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Iraq: A Schedule Instead of a Battle Plan

    The other day at a social event I found myself talking to an Administration official about the war. He didn't mention anything about combat, or anything that might be defined as "military action." No, he talked about The Schedule. We have to keep to the schedule, he said. There's a schedule that's been in place for transferring sovereignty, holding elections, and, next up, writing a constitution. We have a schedule instead of a battle plan.

     This is a political war now. Success or failure depends on political events in Iraq and in the United States. Never has it been more obvious that war is an extension of politics by other means. The insurgents are betting the Americans will go wobbly. Bush says he, for one, won't flinch, and that is what presidents have to say in a situation like this. He can't very well say, "Hell's bells, have I made a hash out of this one! This is one coyote-ugly war! Last man out of Iraq, turn off the lights!"

     Here's what the president did say: "So our strategy going forward has both a military track and a political track." Sophisticated observers should email me with an explanation of what the military track is, exactly. Strategic leafletting? Or are we going to root out the insurgents from their rat-holes one by one? Doesn't look like there are a lot of chances for a general to point to a map and say, "Right here, we'll invade at dawn." Or: "Here, we'll hit them with the heavy armor." Instead we've got the most highly trained fighting force in the world trying to play urban Whack-a-Mole. And there's an apparently endless number of moles.

    It's slightly worrisome when a president in wartime starts talking like a Political Science professor:

    "The assembly plans to expand its constitutional drafting committee to include more Sunni Arabs. Many Sunnis who opposed the January elections are now taking part in the democratic process, and that is essential to Iraq's future," Bush said last night. So perhaps the 82nd Airborne can do something to ensure that the committee assignments are properly distributed. Let the leafletting begin!

By Joel Achenbach  |  June 28, 2005; 9:27 PM ET
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My 12-year-old son asked if The Schedule included his being drafted in six years. I suggested that he return to the family's historic Mennonite roots if he wanted to hedge his bets.

Posted by: dave R | June 29, 2005 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Urban whack-a-mole! Priceless.

Posted by: jw | June 29, 2005 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Joel, I see your point and of course, I agree-- on the other hand, a president talking like a Political Science professor would have know better than to bog the United States into a "coyote-ugly" war in the first place.
Or maybe you're right-- a little more poli. sci. before the war, and a little less bull$hit during it and we might conceivably have a chance of getting out in less than a decade.

Posted by: nomes | June 29, 2005 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Maybe they will let the oil workers form unions, thats something Paul Bremer had in common with Saddam Hussein. When he whacked the Iraqi Constitution. He left that in there. I guess we the people can expedite that schedule by voting against the amount of money being spent to help slow down that schedule. If Bechtel and Raytheon aren't getting paid, then we aren't going to be in Iraq. Maybe we should be dropping leaflets in America!

Posted by: Keith Berry | June 29, 2005 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Speaking about "rats" and "rat holes" for iraki insugents you are making a poor service to finish this XXI century carnage.
Insurgents are people, not rats. Some of them may be criminals, as som "coalition" members, other are fighting in what they believe is their country. Instead of irrational hate you, the press, should promote a more acurate analysis of the situation -with shadows and lights- and try to help to resolve this crisis.

Posted by: Molinas | June 29, 2005 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Dave R:

As a Mennonite and Christian, I sure am disturbed by the fact that Bush represents Christianity to our country and the world. I'm pretty sure "love your enemies" doesn't mean killing them...

Posted by: Mennonite in PA | June 29, 2005 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Re: Molinas
You said that it's rats rather than people in the rat-holes, not Joel. Rat-holes goes nicely with the idea of urban whack-a-mole, I think. And while nuance and information are important, shadows and lights can come fairly close to smoke and mirrors--the lack of which is what makes this blog my favorite.

Posted by: nomes | June 29, 2005 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Good points. I'm glad you're finally writing about something meaningful, and writing well about it . . . at least for the most part.

As self-appointed grammar policewoman: "And there's a lot of moles." You know how to fix that, don't you?

Posted by: Leopold | June 29, 2005 10:17 AM | Report abuse

If we win enough tickets on the "Urban Whack-A-Mole" game, can we turn them in for 3 foot tall SpongeBob? Please?

Posted by: corndog | June 29, 2005 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Why, Joel, I think that you have even outdone Tom Shales today.

How incredibly astute your observation, "This is a political war now." I must expand your argument that this has been a political war from the get-go. One need only look at the two principle architects.

Certainly Bush wasn't studying foreign policy manuals from his position as governor in Austin, Texas. Nor was Tony Blair particularly experienced in foreign policy, having held no cabinet or minister post in the British government before being elected prime minister for the first time in 1997. Their foreign policy exerience and credentials were exceedingly thin. Blair and Bush were foreign policy neophytes--proverbial babes in the woods--who operated on instinct, faith, and old hoistorical alliances.

Bush was egged on to wage war by his neoconservative inner circle; while those at the highest levels of British government were trying to restrain Blair from signing on to a conflict without legal basis, while, at the same, time, trying to provide legal justification and political cover that Blair was demanding for the war that Blair was so eager to join.

I wish that Bush had sounded as good last night in his speech as an experienced political science professor at an American university. Bush owes the American public more detail--not only about the military track, but about the political track as well.

The war is costing American taxpayers approximately $1 billion per week. We've lost as many American lives as could fill a small American town, not to mention those more than 12,000 soldiers who have been maimed, burned, or disfigured. Bush needs to better communicate with the American people in words other than glowing generalities.

He needs to stop the graft and corruption within Iraq that flows from the massive infusion of American dollars, as well as that by American contractors. And why are we fighting a war against insurgents with organized troop battalions? Reminds me of the battalions of British redcoats fighting the quicker and more fleet American insurgents at the start of the American Revolution. How obvious is it to the insurgents when they see massive convoys rumbling across the sands of Saudi Arabia.

Have we not learned how to fight insurgents? Better yet, what are we doing in Iraq that is not winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis? If we stay indefinitely in Iraq, how much real control will Iraqis have of their country? And the more we kill, the more I am tempted to ask, "Is this a war of depopulation?"

And Bush surely needs a better speechwriter. And Joel, you need to write more pieces like these and fewer sweet stories like those about a lost parrot at a school picnic, simply because you have found your voice.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 29, 2005 10:29 AM | Report abuse

A person or leader is measured by what they say and what they do. The American public can be lied to only once and we call that a mistake. If you continue to piss on our shoes and then tell us that its raining, we as fairly smart people will have you fired. The only thing is that GW has been telling the world its raining for 5 years. Even Bush Sr. stays away by boating with Clinton. Hey, GW the Emperor is not wearing any clothes.

