Iraq: A Review

"Iraq's prime minister urged people in the besieged city of Falluja on Monday to drive out Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents to pre-empt a military offensive that officials said could be launched within days. In a statement on state television, Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite Muslim whose government has little support in Sunni-dominated Falluja, said tribal leaders should help expel the militants, who last week seized key towns in the desert leading to the Syrian border. "The prime minister appeals to the tribes and people of Falluja to expel the terrorists from the city in order to spare themselves the risk of armed clashes," read the statement. A provincial official said security forces had regained control of another town, Ramadi, forcing militants to the east where they were holding out in mosques and homes. Air raids would flush them out, he told Reuters. "The airforce will end this battle in the next few hours," said Falih al-Essawi, a member of the council running Anbar province, adding that government workers and students in Ramadi had been told to return to work and school on Tuesday. "  Daily Star


 Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, but he held Iraq together in the same brutal way that all Middle Eastern states are held together and always have been. I note a few exceptions; the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq and the perliamentary period in Egypt in the 30's and 40's.

Saddam did not tolerate ethno-sectarian divisions and contrary to the opinion of the propagandized American citizenry, there were many Shia and Christians in the Ba'ath Party and armed forces.  Tariq Aziz, Saddam's foreign minister, was Christian.  He may not have been a good Chrsitian, but he nevertheles was Christian by sect, birth and heritage.  The commanding general of the Republican Guards armored corps in the invasion of Kuwait was Shia.  This was a stable system.

Iraq did not attack the United States on 9/11.  The Bush Administration nevertheless decided to invade Iraq for the purposes; of removing Saddam, reducing a supposed threat to Israel and to foster a revolutionary shift in Middle Eastern societies.  It was imagined that a shift to control of these countries by minorities would make them more malleable and willing to accomodate US policy desires.  Oh yes, there was also the bogus, deliberately lying nonsense about a non-existent nuclear weapons program.  There had been such a program before the First Gulf War but it had been destroyed by the inspection regime that followed that war.  But, as Wolfowitz said, the Bush Administration went with what it could sell to the American people.  This was a people who proved in the post 9/11 period to be remarkably chicken-hearted, given to panic and easy to feed falshoods.

The US easily defeated the Iraqi military and then found that the various Iraqi peoples were not going to accept a prolonged foreign occupation.  The exceptions to this were found among the Kurds and various collections of emigres, exiles and ancien regime figures who flocked to occupied Iraq for the purpose of seeking to live out their dreams.

The US viceroy, Paul Bremmer, (Medal of Freedom) was sent to Iraq with the mission of destroying the Iraqi state and its permanent institutions in order to create a "year zero" situation.   As part of that process, new military, police and civil service institutions were created.  These were often staffed with sectarian militias returned from abroad.  For the first few years these new "police" devoted themselves to fostering the interests of their own ethno-religious groups often through the use of what can only be called "murder squads."  The analogy that a French person made here to the Phoenix program is false.  That program had as its goal the capture of VC political cadres so that they could be "re-educted."  Kill was a fall back position.  The US had nothing directly to do with this process in Iraq but it had undoubtedly created the situation in which the Iraqis could indulge themselves in inter-communal murder, and they did.

Eventually,  all the fumbling around with purple thumbed elections produced a Shia run government in central and southern Iraq.  Maliki was the third to audition for the job of PM.  He is a former Dawa party activist.  In other words he is a complete Shia partisan and inclined towards Iran.  He promised the US to play nice with the other children in the Iraqi sand box, and then shoved us out the door when it was clear that we might try to make him do that. 

In the course of its precipitous withdrawal, "une chute vertigineuse" I have heard it called, the US abandoned its Sunni tribal allies in Anbar Province to their fate.  We are good at abandonment.  Maliki reneged on all his political undertakings.  The Sunni tribes grew more and more embittered and now some of them are siding with the AQ galaxy of enemies of humanity.  Not all are doing that, but some.

At the bottom of this mess, the mess in Egypt, the mess in Afghanistan, the mess in Vietnam, and all the various messes I participated in, is the simple truth that the USA is not fit to run the world.

Why? We haven't a clue about the nature of the game and the academics in the social sciences are some of the worst.  pl

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70 Responses to Iraq: A Review

  1. Tyler says:

    It turns out the sacrifices of myself and others were futile in the end after all. Huh.

  2. Ken Roberts says:

    Good analysis. Two points occur:
    1) First must be brave, then can be free. Apropos 9/11 reaction. “given to panic and easy to feed falsehoods”.
    2) Remarkable goodwill of Indian people towards Britain, despite over 100 years of often-flawed occupation/admin. The Brits knew how to build/run an empire. Was not tidy, never is. Apropos “haven’t a clue about the nature of the game”.
    But, concept from the insurance biz — there can be a very long “runoff” period, surprisingly long. Not to worry!
    Time to re-read Toynbee, methinks. And maybe train some folks who do have clues and can do necessary field work.

  3. Matthew says:

    “At the bottom of this mess, the mess in Egypt, the mess in Afghanistan, the mess in Vietnam, and all the various messes I participated in, is the simple truth that the USA is not fit to run the world.” PL
    In Stephen Kinzer’s “Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future” Kinder describes President Truman being persuaded by the tears of his former business partner to meet with Chaim Weizmann and (subsequently) to recognize the State of Israel–over the objections of Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, Secretary of State George Marshall, and Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson (id. at 153-54).
    Expertise places a far second to tears.

