Sunk Costs and Considering Intervention in Iraq

Senator McCain has argued forcefully for intervention in Iraq, in response to events outlined by Jim. It is conceivable that surgical strikes might tip the balance and restore stability to Iraq. But hope is not a basis for policy (or shouldn’t be).

The Senator has in the past opined on the Iraq issue. Regarding the challenges of a conflict in Iraq, this quote from 2002:

…I am very certain that this military engagement will not be very difficult. It may entail the risk of American lives and treasure, but Saddam Hussein is vastly weaker than he was in 1991. He does not have the support of his people.

Regarding at least part of the casus belli, this 2003 statement FoxNews:

I remain confident that we will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

This his view today The Hill:

“There is a need for immediate action,” McCain said on the Senate floor. “The worst option is to do nothing.” … McCain said political reconciliation between Islamic groups in Iraq is key to peace, but said that can’t be a “prerequisite for military action.”

McCain called for U.S. airstrikes in the region, if for nothing else than boosting morale.

At this juncture, it might be useful to recall what budgetary costs we have already incurred in Iraq (from this post).

trilliondollarwar1.gif

Figure 1: Cumulative direct costs, in current dollars by fiscal year, in the Iraq theater of operations (“Operation Iraqi Freedom”). Does not include resulting debt service. Source: Amy Belasco, “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11,” RL33110, Congressional Research Service, March 29, 2011, Table 3. Data for FY2011 is for continuing resolution, for 2012 is Administration FY2012 request.

trilliondollarwar2.gif

Figure 2: Cumulative real direct costs, in constant (FY2010) dollars by fiscal year, in the Iraq theater of operations (“Operation Iraqi Freedom”). Does not include debt service costs. Source: Nominal figures from Amy Belasco, “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11,” RL33110, Congressional Research Service, March 29, 2011, Table 3. Data for FY2011 is for continuing resolution, for 2012 is Administration FY2012 request. Deflated by CPI-all. CPI for 2011 assumes September 2011 m/m inflation is the same as August 2011 m/m inflation. Assumes 2012 inflation is equal to August 2011 CBO forecast for CY2012 inflation.

Figures 2 and 3 incorporate only direct fiscal costs to the United States government, and excludes interest costs. See here for another tabulation.

To recap, the $61 billion war [1] ended up costing (through FY2012) an estimated 874 billion, in FY2010 constant dollars. To place this in more current context, this works out to approximately 934 billion, in FY2013 dollars.

Given this investment, one might conclude that we cannot allow the sacrifice of treasure (and blood, see here) be in vain. However, economic theory suggests that sunk costs should not be considered in evaluating whether an enterprise should be undertaken. Rather, the (realistically appraised) costs and benefits of given options should be compared — that is a prospective evaluation is called for.

Moreover, this debate should be explicit and public. That is because, should Iraq descend into chaos or break up, there will doubtless be recriminations emanating from certain circles (well, they’re already emanating). In this regard, we do not need a replay of the “Who Lost China?” debate (as if it was America’s to lose), which distorted American foreign policy for decades.

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79 thoughts on “Sunk Costs and Considering Intervention in Iraq

  1. jonathan

    Also doesn’t include the cost of Veteran’s Affairs, which has more than doubled from 2005 – from something like $71B to about $164B. That’s every year.

  2. randomworker

    A hard concept for many to grok. Every day is a new calculation and today’s calculation, it seems to me, tips towards “keep out.”

  3. PeakTrader

    The U.S. is able to consume more than produce in the global economy and in the long run, in part, because oil is mostly priced in U.S. dollars.

    So, much of the U.S. military is paid for, indirectly, by the world community.

    In exchange, the U.S. does the “dirty work,” that other countries won’t or can’t do, to stabilize the world and prevent even worse outcomes.

    Saddam defied the UN, used weapons of mass destruction, invaded Kuwait, and sat on trillions of dollars of oil, before the rise in price. Sending Saddam and his two sons to Allah sent an important message to other dictators, along with freeing-up needed oil.

    ****

    The World’s Reserve Currency
    October 3, 2007

    “A reserve currency is money that’s held by many countries as their foreign exchange reserves. It’s also the currency that’s typically used to price commodities, such as oil and gold, that are traded between countries.

    A country whose currency is the predominant reserve currency benefits tremendously. In the case of the dollar, the U.S. benefits from the increased demand for the dollar that the reserve currency status creates.

    Other countries give the U.S. valuable goods in exchange for dollars issued by the Federal Reserve. They also lend the dollars they’ve accumulated back to the U.S. at low interest rates. Most significantly, the U.S. benefits from importing these goods and exporting its inflation to other countries in the form of depreciating dollars.”

    1. Nick G

      The U.S. is able to consume more than produce in the global economy and in the long run, in part, because oil is mostly priced in U.S. dollars.

      The US creates debt in the process. Worse, a chronic trade deficit creates “dutch disease” – what does the US do when the dollar loses reserve status, and it’s exports have been deeply harmed?

      So, much of the U.S. military is paid for, indirectly, by the world community.

      I’m not sure why we would choose to allocate our excess imports to military costs.

      More importantly, we could spend the same money (or less) on alternatives to oil, and make the world far safer and more prosperous.

      1. PeakTrader

        What debt are you talking about? Please cite it.

        What “Dutch disease,” in the U.S., are you talking about?

        If the dollar loses its reserve status, then Americans will work for fewer goods.

        Why would exports be harmed?

        You don’t believe the U.S. should maintain a military?

        Why would you force Americans to spend on expensive and inefficient energy?

        How does not spending on the military and spending on expensive and inefficient energy “make the world far safer and more prosperous.”

        1. Nick G

          What debt

          It’s straightforard: I’m talking about debt by US individuals, organizations and governments. It includes T-bills sold to China and KSA, mortgages bundled into securities and sold to overseas investment funds, etc. That debt is mostly locked away as reserves right now, but if the US dollar lost reserve currency status, that would change.

          What “Dutch disease,” in the U.S., are you talking about?

          It’s commonly known as “off-shoring”. It’s exaggerated a bit on one side by labor productivity improvements which have reduced manufacturing employment, and masked a bit on the other side by the enormous increase in speed of PCs (which exaggerates the size of US manufacturing), but on the whole the US has lost significant manufacturing.

          If the dollar loses its reserve status, then Americans will work for fewer goods.

          I’m not sure what you mean.

          Why would exports be harmed?

          By the loss of tradeable goods, mostly manufactured, as discussed above.

          You don’t believe the U.S. should maintain a military?

          Absolutely not this large. The US is harming it’s current optimal allocation of resources by producing “stuff” that has no consumer value. It’s harming it’s future growth by putting so much of it’s engineering power into developing military tech, instead of consumer tech, especially health (drugs, devices, IT systems, etc).

          Why would you force Americans to spend on expensive and inefficient energy?

