TCS Daily

More MacArthur, Less Marshall

By Peter F. Schaefer - November 1, 2006 12:00 AM

In an earlier commentary on TCS I argued that what we did in postwar Japan has important lessons for what we do in any postwar enterprise including Iraq and Afghanistan. This generated a considerable number of comments from TCS readers, most of which were at least somewhat critical. They were in good company since many of the criticisms agree with the leading expert on postwar Japan, John W. Dower, Professor of History at MIT and recipient of the 2004 Mellon Award. Dower has said repeatedly in various influential journals that there are no lessons for Iraq to be learned from looking at our experience in Japan. He is a bit more eloquent than the TCS readers but the logic tends to be similar; Japan is too different from Iraq to apply.

Unfortunately, Prof. Dower is wrong. Although some readers assert a position I don't hold and then attack it, Dower and other readers seem to miss the larger point of what happened in this period of history which starts in 1942, not 1945. So let me try to rephrase what I said in my first commentary and then add a bit.

Despite MacArthur's successful postwar transformation of Japan, Korea and Taiwan, we then failed to build modern states in countries like Vietnam where we had both the power and vital national interest to do so. In fact, helping poor people build stable, modern states has been a primary foreign policy objective for many decades. We understood that prosperous trading partners were better than bitter, desperate enemies. So helping poor states become fully modern was essential for our long-term security. As a result, we have spent trillions in its pursuit but have failed, and are still failing, to achieve it.

It is probably too late to apply the lessons of Japan to Iraq and Afghanistan, so why should we care? Well, America is the global superpower in an increasingly globalized world. There are lots of failed states waiting their turn to implode, and the dirty work of mopping up the mess will fall to us again and again.

Moreover, US military doctrine (DOD Directive 3000) requires that war-fighting and pacification be co-equal to military objectives, so we really have no choice but to learn how to help poor countries make the transition to modernity. James Joyner writing in TCS sets out nine key points, itemized by military theorist Tom Barnett, from the newly revised Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual. The most important is #5 which states: "The best weapons for counterinsurgency do not shoot (Often dollars and ballots have more impact than bombs and bullets)." Dollars and ballots? To do what? More of what we did in Vietnam?

Iraq and Japan are not the same historically, socially, economically or politically. In fact, I generally disagree with the often over-wrought parallels between Iraq and Vietnam, other than that they are both examples of our failure to build a nation. MacArthur actually engaged in nation building. He institutionalized, through law, what was until then a sense of nationhood largely animated by religion and race, which is a large part of the reason he left Hirohito on the Chrysanthemum Throne. Guided by modern ideas, MacArthur had the Japanese themselves codify customary practices, traditional rule-sets and some existing laws and regulations into a legal code. Laws based on social custom and traditional practice were essential in allowing a sense of Japanese nationhood to continue while still forming those institutions that explicitly define a modern nation.

As all Japanese began to see themselves as a part of a true nation with a common rule-set, a modern state could be formed despite great social disparity (in 1945 Japan was largely a rural country; half were farmers and half of those were tenants). I don't claim that docile postwar Japan is the same as violent Iraq, but there is no reason our strategic objectives should have been so radically different in these two cases. MacArthur's objectives are valid in any failed state whether the failure is the result of war, famine or mismanagement.

Moreover, MacArthur's occupation plan was developed between 1942 and 1945 and then used during the occupation. It was produced by a large team working on the expectation of a hostile invasion and a process of pacification that would cost a million US casualties and millions of Japanese lives. MacArthur knew that he would not be welcomed as a liberator. His team knew there would be much hard work needed to keep the Japanese islands from descending into chaos and violence.

After MacArthur finished in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, the American policy community missed the fundamental difference between his strategic approach of nation building and our technocratic approach in Europe. We have consistently adopted Marshall's model of state building when faced with a collapsed state. But dollars and ballots (and certainly not bullets) cannot build a viable state without the laws and a civil society on which to anchor it. In my earlier piece I said that the state is the "...apparatus of a nation" and states often fail because they are not based on a true nation. A successful modern state must be grounded in a viable nation. There is no other way.

The Declaration of Independence represented a consensus that allowed 13 colonies to forge the American nation. The Declaration was a political action, but it defined the embryonic American nation, it did not impose it. It was a statement of existing beliefs and philosophy that had been evolving at least since 1607 (Jamestown) if not 1215 (Magna Carta). Only afterwards was the U.S. Constitution able to define the state structure. It would have been an empty document were it not grounded in that commonly understood consensus of nationhood.

