How We (US) Lost in Iraq and Afghanistan

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  • #76
mheslep
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... large parts of the country controlled by ISIS, tens of thousands of causalities and many more injured in the 2014-2015 Iraq war, .
So the U.S. won earlier, 2009, but now, after the U.S. is gone, the U.S. lost?
 
  • #77
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So the U.S. won earlier, 2009, but now, after the U.S. is gone, the U.S. lost?
The US didn't "win" in 2009. Circumstances became more favorable to the counter insurgency, partly the surge, partly the Anbar awaking, partly the focus on high value targets, that's all. To win the counter insurgency, after draw down and the pull out Iraq should have been stable, with limited sectarian violence, an efficient non-corrupt government, and security. It never had any of those things. So the US didn't meet their objectives, or they lost.
 
  • #78
mheslep
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.... To win the counter insurgency,
These are your milestones for success in Iraq; they differ from those stated by the US and allies.
after draw down and the pull out Iraq should have been stable, with limited sectarian violence,
Starting in 2008 as the data shows above Iraq did have limited violence for several years.
an efficient non-corrupt government,
This is desirable for any country but is hardly a mandatory outcome for military action. S. Korea suffered under corrupt governments for years after the armistice, though this hardly makes a failure out of the military intervention that freed S. Korea from the likes of Kim Jong-un.

Below are the goals from the Bush administration, 2005, with the WMD failure long gone at that point. There is no complete "pull out" among them.

2005 said:
In the short term:
An Iraq that is making steady progress in fighting terrorists and neutralizing the insurgency, meeting political milestones; building democratic institutions; standing up robust security forces to gather intelligence, destroy terrorist networks, and maintain security; and tackling key economic reforms to lay the foundation for a sound economy.

In the medium term:
An Iraq that is in the lead defeating terrorists and insurgents and providing its own security, with a constitutional, elected government in place, providing an inspiring example to reformers in the region, and well on its way to achieving its economic potential.

In the longer term:
(a) An Iraq that has defeated the terrorists and neutral
(b) An Iraq that is peaceful, united, stable, democratic, and secure, where Iraqis have the institutions and resources they need to govern themselves justly and provide security for their country.
(c) An Iraq that is a partner in the global war on terror and the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, integrated into the international community, an engine for regional economic growth, and proving the fruits of democratic governance to the region.
By 2011 Iraq had a good measure of imperfect success in the short and medium term goals.
 
  • #79
Student100
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These are your milestones for success in Iraq; they differ from those stated by the US and allies.
Really? Tell me how they're different? I was in Iraq, I think I can somewhat guess at what our goals were. US was in full COIN at this point, in build mode. The objectives I stated were the US objectives as presented to everyone.

Below are the goals from the Bush administration, 2005, with the WMD failure long gone at that point. There is no complete "pull out" among them.

In the longer term:
(a) An Iraq that has defeated the terrorists and neutral
(b) An Iraq that is peaceful, united, stable, democratic, and secure, where Iraqis have the institutions and resources they need to govern themselves justly and provide security for their country.
(c) An Iraq that is a partner in the global war on terror and the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, integrated into the international community, an engine for regional economic growth, and proving the fruits of democratic governance to the region.
So it's okay to ignore the long term objectives because we had a good year?

By 2011 Iraq had a good measure of imperfect success in the short and medium term goals.
Really? Unemployment at 50%~, lack of security, not enough infrastructure to provide water, food and electricity to it's population is a good measure of success?

I don't understand why you're grasping at straws here to try and show the US "won." Every military commander with any sense will tell you we didn't accomplish what we wanted to accomplish. The fact the insurgency proved to be somewhat under control prior to pull out doesn't mean we can wash our hands of the situation unfolding now. We, the US, caused it. We weren't able to build a safe, stable Iraq.
 
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  • #80
lisab
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Below are the goals from the Bush administration, 2005, with the WMD failure long gone at that point.
OK, so let's look at those goals...first off, it's someone's blog. Under (1)(a), there is a hotlink to "Victory in Iraq Defined" but the link just goes tohttps://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/#part1 [Broken], which says nothing about Victory in Iraq.

Under (1)(b), there is a link to "Highlights of the Iraq Strategy Review", which goes to this page, which says nothing about Highlights of the Iraq Strategy Review.

And I'm not going any further, that blog is BS. mheslep, if you want to discuss this issue please use legit sources - preferably original sources, not blogs.