          Renewables are competitive price-wise already: windpower is cheaper than coal, in the US, and solar has reached grid parity in substantial areas. When you include the costs of pollution and supply insecurity you find that fossil fuels are far more expensive than wind, solar and nuclear, .

          China is surpassing us in the development of clean energy – do we want to be left behind?

          The faster we leave dirty, dangerous and expensive fossil fuels, the better off we’ll be.

          1. PeakTrader

            You seem to assume debt is bad. Low prices and low interest rates induce demand, which raises living standards faster. Do you prefer high prices and high interest rates?

            What about equity and net worth? Moreover, non-financial U.S. corporations, in general, have strong balance sheets, including $2 trillion in cash. U.S. households behaved rationally snapping-up bargains for decades. Unfortunately, the federal government didn’t “refund” enough of those dollars back to households to allow the spending to go on, since consumers bought foreign goods and foreigners bought U.S. Treasury bonds. Furthermore, excessive regulations, e.g. in housing, finance, health care, energy, environment, transportation, education, etc. are costly Securities held by the Fed will mature.

            The U.S. offshored low-end manufacturing with declining prices , imported those goods at lower prices and higher profits, and shifted limited resources into high-end manufacturing and emerging industries with market power. Consequently, the U.S. was able to double its real manufacturing output with over 30% less labor and other inputs.

            Chart of real manufacturing output: http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/OUTMS

            Also, the U.S. not only leads the world in the Information and Biotech Revolutions, it leads the rest of the world combined (in both revenue and profit). Furthermore, it should be noted, U.S. export growth has been much faster than GDP growth.

            U.S. military spending has generally declined as a percent of GDP, since WWII. If renewables are competitive, then allow the market to work, rather than pile-on more expensive regulations on top of a heavily regulated economy. China can squander its money. Why make U.S. households/consumers/taxpayers squander their money?

          2. Nick G

            If renewables are competitive, then allow the market to work, rather than pile-on more expensive regulations…

            Again, when you include the costs of pollution and supply insecurity you find that fossil fuels are far more expensive than wind, solar and nuclear.

            We can’t ignore indirect, external costs, right? You’ve raised some other points which would be interesting to adddress, but let’s finish this one first.

            So, good free markets need to include all costs, including external ones like pollution and secuirity, right?

          3. PeakTrader

            Let’s be real. The technology doesn’t exist for wind and solar to replace oil, natural gas, and coal. And, the opportunity costs aren’t worth it.

            Wind and solar cannot be stand alone energy sources, unless the energy can be stored cheaply.

            Nuclear power can charge car batteries. However, car batteries are expensive and must be disposed, and replaced, eventually, along with nuclear waste.

            Yes, all costs should be included, along with regulations, taxes, and subsidies.

          4. Nick G

            The technology doesn’t exist for wind and solar to replace oil, natural gas, and coal.

            I’m afraid you’ve been badly misinformed. What’s your source for that idea? What studies or evidence have you seen? I’ve seen quite a few studies that say that wind and solar can indeed replace fossilf fuels.
            Perhaps the best authority is Germany – they’re certainly well known for engineering, and they’ve bet their economy on wind & solar.

            You don’t believe that fossil fuels will run out? That we’ve had several recessions due to oil shortages? That Climate Change is real?
            Nuclear power can charge car batteries. However, car batteries are expensive and must be disposed, and replaced, eventually, along with nuclear waste.

            What do you mean by “car batteries”? What price and life are you assuming? Do you believe that industrial civilization will collapse eventually, when fossil fuels are depleted?

            Yes, all costs should be included, along with regulations, taxes, and subsidies.

            Ok, do you agree that should include the costs of pollution and security of supply?

          5. Nick G

            PeakTrader,

            If you read the Spiegel article carefully, you’ll see that there’s nothing in it to support the argument that “The technology doesn’t exist for wind and solar to replace oil, natural gas, and coal.”. In fact, it’s clear that it does. The article is about cost, not the feasibility of technology. The authors agree that low-CO2 power is a good idea – they just don’t think Germany is managing the costs well. For instance, they suggest using Sweden’s pricing plan.

            Sadly, Germany isn’t a poster child for low-cost implementation of low-CO2 tech. First, they’ve chosen to phase out nuclear ASAP, which is expensive and makes reducing CO2 emissions much, much harder. 2nd, they’re a pioneer – they’ve paid heavily to bring down the cost of wind and solar quickly. That’s an investment that will pay off for the whole world, but German consumers will be paying for it for quite a while. 3rd, Germany has relatively poor wind and sun! The low-cost approach to expanding wind and solar power would be to import them from places like Spain and Morocco, which have relatively good wind & sun. But, having domestic power sources is more important to Germany than low cost – in light of the way Russia has treated it’s gas customers, that’s not too hard to understand.

            So, have you thought about my questions? Do you agree that “all costs” should include the costs of pollution and security of supply?

  4. Jeffrey J. Brown

    Interesting column by George Will:

    http://www.limaohio.com/news/opinion_columns/1440624/George-Will:-Obamas-foreign-policy-of-retreat

    Some will say that it would not have come to this if the Iraqi army had not been disbanded, or if there had been better occupation planning, or if there had been a bigger occupying force, or if an agreement had been reached to keep a significant number of U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely, or if …

    Enough. Here is a question for Republican presidential aspirants:

    Given the absence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and given that we now know how little we know about “nation-building” and about the promotion of democracy in nations that need to be “built,” and given that Saddam Hussein’s horrific tyranny at least controlled Iraq’s sectarian furies, and given that Iraq under him was Iran’s adversary, and given that 10-year wars make Americans indiscriminately averse to military undertakings — given all this, if you could rewind history to March 2003, would you favor invading Iraq?

    Barack Obama is conducting the foreign policy retreat he promised, that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton facilitated without apparent qualms, and that many Americans said they wanted until it began to make them queasy. The Republican challenge is to articulate a policy that fills the vast space between this retreat and the ruinous grandiosity of the “freedom agenda” of Obama’s predecessor.

    Americans prefer not to think about, and rarely allow elections to turn on, foreign policy. Events, however, are not cooperating. Trotsky probably did not really say this, but someone should: “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”

    1. Tom

      He’s quite right, though you kinda have to feel sorry for him always talking to his imaginary reasonable Republican presidential candidate friend.

