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Iain Swan

JF

Forgive my ignorance , but what possible benefit to Britain is there in sending our troops out their to provide targets for for suicide bombers and terrorists , none of whom where in Iraq before Sadam's demise ?
What threat to Britain was posed by a pre war Saddam led Iraq ?
Likewise, why has it fallen to British , Commomwealth and American troops to be sacrificed in attempting to defeat the Taliban when the Europeans hide in the North and refuse to engage ?

Tony Makara

Simon, I've always had a feeling that Edwards could come through and take the nomination as a compromise candidate. Often in these type of battles it is the more level-headed candidate who looks to have the greater leadership qualities while those around bicker and brawl and burn themselves out. I think I mentioned once before that Hillary can be too aggressive and that, like with Segolene Royal in France, might just be her downfall. Obama just doesn't look the part to me and seems naive at times.

JF

Iain Swan, I can't comment on the motivations behind British assistance in Iraq except to speculate that it was part of the solidarity package that Blair offered Bush in the wake of September 11. Perhaps British leaders realized that should the US fail, then Iraq will serve as a base of terror that will dwarf Afghanistan in the future; Iraq sits astride the Middle East and its massive oil deposits can finance an operation that would serve to destabilize Kuwait, Turkey, Saudia Arabia, Jordan, and Iran. Britain has taken on a prominent role in pacifying Iraq because Britain has always been exceptionally clear-eyed about the dangers confronting the West, and where France is willing to whore itself out to the highest bidder and sell its heritage, Britain has always been proud to defend its people and culture.

But that's just speculation.

As for Afghanistan, I am as frustrated with you that our supposed NATO allies have so completely failed to discharge their obligations to the alliance. Years of pacifism and leeching off of the United States defense umbrella means that the militaries of these NATO allies have become sclerotic, and are more giant jobs programs than fighting machines. They simply haven't spent enough on the modern equipment and training necessary to be interoperable with our [American and British] forces. So while I can't realistically expect them to contribute meaningfully to the front-line war effort, I can expect them to have done a better job with reconstruction. They failed, and it will be remembered when these allies call upon NATO/the US for military assistance in the future.

It's disappointing that it's come to the stage where Britain feels it is needlessly sacrificing its troops, and Blair must bear some responsibility for not adequately explaining the crux of the mission to the British people. But this is a job that must be seen to the end, with the British or without the British.

JF

Typo. "I am as frustrated with you" should read "I am as frustrated as you." Sorry for the confusion.

davod

TM:

You really need to look at Edwards with a view to what he did for a living before politics. He was an ambulance chaser. A pretty effective one, but an ambulance chaser, non the less.

As a Senator, he did nothing for his state and spent a good part of his only term as a senator initially campaiging to be president, then supporting John Kerry as the VP candidate.

He hides behind his wife's skirts whenever he feels he can raise money by doing so and has the temerity to suggest that he took a job (or was it a partnership) in a hedge fund so he could investigate the hedge fund industry's effect on poverty.

Edwards now before his audiences does exactly what he did before the jury in a courtroom. Lies and manipulates the truth.

Edwards says and acts the way he does now simply because he is given a pass by a lot of commentators who should know better.

Edwards is a charlaton to the presidential campaign as Gore is to the environment.

James

JF, putting aside the Brit-American rivalry for the moment I think you probably knew I was refering to the missions in their entirety - involving both British and Americans - when I described "failure." If we take our definition of success in Iraq as being a peaceful, democratic society with no pesky Islamists anywhere near the reigns of government, then yes, I think the entire enterprise has been a failure - one that has increased the threat we face from terrorism and killed an awful lot of Iraqis/Brits/Americans in the process. And I say this as someones who backed the invasion back in 2003.

Regarding Afghanistan, the same applies in our leaders ahistorical attempts to conjure a democracy out of sand. Furthermore we know for a fact that bin Laden and the bulk of al-Qeada insurgents moved out of the country in the days preceding and immediately after 9/11 - mostly to Pakistan. They would have had to have been pretty stupid to have hung around and waited for the USAF I'm sure you'll agree. As a result, our war effort there has been like a hammer with no anvil to crack.

