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July 25, 2008

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jr786

Shocked by what she said or shocked that she said it? If the former, I'd like to see some evidence that the Bush Administration has ever considered Iraqis to be anything other than pointless, infantile wogs, beginning with the disgraceful failure to prosecute even a fraction of the crimes routinely committed against the Iraqi people. Whatever your own feelings about Arabs and Muslims, the Bush Administration has shown little but contempt for them as human beings.

Kagan et al. are apologists for a botched attempt at empire.

Craig

the disgraceful failure to prosecute even a fraction of the crimes routinely committed against the Iraqi people.

First it's Iraqis...

Whatever your own feelings about Arabs and Muslims, the Bush Administration has shown little but contempt for them as human beings.

Then Iraqis are magically transformed into all the world's Arabs and Muslims.

For your information, it is Arabs and Muslims who have committed 99% of the crimes against Iraqis over the last 5 years. And this blogger, Marc, has been cheering that on all along.

Now that he can no longer talk (with a straight face) about how much success the "resistance" is having against the US (by slaughtering Iraqis of course) he has found other things to insult and criticize the US for. As if he has ever given a damn about the Government of Iraq? lol. Just how stupid do you think your readers are, Marc? You don't attend these meetings and conventions to inform yourself about what is going on, you attend them to find ammunition for your propaganda pieces. That should be clear to everyone, by now.

Solomon2

Thanks for your report. I want to read the transcript when it becomes available.

Your final criticism raises a larger question: at what point do "Pottery Barn rules" cease to apply and Iraqis are held primarily responsible for their own fate? Where do you draw the line for them?

Indeed, where did we draw the line for Western Europe? Just like Europe, Iraq is in that funny triangular area between "empire", dependency, and free association - the difference is one of degree.

Xanthippas

Of course Iraqi decisions about political reconciliation, constitutional reforms, institution building, sectarianism, violence and more will shape the future of Iraq, influenced by but clearly independent of American policies and preferences.

Yes, of course. What's truly sad about the neoconservative vision of the world, is that they seem truly incapable of comprehending the limits of American power. Every problem can be solved by American action, whether it's firmer diplomacy, more troops, or a different strategy. A coherent and effective strategy in Iraq cannot be composed by people who cannot even grasp the distinctions between what we can and cannot control.

Crude Analysis

While I would agree that Krauthammer's column today was laughable, I tend to agree that McCain would have an administration that would be "tougher" in negotiations. Tougher doesn't mean it's the best way to go about it or that he's got the best plan. But this point operates under the reality that the U.S president and negotiating team do have a significant amount of influence over Maliki and any kind of deal that might be worked out. U.S. SOFA negotiators tend to take tough lines and demand much more than they even want, and thus, likely end up with more, especially when they have great influence over the other party. If negotiating with the Iraqis on the SOFA, McCain will definitely demand more and likely end up with more, unless there's some sort of backlash by the Iraqi government, which is always possible.

Walking Wounded

If there is a downloadable recording, at Cspan or wherever, I'd love to hear this panel. Interesting that Ms Kagan/ISW is rushing her insider take on the surge to pre-election print, before the facts are in. Good infowar technique.

I read the Kagan/Keane 7/16 WSJ 'surge on' op-ed piece, and couldn't hear any of Jack Keane's direct language ('call it a counteroffensive, but it was not the surge I recommended...') or common sense there.

I also followed ISW links to Kim Kagan's heartwarming 'democratic baby steps' story (7/21) in the Weekly Standard. She pronounced the Sadrist trend the 3rd most powerful block in the gov't, neatly excising the large Kurd block that is sandbagging any provincial election law that they can't control. (Kurds were finally mentioned toward the middle of the second page, but a Kurdish mini-state was not raised as a major issue facing a new non-religious and non sectarian party.) Iraqi party talk of "how do we sell our vision to parliament and voters" did clearly get her ear.

My read of the Institute for Study of War is that West Point instructor Kim will be as accurate as her audience level demands, but not willingly complete. A Straussian sees no reason to dilute a political sales job by copping to any contrary indicators listeners are not already aware of.

EL

"Kim Kagan shocked me with a comment made forcefully, twice, once towards the end of her prepared remarks and again at the opening of her closing remarks: the future of Iraq depends primarily on American decisions, not Iraqi decisions."

