Les Gelb: Iraq is Vietnam 2.0

Writing for the Daily Beast under the provocative headline “Iraq is Vietnam 2.0,” Leslie Gelb bluntly provides his take on how a vastly outnumbered, ill-equipped group of jihadis just managed to take control of Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, from the much more numerous and better-equipped Iraqi Army.

Drawing on the lessons his own long career in mainstream journalism (The New York Times) and government (U.S. Defense Department) and from his  perch as president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, Gelb says he’s seen it all before. The jihadis are crazy, militant, ill-equipped but are fighting for a cause in which they believe. The Iraqi military serves under the U.S.-installed kleptocrat thug Nouri al-Maliki, whose rule stands for the domination of Iraq by his own ethnoreligious faction. Writes Gelb:

Just look at the situation in Iraq these past months. We helped the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to field an Iraqi army that was the 20th-largest in the world, with more than a quarter million soldiers and a million-man Iraqi security force including counter-terrorism troops and police. By psychedelic contrast, jihadi forces in Iraq probably number several thousand.

Now take a look at exactly what happened in Mosul. While reports are sketchy, there were likely tens of thousands of Iraqi security forces of all types in and around Mosul. They had tanks and mortars and all sorts of armaments provided by the American taxpayer. On the other hand, the jihadis who won the battle probably numbered, according to the BBC, hundreds to around a thousand troops. Apparently they had no tanks or heavy artillery. The jihadis started firing, and the Iraqi security forces took off their uniforms, gave up their weapons and started running. All this after a decade of Americans fighting and dying and training and equipping them at the cost to the United States of well over a trillion dollars.

So what’s the problem? The problem is not that these Iraqis weren’t well trained and equipped, it was they did not have a government worth fighting for. The Maliki government is Shiite, exclusionary and anti-Sunni. It is corrupt and inefficient. In sum, like most of these great freedom-fighting government we’ve backed over the decades—corrupt and inefficient.

Gelb also predicts that if the United States rides to Maliki’s rescue, that will only confirm what the Iraqi Army already believes: They don’t have to fight because the Americans will do it for them.

For those who don’t recall Vietnam, Gelb’s headline refers to the Nixon-era policy of the “Vietnamization” of South Vietnam, which was meant to train and equip an army of South Vietnam that could defend the country after the U.S. troops left. It didn’t work out too well.

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Comments (35)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/12/2014 - 03:18 pm.

    So far Obama

    appears to have read his history.
    Let’s hope he continues to use good sense and stay out of unwinnable wars.

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/12/2014 - 04:57 pm.

    How about the religion factor in this war, and other wars in the Muslim world?

    The more conservative and fanatic individuals are convinced of the rightness of their cause.

    The conscripted, underpaid and lukewarm, not so much.

    I suspect the doubt in the rightness of the government’s cause in the face of so much conviction is a large factor in the insurgents punching far above their weight.

    After all, it is what God wills.

    The religion element of this conflict should be a LARGE “stay away” sign for the US.

    It should have worked the same way before.

    It is also why there will NEVER be a “good: foreign intervention in the Mideast until the fervor of religion has passed.

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/12/2014 - 05:02 pm.

    The religion element makes it much worse than Vietnam.

    There will not come a day anytime soon that there will be tours of former GI’s touring Iraq and Afghanistan to mend personal fences with the people there.

    Vietnam was about economics and politics.

    This is about religion and politics.

    Neither of which can we sort out for them.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 06/12/2014 - 10:38 pm.

    Coming at it from a different angle

    Gelb’s points are well-taken, but if you REALLY want to start an argument, use Tom Englehardt’s piece as the beginning…


    He’s hardly unbiased, but I’m inclined to agree with his overall conclusion that the record of the American military since World War II is generally one of unmitigated failure. Not for a moment do I believe that – if Englehardt is correct – the failure that characterizes American military action since 1945 is due to some flaw in the American soldier.

    If blame is to be laid, I’d put it on the shoulders of policy makers, from the joint chiefs to legislative leaders to a long series of presidents and unelected “presidential advisors,” and on the shoulders of strategists and commanders in the military establishment. Englehardt is not the only one to notice that we’ve rather consistently backed the “wrong” side when involving ourselves in the internal conflicts of developing nations and regions. Iraq, now disintegrating, and Afghanistan are simply the most recent illustrations of the delusions of grandeur afflicting the left and, especially, the right. William Fulbright described it very well a generation ago in a book title: The Arrogance of Power.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 06/13/2014 - 10:22 am.

