Hold your Fire

Tuesday, November 14, 2006
That is what I would like to say some people right now. The subject being the Iraq Survey Group. The 9/11 Commission did nothing to inspire confidence when it comes to grandstanding politicians and I doubt very much that the soon to be released report from the Iraq Survey Group will break that trend. But I think we should wait until it is released before we assume it signals that the end is near for victory in Iraq. In truth the Iraqis will decide that in the long run in any event.

For that matter we do not know if Bush will accept and follow any or all of its recommendations.

In this Washington Post article the authors end the piece with this paragraph:

Within the panel, staffers and expert consultants have waged warfare by memo as idealists argue with pragmatists over particulars: Retired CIA officer Ray Close complained in one such memo that the deliberations "had degenerated into petty squabbling" and accused "obstinate neocon diehards" of trying to fashion a "stay the course" strategy.

With the assistance of the U.S. Institute of Peace and other Washington think tanks, panel members have heard testimony from a wide range of administration officials and outside experts, and have traveled to Iraq for several days of interviews with senior U.S. diplomats and military officials, as well as Iraqi leaders. Baker, who seems intrigued by the idea of gaining greater assistance in Iraq from U.S. adversaries, had a three-hour dinner in New York with Javad Zarif, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations. Zarif hosted the dinner at his elegant ambassador's residence.

Baker made clear that he was not negotiating for the United States but that the commission wanted Iran's input and suggestions. He specifically asked about the possibilities for cooperation between Tehran and Washington on Iraq, according to Iranian sources.

Such contacts have invited skepticism from some of the prominent neoconservatives who strongly pushed the invasion of Iraq but have come to be critical of the administration for not aggressively striving for military victory. They said the notion that Iran would help the United States out of its troubles in Iraq is ludicrous.

"There's no doubt that the majority of the people in this group, either as advisers or principals, either opposed the war or forgot that they were in favor of it," said Reuel Marc Gerecht, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who was one of several dozen official expert advisers to the Baker-Hamilton group.

However, Gerecht and William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, said they believe their views received a respectful hearing from the panel. Kristol related a curious anecdote from his September appearance before the panel to promote a plan to provide more troops for security in Baghdad and elsewhere.

Then-panel member Robert M. Gates -- who quit the group Friday after Bush nominated him as defense secretary -- asked Kristol why he thought the president was so determined to stick with Donald H. Rumsfeld as the Pentagon chief.

Kristol replied that he was mystified -- at which point, as he recalled it, Baker interjected with the comment, "Well, you can't expect the president to do anything until after the election."

I have heard all kinds of things about this report. I have heard it is a surrender and I have heard that its purpose will be to give cover for Democrats who want to support the war without supporting Bush.

But one thing I have not heard is that it will call for a withdrawal of our troops. Right now it seems that every report, every remark, every event is seen as something larger than it is. Blair says that Iran can be an ally if it ends its nuclear ambitions and its meddling in Iraq and the headlines say Blair splits from Bush says Iran can be ally.Of course that is not true. So why all of a sudden are we prepared to believe everything and anything the press tell us?

I say we should hold our fire until we really know what we are dealing with. What would it hurt?


Fresh Air said...

Commanding by committee? Has the world gone insane?

I guess I missed it when Queen Victoria said, "We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat..."

"...unless, of course, Lord Baker thinks we should be."

terrye said...

fresh air:

These kinds of commissions are not new. In fact there were numerous committees during the American Civil War.

I read parts of the Peel Commission Report from years ago it is amazing how little things have changed.

This survey group exists because Congress asked for it, so there you go.

terrye said...

fresh air:

In fact here is a Link to the Peel Commission report.

Syl said...

This says nothing to me about Iraq. It speaks volumes about Iran.

Iran will get its weapons.

We will stand idly by.

terrye said...


Well you know I wonder about that. Sometimes I wonder about what goes on that we know nothing about.

I remember when Pakistan got its nuke and everyone was sure that India and Pakistan would obliterate each other. But they haven't. so far.

I don't think the main worry is Iran getting the bomb, it is who runs Iran.

I have no idea what will happen, but I think that sometimes those of us watching these events assume we know more than we do.

