Balkinization  

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

From King George the Third to the Third President George: History Repeats Itself. Or, Why Blackwater is Worse Than Whitewater

Paul Finkelman

“He is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.”

The was the complaint, leveled against George, the ruler of a great nation, who sent hired guns to suppress the people of an emerging nation on the other side of the ocean.

The complaint, of course, was against King George the Third, and was written by Thomas Jefferson. It is in the Declaration of Independence. Yet, in all sorts of ironic ways, Jefferson’s complaint might easily be uttered by Iraqis and Americans who sympathize with their plight.

This week’s Sunday New York Times had two front page stories on that murky, previously almost unknown company, Blackwater USA, which is the largest of a number of firms providing between 20,000 and 30,000 private security guards in Iraq -- what Jefferson might have called “large Armies of foreign Mercenaries.”

These guards are heavily armed and appear to have no external authority over them. Their job, loosely defined, is to protect Americans and other westerners in Iraq. They do so with helicopters, armored cars, and serious amounts of firepower. According to the Times, they bully their way through the streets of Baghdad and other cities, and apparently drive as fast as 120 miles an hour in convoys on the way to the airport. They have killed scores of Iraqis, and frightened even westerners with their cowboy on helicopter tactics.

Blackwater and the other contractors have in effect created private armies or mercenaries. Congress has ordered that the Blackwater mercenaries and other private armies be placed under the same rules of engagement as the United States military. But, according to the Times, “no action has been taken, leaving the contractors in a legal no-man’s land – in effect, at liberty to treat all Iraq as a free-fire zone.” (NY Times, Sept. 23, Week-in-Review, p. 3). In practice there is no one controlling them and no one authority from whom they take orders. They are hired guns, who it appears, are accountable to no one, unless, or until, they are indicted for criminal activity. However, as the N.Y. Times noted (Sept. 23, 2007, Sec. 1; p. 14) “Even if murder charges [against Blackwater employees] were referred to Iraqi courts, it is unclear what real legal peril would be faced by Blackwater or any of its employees.” This is because in 2004, the chief U.S. civilian in Iraq, L. Paul Brenner, III issued Order 17, which, as the Times writes, give “security companies working for the United States government immunity from prosecution” in Iraq.

Iraq is surely a dangerous place. Over one hundred private contractors have been killed there. Blackwater, and other companies, guard these civilian contractors. They are the new mercenaries. They wear no national uniform; they are not really subject to traditional military discipline. And, like all mercenaries, they have no patriotic interest in the outcome of conflict. They have only three goals. They want to survive; they want to protect those they are assigned to protect; and they want to get paid a lot of money. If someone else offers them more money, they might quit the job they now have, and move to a new employer. They would not be “defecting” to the enemy, because they are not soldiers.

The dangers of using a private army are clear. Employees of various companies, including Blackwater, USA, have been charged to senseless killings, reckless killings, and just plain cold blooded killings. I hesitate to say they have participated in murders, because “murder” implies a legal regime where murder is a crime. These mercenaries seem to above the law.

The new mercenaries are not merely civilian employees of western contractors. They have also been hired by Department of State to be bodyguards for U.S. officials in Iraq, including the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. Thus we have the odd, utterly peculiar situation. The United States government is hiring mercenaries who are not even under our legal authority, to do the job that our own military or federal law enforcement agencies should do. We have outsourced the protection of our more important diplomatic and civilian officials to hired guns.

This policy raises significant questions about the nature of our mission in Iraq. It also seems to be an implicit insult to our own military. Are the U.S. Marines – the traditional embassy guards – no longer able to protect our ambassador? Are the Marines and other forces spread so thin that they cannot spare troops to defend the U.S. embassy and its staff? Or is the nature of the Iraq adventure such that we do not want marines and soldiers in this kind of “harm’s way.” Rather, we want mercenaries who do not have to answer to U.S. law or military law, to protect the ambassador, so that the mercenaries can always shoot first and ask questions later, and not be subject to any legal sanctions.

Jefferson was right on the mercenary issue. Nation’s that fight their wars with mercenaries run the great risk of having their hired guns carry out “Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny” under “circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.” Sadly, the more he sanctions the use of mercenaries, hired guns, and armed cowboys on helicopters, the more our Third President George begins to look like our nation’s first enemy, George the Third.

Comments:

Actually, there weren't that many armed cowboys, or Indian massacres of settlers, etc., in the Wild West...for that kind of danger, you'd have to go back to early in our settlement, probably to the Pequot War, which damaged or destroyed over 40% of the Massachusetts Bay settlements of the time.

But in any case, yes, I strongly agree that by creating a rule where there is no rule of law for private military contractors (mercenaries), the administration has greatly increased the chances that they will act in a lawless manner. If you are not beholden to local law, or the law of your employers, then absent a strict self-discipline, the chances of someone working strictly for money acting in immoral or unethical ways is high. That is, unfortunately, human nature, and we are giving them license to act in that manner by exempting them from the law.
 

The use of McHessians in Iraq has been a disgrace. Of course, in a war packed with disgraces, this is little more than a dog bites man incident.
 

There are obviously philsophical arguments back and forth about private security firms in Iraq, but the primary problem is that they seem to have been exempted from both Iraqi and American regulation. If I recall correctly, even our resident conservative, Bart, agrees that the private forces ought to be subject to some body of law (I believe he wants it to be US civilian law). I'd take that; I'd also take the Uniform Code of Military Justice (though that could result in a constitutional or statutory challenge). Much as I sympathize with Iraqis who are getting killed or injured by the private contractors, I don't think Iraqi law is the answer, because I doubt that the Iraq can mount fair or untainted prosecutions.

But the bottom line is, the problems with the private security firms may arise from their apparent legal immunity rather than from the fact that they are mercenaries.
 

Fraud Guy:

Actually, there weren't that many armed cowboys, or Indian massacres of settlers, etc., in the Wild West...for that kind of danger, you'd have to go back to early in our settlement, probably to the Pequot War, which damaged or destroyed over 40% of the Massachusetts Bay settlements of the time.

I think that would be King Philip's War. The Pequods were, for the most part, fighting with the European settlers. Had they sided with, and joined, Metacomet (a/k/a "King Philip"), the result may have been worse for the settlers. FWIW, King Philip's War (and other native-American/settler skirmishes) and the ravages of disease, starvation, destroying of habitat, etc., did far more damage to the native American population, which saw 90% or so reductions in this time, not to mention loss of most of their lands.

See Nathaniel Philbrick's "Mayflower" for more on these wars.

