TCS Daily

Rhetoric and Withdrawal

By Lee Harris - March 7, 2006 12:00 AM

Two British newspapers have recently claimed that the United States and Great Britain have devised a game plan for withdrawing their troops from Iraq by early 2007. The plan would have three stages. First, a moderate reduction in troops; second, the concentration of Allied troops into secure bases; and third, the simultaneous withdrawal of these remaining forces, in sharp contrast to a gradual, stage-by-stage, withdrawal.

Immediately on hearing this report, the governments of both the United States and Great Britain denied any such plans were in the offing. A spokesman for the British even made use of one of President Bush's favorite bits of rhetoric, declaring that the Allied troops would not "cut and run."

What are we to make of all this? Did the British newspaper simply get it all wrong; or is there something else going on?

Let me first of all note that I am one of those people who has previously criticized Bush for his "stay the course" rhetoric and his continual insistence that we cannot "cut and run" in Iraq. Long ago my father gave me very sound, practical advice about running a business, and it can be applied to both politics and war as well — to wit, to survive you must learn to "cut your losses," so that you do not continue to throw good money after bad. Thus, if we have failed to achieve our aims in Iraq, it is essential that we must recognize this failure as soon as possible, in order to keep our initial failure from turning into a full-scale catastrophe.

I still think that my father's logic was true; but, after reading the report in the British newspapers, I was forced to go back and rethink my previous objections to Bush's cut and run rhetoric. For, if the British newspapers got it right, then I realized that it is essential that Bush continues to insist, as emphatically as he can, that the Allied troops will not cut and run.

What is most important to note about the withdrawal plan reported by the British newspapers is that it is governed purely by military, and not by political, considerations. In a stable and pacified Iraq, there would be no reason to concentrate the troops into bases, and no reason to make sure that all the remaining troops were removed simultaneously.

Indeed, it is this emphasis on simultaneous withdrawal of a huge number of Allied numbers that reveals the underlying fear that could alone explain this method of withdrawal — the fear of leaving small and isolated clusters of troops in hostile territory. In short, the move both to concentrate forces into bases and then evacuate them simultaneously is precisely the right way to save forces that would otherwise be endangered by encirclement by an enemy. Or, to put the matter another way, it is the only viable plan for withdrawing our troops in the worst- case scenario — one in which our troops find themselves virtually trapped within a hostile Iraq.

Yet, if this is in fact how we are planning to withdraw from Iraq, if the worst case scenario comes to pass, then it is absolutely imperative that this plan must be kept secret, or, if word of it leaks out, it is of the utmost importance to deny such a plan as emphatically as possible. Indeed, if this is our plan, then Bush must continue to preach his stay the course rhetoric, and to reaffirm over and over again that we will not cut and run.

An example from history might help.

One of the more puzzling questions about the Second World War, and one that is still shrouded in controversy, is why Hitler "let" the English and French allied forces escape at Dunkirk in 1940. Why didn't he simply finish them off while they were trying to evacuate?

Historians have offered interesting explanations for Hitler's failure to take advantage of the Allied route at Dunkirk. According to one, Hitler believed it was "unthinkable" that the British were trying to escape from France back to Great Britain. He had "always warned that once the British got a toehold anywhere it was almost impossible to dislodge them" — a conclusion that Hitler had reached, based on his personal experience fighting the Brits in Flanders during the World War I. Thus Hitler "was convinced that the British would fight to the last man in France and that he must deploy his forces accordingly."

It is tempting to conclude that Hitler may also have been influenced by Churchill's rhetorical insistence the English would never abandon French soil. Had Churchill announced ahead of time, "Well, if the fighting gets too tough, we can always evacuate our troops across the English Channel." It is impossible to believe that Hitler would not have taken note of this. In which case our memory of Dunkirk would not be one of a successful evacuation, but one of a military debacle that would probably had removed Churchill from power and Great Britain from the war.

For that exact same reason, Bush must continue with his stay the course rhetoric, and must disclaim all intentions to cut and run. Similarly, both the American and British governments must categorically deny the reports of a carefully planned military evacuation if such an evacuation is to succeed.

