Sunday, November 27, 2005

The "Misunderestimation" of Post War Iraq

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President Franklin D. Roosevelt: "I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen 200 limping, exhausted men come out of line—the survivors of a regiment of 1,000 that went forward 48 hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war."

On March 20th, 2003, American missiles hit Baghdad signaling the start of the Iraq war. Since then we have all seen 2100 US forces and 100 UK forces killed. We have seen 15,000 US troops injured, maimed, and in some cases seriously and permanently disfigured. The estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths range from between 20,000 and 30,000.

Whether you supported or were against the Iraq War, on many levels you should hate what it entails. Beyond the sentimentality of victory and the fear of defeat... beyond the idealism of our quest to install a system of democracy... beyond our hope that the resulting ripples of freedom and liberty might spread throughout the region... the reality of what we have lost demands an earnest and honest appraisal of what we have truly earned.

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By any assessment, the operation to topple Saddam from power was one of the most expedient and bloodless military actions in the history of human warfare. Precision bombing and a massive ground troop invasion exposed the Republican Guard and Saddam's precarious grip on power. The expected WMD onslaught was nowhere to be seen. But, what now seems clear is that beneath the veil of the Pentagon's devastating and effective invasion strategy was a pitifully naive assessment of what the reconstruction of Iraq would actually entail:

From the Financial Times: "Undersecretary of Defense, Douglas Feith led a group in the Pentagon who all along felt that this was going to be not just a cakewalk, it was going to be 60–90 days, a flip-over and hand-off, a lateral or whatever to . . . the Iraqi National Congress. The Department of Defense could then wash its hands of the whole affair and depart quickly, smoothly and swiftly. And there would be a democratic Iraq that was amenable to our wishes and desires left in its wake. And that’s all there was to it."

From Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell: "Here's what the plan was: The plan devised principally in Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith's office, and I have to believe, if Rumsfeld is the controller, the leader he says he is, that he was fully cognizant of this, and I don't think he would have been cognizant of it without the blessings of the vice president either. The plan was to put Jay Garner, General Jay Garner, in his organization, called ORHA, on the ground in Iraq for maybe 90 to 120 days, install Ahmed Chalabi and his INC colleagues, or some other look-alike, in control, and then leave, withdrawing most of the major military force in the process, if not all of it, in a very short period of time. This is ineptitude and incompetence of the first order."

In a post 9/11 world, it is astonishing to think that there was virtually no recognition of the political consequences of a United States occupation in the Middle East. They did not think that there would be a prolonged, sophisticated insurgency. They did not think that the Iraqi population would broadly resent US forces, in turn facilitating and strengthening militants interested in undermining the path to Democracy. When, in the lead up to war, General Shinseki stated that several hundred thousand troops would be required to guarantee stability in Iraq Paul Wolfowitz branded him "wildly off the mark." Such was the Administration's fervent belief in the power of freedom that they dogmatically construed US forces would be greeted as liberators. Upon that flawed premise they took everything else for granted.

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On September 19th, 2003, US Chief Administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer enacted Order 39 which announced that 200 Iraqi state companies would be privatized and that foreign firms could retain 100% ownership of Iraqi banks, mines and factories. It also allowed these firms to move 100% of their profits outside of Iraq.

By any measure of free market reforms these are some of the most instantaneously dramatic in the history of the civilized world. At a time when the stability of a divided nation emerging chaotically from the violent order of a brutal dictator was most prescient, and upon that stability rested the lives of US soldiers, UK soldiers, and innocent Iraqi civilians... a dramatic restructuring of Iraqi society was undertaken.

Even putting all altruistic notions to one side... even if all the Administration cared about was US corporations reaping billions and billions of dollars, how could they not have recognized that the security of Iraq was an essential prerequisite to its ability to function, let alone prosper?

The result of these reforms was a devastating 70% level of unemployment sparked by public sector layoffs and an Iraqi labor force in disarray, transitioning to an entirely new set of alien circumstances in which nothing, not even their most basic necessities, were guaranteed. In addition, Iraq's borders were suddenly opened for trade, putting even more pressure on the way in which Iraqi's had previously attempted to make money, acquire goods, and feed their families. In an effort to win hearts and minds, is it really the most sensible course of action to undertake reforms that make 70% of the population unemployed?