Bribing village elders and killing insurgents will never build a viable state because a nation is not just a collection of tribes who happen to share the same space. True, a "propinquity principle" may take hold after a long period of time as in Iraq where there are three very disparate communities. Today the majority of Iraqis still feel the push of Iraqiness somewhat more than the pull of their ethnic identity but this seems to be unraveling. If Iraq collapses it will not happen because a state ministry isn't doing its job well enough, but because the vague sense of Iraqiness will have succumbed to its lack of explicitness and consensus. But after the war in Iraq, we skipped that part and went right to the constitution, the state.

One reader asks if the Yugoslavian nation and the Sioux Nation were the same. As I suggest in my previous comments a nation is more virtual than actual; a sense of unity and identity. So the Sioux Nation (its legal designation) is far more of a nation than was Yugoslavia. In fact I would argue that the so-called "Red Sox Nation" is more of a nation than Yugoslavia. Marshall Tito created a state but not a nation while the Sioux are a nation but not a state.

The dominant aid model became one of state building due largely to the enormous, rapid, well reported, culturally resonant success of the Marshall Plan in Europe. However, the problem with this success was that the Marshall Plan was not involved in nation building. It wasn't necessary. In fact, the Marshall Plan was not even involved in state building, but rather it was state rebuilding and therein lies the rub.

Marshall's approach would have failed in Japan (much less Iraq and all the other poor countries on the aid dole) but still it became the dominant model for all our foreign aid and our postwar efforts at development assistance until today. As a result we focus on providing the hardware (the apparatus) of a state (roads, bridges, food, clinics) not the software of a nation (mainly laws and regulations, especially those governing the whole economy, not just the part for foreign investors). Now this process has pieces of each in the other. The US occupation forces (before the 1947 Marshall Plan) did get the Germans themselves to do some "state building" by cleaning up and modernizing some laws and political institutions, but the changes were hardly profound (the Christian Democrat Party, which ran Germany for decades, was founded weeks before Berlin fell, see here).

In 1945 the European states had existed for centuries and even those that were relatively new (German and Italy, for instance) developed out of an ancient sense of nationhood. And they all had well-developed states which had traditions of democratic capitalism, despite the anomalous authoritarianism of the 20th century. The Marshall Plan gave these European states money to help them rebuild their national economies.

The relevance of the Japan experience for Iraq is not to find an answer to so many tactical questions readers asked, such as what is the appropriate troop level? That's the wrong question. I would rather ask, how many troops would you need if there wasn't an incipient civil war going on? Despite everything - years of a Sunni dictatorship that involved regular mass killings - the majority of the people (even Kurds) still have a sense of Iraqiness. But what they don't have are the institutions which reflect that national sense. The legal "expert" brought to Iraq by the State Department just after the war was an Iraqi-Swedish lawyer who intended to bring European "best practices" to the benighted, lawless Iraqis.

However, all societies have rules otherwise they would descend into anarchy. And the basis of all consensual laws (as opposed to imposed) is the customary or informal rule-sets that have been evolving with the society. These rule-sets must be rationalized and formalized (and yes, modernized) as a part of creating a true nation, but laws cannot be imposed if one expects them to be observed.

The Hammurabi frieze in the US Supreme Court building memorializes Iraq's 4000 year old civil law tradition. It contains the rules of everyday life which could only have worked if there was a sense of being Babylonian. Of course, many social and criminal laws of Saddam's time and extreme elements of Shari'a law cannot be a part of a modern nation-state. But it is likely that they never were a part of the social consensus for most Iraqis. The foundation of any civil code is the customary practices - social and the economic - that are identified and formalized.

Once the national law establishes common rules for peoples' property and savings - mainly their homes and businesses - Iraqi citizens can then get about working, saving and doing business with (not killing) one another. There will always be fanatics, but most people with jobs and a shot at a future don't blow themselves up. Aristotle was right, poverty makes revolutions.

To answer Prof. Dower and my other critics, it is important to say what I am not asserting. Postwar Iraq and Japan are not very similar in the specifics. But this is also true of Vietnam and Iraq, Rwanda and Iraq, Kosovo and Iraq, and so on. Everyplace is different but that doesn't mean there aren't critical common threads.

What is common in each is that you have a pre-modern society that largely wants peace and prosperity and is willing to those accept rules necessary for both. Anyone who thinks that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis, Afghans, Sudanese, Palestinians, Iranians, Lebanese want anything more than to grow old with some security and stability need only read the polls.

In the future, we are going to face the task of stabilizing failed states, whether former enemies or just the run-of-the-mill basket-cases. What will we do next time? I am uncomfortable with the Pottery Barn Model (you-broke-it-you-bought-it) since it has a slightly imperial flavor to it. I prefer the car dealer principle of you-broke-it-you-fix-it. At least this slogan reminds us that we must get the car running before we start worrying about what color to paint it.

Peter Schaefer was a special operations officer in Vietnam, working to eliminate the VCI or Vietcong infrastructure. Since then he has worked in the private sector in poor countries and was a senior official at the U.S. Agency for International Development during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.