  4. Alba Etie says:

    My hope is that We the People have learned hard lessons about allowing our Political Elites to take us to faraway places for unnecessary military occupations . For the moment – there appears to be broad national consensus across the width & breathed of our collective comity – , that short of direct existential threat to These United States we are done with elective military adventures. That is why we did not bomb Syria- We the People said no . That is also why too – just maybe the deal with Iran holds – and bombing the Persians gets delegated to the ash bin of bad foreign policy ideas .And most certainly we are not going back to al Anbar .

  5. walter says:

    You, sir, are awesome! Thanks for this wonderful summary. One factor playing a role in our ineptitude is that there never seems to be any accountability (punishment) for government service ineptitude … in the free market, you go broke or get fired.
    How can we build accountability into our foreign policy apparatus?

  6. Don Bacon says:

    Also key was the Samarra mosque bombing of Feb 22, 2006, in which the US was complicit.
    In February 2006 Samarra was under total US military control. The curfew in Samarra started at 8pm. On February 21st, at 8:30pm, according to a witness, joint forces of the Iraq National Guard and the American Army appeared, then left at 9, then reappeared at 11pm. At 6am on the morning of the 22nd the ING left the area, and at 6:30 the Americans left. The first explosion occurred at 6:40, the second at
    The bombing of the Al-Askaria Mosque and its violent aftermath ratcheted the numbers of displaced persons up to a staggering 2.7 million. In a period of about a year, five percent of Iraq’s total population fled their homes and settled elsewhere in Iraq while an additional 2 million or so fled the country entirely. It is important to underscore that this displacement was not just a by-product of the conflict, but rather the result of deliberate policies of sectarian cleansing by armed militias.
    Samarra was also intended to prolong the US military occupation, and it did.
    SEC. GATES: “Well, what I’m saying to you is, though, you had one strategy under way until attack on the Samarra mosque. After that and the development of the sectarian violence that was being stoked by extremists — this wasn’t spontaneous — there was a shift in strategy, and instead of sending troops home, the troops that were supposed to be sent home were kept — or the troop level was kept.”
    Samarra was the principle event which turned Sunni and Shia actively against each other, more than ever. Now it goes on.

  7. Kyle Pearson says:

    >>>One factor playing a role in our ineptitude is that there never seems to be any accountability (punishment) for government service ineptitude …
    There’s no punishment for ineptitude or corruption in the “free market,” either.
    Exxon didn’t pay for its oil spills…the banks extorted money from the public and then gave themselves big bonuses…Koch Industries is the third biggest polluter in the US and destroyed several communities (for years, if not decades) this last year, and paid nothing…Goldman-Sachs is still setting up the bubbles and knocking them down…private prisons are worse-run and far more brutal and unhealthy than government-run prisons…charter (i.e. “private”) schools are more expensive, less effective at teaching, and far more poorly run than publicly administered schools…the list goes on, and on, and on.
    This myth of the “free market” is just that: a badly distorted myth that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the actual concept as developed by Adam Smith. Smith devoted a full half of his original work explaining that the reason he was presenting these ideas is because they offered a more highly moral way of creating a *more* equal society, and showed without any shadow of a doubt that monopolies and oligarchies are economically immoral and inherently inefficient.
    The current United States is dominated by corporate oligopolies and monopolies. There is no “free market” in the US, and the idea that government – which is accountable to the people in the form of voting and protest – is somehow less accountable than corporate managers and Wall St. financiers who never go to jail for *anything* is simply absurd.

  8. garrett says:

    At an Iraqi friend’s house I was shown a video of Sadaam’s doctors surgically removing his right hand and the hands of five other men. After cutting the final sinews of flesh, the doctor held them up to the camera for a close up. According to my friend, his hand was cut off because he was a money changer and was a scapegoat for the skyrocketing inflation prior to the US invasion. Don North brought this man, and four others to the US for medical attention, a prosthetic hand and yes, propoganda purposes too. My friend hates or hated Sadaam but cites more complicated reasons for the mess that Iraq is in and was in before.
    A simple Shi’ia vs. Sunna conclusion doesn’t seem to totally explain the return to chaos. I’ve never been there but my Iraqi friends (Shi’ias/Sunnas/Christians/Kurds), attribute much of the violence to sectarianism but also point the finger to incitement from Iran, Saudi Arabia and our clumsy meddling to name a few.
    So I agree, it’s way too complicated for anyone but Iraqis to figure out. If we are to help them in any way, it should be food, medicine and visas.

  9. Bobo says:

    Never is the sacrifice(s) of man in behalf of his country futile but in behalf of his government well……

  10. turcopolier says:

    This is a sharia law punishment for theft. the Saudis do the same thing. pl

  11. turcopolier says:

    don bacon
    The sequence of events that you cite in regard to the Samarra mosque bombing does not demonstrate causation.
    As for Gates’ remark it reflects the fact that the greater violence required the continuing presence of a large body of US troops.
    I am curious as to what you think would have been the US motivation in wanting to keep its forces in Iraq. Surely you do not think we wanted to steal their oil? pl

  12. walter says:

    Kyle, I totally agree with you; we do not have a “free market” in the USA. But creative destruction is supposed to happen here to make us stronger and better like Darwinian Evolution. The absence or suspension of accountability/creative destruction in all sectors of US society is making us weaker and weaker slowly. I am not a heartless right-winger; I am for competition with heart. Accountability with compassion.