Shocked? Apparently you have not been paying attention to the idea of American imperialism embedded in most of the Kagans' foreign policy statements. To the Kagans and most noecons, Iraq is quite simply an American colony because our blood and treasure brought them modern American values. Imperialism, and colonial rule to bless them with the enlightenment of our world, is the absolute foundation of neocon thinking. The neocons simply see the values of Islam as backward (and unAmerican). "Tale up the white man's burden." Their hero, and McCain's for that matter, is Teddy R, the old Bull Moose.

bb

Badger from Missing Links and Nibras Kazimi from Talisman Gate are the only US bloggers I have read who blog from the Iraq perspective and try to convey the Iraqi experience. Kazimi actually seems to know whereof he speaks; Badger is assiduous at trying to bring an Iraqi perspective to the attention of his American readership and even agonises when he feels he is failing to accomplish it.

The rest are mostly entirely Americo-centric, only throwing up an Iraqi perspective when it conforms with their own prejudiced agendas or the prejudices of their American naval-gazing readers. They are useful to read mainly to get a sense of where the American "anti-war" intelligensia is at a given point of time.

Marc Lynch is a good example. His expertise is in the rise of the Arab new media and he frequently blogs on the suppression (or otherwise) of the media in Egypt and the Sunni Arab countries. But to my knowledge he has not even mentioned the free Iraq media in his blog, let alone discuss it in the context of the Arab media in Egypt et al. Yet in Iraq there has been a free media for five years representing the full range of Iraqi political and social opinion in that country. There is an open parliament whose debates are telecast live in Iraq? How many readers of this blog would know that, or its significance?

Marc's criticisms of Kagan, while completely valid, serve mainly to draw attention to the very bright beam in his own eye. More's the pity.

Zathras

That's interesting. Here I've been for years, thinking that the future of the American military presence in Iraq was determined primarily by Iraqi decisions, not American ones. Our army was there for them, as long as they needed us; money, to say nothing of blood, was no object. We had nothing more important to be spending $10 billion a month on.

This would have made perfect sense if Iraq were the decisive country for the future of America and the world. Under other conditions it looks very peculiar indeed. Yet it appears very much as if most of the panel reported on here is still pretty deeply invested in the view that what ought to matter most to Americans about the American commitment in Iraq is the future of Iraq -- which is not now, has never been and never will be anything more than one, mid-sized Arab country.

Incidentally, for the benefit of readers who do not keep up with the struggle of prominent families to advance their members, could someone tell me if this Kimberley Kagan person is Frederick Kagan's wife, sister, daughter, or daughter-in-law?

Frank Wilhoit

It is not about infantilizing Iraqis. It is about infantilizing Americans. Iraqis, throughout this whole unprecedented moral obscenity, have only been symbols, proxies, allegories, for American political factions. They are not beneficiaries, they are not victims, they are not even spectators: they are scenery.

C.

"...Nibras Kazimi from Talisman Gate are the only US bloggers I have read who blog from the Iraq perspective and try to convey the Iraqi experience. Kazimi actually seems to know whereof he speaks"

The rest are mostly entirely Americo-centric, only throwing up an Iraqi perspective when it conforms with their own prejudiced agendas or the prejudices of their American naval-gazing readers."

Kaz blogs from a "Kazimi" perspective. Saying that he represents "the Iraqi perspective," whatever that is (as if there was one "Iraqi perspective"), is comical. If anything, Kaz represents the American right wing perspective on Iraq. He sits in the U.S. as an affiliate of a right-wing think tank and newspaper and this, according to bb, is how they are able to convey the "Iraqi perspective." Ridiculous.

.

Because some of you have expressed interest in a transcript and/or video:

Video and MP3 will be available in the coming week at http://www.usip.org/events/2008/0725_us_iraq.html. USIP will be posting a USIPeace Brief on it in the coming weeks.

Email edetwiler@usip.org to receive the forthcoming report from today's event.

Thanks, Marc, for your insights.

JHM

Kagan shocked me with a comment made forcefully, twice, once towards the end of her prepared remarks and again at the opening of her closing remarks: the future of Iraq depends primarily on American decisions, not Iraqi decisions.

"Decency cannot be discussed without indecency."
-- G. B. Shaw

Two hypotheses suggest themselves:

(1) This is only the usual partisan/factional double-bookkeeping: "You are not to speak of ‘imposition’ when WE do it, little man! Please try to remember to say "conditional engagement" in future whenever what you mean is ‘imposition’ in the good -- the Democratic Party, the Obámatan -- sense of the word!"

That sort of thing is found everywhere in ordinary politics, but the event described was not that humble level, it was an exalted conventicle of PowerPointers, where to distinctly recognize the existence of donkeys and elephants, as opposed to doves and hawks, would be a breach of etiquette. So the other hypothesis seems better, namely

(2) What we have here is a case of purely technical or professional shock. K. Kagan of Harvard and ISW and TWS and GOP made a serious mistake in the play of her hand, so bad a blunder that her colleagues in the Imposition Community felt a spontaneous urge to compare it with riding the subway naked (or whatever). But that ‘shocked’ was only their rhetoric, after all, only a shorthand way of indicating how grave and how unexpected the misplay was. ‘Shocked’ should not be taken to imply anything about anybody’s emotional or cardiovascular state.