Cheers,
 

Arne,

Sorry about the miscite--I didn't have my reference books with me.

However, my other point is the same--that war was also the most devastating to the European settlers, as a percentage of population, of any of the conflicts with the Indians. In many of the other wars, the tribulations inflicted on the tribes were similar, but without anywhere near the same casualties on the part of the Europeans/Americans.
 

The comparison between the British enagagement of Hessian troops to fight along side British troops in their attempt to put down our rebellion and the US hiring of private organizations like Blackwater to provide static guard duty across the world (not just in Iraq) is more than a little bit of a stretch.

Private security organizations have been around for decades filling in the gaps left by militaries around the world.

Blackwater is not a bunch of inexperienced gang bangers without any idea of military discipline or rules of engagement. They are mostly former US SF, Delta and SEALS and their State Department employer does give them rules of engagement.

The complaints against Blackwater never seem to survive scrutiny for very long. For example, the Iraqi civilian authorities accused Blackwater of initiating the September 17 engagement without provocation. However, the Iraqi military has now confirmed that the Blackwater convoy was targeted with a mortar round, the results of which Fox News (alone among the networks) showed footage on last night's news programs.

The State Department vociferously defends Blackwater because Blackwater has lost 100 men to attacks, but none of its protected State Department personnel has ever died in these attacks. In short, these "cowboys" lay down their lives to protect our State Department personnel. Some mercs...

That being said, these private security firms need to fall under a SOFA agreement because they fulfill a vital role and are not going away any time soon. Even the best trained soldiers will get out of line in a war zone without the imposition of military discipline or its equivalent.
 

The comparison between the British enagagement of Hessian troops to fight along side British troops in their attempt to put down our rebellion and the US hiring of private organizations like Blackwater to provide static guard duty across the world (not just in Iraq) is more than a little bit of a stretch.

It's not even a slight stretch. We don't have enough troops to do the job, so we are hiring mercs. Just like the Brits. It's that simple.
 

The comparison between the British enagagement of Hessian troops to fight along side British troops in their attempt to put down our rebellion and the US hiring of private organizations like Blackwater to provide static guard duty across the world (not just in Iraq) is more than a little bit of a stretch.

Private security organizations have been around for decades filling in the gaps left by militaries around the world.

Blackwater is not a bunch of inexperienced gang bangers without any idea of military discipline or rules of engagement. They are mostly former US SF, Delta and SEALS and their State Department employer does give them rules of engagement.

The complaints against Blackwater never seem to survive scrutiny for very long. For example, the Iraqi civilian authorities accused Blackwater of initiating the September 17 engagement without provocation. However, the Iraqi military has now confirmed that the Blackwater convoy was targeted with a mortar round, the results of which Fox News (alone among the networks) showed footage on last night's news programs.

The State Department vociferously defends Blackwater because Blackwater has lost 100 men to attacks, but none of its protected State Department personnel has ever died in these attacks. In short, these "cowboys" lay down their lives to protect our State Department personnel. Some mercs...

That being said, these private security firms need to fall under a SOFA agreement because they fulfill a vital role and are not going away any time soon. Even the best trained soldiers will get out of line in a war zone without the imposition of military discipline or its equivalent.


Just a couple of nits.

Paragraph 1, thesis. Do not agree, but understandable.

Paragraph 2, change decades to millenia. If Xerxes could use mercenaries, so can we--see final comment.

Paragraph 3, If so many of these guys are ex-US armed forces, why aren't they still in the military? We've called back up other recently departed servicemen (IIRC, can be 2-4 years from mustering out?), why not them? From a cost/benefit analysis, do mercenaries cost more or less than regular troops (I do know that there appears to be lower death benefits for the mercernaries)?

IIRC (and am looking for it), the mention that 90% of the private contractors (including mercenaries) are non-US citizens. I have not seen a breakdown as to composition yet, including for Blackwater. Can you cite your source for composition of Blackwater forces?

Paragraph 4, FOX is the sole source? Most of the other sources included interviews among civilian survivors in the area, recalled no prior mortar attack. And as to scrutiny absolving them, this administration has also invoked privelege in preventing diplomats from discussing problems within Iraq. Is the scrutiny failing due to diligent investigation, or protecting the American position in Iraq? If the latter, then the scrutiny will be unlikely to uncover anything.

Paragraph 5, Yes, they are dying, just like our troops are. Still.

Paragraph 6, You agreed with me. Amazing.

Some disagreements on validity of sources, and questions on breakdown of compositions of mercenaries. Agreement that they are dying, also, and that there needs to be a framework for them to be held accountable for their actions to help with discipline and reduce incidences such as this one.

And I concur with Bartbuster. Mercenaries are being used to support hegemony/empire. The British couldn't impress enough troops for its commitments, and the US can't get enough volunteers (and some of the volunteers are being lured away by higher personal pay, as you stated)--end of day, they are fighting for money, not country, regardless of their origins. That's a path of national security that has yet to have a good historical outcome.
 

"Bart" DePalma:

[thesis]: The comparison between the British enagagement of Hessian troops to fight along side British troops in their attempt to put down our rebellion and the US hiring of private organizations like Blackwater to provide static guard duty across the world (not just in Iraq) is more than a little bit of a stretch.

Private security organizations have been around for decades filling in the gaps left by militaries around the world.


And?....

Blackwater is not a bunch of inexperienced gang bangers without any idea of military discipline or rules of engagement. They are mostly former US SF, Delta and SEALS and their State Department employer does give them rules of engagement.

And the Hessians were "inexperienced gang bangers"?!?!?

BTW, Congress asked that they be given ROE. What are they? How do they compare to those of the military? Why should they be any different (if they are)? What has been done to ensure they follow even any "ROE" that might have been given?

The complaints against Blackwater never seem to survive scrutiny for very long. For example, the Iraqi civilian authorities accused Blackwater of initiating the September 17 engagement without provocation. However, the Iraqi military has now confirmed that the Blackwater convoy was targeted with a mortar round, the results of which Fox News (alone among the networks) showed footage on last night's news programs.

Assuming arguendo the claims above: So if they were targeted with a mortar round, what would justify shooting civilians in their immediate vicinity?

The State Department vociferously defends Blackwater because Blackwater has lost 100 men to attacks, but none of its protected State Department personnel has ever died in these attacks. In short, these "cowboys" lay down their lives to protect our State Department personnel. Some mercs...

And?.....

That being said, these private security firms need to fall under a SOFA agreement because they fulfill a vital role and are not going away any time soon. Even the best trained soldiers will get out of line in a war zone without the imposition of military discipline or its equivalent.