Haven't we been thinking about these things for at least 60 years?...
The Marshall Plan approach and the management strategy of MacArthur may have both seemed grand according to their broad policy statements. But no such program succeeds on the basis of what it said it was going to do when it was pitched. Success is in the tactical details and those evolve out of the unknown variables over time. It is a process more than an event.

What we do in management is the best we can based on the information we have at hand and according to the way events play out. Long range plans always fall apart before they are implemented. Indeed annual plans at the best run companies are substantially updated after the first quarter actuals are in (it's called the April Update!).

Iraq is not Japan 60 years ago and it is not Germany 60 years ago. Iraq is Iraq today. As for regime change and nation building we did not sign up for al-Qaeda launching the War on Terror in Baghdad. Those people were all supposed to be killed or scattered around inside Afganistan. Another unknown variable that makes any such "plan" suspect.

Nation and state
Borders, language and culture define a nation.

The western powers have been drawing borders and defining states with little regard for language and culture.

The Soviets understood this and forced the dispersal of ethnic groups throughout the USSR.

Maybe the west needs to reconsider the concept of nation-states in light of the internet and the possibilities of virtual nations. (Ever notice that at some baseball games, the visiting Red Sox may have more fans than the home team?)

Regarding those who support the bullets and bombs theory...
Unfortunately, there are too many individuals who are of the mindset that we should "kill 'em all and let Allah sort them out." I had a discussion with one such individual yesterday at TCS.

Anyway, if I can read about this mindset here at TCS, then so can the Iraqis.

Now, I'm not going to tell this individual that they don't have a right to express their opinion (although when I expressed mine by questioning the government's strategy in Iraq, the same individual called me a seditionist).

But I do think we need to understand that vitriolic messages such as the one noted above could backfire and make our situation in Iraq more difficult. Rather than participating in the implementation of a policy that could produce a stable nation, the U.S. could end up in a role not unlike that of England and the colonies and have the Iraqi people taking a unified stance against us.

Academic discussion
Peter Schaefer finds himself arguing with an MIT professor over what we could/should do in Iraq should order ever be restored there. Pardon me, but isn't this an academic discussion? There is less and less order in Iraq every day. One wonders why Schaefer would pretend otherwise.

One difference between Iraq and post WWII Europe and Japan is that there were enough occupying troops to keep order. WWII was not fought on the cheap to avoid raising taxes and drafting Republican kids.

There are still distinct differences between Japan and Iraq
I think the article is correct in terms of how nationsbuilding should work; codifying the extant informal rules of a society so that the bulk of the new law is accepted without question because it's what the average member of the new electorate already holds to anyway.

However, I see three important distinctions between Japan 's situation and Iraq. These are:
A)Japan didn't just have a national identity, they had a strong national identity and clear sense of what being Japanese meant.
B)The Japanese culture had a strong central authority and a recent history of conformity to that authority structure.
C)The Japanese had been thoroughly defeated on the battlefield first, therefore almost everyone from Army privates up to and including the Emperor understood the futility of further resistence.

Iraqi's may have a sense of an Iraqi national identity, but it would be almost unique in the Middle East if that national identity superseded their tribal or religious identity. Saddam was supposed to be a secular Arab nationalist, but in the end, the bulk of the power in his government was in the hands of family members and Tikriti tribesmen. Iraq is culturally a fairly recent British mashup, so it's hard to imagine that appealing to nascient Iraqi nationalism would be extremely effective. The Kurds have been trying to claim their national status (along with a chunk of Iraq and Turkey) for a while now. And obviously the Wahabi/Shiite/Sunni cagematch puts sectarianism above national identity.

Further, the most effective cultural authories in Iraq are clerics, and unfortunately, due to the structure of Islam itself, there is no central authority that can issue a proclaimation and have it carry weight with the majority of the population. In Japan the population was largely pacified and cooperative once the emperor was co-opted.

Lastly, (put me in the "bullets and bombs" category) by being overly culturally sensitive, we never really disincentivized the old undesirable social/political structure. By trying to conduct war with the minimum disruption possible we cut off our nose to spite our face. Without the bombed out cities day to day depravations that are the typical aftermath of a large scale conflict, the insurgency can, with a few tatically insignificant acts, be disproportionately effective at making the average citizen's life post occupation harder/more dangerous/less enjoyable than his life was pre-occupation. For lack of a better term, by ***** footing around, and by giving the impression that there's a reasonable chance that we'll simply leave the field (...and let's face it, it wouldn't be the first time we abandoned Iraqis who looked to us for help) we've create the perception that resistance might not be futile, and that cooperating with the new regime might ultimately be fatal.

Therefore, while again, I think the assesment is correct in theory, I don't see how it can effectively be implemented in this particular situation.

