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Despite the intense controversy and hot air swirling around the issue, I find the question of Iraq kind of moot. Unless something drastic happens, the US will be mostly out [of Iraq] in two years

I do not think that we can say that the United States will be out of Iraq in two years this with rational confidence. If I am not mistaken, I believe that all of the leading Republican presidential candidates do not want to militarily withdraw from Iraq. Given the duration of how long it takes for ethnic tensions to resolve themselves in the Middle East (e.g. Iran-Iraq War, Lebanese Civil War, the perpetual Israel-Palestine Conflict), the ethnic and power struggles in Iraq will probably last for at least ten years whether or not the United States chooses to maintain forces in the region.

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I do not think that we can say that the United States will be out of Iraq in two years this with rational confidence.
Bush is unlikely to pull out, so it is probably going to be up to the next President. It will be interesting to see how the Republican candidates position themselves when it comes to the debates. By that time, if the "surge" has not achieved anything material, they're going to have a hard time saying they will stay the course.
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All the Democratic candidates are for drawing down. McCain wants to keep the troops, Hagel wants to withdraw, and the others are waffling. Certainly any GOP nominee would have to come up with a firm Iraq policy by the time of the presidential debates.

Unless things change, I find it unlikely that a candidate that didn't commit to significantly reducing commitments within the first six months of their presidency could win.

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I would like to put this thread back to what Moose said, in post number 1: "What do you think needs to be done [in Iraq]?"

The following needs to be done, and follows by its justification:

Need 1:

We need to identify who the enemy is in Iraq, and how much of a threat they are to the United States interests to its people.

Three groups (by ideology)

1) Former Baathist Officers and Soldiers: Essentially socialists, this was the political party of Saddam. They are secular and might have been helpful against the Islamic Totalitarianists if not for the policy of "de-Baathification" that barred them from holding government jobs in the provisional government. This group is small, but their military training and current poverty makes them willing to side with other factions for money.

2) Followers of the Sunni version of geopolitical Islam: This group wants to establish the Sunni version of Islamic Sharia Law. Their beliefs demand it. This is "Al Qaeda in Iraq" and money from Saudi citizens. To understand this mindset look up "Wahabi Islam." Ideologically, these are the guys that attacked us on 9/11 (although most of the Arab world was happy about it)

3) Followers of the Shi'a version of geopolitical Islam: This group wants to establish the Shi'a version of Islamic Sharia Law. This includes many militias mostly aligned with Sadr's Mahdi army, which receives material support and training from Iran. This group also includes the Iranian Quds Force (special operations) and Republican Guard (special operations) who have "possibly" directly initiated IED attacks on coalition forces (don't ask me for my support on this). To understand this mindset trace the history of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Both (2) and (3) have their roots in the Arab philosopher al-Ghazali (1058), who based his theories on Plato.

Need 2:

Attack the enemy without putting American troops at risk.

This is frankly not possible until Just War Theory is changed.

Need 3:

Kill civilians.

Same as above.

The current conditions of US Foreign Policy and Just War Theory make winning difficult but not impossible.

I haven't come to exact conclusions yet, but currently my proposed course of action would be thus:

1) Rewrite the Iraqi constitution and require separation of Church and State

2) Remove restrictive "Rules of Engagement" (allow us to raid mosques and return fire under any conditions)

3) Bomb Iranian weapons caches and factories that are used to supply Iraqi Shi'a Militias

4) Bomb Iranian nuclear facilities

5) Make it clear to Iran and Syria that additional supplies coming to militias from their countries will result in carpet bombing.

6) Stop sending aid to Iran, and prevent any aid from elsewhere going in. (Iran will collapse in a matter of months)

7) Arrest Mullahs in Iraq that preach anti-American rhetoric

8) Distribute propaganda explaining how American Individual Liberties and Freedom are better than Sharia Law (general Order 1A currently prohibits us from doing this)

9) Arrest anyone who harasses Iraqis that are willing to work with Americans

10) Kill members of enemy militias, regardless of collateral damage

11) Bill the Iraqis for the cost of the war (they can pay it later when they are all filthy rich under Capitalism)

All of these things could be done, but not sanctioned, without gaining explicit rejection of Just War Theory. We would not be popular, but War isn't a popularity contest.

Edited by badkarma556
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1: Send a photocopy of the map of the Turkish-Iraqi border, and inform Turkey that it is inviolable. 2: Inform the Kurdish government that we will defend their right to exist as long as they remain civilized. 3: Inform the Baghdad government that military incursions across the Kurdistan border will not be tolerated. 4: Inform the Baghdad government that we will not tolerate Iraq becoming a staging ground for terrorist attacks against the civilized world. 5: Remove all US troops from Iraq. 6: Mean it.

