David Brooks tells us today that American withdrawal from Iraq will leave a disrupted region in such a state that a general regional war initially centered in Iraq will result and he compares that coming war to the "Thirty Years War" which devastated much of Europe causing a loss of 50% of the population in some places.
I support this analysis whether he likes that or not.
I differ from him in two areas that are at least implied by lacunae in his screed.
1 – He shows no evidence of thinking that the situation in Iraq has passed beyond American ability to control events at the macro level. It is over, David, just over… No amount of blather can change that. Partition Iraq? Hah!! Iraq is well on its way to completing its own partition. Ethnic cleansing is underway throughout the country, neighborhood fights neighborhood throughout Baghdad while the Kurds look on with apprehension over American reliability. It is over. We should now look to our options in dealing with the wreckage of Mesopotamia and the "cockpit" into which we have made the Middle East. Immediate withdrawal? Not unless it is part of the answer in dealing with the wreckage. More trainers and advisers? Perhaps, if we think that reasonable relations with the Shia "rump" state of Iraq will be sufficiently important in the context of the "Second Thirty Years War" to warrant the expenditure in blood and money and the risks inherent in maintaining a smaller and therefore more vulnerable force in Iraq.
2 – Brooks is quick to condemn anyone who wishes to reverse the venture of American intervention in Iraq. He says nothing of the direct influence and prevalence of the neocons in causing the situation now prevailing in the Middle East generally and Iraq in particular. The neocons insisted and still insist (like old communists after the fall of the Berlin Wall) that their ideas were great stuff, a manifestation of the destiny of mankind, but they were poorly implemented. This is completely false. The situations that you see on the ground in Iraq and Lebanon are inherent in the cultural context of the Islamic World. The centrifugal forces of; sect, ethnicity, politics and region continually threaten all these states with disruption and chaos. The answer which that "culture continent" has found for itself over the centuries has been to accept (however grudgingly) the autocratic rule of "strong men." Brooks and his friends insisted to the "decider" that this tendency was more fiction than reality and that all that was needed to bring about accession of the Middle East to the Modern (democratic) World was a "hard knock." Well, we knocked and in the process removed all the restraints on the savage rivalries implicit in all Middle Eastern societies.
Perhaps someday there will be a Concert of the Middle East, but it will not be any time soon. Brooks and his friends are seeking to position themselves in such a way as to re-focus blame for catastrophe. This should not be allowed. pl
Unfortunately, the only meaningful response I can make to Col. Lang’s post is to urge people who would benefit from voluntary medical procedures such as colonoscopies to get them now, because if he is right – and I think he is – then such items will not be available in the intermediate future.
Col. Lang: It’s worse than shitting blame. I attended a small reception last week for a retired Israeli military intelligence officer who is now touring the United States at the behest of the American Jewish Committee. His theme: It’s 1938 and Iran is Nazi Germany. My sense is that the Chinese proverb applies to all of us as citizens of the Great Republic–and by which we should all be judged: Fool me once, foo on you; fool me twice, foo on me.
“Brooks and his friends are seeking to position themselves in such a way as to re-focus blame for catastrophe. This should not be allowed.”
I agree fully, and the Ken Adelman kind of talk such as on today’s Meet the Press – should be discouraged, strongly.
I think you need to bring back the Ottoman Empire.
I have met Aficans that at times are so frustrated with post-Colonial world that they say: “May be we should bring back the white man.”
I have heard similar comments from Indians: “Bring back the English”
I will try sending some longer thoughts later, but
for now; if Matthew is correct and the AJC has found an Israeli general to
catapult the bomb-Iran propaganda, why surrender the field to AJC and this
general? Why not find out
the general’s itineraray in
advance, and have truth squads ready and waiting,
disguised as innocuous members of the audience, asking seeminly innocuous
questions in a seemingly polite way? Sprinkle them
throughout the audience so
they appear un-connected to
eachother. Have them trained in advance to ask
loads of follow-up questions
after the first planted question.
