“Knowing What We Know Now”

 

Much is being made of Jeb Bush’s mishearing of Megyn Kelly’s question on Fox News whether “knowing what we know now” would he have invaded Iraq? Brit Hume’s analysis (IMO) is just right: Bush had a particular point he wanted to make about the intelligence failures (and Hillary’s support for the war) and was looking for an opportunity to make it. He just picked the wrong question to use for that point.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtYNHEMG628

But all of this begs the question of what his response should have been. Were I in Jeb’s position, I would have said something more like:

When you say ‘knowing what we know now’ what is it that we now know? That the WMD threat was not as great as thought, or that having actually eliminated Saddam Hussein and brought relative stability to Iraq Obama would throw it all away? If it is the latter, the answer is clearly ‘no’. And, I think my brother would agree with me.

But if the question is the former, we have to recall that the WMDs — although the focus of the critics of the war — were not the sole reason for the war. When you look at a two-decade arc of what was going on in the region from the 1980s to the 2000s Hussein was a terror, an evil, and a destabilizing force. His removal and our military involvement represented an opportunity for stability that was subsequently abandoned. Events such as the ‘Arab Spring’ have demonstrated that American retreat in the world leads to more harm than good. Viewed in this context, the answer to your question is that I would have invaded, done a better job of standing up a stable government in Iraq, and secured a presence to maintain stability rather than abandoning Iraq to the malign embrace of ISIS and Iran.

What do you think?

Published in Foreign Policy, Politics
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  1. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Jim Kearney:“What we know now is that Barack Obama left Iraq defenseless against ISIS.

    “Those of us who have seen American Sniper also know that in Iraq our brave soldiers fought against AQI — Al Qaeda in Iraq. In 2006, for example, we eliminated Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a leader who was on his way to becoming the next Bin Laden.

    “I’m proud of our victories in Iraq under Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush. I hold Barack Obama responsible not consolidating our victory over Al Qaeda in Iraq, and for allowing that organization to reconstitute itself as ISIS, and take back cities and towns which had been liberated by the courage and sacrifice of American heroes.”

    Jim, where did this quote come from? Is this what Jeb said? I didn’t read his remarks, only the original post here.

    Well stated and a point of view I share.

    • #31
  2. user_1030767 Inactive
    user_1030767
    @TheQuestion

    My thinking on this changed when I considered the hypothetical of Saddam, or one of his sons, in charge of Iraq with Obama as president of the US.  Granted, if things had gone differently and Saddam had not been deposed in Iraq, it’s likely that someone else would be president (who knows?).  However, I figure that the reason that ISIS is so out of control is because of Obama’s weakness.  Presumably if Saddam were in charge in Iraq there would be no ISIS, but that would not be an improvement.  He and his sons were no less brutal than ISIS, and they would be looking to throw their weight around as much as ISIS is, or Iran is, or Putin is.  Saddam’s power to inflict harm probably would be greater than ISIS, so I judge it’s a good thing he’s not there anymore.  I don’t know how to estimate whether the invasion was worth the cost, but it made the world a little safer.

    • #32
  3. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @

    “Probably because Megyn Kelly was not expected to be a confrontational interview Jeb relaxed a little too much. In general he performed well and Megyn gave him the opportunity to make his case.”

    This is a problem I’ve seen before. Fox is supposed to be friendly to Republicans (Jeb especially?) but reporters are always trying to make their bones. Chris Wallace tends to ask gotcha questions of GOP candidates Democrat reporters would be embarrased to ask, while O’Reilly gives softball interviews with Obama. They sometimes are trying to show they are “fair and balanced”, like the highschool coach who is toughest on his own son.

    But f Jeb let his guard down on this subject in any venue, it’s a strong indication he’s not ready for prime time. I suspect he’s a victim of his own entitlement.

    • #33
  4. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    I don’t need Fox News to loft softball questions for anyone. All I need for them to do is ask relevant questions and give the candidate space to answer the question. The purpose of a follow up question is to reveal if there is a nuance in the answer that an ordinary person would miss that needs to be highlighted and addressed — not an opportunity to debate or discount by the interviewer.

    Of course, cutting off filibusters is appropriate given the time limits in broadcast journalism. When a candidate is faced with questions that truly require a long and involved response, it makes more sense for them to (1) say so, (2) reference their website where they do provide long and detailed positions, and (3) identify a portion of the question that can be addressed quickly and forthrightly and do so.

