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Symposium: A Guerrilla War in Iraq? By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, August 04, 2003


Is a guerrilla war approaching in Iraq? If so, what political and military strategy must the U.S. pursue? How can American victory in Iraq best be achieved? To discuss these questions with Frontpage Symposium today, we are joined by James Woolsey, director of the CIA from 1993-95 and a former Navy undersecretary and arms-control negotiator; Jacob Heilbrunn, editoral writer and staff member of the Los Angeles Times, in Washington, DC; David Kaiser, the author of Politics and War: European Conflict from Phillip II to Hitler, Economic Diplomacy and the Origins of the Second World War and American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson, and the Origins of the Vietnam War (Harvard University Press, 2000); and Stan Goff, the author of Hideous Dream: A Soldier's Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti (Soft Skull Press, 2000) and of the upcoming book Full Spectrum Disorder (Soft Skull Press, 2003). He's a retired Special Forces officer and Vietnam veteran.

Interlocutor: Welcome to Frontpage Symposium gentlemen. Let me begin with a few questions and each of you touch on what you think is most important:

Is there a coming guerrilla war in Iraq? If there is, who should fight it? What are the best tactics the Americans can employ to achieve victory? What is victory? How do the deaths of Saddam’s sons figure in all of this?

Heilbrunn: If the Bush administration loses its nerve and if freedom-loving Iraqis fail to establish a half-way viable government, then, and only then, will a full-scale guerrilla war erupt. So far, it hasn't. Certainly Saddam's loyalists have been probing for weaknesses, and found them. But these desperadoes haven't reached the level of coordinated ambush attacks that create large casualties. The military seems to be readjusting its tactics and going on the offensive. Right on. But as important as military considerations are political ones: the administration needs to show that it isn't planning a retreat before the 2004 election by disarming the malcontents and coming up an economic reconstruction plan that's more than window-dressing. Declaring victory, then watching mutely as Iraq falls back into the hands of the bad guys? Don't go wobbly, Mr. President.

Kaiser: There is a guerrilla war in Iraq--an organized opposition, well-armed, which is undertaking regular military actions designed to make it impossible for the occupation force to remain in Iraq.  At the moment it seems to have relatively little difficulty living among the population.

What we have now, as in Vietnam, is a struggle of the occupation forces and their Iraqi allies against the opposition to organize and control the population.  Neither side seems as well organized, at this point, as the VC and the ARVN were in 1965, but anti-US forces seem to have the edge over pro-US Iraqis at the moment.  I do not think our forces are large enough to control a country the size of California with more than twenty million people; indeed, I wonder how many Iraqis have yet to see an occupation soldier.

To win, we have to establish order and help create police and intelligence networks that can control more and more of the people and take away the base of the opposition.  The opposition, on the other hand, like the VC, will be trying to infiltrate the institutions we create, and to terrorize Iraqis who cooperate with us (this is already happening.)  Our political asset is Iraqi fear and hatred of the old regime; their asset is hatred of American occupation. The role of the Shi'ite majority, obviously, will be crucial, and some of its leaders are anti-American. In the end, superior organization and mobilization will win.

Goff: The term "guerrilla war" is not precise enough to apply to the situation in Iraq.  Vo Nguyen Giap, the architect of the Vietnamese victories over the French and Americans, said "If insurrection is an art, its main content is to know how to give the struggle the form appropriate to the situation."  Emphasis has to be placed on the word political.  I discuss this at length in my upcoming book, "Full Spectrum Disorder."

The United States military's sheer size and its overwhelming technological superiority are paradoxically both its strength and its most profound weakness.  That weakness is exacerbated by the recurrent failure of the US political establishment to appreciate the political content of war.  The last President to have really understood this aspect of war was FDR, and he used that understanding to position the US to fill in the voids left by the collapse of European colonialism - which marked the beginning of US global hegemony. 

