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Re: Syriac Patriarch of Antioch speaks [Re: Michael_Thoma] #385832
09/03/12 03:09 PM
09/03/12 03:09 PM
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So what you're saying is that if the beast wasn't kept in its cage, it wouldn't have died of its own internal contradictions?


It might have died eventually, but as a parasitic creature, Soviet Socialism had to continue expanding to survive. Containing Soviet expansionism did two things--it deprived the USSR of the resources it needed to successfully prosecute the Cold War against the West; and it strengthened the West to resist Soviet expansionism, so hastening the demise of the USSR.

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That's one way to look at it.

Another way to look at it is that we've done exactly what we've set out to do, if "we" is any given administration at a single point in time.


Actually, U.S. foreign policy has a lot of continuity. We've really only had about five distinct national strategies in all of our history, and in each case, the new strategy was adopted as a response to some grave national trauma--the burning of the White House, World War I, World War II, the Cold War and 9/11. See John Lewis Gaddis' book, Surprise, Security and the American Experience Surprise, Security and the American Experience.

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Was Iraq about to collapse and become a breeding ground for terrorist groups before we intervened?

That happened afterwards.


Actually, Iraq was an example of a rogue, not a failed state. Sanctions against Iraq had failed utterly, and would probably have been lifted within a few months, had we not invaded. And, as the DCI Special Advisor Report on Iraq's WMDs (the Duelfer Report)--read all of it, not just the Executive Summary--describes, Saddam Hussein had everything in place he needed to restart his chemical and biological weapons programs. Documents recovered in Iraq also show that, while Saddam was not "in" on the plans for 9/11 (Point of Information: nobody ever said he was), he had been giving training, logistic and financial support to a host of terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda; it was to Iraq that most of the top al-Qaeda leadership fell after the destruction of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

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So if we aren't good at it (and there is plenty of evidence to support that), how can you say it's the only thing that would work in Syria?


Because nothing else will work. It's Hobson's Choice. And you simply assume that (a) we--the United States--will have to do it; and (b) that if we do it, we will have learned nothing over the last decade.

Actually, as an historian and military analyst, I have to say that the rate at which the United States responded to the changed situation in both Iraq and Afghanistan and assimilated and executed an entirely new military doctrine, and the speed with which success was achieved, is absolutely unprecedented. But, since nobody outside the field has any standard against which to judge, and because of our chronic national ADD and penchant for instantaneous gratification, our phenomenal (unprecedented!) success is perceived by many as a failure.

Re: Syriac Patriarch of Antioch speaks [Re: StuartK] #385904
09/04/12 08:24 PM
09/04/12 08:24 PM
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Originally Posted by StuartK

It might have died eventually, but as a parasitic creature, Soviet Socialism had to continue expanding to survive. Containing Soviet expansionism did two things--it deprived the USSR of the resources it needed to successfully prosecute the Cold War against the West; and it strengthened the West to resist Soviet expansionism, so hastening the demise of the USSR.


So if it is just a question of hastening the collapse of a failed economic theory, then you have to ask how many American lives/wars are worth bringing about an already inevitable conclusion?

You also are completely ignoring the blowback that these types of adventures incur. The relationship between bin Laden, al Qaeda, the Pakistani ISI and the United States in "resisting Soviet expansionism" is well-documented.

It is ironic (and truly tragic) that because of this very strategy and our complicity in nurturing the al Qaeda beast, it would turn against us and we are thus led to the rest of the conversation.

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That's one way to look at it.

Another way to look at it is that we've done exactly what we've set out to do, if "we" is any given administration at a single point in time.


Actually, U.S. foreign policy has a lot of continuity. We've really only had about five distinct national strategies in all of our history, and in each case, the new strategy was adopted as a response to some grave national trauma--the burning of the White House, World War I, World War II, the Cold War and 9/11. See John Lewis Gaddis' book, Surprise, Security and the American Experience Surprise, Security and the American Experience.


That was my point, in response to you saying " Post Cold War, we've had rather a muddle trying to figure out what we were going to do."