  13. turcopolier says:

    One of the saddest delusions treasured by the left is the idea that “the natives” are innocents who before a US or other intervention in their affairs live in a state of nature much like that depicted in “The Peaceable Kingdom” of Henri Rousseau or the scribbling of Jean Jacques Rousseau who wrote that “man is born free and is everywhere in chains.” This concept of the innocence of man is simply wrong. In fact, humanity unrestrained by law or authority resolves itself into nasty, mutually hostile groups who war on each other incessantly in a perpetual search for supremacy. This Hobbesian tendency is particularly acute in the ME where resource scarcity has honed cultures based on feelings of deprivation. In Iraq the Ottoman, British, Hashemite and various republican government suppressed these tendencies more or less successfully. We Americans blundered into the midst of this and unleashed these demonic forces not through design but merely from ignorance. Contrary to the reveries of the left, the US did not teach the SAVAK or anyone else to torture. The US did not teach anyone to hate each other in Iraq or anywhere else. All these peoples in the ME are “half devil and half child.” They need no instruction in cruelty and mayhem. pl

  14. Fred says:

    I think the promise of electoral and monetary support in the pending presidential election was far more persuasive to Truman that anyone’s tears.

  15. jonst says:

    The question for me would be, and once was, less was it “futile”, for either the country or I, but was it counter-productive for the both of us? I have my answers… a manner of speaking.

  16. jonst says:

    I would argue it depends on how close to the event that caused the tears. The closer, the more effective. Then, factor in how close the tears flow, to an election date, combine the two…and look for number.

  17. Don Bacon says:

    Complicity on Samarra is obvious, causation requires more proof. It ties in with divide-and-conquer.
    On US motivation to keep troops in Iraq I detect a little leg-pulling. Even now Obama is being criticized for pulling troops out. The neocon position has been that the Bush-era withdrawal agreement for Dec 2011 was always meant to be renegotiated or disregarded.
    The US never withdraws occupation troops willingly, as Germany, Japan and particularly Korea attest. And now Afghanistan. Oil is also a factor of course, plus Iraq’s proximity to Iran, a designated US enemy.
    In Iraq under Saddam there were differences between Sunni and Shia but they lived and worked together, and even intermarried. Samarra was a primary agent of change in that, conributing to the current difficulties.

  18. Could Iraq be subdivided for some more stable future?

  19. confusedponderer says:

    Re: “the US did not teach the SAVAK or anyone else to torture”
    Contrasting the ideas of Rousseau with those of and Hobbes is making an excellent point. Thank you, Mr. Lang.
    Just like Europe, the Orient has its own a rich if lamentable tradition of torture.
    It didn’t need the US to put into the minds of foreigners the idea that beating sombody up is a way to make him talk.
    Years ago, I went to a Turkish takeaway to get some adana kebab, they had the tv running. The star was a moustached giant of a cop, who went on to ask a suspect a question. Unhappy with the response, he slapped him and immediately the suspect spilled his guts. It only lasted some 30 seconds or so, but for some reason it stuck in my mind.
    That brawny idea of policework appears to be very traditional and popular across cultures. Just watch Hollywood movies.
    I think that the influence of advisors, just as with the French COIN advisors in South America, causes fashions for this method or another. Without that the locals likely would have been content with inflicting beastly harm on their prisoners in more traditional ways.
    Iirc the French used the methods they were familiar with because the milice française, the Gestapo and SD had used them on them.
    The problem is not a particular method of torture, take waterboarding, but the deliberate use of torture per se to gain inteligence or elicit confessions. That usually predates advisors.
    More importantly, the waterboarding of KSM or the incidents at Abu Ghraib shows that even out own Western commitment to restrain these demons is only skin deep if the situation lends itself to it. The torture debate in the US is quite instructive in that regard.
    That’s a scary thought better kept in mind.

  20. Babak Makkinejad says:

    It is not absence of resources or their paucity; Korea was always poorer than the Middle East as one can judge by it cuisine.
    Likewise, India was always richer than the Middle East and yet it also had nothing to learn from the Middle East in cruelty and mayhem.

  21. walter says:

    Our November elections are more theoretical accountability than actual as some very high percentage of incumbents are re-elected. And the fact that Congress approval rating is so low and they keep getting re-elected says something; not sure what but its not good.

  22. The Twisted Genius says:

    Your last comment reminded me of the lesson espoused by Robert Ardrey in his book “African Genesis.” This was a formative book in my youth and led me to my interest in anthropology. I vacillated between wanting to become a Maryknoll missionary and a Louis B. Leakey like digger of bones.
    The money quote from “African Genisis”
    “We were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted to battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen.”