Posted by: Andy Ex-Marine | June 29, 2005 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Re: Molinas
I am sure you were blinded by righteous indignation, but at least have the common decency to use a spell check. "iraki" One of the least respectful things one can do to another is to misspell a name.

I believe in the Broken Windows Theory, and poor spelling is the intellectual equivalent of a broken window in a run down neighborhood.

As for the speech last night, I loved the response by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) on ABC. He did a wonderful job of criticizing some of the details of Bush's speech yet keeping a positive (non-partisan) tone and supporting the troops.

Posted by: Dawaldg | June 29, 2005 10:36 AM | Report abuse

quagmire. quaaaag - miiiiire. kinda rolls off the tongue, no?

Posted by: LP | June 29, 2005 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Dear Anonymous: I appreciate the compliment but I remain partial to that lost cockatiel story and the cockatiel stories will definitely remain a part of the mix here.
Dear Leopold: I think I will change that sentence even though, once again, it sounds okay to me. I'm going to go wobbly on it in this case only because I don't want the grammarians converging again. The "Grammar Question" item from yesterday turned out pretty neat though -- everyone should scroll down and see the definitive final word from Pat the Perfect.

Posted by: Achenbach | June 29, 2005 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I'm intrigued by the claim, "The insurgents are betting that the Americans will go wobbly." I'd say "waiting for the Americans to go wobbly" is a more accurate characterization. We can't stay in Iraq forever, and we can't rule a nation from thousands of miles away. It just doesn't work: Britain proved it. Eventually, we will have to leave Iraq, and there's only so much we can do to make sure it's stable.

Bush's characterization of the whole "war on terror" is predicated on his idea that there can truly be a winner and a loser in this war. He seems to believe that as long as we stay the course in Iraq, we will eventually "win" - regardless of how many American lives are lost and regardless of how much fighting disrupts the Iraqi infrastructure. Can Iraq EVER be stable or secure as long as we are there? (I'm not offering an answer here... I'd sure like to know the answer, though).

It ultimately comes down to weighing security gained in Iraq v. risks to future security we incur by leaving. It is troubling that the Administration is willing to "stick to a schedule" without regard to the actual levels of preparation that must be met before certain events occur. Holding elections in the midst of violence is admirable, but certainly not a good model to follow. If violence in Iraq trumps the little security they have obtained, what then? Where is the backup plan - what will happen if things go poorly?

On a completely different note, I'd like to see more officials talking like Political Science professors. Perhaps if there were widely publicized, legitimate intellectual foundations for their propositions, debate wouldn't degenerate into games of semantics and rhetorical battles. Just a thought.

Posted by: Luci | June 29, 2005 10:42 AM | Report abuse

As a "self-appointed" grammarian, you may want to brush up on your linguistics first.

"a lot" - singular
"there's" - singular
"of moles" - descriptor of the lot's contents

Posted by: Hey, Leopold... | June 29, 2005 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Re: Mennonites

What I don't comprehend is why the only Christians who don't believe it's always wrong to kill people are the Mennonites and the Quakers.

True Christianity is not a religion for the middle of the road folks. It was Jesus that GWB was paraphrasing when he said, "You're either with us or against us." Except Jesus meant something quite different. President Bush apparently believes he is playing on Jesus' team, but I doubt if Jesus sees it that way.

Posted by: kbertocci | June 29, 2005 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I cannot help but put the question out there to those more knowledgeable than myself, what role are the insurgents filling? Could it be that they are acting as the opposing special forces of the region by training part of the civilian Iraqi population to resist occupation? What bargaining chip(s) could be offered to the proportion of the Iraqi population embracing these fighters? Is this a case where history demonstrates that when money and power rapidly changes hands, blood often runs in the streets? How should we prioritize the fulfillment of promises that we had made early on? When the answers to these questions can be accurately worked out, I believe that solutions to the greater problem may be worked out.

The unfortunate fact is that no one country can afford the bill for this conflict in either blood or money.

Posted by: AnonymousII | June 29, 2005 11:00 AM | Report abuse

To AnonymousII
I think your question(s) basically summarize the problem: the insurgents want an end to the occupation, a cause which many Iraqis, I'm sure, are more than willing to stand behind. On the other hand, your average citizen anywhere simply wants peace, stability and a functional infrastructure, which is all the "bargaining chip" the US has to offer--unfortunately, the only method we seem to have of creating a peaceful, stable infrastructure involves the (what we HOPE is temporary)perpetuation of violence against the insurgency and against foreign terrorists. I hear people constantly wondering why the insurgency is "embraced" by the Iraqi civilian population--but really, look at their options...we spill the blood of those who spilled our blood who spilled their blood who spilled our blood...Terrorists, Insurgents, and the Occupying Forces--it seems to me that these are the REAL political parties in Iraq today.

Posted by: AnonymousIII | June 29, 2005 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for an astute column today, Joel--I enjoy all your writing, from the lost parrots to pieces like this, and I applaud your efforts in talking (and getting us talking) about all areas of life.

I would like to comment today that yesterday morning I heard probably a day old quote from our esteemed Secretary of Defense, saying something to the effect of "foreigners don't stop insurgencies," and I shouted at my TV so loudly that my husband woke up and grumpily asked me to have my conversation elsewhere. Indeed, foreigners don't stop insurgencies--what a great thing to say, and of course begs the question (call me stupid!) of why we're there playing whack a mole in the first place. Now, I'm certainly more of a foreign policy neophyte than our President or Mr. Blair (maybe not much, though, reading earlier comments), but it seems that you at least go into a country you're invading with some kind of plan for success, looking at all the possible fighting situations that could be involved--including this insurgency that we've been up against. I don't think Webster's would list success as including the loss of life we've seen, and the "it's just raining" attitude President Bush has had for quite some time. And I am so saddened that it is mostly "kids" younger than myself that we're mourning the loss of now...or maybe it just seems that way because I get angrier and angrier when I read about another 21 year old marine that won't be coming home to his family and friends. In any event, I share the worry of one commenter's son that he'll be drafted in six years, because I sure don't see an end in sight. Thanks to all the reasonable people out there who are thinking about this "political" and "military" track we're on with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Posted by: Erica Snipes | June 29, 2005 11:20 AM | Report abuse

The war ain't over until the Fat Lady sings. Hillary?