Without restraint
LG, it's mostly republicans and republican-minded that are fighting this war. The country is becoming more and more stable, it is only in certain population centers with dominantly Sunni ethnicity that the violence continues. It has escalated because the war continues and because our enemies sense failing weakness in our core. The biggest difference between our success in Japan and Germany and our failures in Korea, Viet Nam, and Iraq is that in the former, the U.S. sought total defeat of the enemy and prevented an insurgent backlash, wheras, in the latter, the wars were only pursued to a ceasefire, but no surrender. But don't worry LG, I think your side is going to prevail in the long run. The U.S. and other western powers will continue to disable themselves psychologically so that winning at war will become impossible and our enemies will use our technological strengths against us without restraint.

How Dare You Challenge LG's Orthodoxy
Dammit man, get a grip, you obviously are way to dispassionate. You need to get educated, so start reading leftwing blogs.

I seriously doubt Iraquis are combing TCS for offensive messages, perhaps other than a minute amount. The postings here are nothing more exercises in vainglory and narcissism.

After WWII in Japan and Germany ...
how many socialists or imperialists from neighboring countries were trying to destabilize the region?

If we wish to repeat the successes of Japan and Germany after WWII, the we must bomb all major cities in Syria, Iran, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia and Jordan and every other Muslim country that wishes to continue the fight.

The Allies destroyed the will of Germany and Japan to fight before trying to rebuild.

I can understand why the Allies today do not to follow that path. Unless the Iraqis and thier neighbors see the light soon, that will be the path forced upon the free world, again.

Too bad Libertarians don't want to defend liberty.

Too bad neo's don't believe in natural law and freedom of speech

Do you think that this is the only place where this attitude exists

Why don't you explain... your idea to "kill them all and let Allah sort them out" will help to create a nation. What was your theory again? You know the one about civilized men needing to be as barbaric as possible?

Junyo is correct
Junyo1's comments show how you cannot utilize the strategy that worked with Japan in Iraq. (Interestingly Junyo was the name of a Japanese aircraft carrier during the war...)

Japan is and was a homogenous nation. Iraq is not only comprised of several ethnic/relgious groups, but they all hate each other. MacArthur did not have to deal with destabalizing forces while he went about rebuilding the country, while our troops have to stop the idiot Iraqis from not only killing Americans, but anyone else they can get their hands on.

To me, the true difference is Japan, despite its imperialistic government, was a civilized nation. Its people understood how to behave. To many Iraqis do not fall into this category.

So, you want to beat up the entire Arab world...
"...we must bomb all major cities in Syria, Iran, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia and Jordan and every other Muslim country that wishes to continue the fight."

Great idea. Let's destabilize the entire region because you're on a crusade.

What makes you think they're not going to fire back???

Japan, Korea and Taiwan were also fairly homogeneous cutures. They already wanted to live with one another. In Europe the defeated countires also had a form of nationalism in place; there would be a Germany, old the border details had to be decided.

The current situation in Iraq lookss like three distinct groups that don't want ot live together.

I think the greater lesson from McArthur is in the Philippines, where he allowed the medieval Spanish mestizo system to remain in place.

Even today the land, money, government and resources are controled by less that 1% of the population. the other 70 million live as peasants.

Enemy must be defeated first.
Do whatever it takes to cause the enemy to lose the will to fight.

Now if your enemy will subjugate you if they win, then there is no surrender, unless you do not value liberty.

If your enemy does value liberty, they you might have shot at a better way of life if you stop fighting.

Iraqis surrendered in droves when they had the opportunity during the first gulf war. The officers had orders to shoot any who did not follow orders.

Our forces in Iraq and around the world are obviously not feared by the enemy since all that is required to make a US soldier hold fire is a lawyer.

Swiss History may be relevant here
I'm afraid what we are trying to do in Iraq is what France did in Switzerland in 1798 with the Helvetic Republic, a centralistic parliamentary republic. It didn't work there either. The Sunni/Shia conflict may even be analogous to the Catholic/Protestant problems in Switzerland as well. Switzerland didn't become stable until it adopted a Federal Constitution with cantonal and a central parliament.

That was situation in 1945.
If you want to recreate the sitution in Japan in 1945 in Iraq, then violently persuade all those supporting the Iraqi insurgency to stop.

Suicidal maniacs
In the case of Switzerland in 1798, were there gangs of suicidal maniacs with shifting loyalties roaming the cities, blowing up churches, funerals, wedding parties, leaving stacks of headless bodies and creating carnage and terror among the Swiss population?

Oh, great. Now you want to start case you haven't noticed
...everyone's got much bigger toys. The Arabs have missiles that can start taking out surrounding areas.

Don't kid yourself, a World War in this day and age will look a lot different than it did back in 1945.