By the same logic, those of us who (myself included) have been critical of Bush's gung-ho rhetoric must rethink our own positions in light of the worst-case scenario that could well unfold in Iraq over the next year. Critics of Bush (like myself) have been focusing far too much on seeing Iraq as a failure of policy and get exasperated by Bush's persistent optimism in the face of continuing political setbacks. We wish to see Bush acknowledge that he has made a political mistake, but we have not sufficiently thought out the military implications of such an admission on the situation of the Allied troops still in Iraq.

My guess (for the little that it is worth) is that the withdrawal plan reported by the British newspapers was no accident and that word of this report was deliberately leaked by the British and American military in order to alert us to the fact that we may well be facing the worst-case scenario. One in which our strategy is no longer to stabilize Iraq, but to avoid getting caught in a militarily untenable situation where our troops are forced to literally fight their way out of Iraq at great cost to both our political and military prestige. On my interpretation, the leak was designed to be a "wake-up call" to those of us who are still thinking of Iraq in terms of political success or failure, and to shock us into recognizing that we may well soon be facing a critical situation where the only important question is not whether to get our troops out, but how to get them out alive.

If my guess is correct, then it also explains why there must be official and emphatic denials of the reports given by the two British newspapers. If we in fact have such plans, then it would be immensely hazardous for us to officially announce them since it would alert our enemies, both inside and outside Iraq, that we are fearful of the military vulnerability of our dispersed and scattered troops and that we are prepared to take the necessary steps to reduce and eliminate this vulnerability.

One of the first rules of war is never to let your enemy know the point at which you feel most vulnerable. Yet it is equally important in a war to make it clear to one's own side just how serious a crisis has become in order to keep critics from focusing on irrelevant issues that distract both them and the public from the true gravity of the situation facing their nation.

I don't expect everyone to accept my interpretation of the withdrawal plan reported by the two British newspapers (which may well turn out to have been completely bogus.) But it is enough for me to question my own earlier criticism of Bush's Churchill-like rhetoric, and to wonder if we are not dealing with a case where Bush has no choice but to continue the same rhetoric, because it is the only way of assuring that the Allied troops will be able to extricate themselves from Iraq without a painful military debacle that would spell a catastrophic loss of American prestige — a loss that our enemies would waste no time in exploiting to the hilt.

Paradoxically, the stay the course rhetoric of Bush turns out to be the wisest approach both for the best-case scenario in Iraq as well as for the worst-case scenario. But then, the same thing might have been said of Churchill's rhetoric as well. As Dunkirk proved, in wartime mere rhetoric can become a powerful weapon, both for achieving victory and, what is often even more important, for minimizing the costs of defeat.

Lee Harris is author of Civilization and Its Enemies.




Voltaire's Pangloss preached that we are living in the best of all possible worlds. His antipode must surely be Mr. Harris, who so often suggests we live in the worst of all possible worlds.

Still, my thanks to Mr. Harris and TCS, for making his articles available.

Conservative says boot Bush or pay dearly
How To End The War
by Paul Craig Roberts

...The neoconservative Bush administration prides itself on not being "reality based." Facts get in the way of the administration’s illusions and delusions. Bush’s "80 Iraqi battalions" are like Hitler’s secret weapons. They don’t exist.

...If the cloak of democracy is stripped away, Bush’s "wars for democracy" begin to look like the foreign adventures of a megalomaniac. Remove Bush’s rhetorical cover, and tolerance at home and abroad for Bush’s war would evaporate. If Bush persisted, he would become a pariah.

Americans may feel that they cannot undercut a president at war, in which case Americans will become an embattled people consumed by decades of conflict. Americans can boot out Bush or pay dearly in blood and money.

Dr. Roberts is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, former contributing editor for National Review, and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Boot Bush
Who would wind up with in his place, and what would be their ideas for dealing with Iraq and the war on terror? The economy is doing well though many feel that Bush is weak on domestic policy in general. Most people feel that Bush understands the war on terror and his stubbornes is an asset in this regard.
You can intellegently argue that Iraq is not a front on the war on terror but the insurgents act alot like terrorists regardless of who they attack.