After the Korean War, the US expanded the standing military to an unprecedented size and has maintained and expanded that huge and hugely expensive armed force ever since.  With this size comes a level of complexity and coordination that bureaucratizes the military, and even in the face of doctrine developed to the contrary, encourages a military culture that stifles initiative and mistrusts  lower and mid-level leadership.  On the battlefield this translates into a dramatic reduction of tactical agility, which in turn translates into compensation through technological prowess.  Combine that with a dash of plain old fashioned ethnocentric hubris, and the belief develops that size and technological superiority are all that matters.  They still do not understand the central role of politics in war. 

The political goal of any insurgency in Iraq at this point is to prevent the consolidation of the occupation and to disrupt any attempt to get the oil flowing again.  Given the thinness of the occupation force, its overwhelming cultural ignorance, and the sheer geographic challenge of the country, this should prove to be a viable goal.  The central task of this kind of low-intensity war is disruption, which is always the easiest thing for an insurgency to accomplish.  This also simplifies the political task of an insurgency, and that is to delegitimize the occupation in the US to undercut popular support for the war.  The US must move to a war of positions, as the resistance can rely on mobility.  This means that a skilfully led resistance can consistently retain the tactical initiative, which continually erases the mystique of invincibility of the Americans and energizes new resistance.  At qualitatively different stages, depending on how deeply the US neo-con political establishment want to pursue their delusional course, the character of the resistance will change.  This is when the efficacy of the resistance will rise or fall depending on its political coherence.  The Vietnamese had a high degree of political coherence.  The Palestinians do not, yet.

I can't respond to 'who should fight' a guerrilla resistance because I don't believe it should be fought.  The occupation of Iraq needs to end, and the sooner the better.  The deaths of Saddam's sons have buoyed the cheerleaders for the occupation, but this represents yet another assault on the credibility of the administration, who have been spinning the resistance as Baathist artifacts - scrupulously avoiding the obvious, that the Iraqis, almost all the Iraqis, want the US out.  When the insurgency continues, as it will, and this symbolic victory fails to produce the step-change in the strategic situation, this story, like all the other fictions that have bathed this whole war, will come apart like a two-dollar shirt.

Woolsey: A little patience, please.  Over 80% of the armed attacks are in the Sunni triangle and doubtless heavily involve the group that knows it has a lot to lose in a new, democratic Iraq -- the largely Tikriti officers of the Republican Guard, members of the Special Security Organization, etc.  Many of these believe they have little to lose.  Those guilty of crimes may have nothing to lose.  Many of the others probably believe rightly that their acceptance in a new Iraq that is 60% Shi'ite, 20% Kurdish, and many of the rest non-Tikriti Sunnis will be difficult at best.

The Kurdish areas are quiet (except where some Saddam loyalists  have fled, as with Qusay and Uday to Mosul), and the Shi'ite areas largely are, with the exception of young Sadr, in the palm of Tehran's mullahs, and his agitations.  True, we haven't done a lot for democracy over the years in the Middle East, except by supporting Israel and Turkey, but this President seems to mean it when he says we're headed that way with the Palestinians, Iraq, and Iran.  It took decades, two hot world wars, and one cold one to turn Europe away from empires, fascism, nazism, and communism -- the Middle East may be difficult too.  Nobody promised us a rose garden.

Goff: The official story since the resistance started is that there is no resistance.  There are merely "Saddam loyalists."  For a while, Rumsfeld actually tried to claim the attacks were coming from people released from prison.  To admit there is a resistance with a popular base is to give the lie to the last doddering pretext for the invasion, that it was meant to liberate someone.  The "liberated" don't want us there.

Now CENTCOM and others have been buoyed by the great military victory against two men and a boy, using a reinforced rifle company and about a million dollars worth of TOW missiles, which by the way served to enrage the entire local population.  The fact is, as Robert Fisk pointed out, once Saddam is out of the way - if that comes to pass - the resistance will become more generalized, not less.  Many anti-Baathist Iraqis are laying back right now because they don't want to run the Americans and Brits out if it means the Baathists could re-emerge with enough military power to re-consolidate themselves politically.