Critical flaw: doesn't take radical Islam into account
I do appreciate that the author takes the concept of nationhood into account here. (This recognition of the importance of a cultural/historical context is an important part of conservative thought, I think, but is totally lacking on the left and, I'm afraid, often lacking among libertarians.) However, I think he is mistaken in thinking that all members of failed states primarily want peace/security and prosperity. No doubt many, probably most, do want these things more than anything else but an important minority--radical Muslims--do not. They most highly value religious purity and imposing what they believe to be the will of Allah on those around them.

This attitude reminds me of post-Christian leftist Europeans who reflexively see all things in terms of material goods/power. And so we see the French believing that the "disaffected youths" shouting Allahu Akbar while torching Peugots in the suburbs of Paris are merely protesting a lack of jobs and government-subsidized community centers.

Much of the problem in Iraq is that a substantial minority of the country--that portion involved in the "insurgency"--is more interested in living under a Shia or Sunni Islamic state with Shariah law than in living in a nation state characterized by peace, prosperity and liberty. And if our nation-building attempt doesn't try to incorporate relatively modern concepts of individual liberty and democracy, should we even bother with the aftermath of war in the first place? Would it not be better to go in, knock down the threatening dictator or government and then let the UN or the locals put back the pieces however they can? If things turn out badly and another threatening government takes root, take them out when necessary. I'm not saying this is the best route to take. But I can't see our men fighting and dying to pacify a country if our efforts to rebuild a failed state are basically just to encourage the locals to codify their shared historical values/identity when those values--as is probably the case with Islam--are not conducive to liberal democracy.

for junyo1...
It's O.K. to say "***** footing" the context you use it, the word refers to the quiet, cautious way cats tread (..."on cat-like feet" wrote Arthur Sullivan...). The other kind of ***** footing is an element of the foot fetish made famous by Richard von Kraft-Ebbing, another subject entirely.

A nation is a sovereign military entity...
If the 200 nations are no longer free to compete militarily and those governments will hereafter derive their revenue streams by taxing their own GDPs then the concept of sovereignty should indeed evolve.

Perhaps the mututal relationships enjoyed by the 50 United States of America are instructive. Certainly the EU is moving in this direction as they have finally given up the notion of conquering each other at the point of a sword.

Censorship by TCS?
Just whose sensibilities do you think you are protecting with your silly censorship of this perfectly acceptable word?

Where are WWII Japan and Iraq similar?
While it is correct that Japan, as an island nation that had been closed to most direct outside influence for several hundred years prior to the visit of the American fleet in the 1850s, had a strongly defined sense of national unity and not the strong factionalism that is plaguing Iraq, we should also remember that the culture of Japan leading up to WW II had been guided toward a fanaticism of Japanese racial superiority that, even without a belief in a post-death reward, motivated its soldiers to fight to the death. Japanese soldiers who survived the American attacks and were not captured would retreat into the woods, from which they emerged decades later in Guam and the Philippines. If the emperor had called on Japanese soldiers to resist to the last breath, rather than surrender, MacArthur could have faced years of guerilla warfare on the home islands. Atomic bombs would not be usable against such attacks, and the mountainous terrain of Japan would have made it difficult for US forces to effectively control the interior of the islands. Fortunately for America and Japan, the emperor was not as suicidal and fanatical as many of his generals and soldiers.

It should also be remembered that during the American occupation, there was a surge of activity among Japanese who admired communism, with mild support among trade unions (who put on large May Day parades in solidarity with the Soviet Union) and fanatical support among certain student groups, the Red Brigades who carried out terrorist attacks at the Rome airport and other locations during the 1960s. The main effort of the communists in Japan in recent years has been opposition to the buildup and modernization of the Japanese military, as the best way to prevent Japan acting as a counterbalance to North Korea and China.

Besides the emperor's example, what led the Japanese to cooperate with America, and break from its decades of militarism and totalitarianism? I think part of the answer was that America had proven its superiority on the battlefield, and thus, in the very terms used by the Japanese militarists, demonstrated its way of life was superior. Much of the opposition to America in the Arab world is based on the same very basic notion of superiority: If you fight and defeat me, you are a better nation. The conquest from Spain to eastern Europe to India by Muslim forces demonstrated to the man-in-the-street of Islam that his beliefs and society were superior to Christendom. The psychological defeat of Muslim jihadists depends upon the determination of America and the West to defeat them militarily on every battlefront. It need not be an easy or immediate victory--the long fight in Afghanistan to defeat the Soviets was no less honorable because it was long--but if America gives up before our enemies do, most Muslims will judge America to be weak and therefore not to be emulated or followed.

I must disagree marjon
"The western powers have been drawing borders and defining states with little regard for language and culture."

when Britain drew those lines they had EVERY consideration for culture & language, they made sure those lines crossed every damned culture right through the center, balkanizing the entire ME on purpose.

the shape of the modern ME was drawn in malice, perhaps it's time to admit this and redraw.

