughty, self-righteous, and unable to compromise themselves? Surely, the US is not immune from this criticism (see my "Pyrrhic" piece, although I do not stoop to insults), but Le Monde is so blind to France's own faults and cynical motivations that this editorial is incredible. France's position was partly moral, but, like the US, was mostly for security. Their security, they believe, lies in balancing against the US (even at the cost of appeasing Iraq and giving comfort to Saddam). And not one of their arguments against the war are undercut by the speedy success of the war, the relatively few casualties and refugees, the lack of uprising (so far) elsewhere, the cheering crowds, the torture chambers, etc. So far, the war is likely to have cost fewer lives than a short span of Saddam's tenure, and thus is a clear net humanitarian gain. As I argued against the war primarily because of potential negative side-effects, I feel chastened on this score. I'm glad to be wrong, so far, and I surely am not going around insisting I was right. If I felt I was completely right, no matter what (part of the Le Monde piece), I might feel illogical if I then said: maybe history will prove me right, another part of the Le Monde piece.
Bottom line: this is a very insulting, un-self aware, and somewhat illogical piece. If this is a reflection of French thinking as of this last weekend, it will be awhile before dialogue is constructive and compromises found. As I've said before, this is bad for us all. That is the logical side of me. Yet when I read this kind of thing from one of France's most sober newspapers, and then I hear the French pining away for Franco-UN role in the reconstruction, I think I hear a buzzing and I wonder where the off button is. I feel badly for saying that, but I feel betrayed. I fear the French are in deep denial. (and I fear US triumphalism and overconfidence)
And not without reason, see below on how the 'peace camp/refusal countries,' of France, GE, and Russ were the largest sellers of arms to Iraq through 1991 (by far, dwarfing the US and GB, who the left often say 'created' Saddam.) and how they were the biggest exporters to Iraq under oil for food during the 1990s. And more and more stuff is coming out about illegal Roland (from France) missiles built in 2002 being found in Iraq, etc. However, all these weapons reports are squishy, like the WMD reports to date, so we'll have to wait for them to settle down. Not to mention all of France's (and Russia's) oil agreements with Iraq, and the debt Iraq owes them... If you ever hear the French saying no war for oil (and thank goodness Le Monde did not say that, they said it wasn't on the US side, see below), what they mean is: if there is no war, we keep our oil contracts.
I surely have no doubts that the French have similar feelings about US motivations, etc. And in criticizing the French, I am not projecting the US' own failings - which are many - in order to ignore them (Le Monde needs a shrink on this score). I do not feel particularly morally superior, and war is at best a least worst choice. Yet, thanks in part to the Troika, so celebrated by Le Monde, the world faced a choice between a rehabilitated SH, and war. Sanctions were out as they were being so rapidly eroded and resisted by the Troika + China. Ahh, moral certainty and superiority.... Arrogant hypocrisy is more like it.
Truly final note: the Times of London and the Telegraph write that documents found in Bag indicate that the Russians were passing secrets about Britain (conversations held by Blair, etc) to the Iraqis right up the eve of the war. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,5944-645809,00.html ; http://www.opinion.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;$sessionid$YT33K430X0QWJQFIQMGSFGGAVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2003/04/13/wrus13.xml This will be incredible if verified. And, as the article notes, it is widely reported (thus probably true) that "two former Soviet generals who had been in Baghdad advising Saddam on his military strategy were decorated with military honours just before the war started, demonstrating the closeness of Iraqi-Russian military links."
Lesson: Do not confuse French, Russian, etc. motives for those of a sincere 'peace camp.' OTOH, do not underestimate the sincerity with which they may believe that their national interest lies in balancing against the US, or in just plain arms sales and military ties to whomever they wish. OTOH, do not overly reify the concept "international community" in 2003. Hopefully, in the future, but it is torn quite asunder right now.
Very latest update on the new French pragmatism. In wanting to look towards the future, and set aside differences with the US, while still promoting a central UN role in Iraq, France now says: ""Let us be pragmatic, let us start from the reality of the problems...and one will see that everybody will be able to find its place," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told reporters. "It is obvious that the U.S. administration has a role to play."" This is getting surreal. I'm sure the US will consider the French offer seriously. I can't help the sarcasm. Sorry.
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20030414/wl_nm/iraq_france_postwar_dc_2 (thanks to Cmd Post for the orig tip).
April 11, 2003
From Jonah Goldberg at http://www.nationalreview.com/thecorner/03_04_06_corner-archive.asp#007412:
"Andrew Sullivan has dug up an unbelievable quote about the Kiddie Gulag they found in Iraq. It's from Scott Ritter in an interview with Time magazine from last year:
"The prison in question was inspected by my team in Jan. 1998. It appeared to be a prison for children - toddlers up to pre-adolescents - whose only crime was to be the offspring of those who have spoken out politically against the regime of Saddam Hussein. It was a horrific scene. Actually I'm not going to describe what I saw there because what I saw was so horrible that it can be used by those who would want to promote war with Iraq, and right now I'm waging peace."
Parse the morality here: I saw an unspeakably horrible kiddie torture house. I could tell you about it, but that might result in people trying to do something about it. And, since that would not be peaceful, better I keep quiet and help perpetuate a regime which will torture more children. If this doesn't constitute peace-at-all-costs idiocy, I don't know what does. But the jerk is right about one thing, if I'd known about a chamber of horrors, I would have used the information to advocate doing something about it."
The same Scott Ritter oft quoted by the antiwar folks as saying Iraq was clean of WMD. If he squelched himself on child torture, might he have spun any findings on WMD in the cause of 'waging peace?'
On another note, the Democrats, with their fine instinct for the capillary on national security are toast if this keeps up: Said Pelosi defending her anti-war vote: "I have absolutely no regret about my vote on this war," she told reporters at her weekly briefing yesterday, saying the same questions still remain: "The cost in human lives. The cost to our budget, probably $100 billion. We could have probably brought down that statue for a lot less."
I dislike Bush domestically (and often w/FP too as my op-eds make clear), but so many Democrats just can't sound serious on security. Which is terrible, b/c if they could get credible on force, they would also bring a lot more FP wisdom to the table in terms of foreign aid, etc.
April 10, 2003, rd. 3
Update: April 11, 2003: On this nuclear stuff, it could well be overblown and sounds a lot like what the IAEA already knew. See: http://www.iaea.org/worldatom/Press/P_release/2003/prn0304.shtml esp the last para. A very troubling thing though is that apparently this site was left unguarded for an unknown period during the war, even after we captured the general area. !!! Do we need more troops/brains? Wow. Same for another poss chem/bio site that we found then left unguarded and it got looted... Whatever the case w/the plutonium, this find and the lack of security for it does suggest how easy it would be to make a dirty bomb. How many countries have huge amount of nuclear waste, or even smaller nuclear research reactors? Many US universities have nuclear research facilties....
If in fact weapons grade plutonium is found (see Command Post (via my website)), this will be a very sad day for the UN, bad for the NPT/IAEA, embarrassing for Baradei, weakening for multilateral efforts at arms control, and will raise many questions about where the stuff came from. Perhaps from Russia/Former Soviet Union (hopefully through theft and smuggling, not through condoned sources).
Thank goodness that no dirty bomb or worse, dep on quantity, came from it, so far, fingers crossed....
Maybe it will scare the xx out of us, spur more non-prolif efforts, more Nunn-Lugar program (50% of the nuclear materials in the former Sov Union are not well secured and even with NL, they won't be til around 2018), etc. Not to mention their huge bioweps efforts.... And maybe it will spur a war against Iran...
This could be huge in all directions...
How could Baradei have missed all those 14 'hot buildings' and underground complexes...???