    • #34
  5. Karen Inactive
    Karen
    @Karen

    Removing the Baathists was a critical mistake, especially since they are likely supporting ISIS/ISIL and AQ in Iraq. The Bush administration was, along with the CIA, DoD and other intelligence agencies, lax in appreciating the complicated political and sectarian structures in Iraq. The invasion was relatively easy, but keeping the peace was hell. But I don’t really believe that going into Iraq was a choice. It was inevitable. Bin Laden and AQ created a cultural shift in the Middle East that inspired those under despotic regimes to rise up. If AQ can bring the mighty US to its knees, then so could Middle Eastern tyrants be brought to theirs. The ground had shifted, and Iraq would’ve fallen. Saddam knew it. Iraq would’ve have been Libya or Egypt, but worse – Rwanda with chemical and biological weapons. The sectarian violence/civil war in Iraq is evidence of the potential. He had every reason to use every weapon against us when we invaded Afghanistan – which is why our guys got small pox and anthrax vaccines. And when, not if, he did fall who would get their hands on all those chemical and biological weapons? The aftermath of Arab Spring justified our entry into Iraq. GW Bush didn’t do everything right, but his decision to go into Iraq likely saved millions of lives. I mourn the loss of every brave service member in that struggle, but it was not wrong and it wasn’t in vain.

    • #35
  6. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    George W. Bush in his book takes a mea culpa approach, writing that he has agonized over the fact that his decision to invade Iraq was based on faulty WMD intelligence.  In fact, his decision is entirely defensible.  This is what Jeb’s brother should have said in his book:

    I made a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on September 12, 2002 that laid out many reasons for confronting Iraq. These were all valid and true:

    • “Twelve years ago, Iraq invaded Kuwait without provocation.”
    • “Iraq continues to commit extremely grave violations of human rights.”
    • “Iraq continues to shelter and support terrorist organizations that direct violence against Iran, Israel, and Western governments.”
    • “Iraq attempted to assassinate the Emir of Kuwait and a former American President.”
    • “The Iraqi regime agreed to destroy and stop developing all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles, and to prove to the world it has done so by complying with rigorous inspections. Iraq has broken every aspect of this fundamental pledge.”
    • “The regime admitted to producing tens of thousands of liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents.”
    • “Saddam Hussein’s regime is a grave and gathering danger.”
    • “Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause.”
    • “He’s fired ballistic missiles at Iran and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Israel.”
    • “With every step the Iraqi regime takes toward gaining and deploying the most terrible weapons, our own options to confront that regime will narrow.”
    • #36
  7. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Adam Koslin:

    …having actually eliminated Saddam Hussein and brought relative stability to Iraq…

    Hussein was a…destabilizing force.

    The problem is that these aren’t true. The Iraqi federal government after Saddam was always pretty useless – we were never able to really get the Shi’ites and Sunnis to get along, while the Kurds just went off and did their own thing in the North. And for all that Saddam was an evil dude, he was the one keeping the lid on all of the ISIS/Iranian proxy wars. He kept the lid on with mass murder and repression, but he kept the lid on.

    What do you want governments to do?

    The economy was booming, education was going well, the violent death rate, including both AQ and common or garden homicide was below that in St. Louis, numerous diverse media outlets grew up, healthcare was rapidly improving, etc. etc. etc.

    Other than maintaining a sufficient rule of law for civil society to grow and providing essential services, what needs to happen before you consider a government useful?

    • #37
  8. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    I think the liberation of Iraq, with what we know now, was a tremendously important achievement and probably necessary to the peace and prosperity America currently enjoys.

    There are a lot of commentators who have said “Why must he be so craven to his brother” or “How did he mess up this question?” as if this being his actual view is impossible.

    I think it’s possible to disagree with him; I gather most people do. I think that the assumption that every political statement must be a bid for popularity is an awful one. Saying something unpopular isn’t necessarily a gaffe. Having unpopular views is not dependent on Freudian issues. Jeb has always been an internationalist, just as he’s always opposed the teachers unions and viewed common core as a useful tool against them. I mention the latter as an example of an unpopular opinion he clearly genuinely holds that is in no way beholden to his family.