  5. Jeffrey J. Brown

    Philip Caputo wrote an excellent book, “A Rumor of War,” about what he experienced in the Vietnam War, as he gradually became disillusioned, after arriving in Vietnam in 1965. When he began to argue, with fellow officers, about withdrawing, the most common response was that it would mean that the lives of the US soldiers who had died in the war up that point would be wasted, if we withdrew. I’ve forgotten how many Americans had died as of the mid-Sixties in Vietnam (not even counting the huge number of Vietnamese who had died and who would die), but the US lost tens of thousands of additional killed in action, and then we withdrew, in the early Seventies.

    http://www.amazon.com/A-Rumor-War-Philip-Caputo/dp/080504695X/ref=zg_bs_5025_4

    Review of “A rumor of war,” by Brian Leverenz (emphasis added):

    To anyone who thinks of war as a glorious enterprise or some kind of Nintendo game, they should read Caputo’s book. THe author himself was once an idealistic, glory seeking young man eager to participate in “a splendid little war,’ but by book’s end he has become an unfeeling, unremorseful and scared shell of a human being. This may have been what kept him alive, but Caputo is angry over the deep emotional damage done to many men like himself who were thrust into a civil war and cultural revolution in a country and place we had little understanding of. Caputo manges to show us how this transformation took place. Its not a pleasant read or ride, but in the process we discover why the war was unwinnable at a price America was willing or should have paid, and what damage we inflicted on men like Caputo in putting them in such a difficult position. But don’t read the book for any lengthy history or diatribe on Vietnam or America’s policies toward it. First and foremost its a memoir of war and preparing for war. From boot camp thru training, to Vietnam and back home, Caputo keeps you riveted with descriptions of crawling through leech filled swamps, nights in the sticky jungle being consumed by insects, and witnessing the irony of pigs eating charred human corpses. When not focusing on battles, we are privy to the insanity of body counts and body bags and the tense downtime between jungle patrols, as well as the dynamics of a Marine platoon. Caputo’s insights and ability to reflect back upon the events and physical and emotional carnage he inflicted upon himself and others is what makes this memoir special. There is also no small irony that Caputo was part of the first marine unit to go to Nam, and that as a journalist some 10 years later, he was one of the last to leave. Anytime I think of war as a glorious enterprise, I need only pick up this book and read a few sections. Should be required reading in war history courses! If you liked Dispatches by Michael Herr, this book is even better.

  6. Menzie Chinn Post author

    Jeffrey J. Brown: I concur; both are excellent books, and A Rumor of War in particular should be required reading for all those who have an interest in foreign policy. I read it as an undergraduate in the early 1980’s.

  7. Ricardo

    Jeffery,

    Given the absence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction,

    This is not a given. There were chemical weapons found and there was evidence of massive movements of materials to Syria. Saying there were not weapons of mass destruction requires a redefinition of what WMD meant before and after the war (see the pre-was claims Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid among others). and speculation as to what was or was not sent to Syria. Did Assad’s chemical weapons contain a tag “Made in Iraq?”

    given that we now know how little we know about “nation-building” and about the promotion of democracy in nations that need to be “built,”

    This is not a given. Democrats engage in attempting “nation building” as they are currrently attempting in the US. Republicans engage in creating an environment where a country can develop democratic institutions to govern themselves. Thanks to the US military Iraq was in the process of creating a real democratic government filled with purple fingers. Removing the US military has destroyed the Iraq democracy and facilitated Fascism.

    given that Saddam Hussein’s horrific tyranny at least controlled Iraq’s sectarian furies, and given that Iraq under him was Iran’s adversary

    How did this procedure work in WWII as the world chose Hitler to counter communism? This is one of the most absurd arguments I ever hear for supporting a brutal dictator.

    “given that 10-year wars make Americans indiscriminately averse to military undertakings

    Anyone who is war weary enough to endanger their country deserves defeat. This whole “war weary” mantra is a political ploy to turn the people against defending our country. It is pushed by our adversaries abroad and their domestic cronies. Were we war weary after 4 years of war in WWII? Were we war weary when we defeated Germany and Italy and turned our focus on Japan during WWII. Should we have given Normandy back to Hitler and then surrendered to Japan?

    — given all this, if you could rewind history to March 2003, would you favor invading Iraq?

    Given that President Obama has surrendered to defeat in victory and returned much of Iraq back to the very people from who it was liberated you point is well taken. Had we known that we would elect a president who would destroy all the gains we made, had it been a given, perhaps we would have made a different decisions. The polls show that given what people know about that president today he would have difficulty winning 40% of the vote.

    But as Menzie has noted this is all water under the bridge. What do we do now? Given the government that we have and the political leadership that we have shelter what wealth you can and hope that our nation can survive the next 2 1/2 years. Where do you go when the city of refuge is corrupted?

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Ricardo: So, still bringing up the WMD meme that you first introduced in your DickF incarnation? I’m surprised you didn’t also resuscitate your Al Qaeda in Saddam Hussein Iraq validated invasion meme. To remind everyone of your delusions, let’s reprise your comments from 2007.

      “More important than estimating the cost of the war is estimating the cost if there were no war. What would be the cost of a 9-11 event every 3 to 4 years? Granted there is no evidence that Iraq was directly involved in 9-11, but Iraq was involved in 9-11 through providing training bases, military leaders meeting with Al Qaeda prior to the events, and Saddam giving monetary support to militants worldwide. That is not to mention how much classified information we got from Saddam’s spider-hole. Naivet prevents connecting the dots which leads to a repeat of 9-11.

      The war was not justified with one 9-11. Would it be justified with two, three, more? When is our system of government worth fighting for? Never?”

      Well, let me just say, using your logic, since we have not obtained conclusive evidence that unicorns do not exist, then they must exist.

    2. baffling

      ricardo, i don’t think before the war in iraq you really had any solid idea why we should have invaded, nor did you have any idea of what we should accomplish during and after the fact. it was apparent that bush, cheney and rumsfeld did not fully appreciate the difficulties they were going to put this country into for the next decade. they had a “cowboy” mentality that we are the biggest, baddest man on the block, and that was sufficient to determine the outcome of iraq.

      nation building is not done from abroad, it is done internally. and it requires a special set of circumstances for the people of a country to embrace, grow and even die for democracy. our leaders, past and present, have done a piss poor job of evaluating the willingness of a people to die for their country, or their religion. obama has spent years cleaning up a pile of crap left behind by bush, cheney and rumsfeld. you want to see the price paid for those egomaniacs, simply spend a day in a VA clinic.

    3. Jeffrey J. Brown

      Ricardo,

      I assume that you know that you are rebutting George Will, a conservative columnist (and not me).

    4. Nick G

      the world chose Hitler to counter communism

      I’d be curious to see evidence for this idea. Do you have any links?

  8. Ricardo

    Just for the record John McCain is an idiot. His idea of foreign policy is kill everyone who doesn’t agree with him. For those on the left surrender to government is always the recommended policy. Their fantasy is that this will bring peace, but when the government is your source of life civil was will be perpetual as everyone fights to win the government.

    The McCain militarist foreign policy is also a failure because it directly leads to perpetual war and conquest.

    It was Adam Smith and those who followed him who saw that civiliization was created but free trade where cooperation between producers created a better world both spiritually and physically. Sadly both the leftists and the militarists fight against civilization to acquire power for themselves. The destruction freedom is the destruction of civilization.

