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« Free speech in GSO | Main | Mind reading »

Feb 25, 2006


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Mr. Buckley is entitled to his opinion......

"Well, of course, one can doubt it, if one ignores the facts.

And as the facts get harder to ignore, one can blame the media."

And you are entitled to yours.

Others disagree, including one whose opinion is perhaps held in even higher regard than Mr. Buckley's, and yours, on this matter.


Ed Cone

Thanks for the link to the Hanson article, Bubba. I read it with interest. Have a good weekend.

David Boyd

I think what WFB is referring to is that as soon as Saddam was out of power, many people (me especially) assumed the Iraqis would embrace Democracy automatically (we thought taking over the country was going to be the tough part). There is no question that that objective has failed (they may yet get there, but it will be by some other path). That being said, I don't think the predictions of where we are now were that widespread. Sure, somebody, somewhere hit the nail on the head with regards to insurgents and IEDs and al Qaeda, but then Elaine Garzarelli was right once too.

Ed Cone

DB: "I don't think the predictions of where we are now were that widespread."

Give me a break. Here are some quotes from the Fallows article, which is unfortunately only teased at the link above:

The U.S. occupation of Iraq is a debacle not because the government did no planning but because a vast amount of expert planning was willfully ignored by the people in charge.

Because detailed planning for the postwar situation meant facing costs and potential problems, it weakened the case for a "war of choice," and was seen by the war's proponents as an "antiwar" undertaking.

All the government working groups concluded that occupying Iraq would be far more difficult than defeating it. Wolfowitz either didn't notice this evidence or chose to disbelieve it.

The National Intelligence Council, at the CIA, ran a two-day exercise on postwar Iraq. The Office of the Secretary of Defense forbade Pentagon representatives to attend.

If the failure to stop the looting was a major sin of omission, disbanding the Iraqi army was a catastrophic error of commission -- creating an instant enemy class. Every pre-war study had warned against it.

Ed Cone

OK, replaced the Fallows link with one that goes to the whole article. The whole, 17-page article in one of the most respected publications in the English-speaking world.

Here's more from the article:

Almost everything, good and bad, that has happened in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime was the subject of extensive pre-war discussion and analysis. This is particularly true of what have proved to be the harshest realities for the United States since the fall of Baghdad: that occupying the country is much more difficult than conquering it; that a breakdown in public order can jeopardize every other goal; that the ambition of patiently nurturing a new democracy is at odds with the desire to turn control over to the Iraqis quickly and get U.S. troops out; that the Sunni center of the country is the main security problem; that with each passing day Americans risk being seen less as liberators and more as occupiers, and targets.

All this, and much more, was laid out in detail and in writing long before the U.S. government made the final decision to attack. Even now the collective efforts at planning by the CIA, the State Department, the Army and the Marine Corps, the United States Agency for International Development, and a wide variety of other groups inside and outside the government are underappreciated by the public...U.S. government predictions about postwar Iraq's problems have proved as accurate as the assessments of pre-war Iraq's strategic threat have proved flawed.

But the Administration will be condemned for what it did with what was known. The problems the United States has encountered are precisely the ones its own expert agencies warned against. ...the ongoing financial, diplomatic, and human cost of the Iraq occupation is the more grievous in light of advance warnings the government had.

David Boyd

So all these different bureaucrats from these different organizations predicted exactly what would happen after Saddam's fall step by step in the months leading up to the war in various reports and studies and the administration ignored them completely to the tune of doing the exact opposite and insuring disaster. So where were the leaks? Why'd we have to wait until the January/February 2004 issue of the Atlantic Monthly to find out if it was all so clear?

Ed Cone

You are hilarious, Boyd. Any vestige of a true conservative's sense that our government can lie to us, washed away by the sweet taste of Kool-aid.

Yet while you were jerking off to Fox News, the experts -- I'm sorry, let's sneer and call them "bureaucrats" -- were making a detailed case for the problems ahead.

