Idiocy Abounds

Just when I thought I had seen the worse idiocy has to offer — the juror from hell — I read this column by Fred Barnes.

It turns out that the Great Leap Forward to Victory plans were leaked to guests at the White House Christmas party. Barnes explains what the party attendees learned:

Last Monday Bush was, at last, briefed on an actual plan for victory in Iraq, one that is likely to be implemented. Retired General Jack Keane, the former vice chief of staff of the Army, gave him a thumbnail sketch of it during a meeting of five outside experts at the White House. The president’s reaction, according to a senior adviser, was “very positive.” Authored by Keane and military expert Frederick W. Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, the plan (which can be read at is well thought-out and detailed, but fundamentally quite simple. It is based on the idea–all but indisputable at this point–that no political solution is possible in Iraq until security is established, starting in Baghdad. The reverse–a bid to forge reconciliation between majority Shia and minority Sunni–is a nonstarter in a political environment drenched in the blood of sectarian killings.

General Keane is one of the three retired generals and two academics who were cherry picked to explain to the President why the Iraq Study Group panelists are poopyheads.

Why would the Keane-Kagan plan succeed where earlier efforts failed? It envisions a temporary addition of 50,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. The initial mission would be to secure and hold the mixed Baghdad neighborhoods of Shia and Sunni residents where most of the violence occurs. Earlier efforts had cleared many of those sections of the city without holding them. After which, the mass killings resumed. Once neighborhoods are cleared, American and Iraqi troops in this plan would remain behind, living day-to-day among the population. Local government leaders would receive protection and rewards if they stepped in to provide basic services. Safe from retaliation by terrorists, residents would begin to cooperate with the Iraqi government. The securing of Baghdad would be followed by a full-scale drive to pacify the Sunni-majority Anbar province.

The catch is that, according to many smart and knowledgeable people, the military doesn’t have 50,000 troops to send. Fred Barnes doesn’t bother to address this little quibble.

I actually stopped reading after this paragraph (emphasis added):

The Keane-Kagan plan is not revolutionary. Rather, it is an application of a counterinsurgency approach that has proved to be effective elsewhere, notably in Vietnam. There, Gen. Creighton Abrams cleared out the Viet Cong so successfully that the South Vietnamese government took control of the country. Only when Congress cut off funds to South Vietnam in 1974 were the North Vietnamese able to win.

You should read that paragraph a couple more times in order to appreciate the magnitude of Barnes’s idiocy. I’ll wait. If you feel a strong urge to bang your head against a wall (as I did) I suggest finding a padded wall to avoid injury.

Now, it is true that Congress reduced appropriations to South Vietnam in September 1974, but Barnes’s notion that the “counterinsurgency approach” used in Vietnam had been a model of success until then is, um, a little off. Most historians believe the war was bleeped up beyond hope of redemption by 1968.

Those of us old enough to remember Vietnam also remember being told, by both Johnson and Nixon, that escalation — stepping up the war effort with more troops or more bombs — would eventually bring the war to a happy resolution.

It didn’t. But more importantly, the Vietnam experience should have taught us that not all problems require a military solution.

Robert Scheer wrote,

Bush seems not to have noticed that we succeeded in Vietnam precisely because we did quit the military occupation of that nation, permitting an ideology of freedom to overcome one of hate. Bush’s rhetoric is frighteningly reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s escalation and expansion of the Vietnam War in an attempt to buy an “honorable” exit with the blood of millions of Southeast Asians and thousands of American soldiers. In the end, a decade of bitter fighting did not prevent an ignominious U.S. departure from Saigon.

Now, however, Vietnam is at peace with its neighbors and poses no security threat to the United States. Many of the “boat people” have returned as investors, and successive American Presidents have made visits to the second fastest-growing economy in Asia. While Vietnam is still run by its Communist Party, eventually post-war leaders on both sides have accepted that peace is practical.

The lesson of Vietnam is not to keep pouring lives and treasure down a dark and poisonous well, but to patiently use a pragmatic mix of diplomacy and trade with even our ideological competitors.