Oh, but I though that "their State Department employer does give them rules of engagement" and that there's some measure and mechanism of accountability? What's the problem, now?

Cheers,
 

bb:

Mercs operate as soldiers with the same range of duties.

Private personnel hired to provide static defensive security do not have nearly the range of duties as soldiers, may not take offensive action and are employed across the world as everything between armed mall guards to body guards for government and private VIPs.

There are no "Wild Geese" here launching coups or other offensive operations.
 

Arne Langsetmo said...

Assuming arguendo the claims above: So if they were targeted with a mortar round, what would justify shooting civilians in their immediate vicinity?

Were they in fact shooting civilians?

The police say they shot at a policeman.

The civilian government said they were civilians.

The army said that they were soldiers.

Blackwater said it was a handful of gunman following up on the bomb blast, which is consistent with enemy tactics.

Given all the different stories, neither you or I know the actual facts.

After all the false accusations aimed at our troops resulting in acquittals or dropped charges when placed under scrutiny (like the 3 of 4 dismissed Haditha defendants), count me more than a little skeptical of the charges.

Presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

BD:That being said, these private security firms need to fall under a SOFA agreement because they fulfill a vital role and are not going away any time soon. Even the best trained soldiers will get out of line in a war zone without the imposition of military discipline or its equivalent.

Oh, but I though that "their State Department employer does give them rules of engagement" and that there's some measure and mechanism of accountability? What's the problem, now?


You make a good point. Rules of engagement without an enforcement mechanism are far less effective, especially when your ass is the one under fire and you have to decide whether to exceed your rules of engagement to stay alive.
 

"Bart" DePalma:

After all the false accusations aimed at our troops resulting in acquittals or dropped charges when placed under scrutiny (like the 3 of 4 dismissed Haditha defendants), count me more than a little skeptical of the charges....

Nice to be "tried" by a jury of one's "peers", eh? Betcha the Guantanamo detainees would like a deal like that (of course, the military didn't even submit many of the recent cases to a court martial by their fellow soldiers; military brass dismissed the charges before trial).

Where will we find twelve ignerrent and totally incompetent RWAs to sit in judgement of the Deciderator-In-Chief?....

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma:

You make a good point. Rules of engagement without an enforcement mechanism are far less effective, especially when your ass is the one under fire and you have to decide whether to exceed your rules of engagement to stay alive.

Assuming one's conclusions is always a good way to "win" an argument.

Cheers,
 

Arne Langsetmo said...

"Bart" DePalma: After all the false accusations aimed at our troops resulting in acquittals or dropped charges when placed under scrutiny (like the 3 of 4 dismissed Haditha defendants), count me more than a little skeptical of the charges....

Nice to be "tried" by a jury of one's "peers", eh? Betcha the Guantanamo detainees would like a deal like that (of course, the military didn't even submit many of the recent cases to a court martial by their fellow soldiers; military brass dismissed the charges before trial).


You actually offer a useful comparison.

A military judge (not the "brass") in an Article 32 hearing (which is a mix between a grand jury and a motion to dismiss hearing) found that the government did not have the facts to make out a prima facie case to go to a jury against 3 of the 4 Haditha defendants and the case against the 4th defendant is under consideration.

A combatant status hearing is not all that different from an Article 32 hearing. The government has the burden of producing the facts which prove that the person is an enemy combatant requiring wartime detention. However, unlike an Article 32 hearing, the detainee can offer testimony to rebut the government's evidence. In an Article 32 hearing, only the government's evidence is considered and rebuttal is left for trial.
 

As I said many, many, many moons ago, it's nice when the policeman is the jailer is the prosecutor is the defence attorney is the judge is the jury is the court of appeals is the prison guard is the executioner, and that's what the detainees face (albeit they have had, in some cases, defence attorneys that were willing to take their responsibility to their clients seriously despite procedural shackles and other hindrances not found in an Article III court placed on them). That setup gives me the warm fuzzies. The rest of "Bart"'s wilful selective ignoring (or deceptive misstatemet) of fact and conflation of 'comparable situation' (e.g. CSRTs versus miltary commissions compared with courts martial), I'll ignore; the readers here are well aware of the actual situation and don't need it brought up again.

Cheers,
 

Presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Bart, this is something that gets on my nerves whenever I hear it in the public debate.

Guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is a criminal standard. It is entirely proper if the issue is whether we are throwing Blackwater operatives in jail.

It is not, however, the standard for public policy debates. We change our public policies based on less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt all the time. Indeed, much of the Bush Administration's terror policies are based on not waiting for proof before acting. (And this is entirely defensible-- it is what the Administration does based on its suspicions that I object to.)

We do not need proof beyond a reasonable doubt to change our contracting policies, or our contractors' rules of engagement, or their legal liabilities.
 

Private personnel hired to provide static defensive security do not have nearly the range of duties as soldiers, may not take offensive action and are employed across the world as everything between armed mall guards to body guards for government and private VIPs.

There are no "Wild Geese" here launching coups or other offensive operations.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 3:53 PM


The fact that they are not currently being used for offensive operations does not change the fact that they are McHessians. They are armed, they are in a war zone, they are shooting at people, and we hired them. End of story.
 

The McHessians should be subject to Iraqi law. It would give them some fresh insight into the treatment we inflict on people sent to Gitmo.
 

In a twist of Jeffersonian irony (or hypocrisy -- take your pick), it is worth noting that Jefferson himself did use mercenaries in some of our battles with the Barbary pirates in the early 1800s.

In terms of major conflicts -- from the Revolution to Gulf War I -- regardless of whether we are talking about combat or security operations overseas, the military is one of those areas of national power that lends itself to a monopoly.

Nothing good will come out of privatizing this function of government. As your article points out the incentives and loyalties for these private security firms are out of alignment with our long-term national military and interests.
 

Nothing good will come out of privatizing this function of government.

This is only true if you predicate an archaic definition of 'good'.

The lucky PMC's chosen are making a bundle, and that's good.

ROI is the new summum bonum
 

You might want to check with the State Department about using the army to protect their peope. It is quite likely that they do not want military protection.
 

It is important to note that illegal combatants, who intentionally hide among the civilian population, are also civilians. Further, the terrorists coerce civilians to make threatening moves at convoys, with the intent of causing the convoy operators to respond.

Useful idiots drop that context, and suggest that if the righteous disarmed, the butterflies would frolic with the unicorns.

There are horrible people in this world. There are rules of engagement used by our military, the Iraqi military, and by Blackwater. The terrorists have no limitations on the horror of their conduct. Terrorists murder children because they recruit perverts and psychopaths.
 