Posted by: CodBlessAmerica | June 29, 2005 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Afford the bill? What bill? George is putting it on the plastic! It's called deficit spending. When the Demos did it, it was the straight road to hell. But now it's OK. There needs to be a counterpart for the old "tax and spend liberal" tag, but "cut taxes for the rich and spend conservative" is too long and "start wars and run the country into debt conservative" isn't very catchy either. On another thread I proposed a $.50/gal war tax on gasoline and got absolutely no feedback. Would you do that to support the troops and hold down the deficit? What would you do? Quit driving one day a week? Volunteer one day a week at Walter Reed? Or is lip service and a little magnetic yellow ribbon on your car enough? If our nation is going to engage in war and sacrifice, it should be shared by all.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | June 29, 2005 11:28 AM | Report abuse

If we traded Blood For Oil, where's our oil? A magnetic ribbon on a car is cheap sentiment. I propose a Ribbon Awareness Ribbon - but what color should it be?

Posted by: CodBlessAmerica | June 29, 2005 11:35 AM | Report abuse


the flip version is "borrow and never pay back conservatives." Debt is their forte.

Posted by: LP | June 29, 2005 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Oh yeah, I forgot another comment. Actually, a question. I've heard that, speaking of Walter Reed, the war wounded aren't getting the care they need. My boss's nephew was sent to Afghanastan when this whole thing started, and got a pretty significant knee injury/wound in the fighting. He was sent somewhere, military related, for care, but ended up being passed around for a few months with no real treatment. Then, somebody higher up (I don't know if was a doctor) told him he could go home and get the medical care he needed through his private insurance and it'd be done faster and cheaper and he could come back to active duty after completing his care.

Has any body else heard about this sort of thing happening, and I am crazy to be angry about it!?

Posted by: Erica Snipes | June 29, 2005 11:39 AM | Report abuse

WOW. I think you should be angry. Soldiers rist their lives AND pay for treatment themselves? Can that be true? WOW.

Posted by: nomes | June 29, 2005 11:46 AM | Report abuse

risk, rather.

Posted by: nomes | June 29, 2005 11:46 AM | Report abuse

the army also requires that soldiers pay for their own life insurance - it can be quite expensive to be a soldier, these days. wacky, huh?

Posted by: LP | June 29, 2005 11:48 AM | Report abuse

To AnonymousIII,

I agree that the insurgents much be legally culled from the population; however, one military theory suggests that to win one must go "all out." I do not suggest that "all out" means leveling an area. "All out" does include finding some way to convince enough world leaders to commit enough troops to train and support the Iraqis. Given the shaky ground upon which this war was begun, I am fairly sure that there would be insufficient world support for that option either at home or amongst the rest of the world. In addition, nobody likes to put their hat in their hand and admit they botched a job.
I fear that we are going to be bled to death as a result of our imperial hubris much as the Romans were sent packing. We no longer live in a bi-polar world where there are only two dominant powers. Many nations now wield a big stick and carrots; add to that the upcoming competition for resources and I only see things getting worse.

Posted by: anonymousII | June 29, 2005 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Evangelicals for Social Action and others have also come out against the war as part of a coalition of other Christians. It's more than Quakers and Mennonites.

Some of the 15 would probably have a different take, but I'm not sure how much of the world equates GWB as being God's spokesman. I'm not sure how much of the world relates to GWB as the spokeman for the US in light of the approval rating.

Actually, I like the idea of a tax on gasoline to pay for the war effort. Unfortunately, it would have a disproportionate impact on the working poor -- which might solve the recruitment problem as more poor folk have to go into the military to support themselves and their families.

Posted by: Dave R/Mennonites Unite! | June 29, 2005 11:55 AM | Report abuse

ythere should absolutely NOT be a new "wartime" gas tax (technically speaking, we couldn't b/c congress hasn't declared any official war) we SHOULD repeal the tax cuts put forth bu the Bush administration - the wealthiest americans should take most of the economic burden. This is one of the basic principles of true democracy, as set forth in Athens, and makes the most economic sense as well.

Posted by: LP | June 29, 2005 12:04 PM | Report abuse

To AnonymousII,

I agree with you, but old GWB and crew apparently don't see the end of the bi-polar world as the emergence of a multipolar world. As Secret Dictator of US Foreign Policy Charles Krauthammer wrote, ""assertive multilateralism" [is] a moronic oxymoron that, if it meant anything, meant submerging American will in a mush of collective decision making...small countries are condemned to such restrain...An unprecedently dominant United States, however, is in the unique position of being able to fashion its own foreign policy. After a decade of Prometheus playing pygmy, the first task of the new administration is precisely to reassert American freedom of action"...that was in 2001. You think they've learned anything? We're still chasing our own gigantic, mythical carrot (to possibly mash metaphors).

Posted by: AnonymousIII | June 29, 2005 12:04 PM | Report abuse

"Instead we've got the most highly trained fighting force in the world trying to play urban Whack-a-Mole"

What a line! What an apt description! Could you find some inarticulate Democrat to write speeches for-- if you can find one that doesn't need a spine transplant, that is.

Posted by: june 29 | June 29, 2005 12:09 PM | Report abuse

I think we should get a developer to propose taking all of Washington by emminent domain and developing a theme park that will actually pay back all our taxes spent on political hubris. We could even offer jobs to the now out of work political hacks who put personal needs ahead of the Nations. as far as national government goes, let the states eat cake.

Posted by: Eggroll | June 29, 2005 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Politics as I remember them defined have to do with the exercise of will or power within governments or civil administrations.

Joel, your point that we're fighting a political war in Iraq looks quite accurate.

On one hand, the US is engaged in politics with Iraqis that want a stable government and may be wiliing to accept a flavor of democracy (for now).

On the other hand, there are insurgents of several flavors that don't recognize the US administration in Iraq as legitimate. It's difficult to see how our government could engage in politics with them, since they probably have an older version of Microsoft Project and wouldn't look at the Gantt charts if they did. I would characterize this as war.

Then there appears to be politics between religious groups in Iraq, which appears to have many of the characteristics and by-products of war, but appears to be directed at other religious groups. Interestingly, this looks like it's occurring underneath the umbrella of the US civil authority, as these groups jockey for power within the forming Iraqui government. Insert your own joke about mixing politics and religion here.