Japan and Korea are neither multi-ethnic nor multi-sect
Those are the critical faultlines in Iraq that the killers have exploited. Rebuilding there has to look more like Yugoslavia than like Japan, which doesn't portend great success.

Since there isn't a strong common culture, some more-or-less artificial focal point must provide the basis for the future. Neither we nor they have been able to create it. Ralph Peters writes today that the closest thing that exists there is the Iraqi Army. The police and ministries are (perhaps fatally) highly balkanized and corrupt.

Occupation; Japan vs Iraq
There is no correlation... General MacArthur and the Military held total contral of the Occupation of Japan, whereas Bush / Rumsfeld / Powell immediatlly inserted Ambassador Brenner, a Civilian of tender age 38 y/o in over 3 & 4 Star Generals who were Trained in Military Occupation... Conclusion: - you can see what the aftermath has been, not enough soldiers to quell the "Out"sergents as well as the Insergents... Al Sydir allowed to live and cotiue stirring up troubles, IRAN and Syria allowed to provide instigators and you have the mess on hand right now. Either go in to win or do NOT GO IN AT ALL...

I have been a supporter of this Effort but it has been mishandled by CIVILIANS. PERIOD.


Do you think that an economic incentive could be the artificial focal point that you suggest? Would common ownership of their oil in the form of a Permanent Fund and dividend be sufficient?

not even Cheney
"The country is becoming more and more stable, it is only in certain population centers with dominantly Sunni ethnicity that the violence continues."

Not even Cheney is saying this any more. The statistics don't show it. The south is becoming violent as Shiite groups fight each other.

We're there already
Most of the people causing violence in Iraq are Iraqi. The groups fighting each other, Shiite and Sunni militias are Iraqi. Blow up Iran or transplant Iraq to the moon and they still would kill each other, and the occupying forces. The bad guys all are in Iraq. We have the will and the permissions to go after them. We just don't have the manpower.

I'm impressed at how much death you feel casual about.

We're just not good at this stuff
I'm not sure that anybody is good at nation-building...

I agree that we should have jailed Sadr and finished Fallujah the first time out, etc.

Our fundamental mistake was to think that Iraq would be like Afghanistan but easier. After all, Iraq had a massive exile community ready to go home. They had much more education and money, no sharia, etc.

Whatever we rightfully expected, we should have been better prepared. Expect the best, prepare for the worst.

I've been amazed at how consistently the military has been able to employ lessons learned to become more effective. Hats off to after-action reports and those who use them.

Alaska-style fund makes sense, but...
It's no panacea.

Once the killing starts, it takes a long time to die out. Consider Lebanon over the decades. The fighting isn't really about us anymore. It's about power, money, and revenge.

Wars really end when one side openly concedes defeat. Otherwise, you're just kicking the can down the road. That's what just happened with now-rearming Hizbollah.

A person or ideology could be that focal point. "Democracy" hasn't worked, nor has an Iraqi maximum leader emerged, not to mention a George Washington who would self-limit his time in power. Therefore, the only reasonable forecast is for a long, bloody struggle.

It's worth noting that LBS is a better outcome than the probable alternative - a short, really really bloody Rwanda-style genocide.

The scatterplots don't show that
Yes, there are problems all over, but 90+% is in four provinces.

And of course, Kurdistan is so successful that many Sunnis are moving there.

Regardless, Baghdad is in bad shape, and there is no easy way to fix it.

The biggest difference is that neither Korea, Viet Nam, nor Iraq ever attacked us.
Prospector wrote: "The biggest difference between our success in Japan and Germany and our failures in Korea, Viet Nam, and Iraq is that in the former, the U.S. sought total defeat of the enemy and prevented an insurgent backlash, wheras, in the latter, the wars were only pursued to a ceasefire, but no surrender."

No. The biggest difference is that Japan attacked us and Germany declared war upon us, whereas neither Korea, Viet Nam, nor Iraq ever attacked us. WW II was a war of neccessity whereas the wars in Korea, Viet Nam, and especially Iraq were wars of convenience for the U.S. They were arguably not neccesary for U.S. national security.

The difference this makes is that the U.S. had moral license to to do whatever was neccessary to defeat our enemies in WW II because we ware attacked or threatened, whereas no such moral license nor neccessity in Korea, Viet Nam, and especially in Iraq.

Hence in WW II we had moral license to utterly destroy the enemy and the enemy was the nation itself. Especially in Iraq we can not morally do that, since Iraq never attacked nor threatened us.

Further, exactly how are we to accomplish "total defeat of the enemy and prevent... an insurgent backlash"? Level the place like WW II Germany or Japan? We can't do that in this kind of war. Our purpose is to build a nation, not destroy it, and then rebuild it as in WW II. The enemy never intended to fight. They would have been foolish to do so against overwhelming U.S. force. So they just melted away, only to reappear, along with others, in guerilla form. What did we expect? Unless Iraq had actually attacked or threatened US, which she NEVER did, there is no moral justification to level her.

