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October 27, 2007



That's rich coming from a person who isn't a country expert on Iraq and has never traveled to Iraq. That's you, Marc.

I don't think you understand Iraq. It is that simple.


Thanks for sharing. Luckily nobody agrees with you! My apologies for treating you respectfully on the last two go arounds (under both aliases, "Question" and "Observation", which come from the same IP address). If you're capable of engaging on the level of substance, feel free to do so; otherwise, who really cares?


That's a bit much! Who do you mean by "nobody agrees with you"? How do you know that for certain?

You weren't respectful at all "on the last go around"...You simply chose to ignore my pointed questions. Tell us again why you're marketing yourself as an "Iraq expert"?

Is it because you watch Aljazeera? Or that you know a couple of people in Jordan's MB? How is all that relevant to Iraq?

Why do you refuse to acknowledge that you've never been to Iraq? Why does it seem, to me, as if you are hiding something?


So the answer is "no", you don't have any contributions to make at the substantive level. Fine. Bored now.

For the last time, I'm not hiding anything, or marketing myself as anything. I tell you what I know, I show my work, and serious people can judge for themelves whether they think I'm right. Some agree wiht the analysis, some don't. And that's it. Don't like it? Don't read it. Not feeling me? Fine, it costs you nothing - pay me no mind. Don't agree with it? Explain why. Otherwise you're just wasting everyone's time. But you already knew that...

I know troll behavior is painfully predictable, and there are traditions to follow, but can we just take the next three or four abusive posts as done and move on now? Probably not, I know, but one can dream..


You chose to be a public figure and you chose to be seen as an expert on Iraq. You also chose to be very certain about what is going on Iraq. I simply asked you for your credentials and I did that because you are a public figure. You can hound my IP address as much as you like, but you still haven't answered my questions to my satisfaction.

What you are saying is that if I don't like that, then I shouldn't come to your blog. Okay, fine, thank you very much.

[Why do you keep going back and re-editing your own comments? Why did you remove a piece that criticised Jordan on the Zarqawi capture?]


Don't you think it is inappropriate to resort to name-calling? "troll"?!!

Can you point to anything that I've written that stoops to this level?

You are lashing out. This is very revealing. Maybe deep down inside you are not as "certain" about your Iraq expertise.


Whatever. The Bowden/Zarqawi piece hasn't been removed. I edited the comment to add the Jay-Z reference. You've nailed me. Bye now.


I'm sorry that you had to be so childish about it. For the record: you still did not answer my question: "have you ever been to Iraq?"

It's a shame since I do learn from your blog. All I wanted was some more nuance and humility when projecting certainty. You may be a little high-strung at the moment. Maybe you are stressed out. I hope you will give your readers a more considered opinion from now on.


Terrific post! I completely agree. By the way, you should check out the Wounded Warriors Project. Its a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness for U.S. troops severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. It really puts a face on the cost of this conflict. Here's a link:




"Question" is the embodiment of what Lynch is decrying in this post. Instead of engaging in a substantive debate about strategy, Question chooses to distract with bizarre and misplaced ad hominem passive-aggression. This is a complete distraction from the real matter at hand: what should be done in Iraq. If you have a problem with someone's(i.e. Lynch's) analysis or proposals, by all means address that. If you think someone else has a better idea, please do share that idea. Let disagreements be on substance and policy, not superficiality or personality.

So what SHOULD be done and HOW can such a debate be fostered? Is there anyone who is doing in-depth planning on this? Are there any people putting real research and analysis into possible post-occupation scenarios, or is it just assumptions and WAGs?

Indeed, where can this type of discussion even be attempted and publicized? Do conferences and panel discussions move things forward? How can the media be engaged?


Hey Question....I've never been to Iraq, and I am no expert, but I spot a lost war when I see one. I'm an expert on lost wars.

And I think that is why, Marc, the Americans want to act as if they have moved away from the war. They/we are ignoring it the way one ignores that large credit card bill that comes due after the holidays, or a long vacation. We are ignoring it the way an indebted gambler is ignoring the first phone call from the bookie's collection people But that bill is still there, the collector still looming, and still waiting to be paid. And the interest keeps mounting. The gobbledygook from General 'he who cannot be criticized' may have saved the day on the domestic front for Bush. And at that, only MAY have. But it did nothing to change the reality on the ground. Or in the ledger book. So ignore the first notice. Ignore the first phone call. The day of reckoning is coming for America.


This is not a very edifying dialogue. I do find some amusement though in the strangely common refrain among supporters of the administration's Iraq policy, proposing the fact of a given commentator's having "been to Iraq" or not having "been to Iraq" as a criterion for whether or not their judgments on the subject of U.S. policy there are reliable. Michelle Malkin, for example, has "been to Iraq," and I'm quite sure nobody would rely on her for assessment of, well, anything. George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, by contrast, had not "been to Iraq" as of March 2003, and yet people like our commentator were perfectly happy to support their decision to invade it.

