TCS Daily

Give Civil War a Chance

By James H. Joyner - February 27, 2006 12:00 AM

Blogger and TCS contributor Stephen Green argues that civil war in Iraq might not be such a bad thing, noting that, "A civil war is the nastiest way to get a good result." He cites several examples, notably the Thirty Years War, the English Civil War, and the American war between the states of where internecine conflict settled major disputes and paved the way for a much brighter future for all concerned.

Center for Strategic and International Studies senior fellow Edward Luttwak made a similar argument in a controversial piece for the July/August 1999 edition of Foreign Affairs entitled "Give War a Chance." He noted that, "although war is a great evil, it does have a great virtue: it can resolve political conflicts and lead to peace. This can happen when all belligerents become exhausted or when one wins decisively. Either way the key is that the fighting must continue until a resolution is reached."

Luttwak and Green are doubtless correct. Wars, even bloody internal wars, are sometimes the only way to solve conflicts on issues where neither side feels it can compromise. They come at a terrible price, however, and resentments can live on for decades, even centuries. Just ask a Bosnian Muslim or an American Southerner with a "Forget, Hell!" bumper sticker on his F-150. Further, as Lee Harris explained in a recent piece for TCS Daily, "Once a society has lapsed back into tribal anarchy, a vicious cycle sets in, one in which each of the feuding tribes will be egged on, by their own members, to perpetrate more and more ruthless acts against the enemy tribe."

Fortunately, all but the most extreme elements in Iraq seem to understand this. Sunni and Shiite leaders alike are calling for calm and the cycle of violence seems to have eased, at least for now. The events of last week could be provide the type of wake-up call that the Cuban Missile Crisis did for both sides during the Cold War, permanently keeping everyone from the brink of disaster. But there are no guarantees. Indeed, al Qaeda may well decide that exploiting sectarian fears is their best hope for victory.

In these pages in December 2004, I argued that civil war could be avoided in Iraq if a reasonable amount of security was established and legitimate elections went forth as scheduled. The latter happened beyond my expectations but, sadly, the former has not. Still, as long as major factional leaders continue to view a peaceful, unified Iraq as the most desirable endstate, civil war may be averted.

But what if it is not? Green argues that, if there is civil war in Iraq, the United States must "choose a side right the now, and stick to it until the bloody end" and "increase our troop strength in-theater ASAP, so that the bloody end comes sooner rather than later." If civil war erupts in Iraq and we decide it in our interest to engage, that's absolutely right. Columbia political scientist Richard Betts described "The Delusion of Impartial Intervention" in the November/December 1994 issue of Foreign Affairs.

"Limited intervention may end a war if the intervener takes sides, tilts the local balance of power, and helps one of the rivals to win - that is, if it is not impartial. Impartial intervention may end a war if the outsiders take complete command of the situation, overawe all the local competitors, and impose a peace settlement - that is, if it is not limited. Trying to have it both ways usually blocks peace by doing enough to keep either belligerent from defeating the other, but not enough to make them stop trying. And the attempt to have it both ways has brought the United Nations and the United States - and those whom they sought to help - to varying degrees of grief in Bosnia, Somalia, and Haiti.

"Wars have many causes, and each war is unique and complicated, but the root issue is always the same: Who rules when the fighting stops? In wars between countries, the issue may be sovereignty over disputed territory, or suzerainty over third parties, or influence over international transactions. In wars within countries the issue may be which group will control the government, or how the country should be divided so that adversaries can have separate governments. When political groups resort to war, it is because they cannot agree on who gets to call the tune in peace."

Discussing the means by which the United States should engage in an Iraqi civil war, however, prompts the question: Should the United States engage an Iraqi civil war at all?

Despite Luttwak's enthusiasm for war as a means of achieving clarity, he adamantly opposes the intervention of foreigners: "Policy elites should actively resist the emotional impulse to intervene in other peoples' wars -- not because they are indifferent to human suffering but precisely because they care about it and want to facilitate the advent of peace." Still, he was talking about a Bosnia-type intervention where the goal was peace rather than the quick, decisive victory of one party.

Other scholars reached similar conclusions. Cato Institute foreign policy analyst Barbara Conry argued in a widely-cited 1994 study that,

"Intervening powers are at a disadvantage because their stake in the outcome is usually far smaller than that of the primary combatants. In the former Yugoslavia, for example, Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Serbs are fighting out of nationalism, which they perceive as closely related to their very existence as states (or as distinct cultures). Nationalism in that case is an ideal for which many people are prepared to kill and die. Outside parties that become involved for essentially altruistic reasons are not prepared to fight with the same intensity or endurance. Altruism and nationalism simply do not inspire equal determination.