Contrary to popular belief, Iraq is not Afghanistan, it is a comparatively developed society. Do you think an unemployed factory worker would have wanted his nation's industries privatized to companies who can take all of the profits they reap elsewhere? Do we restructure Iraqi society on his behalf because we know better? Is that the democracy we seek? Will the government that is elected in December retain the power to kick out US companies, re-nationalize its industries, or invite investment from nations that the US has shut out like France and Germany? If not, what kind of credibility do we think that a picture like this...

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...sends to an unemployed Iraqi flirting with the insurgency, or a citizen in Iran, or Syria, from whom with admiring eyes democracy is supposed to spread.

The point is not whether these reforms work, the point is isolating exactly what our mandate in post war Iraq is. John Murtha accurately identified that US forces have become the primary focus of the insurgency. While insurgents seek to blow up civilians, and undermine the Democratic process, it all serves their primary political purpose of attacking their enemy - their "Imperial occupiers, masquerading as liberators." And while this pretense may be nothing more than clever political posturing, it still underpins their ability to flourish and strengthen with the wider support of the Iraqi people.

A secret poll undertaken for the British Ministry of Defense showed that 65 per cent of Iraqi citizens support attacks against Allied Forces and fewer than one per cent think Allied involvement is helping to improve security in their country. Just like the I.R.A. in N. Ireland, or Basque separatists in Spain, or Hamas in Palestine, perceived political oppression facilitates the notion of a political war... and unadulterated fascists like Zarqawi can emerge as freedom fighters and heroes to millions in Iraq and across the Arab world.

When we condone torture, when we laud democracy but reshape Iraqi society ourselves, when we put too few troops on the ground, and disband Iraq's only security infrastructure, the Republican National Guard... when we appoint an incompetent, politically inappropriate Chief Administrator, Jay Garner, and then need to replace him after only two months (Brown as head of FEMA and Miers as the most qualified SCOTUS nominee aren't isolated mistakes)... when we've planned to attack civilian journalists working for Al Jazeera in an indiscriminate bombing campaign... when we do these things we arm the insurgency with its most potent weapon... the widely held perception of US imperialism, and the abdication of our greatest strength... the nobility of our cause.

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Considering all the money that we have spent, and all the money that has been invested, it is difficult to comprehend that the conditions in Iraq were considered worse than under Saddam in a detailed survey conducted by the United Nations. When stability and security are at a premium, and our war against the insurgency is a battle for the hearts and minds of individual Iraqi's, I cannot believe the accessibility to basic provisions like water and electricity are still at such low levels (chart above).

We currently have a U.S. Administration that has no concept of accountability. Troubles at home or abroad are invariably a political calculation from which they must emerge... not troubles for individual Americans, or Iraqi's for which they must atone. They've decimated tax receipts with ineffectual tax cuts while allowing spending to grow at a faster pace than under any President since Lyndon Johnson. The deficit is out of control and the national debt is currently at 8 trillion dollars while still growing. The Administration has neither the stern, unwavering inclination to address this, nor a sincere concern for its after effects: The national debt will compromise future generations ability to pay back their loans and mortgages, it will hinder their ability to pay for social security or to weather the cost of another war or a disaster like Katrina... or even, god forbid, another terrorist attack.

And, yet the White House barely seems to possess the understanding, let alone the requisite backbone to adjust its course and correct its calamitous, singular and simplistic domestic agenda.

But, it is in Iraq, via military and civilian casualties, and vacuous preparation and planning failures that its incompetence has been most costly. The prosaic sentiments of President Bush and his "strategy for victory," and the notion that troop morale is harmed by public scrutiny, neither levels with the American people, nor demonstrates the capacity to meet this exacerbated challenge.

Alleged "lies" about WMD's remain conspiratorial speculation. Personally, I forgive George Bush's motives for emphasizing the worst case scenario in the build up to war. I still continue to believe Saddam Hussein had sophisticated weapons programs, and would never, under any circumstances, have fully co-operated with U.N. Inspectors. I also don't think you can call this an illegal war, and not say the same about the war in Kosovo undertaken by President Clinton when Russia performed the exact same obstructionist role on the UN security council as France, refusing, under any circumstances to sanction military action.