A curious strategy
A basic tenet in medicine is that removal of the inflammatory agent must take place before the inflammation can subside. Leave that agent in place and the inflammation will tend to get worse.

BTW, if the end plan is to complete the withdrawal, how come we're still building all those permanent bases?

Iraq may not initially have been a front for the war on terror, but once we took over it became a focal point for any Muslim on earth who opposed Western imperialism to come over and try his hand against us. Thus our resolve to stay the course has been a big recruiting boost for Osama and company.

Can we imagine a scenario in which America stays there, and the insurgents go away?

Were the Germans just busy
Good article Lee
My dad has always thought the Germans were supposed to/intended to take care of the British but stopped to do a little looting first.
This was reason they had time to escape.
Not sure where he got his information the next time we talk I'll ask him...if i can remember
Things should be as simple as possible but no simpler

easy from the comforts of home
"Paradoxically, the stay the course rhetoric of Bush turns out to be the wisest approach both for the best-case scenario in Iraq as well as for the worst-case scenario."

That's right long as it's not you, your son or daughter who is sacrificed on the alter of empire in the process. You talk as if this was some cost free adventure; remember that our young are the ones that pay in blood and agony.

How to spread secret plans
It seems that in the US anyhow, there is no viable way to "let your own people know" what's the ultimate plan, without "leaks" springing up like artesian wells everywhere, and letting the whole world know. Even when the government tries to keep things under wraps, often for very good reasons, the information is printed next day in the _*** Times_ or that _*** Post_.

In the open information world in which we live, there's no safeguards for restricted information, and not much in the way of penalties for releasing data that's secret. With that kind of irresponsibility rampant, there's no alternate but to prevent the "real plan", whatever it might be, from leaving the closed doors of military intelligence briefings, or in some cases, even entering those halls. *some*body knows what's going on, but most folks don't, in other words.

Reporting used to be more responsible. Fifty years ago, Geraldo Rivera would have been imprisoned for drawing a map in the sand of American troop movements on national TV, as the troops were advancing for battle. Now he's just sent home. What used to be treason is now an inconvenience and an invitation to write a book.

David Wills

How to spot a Philosopher
Many years ago, my father taught me how to understand philosophers.

It began with some kind of a discussion about noble philosophical thought, and the like.

He illustrated what he, in his salt-of-the-earth way, called 'philosophers', but in reality I believe he more truly meant 'people whose only action is thought', but just didn't know any better way to articulate it.

He said it like this:

Several philosophers were walking along together one day, when they came upon a horse in a field. Their discussion turned to the question of how many teeth the horse had. They spent many hours debating the issue, judging the color of the horse, its size, its demeanor, etc, and were well on their way to concluding just how many teeth the horse must have. Meanwhile, a simple farmer had been listening to their debates for a while, when he simply walked over to the horse, opened its mouth, and counted its teeth. He then told the philosophers his discovery, and they were shocked at the nerve of such a simple man, presuming to instruct THEM. What mattered to them was not the truth, but simply the exercise of their mental gymnastics.

I guess it was a parable of sorts. In any case, it is applicable today, reflected in the hand-wringing over the 'war' in Iraq.

The liberals, socialists, luddites, and just-general-America-haters would all have you believe that it is a foregone conclusion that the one thing that simply cannot happen in Iraq is exactly what we are there to do, and what is in fact happening.

This is apparent when seeing just what the 'thinking elite' class in this country and elsewhere choose to see, and what they spend their time pontificating about. The endless wailing, gnashing of teeth, and doomsaying do not in fact reflect the reality of what is actually happening there. Even the STATE DEPARTMENT, for crying out loud (not populated by the dreaded evil 'neocons' of that there is no doubt) is printing updates filled, not with despair and failure, but examples of one success after another.

But people see what they want to see.

Remember the line from Hunt For Red October? 'The Russians don't even take a dump without a plan, son.' Well, neither does the U.S. Military.

