Iraq or Afghanistan: On the Horns of a False Dilemma

Joe Biden is getting plaudits from the Leftosphere for asking Ryan Crocker a really dumb question in yesterday’s hearings. Here’s the video:

The transcript:

BIDEN: Mr. Ambassador, is Al Qaeda a greater threat to US interests in Iraq, or in the Afghan-Pakistan border region?

CROCKER: Mr. Chairman, al Qaeda is a strategic threat to the United States wherever it is–

BIDEN: Where is most of it? If you could take it out, you had a choice, the Lord Almighty came down and sat in the middle of the table there, and said, ‘Mr. Ambassador, you can eliminate every al Qaeda source in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or every al Qaeda personnel in Iraq, which would you pick?’

CROCKER: Well, given the progress that has been made against al Qaeda in Iraq, the significant decrease in its capabilities, the fact that it is solidly on the defensive and not in a position as far–

BIDEN: Which would you pick?

CROCKER: I would therefore pick Al Qaeda in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area.

Spencer Ackerman leads the charge with a post entitled “Biden Punks Crocker: ‘I Would Therefore Pick Al Qaeda on The Afghanistan-Pakistan Border.'” DDay weighs in with “Joe Biden Just Obliterated Every Administration Argument About Iraq.”

Steve Benen is more thoughtful but buys into Biden’s premise:

Is al Qaeda a greater threat to U.S. interests in Iraq, or in the Afghan-Pakistan border region? In one of the more interesting exchanges of yesterday’s hearings on the Hill, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden asked Ambassador Ryan Crocker that question, got an honest response, and set the Bush administration’s talking points back quite a bit.

The only problem with all this is that, well, it isn’t true.

The United States has been, along with our NATO Allies, the United Nations, and the European Union, in Afghanistan for upwards of six years with no end in sight. We’ve conducted raids in Northern Waziristan and worked to get the Pakistani government to do more there as well. And, yes, we’re in Iraq.

Al Qaeda was the de facto military and police force in Afghanistan before we toppled the Taliban government. No longer. The invasion of Iraq exacerbated the presence of al Qaeda there, leading to both a rebranding of Zarqawi’s band as “al Qaeda in Mesopotamia” and a flood of foreign jihadists hoping to do what Osama bin Laden’s generation did against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

So, we’ve got, somewhere in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, the remaining leadership of what might be called “Old al Qaeda” and in Iraq a larger band of loosely affiliated Islamists that some have dubbed “Al Qaeda 2.0.”

Joe Biden wants to pick which of these to go after? The answer — which Crocker attempted to give before being forced into a ridiculous false dilemma — is obvious. Both. Forced to chose, Crocker chose abandoning the front that would at least be partly manned if we left. But, so long as we can sustain two fronts, it would be absurd to abandon one of them.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. jainphx says:

    And to think, this guy had to be elected to office. This guy has said so many stupid things it’s hard to keep up. His state must be populated by severely stupid people, but than again their Democraps.

  2. Hal says:

    James, I’m simply stunned.

    Amazing.

  3. G.A.Phillips says:

    I say:stupid liberal is as stupid liberal does.

    You say:that all depends on what the meaning of “stupid liberal is” means.

    I start to cry in befuddlement.

  4. Hal says:

    I say that you’re simply babbling incoherently and arguing against straw men of your own imagination.

    I think you can get prescription drugs to treat that, though.

  5. Alex Knapp says:

    Frankly, what makes me upset about this whole thing is that Biden missed a perfectly good opportunity that Al-Qaeda Iraq *only exists* because we *invaded Iraq*!!

  6. James Joyner says:

    Al-Qaeda Iraq *only exists* because we *invaded Iraq*!!

    That’s only nominally true. Zarqawi and company were there but hadn’t branded themselves as AQI/AQM before the invasion. But, absolutely, the invasion created a massive magnet for would-be jihadists.

  7. Michael says:

    Um, I don’t take Crocker as saying anything like that. To me it reads as him saying we’ve got a better chance of finishing off Al Qaeda in Iraq in the near future than we do of finishing off Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

    Image the question worded this way:
    You have 2 cars, one you owe $1,000 on, the other you owe $10,000. If God came down and offered to pay of one or the other, which would you choose? Obviously you’d have him pay off the $10,000 one, not because it’s the more important car, but because you’re capable of paying off the $1,000 on your own in the near future.