The American political and military establishments, meanwhile, continue to suffer from the self-delusion that the capture or assassination of one man will magically transform Iraqi society.  What they fail to remember is that thousands of Iraqis have been killed and maimed by Americans, and the Americans were behind the lethal sanctions that were wielded against the whole society for over a decade.  They have also failed to grasp the full implications of their polarization of other Muslim and Arab states, the destabilization of Pakistan, and the crisis that will emerge are sure as sunrise around Kurdistan and Turkey.  And the responses to the attacks in Iraq have been heavy-handed and largely ineffective at anything except accelerating recruitment for the resistance.

The only victories here will be Pyrrhic ones.

Kaiser: This is shaping up as a most interesting discussion, and I hope it will be widely read.  I will take issue with Prof. Heilbrunn on a couple of points.  It is now becoming clear, based on a captured document or two, that the Iraqi leadership consciously abandoned large-scale resistance to American troops in favor of the kind of campaign that is going on now.  I do not think that they will ever seek to move to large-scale ambushes, much less large scale combat--although they probably will try to figure out some way to detonate a few hundred tons of explosives within range of a substantial body of American troops.  I suspect they will simply continue, and try to increase, their assaults on individual American soldiers and planting of mines.  This is the consequence of our technological military revolution which Stan Goff discusses: fewer and fewer people will be dumb enough to take us on head to head.  As in Vietnam, it's discouraging that our forces aren't getting more intelligence about mines. (They may be getting some, but we're setting off at least one a day.)  

Secondly, our problem is not simply identifying a few malcontents and arresting them, nor is it economic reconstruction, which we are in no position to even begin. Our problem is establishing something we take totally for granted: a society in which people obey basic rules, from a mixture of coercion and consensus.  We certainly aren't in as bad shape as the British in the American colonies in 1776: they faced a well-organized society whose institutions were in hostile hands.  But on the other hand, Iraq is a lot less organized than South Vietnam was even at its worst moment. Our task is immense.

How big is the military problem? In my book on the early stages of the Vietnam War I used our own data on the number of VC attacks to chart the course of the insurgency.  That information, today, is critical to understanding what we face, and the Pentagon is withholding it; attacks are not reported if they don't kill or wound American soldiers.  A recent report referred to a dozen attacks a day.  We all need to know exactly how many attacks there are, and whether they are increasing or decreasing.  This is, I believe, an indirect indicator of the size and organization of the manpower on which the Iraqis have to draw.

Stan Goff made an excellent point about political cohesion. I think most successful insurgencies have been Marxist-Leninist for one simple reason: Communists understand that revolution isn't just about killing people, it requires a lot of thought, boring organizational work, and, above all, political control of military action.  This is, I agree, what the Palestinians have lacked.  I don't know whether the Iraqi resistance has those things, but so far, they are using very targeted violence, not indiscriminate violence, and they have not undertaken anything beyond their means.

Heilbrunn: David Kaiser is an excellent historian which is why I'm most disappointed that he would liken Iraq to Vietnam. The two have little in common. Vietnam was closer to a civil war with outside powers supporting the Viet Cong. The U.S. faces a tenacious local opposition in Iraq that most of the population does not support. But follow the prescriptions of Goff and the U.S. certainly will end up with another Vietnam-like defeat. I can think of nothing more feckless than to encourage the U.S. to sell-out freedom in Iraq by decamping at the first spot of trouble. This is the sort of cynicism that gives realism a bad name. The idea that the deaths of Uday and Qusay are a matter of no importance flies in the face of numerous press reports about Iraqi joy at their demise. Sure, Iraqis want the U.S. to leave. Who doesn't? But having invaded Iraq on what now appears to be rather flimsy evidence, the U.S. has a moral obligation not to permit Saddam's mini-me's to come to power and to rebuild the country economically.