    • #38
  9. user_309277 Inactive
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    James Of England:

    Adam Koslin:

    …having actually eliminated Saddam Hussein and brought relative stability to Iraq…

    Hussein was a…destabilizing force.

    The problem is that these aren’t true. The Iraqi federal government after Saddam was always pretty useless – we were never able to really get the Shi’ites and Sunnis to get along, while the Kurds just went off and did their own thing in the North. And for all that Saddam was an evil dude, he was the one keeping the lid on all of the ISIS/Iranian proxy wars. He kept the lid on with mass murder and repression, but he kept the lid on.

    What do you want governments to do?

    The economy was booming, education was going well, the violent death rate, including both AQ and common or garden homicide was below that in St. Louis, numerous diverse media outlets grew up, healthcare was rapidly improving, etc. etc. etc.

    Other than maintaining a sufficient rule of law for civil society to grow and providing essential services, what needs to happen before you consider a government useful?

    I have never seen any of those claims made anywhere, and I am unable to replicate them with cursory googling.  That doesn’t mean they’re untrue, but I am skeptical.  Would you mind providing your sources and going a little further in-depth on when and where those conditions obtained?

    • #39
  10. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @Manny

    I like your response.  It’s hard to do off the cuff and in front of cameras.

    • #40
  11. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Adam Koslin:

    James Of England:

    Adam Koslin:

    …having actually eliminated Saddam Hussein and brought relative stability to Iraq…

    Hussein was a…destabilizing force.

    The problem is that these aren’t true. The Iraqi federal government after Saddam was always pretty useless – we were never able to really get the Shi’ites and Sunnis to get along, while the Kurds just went off and did their own thing in the North. And for all that Saddam was an evil dude, he was the one keeping the lid on all of the ISIS/Iranian proxy wars. He kept the lid on with mass murder and repression, but he kept the lid on.

    What do you want governments to do?

    The economy was booming, education was going well, the violent death rate, including both AQ and common or garden homicide was below that in St. Louis, numerous diverse media outlets grew up, healthcare was rapidly improving, etc. etc. etc.

    Other than maintaining a sufficient rule of law for civil society to grow and providing essential services, what needs to happen before you consider a government useful?

    I have never seen any of those claims made anywhere, and I am unable to replicate them with cursory googling. That doesn’t mean they’re untrue, but I am skeptical. Would you mind providing your sources and going a little further in-depth on when and where those conditions obtained?

    The gold standard for most of this stuff is the SIGIR reports. I don’t know of good overview resources on education, but quite a lot of the SIGIR reports are good on specific sectors of education improving, and I knew people who were benefiting from the expansion of higher education while I was out there, and who had benefited from the expansion of K-12.  The media, too, is probably best covered by the SIGIR reports.

    For GDP, see here.

    For specific claims, I can’t find the studies that showed the integrated violent death rates for war and peaceful homicide, but you can see disaggregated stats here and here.

    • #41
  12. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    liberal jim:Why is it always assumed that the only military option available was a massive invasion? Arming the Kurds and a aggressive air campaign would have kept S in a box and if it did not the invasion option would have still been available. Nation building GWB screwed up. His intelligence people were wrong, he is responsible. As for the withdrawal of all troops, once again it was GWB who negotiate and signed in 2008 the SOFA under which they were withdrawn. If GWB thought it so important, why did he not negotiate a longer SOFA, one that lasted 20 years or more that called for a residual force? GWB created a mess, then partially cleaned it up and left it to his successor to deal with. Not a great leader in my book!

    Sanctions were coming to an end. It’s true that the US could have let that happen and simply launched missile and aerial attacks on Iraq. We might even have been able to keep Saddam from developing nukes if we launched enough of those attacks. It’d have to be far more, of course, than we’d launched before, and would obviously have been politically unsustainable, such that he’d have finally reached nuclear capacity under Obama (and the added competition would have hastened Iran’s efforts, too).

    Obviously, he’d still be able to kill vast numbers of Iraqis, deeply entrenching a Sunni-Shia hostility that didn’t much exist before Saddam. Also obviously, Al Qaida would have had a safe haven to replace Afghanistan (not necessarily one controlled by Saddam, but that fig leaf doesn’t make much of a difference and wouldn’t have been likely to survive anyway).