Minor Ripper said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
truepeers said...

If only you knew how stupid you were, Mr. Ripper... would you rip out your own heart in despair or would the new knowing allow you to be born again?

Blair supported Bush, because the Bush doctrine is in many respects a liberal doctrine, notwithstanding what the Bush derangement people think.

truepeers said...

Terrye, I know you want to turn down the hysteria in the blogosphere, but what is wrong with criticizing the idea out there that now is the time to end hopes of doing anything in Iraq but fortifying a base or two. It may not be Bush's choice, to be sure, let alone the survey's. But the talk is everywhere so why shouldn't it be criticized? Should we just give the floor to maniacs like the ripper who do not have the patience or sense of historical purpose to fight an insurgent war of the Jihad for longer than three years?

terrye said...


I am saying they should hold the criticism until they actually know wha they are talking about.

I guess after watching the blogs go stupid over everything from Dubai ports to Miers to immigration I just think waiting until we have the facts might be a good idea.

I can not remember where I read this, but somewhere out there was a quote that said the survey held with the opinion that a failure in Iraq would have negative consequences for the whole world.

Now IF that is really true, then the report could have a positive impact. But I just get kind of tired of the constant kvetching.

Seneca the Younger said...

Tru, I think the point is not that the diea shouldn't be criticized --- its that we're hitting another one of those "Bush is selling out the True Believers" things. Like harriet Miers. Like the Dubai Ports thing.

Hell, even Baker came out today and said quick withdrawal wasn't an option (per Fox this morning, I haven't had time to dig for a link.)

Couldn't we just resist the urge to form a firing squad until we're no longer standing in a circle?

terrye said...

And you know what? Baker was in Saint Ronald Reagan's administration as well Buhs1's and so was Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld was both the youngest and oldest Sec of Def. That gives you an idea of just how long he has been involved in Republican politics.

I liked Rumsfeld but I think that maybe one too many Generals complained and he was becoming a distraction, which is a shame because he had guts.

truepeers said...

Ah yes, Seneca, the patience and discipline that *is* required when you move from clubs and spears to guns! Still, there's something to be said for roundtables blowing air if people know when to come together (:)

I'm not sure this is more a case of the true believers accusing Bush of a sell-out, or of the true believers abandoning Bush. There are plenty of signals both ways. Anyway, no one seems to offer a long-term strategy other than some form of containment, now that the supposed neocon fantasy has been given the boot in many minds; it will be interesting if the Baker crowd can offer something other than the old "realism".

terrye said...


Giuliani is a member of the Iraq Study Group, he is also number one [thus far] pick for 2008. How long will it take the bloggers and pundits to ruin him? Will they vilify Baker and give Rudy a pass?

I don't think it is about the neocon dream being dead, it is about bringing some stability to the region so that the people of the ME are not afraid of democracy.

Syl said...

Well, we all have to wait for the report so I suppose the sniping and recriminations and assumptions are natural--such political animals we are.

But, I say this sincerely, I have more hope for Iraq now than I have had in a long time.

'Realism' is just that. It looks at the situation that is, the consequences of various actions, games various solutions, and comes up with the course of action best suited to the interests of America. It may not be sexy, may not feel bright and shiny, but it will probably work.

I suggest look at the actions proposed, not the rhetoric. The actions will most likely suit our purposes. The rhetoric will give Democrats cover to support the actions.

Aside: My mention of Iran was in reference to how the media is playing/talking about Iran.

truepeers said...

'Realism' is just that. It looks at the situation that is, the consequences of various actions, games various solutions, and comes up with the course of action best suited to the interests of America. It may not be sexy, may not feel bright and shiny, but it will probably work.

- i think this is not realistic because "the situation that is" is always changing. Yet "realists" make the assumption that they can can game their actions on the premise that other actors are predictable in terms of a stable model of reality and that they will keep on doing what they are presently doing (pursuing a stable model of self-interest) and so there is room to make calculations according to one's own (presumably stable) self-interests. This is the arrogance of forgetting that the other actors will incorporate your cost-benefit analysis into theirs and change the game accordingly. It is also to ignore that certain roads are a dead end and that we can't take the "stabilizing" force of big men for granted. Why the assumption (in Gulf War I) that keeping Saddam in power was a "realist" decision in favor of stability (assuming they didn't all really believe the Shia would overthrow him)? What, pray tell, was stabilizing about Saddam and the sanctions regime?