In the middle of all this, there are PR campaigns to make sure that the bad press in Iraq, the US, and the rest of the world are kept to a minimum. My normally unrelible sources report that these PR teams are being depleted as the experienced personel are being pulled into the Tom Cruise/War of the Worlds media melee.

There's an old saw that AutoWeek's Nigel Roebuck dug up recently on a different topic, but struck me as applicable here: "Like the man said, there comes a time when you have to set aside principle and do what's right."

I continue to hope that the the administration finds the flexibility and the wisdom to come up with a peaceful solution that does justice to the brave men and women who put their lives on the line their every day, and those and their families who have already paid a dear price.


Posted by: bc | June 29, 2005 12:16 PM | Report abuse

The point about a gas tax having a disproportionate impact on the working poor is a good one. What about a war tax in the form of a federal tax, which is imposed when a vehicle is registered, of 10% of the market value at the time of the registration of a vehicle for all vehicles valued at $30,000 or more. Therefore the working poor, who either have to rely on public transportation or drive a PoS car, as well as most lower middle class folks are unaffected, but all those Lexus and Hummer folks get the added tax. The only ones who may be unfairly impacted are individuals with families who are middle class but still have purchased an SUV of some sort. However, this will be mitigated over time as the value of the SUV declines.

Posted by: TaxMonger | June 29, 2005 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Nuts. I misspelled "there".

Following the trend that "there's nothing worth saying these days that doesn't require an aplology", I apologize.


Posted by: bc | June 29, 2005 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Does anybody else have the sense that no one in the military or the administration knows what to do next militarily in Iraq? Do you think that with Iraqi forces in place, the insurgents from out of country will quiet down as long as a democratic government (of U.S. design) is in place?

Another nagging question: why no pictures of the "cleansed" version of Fallujah? Is it because there isn't much left of it to look at? That a feeling that gnaws at me, that lack of being sure of anything.

Final comment: heard on NPR Monday morning:

- May 2004 insurgent attacks = 18
- May 2005 insurgent attacks = 133

Come again, Mr. President? How's our transition to an all Iraqi force going?

Here in the west we have a term for what you heard come out of the President's mouth last night: pure B.S.

Posted by: MT_Guy | June 29, 2005 12:22 PM | Report abuse

To AnonymousIII

Can we afford any further lack of insight? There are any number of ways that many countries could make life exceedingly difficult for us. Japan calling in our debt it just the first of many situations that comes to mind. I certainly agree that we must always operate from a position of power. We should also learn our history lessons.
Woodrow Wilson convinced us to accept huge deficits / military budgets (relative to the time) and sacrifices in blood for the "war to end all wars." Clearly it was not. We cannot delude ourselves into thinking we can solve this without much more help. As a nation, we already have a credibility gap, and to set up further unreasonable expectations only courts disaster. Your Prometheus citation is quite timely as well as curiously clever; am I recalling correctly that Prometheus tricked Zeus into a bag of bones covered in animal fat over meat? ;)

Posted by: AnonymousII | June 29, 2005 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only one who sees the parallels between the Iraqi "insurgents" and the French Resistance in WWII? These people are defending their nation against a foreign invader, and they logically target the "traitors" of their own nationality who are collaborating with the occupying forces, the way the Vichy government collaborated with the Nazis.

And if the objectives of "regime change" and "spreading Democracy" make the U.S. the good guys, why not start closer to home and spread some Democracy to Cuba?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 29, 2005 12:46 PM | Report abuse


I wonder what that report would have sounded like if reported by the NEW IMPROVED NPR that the White House is working on now!

Posted by: kbertocci | June 29, 2005 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Re: soldier's paying for their own care.

It's no secret that those of us in the military complain about what hacks military doctors are, and for the most part, it's not hyperbole. I mean, you have to wonder about a physician who can only get a job where he's getting paid at least 50% less than his civilian peers. The majority of them are good, but there are some that seem like they graduated on the low end of their class, if you know what I mean.

Now, even SEEING an actual MD is difficult. I'm not trusted to be able to determine when I actually need a real doctor's attention, so I have to go to a physician's assistant, tell him why I need to see an MD, and get a referal.

When I was in the Academy, I stayed under my parent's insurance as a college student, and it was a godsend. Most kids in the military don't have that luxury though.

Posted by: jw | June 29, 2005 12:50 PM | Report abuse

The opposite of "tax and spend liberal" is just "spend and spend" conservative. That's what I call it.

The tax cuts didn't make sense to me anyway. It's as if I found myself with extra money at the end of my fiscal month/year, and just decided that I should work less, 'cause I didn't need all that money . . . instead of spending the surplus on . . . oh, I don't know: saving for my child's education, paying down debt, etc.

Posted by: Anne Olivia | June 29, 2005 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Another Bush flip-flop

As Bush prepares to calm our fears about Iraq tonight.

Thnk Progress: In 1999, George W. Bush criticized President Clinton for not setting a timetable for exiting Kosovo, and yet he refuses to apply the same standard to his war.

George W. Bush, 4/9/99: Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is." And on the specific need for a timetable, here's what Bush said then and what he says now:

George W. Bush, 6/3/99: "I think it's also important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long they will be involved and when they will be withdrawn."


George W. Bush, 6/24/05: "It doesn't make any sense to have a timetable. You know, if you give a timetable, you're -- you're conceding too much to the enemy."

Posted by: Afghanvet | June 29, 2005 1:06 PM | Report abuse

To "Hey, Leopold":
I'm with you. (I mean, really -- Leopold thought Pat the Perfect and that linguistics guy from U. Maryland were wrong.) But isn't it nice that Joel is so accommodating? I like his new sentence: "And there's an apparently endless number of moles." Brilliant solution.

Posted by: Achenfan | June 29, 2005 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Gas tax: no, because, Holy Cow! The price is high enough, and, as one of the marginally working poor, it would kill my household budget.

I like the idea of taxing the rich people's gas-guzzling cars better. Not my PoS $2,000 Geo Metro that I bought off a friend.

Posted by: Anne Olivia | June 29, 2005 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Re getting to see docs in the military:

Not that it's any comfort--or maybe even comparable--but it can be difficult for civilians to get past the nurse practitioner to see a doc too. But perhaps we shouldn't be too critical of NPs. I think they get pretty good training, and many basic procedures and elements of diagnosis don't require going to medical school.

Our astronomical medical costs would be even higher if some tasks weren't delegated to people who didn't go to med school.