Having said all that, I don't think we should just run out of these countries, but an urgent reappraisal of the failed policies of Britain and America does need to be conducted.

JF

James, agreed on all counts, except for your definition of victory. Iraq and Afghanistan are already democracies. Iraq requires stability, not complete peace (which won't be possible to achieve for a generation); it needs to reach the threshold whereby it can sustain itself without outside help. I believe it's getting there.

Afghanistan, however, is a completely different story. The government of Afghanistan doesn't yet control the entirety of its territory, and we are indeed fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda there--and winning. But we haven't reached the critical mass of forces that are necessary to completely crush them, mostly thanks to the spinelessness of our NATO allies. We gutted the Taliban spring offensive and they are on the back heel.

Finally, Pakistan is a problem on an entirely different level. If you are advocating invading Pakistan as a way to clean out al Qaeda, I would only warn that such an offensive would hopelessly complicate our efforts. Like Britain's relationship with Ireland, I think ultimately Afghanistan will have to drain its part of the swamp and simply do its best while Pakistan muddles through its problems on the other side.

Ultimately, though, I believe that at worst we are in neutral territory, at best slowly winning this fight. The Malayan Emergency lasted over a decade, but the counter-insurgency was successful there. Why should we believe we will be any less successful if given a similar amount of time in Iraq?

atheling

I can understand the rage a Briton must feel about being unable to defend his own land or loved ones, while his country is being swallowed up by the EUSSR and Islam.

I had a conversation with a British expat living in the US the other day. He now holds a dual citizenship. His comment that he feels "more powerful" now that he is an American is very telling. He can own a gun and use it for self defense. He can say what he thinks of Islam with impunity. He can belong to any political party without being barred from certain jobs, etc...

Who would have thought that it would come to this?

John Hayward, The Difference

In fairness to Obama, how about continuing the quote about his acting on actionable intelligence: "And Pakistan needs more than F-16s to combat extremism. As the Pakistani government increases investment in secular education to counter radical madrasas, my Administration will increase America’s commitment. We must help Pakistan invest in the provinces along the Afghan border, so that the extremists’ program of hate is met with one of hope. And we must not turn a blind eye to elections that are neither free nor fair – our goal is not simply an ally in Pakistan, it is a democratic ally."

It sounds to me like it's his opponents who are responsible for whipping up "the impression the United States would needlessly and publicly provoke a nuclear power." I still reckon Obama has a lot of potential when it comes to reconciling Islam and the West.

atheling

Obama Barak is a poseur. He is out of his depth as his naive statements on policy demonstrate. He is a perfect example of what TS Eliot referred to as the problem with liberalism:

"By destroying traditional social habits of the people, by dissolving their natural collective consciousness into individual constituents, by licensing the opinions of the most foolish, by substituting instruction for education, by encouraging cleverness rather than wisdom, the upstart rather than the qualified, by fostering a notion of "getting on" to which the alternative is a hopeless apathy, Liberalism can prepare the way for that which is its own negation: the artificial, mechanised or brutalised control which is a desperate remedy for its chaos.""

Steevo

"Why should we believe we will be any less successful if given a similar amount of time in Iraq?"

Only if you believe it wasn't a legitimate war to begin with JF ;-)


Back to Obama...

Some words from Victor Hanson:

"Many have jumped all over Sen. Obama's suggestion that as Commander-in-Chief he might well cross the border, asked or not, into Pakistan, with beefed-up ground troops, to destroy the purported al-Qaeda sanctuaries. Apart from the notion that it would be as hard to distinguish civilians in a Waziristan from terrorists as it is in Iraq, which the senator has written off, other questions arise. As a US Senator why not now introduce an October 11, 2002-type resolution, authorizing such an invasion? Or why hasn't he in the past?

