We Won in Iraq

Bret Stephens has an editorial in today’s Wall St. J. justifying the war.  He makes the point that if we hadn’t invaded, we (meaning, I guess, his fellow neocons) would still think that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.  I am not kidding:

Saddam is dead. Had he remained in power, we would likely still believe he had WMD.

I won’t remind you of the costs of this achievement.

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed in Uncategorized | 21 responses so far

21 Responses to “We Won in Iraq”

  1. Mikyoon 06 Aug 2008 at 12:43 am 1

    “f**king stupid”. Oops, I meant, errr “an extremely serious strategic error.”

    [CR: Thank David Kilcullen for my approving this comment — otherwise it would have been toast.]

  2. Private Keepouton 06 Aug 2008 at 11:21 am 2

    Chet,
    I for one would greatly benefit from a reminder of the costs of this achievement, especially from you.
    A comprehensive, moderately documented, organized tabulation of the lives, reputation, resources and positions dissipated in this epic strategic disaster.
    Think about it and “Thanks” for all you do.

    [CR: Thanks — I don’t know what to add. There are excellent studies of the cost of the war in financial terms, such as the Bilmes-Stiglitz research — $3-5 trillion. As for human costs, there are official DoD casualty figures (~4200 killed, perhaps 20,000 who will require some degree of care for years to come). Iraqi casualties are harder to come by and as always with statistics, the answer depends strongly on what you include. Even if the Lancet study were off by 50%, it would still document more than 300,000 deaths due to the war as of 2006, so 500,000 today would be reasonable. I’m not including the burden on our economy from the increased price of oil since that, as Fabius Maximus talks about in today’s column, has many other causes. Other costs, such as the loss of prestige from 5 1/2 years of failure to achieve our objectives, may be the highest of all, but I don’t have a clue as to how to quantify them.]

  3. Maxon 06 Aug 2008 at 11:24 am 3

    “They” did win, Chet, Big time !

    Those amoung the Neo-conserative inner circle, are laughing
    all the way to the bank.

    As for the cost and the rest of us, well, tough luck,
    and too bad about the prices at the pump and to heat
    your home this winter.

    Remember,

    “you are either with us, or with the terrorists.”*

    *GWB after 9-11.

  4. Maxon 06 Aug 2008 at 6:44 pm 4

    PK writes;

    “I for one would greatly benefit from a reminder of the costs of this achievement,”

    Amoung those previously mentioned and explored on this
    forum in depth, on other threads, Here’s one, just in the headlines today, with still others coming to a blog near you for sure.

    http://tinyurl.com/5tr9lb

    If you’re not sure of what conciquence this maybe, consider it
    the next time you have a bone jarring drive on your local roads,
    and particularly when you cross bridges and overpasses.

    It’s the American standard of living, going down faster
    than an F-15 in a crash dive.

    MaX

  5. Barryon 07 Aug 2008 at 4:44 am 5

    20,000 who will need care

    Without 21st century US medical technology how many of these these would have been dead. And what kind of life will they (and those who love them) have now.
    A Sunday Times magazine article about one casualty had a photo of his head. A quarter of it was missing, he required constant care from nurses and his mother. He told her “I really need to apologise to you for joining the Marines”

    [CR: The country owes it to these veterans to see that they they get the best care available. As medical technology advances, it may be possible to improve their conditions. I’d vote for one less guided missile destroyer — which is pretty useless in 4GW — to see that the VA is fully funded and staffed.]

  6. historian1944on 07 Aug 2008 at 9:04 am 6

    I read the linked editorial, and it’s very close in tone and content to a recent piece by Victor Davis Hanson. Seems everyone is declaring victory in Iraq and proclaiming everything justified, and that all us critics were, in the end, proven completely wrong, the domino effect is going to transform the entire Middle East into US patterned democracies and statues of George W. Bush will be erected all over the US and the world. The only thing missing is that all Middle Easterners will gladly bow and face their George the W. statue 5 times a day.

    I’m not really fond of counting costs to justify or not justify the war, since if it was that important, then it should have been worth any price to pay, be it trillions of dollars, millions of dead, whatever. Conversely, if it was wrong, it was wrong even if it cost nothing. I feel the latter. Even if it was paid for by the Iraqis, and cost no lives whatsoever (and proponents of the war are only concerned with US lives, not Iraqi ones), it was still the wrong thing to do.

    The main point of the editorial seems to be that we’d still think Hussein had WMD, and that he’d be sitting on much more valuable oil, so he’d be able to make or buy more bad things. Since oil is sold using dollars, and we have ruthlessly punished the dollar since 2001, in large part to finance this war, it’s a very stupid argument. If we weren’t printing money to finance war, oil wouldn’t have risen to 5.5 times it’s 2000 level. At the same time, oil denominated in that barbarous relic, gold, has only increased 1.7 times during the same period.