The problem with "realists" is that they have only a vague idea of American self-interest (i.e. "stability") and no firm committments to ground their calculations, e.g. committments to the expansion of human freedom. But you can only make reasonable calculations about the future once you have made some committments about it, and once you have assumed that the other actors are free agents who will respond to everything you do. In other words, only by negotiating the terms of change, of shared committments or avowed rivalries, can you make effective calculations - not by assuming that you have an interest in stability.

The realists make the same mistake often made by those who manage hedge funds and bring in legions of PhDs to crunch the numbers on the historical data to find out, e.g., how the stock market reacts to a given set of inputs. THey have to try their best to forget - though the smart ones don't - that as soon as they enter the market and trade on the knowledge of their number crunching they change the dynamic of the market in a way that throws into doubt the usefulness of their number crunching.

If, however, you enter a market and trade on the assumption that a new product and company will expand the value and freedom in the marketplace, you can make safer cost-benefit analyses.

Syl said...


So the study group is already doomed? ;)

It may be doomed but not necessarily for those reasons. Four think tanks involved, but most of the members have no, nada, zilch foreign policy experience.

THAT could be a major problem.

On the other hand, what WE forget when we constantly bring up '91 is that that was prior to 9/11 and our awareness of the Islamic threat.

It could be said that whatever problems came about because we did NOT remove Saddam back then could be dealt with as they came up. Meanwhile leaving him alone left us free to handle other matters--which, of course, Clinton ignored anyway.

terrye said...


Things may change but it will never be in the best interests of the United States for people in Baghdad to get blown up going to the market. I am talking about common sense things that can be done to improve the security situation over there. We do not need to make it a forever kind of thing.

loner said...

When you're the major military and economic power in the known universe and your aim is not to conquer and then rule where you do not already rule, stability is, by definition, a good thing.

truepeers said...


I didn't want to suggest that I thought you or anyone here was Scowcraftian. What I'm suggesting is that security in that Baghdad marketplace depends a lot on how committed the stronger parties appear to be to providing it for the long term. If "realists" could make serious committments to fighting evil as their first move, instead of making "realism" a coy word for vainly attempting to manipulate evil to one's own interests, so that the party can continue at home without too many sacrfices, they would actually be considered "naive" missionaries, not "hard-headed" realists.

What does common sense tell us? Is it more naive to fight or to attempt to manipulate evil?

truepeers said...


why make the choice conquer or stability? Is stability really a possibility in a world where everyone who is not the dominant power resents or admires your power and is in some kind of rivalry or alliance with you to get a piece of it? Perhaps "stability" (i.e. remaining in power) is a question of dividing your would-be rivals for and against you, or multiplying the objects over which the parties compete. But you can do neither without setting an agenda for change, which may of course fail if you're not good at the game because you can't choose between imperialism or nation-building, the only options on the table for one party or another to effect.

loner said...


I did not imply a choice. I stated that a stable world is "by definition" a good thing when you are what the United States of America, in fact, is.

Now you can argue, should you choose, that an Iraq ruled over by Saddam Hussein is the major potential and/or real destabilizing force in the world and I can argue, if I choose, that if your goal is to establish a democratic republic in the Arab world, Iraq is the country, of all those available, that is the most unlikely to survive such a destabilizing experiment intact.

We can argue.

To many, Athenian intervention also brought democracy, but that was not its aim. Pericles and the Athenians, when they could, left the existing regime in place, even when it was oligarchic or tyrannical. Only when rebellions forced them to intervene did they impose democracies, and even then not always. Pericles' imperial policy was prudent and pragmatic, not ideological. Nevertheless, over the years, the Athenians instituted and supported many democracies against oligarchic or tyrannical opponents throughout the empire. From a twentieth-century perspective, this might seem like an unalloyed benefit of the empire, but it was not so viewed by everyone in the time of Pericles. Aristocrats and members of the upper classes in general regarded democracy as a novel, unnatural, unjust, incompetent, and vulgar form of government, and they were not alone in resenting the Athenian role in support of it. In many cities, probably in most, even members of the lower classes regarded Athenian intervention in their political and constitutional affairs as a curtailment of their freedom and autonomy, and would have preferred a nondemocratic constitution without Athenian interference to a democratic government with it.