  9. Patrick R. Sullivan

    ‘Saying there were not weapons of mass destruction requires a redefinition of what WMD meant before and after the war (see the pre-was claims Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid among others). and speculation as to what was or was not sent to Syria. ‘

    More amusing was the San Jose Mercury News Op-ed in October 2002, written by former ambassador Joseph Wilson, which claimed that Iraq had WMD and would use them against an invading army. Wilson’s expert status coming from his stint as acting Ambassador in Iraq in the 1990s.

  10. Patrick R. Sullivan

    ‘…we do not need a replay of the “Who Lost China?” debate ….’

    Well, that depends on who ‘we’ is. It might alert some to the FACT that in the 1940s Democrats handed over the China that had been the source of America’s entry into WWII to the Communists. When merely supporting Chiang Kai-Shek would probably have been enough to keep it free–and thus have saved serveral tens of millions of people from the violent death they subsequently endured. Not to mention our avoiding the Korean War.

    Similarly we might want to take an honest look at how the Communists managed to take South Vietnam in 1975, after they’d failed to do so in 1972 (with an even bigger military offensive than in 1975). The difference being that Democrats were in veto-proof control of congress in 1975, and refused to send any military or other assistance to SV then.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Patrick R. Sullivan: I see; perhaps I should just call you “Tail Gunner Pat”, given your definition of “FACT”s. So, your contention is with just a few billion dollars more of aid, Chiang Kai-shek could have defeated the Communists? Perhaps, but I am dubious. From 1945-early 1947, China received $3 billion in aid. In today’s dollars (using the CPI-all), that’s about $31 billion. And in relative terms, military equipment was cheaper back then. What would have tipped the balance? Another $3 billion in 1947$? Or do you think the US should have intervened with troops.

      I also look forward to your assessment of how many billions of dollars of additional aid (or do you mean re-invasion with boots on the ground?) would have been necessary to save South Vietnam.

      1. Patrick R. Sullivan

        ‘So, your contention is with just a few billion dollars more of aid, Chiang Kai-shek could have defeated the Communists? Perhaps, but I am dubious. ‘

        Then you should read Jung Chang’s ‘Mao: The Unknown Story’–Chang knew Mao personally, and wrote her book using Chinese sources. One of the tidbits she relates sheds quite a bit of light on Joe McCarthy’s antipathy toward George C. Marshall for ordering Chiang Kai-Shek to desist from attacking Mao’s forces, in autumn 1945, after Japan’s surrender.

        Contrary to the propaganda spread in America by Mao’s American admirers like ‘China hands’ John Stewart Service, John Paton Davies, John Carter Vincent, and Owen Latimore, Mao had no military forces worth mentioning at that time. He’d spent the WWII years in NW China in a kind of peaceful coexistence with Japanese forces while Chiang’s army fought them tooth and nail (with American arms). Had Chiang been simply left free to obliterate Mao at that time, he would have done so.

        But newly arrived Ambassador George C. Marshall took the advice of his advisers and threatened Chiang with a total cut-off of all aid if he fought Mao. That blunder gave Stalin time to arm Mao with captured Japanese weapons and to train Mao’s ragtag forces by Russian Generals who’d recently defeated Hitler’s Wehrmacht. So, according to Chinese historian Jung, we didn’t lose China so much as give it away.

        But don’t bother to ever learn the facts about things you spout off on Menzie, you’d be less fun if you did.

      2. Patrick R. Sullivan

        ‘I also look forward to your assessment of how many billions of dollars of additional aid (or do you mean re-invasion with boots on the ground?) would have been necessary to save South Vietnam.’

        I guess you didn’t bother to read my last paragraph above, where I pointed out that South Vietnam defeated a larger invasion from the North in 1972 than the one that overwhelmed them in 1975. There were almost no American combat troops in South Vietnam in 1972. They did have the air support of B-52s from Thailand, but the ground fighting was entirely by South Vietnam armies.

        Ergo; the reason the North won in 1975 was only because Democrat controlled congress refused to give the support that it had in 1972.

        1. pgl

          When I heard John McCain claim we had won in Iraq – I thought at the time that was the dumbest comment ever recorded. But then I would have never imagined anyone claiming we had won in Vietnam. Until now – revisionist historian Patrick R. Sullivan to the rescue!

    2. baffling

      patrick, just curious what china would have looked like if Chiang Kai-Shek had been able to maintain control. he had a pretty brutal streak and was not necessarily a pro capitalist leader. one could even argue that chiang would not have even accepted us help in his battles-he was very untrusting of the usa. rather grandiose rewriting of history to blame this on the democrats, sounds more like the writings of a political hack.

      1. Patrick R. Sullivan

        ‘patrick, just curious what china would have looked like if Chiang Kai-Shek had been able to maintain control. ‘

        It would have avoided the famines, the stupidity of the Great Leap Forward, The Cultural Revolution, the Korean War….

        So, maybe it would have looked like Taiwan or South Korea today. Or, maybe it would have looked like China today, but several decades earlier.

        1. baffling

          patrick, except for the fact mao controlled most of the countryside, and chiang showed himself incapable of completing the mission. the modern thought is chiang was not capable of winning no matter what support he was given. you have no basis in reality to think bad things would not have happened in china had chiang won, and only good outcomes would have resulted. trying to rewrite history is a fools game.

  11. dilbert dogbert

    Sorry to be so off topic but it is about your favorite governor to poke with a sharp stick.
    From Duncan Black: “Prosecutors say Wisconsin Gov. Walker at center of ‘criminal scheme’ over campaign fundraising.”

  12. Robert Hurley

    I find it fascinating that the Patrick Sullivan’s of this world are willing to spend billions of dollars and waste thousands of lives pursuing futile wars, but want to spend nothing to help the unemployed and the poor.

    1. Patrick R. Sullivan

      Even for this blog that is an exceptionally vapid claim. You might want to acquaint yourself with the difference between private and public goods…just for a start.

  13. c thomson

    Amazing! For once I am in total agreement with Professor Chinn!

    I spent 1966 in the lst Infantry Division in Vietnam. As an ordinary soldier, unlike Caputo or James Webb, I did not even start with romantic views of American military prowess. My opinion of our ‘leadership’ declined in line with my opinion of the great American public. The antics I saw upon my return confirmed this low opinion.

    My overall take is that democracies can’t fight colonial wars to a finish. To see how a victorious one has to be fought, look at the Second Afghan War of the British and the steps taken by Lord Roberts to win – and really win. Not pretty.

  14. 2slugbaits

    I didn’t know China was ours to lose. Silly me.