The "weakness in our core" and our "psychological disability" is because we went to war without the adequate overwhelming support of the American people, nor the moral justification, necessary to see it through to victory. The war was sold by political manipulation. One can't fool all the people all the time. When the people eventually wake up to the fact that the war was never neccessary, the will to fight evaporates. The administration was too arrogant to understand this.

It was the wrong war at the wrong time. That fact cannot be escaped.

The only way to salvage any kind of victory is to take the approach of the author of the article, or consider dividing Iraq into three separate states to reflect the concept of nationhood on the ground there -- Kurd, Shiite, and Sunni.

We're trying to impose a European parliamentary socialist/social democrat model upon Iraq. It just won't work.

We should just arm the general population, forming a large militia or "people's army" so they can resist intimidation in their neighborhoods and let the chips fall where they may. Freedom is not free. We can't just "give" them freedom. They have to want it enough to fight for it themselves.

Write it like this -- "pu55yfooting" or "pusssyfooting" -- let's see if it works
Write it like this -- "pu55yfooting" or "pusssyfooting" -- let's see if it works.

North Korea certainly attacked us, just not our territory
Our soldiers were there helping an ally.

If our Navy had been attacked in Sidney instead of Pearl Harbor, that would have been just as much an attack on us.

Can you read?

Israel's original border was drawn to encompass where most Jews lived.
Didn't the Brits do that?

The difference was that it is not our territory
Sure, we have the right to defend others, but not as much as our right to defend ourselves. Hence, we have less moral right, and the right to use less force. We cannot go in there and kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to liberate them or protect the Saudis or Kuwaitis, like we would have the right to do so to protect ourselves.

If our Navy had been attacked in Sidney instead of Pearl Harbor, it still would have been OUR navy in a friendly port, NOT some OTHER navy.

Of course, there were differences between Korea and Iraq. The South Koreans welcomed us there to defend them in a conventional war. We can actually consider the Korean war a success, because it actually saved the people we were there to help, mainly because they wanted us there.

Iraq is entirely different. We were not invited there. We invaded. The first Gulf War was at least a partial success because we were invited to defend Kuwait (and Saudi Arabia) by Kuwaitis (and Saudis), and we left after the job was done. (Though, we stayed in Saudi, and some Saudis, like Bin Laden, did NOT welcome us and eventually attacked us.)

But in the current Iraq war, the Iraqis did not invite us to liberate them. And Iraq never attacked or threatened us.

Bigger Toys
Friend - You do not know what toys the USA HAS! If you did you would not be making such a stupid statement. We could turn IRAN, as an Example, into one big GLASS BOWL in less than 15 minutes, but for the fact that we have a humanitarian heart. But let them explode a single nuclear device on IRAQ or any other country an that will be a fact. The Persians will become an extinct Race of human beings.

No Subject
Hence, we have less moral right, and the right to use less force.Perhaps you mean less right to use force? We have the right to use not force at all, I suppose, but if the Soviets had nuked London, we would have the right to nuke Moscow, no?
We cannot go in there and kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to liberate them or protect the Saudis or Kuwaitis, like we would have the right to do so to protect ourselves.Tens of thousands? Tens? One? The whole notion of an alliance is that we treat our allies' interests are our own, in return for them doing the same. If you toss that principle out...
We can actually consider the Korean war a success, because it actually saved the people we were there to help, mainly because they wanted us there.Now we're getting somewhere. We won, but it wasn't because we were "wanted". It's because we stopped the other guys, who definitely weren't wanted.
And Iraq never attacked or threatened us.Iraq attacked us all the time. And of course they attacked our allies, and their own people. Regardless, I'm curious about what you think our goals should be in Iraq? Stability? Simple exit and if it goes Rwanda, so be it? I would find it difficult to live with the latter outcome.

Never Again?
After the War to End All Wars and WWII, the wars of convenience should really be considered battles against totalitarianism.

DPRK and the Soviets DID attack US forces in Korea, by the way.

Some lessons were learned from the War to End All Wars and from WWII. Namely that it is better have limited regional conflicts rather than deploy nuclear weapons in a war the will end all wars, at least for a few centuries.

If the Democrats want to 'redeploy', deploy to the borders of Syria and Iran, place a trade embargo and let them, the Iraqis, have it out amongst themselves.

ABM treaty
And thanks to the abbrogation of the ABM treaty, defenses now exist for many threats from Iran.

But their interests are not neccesarily our own.
"We have the right to use not force at all, I suppose, but if the Soviets had nuked London, we would have the right to nuke Moscow, no?"