"Moreover, the American public is renowned for its unwillingness to sustain heavy casualties in remote regional wars. American support for military action abroad tends to decline dramatically at the prospect of an extended occupation that will entail significant U.S. casualties. The erosion of public support usually leads to the erosion of congressional support, resulting in serious divisions within the government that is supposed to be directing the intervention. With leadership divided, there is little chance for success. The military, already operating under handicaps inherent to intervention, is virtually assured of failure. As political scientist Richard Falk has commented, "It is not that intervention can never work but that it will almost never succeed unless a costly, prolonged occupation is an ingredient of the commitment."

Indeed, much of that has already happened in Iraq, despite fighting that has been only sporadic and fewer American dead in three years (2,292) sustained on D-Day (about 2,500) much less Gettysburg (7,058).

So long as the fight remains one of the Coalition and the forces of Iraqi democracy on one side and jihadist terrorists and the forces of instability on the other, the United States has a stake in the outcome and even a duty to remain engaged. If, however, it devolves into an Iraqi factional conflict over the internal control of the country, the cause is lost and the United States must leave.

Not only are there no angels in such a fight but there is no way for the United States to win it. Presumably, we would side with the Shi'a majority. While a sectarian Shiite government sympathetic to Iran is a possible outcome of a democratic process, and thus one we could live with, it would be unacceptable to install such a regime through the force of American arms. But, surely, putting the minority Sunnis back in power, let alone the Kurds, would be unthinkable. Regardless, the factions that were routed with the help of American forces -- presuming that they did not simply go underground and continue to fight as guerrillas -- would remain our enemies for generations.

We owe it to the Iraqi people to do everything we can to help avert a civil war and give their fledgling democracy a chance. Saving them from themselves, however, is both beyond our power and responsibility. If they decide civil war is the only way to settle their longstanding disputes, we must stand aside and let them fight it and then try to salvage a relationship with the eventual victors. While that would be a bitter pill, indeed, after coming so close to achieving the incredibly ambitious vision of the neo-cons, it would nonetheless be preferable to the other alternatives.

James H. Joyner, Jr., Ph.D. is Managing Editor of Strategic Insights, the journal of the Naval Postgraduate School. He writes about national security policy at the Outside the Beltway weblog.



Far too simplistic
Joyner quotes two authors here and neglects several key points about civil wars. He, like Green, misses the fact that most civil wars, the American Civil War being the notable exception, are heavily manipulated by outside powers. The English Civil War is a case in point; Charles felt he had a chance because of promised military and financial support from France. On Richelieu's part, keeping England distracted by a civil war would pay it back for the La Rochelle episode and more importantly keep it out of Europe while France was asserting its interests in areas of interest to England such as the Low Countries. To describe the 30 Years War as a civil war, as Green does, is to completely miss the point that it was a global war between European great powers using German proxies initially. It wasn't about which group of Germans would run Germany, it was about which foreign power would run Germany. Green is wrong to suggest that Christianity lost its bloodlust after 30 Years War; on the contrary, world wars came once a generation afterwards.

Both Joyner and Green are wrong because a civil war in Iraq will not resemble the American Civil War, rather it will resemble the Rwandan or Somali or Sudanese civil wars. Do they pretend that the United States will stand aside as a genocide progresses? Perhaps; the U.S. has been ignoring events in Sudan quite successfully.

As for Luttwak, it is indeed true that war sometimes brings peace, but he may need to be reminded of Tacitus' definition of peace about 2000 years ago by such means.

We should incite civil war
One thing that has been clear from before the war is that neither the shia nor the sunnis are worthy of their own government. Only the Kurds are deserving of our support. The whole premise of the Iraqi government we've created has been to play each side off the others to suppress the influence of the radicals in a delicate balancing act. If that balancing act shows signs of becoming untenable then we should encourage the shias and the sunnis to fight each other while throwing our support for the Kurds. Let the shias and sunnis kill each other by the thousands and the Kurds move in and finish them off later. Its a win-win situation for us.

Look on the sunny side of life
This is certainly putting a cheerful gloss on the situation. We start with an evil dictator in place... but he has already killed everyone who disagrees with him, and had finished this work by the end of 1991. At the start of 2003 a calm order prevails, and even an economy that's surprisingly strong, given the hobbles that have been put on it by the allied forces of Good.

