Tag Archives: george w bush

Iraq gives us another opportunity to confront our mistakes, and learn from them

Summary: The Iraq War begins a new phase, perhaps with US involvement. But we’ve not admitted, let along learned from, the massive institutional failures of the public policy machinery that produced it. Departments of Defense and State, the National Security Council, military, the President, NGOs, the press — all failed. Instead we focus on pretend solutions, and the Dreamland of what-ifs. Here is some material to help start the process. How well we learn might determine our results during the next generation.

“My first company commander told me that there’s two ways to learn: blunt trauma and mindless repetition.”
— Mike Few, from the comments

System Failure

Contents

  1. The big picture of US foreign interventions
  2. How we got into Iraq
  3. The long results of Iraq
  4. For More Information

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(1) The big picture of US foreign interventions

Iraq delivers bloody lesson on blowback
Stephen Kinzer (Visiting Fellow, Boston U), Boston Globe, 22 June 2014

Excerpt:

After many decades in the covert-action business, Americans have come to learn what “blowback” means. Often our foreign interventions produce quick victory. Then things go bad. Short-term success dissolves into long-term failure. Many of our interventions have not only thrown target countries into violent upheaval, but weakened our own security.

The recent explosion of militant power in Iraq is a new example of how serious this blowback can be.

… Bombing Khadafy out of power may have briefly felt good, but it has thrown Libya into chaos and strengthened some of North Africa’s most brutal terrorist armies.

This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of one of the most ill-conceived of all American interventions. At the end of June 1954, the CIA deposed the elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz. “Operation Success,” as the Guatemala project was brightly code-named, did seem successful at the time. We deposed a leader we didn’t like and replaced him with one who would do our bidding. Yet within a few years, tensions set off by this intervention cast Guatemala into civil war. Hundreds of thousands of people, most of them Mayan peasants, died violently over the next 30 years. Today Guatemala is poor and backward, a weak state penetrated by drug gangs and plagued by unremitting violence.

Last year was the 60th anniversary of an equally disastrous intervention, the one that brought down Iran’s last democratic government in 1953. The CIA code-named it “Operation Ajax,” supposedly after the household cleanser. Its premise was that if we could return the shah to his Peacock Throne, he would wipe away Iranian nationalism and Iran would become pro-American forever. The opposite happened.

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Our rulers are skilled at running information operations (but less so at running America)

Summary:  Elections used to determine public policy in America.  No longer.  More broadly we can now see that information operations determine public policy in America, as our ruling elites realize that they need not engage an increasingly foolish and weak people in serious debate.  Instead factions among them compete using skillful propaganda — more often, active events to shape US public opinion.

Contents

  1. The old days
  2. Examples of information operations in America
  3. The next step:  anger (update)
  4. Ask the mineshaft!
  5. For more information

(1)  The old days

Candidates offered choices.  Sometimes the choices were fake.  FDR ran a budget-balancing fiscal conservative in 1932 and promised to keep us out of the war in 1940.  Nixon ran as a conservative in 1968, but was the 2nd or 3rd most liberal president of that century.

Although we’ve slowly evolved towards our new order, this new era began in 2008, where the election allowed us to choose between different candidates with almost identical policies.  That was not obvious to those that voted for Mr. Hope And Change.  Four years experience shows that Obama’s economic and national security policies are almost identical to Bush Jr’s.

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About the strategic significance of bin Laden’s execution, and the road not taken

Summary:  The capture and execution of bin Laden was a powerful act of grand strategy.  Did it advance or damage our national interests?  There was an alternative to his execution, another of the roads not taken by America since 9-11.  Bin Laden borrowed from the ending of Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor. We could have borrowed the ending from “The Sum of All Fears”.  This is a follow-up to A brief note about the death of bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden

 

Contents

  1. Was bin Laden a high priority goal?
  2. Why does it matter?  Because strategy trumps tactics.
  3. The missed opportunity
  4. For more information

 

(1)  Was bin Laden a high priority goal?

Did we seek to capture/kill bin Laden?  Or was he more useful as an excuse for invading Afghanistan and Iraq?  There is evidence that regime change in the Middle East was the objective — and justice for bin Laden was secondary.  That was and should be primarily a decision about strategy not (as Machiavelli explained) a moral choice.  We can debate its effects another day.  Here’s some of the evidence.

(a)  Bush’s response to 9-11

As explained by the 9-11 Commission. From page 332, Chapter 10 — Wartime:

The State Department proposed delivering an ultimatum to the Taliban: produce Bin Ladin and his deputies and shut down al Qaeda camps within 24 to 48 hours, or the United States will use all necessary means to destroy the terrorist infrastructure. The State Department did not expect the Taliban to comply. Therefore, State and Defense would plan to build an international coalition to go into Afghanistan.

Both departments would consult with NATO and other allies and request intelligence, basing, and other support from countries, according to their capabilities and resources. Finally, the plan detailed a public U.S. stance: America would use all its resources to eliminate terrorism as a threat, punish those responsible for the 9/11 attacks, hold states and other actors responsible for providing sanctuary to terrorists, work with a coalition to eliminate terrorist groups and networks, and avoid malice toward any people, religion, or culture. (State Department memo, “Gameplan for Polmil Strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan,” 14 Sept 2001)

President Bush recalled that he quickly realized that the administration would have to invade Afghanistan with ground troops.

(b)  Bush’s response to the Taliban’s offers

From “Bush rejects Taliban offer to surrender bin Laden“, The Independent, 15 October 2001 — Excerpt:

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