Besides, large parts of Iraq are besieged by ISIS - this is hardly what the Bush administration was aiming for as victory when they made the unwise decision to "liberate" Iraq.
 
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  • #81
russ_watters
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Really? Tell me how they're different? I was in Iraq, I think I can somewhat guess at what our goals were...

Really? Unemployment at 50%~, lack of security, not enough infrastructure to provide water, food and electricity to it's population is a good measure of success?

I don't understand why you're grasping at straws here to try and show the US "won." Every military commander with any sense will tell you we didn't accomplish what we wanted to accomplish.
Since when has an unemployment rate target ever been a goal of a war? Which branch of the military is tasked with job creation? What was our post-WWII unemployment rate target For Germany in 1941?

Look, I get that it would have been nice if the result of the Iraq War II had been a peaceful, stable Iraq, but that's outside the scope of what "war" is. However, you want to say that the nation-building exercise that was undertaken after the war was won failed, I'm fine with that.
 
  • #83
mheslep
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....We weren't able to build a safe, stable Iraq.
The December 2011 speech
...all of it has led to this moment of success. Now, Iraq is not a perfect place. It has many challenges ahead. But we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.
 
  • #84
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Since when has an unemployment rate target ever been a goal of a war? Which branch of the military is tasked with job creation? What was our post-WWII unemployment rate target For Germany in 1941?

Look, I get that it would have been nice if the result of the Iraq War II had been a peaceful, stable Iraq, but that's outside the scope of what "war" is. However, you want to say that the nation-building exercise that was undertaken after the war was won failed, I'm fine with that.
It wasn't outside the scope of the war, that's part of the problem. In the example of unemployment, we were funneling large amounts of money into local business to stimulate the economy. The DoD was writing contracts to rebuild infrastructure, which would get sub contracted out to locals.

Part of the militarizes strategy during the war was to nation build, I don't think we can discount that as a military objective, even though it seems illogical.

all of it has led to this moment of success. Now, Iraq is not a perfect place. It has many challenges ahead. But we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.
Obviously the speech was wrong...?
 
  • #85
mheslep
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Obviously the speech was wrong...?
Then for some reason you read the speech to say something else, like "Iraq now has full employment, a complete infrastructure, and is stable for all time". At the time the speech was given, the multiple peaceful elections, obliteration of AQI, and low violence rate were strong evidence, over several years, that the quoted Obama phrase was correct at the time it was given. Clearly, Iraq has changed for the worse since then and the important question is why, a question that is not addressed by repeating "The U.S. lost".
 
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Student100
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Then for some reason you read the speech to say something else, like "Iraq now has full employment, a complete infrastructure, and is stable for all time". At the time the speech was given, the multiple peaceful elections, obliteration of AQI, and low violence rate were strong evidence, over several years, that the quoted Obama phrase was correct at the time it was given. Clearly, Iraq has changed for the worse since then and the important question is why, a question that is not addressed by repeating "The U.S. lost".

The answer to why is because it didn't have any of the things you just mentioned.
 
  • #87
mheslep
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The answer to why is because it didn't have any of the things you just mentioned.
It wasn't the unchecked growth of ISIS and Malaki's purge of Sunni in the military, allowed by a complete withdrawal of the U.S. military? Theses are things that changed since that speech, unlike the Iraqi infrastructure and employment which had serious problems then, has them now, like many other developing countries.
 
  • #88
Student100
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It wasn't the unchecked growth of ISIS and Malaki's purge of Sunni in the military, allowed by a complete withdrawal of the U.S. military? Theses are things that changed since that speech, unlike the Iraqi infrastructure and employment which had serious problems then, has them now, like many other developing countries.
No, it's mostly just that the speech was a lie, a political nicecty. Iraq was anything but stable in 2011. I don't know how massive unemployment is not a red flag for the stability of country. Or that just because they had a few rigged elections and the 8th most corrupt goverment in the world means everythings stable and good to go now because they were "democrratically elected". Don't mess it up now Iraqis, things are going great!

Sectarian rifts existed even in 2011, and 2010... and 2009... I think everyone knew, including Obama that the country wasn't in fact stable and that withdrawal would create a power vacuum. I don't see any reason, if he truly believed what he said, to attempt to negoiate a new SOF agreement to try and keep troops in country otherwise.

Which he did do, he wanted troops to remain in country, but Iraq wouldn't agree to the needed protections for US troops. That's not something you do if you really believe in a stable and self reliant Iraq.
 