But, the decision to remove Saddam required a comprehensive plan to win the peace. In my opinion it is this Administration's incompetence, and not their malicious intent, and certainly not the scrutiny of the Main Stream Media or Democrats in Congress, that has really put the armed forces of the United States in harms way, in addition to thousands of UK forces too, deserving of mention that they rarely receive. Unfortunately, for the next three years, unless there are sizemic electoral shifts in the 2006 mid-terms next November I don't forsee things significantly changing. For now we must place our faith in the Iraqi people, and the power of Democracy as an ideal. Beyond the sluggish training of Iraqi forces that seems to be the extent of the Administration's post war reconstruction policy in Iraq.

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Fence said...

The problem with the start of the war against Iraq, imo, is that very few people believed George Bush's reasons. I do not believe his reasons were those he stated.

At the moment however, I am in two minds. Obviously there should have been a better long term plan, some sort of structure. At the moment I don't think I could condone a pull-out of forces from Iraq, simply because it would leave behind a destroyed country. But then again, are they doing any good? Or just creating an even worse situation?

Graham said...

Hey Fence,

My personal opinion is that withdrawal is not a good idea. I think this type of intervention endows upon us the responsibility to leave Iraq functioning relatively peacefully. I also think this isn't like Vietnam in so far as that if Iraq crumbles into even more chaos, and terrorists can use it as a base to congregate, train, and organize themselves, then we will essentially have created Afghanistan mark 2.

I think we have to somehow look to acquire greater international involvment in peace keeping operations, and the training of the Iraqi Army. This, after all, is what the United Nations does well, and is what Nato does well. It's what they specialize in. Merkhel in Germany might help with this, creating financial incentives might also help. We have to remove the perceived notion of US imperialism from the people of Iraq. Hopefully elections in December will help with this. We have to make the world, including Europe see, that this is not a US war for victory, this is the Iraqi people's fight for their own security and stability.

Thanks for the comment, Fence :).

Alice: In Wonderland or Not said...

It matters not to me whether their intent was malicious; although, I believe it was. I do believe because the base of their intent was more malicious than not, the whole picture (meaning what it would take to actually succeed in the reconstruction), was overlooked. In their haste to do the damage they had well intended to do long before 9-11 they totally forgot -not misjudged but forgot – that there would be “ the rest of the story”.
Not only that but where we are now- unable to leave- they are still not doing what they should be doing so that we can leave. They need to go full out with more troops and more money and get it done instead of meandering around it as if it will take care of itself. It won’t not if they keep doing it the way they have been doing it from the beginning.

Lisa said...

So this is the post that you expect me to viciously critique? UN-FAIR...and completely impossible...especially when I spend an hour writing a comment and Blogger randomly deletes it just as I finish writing it. GRRRR. Ok. Take two.

In answer to your question about the authority of the new Iraqi government and how credible it will be, I believe that we have wanted all along for Iraq to be an country that exists independently of the United States. The U.S. has no interest in setting up a puppet government in Iraq. The UN and our allies have no interest in being involved in day-to-day control of Iraq either. At some point, Iraq will have the authority and the ability to kick us out of their country and to make alliances with countries that the US may not be on good terms with right now. We will not control anything they do in the future and that's the way it should be, if we want Iraq's new government to be taken seriously by the rest of the world community.

Free markets are generally a good thing. But this experimentation with them in Iraq didn't turn out the way they expected, apparently. I would like to think these reforms were made with the best of intentions, but that they didn't consider the consequences of making such serious changes during that transition period for Iraq. So I'm with you on this argument. As horrible and as indefensible as the torture at Abu Ghraib was, I don't believe that this represents the majority of our US military men and women currently serving in Iraq. Sometimes facts don't matter. Only public perception matters, and right now many Iraqis appear to be convinced that the United States is not doing a good job making them secure, at least according to the poll. Public support is also fading badly here in the US, and the MSM and the Democrats are certainly contributing factors to that negative perception (even though Bush's handling of the war is a main contributing factor to that, as you said).

