How We (US) Lost in Iraq and Afghanistan

  • News
  • Thread starter Astronuc
  • Start date
  • #51
OK, you can use the argument that was worse because of Iran-Iraq war, but Americans on this forum would be uneasy about it, after all they were selling weapons to Saddam and sharing with him satelite photos.
Which is a wrong reason to feel uneasy about.
Americans supported Saddam after he started the war, because Iran was even worse. Their dictatorship is not one man's affair, death of any single individual in Iran leadership is not going to end it. Since the war has already started, what was making more sense - to let Iran win?

The other problem here is that as a general rule in stable dictatorship your chance of being murdered (by thugs hired by gov or freelance thugs) is actually dramatically lower than in unstable democracy (by freelance thugs), not mentioning countries that effectively turned in to a permanent war zones. (yes, you may use different metric, but I'm just pointing out that one metric here favours dictatorship) Additionally the less educated society the harder would be to achieve working democracy.
Working democracy can be achieved only by trying to achieve working democracy.

Just conserving a dictatorship can't avoid a (potentially bloody) mess when it eventually falls, and people try to live differently. It just postpones it.

In order to learn how to ride a bike you need to try it. Even if you fall repeatedly at first.
 
  • #52
284
132
Which is a wrong reason to feel uneasy about.
Americans supported Saddam after he started the war, because Iran was even worse. Their dictatorship is not one man's affair, death of any single individual in Iran leadership is not going to end it. Since the war has already started, what was making more sense - to let Iran win?
OK, so he killed so many people in a war in which he was considered as lesser evil and armed accordingly.
Working democracy can be achieved only by trying to achieve working democracy.

Just conserving a dictatorship can't avoid a (potentially bloody) mess when it eventually falls, and people try to live differently. It just postpones it.

In order to learn how to ride a bike you need to try it. Even if you fall repeatedly at first.
That what you said contradicts somewhat historical cases:

Case 1: Poland. Before WW1 in occupying powers the most democratic thing was constitutional monarchy with parliament. Then in independent country we played with a democracy for a while. (a terribly unstable version) It ended up with a coup and soft line dictatorship. The system at the end by contemporary standards was comparably democratic to Putin Russia, but by standards of that era was very tolerant and humanitarian in comparison to nearby Soviet Union and Third Reich. Consequently there was a period of communism. The system that appeared after 1989, was already in theory fully democratic in 1991, while it needed a while more in practice.

(there was big jump in quality of democracy between Second Republic (1918-1939) and Third Republic (1989-). Such event don't fit your theory ("you need to try democracy to build democracy in long run").

Case 2: Asian Tigers - first become developed, then actually become serious about democracy.
Case 3: African countries - were not developed, when they became independent their system seriously devolved towards parody of democracy or just open military dictatorship/military rule.

My point that for democracy you need properly educated and mature societies. Otherwise there is not much point. And you can get the needed development level also under less enlighten system (monarchy / colonial subjugation / single party state / dictatorship), actually if you risk civil wars or high crime rate, then keeping a police state may be a part of the least harmful idea.
 
  • Like
Likes Shinaolord
  • #53
That what you said contradicts somewhat historical cases:

Case 1: Poland. Before WW1 in occupying powers the most democratic thing was constitutional monarchy with parliament. Then in independent country we played with a democracy for a while. (a terribly unstable version) It ended up with a coup and soft line dictatorship. The system at the end by contemporary standards was comparably democratic to Putin Russia, but by standards of that era was very tolerant and humanitarian in comparison to nearby Soviet Union and Third Reich. Consequently there was a period of communism. The system that appeared after 1989, was already in theory fully democratic in 1991, while it needed a while more in practice.

(there was big jump in quality of democracy between Second Republic (1918-1939) and Third Republic (1989-). Such event don't fit your theory ("you need to try democracy to build democracy in long run").
How does it "not fit my theory" when you said that first attempt at building democracy was not as successful as the second? That's _exactly_ my point.

There are more examples.

Consider Germany. First democracy (Weimar republic) fell apart, because people and politicians did not yet know what it is and how to use it. Both communists and nazis tried to seize power, and keep it forever, crushing opponents. Nazis did it first...

Case 2: Asian Tigers - first become developed, then actually become serious about democracy.
As I said: exactly my point. E.g. South Korea, while being nominally "democratic", at first was quite authoritarian in reality - they suppressed communists with quite brutal and in many cases illegal means. But gradually, it become better, and now they have well-functioning democracy.