  23. walter says:

    “Stealing their oil” is too blunt a way to put it. “Secure extremely profitable no-bid exploration, drilling, production, service, construction, re-construction, defense contracts to politically well-connected corporations” is a more nuanced and accurate way of explaining at least part of the motivation to invade/occupy Iraq. Trillions of dollars have been spent. Who received the trillions of dollars? All of the aforementioned contractors got a lot of it.
    James Baker said that he had to sign a document pledging to go to war to defend secure access to Middle East oil. Certainly Iraq would have been seen as within this context.
    Its hard for me to understand why you don’t see $Trillions of dollars as incentive to these politicians who will be well taken care of by the benefactors of these riches.

  24. walter says:

    PL, why are they the cruel and barbaric when we are the ones who killed hundreds of thousands of them for our own selfish ends? We were not trying to help anyone over there. The left such as myself are against killing people for financial benefit (armed robbery) and lying about it to boot. Alan Greenspan, ex Fed president as you know wrote in his book The Age of Turbulence 2007, “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil”
    I can quote many retired generals who said the same thing. Plus its just common sense. $$ motivates people.

  25. ISL says:

    Ironically, The US was a unifying force in Iraq, if only by our bumbling uniting all against us.
    As the colonel has indicated a number of times ini this forum, American elite seem incapable of understanding tribal or clan-based societies. Tribal societies do not want to become American, which is incompatible with a tribal and conservative social structure. Listening to an interview with Max Blumenthal, leads me to suspect that Israel’s tribal nature and US lack of understanding of this leads to an incoherent foreign policy, which seems to describe our bumbling efforts elsewhere.
    In the end I suspect, tribalism – of which there is a long human history to the point it seems an evolutionary adaptation – will return to the US, too, and remain mis-understood by our own elites. Tribalism is natural and as peaceful as the excess of the farm cat in the chicken coop.

  26. turcopolier says:

    “we are the ones who killed hundreds of thousands of them for our own selfish ends? We were not trying to help anyone over there. The left such as myself are against killing people for financial benefit (armed robbery) and lying about it to boot.” the same tired, trite marxist tripe over and over again. Greenspan is utterly wrong and most generals are idiots who never had an original thought in their lives. Richard Haas said the other day that the value of oil in the ME can be considered from the strategic point of view because of its value to allies in Europe or East Asia or from the point of view of its commercial value. Neither you nor anyone else can demonstrate that the US gained anything commercial from Iraqi oil. the contracts have all gone elsewhere and continue to do so. We invaded Iraq for the reasons I have previously cited. I will not repeat them. Sadly, you have to go a long way back to find any actual commercial motivation for American wars. BTW, if you call me a liar again you are gone from here permanently. pl

  27. turcopolier says:

    Ah, you would prefer that Americans not vote for incumbents unless they are your favored incumbents. Like a few others here, most of them foreign, you believe the US is evil and that the political system is a farce. How would you describe yourself politically? What do you do for a living? I would bet that you are either a professor or a student. pl

  28. turcopolier says:

    I would be the first to agree that a lot of people, most of them Americans, made a lot of money from the Iraq War, but the fact that this opportunity was seized by the greedy does not mean that the creation of that opportunity was the motivation for the invasion. You obviously cannot demonstrate such a connection so you choose to deduce that the money must be causative. This is a basic defect in reasoning. Find the proof. pl

  29. turcopolier says:

    Don Bacon
    “Complicity” on Samarra is NOT obvious no matter how much you wish to assert that it is. As I said to Walter you should abstain from making accusations for which you have no proof. You and he have not fought in wars I think instead of reading about them and listening to left wing lecturers. In an actual war, Clausewitz was correct in writing that all is chaos. There are many actors and they all have some some measure of autonomy in their actions. many battlefield errors are made in the stress of the situation. Constructing fantastical argument to justify your political prejudices adds nothing to the discussion. pl

  30. turcopolier says:

    as I wrote, this kind of nastiness is a universal characteristic of mankind but in the ME the perennial shortage of water and arable land has caused the behavior to be pervasive. pl

  31. patrick lang says:

    Ken Roberts
    I would add that many people in the former Francophone colonies admire French culture and want to participate in it. In the same way the Filipino people are not hostile to the US, quite the opposite. they want visas. pl

  32. patrick lang says:

    Yes. I opposed this in that past but have changed my mind. pl

  33. Trent says:

    Reminded me of the epigraph from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian:
    “Clark, who led last year’s expedition to the Afar region of northern Ethiopia, and UC Berkeley colleague Tim D. White, also said that a reexamination of a 300,000-year-old fossil skull found in the same region earlier shows evidence of having been scalped–The Yuma Daily Sun, June 13, 1982

  34. dan bradburd says:

    This aI am not sure the cruelty and torture in the Middle East can be traced to its environment. Internecine strife in Mughal South Asia had all the cruelty of, say, Qajar Iran. I would also be cautious about Ardrey’s argument; few, if any, anthropologists take it seriously.

  35. turcopolier says:

    dan bradiurd
    yeah, well Qajar Iran was equally afflicted. Well, your anxiety about Ardery’s argument is shared by other leftist partisans. pl

  36. Neil Richardson says:

    “The US never withdraws occupation troops willingly, as Germany, Japan and particularly Korea attest. ”
    You could not be more wrong about the Republic of Korea. We’ve been trying to extricate ourselves for the last 45 years.

