Tag: Iraq

Jeb’s Verbal Misfire and Revising History


Jeb Bush seems to be following the plan he laid out months ago, when he mused about how he wanted to win the presidency: By threading the needle between the base and the establishment Republicans to narrowly win the nomination, then running toward the center against a Hillary pulled to the Left by her own base. Agree or disagree with him, by most accounts his speeches have been substantive, and thoughtful. But he had a misstep on Monday, when he responded to a question that he expected to be asked instead of the one that was actually asked:

Asked on Fox News (in an interview to be aired tonight) if he would have authorized the invasion of Iraq, knowing what the world now knows, Jeb Bush replied: “I would have and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”

The Ghosts of America’s Allies


070326_r16050b_p465There are people in this world who, though they are not American, believe in the justice of America’s cause. It sometimes happens that they commit their lives to an unkind fate by becoming America’s allies. This has happened in Iraq. Those who most loved America face the cruelest fate. Americans are represented by politicians who are the artisans of this fate.

Like avant-garde art, American foreign policy sometimes is designed to shock decent people. The spectacle of slaughter; the fear for one’s wife or child; the sure humiliation of being foolish about America; petty things and terrible things come together to form a whole; there is nothing to be done but to say what one sees or fears; there is nothing then left but to see those fears come alive.

Today I read this article by National Review‘s Mr. Nordlinger, who seems to moonlight as conservative America’s man of honor. He remembers and says all the things people with their busy lives cannot remember and say. How does that man live–knowing so many shameful things?

“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.


W: ‘So, Yeah… I Was Pretty Much Right All Along’


620x349For six long years George W. Bush has kept opinions about Obama’s policies to himself. While Cheney has more than made up for the absence of the last administration’s feelings, W was of the mindset that it is “unpresidential” to speak badly of other Presidents. Maybe he is right, but certainly to the chagrin of Conservatives.

That was until Saturday night when W spoke to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas. During his speech he stated the obvious (to us Conservatives) but nonetheless, it was refreshing to hear it from the man who has been the bane of every political bomb thrower, blamer and punchline.

Selected statements as reported from Bloomberg:

In Defense of Bush’s Second Inaugural


Bush_delivers_his_second_Inaugural_addressAt Ricochet’s recent Nashville Meet-up, the subject of George W. Bush’s speech came up, with — if I remember correctly* — none other than Troy Senik dismissing it as utopian. To my mind, that is precisely what inaugurals are for. I had a brief debate with Frank Soto about whether democratization of the planet would be complete within 20 years. On reflection, though, the debate missed the point. Even if it takes 40 years to bring about universal peace on an international scale, that’s the sort of grand project that benefits from markers being laid down.

I stray even further from confidence in attributing Gary McVey’s thoughts to Troy, but his this comment eloquently captures the most common reason for believing the speech to be ill-considered. “Blame Kristol and Barnes for that universal hunger for democracy line, but plenty of us believed it. Dad knew it was baloney. He was right.” This appears true at a trivial level; there are people who appear to prefer dictatorship to democracy, and they’re not all dictators (although the role and the outlook do appear to correlate).  I believe that the overwhelming bulk of humanity hears what the Inaugural called the call to freedom, but many of them also have other concerns.

Francis Fukuyama, in his Origins of Political Ordercompares and contrasts Magna Carta with Ivan the Terrible. In both instances, the nobility found itself with the power to rewrite the constitution. In England, power was tilted to the barons and, to a lesser extent, the people. In Russia, the barons chose to give up their power. Their oppression by their neighbors was so great that they willingly piled domestic oppression on their own heads in order to mitigate it. In England, peace and prosperity gave rise to a desire for decentralized power and freedom. Fukuyama emphasizes that the Russian instinct was not wholly irrational by noting that Hungary had a moment similar to the Magna Carta at about the same time. The Hungarians were not secure, and the decentralization worked out for them pretty poorly.