      Another angle: it’s about the money.

      Call these numerous adventures failures if you like, but to whom and why were they failures ?? Perhaps demanding military success of our military adventures is too narrow-minded a view.

      A more illuminating question is: to whom and why were they SUCCESSES ?? Surely there were some redeeming virtues in these failures, some modest things we could hail as victory or at least beneficial.

      In other words, maybe it’s not about military success at all.

      The myriad of contractors, subcontractors, vendors to same, analysts, and various hangers-on feeding at the trough of the military budget would cheer the success of these policies. OK, so they weren’t exactly successful from a military or political point of view, but they DO support a lot of American jobs, don’t they?? Don’t forget that favorite mantra of both Democrat and Republican of “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” – and also, what on earth would happen if the revenue stopped flowing into all those Congressional districts ?? Good God, man – it could be the end of the world as we know it !! Also, let us not forget that some of that money – VERY IMPORTANTLY – finds its way back into Congressional re-election campaigns.

      The final defense of fruitless foreign adventurism is that even though these episodes are not necessary for our defense and don’t in fact make Americans safer, they DO SHOW that if we ever needed a real defense, the military prowess on display shows that it COULD BE used in our actual defense. So in the eyes of those who proclaim that the #1 mission of government is defense, this shows our system is working, even if not perfect. Odd logic, I know, but there it is.

      The political process loves military spending so much, sometimes the Congress gets into a regular hissy-fit with the Pentagon when the Congress insists on spending for programs the Pentagon doesn’t even want !! There are plenty of examples, but let’s just mention how difficult it is to close a military base in this country for which there is no longer a useful role; and then there are those very specific weapons programs. A Fox News summary states it like this: “lawmakers are forcing the services to keep ships, aircraft, military bases, retiree benefits and other programs that defense leaders insist they don’t want, can’t afford or simply won’t be able to use.”

      It is also necessary, those military experts will tell you, to test all these new weapons systems in a “live fire” situation of real war conditions – like, for example, in Iraq. All those precision-guided missiles, drones, advanced technologies, machines, methods, and tactics had to be tested somehow, somewhere. Why not start a war in Iraq ? That would be a perfect testing ground.

      So there’s a huge driver of military spending and downstream dependencies by a lot of influential poeple on that revenue. IT IS HUGE.

      “The U.S. Department of Defense budget accounted in fiscal year 2010 for about 19% of the United States federal budgeted expenditures and 28% of estimated tax revenues. Including non-DOD expenditures, military spending was approximately 28–38% of budgeted expenditures and 42–57% of estimated tax revenues.[citation needed] According to the Congressional Budget Office, defense spending grew 9% annually on average from fiscal year 2000–2009.”

      Let’s put it another way. How can policies leading to a record of “unmitigated failure” since WWII still enjoy such staunch support ?? Oh, I know people in the Congress are all whining now about Iraq and Afghanistan, but these were the same folks who wholeheartedly supported it only a few short years ago. To see how sincere their objections are, check back on how they vote on the next military budget !!

      It’s about the money.

  5. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/13/2014 - 12:22 am.

    It boils down to political courage

    All U.S. wars have been winnable if the president of the United States had the political courage to use what was in their entire arsenal.

    Harry Truman had it. Richard Nixon and George Bush did not. In Vietnam and Iraq, the theatre was small enough that the conflict could have been over immediately with the firepower of one ballistic missile submarine.

    We could have even given the civilian population of Baghdad 10 days to evacuate – something Truman never did.

    The truth is, the American military has been fighting with one hand tied behind its back since the end of World War II. Lyndon Johnson was worried that destroying North Vietnam would bring China into the conflict, and he was not interested in that possibility.

    I sat in a submarine at the bottom of the Haiphong harbor that could have been obliterated with one (maybe two for good measure) of our Mark 45 torpedoes, waiting for Johnson to pull the trigger. He never did.

    The rules of engagement that restricted the combat soldier in Iraq were outrageous, from not firing until fired upon to not being allowed to fire at mosques, even as people within the mosques were firing at them.

    While at any time over the past 10 years, the missiles from one Ohio class submarine could have vaporized Baghdad and we could have all gone home and saved the lives of 4,500 U.S. servicemen and a few hundred thousand Iraqis.