The United States dropped more bombs on tiny Vietnam than it unloaded on all of Europe in World War II, only hardening Vietnamese nationalist resolve. Hundreds of thousands of troops, massive defoliation of the countryside, “free fire zones,” South Vietnamese allies, bombing the harbors … none of it worked. Yet, never admitting that our blundering military presence fueled the native nationalist militancy we supposedly sought to eradicate, three U.S. Presidents — two of them Democrats — lied themselves into believing victory was around some mythical corner.

While difficult for inveterate hawks to admit, the victory for normalcy in Vietnam, celebrated by Bush last week, came about not despite the U.S. withdrawal but because of it.

Since 1974 people have complained that we could have “won” in Vietnam had we just tried harder. And for lo these many years I have asked these people to explain to me what we would have “won” beyond a Korean-style stalemate, or why “winning” would have made any difference whatsoever to U.S. national security. I have yet to receive a satisfactory answer.

That said, I think it is possible — likely, even — that a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq will be followed by some heavy-duty nastiness throughout the Middle East. There’s no guarantee that, thirty years hence, we’ll be talking about “normalcy” in Iraq. There are huge geopolitical and cultural differences between southeast Asia in the 1970s and the Middle East today that make it foolish to assume withdrawal will have the same eventual outcome. But it’s even more foolish to assume that doing more of what’s failed up until now will be successful someday.

See also: Digby, “Up Escalator.”

The Heretik writes,

So Barnes announces Bush finally has a plan for victory. This follows last year’s Strategy for Victory which follow the catastrophic victory that was announced when Baghdad fell the first time. Almost four years into the fiasco, Bush has a plan. Plan for more plans to be announced as needed. We’re going to be in Iraq at least until January 20, 2009, the day Bush leaves office. Whatever illusions Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute has resold to Bush, we all will have to live with. And our soldiers and Iraqis both will die with over there. They have to die over there so Bush’s dreams don’t have to die over here. And thanks to the Iraq Study Group for providing Bush cover through the election cycle. It’s interesting how Bush says the study’s findings are interesting and then rejects them.

25 thoughts on “Idiocy Abounds

  1. Bad cop, good cop………tear the hell out of Iraqi society and Iraqi institutions, then come in as heroes who will protect Iraqis from violence……. long-term strategy: wear down Iraqi willpower, pride and nationalism, offer ‘safety’ as part of a package that just happens to separates Iraqis from control of their national resources, then…..’mission accomplished’ for Cheney’s oil cabal.
    I am just repeating in different words what I have believed since this war started: the way to give oneself time to do a big heist is to create a cover, an attention-grabbing distraction full of drama.

    Our invasion of Iraq and particularly the bizarre ‘mistakes’ of allowing looting [except of the oil ministry], imperially putting an end to wage earning of some 70% of the population, not securing storage places holding hundreds of tons of munitions and plastic explosives, not getting even basic electricity and water restored, and, ahem, treating Iraqis to imprisonment and ‘torture’……all these and more [like referring to Iraqis as somehow having inferior abilities] demonstrate, not the wisdom of democracy-promoting good guys as much as they demonstrate a nefarious intent to set off a raging five-alarm fire to cover what is happening behind the scenes.

  2. The plan sounds exactly like the Afghanistan war. Financed by CIA, the special forces green berets lived with the locals, paid cash, and won loyalty. This was followed by NGOS, financed by USAID(CIA) following with rural pacification performing the same functions without weapons. It was classic Kennedy and Vietnam. ‘Green Berets and Peace Corps,’ both with similar cultural and language training, created by Kennedy. Some of the participants go back actually to working with Kennedy on the creation. The person in charge of the drug eradication program with DEA was a Peace Corps director and there were more in the USAID money.

    Problems occured when the participants in the rural pacification program using NGOs basically denounced the government, Karzai and his family(who they develope very close realtionships through NGOs and financing), and went to the US to cash in on books. The insurgency in the South followed immediately and NATO troops began taking heavy casualties. CIA had basically thrown all the work away in a couple of days. NATO had to pay for the sell off.

