Iraq: Lessons Learned, Gloating and Projection

Jon Chait has chutzpah, that's for sure. Today he writes:

I DON'T WANT to accuse American doves of rooting for the United States to lose in Iraq because I know they love their country and understand the dire consequences of defeat. But the urge to gloat is powerful, and some of them do seem to be having a grand time in the wake of being vindicated. . . . Most liberals made the same argument as Schell in 1990, and as subsequent years exposed the silliness of the claim, many of them were humbled. . . . What's even sillier is judging someone's foreign policy insight solely based on his or her stance on the last war. Over-learning the lessons of the last war is a classic foreign policy blunder. Yet many liberals want to make the lessons of the Iraq debacle the central basis of American foreign policy. The story in Radar is of a piece with this growing impulse.

Gloating by Chait is ok I guess. But like Gore and (Howard Dean, Chait), I and many people got it right in both wars, and for good principled reasons. More.

Jon Chait has been a gloater extraordinaire. He atttacked Howard Dean incessantly in 2004, and when Saddam was captured, Chait gloated over Dean:

The New Republic's Jonathan Chait, conceded that on "a narrow, technical level" it was perfectly true that Hussein's capture did not make us safer. Still, he was upset. The remark, Chait wrote, "demonstrates once again Dean's incurable habit of handing Karl Rove the rope he'd use to hang Dean if nominated." Besides which, he continued, while Americans who live in America -- that's most of us! -- might not have been made safer, there are "many Americans in Iraq who are safer now that Saddam's out of his hole."

And here is the gloat of all gloats, which spoke for most of the pro-war crowd, from Hitch, on April 9, 2003:

Giving Peace a Chance

The war critics were right—not in the way they expected.
By Christopher Hitchens

Posted Wednesday, April 9, 2003, at 4:10 PM ET

So it turns out that all the slogans of the anti-war movement were right after all. And their demands were just. "No War on Iraq," they said—and there wasn't a war on Iraq. Indeed, there was barely a "war" at all. "No Blood for Oil," they cried, and the oil wealth of Iraq has been duly rescued from attempted sabotage with scarcely a drop spilled. Of the nine oil wells set ablaze by the few desperadoes who obeyed the order, only one is still burning and the rest have been capped and doused without casualties. "Stop the War" was the call. And the "war" is indeed stopping. That's not such a bad record. An earlier anti-war demand—"Give the Inspectors More Time"—was also very prescient and is also about to be fulfilled in exquisite detail.

So I'm glad to extend the hand of friendship to my former antagonists and to begin the long healing process. Perhaps one might start by meeting another of their demands and lifting the sanctions? Now the inspectors are well and truly in, there's no further need for an embargo. I noticed that Kofi Annan this week announced that the Iraqi people should be the ones to decide their own government and future. I don't mind that he never said this before: It's enough that he says it now. . . .

Chait was pretty pleased with that type of attitude then.

Now as for the lessons to be learned, Spencer Ackerman asks the right questions:

What would make Jon's case a lot clearer would be if he specified what he thinks the lessons of the Iraq war actually are. He says there are several. Sure. But if he says we should learn only some things and avoid learning others, it would be nice to know which is which. Otherwise, one fears that the thinking that led Jon into his support for the war is still alive and enslaving the mind of a really great guy.

I had a similar exchange with Peter Beinart and at tpmcafe, except Beinart does grapple with the questions:

Beinart argues that:
. . . When liberals finally got their shot at George W. Bush in 2004, it turned out that Americans did not much care which candidate could recite his six point plan for safeguarding loose nuclear material. They gravitated to the man with a vision of national greatness in a threatening world, something liberals have not had for a very long time.

Sez who Mr. Beinart? Karl Rove? Beinart's central problem is that he has married his analysis to the story of the Henry Wallace movement in the Post-World War II period and has convinced himself that it describes and explains contemporary liberal views of the United States and its role in the world. What does Henry Wallace have to do with today`s liberalism? Nothing of course. . . . Beinart wants those liberals and Democrats who disagree with them to be wild eyed useful idiots who "coddle terrorists," are crazy Leftists and haters of America. He is wrong and for obvious reasons.

Ironically, the finest chapter in the book is Beinart's discussion of the Iraq Debacle. He writes in great detail and with incisive analysis precisely why the Iraq Debacle should not have happened and how the Bush Administration has continued to bungle it to this very day. As I said, Beinart is a very smart man.