The terrorists have no limitations on the horror of their conduct. Terrorists murder children because they recruit perverts and psychopaths.

# posted by Don Meaker : 8:42 AM


There are no limitations on the conduct of Blackwater right now, either. And if Baghdad Bart is any indication, we're also recruiting psychopaths.
 

Don Meaker:

There are horrible people in this world. There are rules of engagement used by our military, the Iraqi military, and by Blackwater. The terrorists have no limitations on the horror of their conduct. Terrorists murder children because they recruit perverts and psychopaths.

Oh. So it's OK if we do the same. After all, we're no worse than them. "Ultimate Fighting", here we come. No Rulz!!!!

Cheers,

P.S.: You should watch less TV, methinks.
 

Defense Secretary Bob Gates is pushing to put noncompetition agreements into soldiers' contracts, because too many are quitting the service, getting hired on by Blackwater and other firms, and doing the same or similar work for 3 times as much money.

I'd say that's a fair indication that we may have a real problem with contractors beyond the status-of-forces issue. So I think I have to revise my view.
 

Dillan:

Please show the way to the non-compete information.
 

Here it is:

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/2007/09/gates_unhappy_with_contractor.php
 

Davis X. Machina, I define what is "good" as what is in the national interests. The use of private security firms may provide some short-term financial savings, but it will costs us much more over the long haul (e.g. we end up losing some of our best trained soldiers; and the activities of private security firms make it more difficult for us to achieve our objectives -- increasing the duration of conflicts -- see below response to Meaker).

The archaic definition of "good" would apply to mercenaries, not to members of a national army, whose loyalty is first and foremost to the nation which they serve. The idea of an army composed of free citizens directly answerable to democratically elected leaders, who are themselves answerable to citizens has been the rule for the past two hundred years of our history. Private security firms are only "new" in the sense that the U.S. has not traditionally relied on them, because they tend to be the instruments of monarchs and despots. Machiavelli has some interesting insights into the mercenaries of his time in the Discourses on Livy -- his opinion of them is not especially high given that they tend to be associated with weak feudal regimes. We should heed his warnings.

In reference to Don Meaker's point, it is also important to note that when security contractors blow through neighborhoods firing indiscriminately and killing civilians, those actions create hostility towards Marines and Army units -- and endanger the lives of our own soldiers when they go through these neighborhoods later. The ROE under which are forces are engaged make life difficult for our soldiers, but they are in place for a reason. They are in alignment with the goals of a counter-insurgent strategy. The tactics used by private security firms are not.

If the goal is to waste more taxpayer dollars in the service of a non-existent strategy we should remove our national military from Iraq and replace these forces entirely with mercenaries. Based on what Davis says these mercenaries would give us a better ROI anyway. I don't agree with this, but if we follow his reasoning and accept his premise that is the logical extension of his reasoning.
 

For the record, I'm an infantry NCO about to go back for his third tour. (I reenlisted, so save your boo-hoos for someone who cares).

I'll say this: contractors earn the fair market value for what we all do over there. Soldiers don't because we're govt. employees just like the President. He doesn't earn what Michael Eisner does either. However, soldiers also get paid roughly the same salary whether we're at war or not, so it equals out eventually over a career.

Blackwater employees (who are all ex-Spec Ops guys; good luck being accepted if you're not) only get paid while they're at war. Thus, the higher pay ratio. Plus, they don't have the trillion dollar baggage that comes with govt. employees, such as health insurance, retirement pensions, initial training costs, etc. You'd be surprised just how expensive maintaining just one G.I. from basic training onward can be. It's a lot more than the cost of one Blackwater guy who's on average performing far more dangerous work on a daily basis.

Like I said, I'm in the infantry, and frankly, I'd rather the govt. farm out that type of protective detail work than make us do it. It's often dull and monotonous and it detracts from the real offensive operations that we're trained for. Plus, it would just be our heads that everyone would be calling for after we were forced to take the EXACT SAME ACTIONS that the press rails against Blackwater et al. for taking.

Newsflash: diplomatic convoys in Iraq are huge targets for the enemy, and Iraqi civilians are notoriously bad eyewitnesses of anything. During my last tour, local shopkeepers were being openly gunned down on the street by the Mahdi Army, aka JAM (guys dressed just like ordinary Iraqi "civilians") while we were literally a block away drinking chai with the local police captains trying to establish good rapport.

Within minutes we would haul to the scene on foot and ask who shot the man and people would point at us and say "you did." (Meaning U.S. soldiers.) We were the only ones in the area, so we knew this to be untrue, but the rumors (actually well-timed enemy propaganda) had already spread so fast that even this man's relatives were already convinced that we had shot him down. He had only been killed for this very reason: to blame on us and thus discredit all the hard work we had already put in around that section of Baghdad.

This type of scenario is what occurs on a daily basis all around Iraq. This is why the war has made such hard and slow progress. All-out combat is relatively rare in Iraq and has been for years. 90% of patrols go by without incident. But we are fighting an information war constantly, and it certainly does not help that our own media is so often complicit.

"Buck Sargent"
OEF 2003-04
OIF 2005-06
OIF 2007-?
 

For the record, I'm an infantry NCO about to go back for his third tour. (I reenlisted, so save your boo-hoos for someone who cares).

I'm not boo-hooing at all. If you choose to go, you get what you deserve.

Blackwater employees (who are all ex-Spec Ops guys; good luck being accepted if you're not) only get paid while they're at war.

How fortunate for them that it appears that this war is never going to end.

You'd be surprised just how expensive maintaining just one G.I. from basic training onward can be. It's a lot more than the cost of one Blackwater guy who's on average performing far more dangerous work on a daily basis.

Numbnuts, WE already paid to train those Blackwater guys back when they were GIs. We should probably get a discount for that.

Like I said, I'm in the infantry, and frankly, I'd rather the govt. farm out that type of protective detail work than make us do it.

You're a soldier. You do what you are told.

It's often dull and monotonous

Then it must not be very dangerous. We are clearly overpaying those people.

Plus, it would just be our heads that everyone would be calling for after we were forced to take the EXACT SAME ACTIONS that the press rails against Blackwater et al. for taking.

Boo-hoo. No one forced you to sign up for this.

Newsflash: diplomatic convoys in Iraq are huge targets for the enemy, and Iraqi civilians are notoriously bad eyewitnesses of anything. During my last tour, local shopkeepers were being openly gunned down on the street by the Mahdi Army, aka JAM (guys dressed just like ordinary Iraqi "civilians") while we were literally a block away drinking chai with the local police captains trying to establish good rapport.