I don't see much existential difference in the Vietnams vs the Iraqs other than the rationale. There were plenty of US interventions after the USSR fell and before 9/11, and you can draw a straight line through those, the Cold War and the post-9/11 war without end.

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Was Iraq about to collapse and become a breeding ground for terrorist groups before we intervened?

That happened afterwards.


Actually, Iraq was an example of a rogue, not a failed state. Sanctions against Iraq had failed utterly, and would probably have been lifted within a few months, had we not invaded.


I didn't say Iraq was a failed state before we invaded, I said the opposite in response to your citing of the Bush Doctrine as a philosophy behind that invasion:

"...prevent the collapse of nation-states and to restore stability (or even to provide stability) in failed states..."

We weren't preventing its collapse or restoring stability to a failed state, so we need another excuse to invade. Oh, wait:

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And, as the DCI Special Advisor Report on Iraq's WMDs (the Duelfer Report)--read all of it, not just the Executive Summary--describes, Saddam Hussein had everything in place he needed to restart his chemical and biological weapons programs. Documents recovered in Iraq also show that, while Saddam was not "in" on the plans for 9/11 (Point of Information: nobody ever said he was), he had been giving training, logistic and financial support to a host of terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda; it was to Iraq that most of the top al-Qaeda leadership fell after the destruction of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.


"Having everything in place" is subjective, and it's also another way of saying that they weren't there, which the report also clarifies. Unless we are prosecuting wars on the basis of thought crimes, this is pretty flimsy.

The report mentions zero evidence of any intention to use chemical weapons that one day might be made on Americans.

So, if only the possession of chemical weapons is raison d'etre to launch a war, what criteria is preventing us from invading any other country that possesses them?

As for helping al Qaeda, a cursory understanding of that group belies any indication of a link between the group and Hussein - much less any more than AQ had with the Saudi government (a lot more). Among the wealth of information available on this topic, see the Senite Intelligence Committee's Postwar Findings About Iraq's WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How They Compare with Prewar Assessments (http://intelligence.senate.gov/phaseiiaccuracy.pdf). The simple fact is that removing Hussein did not damage al Qaeda in the slightest. Where before there was virtually no trace of the network inside Iraq, in the lawless aftermath of the war al Qaeda filled the vacuum and established Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, with Zarqawi's impetus.

Zarqawi didn't enter Iraq until after we removed Saddam.


You also conveniently skip over the fact that Al Qaeda leadership moved into Iraq after Afghanistan because we had just obliterated the means by which Iraq (previously governed with an iron fist by Saddam) kept them out.

Ansar al Islam existed in Kurdistan before this not because Saddam wanted it to, but because it was allowed to flourish under the protection of our No-Fly Zone that prohibited Saddam from doing anything about them.

You can't prevent Hussein from sovereignty over his country and then blame him for the groups that spring up in parts of the country that we denied him access to.

You can blame him for an awful lot, but not that.

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So if we aren't good at it (and there is plenty of evidence to support that), how can you say it's the only thing that would work in Syria?

Because nothing else will work. It's Hobson's Choice. And you simply assume that (a) we--the United States--will have to do it; and (b) that if we do it, we will have learned nothing over the last decade.


Why do we have to do it? How do you explain to American soldiers that they must go and be killed or maimed to fix Syria for Syrians?

Quote

Actually, as an historian and military analyst, I have to say that the rate at which the United States responded to the changed situation in both Iraq and Afghanistan and assimilated and executed an entirely new military doctrine, and the speed with which success was achieved, is absolutely unprecedented. But, since nobody outside the field has any standard against which to judge, and because of our chronic national ADD and penchant for instantaneous gratification, our phenomenal (unprecedented!) success is perceived by many as a failure.


A few more victories such as these, and we may well be undone.

Re: Syriac Patriarch of Antioch speaks [Re: Michael_Thoma] #385905
09/04/12 09:36 PM
09/04/12 09:36 PM
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So if it is just a question of hastening the collapse of a failed economic theory, then you have to ask how many American lives/wars are worth bringing about an already inevitable conclusion?