    The new plan comes from another private institution like ISG came from US Institute for Peace that used fed money, CIA agents to get funding and property on the mall between the two war memorials for it’s headquarters. The plan here is not new and the insitition has no real goernment connections that are needed for it to exist and function, but the plan is the same as CIA’s and the US Institute for Peace-it’s relying on the Afghan war model. Hopefully the choice of the AEI as an advisor outside the US government will end criticisms, but the fact that Afghanistan was thrown away when the funding ran out from USAID or anticipation of the use of the ISG by the US government as a way out of Iraq leaked, prompting most countries and their intelligence agencies to wait for the announcement to make deals with Iran(Bush timelines), NATO ended up paying for the intentional failure of the Afghanistan plan by CIA and there is always concern that using a similar plan in Iraq will be used to explain the US CIA intentional error in Afghanistan.

    NATO needs more troops in Afghanistan and Iraq is getting those troops as the Afghanistan plan is put into effect in Iraq. This does not make sense unless Afghanistan has always been lower on US priority because it is NATO-hence the CIA plan for the war and the intentional failure of the plan when money ran out for those NGOs and CIA ‘agents’ participating. NATO is not America and this is a classic excuse.

    Afghanistan and Kennedy, Iraq and ?

  3. I saw Colin Powell this AM; he indicated he is opposed to sending more troops. He poined out there are not more troops; this gets accomplished by holding over troops scheduled to depart and accelerating the departure dates of units rotating in theatre and CAN NOT BE SUSTAINED.

    Newt Ginggrich was also on and he called Bush ‘stubborn’ and the situation in Iraq a ‘failure’. He was supposidly in on some of the original planning and he suggested that the plan of going in light was coupled with a plan to use the Iraq army to provide secutity. If the US was tasked with security, we needed a half million troops. But post-invasion the decision was made to make this a US occupation; the Iraq army was disbanded and we were in the security business with a force that was 20% of what was identified in pre-invasion pentagon planning..

    I don’t trust Newt any further than I can throw him, but it’s an issue worthy of investigation. Did the WH pull a bait-and-switch on the military to sell them the invasion on one set of circumstances and CHANGE the conditions afterward so Bush and Co did not have to cooperate with the Iraqi Army? Leaving American GIs in the crosshairs of a civil war that they were NOT supposed to referee.

  4. I hear that Mogtada al Sadr has 80,000 men in his Madhi militia in Baghdad. My guess is that they aren’t going to roll over as easily as the words from Bush’s war hawk advisers would have them.
    It should be more than clear now that Bush is locked into a sure defeat, and his only remotely possible hope to salvage any kind of a victory is to push on, no matter how foolish it is. He is being driven by the horns of defeat.
    And the only way the American public is going to put an end to this illegal and immoral folly is to forcibly remove the reigns of power from Bush by impeachment. I use the term impeachment not to mimic a public outcry, but to try to express some mechanism for the American people to regain control of their nation and their security. Bush is no longer capable of making rational decisions..He’s out of control, and an intervention of some sort is needed.

  5. Kagan has a point “that no political solution is possible in Iraq until security is established, starting in Baghdad.” Of course, that’s exactly why so many of us were aghast at the administration’s failure to establish that security in the immediate hours after the fall of Saddam. Rummy’s ‘stuff happens’ response to the looting lingers in the memory.

    What Kagan misses is what might be called the Humpty Dumpty quality of the resulting years of American incompetence – all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t but Iraq back together again. They missed their opportunity, having realized it four years too late.

  6. They just never stop with the Bullshit, Maha…

    There was never the slightest chance that we would leave behind us in Vietnam a functioning government composed of the scumbags that ran RVN…

    No Day, No Way…

    And Crieghton Abrams had no more idea what was going on than Westmoreland had…At that point the entire U.S. Army was engaged in a massive game of “Charades”…Running the same “operations” over and over in the same places – at times using the very same troops who had been there a couple months previously – all for the sake of getting whatever Lt.Col. was in charge his CIB and his ticket punched for promotion to Colonel…

  7. I saw an article yesterday about an Iraqi prisoner. The headline was America put electricity up my ass before in my home.

    I’m with Donna; but will state it in fewer words. It’s always been about the oil. The Bush Administration’s intent was just like the white man’s when American Indians discovered oil on their new reservation land–land originally thought a barren waste. The white man came back and told the Indians they would share the oil fifty-fifty. They did. They took the oil and gave the Indians the shaft. That has been the intent of the Bush gang all along–take the oil and give the Iraqis the shaft.

    W needs to be shown the heartless, soulless man that he is by massivie protests against any move other than withdrawal. Any thing else is premeditated murder of Americans and Iraqis.

