What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Bleachers in the sun.

Sometimes the stubbornness of the Iraq war promoters, in the face of the perplexing troubles we face there, wanders into the category of absurd. We are urged fervently to support a war effort that has no strategy for victory. I mean, that is what it comes down to. Every pronouncement from Bush administration officials amounts to the statement that our object over there is, in essence, to hang on for dear life until the Iraqis get their act together. But whether the Iraqis can get their act together is always left an open question, or worse, an unexamined assumption. So our strategy hinges on something that by our own admission is beyond our control.

We are very good at mopping the floor with any Jihadist brigands who dare to tangle with our soldiers. We are good a building infrastructure. We have had some success in winning allies to our side among both Shia and Sunni Muslims. But from none of this does it follow that Iraq will become a stable, functional state, much less a democracy. That remains up to the people of Iraq, a people so riven by divisions as to leave open the question of whether such a thing is possible even in ideal conditions.

The whole business put one in the mind of the comical absurdity in the final verse of Bob Dylan famous song, “Highway 61 Revisited,” on the album of the same name:

Now the rovin' gambler he was very bored
He was tryin' to create a next world war
He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
He said I never engaged in this kind of thing before
But yes I think it can be very easily done
We'll just put some bleachers out in the sun
And have it on Highway 61.

Comments (19)

What would you have us do at this point? If we withdraw from Iraq we will effectively have closed the book on all attempts to reform the Muslim world. Granted, that may be an exercise in futility, but, by turning away from reform, we are almost guaranteed full scale war. It seems to me that the only good reason to withdraw from Iraq would be to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions (which also may be a far bloodier conflict).

"We are urged fervently to support a war effort that has no strategy for victory."

Do wartime administrations typically broadcast their strategy to the people? That seems unwise, since a well-known strategy is easier for enemies to disrupt.

I'd like to think there is actually some plan, but perhaps I'm just telling myself absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

We are urged fervently to support a war effort that has no strategy for victory.

There certainly is a strategy. It just happens to be a strategy you either disagree with or find implausible. As you even pointed out, the strategy is to help the Iraqis "get their act together".

If there is a strategy, say to disrupt the ME and reduce it to chaos, and if possible to foment a civil war that will consume the Islamic world, as a fitting response to 9/11, then how does one set about it (WWII type of responses to say events like 9/11, Pearl Harbour, being no longer politically possible).

Well we invade Iraq, a former seat of the Calliphate, and a centre of the Arab Muslim world, destroy the power that held a factious society, and then wait for the inevitable.

Ofcourse we could never disclose this strategy, as our own population will not allow it. We would have to hide it under the guise of "spreading democracy and human rights" etc. The more we state that this is our objective, the more the Islamists will seek to prevent it, thus doing what we want in the first place.

The other advantage of our "failure" in Iraq will be to show the Western world, that no matter what our sacrifice in blood and treasure, our stated objective failed, and it is now time to safeguard our own house.

Whether this was ever the strategy, it really does not matter.

Republican politicians who support this war are handing the presidential election to Hillary Clinton. They know it, and they don't care.

Hugh Hewitt reflects their position. At least he has the courage to admit it outright. He says he expects Hillary to win over the war issue. But he would rather allow her to win than to cave in and take an "unprincipled" position, and abandon the fight against terrorist. What a fool.

Conservatives who oppose this war need to be heard.

I am not prone to hyberbole, but I feel this next election can determine our republic's survival against the global jihadist goal of eventually bringing down the U.S. Electing Hillary Clinton may mean the end of us.

"I'd like to think there is actually some plan..."

Yep, that is how we got into this disaster in the first place.

We assumed there was a plan when all there was, was the faulty pretext of WMD's, a delusional agenda of bringing democracy to the Islamic world by force and NO plan for a counter-insurgency.

Trust not in the Princes of this world.

There was a plan, and a fallback plan; it is just the case that neither has anything to do with the official public rationale for the war. Or, at least, very little to do with it.

