Archive | war RSS feed for this section

The Confidence Problem

10 Sep

From the National Security Network (via Ezra Klein) a video about the progress of the “surge” and the crisis of confidence surrounding the administration:

Democracy Arsenal (whose authors are part of the National Security Network), also has a fact check of some of the claims made in General Petraeus’s speech.

The bottom line is that with credibility surrounding Iraq War management hovering around nonexistent, no one should be surprised that “give us another few months to assess progress” is rejected almost out-of-hand. To begin with, it isn’t clear what long-term goal the surge will accomplish, even it does prove effective at quelling violence. Yes, lives will be saved in the near term, which is always good, but if everyone is admitting that the real success comes from gains on the political front, then what good are military victories if there isn’t cooperation within the Iraqi government? Who are we making the country safe for if there’s no state to run it?

Furthermore, Bush’s past foreign policy decisions (like four years of a mismanaged war run by Don Rumsfeld) suggests that the President is content to stick with his own Iraq policy until the end of his term. The reports on progress with a “wait and see” approach are procedural niceties to keep public minimally informed and kick the can down the road so that attempts can be made to salvage something from Iraq.

Which is also why I dissent from Matt Yglesias’s assessment of the new Pollack/Pascual paper,“Salvaging the Possible”. Yglesias sees it this way: Continue reading

Ken Pollack’s Biggest Mistake: Not Listening to Ken Pollack

19 Aug

Dan Drezner surveys the current debate about the foreign policy community and adds some important insights. An excerpt:

Does this mean, as Greenwald implies, that there is no debate within the FPC? Hell no. There can and should be vigorous debates over what constitutes a “vital national interest,” whether force should be used multilaterally or unilaterally, what other policy tools should be used, etc. That’s not a small zone of disagreement. Indeed, as Chris Sullentrop pointed out in March 2003, Pollack’s Threatening Storm rebuked an awful lot of the Bush administration’s approach to Iraq.

Pollack comes in for no small amount of criticism in the blogosphere. Some of it is deserved (why he would team up with O’Hanlon to write this op-ed is beyond me¹), but much of it misses the fact that Pollack is a smart military and intelligence expert who, as Ilan Goldenberg points out, actually knows the Middle East (but was wrong about the war). He’s no neocon hack, and as Drezner’s post highlights, his pro regime-change book , The Threatening Storm, had some serious caveats for an Iraq invasion:

In The Threatening Storm, Pollack cautions the United States against behaving as a “rogue superpower” that does whatever it wants, whenever it wants: “If we behave in this fashion, we will alienate our allies and convince much of the rest of the world to band together against us to try to keep us under control. Rather than increasing our security and prosperity, such a development would drastically undermine it.” Continue reading

The American Peace

14 Aug

uberpower.jpgA lot has been made about the foreign policy establishment and national security wisemen (and women) failing us in the lead up to the Iraq War. This is true, and many people (i.e. policy experts) who should have known better were too eager to support Bush administration policy without acknowledging the many risks and long-term consequences. I see much of this as the result of informational cascades (combined with several personal visions of foreign policy idealism), though that explanation may be too simplistic. In response, there has been a sort of anti-Iraq triumphalism, in which war critics continue to scold and dismiss the foreign policy establishment on a host of issues for being wrong about Iraq. But there are limits on how useful this new “We Were Right About Iraq” foreign set can be; in the future, I’ll continue to put my money on the analysis of Matt Yglesias instead of Atrios.

That’s why I think this Matt Zeitlin post nails it:

Michael Cohen and Shadi Hamid are parts of the dreaded “foreign policy community” and they showed judgment on Iraq, as did Lawrence Korb, Zbigniew Brzezinski and many others in the FPC. And until Greenwald and Atrios can show that a policy based around US preeminence, or a foreign policy mindset based around preeminence, necessitates tragic, stupid wars like Iraq and that they have an alternate way to look at foreign policy, or actual alternate proposals on hard issues besides “the War in Iraq was shitty and we shouldn’t invade Iran,” I’ll be sticking with the Foreign Policy Community. Continue reading

War, Liberalism, and the Future of American Foreign Policy

16 Jun

the-good-fight.jpgWhat should a liberal foreign policy look like?  Humanitarianism or security?  Intervention or realism?  Of course, these concerns aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, but they do represent some of the tensions between competing foreign policy visions.  The New Republic's Editor-at-Large Peter Beinart has written a new book called The Good Fight that outlines his vision of a liberal foreign policy, one which he ties to the history of Cold War liberalism and its challenge to the threat of Communism.  Beinart, and his magazine, supported the war in Iraq but have since argued that supporting the war was a mistake, though America needs to finish what it started in Iraq, lest the country fall into civil war.    Continue reading

Iraq: Are We Screwed Yet?

3 Mar

Sectarian violence has been on the rise in Iraq in the past weeks, so much so that many people are wondering if the U.S. isn’t so much occupying and rebuilding a country as it is reserving front row seats for a civil war.  The big surprise, however, is that some notable conservatives are wondering the same thing.  William F. Buckley Jr. states, flat out, “It Didn’t Work” over at The National Review; George Will echoes his sentiment at the New York Post, warning that we’re “Glimpsing the Abyss”. Continue reading