Also, why not set up countertours in the same or
nearby venues? For maximum
credibility impact, why not
work with Peace Now or some
other Israeli peace group
to find a pro-peace Israeli
general to go around and
give counterspeeches. A
general like General Harkabi
or if he is dead now, someone else like that. I’m
sure Israel has some who
would be eager to countercatapult the counterpropaganda.
To me the most striking lacuna in the Brooks column is that the word “Israel” does not appear. Thirty years of war, but nothing worth mentioning happens for Israel.
Perhaps conscious and purposeful, perhaps not, in either case, what is the significance of this ommision in the thinking of Brooks and his buddies?
The Washington Post also had gotten on the 30 years war bandwagon. We’ll be back for Gulf War III. Basically, America can’t let Muslims, let alone the Russians or Chinese, control all that oil. Besides oil money can buy nuclear weapons.
The neo-cons following their Straussian principles have never told Americans the truth. If there was no oil, the US would care about Iraq or Israel about as much as it cares about Liberia. There is a plausible argument that controlling the oil is in the national interest. Then if that is the case, start the draft and tax the wealthy to pay for the war. If not, withdraw and rely on Mutually Assured Destruction [MAD] and convert to alternate energy sources. Wrenching to America’s economy but less bloody and morally better than the Recolonialization of the Middle East.
The 30 Years War was only the last stage of the Wars of the Reformation.
Started with the intial Princes Wars in Germany, with the Schmalkaldic League. Then we had the Dutch Revolt, assorted French Civil Wars and then the Thirty Years War.
Add it all up, and it’s roughly a hundred years of war over 2 issues.
1) Should there be one Universal and Catholic Church to which all of Christendom belonged, and
2) Should the Hapsburgs have secular control of Europe.
The French Catholics essentially won their war on question 1 for France … but they supported the German Protestants against the Hapsburgs in the 30 Years War on question 2.
Right now, I think Martin Luther’s Wars are a good analogue for the GWOT – and the bad news for Americans is that they are the Hapsburgs. Militarily dominant, supporting the old order and trying to fight the war against the Reformed with fire and sword.
Thirty Years War? A difference to the current situation is that the 30 years war was fought mainly on German territory. The current flashpoints besides iraq is obviously Palestine and Lebanon. And it’s not to far of to imagine a conflict involving much of the muslim world from Indonesia to China to Morocco.
It’s simply a situation so disasterous that no politician today are willing to state it publicly. And it looks like ME will tear apart both parties in 08 and beyond.
David Brooks, April 17, 2004, NYTimes:
“I still believe that in 20 years, no one will doubt that Bush did the right thing. To his enormous credit, the president has been ruthlessly flexible over the past months and absolutely committed to seeing this through. He is acknowledging the need for more troops. He is absolutely right to embrace Lakhdar Brahimi’s plan to dissolve the Governing Council and set up an interim government. This might take attention away from the U.S, and change the atmosphere in the country.
It’s also inspiring to see the Iraqi center working so hard to keep political conflict under control, especially during these horrible weeks. Every time they get a chance to vote, Iraqi citizens show they are ready for democracy. A young diplomat, Tobin Bradley, is going around the country organizing local elections. In almost every case, the parties that do best are professional and practical, emphasizing the people’s concrete needs.
This time, unlike 1920, say, Iraqis can see a panoply of new and thriving democracies. They have witnessed Iran’s horrible experience with theocracy. Once the political process moves ahead, nationalism will work in our favor, as Iraqis seek to become the leading reformers in the Arab world.
We hawks were wrong about many things. But in opening up the possibility for a slow trudge toward democracy, we were still right about the big thing.”
You wrote: “The situations that you see on the ground in Iraq and Lebanon are inherent in the cultural context of the Islamic World. The centrifugal forces of; sect, ethnicity, politics and region continually threaten all these states with disruption and chaos.”
And: “Well, we knocked and in the process removed all the restraints on the savage rivalries implicit in all Middle Eastern societies.”