Kaiser: In comparing Iraq to Vietnam--or to Ireland in the early 1920s, or to the West Bank--I am simply suggesting that certain questions are relevant to all these situations, even though answers may vary. Jacob Heilbrunn confidently believes that very few Iraqis support the opposition.  I am not sure.  The newly free Iraqi press (www.memri.org prints summaries) doesn't show much pro-occupation sentiment.  But in any case, wars like this aren't decided by public opinion polls. The issue is who is going to be able to CONTROL the Iraqi population--a police force trained by the US, or a number of militias who do, indeed, agree that they want the occupation to end?  I do think we need a fall-back position--to turn the situation over to the UN--in the event that our position does, in fact, become too difficult.  But it will take a while to find out where we are.

Goff: There is a disingenuous refusal afoot here to question the premises of the invasion, and with it a tacit acceptance that its purpose was to somehow transplant an American-style constitutional republic in Iraq.  That not only has never been the intent, it is not possible.  The trajectory of economic, political, and cultural development in Iraq is not that of the US.  What is going on, and the intent of the invasion, is colonial occupation.  The goal is to establish a Quisling government that bends to the US geopolitical and economic diktat, allowing US control over swing production of exported energy among other things.  And while there are certainly dramatic differences between Vietnam and Iraq, there is one key similarity.  The main force underwriting the resistance and the popular support for it - which will grow - is the desire for national sovereignty and self determination.  And I never said the killing of Saddam's sons and grandson was irrelevant.  In fact, the elimination of senior Ba'athists may broaden the resistance.  Many anti-Ba'ath sectors, from a purely pragmatic point of view, would like to see the Americans finish the job of decapitating the Ba'ath Party before they begin the task of expelling the occupiers.

Heilbrunn: Who says there's no resistance? This administration story-line was always as feeble as Saddam's defense of Baghdad, and has been abandoned. But the notion, floated again by Prof. Kaiser, that Saddam deliberately withdrew without a fight to save his resources is ingenious, but too clever by half. Saddam isn't that cunning. I think he's on the run, may never be captured, but the resistance has yet to demonstrate that it's capable of launching more than pin-prick attacks. It's a mistake to transmogrify the lethal, but small-scale, attacks into a massive resistance cheered on by almost all Iraqis. 

Once again: press reports suggest that the Iraqis are not thrilled by the presence of Americans, but they're more peeved by the guerrilla attacks that are injuring Iraqis as well as our troops. Kaiser's comments on the difficulty of reconstructing Iraq are well-taken, but given it's wealth and educated middle-class, I remain skeptical that the task is going to be that tough if the administration stops substituting rosy scenarios for reality.

Woolsey: Before Vietnam, in the early 60's, the Kennedy Administration was spending 8% of GDP on Defense; in the Truman Administration in the late 40's we were spending around 2% of GDP on the Marshall Plan.  That would be the equivalent, respectively, of $800 billion and $200 billion in today's $10 trillion American economy.  We need to realize that the outcome of this war will drive the direction of the Middle East for the foreseeable future and go get the job done.  The most important mistake that was made was insufficient preparation with the Iraqi Resistance -- had the State Department and CIA not resisted this (and the former failed to spend, for years, the nearly-$100 million that Congress appropriated five years ago for this purpose) we could have moved into Iraq with thousands of accompanying Iraqis committed to regime change and democratization.  Instead we have had to do the equivalent of moving into Apache country with almost no Apache scouts -- no matter how brave they are, or even if they have a bit of Arabic, it's impossible for guys from Oklahoma, like me, to tell the Badr Brigade people or the Tikriti officers out of uniform from the rest of the population.  This is now in the process of getting set right, and it will be as long as the Defense Department stays in charge.

Kaiser: To repeat, a captured Iraqi document from early this year outlining the strategy that has been followed has been published.  Exactly who is behind the current attacks is, however, a very difficult (and important) question.