In his introduction, Bienart explains what he was thinking on Iraq:

I supported the war because I considered it the only remaining way to prevent Saddam Hussein from obtaining a nuclear bomb. I also believed it could produce a decent, pluralistic Iraqi regime, which might help open a third way to the Middle East between secular autocrats and their theocratic opponents - a third way that offered the best long-term hope for protecting the United States. On both counts I was wrong. . . . It is a grim irony that this book's central argument is one I myself ignored when it was needed most. If at times I judge others for having failed to appreciate certain aspects of the liberal spirit, I do so with keen awareness that I have not always been its most faithful custodian myself.
While it is a gracious admission by Beinart, it is also seriously flawed. Those of us who opposed the Iraq Debacle were very faithful to the liberal spirit and the liberal foreign policy. And we were in real time. And not just nobodies like me. But also folks Beinart should have listened to[. A citation to the Congressional testimony of General Wesley Clark in September 2002.]

To my way of thinking, Peter Beinart's lessons are utterly superior to Jon Chait's struggle to maintain relevance and his ego. Beinart has tried to figure out where he went wrong. That he thinks we needed those lessons is a flaw of course. But Chait has not even grappled with the questions. I don't listen to him because he does not say anything.

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    Over-learning the lessons??? (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Dadler on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 03:39:58 PM EST
    For heaven's sake, we didn't learn them at all in Vietnam, much less have the, apparently, misguided luxury of extra study and comprehension.

    That statement alone is evidence of a pretty desperate and spinning mind.

    I don't understand (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by aw on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 04:05:37 PM EST
    how supposedly intelligent people can ever think war is a good idea except in response to being attacked.


    They gravitated to the man with a vision of national greatness in a threatening world, something liberals have not had for a very long time.

    They??  Beinart takes half the voters and turns it into Americans gravitated to Bush.

    Bah, humbug.

    Jon Chait (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Edger on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 04:17:07 PM EST
    can't really believe he is fooling anyone but the most simple minded with:
    Over-learning the lessons of the last war is a classic foreign policy blunder. Yet many liberals want to make the lessons of the Iraq debacle the central basis of American foreign policy.

    Can he?

    If so he is once again simply repeating in slicked up language the insulting assumption, so well used by bushco and the right, that Americans are stupid enough to fall for this kind of crap, and trying to set up justification for making the same mistakes all over again in future.

    Chait is a peasant. Or he is simply baiting the peasants:

    The American peasant cannot protect his country as he believes he is doing because by his indifference, ignorance and credulity he cannot differentiate truth from falsehood.
    History? Whazzat?

    "Last two wars" (none / 0) (#4)
    by Fredo on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 06:54:30 PM EST
    Which, exactly, were the two wars about which you are now so confident that you got it right?  There is, of course, the current one, but what is its immediate predecessor?  Do you gloat that you got it right over Bosnia?  Kosovo?  If so, what exactly was your position on those two conflicts, and what have you had to say by way of denouncing Mr. Clinton for our participation in them?  And if you are reaching as far back as Gulf War I, what exactly did you get right?  Even the acknowledged public fool Gore favored that one.  If your "right" course would have meant that Saddam Hussein would today control the oil and the people of Kuwait, by what measure do you judge yourself to have been "right?"  

    As was said before... (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Ernesto Del Mundo on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 10:37:16 PM EST
    And as stated at the Nuremberg Tribunals; all pre-emptive wars are wrong.

    As for "liberating Kuwait"...excuse me while I vomit. If we spent one tenth of the money that both Bushes blew on their blood feud with Saddam, we would have developed an alternative to oil by now and there would be no need for any wars touched off by Kuwaiti drilling techniques, etc.


    That is incorrect. (none / 0) (#6)
    by Gabriel Malor on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 11:08:40 PM EST

    Your claim that the Nuremburg Tribunals declared that "pre-emptive wars are wrong" is incorrect. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg prosecuted crimes against peace and wars of aggression (Count 2). Neither is understood to include pre-emptive war.

    Pre-emption, an attack in the interest of immediate self-defense, has been a legitimate action of government since at least the Caroline Case in 1837. It has been used by most of the major powers on Earth, including Russia, Britain, France, Egypt, Israel, China, Japan, and the US.