Within minutes we would haul to the scene on foot and ask who shot the man and people would point at us and say "you did." (Meaning U.S. soldiers.) We were the only ones in the area, so we knew this to be untrue, but the rumors (actually well-timed enemy propaganda) had already spread so fast that even this man's relatives were already convinced that we had shot him down. He had only been killed for this very reason: to blame on us and thus discredit all the hard work we had already put in around that section of Baghdad.

This type of scenario is what occurs on a daily basis all around Iraq. This is why the war has made such hard and slow progress. All-out combat is relatively rare in Iraq and has been for years. 90% of patrols go by without incident. But we are fighting an information war constantly, and it certainly does not help that our own media is so often complicit.


Newsflash: What the fuck were you expecting was going to happen?

The people who got you, and us, into this mess told us it was going to be quick and cheap. Don't blame the media for pointing out that it hasn't been quick or cheap. If you want to be angry at someone, you need to look in the mirror.
 

I'm not boo-hooing at all. If you choose to go, you get what you deserve.

What a nasty thing to say. I fervently oppose the Iraq War, but the people over there risking their lives are American heroes, nothing less.
 

What a nasty thing to say. I fervently oppose the Iraq War, but the people over there risking their lives are American heroes, nothing less.

I feel bad for the people in the military who now realize this war was a mistake, but are now stuck in a bad situation.

The people who choose to re-enlist and continue to defend the conduct of the people running this disaster are not heroes, they are idiots.
 

Buck Sargent, thanks for your service and for sharing your viewpoint.

As far as security contractors, the issue in my view, isn’t whether $100,000 to $300,000 a year is an appropriate salary for former spec ops soldier serving in a combat zone. The question is whether the U.S. should be bankrolling a private army that operates outside the rule of law period. I can’t underscore how odd this is in terms of our own national history and that of other democracies.

I am equally concerned that these mercenary armies operate outside of our military command and control structure; that they are operating outside of the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice; that, as a taxpayer there is no transparency in the contracting process; and that, in some cases, we are bankrolling mercenaries who were connected to a one-time dictatorial regime in Chile (reference the Congressional Research Service http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL32419.pdf).

The last item in my view would be a little bit like hiring members of the Stasi to conduct U.S. security operations oversees. There is something fundamentally wrong going on with this one.

There is also something fundamentally wrong when a private contractor paid with taxpayer dollars fails to appear before Congress, because the Sec of State blocks the person's testimony. What exactly are these folks hiding?
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

"The people who got you, and us, into this mess told us it was going to be quick and cheap. Don't blame the media for pointing out that it hasn't been quick or cheap."

Oh, really? Citations of where anyone said this would be "quick and cheap", please. I vaguely remember initial US casualty projections to the tens of thousands. It appears you're just another revisionist historian who's ready to jump on any sensationalist story published by our oh-so-accurate mass media. You clearly have no first-hand observations of the performance of PMCs in the CENTCOM AOR but since they're corporate, they must be evil. If you knew anything about their contracts and salaries, you'd realize that in many cases we don't pay them enough for the hazards they face on a daily basis and that it is, in fact, cheaper in many instances to use PMCs than USG personnel. Moreover, if you knew anything about their activities there you wouldn't be making baldly stupid statements that there are "no limitations their conduct". Try reading CPA Memorandum 17 for starters. Until then, STFUASD.

You don't deserve the sacrifice from our men and women in Armed Forces, you piece of shit.
 

James, here are some citations for you:

" I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. . . . I think it will go relatively quickly, . . . [in] weeks rather than months." Dick Cheney, Mar. 16, 2003 on NBC's Meet the Press

"There has been a good deal of comment - some of it quite outlandish - about what our postwar requirements might be in Iraq. Some of the higher end predictions we have been hearing recently, such as the notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq, are wildly off the mark. It is hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam's security forces and his army - hard to imagine." –Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, testifying before the House Budget Committee prior to the Iraq war, Feb. 27, 2003

"The Gulf War in the 1990s lasted five days on the ground. I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks or five months. But it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that." - Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld Nov. 14, 2002

"Support for Saddam, including within his military organization, will collapse after the first whiff of gunpowder." - Richard Perle, then Pentagon Defense Policy Board chairman July 11, 2002

Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr., Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at the time of the quote, in a December 31, 2002 New York Times article

"White House Cuts Estimate of Cost of War with Iraq," was quoted as saying during a telephone interview that the:
"...cost of a war with Iraq could be in the range of $50 billion to $60 billion...
Mr. Daniels would not provide specific costs for either a long or a short military campaign against Saddam Hussein. But he said that the administration was budgeting for both, and that earlier estimates of $100 billion to $200 billion in Iraq war costs by Lawrence B. Lindsey, Mr. Bush's former chief economic adviser, were too high.

The Department of Defense released its Iraq War estimates, as quoted by Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT), at the February 27, 2003 Department of
Defense Budget (DOD) Priorities for Fiscal Year 2004 Hearing Before the Committee on the Budget:
"Just yesterday, the White House released Pentagon [headquarters of the Dept. of Defense] estimates that the war and its immediate aftermath will cost between $60 [billion] and $95 billion."

"I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.” - Washington Post Feb. 13, 2002 Ken Adelman (Assistant Sec. Defense under Rumsfeld during Ford administration, not officially in Bush administration, but one of the pre-war prognosticators).

“I can't tell you exactly how many days or how many weeks. But by
historical standards, this will be a short war.” Richard Perle, Chairman of the Defense Policy Board; Mar. 25, 2003

There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people…and on a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years…We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Defense Secretary Mar. 27, 2003
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

As opposed to:

"We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We are pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We have begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons, and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We are helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. And then we will leave — and we will leave behind a free Iraq." - President Bush, 29 April 2003


http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003
/02/28/iraq/main542345.shtml

Money quotes: Budget director Mitch Daniels guessed $50 to $60 billion in a newspaper interview this fall. Former White House economic adviser Larry Lindsey put the price tag between $100 billion and $200 billion. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that defense officials were preparing an estimate of $60 billion to $95 billion. The Congressional Budget Office said in September that a month-long conflict might run $22 billion to $29 billion, but Democrats on the House Budget Committee put it somewhat higher, at $30.6 billion to $48.3 billion.
The reason for the range is the vast number of variables to be considered. Much depends on how long the war would take, which requires guessing how easy it will be for the U.S. to defeat Iraq.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Thursday described the possible war's cost as "not knowable."

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz countered that, "Such estimates are so dependent on future, unpredictable circumstances as to be of little value."