Well, you seem to miss the point. As a parasitic system, the Soviet Empire had to expand. If we had not imposed containment upon them, it would have continued to expand, thereby delaying its demise indefinitely. Whether it conquered Western Europe or merely "Finlandized" it (i.e., allowing it internal autonomy while turning them into vassals in foreign policy), this would eventually affect the United States. The same was true in Asia: Soviet control of critical U.S. markets, of access to raw materials, and eventually of our entire economy would have brought us under the Soviet umbrella. The Soviets were quite aware of this, and of the threat posed by any independent and free society. The two systems were antithetical, and either one or the other had to die.

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We weren't preventing its collapse or restoring stability to a failed state, so we need another excuse to invade.


You really, really don't listen. Did I not write:

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Actually, Iraq was an example of a rogue, not a failed state.


And, inter alia, if you paid the least attention at all to the Gaddis book (or just read the reviews, for crying out loud), you might have learned that every element of the Bush doctrine had roots going back to the very beginnings of the Republic and its foreign policy.

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The report mentions zero evidence of any intention to use chemical weapons that one day might be made on Americans.


Fatuous. Foreign policy and strategy are based on capabilities, not intent. Beyond that, one need only look at how North Korea's very limited nuclear capability has hamstrung U.S. foreign policy in the Western Pacific. Would you like Iraq to have had that kind of influence over the world's oil supply? Really?

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The simple fact is that removing Hussein did not damage al Qaeda in the slightest.


I disagree. Iraq became an irresistible attraction to al-Qaeda and its operatives. They threw tremendous (for them) manpower and resources into the insurgency, and they were utterly defeated there. Not only did they die like flies, but they came out of the insurgency discredited among the Iraqi people and throughout the Arab world. Nothing succeeds like success, and we succeeded; conversely, al-Qaeda lost face and most of its influence.

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Ansar al Islam existed in Kurdistan before this not because Saddam wanted it to, but because it was allowed to flourish under the protection of our No-Fly Zone that prohibited Saddam from doing anything about them.


Saddam was not merely tolerating Ansar, he was actively supporting it, as Iraqi intelligence memoranda indicate very clearly.

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A few more victories such as these, and we may well be undone.


Good thing there is more to being a military analyst than knowing a handful of quotes.

Re: Syriac Patriarch of Antioch speaks [Re: StuartK] #385930
09/05/12 07:28 PM
09/05/12 07:28 PM
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Originally Posted by StuartK

Well, you seem to miss the point. As a parasitic system, the Soviet Empire had to expand. If we had not imposed containment upon them, it would have continued to expand, thereby delaying its demise indefinitely. Whether it conquered Western Europe or merely "Finlandized" it (i.e., allowing it internal autonomy while turning them into vassals in foreign policy), this would eventually affect the United States. The same was true in Asia: Soviet control of critical U.S. markets, of access to raw materials, and eventually of our entire economy would have brought us under the Soviet umbrella. The Soviets were quite aware of this, and of the threat posed by any independent and free society. The two systems were antithetical, and either one or the other had to die.


You're still allowing for the idea that communism is indefinitely sustainable. Unless you are an economist as well, you'll have to allow for the possibility that your premise - the Soviets were going to take over the world unless we fought them directly and in proxy wars across the globe - may be unsound. Communism will fail with or without help, it's unsustainable regardless of whether we toil in Vietnam, create al Qaeda to fight them (and then us) in Afghanistan, or anywhere else.

While these things may encourage them to "spend themselves to death" they come at the cost of American lives and treasure. We can't print enough money to keep paying for it all, and at some point (sooner rather than later) people will become tired of paying in blood as well.

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We weren't preventing its collapse or restoring stability to a failed state, so we need another excuse to invade.


Quote

You really, really don't listen. Did I not write:

Quote
Actually, Iraq was an example of a rogue, not a failed state.


You did, but you defined the Bush Doctrine as justifying the intervention in failed or collapsing states. If, as you say, it was neither, then either you are not defining it correctly or it didn't apply to Iraq.