    Really? (none / 0) (#7)
    by Repack Rider on Tue Jan 16, 2007 at 12:23:57 AM EST
    Pre-emption, an attack in the interest of immediate self-defense, has been a legitimate action of government since at least the Caroline Case in 1837. It has been used by most of the major powers on Earth, including Russia, Britain, France, Egypt, Israel, China, Japan, and the US.

    When has the United States used this?  Certainly not in Iraq, since even I, with no access to advanced intel, knew the president was lying about the WMD, and Colin Powell was revealed to be lying to the UN even before he finished his speech.  The fact that they were lying to get us into a war they had decided on two years earlier ("We're taking [Saddam] out!") was the worst kept secret in Wachington.

    Since Saddam had no capacity to attack the United States, where was the pre-emption?  What were we so afraid of from Saddam that we spent $300 BILLION and killed tens of thousands of people to prevent?


    What were we so afraid of from Saddam? (none / 0) (#12)
    by Edger on Tue Jan 16, 2007 at 11:13:23 AM EST
    Bush Silences a Dangerous Witness
    Like the climactic scene from the Mafia movie "Casino" in which nervous Mob bosses eliminate everyone who knows too much, George W. Bush has now guaranteed that there will be no public tribunal where Hussein gives testimony on these potentially devastating historical scandals, which could threaten the Bush Family legacy.

    illegal war (none / 0) (#15)
    by Sailor on Tue Jan 16, 2007 at 01:17:40 PM EST
    Most states do not subscribe to the idea of preemption. Even the United States in case of Carolina incident rejected the legal ground of Britain to attack American territory. According to the famous formula used by the US Secretary of State Webster in 1842 in the Caroline case and taken up by many, the necessity for forcible reaction must be "instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation", the use of force must be directed exclusively to repel the armed attack and be terminated as soon as the aggression had come to an end.
    After the end of the Cold War policymakers and jurists argue about the necessity to enlarge the scope of interpretation of the right to self-defence to respond effectively to new threats, particularly posed by terrorists and other non-state actors. The essence of pre-emptive self-defence is necessity to act under the relevant circumstances, while taking into account the requirement to use force in proportionate to the threat manner. Another problem is a proper and substantial proof of the anticipated offensive. Renown scholar Abraham D. Sofaer identifies four key elements for justification of preemption: (1) the nature and magnitude of the threat involved; (2) the likelihood that the threat will be realized unless pre-emptive action is taken; (3) the availability and exhaustion of alternatives to using force; and (4) whether using pre-emptive force is consistent with the terms and purposes of the UN Charter and other applicable international agreements. [1]

    Lessons from Iraq are lost on Bush (none / 0) (#8)
    by Edger on Tue Jan 16, 2007 at 06:28:41 AM EST
    as usual, like most lessons:

    Chicago Tribune, January 16, 2007:

    BAGHDAD -- The Iraqi government is moving to solidify relations with Iran, even as the United States ratchets up its rhetorical heat and bolsters its military forces to confront Iranian influence in Iraq.

    Responding to an American raid on an Iranian office in northern Iraq last week, Iraq's foreign minister said Monday that the Baghdad government intends to transform similar Iranian agencies into full-fledged consulates. The minister, Hoshyar Zebari, also said the Baghdad government plans to negotiate more border entry points with Iran.
     Iraqis, who have echoed Tehran's calls for the release of the officials, say the three-way standoff that has ensued reveals more about American meddling than about Iranian influence.

    "We, as Iraqis, have our own interest," Zebari said Monday. "We are bound by geographic destiny to live with" Iran, he said, adding that the Iraqi government wants "to engage them constructively."

    The poor guy just can't get anything right, can he?

    How much stupider can this guy get? I almost feel sorry for him... but I'm over it now.

    From Steve Clemons (none / 0) (#9)
    by Edger on Tue Jan 16, 2007 at 07:15:52 AM EST
    at TWN:
    raq's Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, has now confirmed the diplomatic status of these detainees and the mission in Northern Iraq and called for their release.

    This should be an interesting test of the reality of Iraqi sovereignty -- and will no doubt cause a number of ulcers among U.S. military now ordered to disrupt and attack Iranian operations inside Iraq -- and perhaps beyond.

    Way better than 'My Pet Goat', right George?