Common sense says that our military will eventually draw down, most likely to 'maintenance' levels, such as what was still in-country after WWII in Germany and Japan. But still, a draw-down will occur. So, what, are we expected to have a draw-down without making the PLANS on how to do it? Ridiculous. But just the existence of a plan implies nothing other than the fact that an organized military makes plans for everything.

The point about the rhetoric being at odds with the 'plans' is a simple one: Would YOU want to announce to a bunch of terrorists that the military force which has been killing them is going to be going away on such-and-such a date? Well, gee, thanks, we'll just take a vacation for a while, and we'll be back once you guys leave. Yes, I know, no sane person would do that.

The only message that matters be sent to terrorists is: 'As long as you are a terrorist, your life is in danger.' Not, 'Your life is in danger for only the next 18 months, then you are free and clear.'

The liberal utopian mental midgets inhabiting this board are so divorced from reality that they can go on about bloodbaths, and American imperialism, ad nauseum, and all the while, it never occurs to them to just go look in the horse's mouth. The truth doesn't matter to them any more, because it would conflict with their self-aggrandizing little fantasy worlds in which they exist.

And shame on you, Mr. Harris, for looking at this issue as some kind of puzzle, some kind of mental exercise, instead of with simple common sense, which you normally have done. You are better than that.

You mean this was the plan?
"The liberals, socialists, luddites, and just-general-America-haters would all have you believe that it is a foregone conclusion that the one thing that simply cannot happen in Iraq is exactly what we are there to do, and what is in fact happening."

Amazing. So the plan all along was to destroy Iraq as a viable nation and propel it into a sectarian civil war? To bring oil production to a halt? To create conditions of lawlessness and intractable unemployment? To make it a place where America and everything it stood for would be reviled for the next generation?

This is incredible. Have you figured out why we might do such a thing?

They were, but
not with looting. The armored divisions had done the bulk of the fighting thus far, had taken most of the losses, and were the bulk of the force containing the British, as much of the German infantry armies had not yet arrived, so they were strong in firepower but thin in numbers. If the attack on the British had failed, the Germans had relatively little right at that moment to prevent a British breakout, however unlikely that might have been. With a large French army encircled at Lille, their supply situation was still rather tenuous.

Because of their fast advance, many of the Germans' vehicles were badly in need of maintenance, and they still had the second half of the campaign, the drive on Paris, to undertake.

So yes, they were busy, doing auto maintance.

- destroy Iraq as a viable nation..'
Well, I guess a nation with free elections and a Constitution does not count as a 'viable nation'. So, what does? Let me guess - Cuba.

- propel it into a sectarian civil war?
Hmm, ok, they are all working together, even the Sunnis are coming into the political process now because they realize their 'boycott' last time around only hurt their representation. But I suppose it would be better to go back to the good old days of the Baathists just gassing entire Kurdish villages, 'rape rooms', manacled people being thrown from rooftops.. because, well, at least it ain't no 'sectarian civil war'.

- ..To bring oil production to a halt?
Oh I get it - you think that WE did that, and not the psychotic destructive terrorists? On the other hand, in your mind, they are one and the same, right? Regardless, try rebuilding a nation's entire infrastructure from scratch while keeping terrorists at bay AND keeping whatever scraps of an economy ever existed in the first place running at 100%, and see how well you do. What are you saying, anyway? Are you implying that Iraq will NEVER get its oil flowing at pre-invasion capacity? Or are you just terribly impatient?

- create conditions of lawlessness and intractable unemployment?
What exactly do you think the unemployment rate is? If you said '60%', then BZZZT wrong, go to the back of the classroom with Murtha. And as for lawlessness, consider: (please forgive the length) "one of the defining moments in the American Civil War was when half the officer corps resigned their commissions and went south to fight for their new "country." That's what happens when you have a real civil war; that's what didn't happen in Iraq. Ralph Peters reports from Baghdad:

Among the many positive stories you aren't being told about Iraq, the media ignored another big one last week: In the wake of the terrorist bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, it was the Iraqi army that kept the peace in the streets.

It's routinely declared a failure by those who yearn for the new Iraq to fail. But an increasingly capable Iraqi military has been developing while reporters (who never really investigated the issue) wrote it off as hopeless.