Quote

And, inter alia, if you paid the least attention at all to the Gaddis book (or just read the reviews, for crying out loud), you might have learned that every element of the Bush doctrine had roots going back to the very beginnings of the Republic and its foreign policy.


It's also debatable at best that this "doctrine" has its genesis in the early Republic. If one does cede that, then the opposite must also be ceded - equal if not greater currents of non-interventionism run through our founding.

Washington's farewell address says it plainly enough, and it is the job of those who would put our soldiers in harm's way to connect their military venture of choice with whatever ties they can think of to our own national concerns. Sometimes the danger is apparent, other times it takes a big, big pile of flimsy premises.

Reality is that many founders such as Washington saw no need for entangling alliances and saw them as dangerous, and others indeed did see tempt reasons to extend power and influence abroad.

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The report mentions zero evidence of any intention to use chemical weapons that one day might be made on Americans.


Fatuous. Foreign policy and strategy are based on capabilities, not intent. Beyond that, one need only look at how North Korea's very limited nuclear capability has hamstrung U.S. foreign policy in the Western Pacific.


The entire argument for invasion was predicated on his alleged intent to do us harm, it was the capability that was in question (and proven equally absent).

He had more advanced capabilities in the 80s when we were supplying him with nerve gas - we were okay with it because we knew his intent was to use it on Iran.

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Would you like Iraq to have had that kind of influence over the world's oil supply? Really?


What do you presume Iraq was going to do to the world's oil supply? Drive up prices with nukes and bin Laden's help? You're all over the place here. Throw everything on the wall and see what sticks.

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The simple fact is that removing Hussein did not damage al Qaeda in the slightest.


I disagree. Iraq became an irresistible attraction to al-Qaeda and its operatives. They threw tremendous (for them) manpower and resources into the insurgency, and they were utterly defeated there. Not only did they die like flies, but they came out of the insurgency discredited among the Iraqi people and throughout the Arab world. Nothing succeeds like success, and we succeeded; conversely, al-Qaeda lost face and most of its influence.


You are equating terrorists who carry out attacks in Iraq with terrorists who carry out attacks in Afghanistan or Pakistan or any other place, as if they are a cohesive military that can be degraded by attrition. And you know better.

Besides, this is what retired Lt. Gen. James Dubik, who oversaw the training of Iraqi forces in 2008, said of the uptick in violence in the recent year and of the recent attacks that spanned 13 cities and killed over 100 people in one day a little over a month ago:

“The size and frequency of these attacks tells me that al-Qaeda is returning and reestablishing networks in Iraq. Things in Iraq are definitely not fine.”

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Ansar al Islam existed in Kurdistan before this not because Saddam wanted it to, but because it was allowed to flourish under the protection of our No-Fly Zone that prohibited Saddam from doing anything about them.


Saddam was not merely tolerating Ansar, he was actively supporting it, as Iraqi intelligence memoranda indicate very clearly.


You sound like Colin Powell.

Again, I'll cite Senite Intelligence Committee's Postwar Findings About Iraq's WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How They Compare with Prewar Assessments (http://intelligence.senate.gov/phaseiiaccuracy.pdf)

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"Postwar information indicates that the Intelligence Community accurately assessed that al-Qaida affiliate group Ansar al-Islam operated in Kurdish-controlled northeastern Iraq, an area that Baghdad had not controlled since 1991. Prewar assessments reported on Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) infiltrations of the group, but noted uncertainty regarding the purpose of the infiltrations. Postwar information reveals that Baghdad viewed Ansar al-Islam as a threat to the regime and that the IIS attempted to collect intelligence on the group… Postwar information indicates that Iraqi intelligence activities were not cooperative; rather they were directed at collecting intelligence activities against Ansar Al-Islam, which operated in northeastern Iraq, an area outside regime control. A May 2002 IIS document indicates that the regime was concerned that the United States would use the presence of Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq to support claims of links between the regime and al-Qaida." [p. 109]


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A few more victories such as these, and we may well be undone.


Good thing there is more to being a military analyst than knowing a handful of quotes.


Is picking and choosing what you reply to a big part of it?