    So Crocker isn’t saying that AQ in Afghanistan is more of a threat, he’s saying that we can finish off AQ in Iraq on our own, so having God do it for us would be wasteful.

  8. Hal says:

    Zarqawi and company were there but hadn’t branded themselves as AQI/AQM before the invasion.

    Evidence? Further, before the invasion, they would have been Saddam’s problem, not ours.

    What you seem to be claiming is that there was a nascent terrorist force which was focused on America in Iraq that we would have needed to take care of anyway, so good thing we invaded Iraq and took out that issue before it became a real problem.

    Which doesn’t make any logical sense at all, considering that the focus of AQI has been to drive the US out of Iraq, seeing them as occupiers and interlopers. If we hadn’t invaded, it’s impossible to see how they would have been a problem for us.

    Unless you have different information, and not merely opinions and hunches to the contrary…

  9. Hal says:

    Michael, Crocker is saying no such thing. Biden clearly asked

    Where is most of it? If you could take it out, you had a choice,

    You have reformulated the question to be “which is the easiest to take out”.

    That is clearly and most certainly NOT what Crocker said.

  10. Alex Knapp says:

    That’s only nominally true. Zarqawi and company were there but hadn’t branded themselves as AQI/AQM before the invasion.

    That may be true, but their primary activities at the time were directed against the Kurds and the Iraqi government, not the United States (although they did engage in some activities against us).

  11. Michael says:

    Michael, Crocker is saying no such thing.

    You have reformulated the question to be “which is the easiest to take out”.

    That is clearly and most certainly NOT what Crocker said.

    Actually Biden asked which of the two Crocker would have God take out, not which of the two Crocker would prefer the US Army take out. We would get more benefit from God destroying AQ in Afghanistan than we would from him destroying AQ in Iraq. Given Crocker’s statement, I believe that is exactly what he is saying.

  12. James Joyner says:

    That may be true, but their primary activities at the time were directed against the Kurds and the Iraqi government, not the United States (although they did engage in some activities against us).

    and

    What you seem to be claiming is that there was a nascent terrorist force which was focused on America in Iraq that we would have needed to take care of anyway, so good thing we invaded Iraq and took out that issue before it became a real problem.

    I was just responding to the point that AQI didn’t exist prior to the invasion. It did, by a different name. But, as you both say, it was a relatively minor organization that posed minimal threat to the USA.

    Indeed, my original post says that,

    The invasion of Iraq exacerbated the presence of al Qaeda there, leading to both a rebranding of Zarqawi’s band as “al Qaeda in Mesopotamia” and a flood of foreign jihadists hoping to do what Osama bin Laden’s generation did against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

    It’s a problem largely of our own creation. (Although there were some who said this was the plan all along, calling it the Flypaper Strategy. I wasn’t among them.) But it’s still a problem to be dealt with.

  13. Hal says:

    Actually Biden asked which of the two Crocker would have God take out,

    Well, I think you’re starting to take literalism to the extreme.

    You’d make a fantastic lawyer.

  14. Hal says:

    Sorry, hit the post key without refreshing…

    Actually Biden asked which of the two Crocker would have God take out,

    Well, I think you’re starting to take literalism to the extreme. You’d make a fantastic lawyer.

    Let’s examine your formulation from the POV of the car.

    First, the cost of Afghanistan, in real terms, is something like 1/100th of the daily cost of Iraq. Further, even if I grant you that what Crocker is actually saying is that the army can take care of AQ in Iraq, the actual *cost* of doing so is far, far, FAR higher than the cost of doing so in Afghanistan. If the focus of this war is Al Qaeda and terrorism, then we are not only spending far more dealing with it in Iraq than we would be if we had focussed on Afghanistan, we actually made things WORSE by creating the very problem we’re now saying we’re causing.

    So, reformulated, it’s as if we went into a car lot, picked out a car, blew it up and took out the rest of the car lot in the process. Now we not only owe for the car, we owe for the 700 other cars that were on the lot at the same time. And given the choice to pay $1000 we owe on the single care in Afghanistan, we now owe not just $500 for the junker we blew up, but several million for the porsches and corvettes we took out in the process.