Your words brought to mind a rather similar statement made by Joseph Galloway in a recent article wherein he argues for an immediate exit from Iraq: “If you worry about the future of Iraq, don’t. It will remain what it’s always been: a violent, angry land of warring tribes only occasionally beaten and bludgeoned into submission by a homegrown despot like Saddam Hussein.”
~from his article, “Leave Iraq now; don’t wait until 2008 election day” — at
You bring up the question of “immediate withdrawal” followed by the statement: “Not unless it is part of the answer in dealing with the wreckage.”
I’m not sure what you mean by that. And I’m wondering if you find any merit in Galloway’s argument.
Gustalphus Adolphus on a popsickle stick!
Be nice if the fools had a clue what they were talking about, when they talked about it.
the trouble with being right about ‘the big thing’ is that if you don’t make it you run the risk of creating an equal or greater mess. Democracy is only very patially about elections. And there primarily about the peaceful transfer of power. It is primariloy about institutions and attitudes that embody the ‘rule of law’ and that act to protect the liberty of each individual. It is about as even a playing fiels=d as can be obtained. And it is about a court system that can determine the law and have that enforced. Most of all it is about providing a sufficient absence of violence so as to allow civil society to operate effectively without subjecting its members to state spoosored and allowed violence. A breakdown in theis last catagory puts all the rest at risk.
Democracy is indeed a dramatic and powerful goal and aspiration. But know what the hell you are getting into and have the capacity to do it, before you try it. My fear is that this fiasco will set the Wilsonian aspect of our foreign policy back for years. Perhaps when we need it most.
there is the old saw: If you go after the king you must destroy him. the implied follow up is: Be prepared to rule in his place.
This administration is a clear illustration of Acton’s Dictum: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
revolutions when unleased become their own masters and frequently master those who set them in motion.
I realize your comment is tongue-in-cheek. I have travelled in India for many years. If there is a poll or a vote if the British should be brought back to rule – it would lose by an overwhelming majority. I mean by a 70-80% margin.
There may be some romanticism for the colonial era in some quarters but the subjects are way better in India today than under their colonial masters. IMO, the Indians are quite happy to have their country, their messy democracy and republic and their independence. They have changed ruling political parties many times by popular will and although many live in abject poverty they relish throwing the bums out every once in a while during election season. And unlike many countries that achieved independence post-WWII the Indian system tolerates change in power.
I believe what we are witnessing today in the Middle East is in part the result of the hubris of the colonialists early in the 20th century. And the contemporary colonialists exhibit similar hubris without the same strengths.
The world in my opinion would be better of with a return to the sovereignty of nation states and the rule of law and international conventions. We need to allow different cultures the ability to solve their differences on the basis of their traditions and experiences and not impose our notions at the end of a barrel of a gun.
Brooks and his ilk will throw up many smoke screens and obfuscate their disastrous judgment. But the record will show that they should not be given the time of day.
Revisionism of all kinds will be brought forward and carried by the complicit corporate media to blame others for their colossal misjudgment. Watch as they try to wash their hands off this immense blunder.
However, as Lina points out, this will not be easy in this age of instant access of past writings and video.
They have no credibility!
A method must be found to remove Ameriacn troops from Iraq as soon as possible (weeks not months). As long as soldiers carrying guns is the image we present to the Middle East, things will get worse.
And I say again…and again and again…that the only way to do that is through the United Nations.
Please demonstrate to me that I am wrong.
Just curious….if we are going with the Thirty Years War analogy then who can enlighten me as to who played the role of the United States and China? (outside powers with vital interests—read: oil, and resources—in the region)
And if there was no such equivalent forces in the Thirty Years War…how accurate can the analogy be? I’m afraid we have something sui generis here. And whatever it is it is just starting…..
I do tend to agree (in a light-hearted way, as of this moment, anyway) with Duncan’s suggestion that those considering voluntary medical procedures should do so fairly soon. Next five years perhaps?
It speaks to the absolute arrogance and total stupididty of the neo-cons that they can attempt to speak drivel like this in public and expect anyone to give their naive views any credibility. Domestic American consumption may be one factor, but this won’t wash globally.