    Put up or shut up (none / 0) (#10)
    by Slado on Tue Jan 16, 2007 at 08:25:45 AM EST
    If I was a democrat I'd want to know why my newly elected congress wasn't voting to cut off funding.   Instead they are huffing an puffing but aren't going to call the presidents bluff.

    A great article in the Wash Post explains there "real" options...

    It seems pretty simple.   Vote to cut off the war funding if you really believe that it's over or step aside and let this play out.   Now that they have the actual power to do something I'd want to know what they're giong to do if I'd voted for them.

    So do I. (none / 0) (#11)
    by Edger on Tue Jan 16, 2007 at 08:36:10 AM EST
    What makes anyone think this govt has... (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Bill Arnett on Tue Jan 16, 2007 at 01:00:36 PM EST
    ...learned anything from any war at any time, and if they had would the lesson have been to NOT do THIS:

    WASHINGTON - The U.S. military has sold forbidden equipment at least a half-dozen times to middlemen for countries -- including Iran and China -- who exploited security flaws in the Defense Department's surplus auctions. The sales include fighter jet parts and missile components.In one case, federal investigators said, the contraband made it to Iran, a country President Bush branded part of an "axis of evil."
    In that instance, a Pakistani arms broker convicted of exporting U.S. missile parts to Iran resumed business after his release from prison. He purchased Chinook helicopter engine parts for Iran from a U.S. company that had bought them in a Pentagon surplus sale. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, speaking on condition of anonymity, say those parts made it to Iran.
    The surplus sales can operate like a supermarket for arms dealers.
    "Right Item, Right Time, Right Place, Right Price, Every Time. Best Value Solutions for America's Warfighters," the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service says on its Web site, calling itself "the place to obtain original U.S. Government surplus property."
    Federal investigators are increasingly anxious that Iran is within easy reach of a top priority on its shopping list: parts for the precious fleet of F-14 "Tomcat" fighter jets the United States let Iran buy in the 1970s when it was an ally.
    In one case, convicted middlemen for Iran bought Tomcat parts from the Defense Department's surplus division. Customs agents confiscated them and returned them to the Pentagon, which sold them again -- customs evidence tags still attached -- to another buyer, a suspected broker for Iran.
    That incident appalled even an expert on weaknesses in Pentagon surplus security controls.
    "That would be evidence of a significant breakdown, in my view, in controls and processes," said Greg Kutz, the Government Accountability Office's head of special investigations. "It shouldn't happen the first time, let alone the second time."

    So, learn from previous wars? H*ll, we can't even keep track of to whom we sell weapons parts.


    The only thing I can see (none / 0) (#14)
    by Edger on Tue Jan 16, 2007 at 01:06:55 PM EST
    that they have learned from it, is that they can get away with it, and with things like you just described. And they probably will again... unfortunately.

    This may also be relevant, but if it appears... (none / 0) (#17)
    by Bill Arnett on Tue Jan 16, 2007 at 01:32:07 PM EST
    ...to be off-topic, I apologize, but there is also THIS:

    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has delivered new anti-aircraft missile systems to Iran and will consider further requests by Tehran for defensive weapons, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said on Tuesday.
    "We have supplied the modern short-range anti-aircraft systems TOR-M1 in accordance with our contracts," Ivanov told reporters. "Iran is not under sanctions and if it wants to buy defensive ... equipment for its armed forces then why not?"
    A defense ministry source later told Reuters deliveries of hardware under the $1 billion deal, which has been criticised by the West, have not yet been completed.
    Washington and Israel have criticised the contract to supply the TOR-M1 missiles to Iran, saying Tehran could use them against its neighbors.
    Late last year Russia reluctantly joined U.N. sanctions against Iran, which introduced restrictions on Iran's trade in sensitive nuclear materials and technology, aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
    But Moscow says the sanctions do not apply to the missiles.
    The Russian military insists that the missile systems will protect Iran from air attacks, but do not pose a threat to neighboring countries.
    Last year Russia dropped the idea of selling longer-range S300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.
    However, Washington imposed sanctions against four Russian arms firms for selling weapons to Iran and Syria.

    Wonderful indeed what great friends bush is with "I gazed into his soul and found him to be a good man putin" and the international support he has built to support our efforts - NOT.


    US timetable (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Edger on Tue Jan 16, 2007 at 01:57:33 PM EST
    Planned Attack on Iran: Bush Will Expand War Before Blair Resigns [this May]
    Col. Sam Gardiner (USAF retired) presents the sequence of tactical maneuvers that will unfold and precede the launch of the US military assault against targets in Iran - a project that Col. Gardiner deems to be an escalation by stealth leading to a broadening war in the Middle East.