  37. Neil Richardson says:

    “The US never withdraws occupation troops willingly, as Germany, Japan and particularly Korea attest.”
    Also I’d suggest you refresh your memory on the history of NATO and USAEUR. Lord Ismay once put it best when he said the purpose of the alliance was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.” As for Japan, neither the Japanese nor our East Asian allies wanted the United States to decrease our force level let alone contemplate a withdrawal after 1945. In fact if you were to ask Xi Jinping whether he’d want the USFJ to leave, he would certainly oppose the idea.

  38. Alba Etie says:

    Col Lang ,
    I would agree that the reason we occupied Iraq was because the misbegotten neocons true believers really did think we could have the ‘clean break & reset ‘ that Cheney , Wolfowitz & others espoused .The neocon wrongly thought we could have a “Marshall Plan” for the ME . I would also agree that what kept us there was all the war profiteering that occurred for certain groups & individuals.

  39. Alba Etie says:

    I respect you and your opinions here @ SST – even if many times we disagree about many issues . I would wish to know , what lessons we who did not see combat in Iraq ~( or in my case ever see combat period) , might learn from an Iraq veteran like yourself . And for that matter as I recall you mentioned once you were in Afghanistan ( Camp Chapman?) – what would you like us to know about that campaign as well – as it winds down in its 13th year .

  40. Don Bacon says:

    Blaming the iniquities of governments on “man” is misplaced. I get along fine with my neighbors, and I don’t see the need to torture any of them. At least not much. I believe that my feelings are reciprocated, although there may be some wicked ones who need watching. But not the majority. It’s not in the culture. There is the innocence of man. In fact many people are amazingly charitable! They believe in giving! Imagine that.
    So the culture of man is not the problem. Governments are, which idea brought us people, anarchists, like Edward Abbey. “The tragedy of modern war is not so much that the young men die but that they die fighting each other–instead of their real enemies back home in the capitals.”
    I don’t know any Arabs, I confess. But I suspect that they are a lot like me. I have lived with Asians and Europeans, and I haven’t found them to be wanting to war on each other. Why should I believe that Arabs are different?

  41. Kyle Pearson says:

    Respectfully, Colonel – there are quite a few well-regarded investigative journalists who have come out with what i consider, at least, to be deeply incriminating evidence showing that the Cheney-Bush (or more appropriately, perhaps, the Cheney…) administration was, from the very outset of the Presidential term, obsessed with invading Iraq to secure its oil.
    You asked for proof; for me, the links below — barring some whistleblower from among the guilty parties finally coming clean — are as close as i think we can ever hope to expect as proof of that assertion. I am interested in your rebuttal to the facts offered up by the following links, which i consider reliable, at least, and which detail how the Cheney-led Energy Task Force put together a secret meeting that involved explicit planning for the acquisition and doling out of Iraq’s oil fields.
    (also the section just below it, #Iraq.27s_Oil_to_.22drive_Iraq.27s_economic_revival.22)
    Judicial Watch obtained some of the documents used at the meeting, and found:
    “Judicial Watch (search), a conservative legal group, obtained a batch of task force-related Commerce Department papers that included a detailed map of Iraq’s oil fields, terminals and pipelines as well as a list entitled “Foreign Suitors of Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.”
    The papers also included a detailed map of oil fields and pipelines in Saudi Arabia and in the United Arab Emirates and a list of oil and gas development projects in those two countries”
    I have learned a lot from you (and the learned contributors to this community), over the years, about how to interpret publicized information. So i am sincerely interested in your opinions about the various sources referenced above: some are from the left, some are from the right, and some are even foreign, but generally all each is well-respected as a reliable source of information and analysis. And of course, there is the mountain of evidence that shows how both Cheney and Rumsfeld were focused on drawing Iraq into the US response to 9-11, evidence-be-damned.

  42. ReaderOfTeaLeaves says:

    “As the colonel has indicated a number of times ini this forum, American elite seem incapable of understanding tribal or clan-based societies. Tribal societies do not want to become American, which is incompatible with a tribal and conservative social structure…”Indeed.
    Truer words were never written.

  43. walter says:

    I am a psychotherapist. I specialize in marriage counseling. I believe the behaviors necessary for happy marriage are similar to behaviors needed for peace amongst nations: accepting personal (national) responsibility for wrongs done, honesty, humility, consideration of other feelings, validating the reasonableness of your partners (adversaries) perspective, focusing on strengths, etc. I am buying ag land to farm.
    I vote Green. I admire Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich foreign policy. I believe in free market capitalism, but somehow sharing wealth with less fortunate in a way that prevents dependency, laziness.
    I don’t think financial greed was the only reason; you point out many of the other, perhaps more salient reasons, but I still think that Bush, Cheney and the rest of the revolving door Carlisle Group (Blair, Baker, Carlucci, etc), neo-cons, etc and their associates profited heavily. Democrats are just as guilty.
    I never said you lied. I don’t think you lie; the thought never crossed my mind that you would not tell the truth. You are a great, honest man from my perspective. Sorry if I come across too blunt or invalidating. I need to practice what I preach more.