So we blow the place apart and let three full years of civil disorder reign, during which time crime and unemployment skyrocket-- as does every measurable quantity such as clean water and medical care. During just the first two of those years the death rate soars by some 100,000 over the pre-invasion norm, when the ostensibly evil Saddam was in charge.

Descending into anarchy, the people resort to religious factionalism and are now killing each other for no good reason-- something they never felt compelled to do in pre-invasion, secular, independent Iraq. So that's very good. That's progress. Something like the desired result is beginning to come from this experiment in nation-building. I assume that nation-building is the correct term.

Note that the civil wars cited by the author are all examples of societal problems that were insoluble without a war of all against all. In post-invasion Iraq their problems would have been solved by a competent plan for continuity of government-- an area in which we have failed the Iraqi people. This should be a cause for shame.

Man do you watch Fox or what and then it appears you don't listen. Even if we ignore that you don't understand what’s going on in Iraq. The Kurds controlling Iraq would be even worst for stability of the area. Turkey for a start would have major issue about that. US troops would be in Iraq forever if it happened.

The Authors of this crap are forgetting that most civil wars go on for decades.

Not ignorant
Part of the deal should be that the Turkish Kurds relocate to the Kurdish Iraq. If the Turks don't like living next to a modern, prosperous, oil rich Kurdish Iraq, cleansed of Islamists and moderate-in-name-only Muslims, well thats just too bad. Then perhaps we could turn our attention to encouraging nuclear paranoia between India and Pakistan.

This is nonsense
What a good job the American Civil War did of "settling a major dispute and paving the way for a much brighter future for all concerned." Afterward, African-Americans only had to endure second-class citizenship in this country for 100 more years. True, during those 100 years they were not enslaved, just permanently impoverished and occassionally lynched. But of course now, by 2006, we have achieved perfect racial equality. And what a relief it is to no longer have to argue about states' rights! Or due process of law. Or equal protection. Or the right to vote. Those were 600,000 odd lives well spent.

I can think of no better way for these writers to prove their point than to join the nascent Iraqi Civil War themselves - which side? doesn't really matter apparently - and help bring about this definitive resolution.

even worse
I totally agree, for what it's worth. This smacks of what I have heard some say about other human suffering. For instance, don't provide vaccinations for poor countries because then they'll just starve to death. After all, it's just Evolution eliminating the unfit. Let countries bash each other until the blood runs like a river in Africa, what do we care - the sooner they kill one another off, the better. I've heard it all and this seems like more of the same. I think Roy said these conflicts go on for decades. Actually, they can go on for hundreds of years. The more they fight now in Iraq, the longer it will go on and on with more and more retribution upon more vengeance for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Give the Kurds Independence
The US should have supported the dismemberment of Iraq from the start carving it up between Kuwait, Jordan, and an independent Kurdish state. If the Sunnias wish a civil war I think the Kurds and Shia should be allowed to accomodate them. Perhaps they will have the backbone to also deal with the Sunni's sponsors.

It is alos amusing to read comments here commenting on the US Civil War and its results. Does anyone believe the fantasies that the war was fought to free the slaves? This only demonstrates the US educational system is more concerned with teaching Leftist fantasies than examining the truth.

O.K. joanie and objectoriented, what is the solution?
Look, I hear people all the time bemoaning the war in Iraq. They say we should never have engaged in this and we should get out now. Both of you seem to be of the opinion that "Bush lied and people died"; that we never should have gone into Iraq.

I'm not sure I agree or disagree, but I do think it is indeed part of the war on terror.

Look, most of the people who say we shouldn't be there were bemoaning the sanctions against Iraq and the terrible cost it was taking on Iraqis. In light of evidence and records recovered since the invasion that shows Saddam would have restarted is WMD programs the minute sanctions were lifted; that attitude is a bit out of line. The guy was a brutal dictator and a menace to middle-east security at a minimum.

As a person with a military background I detest war; but I also understand the reasons for it. We were going to have to deal with Saddam eventually and it is always militarily better to do so when the enemy is weak. The problem with most military actions is what to do after you've cleared the battlefield. Should we have left without finding and taking care of Saddam and his leading henchmen? If not, then should we have gotten out as soon as they were captured or killed?

The goal was a noble, if a bit idealistic, one; setting up a free and secure state in the middle east. That required a occupation and some rebuilding while setting up elections and a government of Iraqis by Iraqis.