How one can attempt to prognosticate on the Middle East without mentioning Israel/Palestine, or American responsiblity for the mess created in Iraq? Seems to be just the standard excercise in historic revisionism, excuse offering, and blame transfer to “Somebody Else” (Anybody Else?).
How about an apology for years of pro-war brainless propaganda propagated by the odious Brooks and his ilk? A review of his record would indicate a new career in toilet operations and maintenance would be more suitable to his level of intellectual achievement – and he should be barred from ever publishing or speaking in public again, for the future good of humanity.
This is almost as egregious as Tony Blair’s mindless prattlings of late, and Bush’s vacuous speeches. It’s probably a new speech/publishing industry – “Why We Didn’t Win In Iraq and How It Wasn’t Our Fault”.
Here’s why I think we are engaged in a self-defeating activity in Iraq. We seem to think that what Iraq wants is “free” elections, i.e, the right to vote for secular pro-Western politicians, so that Iraq can be run by a bunch of creeps like Allawi who will turn Baghdad into Manila. We want to force them to “freely choose” to have their oil industry privatized and have their country turned into a permanent American military base. Gee, I wonder why this plan is not working out. Let’s do our troops a favor and stop pretending this oil-protection racket has anything to do with spreading democracy. We saw what Bush thinks about democracy when he immediately pushed to starve the Palestinians and helped Israel vandalize Lebanon. Instead of wasting any more of our proud men and women on this neo-colonial adventure, let’s leave now. We are not protecting the Iraqis anyway.
The entire middle east has no expectation of the US to use meaningful diplomatic means to solve any of the region’s problems, not the least Iran.
The fact that we’re not doing what they least expect is very unfortunate.
Okay, that’s there. I’d bet the farm you’re right. But what about here? Any thoughts about “blowback”? Both varieties: macro and micro.
By micro I mean – how long before some nasty little imam puts out a fatwa on some of the nasty little “enablers” – the key “influencers” – of this god awful catastrophe? People like Perle and Wolfowtiz and Feith and Kristol and Krauthammer. Is there a ballad there? Something along the lines of, “I wish I hadn’t been a sorcerer’s apprentice cuz now I’m in Rushdie Land and I don’t like it. It’s scary. And it’s expensive. And nothing bad was supposed to happen to me. That wasn’t what I had in mind at all.”
Doc Unintended – meet Trine Consequences.
I’d be very interested to know what you and your colleagues think about the matter. The likelihood. The action. And the reaction.
“The neocons insisted and still insist (like old communists after the fall of the Berlin Wall . . . )
What do you mean “like”?
1938 has been and will be continually used to excuse extremely reckless policy. Hitler was conjured before Suez, Bush the younger raised his ghost Iraq and now the paintbrush mustache is being cartooned onto the Mullahs.
It’s an absurd comparison. People tend to forget in 38 we’d effectively backed Franco and there was a good reason for this: Stalin. Hitler was the less frightening part of the equation. If you look at Soviet artillery and tank production figures this judgment wasn’t foolish. No threat available today compares with either of these powers.
It’s 1914 we should consider, the war that broke the last great global world system and brought the great powers to act II of the tragedy in the 30s.
Like 1914 we have stirring about Iraq a storm that all involved take too lightly. This includes the advantage calculating neighbors and those who raved disingenuously about WWIII recently.
It’s for this reason that is essential to recognize the utter failure of the Iraqi adventure and look to the broader problem of regional stability.
We must somehow avoid a great Thirty Years War style sectarian collision not least because such a war will wreck our energy supplies and stands a fair chance of setting the scene century even bloodier and more desperate than the terrible mess we made of the 20th. This is a very challenging diplomatic game that must be played ruthlessly. The pieces include pawns like the Golan Heights, Shaba farms and move up to the Ghawar, Basra and Kirkuk fields towards Jerusalem.