    An expert tactician, Col. Gardiner predicts,  

    As one of the last steps before a strike, we'll see USAF tankers moved to unusual places, like Bulgaria. These will be used to refuel the US-based B-2 bombers on their strike missions into Iran. When that happens, we'll only be days away from a strike

    USS John C. Stennis (none / 0) (#20)
    by Edger on Tue Jan 16, 2007 at 02:41:50 PM EST
    Jan 16/06Carrier Group deploys today, departing for the ME:
    The Stennis strike group, which was previously in line to deploy to the Pacific, will augment another Navy task force in Mideast waters led by the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Aandahl said.

    A second U.S. carrier will significantly boost U.S. air power in the region and serve to remind Iran of American firepower. Its arrival will give the Pentagon two carriers in the region for the first time since 2003, Aandahl said

    Get a load of this (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by aw on Tue Jan 16, 2007 at 03:13:45 PM EST
    Grumbling in the Ranks

    Vocal opposition to President's Bush's strategy of sending more than 20,000 additional troops to help secure Iraq has grown to include some of the troops themselves.

    A group of more than 50 active-duty military officers will deliver a petition to Congress on Tuesday signed by about 1,000 troops calling for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. "Any troop increase over here will just produce more sitting ducks, more targets," said Sergeant Ronn Cantu, who is serving in Iraq.

    Under the 1988 Military Whistleblower Protection Act, active duty military, National Guard, and Reservists may communicate with any member of Congress without fear of reprisal, even if copies of the communication are sent to others.

    via Iggy who says: Not that it will do any good. Bush doesn't care what the TROOPS think either.

    Well.. (none / 0) (#22)
    by Edger on Tue Jan 16, 2007 at 03:24:15 PM EST
    Bush doesn't care what the TROOPS think either.

    He replaced all his generals responsible for managing the occupation of Iraq, and now he doesn't even listen to the ones he replaced them with.

    C & L:

    Gen Petraeus is the author of the  counter-insurgency manual and supplies yet another reason why sending over 20,000 troops into Iraq is a joke.

    Yeah (none / 0) (#18)
    by Edger on Tue Jan 16, 2007 at 01:40:56 PM EST
    Iran has probably enough Russian built Sunburn missiles to take out the US Carriers in the Persian Gulf.

    Gloating? (none / 0) (#16)
    by mike49 on Tue Jan 16, 2007 at 01:28:22 PM EST
    Why would anyone gloat about THIS outcome?

    After all, the justification for the war was "evidence" that Saddam and company were sitting on a vast stockpile of poison gas and other "weapons of mass destruction," and were striving to acquire a nuclear weapon that could be used to attack the US, blackmail us and our strategic partners, or turned over to bin Laden or other terrorist organizations. Concerns that Iraq was a powder keg of disparate groups were blithly brushed aside, as were cautionary voices that advised that the US should rely on the UN to control Iraq's push to obtain or maintain its dire weapons, or that the intelligence foundation for the entire enterprise was bogus.

    The president pushed ahead, in a war based entirely on the credibility of that evidence and "moral" grounds, the war was short, and took immediate and personal credit when he announced "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED."

    Now of course, it turns out that virtually every justification for the war was erroneous, and virtually every cautionary voice regarding the difficulties of ruling Iraq was correct. We are well and truly riding the tiger, with no evident way to dismount without dire consequences to our national interest. The administration's methods of pursuing the war, including well-publicized mistreatment of prisoners and numerous other abuses, has destroyed any moral high ground enjoyed by the US. And of course, the cost of the war, coupled with the administration's refusal to increase revenue to match expenditures, has saddled posterity with the financial burden of this misadventure.

    Chait's cautionary message appears to overlook the elephant in the room, which is that our policy and intelligence errors have destroyed our credibility and our ability to lead, and our military commitment leaves us impotent to enforce our interests or even make credible threats in other areas. We aren't even talking about the "lessons of tha last war," although they were ignored by Bush and company. We are instead talking about a refusal to learn from the errors of THIS war.

    Given the consequences of the outcome, no reasonable person can "root for the enemy", and given the dimension of the disaster, there is no room to gloat.