I agree with the author, we have succeeded in the last beyond my wildest imagination; however the results on the security front and rebuilding front have been mixed. From my relatives who were (and one who still is) in Iraq I can say with confidence that what you see on the news and read in the newspapers is really just a small part of the story. The rebuilding and security issues in 80% of Iraq are going pretty good. But, mainly in the Sunni Triangle, it is a horrible mess.

As for the solution; I don't have one. We certainly shouldn't "leave now" as some advocate. That would guarentee a civil war in short order. But we can't stay forever either. I would say that we need to continue to build a capable military force for this government (for at least the next year) then begin turning over all police, military and security operations to that force a bit at a time. Out in a year would be great, but two to three is more likely.

Yes, we could lose another 2,000 troops but, if you really believe in trying to limit suffering it is better than 2 million Iraqis.

In the end a civil war in Iraq will be far more costly (in terms of human life and suffering) than Saddam or the American invasion and occupation. It could indeed lead to a free and lasting peace in Iraq or it could spill over into surrounding countries. I tend to believe it will lead to instability, long-term fighting and could ignite the powderkeg that is the Middle-East. In the end we must make this work or risk facing a major crisis through the entire region; and a major lapse in confidence in America throughout the world.

Does anyone remember the 10-years after the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam? Whether you are a diplomat or a economist, you have to admit it wasn't pretty. This will be much worse and could actually lead to a lot more bloodshed worldwide.

A war crime
Paul, I'm interested in your statement that "In light of evidence and records recovered since the invasion that shows Saddam would have restarted is WMD programs the minute sanctions were lifted". You are in agreement, then, that for so long as the inspections regime was working there would be no resumption of such a program?

If so, then there was a low cost way of making certain there would be no such resumption of WMD production into the indefinite future. Minimal expense and trouble, an effective program and not one single life lost. Would this really have been the less desirable option?

Instead, having invaded a nation that had neither the intention nor the capability of going to war with us, we have incited the anger of a billion Muslims. We are spending, what is it? ninety billion a year with no end in sight just to stay in a game we can't win? And over a hundred thousand lives were lost just in the first two years, beyond the civilian death toll in Saddam-controlled Iraq. That, to me, sounds like a war crime.

In previous wars, in fact, I believe we felt morally superior to nations that invaded other nations on spurious grounds. Reference World War II.

I would suggest you go back and read the material in the Project for a New American Century, written in the 1990's about an Iraq invasion by people now in the administration. Try to come to some conclusion from their own words that convinces us our motive was not world domination.

Iraq debacle
I agree that we should do all we reasonably can to avert a civil war. If it does break out, we should let them have it out and have our guys secure the borders with mines, ground forces, and air power to keep the fight among Iraqis.
We then explain to whoever wins that an extremist government will not be acceptable and work with the winner to achieve that. The killers would be thinned out by the process of the war and easier to contain or eliminate. With the borders sealed, reinforcements from Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria would not be possible.

Try this
It's an interesting point, Joanie, but there's an assumption here that we care about human suffering. The historical record of humans is that we are in fact indifferent to suffering at least until the latter half of the 20th century. As to what changed this, not really sure except that I expect mass media, particularly television, played a large role.

So when do wars stop? When one side is destroyed or both sides have exhausted themselves or suffered enough to prevent continuing. The only suffering we really pay attention to is our own. For example, various groups including governments in the Middle East have been killing each other in truly disgusting ways for decades (or centuries), but we only started to care enough about it to get involved directly after thousands died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

hey Joaine…
Fancy meeting you here! (lol)! If your point is the future mental attitude, than I suppose I would have to completely disagree. Or at least point out that this is just a continuation in that area. We went through 10-years of this in Vietnam and, since then, we have had some military action or another every few years. Throw in WWII and Korea and I think it is fair to say we have been "getting used to war" for 65 years.

O.K., but you asked for it
Certainly. That's the answer to your first two paragraphs.

Unfortunately I am convinced that sanctions on Iraq at all levels were about to be lifted (Certainly by no later than 2005 with France and Russia leading the way and the concerted liberal media blitz screaming about the poor dying Iraqis that was already underway.) So the rest of your post is a moot point, but I will respond briefly.

As for not having the intention of going to war with us or other nations in the region, get real. WMDs were not the only reason for going into Iraq so arguing just that point is silly to me. I would say there were plenty of reasons, not the least of which were Saddam's constant harrassment of, and firing at, our patrol planes over the "no fly" zones. That alone was an act of war by Saddam under the terms of the 1991 agreement that ended the Gulf War.