As for Zarqawi, I think that the Arab world is starting to get that he's an indiscriminately bad guy. The Jordanians certainly understand this. His own family has disowned him. When you keep bombing innocent people, eventually you will lose converts to your POV. It is a matter of winning the propaganda wars as well. Even the Taliban brought some stability to parts of Afghanistan for a while, but that came at a very high price for the people there. The stories on that are very real and very graphic. While it's accurate to say that winning the hearts and minds of the people in Iraq will take much more than a few secure cities, we shouldn't discount the importance of those military victories in the overall assessment of how we are doing in Iraq.

Iraq is not Afghanistan. We should have had a different plan for Iraq, and it appears that we didn't. Afghanistan is making progress. I hope that we have the courage and the will to finish what we started in Iraq. We owe it to the Iraqi people and especially to our military men and women who have sacrificed their lives in Iraq.

(My first draft was better. :( )

Here's some other interesting links:
IRAQ: Status of Iraq’s insurgency--From the Council of Foreign Relations
Zarqawi's Losing Strategy--from Real Clear Politics

M A F said...

Another well written essay Graham.

As I read about he first few paragraphs I kept thinking about the best laid plan of Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Donald Rumsfeld, that of I-FUBAR.

A post Saddam Iraq is apparently no better than Iraq with Saddam according to former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Of course he is just a disgruntled former government worker.

Of course the lack of a plan has led to the terror franchise.

Graham said...

Hey Alice, I agree,

The steps aren't being taken like they could be to securing the situation in Iraq. The problem is that, on a fundamental level, not enough was done to retain the integrity of the operation... hence, there is countless evidence to support the widely held perception of this being US imperialism. Also they did misjudge the way Iraqi's would feel about US troops entering and taking over the country. I don't know what could have been done about this though.

Graham said...

Hey Lisa,

Sorry about the blogger thing :(

You're right, in that we are fighting for an independent Iraqi government, and not a US puppet. I 100% agree. The point is that to win in Iraq we have to explicitly demonstrate this to Iraqi's and the Arab world at large.

Europe actually does have a very significant vested interest in the future of Iraq. Its refugees end up on our shores and its violence is on the edge of our continent. The coalition can also manufacture greater incentives for international involvment by opening up business opportunities for them. We could also try not sending John Bolton to the UN to further undermine the effectiveness of US diplomacy.

As for the economic reforms, I don't mind if they were made with the worst of intentions... the question is how costly and mistaken they were. When stability and security were at a premium we engaged in a severe economic restructuring of that nation to help it rebuild. I think this misjudgment is consistent with our other misjudgments. We underestimated so many things, and simply believed the basic ideology of freedom and free markets would make everything stable within months. There was no political appreciation of how the Iraqi populace would respond. I don't understand how this could be so.

Your second draft was awesome so yoru first draft must have been very good indeed :).

Afghanistan has been a story of contstant and steady progress, and a credible liberation. The situation in Iraq is more complicated.

Graham said...

Hey Mac,

Via our incompetence, and misteps I definately think we've handed the terror franchise the political masquerade of fighting against a "US occupation."

I don't know what Douglas Feith's plan actually constituted of aside from US troops basking in the expected celebrations of freed Iraqi civilians. I'm not sure about Allawi, but I think if we're going to take responsibility for the quality of life for individual Iraqi's then we have a very long way to go for sure. Some of the stories I've heard from UK correspondents in Iraq, most of them very respected journalists, say that the violence and chaos is as bad as it has ever been.

Like I said at the end of my post, we're all investing a lot of hope in the up coming elections helping make Iraqi's feel involved, participating in the future of the country. That is the only hope right now I think.

Thanks for the comment Mac :).

Girl on the Blog said...

The last thing the GOP wants is to deliberate on whether the war has been waged badly. They do not want to be questioned whether doing it right and securing the region would require the truth.

The steps that have been taken with this war is in-excusable.

The war, to me, has become one big cluster *censored*... The way it has been handle has put 1000's of our soldiers in harms way... FOR WHAT? I just don't understand the thinkings of our administration.

I honestly do not think we will ever win this war... I say, let's bring our men and women home!!!!

Graham said...

I know, and Bush has perpetuated that today it seems with his speech. The problem is that the Administration has to be seen to be in touch with reality... and I don't think the Prez is demonstrating this too well. I also think he has a responsibility to really delve deep into his policy and strategies, while opening himself up to scrutiny. An interview with follow up questions would be nice.

Thanks for the comment Girl :)!

Lisa said...