Segregation For Iraq: Some Bad Ideas Never Die


shutterstock_195311009A disturbing number of people have been praising Vice President Joe Biden’s plan to partition Iraq. In its original form, The Biden Plan was to have a greater degree of federalization of Iraqi governmental power with the 19 governorates being split into four regions (Sunni Arab, Shia Arab, Kurdish, and Baghdad), protected by a UN resolution, with four goals: 1) to change the federal structure of Iraq by creating a level of regional government between the governorates and the federal government; 2) to allocate oil revenues; 3) to protect women’s rights; and 4) to allow the US to withdraw militarily by 2008. A few months later, Biden updated his plan to lose Baghdad as a separate region, to drop women’s rights, and to include a new jobs program to be paid for by the Gulf States that would protect minority rights (how we’d make the Saudis go along with that last demand was never clear). He modeled both plans on the segregationist Dayton Accords in Bosnia.

Despite Biden’s plan not being implemented, two of these goals have happened anyway: the oil revenues have achieved ever greater degrees of formalized allocation, and women’s rights have been supported. On the other hand, the Surge happened and the Iraqis didn’t want regional level governments. The governorates (essentially, provinces) were given the ability by federal law to federalize into regions, combining such that the Sunni majority governorates could establish a regional government with greater powers, the Shia could do likewise, etc. Regardless, Arab Iraqis chose not to take that opportunity; indeed, at no point did even two governorates attempt to unify. The Kurds took the increased powers allocated to any such region that existed and added them to their already considerable number of autonomous powers, but there was no other regional identity that was able to coalesce into regional government.

The international consequences of implementing the Biden Plan — had the US withdrawn militarily by 2008 without a Surge — seem quite apparent. As for a UN convention to get everyone to agree not to invade Iraq, while it might sound as if that would have been really helpful, ISIS would not have been a signatory to the agreement.

Uncommon Knowledge: Tom Cotton on Whether He Still Thinks the Editors of the New York Times Should be Behind Bars


The first time that most Americans heard of now-Senator Tom Cotton was in 2006, when, while serving as a lieutenant in Iraq, he wrote a famous letter to the New York Times upbraiding them for publishing the secret details of the federal government’s anti-terrorist financing program. The conclusion of that letter: “By the time we return home, maybe you will be in your rightful place: not at the Pulitzer announcements, but behind bars.” In this final clip from our recent conversation on Uncommon Knowledge, I ask him, at the remove of nearly a decade, if he still stands by those words:

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Listening to the recent jab by President Obama at Governor Scott Walker about his lack of knowledge in foreign affairs, I came across this nugget that no one seems to have noticed: “Keep in mind, Steve, that there is long precedent for a whole host of international agreements in which there’s not a formal treaty […]

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A new video, released on a jihadi website, shows men climbing ladders to take mallets and hammers to friezes on the portals or “iwans” of the main temple. In between explaining to camera that they are destroying anything that might be “worshipped instead of God”, the video shows them destroying states by using pickaxes on […]

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Petraeus Puts the Icing on Bibi’s Iran Cake


Don’t just rely on Benjamin Netanyahu’s passionate advice to Congress on his way to reelection that Iran is our arch enemy. Now we have the counsel of retired general David Petraeus, who gave a remarkable interview this week to the Washington Post. Petraeus agrees with Netanhayhu: Iran, not ISIS, is the real enemy.

His message: “I would argue that the foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State; rather, it is Shiite militias, many backed by – and some guided by – Iran.”

Iraq: What Might Have Been


290165818_4058f117ce_bIn a previous thread, Ricochet member Majestyk expressed a major complaint that he has about libertarians, liberals and even conservatives who gripe about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars: What is your alternate scenario?

If we could unwind the clock of history and place you inside George W. Bush’s head (a la Being John Malkovich) what is your preferred policy prescription for U.S. foreign policy in the days following 9/11?

I never hear that question answered and I barely hear it asked.

The Sack of Mosul


ISIS isn’t satisfied with destroying modern-day Iraq. They also intend to destroy its history.