Re the quality of docs in the military: Aren't some of them there because they are paying back med school loans they received from the USPHS. Note, too, that the quality of medical expertise varies widely among docs in civilian life too.

Although many people complain about the quality of care in the VA, it is generally rated higher than in many private institutions. Also, the VA has been a leader in efforts to promote patient safety, which, less euphemistically, means efforts to reduce medical errors.

Posted by: AnonymousSomeNumber | June 29, 2005 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Only Bush would make a speech about his failures at the one place he knows he will face no criticism, Fort Bragg, NC; what a chicken hawk.

Some points:

- It's clear the administration is repackaging the tired line of "taking the fight to the terrorists" with our actions in Iraq. They are using a little "after the fact" logic to say that we are fighting terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here. I call BULLSHIT!

-- First, they are INSURGENTS using TERRORIST tactics, not the other way around.
-- Second, our actions have created enough NEW terrorists/insurgents to more than make up for the one's we are killing. This blows away the NEOTARD 'heatsink' theory of warfare...a theory that could only come from the chicken hawk minds of neocons that also came up with the trickle-down theory of economics.
-- By bogging down our forces in Iraq, we are ill-prepared for real threats elsewhere.
-- By expending finite resources on an avoidable insurgency, we have failed to adequately prepare at home.

- It's clear that we will not be leaving anytime soon.

-- This will cause a great disruption in our military; one which the administration will deny until they pass off all the problem to the next poor schmuck that wants to be the President who will be left holding the bag of...
-- There will be no draft and no raising of taxes and this will hurt our military and eventually cause a recession.

- The Bush administration will deflect all criticism by saying "we are there now" in order to deny all culpability for the incompetence that put us there and our poor leadership and management of the war once we were there.

The public should rightly POUND the REPUBLICANS, not just Bush, for their INCOMPETENCE and POOR JUDGMENT. Yeah, they're right, we're there now, but WHY are we there and WHY is it sich a mess?

Because...REPUBLICANS, who claim they care about the military, screwed the military by poorly planning the war, poorly executing the war and by NOT level-setting the expectations of the public via lies and selective use of information thereby reducing public support at home. Oh, and not supporting an amendment to the last funding bill to make up for the VA's shortfall of...$2.6B!

-- It's the REPBULICANS who have been "starving the beast", which has resulted in our inability to appropriately fund the VA and other such institutions that take care of those of have fought for these incompetent fools.

- It's not about timetables, it's about goals and objectives and the metrics by which you measure your success against those goals and objectives.

-- If the NEOTARDS had actually listened in their management classes instead of huddling around the economists from Chicago, they would have realized the above.
-- Everytime we say when, they say no timetables...fine; then tell us:

--- WHAT are the goals and objectives that must be met in order for us to begin to draw down?
--- WHAT metrics will be used to measure our success?
--- HOW will we measure them?
--- What metric levels must be reached in order for us to know WHEN we can start the draw down.

THAT'S CALLED A FREAKIN' PLAN...or did they not teach that at Ivy League Management Schools? Oh, I forgot, it's about quarterly reports and stock prices, not planning, production or quality.

- The other rediculous deflection scheme is the "the insurgents don't have a political goal" argument.

-- EVEN if that were true, so the %&$# what? Hasn't stopped them from killing 1700 soldiers and 10s of thousands of Iraqis.

-- Do some research on why the USSR went into Afghanistan. I think you will find some very interesting similarities to our reasoning for going into Iraq - well one or two of the six that have been given.
-- How long did it take Russia to figure out they broke something they couldn't fix?
-- And, just what was/is our political goal?

Finally, Iraq is not WWII, as much as the Republicans desperately want the legacy on the backs and blood of the soldiers who are doing the fighting.

In every age its [liberty] progress has been beset by its natural enemies, by ignorance and superstition, by lust of conquest and by love of ease, by strong man's craving for power, and the poor man's craving for food.

- Lord Acton, 1907

Posted by: Anonymous | June 29, 2005 1:17 PM | Report abuse

To Achenfan
Wait, but...doesn't that create the same problem, assuming there was a problem in the first place? Which there wasn't. But couldn't you argue (for the same reasons Leopold did) that it should read, "There ARE an apparently endless number of moles."? It's the same thing, right?

Posted by: nomes | June 29, 2005 1:21 PM | Report abuse

The working poor are already getting screwed here- it's their kids that are doing the bleeding and dying for the most part. I just find it unsettling that Bush makes no pretense of involving the whole populace in sacrificing SOMETHING. Even if you think that the policy that sent them there is wrong (and I certainly do), you should always be able to separate those troops who are the instruments of that policy but are in fact only carrying out their sworn duty, from the politicians who formulated the policy. These are our people. They represent us. Their actions, for good or ill, say something about us, as does our treatment of them before during and after their service.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | June 29, 2005 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to all for the comments on military health care--very informative.

Afghanvet...nothin' like callin' it like it is! Way to go for keeping track of the words of our President. I couldn't watch the speech for fear of something like this coming out of his mouth. I see my fears are now confirmed.

Posted by: Erica Snipes | June 29, 2005 1:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm a little surprised that no one has mentioned Barry Goldwater in these comments yet.


Posted by: bc | June 29, 2005 1:30 PM | Report abuse

To nomes:
Too right there wasn't a problem in the first place. But I think the new sentence removes any potential ambiguity by putting more distance between "is" and "moles." This brilliant maneuvre prevents people from incorrectly thinking that "moles" is the subject, when the subject is actually "an apparently endless number of." (Not that this should be necessary. I mean come on -- "are an"? or "are a"? Does that sound right to you?)
If you're not convinced, imagine reorganizing the sentence as follows:
"The number of moles is apparently endless."

Posted by: Achenfan | June 29, 2005 1:33 PM | Report abuse

To Achenfan

100% convinced. I thank you.;)

Posted by: nomes | June 29, 2005 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Wow! If only it were always that easy.

Posted by: Achenfan | June 29, 2005 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Lucky thing for W he doesn't have to run for re-election again...

"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice" - Barry Goldwater.

Posted by: nottamember | June 29, 2005 1:43 PM | Report abuse

What I liked best was the part where Bush was urging people to volunteer for the military, and he mentioned that his daughters had done their part for the country by signing up for the Marines.

Well, it would be more of a job than either one has right now.

Posted by: John | June 29, 2005 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Most obnoxious part?

Calling on the courage of those who fight when the going gets tough.

You mean like when Grand Daddy got you out of serving in Vietnam?