I don't know about all that. I think that there has been more progress in Iraq than we know about. Graham has made a rather convincing case that we have made some initial mistakes here, but according to Senator Leiberman's statements yesterday, there have been some recent changes in strategy. I really don't know how much more scrutiny Bush will have now than he didn't have before. Everything he says, and everything he does, has been analyzed six ways from Sunday, and the press seems to come up with the same answer every time-- Bush totally screwed this up. It doesn't matter WHAT he says. As far as the interview with follow-up questions, that would be nice but don't expect it to happen. This has more to do with Bush's inability to explain what he's doing than some practiced deception on his part. Bottom line is: we can't pull out yet.

Graham said...

I don't mean the level of scrutiny applied to the situation, but the level of accountability he has to his electorate, and whether he has an obligation to subject himself and his policies to the kind of coherent critiques that have been made by many, not just Democrats. I just don't think it's right to essentially read a speech that somebody else has written, and think that you're in a dialogue with the American people.

PMQ's for the USA I say :).

I like Liberman, and basically agree with his stand, but his assessment of Iraq is just crazy to me. Progress is a prerequisite, not the basis upon which you conclude we are winning IMO. I think it's hard to conclude on the current course that in a year or two years time, Iraq will be significantly more capable of running its own security. Like I said a couple of times, the hope is that elections help stimulate individual Iraqi's, particularly young Iraqi's to feel involved and in control of their own country... so much so they're willing to fight for it. Personally, I would like to see NATO get more involved, the UN get more involved, I would like to see a regional summit with Arab nations on the future of Iraq, I would like to see populist elected Iraqi leaders on Al Jazeera, and in other Arab media, alongside other Arab leaders.

Most of all I would like to see the President stop being so pre-occupied with US victory. How does anyone think "Strategy for Victory" from the US prez is perceived in Iraq, or in Iran or Syria. It perpetuates the notion of imperliasm. If this Administration for one moment stopped their non-stop electioneering, and realized the battle in this war is for Iraqi, and Arab hearts and minds, and not for votes in the 2006 mid-terms, finally we might get somewhere.

Lisa said...

I think we are quite capable of judging for ourselves whether the President is being honest with us or not...although you would never know it from the polls. :)

If you're waiting for the UN to save the day, you will be waiting a long time. Perhaps you could make the case that we should involve other Arab countries in the process...but very few of them want this Iraq experiment to succeed. Iran and Syria certainly don't. The December elections will be key in convincing Iraqis that they will be running their own country, and once that happens, it's not unrealistic to expect less violence there (but I certainly can't guarantee that this will be the case). As far as Al Jazeera is concerned, we don't control them. They can have anyone on their programs that they want to, without our permission. Once the new government is in place, their leaders will be on Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, etc. I don't see any reason to think otherwise.

So you don't like the term "victory". Would "success" be more acceptable to you? The context to me for this is that the President wants to separate his words from the tepid wishy-washy rhetoric of some on the other side, like John Kerry. Iran and Syria can think whatever they want to think. No matter what we say or do, those two countries will still think of us as some kind of imperialist oppressors, or whatever the current terminology is. Neither side should be playing politics with the future of Iraq, as I said in my current post.

I agree about PMQ's. Every country should have them. :)

Graham said...

My point isn't that people aren't in a position to judge the President for themselves, I totally respect their judgment. My point is that the integrity of Administration policies are inherently flawed because they lack serious scrutiny. That is the whole purpose of checks and balances, and it goes for individuals too. When the President does everything he can to avoid being scrutinized, asked serious, searching questions, or do any interviews, or just anything.... I think he is a weaker man... I think the office of the President is weaker... I think his words are taken less seriously, and I think his decisions lack a comprehensive understanding of everything that is involved. People can't make clear assessments because it's their partisan inclinations that are being appealed to, or comparitively juvenile notions of "Victory" and "Defeat." That is why, in my opinion, the majority of Americans want all US troops out of Iraq in twelve months regardless of the consequences. Unless the President gets real, what he says will never have enough credibility anymore.

