Random Play by Graham Reid

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Random Play: The writing on the Wall

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  • Andrew Smith,

    Graham made me think, once again, that those who lived though the Vietnam saga and watched the USA weaken from within, are exactly those who should be able to see that this Iraq situation is not anything like Vietnam. Vietnam was ideological, Iraq is religious. Vietnam was not an insurgency by a death cult, Iraq is. Communism never had the reach to destabilise capitalism and it's politics, Islam has the means and demographic in Europe and Asia to install fanatic ultra-fascist regimes everywhere.

    The Democrats, now of a similar demographic to Graham, are deliberately confusing the US public and should know better. Kerry was saying a number of months ago that more troops were needed. Suddenly, Bush says it, and it's nonsense. I have yet to hear a good argument about how to deal with the Islamic threat from the Left, or don't they think it exists?

    Since Jan 2007 • 150 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Here here!

    I was struck by the part of the 3 news item when John Howard commented on it. Here's part of the transcript from his press conference:

    "And we all should understand what is at stake: an American or western defeat in Iraq will be an unbelievable boost to terrorism and if America is defeated in Iraq, it is hard to see how the longer term fight against terrorism can be won. If the West retreats in Iraq, if America retreats in Iraq then that has enormous consequences for the stability of the Middle East and it will also be an enormous boost to terrorism in our part of the world."

    Y'know, I thought the 'domino theory' of communism had been pretty much discredited a couple of decades ago, but no, apparently if we switch 'communism' for 'terrorism' it still has a whole heap of merit.

    They should rename the whole thing from Gulf War II, to Vietnam II. Much more appropriate.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    A couple of days ago I chanced upon Vietnam: A House Divided at Real Groovy. The music from that era is sublime. It seems to me that many of our ideas (including our scepticism) about American power have their genesis in the Cold War and the counterculture that it created.

    Kennedy once said that it is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war. Despite its excesses, and despite the Bush Administration, I believe that "pax Americana" has been, on balance, a positive thing.

    It can't be true that because Vietnam was a failure that involved an increased deployment of US troops, every increased deployment of US troops will be a failure. Isn't the standard critique of the occupation that it involved too few troops? Alternatively, some of Bush own generals seem to oppose the surge on the grounds that, among other things, the Iraqi government and its security forces must provide the solution. Time will tell I guess.

    Since Nov 2006 • 784 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    [sorry but I'm not looking up references today]

    I believe late last year it emerged that, before the invasion, the had been a war game about what would be needed to achieve a stable Iraq after an invasion.

    As I recall, lots and lots and lots of troops were not enough.

    Also bear this in mind

    As of 01 March 2006 there were 133,000 US troops in Iraq, down from about 160,000 in December 2005 during parliamentary elections.

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/iraq_orbat.htm [okay, that is a reference]

    So not a big difference, probably not even a all-time high.

    I say, stop digging.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    I have yet to hear a good argument about how to deal with the Islamic threat from the Left, or don't they think it exists?

    Invade Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt and anywhere else which has a lot of Muslims, and a government that is on "our" side when required, but has a poor record on human rights? No, maybe that wouldn't help.

    You don't seriously believe Iraq is about "the Islamic threat", do you?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1324 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I have yet to hear a good argument about how to deal with the Islamic threat from the Left, or don't they think it exists?

    How about starting by not making things worse? What do you think has become of women's rights in Iraq since 2003? How many suicide bombings were there in Iraq before 2003? (Clue: less than one) Was Iraq a training ground for Islamist terrorists before 2003? Was it a cause celebre for such people?

    How did Islamists gain a foothold in the less governable parts of Pakistan? By providing education through madrasses where there was none available. How many minds might have the trillion dollars Iraq will eventually cost have swayed if the money had gone into liberal education and local business development?

    The invasion of Iraq was a consequence of a political cult (The Project for a New American Century) naively believing it could quell a religious cult through the simple application of power; power being the ultimate object of respect in conservative ideology. It didn't work out.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Juha Saarinen,

    Con versus Con... nasty irony there.

    Since Nov 2006 • 529 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    How many minds might have the trillion dollars Iraq will eventually cost have swayed if the money had gone into liberal education and local business development?

    I don't know if things work like that. Clinton spent a lot of money protecting Bosnian Muslims from Christian extremists and meanwhile bin Laden was plotting 9/11. One would have thought that Clinton's actons should have swayed a lot of minds but he got called called an imperialist for his troubles.

    There might have been missed opportunities because of the war but it wasn't like the US was getting any brownie points beforehand.