The terror group uploaded a video Thursday of men smashing statues, pulling artifacts from walls and attacking Mosul antiquities with sledgehammers and power tools. To justify their violence, ISIS classified all these representations of man and beast as idols. Some of the irreplaceable works date back to the 7th century B.C.

The Kurdish Question


KurdsI knew nothing about the Kurds prior to last summer. But — as whole Iraqi divisions fled in panic in the face of the ISIS onslaught, ditching their uniforms and weapons as they fled — there was an overlooked people who didn’t disgrace themselves: the Kurds.

The most startling images that came out of Iraqi Kurdistan were of beautiful, young women in fatigues, smiling with AKs on their backs and going into battle alongside men as equals. In fact, there are whole Kurdish militia units of women. These militias have been integral in repelling ISIS from Kobane, where a genocide would surely occur if it fell.

The Kurds, while majority Muslim, bear little resemblance to their demoralized Iraqi neighbors. Nor do they share in the misogyny, fundamentalism, or cruelty of their jihadist foes. On the contrary, there is a level of liberty, enlightened equality of sexes, and pluralism absent everywhere around them save for Israel.

The Strategic Lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan


shutterstock_54994132The rise of the isolationist right in the last decade has been motivated by the protracted counterinsurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their overwrought reaction – that the country must retreat into Fortress America — nonetheless merits an evaluation of the strategic lessons that can be learned from those two military misadventures.

The first and most important lesson is that advanced militaries do much better in conventional engagements against third-world powers than they do in counterinsurgency operations. Saddam Hussein and the Taliban were rolled up quickly, despite the fact that conventional war is usually much more intense and bloody than guerilla war. The difference is that the West’s enormous qualitative advantage over the third-world means that almost all the bloodshed occurs on the other side, all but ensuring quick and successful campaigns. The same cannot be said of a potential conflict with either Russia or China, whose second-rate armies are vastly more deadly than the fourth-rate ones the United States and its allies have fought in recent years. As a result, the qualitative edge between us and them is not lopsided enough to prevent a conventional clash from being bloody and costly to our side.

As a result, our grand strategy should be to avoid conflict with major adversaries while ensuring that any conflict we enter with a third-world adversary be conventional in nature. Guerilla wars should be avoided, and — if they can’t — we should use local proxies as much as possible for the low-tech, in-your-face grunt work.

Rand is Wrong on War Powers


Senator Rand Paul published an editorial in the Daily Beast claiming that the war on ISIS is unconstitutional. He accuses Republicans of hypocrisy or of supporting the view that Article II of the Constitution gives the President unlimited powers. He singles me out as a defender among Republicans of presidential war powers. I’m flattered.

The op-ed shows why Senator Paul should stay right where he is — in the Senate. We should never put someone in the Oval Office who thinks that the United States can only use force when it is actually attacked, as he argues. That is the mindset that led the United States to ignore events in Europe as they spiraled out of control 100 years ago and to withdraw from the continent in the interwar years, leaving it to fascists who ultimately drew the U.S. back into another destructive war. It is a point of view that would have led to defeat in the Cold War and would handcuff the United States from protecting its security by intervening against security threats before they arrive on our shores. It is a point of view that no serious candidate for President should hold and that no great President in our history has ever held.

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The Islamic State (IS) militant group has been driven out of most of the northern Syrian town of Kobane, a Kurdish commander has told the BBC. Baharin Kandal said IS fighters had retreated from all areas, except for two pockets of resistance in the east. Preview Open

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What if Baghdad Falls to ISIS?


There are now reliable reports that ISIS forces are a mile or so from the Iraqi capital. While CNN, NPR, ABC, and the rest have been celebrating our president as the second coming of Douglas MacArthur — with his “gutsy” air strikes and his diplomatic skill in pulling together a coalition to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State — the Islamic State has been quietly gaining ground over the past several days, and closing the noose around Baghdad.

Although the U.S. and U.K. are desperately bombing away to keep ISIS at bay, it’s not clear who or what can stop them from taking the capital. “They said it could never happen, and now it almost has,” according to Canon Andrew White of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East. His people face mass slaughter if the radical Islamists take over, as do thousands of others.