Your specific criticisms of our host are transparent, so there's no particular need to defend him (though the simile of arguing on the Internet and the Special OLympics comes to mind). But this idea of evaluating expertise by the fact of having hung out with Blackwater in the Green Zone for a week is cockeyed enough that it may give insight into the worldview motivating those who dreamed up the catastrophe in Mesopotamia. So in that sense, your contributions have been somewhat helpful.

a fool for going to propose that one can probably learn more about Iraq by traveling all across the Middle East over a period of decades


AA - this is a really really good post and it is a great pity the issues you raised are not being addressed in widespread public discussion.

I have two quibbles. You say (again)that al Hakim's mission "failed" when he met with the Anbar shiekhs. Are you still basing this certainty of failure on the single newspaper account you linked to (and does that newspaper have an agenda?) or do you have contacts in Iraq who are giving you reliable information? Similarly the statement that Hashemi's meeting with Sistani "has gone nowhere"? How do you know this? Personal information from reliable Iraqi sources?

I would have thought that these public contacts and discussions between the Shiite establishment party (SIIC)and Sunni leadership is ground breaking in terms of internal Iraqi politics? Extraordinary, in fact. Al Hakim apparently even took the head of the Badr militias to the meeting. But you seem to expect there should be results overnight! May I suggest that is very Americo-centric of you? You would know better than anybody that the Arab way is slow,steady, discursive - and takes time, time, time?


My problem with the idea of Iraq as a warlord state is the amount of riches up for grabs by whomever controls Baghdad. It seems that even in an Iraq with a barely functioning central government a lot of money is going to go through Baghdad both in terms of reconstruction money and oil money in the future. Therefore an Iraq as a Somalia or Afghanistian in the past does not seem to be any kind of equilibrium state. The incentives to get organized (perhaps after major internal conflict) in some way for the numerical majority (i.e. the shia) does seem to large to ignore.

No Preference

My darkest view during the leadup to the 2003 invasion was that one of its purposes was to emasculate Iraq's potential to be a powerful, cohesive, independent state. That's a traditional Israeli strategic aim - to see all powerful Arab (eventually Muslim) states divided and weak. From that point of view a fragmented, chaotic Iraq is preferable to a strong Iraq that is not aligned with the US.

I don't believe that President Bush had that in mind before he went in, but I believe that some of his advisors saw that as an acceptable outcome. I believe that some of his advisors may still feel that way.


Jimmy - that's a really good point, one which came up at the DACOR conference (made by Planke, I think). The model then might be Nigeria, rather than Somalia or Afghanistan - food for thought.


Can you point to anything that I've written that stoops to this level?


That's rich coming from a person who isn't a country expert on Iraq and has never traveled to Iraq. That's you, Marc.

"Question", I'm sorry, but in a substantive debate over what's going on in Iraq, that's pretty much the equivalent of trolling. "Have you ever been to Iraq?" is a gotcha question that only produces a "gotcha!" for clowns that think have any expertise on a region means visiting in person. If that were a legitimate standard, we'd have no scholars of ancient history because after all, it's not like they can go there, right? Your entire argument consists of no more than "I don't like what you say, therefore I choose not to believe you." I have a feeling that even if Prof. Lynch traveled to Iraq and interviewed 25,000 people, you'd STILL say he doesn't have the REAL message of success in Iraq because he didn't interview the RIGHT people. So, please go back to your right-wing blogs where the number of schools being built is an indicator of success, ok?

Anyway I think this is my first comment on this blog, and I just want to take a moment to say thanks Prof. Lynch for the time you take to discuss the politics of Iraq, news of which it's difficult for the average news follower such as myself to get from pretty much anywhere else.

I'm willing to admit that levels of violence do seem to have gone down in Iraq, but nobody seems interested in trying to figure out what this means, or where we're supposed to go from here? People who support the war in Iraq look at those numbers and go "Ah hah! Success!" But the last time I checked, lowering casualty figures was not the ultimate goal of the surge; the ultimate goal is political reconciliation, and there is absolutely no evidence of that whatsoever. You can't even find a right-wing blog that will argue that there's any kind of reconciliation in Iraq, especially when you have Washington Post and NY Times articles quoting Iraqi officials who renounce the idea of reconciliation. But they-like "Question" here-seem incapable of understanding that our strategy in Iraq can reduce casualties in the short-term while at the same time producing absolutely no long-term movement towards true peace.

So all of your questions go unanswered. The war hawks on the right can't seem to understand why the American people still want out of Iraq in such large numbers when there's so much "evidence" of the success of the surge, so they blame the MSM for not telling the real story of Iraq (and then cite to articles in the media that support their opinions, of course.) What they don't understand is that at this point, the American people want to know why we are in Iraq, and infinite right-wing commentary about percentage reductions in casualties is completely unable to answer that question.