James Woolsey could be correct that enough money will push Iraq into modernization, but I'm not sure. While I agree with Jefferson that eventually the principles of the Declaration of Independence will prevail everywhere, the process is not a smooth one or an irreversible one, and we may not live to see it happen in the Middle East. I think we have to be prepared for that.   Nor am I convinced that Iraqis who have lived for decades outside Iraq can play the critical role. A recent Washington Post piece didn't say much for DOD planning.

Goff: No one has 'transmogrified' anything.  When attacks against Americans are successful, Iraqis are cheering, and this is the case in Shia areas as well as Sunni.  Soon enough, with the US again about to sell out the Kurds, we'll see it in Iraqi Kurdistan.  This is not a phenomenon that can be adequately described using only military (and only tactical, at that) terms and categories.  And the situation is not defined - no matter how hard we cling to the attempt to redefine it so - solely by whether or not Iraq will be 'reconstructed'. 

There is a political and an international dimension to this that is being discounted by doing so, and it will be ignored at the peril of this administration and by apologetic commentators.  The question of percentages of GDP constituted by the so-called defense budget is emblematic of this intentional and demagogic myopia.  During the Truman and the Kennedy administrations, there was a fundamentally different global economy, so these superficial comparisons are meaningless except as apologetics. 

The US was still locked into the Bretton Woods monetary-financial system, with a gold standard and fixed currency exchange rates, that would be later abandoned by the Nixon administration, inaugurating a system wherein the US can run up an unlimited international debt then print money at will, forcing other countries to finance, in effect, our outrageous current accounts deficit, and thereby pay for US military expansion.  Many people think the US population will buck at the US military debt, but the reality is, other nations are paying it, and they are working hard behind the scenes to undermine the US wherever they can without destroying their own economies for which the US dollar still constitutes their currency reserves.  So we can stop shooting from the hip with these meaningless numbers.

Woolsey: Clearly Mr. Goff is as badly stung by the notion that the American people have again and again demonstrated their capacity for sacrifice as he is by the notion that their armed forces are being greeted as liberators in much of Iraq. So far, other than Mr. Sadr's Iranian-mullah-backed shenanigans, things are going reasonably well in the Shi'ite areas, which is reasonable, given the oppression they have been subjected to in the past. It is these areas that will be crucial and, Mr. Sadr aside, we are making progress there.

Mr. Goff also seems to think it that for some reason the sacrifices of previous generations (being willing to spend 2% of GDP for the Marshall Plan annually in the late 40's, 8% of GDP for Defense in the early 60's, and for that matter, 37% of GDP for Defense in WWII) are to be discounted as examples of what the country is capable of.  But the sacrifices I cite were mde before the end of fixed rates - it was harder then to run up the debt based on current account deficit.  That made these generations' sacrifice all the greater. Mr. Goff is reasoning backwards:  he doesn't want to fight in this war that has been launched at us, so he wants to discredit historical examples of the American people's being willing to sacrifice by allocating much larger shares of their GDP to such national security purposes than we are doing today.  This leads him to reach into a kit bag of arguments and sling whatever he chances to grab -- even if it's an argument that proves the opposite of his point. Odd.

Heilbrunn: So the U.S. is beggaring the rest of the world, is it? More nonsense from Goff. Europe and Asia, for one, are desperately waiting for the U.S. economy to lift them out of the doldrums. No one is holding a gun to the heads of our allies and competitors to finance the U.S. deficit--for a variety of reasons, including the perceived stability of U.S. economy, they choose to invest here. Continued low interest rates may change that. I'd be fascinated to know who's "working behind the scenes" to destroy the U.S., but since it's a secret, I suppose Goff will be unable to share it.

Kaiser is right--maybe several weeks ago. Sure, DOD planning was bungled, or non-existent. But why can't we accept the fact that they may have started to adapt? Saddam is now on the run, weapons dumps being uncovered--the first steps to winning the war Bush prematurely declared won.