My concern here would be a similar policy that lost Vietnam called "Vietnamization." If you're not familiar with it your can read about it here:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/VNvietnamization.htm

Basically we handed it all over to the South Vietnamese and said that if the NVA invaded we would flatten North Vietnam with carpetbombing. We left, the NVA invaded, we did nothing.

Iraq's government will collapse if we leave. Their Army is not held to it ideologically but primarily by money, so would disintegrate under any threat. The state of American Foreign Policy would prevent us from intervening.

Now I think "Partition" is a viable option, but lets not delude ourselves into thinking that any part of Iraq besides the southern Kurdish region would remain in existence for long. In all likelihood the different Islamic schools would fight over the area, and out of the chaos something pretty horrible will rise from the ashes. I'm thinking in terms of a unified Islamic Caliphate: a new world Capitol for Terror.

Edited by badkarma556
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The most important question to ask is, "What are our goals in Iraq?" Obviously it's not going to be a Middle Eastern Switzerland, so what do want to achieve? What would could America accept as non-defeat, given that victory is probably impossible. In order of importance, they are...

1. Defeat Al Quaeda in Iraq.

Al Quaeda is a Sunni organization, but that doesn't mean that all the Sunni insurgents are aligned with Al Queda. In fact, many of the domestic Sunni insurgents hate Al Quedea as "carpetbaggers." Obviously this will require an aggressive military policy, but it might also require reaching out to some Sunni insurgents to take down Al Queda.

2. Have a stable government that can function on its own.

I think this will be impossible without the Sunnis being brought into the process, which reinforces my conviction that American forces need to distinguish between Sunnis we can work with and Sunnis we can't, because if we lump all the Sunnis into one box as the "insurgency," then there can never be a stable Iraq. But this also requires reaching accomodations with the Shia militias. Once again, distinctions need to be made. While some are influenced by Iran, we shouldn't buy into the "Shia Crescent" theory that all the Shia are going to come together in solidarity (when was the last time ANYONE in the middle east came together to order take out, much less a thousand mile long stretch of solidarity?). Iran and Iraq recently fought a long and bloody war, and the Shia realize they are on the verge of finally coming to power--many don't won't to become lapdogs of Tehran.

Bottom line: there has to be some kind of "peace process" because the ex-patriate Shia dominated Malaki government can't survive in its current form.

3. Stop Iraq from becoming a client state of Iran

This requires planning ways to maintain US force projection capabilities after the occupation. It requires trying to work with Sunni insurgents and Shia militias that don't like Iran. It requires us to spend more time on the Iranian border and less on the streets of Baghdad.

P.S. When people say things like "relax the rules of engagement" and "kill civillians," they need to follow that up with "Kill civillians in order to achieve goal x." It might be necessary to relax rules of engagment in certain contexts, but the US should be clear about what its STRATEGIC goals are and how particular TACTICS enhance or subvert those goals. After all, there might be contexts where killing less civillians would be a more effective policy. The goal of war is NOT to kill your enemies... it is to achieve particular goals. I've always liked Clausewitz's "War is a continuation of politics by other means."

PPS. Please stop beating this "just war' horse. Is there any major politician or military official who espouses it? When military planners form rules of engagment, I doubt they are consulting Michael Walzer.

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I think the goals should be the disarmament of all militias and non-government personnel, which includes the destruction of their capacity to re-supply (which may mean cross-boarder attacks). This would require a loosening of the rules of engagement in many areas of Iraq, but not all.

Is it legitimate to force a country to pay for a war? Taking the resources of an enemy during and at the conclusion of a conflict is ok, but once a country is established as a non-threat, doesn't that mean that the people responsible for the war have already been dealt with?

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I think the goals should be the disarmament of all militias and non-government personnel, which includes the destruction of their capacity to re-supply (which may mean cross-boarder attacks). This would require a loosening of the rules of engagement in many areas of Iraq, but not all.

Do you think there even the slimmest possibility of that happening given that the Shia militias have infilitrated the Iraqi security forces and the Sunni insurgents have infilitrated the Iraqi army? In a very real sense, everyone outside the Green Zone (and much of the people inside it) are allied with some extra-governmental force or another. It would in fact not be completely misleading to say that various branches of the Iraqi government are arms of the insurgency and militias.

The only way to get rid of the militias and insurgents is to carpet bomb the whole country minus the Kurds. This might be a good plan (I'm open to arguments in favor of it), but the idea that we can "defeat" or "disarm" the insurgency and the militias is just silly... especially given that there is little political will in America to do so. That's why I proposed some goals that could possibly be achieved.