Case 3: African countries - were not developed, when they became independent their system seriously devolved towards parody of democracy or just open military dictatorship/military rule.
Africa and Middle East countries are either don't have democracy yet, or they are at "Weimar republic" stage, with high risks of it falling apart. They did not "devolve" from actual, working democracy to a parody - they never had "actual, working democracy" yet.

My point that for democracy you need properly educated and mature societies.
Where would "mature society" appear from? Thin air?

Can you ride bicycle well without ever trying?
 
  • #54
60
199
  • #55
jim hardy
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2019 Award
Dearly Missed
9,839
4,876
I'm just pointing out that one metric here favours dictatorship) Additionally the less educated society the harder would be to achieve working democracy.
My point that for democracy you need properly educated and mature societies. Otherwise there is not much point. And you can get the needed development level also under less enlighten system (monarchy / colonial subjugation / single party state / dictatorship), actually if you risk civil wars or high crime rate, then keeping a police state may be a part of the least harmful idea.
There's the bitter truth.

We overthrew several dictators in last decade and look what a mess erupted.
Now we have civil wars. Our own Civil War was ended by Sherman's violent swath across the south. His idea was to inflict so much pain on the people at large they'd stop supporting the war.
But i dont think that's something we should do to a people who haven't militarily attacked us. It's up to them to put their house in order.



my two cents
 
  • Like
Likes Dotini
  • #56
There's the bitter truth.

We overthrew several dictators in last decade and look what a mess erupted. Now we have civil wars.
The failure was that Bush was too stupid to realize that other places and cultures have very substantial differences from one he knows, and that it was vitally important to consult with specialists in Middle East, Arabs, And Iraqis in particular, before going to war with Saddam.

He did nothing of that. Almost anything that happened after Saddam was defeated was a surprise to his administration. Such as Sunnis and Shias turning on each other. It was predictable. With sufficient planning, maybe it was _avoidable_.

The war per se was won easily in military terms. It is actually something which needs to be studied in textbooks on military logistics and planning - winning a war on the other side of the globe from your country is _hard_.
 
  • #57
jim hardy
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2019 Award
Dearly Missed
9,839
4,876
Well, i lay it instead on whoever upset Lybia, Tunisia, Egypt, and almost Syria......

When i read Brzezinski's 'Grand Chessboard' , and Mackinder's "Heartland Theory" it became apparent to me the die was cast well before the 2000 elections.
Bellow's "Ravelstein" gives a glimpse into the world of men who play tiddlywinks with nations.
 
  • Like
Likes nitsuj
  • #58
russ_watters
Mentor
19,704
6,041
Saddam was far worse than ISIS. In Iran/Iraq war which he started, estimated one million people died.

People who entertain a thought "that dictator wasn't so bad after all" are overwhelmingly people who have no idea what it's like to live under a dictatorial government. The feeling of having no hope to change anything about your country. Not even being allowed to voice a dissenting point of view.
ISIS has twitter and advertises their barbarism. That's all they really have - they are the Ray Rice of terrorist/militant groups. What they are doing is not unique or even especially creative*, much less of a large enough scale or organized enough to measure up to either Saddam or Assad.

*Saddam is said to have dropped political prisoners into a plastic shredder. THAT takes a special kind of creative evil. That he was able to be so insanely brutal while maintaining control of such a large country is truly remarkable.
 
  • Like
Likes nitsuj
  • #59
Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
18,824
2,038
Since Daesh has only been active for about 9 years (since ~2006), given enough time, I think they would outdo Saddam who was President of Iraq from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003 (or about 24 years).

Hopefully, they will be deprived of that opportunity.
 
  • #61
russ_watters
Mentor
19,704
6,041
Oops, guess I fell for that one.
 
  • #62
284
132
How does it "not fit my theory" when you said that first attempt at building democracy was not as successful as the second? That's _exactly_ my point.

There are more examples.

Consider Germany. First democracy (Weimar republic) fell apart, because people and politicians did not yet know what it is and how to use it. Both communists and nazis tried to seize power, and keep it forever, crushing opponents. Nazis did it first...
Well, I think that Nazi Germany is exactly a well picked argument against democracy and that both Germany and the world would be better off if Wilhelm II was still the kaiser.

I see one serious flaw in your reasoning - you assum



As I said: exactly my point. E.g. South Korea, while being nominally "democratic", at first was quite authoritarian in reality - they suppressed communists with quite brutal and in many cases illegal means. But gradually, it become better, and now they have well-functioning democracy.
But insctead of striving for democracy the priorities were economics/education and getting rid of communist in a way that's not democracy at all. Had they been more serious about typical features of democracy like human rights / freedom of speech actually they risked state collapse thus moving far away from becoming a democracy in long run


Where would "mature society" appear from? Thin air?