I think my point about Arab media was to say that we have to embrace the realities of the Arab world if Iraq is to be perceived as a credible independent state. We have to pursue this and take it seriously IMO. It isn't something that you can flippantly dismiss, like it isn't our responsibility, or its no big deal... because it's fundamental to this war. We have to win hearts and minds... or better put, the new Iraq has to inspire the hearts and minds of Iraqi's and the broader Arab world. Of all our failures this has been our greatest, ultimately because we underestimated its importance, and the ill-will we would encounter.

It's nice that we get to deride the United Nations, and the involvement of other nations, potentially in Iraq, but the history of their involvement in reconstruction efforts and peace keeping in Africa, in Eastern Europe, and Afghanistan where foreign forces sometimes take over the command structure for example, is much more expedient than the US efforts in Iraq. It's a broader question about why Unilateralism is ineffective as a means to intervene militarily around the world, because the inherent perception will always be imperialism. Every US flag on a soldiers uniform in Iraq is rapidly becoming the equivalent of a bullseye. I don't want us to pull out because we can't. But, I do want a more intelligent and thoughtful attack on the forces that are threatening Iraq's future.

And yes, whether you like it or not, to actually win this war, you have to think outside the box, or the confines of internal domestic politics. I want a President who is less concerned by his political opponents, or his poll numbers, and is more concerned by doing what is right. The US President repeatedly declaring "strategy for victory" draped in US flags doesn't do anything to undermine the broadly held notion of a US occupation, and the Iraqi government as a US puppet. If anything it exacerbates it and makes it harder for individual Iraqi's to embrace the "new" Iraq, or feel like they're in control of their own destiny. I think Bush's domestic campaign to improve support for the war at home, resorting to nationalism, and attacks on his opponents, hurts the campaign for credibility in Iraq. Get out, like Blair had to do, on national TV and give hour long interviews shown at peak times during the week... have audience participation asking questions, voicing the broader concerns of the American people... something like that would be a better course of action IMO.

Hope you're cool Lisa :).

avereragebusinessman said...

You have all done a wonderful job of covering this preceded by Grahams great though provoking post.
If only we could look back, hindsight beibg twenty-twenty I bet things would be done very differently right from the get go.

Lisa said...

I don't have a problem with what you're suggesting. I wish he would do those interviews, because I think he has a better argument than he's made so far. I'm not sure how specific he can be with continuing operations still in progress, but it wouldn't hurt to add more specific information to the general objectives he laid out in his speech today.

I'm not dismissing the Arab media. We do need to have representatives on to make our case to the Arab world. Maybe we haven't done as well with this as we should have, but we haven't completely ignored the Arab media. Winning hearts and minds is absolutely vital, but it's not what we say that will make an's more about what the Iraqis see happening in their own country.

I'm not arguing that the UN is totally useless...although I think I could make the case for that if I wanted to. Here's the point. If the UN sanctions had worked to keep Saddam and his WMD ambitions in check, we wouldn't have had to invade Iraq in the first place. The UN is ineffective in non-peacekeeping roles, such as threatening dictators with military action. Why? Because they don't have the authority or the backbone to follow through on their threats, and everyone knows it.

I don't have a problem with involving other countries in reconstruction or anything else we are doing in Iraq. Of course we should get more countries involved. The question is: what is the best way to do that?

If the President was concerned about his poll numbers, he would go along with Pelosi, Reid, and the other Democrats who seem to suggest that we should get out of Iraq yesterday. This President believes that what he IS doing is what is right. You can agree or disagree with his view, but it has nothing to do with wanting to be popular.

Bush is not Blair, unfortunately. :( So it's unlikely that he will follow your excellent advice.

Graham said...

I agree with you about the United Nations. In Kosovo and in Iraq and in Darfur now, and in R'wanda before, + in Zimbabwe ... the list is endless where atrocities could have been prevented by international intervention and the U.N. did nothing.

That's why a lot of people who are against the war in Iraq confuse me a little sometimes because they are effectively against all military conflict. That a very plausible argument; that intervention of any sort does more harm than good... you can argue for instance that a lot of British colonialism screwed up Palestine and Pakistan and created a lot of the problems we have today... but, I think that should be expressed clearly and honestly. I think most people believe we should take those steps in the world where we can, even though it involves very difficult moral choices, and brave leaders. The U.N. definately doesn't seem to have the fortitude to do this though.