  8. What a messs they have made. I have been trying, as I am sure most of us here have, to figure out just what the strategy is since the beginning og this disaster… So here’s what I think they will stupidly do next, and it won’t make anything better in the long term.

    1. I think they are moving all troops out of al Anbar province now and into Baghdad. They have been overwhelmed in al Anbar for a long time and they have decided to cut their losses there.

    2. The 30K more troops being sent over now will also go to Baghdad to enforce the martial law-type environment that they need to show how well everything is working. Victory’s right around the corner, eh?

    3. A major bombing raid will begin in al Anbar province once our troops are out. Every living soul will be slaughtered and the area left uninhabitable. The body count of “terrorist killers” will jump up by several million. But since “we don’t do body counts,” this number will be distorted and denied at every turn. Since al Anbar is too dangerous for news media to enter, we won’t see any of it. PR problem solved, right?

    If Bush resorts to tactics like these, he may actually appear to be successful in Baghdad in the short run, but all he seems to understand is the sledgehammer approach. That’s all we’ve seen so far, anyway.

    These folks are getting very desperate. There’s nothing they won’t resort to. Who knows what reactions they will trigger in the region. I have a feeling, though, that it will get unbelievably bloody real quick. So unbelievably bloody that no decent person will want to believe it… like the Lancet study of “collateral damage” …and many simply won’t believe it at all, despite the evidence.

    I hope I am wrong.

  9. The whole fiasco reminds me of a joke I heard when I was a kid about a monkey at the county fair who pulled a cork out of a prize pig’s butt, and a bystander stating the last thing he remembered was the monkey trying to put the cork back in, trying to stem the tsunami of pig poop.Only difference is this ain’t funny.
    Anyone soliciting advice fronm the AEI is either stupid or insane. The damage they have done is beyond comprehension. We stand at the threshhold of a nightmare. China is about to dump the dollar, China has invested heavily in Iran’s oil infrastracture.Will the Arabs come to the rescue? If so , what are the “conditions”? Dumping Israel? Will Bush go ahead and bomb Iran?There is spy vs spy stuff on the Russian front with fingers pointing at the former KGB,YUKOS and GASPROM and things slithering off to Israel, and radiological terrorism.The war in VietNam spilled over into Cambodia and Laos, the same seems possible in the ME, but with even worse results .Our mud monkey in chief has uncorked a bottle housing one bad assed genie.

  10. Loved the Great Leap Forward artwork. It is patterned after a style known as Socialist Realism. We’ve all been living in a national multi-media fantasy that someday may be called Conservative Realism.

    Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall shortly after we invaded, and so now the plan, four years too late, is to pour huge amounts of soldiers and money in to put him back together again. I hope the new Congress will trumpet the amounts of cash we’re bleeding to buy our new best friends, all so Bush’s oil pals can finally get their hands on that black gold.

    I remember my conservative acquaintances making excuses for Bush when he was campaigning for the 2000 election, saying that at he would be surrounded by competent advisors. We really didn’t have an answer for that, but the last six years have given us plenty of material for rebuttal.

  11. Just a small point to quibble about. The use of the VC in 1974 as the example is, as you would all know, bullshit. The Viet Cong as an effective fighting force was destroyed in the 1968 TET offencive. The fight after 1968 was totally the effort of the North Vietnamese Army, a very different kind of animal.


  12. The thing that seems to be driving this war, it’s arguments, it’s pro or con – whatever side you are on and even Bushie boy’s fantasies is the Vietnam war. Are we going to forever be uselessly refighting it ?
    The Iraq war is it’s own war. To begin with – it’s in the desert. But, kids are dying because the right wants to win vietnam and never went to a therapist to deal with reality. The left was feeling guilty for 30 years afterward and so let this folly take place to begin with.
    I don’t know if it’s just because we suffer the baby boomers and thier selfish psychodramas or if it’s something that we will be doomed to have to argue and relive forever but, I believe it’s long past time for Vietnam to have been put to bed – like 30 years.
    And, until the baby boomer righties finally have enough of playing out thier dramas and traumas about it, our kids of today, of 2006, are going to keep dying.
    It’s time for them to grow up, find a good doctor and live in the real world.