What actually happened last week, as the prophets of doom in the media prematurely declared civil war?

* The Iraqi army deployed over 100,000 soldiers to maintain public order. U.S. Forces remained available as a backup, but Iraqi soldiers controlled the streets.

* Iraqi forces behaved with discipline and restraint - as the local sectarian outbreaks fizzled, not one civilian had been killed by an Iraqi soldier.

* Time and again, Iraqi military officers were able to defuse potential confrontations and frustrate terrorist hopes of igniting a religious war.

In the recent flare-up, sectarian issues had not been a problem in a single Iraqi unit.

There's lots more. Peters concludes:

As I head home after far too short a stay with our wonderful soldiers, I can only offer Post readers my honest assessment:

Serious problems remain. No question about it. We'll hear more bad news (some of it may even be true). But from my heart I believe that the odds are improving that, decades from now, we'll look back and see that our sacrifices were worth it. I found Baghdad a city of hope, its citizens determined not to be ruled by terrorists, fanatics, militias or thieves.

We are doing the right thing.

This is a gigantic struggle for indescribably high stakes. We're trying to help a failing civilization rescue itself, to lift a vast region out of the grip of terror and fanaticism, and to make this troubled world safer for our own citizens. Don't let anyone tell you we're failing in Iraq.

One thing that distinguishes Peters from most reporters who comment on Iraq is that Peters actually knows what he's talking about." Lawlessness indeed.

- ..To make it a place where America and everything it stood for would be reviled for the next generation?
Reviled by whom? American (or canadian) liberal utopian moonbats? Or the terrorists? Because the majority of the Iraqis have a very favorable opinion of us - only roughly 12% want us to 'leave immediately'. Compare that with an (allegedly)American city such as San Francisco, where the percentage of America-hating fools seems to constantly hover around 99%.

Anyway, like I said, the truth doesn't actually matter to you people any more. You just get your daily dose of talking points from Move On or Kos, or that bag of air huffington, and you just go out and repeat them mindlessly like the bunch of microcephalic invertebrates you are. It's not a mystery, after all. Every point you made in your 'argument' is demonstrably false.

Home, Insurgent Home
"...Well, gee, thanks, we'll just take a vacation for a while, and we'll be back once you guys leave."


The insurgents are locals -- they're not going anywhere because Baghdad, Mosul, Fallujah, etc., are their homes. Get it?

Expert on Iraq: 'We're In a Civil War'
ABC News, March 5, 2006

...Said retired Army Maj. Gen. William L. Nash, a former military commander in Bosnia-Herzegovina. "We're in a civil war now; it's just that not everybody's joined in,"

...Anthony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told ABC News, "If you talk to U.S. intelligence officers and military people privately, they'd say we've been involved in low level civil war with very slowly increasing intensity since the transfer of power in June 2004."

Why not imitate the action of the Dhimmiecrats?
If we surrender now we can abandon millions to the tender mercies of people like Saddam. We can all rest assured in the knowledge that despite no evidence to the contrary that the only people in Iraq are Iraqis without the aid and support of Bin Laden or Tehran. This comes from the same people who told us that the VC were fighting a civil war and Hanoi, Moscow and Red China weren't involved.

WE can rest assured that a civil war is taking place despite the fact we don't see the Kurds fighting anyone or the Sumerarians nor any opposition that has a voiced position except for ex Baathists.

We can rest assured that when a military man says something he speaks for the entire military, just as Kerry's memories of Xmas in Cambodia were true and spoke for all servicemen. I love it when we see the same old Baghdad Bob memes repeated over and over by the same old Marxists.

I for one for that the role of the media, democrats and their fellow travellers is well remembered for what they have done in this war so steps are taken to insure the next is declared. Then such individuals can be charged and dealt with accordingly.

Breathless prose
You can't obviate the fact that what we did was to propel a crisis. Maybe something good will come of it, on up the road. But the one thing we do know is that for the past sevral years, mostly bad things have come of it. By every metric, life in Iraq is worse now than it was under Saddam. Including the expectancy that one will not die a violent death.