    I don't know about womens' rights in Saddam's Iraq, it depended on whether or not you supported the regime or were Shia or Kurdish.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman,

    Iraq and Vietnam seem similar in respect to the fact that in both cases the goal was to support democracy. The flaw in both attempts was that instead of establishing the government that the locals wanted, the US tried to establish a goverment that the US thought they should have.

    I saw a biography of Ho Chi Min a few months back and was astounded at how little I knew about him. Undoubtably a hard arse, but the so was George Washington, whom he greatly admired. Apparently he only went communist when he realised that the post WWII talk about self determination from the west was always going to play second fiddle to France being allowed to hold on to her colonies.

    Vietnam was ideological, Iraq is religious. Vietnam was not an insurgency by a death cult, Iraq is. Communism never had the reach to destabilise capitalism and it's politics, Islam has the means and demographic in Europe and Asia to install fanatic ultra-fascist regimes everywhere.

    Perhaps you missed the 20th Century but ideology was found to produce just as much crazy fanaticism as religion does. There was also this thing called the Soviet Union that had thousands of nuclear warheads aimed at western cities and a massive army and navy. Communists, unlike today, actually controlled a large portion of the globe, whereas Islamist extremists are in charge nowhere really, and most predominantly Muslim countries are clients of the west.

    As for them out breeding us in the west, you seem to think that either Islam is a biological phenomenum, like a race, or that their ideas are so obviously more attreactive than ours that Muslims who have been in the west for long enough to become the majority will still find Sharia law attractive. I think that's pretty strange myself. Doesn't seem like you are a much of a fan of western values

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • dylan,

    Not sure what the american's should do about the war in Iraq now... seems a mess either way. But the comparison with Vietnam is interesting. Here's some more food for thought...

    link

    I guess my summary take on the comparison with Vietnam is...
    While we must learn from history we have to be careful not to take analogies too far. Case in point...I think Blair was rather fond of making an analogy between the rise of Hitler and Sadam Hussein (ie. act now to depose the despot or pay the price later). In retrospect it seems that his analogy was rather poor.

    netherlands • Since Nov 2006 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    As for them out breeding us in the west, you seem to think that either Islam is a biological phenomenum, like a race, or that their ideas are so obviously more attreactive than ours that Muslims who have been in the west for long enough to become the majority will still find Sharia law attractive. I think that's pretty strange myself. Doesn't seem like you are a much of a fan of western values

    This is what strikes me about the Islamophobes: they don't have much faith in the knowledge and values that have got us this far. It's not hard to find some clown declaring that Europe will be under sharia law in 15 years, even though many (most?) of the Muslims they so eagerly count in the EU are from central and east European countries with completely different traditions.

    I have more confidence in modernism than some people seem to.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • rodgerd,

    This is what strikes me about the Islamophobes: they don't have much faith in the knowledge and values that have got us this far.

    Well, that's hardly surprisingly, considering the frankly breathtaking ignorance on display in thread by same. Only someone drunk on idiology, ignorance, and/or stupidity could imagine that overthrowing a distusting but secular dictator in Iraq would lead to an outcome where millitant Islamic groups would be weakened in Iraq.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 512 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    Bush's mistakes cannot be undone, they can now only be mitigated.
    From what little I understand from media reports, there are two options: withdraw and leave Iraq's civilian population to its fate, or try to establish a functioning Iraqi government, army and police force.

    Is there a better way?

    Since Nov 2006 • 784 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman,

    I guess if you believed that the west was best back when we all paid attention to priests, and that secularism is a religion, and that that religion cannot have a moral basis, then I guess you would see an existential threat to the west from political Islam. You'd also be in need of some education IMO.



    Josh Marshall and Steve Clemons are worried that "the surge" was not the important part of Bush's speech. They've heard rumours of presidential directives.

    Rice is refusing to say whether or not the White House believes it has the authority to launch attacks inside Iran/Syria.

    I can't help but remember Seymour Hersh's stories about Dick Cheney and tac nukes.

    We may be about to find out who the Iraqi army is loyal to.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    Brief expert comment here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,1988741,00.html

    Max Boot, senior fellow for national security studies at the US Council on Foreign Relations

    "**Will the troop surge work? Beats me. But does anyone have a better idea?** Pulling out now could turn Iraq into a Rwanda-style genocidal civil war. My sense is that most Americans recognise this and still want to salvage an acceptable outcome if possible. Given that our current strategy clearly is not working, there are only two realistic alternatives: decrease or increase the size of US forces.

    Since Nov 2006 • 784 posts Report Reply

  • slarty,

    I have to agree that the real issue is, "What is the alternative?".