    If we’re not going to use our entire arsenal of weaponry because our commanders in chief refuse to destroy the enemy and win a war for political reasons, then get rid of the arsenal because it’s serving no useful purpose.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 06/13/2014 - 03:20 pm.

      There you go….

      just vaporize everything, right Dennis? I’m so glad that the majority of people that share such a neanderthal world view are heading towards the exit to irrelevance .

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/14/2014 - 07:46 am.

        And when the warrior class is gone

        who will remain to defend a nation of pacifists? That’s been the Left’s strategy since you were in Kindergarten and it’s working, apparently.

        If you want to see what the results of what that looks like, you should have been with Obama when he visited the Standing Rock Sioux reservation yesterday. Sitting Bull would cry if he saw what’s happened to his people.

        • Submitted by jason myron on 06/14/2014 - 02:22 pm.

          You people live in the past

          Your “warrior class” is nothing but testosterone fueled nonsense… and spare us your flawed analysis of Leftist strategy as it’s devoid of fact and only stems from your raging hatred for anyone that doesn’t share your antiquated world view. Anyone that attempts to equate the use of tactical nukes as an absolute last resort to pacifism is clearly given up rational thought.
          That same “warrior class” is solely responsible for the monumental blunder that the Iraq war will be remembered as. Neocon chicken hawks destabilizing an entire region and focusing more hatred towards this country, wasting trillions of dollars and the lives of America’s Finest all to watch Iraqi soldiers drop their rifles and run instead of engaging with forces that they outnumber. So much for Conservative strategy…

          • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/16/2014 - 09:48 am.


            It’s a past that never existed.
            I’d suggest reading David Kaiser’s recent book on FDR and the run up to WWII.
            It’s clear that most Americans wanted no part of any war in Europe.
            It took a dramatic attack on American territory by the Japanese to get us to declare war on Japan. If we could have gone to war just with Japan we would have, but the Tripartite Pact among Germany, Italy and Japan made that impossible.

        • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 06/17/2014 - 11:08 am.

          The Republicans

          Were the pacifists and isolationists prior to WWII. Do you read about history or make it up as you go along.

  6. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/13/2014 - 07:45 am.

    Our military is built for state-against-state conflict. The implicit idea is that you win against that state structure and the people of the defeated state quietly follow the new leader and laws.

    That’s the way it worked in the majority of conflicts over the centuries–a quiescent peasant population whose lot was never really affected by the government that was over them. Sure they were conscripted into battle, but their life was not really affected that much by who was in the capitol. Not so much anymore.

    The state-against-state military option doesn’t work against a people motivated by deeply held personal beliefs to oppose the will of an outsider.

    And while Mr. Tester revives the ghost of Curtis LeMay, guns and bombs do not change minds–that has been shown over and over–that’s the exact fallacy that the US has followed for years.

    And the nuclear option that he hints at, well, it deterred the other nuclear states from using a nuclear option, or from exercising outsize statecraft, and that was purpose enough (state-against-state again).

    Never fight wars in places you do not understand the issues.

    Never fight in places where people care about the outcome more than you do.

    Never fight a war where there is are long-standing, festering historic grievances.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 06/13/2014 - 10:42 am.

      One more for your fine list at your comment’s conclusion:

      Never fight a war when your fundamental national interests are not clearly and obviously at stake.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/13/2014 - 03:52 pm.

      Before you dismiss the nuclear option

      as a serious consideration, let’s remember that we haven’t had any more problems with Japan attacking us, now have we?

      Nuclear weapons as a deterrent only worked for the U.S. during the Cold War because we had a history of using them. You don’t deter anyone if you publicly announce that you have no intention of using them.

      Liberals over the years have tried to pressure the president to announce a “no first-strike option” which is a pledge other nuclear nations have taken (China, Russia) claiming that they would never launch an attack in a pre-emptive strike. But American presidents, to their credit, never took the bait and refused to make such a pledge.

      That position is responsible for keeping the Cold War cold, but it loses all effect, if you refuse to use your most powerful weapons in wars you are losing.

      If you’d rather lose a war when you have the means to win it, if you’d rather avoid using your nuclear arsenal for political purposes (the world will hate us!) then you might as well get rid of them now because they no longer even have a deterrent effect due to your lack of credibility.

      One well-placed W76 warhead on the road between Baghdad and Syria would send the necessary message.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/13/2014 - 05:27 pm.