Posted by: M | June 29, 2005 1:51 PM | Report abuse

To "Hey, Leopold" :
You want to go head-to-head on grammar, we can do it -- 50 paces, stylebook of your choice. I asume you know that there are some words and constructions that no careful writer uses: "a lot" and "there's" among them. Beyond that, the sentence as written was grammatically incorrect. Remind me not to hire you if you apply to work on my copy desk (though there are others in town who I'm sure will take you). And please don't use my name again when you sign in or I'll sue you.

To "Achenfan":
When did I disagree with Pat or the "linguistics guy from U.Maryland" (as you so elegantly refer to him)? Perhaps you're confusing me with some other literate person.

To Joel:
Apart from questionable grammar (and beyond the pages of your newspaper, Pat, good as she is, is not necessarily the final arbiter), you make a compelling argument your post today, because you chose to write about something important. I said so at the outset. If you're willing and able, I'd like to read more like this from you, rather than the ideas you come up with while smoking your stogies on the back porch. You have a soapbox -- use it to do good, not just to impress the girls.

Posted by: Leopold | June 29, 2005 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Leopold: I didn't mean to imply that you'd actually butted heads with PtheP and CP, just that your position seemed to be counter to theirs. (Wasn't it you who said, "Four 'is'? Two 'isn't'? Don't make excuses for this guy. This is ungrammatical, plain and simple. My 12-year-old writes better than this. And they pay him to write this stuff. Go figure"?
If I'm wrong, I apologize profusely.)

Posted by: Achenfan | June 29, 2005 1:59 PM | Report abuse

After the president's speech last night, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq posed a question that has been bothering me as well. Just what does the president mean when he says " We are fighting then over there so that we don't have to fight them here."
Are we supposed to celebrate the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqis who have been killed because he started an unnecessary war?
Is it American cowardice or American hubris that make it acceptable for others to die for us?

Posted by: R.T. Briggs | June 29, 2005 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I think Leopold works for the Washington Times.

Posted by: jw | June 29, 2005 2:39 PM | Report abuse

I think "I'll sue you" may be a bit dramatic, seeing as it's a weblog and he wasn't using your name, he was referring to you. I don't think your case would stand up in court.

Posted by: Sara | June 29, 2005 2:43 PM | Report abuse

This is all very strange, isn't it?

Posted by: Dreamer | June 29, 2005 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Latecomer echoing thanks to Joel and company for this item and its timeliness, and for the buoyant seriousness of the apt Whack-a-Mole metaphor - I want to venture a thought about the ideological assumptions that have driven the political war in Iraq.

Maybe the neocons are just wrong (in more ways than one, and fundamentally). And the better angels of our nature, we have misunderstood. Could it be that for some cultures, some historical peoples, that democracy is not the best form of government for them?

That may sound politically incorrect, but I am of the camp that there is no such thing as a trans-cultural, ahistorical human nature. For lack of a better word, this brand of "Humanism" is the basis of an approach designed to tolerate ambiguity and celebrate differences that exist between people, collectively and individually, without rigging our web of beliefs in terms of absolutes that permit convenient condemnations and facile proclamations of righteousness.

The assumption that democracy is the best form of government for all people at all times could very well be dead wrong. Democratic institutions must function in order for a democracy to flourish. If religious institutions are esteemed as the state authority in practice, then pluralism and dissent are under constant menace, and the role of democracy in government is that of a voiceless infant in the naves. A Constitution, an election, and a Parliament, do not a democracy make.

Currently, the Iraqi insurgency seems to be fighting for a right to self-determination and to cast off the oppression of an occupying imperial army. This is a sad scenario towards which Uncle Sam should be empathetic, having waged a guerilla war to defeat the Brits two and half centuries ago, in the same interest of self-determination and self-government.

Iraq is Bush's blunder. Pure and simple. But it's everyone's problem. If the architects of the war and occupation had defined the mission with more care, then perhaps the terms of success and victory would present themselves more readily. Tragically, the closing act of Gulf War II is in the distant future, and while failure may not be an option, it could be the undesired consequence of this cruel and foolish war.

Posted by: peter | June 29, 2005 2:50 PM | Report abuse

So Iraq's really not too hot to handle now! Good to see.

Hard to make war humorous, but you did it, Joel. Made me chuckle, even though it seems we see this one differently.

The military track ... the jihadists of the Middle East are flowing into Iraq, and they see this as the definitive battle. If they succeed in driving American troops away, then their war against modernity continues. So our military strategy is to kill or capture terrorists/insurgents, right? If that's whack a mole, then maybe the strategy is to do more than whack, perhaps better interdiction at the Syrian border, for example?

I think the real question is whether Americans go wobbly or not. Time is on our side, but one wonders if we are a patient people or not. Could Americans of this generation tolerate a war to defeat 1944-45 Nazi Germany unconditionally .. or just stop at the Maginot line? A lot of our boys died that winter ... lots of mistakes and bridges too far. If only FDR and Truman had the sense to quit and leave Hitler and the Germans to themselves. Doh!

The majority of vets are proud of this Iraq mission, and see it as a continuation of the U.S. legacy of making sacrifices for the liberty of others. Germany, Japan, and the other 80+ countires that have hosted thousands of US troops (and prospered) since 1950 don't provide a compelling argument that American engagement is imperialistic. To me, that's the fascinating political war here in the U.S. -- the success of liberal activists who still claim this is a war for oil, even at $60 a barrel, who call for "exit strategy" on the one hand and shout "imperialism" on the other. It's awfully patronizing to tell soldiers that their only mission should be not to die, so come on home. But that message is compelling, and I really fear that it will affect an abandonment.

Posted by: Kane | June 29, 2005 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Part of the Iraq probelm is that many of the insurgents may not be Iraqi. They may actually be from outside the country.

Are not all wars essentially and fundamentally political? One definition of politics is: "Intrigue or maneuvering within a political unit or a group in order to gain control or power.' (Excerpted from The American Heritage Dictionary)
I've never read about a war that was not in order to gain control over something else, be it a way of life, a people, or a place.

Posted by: dr | June 29, 2005 3:14 PM | Report abuse


I think the time to take out Mr. Hussein would have been the first time, when he was the aggressor in Kuwait. Then you could draw parallels to WWII. But GHWB passed on that opportunity with the prudent observation that we would become involved in a quagmire of nation building. How true those words are. I was stunned that he didn't "finish the job" at that time.

