September 20, 2004

WE WON, MOVE ON (via Robert Schwartz):

Quick exit from Iraq is likely (ROBERT NOVAK, 9/20/04, Chicago Sun-Times)

Inside the Bush administration policymaking apparatus, there is strong feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year. This determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal stability. Rather, the officials are saying: Ready or not, here we go.

This prospective policy is based on Iraq's national elections in late January, but not predicated on ending the insurgency or reaching a national political settlement. Getting out of Iraq would end the neoconservative dream of building democracy in the Arab world. The United States would be content having saved the world from Saddam Hussein's quest for weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Novak starts sensibly but rapidly strays into error. We kept large numbers of troops in Iraq for far too long and should draw down after the elections--ours and theirs. But we should do so because it will aid the rise of democracy there, not because we're giving up. It will make the Iraqis depend on themselves instead of us and will remove a provocation that extremists have been able to exploit. We don't need boots on the ground to launch strikes when the government there asks us to.

Meanwhile, as those troops are redeployed to Syria and or Iran it will draw off some of the al-Zarqawi/al Qaeda crowd and give the new government of Iraq additional breathing room.

Massive U.S. offensive reported in Ramadi (UPI, 9/20/04)

A massive offensive designed to eliminate Iraqi insurgency in Ramadi has rocked the city, U.S. military officials said.

Nothing wrong with cleaning out some rat nests on the way out.
-Syria to redeploy troops (Claude Salhani, Sep. 20, 2004, UPI)
Syrian forces positioned in Lebanon since the 1975 Lebanese civil war will commence a major redeployment toward the Syrian-Lebanese border Tuesday, and Syrian and U.S. troops will partake in joint security operations along the Syrian-Iraqi border, official sources in Damascus told United Press International Monday.

"This is official," said Imad Mustapha, Syria's ambassador to Washington, speaking from Damascus. [...]

The Syrian diplomat told United Press International the military redeployment -- a long-standing demand by the United States -- came about as a result of "Syria having greater confidence in the situation."

The redeployment should help thaw relations between Syria and the United States. U.S.-Syrian relations hit an all-time low when President George W. Bush signed into law the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Act on Dec. 12, imposing economic sanctions on Syria for what the U.S. government deems to be support of terrorist organizations. Part of the Syria Accountability Act calls for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

Syria hears the footsteps...

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 20, 2004 10:15 PM

Novak's screed was truly demented. I assume that it is the love child of some Saudi slave in the State Depatment, there are more of them there, than there are Americans, and Bay Buchanan, note the last paragraphs:

"Abandonment of building democracy in Iraq would be a terrible blow to the neoconservative dream. . . In the Aug. 29 New York Times Magazine, columnist David Brooks wrote an article . . . that is regarded as a neo-con manifesto and not popular with other conservatives.* 'We need to strengthen nation states,' Brooks wrote, calling for 'a multilateral nation-building apparatus.'To chastened Bush officials, that sounds like an invitation to repeat Iraq instead of making sure it never happens again."

*This is code for the Buchananites.

Clearly Novak thinks that the Bush Administration has learned its lesson in Iraq and is ready to follow true Buchananite wisdom and to raise the banner of isolationism as the true conservative faith.

OJ's reading is different than mine, but it is more colored by his belief that we will be able to hang out the Mission Accomplished Banner next spring and move on.

I have three major caveats to that theory. First, How fast can we train up a force that is loyal to the Central Government and is at least moderately effective? Second, are we willing to go in and do the kind of clean up work on Falluja and similar spots that we have deferred until now? Third we need to maintain several foward bases in the desert areas one beteen Iran and the Shia area, one near the Syrian Border and one near the Saudi Border, until the respective regimes in those three hellholes have been brought to heel.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 21, 2004 1:17 AM


A distinct advantage of Shiite governance is that the press will lose interest in covering fighting waged by Shias against hold-out Sunni corners of rebellion. How many front-page NY Times stories have you seen lately about fighting against Muslim murderers in the southern Phillipine archipaelago? Whose helicopter gunships do you suppose are firing those laser-guided rockets?

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at September 21, 2004 4:23 AM

Robert, Fred, OJ

You three can sort out neo-this or that, but I don't see how "Democracy" is going flourish while bullets are flying, which seems to be what OJ is saying. Fred, what makes you think Shia will be able to control Sunni. The last 35 years would seem to indicate the opposite. I suggest the only hope for Shiite will be protection by the US, which is opposite of what is posited by the above article.

A better solution would be to concentrate on the division of oil revenues, which is the engine for all three groups (kurd, sunni, shiite) Complete political control by Shia, won't work for either Kurds or Sunni.

OJ says below that it is no lose for the US, since a three way split will work fine for us also. But if it is only going to be achieved by Civil War, then will not future administrations (even the next Bush Admin) be restrained politically from intervening in the Middle East.

So my grand solution (heh, heh, don't laugh too loud, please) is to stay and put pressure on the Shia to make the first priority be a rewrite of their constitution to weaken the Central Government as much as possible to thereby allow for possible peaceble dissolution of Iraq. The Sunni, and Kurds would then would not feel any immediate pressure to shoot first, as it were. Robert's idea of cleaning out Falluja now, doesn't offend me, but that may be easier said than done.

I have difficulty seeing how it helps the US have a large relatively powerful Shia Republic rather than 3 mini-states. So far the Shia have not been inclined to do our bidding, and perhaps they feel their brothers in Iran will be a more stable friend.

Posted by: h-man at September 21, 2004 5:19 AM

Joint exercise between Syria and US troops? Is that right? If so how can we be doing exercises with them now and potentially attacking them in 6 months (if OJ is correct?)

Posted by: AWW at September 21, 2004 8:12 AM


No need to attack if he folds as fast as Qaddafi did.

Posted by: oj at September 21, 2004 8:19 AM

One purpose of a 'joint' exercise is to scare your partner.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 21, 2004 2:12 PM