Happy days.

___

THE FUTURE OF IRAQ DEPENDS PRIMARILY ON AMERICAN DECISIONS, NOT IRAQI DECISIONS happens to be the case, though. Why shouldn't the wingnut lady, and everybody else, be encouraged to say so?

(Shaw probably knew the answer to that question, but let's not discuss the matter further.)

janinsanfran

If Iraqi decisions had played any part in their thinking, our ambitious imperialists would never have invaded.

The real illusion is not only that Iraqi opinion doesn't matter, but that US action controls US destiny within Iraq. WRONG. It has been obvious since 2005. The U.S. will flee with tail between legs, lying about success if the flight can be concealed. But it will be flight.

janinsanfran

If Iraqi decisions had played any part in their thinking, our ambitious imperialists would never have invaded.

The real illusion is not only that Iraqi opinion doesn't matter, but that US action controls US destiny within Iraq. WRONG. It has been obvious since 2005. The U.S. will flee with tail between legs, lying about success if the flight can be concealed. But it will be flight.

Corrections

Ermmmm,

Doesn't this negate almost everything that Lynch has been writing in the past few years...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080726/ap_on_an/iraq_winning_the_war

Jack

Fantastic analysis!
Thanks!!!!

Xavier

Too bad for you General Kazimi that's an op-ed and thus a dime a dozen.

Andrea

I think we haven't realized yet that we can't "save" anyone against their will, or to tell them what they should want for themselves.
Great analysis.
BTW the link to the panel is broken

Helena Cobban

Here is my longer account of the session, with more commentary:

http://justworldnews.org/archives/003022.html

Soldiernolongeriniraq

"This infantalizes Iraqis - and, as Kahl would surely note, demands nothing of them, since it is American decisions and will which matter and not theirs."

Whoa. Wait a minute. Without for a second endorsing the Kagans and their polemics, one might suggest that there is some merit to this. Rather than the US, it's been the Da'wa-led cabinet and the larger parliament that have infantalized themselves. They have demanded nothing of themselves because US firepower and filthy lucre have bailed them out.

Say what one wants about Basra or Mosul, but it was American CAS that made the various Sadrists quake in their sandals, and not the thought of shooting the ISF fish out of al-Maliki's barrel.

It's been intransigent Iraqi leaders who have refused to concede on Kirkuk, oil revenue sharing, provincial/national elections, et al, not the US. And it is only through US willingness to abandon the weak, feckless, venal, incompetent Da'wa-led "government" (well, what passes for one) that can prod the Iraqi elites, who verily act like infants, to grow up.

Currently, it's the infantalized Iraqi cabinet that recently fought a war against Sadrists (take your pick) more popular than they in those provinces; kicked the can on provincial elections rather than lose out in the sticks; brought in the pointless and illegitimate Sunni Arab parties to sit around the Green Zone (knowing that they'll be gone after the provincial and national elections, if they're ever held); and pissed off coalition partners (the twin Kurdish parties) that could bring down the house by pressing for no-confidence, something they don't do because the US controls the initiative there (at least for now).

Kahl has his perspective, and I disagree with some of it (I think we need a definite withdrawal schedule that we're willing to live with, abandoning the weak, feckless, venal and ruinously incompetent Da'wa-led cabinet to its own pathologies and supporting their ouster unless they make good on reforms).

But Kahl was more right than the others at this confab.


JoshNarins

Thanks for pointing out this conference to me, it is just the type of thing I like to watch on C_SPAN.

Xavier

Notice how the participants in the invasion and occupation of Iraq now seek to wash their hands of what they helped create (or dismantle, as the case may be.) There is a "blame everything on the Iraqis" and "we did a good job, honest" mentality, and one which is laughable.

JoshNarins

Kagan is hilarious.

I wonder how much of her thought processes went "People need to believe things are going well" instead of "This is how things are going."

I'd bet a lot she doesn't speak Arabic, so every "insight" she gained from her repeated trips to Iraq could have come via e-mail from American military or political sources.

By the way, the surge is a lie. Why is it a lie? Because you can't forget Poland. If you include coalition troops, the surge total was _less_ than the previous total (which was sustained longer). If you don't want to count coalition troops, the surge _proposed_ by McCain was only 2.5% higher than the previous troops maximum, the actual "surge" was only 6.875% higher than the previous maximum.

I'm not saying the security situation hasn't changed, just that the it is impossible for anyone to believe it had anything to do with additional troops, as I show, graphically, on my website.

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