Goff: Saddam is not now nor was he ever the central issue except in the demonizing narratives in the run-up to war.  Surely the Saudi regime is at least as autocratic, and the Israelis have violated UN resolutions with near impunity.  The fact is, Iraq will become more dangerous in the absence of the Ba'athist leadership, because many who are waiting to expel the so-called coalition want that same coalition to rid them of their most formidable domestic opponent - this is the realpolitik and not the dumbed-down official narrative from the executive branch PR flaks that reads like a passion play. 

The Marshall Plan was inaugurated as a strategic bulwark against socialism, with the intent to reconstruct Japan and Germany as sub-imperial metropoles.  It was when their own economies - unencumbered by the US's ever more weighty war budget - began to cut into US profits that the Nixon administration abandoned Bretton Woods, and the US used series of strategic devaluations of the dollar to wipe out their debts to both of them and force them into greater dependency on the dollar as reserve currency, as well as into the arms of Wall Street's private financial institutions.  When the Asian Tigers began to show independence against the US diktat in the 90's it was the US Treasury Department under Robert Reich that opened up against them with hedge fund attacks on regional currencies which nearly blew back in Wall Street's face.  It is the US ability, based on dollar seigniorage, that allows it and it alone to maintain an overwhelming current accounts deficit with no repercussions to the dollar, and that is only possible because the rest of the world has been forced to loan the US money (via Treasury bills) which everyone knows the US will never pay back.  This situation is only possible because of US control over the sea lanes in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean.

This domination is not a gun to the heads of anyone.  It is structural.  It is also unsustainable, and this is what has led the US neocon clique to attempt a restructuring by dint of arms, seizing direct control over swing energy production.  That this rankles the Russians, the Chinese, most of the Arab-Muslim world, and many of the Europeans, not to mention the majority of the underdeveloped world that has been plunged further into misery by the dollar-Wall Street regime, is not secret at all.

As for the Iraqis, we are corresponding with a number of GIs in Iraq, and none of them believe any Iraqis want them there.

Heilbrunn: Robert Reich in charge of the Treasury Department?! You mean Robert Rubin, Mr. Goff. Let's keep your villains straight, shall we?

Interlocutor: Gentlemen, let us imagine that tonight President Bush calls you and seeks your counsel. He tells you there is a possibility that a guerrilla war may ensue in Iraq and he wants your advice on the next several steps he should take. He then asks what you think U.S. short-term and long-term objectives should be in Iraq and why. What do you advise the President?

Kaiser: Our objective, in my opinion, should be to establish a stable Iraq and to re-establish a consensus among the leading industrial nations and moderate Arab nations. To do that, we should turn responsibility for Iraq over to the United Nations and to a group of regional powers and permanent members of the security council, and continue to play a major, but not a directive, role. I agree with Governor Dean that a simple decision to withdraw would be disastrous.

Woolsey: The guerrilla war, largely in the Sunni triangle and largely against Ba'athists who weren't killed or captured in the very fast and successful dash to Baghdad, is going well.  The killing of Qusay and Uday, the capture of 175 suspected Saddam loyalists yesterday, are on the right vector.  The main thing is to keep doing this, continue to work closely with the Shi'ites to isolate Iranian agents such as Sadr, and build on the successes in the Kurdish and Shi'ite areas while taking down the rest of the Tikriti mafia.  Get Iraqis trained fast to take over guard duties and to work alongside our forces to root out Ba'athists and Iranian tools such as Badr Brigade members.  The State Department's and CIA's stalling for years about working with the Iraqi Resistance has left us behind on this, but it is Iraqi forces you need, not French and German peacekeepers.  Politely stiff-arm the UN -- give them no control or they'll just mess it up and delay everything the way they have in Kosovo.

Heilbrunn: Mr. President--The first word of advice is don't panic. The second is don't listen to the intellectuals. Contrary to all the fashionable gloom, the uprising, such as it is, in Iraq can be crushed by ferreting out Saddam (likely to occur in the next couple days), liquidating arms depots, and getting Iraqi oil flowing again.