  44. Twit says:

    A great quote. We are repeating the same mistakes in Africa. South Sudan is a similarly grotesque product of Westerner ignorance and utopian stupidity. Bashir, like Saddam, is a tyrant and criminal. But he was able to keep order among the Dinka and Nuer through co-option and well-placed violence. The genocide in Darfur was his undoing because its great evil required a response and he was foolish enough to think that we had a plan.
    Across Africa, the same thinking is evident. We in the West expect Libyans to be Jeffersonians (were we ever even?!), demand that the Taureg to submit to rule by their former slaves (they won’t), and wonder why the Arabs (let alone the Berbers) can’t just get along with one another like we want them too. We loudly align ourselves with governments that are seen by most people under their rule as tools of one tribal or sectarian or regional faction over the others, and we marginalize or condemn those governments that ‘do what it takes’ to drag their countries into the modern world, which is supposedly what we want. All along, we are suckers for well-polished African leaders like Kagame and Museveni who talk our talk, while they continue their sectarian murder campaigns and inter-tribal one upsmanship.
    Foreign relations is about deciding what one wants, and then deal with the reality of trying to get it. We claim that all Africans want to live in modern democracies free of tribal divisions. But do they? Why should we impose our desires on them? Judging by their dedication to these/our goals, many of them seem to me to be quite content with their ways, which may be ‘backward’ to us but are nevertheless still ‘theirs’.
    Our foreign policy leaders and their self-serving intellectual and academic collaborators demonstrate an unwavering belief in a transcendent utopian project that will bring about a perfect new society no longer slave to history, tribe, and clan loyalties. We declare that it be good, no matter the reality. It is GOOD that South Sudan is ‘free,’ even though the Dinka and the Nuer no longer have any check on their violent tribal antagonism – and are better armed and resourced to kill each other than ever before. It is GOOD that Africans are embracing free markets and infrastructure development, even though it means the destruction of millions of people’s way of life and the wholesale rape of Africa’s environment (mostly by businesspeople who are not African, unsurprisingly). It is GOOD that Somalia has a president and a government even though it has no constituency, no influence. It is GOOD that Somaliland has a functioning, peaceful democracy but also somewhat BAD that it developed this organically without help from outsiders (they were cut off from all aid).
    The big irony is that we are not alone in Africa in our transcendent destructive ignorance. All the “al Qaeda” groups in Africa essentially offer a similar promise – the possibility of transcending tribal (AQIM), clan (Shabaab), or ethno-regional (Boko Haram) divisions and uniting people under an idea even bigger than democracy or development: God. That their promised utopia is unachievable and will bring little but destruction and exploitation to most people means nothing to the true believers and those that can profit from the believers.
    Like Col Lang said, the reality of Africa, like the Middle East and all of humanity, is of Hobbes, and not of Rousseau. Maybe we are not fit to rule the world, but its certain that believers like Bremmer or Samantha Powers or jendayi Frazer are certainly not. The British were missionaries, but they still understood Hobbesian inter communal conflict – plus were primarily a naval power and maybe just smart enough to focus on controlling the seas instead of hearts and minds.

  45. robt willmann says:

    Appearing today, 7 January, and talking about the recent developments in Iraq and Syria on the Fox News channel was Senator Lindsey Graham (repub. South Carolina). Predictably, listening to it is not easy; as to Syria, he says, “with a good drone program you don’t need American troops”, and as to Iraq, leaving a residual force behind of 10-15,000 “would have secured Iraq and we would have had a successful outcome”–

  46. The Virginian says:

    Per discussions with contacts in Baghdad that have links in Anbar, ISIS / AQ are not re-embedded into Anbar – yet. The government is mainly fighting local groups that are opposed both to Baghdad and the Sunni tribesmen on Maliki’s payroll. At the same time some local groups have been targeting AQ elements plus fighters flowing back in from Syria. Maliki is using this effort as a means to bolster his electoral chances (get the Shia base aligned against the Sunni threat) and further fragment the Sunni communities in support of a broader strategy to ensure Shia dominance and enable Baghdad to turn its full attention north. For AQ, it may yet see enough space open wherein the tribes will invite them back in to battle Baghdad in full, but the tribe’s will want it on their terms. As such a multi-dimensional battle will continue to evolve in Anbar; Shia vs. Sunni communities / tribals, Shia vs. Sunni Jehadists, Sunni faction vs. Sunni faction, and Sunni faction vs. Sunni Jehadists.

  47. Thanks PL! And anyone? What will the GATES memoir add to the fray?

  48. turcopolier says:

    You notice I am sure the hostility to Ardrey on the left here. The left of center academic consensus (group think) dislikes him because he insisted that much behavior is innate and genetically determined. This violates the left’s passionate Rousseau based dogma that insists that bad behavior is based on environment (rearing). pl

  49. turcopolier says:

    I guess you missed my 2004 article in Middle East Policy in which I wrote that the Bush Administration began seeking war with Iraq within a few days of his inauguration.
    As for the State Department/oil industry machinations, so what? You must never have served in government anywhere near the top. The USG is not a monolith. It is a many headed monster. There are always competing plans originating in different departments. The State Department was not a significant player in Iraq for several years and was not a significant player in planning the invasion of Iraq. Bremmer was a CT man who happened to be located at State and who the neocons knew would do anything to get ahead. Chalabi’s agreement to privatization was irrelevant. He was only important because Bremmer was told that the neocons wanted Chalabi in power. That idea failed when it became clear that Chalabi was really an Iranian agent of influence and had no following in Iraq. You do not seem to have noticed that in the first piece you cited, Carroll, the man made administrator of Iraq’s oil industry, categorically refused to countenance a sell off of Iraq’s national oil industry. The other papers which you cruelly made me read are merely a record of the constant mental masturbation that goes on in the interface between government and industry. It is not odd at all that the USG would study the oil industries of the Gulf countries. It is the business of the US to advance the trade and industry of the US and that is what they were mumbling to each about other over martinis. Oh, sorry, they don’t drink anymore. Perhaps they should. I recently did a similar study for a European client in my consulting business. Thanks for the links. They will be useful. pl

  50. Tyler says:

    Good point.