But, when we let SH go that time it was poor judgement to think that we could go in there this time with virtually no international support, no proof of the 9/11 ties, no proof of the WMD facilities, and exiles telling us we would be welcome with open arms and have it go smoothly.

What irks me the most is our President saying on national television that "no one could have foreseen" this outcome. His own father foresaw it a decade earlier.

Posted by: rba | June 29, 2005 3:34 PM | Report abuse

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice . . . er, we won't get fooled again."

-- George W. Bush

Posted by: Anonymous | June 29, 2005 3:46 PM | Report abuse

I must also offer my sentiments of Blue liberalism to the conversation...Joel you are right: this is a political war now, was at the beggining, and we now have postering to comfort us in our beds at night. As a young preson, this does not reassure me...we hope the Iraqi situation will get better, we hope the constitution will come out on schedule..maybe this is the best course for the administration, but is it the best course for America? I wonder...
To the man whose son aksed him about being drafted in six years...that's a really good question...i frankly am worried about being forced next year much less six years from now. I suggest becoming a legal resident of Canada.

Posted by: kuuks | June 29, 2005 3:47 PM | Report abuse

The chain reaction of evil -- wars producing more wars -- must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.

~George Washington

What is morally wrong can never be advantageous, even when it enables you to make some gain that you believe to be to your advantage.

~Marcus Tullius Cicero

I am not blaming those who are resolved to rule, only those who show an even greater readiness to submit.


Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really easy way: stop participating in it.

~Noam Chomsky

The belief in the possibility of a short decisive war appears to be one of the most ancient and dangerous of human illusions.

~Robert Lynd

It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.

~Albert Camus

The statesman who yields to war no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.

~Sir Winston Churchill

Violence is the first refuge of the incompetent.

~Issac Asimov

Liberty and democracy become unholy when their hands are dyed red with innocent blood.

~Mahatma Gandhi

Any man who has once proclaimed violence as his method is inevitably forced to take the lie as his principle.

~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

In order to rally people, governments need enemies. They want us to be afraid, to hate, so we will rally behind them.

~Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk

Posted by: Anonymous | June 29, 2005 4:24 PM | Report abuse

"If that's whack a mole, then maybe the strategy is to do more than whack, perhaps better interdiction at the Syrian border, for example?"

Why stop there? It seems that the porous borders of Iraq are directly leading to at least part of the problem. Other than the fact that we don't have the troops to do it, wouldn't that "military track" seem to have as its first object to seal the borders of Iraq and stop the in-flow of terrorists or insurgents or whatever you want to label them? Gee, it's too bad we don't some help from some other countries, or maybe we WOULD have the troop strength to do something like this.

"You forgot Poland."
GWB, first debate

Posted by: Anne Olivia | June 29, 2005 4:28 PM | Report abuse

..the history of mankind and the mixup
of war and relgion is long..often very
tragic and brutal.....americans are
new to the global stage..having only
the spanish-american war as a begin
point....the europeans for many hundreds
of years mixed it up amongst themselves
or with the muslims...or took it into
the americas....into asia...into africa..
....warmaking is often the throw of
dice based on some combination of gain
and loss....the calculations based on
the sums of current technology in death
infliction....wealth to be gained..the
power to be found or increased...when
mixed in with religion or the creed of
unquestioned belief it is difficult to
slow or turn the impulse to make war....
..Iraq has oil...and oil today is the
locus of wealth and power............... would be perhaps better if those
who have led us into the sand and draw
the lines also had to go would
likely clear up any misconception as
to the price to be paid or what can
be gained.............................

Posted by: an american in siam.... | June 29, 2005 5:24 PM | Report abuse

I don't think sealing borders is a viable political solution. You wouldn't be able to do that without massive fortifications, outposts, minefields, etc. I don't know if the Iraqi people would be too happy about the US turning their country into a fortress.

Posted by: jw | June 29, 2005 6:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm so confused. If the leader of any legitimate organization or business were as incompetent as GW, they would have been fired by now.

If EVERYONE agrees that this invasion was either wrong, illegal, ill-advised, poorly planned, poorly executed, or just plain stupid, then why is GW still in office? No-one can deny that thousands of people are dying because of his decision to invade Iraq. So why is GW not being brought up on war-crimes? Why was he re-elected? Why is he not being impeached?

And on the subject of a draft, I almost wish the draft were re-instated -- if only for the reason that maybe some of the decision-makers would then have their own family in the armed forces. Then maybe the decision to go to war would not be made so hastily.

Posted by: Mike | June 29, 2005 6:19 PM | Report abuse

I find this whole article somewhat confusing. Joel, are you trying to argue that the administration should employ purely military means of ending the conflict? You seem distressed that the President spoke in terms of political objectives and strategies.

Victory on the battlefield is not why wars are fought. Military force is just one of the tools used to achieve a political objective. Military force alone achieves nothing. Clausewitz devoted a whole book to this simple concept, which many on both the right and left seem to forget with depressing regularity.

When you step back, you can see how multifaceted the Iraq strategy is. Military force was necessary to remove the Baathist regime and is now being employed to hold the insurgents at bay. New governing institutions based on popular sovereignty are being built. New infrastructure is being built (much of Iraq had no infrastructure to speak of, so there was nothing to rebuild). Constitutional negotiations have been underway for some time (they started well before the composition of the drafting committee was decided). All of this is consistent with the objective: Removal of the Baathist regime and the establishment of a government based on principles of popular sovereignty.

Meanwhile, consider the stated objectives of the three components of the insurgency: the Islamists desire to establish an Islamic theocracy along the lines of the Taliban; the Baathists wish to reestablish themselves and their fascist ideology as the sole governing force in the country; and the Sunni tribes simply want to garner as mich power as they can. Of these three, the Sunni tribes can be coopted (they are surely the ones being negotiated with). The other two must be discredited and defeated. They have mostly discredited themselves through their indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Defeat is just a matter of time.

Lastly, it is important to remember that the point of decision in a war and the point of the conclusion of hostilities are rarely one and the same. Germany's cause was lost in WWI when the 1917 offensive failed, but the fighting continued through 1918. Hitler's cause was lost when the Allies succeeded in establishing a beachhead in Normandy, but the last year of the war in Europe was also the bloodiest. When the Islamists and Bathist turned their violence on civilians, they sacrificed strategic victory for a brief tactical achievement.

