Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Iraq: The biggest foreign affairs flub in US history?

What to talk about today? How about.....the Iraq War! Everyone's favorite, poorly conceived, disastrous boondoggle.

This morning on NPR, I listened to an interview with Tom Ricks a military journalist/analyst for the Washington Post (formerly of the Wall Street Journal). MR Ricks is also the author of Fiasco a handbook to the astounding pooch-screwing that was the Iraq War from 2003-2005.

Mr. Rick's primary points were as follows:
  1. President Obama is being naively optimistic if he believes that we can peacefully transition our troops out of Iraq by 2011.
  2. Iraq, upon the left-stage exit of the United States Military, stands a high probability of descending into either a genocidal bloodbath or a dictatorial, mini-Saddam style regime. This probability increases with each increment that our duration is shortened (for instance, staying only 19 more months will dramatically increase the odds of chaos versus staying 24 months).
  3. The Iraq War is most likely the worst foreign policy disaster the United States has ever involved itself in.
With no clear ideological bent, Ricks fairly succinctly laid the blame for the current troubles mostly at the feet of the Bush administration, while simultaneously chastising the Democrats for failing to recognize the costs of exit once we had become fully entrenched there.

Ricks pointed out repeatedly that he had the impression from his travels in the United States, that the American people are simply sick of the war (particularly liberals) and that exit is worth any cost for the people in Iraq (up to, and including, Genocide there).

I think the interesting thing is to draw comparisons with Vietnam. For many people, Vietnam is the worst blunder the United States ever committed. But, it seems that view is largely based upon the number of U.S. deaths. From the standpoint of what we did to the "liberated" nation, we rarely make a qualitative comparison.

What I mean to say is that, in the end, Vietnam didn't really fare that badly. The North Vietnamese didn't rough the South up that badly (though many were indeed "re-educated" it was by no means a bloodbath) and by the early to mid 1980's, everything was getting back to a state of normalcy. By all accounts in Iraq though, the exit of US troops is going to end very, very badly. So, if you define the "disastrous-ness" of a US foreign policy adventure, Iraq seems clearly poised to become the hands-down winner in the long run as the worst fuck up every committed by the United States on foreign soil. I guess it remains to be seen, but the early indications aren't good.


  1. I was discussing why we started this war in the first place with my roommate last night-
    Was it Moral Obligation?
    Bad Intelligence?
    I understand that we are there, and we can't just pack up and leave, but- why does America insist on wearing the WORLD POLICE badge? are the 'Interests' worth the cost? The HUGE dollar figures? OUR BEST people? for EITHER Viet Nam or Iraq.. If we had never interfered, we wouldn't be a target, and now, our policies get us in deeper and deeper. I know things aren't that simple, of course- but I have a matinee movie date, and will pick your brain later..

    Many Libertarians believe Iran is building a WMD (Nuclear) and building it strategically, having learned from Israel's attack in 1981 on Iraqi facilities, because- America attacks rogue countries that are BUILDING WMD's (or reasonably suspected to be) but NOT rogue nations that already HAVE them (Korea).

    Coolio, bro

  2. One reason only, from the very start: OIL

  3. I have to agree with Dave here. I think there may have been a little bit of revenge thrown in too for good measure, but it's a 90% oil play.

    In my estimation, the primary reason to be the world cop is two or three-fold. 1. Nature abhors a vacuum. In the absence of a guiding influence, there would be even more chaos. The US is the best choice to act as that steadying hand (even if we have executed that strategy very poorly). I think the other reason to be world cop is pragmatism. In a vacuum, however steps in as the guiding hand has the the advantage when the doling out of resources starts.

    After WW2, we were the only option to be the world's cop and that has panned out very well for this country. Without our interference, we may well have ended up a resource rich but generally pesky country located on the far side of the earth from all of the action. As it ended up, we were the only ones left standing and we reaped all the spoils. Interfering has done the United States a lot of good in the past, so it only stands to reason that we would continue to do so.

  4. Interfering has become necessary to maintain our spoils. Wasn't always that way. It's a vicious cycle we're permanently stuck in. It's like a drug habit- fun at first, necessary later. We're addicted to Invasion.

  5. A 90% oil play? To maintain 20% (at most) of our oil imports? Iraq is 5% of our foriegn oil. Is it worth the lives and money we spend? We can't spend that money and human resources better? as in alternatives to that 20%? That's not 20% of our ttotal Oil resourses, mind you. Just the imported stuff. we can't just fight for the other 10% (non-oil interests)? We can't use the money spent preserving that chunk of mid east oil to better our own country and stay out of their bullshit? Why don't we send 100,000 to Canada (it's big) to preserve 60%? Well- they might resent us too- and we'd then have to invade, and place them on our rogue nation list..

    Hey- now there's an economic boon waiting to happen!

  6. Who ever said that warfare was proportional?