  51. Tyler says:

    I wouldn’t say it was counter-productive for me, but that doesn’t make it any less a kick in the teeth in many ways to know a black flag flies over Fallujah.
    Two friends of mine didn’t survive the war, and the other didn’t survive the peace. I think of how many marriages were shattered because of an insane op tempo that saw 90 day refits before you got back on the bird. Rumsfield telling us “you go to war with the Army you have”. And now those who are within spitting distance of a 20 year retirement are facing down medical discharges due to injuries incurred during service.
    There were no good answers here. My hope would be that the future would regard Iraq as a warning towards half assing a war and the futility of hewing closely to Rousseau and the idea that you can make people better. But it doesn’t seem it will be taken that way.
    It is what it is.

  52. Tyler says:

    “What lesson can we take?”
    People are what they are. There’s an idea among both camps that you can turn different people into Ohio Republicans/NYC Democrats if you just sprinkle enough Democracy Fairy Dust on the area. G-d in His Heaven only knows how many people have died for that particular lie.
    No matter how many well meaning Nice Educated People you send into Afghanistan, they’re not going to stop putting their women in purdah, practicing pashtunwali, or razziah. They don’t WANT to be like us. In our arrogance we thought we could change people, but we can’t.
    The Afghanis are likely the finest irregular infantry in the world right now (I’ve said that Hizballah is the finest light infantry. Rommel could have marched from Tobruk to Jerusalem with a few divisions of Hizballah troopers.) and are a nightmare to fight on their home turf. Raid, ambush, and night attacks are their bread and butter.
    The success of the US Army in fighting against the Afghanis has nothing to do with COIN or trying to turn infantrymen into Special Forces Unconventional Warfare experts. Cunning officers who knew how to ‘play the game’ and show General Staffs what they wanted to see while adapting to changing environments, NCOs who survived by wit and flexibility to battles that were never the same, and the tenacity of 19 year old grunts too dumb and brave to never know when to quit are what enabled us to bring the fight to the Afghani, a dangerous and wily opponent.
    This is all, for the most part, what the good Colonel Lang has been saying for years though. He knows the score, and hasn’t been shy on letting those in power know. But if a man as distinguished, accomplished, and educated as Colonel Lang can’t get through to those in charge that their entire paradigm is wrong, I have little hope that they care to listen.
    In a just world, the Colonel would be a Presidential Secretary. Instead we get clay personas like Kerry, Rice (Condi & Susan), Rumsfield, and the rest because we do not live in a just world and HL Mencken had the right of it when he said “Democracy is the idea that the people know what they want – and they deserve to get it good and hard.”

  53. patrick lang says:

    You remind me of a classmate of mine who once pointedly said at a social function that “people are all the same. All this talk of cultural difference is wrongheaded.” He has always been a bit slow. pl

  54. DH says:

    “Saudi Arabia and Iran have been strategic rivals since before the 1979 revolution – the shah was known as the “policeman of the Gulf” – as well as the respective leaders of the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. Iran’s position was inadvertently strengthened by the US-led invasion of Iraq and the installation of a Shia government in Baghdad. Tehran backs Assad and Hizbullah in Lebanon while Riyadh openly advocates regime change in Damascus. Syria’s conflict is indeed, in some ways, a proxy war.
    …Saudi Arabia has been the hinge around which American policy has pivoted for the last 30 years.
    …OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom] can be characterized as an attempt to “kill the Iraqi chicken to scare the Saudi monkey”, an effort to reimpose the dominance of the hegemon on a rebellious regional ally without actually destroying it. It was an effort which the Kingdom strongly resisted.
    The Saudi pushback took the form we loosely remember as the Iraq War during which the Saudis and their allies waged proxy war against US forces in Iraq via an an army of thousands of Jihadis.
    Part of “scaring the Saudi monkey” took the form of opening a door to Iran. Iraq was potentially the second most powerful Shia majority country in the world, hence the anti-Sunni surge in Anbar coupled with the neutralization, yet preservation of ambiguous figures like Sadr posed a double threat: it took Iraq away from the Sunnis and created a potential rival to Teheran.
    But the fourth pivot was to come. Saudi policy was defeated on the battlefield but it was powerful politically. The Kingdom assisted in the election of Barack Obama who decamped from Iraq no sooner than he was elected. It will be recalled that Obama advertised his opposition Iraq loudly — hint, hint. He famously bowed to the Saudi King. He signed onto the Arab Spring. In the beginning there was almost no daylight between the Kingdom and Obama.
    Then a fifth pivot occurred for reasons which are not completely clear. But it is reasonable to suppose it arose from the unintended effects of following the Saudi lead. The redeployment of US forces to Afghanistan left the opened door between Iraq and Iran unguarded and Teheran promptly stepped through the portal. Then the “Arab Spring” began to unravel, and Obama unsurprisingly got cold feet. The gap between Saudi and administration positions widened apace as recriminations grew.
    Obama committed the double blunder of abandoning a working strategy without one of his own. He zigged than he zagged and finally tied himself up in knots. Though the Bush idea may have been flawed in execution, it was probably the last one in Washington viewed itself as the hegemon trying to impose hegemony. In contrast, the policy which replaced it was designed by the same people who gave the world the Obamacare website.”