Yes. In that case we would have the full support of the British people, the people who were wronged. It may or may not be in our interests if it then subjects us to retaliation.

We did not have the full support of the Iraqi people to liberate them.

"The whole notion of an alliance is that we treat our allies' interests are our own, in return for them doing the same. If you toss that principle out..."

Our true interests are not neccessarily the same. We have to be careful about making alliances.

"And Iraq never attacked or threatened us.Iraq attacked us all the time. And of course they attacked our allies, and their own people."

No they never attacked us. We attacked them. How did Iraq ever attack the United States? They may have shot at U.S. planes over Iraqi territory, but that is not aggressing upon us any more than the U.S. shooting at enemy aircraft in U.S. airspace.

They may have attacked Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia, two monarchical dictatorships, but that's not attacking us. We had no formal alliance with Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. It is debateable whether it was in our interest to help them.

The real question is the current Iraq war. The Iraqis did not invite us there to liberate them. We took it upon ourselves. We took it upon ourselves to decide for them to risk their lives (along with our own) to bring them freedom. They have to decide for themselves whether to risk their lives for their freedom. That decision is not ours to make for them. We have a right to liberate people, but not subject unwilling people to death and injury on someone else's behalf.

"Regardless, I'm curious about what you think our goals should be in Iraq? Stability? Simple exit and if it goes Rwanda, so be it? I would find it difficult to live with the latter outcome."

I opposed the Iraq war from the outset. It was and is a foolish idea. My main goal is for us to get out of there, with victory and stability if reasonably attainable, but out of there nonetheless, even without stability.

No, I would not like it if it goes Rwanda, especially since our intervention would have led to it. Even now, it does not have to go Rwanda. Yet, we can still withdraw.

The answer lies in dividing the country up into three independent natural political subdivisions -- Kurd, Sunni, and Shiite -- maybe in a loose confederation, but independent if necessary. What we're trying to do now is trying to impose a European-style social democracy. It won't work. You can't create a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Also, instead of trying to train a European-style military force, I'd arm the people themselves, creating militias of free men, so they can defend themselves. And then I'd let the chips fall where they may. Freedom is not free. Sometimes it has to be purchased with blood.

Recall the original provisional constitution we tried to foist upon them. It outlawed the private possession of firearms except by licensure by the government. The Iraqis wisely rejected that provision.

Hope so
"DPRK and the Soviets DID attack US forces in Korea, by the way."

Actually, the Soviets didn't attack us. It was the Red Chinese. It was not U.S. territory that was attacked. Regardless, we were invited into South Korea. We were not invited into Iraq.

"Namely that it is better have limited regional conflicts rather than deploy nuclear weapons in a war the will end all wars, at least for a few centuries."

Then let's make sure the regional conflict is necessary. Whether the Gulf or Iraq wars were necessary is highly debatable.

"If the Democrats want to 'redeploy', deploy to the borders of Syria and Iran, place a trade embargo and let them, the Iraqis, have it out amongst themselves."

That's better than what we're doing now.

Maybe the women you know have to put up with your arrogance...
...but I don't.

Stalin Approves DPRK invasion plans
"Meanwhile, in early 1950, North Korean leader Kim Il-sung traveled to Moscow for a meeting with Stalin. They discussed Kim’s plans to invade the South, and Kim asked what Soviet assistance could be expected. Stalin advised him to discuss the invasion plan with Mao Zedong, who also happened to be in Moscow. After discussions, Mao agreed that the South was weak enough to be conquered, and Stalin also approved the invasion.[6]"

"Then let's make sure the regional conflict is necessary. Whether the Gulf or Iraq wars were necessary is highly debatable."

I guess if you don't mind Iraq expanding into the Arabian Peninsula and, I would suspect an Iran that would not approve, there would be another war and the world's economy would suffer as oil prices climb.

Now I wouldn't care too much if the Arabs and the Persians duke it out, its win/win for US.

And don't forget, the USA is not the only country affected by oil prices. India and China have growing economies and sudden disruptions in supply would not be taken kindly. Who knows what they might do. They have nukes.

But even if oil was not a factor in the invasion of Kuwait, what nation today would tolerate the invasion of a country with the intent of annexation?

Soviets flew the MIGs in DPRK
"For many years, the participation of Soviet aircrews in the Korean War was widely suspected by the United Nations forces, but consistently denied by the Soviet Union. With the end of the Cold War, however, Soviet pilots who participated in the conflict have begun to reveal their role. [1]

Soviet aircraft were adorned with North Korean or Chinese markings and pilots wore either North Korean uniforms or civilian clothes, to disguise their origins. For radio communication, they were given cards with common Korean words for various flying terms spelled out phonetically in Cyrillic characters.[1] These subterfuges did not long survive the fury of air-to-air combat, however, and pilots were soon routinely communicating in Russian."

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