        The necessary message

        Nuclear weapons “on the road between Baghdad and Syria” would send the message that the United States is filled with murderous barbarians who think nothing of setting off a global apocalypse (do you think other nuclear powers would just sit by and do nothing?) to show their “resolve.” It would show we have no compunctions about destroying a nation that has not acted aggressively towards us (Syria), as well as one that has frustrated us by not letting our unprovoked invasion of them go as smoothly as we wanted. The message you want to send would take bullying to a whole new level.

        That’s not the only message. China would get the message that nuclear weapons are an acceptable way of resolving issues with smaller powers. China would, like the US, have no more “problems” with Japan claiming islands thought to be Chinese. The Philippines would also cease to be a problem. The Taiwan issue? What Taiwan? Problem solved!

        Maybe India would get the “message,” and see the way out of its issues with Pakistan. Yes, a whole new era in global communication would be opened up.

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/14/2014 - 09:37 am.

        Mr. Tester has found the perfect way to unite Islam and ignite a unified war of Islam against the US.

        The magic nuke–kill the exact people you want it to, affect no others, send the exact message you want, and everyone cowers in fear.

        Not everyone fears death and is deterred by the threat of death. Have you heard of “suicide bombers”?

        I suppose Mr. Tester is aware that the Iranians support Maliki and have offered to send troops in aid of his government?

        Mr. Tester would have us use US troops, bombers and nukes–in the service of Iranian interests.

        What a tangled world we have ended up with.

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/14/2014 - 10:28 pm.


        I would say suggesting nuclear war as a viable alternative should have it own law reminiscent of that one regarding Hitler references, yes?

  7. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 06/13/2014 - 12:58 pm.

    Frustration is endemic

    “Rules of engagement” are put into place for very good reasons, so while Mr. Tester’s assertions about one hand being tied behind our back make a certain amount of sense, what’s being implied as the alternative makes no sense at all. Indeed, I’ve no doubt that all the wars we’ve been involved in since 1945 have been “winnable,” depending upon how one chooses to define “winning,” and how great a cost one is willing to pay.

    It’s useful to point out the role of ideology here – not mine or Mr. Tester’s, but America’s. Most of the conflicts we’ve gotten involved in have been to fend off a perceived threat from another political/economic system. In none of those situations were we “defending” the United States, since to my knowledge, there’s been no threat – zero – of invasion by a foreign power. Neal Rovick is correct, I think, that we have a military establishment constructed for a type of warfare that simply hasn’t been happening, and the structure we’ve been using for the past half-century has failed to adapt to that reality.

    Moreover, to fall back on the words of Mr. Tester’s favorite military strategist, Barack Obama, “Just because we have the best hammer doesn’t mean that every problem is a nail.” Keeping those “rules of engagement” and other restrictions on how our military operates stem from at least a couple of sources. One is the notion that the military should be subservient to the civilian political structure. While there may be “conservative” Americans who wouldn’t mind living in a military state, they’re a tiny minority. Another source, specifically addressing the implication of Mr. Tester’s “our hands have been tied” metaphor, is that many Americans are not at all ready to support a foreign policy in which the standard response to diplomatic frustration is the use of nuclear weapons. Indeed, we could have vaporized a good many places down through the years, and while that would have proved us insane, and made most of the rest of humanity enemies of the United States, it’s an outcome that doesn’t strike me as very useful for our long-term health and welfare as a nation.

    Steve Titterud’s point about “following the money” is well-taken, and I see no reason to disagree. Our military adventures have been political failures on the world stage, but he’s quite correct that shareholders in too-numerous-to-mention defense contractors have generally done quite well for themselves – unless their particular golden goose was absorbed into an even larger golden goose, or we passed through a (brief) period in which few new weapons were being developed and paid for. Dwight Eisenhower, whose career provided him with multiple opportunities to observe the flaws in a militaristic approach to foreign policy, was pretty specific in warning against just the syndrome that Steve has laid out. To a significant degree, the government and economy remain the captive of a “military-industrial complex” that has plenty of profit-oriented reasons to see a threat to the U.S. behind every tree and rock, and they’re not shy about taking advantage of opportunities to propagandize the public in that regard.