    If the US pulls out now, the situation is ripe for a brief war where Iran takes large chunks of Iraq. Personally, were this to be combined with a unification of Kurdish territory, I suspect it might turn out to be a good thing. But I can't imagine the US wanting it.

    Nonetheless, I think it's inevitable, just a question of time. We are going to see a re-emergence of Persia, a super-state in the middle east arranged on a tribal basis. And that will really put the wind up the small / moderate Arab states, and of course Israel.

    Well done Mr. President. Your legacy will be unification of the middle east by force under a religious "government".

    [And John Roughan thinks atheists are arrogant!]

    Since Nov 2006 • 290 posts Report Reply

  • dylan,

    <quote>It's not hard to find some clown declaring that Europe will be under sharia law in 15 years, even though many (most?) of the Muslims they so eagerly count in the EU are from central and east European countries with completely different traditions.<quote>

    First of all, in many European countries most muslims in aren't from Eastern and Central Europe. France/Spain = North Africa, UK = South Asian, Germany = Turkey (part of Europe??). Here's a good overview...
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4385768.stm#spain

    But your point remains... very few come from regions whose traditions coincide with the type of Sharia Law practiced in Saudi Arabia and promoted by al qaeda...Wahhabism. However, this is exactly the problem, the huge diversity of muslim traditions are under threat by Wahhabism...fueled by poverty, ignorance, American incompetence, money from Saudi Arabia, maddrases in Pakistan (and elsewhere) and extremist rhetoric from Bin Laden and his cohorts.

    The battle between Wahhabi/radial islam and "modern" islam has been termed the Islamic Reformaton by Reza Aslan (an Iranian, devoute muslim, a professor and a havard graduate)...and if he is right then indeed the world is in for some serious upheaval (a good and educational read is "No God but God").

    Do I have faith in our democratic/liberal tradition to help us survive this tumultous time...No, I have hope. But we had better get better than Bush is at selling, promoting and articulating what that ideal and tradition is. That way we might be some use to our moderate muslim friends who are trying to promote many of the values that we share.

    netherlands • Since Nov 2006 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    I apologise for making so many posts here, but I feel obliged to rebalance what I said earlier. This is not as straightforward as I suggested.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/11/AR2007011101572.html
    A jointly set date [for US withdrawal] would facilitate an effort to engage all of Iraq's neighbors in a serious discussion about regional security and stability. The U.S. refusal to explore the possibility of talks with Iran and Syria is a policy of self-ostracism that fits well into the administration's diplomatic style of relying on sloganeering as a substitute for strategizing.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/11/AR2007011101576.html

    Then these shrewd words: "We discovered that we were not fighting a military campaign, but a political campaign -- not too different from what a small town mayor might do to win reelection back in the U.S. . . . Fighting terrorists was only something we did when needed, because it interfered with our political objectives. If we could ignore the terrorists, we were winning. If we had to stop our economic and political activities in order to fight terrorists, they were winning."

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/11/AR2007011101104.html

    Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples said Iraqi security forces have been thoroughly infiltrated by Shiite militias and "are presently unable to stand alone against Sunni insurgents, al-Qaeda in Iraq" or the militias themselves. Negroponte, who was ambassador to Iraq in 2004-05, said sectarian violence had become the greatest problem inside the country.

    "The struggle among and within Iraqi communities over national identity and the distribution of power has eclipsed attacks by Iraqis against the coalition forces as the greatest impediment to Iraq's future as a peaceful, democratic and unified state," he said.

    Since Nov 2006 • 784 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman,

    Weston, never apologise. Firstly this is the internet and it's simply not done, and secondly you were providing good linky info.

    It's certainly a complicated situation and I have no idea what the solution in Iraq will be, it's not going to be a military one unless the question is "how do we eliminate the Sunni?"

    It's always good to balance Max Boot with someone else.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    I'm not sure what I think about what the US should be doing now but this Guardian article is another indication of how some Sunnis aren't that keen to see the US out too soon -

    'The jihad now is against the Shias, not the Americans

    These are stories from individuals so it's difficult to know how representative they are but what these Sunnis are saying is they made a big mistake aligning themselves with Al Qaeda, who were mostly intent on killing Shia, which in turn provoked a vicious backlash from Shia militias and now they see the US as possible protectors.

    The extra US troops wil be used to try and deal with the Shia militias so if it works it could be a good thing.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman,

    Neil,
    I will be surprised if Maliki attacks Sadr. Everything he has done up until now has indicated that he is Sadr's man. I suspect that if there is a push against Shia militia's it will be against SCIRI, who have been on the back foot against Sadr for a while now.