P.S. Iraq is a good example of libertarian polyarchy run awry.

Edited by Korthor
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Just a few hours after I wrote about the infilitration of the Iraqi government by militias and insurgents, I was proven right in a most gruesome fashion. Evidently, some Shia policemen decided to form an impromptu death squad and killed over 45 Sunni civillians.

Obviously, arming the Iraqi government and disarming the civillians is not a sufficient solution.

In America, we say "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." In Iraq, I guess you could say, "When guns are outlawed, only government-affiliated death squads will have guns."

For the full story, see here...

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,261864,00.html

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PPS. Please stop beating this "just war' horse. Is there any major politician or military official who espouses it? When military planners form rules of engagment, I doubt they are consulting Michael Walzer.

"Just War" is the official philosophy of morality that our officers are indoctrinated with. All our manuals base their standard of ethics on Just War. Clearly no one explicitly says "I have ordered my troops only to fire when receiving effective fire (aka. you can't shoot back if the enemy is shooting at you, but you only if they are shooting at you and hitting you!) because Walzer says to." Instead they say, what standard should I use to judge what is right and wrong in War? Just War theory is the key problem that undermines the military.

What would could America accept as non-defeat, given that victory is probably impossible.

How did you come to the conclusion that "victory" is probably impossible, and then after that conclusion go on to define "victory"?

1. Defeat Al Quaeda in Iraq.

Al Quaeda is a Sunni organization, but that doesn't mean that all the Sunni insurgents are aligned with Al Queda. In fact, many of the domestic Sunni insurgents hate Al Quedea as "carpetbaggers." Obviously this will require an aggressive military policy, but it might also require reaching out to some Sunni insurgents to take down Al Queda.

Clearly Al Queda in Iraq needs to be destroyed, and generally this organization's leaders in Iraq have been taken out rather efficiently. The Sunnis gripe about one aspect or another of Al Queda, but you won't find any conservative Sunnis who would "take down" Al Queda. The only Sunnis that really hate Al Queda are the secular (westernized) ones, and they have no more pull with Al Queda than we do.

2. Have a stable government that can function on its own.

My assessment is that a truly independent government will be impossible without a different Iraqi constitution. I'm not a political scientist so I can't be certain about this, but I don't think that our policies towards the various factions is going to make a significant impact on the overall policy.

I think this will be impossible without the Sunnis being brought into the process, which reinforces my conviction that American forces need to distinguish between Sunnis we can work with and Sunnis we can't, because if we lump all the Sunnis into one box as the "insurgency," then there can never be a stable Iraq.

Clearly we need to distinguish between secular Sunnis and Wahabi Sunnis. One of the main barriers right now is a tendency for the Wahabbis to harass or kill Sunnis that help Americans as "Apostates."

But this also requires reaching accomodations with the Shia militias.

If you are referring to Sadr's Mahdi Army this is a very bad idea (although its what we are doing). US goals and Mahdi Army goals do not align in any area.

Once again, distinctions need to be made. While some are influenced by Iran, we shouldn't buy into the "Shia Crescent" theory that all the Shia are going to come together in solidarity (when was the last time ANYONE in the middle east came together to order take out, much less a thousand mile long stretch of solidarity?)

All the Sunni and Shi'a came together in 1967 to attempt to destroy Israel

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six-Day_War

Although I agree the infighting will probably continue forever, I see a very real possibility of the Shi'a fundamentalists reconciling differences with the Sunni fundamentalists to form a new Caliphate. I know this sounds like a doomsday theory but it has happened in the past and if another Saladin comes along it would be a simple matter.

.Iran and Iraq recently fought a long and bloody war, and the Shia realize they are on the verge of finally coming to power--many don't won't to become lapdogs of Tehran.

Iraqi Baathists (socialists) and Iranian Shi'a recently fought a long and bloody war. Iraqi Shi'a were oppressed under the Baathist government. Many Iraqi Shi'a want in on the whole "global Islamic Republic" philosophy that Tehran is spreading.

Bottom line: there has to be some kind of "peace process" because the ex-patriate Shia dominated Malaki government can't survive in its current form.

3. Stop Iraq from becoming a client state of Iran

This requires planning ways to maintain US force projection capabilities after the occupation. It requires trying to work with Sunni insurgents and Shia militias that don't like Iran. It requires us to spend more time on the Iranian border and less on the streets of Baghdad.

The Malaki government cannot survive on its own right now, but a "peace process" in Iraq would be about as effective as its been between Israel and Palestine. As for Iran, interdiction is important but we don't have enough troops to seal up the border. We need to focus on the Iraqi civilian population to get them on board with rights and freedom.