  • #89
mheslep
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I don't see any reason, if he truly believed what he said, to attempt to negoiate a new SOF agreement to try and keep troops in country otherwise.
Iraq was stable *with* some U.S. troops in place, that is, stable enough that the size of factional violence did not impair the government, elections or disable the Iraqi military. Obama changed the conditions. Pointing to some factional violence regardless of size and claiming instability would classify all countries unstable or close to it. See the riots in France, the UK in recent years.
 
  • #90
lisab
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Iraq was stable *with* some U.S. troops in place, that is, stable enough that the size of factional violence did not impair the government, elections or disable the Iraqi military. Obama changed the conditions. Pointing to some factional violence regardless of size and claiming instability would classify all countries unstable or close to it. See the riots in France, the UK in recent years.
mheslep, I read the book that this thread is about. Some of it I agreed with, some I did not - but I did read it.

Did you read the book? It's long, but it does give a foundation to work from. There is ample evidence, in the book and pretty much everywhere you look, that we not only lost the war but we screwed up the ME pretty badly. Your stance in this thread seems to be: we had the war won when Bush left office, and what happened in the years months after that had nothing at all to do with our actions there (in other words, Thanks Obama!). Am I understanding you correctly? If so, the book doesn't exactly agree with you.
 
  • #91
mheslep
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mheslep, I read the book that this thread is about. Some of it I agreed with, some I did not - but I did read it.
And? Can you share some of the relative arguments?

]Did you read the book?
No, as I stated months ago I read this critical review (among others) mentioning some sophomoric treatment of Petraeus and thought my time better spent elsewhere. I have read Bolger's Harpers article and much else on the Iraq War and Islamic terrorism.

It's long, but it does give a foundation to work from. There is ample evidence, in the book and pretty much everywhere you look,
In this book perhaps, but not everywhere I look. What about the post-surge period of relative low violence?

...that we not only lost the war but we screwed up the ME pretty badly. Your stance in this thread seems to be: we had the war won when Bush left office, and what happened in the years months after that had nothing at all to do with our actions there (in other words, Thanks Obama!).
Bolger's word about Obama's withdrawal from Iraq: he "faltered".
Am I understanding you correctly?
No. I don't declare "the US won" in Iraq, especially not in isolation given the allied help, nor do I accept unsupported declarations that the US lost. I think win/loss claims over-simplify a complex outcome and are unjustified in any kind of historical context of wining/losing wars, at least not without a lot of backup. So I query what's meant behind the claim "lost", and look for an answer dealing with the whole picture in Iraq: the reckless entry into the war, the large loss of life before and after, the early military success and many subsequent failures, the cost, the removal of the Baathist dictatorship prone to use chemical weapons and run nuclear weapons programs, the war generated migration of Al-qaeda to Iraq, the annihilation of Al-qaeda in Iraq, the successful Iraqi elections, the post-surge years of relatively low violence, the post-withdrawal collapse of the Iraqi army. Spurious responses (high unemployment, insufficient electricity) and appeals to authority (the book disagrees with me) are unsatisfactory.
 
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  • #92
Student100
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No. I don't declare "the US won" in Iraq, especially not in isolation given the allied help, nor do I accept unsupported declarations that the US lost. I think win/loss claims over-simplify a complex outcome and are unjustified in any kind of historical context of wining/losing wars, at least not without a lot of backup. So I query what's meant behind the claim "lost", and look for an answer dealing with the whole picture in Iraq: the reckless entry into the war, the large loss of life before and after, the early military success and many subsequent failures, the cost, the removal of the Baathist dictatorship prone to use chemical weapons and run nuclear weapons programs, the war generated migration of Al-qaeda to Iraq, the annihilation of Al-qaeda in Iraq, the successful Iraqi elections, the post-surge years of relatively low violence, the post-withdrawal collapse of the Iraqi army. Spurious responses (high unemployment, insufficient electricity) and appeals to authority (the book disagrees with me) are unsatisfactory.
And just how is unemployment and lack of infrastructure spurious? Just how are they false?

Do they not matter in terms of the stability of a country or it's government?

How did the Iraq war accomplish any us strategic objective?