    And we didn’t even want the $500 car on the lot in the first place.

  15. Steve Plunk says:

    This is what happens when you televise hearings. It was not a true hearing designed to inform but a media event to polish images or tarnish images of the players involved. To be honest I consider our Senate to be one of the most shameful legislative bodies ever and each Senator a pompous ass. On both sides of the aisle.

  16. Hal says:

    But it’s still a problem to be dealt with.

    However, what’s the ordering of priorities? And would this problem continue to exist if we left or is it simply an issue because we continue to occupy the country?

    There are no goals here. We’re fighting problems in Iraq that we not only made for ourselves, from all observations the reason why they continue to exist is that we’re still in the country.

    The logic is incredibly tortured. We create the problem in the first place. We can’t leave until the problem is then solved. But our continued presence is the reason for the problem continuing.

    Brilliant.

    It really is simply war for war’s sake.

  17. Michael says:

    First, the cost of Afghanistan, in real terms, is something like 1/100th of the daily cost of Iraq.

    So you are making $100 monthly payments on the $1,000 loan, and only $10 monthly payments on the $10,000 loan, that doesn’t change the economic benefits of paying off the larger loan.

    Further, even if I grant you that what Crocker is actually saying is that the army can take care of AQ in Iraq, the actual *cost* of doing so is far, far, FAR higher than the cost of doing so in Afghanistan.

    I don’t see how, AQ in Iraq is hiding in militarily accessible areas among a population that is growing increasingly dissatisfied with them, where as AQ in Afghanistan is hiding in difficult terrain and largely in the territory of an ally, among a sympathetic population. Both pose difficulties, but I don’t see how AQ in Afghanistan would be cheaper in either blood or money, than AQ in Iraq.

    If the focus of this war is Al Qaeda and terrorism, then we are not only spending far more dealing with it in Iraq than we would be if we had focussed on Afghanistan, we actually made things WORSE by creating the very problem we’re now saying we’re causing.

    I’m not saying that we didn’t create AQ in Iraq, or that it we shouldn’t have focused solely on Afghanistan, I’m merely pointing out how Crocker’s statements reads to me.

    So, reformulated, it’s as if we went into a car lot, picked out a car, blew it up and took out the rest of the car lot in the process. Now we not only owe for the car, we owe for the 700 other cars that were on the lot at the same time. And given the choice to pay $1000 we owe on the single care in Afghanistan, we now owe not just $500 for the junker we blew up, but several million for the porsches and corvettes we took out in the process.

    And we didn’t even want the $500 car on the lot in the first place.

    That’s completely different from my analogy, and even Biden’s hypothetical. In mine, AQ in Afghanistan is the $10,000 car, and AQ in Iraq is the $1,000 one. Also, Biden didn’t offer to pay off the other $million in car damage, just the $1,000 one. So the choice is between fixing one large problem out of relatively few in Afghanistan, or fixing only one small problem out of many larger ones in Iraq.

  18. Michael says:

    We’re fighting problems in Iraq that we not only made for ourselves, from all observations the reason why they continue to exist is that we’re still in the country.

    While we may have allowed AQ to gain a foothold in Iraq, we didn’t create the sectarian problems, we just allowed them to come to the surface. I don’t see how either problem will magically disappear if we left. The problems themselves would still exist, they just wouldn’t be our problems anymore.

  19. Hal says:

    The problems themselves would still exist, they just wouldn’t be our problems anymore.

    Well, certainly the problems existed prior to the war – something, I might add, was clearly pointed out by the critics of the war as a ginormous issue that would cause huge problems. And I don’t think anyone believes that the problems will magically disappear if we left. If you can find anyone who is actually stating that, I would appreciate a link. Otherwise, I would point out that arguing against such a premise is arguing against a strawman.