Then you say "…over 100,000 lives were lost just in the first two years…" Where do you get that? Some liberal blog? Even Iraq Body Count list a maximum of 32225 dead from the start of the war to the present. This and your closing puts you on the edge of reality sir.

I hate war and I was against going into Iraq when we did. But I also realize we were probably going to have to deal with Saddam some day; better when he was weak than when he was prepared. I will take 2,200 casualties over 22,000 any day!

Here's the source of the number
It was an estimate published in Lancet magazine in 2004 with an account here:

"The estimate, to be published next week in The Lancet, a leading British medical journal, comes from a distinguished group of social and medical scientists at Johns Hopkins University, headed by Dr. Les Roberts of the Bloomberg School of Public Health. The team also included researchers at Columbia University and the College of Medicine at Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. They went house-to-house in 33 neighborhoods that reflect Iraq society as a whole and interviewed residents about deaths in their households since the U.S. invaded. The death rate, they found, averaged about 300 percent higher than normal, attributable to the war's violence."

In other words, its a completely bogus estimate, not based on counting casualties, but on epidemiologic statistics, as follows: interview some households, get their unverified statement of how many losses were incurred and then extrapolate to the whole country. Complete rubbish.

Exactly, I read that
and most people source CNN or BBC (tells a lot about who ran with it!) as the source where they found it.
I don't really like Iraq Body Count, but they seem to be doing be best and most comprehensive work on the subject. I think their number are probably a bit off, but it it hard to say if they are low or high, so they are probably as accurate as we will get right now.

BTW, the cited study is also the way anti-smoking groups came up with the number of deaths from second-hand or environmental smoke. This in spite of the fact that several major studies have shown the "health effects" in terms of heart disease, stroke and cancer were "withing the margin of error of the study".
Ain't it wonderful how stastics can be skewed! (We won't even get into the GW issue!!)

Actually it's worse
because the EPA study on second hand smoke was a meta-study, meaning that they did no work of their own, merely combined the results of a number of other people's studies but in this case without paying careful enough attention to their differing methodologies.

However, that wasn't good enough, the EPA still couldn't get a result, so they changed the confidence interval from 95 to 90% (meaning they changed the margin of error and that the study is illegitimate irrespective of any other factors), and then had the gall to report second hand smoke as a hazard based on an RR (relative risk) of 1.19. This is the result you would likely get from random numbers, meaning there's no result here. To be significant, you have to have a RR of at least 3.

Is it any surprise that enviro-freaks like the Tuna or the Beanhead love epidemiology?

If you're interested in this stuff, visit Number Watch; a fascinating and rather technical site by a retired professor John Brignell in the U.K. Guaranteed you'll be pulling your hair out at the mass of stupidity disguised as science inflicted on us.

I'm confused
Paul, My first two paragraphs were "You are in agreement, then, that for so long as the inspections regime was working there would be no resumption of such a program?" and

"If so, then there was a low cost way of making certain there would be no such resumption of WMD production into the indefinite future. Minimal expense and trouble, an effective program and not one single life lost. Would this really have been the less desirable option?"

And your answer for both was "certainly". As in "Certainly Saddam would have been self contained by the mere continuation of the inspections program" (paragraph one) and "Certainly this would have been the less desirable option" (paragraph two). What??

Next, there is no evidence that sanctions might have been about to be lifted just prior to 2001. None at all. Or if any does exist, you could supply such evidence.

Please provide reasoning, while you're at it, that my suggestion we should have simply continued the inspections is a "moot point". They were working. They cost next to nothing. No lives were being lost. On the other hand... what?

As for the provocation posed by our overflights in 1998, I'll simpply say there are two sides to that engagement.

As for Saddam's intent to engage in further belligerence, I find this to be the pirest of fantasy. He was crushed instantly in 1991. And the only reason he ever invaded Kuwait in the first place was that when he checked with April Glaspie, he was emboldened to think we were sitting this one out. You can read the record on that. Anyone in Saddam's position would have known that further belligerence would have been the most suicidal of follies.

On my observation about the 100,000-plus excess deaths, I am quoting the findings of the Johns Hopkins study. Can it be that you haven't heard of it?

All experts agree that the methodology of IraqBodyCount is the least inclusive of totals-- being a tally of recovered bodies with names. So if you like there is a high end and a low end. The Baghdad coroner's office gives testimony leaning toward the higher end.