  13. Frederick Kagan, along with father Donald and brother Robert, is a member of a key neoconservative family, second in influence only to the Kristol and Podhoretz clans. Like his father and brother, Frederick favors hawkish foreign policies and extravagant defense budgets. He is also associated with the Project for the New American Century (which his brother cofounded), having participated in the PNAC study group that produced Rebuilding America’s Defenses, a 2000 book that served as a blueprint for several Bush administration policies, and contributed a chapter about the U.S. military for the PNAC volume Present Dangers (2000), which was edited by Robert Kagan and William Kristol.

  14. The use of the VC in 1974 as the example is, as you would all know, bullshit. The Viet Cong as an effective fighting force was destroyed in the 1968 TET offencive. The fight after 1968 was totally the effort of the North Vietnamese Army, a very different kind of animal.

    Thank you. I didn’t have the strength to enumerate all the problems with Barnes’s comment.

  15. lafrance — this psychodrama pre-dates the boomers. In many ways Vietnam was the result of the “greatest generation’s” psychodramas about Pearl Harbor and Yalta and losing China and the Red Menace and all that. Someday you’ll probably dump some other kind of psychodrama on your own kids.

  16. It’s not just Bush who is nuts. The entire punditocracy, military, and political aristocracy are batshit insane. How else to you explain Harry Reid giving political cover to Bush on ‘Face the Nation’ today?

    And those troops staying overnight in the ‘mixed neighborhoods’ ala the idiot Keane….

    They will have to supply their own light as Iraq’s capital city only has electricity 3 hours a day.

    Yup, 3 hours a day.

    Well…Keane’s stupid idea has one saving grace….

    After a week or two of ‘securing the neighborhoods fer freedom…’ in Baghdad most units will be have suffered so many casualties that they will have to be withdrawn.

    And then it will be on to the ‘next great plan for victory!’

    Yay USA!

    Yay USA!

    Yay USA!

    Clap harder ya Dirty F#?$king Hippies!

  17. lafrance… We know that Iraq is a different war, different culture, and different geography from Vietnam, but the one essential element that ties them together almost inseparably is the attempt to impose America’s will on another country and culture by military might. That’s the lesson Vietnam should have taught us, and that’s the lesson that our eventual defeat in Iraq should hopefully teach. You can’t win an ideological struggle in the physical realm, you have to fight it in it’s own dimension.

  18. The lesson of Iraq is that the lesson of Vietnam was not lost on many of America’s people, but it was lost on many of America’s rulers. Expect them to continue to make as many wrong decisions as possible.

    I call the present phase the ‘pre-defeat’, when everyone knows that defeat is coming. In the pre-defeat, positioning is all. Forewarned is forearmed.

    For instance, the moment the helicopters flee the Green Zone, Rush Limbaugh will voice the stab-in-the-back theory. Depend on it. What retort should we have prepared for this predictable lie?

  19. On Sunday, the U.S. military said a roadside bomb killed three American soldiers and injured a fourth serviceman north of Baghdad.

    Drip, drip, drip…If any neocons out there want to add a little ballast to their rocky portfolios, I recommend the American Casket Co….it’s gonna be a blue chip.

  20. The Bush Klan will just never get it! They never did, and never will. If those morons think that sending more troops, which we really don’t have, is going to bring about some miracle, then they are even bigger lunatics than I believed! Then to suggest a Vietnam style plan!! The whole lot of them has gone off the deep end.

    The Worst President Ever!!!!!

  21. Until Baghdad looks like Berlin in 1945 we will never win. Political rules of engagement doomed us in Viet Nam and they are doing it again in Iraq.We should never put our troops in harms way unless we are prepared to annihilate the enemy. Unfortunately that is the only way to prevent further attacks.

  22. Ken — you do realize that, increasingly, “the enemy” are the same people we went over there to “liberate”? Do you want to sit down and think about that for a while?

    Yes, we can make America safer from foreign attacks if we eradicate all life forms outside our borders, but I’m not sure that’s a good idea in the long run.

    The fact of the matter is that we’re making enemies faster than we can shoot them, and our little adventure in Iraq, no matter how it turns out, has and will increase the enemy threat to the U.S.

    It was stupid, stupid, stupid to invade Iraq. Stupid.

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