However, lots of false/foggy reports so far, and nothing definitive still on the 20 poss chem rockets....the cyanide in the river, etc. So all the above may be hokey... But some of these details speak of near-certain radioactivity - of what though? http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,83821,00.html
April 10, 2003, rd. 2
Today at ND, Pax Christi, an ND pacifist group, has put up pictures of a gravely wounded little girl, wounded apparently by US forces. This is perhaps the biggest contribution of the peace movement, that it reminds us of the horrors of war, and by making war more costly, may reduce the overall frequency of war over time. I think of my own children when I see the picture they put up. I came to believe over time that the best things the arms control movement did (which I was part of in the 1980s with CDI and FAS) was to remind us all of the horrors of nuclear war, and thus perhaps bolster deterrence. Surely, the minor adjustments in force levels were of little significance (though it was good to stop some of the crazy land-robbing basing modes for the MX missile).
That said, force clearly can be used for good, even at some cost. And war does solve some problems. Saddam: good riddance. American Revolutionary War: good thing. Where were the posters for the 2 million some odd people Saddam killed? Why is our force for good (so far) critiqued when force for bad goes unremarked? Just as the antiwar movement asked why Iraq and not other countries with various ills (a fairly rebuttable critique, IMHO: SH = big threat + worst track record + removable at least cost + in a strategic area = best first target; ie he may not be biggest threat, but expected utility of removing SH is highest), so I ask why this girl's photo and not those of the 1k just killed in Congo, or of those killed by Saddam or the 100s of k or perhaps millions dead of regime-caused famine in NKor? One argument in favor of protesting against the US is that this is where US citizens may affect some or another government's policies the most. But in protesting against the US, protesters must surely know that they are not protesting against anywhere near the most evil government on the planet. Far from it. Go to Washington, and go protest at the embassies of, heck, take your pick: Russia (Chechnya), China (Tibet, etc), NKor, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Libya, etc., etc. Join Amnesty or Human Rights Watch, etc. etc. Or work for universal health care in the US. Finally, I say this not in pro-war gloating, as I wrote several op-eds against aspects of this war, and because the uncertainties of this war I believe were large enough to give legitimacy to many points on the spectrum.
The downfall of the Iraqi regime is cause for some celebration. However, Pax Christi is right to help remind us of the human cost of war, the fallibility of humans, and our hope for a peaceful future. I think they may be missing the complete picture however. I wonder if they realize all the good this war has done and could do. I also think you can not base policy on individual tragedies, but on what is the best overall way to reduce suffering and reduce dangers (USFP would be quite different if I had my way, FYI. This is more a justification for foreign aid, than for war, generally speaking - see my Arrogance of the Dogmatic Left and Right on my website for more on this).
And that leaves me with my final thought. It seems to me that the major task of the peace movement is to make sure that the US lives up to its word and helps rebuild Iraq. That it spends the money and time to do so. The view from Afghanistan does not bode well, so the movement's efforts could be well applied.
April 10, 2003
Headline of a story in today's LeMonde: "En Allemagne, les antiguerre sont bien embarrassés." Translation: In Germany, the antiwar movement is quite embarrassed.
http://www.lemonde.fr/article/0,5987,3208--316238-,00.html (fyi, this is more for irony ala France than a poke at the antiwar movement in general)
April 9, 2003
Quote of the Day: Tom Brokaw, NBC, about 12:07, paraphrase: "The Iraqi Information Minister is probably out there getting measured for a dress and looking for a taxi."
April 8, 2003, rd 2.
Chirac is now urging "wisdom" upon the US, and urges a strong role for the UN in reconstruction. The UN surely has several very good areas of functional specialization, and I am in general a UN supporter (heck, my manuscript is on how to improve UN PKOs...). However, I am deeply suspicious. I have seen no real evidence for US imperialism arguments, war for oil arguments, and other cynical economic arguments, as applied to the US. However much stronger economic arguments can be made about French, Russian, and Chinese motivations for appeasement at the UN, the undermining of sanctions, and their current support for a "strong UN role." Here is from Drezner, at http://drezner.blogspot.com/2003_03_30_drezner_archive.html#91786714, posted at 12:57:
"It's certainly true that the U.S. was friendly to Iraq during its war with Iran in the 1980's. However, relative to other states, we were positively standoffish. This chart of arms sales to Iraq from 1973-1990 makes it clear Saddam Hussein is a creation of Russia, China, and France [http://www.command-post.org/archives/002978.html, based on SIPRI data, DL]. Oh, here are the approximate figures for Iraqi imports from the permanent Security Council members for 2001, under the auspices of the Oil-for-Food program:
France-- $650 million
China -- $225 million
Russia -- $220 million
U.K. -- $100 million
U.S.A. -- $50 million
This is just the official stuff -- it doesn't count illicit arms purchases or smuggling.
U.S. culpability pales in comparison to France, Russia, and China. Saddam is their creature, not ours. Don't try arguing otherwise."
Sure, if Wisdom lies in giving France back a leading role in profiting from Iraq, they should have a large role....
Sartre, in Huis Clos, wrote "L'enfer, c'est les autres" or Hell is other people. And in the play he condemned 3 people who could not get along to live together. Perhaps Bush and Chirac should live together. And who would be the third?
I wish I wasn't so mad at France. Interests not anger should guide FP. Yet what have they done that is constructive on Iraq? Maybe if Iraq goes into a bloody mess, they will be vindicated. But not really. Their primary motivations were not so much peace, but trying to shackle the US, trying to maintain their economic ties to Iraq, and domestic politics. Riding the wave of anti-Americanism. This is not good for the EU, NATO, the UN, Atlantic ties, the war on terrorism, etc.
Allies: an April 4-5 poll in France: "Fifty-two percent want the U.S. and British soldiers to emerge victorious, with eight percent declaring they backed the Iraqi army. Altogether, 40 percent refused to choose between the two sides or gave no answer." http://www.command-post.org/archives/004644.html The headline says "Poll: French Oppose Iraq War but Want Coalition Win" but this doesn't make me feel too good. I would add the word "barely" at the end.
April 8, 2003
Phrase of the day: "if you can't sell a war against Saddam, you are a loser."
If the war does indeed end soon, then things may get heady for the Bush admin. However, they should never forget this: if you can't sell a war against Saddam, you are a loser. They should ask themselves why their diplomacy is a broad failure, and learn accordingly.
If the Bush admin 'gets it', ie learns any lessons about constructive FP from all the difficulties trying to raise a coalition against Saddam and from many thinking Bush is a greater threat than Saddam, then the first sign will be a real push on Israel-Palest peace, perhaps tying aid to Israel with a halt in settlements. Not just mumbling about a roadmap if x, y conditions, but sending a real signal. They could pressure on the settlements, perhaps even get withdrawals from some, while still letting Israel retaliate if terrorism continues.
What the heck is Chalabi doing running around in S Iraq with hundreds of loyalist troops? How did he get there? With whose permission? What does it mean? Are we supporting him and not saying so? His presence is being reported matter a factly, but there are some huge questions here.
Why are civilian deaths pretty low despite huge numbers of bombs dropped? Despite the images of blasts on Bag, most bombs are targeting Iraqi forces. This will become clearer with time and certainly explains why there has been so little resistance. Civilian casualties will go up if the Bag fighting continues, and if things get tough in the North.
What are the increasingly loud mumblings about us now entering WW IV? Sounds like it is liberal free enterprise democracies against Muslim extremism. My first reaction and hope is that this is a battle of ideas to be fought with ideas and foreign aid and constructive policies. I hope the Bush Admin does not think only of force. I hope the wrong lessons aren't learned from the Iraq war. I can not believe things will always be this easy (and the hard political part has yet to begin), or that we won't get overstretched, or that one day enough of this will not in the end topple nuclear-armed Pakistan with a fundamentalist uprising (the biggest and most serious danger posed by any section of the Arab "street").