Re: Syriac Patriarch of Antioch speaks [Re: Michael_Thoma] #385933
09/05/12 10:12 PM
09/05/12 10:12 PM
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You're still allowing for the idea that communism is indefinitely sustainable.

Well, there is a terminal point--once it absorbs everything, it will begin to die. But I for one prefer not to be absorbed.

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While these things may encourage them to "spend themselves to death" they come at the cost of American lives and treasure.


Not as much life and treasure as would have been expended if we had had to confront the Soviet Union directly

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You did, but you defined the Bush Doctrine as justifying the intervention in failed or collapsing states. If, as you say, it was neither, then either you are not defining it correctly or it didn't apply to Iraq.


Did I note recommend you read it in its entirety? Don't base an argument on your intellectual laziness.

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What do you presume Iraq was going to do to the world's oil supply? Drive up prices with nukes and bin Laden's help? You're all over the place here. Throw everything on the wall and see what sticks.


Use it as a weapon to expand its influence throughout the region. Keep Gulf countries from exporting oil to people Saddam doesn't like--including us.

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You are equating terrorists who carry out attacks in Iraq with terrorists who carry out attacks in Afghanistan or Pakistan or any other place, as if they are a cohesive military that can be degraded by attrition. And you know better
.

Actually, they can. The difference between this and "whack-a-mole" is the game never runs out of moles, but in the real world, you do run out of terrorists. In particular, you run out of terrorists with the intellect, skills and experience to become organizational leaders. The process of attrition can become both self-sustaining and accelerating; i.e., when you start with a strong cadre of trained leaders, and these begin dying off at a high rate, they must be replaced with men who are less experienced, and usually less skilled. They make elementary operational errors that lead to their deaths at an even higher rate, and so on, until the leadership is just one chapter in the textbook ahead of the rank-and-file. This has a deleterious impact on the operational effectiveness of the organization; casualties among the foot soldiers will be even higher than among the leadership, which will result in a collapse of morale and the drying up of recruits--which is precisely what has happened. It might be easy to attract volunteers when there's a realistic chance of handing one to the Great Satan, and worse comes to worse, getting those seventy-two houris. But dying anonymously without even getting to shoot back? Where's the glory in that?

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“The size and frequency of these attacks tells me that al-Qaeda is returning and reestablishing networks in Iraq. Things in Iraq are definitely not fine.”


They could be better. If we had not prematurely withdrawn, things would be much better. As it is, overall you're safer in Iraq or Afghanistan than in Chicago.

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Again, I'll cite Senite Intelligence Committee's Postwar Findings About Iraq's WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How They Compare with Prewar Assessments (http://intelligence.senate.gov/phaseiiaccuracy.pdf)


The Senate report is grossly inferior in coverage and methodology to the Duelfer Report. Have you begun reading it, yet?


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Is picking and choosing what you reply to a big part of it?


No, but the days are short, and some things aren't worthy of response. Call me in twenty years, and we'll revisit this. By then, things might be a bit clearer, as they are now becoming more clear about Vietnam.

Re: Syriac Patriarch of Antioch speaks [Re: StuartK] #385975
09/06/12 04:45 PM
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Originally Posted by StuartK

Well, there is a terminal point--once it absorbs everything, it will begin to die. But I for one prefer not to be absorbed.


Then the problem isn't with your solutions, it's with your premise. I'm happy to agree to disagree and let you plant your flag on "communism works until you take the world over."

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Not as much life and treasure as would have been expended if we had had to confront the Soviet Union directly


Well, if you include the War on Terror as a part of our proxy war against the Soviets (via our support of al Qaeda and the ensuing blowback) the scope is even bigger. But again, the problem here is your premise - that direct confrontation with the USSR was the only alternate to proxy wars and global interventions.

We avoided direct confrontation because of mutually-assured destruction. We chose indirect confrontation to expand and defend our own influence, not to limit the USSR's, which was destined by its own economy to collapse, as every attempt at Communism ever has (the Chinese have been wise enough to learn from the USSR's mistakes).