    Ricardo The only thing that UN inspectors and the US military ever found were some old inert artillery shells that once contained mustard gas back in the 1980s. And if you know anything at all about chemical weapons (and I do), then you would know that most chemical weapons are very unstable and unless stored in binary warheads degrade very quickly even under optimal storage conditions. I don’t think anyone believes Saddam stored his weapons in optimal storage conditions even when he did have chemical weapons back in the 1980s. Saddam did not have any chemical weapons in 2003. He might have had some small residual number of chemical weapons prior to Operation Desert Fox, but even that is unlikely.

    Regarding the current Iraq situation, I have to admit to being utterly confused by your posts. On the one hand you criticize Obama for not taking military action, and then in the very next post you criticize McCain for wanting to take military action. As best I can tell your solution would be to hand out copies of Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” extolling the healing miracles of free markets without central bankers. Doh!!! Why didn’t the rest of us think of that?

    1. Patrick R. Sullivan

      ‘I didn’t know China was ours to lose. Silly me.’

      We only got attacked at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese because we told them to get their forces out of China immediately. We’d more or less tolerated Japanese adventures on the mainland for years, until the summer of 1941. Can you guess what changed our minds about ‘our’ China?

      1. baffling

        patrick, i do not imagine the us cutting of oil exports to japan was nearly as threatening as us saying get out of china! by cutting off oil, with the us being a major source, the us forced japan to find natural resources in the indochina area. at that point the us is no longer considered an ally, and we actually become a foe if japan thinks we keep them from occupying land with those resources to fund their war machine and economy. blaming this on the democrats is lunacy!

        patrick, with your rantings i am waiting for you to explain how the democrats were to blame for the crucifixion of Jesus himself.

      2. pgl

        Seriously Patrick – if you want to pretend to lecture other people on history, first try learning it. Yes, the Japanese did not want the US Navy to interfere with certain invasion plans of theirs in Asia. But they viewed the US as protecting its own interests in the Philippines as well as the interests of its allies – Great Britain (Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong) and the Netherlands (Indonesia). But none of this is the same thing as Mainland China. Get a globe and figure it out.

  15. jonathan

    Eugene Sledge, whose main autobiography was a big source for The Pacific mini-series, also wrote about his experience after WWII ended as a Marine in China. In terms of historical background, we sent 50,000 Marines (including the First Division from Okinawa) to China to keep the peace. By the end of 1945, we had over 100k soldiers there. We had tens of thousands of Marines in China well into 1949.

    The Marines initially forged a cold alliance with the Japanese military to keep the KMT and Communists from fighting. The task was enormous. The country was divided into a large number of military districts for surrender and peace-keeping, not counting the part occupied by the Soviets. And guess what? The Soviets handed their very large area to the Communists.

    Those who say “we lost China” or who think a modicum of troops would have made a KMT victory are ignorant idiots.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Vivian Darkbloom: But hope should be a basis for politics; that is, we hope for the best, we aspire to be better, and to rise above the muck of prejudice, ignorance, and arrogance. Or at least I hope we do. I understand objectively that many will not.

      1. c thomson

        Hope should be a basis for religious faith, Professor Chinn. Competence should be the basis for politics – allocating resources more or less peacefully and honestly – making the VA work properly or privatizing the wretched thing and so forth. Our political expectations in a mass democracy should be modest. Very modest.

        Currently we have two dominant schools of religious politics: gomer Republican and snivel liberal. Two sides of the same moronic coin – each full of crackpot beliefs about human nature. The result is stalemate. And a society that can’t paint bridges let alone build new ones.

        If Obama and world events succeed in slime-ing American liberalism back under its rock for ten years or so like Carter the First, the Republicans will automatically be pulled back to the center and we might just have a period of competent government as under Reagan and Bush I. Now that’s worth hoping for.

        1. baffling

          c thomson,
          the era of reagan and bush could be best described by enormous military expenditures paid for through debt due to tax revenue reductions from significant tax cuts. are you really hoping for a return to such nostalgia? baffling!

      2. Vivian Darkbloom

        Nice try, Menzie. But, “hope” was not portrayed as *a* basis of politics; it was portrayed as *the* basis for an entire campaign. Your rhetorical selectiveness here does not help us rise above prejudice, ignorance or arrogance.

        1. baffling

          but hope was not stated as a policy doctrine, only a political hack would go that far. hope was a vision to get us out of the dark bumbling bush years.

          1. Vivian Darkbloom

            Baffling,

            I don’t think that your attempt nor that off Menzie to draw this rhetorical distinction is convincing anyone of your “objectivity”. Think about it. In the first place, did John McCain say that “hope” was the basis of his policy argument? Perhaps he just hasn’t had time to have his posters printed up. Or was that “hope” thing a rhetorical invention of Menzie Chinn in the first place? Now that you are confronted with the fact that “hope” was the basis of an entire campaign (this is something *I* did not make up) both of you are trying to wiggle out of it in very unconvincing fashion.

            It’s not like I didn’t know this before, but for all of Menzie’s “hope” , I don’t think one can objectively conclude that he (or you) are being objective here.

          2. baffling

            Vivian
            you are simply playing a fools game. anybody who thinks that obama was operating on a policy of “hope” is an idiot. the slogan was a reflection that the past eight years had been led by a bunch of bumbling fools who took us into war and economic disaster. at that point people needed “hope” as opposed to the “hopelessness” of the previous years. but once again, only a fool would think that was a policy! of course, if you really want to see a policy of “hope” in action, consider the war planning for iraq and afghanistan a decade ago.

          3. Vivian Darkbloom

            Baffling,

            And anyone who thinks that McCain is operating on a policy of hope is….clairvoyant?

            My objective here is not to defend McCain’s policy or to attack Obama’s: it is to point out the obvious dual standard frequently encountered here and can best be described by what Studs Terkel once said very late in life: “I’d like to be known as someone who created trouble where trouble was due”. “Trouble” was definitely due here.

            But, one can, if one wishes, come up with any number of policies that Obama has advocated that were based a lot more on “hope” than the specific example given here by Chinn of McCain. Perhaps we could start with the ACA, as wonderfully and accurately described by Nancy Pelosi: “We have to pass this bill to find out what’s in it”. That is certainly a more clear expression of policy based on hope. And, Obama’s policy of non-intervention is certainly based as much on “hope” as McCain’s.

            One can, and should, have a little fun at Menzie’s expense in pointing out his obvious lack of objectivity.

          4. baffling

            vivian, it would be a political hack who would take the words of nancy pelosi and use them as the “policy” of barrack obama. you may not like the ACA, but it was a well planned program with details based on previous conservative plans-not a policy of hope. the iraq invasion of bush, on the other hand, was a policy of hope. as you say, lets be objective here.

          5. Vivian Darkbloom

            “it would be a political hack who would take the words of nancy pelosi and use them as the “policy” of barrack obama.”

            So, Nancy Pelosi is a political hack?

            And, who would it take to use the words of Menzie Chinn to falsely characterize the “policy” of John McCain?