Let's not get cocky. This will not always be true of our opponents: "Saddam's war plan, if he had one, must be reckoned one of the most inept ever designed." From John Keegan, eminent military historian at: http://www.portal.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml;$sessionid$QFYXVYT1URNHPQFIQMGCFFWAVCBQUIV0?xml=/opinion/2003/04/08/do0801.xml&sSheet=/portal/2003/04/08/ixportal.html. PS: you can get to that link via this one: http://www.command-post.org/archives/004616.html
Perhaps one side benefit of the end of the post-Cold War peace and order honeymoon will be a revitalization of the fields of political, diplomatic, and military history. Keegan and his wisdom surely inspire on that score.
Of course, Bush's diplomatic failures do not excuse the obstinance and appeasement policies of the French and others. Who continue to irritate. Today, there was a cartoon in LeMonde with a US soldier remarking on the opulence of Saddam's Palaces. Another soldier replied that it makes one think of the English Monarchy. Say What??!! Does this even make sense? Moral equivalence between the two? Which is a democracy that can decide how much money the monarchy gets and what political roles it plays? And does England build palaces while its citizens starve? France: listen up: the Brits are your pals in the coalition. It might not be good to be kicking England in the teeth with idiotic cartoons.
That all said, let me repeat: I hope that we can tie things together with those with whom we share common values. Here are two values, Liberty and Love, as brought to us from George McGovern: "For their part, the House of Representatives has censured the French by changing the name of french fries on the house dining room menu to freedom fries. Does this mean our almost sacred Statue of Liberty--a gift from France--will now have to be demolished? And will we have to give up the French kiss? What a cruel blow to romance." Indeed. At: http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20030421&s=mcgovern
Blair is a hero in all of this. Far more articulate than Bush, and far more credible on the legal and humanitarian arguments for war. Hopefully, the political aftermath of the war will go OK. If so, Blair will look very noble...
Democrats: still as lame as ever, with perhaps the exception of Kerry. All the questioning of patriotism, of loyalty to the commander and chief, that accompanies many critiques has gone overboard. However, articles are beginning to appear showing examples of republican doing the exact same when Clinton used force. Few things anger like self-righteous hypocrisy.
NKor, Ind/Paki: still bubbling on the map and not getting better....
Finally, looking at a map after Bag Intl Airport was taken, I thought: wouldn't it be a great next step to head East down the big road toward downtown Bag, take some palaces and declare victory. No, I thought. Too risky. Can't support the supply lines... over and out from this armchair nerd.
April 7, 2003
Lots new, but the facts are speaking for themselves. It will be interesting what will be found. Tons of tunnels. Lots of gold faucets in the Palaces... while citizens died during the sanctions. It makes me mad.... More and more nibble stories on WMD finds: barrels here, 20 rockets there. Good news, but still amounts not large enough for major headlines. Considering SH had 10s of thousands of arty shells, etc., the finds should be so huge as to be beyond any possibility of 'lost' munitions. Not that a military/police state that cares more about WMD than its people should be losing too many WMD...
Some nuggets on French support of Saddam: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,482-637292,00.html In the long term, it will be mutually beneficial for the West to be more unified, but .... See the very last para in the blog for more. It will be interesting to see if states act more on emotion or interest here. Assuming my reading of interests is right, we should see rapprochement. We have lots in common and are surely stronger together than apart. That said, others might see a French state interest in balancing against the US, but this will likely split the EU. However, if emotion dictates, we will see revenge by the US against France and continued French glee at opposing the US... Not good.
Some books that influenced the Bush Admin's thinking on the war: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/05/arts/05WARB.html?ex=1050679793&ei=1&en=351ca9e7e394ce20 Some roots in political philosophy. Maybe we'll read Cohen's book in my Great Books class in the Spring...
Turkey reiterates conditions under which it might enter Iraq in force...conditions like Kurds moving into Mosul and Kirkuk and the surrounding oil fields. Things that seem to be happening right now. Not good.
April 2, 2003
It is amazing how much the Bush administration angers people. First, we can't sell a war against Iraq and more people in the world think Bush is a threat than Saddam. Quite a feat. Second, the backlash against Rumsfeld is amazing, and so quick in the war, when things are basically going pretty well. (See Gideon Rose article at the Slate.com.) This does not bode well when it comes time to reconstruct Iraq. Will the people trust and admire the Bush administration? That so few in the world do, is itself a national security threat. And it does not allow for rosy predictions for Iraq.
Why are the generals and other troops, esp from the Army, attacking Rumsfeld and the 'plan' with such vigor? A. It could be that they are really scared on the military level, they fear losses, delays, or extra costs due to insufficient troops and materiel. These would be patriotic objections, and would serve the cause if this was the only way to get by what might be Rumsfeld's deaf ear. B. It could be CYA in case the plan goes down and the war turns messy and long. But this seems way premature. C. Or it could be bureaucratic politics, b/c Rumsfeld has pissed off the Army and the Army is or is slated to be the chief loser in the budget and procurement battles. If B or C are the motivations, we will have to have a debate about who is doing the most to undercut unity of effort in prosecuting the war: the anti-war folks or the anti-Rumsfeld folks, esp those in uniform. Not good form. (I'm not vindicating Rumsfeld here at all; the complaints are so numerous, from so many sources, that they seem on target. As I've said before, if you are conducting a war of choice and you do not start with overwhelming ground power, something is terribly wrong somewhere. Now, we could win next week, but that does not excuse thinness on the ground and a weak Northern Front.)
We could win tomorrow, and this comment would still be right. The trouble is that if we win tomorrow, Rumsfeld might feel vindicated, the wrong lessons might be learned and the Powell overwhelming force doctrine junked. Bad, in my view. What is wrong with overwhelming force if you have it? Here is the comment: "I'm a professor of national security studies, and I know a lot more about fighting than he does," General McCaffrey, who led a mechanized infantry division during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, said of Mr. Rumsfeld. "The problem isn't that the V Corps serving officers are commenting or that retired senior officers are commenting on television. The problem is that they chose to attack 250 miles into Iraq with one armored division and no rear-area security and no second front." http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/02/international/worldspecial/02CAPI.html
For the record, I think most, probably the vast majority, of the anti-war folks are patriotic. In particular, I respect arguments about the security impacts of the war on US and world security. These debates and arguments are constructive criticism. "War for oil," "War does not solve anything," and other such arguments ranging from untrue to snide hooey are not constructive, but who cares (well, I do, and I'd love to talk about and debate the various arguments for and against the war with a whole spectrum of analysts and advocates. The arguments on all sides are complex; and even if war for oil arguments are hooey, so many people believe them, that they should be confronted and discussed. I would also like to discuss when peace movements actually help cause peace or help cause war. Again, very complex.).
The genius of the embedded reporter system is not so much that it co-opts the reporters and turns them into pro-military - types. It is that the chaos of information it generates must be driving Saddam and his commanders nuts. (600 reporters) X (Lots of bias in all directions) = chaos. A mild example is to compare the headlines/frontpages/websites of the anti-war NYT and the pro-war Wash Post. Are we facing stiff difficulties (NYT, often) or are things going OK (WP, often)? Who would know? And these are the two most reputable papers in the land. Embeds = brilliant idea.
North Korean situation might be ameliorating... see: http://drezner.blogspot.com/ But, there has been an uptick in negative reports about Pakistani behavior and its links to North Korea... are we beginning to hear the startup for a nomination for a fourth member of the "Axis of Evil?"