    Also obviously, the fight against Israel would not have lost the chief funder for suicide bombings. Would the Saudi government have fallen? Who knows? There’s a lot of unclear bad outcomes. I’m not sure that many of them would have been helped by murdering Iraqis at a distance.

    • #42
  13. FloppyDisk90 Member
    FloppyDisk90
    @FloppyDisk90

    What do you want governments to do?

    Protecting it’s citizens from roaming bands of armed gangs is a good place to start and at that the Iraqi gov’t failed spectacularly.

    • #43
  14. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    FloppyDisk90:Protecting it’s citizens from roaming bands of armed gangs is a good place to start and at that the Iraqi gov’t failed spectacularly.

    Suffering from armed invasion and having a dramatic failure and humiliating rout followed by extensive pillaging is something that happened to the American government in 1814.

    If anyone cares to call the American government manned by our founders “worthless”, then I guess I can’t condemn them placing Iraq in that illustrious company. I recognize, incidentally, that the British treatment of Washington was less awful than ISIS’ behavior, but I don’t believe that this was due to the quality of the temporarily defeated government.

    • #44
  15. FloppyDisk90 Member
    FloppyDisk90
    @FloppyDisk90

    James Of England:

    FloppyDisk90:Protecting it’s citizens from roaming bands of armed gangs is a good place to start and at that the Iraqi gov’t failed spectacularly.

    Suffering from armed invasion and having a dramatic failure and humiliating rout followed by extensive pillaging is something that happened to the American government in 1814.

    If anyone cares to call the American government manned by our founders “worthless”, then I guess I can’t condemn them placing Iraq in that illustrious company. I recognize, incidentally, that the British treatment of Washington was less awful than ISIS’ behavior, but I don’t believe that this was due to the quality of the temporarily defeated government.

    You’re slipping James, you don’t normally revert to straw man arguments.

    Re the War of 1812.  Britain was a first rate power, perhaps the best for it’s time, and the US was a fledgling nation state.  ISIS drove into Iraq with AK-47s and Toyota pick-ups and routed a vastly superior (at least in terms of equipment and numbers) IA force that, primarily due to sectarian bias, fled.  If you want to compare that with the War of 1812 I suppose I can’t stop you but it bears only a tenuous relationship with actual analysis.

    • #45
  16. user_309277 Inactive
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    James Of England:

    The gold standard for most of this stuff is the SIGIR reports. I don’t know of good overview resources on education, but quite a lot of the SIGIR reports are good on specific sectors of education improving, and I knew people who were benefiting from the expansion of higher education while I was out there, and who had benefited from the expansion of K-12. The media, too, is probably best covered by the SIGIR reports.

    For GDP, see here.

    For specific claims, I can’t find the studies that showed the integrated violent death rates for war and peaceful homicide, but you can see disaggregated stats here and here.

    Thanks!  I’m going to give these a read-through and get back to you. :)

    • #46
  17. user_309277 Inactive
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    FloppyDisk90:

    Re the War of 1812. Britain was a first rate power, perhaps the best for it’s time, and the US was a fledgling nation state. ISIS drove into Iraq with AK-47s and Toyota pick-ups and routed a vastly superior (at least in terms of equipment and numbers) IA force that, primarily due to sectarian bias, fled. If you want to compare that with the War of 1812 I suppose I can’t stop you but it bears only a tenuous relationship with actual analysis.

    To be fair, western Iraq is pretty much the perfect terrain for Toyota HiLuxes with machine guns in the beds:  flat, dry, calm weather.  Excellent light cavalry ground.  Easy to move fast, strike hard, then run away, a preferred tactic of insurgents since time immemorial.  Hard to defend.

    • #47
  18. FloppyDisk90 Member
    FloppyDisk90
    @FloppyDisk90

    Adam Koslin:

    FloppyDisk90:

    Re the War of 1812. Britain was a first rate power, perhaps the best for it’s time, and the US was a fledgling nation state. ISIS drove into Iraq with AK-47s and Toyota pick-ups and routed a vastly superior (at least in terms of equipment and numbers) IA force that, primarily due to sectarian bias, fled. If you want to compare that with the War of 1812 I suppose I can’t stop you but it bears only a tenuous relationship with actual analysis.