          6. baffling

            vivian,
            YOU used the words of pelosi to state the obama “policy”. that is the work of a political hack!

  16. Bruce Hall

    Just out of curiosity, what are the ECONOMIC justifications for NOT preventing the collapse of Iraq and allowing the expansion of ISIS territory? By that I mean “the (realistically appraised) costs and benefits of given options. Should this include potential other areas of the Middle East? Will the direct savings of staying neutral be greater than the potential costs of Syria and Iraq becoming the core of an Islamist caliphate? Just curious….

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/12/world/meast/who-is-the-isis/index.html

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Bruce Hall: You set up a false dichotomy. There are many options between inserting +100K ground forces and complete hands-off neutrality.

      1. Patrick R. Sullivan

        Where did Bruce Hall say anything about ‘inserting +100K ground forces’?

        He’s just asking an elementary opportunity costs question. Which you didn’t answer.

  17. Patrick R. Sullivan

    ‘I can state, unequivocally, there was WMD in Iraq before and during the war. You have multiple-source intelligence. Also, from other Arab leaders – as Tommy Franks says in his book – King Abdullah said Saddam has WMD. President Mubarek of Egypt said you have to be very careful going in, because Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. Other leaders who have chosen not to be named said the same thing. We had technical intelligence that saw the same thing.

    ‘Two days before March 19, 2003, we saw quite a number of vehicles going into Syria. We could not go after them because we said we’d give Saddam 48 hours. A lot of (Iraqi) leaders went into Syria, and a lot of WMD went into Syria. We’ve gotten indications some went into Lebanon, and probably some went into Iran.’

    That’s from General Mike DeLong, second in command during the Iraq war, back in 2004.

  18. Patrick R. Sullivan

    It’s another record for Barack Obama;

    http://www.dw.de/refugee-numbers-highest-since-1940s/a-17724528

    The UN High Commission on Refugees says, in a new report, that things haven’t been this bad since WWII;

    ‘”We are not facing an increasing trend, we are really facing a quantum leap, an enormous increase of forced displacement in our world,” Antonio Guterres, High Commissioner for Refugees, said on publication of the report Friday….

    ‘”This acceleration comes from the fact that we live in a world where conflicts are multiplying in an unpredictable way and at the same time old conflicts seem never to die,” Guterres told reporters, adding that the international community is limited in its capacity to prevent and solve conflict in a timely fashion.’

    Now that Barack Obama is the Leader of the Free World, he forgot to add.

    1. baffling

      patrick, if you blame obama then you need to be a supporter of our armed conflict in all of those developing countries in order to eliminate the displacements. i suppose you support our military intervention in sudan, venezuela, darfur, kenya, eritrea, syria, iraq, iran, north korea, mexico….the list goes on and on. quit complaining like a political hack.

  19. 2slugbaits

    Patrick R. Sullivan Now that Barack Obama is the Leader of the Free World,

    Gee, I’m sure glad you post here because I’m learning all kinds of fun facts. I knew that Obama was the leader of this country, but I didn’t know his portfolio included Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, et al. So those countries had electoral votes too? Thanks for straightening me out. BTW, if Obama is “Leader of the Free World” (it’s in caps so I’m guessing this is a proper title), then who is the leader of the unfree world…excuse me…Leader of the Unfree World? And to which world do all of these refugees belong?

    we saw quite a number of vehicles going into Syria.

    That Saddam sure was sneaky. Of course, it’s not entirely clear why Saddam would want to hand over his chemical weapons to his enemy in Syria, but nevermind bothersome questions like that.

    Other leaders who have chosen not to be named said the same thing. We had technical intelligence that saw the same thing.

    Of course, we now know that Saddam went to great efforts to make his enemies believe exactly that. That’s what Saddam’s interrogators found out during his imprisonment.

    ‘I can state, unequivocally, there was WMD in Iraq before and during the war.

    Do you seriously believe that anyone would have supported a war based on intelligence that Saddam might have some aging mustard gas shells buried in the desert? Seriously? Do you really think mustard gas represents a threat to American forces? It’s 19th century technology and easily defeated.

    http://fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/m93a1.htm

    Chemical weapons are militarily worthless. They were even worthless during WWI once combatants were outfitted with masks and chemical defense suits. At most they are a minor inconvenience to the troops. Sorry, but everyone understood WMD as a euphemism for some kind of nuclear weapon. And you know that perfectly well, so quit being disingenuous.

    That’s from General Mike DeLong, second in command during the Iraq war, back in 2004.

    A little lesson in military rank. DeLong was not “General Mike DeLong.” A GEN Mike DeLong would have a 4-star rank. LTG Mike DeLong had a 3-star rank. And if you had ever read any of the TWX traffic coming from LTG Sanchez and LTG DeLong at the time I doubt that you would be quite as impressed with his views. Anyone who plans for a war in the desert and forgets to provision Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Units (ROWPUs) and then suddenly realizes it 2 days before the war starts…well, you get the idea. But hey, we can always airlift pallets of bottled water, right?

  20. Patrick R. Sullivan

    ‘I knew that Obama was the leader of this country, but I didn’t know his portfolio included Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, et al. So those countries had electoral votes too? ‘

    You’d have thought so they way he talked in 2008 in Berlin;

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-9ry38AhbU

    Don’t miss the part about how we came together in 1948 to stop Communism in its tracks. Very inspiring.

    1. 2slugbaits

      Wow! Obama wasn’t even President yet when he gave that speech, but you say that was still Leader of the Free World. He must have some superhero powers. BTW, tell me again who is the Leader of the Refugees?

      Going back into Iraq might have one redeeming outcome; it would give a lot of middle aged chickenhawks a second chance to prove their courage under fire. And hey, it might even rid the blogoshere of a few trolls. Age is no problem. Plenty of whiteheads serve in the LOGCAP program. Will you be signing up?

      1. Patrick R. Sullivan

        ‘Obama wasn’t even President yet when he gave that speech, but you say that was still Leader of the Free World. ‘

        No, I didn’t say that (But clearly in 2008, in Germany, he aspired to be that). Perhaps you should think about a course in remedial reading comprehension.

        1. baffling

          patrick, back up your talk. you want another war in iraq, fine. if it is so important, let’s see you and your family hop on a transport and move to the front lines. its easy to send somebody else’s kid overseas to die defending your bravo. let’s see some sacrifice from you TODAY!

  21. Rick Stryker

    Menzie,

    I’m not sure why you have chosen these statements of McCain in order to attack his credibility. You have just quoted them as if it’s obvious that McCain was wrong. Let’s take them in turn.

    Let’s quote McCain’s first statement entirely:

    “Could I add one comment, which is irrelevant to the question, uncharacteristically of me? And that is that, I am very certain that this military engagement will not be very difficult. It may entail the risk of American lives and treasure, but Saddam Hussein is vastly weaker than he was in 1991. He does not have the support of his people.