Democracy, or the freedom for Iraqis to manage, or mismanage, their lives, will only arrive once they see that the U.S. has extirpated the Baathist threat--and is on the road to pulling out of Iraq militarily, while increasing civilian assistance. Will the U.S. keep a token force in Iraq for years? Absolutely. But nothing would astonish the Arab world than to see that the U.S. is not an empire-builder but empire-smasher of the mad dreams of Saddam and his ilk.

Goff: I would advise the President to do the following: fire Donald Rumsfeld and appoint retired General Wayne Downing Secretary of Defense.  Announce to the world that the US plans for the re-colonization of Iraq will be abandoned, and that the Pentagon has one week to submit a plan for a rapidly phased withdrawal. Simultaneously publish an executive order that all aid to Israel will be summarily suspended pending their withdrawal to pre-1967 borders.  Announce a unilateral cease-fire that will hold so long as no further attacks against American troops, which will be completely redeployed within one month.  Recognize an interim Iraqi governing council selected by Iraqis without American interference, and offer to negotiate with them subsequent to American redeployment for reparations in the form of rebuilt infrastructure using a nationalized Halliburton/Kellogg, Brown & Root, and a complete recognition of Iraq's sovereignty.  Conduct a simultaneous and immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan.  Apologize to the world and the American people for lying to them.  Suspend the PATRIOT Act in its entirety, and begin processing all detainees through civilian judicial structures with access to counsel for all and full media access to proceedings.  Push for drastic intermediate Keynesian economic measures that restore full employment to the US, with an emphasis on social infrastructure and environmental clean-up.  Forgive the debts of all developing nations, and take Wall Street into federal receivership.  Fire Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz.  Submit yourself to prosecution for violations of the Geneva and Hague Conventions and violations of the international Laws of Warfare. 

Kaiser: The neoconservative view, ably represented here by James Woolsey and to a lesser extent by Jacob Heilbrunn, seems to boil down to this: only a minority of bad guys stand in the way of American policy around the world, and it's a simple matter to dispose of them, whereupon we shall all live happily ever after, unless a variety of wimps, centered in the State Department, manage to thwart the DOD.  I am no more convinced of that than I am that Sadr is an "Iranian agent," or that Saddam's death will bring the opposition to a halt.  Instead, it seems to me quite possible that a majority of the best-armed, most committed young Iraqis will oppose a lengthy American occupation as, in their opinion, the worst outcome.  I would also, speaking purely for myself and unofficially, issue another warning. Vietnam destroyed, literally, our draft-based military. Prolonged occupation here could have a   serious effect on our volunteer and reserve military.

Since 1945, the momentum of American influence in the world has generally been forward, ever forward, except when unpleasant reality brought it to a temporary halt.  This could happen here, too.  Thanks to all for the tone of this debate.

Interlocutor: Gentlemen, our time is up. Mr. Woolsey and Mr. Heilbrunn, why don't you each make a final comment?

Woolsey: Thank you Jamie. Mr. Goff's last two contributions both deserve answers.  Regarding both his analysis of the problem and his recommended solutions his guidance would be invaluable to the President or indeed to any decision-maker.  He is an excellent guide because, like a wobbly weather-vane installed backwards, the directions he gives range from the confusingly incoherent  to the exactly wrong. Thus no decision-maker could do better than adopting none of his observations and doing nothing that he recommends -- indeed generally it would be soundest to believe and do the opposite.  It is difficult to find a single source that gives this degree of consistent and reliable guidance.

I will limit these comments to Mr. Goff's statements that are directly connected to Iraq -- Germans and Japanese, e.g., can fend for themselves on the question whether they believe that the US has reconstructed them to be "sub-imperial metropoles".