At any rate, why quibble about numbers when the number for continuing the inspections regime would have been zero? Yes, there's a benefit to Saddam and his sons no longer being around. But is it worth the suffering? A plurality of Iraqis would disagree.

Finally, there certainly exists the possibility that either Baathists in the Saddam mold or Shiites in the Saddam mold will again come to rule the country once we are gone. I don't see this one as a net gain.

...which... what probably what happened when the U.S. supported and used people like Saddam in the past.

Also, the U.S. ignored events in Iraq when Saddam was gassing Kurds.

...and after that...
...the Kurds won't forget that they were gassed by a Saddam who was for decades supported by the U.S.

Shame, indeed
And let's not forget who supported that dictator in the first place.

The interesting thing is what you mean by "all" in "war of all against all."

You Asked for It?
Why do you say that the U.S. has to "deal with Saddam some day" when they had been dealing with Saddam for a long time?

The best source, of course, comes from the horse's mouth:

No wonder
you're confused RB. The Johns Hopkins study is infamous statistical garbage.

Saddam's patrons
Saddam was, of course, our proxy in his war against Iran. We found it impolitic to lecture him on the Anfal campaign while we were promoting his valiant fight against the Iranian devils.

Note that far more Kurds were rounded up and shot in lonely ravines than were gassed. And far more Kurds were taken and shipped to desert camps along the Arabian border so their villages could be obliterated than were seized and shot. Such reports as appeared in the US papers usually described the killings as "Iranian claims" of atrocities.

But at the time, this was considered to be none of our business. We were giving logistic support to the Iraqi Army via our satellite surveillance of the front, giving them an advantage in the war. Also we were giving them back-channel loans to purchase military supplies through the Banco Lavoro Nazionale's Atlanta office. Not many apologists like remembering that. All this took place during the height of the Anfal.

As for the "war of all against all", it has been said that war is the terror the powerful visit on the weak, while terror is the war the weak wage on the powerful.

Numbering the dead
The Johns Hopkins study uses the same statistical methods by which medicines are evaluated. If you refuse to consider sampling, all polls and statistical surveys are, in your words, "garbage".

But let's say for the moment that science is wrong, and statistical surveys are useless by their very nature. Using the most rigorous measure, we only get 28,500 confirmed deaths (to date) of known individuals that are undeniably due to the violence spawned by war. As opposed to the zero that this figure would have been had we let the sanctions continue, are you still saying we were justified in walking into a quagmire?

Reality is not always simple
As I recall, back in 1991 wasn't the reason we abruptly withdrew before Saddam fell precisely because we feared Iraq would fall apart? Didn't we fear a Shiite oil producing south that hated us and sided with Iran? (For that matter, isn't that where we're headed now?)

Didn't we prefer an emasculated Iraq, unable to cavort on an international stage without our calling the tunes? Isn't that why we engineered the sanctions that killed more Iraqis than Saddam ever did? And isn't that why we set up the Oil for Peace program, under the auspices of the UN?

If you read the analyses of the pre-politicised CIA and DoS, both were of the opinion that an independent Kurdistan would be invaded immediately by the Turkish Army, and the American Empire would begin to unravel. I think a moment's reflection will tell us that is the reason the Kurds cannot be independent.

Besides, if by some magic the Turks should declare no interest in a free Kurdistan, it would immediately go to war with itself. The Talabani faction and the Barzani faction are sworn enemies.

I'm glad I'm not the only one pulling my hair out
Actually, the EPA study was my next rant; you beat me to it. Another is the Helena Montana study; what a crock. It made the BMJ as if it even made sense. At least the peer review noted there was no science and little study in this piece of trash.
The list on this issue is endless; but we digress.

I actually believe the number of deaths in Iraq is under reported on IBC, but it is pretty close. Honestly, I find that amazing. With the number of terror bombings, air strikes and the combat operations, I expected something like 100,000 to 200,000 dead. The fact the Iraqi army threw down their weapons and ran is probably a big reason for the lower numbers. less fighting and less fighting in the streets than I thought there would be.

as for Number Watch, yeah, I'm always interested. Thanks for the heads up. (I try to keep abreast of any subject I'm commenting on. I may not have all the information, but I'm willing to admit i'm wrong.)

They kept their guns
Actually the Iraqi Army did not throw down their weapons and run. Take a little trip in your time machine back to April 9, 2003.