    My personal favorite was the billboard McDonnell Aircraft (absorbed into Boeing some years ago) put up near its headquarters in suburban St. Louis. Nicely-rendered F-15s in full afterburner streaking across the billboard sky, with the dramatic caption “The Sound of Freedom” underneath. That we’ve sold the same plane to regimes not at all interested in “freedom,” and trained pilots employed by those regimes to fly it and use its weapons systems, though they might well be using them AGAINST us at some point, suggests that “freedom” is not the primary motivating force behind a lot of weapons development.

    I like Neal Rovick’s list of “nevers,” and Steve’s addition, as well. Iraq and Afghanistan are poster children for that list. I might add that, in the Afghan context, just because the Russians have tried something and gotten a bloody nose as a result should not be regarded in Washington as an invitation for us to see if we can duplicate their experience. We could have – should have – learned from the Russian experience. But we didn’t. Far too many foreign policy “hawks” tend to be people like Dick Cheney, a craven and venal politician who had “other priorities” when it was his turn to do some of the fighting in Vietnam.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/13/2014 - 03:27 pm.

      It’s curious

      The only people I’ve ever heard complain about Dick Cheney’s service are those who never served themselves. Seriously.

      • Submitted by Eric Paul Jacobsen on 06/14/2014 - 03:15 pm.

        I heard someone complain once…

        Indeed, I remember it quite clearly. A rather high-profile veteran of the war in Vietnam once did complain about Dick Cheney’s draft deferment during the years of that conflict. He was not unprovoked, however.

        ‘In an increasingly vituperative political campaign, Mr. Cheney this week again questioned the credentials of Senator John Kerry and his ability to be commander in chief. Mr. Kerry, who was decorated in Vietnam and has made his service there a central element of his campaign, fired back.

        Putting Mr. Cheney’s record in the spotlight, Mr. Kerry said that he “got every deferment in the world and decided he had better things to do.” ‘

        That’s quoted from an article in the NEW YORK TIMES, dated May 1, 2004.


        • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/14/2014 - 07:24 pm.

          You should have found a better example

          Not that you’d know, but John Kerry is the most despised Vietnam veteran on the planet. He wasn’t Swift boated because he was popular, he was Swift boated because Vietnam vets couldn’t stomach the idea of this guy getting away with throwing his fraudulent purple hearts over the White House fence and trashing his former comrades as baby killers and worse.

          Yep, he ranks right up there with Jane Fonda. Dick Cheney never put on the uniform but he’s twice the patriot Kerry is.

          • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/14/2014 - 10:29 pm.

            Sorry, Mr. Tester

            The most despised vets were the REMFs–separated safely from combat by air land or sea:

            …….Why do combat troopers despise REMF’s? Well, besides having it easy, like hot food, cold drinks, ice, mattress on a bed, pillow, some had air-conditioning, the longest hump they made was to the club for a beer, showers to bathe in daily, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, SLEEP!!!!, staying dry, music daily, daily sick call, movies, TV, clean uniforms, no wait-a-minute vines, no **** sores, the stress of not getting certain paper-work right or in on time, carrying something heavy rarely, and most wounds were received by the local clap whores, etc and yes, some were killed by incoming and from there own men on dope or drunk,etc. as compared to drinking water from a bomb crater or muddy stream and clear stream if your lucky, dehydrating from the heat 24-7, humping up and down valleys, seldom getting a nights rest, stressed out 24/7 waiting for that crack that starts a fire-fight, watching for the enemy, booby-traps, checking out tunnels, wishing you could shave the hair on your chest to get lower to the ground, humping a ruck sack, spare ammo for the MG, PRC’s, any specialized equipment that you may need, leech bites, constant battles with malaria and those damn mosquitoes, laying out in the jungle on LP or OP with you and MAYBE two other guys on the darkest wettest nights on this earth trying to keep your eyes and ears open, carrying your buddies to a MEDVAC or to a body-bag, dodging short rounds from your own artillery, putting up with O-2’s that can’t read a map, laying chilly when more of the enemy than there are of you passes in front or all around you, being in the middle of Nowhere, Plant Earth, on some god-forsaken LZ or fire-base and fighting off a ground attack and diving for cover when the Red legs depress the 105’s and start firing beehive rounds, and the fast-movers drop their loads “dangerous close”, when you and four or five other men are on a recon patrol in a known hot area where the odds are 6 against anywhere from 100 to a 1000+ ( never good ), ALWAYS wondering when are you going to get it, being so god-damn tired you begin praying that you do get it, NEVER EVER letting your men and buddies down, getting shot at quite frequently and sometimes getting hit, hardly ever seeing who’s trying to kill you, the shits, the shakes, the sweats, and then getting to go back for stand-down to pull palace guard on the green-line protecting the REMFs! Trying to get pay for a beer or a hot meal on a trip to the rear and being told that you have to wait until after lunch. Being chewed out because your hair is longer than the regs allow or your uniform is filthy and ripped and your boots are covered in red dust or mud and your body odor is enough to go against the Geneva Convention as a unlawful chemical agent. Yes, it kind of pissed one off who was in the field for long periods of time and knew that to get a job in the rear required you to get three Purple Hearts or be short enough to go home or a coward. Could we, the combat arms of the military, survive without REMF’s? Definitely not! They are vital to every branch of the service and they go above and beyond in most cases but most of us remember those few ***-holes who made our lives more miserable for no reason at all. A person who did that, who couldn’t give 100% of himself to support us, who bitched about how hard he had it, THOSE WERE/ARE THE REMF’S. No respect from the likes of us for them….ever!…….