De Genova and his type, that is another matter. He is inhumane, and I have emailed the President of Columbia my views and forwarded that email to DeGenova. Search for De Genova at: http://www.blogsofwar.com/archives/week_2003_03_30.html to find out how. See more on De Genova at this Blog "http://drezner.blogspot.com/" which says ""A Columbia University professor told an anti-war gathering that he would like to see 'a million Mogadishus' -- referring to the 1993 ambush in Somalia that killed 18 American servicemen. At Wednesday night's 'teach-in' on the Columbia campus, Nicholas De Genova also called for the defeat of U.S. forces in Iraq (news - web sites) and said, 'The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military.' And he asserted that Americans who call themselves 'patriots' are white supremacists." Posted 10:30 am Mon 3/31/03.
April 1, 2003
Things the Iraqis have not done: A. Blown up or moved several huge weapons caches prior to capture; B. Blown bridges; C. Blown many oil wells; D. Large scale forward movement/attacks by Iraqis. Is this due to inability to get or follow instructions? Coalition skill and luck?
Reports that Iraq has no centralized command structure may be overblown. How can this be true and still have Iraqi RG forces moving from the North of Bag to reinforce the South?
Civilian Casualties: This site has between 481 and 640 civilian dead for all of 2003 (this includes about 15 dead in pre-war airstrikes): http://www.iraqbodycount.net/bodycount.htm. This is a complex issue, and each death is tragic. However sad, one can not be paralyzed and avoid policy analysis or attempts to get perspective. Here are some thoughts: The amount of civilian casualties will get worse as the fighting gets worse. Full scale urban combat is dangerous for all concerned, and is made worse by Iraqi use of human shields, soldiers dressed like civilians, etc. We will never know the source of all the civilian deaths at the end of the war, but it may well be that Iraq is responsible for the majority. We have no choice (other than to not start the war - too late for that) except to adjust rules of engagement to protect our forces from truck bombs, suicide bombers, etc. Thus, there will be a spiral of increasing civilian casualties driven by Iraqi tactics, and urban warfare. Much as we would like to dampen this spiral for political and humanitarian reasons, we can not. Expect some large scale disasters which will make the marketplace bombings look small. Do not push the war button without expecting a mess. No country in the world could or would conduct this war with more concern for civilian casualties. We have dropped some 8000 PGMs and fired 700 cruise missiles. This is 1 civilian dead (8700/550) for every 15.5 bombs/missiles. This figure implies that all the civilians died from aerial causes, but since some or many of the civilian deaths resulted from ground combat, aerial accuracy is even greater. While tragic, the idea that this is any systematic extermination is absurd. We would have to be the world's worst targeters if civilian death was the intent. Instead, we are clearly remarkable targeters. But again, worse is likely yet to come. I am also working on trying to figure out how many Iraqis die per day due to the sanctions. April 7, 2003Update: For some critical commentary on Iraqbodycount.com and its roots in Marc Herold's methods, see: http://www.oxblog.blogspot.com/2003_03_02_oxblog_archive.html#90358490 and http://drezner.blogspot.com/2002_11_03_drezner_archive.html#83988066 Drezner highlights a claim (here: http://drezner.blogspot.com/2003_04_06_drezner_archive.html#92117846) that Iraqbodycount is giving civilian casualty numbers higher than given by Iraqi government. FYI: the left claimed higher numbers than the North Vietnamese during the Christmas bombings as well.
We are seeing a few more areas secured, a few more liberation celebrations, and a bit more cooperation from locals in smoking out Iraqi forces.
Readers should take a look at the book/movie Black Hawk Down to see what 'modern' urban combat can look like. However, I think there were more human shields and kids in combat in reality than as depicted in the movie.
The situation with Syria is very serious. If they are aiding Iraqis in the war, and sending thousands of volunteer fighters across the border is a fairly big deal, then they are quite close to being formal allies with Iraq, and we are quite close to being at war with Syria.
Humanitarian aid may be stalled b/c Umm Qasr is still too risky to offload ships with aid, and this could last a couple of weeks... Shouldn't we have many trucks in Kuwait waiting to come into secure areas? One of my major themes: why have a war of choice in which this kind of stuff is not figured out?
Good for the US: to criticize 14 (out of now 49) of its coalition members for human rights violations. We also said North Korea's human rights situation is worse than Iraq's. Why the comparison? http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2905941.stm And what bureaucratic weirdness led us to accuse the Palestinians of not building enough ramps for the handicapped?
Korea: still bubbling; much paranoia (justified fear?) in the North. Why can't the US find a way to fudge a one on one meeting: meet multilaterally, then steal away to a side chamber? We could adopt the tough phrase: "we'll talk with anyone, and concede to no one." Of course, the way we've painted things, talking would be a concession at this point. This is the path-dependent way things get worse and lead to conflict in IR.
The Domino Theory (DT) in the MidEast: one neocon rationale for the war in Iraq is that if we can install a democracy in Iraq, then democracy will spread in the MidEast, bringing security and liberal values to all. The DT is as old as politics: no one wants to back down or concede anything, for fear of losing credibility and then incurring chains of successive losses. Anyone who makes credibility arguments is believing in the DT. So let's call the main DT this: Credibility DT. This is what we feared if we pulled out of SE Asia or lost the Vietnam war: the combination of our loss of credibility combined with communist forces would lead to the progressive takeover of SE Asia by communists. Not impossible to envision, but it didn't happen - in part due to Chinese and Russian balancing (not monolithic communism). What is the greatest chain of events linked to the DT? The fall of communism and spread of democracy in Eastern Europe that ended the Cold War. In some ways, this happened b/c the Soviets 'lost credibility' by pulling out from Eastern Europe and no longer stomping on uprising. But phrasing it this way shows that credibility clouds the real cause: the Soviets took their boots off the neck of the Eastern Europeans, and this was the permissive condition to flee their oppressors and adopt the ways of their successful neighbors to the West. So we will call this version of DT: Lift the Boot DT. Note that it worked well in fairly advanced and educated Eastern Europe, but lifting the boot in Yugoslavia with its ethnic history and less advanced capabilities for self governance led to centrifugal forces and much violence. What kind of DT do the neocons propose for the ME? Neither of these two. They want to start a fire with force, and then hope the ideas spread. So we will call this: Wildfire of Ideas DT. Is this credible? Dubious. On a general level, the answers to many questions do not seem go in favor of Wildfire of Ideas DT for the MidEast: how prepared are they for self-governance? Mixed bag at best due to poverty, inequality, lack of experience, etc. How much do they want Western style democracy? Not sure on this one. Will extant regimes want democracy? Nope. Will toppling extant regimes by their own people lead to stability and/or democracy? A huge bet. Could the Wildfire of Ideas instead be some form of anti-Western government, fundamentalism, etc.? Possibily. Etc. Etc. This war is one huge bet in general, and the odds of the Wildfire of Ideas being a possible thing, and a good thing, are long indeed.
March 31, 2003
Phrase of the Day: Just because things are not going according to plan does not mean things are going badly.
The Allies: "But Turkey turned its back on the US for reasons that have to do with more than simple baksheesh. Though no Turkish politician will speak for the record, a number of media sources have published accounts of German and French threats that should Turkey side with America against Saddam, the doors of the European Union would be closed to it for ever." http://www.opinion.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2003/03/31/do3101.xml
As if the Euros want Turkey in the EU in the first place. Turkey is in bad shape now re friends and neighbors. With no Cyprus deal, EU membership odds are slim, as they were anyway as accession is resisted by so many in Europe. And they have really angered the US. If and as the war becomes a mess, the more the US will blame the Turks for preventing the 4thInf Div from coming in and creating a credible Northern front (some reports indicate that in fact Iraq is redeploying RG forces to the South, b/c there is nothing pinning them up North).