After a flurry of telephone traffic, all resistance in the country stopped. The army retired to barracks, to await the conquerors. Expecting that they would be impressed into the service of running the country under an American flag, they were quite surprised to find themselves fired. They were then sent packing, WITH their weapons, to find nonexistent work. Unknown numbers of them, lacking any means of support, added to the ranks of lawless, armed freebooters. More unknown numbers became the backbone of what became known as the Resistance.

This was a problem Rumsfeld and then-aide Bremer created. It was a stupid blunder.

I don't recall the Helena Montana study. Could you ID that please?

Well there's this
I don't say that all statistical surveys are wrong, just as I don't say that all epidemiological studies are wrong. Some are very good, such as the original smoking studies by Richard Doll in the 1960s. However, all too many of them, particularly in recent years violate basic principles of statistical significance. There is probably no issue that illustrates this better that electromagnetic fields. Some studies find no result, but those that do are never consistent with any other results, and the dose response relationship is always tiny. What it adds up to is statistical data dredging.

So, no I don't believe its acceptable to violate statistical significance requirements to publish what is essentially a piece of propaganda. The Lancet is prone to doing this; they published and held credible for years the manic claims of a British doctor who held that childhood immunization was harmful. I cannot begin to guess how many parents, and there were many, who were terrified about this, who prevented their children from receiving immunizations resulting in future death or disability from tetanus, polio, diptheria

Next, it does not automatically follow that the result of not intervening in Iraq would result in zero casualties. History didn't go that route, so we don't know what would have happened. All we can say is that the situation in Iraq was highly unstable and was going to change violently sooner or later.

All of this said, no I didn't support the Iraq intervention, not because I think it was all about oil, and not because I think Iraq didn't have WMD. I was against it because it was obvious that there was no serious post-invasion occupation plan, no understanding of the degree of occupation that would be required, and that the notion of exporting western democratic institutions to an alien culture was fundamentally silly, but the United States is prone to idealism and evangelism on this matter. I opposed Iraq invasion because in the long run it will fail, because the United States doesn't have the ruthlessness to pursue those measures which will put an end to the insurrection in that country. How do you do it? Look at Britain's actions in South Africa at the end of the Boer War; that's how you solve an insurrection.

But if lies or propaganda are used to oppose a bad cause, the moral high ground is lost in the debate, and that's why the JH study is harmful.

It doesn't really matter now about the reasons for the Iraq intervention. It's done; now the U.S. has to figure out how to get out.

Taking a stand
"Next, it does not automatically follow that the result of not intervening in Iraq would result in zero casualties. History didn't go that route, so we don't know what would have happened. All we can say is that the situation in Iraq was highly unstable and was going to change violently sooner or later."

We're poles apart on this one, Colin. There undoubtedly would be some casualties from not invading. But they would be minimal. Saddam had already killed everyone who stuck their heads up, back in 1991-92. There was no one left alive who opposed him who hadn't either left the country or was staying very, very quiet. So the death toll from political violence would have continued being close to zero.

In my view Saddam's Iraq was possibly the most stable country on earth. After he went, the same ownership would have resumed under one of the sons.

The trouble with counting the large numbers of people who disappear in societal violence, anarchy, war and civil disorder is that they can not be counted. When you only count those who are lying in plain view you know the number you come up with is going to be a very low ball figure. That's the IraqBodyCount number. If you try to extrapolate from personal interviews and interview as many different kinds of people you can get to, you get an estimate based on the average number each family lost. An estimate is not an exact figure. It's an order of magnitude.

This is what the study determined. How many Jews died in Europe? Or Gypsies, about whom we know even less? How many peasants are dying now in Darfur? No one knows the precise number. Does that render the crime itself less tangible?

I don't share your view that the United States is prone to idealism. We profess idealism, and congratulate ourselves as being righteous Babbits, in the front pew every Sunday. But we have never taken any action under any administration to actually do something about mass murder, whether by our own hand or that of others.

In that regard you might find Samantha Power's "A Problem from Hell". She catalogs the American response to every genocide from WWII through Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Saddam's slaughter of the Kurds, during which years he was our client.

When you philosophise about "how you solve an insurrection", do you ever stop to wonder why there is insurrection in countries occupied by foreign forces? Isn't there a similarity to the Filipinos fighting Black Jack Pershing in 1899, the Free French fighting the Germans and Vichy collaborators, and the insurgents of Iraq fighting their own foreign devils? Is it a foregone conclusion that when people defend their country against us, it is they who are the terrorists?

I don't get the logic. The way to get out is to board the plane and leave.