P.S. When people say things like "relax the rules of engagement" and "kill civillians," they need to follow that up with "Kill civillians in order to achieve goal x." It might be necessary to relax rules of engagment in certain contexts, but the US should be clear about what its STRATEGIC goals are and how particular TACTICS enhance or subvert those goals. After all, there might be contexts where killing less civillians would be a more effective policy.

You're right to say killing civilians is a bad thing, particularly if it doesn't accomplish anything. However, I'm not sure you realize how crushing the ROEs are right now.

I've always liked Clausewitz's "War is a continuation of politics by other means."

Very true but be careful with Clausewitz: he studied under Kant.

Edited by badkarma556
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Korthor, the disarming of militias is possible if it is taken seriously as an objective. Your gripe seems to be about whether or not people in leadership will take that objective seriously. Those people won't take any ideas on this forum seriously. They certainly aren't going to carpet-bomb central and southern Iraq.

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Those people won't take any ideas on this forum seriously.

Don't be so despondent. The situation is bad but not desperate.

In 1863, just two years before Grant accepted Lee's surrender, many in the north rioted against the Civil War. Over 100 people were killed in New York during the riots. The rioters weren't wrong about how the war was going: the simple fact is that a war can change that quickly.

Now there is no Grant or Sherman that is leading the US Military right now, and Lincoln is not in the White House, but in the history of warfare many Armies have won over much greater odds. Don't forget that the Islamic Totalitarianists are not exactly the most rational of enemies: many of these people believe that bullets hit their target when "Allah wills it," and basically discount marksmanship training.

So keep the ideas coming. The best thing you can do to help win is fight the ideas of Just War Theory and push for a rational Foreign Policy. At the same time we need to prevent America from self-destructing by diverting further from its original founding principles. We're up against the wall, but America is a nation without precedent.

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  • 2 weeks later...

According to a video on CNN.com, for the first time since the War in Iraq has began, U.S. Military deaths have been 80 or more for three consecutive months. Specifically:

83 in January

80 in February

83 in March

According to the video, the project number of deaths for April is over 100. Of course, April is only 1/3rd over.

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  • 4 months later...

For those of you who have not seen it already, there is a clip of an interview with Dick Cheney from 1994 where he explains why we

(during the first Gulf War).

The reasons he cites include:

  • Many of our "allies" would not have wanted to go with us.
  • Iraq is a very volatile part of the world. Removing the government will make it vulnerable to external influences by countries such as Syria and Iran.
  • Overthrowing Saddam is not worth the U.S. casualties.
  • It would have been a quagmire. (verbatim)

I wonder what specifically caused him to change his mind. Obviously, a lot can change in ten years. In public, I am sure he would claim that we had better technology, better intelligence, better planning and more willing allies for overthrowing Saddam. He would also remind us of the suspicion of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam's possession.

Nevertheless, watching this short clip is still interesting.

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Korthor, the disarming of militias is possible if it is taken seriously as an objective. Your gripe seems to be about whether or not people in leadership will take that objective seriously. Those people won't take any ideas on this forum seriously. They certainly aren't going to carpet-bomb central and southern Iraq.
The militias don't need to be "disarmed". Most of these "militias" need to be outlawed, under penalty of death, or at least a long enough prison sentence to give the country a chance to think about their situation. Al Sadr should have been hanged years ago and the longer he remains alive, the longer it will take to achieve peace in Iraq. If killing him and destroying his group means completely leveling holy islamic sites, well, that is a just a bonus.
My opinion on the war has changed. I no longer support our goal in Iraq, because it has shifted from the goal of self-defense to the futile goal of bringing democracy to a barbarian culture with no respect for human life or the rule of law, sacrificing our soldiers in the process.
Civilizing barbarians is a vital aspect of defense.
1: Send a photocopy of the map of the Turkish-Iraqi border, and inform Turkey that it is inviolable. 2: Inform the Kurdish government that we will defend their right to exist as long as they remain civilized. 3: Inform the Baghdad government that military incursions across the Kurdistan border will not be tolerated. 4: Inform the Baghdad government that we will not tolerate Iraq becoming a staging ground for terrorist attacks against the civilized world. 5: Remove all US troops from Iraq. 6: Mean it.
Is that a joke? How do you intend to enforce these rules without troops?
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Are you referring to when Hell freeze over. What I do not understand is the basis for your firm belief. I firmly believe that we should implement Odden's 6 point plan. What is "the good fight" -- does that mean "courageously committing suicide under orders"? If so, I agree that the military is fighing fighthing the good fight. But I would also argue that they should be fighting the best fight. Which, in this case, is a strategic withdrawal followed by serious whup-ass on Baghdad if they do not get their house in order. The term "parking lot" comes to mind.