    Lot's of interesting stuff in this WaPo story...

    U.S. officials are skeptical of Qanbar not only because of the way he was named, but because they know little about him. Moreover, they have questioned the degree to which Maliki's government is reliant on sectarian figures, particularly Sadr. Maliki essentially is asking American officials to take Qanbar on trust at a time when they have little left....
    ...Within the Pentagon, not everyone agrees that attacking Sadr City is advisable.

    Crucial to the decision will be the incoming U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus. He has not commented on the tactics he plans to pursue, but for the last two years he has overseen the development of the military's new counterinsurgency field manual, which appears to argue against a large-scale invasion of a neighborhood such as Sadr City, particularly in the early part of the new Baghdad security campaign.

    The manual's first chapter, which Petraeus is known to have aggressively rewritten, advises commanders that though largescale offensives against insurgents may be necessary, they should be limited.

    "Killing every insurgent is normally impossible," the manual says. "Attempting to do so can be counterproductive in some cases; it risks generating popular resentment, creating martyrs that motivate new recruits, and producing cycles of revenge."

    An influential plan for Baghdad security drawn up by retired Army Gen. Jack Keane and military analyst Frederick Kagan strongly advised against moving into Sadr City. The plan, which was highly influential within the White House and is considered to mirror Petraeus' thinking, argued that an attack on Sadr City would unite now-splintered Shiite factions against U.S. forces.

    "We have an opportunity now to keep the Shiite parties separate and to avoid a full-scale military conflict with them," Kagan said. "If we go into Sadr City, that will not be the case. We will find ourselves in a full-scale, very bloody operation, which probably will look something like Fallouja."

    Combine this with Malikis previous statements that he will be initially focussing on Sunni terrorists before negotiating with Shiite groups to lay down their arms, and it looks to me like a plan for handing de facto power to Sadr. It's sectarian cleansing a-go-go with the hapless Americans stuck between allowing it to happen and having Sadr sending 60 000 men on the street (including who knows how many defections from the Iraqi army).

    I hope I'm very wrong.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    Well Maliki is first on my list of people I would not want to be right now. He has a pretty unenviable job. But I wouldn't right him off yet. He seems well meaning and with all the time he spent in opposition to Saddam he can't be stupid or lacking in courage.

    He's has been backed by Sadr but that doesn't mean he's Sadr's man or wants to see the Shiite militia continue to run free. At least that's what I hope. His occasional disputes with the US can't help but do him good.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Smith,

    I think Iraq could become an 'Islamic threat". Sure, it wasn't before the US led invasion, but that was only because "Islamists" had a solid base elsewhere; Pakistan, Afghanistan. Iran too, but they would never admit to it after the 'for us or against us' threat from Bush. Obviously you are trying to be confrontational to suggest invading all Islamic countries. I have been to a number and have honestly enjoyed the sense of community that these societies have; much stronger cohesion than we in the West enjoy.

    Since Jan 2007 • 150 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Meanwhile . . .

    An Iraqi army brigade based in the northern Kurdish region is undergoing intensive training in urban combat and will be dispatched to Baghdad as part of a new joint U.S.-Iraqi security drive in the sprawling and violence-ridden city, the commander said Saturday. The brigade is one of two coming from the Kurdish region and a third brigade will come from southern Iraq. The second Kurdish brigade will come from the northern city of Sulaimaniyah.

    I wonder who's brilliant idea it was to let the Kurdish peshemrga loose in the streets of Baghdad?

    Well Maliki is first on my list of people I would not want to be right now. He has a pretty unenviable job. But I wouldn't right him off yet. He seems well meaning and with all the time he spent in opposition to Saddam he can't be stupid or lacking in courage.

    I'm sure Malikis life as an exile in Syria and Iran running Dawas 'Jihad Office' instilled a deep and abiding commitment to peace, nation building and the democratic process.

    I think Iraq could become an 'Islamic threat". Sure, it wasn't before the US led invasion, but that was only because "Islamists" had a solid base elsewhere; Pakistan, Afghanistan. Iran too, but they would never admit to it after the 'for us or against us' threat from Bush.

    If - as seems likely - the Shia triumph in Iraq, which basically means ethnically cleansing Baghdad of Sunnis and marginalising them as a political force, then that is a massive loss to Al Qaeda, who are fanatically Sunni. However, it means a huge win for Iran which is a disaster for the US allies in the region, notably Israel and Saudi Arabia.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Obviously you are trying to be confrontational to suggest invading all Islamic countries.

    Trouble is, there's a lot of chatter at the moment that suggests the White House is gearing up for a crack at both Syria and Iran.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

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