"Obama has criticized Sen. Clinton for her approval of that Iraqi authorization, but the sort of action he is envisioning involves crossing into a nuclear Islamic country, one bullet away from an Islamic republic, and surely should be a question for Congressional approval.

"Others have pointed out that his criticism of Musharref is contrasted by his willingness to parley with far worse in North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran. And what were his reactions to our prior Predator strike on al Qaeda notables inside Pakistan-approval, criticism, or mere silence?"

JF

Steevo, no doubt. I keep forgetting about the militant pacifists. As for Obama, I had to do a double-take the first time I scanned his speech, because so much sounded straight from the original neocon arguments. But when I saw his advocacy for social engineering and swearing off use of nuclear weapons, I realized that he has none of the intellectual grounding necessary to execute a coherent foreign policy agenda, let alone one that might be friendly to the neocon vision.

Obama is sunk. This could be his Howard Dean scream moment.

tired and emotional

Let's hope so, extraordinary that the Democrats have managed to field a group of candidates and maybe candidates that scare and repel me more than Hilary... not something I really ever thought possible

bundyfan

Obama's just shooting his mouth of to make himself sound unique. But he's just a regular Democrat, sympathetic to America's enemies. Nobody buys his bluster. Any endorsement from his fellow Kleptocrats on this isssue is merely to aid the illusion that they really care about national security.

James

"Why should we believe we will be any less successful if given a similar amount of time in Iraq?"

Because of the zealotry of our opponents. After Saudi Arabia, Iraq is the second holiest land in Islam, and is smack bang at the heart of the region. This means a steady drip of both native insurgents and jihadists from other countries that don't have far to travel to confront the Great Satan. I reckon it could go on for decades, let alone ten years. As for Afghanistan, there's nothing other than government(s) propaganda to support the contention we're doing anything like winning there. Unbiased facts and the lessons of history say we aren't, and are wasting blood and money trying - as in Iraq - to prop up a meaningless government that will disintegrate the moment coalition props are withdrawen.

I think we're past the time where we can inflict meaningful pain on al-Qeada in either the Afghan or Iraqi theater. But like I said earlier, an orderly withdrawal is the least we owe the natives, our soldiers, and our people, not least because it will give us time to regroup, rethink, and go back to doing what our militaries' (yours on a greater scale I'm obliged to say) do best: blowing shit up - preferably with the added advantages of speed and surprise. Then we'll get some meaningful ones over bin Laden and the gang.

JF

James,

"This means a steady drip of both native insurgents and jihadists from other countries that don't have far to travel to confront the Great Satan."

The insurgency will end when the locals stop aid and abetting the terrorists. When the terrorists do nothing but kill the locals, it makes sense that we begin to see the signs of precisely that: the locals turning against the insurgents. Can you provide a counter-example, where an insurgency continues despite opposition from the natives?

"Unbiased facts and the lessons of history say we aren't"

Where are you getting your supposed "unbiased facts"? Al Jazeera? Or Al Jazeera's progenitor, the Biased British Corporation?

The lessons of history say we can win, as I pointed out with the Malay Emergency, and when even left-wing think tanks like the Brookings Institution admit that initial signs from the surge give hope, then it's safe to admit the reality that yes, we are winning.

"I think we're past the time where we can inflict meaningful pain on al-Qeada in either the Afghan or Iraqi theater."

So the thousands of terrorists we have killed in those two theaters and the "Awakening" movements in the Sunni Iraq provinces have meant nothing? According to whom--Al Qaeda?

"But like I said earlier, an orderly withdrawal is the least we owe the natives"

James, time to put your cards on the table. Just what do you believe will happen if we withdraw our troops before Iraq is stabilized? This should be good.

Sam Osborne

Did Obama say what kind of mount he would use when he led the charge into Pakistan? I think a camel with Obama wrapped in a white bed sheet would give him an inspiring Laurence of Arabia look.

Steevo

One of the most remarkable consequences of this Iraq war for me is to witness the development of a typical Euro mind and that of our own hard Left. Against our efforts from the very beginning... wanting us out, to this day... and somehow justifying to themselves it will be better (not the hellish genocide) for a significant portion of the innocents remaining in a country of 25 mil? What hatred and self-delusion seemingly in totality of inner contradiction.