I thought my visions that Iran and Syria might be next (see way below) might be a bit paranoid, and I haven't really developed the thought other than telling friends to look out for telltale diplomacy paving the way, such as accusing Iran or Syria of messing in the Iraq war, stirring up trouble, etc. Now, diplomatic warnings to not mess in the war do make good sense, but perhaps it is a bit ominous to hear things like this from Powell: ""Syria faces a critical choice," he said. "(It) can continue direct support for terrorist groups and the dying regime of Saddam Hussein or it can embark on a different and more helpful course." And his message to Iran went further. Not only did he say that "Iran (must) end its support for terrorism", but he added: "Tehran must stop pursuing weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them."" Rumsfeld has called Syrian arms shipments into Iraq a "hostile act."
Quite a set of warnings: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2902943.stm
Another telltale: the extent of commanders' worries may be judged if we must rush reinforcements into the Iraq. We are beginning to do that in a mild way by flying and not sailing the 2nd ACR to Iraq: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/31/international/worldspecial/31DEPL.html. Further activation of the CRAF would be another and more significant sign (military use of commercial airlines). UPDATE: April 1, 2003: CRAF is still at and will be extended at Stage 1, but not escalated so far: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/01/international/worldspecial/01FLEE.html
How come they don't blow this stuff before capture, or put delay timers on it? ""The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force seized a large weapons cache, about 40 buildings worth, containing ammunition, chemical decontamination equipment...chemical suits and unidentified artillery munitions," Brigadier General Vincent Brooks told a Central Command briefing in Qatar." http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/31/international/worldspecial/31wire-chemical.html
March 28, 2003, updated
Situation: Marines coming up slowly SE of Bag; 3rd Inf came up fast to RG perimeter around Bag; 101st largely in place West of Bag; Basra going very slowly; US accuses Syria of supplying arms to Iraq and call it a "hostile act."
Rumors: Saddam selling valuables and preparing to leave for exile at a moment's notice. Sniff test: why is he selling stuff when his net worth maybe close to $2 billion?; Iraqi forces leaving Kirkuk... good if fleeing to not fight, bad if fleeing to fight for Bag.
Good signs: fast advance - except by Marines SE of Bag; few US or Iraqi civ casualties so far, including after some huge firefights; oil wells in South largely intact; Turkey has been tamed for now; no huge refugee flows and reports that many Iraqis have good stockpiles of food; So long as the RG are not in the cities, that is good for us b/c we can destroy them with relatively little cost to us or to civilians; Humanitarian aid is beginning to flow.
Bad signs: some Iraqis are fighting hard (b/c loyalty or b/c forced to by threats? Former bad for US; latter bad for all, but esp them - and which could explain the suicidal and lopsided firefights); surrenders are not yet massive, but some may need contact w/allied forces for their own safety they surrender; widespread reports that coalition underestimated extent of resistance, that this sort of resistance was not war-gamed etc. (but hard to tell if this is of much effect on campaign yet); Despite ambushes, MIAs, etc., the only serious blow to date is the Apache helicopter attack in which we lost a helicopter, almost all the rest were shot up, and few attacked their assigned targets.
Unknowns: Northern oil fields; Battle of Bag; WMD. We do not know a lot: for example, the 120 vehicle Iraqi leaving Basra shrunk to 3 in some stories, and there were claims of 14 tanks killed in others.
Big Decisions to Come: Will we go into Bag or besiege it as Rumsfeld suggested yesterday? Will we possibly delay Bag and go into Southern cities to secure the rear? My take: we may not have the chance to delay entry into Bag if the humanitarian situation sours. This is motivating the Brits to pick up the pace on Basra, and may force us to pick up pace not just in Bag but also simultaneously in the Southern cities.
Biggest Factors upon Which This Thing Will Turn: Will there be tough urban combat in Bag? Will Saddam gas or otherwise will many of his own citizens?
Perspective Helps: A. Iraqis claim 350 civilian casualties, but even if this is not an incorrect high end estimate and does not include Iraqis killed by their own bombs (anti-air, or things more intentional) this is only 1 for each of the nearly 5000 (600+4300) missiles and guided bombs dropped. I think of my own kids when I think of civilian casualties, but on the black to grey scale which is the horror of war, this is incredible accuracy and discriminate target selection. That said, one should expect accidents as well as much more difficulties in target selection, especially if we have to do things like destroy tanks in cities. B. The war is really only a week old (since ground forces started moving in), and the big picture is that things are going pretty well for now. Shock and Awe built up expectations, but keep in mind expectations had to be blown up for it to work. So why not try it? If it had worked, it would have saved lots of lives. Now that it hasn't (though who knows what effect the bombing has had; might a coup happen anytime? Who knows?), we have to adjust expectations and settle down. The uncertainties are huge, and things could break in lots of ways for good or ill. Beware the doomsayers or blind optimists.
Puzzles: A. Why is Iraqi radio and TV working so well? I'm no expert, but I thought the ninja jammers and broadcasters in the Commando Solo planes could take care of some of this... What have they been doing? No stories there... B. How will we be able to tell the Kurds to leave Kirkuk and Mosul once they have spilled blood to secure these cities? C. Why aren't we dropping MREs (packaged meals) like we did in Afghanistan? B/c the people do not need it? What would be the political/humanitarian/military consequences of dropping MREs? D. Why would we drop huge bunker busters on communications towers? What is under the towers?
Interesting Theory: maybe the US/coalition is pretending to have a tough time in order to draw out the RG and crush them...(found on this blog: http//sheepfreezone.blogspot.com/; this and some other good blogs are now linked on my website)
Diplomatic sideshows: US has made it a national military priority to find Russian made (since 1994) Kornet antitank missiles which apparently can penetrate US M-1 tank armor from two miles. Lots of political implications re sanctions violations, Russian exports...; Blair is doing hero's work trying to get Bush to push harder for Isr-Palest peace and thinking ahead to the diplomacy of reconstruction.
Off the radar, but of crucial importance: A. North Korea; B. State of fundamentalism in Pakistan and violence in India - Paki is thankfully calmer than expected, while India is hotter than most are aware.
March 27, 2003
Still no news on the Northern oil wells...still violence in India (a drive by assassination of a former minister), and North Korea still continues to create problems. NK: driven by fear, wanting to bargain, what?
Why are Iraqi units moving out of Basra and becoming targets, and why Southwards? So far as I can tell, things are not going too badly for them within the city. The rebellion has not materialized in force, and the Brits have not entered in force. Perhaps they are making a mad dash to torch the oil fields... The suicidal courage of some Iraqi attacks is worrying.
"During the first six days of Iraqi Freedom, the US fired 600 Tomahawk cruise missiles and more than 4,300 precision-guided bombs....Iraq's health minister says that about 350 people have been killed and 3,600 injured since the start of US-led military strikes." <<http://www.iiss.org/>> Assuming the minister is referring to civilians, and assuming his numbers are accurate (a big assumption), this is one civilian death per 14 missiles/bombs, and about 1 casualty (killed plus wounded) per bomb/missile.
Chemical weapons: not much of threat to our troops. They are well equipped to protect themselves. And how will large amounts of chemicals be delivered? Airplane: there are no reports to date of a single Iraqi aircraft trying to take off, and the odds of one getting close to our troops is low. Artillery: they may get off a few shots, but our counterbattery fire will take out the shooters after one or two shots. So large amounts will be hard to deliver via arty. At least that is what we are capable of, if our arty and radars are up. A surprise arty attack on our rear might be a different story, but even then our chem gear is good and will work (save for some in the showers). It took one ton of chemical weapons to cause one death in WWI. Perhaps the worst effect of a chem attack will be that we relax our rules of engagement (de facto if not de jure), and this increases our willingness to cause civilian casualties during engagements. In terms of helping justify the war and world opinion, use of chemical weapons by Iraq would redound to the coalition's benefit, if civilians do not die. The other side of the coin is that if the war is messy, it is bad for us.