Did we completely eradicate the use of chemical weapons in Iraq? No, ISIS now uses and manufactures chemical weapons in Iraq. Again, what are you defining as successful elections? The fact that a ballot took place, never mind the corruption? How did the removal of the Iraq government further US interests in the middle east? Was handing Iraq to Iran on a silver platter really in the best interest of the US government? Did we stabilize the region by emboldening the Pakistani Taliban, Syrian fighters and the splinters of Al-Qaeda that became ISIS, or by creating the whole Arab Spring movement. Did we create a pro-US western society in Iraq? Create trade and increase imports? Just what did we do in Iraq that helped the US or it's allies?
 
  • #93
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Off topic remark
Did we stabilize the region by emboldening the Pakistani Taliban, Syrian fighters and the splinters of Al-Qaeda that became ISIS, or by creating the whole Arab Spring movement
My bold.
You didn't create the Arab spring movement. Thousands of Arab youths did, many of whom died or were put in jail as a result of it. I know you didn't say it to claim credit for it, but rather as some sort of self criticism, and we can agree or disagree as to whether the Arab spring is something to be praised or blamed, but I have to say that claiming that the west/US (I imagine that's what you meant by "we") created it can seem slightly patronising.


Slightly more on topic
It seems that most of the disagreement is about the definition of winning vs losing a war, which is of course an important discussion, but perhaps a more interesting question would be: if we could turn back the clock, and knowing everything we know now, what would you do differently? Would you support the invasion in 2003?
 
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  • #94
lisab
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Off topic remark

My bold.
You didn't create the Arab spring movement. Thousands of Arab youths did, many of whom died or were put in jail as a result of it. I know you didn't say it to claim credit for it, but rather as some sort of self criticism, and we can agree or disagree as to whether the Arab spring is something to be praised or blamed, but I have to say that claiming that the west/US (I imagine that's what you meant by "we") created it can seem slightly patronising.


Slightly more on topic
It seems that most of the disagreement is about the definition of winning vs losing a war, which is of course an important discussion, but perhaps a more interesting question would be: if we could turn back the clock, and knowing everything we know now, what would you do differently? Would you support the invasion in 2003?
I didn't support the 2003 invasion when it happened, and I was quite vocal about it. I got a lot of flak for my stance from my coworkers...but that means nothing of course.

You're right about the Arab Spring. The chutzpah came directly from the populace, at great risk to themselves -- sometimes the ultimate risk.

But I'm sure you understand the view many Americans take on this: we fought a difficult war of independence to begin the journey to define ourselves. Then about 100 years later, we fought a brutal civil war to define our path as a nation.

These wars cost hundreds of thousands of American lives (at a time when our population was much smaller then it is today). This cost -- what we call "blood and treasure" -- I think we now see it as a necessary cost of self-determination. And yes we had some help - thank you a billion times, France :woot: !

Our history created a foundational belief in many Americans that your future must be earned, and it will not be cheap. When we fought the British for our independence, I'm sure no one would have wagered that these scrawny colonies could win against such a powerful force. It seemed a lost cause. But look how it came out.

I want the US to be to emerging democracies what France was to America. But ultimately, the battle has to be won by *them*. I believe many Americans look at Iraq and think, "We wanted their freedom more than they did. That was our mistake." So...we're really hesitant to make this same mistake twice.

This is all just my opinion.
 
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  • #95
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I didn't support the 2003 invasion when it happened, and I was quite vocal about it. I got a lot of flak for my stance from my coworkers...but that means nothing of course.
I too was naturally vocal against it. I would've supported a minor operation to get rid of Saddam, as he committed a genocide against the Kurds and war crimes and aggression against Iran and Kuwait, though the high time for such an operation was 91 not 2003. I certainly didn't support the invasion of the whole country, as the main reasons put forward were fallacious to me (mainly WMD, support for Al Qaeda, and liberation of Iraq since as you pointed out liberation has to at least start from within).

Having said that I would be hesitant to blame the current mess on the 2003 invasion. The anti US sentiment of course surged because of the invasion, but Jihadism existed long before that. Also had Saddam survived as Iraq's dictator until the Arab Spring started, it's unlikely that the situation would've ended up much better. Anyway, that's quite speculative.


I want the US to be to emerging democracies what France was to America. But ultimately, the battle has to be won by *them*. I believe many Americans look at Iraq and think, "We wanted their freedom more than they did. That was our mistake." So...we're really hesitant to make this same mistake twice.