Joanna

As to the Afghan question--if you actually read about what's going on, you notice that the circumstances of the Afghan war and the Iraqi war do make a major difference. In Afghanistan the U.S. helped native Afghans of one ethnicity win against foreign extremists and overbearing Pashtuns. That's their perspective. In Afghanistan the U.S./NATO presence is welcomed (even ABC polls admit it http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/PollVault/story?id=2702516) and legitimate (most Afhans want us there).

Afghanistan as a whole dislikes and distrusts the Taliban, and they do not see their new government as being in any way imposed by the U.S. (I'm not saying the Iraqis do, either. The majority appear to want a democracy. They just don't see it as a domestic plant. The Afghanis see it as somewhat homegrown, as it is). Their tactics and foreign ties make the Taliban suspect. These are enormous advantages. NATO hasn't used them as well as we could, but they are there, and ready to be exploited.

James

I question the whole premise of the locals turning against the insurgents. I can believe that a hell-of-a-lot of Iraqis hate their guts, and would do anything to stop the violence, but I also know rather a lot of them hate the Americans with a passion, and would do anything to help those who would harm them. Thousands of Iraqis have been killed by American troops, and irrespective of whether or not they were innocents or native insurgents, every single one has brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, cousins who will now hate America and the British for a fairly understandable reason.

Do I think the latter outweigh the former? I can't say - I suspect it probably differs depending on location, ethnicity, tribe or sect of those surveyed. Given the variabilities and difficulties of measuring public opinion in our own societies, I refuse to believe coalition polling is an accurate or reliable tool for measuring Iraqi attitudes.

My unbiased facts are the fact that al-Qeada and the Taliban have had numerous cross-border safe-havens from which to regroup, recruit and organise from day one of our Afghan campaign. We're stuck fighting within borders that our enemies ignore with impunity; how is this a recipe for success? What do you suggest our mission should be in Afghanistan? Prop up Karzai's government (which will fail) or fight al-Qeada and the Taliban? The current mix of both with the present number of coalition troops involved doesn't look like a good bet.

I don't think the Malayan Emergency is comparable with situations in Iraq or Afghanistan. It involved a British effort supported by a substantial number of Malay nationalists - many of whom had fought with Britain against the Japanese during the war - who had been promised independence by Britain in any event, against a communist movement comprising mainly the ethnic Chinese minority, with the potential for subordination to Moscow and or Beijing. I could just as easily refer you to the Algerian example of what happens when a Western government tries to prop up an unrepresentive client in a hostile environment.

The "thousands of dead terrorists". What proportion of these thousands were civilians, and how does it compare to the unknown total of al-Qeada jihadists? Al-Qaeda is a transnational insurgent body, probably with many more soldiers today than it had on 9/11 - see Michael Scheuer's analysis of this phenomenon. The Sunni awakening is promising I'll grant you, but we'll have to see what time yeilds for this venture.

What would happen if we withdrew our troops before Iraq is stable? Civil war. What do I think will happen if we don't withdraw our troops and "go long"? More troop casualties, followed by withdrawal, and then civil war. We either accept the partition of the country, or a Sunni or a Shia dictator. Which would you pick?

Thats enough for today...


Steevo

"What would happen if we withdrew our troops before Iraq is stable? Civil war. What do I think will happen if we don't withdraw our troops and "go long"? More troop casualties, followed by withdrawal, and then civil war."

Its an ongoing history in the making and you won't let go a dream of self-justification.

I don't question the whole premise of locals turning against the insurgents. Because I read the facts on the ground what has been, what currently is, and growing substantial movement toward the future. I go to the sources to know the evidence... so now, I don't question (as to doubt the sincerity of conviction and judgment, James) an increasing majority of their citizens' knowledge, needs and wants.

