Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Show Must Go On!

Last night we heard from Mr. Bush that it is important to keep the present horror show playing out in Iraq on the road. After having acknowledge that the territory that was Iraq is now a deeply divided and violent place where "outrageous acts of murder" recur daily, he spent the bulk of his speech speaking as if this is merely the product of a lapse in "strategy" on our part, and not a further confirmation of what we all know to be the case, namely that the sterility of troops in the effort to "stabilize" Iraq has been proven many times over. The greatest evil Mr. Bush can conjure up is a rogue regime in Iraq, intent on killing Americans. By invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein, Mr. Bush believes he courageously and heroically removed one such regime. But his solution has become the problem. Or rather, he never had a solution for how Iraq would be governed without Saddam. And he continues to use the mortal terror that has gripped Iraq in the wake of America's invasion and occupation as an excuse to deploy more violence with the hope that once Baghdad and the rest of Iraq has been "clear and secure," Iraqis will finally come together as a plural yet united nation. Yet how can this hope can be squared with the known conditions of Iraq? "Americans know," the Times editorial notes, "that this Iraqi government is captive to Shiite militias, with no interest in the unity, reconciliation and democracy that Mr. Bush says he wants." Hence it is that the problem in Iraq is more fundamental than security and reconciliation, it is about the integrity of the state of Iraq, about how it will run. Telling it to run a different way simply begs the question and ignores the way it is already being run.

Mr. Bush is under the illusion that Iraq is basically good, except for the bad elements which can be purged and cleared with more troops. This misbegotten belief in the cleansing act of violence only points in one direction: overkill. "Rationalistic metaphors about cleaning," as William T. Vollmann writes in Rising Up, Rising Down, his massive study of violence, suggest "processes which require overkill for their effectiveness to be guaranteed." Hence the problem with Bush's "surge" of troops is not only that it will fail, but that from the get-go it stops well short of the numbers that would be required to impose an effective police state in Iraq. As the Times says, "There is nothing ahead but even greater disaster in Iraq."


Barnacle said...

P1 If we fail in Iraq it will be a disaster for United States
P2 We have not failed, and will not fail, in Iraq
C It is not a disaster for the United States

I disagree with P2.

Ilya said...

That's not a valid syllogism.
You say:

If p then q
Not p
therefore not q

That's invalid resoning, because 'p' might not be the only cause of 'q'. To make it a valid modus tollens, the second premise would read 'not q' and the conclusion would be 'not p'.

Anyway, I might add that Bush continues to link the war in Iraq with the broader global war on terrorism, and yet speaks as if the United States is a neutral third party trying to broker peace in the middle east, when in fact American troops are perceived by many sides as an enemy, not an ally.

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

Bush's speech had competing premises. Thus an invalid conclusion. It was something to the effect of:

P1: We can't afford to leave Iraq, or we'll lose.

P2: If the Maliki government doesn't shape up, we'll leave.

C: We have to win and we need to the Malike government to shape up and help us towards that end.

You can not use leaving as a stick to get Iraqi buy in if you dismiss leaving out of hand at the same time.

I think this speech and the "surge" represent an ongoing trend of fighting a lukewarm war. I think part of what got Americans to buy into to the war was the sales pitch that (WMD aside but the actual war and its implementation) the war itself would be swift, decisive, and require minimal resources (i.e. blood and treasure). So assuming for a moment that Iraq has been winnable all along (not delving into the question of whether it was just) the Administration felt it had to go in half-assed to get support. It's like the government bidding process. Say nasa wants to build a telescope, they bid it out. Some contractor bids it at 2 million. It ends up costing $8 million and takes a year(s) longer than promised. Invariably there are overruns as with evertything, but an honest bid probably would have been like 5 or 6 million. If from the outset of the war, the particulars had been cast differently (i.e. we are going to commit to 10-12 years, full rebuilding, with an initial presence of 400k-500k troops) then i think we would be in a different place. If Bush et al. thinks that a surge is what will do it, then don't half ass it. Go to the public, be honest, and say you need 50k troops for x period to get the job done (and maybe define what getting the job done means). Otherwise, redeploy and put the onus on the iraqis to build up and pray the sunnis don't get crushed.