The real fear is chem use by Saddam on his own people. This could kill many civilians. A tragedy, and one that has not prevented Saddam from using chems in the past. One horrifying possibility: there are some two million Shiites living in Bag and many of them live in the fairly well segregated neighborhood of Saddam City... Saddam could attack them without alienating his 'base.'
What of the aftermath? The US must not appear to be imperialist. Critics really mean neo-imperialist in which we would get the control and benefits of control without actually controlling in a strict colonial sense. In any case, all Iraqi oil assets should be nationalized. And this nationalized oil company should (and must to get anything done) give binding, long term but finite contracts to oil companies to bring its facilities up to speed (call it: buy/lease). These companies should be worldwide companies. The US should get a fair smattering. The French should get enough to say that they didn't get nothing. The Russians should get enough to bring them around, if they are willing to be brought around to supporting the new US/Iraq, and at a reasonable price (I'd say the same for the French, but I think they have dug too deep a hole for themselves). But this is all piddly politics; my main gripe is that the French who had agreements if not contracts for 25% of Iraq's prewar oil...should not be rewarded for supporting Saddam, and making the war more likely through appeasement, and making the war more costly for the US and its participating allies.
We really have to rethink our policies, and so do the French. We deserve to be balanced against. The US has combined incredible power with arrogance and belligerence to match. No wonder others fear us. They fear us so much that they would rather oppose on Saddam than agree with us. Just amazing. I hope the Bush administration is introspective enough to do something about this threat they have helped create to US national security. Something is wrong when so many oppose us. Is this obvious?
On the other hand, those who think the US is fundamentally evil, who create moral equivalence, or who somehow support the Iraqi regime should think about this: what if Saddam controlled the present day US? GET REAL.
The US has tons of faults, and should make up for them and apologize and live by and promote (sincerely) its own values. But for a great power, we are way on the good side of the greyscale. We are no longer and not very predatory. Colin Powell is mostly right that for the last 100+ years: when we spend lives on foreign lands, all we ask in terms of land is burial plots. Unlike so many dictators, we do not systematically kill or torture our own people. (The racial and other flaws in US criminal justice and the application of the death penalty are bad but they pale beside the rape and torture chambers in Iraq, gassing of Kurds, slaughter of Marsh Arabs, etc.)
However, we are often expedient in foreign lands, and we whitewash our histories with others. I have thought a bit lately about how not befriend temporary allies and end up having it haunt us. Some allies, or at least people we have aided, include bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. It was perfectly reasonable to help someone against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. And perhaps understandable why we supported someone who started a war against Iran, b/c Iran had overturned our Shah and held many US citizens hostage... I think there will always be motivations and good reasons to befriend the enemy of our enemies, but I think the best available cure to blowback is to also think in the longterm. Many bad decisions seem to be afflicted by the short term bug. It is good to embed decisions into a long term strategy, and resist the temptation to say if it kicks the can down the road now, that is good enough. Maybe that is not good enough. If you have people in your pocket, use the pocket to promote long term values and policies...
A main way to fix anti-US sentiment is to twist arms and create a Palestinian state. Indeed, if Arab/Muslim resentment really rises (we'll see how long the war lasts, etc., etc.), the US may be forced to essentially break Israel's arm and threaten to cut off aid to create a Palest state. Israel can't sustain the flow of oil. Calming Arabs might. However, instead of, or perhaps accompanying this should be 10s of billions offered to buy out most of the Israeli settlers. If this helped a peace agreement, it would be pennies on the dollar in terms of US security bought. The other side of this coin is that if we help create in good faith a Palest state, and the Palests screw something up (like still using terrorism as policy and wanting to eliminate Israel), then build high walls and try to bring them along with carrots and sticks.
I do not believe, BTW, that this is a war for oil. Most oil stocks are down, and so are energy indices. Halliburton is doing ok, and oil service indices are doing slightly less well. What does this mean? Perhaps that Halliburton does very well what will be needed after this war: they do. Or perhaps that some think they have an inside pipeline: they do. But overall, if this is a war for oil it is b/c when Saddam has oil, it turns into weapons, war, and WMD. The Bush Admin is scared of Saddam and WMD much more than it want to enrich its already deep pockets. There is plenty of smoking gun evidence for this contention, and only correlational evidence for the oil for war theory. War for oil: what is the logic: Pumping more oil from Iraq will lower oil prices, benefitting which oil companies? A good economic conspiracy theorist would say this is a war for SUV manufacturers, but I haven't seen that yet (for good reason....). And, as cited below, even Le Monde says this is not a war for oil. Good enough for me.
That said, a steady oil flow is good for the world, and those who think otherwise are mistaken. Economic downturns kill people in the developing world, when the many who live on a dollar a day or worse are pushed into below subsistence existences. And the way out of environmental problems is not economic stagnation to freeze emissions, and so forth. The way out is enough economic prosperity, combined with enough governmental investment, pressure, and investment incentives to create the new technologies from solar cells to recycling to reduce the human impact on the planet. It isn't illegitimate to want oil stability in the Middle East, and to think that in the medium future Saddam might threaten that stability. Stability is good for all, for Arab and Rest of World economies. It is just too bad that the US is not pursuing more active efforts to reduce dependence on oil itself.
March 26, 2003
Latest: We are slowing up on Baghdad and securing our lines and the cities to the South. This will perhaps allow time for at least some elements of the 4th Inf division to deploy, and 2+ armored divs are still to deploy. The 101st appears to be staging West of Bag. To do what? How will airmobile be used? Still little news from the North, its oilfields, etc. Except that the Kurdish/US attack does not appear to be happening, and Iraq is sending more fedayeen/rep guards into Northern areas to create more of the trouble they are doing down South. Time=trouble for us. The good news is that one or two RG divs are appearing to be moving South, yes South, away from Bag and towards the US. This may be a sign of overconfidence, and if they move, they will be killed. And it is even better that they are not moving North into Bag.
Before the war and as it opened, some commentators on the right were wondering if the days of the Powell doctrine were coming to an end. While that doctrine recommends overwhelming force when entering into combat, critics suggested that lighter, more nimble and precise forces would be sufficient to do the job. Of course, the right would like to take Powell down, but on the substance, one must wonder how the doctrine could possibly be wrong. There should be overwhelming force available, if not used. Especially in a war of choice when one can plan the timing on one's own terms. Hopefully well planned. But as my several op-eds on my site make clear, I do not think the planning (esp humanitarian and diplomatic) was very good - as the breakdown in the bargaining with the Turks makes clear. And that bargaining was and is continuing... And I'm curious about the military assumptions in the planning.
Overwhelming force would help greatly in force-on-force battles, and would help secure supply lines and help prevent ambushes from the scrubrush flanks, but what can overwhelming force do if this thing turns into guerilla warfare within the cities? Unless there are some dramatic developments, that will be the difficult question in the coming days. As Basra makes clear, the going will be very tough if we face human shields (I can't help but think of the internal horror the noble-minded but naive anti-war human shields must think of their actions when they see what human shields really mean to Saddam and his forces), forces that are hard to tell from civilians, forces that kill their own people (and some doing that dressed in US uniforms).
Overwhelming force (mostly more tanks, arty, helos, plus more soldiers) will be of some help in the cities, but the crucial factor upon which things will turn is if we get the support of the locals. They can best tell us where to look, who the bad guys are, etc. They may even do some of the fighting. Of course, we have to trust and verify when they give us tips (remember Afghanistan: lots of false or self-interested tips). And if we help arm and mobilize our own counter-guerillas, this may make our control of the locals tougher in the aftermath, and will help sow the seeds for separatist movements in the Shiite and Kurdish populations. The Kurds are pretty well armed and activated as is, so this concern is mostly for the South.