I thought at the time that Lynch's initial reaction to Sen. Biden's federalism/partition idea was a little overwrought, and unfortunate for exactly the reason he cites now. That's not a criticism, not really, because I had some of the same objections to Biden's scheme that Lynch did, but among the Presidential candidates Biden is about the only one who has thought seriously about an acceptable end-state in Iraq. I would rather he had not just been hooted down, given that the alternative to his thought on this subject is no thought.

Having said that, I have to raise two discordant points. One is to question Lynch's concern about American (i.e. Gen. Petraeus's) tactics making a "warlord-dominated" end-state more likely. Frankly, I think that is where Iraq was headed anyway -- and that the most likely alternative, the one the American military is now exerting itself to prevent, is worse. This is a Shiite central government able to resolve differences among Shiite factions in the only way they can be at this time, by forming a united front against Iraq's Sunni Arabs. You might get a stable, though corrupt and thoroughly sectarian, central government in control of most of Arab Iraq in that case, but we know what the consequences for Iraq's Sunni Arabs would be. They wouldn't include reconciliation, let's put it that way.

My second point is simply that Iraq now dominates the attention of senior officials in all American departments and agencies concerned with national security, as well as the White House. The demands of the commitment in Iraq in terms of manpower, machinery and financial resources are driving decisions as to the defense budget, and impacting Congressional decisions as to the entire budget. Every other American interest in the entire world is now subordinated to the fate of one, mid-sized Arab country.

It has been that way for the last five years. Any proposed policy direction that requires maintaining a large American force in Iraq is an endorsement of continuing this state of affairs into the indefinite future. As I suggest above, I think it's important to think about what we need in terms of an end-state in Iraq -- but we need to be clear that the context of our thinking has to be liquidation of the American commitment there. Iraq by itself is not even close to being important enough to justify the resources now being devoted to it. At this time in 2003 I would have argued that the fact of our having removed the Baathist regime imposed on the United States an obligation to leave something better in its place. Certainly now, in 2007, it ought to be clear that this is not the only obligation we have in the world. We cannot continue to conduct ourselves as if it were.


Donald Rumsfeld, by contrast, had not "been to Iraq" as of March 2003

Well, actually he had, famously so...


This post is getting hammered by some kind of spam - if it keeps up I'm going to have to close comments, sorry.


In case the comments are still open:

AA: "Even worse, it seems like the US is committing the cardinal sin of once again falling victim to our own propaganda, believing our own spin, and substituing domestic public opinion management for hard thought about where we're heading. "

My opinion on the surge is that it was 100% about domestic US politics from the get-go. Bush simply could not get away with 'stay the course' after the Nov 06 election. He needed something to buy him some time, to run out as much of the administration's clock as possible. That was what the surge was for, and it bought him a year. In several months Bush can start pretending to be considerate of the next administration, deferring decisions to them.

One secondary point - several months ago, some reporters were saying that US officials were privately saying that US efforts were to be tilted against Shiites in the Middle East, towards Sunnis. This seems to be what has happened. The US has reached a very temporary accord with many Sunni guerrilla groups, and is arming them. Meanwhile Iran is now officially the Mother of All Evil in the middle east.

Saeed Uri

I think this would be an interesting read for everyone:

I think this has been one of the most interesting ideas when it comes to Iraq and what it has become, and why. I know it might sounds really outrageous that this was all part of some grand strategy, but I just find it hard to accept that the Bush administration was really that inept. So it is basically a belief...but then a read this and it made me lose all faith.



I find astonishing that even the Middle Eastern 'experts' are ignoring the obvious short and long term consequences of about 2 million external and one million internal Iraqi refugees. We know what happened the last time that many refugees fled from a country - in 1948. The Palestinians have been at war or at the root of war in the Middle East ever since. Here, once again, a highly educated group is being forced out of their homes to satisfy a religious/ethnic group - the Shi'ites. And once again, this change is happening outside any social or institutional net. Any projecting of the future of Iraq has to include the fact that its most nationalistic element is now living outside of Iraq. And they are pissed.
This is a bomb, waiting to go off.


Roger- I agree with you about the refugees.. I've written several long posts about the issue.


Barry --

I agree with your assessment of the surge's origins in domestic politics. Indeed, I think that's been the prime driver behind all of our decisions with respect to Iraq since 2003, and that's been a big part of the problem.

I disagree, however, that he will ever show any consideration to his successor -- well, "pretend" may be right. I think he intends to do all he can to slap their hands on this tar baby as firmly as possible. Not sure why. I guess he figures in some weird way, if his successor can't get out, he won't be blamed for not doing so himself. He's not much of a student of history, you know.

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