    To be fair, western Iraq is pretty much the perfect terrain for Toyota HiLuxes with machine guns in the beds: flat, dry, calm weather. Excellent light cavalry ground. Easy to move fast, strike hard, then run away, a preferred tactic of insurgents since time immemorial. Hard to defend.

    I agree, Adam, and if the IA had shown the least little inclination to actually, you know, fight back then I wouldn’t be so hard on them.  But they fled, again, primarily because Sunnis were called upon to defend Kurds.

    • #48
  19. user_309277 Inactive
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    FloppyDisk90:

    Adam Koslin:

    FloppyDisk90:

    Re the War of 1812. Britain was a first rate power, perhaps the best for it’s time, and the US was a fledgling nation state. ISIS drove into Iraq with AK-47s and Toyota pick-ups and routed a vastly superior (at least in terms of equipment and numbers) IA force that, primarily due to sectarian bias, fled. If you want to compare that with the War of 1812 I suppose I can’t stop you but it bears only a tenuous relationship with actual analysis.

    To be fair, western Iraq is pretty much the perfect terrain for Toyota HiLuxes with machine guns in the beds: flat, dry, calm weather. Excellent light cavalry ground. Easy to move fast, strike hard, then run away, a preferred tactic of insurgents since time immemorial. Hard to defend.

    I agree, Adam, and if the IA had shown the least little inclination to actually, you know, fight back then I wouldn’t be so hard on them. But they fled, again, primarily because Sunnis were called upon to defend Kurds.

    Truth.  Fortunately the Kurds are made of much sterner stuff.  I’ve become a huge fan.

    • #49
  20. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Adam Koslin:

    FloppyDisk90:

    I agree, Adam, and if the IA had shown the least little inclination to actually, you know, fight back then I wouldn’t be so hard on them. But they fled, again, primarily because Sunnis were called upon to defend Kurds.

    Truth. Fortunately the Kurds are made of much sterner stuff. I’ve become a huge fan.

    The Kurdish areas were defended by the Peshmerga. The Arab areas by the Iraqi Army, including Kurds, Sunni, and Shia. Mosul, which was shared, didn’t get a lot of useful protection from either.

    The Peshmerga stood by during the initial ambush and rout. They felt that they had an unofficial truce with ISIS. ISIS then broke the truce, and the Peshmerga broke and ran, just like the Iraqi Army did. In a lot of ways, it was a good thing that they did. The West, and America in particular, is shockingly averse to helping the Iraqi government, but the Kurds being in need helped persuade America to actually start fighting.

    The Pershmerga ministry has pretty much collapsed. When you read about “the Peshmerga” doing stuff today, it’s mostly one of the private militias of the two chief political parties. It’s the reason that the KRG has been far more brutally affected than the rest of Iraq. Having not been targeted much by AQ, the Kurds’ chief selling point was that they were in Iraq, but life was safe. Although the Peshmerga haven’t fought particularly hard or successfully in decades, they had a tremendous brand name developed. The collapse last year was devastating for that. This was particularly bad when joined by the refugee crisis.

    Both Peshmerga and ISF forces have made some gains since the initial failures, fighting back to retake towns that the US Army found difficult to retake. The initial talk about ISIS taking Baghdad and the whole of the (Sunni) Kurdish North turned out to be really dumb. The Iranians have helped some, as has the US, but the bulk of the regular boots on the ground are Iraqi Army, and the Iraqi Special Forces have performed particularly well.  The defeat of ISIS in Tikrit was more prominent than most of the victories, but there have been a lot of victories.

    • #50
  21. FloppyDisk90 Member
    FloppyDisk90
    @FloppyDisk90

    The West, and America in particular, is shockingly averse to helping the Iraqi government, but the Kurds being in need helped persuade America to actually start fighting.

    America spent 13+ years and trillions (but at this point, who’s counting?) “helping” Iraq.  And now we’re back.  There isn’t a country on this Earth who has done more and today, right now, is doing more to assist the Iraqis in locating their back end.  It’s only “shockingly averse” by your open ended, absolutist expectation.

    • #51
  22. user_309277 Inactive
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    James Of England:

    The Kurdish areas were defended by the Peshmerga. The Arab areas by the Iraqi Army, including Kurds, Sunni, and Shia. Mosul, which was shared, didn’t get a lot of useful protection from either.