That "hatred" that you wanna focus on James... prove your point for current and future Iraq! Al-Qaeda hate us; foreign fanatics hate us; rogue criminal and fast-buck Sunni hate us; Sadre and his (increasingly fractured and decimated) militia hate us; Leftist anti-Americans in freedom hate us.

"Thousands of Iraqis have been killed by American troops, and irrespective of whether or not they were innocents or native insurgents, every single one has brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, cousins who will now hate America and the British for a fairly understandable reason."

Yeah... your deliberate, arrogant, American baby killers James. In the fog of war innocents will die. That reality James has not been intentional contrary to what you would like believed and to justify your final solution to this 'disaster created by America's George Bush'. Just don't ever walk some of the current and in the minority 'non-liberated' provinces in Iraq and try to convince the majority of locals. You know, that we should leave. They'll tell you either your insane or a mouthpiece for the enemy.

"I refuse to believe coalition polling is an accurate or reliable tool for measuring Iraqi attitudes."

Then you're dead wrong. These are from what nearly every legitimate source on the ground confirm. Yeah... your unjustified invasion force and killer of innocents cannot be trusted. You know the truth!

Your an ignorant man James. A bitter, resentful man on the opposite side of this world. In utter denial of factual and moral reality. George W Bush is your Hitler.

JF

James,

While there is a nugget of truth in what you say, I fear you have joined the dark side and refuse to acknowledge any positive developments that have occurred since the start of the year. It's fisking time.

"I question the whole premise of the locals turning against the insurgents."

This is happening. It's not a premise in an argument, it is a fact. Accept it and appreciate it. The reason why this is happening is because Al Qaeda and the insurgents have one purpose: death and chaos. They kill for the sake of killing. Deaths at the hands of the Americans, conversely, are for the sake of reducing death and chaos and creating a stable society. People see this, which is why former insurgents are turning into allies and the Awakening movements are spreading.

"I refuse to believe coalition polling is an accurate or reliable tool for measuring Iraqi attitudes."

Where people like you rely on polling, people like me rely on actual, factual developments on the ground. Honestly, I'm not interested in the polls whatsoever. Talk is cheap. The actions on the ground speak much louder. And the actions on the ground indicate the local population turning against Al Qaeda and the insurgents.

"My unbiased facts are the fact that al-Qeada and the Taliban have had numerous cross-border safe-havens from which to regroup, recruit and organise from day one of our Afghan campaign. We're stuck fighting within borders that our enemies ignore with impunity; how is this a recipe for success? What do you suggest our mission should be in Afghanistan? Prop up Karzai's government (which will fail) or fight al-Qeada and the Taliban? The current mix of both with the present number of coalition troops involved doesn't look like a good bet."

True, Al Qaeda and the Taliban have safe havens in Pakistan, and this surely doesn't help the cause. But that didn't stop Turkey from crushing the PKK, and if given time, it won't stop us from crushing the Taliban and Al Qaeda, either.

And supporting Karzai's government is not mutually exclusive with fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda. What makes you think this is so? We support Karzai and train up the Afghan National Army (a herculean task which involves dragging the culture into the 21st century) with the goal of having Afghanistan sustain itself in the fight against terror. It will take time, and apparently you are not a patient man. But it is working and will continue to work.

"I don't think the Malayan Emergency is comparable with situations in Iraq or Afghanistan. It involved a British effort supported by a substantial number of Malay nationalists - many of whom had fought with Britain against the Japanese during the war - who had been promised independence by Britain in any event, against a communist movement comprising mainly the ethnic Chinese minority, with the potential for subordination to Moscow and or Beijing. I could just as easily refer you to the Algerian example of what happens when a Western government tries to prop up an unrepresentive client in a hostile environment."

Actually, the Malayan Emergency is perfect. I'm not sure why you dismiss it so easily.