How is it that VP Cheney can one day laud the democratic reformers of Eastern Europe, and declaim upon the centrality of democracy promotion to American foreign policy, and on the next day, toast the autocratic ruler of Kazakhstan as a valuable, reformist ally of the US? Democracy and its cognates can be redefined or jiggered, and for the functional purposes of American geopolitical/economic strategy, mean that a nation acquiesces in American policy aims, and allows strategic access to critical multinationals. In other words, where it counts, democracy and the rest of it mean "you can do it your own way, if you do it how we say." Palestine doesn't count (hence, no one talks about the failure there), and the Iraqi "democracy", with its tribal/sectarian lines and sharia constitution, will be just fine so long as the booty is divided satisfactorily, and America gets what it wants. Those colossal military installations exist for a reason, and it isn't to heal the Sunni-Shia divide.

In other words, Wilsonian fantasy and more pecuniary interests are unified in American strategic thinking; once the former have fallen away, or been exposed for the illusions they always are, only the latter remain.

In other words, where it counts, democracy and the rest of it mean "you can do it your own way, if you do it how we say."

An infamous person once quipped that democracy in practice, as opposed to in its ideal, had become equivalent to the proposition "If you will not be my brother I will crack your skull."

And find a way to enrich myself in the process.

"I'd like to think there is actually some plan..."

Yep, that is how we got into this disaster in the first place.

I can remember thinking to myself prior to the invasion that the Administration surely had a plan, and so I trusted in their competence. I had supported the war in the abstract since 1998, and now Bush was going to give it to us, so I didn't want to ask too many questions. That was a mistake.

It's pretty obvious that American strategy is exactly as Paul describes: Keep taking the hits and pray that something changes so that we can take credit for it. The Republicans have absorbed too much of their propaganda about Vietnam and Churchill, and have decided that "resolve" is not only a necessary condition for victory, but a sufficient one.

"There was a plan, and a fallback plan;"

No there wasn't. They sent a bunch of kids from the Bush Cheney Hdqtrs to the Green Zone and did nothing to prepare our military for a counter-insurgency. All that had was hope. The Iraqis would immediately take charge of their civic life and become our faithful allies. Makes one sick to think about it.

"Republicans have absorbed too much of their propaganda..."

Indeed. They will now pay a heavy price for adapting an "armed doctrine". And our nation will pay for it too. Dearly.

Conservatives will have to return to their roots; Burke, Kirk, Voegelin, Weaver will help light the way. A way that has no room for waging a democratic revolution on the rest of the world and instead tends our own communities here at home.

Heh. I was being ironic with that comment. Though I am serious about what followed: that is the fallback plan - watch the resources.

I'd like to make two points:

1) The Bush Administration is neither as moronic nor as Machiavellian many of these comments imply. They opted to lead with the sound-bite friendly "Saddam is building WMDs" Obviously they cherry-picked and exaggerated the evidence. Just as obviously they thought they would find more WMDs than they did. But beside the WMD rationale there was always the "lets try to plant democracy" idea. The hope was that by turning Iraq into something more western ("whiskey, democracy, sexy" as one Iraqi put it), the entire Middle East would become infected enough that support for the Jihad would wither. After all, it was this sort of idealism and materialism which ended the Cold War. Of course, Bush couldn't proclaim this goal too loudly or it would further inflame the Muslim world and accelerate the Jihad which his administration was trying to short-circuit. This is turning out to be much more difficult than was thought. Islam is far older and far more resilient than communism.

2) So, if this Iraq project is a failure, what, beyond quoting Bob Dylan, should we do? Withdraw from Iraq, let the Right say "Screw them A-rabs anyhow" let the Left say "Thank God that's all over, now back to what's really important, health care and gun control" and let the Umma take back the initiative? Or do we continue in Iraq? Or does anyone have a better option? I'd like to hear it.