    What is clear that is our presence as an occupying force is a huge factor in increasing the violence. Clearly, all the violence focussed against the occupation will evaporate when the occupation leaves. Further, the presence of an occupying force means that rather than being forced to solve their own problems, forces that should be weaker are actually artificially bolstered by us choosing sides in an internal political struggle. This causes secondary and tertiary problems in that now forces which would have probably worked themselves out in a much less violent fashion are now artificially prolonged. Further, these forces have to bolster themselves in response to the occupying forces, which means that the whole cycle and magnitude of violence is ratcheted up. Which, of course, means that we have to respond by ratcheting it up ourselves, which leads to…

    It’s a vicious cycle and quite frankly it’s going to suck no matter what you do. The only way to have it not suck is not to do the idiotic thing in the first place. But once you’ve stepped into it, you find that there’s approximately 30 meters of razor wire in every direction. You can’t stand where you are and you can’t move without immense pain. It sucks.

    It is hardly a proven premise that our leaving would “make things worse”. Clearly, most of the ethnic cleansing has already taken place on our watch. We have propped up a weak and completely corrupt government which has resulted in the formation of heavily armed militias by rival groups. Clearly, things are continuing to get worse despite the drop in violence, as the outbreak in Basra has shown. Our presence and continued support of a government which doesn’t have popular support isn’t going to make this any better and will only make things even more explosive.

    Leaving would have the effect of collapsing support for the current pack of corrupt politicians and we may not like who wins in the battle following. However, without the US firepower there to prop up the weak, it’s pretty clear that the battle would be quite swift and relatively bloodless – given how many Army and Police surrendered to Sadr in the Basra battle, I don’t think it’s foolish to predict an even larger number if they didn’t have our support.

    Iraq would reorganize and perhaps split into three new countries. Oh well. It’d suck, but that’s why people like me thought it would be a truly galactic sized strategic blunder to do this in the first place. It was poking a stick into a hornets nest we had no idea of how to deal with when they came out in anger.

    To stay is to have the hubris in believing that we can stop the forces at work and bend them into something which we believe will be more to our advantage. This clearly isn’t happening and is a fantasy of silly proportions. We have rolled the dice and they have come up snake eyes. All we can do is cut our losses. We are never going to “win” in any sense of the word – especially when “winning” isn’t even defined by the pro-war side. We won the Iraq war by taking out Saddam. We’re no longer in a war and there is no way to win it. Let’s simply realize that we “won” a long time ago and that our continued presence is simply making things much worse.

  20. Hal says:

    In mine, AQ in Afghanistan is the $10,000 car, and AQ in Iraq is the $1,000 one. Also, Biden didn’t offer to pay off the other $million in car damage, just the $1,000 one. So the choice is between fixing one large problem out of relatively few in Afghanistan, or fixing only one small problem out of many larger ones in Iraq.

    Again, that’s not the correct framing. We’re mixing up two very different costs in our analogies which makes it confusing. There’s the military “cost” and then there’s the monetary and resource “cost” – it’s the latter that I’ve been arguing about. You’re saying that it takes less military cost to take out AQ in Iraq. Certainly, we’ve been hearing that now for five years and somehow we still spend 25+billion a month on this low, low cost. As has been pointed out by Obama, it isn’t even a goal to reduce the “cost” of AQ in Iraq to zero. Rather, it is completely understood that this is an impossible goal. So, I really claim that your analogy to the cost of a loan that needs to be paid off is a completely erroneous and thoroughly confusing analogy which obscures the point.

    It may be a very good analogy of what Crocker is saying, but that only points to the fundamental deception and mis-framing of the problem that we face in Iraq. Which explains a lot as to why we have no clear goals and consequently no plan for how to reach those goals. All we’re doing is just running in place, hoping that we don’t fall down as things get far more precarious.

  21. Michael says:

    And I don’t think anyone believes that the problems will magically disappear if we left. If you can find anyone who is actually stating that, I would appreciate a link.

    Here: “from all observations the reason why they continue to exist is that we’re still in the country.

    However, without the US firepower there to prop up the weak, it’s pretty clear that the battle would be quite swift and relatively bloodless

    Relative to what?

    You’re saying that it takes less military cost to take out AQ in Iraq. Certainly, we’ve been hearing that now for five years and somehow we still spend 25+billion a month on this low, low cost.

    You’re conflating AQ in Iraq with sectarian and tribal violence, and you sir, are no John McCain. The contribution AQ in Iraq makes is, by all accounts I’ve seen, small in comparison to Iraq’s other problems. Sure they are the most dramatic, blowing up chlorine trucks makes for big headlines, but in terms of actual numbers killed or injured, they’re well behind.