If you believe Iraq cannot become a peaceful and (somewhat) rational nation, then genocide becomes a moral imperative, and withdrawal unnecessary as there won't be anybody there to bother the new soldier-settlers.

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Civilizing barbarians is a vital aspect of defense.

No, [url=http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2007-summer/brook-epstein-neocon-foreign-policy.asp]it isn't.

Is that a joke?

Quite the contrary, he is totally serious. In fact, he wins the thread. Honestly, that is the answer.

How do you intend to enforce these rules without troops?

Ultimatums, followed by punishment via death from above for non-compliance.

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Then it's time to start the genocide of dar al Islam, because the ultimatum will not work now, or ever.

It's their loss. If ultimatums like that don't work, it is only because we have been showing for 30 years that we are not serious. The logical solution is to become serious, and then demonstrate with action that we are in fact serious. That will likely mean we will have to inflict a lot of destruction. But once we have demonstrated we are serious, and will follow through, that should be that.

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According to a video on CNN.com, for the first time since the War in Iraq has began, U.S. Military deaths have been 80 or more for three consecutive months. Specifically:

83 in January

80 in February

83 in March

According to the video, the project number of deaths for April is over 100. Of course, April is only 1/3rd over.

I fail to see the relevance of people who volunteered to fight a war being killed fighting such a war. When criminals start killing police officers, nobody goes screaming around that we must withdraw. Quite the contrary, rational people would recommend an increase in policing in such areas.

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It's their loss. If ultimatums like that don't work, it is only because we have been showing for 30 years that we are not serious. The logical solution is to become serious, and then demonstrate with action that we are in fact serious. That will likely mean we will have to inflict a lot of destruction. But once we have demonstrated we are serious, and will follow through, that should be that.

Agents of western civilization have fought religious fanatics before, and "showing that we are serious" has never been an effective tool. Ever. If you can point me to a single example, I will eat my hat. Only genocide and hands-on policing work, policing not working on the long term unless a nation building effort is engaged in.

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Then it's time to start the genocide of dar al Islam, because the ultimatum will not work now, or ever.

Dar al Islam refers to all of the lands that are currently under Muslim rule. You physically cannot commit genocide against land. Incorrectness aside, advocating the systematic extermination of all those currently residing in predominately Muslim countries is hideously immoral.

In a foreign policy of self-interest against an evil ideology such as Islamic Totalitarianism, you must make life so unbearable for those who support it that for them to continue fighting would become unthinkable. However, there is absolutely no necessity to committing genocide against a broad group of individuals (such as Muslims) because you are too lazy or too ignorant to identify the political, financial, military and intellectual supporters of the enemy movement. Such an act would be evil.

I fail to see the relevance of people who volunteered to fight a war being killed fighting such a war. When criminals start killing police officers, nobody goes screaming around that we must withdraw. Quite the contrary, rational people would recommend an increase in policing in such areas.

Bad analogy. Conducting domestic security is radically different from preserving national security abroad, especially when strategic arms is an option. Furthermore, I think you need to read the literature on how the War in Iraq is presently a war of self-sacrifice.

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Dar al Islam refers to all of the lands that are currently under Muslim rule. You physically cannot commit genocide against land.

What a pathetic excuse for an argument.

Incorrectness aside, advocating the systematic extermination of all those currently residing in predominately Muslim countries is hideously immoral.

1. Why?

2. It is the only way to eliminate the threat of Islam through air power. If you wish to spare the lives of innocent people on the ground, you have to be within sight of them.

In a foreign policy of self-interest against an evil ideology such as Islamic Totalitarianism,

There is no other kind of Islam. Therefore, I would recommend you stick to the short version.

you must make life so unbearable for those who support it that for them to continue fighting would become unthinkable.

Can you give me one example in history of this happening?

However, there is absolutely no necessity to committing genocide against a broad group of individuals (such as Muslims) because you are too lazy or too ignorant to identify the political, financial, military and intellectual supporters of the enemy movement. Such an act would be evil.

Oh goody! Please forgive my ignorance and lazyness. Enlighten me so that I may know the truth about the situation we face.

Bad analogy. Conducting domestic security is radically different from preserving national security abroad, especially when strategic arms is an option. Furthermore, I think you need to read the literature on how the War in Iraq is presently a war of self-sacrifice.

It is not different at all. The scales change, the fundamentals do not. The childish imaginary line that separates nations and turns good into bad and bad into good is not something objectivists should embrace.

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