Funny, I don't recall any of these numbers bandied about to have been considered "cheap". This retard "bartbuster" offers nothing in these posts other than ad hominem pot shots and cutesy snarks like "McHessians". Then disparages our men and women in uniform. I stand by my original statement: He/she is a piece of shit not worthy of the sacrifice of our Armed Forces.

Good Day.
 

James, the quote that you pulled where Bush informed us that "major combat operations" were winding down four years ago is probably not the best source to use. Congratulations though on having the chutzpah to throw that quotation out there.

If you have any quotes from the president or his staff directly refuting statements made by his secretary of defense, assistant secretary of defense, the OMB director, or the like, I would be curious to see them. Neither of the quotes that you presented do this. The only direct refutations of administration officials by administration officials came in reference to Gen. Shinseki and Lawrence Lindsay, who were both canned by this White House for being too pessimistic about expectations in Iraq. It turns out that the guys who were fired, were more in the ballpark on these issues than they people who held onto their jobs.

In reference to your citation regarding the CPA's Memorandum 17, what does this have to do with financial savings, improved operational capabilities, or anything for that matter? The Memorandum is simply a statement of operational procedures.

Did you even read it yourself?

I also find it a little bizarre that you conflate American Servicemen and women with private security contractors.

No one here is accusing members of our military of being McHessians – the issue concerns private armies operating outside of traditional lines of command and control. Your reasoning in making this conflation is lazy and self-serving.
 

Franklin, if you read my intial post closely you would realize it was in direct response to bartbuster's ignorant grenade throwing and blanket statements regarding ROEs and limitations placed on PSCs, not to mention the sneering "You get what you deserve, idiots" responses to "Buck Sargent", a self-proclaimed active duty servicemember. So, my suggestion was to read through CPA Memo 17 which establishes a framework by which PSCs were to operate legally in Iraq - hardly "without limitations". The debate on oversight of PMCs is important and my responses were to bartbuster's inflammatory remarks alone.

Bush's speech clearly indicates that there was still a great deal of work to be done in Iraq during the political transition and no fixed timeline for troops to leave. If you bothered to look at the late-Feb 2003 link that I posted, you would've seen that the Administration was criticized for not putting a pricetag on OIF because it was unknown what would be involved or how long it would last. Second paragraph: "The White House maintains that any estimate now would be no more than a guess, since the timing and length or war, and the duration and nature of post-war peacekeeping and reconstruction, are unknown." Lastly, nowhere in my posts am I conflating the US military and PMCs. I suggest you read my posts again and tell me who is being lazy and self-serving here.
 

Dilan noted, though a later comment might have changed matters, that:

"But the bottom line is, the problems with the private security firms may arise from their apparent legal immunity rather than from the fact that they are mercenaries."

I think the institution is inherently dangerous. The 2A, though the focus tends to be on the guns, was written in large part out of distrust of a professional military, which would be made up mostly of U.S. citizens.

Thus, many wanted the militia, "civilians regularly, solidiers on occasion" to paraphrase U.S. v. Miller, to do much of the work. Mercenary forces are one step further. I reckon we always will need some private forces, but everything tends to be a matter of degree at some pt. And, the tipping point has arrived.

[One reply from someone who served noted that certain jobs are tedious and outsourcing them would be appreciated. A sentiment that is unsurprising since so many look at horror at a draft, willing to put more on the hands of the professional military. After all they chose to serve -- something that be debated in various cases -- so they signed on for such treatment.]

An inherently dangerous force is likely to bite you in the ass. You can temper it -- though the danger suggests that trying to is understood to be hard -- but only up to a point.

This does not mean btw individual mercenaries -- any more than individuals of any other gov't backed institution we are supposed to be suspicious about -- are bad people per se. Hessians were probably not really any worse than many British regulars. Heck, since it was largely about money, they might even be safer since reckless nationalism be dangerous in a losing cause.

This country was founded on healthy distrust of certain powers. The Tory sentiments that suggest this is somehow treasonous since we are defaming king and country (see MoveOn controversy) is ultimately a distrust of the things this country in my mind stands for.

[final comments not in response to D. per se, but general sentiments]
 

Well James, we at least agree that the debate on oversight of private armies is “important”.

I think you overstate the force of the CPA Memo 17 as it relates to restrictions on actions by contractors. Sen. John Warner apparently felt similarly when he attempted to bring private security contractors under the Uniform Code of Military Justice in the defense budget appropriation bill for the 2007 fiscal year. It still stands that even after the passage of the Warner amendment twelve months ago, the DoD has yet to put a legal process in place for addressing violations by security contractors.

When BartBuster states that these contractors are acting “without limitations,” the sad fact is that his statement has more than an ounce of truth to it. A CPA Memo absent a legal structure for addressing alleged violations by individual contractors is a law without much force.

As far as whether or not the private armies are operating as a legal entity within Iraq, if this is what you mean by a legal “framework,” this is not really a question that anyone is debating. (Although this issue is open to debate too -- not entirely clear cut).

We’re off topic in reference to pre-war comments; however, it still stands that no one corrected Wolfowitz when he stated that the Iraq post-invasion period was likely to be self-financing. No one corrected Cheney, Perle, or Rumsfeld when they suggested that this would be a short war. Lindsay was “corrected” and fired when he suggested that the costs might be $200 billion. He wasn’t fired because his estimate wasn’t open-ended enough, but because administration officials claimed the estimate was too high. That’s a literal reading of the OMB director’s statement “that earlier estimates of $100 billion to $200 billion in Iraq war costs by Lawrence B. Lindsey, Mr. Bush's former chief economic adviser, were too high”.

The Secretary of Defense endorsed the anti-Lindsay view in January 2003 saying that the costs were likely to be below $50 billion. Wolfowitz did not qualify his statement in reference to the Iraq War reconstruction costs that “the costs were likely to be self-financing, but it’s really impossible to say absolutely.” Wolfowitz said: “There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people…and on a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years…We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.”

Let’s not engage in revisionist history by insinuating that the administration’s claims about “open-ended and hard to predict” costs were coupled with public remarks suggesting a $600 billion dollar plus tab. The “hard to predict” statements were coupled by public remarks from several officials within the administration that the most likely outcome was going to be a cost under $100 billion.

Would the administration have been able to sell the war to the public if it had steered clear of making wildly inaccurate public claims about how easy the fight would be and how relatively cheap the cost would be in dollar terms? Would the Bush administration have been able to sell the war if it had said, “we’re budgeting $30 billion for now, but there’s a chance that we could be asking for another $570 billion over the next 4 years”?

My guess is, probably not.
 