And our ability to mobilize the locals is underwhelming so far. In part due to suppression of the population by in place fedayeen and other armed forces of the Iraqi regime, but also because we incited rebellion after the first Gulf War, then did not follow up ourselves and tens of thousands of Shiites and others were killed. Finally, many Iraqis blame the US for the sanctions instead of their own regime. It is hard to blame them, and the Iraqis are also fed the propaganda of Saddam about the sanctions, and this message is reinforced by the anti-sanctions movements in the West. These movements had some legitimate gripes about US implementation of the sanctions, but also helped contribute to the strategic dilemma that caused this war. They contributed to the impending rehabilitation of Saddam. The dilemma is the choice created by a soon to be rehabilitated Saddam: whether we should choose war now, or, based on his track record, have the horrors of his proliferating and killing ways return. Both are sad, horrible, and risky. One bottom line: Saddam chose sanctions and the deaths of his own people over UN-mandated disarmament.
There are many ironies re the sanctions here: it would be perhaps ideal if some smart sanctions regime could be implemented which would limit sanctions to only more direct military items, and open up the Iraqi economy while also limiting illegal oil sales (which feed Saddam directly, his weapons and his purse - his people starve while his own net worth is reported to be nearing $2 billion). The Win Without War folks have a good idea: keep Saddam in his box, help the Iraqi people, and avoid the risks and damage of war. 'Peace' with Saddam in power has risks, but the main point is that the middle course between peace and war (sanctions) won't work in the real world. President Bush came into office proposing smart sanctions (Irony!). It was resisted by China, France, and Russia, and ultimately vetoed by Russia. So the middle path between Saddam's rehabilitation and war is politically impossible (which is also why Michael Walzer is wrong, on a practical level, in his recent New York Review of Books article on this). Why the Bush admin didn't make more of this in the leadup to war is puzzling. Maybe they hoped to get Russia, China, France on board for the war, so did not want to attack them as rehabilitators who had been assiduously hacking away and undermining the sanctions for years...
March 25, 2003
As the allies (mostly British) go into Basra, I just want to say a most profound Thank You to the Brits for being our allies and partners. It looks to be a tough fight, and your efforts are appreciated.
An unanswered question from last night's townhall meeting: What is the future of the UN, not as a humanitarian agency, but as a political body? My answer is to consider what the UN is in the first place as a political body. The core is the Security Council, and within that core are the five permanent members (the P-5), each with a veto over what the UN can do. This means that when there is consensus, the UN can act, and when there is not consensus, the UN can not act. If this is the case, what can the UN do to actually change the views and interests of the P-5? Not much. The UN can legitimize some actions, act as a forum for bargaining, and so forth. In some cases, this is not trivial.
I view the UN not so much as something that changes the behavior of the great powers (some of which are not P-5 countries), but as a barometer of the international situation. The Cold War gridlocked the U.N., the immediate post-Cold War 'golden age' saw lots of U.N. activity, and now as countries begin to balance against the U.S., the U.N. will likely tend somewhat toward gridlock again. As argued below, this is in part due to the destructive dance between the US which has chosen under Bush arrogant unilateralism to partnership and France (and perhaps Russia) which has chosen rivalry over partnership.
The end of the Cold War reinvigorated the United Nations, and shows what consensus brought: The U.N. launched fifteen peacekeeping operations in the forty years from 1948 to1988. Thirty-nine operations were started in the thirteen years since 1988. The rate of Security Council Resolutions passed per year quadrupled from 15 per year during the Cold War up to the current level of about 60 per year. Keep in mind that the French/EU and the US have many common interests, so much more cooperation will be possible compared to the Cold War rivalry.
March 24, 2003
Re: the late to deploy heavy divisions: At this rate, we will need them for the conflict, and it may be turning into an error that we do not have them in place. A massive US helicopter raid on RG positions turned into a debacle with most helos taking many rounds and most failing to engage intended targets of Iraqi armor and arty. <<http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/03/24/sprj.irq.apache.attack/index.html>>. My suspicion is that some combination of boldness and organizational politics led to the helo failure. Why send Apache's so far in advance instead of doing more typical bombing in advance of ground troop arrival? Perhaps b/c overconfidence in the new Longbow version (the type that was shot down). I suspect we will see more typical aerial bombing in the coming days, and that we will approach the RG with a more combined arms effort: with arty, MLRS, tanks, etc. As for the rumored 'vertical envelopment' maybe we will place some of the 101st in between the Ham and Med RG divs and Baghdad to prevent retreat.
As for the big picture, always good to remember that and good to try to keep a level head; we have placed getting to Bag ahead of max force protection. This is not unwise in the big political picture. We need to win fast and there is a tradeoff of speed for safety. Also, keep in mind the last 'miracle wars' of Afghan and PG1 were two months or so for Afghan and 100 hours plus 5 weeks for PG1. AFAIK, most of our casualties and prisoners are still from getting lost, accidents, and minor surprise ambushes. Even the 'big' firefights have resulted in few allied casualties. And we have moved to and begun to engage the RG defenses around Bag w/in four days of when the 3rd inf div left the Kuw lines on the morning of Friday.
Good signs: fast advance, few US or Iraqi civ casualties so far, oil wells in South largely intact.
Bad signs: some Iraqis are fighting hard; a few tactical errors (unlikely to be repeated b/c our tactics and doctrine are so fluid); surrenders are not yet massive, but some may need contact w/allied forces for their own safety they surrender.
Unknowns: Northern oil fields; Turkey vs. Kurds; Battle of Bag; WMD.
Diplomatic sideshows: the Russians want the UN to investigate legality of Iraq war. Shortly thereafter, US floats reports of "credible information" pointing to Russian arms sales to Iraq. The importance of this: The Russians, who we had been along with swimmingly, are now quite determined to make things tough for the US. Why we could not have bought them off prior to our foray into the UN, is puzzling. Back then, the Russian foreign minister was saying that the most important thing about Iraq was their economic interests. No longer.
Off the radar, but of crucial importance: North Korea; state of fundamentalism in Pakistan and violence in India - the former is thankfully calmer than expected, while the latter is hotter than most are aware.
Small blessings: LeMonde, which rarely misses a chance to skewer US Iraq policy, or to highlight Blair's domestic problems, has an editorial that this is not a war for oil: L'éditorial du Monde; Guerre et pétrole; Samedi 22 mars 2003; (LE MONDE)
"Le but des Etats-Unis en Irak n'est pas le pétrole, contrairement à ce qui est affirmé dans les manifestations contre la guerre et contrairement à l'impression qu'on peut avoir en voyant les troupes américano-britanniques s'empresser de "sécuriser" les puits irakiens à Bassora et à Kirkouk." And it continues.... http://www.lemonde.fr/article/0,5987,3208--313914-,00.html
March 19, 2003
Revelation/question last night: why are the US heavy divisions coming late, probably missing the combat phase of the war in Iraq? (there are some heavy elements in place; but the bulk of what is planned has yet to deploy) It could be logistics: they are harder to transport, so come later. But this is a combat risk as surely heavier firepower would come in handy in some easily foreseeable circumstances. Perhaps our forces are so superior that large numbers of tanks will not make that much difference. Do tanks make a difference in urban combat? Yes. According to Daryl Press: "On urban war: yes, tanks are VERY important. The so-called grozny lesson that says you don't bring tanks into cities is 100% wrong. The Israelis never go into urban areas without a lot of armor..." And surely sealed-up tanks and other armor would be useful in a chemical environment. So I wonder. The U.S. says the heavy divisions will be used in post-combat stability operations. This does seem a bit off; if they are not useful enough to call in for combat, why are they being called in for peacekeeping? So this gets to the revelation/punchline: the heavy divisions are for Iran. I have not seen this reported or speculated on elsewhere, but the logic is plausible and consequences obviously startling. Iran does fit into the larger Bush doctrine, as a recent New York Review of Books article makes clear (as do articles in the Weekly Standard, such as: <<http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/002/367wrcgb.asp>>)
This means the following world is possible within a year or two, perhaps sooner: US forces occupy Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and possibly Syria. There is war in the Korean peninsula. And war between India and Pakistan, very possibly nuclear. And who knows what on the terrorism front... (NOTE on 3/24: see above: if the battle for Bag is long and costly, we will need the armor in hand just for that, reducing the probability of my Iran paranoia coming true; but also indicating the armor should have been around since operations began).