            Rear Echelon M**** F***–. One who has no frontline or combat experience, and therefore makes huge errors at expense of human life.

            The REMF’s decisions make sense only if you think of human beings as statistics. This is the main problem with REMFs- they think of people as numbers.


  8. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 06/13/2014 - 05:57 pm.

    When Bush/Cheney Took Us Into Iraq

    I made the comment that the Sunnis and Shiites were both heavily invested in a culture of revenge based on their religious differences and had been for centuries,…

    a culture of revenge which likely preceded the birth of Islam, i.e. you wound me, I kill you; you kill me, my brothers kill your whole family, you kill my family, my tribe wipes out your entire tribe),…

    that the only thing keeping the lid on that continuing conflict was Saddam Hussein,…

    and after we had taken him out,…

    we might establish some sense of stability for the short term,…

    but as soon as we left, the Sunnis and Shiites would start killing each other again, and continue doing so until they, themselves got so sick of killing that they finally decided there must be a better way than the wholesale slaughter of Muslims by Muslims,…

    or until another strong man such as Saddam Hussein arose (or was lifted up by the CIA and US special forces) to nail a lid on the whole thing again for a few decades.

    I’m not sure the world has the stomach for watching a Sunni/Shiite civil war (but there’s not much we can do about it, Iraq being, after all THEIR country, not ours).

    We in the US would certainly have massively resented and revolted against any other nation that attempted to invade our nation in order to stop our own Civil War in which upwards of 700,000 were killed. Why should we expect the citizens of another nation to react differently than we would?

    Meanwhile, I’d suggest that if the policies of the US government are not sufficient for them, all the chickenhawk warmongers and Neocons gather together their own sons, daughters, and friends, form up their own private militias (I’m sure Xe Services would help), and ship themselves off to do whatever they think needs to be done in Iraq, but they can blessedly well do it out of their OWN pockets.

    I, for one, am not interested in spending another penny nor the life of even one other member of the American military to week to prevent from doing so two groups who are absolutely determined to kill each other off and won’t be satisfied until one or the other has succeeded.

    In the end, I’m very sorry to say, the overall effects of Bush/Cheney’s Iraq War is spending the lives of 4,500 mostly very honorable US military personnel, and more than $3 trillion spent out of your pocket and mine with absolutely ZERO positive effect. There would be fewer dead Iraqis and Iraq would be a far more stable and predictable nation for its citizens to live in if Saddam Hussein were still in power.

    (And to my military friends and those who have lost loved ones, I’m sorry to reach that conclusion, but I can reach no other).

    Iraq was a terrible, and very expensive, mistake. “Let their blood be on [Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld’s] heads” and the heads of those who pushed Bushco into it and supported them while they committed this travesty, while taking absolutely ZERO risk, themselves.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/14/2014 - 09:56 am.

      There IS no ‘Iraq’

      unless you go back 2500 years to the Babylonian empire.
      What we call Iraq is a collection of sects and tribes patched together by the British to facilitate oil exploitation.
      You can’t expect something like that to act like a unified nation (or even like us ;-).
      The best long term solution is to divide most of it up among the Kurds, Turkey and Iran, and make Baghdad an international city.
      This may not be stable in the long run, since most of the population is Arab. However, right now I wouldn’t trust any of the neighboring Arab states (Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria) to run it.
      Once again, we’re living with the legacy of British 19th century nation building.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/14/2014 - 02:26 pm.