The Hanging Judge puts a noose around his neck
One has to be truly naive to believe the CIA and State were never politicized but then again why burst the bubbles of fantasies one lives in? Turkey wouldn't accept an independent Kurdistan? According to whom ace? Are we to believe a nation that van accept Syria, Iran and Iraq as good neighbors is about to flex its muscles voluntarily or that it could do so without consequences having demonstrated its bona fides as an ally?

Anyone who like to quote the CIA probably also quotes Baghadad Bob with equal ease. Given their sorry record its hard to believe anyone would use their projections as authoratative of anything except as an example of why it is a joke and needs to be gutted.

Tell us Roy exactly how long have you headed by the NEA Bureau. This is the kind of thinking one can only find in the bowels of Foggy Bottom.

Can't argue that point
You are right, they kept their RPG's and other small arms.

For the complete text on the Helena, Montana study go to:
It is a published paper by: Richard P Sargent, attending physican; Robert M Shepard, attending physican; Stanton A Glantz, professor of medicine.

Might be easier to just go to: then typ in "helena" for key word and one of the above for authors.

You said: "Next, there is no evidence that sanctions might have been about to be lifted just prior to 2001. None at all. Or if any does exist, you could supply such evidence."

Did you stay away from radio and televison from 1995 to 2002 sir? Go back and read a newspaper, there was a concerted attempt since at least 1995 to get sanctions lifted. Lifting sanctions would have meant and end to the no-fly zones and inspections. There was a widly publized effort, led in the U.N. by France and Russia, and taken up by groups like Amnesty International and the like. I will not go to google and look this up again because there are thousands of references.

"Please provide reasoning, while you're at it, that my suggestion we should have simply continued the inspections is a "moot point". They were working. They cost next to nothing. No lives were being lost. On the other hand... what?"

Because, if we just go on our merry way Iraq would have gotten sanctions lifted by now. The media blitz of the issue was already putting pressure on the Brittish and Americans and had already gotten to most of the Gulf War allies. Sources were claiming a million dead due to sanctions, the U.S. was being called a terrorist nation in several circles due to the sanctions, there were protests of the sanctions.

In reality the war quieted the protests and international rhetoric, at least for a while. It is one of the reasons I have no respect for most of the war protests and international clamor; it is the same people, they just turned their protest signs around.

Look, I'm not going to convince you of anything; your not going to change my mind either. If I were the president there would be no Iraq, or Iran, or North Korea and I might have turned my sights on France as well.
And I'll admittedly say, it is probably a very good thing I wasn't president on 9/12/01.

Insurrection or revolution is legit
But an insurrection fights the foreigners, it doesn't kill it's own. There is a big difference between your other examples and what is happening in Iraq. If the Iraqis were banding together agaisnt the Americans and Brittish I would agree; get out now!

That is not the case. They have voted, they have a government agreed to by the vote, but the terrorists are trying to kill anyone and everyone in an attempt to take over from the legitimate government. This is one the U.S. actually didn't hand pick and it was the right thing to do.

Again, where do you get your information? Less than 1 in 10 casualties over the past year or two have been Americans; the rest are Iraqis; a large number are Iraqi police and military trainees. This is not about getting the U.S. out of their country, it is about killing for killing sake. The groups doing this have an arbitrary goal of taking over the country after the U.S. leaves, but this is just pure blood thirsty. They don't really care if Americans stay 6 more months or 6 years.

Look, we may not be able to keep a civil war from happening but, if that is true, than the killing will become unreal when we leave; and there will be a huge backlash asking why we did nothing to stop the genocide.

Regardless, Saddam was, through hook or crook, going to creat problems in the the region once again. This time he was probably going to play it smarter and I have little doubt it could have proven tough to deal with him in 2010.

I find it interesting that before 9/11 protesters, various countries in the U.N. and people like you were screaming about how the sanctions were killing Iraqis.
Then there was an outcry about the war, and you say we didn't have to go to war because sanctions were working, and now you claim sanctions wouldn't have been lifted.

Which is it?

Were sanctions a great evil that had to be lifted or not? Are you saying, in spite of the cry against the sanctions, that they shouldn't and wouldn't have been lifted?

Do you believe, in spite of the captured documents saying Saddam had WMD ambitions, that he wouldn't have re-started his programs after sanctions and inspections ended?

What I really want to know is this - Was it better to go after Saddam in 2003, or five to ten years after sanctions, inspections and the no-fly zones had ended?

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