    The other thing I think about that’s a little off topic is the Army procurement system. I recently visited a DRMO yard that had a lot of destroyed vehicles in it. Even though acquisition doctrine says that the material solution should be considered last, we seem to see a problem and immediately begin with a whiz bang gadget that will solve it, preferring to change with what the soldier fights rather than change the way the soldier fights. It appears that some of the recent tactical changes have contributed to the recent decrease in violence. So, if three years ago these same changes would have been done, rather than spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new armor and gadgets, we’d have saved many lives on both sides.

  7. jaylemeuxon 07 Aug 2008 at 4:32 pm 7

    “I’d vote for one less guided missile destroyer — which is pretty useless in 4GW — to see that the VA is fully funded and staffed.”

    I would too. Even if we planned on engaging in 2 or 3GW, we’d still be pretty well off. I’d also add that, regardless of how much funding it has, the VA could probably stand some restructuring based on a leaner organizational model. I speak with a lot of private VA counselors who say that the VA is deliberately designed to dole out the least amount of benefits they can get away with. Whether the design is deliberate or just convenient circumstance, I think that the positive effects of increased funding are likely to be obstructed by red tape.

    Tying this back into the subject of the thread, it seems to me that planning for the human cost in terms of preventing and treating soldiers’ physical and mental injuries is an integral part of prewar planning. If you’re not ready to do that, you’re not ready to go to war (or unconstitutional occupation). Stephens doesn’t seem to be very concerned about this.

    [CR: “it seems to me that planning for the human cost in terms of preventing and treating soldiers’ physical and mental injuries is an integral part of prewar planning.” Absolutely. If we did, and did it rationally, there might be fewer wars of choice. To me, this is part of what’s wrong with considering war as the continuation of policy by other means.]

  8. jaylemeuxon 07 Aug 2008 at 4:46 pm 8

    I’m getting really tired of hearing about WMD, as if Saddam would have been a threat to the U.S. had he possessed them. Therefore I won’t even bother to address Stephens’ assertions about that.

    “We have a defeat for al Qaeda. Critics carp that had there been no invasion, there never would have been al Qaeda in Iraq. Maybe. As it is, thousands of jihadists are dead, al Qaeda has been defeated on its self-declared “central battlefield,” and the movement is largely discredited on the Arab street and even within Islamist circles.”

    Maybe? He’s got quite the cavalier attitude about this: “As it is, thousands of the Jihadist fathers, brothers and sisters we created are dead.” Moral argument aside, creating new enemies and then defeating them doesn’t constitute winning a war. At the very best it puts you right back where you were when you started. Just because Al Qaeda calls Iraq their “central battlefield” for the benefit of their constituency doesn’t mean it’s a critical vulnerability for them.

    As for his “discredited” claim, I’m not well informed on the subject but would like to hear from others about it.

    [CR: If it was a war of choice for us, it was certainly a war of choice for al-Qa’ida because no one has produced any intelligence showing an operational al-Qa’ida capability in Iraq before mid-2003. There’s no “maybe” about it.

    They came into Iraq because they saw an opportunity. When it stops being profitable for them, they’ll leave. Question is, of course, where will they go?]

  9. Maxon 07 Aug 2008 at 8:39 pm 9

    “They came into Iraq because they saw an opportunity. When it stops being profitable for them, they’ll leave. Question is, of course, where will they go?”

    Afganistan & Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt,
    Somalia, the list maybe virtually endless.

    Or simply back into the woodwork,
    from where they came in the first place, to re-emgerge
    when and where they can inflict the most dammage,
    and provoke the US to continue to squander it’s resourches,
    impose further limits on individual freedoms, erode it’s stature,
    and self esteem, and as a conciquence
    of the cumulative costs, further and further diminish the quality
    of life for the same.

    They force the USA to expend billions of dollars, at every
    turn.

    M

    Interesting.

    http://tinyurl.com/5e4627

  10. Ferox Obscuruson 09 Aug 2008 at 10:02 am 10

    To touch on a point Chet made above in response to comment #2, even if it were possible to quantify all of the current costs in terms of fatalities and injuries, equipment, oil usage, and prestige, with such staggering accuracy that we could measure each of those things down to the penny, we still could not compute the cost of the war.

    War is always an aggressive Black Swan hunt (to borrow a phrase from Taleb); we remain blinded by uncertainty to the ultimate cost. Declaring victory is staggeringly premature, even if correct! History is littered with lessons of wars apparently won that turned out to be ghastly defeats (and sometimes, with the truth not becoming apparent until much later in history).

    I suspect anyone declaring victory (or defeat) at this point fails to understand warfare at all, not just in this particular case.

  11. Barryon 10 Aug 2008 at 11:23 am 11

    Vastly underestimating the cost, difficuty, and casualties of counter insurgency is what states do – every time.