  22. Hal says:

    Michael, again, you claimed that people were claiming that ALL problems would go away – the divisions, etc. I hoped it was clear from the context that I was talking about the problems we created.

    Is it that I’m not being clear enough, or do you really believe – especially after I just spent a long comment saying precisely the opposite – that I do believe that. If I’m not being clear enough, I apologize. However, if you truly believe that I simply think ponies will prance in large numbers when we leave Iraq then I can’t figure out how to dissuade you of that belief any more than I’ve already tried to do. But let’s leave aside the issue of me, personally. You were implying that it was actually far more than just me and that it was somehow a position of those who want to leave Iraq – collectively. So, can you find any other evidence of such?

    Relative to what?

    Well, it depends on which body count estimate you believe in. Even by conservative estimates – i.e. the estimates that even conservatives will grudgingly admit to – there’s been several hundred thousand civilians who’ve died as a direct result of this occupation. For a couple of years there, there were 10’s of bodies being discovered on a daily basis floating in the river with drill holes in their head and bodies in obvious signs of torture.

    Maybe you’ve forgotten how horrific the last couple of years have been.

    You’re conflating AQ in Iraq with sectarian and tribal violence, and you sir, are no John McCain.

    Okay, obviously I’ve misunderstood what you’re saying then. You seem to have been making the case that dealing with AQ in Iraq is easy to do, so if God came down and offered to solve either AQI or AQ in P, they would choose the later. Am I correct so far?

  23. Michael says:

    Michael, again, you claimed that people were claiming that ALL problems would go away – the divisions, etc. I hoped it was clear from the context that I was talking about the problems we created.

    Those problems we created being AQ in Iraq, sectarian violence, propping up a weak and unpopular government? Which exactly of the problems we created would go away when we leave?

    Is it that I’m not being clear enough, or do you really believe – especially after I just spent a long comment saying precisely the opposite – that I do believe that.

    I don’t think you believe that, you seem too intelligent to believe that, but I do think you like the feeling you get when you say that.

    You were implying that it was actually far more than just me and that it was somehow a position of those who want to leave Iraq – collectively. So, can you find any other evidence of such?

    Probably, do you think I couldn’t find evidence of people saying exactly what you said? You think a trip to dailykos.com wouldn’t produce a plethora of comments, diaries and an occasional article claiming much the same thing?

    Well, it depends on which body count estimate you believe in. Even by conservative estimates – i.e. the estimates that even conservatives will grudgingly admit to – there’s been several hundred thousand civilians who’ve died as a direct result of this occupation.

    But you think an all out war between sunnis and shia, kurds and arabs, Al Qaeda and everyone else, would be less bloody? Personally, I don’t see anything that would stop the violence, certainly no one side would be able to completely destroy the other in 5 years time, and no unifying force has yet shown itself.

    I’ve misunderstood what you’re saying then. You seem to have been making the case that dealing with AQ in Iraq is easy to do, so if God came down and offered to solve either AQI or AQ in P, they would choose the later. Am I correct so far?

    I’m making the case that if we were to get a free pass on either AQ in Afghanistan or AQ in Iraq, we would benefit more from removing AQ in Afghanistan. This is both because it will be easier to remove AQ in Iraq, and because removing AQ in Iraq won’t really change the situation in Iraq that much. So from a strictly cost/benefit ratio, having God destroy AQ in Afghanistan is the better option.

  24. Tlaloc says:

    Forced to chose, Crocker chose abandoning the front that would at least be partly manned if we left. But, so long as we can sustain two fronts, it would be absurd to abandon one of them.

    We no longer can sustain both fronts, that’s kind of the point.

    Beyond that we never should have tied up our military, which is designed to carry on two wars simultaneously, with two wars focused on AQ. It meant we have been essentially neutered in the rest of the world. We can project naval and air power but those have proven extremely incapable in modern warfare (see Lebanon, Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan, ad nauseum). It was idiotic to tie up our entire war machine, which we paid stupid money for, in one corner of the world, even if it is an important one.