    The Peshmerga stood by during the initial ambush and rout. They felt that they had an unofficial truce with ISIS. ISIS then broke the truce, and the Peshmerga broke and ran, just like the Iraqi Army did. In a lot of ways, it was a good thing that they did.

    1) The territory initially held by the Kurds isn’t down in the flatlands where ISIS and the Iraqi army were originally fighting.  I don’t know about any truce between the Peshmerga and ISIS, but I wouldn’t blame ISIS for not wanting to try to fight in foothills and mountains instead of on nice flat plains.  ISIS attacked the Kurds after Peshmerga lines had moved forward to take over responsibilities in the flatlands formerly held by Iraqi Army units.

    2) Hasn’t the Peshmerga always been split between PUK and KDP, and to a lesser extent, tribally?  I was barely even aware of attempts to make a unified “Peshmerga Ministry” and frankly I’m not surprised it failed.  Melding disparate organizations into one rarely works well.

    3) ISIS routed the Iraqi army while they were comparatively poorly equipped.  When they turned against the Peshmerga they had all the gear they had looted from the Iraqi Army.  Not quite the same enemy.

    • #52
  23. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    FloppyDisk90:America spent 13+ years and trillions (but at this point, who’s counting?) “helping” Iraq. And now we’re back. There isn’t a country on this Earth who has done more and today, right now, is doing more to assist the Iraqis in locating their back end. It’s only “shockingly averse” by your open ended, absolutist expectation.

    You’re right. There are many Americans who have fought hard and successfully to get Americans into Iraq (some of them doing that political fighting from within Iraq, while also physically fighting), and there were many Americans who supported that in June 2014. There was also a decisive block against it that switched when the Kurds and other non-Arab Iraqis were attacked.

    Even while America was plunging huge amounts of blood and treasure into Iraq, one heard relatively few non-sneering things said about the Iraqi government forces who were doing most of the dying out there. It’s not true of everyone; Michael Silverman’s Awakening Victory is particularly good on the bravery of the regular Iraqi forces, (ie. not just the Sahwa), but it’s an overwhelmingly dominant tone.

    There was a strong desire to help Iraqis, but you’ll find relatively few politicians who would talk about wanting to help Iraq. Even now, you hear arguments that the support against ISIS should focus on the Kurds, despite the degree to which the Kurds are uninterested in the broader issue of ISIS and were happy to let them be when they thought that was an option, even after ISIS had taken areas with substantial numbers of Kurds living there.

    • #53
  24. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Adam Koslin:

    James Of England:

    The Kurdish areas were defended by the Peshmerga. The Arab areas by the Iraqi Army, including Kurds, Sunni, and Shia. Mosul, which was shared, didn’t get a lot of useful protection from either.

    The Peshmerga stood by during the initial ambush and rout. They felt that they had an unofficial truce with ISIS. ISIS then broke the truce, and the Peshmerga broke and ran, just like the Iraqi Army did. In a lot of ways, it was a good thing that they did.

    1) The territory initially held by the Kurds isn’t down in the flatlands where ISIS and the Iraqi army were originally fighting. I don’t know about any truce between the Peshmerga and ISIS, but I wouldn’t blame ISIS for not wanting to try to fight in foothills and mountains instead of on nice flat plains. ISIS attacked the Kurds after Peshmerga lines had moved forward to take over responsibilities in the flatlands formerly held by Iraqi Army units.

    It’s true that when ISIS attacked the Peshmerga it was mostly in terrain similar to the terrain on which ISIS attacked the Iraqi army. I don’t think that this is a difference between the Peshmerga and the Iraqis. I think, rather, that this was because there was a widespread belief that ISIS wouldn’t attack the Peshmerga (Vice had a collection of video interviews with the Kurds while the apparent truce was still in place; they can be seen waving at ISIS and such, and explaining that their superior fearsomeness means that they don’t have to worry) and this was leveraged to gain a stronger claim for Kirkuk for the KRG.

    2) Hasn’t the Peshmerga always been split between PUK and KDP, and to a lesser extent, tribally? I was barely even aware of attempts to make a unified “Peshmerga Ministry” and frankly I’m not surprised it failed. Melding disparate organizations into one rarely works well.