  12. Barryon 10 Aug 2008 at 11:35 am 12

    Max , please provide evidence of actual financial benefits to the Neocons who made policy. I am willing to believe the Neocon inner circle have great influence, but I can’t help thinking there are easier (and safer) ways to profit from it than stating endless wars

  13. Barryon 10 Aug 2008 at 2:30 pm 13

    Mearshiemer’s theory Offensive Realism predicts that removing US forces would inevitably lead Germany to build up its military capabilities and alarm others. This would not be a mistake on anyones part, having no 911 to call it is realistic for states to defensively build up their capabilties. No state can be certain of anothers intentions and no state can afford to assume friendly relations will stay that way.

  14. Maxon 10 Aug 2008 at 6:43 pm 14

    “creating new enemies and then defeating them doesn’t constitute winning a war. At the very best it puts you right back where you were when you started.”

    Good observation Jay.

    Max

    http://tinyurl.com/5swcst
    http://tinyurl.com/5c45wc
    http://tinyurl.com/5fwrj4

  15. Maxon 12 Aug 2008 at 11:41 pm 15

    “I won’t remind you of the costs of this achievement.”

    http://wiredispatch.com/news/?id=293055

    http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/02/high_oil.html

    http://www.salon.com/news/excerpt/2008/05/29/spies_for_hire/

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/4354269.stm

    http://www.antiwar.com/updates/?articleid=13290

    http://www.amconmag.com/2002/2002_10_21/iraq.html

    http://tinyurl.com/593e7w

  16. Maxon 13 Aug 2008 at 10:01 am 16

    “I won’t remind you of the costs of this achievement.”

    Sorry, I forgot a couple of related links in the previous.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20080813/ts_csm/atoothless

    By Peter Grier Wed Aug 13, 4:00 AM ET

    “WASHINGTON – Russia’s blitz into the former Soviet republic of Georgia has exposed starkly the limits of US military power and geopolitical influence in the era following the invasion of Iraq.”

    http://tinyurl.com/5zqlbl

    “As many U.S. contractors as troops in Iraq”

    By Rick Maze – Staff writer
    Posted : Wednesday Aug 13, 2008 8:26:59 EDT

    “The presence of private security companies has caused some consternation in military circles because some private guards are earning up to $1,222 a day, compared to $160 to $190 earned in pay and benefits by a midgrade military member with similar skills.”

  17. Maxon 13 Aug 2008 at 5:48 pm 17

    Barryon 10 Aug 2008 at 11:35 am 12

    ” I am willing to believe the Neocon inner circle have great influence, but I can’t help thinking there are easier (and safer) ways to profit from it than stating endless wars”

    Really ?!
    Wow, I guess I must be paranoid.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080813/ap_on_el_pr/mccain_lobbyist

    McCain adviser got money from Georgia

    By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 1 minute ago

    WASHINGTON – John McCain’s chief foreign policy adviser and his business partner lobbied the senator or his staff on 49 occasions in a 3 1/2-year span while being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the government of the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

    Now this,

    http://www.nationalinterest.org/Article.aspx?id=19538

  18. Maxon 13 Aug 2008 at 5:59 pm 18

    “I won’t remind you of the costs of this achievement.”

    US casualties back up to one a day since Aug. 1st.
    M

    http://icasualties.org/oif/USbyYear.aspx

    http://tinyurl.com/6327nt
    Budget deficit soars to $102.8 billion in July

    http://tinyurl.com/65x2xp
    Drinking Problems Greater Among Returning Combat Veterans
    Mental health issues also more common after war, studies show

  19. Maxon 17 Aug 2008 at 9:05 am 19

    ” I can’t help thinking there are easier (and safer) ways to profit from it than stating endless wars”

    http://tinyurl.com/5he828

  20. Maxon 17 Aug 2008 at 9:16 am 20

    Link to Moyers & Bacevich.
    Imperative study.

    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/08152008/watch.html

    What is it about you Cols, Rich ?
    Why aren’t you guys in charge !?
    ;0)

    M

  21. Maxon 03 Sep 2008 at 8:49 am 21

    “please provide evidence of actual financial benefits to the Neocons who made policy.”

    http://tinyurl.com/6clxvo

    “Just after Bush took office, David Frum, then a White House speechwriter, was part of a policy meeting with the new president. They were discussing the energy policy of the new administration. Recall that in those days, gasoline cost less than a dollar a gallon. Frum had the idea that it would be a political victory to drive down the price. He suggested the Bush use the phrase “cheap energy” to describe his goal.”

    “Frum writes in his memoirs about what happened next. Bush “gave me a sharp, squinting look, as if he were trying to decide whether I was the very stupidest person he had heard from all day.” He might have added that profits in the oil business – which is the business that this government cares most about – were growing thinner.”