Let's start with Mr. Goff's analysis of the situation, springing from his expressed views that "Saddam [was never] the central issue", that Iraq is "more dangerous in the absence of the Ba'athist leadership", and that the US has "seiz[ed] direct control over swing energy production" due to our high current account trade deficit.

Not many people are today discounting Saddam's and his sycophantic subordinates' centrality in the horror that was Ba'athist Iraq. Even those who are convinced that no evidence of recent Iraqi WMD programs or ties to terrorist groups will be found (subjects on which I would suggest the jury is still out) would generally acknowledge the horror of mass torture and murder in Ba'athist Iraq, and the potential gain in liberty and human freedom in that country stemming from the regime's having been deposed. Mr. Goff is in most singular company when he asserts Saddam's lack of centrality and his preference for Ba'athist rule compared with the hope, even seasoned by uncertainty, of the current situation. 

Regarding our "seizing direct control of swing energy production" (one assumes he means oil, not energy generally) Mr. Goff might want to check his map.  He will note that we have seized (temporarily) Iraq, not Saudi Arabia. Something over half of the world's four-plus million barrels/day of swing oil production is in Saudi Arabia, and essentially none is in Iraq.  It will take years of investment to bring Iraqi oil production to sufficient levels and Iraq's need for oil revenue will be huge.  Consequently it will certainly be some time before the Iraqis will choose to put some small share of their oil production into "swing" (i.e. reserve) capacity. In any case, the oil will belong to them -- we have not permanently "seized" it, we will have to buy it.  This will add to, not subtract from, our trade deficit.

Mr. Goff's recommended courses of action do not disappoint -- they are of the same bizarre character as his analysis. We should note in passing that several of these recommendations -- firing the Vice President, "suspend[ing]" an act of Congress, nationalizing American companies, "tak[ing] Wall Street into federal receivership" are blatantly unconstitutional.  Presumably Mr. Goff either doesn't know this or doesn't care.  His central recommendations are for the US now to withdraw "simultaneously" from Iraq and Afghanistan within one month, thereby betraying the large numbers of citizens of those two countries who have put their faith in our willingness to continue to help keep them free them from any resurgence of the odious Ba'athist and Taliban regimes that allied armed forces have successfully deposed. 

A resurgent Taliban would almost certainly again give a sanctuary to al Qaeda -- is this what Mr. Goff wants?  A renewed base for 9/11-type attacks? If Mr. Goff's recommendations were taken, the brave reformers who are emerging into public life, the women who may now show their faces in public, and the countless other Iraqis and Afghans who have put their faith in the US, the UK, Australia and the other allies would be condemned to, at best, horrible repression and, more likely, the torture chamber and hideous deaths.  Mr. Goff's entire package of vitriol is like the thirteenth chime of a clock -- not only is it strange in and of itself, it should call into question all that emanates from the same source.

Heilbrunn: Thank you Jamie. Goff is at it again. The Bush administration's--and America's overall--record in foreign affairs is hardly beyond criticism. But Goff's strictures almost sound like a parody of the diatribes that Daniel Patrick Moynihan ridiculed during his years at the United Nations in the mid-1970s. A recrudescence of those sentiments is scarcely going to do the U.S. and Israel, let alone the Arab nations, much good. Anyway, Bush and Blair may, or may not, have been naive about the ease with which democracy could be created in Iraq, but that doesn't rise to the level of the Hague conventions.

Redeploying American troops sounds nice, but the chances of Iraqi saboteurs and snipers agreeing to a cease-fire is zilch. Such thinking plays into the hands of the political types in the White House who want to announce victory in Iraq before the election and leave the country to its own, sorry fate. What Goff should have criticized is that the administration isn't doing enough in places like Afghanistan. The greatest danger isn't that the administration will leave Iraq, but that it won't stay long enough.

Interlocutor: Stan Goff, Jacob Heilbrunn, David Kaiser and Jim Woolsey, thank you for joining us. It was a pleasure. We'll see you again soon.

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Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.


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