This is all just my opinion.
I completely agree. You can't fight to liberate another people. That's why I always try and defend the ownership of the Arab spring. Even though it seems like a complete failure now, it was the first attempt at a genuine change. A change that I personally never foresaw. The Egyptian part of the Arab spring started on January 25th 2011, inspired by Tunisia. I remember sitting in a coffee shop in Alexandria with a friend on January 24th and discussing the planned protests the next day. I literally told him nothing will happen on the same scale as Tunisia. Egypt needs at least 40 years or so to do something similar. At most there will 200 people surrounded by a thousand policemen and get beaten up after half an hour. I was never happier to be proven wrong!

I too want the US and the west to be to emerging democracies what France was to America. That's why I was disappointed at the initial reluctance of the American administration to vocally support the protests when they started and was very happy when that stance changed a week or so later.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that while I completely understand the widespread western narrative of blaming the current situation on the interference in the ME, I really don't think that is the case. Self criticism and self blame are of course commendable sentiments but I don't think they portray the reality of the situation. The conflict is IMO primarily homegrown and the solution has to come from within.
 
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  • #96
Student100
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Off topic remark

My bold.
You didn't create the Arab spring movement. Thousands of Arab youths did, many of whom died or were put in jail as a result of it. I know you didn't say it to claim credit for it, but rather as some sort of self criticism, and we can agree or disagree as to whether the Arab spring is something to be praised or blamed, but I have to say that claiming that the west/US (I imagine that's what you meant by "we") created it can seem slightly patronising.
I admit it's a bit of a stretch to attempt to connect the dots between the Iraq war and the Arab spring, and it's mostly just my gut feelings after reading things such as:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/17/opinion/iraq-war-arab-spring-husain/
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/world/15aid.html?_r=0

I understand your point, and mostly agree with it, and realize that while any psychological effect of the US's wars in the middle east and training/funding provided may have helped organize the movement, it was ultimately the populace of those countries that enacted/payed for it.

Ultimately as far as strategic value to the US I just don't see how the wars were a win in any sense of the word.
 
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Off topic remark

My bold.
You didn't create the Arab spring movement. Thousands of Arab youths did, many of whom died or were put in jail as a result of it. I know you didn't say it to claim credit for it, but rather as some sort of self criticism, and we can agree or disagree as to whether the Arab spring is something to be praised or blamed, but I have to say that claiming that the west/US (I imagine that's what you meant by "we") created it can seem slightly patronising.
Simple rule, that I see quite often - people in countries that are not world top powers are just subject to be shaped by outside powers. They lack any internal dynamic of society, grudges against inept or corrupted politicians, own ideas or desires. ;)

(That's why I'm quite happy that my country managed to be promoted in Russian eyes from such "chessboard" image to a "hostile and malicious player that tries to play a few sizes above its weight category".)


Slightly more on topic
It seems that most of the disagreement is about the definition of winning vs losing a war, which is of course an important discussion, but perhaps a more interesting question would be: if we could turn back the clock, and knowing everything we know now, what would you do differently? Would you support the invasion in 2003?
I used to support it. I thought that W Bush knows what he is doing and has plenty of evidence for WMD that if he tell publicly, would merely mean his spies executed.
It turned out to be a disaster on both geopolitical and humanitarian scoreboard.
 
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The reason we lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, is exactly same reason we lost in Vietnam. Unless we keep boots on the ground in perpetuity, the local opposition, supported by outside interests, will simply take over again. We had a refreshing break from these endless wars during the Reagan and Carter administrations. Hopefully, the next administration will have the wisdom of those two administrations, and keep us out of these interventions.
 
  • #99
mheslep
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The reason we lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, is exactly same reason we lost in Vietnam. Unless we keep boots on the ground in perpetuity, the local opposition, supported by outside interests, will simply take over again. We had a refreshing break from these endless wars during the Reagan and Carter administrations. Hopefully, the next administration will have the wisdom of those two administrations, and keep us out of these interventions.
How do we then avoid 9/11 and 7/7 style attacks and refugees in the millions flooding into Europe?
 
  • #100
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Basic physics tells us that for every action there is an opposite but equal reaction. Human nature is the same, though the action and reaction are not always in the same proportion. Thanks to a blunder by one of our diplomats serving in Iraq, April Glaspie, Saddam Hussein thought he had the green light from Washington to invade Kuwait. That blunder started the whole mess. Had Arnold Schwartzenegger, in Terminator mode, been the diplomat instead of Glaspie, the dictator would not have dared invade Kuwait.
 

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