Hey James, go fuck yourself, scumbag. People who suggested that invading Iraq could cost up to $100 billion and require large numbers of troops were mocked by the people who pimped this war. Every expert I have heard speak has said that this war has been great for Al Qaeda. The people who support this war, whether or not they are in uniform, are traitors. Period. I really hope you scum pay the price for that.
 

Try reading CPA Memorandum 17 for starters. Until then, STFUASD

You should be sure to let us know when the first McHessian is convicted under CPA Memorandum 17, asshole. Until then, STFUASD.
 

This retard "bartbuster"

By the way, asshole, I predicted this entire fucking disaster before we invaded. You? Not so much, I'll bet. Maybe it's time you got your retarded ass into the fight.
 

Bartbuster, I'd be curious to see your pre-war prognostications. Perhaps these are posted somewhere?

I'm a little skeptical of your claims stating that war supporters are "traitors". I think there are definitely some overzealous supporters who have conflicted loyalties, and whose policy prescriptions while well-intentioned will only further undermine U.S. security (e.g. people who support Bush's actions regardless of what they are, because you don't question the person who occupies the office of president, unless he or she is a Democrat).

Please define what you mean by "war supporters".

Personally, I believe that the concerns over a precipitous withdrawal are valid, and that we are long-overdue for a full court diplomatic press. We need to at least make a serious play in establishing some diplomatic framework for a withdrawal before a large scale withdrawal actually takes place. Otherwise, the fallout is likely to be even more significant for U.S. interests. The next president also needs to push full throttle ahead in finding a way to decrease our dependence on oil in the region, which will minimize the impact of a full blown conflict on U.S. security.

Given your unquestioned credibility in pre-war prognosticating, I'd be curious to see what your read is for the current stay the course approach over the next 18 months.

Perhaps you can even outline a range of actions over the next four years.

I look forward to reading your informed and detailed account.
 

Franklin [to Bartbuster]:

Bartbuster, I'd be curious to see your pre-war prognostications. Perhaps these are posted somewhere?

Don't know about his, but mine are (I was also right about the WoMD not existing and Chalabi being a liar and a thug). I think you're a bit disingenuous to say that no one claimed that the war would be far more difficult than portrayed, that it would lead to civil (and/or asymmetric) war and other upheaval, that it would cost far more than promised, etc. Even military generals were quite doubtful, but they were pushed aside for ones that would tell President Cheney et al. what they wanted to hear. There were many, many such people, but they were all hushed up or ignored by both the maladministration and pretty much by the media. It was a disaster waiting to happen, and it didn't take much brains to figger that out ... provided you weren't carried away with war fervour or some other ideological blindness.

Given your unquestioned credibility in pre-war prognosticating, I'd be curious to see what your read is for the current stay the course approach over the next 18 months.

I'll toss in my two cents: If they continue to "stay the course", we'll have pretty much the same results. Another 500-1000 U.S. soldiers dead, and many thousands more Iraqi civilians dead. Continuing sectarian slayings. Corruption. Crime. Bombings. Little if any progress on 'reconciliation' (and any such 'progress' pretty much in name only). Is there some reason you think that the archetypical definition of "insanity" doesn't apply here?

Just remember one of Gen. Powell's criteria: "Exit strategy".

Cheers,
 

I look forward to reading your informed and detailed account.

# posted by Franklin : 5:52 PM


I knew the administration was lying about the WMD. I knew the administration was lying about Iraq having connections with Al Qaeda. I predicted that the people throwing flowers would soon be throwing grenades. I predicted that Al Qaeda woule take advantage of our invasion and expand into Iraq. I predicted a civil war.

I'm not even especially proud of these predictions. It was so obvious that I have always felt that only a moron could not see this disaster coming.

I believe that the concerns over a precipitous withdrawal are valid

And then what? They'll start killing each other? They'll have a civil war? For the most part, that is happening right now. Will it get worse when we leave? Of course. But that's going to be the case no matter when we leave. The only thing we're doing there now is adding names to a monument. There is no good way out.
 

I suppose there is one way to avoid a civil war in Iraq. Make sure that whoever is in power is just as brutal as Hussein.

And thusly we will have spent 100s of billions and thousands of lives for nothing.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!
 

Thanks for your post Arne.

I didn't say that no one accurately predicted the outcome of the Iraq invasion -- obviously many did -- your statement about the difficulties concerning the reconstruction, and the existence of proof to support your claim lends your position credibility.

Scowcroft, Webb, Zinni certainly anticipated the likely outcomes -- as did the CIA (although they got the WMD part wrong). Unfortunately, commentators such as Zinni and Webb did not receive the type of attention that they deserved in the run up to the war.

On the other hand, I AM skeptical in reference to BartBuster's statement that he "predicted" likely outcomes (which I would include the sectarian fragmentation, possible costs, increase of Iranian influence, etc). I am skeptical of anyone who uses hyperbole along the lines of: "I predicted the ENTIRE disaster". My inclination is to say "prove it".

My own take in March 2003 concerning likely outcomes was much more pessimistic than the actual outcomes -- at least as far as U.S. casualties were likely to be. I knew in a very general sense that the war was likely to be difficult and that it was a distraction from our widely supported reconstruction activities in Afghanistan. I did not think that we were likely to get the kind of return on the invasion that the administration suggested, and believed that the invasion was likely to be a mistake absent a much larger "coalition of the willing".

As far as the sectarian/civil war is concerned, I agree that that the situation will get worse when we leave (regardless of whether we are talking one year or ten years from now). It is painfully obvious that militarily there is nothing that we can do to achieve "reconciliation" between the warring faction -- at least not without a genuine diplomatic component.

I do think that it is possible for the U.S. to use diplomatic leverage to prevent the war from devolving into a regional war.

I am not so confident that this administration is up to the task diplomatically -- especially in light of its policy of regime change, which all but guarantees the failure of the Iraq mission.

I do believe that more pragmatic leadership can forge a compromise that reduces the likelihood of a regional war. I also think that we need to make serious efforts to limit the economic fallout from a regional war, which I see as a very real possibility.

I am frustrated as many by the mind-bogglingly inept maladministration of the Bush administration in matters related to foreign policy (especially in regard to Iraq and the Middle East). I can't recall a previous U.S. administration, which has had such a blind faith in the efficacy of military power as the sole instrument of national power in international affairs (maybe Johnson in reference to Vietnam, although in many ways this administration is much worse). As has been stated, Vietnam represented a tactical failure on the part of several administrations, Iraq represents a major strategic failure.

I am deeply concerned that the administration will solidify our losses by doubling down militarily in Iran. Too much ideology, not much wisdom.
 