  25. Hal says:

    Those problems we created being AQ in Iraq, sectarian violence, propping up a weak and unpopular government? Which exactly of the problems we created would go away when we leave?

    AQ in Iraq, certainly. Sectarian violence certainly was horrific during the last few years while we were there and now that they have done the bulk of the ethnic cleansing it’s not clear how much would continue if we left. But no, our leaving will not solve that problem. Propping up a weak and unpopular government? Well, isn’t it obvious that that problem would go away by the very question? The issue, is whether the resulting collapse of the government would create a “worse” situation where “worse” still is as yet undefined by the “forever war” camp.

    But you think an all out war between sunnis and shia, kurds and arabs, Al Qaeda and everyone else, would be less bloody

    Where’s the evidence this would occur? It seems quite probably the Kurds would simply leave Iraq. The Sunnis would get the short end of the stick in the country formed from the midsection of the country. The south would be completely calm and be well on it’s way to being Iran’s BFF. I don’t see where you think the “all out war” would come from. The all out war is currently happening because the forces driving them apart can’t operate. There is no unifying force.

    So from a strictly cost/benefit ratio, having God destroy AQ in Afghanistan is the better option.

    Okay, that seems to be a distinction without a difference and if an accurate representation of what Crocker said, it clearly wasn’t answering the question Biden asked. The whole scenario your claiming is the question was due to the frustration at Crocker’s unwillingness to answer the question put to him.

  26. Hal says:

    It was idiotic to tie up our entire war machine, which we paid stupid money for, in one corner of the world, even if it is an important one.

    However, James is claiming that despite daily reports of the stress on our armed forces, the drastic lowering of standards to the point of accepting criminals and those who haven’t completed high school as applicants, despite the daily drain of Captains and highly qualified, hard to replace personnel, we can still have not just our cake but 2 cakes and eat them both simultaneously.

    Kind of reminds me of Rumsfeld back in the day when he was claiming we could fight in Afghanistan, Iraq and any other front you wanted – just go ahead and make his day, darn it.

  27. Michael says:

    Sectarian violence certainly was horrific during the last few years while we were there and now that they have done the bulk of the ethnic cleansing it’s not clear how much would continue if we left.

    There are still people of the other ethnic group, there is still the anger and hatred, what makes you think there wouldn’t be more violence?

    Propping up a weak and unpopular government? Well, isn’t it obvious that that problem would go away by the very question?

    Not really, they’re already in power, they already have the guns, they won’t disappear just because the US leaves, they’ll fight to keep the power they have.

    It seems quite probably the Kurds would simply leave Iraq.

    Which would seem to drawn both Turkey and Iran into a war in northern Iraq to keep those Kurds from stirring up secessionist movements in their own populations, or in plain old defense of their own lands, as Turkey is already having to do.

    The Sunnis would get the short end of the stick in the country formed from the midsection of the country.

    I’m sure they’ll take that peacefully. And who gets Kirkuk? There’s plenty of blood to be shed over that question.

    The south would be completely calm and be well on it’s way to being Iran’s BFF.

    I would think the recent violence in Basra proves otherwise.

  28. Hal says:

    There are still people of the other ethnic group, there is still the anger and hatred, what makes you think there wouldn’t be more violence?

    Couple of things. First, there’s a lot of dead people which won’t be dying again – well, at least not until we get the zombie army recruits to fill the US recruit quota. Second, there’s been a ginormous emigration of the people – who fear they would be just the targets you’re talking about – straight out of the country. About 1.8 million of them. Out of a country of 27 million. Finally, there’s also been a huge displacement of people within the country itself, where they moved from where they were being killed to places where they won’t be. That’s another 2 million or so.

    So, there’s every reason to believe that – as horrific as it sounds – the vast bulk of the ethnic cleansing is behind us.

    they’ll fight to keep the power they have.

    As the battle in Basra has shown, they’re largely incompetent, riddled with militias, and to top it all off, a fairly large number of *both* the police and the army actually surrendered to Sadr’s forces rather than fight. It seems quite probable that in the face of zero support from the bully on the block, they would simply vanish like the summer fog in the morning light.

    Which would seem to drawn both Turkey and Iran into a war in northern Iraq to keep those Kurds from stirring up secessionist movements in their own populations, or in plain old defense of their own lands, as Turkey is already having to do.