Can you ride bicycle well without ever trying?
Main source:
- mass education. At best not done now but already such tradition of more than one generation
- respect for law/rules (there are some clear rules based on secular law, and they are enforced)
- cultural transfer from more advanced countries
- responsibility for your own choice (try first democracy on local level when you would directly feel pain of your bad decisions, while you would not cause collapse of everything)

(You can provide that all under authoritarian regime. Under perfect condition you organize a burial of the dictator (like Ataturk), call him in the speech the father of nation, thank him for all achievements in education and industrial development during decades of his reign, and while body is decomposed you prepare a free election)

Do you consider as good idea to try to ride bicycle when you haven't learnt to walk yet? Or maybe in such a case it would be mostly a source of unnecessary bruises.
 
  • Like
Likes jim hardy
  • #63
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
2019 Award
24,733
7,699
both Germany and the world would be better off if Wilhelm II was still the kaiser.
A Kaiser 126 years old!
 
  • #64
>> Where would "mature society" appear from? Thin air?

>> Can you ride bicycle well without ever trying?

Main source:
- mass education. At best not done now but already such tradition of more than one generation
- respect for law/rules (there are some clear rules based on secular law, and they are enforced)
Neither of this is beneficial to authoritarian elite. Say, today's Egypt.
They _prefer_ to have uneducated, poor, gullible population.
They also prefer to enforce a simple rule "whatever we say is the law. Any laws we don't like are ignored".
 
  • Like
Likes Dotini and HossamCFD
  • #65
mheslep
Gold Member
311
728
Jonathan Foreman of Commentary Magazine has a review on Bolger's "Why We Lost". The review is critical of Bolger for failing to back his primary thesis. Foreman does cite some strong points, good writing, and at other times the resort to the petty.

...Regardless of who was in charge, Bolger believes the underlying situation [in Iraq] was impossible. “Replace Bremer with Henry Kissinger and Sanchez with Dwight Eisenhower, cancel the de-Baathification orders, and the stark facts on the ground still sat there oozing pus and bile,” he writes. “With Saddam gone, any voting would install a Shiite majority. The Sunni wouldn’t run Iraq again. That, at the bottom, caused the insurgency.” (Like many commentators on the war, Bolger often seems blasé about the oppression of Iraq’s Kurds and Shia under the Baathist regime and the dominance of the Sunni minority.)
Bolger makes sure to remind the reader of Petraeus’s relative lack of height, as if that might be the key to his character flaws.
In short Bolger insists that the military must pursue only “short, decisive conventional wars, for limited ends”. Those conditions might well make war clean for the US military and a big budget military industrial complex, though I don't see how outside of Hollywood films those conditions meet successfully with real threats to the US and allies.
 
  • #66
92
2
Did the US really lose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Saddam and the Taliban were both removed from control of their respective states relatively quickly, and they still haven't got it back. That's an important difference from Vietnam.
 
  • Like
Likes nikkkom
  • #67
669
314
But on the other hand, would it be any better to fight only wars that we could win and profit from? If we were to attack and invade Canada, we could seize her oil, gold, rare earth minerals, timber, fisheries, fresh water and polar access. With all that, perhaps we could pay off the national debt and restore our reputation as a fearsome winner rather than a feckless loser? :rolleyes:
SHHHH! They might hear you and get "ideas!"
 
  • #68
669
314
Go into a country, select ten thousand people at random, then torture them in the most obscene possible ways. Surely this will win the trust and allegiance of their friends, relatives, and countrymen.
 
  • #69
Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
18,824
2,038
Vice President Dick Cheney: Wrong Then, . . .
 
  • Like
Likes edward
  • #70
Dotini
Gold Member
621
229
This report hints that some type of deep game is being played in Syria, as it was in Iraq.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articl...0-spies-say-isis-intelligence-was-cooked.html

More than 50 intelligence analysts working out of the U.S. military's Central Command have formally complained that their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being inappropriately altered by senior officials, The Daily Beast has learned.

The accusations suggest that a large number of people tracking the inner workings of the terror groups think that their reports are being manipulated to fit a public narrative. The allegations echoed charges that political appointees and senior officials cherry-picked intelligence about Iraq’s supposed weapons program in 2002 and 2003.
 