Franklin, you didn't bother to explain why you think we still need to keep our troops in Iraq.
 

BartBuster, please reference my 5:52 PM comment, fourth paragraph.

I would be happy to discuss my reasoning in greater depth. The short-answer is that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is preventing an escalation of the current sectarian conflict from devolving into a regional war -- a very likely outcome given the current state of affairs in the region.

It's important to keep in mind that we're not dealing with the Balkans where the sources of the conflict were largely due to internal animosities. The former Yugoslavia was also not sitting on a huge oil deposits; nor was it surrounded by unpopular and fairly unstable authoritarian regimes.

I don't know if we need 150,000 or simply 80,000 troops to prevent the current situation from devolving even further. We would be well-advised though to put a diplomatic framework in place that allows us to remove large numbers of troops without creating a power vacuum in Iraq. The presence of U.S. troops gives us leverage in negotiations as well. Simultaneously we need to make preparations internally -- read limiting sources of oil dependence -- which will brace our economy in the event that the framework fails (which would find Iraq as the center of a much larger regional conflict).

I think we need to heed Saudi, Egyptian, and Jordanian threats of intervention and economic retaliation against Iran seriously. Proxy wars risk devolving into much larger conflicts.

We got into Iraq recklessly, we need to extricate ourselves responsibly, as the saying goes.
 

BartBuster, please reference my 5:52 PM comment, fourth paragraph.

We've had 4+ years of trying to convince the Iraqis to get along by killing them. It has not worked.

And yes, our troops are preventing an escalation, but you have admitted that an escalation is going to happen when they leave, so I ask again, what is the point of staying?

You also completely ignore that our troops are part of the problem. As long as we are there to fight for them, what reason do the Shiites have to give any power to the Sunni? Why should the Sunni trust us to be a broker when we are simply acting as hired guns for the Shiites?

In short, this is a disaster that we are only making worse. It is time for us to get out.
 

Next year this argument will be moot. We don't have enough troops to continue this level of occupation, and it will be too late to start drafting more.
 

BartBuster, you are not following my reasoning.

The most basic explanation that I can come up with is as follows:

The presence of U.S. troops in Iraq has a different impact on the actions of individuals WITHIN Iraq, and the actions of state actors OUTSIDE of Iraq.

In other words, the presence of our troops may not prevent a full-blown sectarian war from escalating WITHIN Iraq (at some point in the future), but it may be able to prevent that sectarian war from becoming a full-blown REGIONAL War that extends BEYOND Iraq.

From the U.S.'s perspective we would much rather be able to have some influence in how events unfold around Iraq, rather then just let the neighboring states simply have at it. The presence of a large military force inside Iraq gives us leverage in our discussions -- it also may have an impact on whether or not the U.N., or some other international force takes over.
 

BartBuster, you are not following my reasoning.

No, I'm not buying your premise that a wider war will start if we leave. The Iranians aren't going to take on the Arab world, and the Saudis are barely capable of defending themselves, nevermind invade some other country. Do you really think the Syrians are going to go to war with either the Saudis or the Iranians? That's just silly.

The presence of a large military force inside Iraq gives us leverage in our discussions

And this is simply laughable. That large military force is useless for anything more than playing wack-a-Iraqi, and everyone on the planet knows it.

But like I said, those of us who want out will eventually win by default.
 

BartBuster, the concerns regarding a precipitous withdrawal that I am stating are not just MY opinion. I'm echoing what I've read in Baker-Hamilton, a report by the International Crisis Group (After Baker Hamilton), comments by Senators such as Chuck Hagel and Jim Webb, as well as others.

I do not think that the Saudis will invade Iraq (or use their air power) absent an American presence – at least not in the near term. However, I do think that Sunni states in the region will exploit the Sunni-Shiite divide in order to keep Iranian influence in check within Iraq. I also think there's a reasonable chance that the Saudis may flood oil markets to pull down the price of oil and undercut the Iranian economy further. Proxy wars can easily materialize into full-blown wars, as one set of provocations leads to another.

This is glossing over the impact of Turkey's relations vis a vis the Kurds in northern Iraq – yet another combustible element in the regional mix.

The Iranians may not bring troops into Iraq initially; however, they are likely to continue to consolidate their gains within Iraq through proxies inside Iraq.
The dynamic in the Middle East is obviously explosive.

The removal of Sadaam has completed re-aligned the power relationships within the region -- previously the Saudis controlled 20% of the world's proven reserves; now Iran in concert with a Shiite friendly Iraqi, which controls the oil rich region of Iraq closest to the Gulf, is likely to overshadow the Saudis. The Saudis and the other Sunni regimes are likely to view this situation in Iraq as untenable -- especially if the Sunni minority is completely marginalized within Iraq (obviously the situation will also be untenable for Iraqi Sunnis).

If I understand your position correctly, you seem to believe that the U.S. can simply leave Iraq on its own terms, unilaterally, without creating additional problems for the region (or, that if problems do take place, they will have no impact on U.S. economic well-being or security). My understanding of the dynamic within the region leads me to a different set conclusions.

I think we agree that U.S. troops need to get out of Iraq, but, based on our different set of assumptions about the region, we are coming to a different set of conclusions about the impact of U.S. troops on regional security in the post-invasion period. I think that the presence of U.S. troops, at least for the time being, is providing at least a degree of temporary stability. I also recognize that the situation is untenable over the long-term (which is why we need to be pressing aggressively on the diplomatic front in advance of a withdrawal -- this probably won't take place until the next president is in office).
 

BartBuster, the concerns regarding a precipitous withdrawal that I am stating are not just MY opinion.

So what? That doesn't make you any more right.

If I understand your position correctly, you seem to believe that the U.S. can simply leave Iraq on its own terms, unilaterally, without creating additional problems for the region (or, that if problems do take place, they will have no impact on U.S. economic well-being or security). My understanding of the dynamic within the region leads me to a different set conclusions.

First of all, you don't understand my position correctly. I think the US will create additional problems for the region no matter how, or when, it leaves. You have agreed with that position. However, it won't be as many problems as we are causing right now, and we will no longer be pissing away lives, and HUGE sums of money, for nothing.

I agree that there needs to be diplomacy, but no one is going to take us seriously while are troops are still stuck in the middle of that mess. In fact, the only real leverage we have at this point is the threat that things will get worse when we leave. I don't think that's true, but it's time to start playing that card, while we start moving our troops out.

We've had 4+ years of doing things your way. It has clearly failed.
 

Post a Comment

Older Posts
Newer Posts
Home