  55. walrus says:

    I have recently had the pleasure of reading Tony Judt’s “Thinking the Twentieth Century” that was written in the full knowledge that he was slowly dying from motor neurone disease. Judt’s observations of the true believers in Marxism remind me eerily of the public alleged intellectuals who supported the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now the “responsibility to protect” crowd cheerleading for a Syrian war. We are dealing with an intellectual disease here, not one f “left” and “Right” and it is nothing new.
    The true believers in Marx were absolutely convinced in the validity of the theory and easily made the further decision that a little violence was perfectly justified to create paradise on earth.
    Even the beastliness of Stalin was not enough to shake them – some on their way to the Gulags rationalised that they were the victims of a simple judicial mistake rather than of deliberate and calculated action. The scales did not finally drop from European intellectuals eyes until 1956 when rationalisation of Soviet actions became impossible even for them. However even that did not stop Pol Pot from performing the same type of genocide for the same reason in Cambodia.
    Fast forward to today and what do we see? The absolute dogma that liberal democracy is the finest form of political organisation and America its best example. Francis Fukuyama even postulated that history had ended and we had arrived at the promised land! Everyone wants to be like us, wants to do what we do, etc. etc.
    The net result has been Two wars with a Third possible, all justified by the same crude excuse the marxists used, not that they were the first either. Western colonial wars were also justified on the basis that “Liberty will crown the edifice” according to Isiah Berlin.
    I also think some here might gain a fuller understanding of what the Left is about by reading the work of a committed and independent socialist and reformed Zionist(Judt) before opening their mouths about that subject, particularly as it applies in Eastern Europe. The parallels between the Soviets and current American thinking are striking.

  56. Charles I says:

    “That man tried to kill my daddy”

  57. Babak Makkinejad says:

    US depends critically on English Common Law and its inherent belief in Human Liberty.
    That is not applicable to the rest of mankind – there lies the fault.

  58. DH says:

    An excellent portrayal of differences in societies is A Passage to India by E.M. Forster. As the novel begins, the British are seen by the Indians to be over-bearing and sometimes cruel, but the British, of course, see themselves as bringing civilization to the natives. As the novel progresses, we see the Indians have many faults of their own. The payoff comes when the Muslim Indian protagonist and his British friend encounter the Hindus, who are prejudiced against them both.
    There’s a lovely extended section detailing the Hindu New Year.
    Definitely put this on your audio list if you listen while traveling.

  59. Alba Etie says:

    Thanks Tyler .

  60. Don Bacon says:

    I disagree.
    –Circumstantial evidence is often enough.
    –My argument is not fantastical, I cited facts.
    –I have no political prejudice in this matter of the US promoting the Shia-Sunni divide. Such a US policy transcends politics.
    And I don’t understand the point about battlefield errors, in the context of normal human relations.

  61. turcopolier says:

    Like everyone here you have the right to disagree with me. pl

  62. Matthew says:

    Very powerful.

  63. Don Bacon says:

    You got me there. I have no defense regarding being a bit slow, especially at sports.

  64. turcopolier says:

    Don Bacon
    that was heavy handed on my part. Sorry. pl

  65. VietnamVet says:

    This is a belated thanks for your post. You are the closest we will get to the decision makers. You provide valuable feedback.
    As you can surmise I never was a manager, let alone a SESer. But, I knew the Iraq Invasion was crazy. Why did it happen?
    First, American leaders in WWII served in WWI and learned their lessons well. Patton: “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.”
    Second, the leaders in Gulf War I & II who served in Vietnam learned all the wrong lessons. Colin Powell and John Kerry may have learned the lessons of fighting a colonial war but they sold out. To win wars, one must apply overwhelming force and then provide law and order to setup a fair functioning government to rule the occupied people.
    Bob Gates latest rhubarb is another indication that at the very top of DOD, no one realizes what is necessary to win wars. This is most likely due to denial. One has to believe that a privatized volunteer army could occupy Afghanistan forever in order to become “The Bureaucrat Unbound”*.
    *Time Magazine

  66. Fred says:

    “… now those who are within spitting distance of a 20 year retirement are facing down medical discharges due to injuries incurred during service.” A sad tradition amongst some in the service/civil service. They were doing the same thing to some of my peers when I was facing a disability review board. Too much of the MBA management approach. Someone looking for a promotion is happy to shaft veterans while showing his boss how much money he saved by eliminating a retirement ‘obligation’.

  67. Kyle Pearson says:

    Thanks, Colonel. I’ll review the Kool-aid article again.

  68. charly says:

    The Polish want to work in Germany but that doesn’t mean there isn’t bad blood

  69. Medicine Man says:

    Thank you for the summary, Col.

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