Lawlessness is up. Public health is down. Unemployment is up. The Iraqis themselves overwhelmingly say that while it's nice not to have Saddam, everything in their lives is worse now. I think we do have to consider their opinion of their own condition.

You're already composing a response in your mind to my mention of the prevalence of violent death. Consider that Saddam has murdered on the order of 200,000 people-- and that it took him 25 years to do it. Now consider that in the first two years we've had our troops there, something between 25,000 (the IBC count) and 100,000 (the Johns Hopkins estimate) have died, above and beyond the natural background rate. Please do the math, then tell me Iraq is better off now.

Plus, there's no end in sight. At least under Saddam, by late 1992 the killings had dropped off to almost zero. There was literally no more opposition to be killed.

You would convince with greater success if you would limit your invective ("microcephalic invertebrates" was a good touch, though) and come up with more factual data that can be checked independently. I'm confident that if you actually measure clean water supply, or hospital beds in service, or electricity delivery, or petroleum production, or particularly the employment picture, or anything else that can be measured, you'll find that it was done a lot better in Saddam's Iraq-- even with the sanctions hobbling the economy during those years. Look it up, and then disagree with me.

Strayed far from Reagan's ideal
Former Reagan aide takes aim at Allen, GOP extremists
AP, March 7, 2006

FORMER REAGAN ADMINISTRATION NAVY SECRETARY James H. Webb, now a Democrat seeking elected office for the first time, said Tuesday he hopes to challenge not only Republican Sen. George Allen but an "extreme" GOP that has strayed far from Reagan's ideal...

"The Republican Party of George W. Bush is not the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan," Webb said in the first news conference of his campaign. "I think it has moved toward the extreme on social issues. I think it has made a lot of mileage out of that in terms of attempting to keep a voter base," said Webb, who endorsed Bush and Allen in 2000.

BUSH'S SPENDING HAS PUT THE NATION IN DEBT AND BETRAYED CONSERVATIVE ECONOMIC PRINCIPLES, Webb said, and foreign policy under Bush is something Reagan would have forsaken.

"The foreign policy of this administration has been taken over by people who would do something we've never done in our history, and that is to attempt to EXPORT OUR IDEOLOGY AT THE POINT OF A GUN," said Webb, a decorated Vietnam Veteran...

Stop quoting the JH study
Roy, please stop quoting that JH epidemiological study. It's methodology is garbage, as I posted in another response elsewhere. I myself am skeptical about the value of the Iraq intervention, but you cannot make a valid claim of harm to Iraqis based on that piece of fiction.

Counting the dead
Ithink I offered quite a few points beyond just mentioning that study. Can you find any area of life in which Iraq can be said to have improved over the last three years?

Let's hereby amend my outline to reflect only that tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed since we got there, either through communal violence, by Americans directly or by those who object to the Americans. And that in addition to those, unknown numbers have suffered due to the general lawlessness, reduced employment and abysmal public health infrastructure.

Here's an overview of the problem of counting:

And here's an interesting report from the Baghdad coroner's office:

So let's just say "very large" numbers.

Vulnerability in Iraq?
The Allied troops in Iraq will not become more vulnerable if they announce an impending withdrawal. The insurgency is not like Hitler's Wehrmacht, it is not a centrally organized mixture of armor, infantry and air. It aspires to be a guerilla force. The insurgency is already doing the best it can to damage the patrols and units of the allied forces -- there isn't much they can do that would be different.

Millions of purple-fingered Iraqis risked their lives more than once to vote for a centrally governed, democratic, united Iraq. A few thousand terrorists say no. Whose side are you on?

You are falling victim to the "point on the curve" perspective. Is life better now than in Saddam's time? Who can say who didn't live there? The real point is this: was life in Germany better for most Germans in 1938 or 1946? Like Germany, the real question is what gets rebuilt out of the rubble. Hussein's Iraq was going nowhere except into a spiral of decay and increasing hardship. It remains to be seen whether the American intervention will result in something better. I have some skepticism in this regard, but it is simply too soon to tell.