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Did I note recommend you read it in its entirety? Don't base an argument on your intellectual laziness.


I have read it, but if you are going to presume to summarize it as part of a discussion, don't blame me if I point out the error in your summary.

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What do you presume Iraq was going to do to the world's oil supply? Drive up prices with nukes and bin Laden's help? You're all over the place here. Throw everything on the wall and see what sticks.


Use it as a weapon to expand its influence throughout the region. Keep Gulf countries from exporting oil to people Saddam doesn't like--including us.


How was he going to keep other Gulf countries from exporting oil? He tried getting OPEC to go along with his boycotts of oil before like in April 2002, but they told him to sit on it. It barely made a blip. He certainly wasn't going to do it militarily. If you want anyone to believe this had any chance of happening in real life, they'll need more than just your word for it.

He didn't even have control (besides smuggling) over his oil exports since the first Gulf War.

Quote

Quote
You are equating terrorists who carry out attacks in Iraq with terrorists who carry out attacks in Afghanistan or Pakistan or any other place, as if they are a cohesive military that can be degraded by attrition. And you know better
.

Actually, they can. The difference between this and "whack-a-mole" is the game never runs out of moles, but in the real world, you do run out of terrorists. In particular, you run out of terrorists with the intellect, skills and experience to become organizational leaders. The process of attrition can become both self-sustaining and accelerating; i.e., when you start with a strong cadre of trained leaders, and these begin dying off at a high rate, they must be replaced with men who are less experienced, and usually less skilled. They make elementary operational errors that lead to their deaths at an even higher rate, and so on, until the leadership is just one chapter in the textbook ahead of the rank-and-file. This has a deleterious impact on the operational effectiveness of the organization; casualties among the foot soldiers will be even higher than among the leadership, which will result in a collapse of morale and the drying up of recruits--which is precisely what has happened. It might be easy to attract volunteers when there's a realistic chance of handing one to the Great Satan, and worse comes to worse, getting those seventy-two houris. But dying anonymously without even getting to shoot back? Where's the glory in that?


Taking out the mastermind/leaders behind these networks is much, much different than invading Iraq and Afghanistan - and one doesn't lead to the other.

There are millions of candidates - and certainly no shortage - who will strap on a vest and blow themselves up (who, as Wolfowitz and others have acknowledged, are motivated by the very interventions that you claim would end them).

You're conflating the two ideas and trying to sell one by promoting the other.

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“The size and frequency of these attacks tells me that al-Qaeda is returning and reestablishing networks in Iraq. Things in Iraq are definitely not fine.”


They could be better. If we had not prematurely withdrawn, things would be much better.


Better for whom? People in Iraq, or American soldiers?

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As it is, overall you're safer in Iraq or Afghanistan than in Chicago.


Chicago murders have totaled 294 as of July 23rd. According to Iraqi Ministry statistics (very reliable, to be sure) that number was exceeded by the beginning of March. Unofficial reports more than double that in January alone.

Again, what you say sounds nice until somebody bothers to check.

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Again, I'll cite Senite Intelligence Committee's Postwar Findings About Iraq's WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How They Compare with Prewar Assessments (http://intelligence.senate.gov/phaseiiaccuracy.pdf)


The Senate report is grossly inferior in coverage and methodology to the Duelfer Report. Have you begun reading it, yet?


Read it when it came out. There are many more sources that confirm the Senate report's findings on this score. If you want to keep relying on Curveball and other unnamed "Iraqi intelligence memoranda" that is up to you.

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Is picking and choosing what you reply to a big part of it?

No, but the days are short, and some things aren't worthy of response. Call me in twenty years, and we'll revisit this. By then, things might be a bit clearer, as they are now becoming more clear about Vietnam.


I hear you re: time to reply, I just find it important to refute a lot of this stuff. I don't presume to know I'll change your mind, but it is good reading for others, hopefully.

Again, if you want to plant your flag on the points that Vietnam and Iraq were worthwhile endeavors and that you'll be proven right in two decades, and it would fix things in Syria too, I'm happy to leave it there and let people decide for themselves.

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