      It should be clear to all by now who won the Bush wars.

      Islamic radicalism and Iran.

      If I recall right, these were the parties we were supposed to defeat.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/15/2014 - 02:58 pm.

    One arm?

    Almost 3 million killed in South East Asia and a million in Iraq and the problem is we didn’t unleash enough death and destruction. Uh huh.

    It’s funny, basically these “one arm” arguments boil down one train of thought: The Nazis knew how to deal with unruly populations, and before them the Brits, the French, and the Dutch. Thing is they didn’t, they all fell eventually because the people who actually live in a place don’t go anywhere and they know your home is on the other side of the world.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/16/2014 - 07:43 am.

      Didn’t we recently

      commemorate our invasion of Europe on June 6th? Maybe our problem in SE Asia and Iraq, and Korea as far as that goes, was that we didn’t follow the example of WW2 of how you defeat an enemy.

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/16/2014 - 08:32 am.

        I’ll say it again.War works

        I’ll say it again.

        War works when your opponent lays down their arms and decides to accept what you want them to.

        Otherwise, not so much.

        • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/16/2014 - 09:41 am.

          And they don’t lay down their arms

          by simply asking them to. Wars are won by destroying the enemy’s property and killing their people. That’s the unvarnished truth. We stopped winning wars when we decided we wouldn’t do that anymore.

          • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/16/2014 - 10:46 am.

            And you live with the illusion that we didn’t kill people and destroy property in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan?

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/16/2014 - 09:52 am.

        First you need an enemy.

        WWII was our last legally declared war.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/16/2014 - 11:51 am.


        “commemorate our invasion of Europe on June 6th? Maybe our problem in SE Asia and Iraq, and Korea as far as that goes, was that we didn’t follow the example of WW2 of how you defeat an enemy.”

        See, this is why we can’t trust these self-appointed neo-con military “experts”. Apparently they can’t tell the different between ejecting an occupying force from friendly territory and fighting a an unfriendly population in enemy territory. In one instance we’re ejecting occupiers, in the other we are the occupiers… big difference.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/16/2014 - 09:00 am.

    Gelb is wrong

    This isn’t about poorly motivated surrogate governments, it’s about a civil war. As Mr. Brandon points out Iraq was a colonial creation drawn on a map for Brit oil convenience, even the psychopathic oppression of Saddam couldn’t keep the ethnic tensions completely suppressed. ISI didn’t capture this territory simply because the Army isn’t motivated, they captured that territory because it’s home ground, i.e. Sunni.

    The main reason the Iraqi army didn’t put up much of a fight and was probably ordered to withdraw, it that the army itself is divided amongst sectarian factions recruited from the regions they serve in. I think out of 7 or 8 divisions only one is certified for nation-wide deployment, in other words, they can be trusted to fight anywhere in the country against anyone they’re ordered to fight against. Commanders were probably afraid to order the anything other than a retreat because the army in that area might well join the insurgents or end up fighting each other rather than the insurgents.

    When we invaded we unleashed a civil war, and one of the worst kinds of civil wars, a religious one. Such wars are known to go on for hundreds of years sometimes. This civil war was never going to be contained, and it cannot be contained, they’re gonna fight that war no matter what we do. Gelb is right in the sense that we can no more prevent the Iraqi civil war then we could’ve prevented the Vietnamese revolution or war for re-unification. But the circumstances and characteristics of Iraq are very different from Vietnam.

    I tell ya what though, I think the biggest fear of neo-cons and hawkish democrats is that we’ll end up with another “Vietnam Syndrome”. It took almost two decades to restore an American electorate that would trudge off to any war a president pulled out of his backside again, and they don’t want to see a repeat of that. Alas, I think it’s too late.

    In the old days we would install a ruthless dictator and support him to the hilt but those days are long gone and that never really solved the problem anyways.

    As for the Neo-cons, it was their big bright idea to go into both Afghanistan and Iraq with woefully insufficient numbers that couldn’t possibly stabilize either country in the first place. These decisions were fueled by republican fantasies of being welcomed as liberators. These fantasies flew in the face of history and all existing knowledge of the region but who needs knowledge when you know what you believe.

    So the same people who created these disasters and thought Sarah Palin would have been a nifty vice president are still pretending to be the foreign policy experts… move along, nothing to see here.

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