As to the numbers issue, I will certainly agree that many have died as a result of the American intervention if you will agree that the increasing lawlessness of the Hussein regime and the consequent increasingly heavy repression to sustain it in power would also have led to many deaths. In both cases, the numbers are largely undetermined as yet.

How unreal
Sorry, the 80 Iraqi battalions (and more) do exist, they are fighting, and reducing US forces to support roles such as external security and logistics. This is a very good thing and is permitting us to progress in Iraq.

The milblogs are pretty clear that the police suck (and they're working on them) and the military is pretty good, has lots of teeth, and very little tail (logistics/support). That's a pretty balanced assessment, not like the data free caricature quoted here by Paul Craig Roberts.

From the public pronouncements, it's getting pretty clear that Iraqi units are often leading joint forces and starting to run a few military operations on their own. We're making progress. the worst case situation is simply not true. It's a pity that Lee Harris and co are being fooled.

The insurgents generally die or win, not drive out the US and then go home
In case you didn't notice, the internal documents we're capturing from Al Queda don't jibe with that little left-wing fantasy that Iraq was a boon for enemy recruiting. There are all of 110 Al Queda operatives in Baghdad where they are clearly concentrating their efforts. 110 effectives is pitiful in their opinion and they are desperate to come up with ways to raise that number.

Captured documents are our best information on actual AQ strength. They are currently not very friendly to the pull out side of the debate.

Empire is a joke
What empire? If we wanted a colony, we'd be doing things very, very differently. The book on how to make an imperial colony has been written successfully many, many times. It's a pretty rote formula and we could have followed it. We did not and are not. The book on how to create a self-standing friendly country that is not our puppet has a lot fewer chapters. This is why we often look like we're making it up as we go along. Nobody else (or very few) has tried this before.

The world's moved on
It's probably true that Reagan would have had a TEFRA style tax increase to reign in the deficits but, then again, TEFRA didn't work out so well and is never really cited by Reagan defenders as one of his greatest moves.

Presidents, even great presidents like Reagan have their good and bad moments. As a great, transformative president, the world Reagan left behind is almost unrecognizable compared to the world he inherited. It is thus exceedingly difficult to pronounce with certainty how a 1980 Reagan would have handled the world that Clinton left Bush 20 years later. Reagan never had the House and always had that drag on his fiscal policy.

I really object to the idea that Reagan was any less firm on social policy than GW Bush. Doesn't anybody remember the Human Life Amendment?

Vulnerability in Iraq
Sorry, that's nonsense. We are not going to withdraw with the job unfinished and we would be more vulnerable if we announced that we were. All that wonderful intelligence that we're getting from Iraqis would dry up, almost immediately. Iraqis aren't going to give us the time of day from the moment we tell them we're pulling out. All political calculations will change, debate will dry up, and the situation on the ground will radically shift.

Vacationing at home
All you have to do is bury your weapons and stay home to have an "insurgency vacation". Your propaganda goes full blast and you quietly meet and organize for the day when it's only Shiites and Kurds you'll be facing.

improved stats
Here's some improved stats:

number of torture chambers, down
number of Iraqi refugees, down, camps closing
economy, up
amount of free and open debate, way, way up

I'm sure there's more out there.

I hadn't noticed, but...
Right you are. If you define "enemy" as meaning "Al Qaeda in Iraq" it looks like they're on the ropes. Zarqawi's tactics have proven to be highly unpopular with his principal victims, the Iraqi public.

However if you define "enemy" as being "Iraqis who used to admire but now hate the Americans", or even more broadly as "world Muslims who see themselves under threat" the picture changes. Both these groups comprise somewhat more than 110 souls.

So, already lost in the thicket, we should just keep slogging forward. The earth is round, and eventually we will find ourselves back where we started.

Way to document your proof
I don't see that you've provided any sources for your claims. It's hard to call your comment "stats" when it includes neither numbers nor references.

One "stat" you could look up for yourself is that civilian executions by quasi-government forces are now in excess of a thousand lives a month. Most are bound, gagged and tortured before death, and litter the streets of the major cities every morning. They are overwhelmingly committed by uniformed individuals driving those white police cars.