    And I’d ask one question: What member of the Iraqi army is willing to die for Saddam Hussein when they know he’s going to be taken out? So I don’t think it’s going to be nearly as difficult as some assume.”

    In this quote, McCain is talking about the difficulty of defeating Sadam Hussein. He was not talking about occupying the country after Saddam’s defeat or bringing democracy to Iraq. The context of his remark was that many people were predicting that military victory over Saddam would be much more difficult than in the first Gulf War. This prediction of Ted Kennedy was typical of the critics:

    “In the Gulf War, many of Saddam’s soldiers quickly retreated because they did not believe the invasion of Kuwait was justified. But when Iraq’s survival is at stake, it is more likely that they will fight to the end. Saddam and his military may well abandon the desert, retreat to Baghdad, and engage in urban, guerilla warfare.

    In our September 23 hearing, General Clark told the Committee that we would need a large military force and a plan for urban warfare. General Hoar said that our military would have to be prepared to fight block by block in Baghdad, and that we could lose a battalion of soldiers a day in casualties. Urban fighting would, he said, look like the last brutal 15 minutes of the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” ”

    And, according to Kennedy:

    “Nor can we rule out the possibility that Saddam would assault American forces with chemical or biological weapons. Despite advances in protecting our troops, we do not yet have the capability to safeguard all of them.”

    But McCain was exactly right. Saddam and his army did not retreat to Baghdad to fight block by block. US forces did not lose a batallion a day. Saddam did not use chemical or biological weapons (he didn’t have any to use.) Baghdad fell 20 days after the invasion began. Saddam’s home town Tikrit fell with little resistance. Saddam’s forces deserted Baghdad and the world watched as the statue of Saddam was torn down and US forces were thanked and greeted as heroes. Of course, after Saddam was defeated, the US military had to deal with chaos and insurgency. But McCain wasn’t talking about that. Kennedy was wrong and McCain was right.

    Now, let’s go to McCain’s second statement, that he expected the weapons to be found. We should first note that Bill and Hilary Clinton, Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry and Ted Kennedy all agreed with McCain that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. That Kennedy agreed is obvious from the above quote, since he worried that Saddam might use these weapons on US forces. But here are some quotes from the others:

    “If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.”
    –President Bill Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998

    “In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members … It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.”
    — Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002

    “Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.”
    -Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998

    “I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force — if necessary — to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.”
    — Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002

    “We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.”
    — Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

    Gore’s view that Saddam had hidden these weapons around Iraq was a common view at the time. So it’s not at all surprising that McCain would have expected them to be eventually found. He was certainly not alone in that belief.

    1. baffling

      rick stryker,
      would you care to comment on the scorched earth approach of bush and cheney to label as anti-american anybody who disagreed with them on the need to invade iraq? how they encouraged this view through the lens of faux news?

      fact: bush, cheney, rusmfeld et al were categorically incorrect regarding the invasion, occupation, and “nation building” of iraq. you can blame all the democrats you want, in your familiar political hack way, but the commander in chief and his controlling republican party incorrectly lead us to war with a failed end plan, and if you do not feel insulted by this failure of policy then you really need to reevaluate your position in life.

  22. 2slugbaits

    RickStryker

    It was indeed a common view that Saddam might have dispersed sarin and mustard gas. That was not an unreasonable concern. And if Bush would have allowed the UN inspectors to continue their investigations we almost certainly would have known for sure that Saddam did not actually have any chemical weapons. But Bush kicked them out shortly before the invasion. Bush was concerned that if he waited any longer he wouldn’t be able to have his little war that he had been planning for so long. Hey, he already had to postpone it from the original Nov 2002 date to March 2003. But do you think Bush could have sold the world on a war on the grounds that Saddam might have some old 1980s vintage mustard gas shells hidden somewhere? The world would have laughed him off the stage. The war was sold on the basis of “WMD” and everyone…and I mean everyone understood that “WMD” was a euphemism for nuclear weapons. Yes, a lot of people thought Saddam might still have chemical weapons. Clinton thought Saddam had chemical weapons when he launched Operation Desert Fox. But no one starts a ground war over mustard gas. The war was justified on the grounds of a mushroom cloud over New York. And plenty of people were saying that Saddam did not have nuclear weapons and was not even close to having nuclear weapons. And those people were right.

    As to the difficulty of the fight, I think you make it sound like the whole war was a breeze. It wasn’t. There was a lot of luck involved. It was well known that the armored columns had been outfitted with the wrong Prescribed Load Lists (basically what’s needed to keep a weapon system operational with a remove/replace time under 4 hrs). Remember that maintenance company that was captured on their way up to the front? That unit was acting as a “contact ASL team” and the reason they were moving up to the front rather than staying in the rear was because Patrick R. Sullivan’s hero generals botched the logistics despite having been warned that this could happen. But idiot generals like Tommy Franks (almost certainly the worst general in living memory) wanted to outrun their logistics supply lines, and that never ends well. Remember when things were going so badly that they were talking about a reboot and starting the invasion over? What ultimately saved the day was a timely sandstorm that allowed the logistics tail to catch up with the killer units. There were other close calls. For example, a very smart Iraqi general correctly anticipated where a key armored battalion would have to refuel along the river. Now in case you don’t know this, tanks are sitting ducks while they’re being refueled and the Iraqi general knew this. So he positioned his forces in a highly defensible position and waited. But once again dumb luck intervened. Saddam Hussein (possible the second worst general next to Tommy Franks) ordered his Iraqi brigadier to leave that position and go somewhere with no military value whatsoever. The American commander later said his unit would have been wiped out had Saddam not issued that order. What would have happened if the US had lost an armored battalion. For those keeping score at home that roughly means 14 Abrams tanks and 31 Bradleys and around 700 soldiers. The capital stock value of an armored battalion is a little north of $350M.

    When you start a war you don’t just get to quit playing when the enemy surrenders. To invade a country is to occupy a country. That’s just a reality. Just because Bush thought the mission was accomplished by mid-April 2003 didn’t make it so. Just because Tommy Franks told the troops that most would be home by the 4th of July and the rest would be home in time for Labor Day parades doesn’t mean that will happen.

    I believe the Administration could have made a coherent case for war based on a humanitarian argument. I am not saying I would have supported the war on those grounds (maybe….maybe not), but at least it would have been a coherent argument. But the key is that if they had justified the war on sincerely held humanitarian concerns, then those different motives would have informed a different strategy. The war plans would have been completely different. They would have planned for an occupation. They would not have allowed rampant looting (except for the oil ministry). They would have remembered to bring things like ROWPUs and generators. And they would not have hired flunkee “graduates” from Regency University to run an occupied country.

  23. westslope

    Excellent post M. Chinn. The sunk cost fallacy drives a lot of bad policy, not just in the foreign policy arena.