Now you want to say it didn't happen, or that it wasn't relevant, because you couldn't hear it above the clamor of the war drums? That the minute detail in Fallows article is not credible, and that political considerations didn't override the warnings?


David Boyd

Don't accuse me of not believing in government incompetence at all levels.

Your original charge is that there were 'widespread predictions that we would end up exactly where we are.' Some predictions, sure. But widespread? Forget it. If there had been they'd have shown up in the NYT and the WP everyday. Fox News wouldn't have been able to ignore them. There'd have been a much more spirited debate in Congress.

The big mistake, the one that Buckley points out, is that the Iraqis, in large enough numbers, have not greeted us as liberators. If they had, these other problems - disbanded army insurgents and looters - would have been bumps in the road instead of catalysts for the situation on the ground now. It was the liberators assumption that informed our planning. The real scandal here is how we were so wrong about how we would be received. Maybe you knew it, but it seemed to me to be the conventional wisdom at the time. I remember thinking 'uh-oh' after we started rolling into towns and there was no reaction.

Now, for the more mundane aspect of this argument and the specific predictions mentioned by Fallows. He's pulling these predictions from a great many sources. To be fair you'd have to go back to all sources in the lead up to the war and look at all predictions. Knowing where we were in 2004 and then cherrypicking the predictions that fit the situation is not difficult. Besides you know how bureaucrats are. There was plenty of equivocal language in the reports, I'm sure, in addition to conflicting reports from competing experts. For example how about the predictions from before the war (some of which Fallows mentions) of oil well fires, starvation, refugees and bloody house to house fighting (and where were the predictions of what did happen like al-Qaeda streaming in)? These didn't come to pass for whatever reason, but if they had you could criticize just as much as you are for the current situation.


"Any vestige of a true conservative's sense that our government can lie to us, washed away by the sweet taste of Kool-aid."

Such pretty words! Another calm, collected statement of fact and logic!

Looks like someone's button has been pushed here.

Ed Cone

Ah, it comes down to the definition of "widespread." I'll stick with it, meaning, " agreed upon throughout the planning and intelligence organizations of the government."

You say, "The real scandal here is how we were so wrong about how we would be received. Maybe you knew it, but it seemed to me to be the conventional wisdom at the time."

"We" were so wrong because the political considerations outweighed the intelligence. We the people were fed slogans, some of us had more of an appetite for them than others.

Conventional wisdom? Well, it's what Cheney said, and what you heard. But here's Fallows in 2002: "No matter how welcome as liberators they may be at first, foreign soldiers eventually wear out their welcome. It would be far easier if this inescapably irritating presence were varied in nationality, under a UN flag, rather than all American. All the better if the force were Islamic and Arabic-speaking."

I agree, it's a real scandal. That's why I'm talking about it now.


Two points: In a general sense, "widespread" may not be the best word, since the predictions weren't widespread among pundits and public figures. However, Ed's use of the word isn't cause to dismiss the point of this article, because it seems to me that the important thing isn't that the predictions were widespread in the general population, but rather that the predictions were being made by exactly the people that the administration should have been listening to.

Secondly, when saying that the idea that we would be seen as liberators was "conventional wisdom" it's important to remember that it was the administration that helped shape this convantional wisdom. That "conventional wisdom" was most likely a result of their policy, not the cause of it.

David Boyd

I don't dismiss the article or its point. It's well written and well researched.

My original comment to the post quarrels only with the term widespread. I think Ed can make a case that the term might apply to government experts. However, if so, I find it hard to believe those widely held predictions wouldn't have been in the news before the war. Seems that that would have been a major stumbling block in the public debate if such a consensus had been formed just below the highest levels of the administration.

I agree that the administration helped shape the conventional wisdom on us as liberators. To what degree, I don't know, but they weren't solely responsible. The stories about Saddam as a tyrant and his brutality probably had a good deal to do with it. Given what we knew about the guy, who would want to live under him? Why wouldn't we be welcomed?


The issue of pre-war predictions is most likely irrelevant.


(Link posted on the next thread too)

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