"Number of Iraqi refugees down" I'm very surprised you would claim that. The big news this past month is that sectarian violence has uprooted one hundred thousand families, who are now fleeing from Shiite-on-Sunni and Sunni-on-Shiite death squads. Big, meaning everywhere in the news.

"Economy up". Now there's a terse statement. I've no doubt business is improving in Kurdistan. But if you look in a place like Basra the major improvement has been in the oilfields, where Iran has stepped into the investment funding breach and is now underwriting the return on line of some oil fields. They also have an ambitious pipeline in the works. I guess we can take the credit for that, eh?

How about Baghdad? Do they have reliable electricity and water yet?

I would also contest "number of turture chambers down". We haven't the slightest idea. We know even less than before, because they used to be OUR torture chambers, where now they are run by the various splinters of the Iraqi government, as well as by different militias. Torture now occurs in police stations and in back alleys-- not in the now exceedingly well lit Abu Ghraib.

But I'm open to convincing evidence. Let's see some.

Who's to say?
"You are falling victim to the "point on the curve" perspective. Is life better now than in Saddam's time? Who can say who didn't live there?"

I would have no idea, personally. Except when I read recent polls saying a majority of Iraqis questioned say life was better under Saddam. And these are people from across the regional, ethnic and religious spectrum. Poll after poll, the only segment of Iraqi society who approve of the US effort and want us to stay are the Kurds.

BTW I assume it was just a loose turn of phrase that made you refer to the "increasing lawlessness of the Hussein regime and the consequent increasingly heavy repression to sustain it in power".

In the first place, as we see here in America, the law is only what the Leader says it is. Thus no "lawlessness". And instead if you intend "inhumanity", that is also inaccurate. Hideously despotic regimes like Saddam's incur their heavist load of atrocities while getting established. Saddam killed all his political enemies while he was consolidating his power, as did Syria's Assad (the father), Stalin and every other dictator. Once on top, their enemies were all dead.

Compare the death and destruction of the Anfal campaign (1988) where so many hundreds of Kurdish villages were wiped off the map. You didn't have anything like that in the nineties.

Compare the wholesale slaughter of the southern Shiites in 1991, who were encouraged by Bush the Father in 1991 to rise up and defeat Saddam. And who were then left to the mercies of the Republican Guard when they did just that and we abruptly pulled out all our forces. Nothing like that going on now.

Saddam was permanently weakened by the sanctions regime of the post Gulf War era. He indulged in no more slaughters of his people. Thus it would be more accurate to claim there was a sharp decrease in repression and murder during the later years of Saddam's rule.

Plus, he held a monopoly on violence. No one killed people but him, and crime was super low. The number one complaint in Iraq since we've taken over has been precisely the advent of lawlessness and open criminality. More than anything, they want someone who can restore order. A strong man would do nicely for them, if he could crush the criminal elements.

What logic-okay Roy tell us what nation had improved living standards three years...
into WWII?

Its this type of reasoning that argues if American living standards went down as a result of WWII the struggle wasn't worth it.

They're are none so depraved nor foul as those who do not value freedom and count it as little as opposed by the ease and peace provided by cowardise and apathy.

Yes did you see the report of the popular uprsising involving the Iraqi nation?
Millions of them armed with knives and rocks swarming all over our bases?

Neither have I.

In fact when group target Iraqis I rather doubt the Iraqis hate Americans but the authors of the bombings.

Only in Roy's twisted world does the victim blame not the attacker but the person defending him. This is proven by the mass uprising that has....will...someday...keeep waiting....waiting....waiting....come.

Yes Hampton we all know that Webb is a typical Democrat!
Somehow I doubt he'll win the primary with all those patriotic dems who so love this nation and are moved by Webb's principles. I do love Webb and the way he characterized the Clintonistas as basically irrational and reckless with America security in a speech in front of the US Naval Academy. Yes your typical leftist moonbat Democrat.

Oh yes, Webb was a genuine war hero, as compared to well known gun gunner and commando Kerry whose exploits exist only on his 180.

By the way Hampton where is that 180 that would show a dishonorable discharge? Why hasn't Kerry released it?

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