Often times political courses in college talk about the various motivating factors of a nation's actions; Economics, Peace, Principles, and of course Power. I hate the situation in Iraq. I hate to see my dear friends put their lives on the line for something our own nation does not believe in. But, Bush believes. He has nothing to lose, one way or the other, and I must believe that he knows more then you or I. He is a principled man, he sees the threat and he knows it well. I do not see him acting out of concern for our precious resources, or over for an over arching worry for the general well-being of humanity and her inevitable drive toward peace. Nor do I seem him making these seemingly misguided and flawed political moves to secure the absolute power of the United States in the Middles East. Rather I seem him moving to secure a place where the principles of Democracy and Liberty can thrive in the Middle East. A place where strength-of-arms no longer dictates law. A place where the undeniable rights of a man or (perhaps in this case, most importantly) a woman are sovereign. A place where the few are no longer able to oppress the many. I do not want to create an America in Iraq, I want to make Iraq free to govern itself. And without out our continued support, without our educated guidance, this thing -this hope- is improbable, nay impossible. I believe our president recognizes our privilege and our opportunity and his principles guide him to pursue the health of all those (US and otherwise) in Iraq.

Or does anyone have a better option? I'd like to hear it.
Get out of Iraq by setting a timetable for withdrawal. Maintain air defense from Kuwait. Either the Iraq government collapses or it holds, but we will no longer be the crutch supporting them. If they decide to partition the country, have a civil war, or finally make peace, it is their decision and not ours.

Quiting Iraq virtually assures victory by some combination (al Queda, Mahdi Army, etc) of Jihadists, whether through civil war or partition. Air bases in Kuwait can't be used for an effective counter insurgency if that is what you are proposing. These air bases could theoretically be used to strike Iran. But our national will to take on Iran would simply not be there if we had just admitted defeat in Iraq. Furthermore, I can't imagine any president willing to withdraw from Iraq (Hillary, Obama, etc.) who would also be willing to turn around and start something with Iran.

Equally important, proWestern Iraqis would most likely be massacred by which ever Jihadist elements gained power. ProWestern inhabitants in other Muslim nations would realize that the US is not to be trusted and would not be willing to risk their lives and the lives of their families in any potential US intervention.

The victorious Jihadists, would gain further respect and power in the region (think about Hezbollah and their psuedo-victory against Israel last year). Iran in particular would gain influence through its Shite allies in Iraq. The Iranian regime would also have its bomb in a couple of years. Not only Israel but western Europe (including Rome, my fellow Catholics) would be within range of its missiles and at the mercy of any sort of smuggled nuke attempt.

The Jihad would continue and be greatly strengthened. Eventually, we would have to strike back. Striking back would no longer involve removing regimes to create friendlier ones. It would instead involve wholesale wars against entire populations, with massive loss of life on both sides.

Of course, we could avoid this horrible bloodletting by continued incremental surrender.

Air bases in Kuwait can't be used for an effective counter insurgency if that is what you are proposing.
That is not what I am proposing, they are just meant to keep large scale invasion forces from Syria and Iran in check.

ProWestern inhabitants in other Muslim nations would realize that the US is not to be trusted and would not be willing to risk their lives and the lives of their families in any potential US intervention.
Where do you think we are right now? That is what the unforgivable lack of preparation for the occupation has achieved.

Of course, we could avoid this horrible bloodletting by continued incremental surrender.
We can continue this horrible bloodletting by thinking we have not already alienated the majority of Iraqis. Among the Iraqis, opposition to the occupation is at 79%. In the same poll, 57% say it is acceptable to attack US troops.

My proposal would be more along the lines of a withdrawal from the population centers of Iraq to more remote bases. We would still have a considerable presence there, but we would direct our focus specifically against elements of the Jihad, not toward propping up the Iraqi government as currently constituted.

I would also like to see our strategy include some effort to force the enemy to give us battle; that is, to provoke him to rashness and into the sort of pitched combat at which we excel. Seize and occupy a favorite Jihadist mosque, and let the Jihadist hurl themselves against our soldiers in deranged fury -- that sort of thing.

Robby, I certainly agree that President Bush is sincere in his belief in democracy. But sincerity, alas, need not translate into effectiveness.

I haven't heard that song in ages.

I know not everyone here will agree with me, but I think that if we want to end terrorism, and this should be our primary goal (not the Wilsonian transformation of the Middle East to liberal democracy), we should (1) end all immigration and tourist visas from the third world, (2) deport all Muslims from the West, (3) withdraw from the Middle East, and (4) stop giving aid to all Middle Eastern countries, including Israel. In other words, as Srdja Trifkovic has said , we need total disengagement.

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