  • #72
669
314
Who knows what Saddam sent into Syria just before we attacked. Might be his old chemical warheads that are surfacing now.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WMD_conjecture_in_the_aftermath_of_the_2003_invasion_of_Iraq

And from America's most trusted news source (only half kidding)
http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/ymppi0/general-georges-sada
around 5 minutes 10 seconds

What to think ?

I can tell you what my Mother thought when she heard that. "Now Bush says that Syria has WMD. Who's he trying to kid?"
 
  • #73
Student100
Education Advisor
Gold Member
1,649
416
Go into a country, select ten thousand people at random, then torture them in the most obscene possible ways. Surely this will win the trust and allegiance of their friends, relatives, and countrymen.
Not to far off.

The only way to win a counter insurgency is to kill as many people as possible, in the most horrific and terrifying ways. The populace doesn't need to like you (they never will as shown in all the failed counterinsurgencies of the US and British to date) but they do need to fear you. The hearts and minds strategy will never work with a culture that isn't already more or less like your own.

Mass firebombing campaigns, mass and random executions for every troop killed by insurgency, scary weapons that don't really need to be more lethal than conventional weapons but evoke fear, etc. In other words, you need to commit multiple war crimes until the alternative to your rule is worse than just submitting. The western civilizations won't do this (thankfully I guess), so they should just admit upfront they can't win against an insurgency. Their campaigns should then reflect direct goals instead (kill this person, destroy this infrastructure, etc) without the nation building.

Afghanistan was winnable, they had a peoples who were already involved in open arm conflict against the government. Assisting them in nation building was the right move. Iraq was never winnable, and stupid. If we believed they had weapons of mass destruction we should have targeted those facilities. If we needed to capture the government to do that, we should have left Saddam in power. Saddam was an effective buffer against Iran, and hadn't made any moves against our allies in years.

Did the US really lose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Saddam and the Taliban were both removed from control of their respective states relatively quickly, and they still haven't got it back. That's an important difference from Vietnam.
Of course the US lost Iraq, they enemy effectively targeted our moral until we pulled out. There's only two ways to win a war, target their ability to make war, or their desire. The US was targeting the ability, against a enemy that had no real war making industry, which makes no sense. The insurgency in Iraq targeted our moral until we pulled out, which makes sense for an enemy who doesn't have nearly the war making capability of the US. We lost, and left the region far more unstable then when Saddam was in power. The current Iraqi nation is in tatters, the armed forces and the government are both ineffective. ISIS and the Taliban control parts of the country.

Afghanistan is still ongoing, both the formal Afghany armed forces war against the Taliban, and the US secretive war against the same/ISIS. It hasn't been lost quite yet.
 
  • #74
mheslep
Gold Member
311
728
Of course the US lost Iraq,...
Please defined "lost", or lost to whom? After great loss of life and expense during the invasion and insurgency, Iraq held multiple free elections; as of 2009-10 the country post-surge had been under the control elected leadership for four years and the civilian violent fatalities was apparently heading below http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Centers/saban/iraq-index/index20091120.PDF [Broken] (Brookings page 4), or 0.9 per month per 100,000 among Iraq's population of ~33 million. By contrast, the homicide rate in, say, Chicago, is 1.75 per month per 100,000.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #75
Student100
Education Advisor
Gold Member
1,649
416
Please defined "lost", or lost to whom? After great loss of life and expense during the invasion and insurgency, Iraq held multiple free elections; as of 2009-10 the country post-surge had been under the control elected leadership for four years and the civilian violent fatalities was apparently heading below http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Centers/saban/iraq-index/index20091120.PDF [Broken] (Brookings page 4), or 0.9 per month per 100,000 among Iraq's population of ~33 million. By contrast, the homicide rate in, say, Chicago, is 1.75 per month per 100,000.
Your statistics a bit dated, and pre-pull out.

There is currently a power struggle going on within the government between the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurd. Not to mention Iranian agents operating freely in the country, large parts of the country controlled by ISIS, tens of thousands of causalities and many more injured in the 2014-2015 Iraq war, ISIS making and using chemical agents in country, refugees still flooding to neighboring countries, etc.

Unless our objective was to actually destabilize Iraq, I think it's safe to say we lost.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Related Threads on How We (US) Lost in Iraq and Afghanistan

  • Last Post
2
Replies
43
Views
4K
Replies
19
Views
2K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
41
Views
4K
  • Last Post
Replies
12
Views
2K
Replies
133
Views
9K
Replies
6
Views
2K
  • Last Post
11
Replies
274
Views
39K
Replies
72
Views
6K
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
3K
Top