The Moment of Truth — November 4, 2006

Garbage In, Garbage Out: The Evolution of U.S. Strategy in Iraq

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Let me get this straight: if we set a timetable for withdrawal, the “enemy” will lie low until the date of withdrawal…

… And then what?

What does that mean, “lie low?” Stop fighting? If we set a date for withdrawal, a date of twelve months from now, let’s say, are Bush et al contending there’ll be twelve months with no American troops killed, no Sunis massacred, no Shia targets attacked, nobody kidnapped or assassinated? Nobody decapitated on TV?

I’m not being flip here. If we set a timetable, then snipers and insurgents and terrorists will give us everything we want until we leave? If intelligence tells us where they’re hiding, they won’t fight back if we go in and “mop them up?” They won’t kill Iraqi police? They won’t kill Iraqi security forces? They’ll stop fighting the establishment of a working democratic government?

For an entire year? How does that benefit them, exactly? Wouldn’t that put them in an extremely vulnerable position? Just trying to puzzle this out. Because Bush and his junk have come up with so many far-sighted scenarios that have been so helpful in the recent past, I don’t want to dismiss their argument against timetables out of hand as completely divorced from planet-Earth-style reality.

I heard a Bush-supporter say on the radio, “If we set a fifteen-month timetable, they’ll just lie low for fifteen months and lull us into thinking we won.”

Point taken. Here’s how we counter that brilliant strategy: during the miraculous fifteen months when the “enemy” is letting “us” think “we” “won,” we use their hiatus to ACTUALLY WIN. We gather all the Iraqis who desperately need work, who would be lining up in greater droves to enlist in the police and security force if they didn’t have to worry about being picked off in drive-by shootings, and use that fifteen months to train that huge force to fight, you know, after we leave and the enemy stops laying low.

But the very premise of this lay-low theory raises a question: Why don’t they lull us into thinking we’ve won RIGHT NOW? We’re going to leave when we win, with or without a timetable, right? If they want us to leave, they should lull us into thinking we’ve won. Then we’ll leave, and lose.

It’s so crazy it just might work. It’s even crazier than that! It’s so crazy, it may disprove the assertion of a genetic link between supporters of the Iraq war and Homo sapiens.

Now that I’ve spilled the bean or beans, Geraldo Rivera-style, about how our enemy can beat us, I think our only defense IS to set a timetable. We’ll say we’re going to leave in fifteen months, lulling the enemy into thinking all they have to do is lie low and lull us into thinking we’ve won until we leave. But then, on the appointed day, when the enemy has been lulled into thinking they’ve lulled us into thinking we’ve won, and they come out in the open and attack again, we DON’T leave! Tricky! They’ll have been so lulled they won’t know what hit them. The lullers will have become the lulled.

Again, I’m just trying to make sense of the argument made by those who still support the war in Iraq. It’s not as easy to do as I’ve made it look. It’s no cakewalk.

A cakewalk is what the Defense Policy Board said a war to bring democracy to Iraq was going to be. The DPB was a group of neo-cons obnoxious enough within their own zany rightwing think tanks, corporations, and academic careers to be deemed especially fit to advise Bush’s top-notch Department of Defense. They gave us the war in Iraq. Very giving people, the way Typhoid Mary was giving. Clueless but simply festering with a desire to help.

Some of the geniuses on the DPB who brought us the Iraq Quagmire: Henry Kissinger, whose Vietnam Quagmire was such a hit in the sixties and seventies; Dan Quayle, a foreign policy wonk in the same sense as someone speaking in tongues is a linguist; disgraced forehead Newt Gingrich; chairman of the board Richard Perle, who’s made a career of being on the wrong side of every moral issue the US has faced in the past two and a half decades; and PR man and professional paranoid Kenneth Adelman.

Together they’re blaming the Bush administration for screwing up what was originally a great idea they had: lose a war to the most militarily enfeebled dictatorship on Earth so everyone in the world would feel sorry for the USA and send us flowers.

Read about some of their snappy finger-pointing in a Vanity Fair teaser article, here. (It’s related to the “press release” David Frum posts about here. Frum claims the author, a one-time supporter of the war, had his message adulterated by VF’s editors. I haven’t seen anything about the author complaining to that effect. A sucker for the PNAC version of geopolitical thought, Frum’s obviously broken bullshit detector has generally worked more as a generator, at least whenever I’ve had the painful experience of watching him splash his lip-lather around on that bastion of truth and organ of neo-con propaganda, Fox News Channel.)

One of my favorite quotes is from Kenneth Adelman:

“I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional.”

I like that. “It wasn’t my idea that was bad, nor my evaluation of those to whom I gave my idea, who were supposed to carry it out. They tricked me into thinking they were brilliant when they were in fact destructively stupid.”

That’s like Himmler saying, “My SS castle in the forest, where we enacted twisted rituals and formulated theories of Aryan ice-beings descending from Heaven, was a great idea, but Hitler, Goering, Goebbels and Eichmann screwed it up.” The assumption being that if only someone much saner and more competent than Hitler had put Himmler in charge of a crazy SS castle to formulate theories about Aryan ice beings descending from Heaven, things would have gone much more smoothly.

Not to compare neo-con doctrine to that of the Nazis—just to equate the degree of delusion in, and the low quality of, their geopolitical thinking. What those who peddled the Iraq fiasco cannot face is that only an administration mentally compromised and simply wrong in every way would have put them in positions of influence in the FIRST place. Only under conditions of extreme mental deficiency would their counsel have been sought, and only under conditions of extreme perfidy would their moral notions have had a chance of being put into practice, because their counsel was bad and their morality insupportable from the get-go.

Most of the bunglers involved had proven, albeit prestigious, track records of bad ideas, except Bush himself, who merely had a track record of being a selfish dolt. It didn’t take a genius to see how bad the Iraq adventure was going to go. Case in point, me, a certified non-genius: before the war began, I warned, “It’ll be just like Vietnam. They’ll take one or two cities if they’re lucky and be unable to control the rebellion in the rest of the country.” But would Richard Perle listen? No, why would he? Although I believe, conservatively, in remembering history rather than repeating it, I’m just a lowly writer and faux-finish painter in a lower working-class neighborhood in Chicago. I will never have a job at the American Enterprise Institute. I could never qualify to serve on Perle’s Defense Policy Board, because I can’t boast of sponsoring dictators in Third World nations or losing a war in Southeast Asia, of having to step down as Speaker of the House or of misspelling “potato.”

I didn’t even get to make my case to Perle. I made it to a woman in a liquor store in Jupiter, Florida, and she screamed at me: “Why don’t you just go to Iraq if you love it so much?”

Ah, yes. Yet another great mind devoted to US foreign policy. It was almost like talking to Donald Rumsfeld himself. I wonder what she thinks about timetables?

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!