I don't know whether U.N. sanctions were effective. It depends on what their aims were. If it was to keep Saddam incapable as a military threat then you could argue that it was successful considering what we know now, although, personally, I'm still not so sure. In terms of co-operation that's definately not so simple, because Saddam flouted resolution after resolution after agreeing to them in the first place to retain his position in power and end Gulf War 1.

It's also true that a lot of people against the war thought the sanctions were wrong and argued that they should be lifted because they were inhumane, regardless of any threat posed by Saddam.

With Bush, I don't think he should have that luxury in my opinion... just reciting well written speeches and not answering any difficult questions just isn't really appropriate considering the severity of what is involved. I guess in the long term it works against him anyway, because his perceived lack of accounting and realism is slowly eroding his support amongst moderate Democrats and independents, leaving him only with his hardcore base, from which he cannot effectively govern. I definately think there should be that mechanism of accountability for the office of the President like PMQ's. I don't think it's right to say the President shouldn't be personally accountable because he's not up to it. It just worries me when I hear he avoids alternative POV's and doesn't even like to talk to his Dad anymore because they have disagreements. It's all a bit speculative but I think it's at the root cause of what's going wrong. The Bush administration is a one trick pony. What Kerry said in the debates was right, if something is going wrong, it's a good trait to be able to re-adjust, listen to different perspectives and alter course. It's not a good thing to have one way of doing everything and never, ever make adjustments, regardless of what's actually occuring.

Ok, I'm ranting again right? I'll shut up now. My Advisory sticker for my site "Reading Graham's comments can cure Insomnia" will be arriving shortly.

Thanks for POV as always Lisa :).

Graham said...

Thanks for the kind words AB :)! I don't fault the Administration for making mistakes so much as I wish they would learn from them a little. But what do I know :).

Thanks for the comment.

Lisa said...

Re: the for me. :P

I'm not arguing that Bush should avoid alternate POVs or anything similar to that. I'm saying it's unlikely that he will subject himself to the kind of questioning that you suggest because he doesn't look comfortable in that format. I could see him in some kind of town hall meeting answering questions, because he might do better in that environment than facing the mostly hostile press corps. Or he could be interviewed by Hannity on FNC, which would probably be a somewhat soft-ball type interview. :)

In any case, I'm not sure how much support he had from moderate Dems and independents before Iraq, so I can't possibly determine whether that has changed or not.

Just my opinion...and you're welcome to it. :)

Graham said...

He had an approval rating between 48-55% before the turn of the year. It's now between 35 and the early forties depending on the political slant of the polling organization in question. Those weren't hardcore conservatives that he lost over Katrina and Iraq. Conservatives are misguided if they think they are the pivotal swing vote upon whom the President's popularity depends. You can see that he's got 80%+ approval from his party which is very, very high and stable considering its his second term and his support is so historically low.

The only difference is the vociferousness of his base has narrowly won him elections, getting out the vote on election day + defending the Prez via media outlets and attacking his oppon ents. So, I guess, that is what they're depending on for 2006.

Lisa said...

It's been an effective strategy so far. Where the President gets into trouble is when he loses his base in addition to all those moderates and independents you mention. I think Republicans will need to have more substance to their campaigns than just talking about Iraq. It should include a discussion of more fiscal discipline, border security, and needed reforms in Social Security and education. I think we are resigned to staying in Iraq, at least for now. So there's not much to debate about that, except maybe the question of how much we need to change about the current Iraq strategy.

I also think that 2006 will bring that accountability that you want to see in both parties. It will be a referendum on quite a few issues of concern to the people of this country, and I hope we will take advantage of the opportunity to throw any bums out that we need to. :)

Gert said...

Glad to see you're making a lot more sense about all this than, say, a few months back. A good post and I broadly agree with you.

I was against the war right from the start but accept that what has been done has been done and cannot be undone. Therefore I'm not advocating immediate withdrawal either, that would really leave the Iraqis in a mess that is largely of our own making.

But we desperately need a time-lined plan. Bush and Co keep moving the goalposts, but staying indefinitely will do far more damage than good. This is not a war that can bever be 100% won, such is the hydra-like nature of insurgencies.

It is time to seriously start planning for leaving Iraq to the Iraqis, for better or for worse...

Graham said...

I don't support an explicit time line, although I think the Administration should have one privately, however Gert, for perhaps the very first time... I think we agree :).