ME: Britain -> Iraq/Afghanistan: Americans
Malay Nationalists -> Shiites, Kurds, Awakening
Promise of Independence from Britain -> Promise of Independence from Iran, Saudia Arabia, and Turkey
Communist Movement -> Al Qaeda, Insurgents
Chinese Minority -> Sunni Minority
Moscow and Beijing -> Tehran and Riyadh

There is nothing unrepresentative about the Iraqi government in Baghdad unless you believe that the Ba'ath Party should be back in power. You don't believe that, do you, James?

"The "thousands of dead terrorists". What proportion of these thousands were civilians, and how does it compare to the unknown total of al-Qeada jihadists?"

This is unknowable and irrelevant (the question doesn't benefit your argument). We are killing terrorists and will continue to kill them until the job is done. And where we don't kill them, the rapidly improving Iraqi Army will kill them.

"The Sunni awakening is promising I'll grant you, but we'll have to see what time yeilds[sic] for this venture."

Exactly, James. So why so dismissive in your first paragraph?

"What would happen if we withdrew our troops before Iraq is stable? Civil war. What do I think will happen if we don't withdraw our troops and "go long"? More troop casualties, followed by withdrawal, and then civil war. We either accept the partition of the country, or a Sunni or a Shia dictator. Which would you pick?"

Civil war or bust? Sounds like you want it to happen. Going long indicates a long-term commitment to preventing civil war--a commitment, I must remind you, that has prevented it despite the atrocities endured by both sides over the last 4+ years. So the benefit of the doubt must go to us, James, because we have the track record.

Personally, I have been for partition since the beginning. Iraq is an artificial country created by the British, so there is no reason why it should not be divided into its constituent ethnic blocs, the dicey problem of Baghdad notwithstanding. That said, if Iraqis have the willpower to hold the country together, who are we to fight against that? The outlook finally seems to be going our way in this regard, and you have lost the will to see it through.

You keep forgetting that Iraq is a democracy, now. I don't need to choose a dictator, because it's not necessary. Iraqis will choose their prime minister.

James, consider another viewpoint: after we leave and genocide ensues, every one of our enemies in the world will know that we will only fight for 4 years and then give up; we will finally become OBL's paper tiger. And every potential ally will know that we don't have what it takes to see things through, and will never risk an alliance with us.

Your vision of peace through surrender has been tried before, and it's never worked. Let's give war a chance.

Steevo

Just one more on the ground report. One more glimps of reality...

Mike Sears will be there throughout the summer reporting the activities of our Marines Military and Police Transition Teams (MTT) and (PTT), tasked with the responsibility of directly helping to build the Iraqi military and police forces.

"The situation has turned now to one of capacity, so many young Iraqi men are volunteering for the Police and Army forces it is now a problem of how to train them all and how quickly they can be integrated into the forces, a sure sign of improvements and success here.

"The war is taking many turns now and it is not all trigger pulling that will be the end state of our engagement here, stabilization and rebuilding will be the measure at which we will depart I think.

"There are dedicated teams such as the Provisional Reconstruction Team (PRT) joined with the Marines of the MTT and PTT that in my opinion will be the driving force for the war to come to some kind of closure. But make no mistake we are far from finished tracking down and killing Al Qaeda, and missions go on and people die daily. But we are also working on the future stabilization and security for the people of Iraq, and progress is being made out here in the western province."

James

Iraq is a democracy much like Afghanistan is a democracy. When we withdraw, they will cease to be democracies, and our current allies will likely be killed, exiled, or switch sides (if the other side is feeling charitable.) I'm not willing to bet on whom will replace them, but of their fate I'm fairly certain.

Perhaps unrepresentative is the wrong word to use in reference to these governments: in many ways their all too representative of the tribal and sectarian differences of these lands, differences that make a mockery of our nation-building efforts. Their unrepresentative - or unrealistic - in that they require coalition life-support to function at all (and then at a fairly minimalist level.)

Truth be told I'm not sure what we should do now.

JF

James,

"Truth be told I'm not sure what we should do now."

Indeed, join the club. We're definitely walking the tightrope on this one, and the outcome will affect the West's strategy for a generation. For the sake of our long-term security and deterrent capabilities, let's hope we see this through to victory.

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