    There was a unified Peshmerga Ministry, of about the same size as the party militias, in part because the KRG, like the rest of Iraq, needs to work to be less corrupt, and having a private family militia running this is sort of terrible. The Peshmerga ministry was an attempt to make Kurdistan function like a modern state, and had been moderately successful. Obviously, like the Iraqi Army, it was primarily trained to defeat terrorists, and didn’t fare so well in the face of something more like a regular army.

    3) ISIS routed the Iraqi army while they were comparatively poorly equipped. When they turned against the Peshmerga they had all the gear they had looted from the Iraqi Army. Not quite the same enemy.

    It’s true that ISIS was better equipped for the second attack. It was quite a lot less surprising, though, and there aren’t the same reports of decaptitating psy ops against senior leadership.

    Both routs had more and less embarrassing elements to them. Since then, both groups have pulled themselves together and had more success.

    • #54
  25. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    FloppyDisk90:

    James Of England:

    You’re slipping James, you don’t normally revert to straw man arguments.

    Re the War of 1812. Britain was a first rate power, perhaps the best for it’s time, and the US was a fledgling nation state. ISIS drove into Iraq with AK-47s and Toyota pick-ups and routed a vastly superior (at least in terms of equipment and numbers) IA force that, primarily due to sectarian bias, fled. If you want to compare that with the War of 1812 I suppose I can’t stop you but it bears only a tenuous relationship with actual analysis.

    The Post-Independence United States was 47 years old in 1814, and Britain was exhausted, having been fighting solidly for decades on every continent bar Australia and Antarctica. America was fresh and dynamic. Post

    An 11 year old post-Saddam Iraq had been worn down by the second most intense and sustained terrorist campaign in history, with more casualties even than Israeli losses to terrorism. The rout took place after an incredibly effective psy-ops campaign that saw the senior leadership vanish.

    It’s certainly true that it would have been better for the subordinates to have avoided panic, but it’s also true that a little more confidence would have been handy at Bladensburg.  It’s true, too, that the regional political military leadership a: shouldn’t have existed and b: should have resisted the worst that ISIS had to offer.

    I don’t think that they individually realized the scale of harm that would befall them when they individually fled without giving notice. Still, it was a huge blow. The coordination of several ways of achieving surprise and inflicting panic was an incredibly impressive maneuver. That it doesn’t tell us that the Iraqis are simply incapable of fighting can be shown from the fact that they later seem to have fought pretty effectively. The Kurds, too, followed up from the Kurdish rout by performing admirably.

    My point was just that ascribing worthlessness to a country on the basis of a single defeat is difficult to justify. It’s true that there are many differences between Bladensburg and Mosul, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing instructive in the commonalities.

    • #55
  26. FloppyDisk90 Member
    FloppyDisk90
    @FloppyDisk90

    My point was just that ascribing worthlessness to a country on the basis of a single defeat is difficult to justify. 

    Change “worthless” to “not worth the cost” and “single defeat” to “13 years of blood and treasure.”  I think after those adjustments you will see that my position isn’t so hard to justify.

    • #56
  27. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Right. I still disagree, but we’re into firmly subjective preferences there.

    • #57
  28. Jim Kearney Contributor
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    MarciN:

    Jim Kearney:“What we know now is that Barack Obama left Iraq defenseless against ISIS.

    “Those of us who have seen American Sniper also know that in Iraq our brave soldiers fought against AQI — Al Qaeda in Iraq. In 2006, for example, we eliminated Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a leader who was on his way to becoming the next Bin Laden.

    “I’m proud of our victories in Iraq under Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush. I hold Barack Obama responsible for not consolidating our victory over Al Qaeda in Iraq, and for allowing that organization to reconstitute itself as ISIS, and take back cities and towns which had been liberated by the courage and sacrifice of American heroes.”

    Jim, where did this quote come from? Is this what Jeb said? I didn’t read his remarks, only the original post here.

    Well stated and a point of view I share.

    Sorry for not being clear. Knowing what we know now, that’s what I’d want Jeb to have said.

    • #58
  29. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    It is ironic that there are many good answers that Jeb could have made. He didn’t. His week hasn’t gotten better. I think he would have a strong headwind in the primaries in any event, and he just gave it strength. The real question is where he is going to put the cash he’s already gotten, because I don’t think the official “I’m running” is going to come. He doesn’t want to quit, and he may not deserve the political funeral that’s coming, but Mama’s got to tell him “it’s over.”

    • #59
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