Modern scholars have tried to argue that this Athenian support for democracy made the empire popular with the masses in the allied cities, and that the hostility with which they reportedly came to view it was the result of distortions caused by the aristocratic bias of the ancient writers. The consensus, however, has rightly continued to emphasize the empire's fundamental unpopularity with all classes except the small groups of democratic politicians who benefited directly from Athenian support.

—Donald Kagan, Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy

Leave it to a neo-con.

It is incontestable that, in times of danger, a free people display far more energy than any other. But I incline to believe that this is especially true of those free nations in which the aristocratic element preponderates. Democracy appears to me better adapted for the conduct of society in times of peace, or for a sudden effort of remarkable vigor, than for the prolonged endurance of the great storms that beset the political existence of nations.

—Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

...and so it goes.

truepeers said...

... and so it goes indeed. Let us remember that aristocracy and democracy are heads and tails, two sides of a coin, and that an understanding of either is not to be found in the abstract but by reference to their marriage in particular historical currencies. It may well be that today the true aristocratic spirit is the thankless, Bushian, defense of the common good to be found in people's freedom in competive markets, as against the vested interests and snobberies, even as the people and their idea of democracy commonly evidence the aristocratic desire each to be king of one's castle, as in today's world where everyone is an expert in something, with turf to defend and with an idea of democracy in which those who would speak for freedom and change know nothing about that over which I am lord (i.e. the destabilizing Bush is an idiot because increased competition is bad for me and us). But why is the new, even violent, competition that comes from toppling Saddam necessarily a bad thing for America? Sure, it might set up situations in which you lose; but without competition to keep it honest and innovative, surely the nation falters even as it remains "on top". Stability may be a temptress full of illusions.


loner said...


With that I am in no particular disagreement though I, for one, make no claim to expertise in anything. After all:

Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga com'e bisogna che tutto cambi.

That comes from a wonderful and fairly short historical novel which was made into a great epic movie. Il Gattopardo was for years unavailable (I saw it on the big screen when I was in college and I found a bootleg in Italian with subtitles to copy somewhere around 1992) and is now available to any and all for rental and/or for purchase in both its Italian and American versions. Great times (except in movie theaters) for those of us who love movies.

Best, indeed.

terrye said...

Sometimes there are changes taking place in the world whcih mkes stability virtually impossible. I think those changes are evident in the ME now and would be there no matter who the President was. East meets West, whether either one of them likes it or not.

Remember the saying in the old westerns? There ain't room enough for both us in this town.

This collision was an unforseen side effect of the modern age. People thought it would be like the Jetsons. Instead we get The Lord of the Rings.

Seneca the Younger said...

When you're the major military and economic power in the known universe and your aim is not to conquer and then rule where you do not already rule, stability is, by definition, a good thing.

Oh, that's just silly. Especially when the "stable" state is like what we've got in the Middle East now, with Palestinians and Israelis fighting, Iran and Syria fighting Iraq and playing around with Somalia, and active attacks on all sorts of angles by a whole bunch of different groups.

Stability in a situation that sucks is not a good thing.

loner said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
loner said...


There's no need to remind me not to sail off to Syracuse based on your understanding of words and/or the world. Big picture.


truepeers said...

I, for one, make no claim to expertise in anything.

-loner, that makes two of us; i sometimes wonder whether blogging is the last refuge of hte generalists or whether we are just on the cusp of a new ethical paradigm and a renewed emphasis on what we share in common, if only to revitalize our particular arts.

People thought it would be like the Jetsons. Instead we get The Lord of the Rings.

-lol; yep, we have most of a generation plugged into their ipods, cell phones, youtube and video games and not yet willing to leave the hobbitt shire and fight evil.