I'm not saying the violence is near an end. It will most likely escalate through the summer and peak in September. October and December are the months to watch. If the Sunnis turn out for the elections, then there can be no doubt the objective of a new legitimate government will have been achieved.

One last thing: Yesterday, June 28th, was the 200th anniversary of Nelson's victory at Trafalgar. Lord Nelson, perhaps history's greatest naval battle strategist, once summed up his battle doctrine simply: "Never mind the maneuvers, just go straight at them!" Plans aren't everything. Victory goes not to the best planner, but to the commander best suited to adapt to changing and chaotic circumstances.

Posted by: Dan | June 29, 2005 7:17 PM | Report abuse

I was talking to a few people today at lunch about the Presidents speach. One told me that he was "tired of getting shafted with a hard on for this war". I asked the most obvious question, "Are any of your family over in Iraq or have been?" No. "Have you had your taxes increased?" No, but the debt of the war will have to be payed back someday. "Any of your friends in the military and stationed in Iraq?" No, no one I know is in Iraq. So, this person has not made a single sacrifice to win this war and he feels shafted by the whole experience. I do not think its the Presidents fault that he and many others totally not affected by the war in any form what-so-ever feel like they are getting shafted, I think it is the Medias fault, because they are anti war, it is thier mission in life right now to try and convert as many Americans as posible to the anti war side.

I do not feel the war was done in a perfect way, I think that misjudgements were made, I also think too few military people were sent in to secure the country after the collapse of the old government and that letting every Iraqi military personell go home without a job and without money to support thier family was probably the single most destructive decision made in the war.

I on the other hand am 100% behind the President in his efforts, I 100% support our troops. The funny thing is that if you ask those who are actually sacrificing, the VAST majority, well over 80% support the war as fervently as I do. I have not sacrificed for this war, I sacrificed for the first Gulf War and am a disabled veteran.

I have an idea of how our troops feel about politicians abusing the bad news from a war as I was in the First war in Iraq and know how I felt when I read news reports leading up to the War starting. How we were sitting ducks for the Iraqi scuds and any number of other pathetic things that made me wonder if they were right. Reports that our MOP gear (chemical/biological protective suits) were outdated and ineffective. Of course it turned out that they the ones in the field were perfectly fine and only a few back stateside were found to have been ineffective, but instead of researchig, the reporters seized the moment of spotlight and put doubt into the military personels heads. As we remember the first Gulf war now, it was the single most effective war ever. I feel like our media and the far left liberals of our country and our congress are totally undermining not only our security, but also the entire lives of many in Uniform today by demonizing thier actions, demonizing the reasons for the war, by calling for early withdrawl whehter the job is done or not. These soldiers are SACRIFICING and putting thier lives on the line helping insure the safety of those who are souring thier feeling feelings of accomplishment and pride in a job well done.

This war has put the evil of the vast media empire to its greatest efforts ever to undermine a war effort and ruin any chance our country has of ever helping the come out from under the threat that fanatic islamists pose to the now and future.

Posted by: Allen Stoner | June 29, 2005 8:25 PM | Report abuse

I would like to see some examples of the media "demonizing" the military. Maybe I'm crazy, but I like evidence that backs up opinion. News is news, should the media start self-censoring whenever anything bad happens?

Posted by: jw | June 29, 2005 9:41 PM | Report abuse

"Never has it been more obvious that war is an extension of politics by other means."

Almost, Joel. War is politics.

Posted by: InvestiGator | June 29, 2005 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Where is fdg31?

Posted by: Achenfan | June 30, 2005 9:07 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: jw | June 30, 2005 9:20 AM | Report abuse


Unfortunately, the military strategy at this point mostly seems to be to survive. Unfortunately, our military is re-learning many of the counter-insurgency lessons learned the hard way during the Viet Nam war.

I have been in Iraq, recently, and I believe the war is winnable, but it will not be easy. The people of Iraq have been down-trodden for so long that it will take a tremendous effort to shift their mindset from "tell me what to do" to "I get to tell my government what to do through my vote." Contributing to the difficulty of achieving this paradigm shift are the "foreign fighters" who have flocked to Iraq to contribute to the mayhem.

One point I would like to expand on is the well-trained force you mention. Our military is well trained. Were they not, the casualty lists would be horrendous, instead of bad. The good news is also that our forces are trained in urban warfare as well as set-piece battles like most folks would like to see. We have spent a tremendous amount of time and money developing urban training facilities like the ones at Ft. Polk and Ft. Knox to provide realistice urban warfare training to prepare our forces to fight in exactly the manner they are fighting in.

One of the things that amazed me about Baghdad was the general lack of damage that was apparent. Adjacent to where we lived in the Green Zone (less than 200m away), there were two government buildings that had been bombed very effectively. I spoke with residents who were living in the neighborhood when the buildings were bombed, and other than broken windows, there was no damage to their homes. My point is that this is an urban war unlike any we have ever fought before, but we are learning, and quickly, how to adapt and respond.

Finally, our military successes, such as the recent push in the Sunni triangle, get little mainstream press, while any setback gets trumpeted. A occasional fair representation of how well the military is actually doing would be nice.

Posted by: TnD | June 30, 2005 9:47 AM | Report abuse


I agree with your post, except for one point - infrastructure. I was amazed at the amount of infrastructure that is present in Iraq. One of the more interesting things to do is to take a helicopter ride from Baghdad to any of the outlying areas during the daytime. As you fly along, the pilots are constantly doging around built up areas and popping up to fly over high tension power lines. Almost all of the roads are paved (although many are in a state of disrepair due to the bad guys tendency to kill anyone who is attempting to improve or repair).

In contrast, Afghanistan has a complete lack of infrastructure - paved roads and electricity outside of the major population centers are both non-existent.

Posted by: TnD | June 30, 2005 10:05 AM | Report abuse

off this topic, but Joel said we can post about anything we want:

Now that Ronald Reagan has won the TV-Land Greatest American award, will we have to revise the quote about George "Father of our country" Washington? "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen." I guess two out of three isn't bad.

Seriously, the RR thing makes me very sad.

Posted by: kbertocci | June 30, 2005 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Ronald Reagan won? I knew there was a reason I wasn't paying attention to that contest.

Posted by: Sara | June 30, 2005 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I feel your pain, kbertocci. Best not to take it too seriously. Life is but a dream.

Posted by: Dreamer | June 30, 2005 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Nixon had a battle plan for Cambodia.

Posted by: nottamember | June 30, 2005 12:11 PM | Report abuse

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