The French: Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin pronounced himself "shocked and saddened" at seeing France berated for threatening to veto any pro-war resolution at the United Nations and said such attacks were beneath a friend and European partner. Such hypocrisy! Was it not they who undercut 'friends and partners' buy undercutting coercion at the UN by threatening to veto any resolution authorizing force? The only chance for peace was successful coercion of Saddam Hussein, and the French threat destroyed the coercive threat. We do not know if the Iraqis would have caved, probably not, but the French aborted the experiment, undercut the UN, appeased Saddam. Why? Because Chirac wants to create a multipolar world, in which one pole is the EU led by France. Thus, the main goal of French foreign policy was not peace, but to counter the US. Surely the French have real fears (a war that might stir up their large Muslim population is one), and some of their objections to the war are solid. However, in the context of 1441, the UN, and given the facts of Iraqi non-compliance, French actions amount to appeasement. The French have lots of gall in their DeGaullist drive for gloire.
The French have a long history of undercutting the UN and supporting Saddam: in the TNR online, <<http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=spin&s=crowley031503>> "Cheney was asked on both shows about the last-minute French proposal, floated this weekend by Jacques Chirac, to give Iraq 30 more days to comply with weapons inspectors. Both times he rattled off an impressively detailed case against the credibility of the French when it comes to disarming Iraq. France, he explained, opposed a 1995 U.N. resolution finding Iraq in material breach; a 1996 resolution condemning the massacre of the Kurds; a 1997 attempt to block travel by Iraqi intelligence and military officials; and the 1999 creation of the UNMOVIC weapons-inspection regime. The French also declared in 1998 that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, Cheney said. "Given that pattern of behavior," Cheney told Russert, "I think it's difficult to believe that 30 days or 60 more days are going to change anything." To CBS's Bob Schieffer he was even more succinct: "It's difficult to take the French serious, and believe that this is anything [other] than just further delaying tactics," Cheney scoffed."
The latest from the French: their offer to join the war if Saddam uses Biological or Chemical weapons (see 1998 in above para). They are trying to pull the ripcord as they fall into the diplomatic mess they have made for themselves, but I'm not sure they even have a parachute.
Keep in mind two things: First, I love France and the French; and second, several items on my website make clear that I have many critiques of U.S. policy as well. Indeed, it is the mutually destructive diplomatic dance of the U.S. and France that has damaged the EU, UN, and NATO.
Perhaps things will ameliorate during the rebuilding, and we will again find partnership with the French, the UN, and others. But partnership is doomed if the French would rather be a rival 'pole' in the international system (as it is as well if the US continues its arrogant and unilateralist ways). And the EU will suffer if the French try to lead it into rivalry and not partnership.
And the US will suffer if we do not put some constructive elements into our foreign policy.
March 17 and 18, with some edits and additions:
Iraq has WMD and Saddam Hussein is a murdering, lying, determined proliferator. Bush and Blair have no need to overstate their case about Iraqi links to terrorism, the purposes of metal tubes, or a uranium purchase from Niger. A damning case against Iraq can be built from open sources: the websites, studies, and documents of arms control groups, non-proliferation groups, human rights, and the U.N.
There are many good arguments for and against the war, and there are huge risks in either path. Saddam does represent risks of war, proliferation, death to his own people, and so forth, and was well on his way to becoming 'rehabilitated' by the international community (sanctions lifted, etc.). However, there is not much of an immediate threat posed by Iraq. Thus, given that this is a war of choice, one error is that the diplomatic, aftermath, and humanitarian planning is incomplete and/or filled with missteps. All of which increase the risks and costs of war.
The huge range of uncertainties mean that this war will be best judged as helpful or damaging in hindsight. That is surely evasive punditry, but also true. The substance of the observation is that we must do everything in our power to make sure the war ends of increasing stability and human rights in Iraq and in the region. That we capitalize on the victory to help cause Israeli-Palestinian peace. That we learn to be less arrogant and to reduce the risks of unilateralism. This war is not embedded into a larger, realistic, constructive grand strategy for either regional peace or the control of WMD. We must fix that.
Absent UNSCR 1441, and assuming war is preventable in some way other than Saddam disarming or leaving power, then anti-war protests may be politically effective. However, the international community unanimously tried to apply coercive pressure to get Saddam to disarm and conform to prior UN resolutions. I also believe that given what President Bush has been saying for months, war is inevitable unless Saddam disarms or leaves. Thus, the only way to have peace under these conditions is successful coercion. If so, then protests are counterproductive as they reduce coercive pressure. The anti-war movement is not ill-meaning or unpatriotic; quite the contrary. However, given 1441 and my assumptions about Bush's intent, their effects tend more to war than to peace.
This critique is even more damning of France. France, unlike the anti-war movement, voted for 1441, which specified that Iraq is currently in material breach, and admits that Iraq is not fully cooperating with inspectors. For France to say that it will not ever vote to authorize war under these circumstances is appeasement. It drastically undermines the coercive pressure outlined above, and increases the chances of war, and the costs and risks of war.
The counterargument about the anti-war movement is that Bush has often seemed so bent on war and regime change, it has seemed possible that disarmament might not stop a war. Hence, any effort to stop the war is justified if coercion is not the goal. While there is some truth to this, the counter-counterargument is that disarmament would stop the war. The Bush administration has said this enough times, and public opinion is such that I believe that disarmament would stop the war. So, I return to my above argument that successful coercion is the only way out.
In the aftermath of 'war for WMD disarmament,' the US will likely have to face more squarely the hypocrisy of having nuclear weapons while going to war to disarm others' nuclear weapons. The only way to square this circle is to be honest about this: we get them, and in return we provide security benefits to the world. The clincher here is that we must actually provide these benefits. Hence, the Bush administration (more likely future administrations) will have to go a long way towards reassurance, multilateralism, renewal of alliances, arms control, etc. It is quite amazing and tragic all the worldwide polling data citing the Bush-led US as a prime threat to world peace. This failure of diplomacy is itself a threat to world peace and must be corrected. This correction will not succeed through browbeating and arrogance, but through a more constructive and well-rounded foreign policy.
Chirac has made clear that one, if not the primary, goal of French foreign policy is the creation of a multipolar world to balance the US. A core pillar in the French view is a French-led EU. This will be a tough act to pull off. Among many reasons: European power, primarily ability to spend on military forces, will be limited by aging demographics with populations demanding strong social nets. Another reason: the EU is a project which depends on submersion of nationalism for its success. Will other European states accept French leadership as it seeks DeGaulle-like stature as another pole in the international system?
In the end though, a strong and active Europe is greatly in the US interest. The more Europe engages with and takes on worldwide security responsibilities, the more it will be faced to make hard choices and the more it will be engaged in preventing and waging wars. As is, the current division of foreign policy is quite dangerous for the US: we fight and destroy, while the Europeans clean up and seem like peacemakers. As is, the US is in the worldwide crosshairs of hate, while the Europeans pass the buck. Not good.