When I was at the United Nations, the one clear line runing from Somalia, to Rwanda, to Yugoslavia, Angola and the rest, was that people would rather be lead badly than be lead by foreigners.
This is particularly the case in countries that have been consistently under colonial rule.
The Middle East has never been run by Arabs. For most of the twentieth century the governments there were protecorates of French, British, Soviet or American influence. And often as not, during that period, local ethnic minorities were used by the puppet masters to rule and loot. Prior to that, the Turks ground them into the sand for centuries.
The neocons and the Zionists must have been high on crack when they came up with the idea of destroying Iraq and flying in the President of Henry Kissinger & Associates to run the joint as proconsul.
The Iraqis — or the three nations that they will become — want us out. Live with it.
Europe’s only been democratic, in its totality, for a decade or so. It took them a thousand years or so to get there. The Arabs may need a century or two as well.
Meanwhile, to quote George Patton (or at least the George C. Scott version of George Patton), “what a waste of fine infantry”.
Since India has been mentioned –
the effect of Iraq + Indian government attempts to improve Indo-US relations + a sizeable Muslim population (150 million out of a billion) have left some Muslims feeling that the Indian government does not represent their concerns. Let me quote B. Raman, retired high-ranking Indian intelligence official, whose articles can be found on http://www.saag.org:
“25. Despite the many smiles, the way the present Government has handled India’s relations with the US has left scars in the hearts of the Indian Muslim minority. Its muted silence on issues angering the Muslims and its insensitivity to their feelings over issues such as Falluja, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Gharaib etc have created growing pockets of anger in our Muslim community, particularly the youth, which do not bode well for the future. Alienation of the Indian Muslim youth outside Jammu & Kashmir and driving it to identify itself with the anti-US and pan-Islamic ideologies of Al Qaeda and the International Islamic Front (IIF) is an imminent danger due to the ill-advised insensitivity of the Government towards the hurt feelings of the Indian Muslims.”
“26. The countrywide demonstrations seen during the visit of Mr. Bush are an external manifestation of the seething anger inside the hearts of growing number of our Muslim youth. The Government’s ill-advised silence and actions have sown the seeds of pan-Islamism in the Indian Muslim community, which had in the past kept away from it. If the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Iran exploit this for their own purpose, we will have only ourselves to blame for it.”
(from http://www.saag.org/papers18/paper1718.html )
In http://www.saag.org/papers18/paper1743.html, B. Raman says that in the past “The Indian Muslim youth looked with suspicion at their pan-Islamic agenda because, in their view, pan- Islamism meant adoption of the anti-US policies of the Al Qaeda and the IIF. They were not prepared to do this.”….”However, the position started changing in November, 2004, following the US air strikes in Falluja in Iraq.”….”Since then, anti-US and anti-Western feelings have become an important motivating factor of sections of the Indian Muslim youth. The result: Their gravitating towards the IIF in larger numbers than in the past and their willingness to join in or organise anti-US demonstrations either over the affair of the Danish cartoons caricaturising their Holy Prophet or over the visit of President Bush to India.”
The above is to drive home the fact that the war in Iraq has extremely serious consequences all over the place, not just in the Middle East.
Mr Brooks is a jew and the area of interest is ME. He cannot be faulted for looking out for the interest of a group that probably has the deepest meaning for him with respect to identity
Col. Lang, that was a cogent and powerful piece. Thank you.
But all of this was evident before we started the war. It was clear that Iraq was a cobbled-together country, with deep sectarian divides. It was clear, too, that nobody likes an occupying army to tell them how to run their government.
Asif, your comment is scurrilous. Don’t judge someone based on a group that they belong to, lest you be judged yourself. Also, it’s an impediment to thinking.
I am a Jew and a Zionist, and I always have thought that the Iraq War was a terrible idea, and immoral to boot. I doubt that I am alone in this.
The fog of war
I honestly dont know what to believe. The war in Iraq is unwinnable:
Protests were held across the United States. In Los Angeles, where mock coffins were carried, one Iraq veteran said the mood in Congress was changing because of public opposit…