    Another point that the anti-this-war-now people were desperately trying to make *before* the war began but were laughed at and marginalized in the national press. But, you’re absolutely right. However, it’s clear that they don’t want to stay in Iraq and want their own place. All you’re doing by trying to keep them in is creating even more tension because they’re simply going to sublimate that desire into anger at the current government – and let’s remember the Iraqi government allowing Turkey to invade and stomp around. Hardly something that endears the Kurds to a greater Iraq.

    It doesn’t seem obvious to me that a diplomatic “surge” – if you will – to deal with the very thorny issue of Kurdistan won’t have at least as much success at keeping the status quo than keeping 140K troops in Iraq. Right now, we’re simply ignoring the issue and trying to desperately keep something together which simply wants to fly apart.

    And who gets Kirkuk? There’s plenty of blood to be shed over that question.

    Perhaps, but why not put a shit load of effort into trying to negotiate that before the bloodshed. What we’re doing right now is simply deciding by fiat, and no one is happy with the decision.

    I would think the recent violence in Basra proves otherwise.

    Um, how exactly? This seems to be entirely premised on your first assumption that the weak government would somehow want to spread it’s rag tag forces even thinner in such a situation, and put them in a place where they’ve already had their asses handed to them, in addition to the high probability of a high desertion rate to the very forces they would be fighting.

  29. Tlaloc says:

    I think it’s inescapable that a withdrawl will lead to chaos. The conceit is the belief that our staying won’t. All we are doing is delaying the inevitable collapse that happens when you take such a shoddy state as Iraq and remove the only thing keeping it marginally together (the autocratic despotic regime at the center).

  30. Kathy says:

    The invasion of Iraq exacerbated the presence of al Qaeda there, leading to both a rebranding of Zarqawi’s band as “al Qaeda in Mesopotamia” and a flood of foreign jihadists hoping to do what Osama bin Laden’s generation did against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

    Actually, there aren’t that many foreign jihadists in Iraq, and Al Qaeda has never been more than a secondary source of violence in Iraq, but you’re right about one thing. The analogy to the Soviets in Afghanistan is spot on. That’s exactly what Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda (the 9/11 one; not the Iraq spin-off)are hoping they will be able to do — keep the U.S. in Iraq until we are bled dry and ruined economically, just as the Soviets were by the time they left Afghanistan.

    Looks like Bush and Cheney are giving OBL their complete cooperation.

  31. sam says:

    I start to cry in befuddlement.

    You must cry alot.

  32. andrew says:

    So the Left is still playing stupid and pretending that al-Qaeda only exists in one place and is not an international organization? That’s just embarassing.

  33. Tlaloc says:

    So the Left is still playing stupid and pretending that al-Qaeda only exists in one place and is not an international organization? That’s just embarassing.

    Wasn’t that the entire point of the “flypaper” strategy? That we’d only have to fight on one front, and that one on foreign shores…

    Or have we already reached the point with that one where the right denies ever having said it (ala WMD)?

  34. andrew says:

    “Wasn’t that the entire point of the “flypaper” strategy? That we’d only have to fight on one front, and that one on foreign shores…”

    What the hell are you talking about? The best way to fight an organization that is stretched throught the world is to open up multiple fronts. The media/Democrat postion is that that the best way to fight al-Qaeda is to put hundreds of thousands of troops into a landlocked country halfway around the globe with some of the worst terrain in the world where we don’t have many military bases to supply them. That makes no sense unless you believe that al-Qaeda only exists in that one spot, which is obviously silly.

  35. Tlaloc says:

    What the hell are you talking about? The best way to fight an organization that is stretched throught the world is to open up multiple fronts.

    Again- that wasn’t the idea behind the “flypaper strategy.” I just want to be clear on that.

    The media/Democrat postion is that that the best way to fight al-Qaeda is to put hundreds of thousands of troops into a landlocked country halfway around the globe with some of the worst terrain in the world where we don’t have many military bases to supply them.

    Of if, say, you wanted to bring the actual planners of 9/11 to justice instead of letting them live out their days unmolested.

    Personally I’d rather treat the whole thing as a criminal case rather than trying to shoe horn it into the war mold.