    Sadly, tragically, there appears to be a lot of American human capital sunk in the Cold War with Russia/Soviet Union. How else can you explain the American hysteria over the Crimea? On the globally popular issue of the so-called right to self-determination, Putin has run circles around the USA.

    In the meantime, Jewish settlers continue to establish facts on the ground in Occupied Palestine and the Chinese are slowly establishing facts on offshore resources with the help of US antipathy towards Vietnam. Sunk costs have negatively skewed and will continue to negatively skew American foreign policy priorities.

    The biggest negative shock to the US economy in recent years was a result of significant US support for the Nuclear weapons backed affirmative action ethnic cleansing program in the Jordan Valley, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights. I admire American willingess to put their fellow citizens at danger (nearly 30K dead Americans to date) and to hammer their own economy but frankly ethnic cleansing is no longer the glorious, wealth-building exercise it was in the 18th and 19th centuries.

  24. Rick Stryker

    Baffling,

    The Iraq war was a bi-partisan policy. Here is a list of Democratic senators who voted for the war.

    Bayh (D-IN)
    Biden (D-DE)
    Breaux (D-LA)
    Cantwell (D-WA)
    Carnahan (D-MO)
    Carper (D-DE)
    Cleland (D-GA)
    Clinton (D-NY)
    Daschle (D-SD)
    Dodd (D-CT)
    Dorgan (D-ND)
    Edwards (D-NC)
    Feinstein (D-CA)
    Harkin (D-IA) Hollings (D-SC)
    Johnson (D-SD)
    Kerry (D-MA)
    Kohl (D-WI)
    Landrieu (D-LA)
    Lieberman (D-CT)
    Lincoln (D-AR)
    Miller (D-GA)
    Nelson (D-FL)
    Nelson (D-NE)
    Reid (D-NV)
    Rockefeller (D-WV)
    Schumer (D-NY)
    Torricelli (D-NJ)

    You may notice that the list includes the Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidate in 2004, the current and former Secretary of State, the current leader of the Senate, the current Vice President, and the likely 2016 candidate for President for the Democratic party. These people voted for what they thought was in the best interest of the country, not because they were deceived by Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld.

    1. Jeffrey J. Brown

      WSJ OpED Prior to the attack on Iraq: Don’t Attack Saddam
      BRENT SCOWCROFT (August, 2012)
      http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1029371773228069195

      Possibly the most dire consequences would be the effect in the region. The shared view in the region is that Iraq is principally an obsession of the U.S. The obsession of the region, however, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If we were seen to be turning our backs on that bitter conflict — which the region, rightly or wrongly, perceives to be clearly within our power to resolve — in order to go after Iraq, there would be an explosion of outrage against us. We would be seen as ignoring a key interest of the Muslim world in order to satisfy what is seen to be a narrow American interest.

      Even without Israeli involvement, the results could well destabilize Arab regimes in the region, ironically facilitating one of Saddam’s strategic objectives. At a minimum, it would stifle any cooperation on terrorism, and could even swell the ranks of the terrorists.

      Mr. Scowcroft, national security adviser under Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, is founder and president of the Forum for International Policy.

      How Obama talked about Iraq, from 2002 to 2014
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/06/19/how-obama-talks-about-iraq-before-and-after/

      Excerpts from 2002 to 2004

      October 2002: “I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war.”

      (March 19, 2003: A U.S.-led military coalition begins bombing Baghdad.)
      (May 1, 2003:  Bush announces “Mission Accomplished” to the U.S. military in Iraq.)

      Oct. 5, 2003: “Our government seems more intent on rebuilding Iraq than they are rebuilding here at home.”

      July 26, 2004: ”But, I’m not privy to Senate intelligence reports. ‘What would I have done? I don’t know. What I know is that from my vantage point, the case was not made.”

      Oct. 18, 2004: “If it is not stable, not only are we going to have a humanitarian crisis, I think we are also going to have a huge national security problem on our hands — because, ironically, it has become a hotbed of terrorists as a consequence, in part, of our incursion there.”

      Wikipedia entry on opposition to 2003 Iraq War:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opposition_to_the_Iraq_War

    2. Jeffrey J. Brown

      Note that Scowcroft OpEd was August, 2002.

      Basically, in the second half of 2002, prior to the 2003 attack on Iraq, Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser under Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, and Barack Obama were making very similar arguments in opposition to an attack on Iraq.

    3. baffling

      stryker
      “These people voted for what they thought was in the best interest of the country, not because they were deceived by Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld.”

      their vote was based on the deceit of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld arguments and the anti-patriot rhetoric the neocons pursued against anybody questioning the legitimacy of the war. the intelligence used to defend the war was flawed and/or manipulated to achieve a preconceived outcome. you need to come to grips with this treasonous behavior of your heroes.

  25. Rick Stryker

    2slugbaits,

    I would not agree that we would have learned with certainty that Saddam had no weapons if only Bush had not dismissed the inspectors prematurely. The inspectors would have found what they always found–no evidence of any weapons but a lot of suspicious behavior.

    Saddam had gotten rid of chemical weapons in the early 90s, bacterial weapons in 1995, and had suspended his nuclear program. Why then did Clinton order airstrikes in 1998 when in fact their were no weapons? Why was there a bipartisan consensus that Saddam had these weapons and why did every major intelligence organization in the world believe he had them? Why didn’t Saddam just demonstrate conclusively he didn’t have them when we now know that he didn’t in fact have them?

    The answer is that since the 1990s a key part of Saddam’s foreign policy strategy was to pretend he had them while working to get the economic sanctions lifted so that he could resume production of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam maintained employment of nuclear scientists and the capacity to produce weapons but was careful not to get caught with any actual weapons. But since Saddam feared an Iranian attack, his own army, and loss of status in the middle east, he also had to raise enough suspicion that he did in fact still have the weapons. His foreign policy was a delicate balance of never being caught with any weapons but acting suspicious enough for people to conclude that he really did have them. Saddam believed that he could mitigate the effects of the sanctions through the oil for food program and could eventually have the sanctions lifted. Once the sanctions were lifted, Saddam intended to resume his chemical, bacterial, and nuclear weapons program. Saddam understood the risks of such a policy, such as the airstrikes in 1998, but did not believe the US or its allies would ever invade Iraq over suspicions.

    The mistake in US foreign policy, in my view, was the assumption that since Saddam either had WMD or intended to reacquire them, that meant that his goal was to arm terrorists. That was not his goal. Saddam’s goals were to dominate the middle east, to keep Iran at bay, to control his own people, and to threaten Israel. That’s why he wanted the weapons–including nuclear–and that’s why he pretended to have them when he didn’t. Iraq was definitely a foreign policy problem that would need to be dealt with at the proper time, but Saddam was not an imminent terrorist threat.

    As is often the case in foreign policy and war, misunderstanding on both sides led to tragic consequences. On the US side–and this was bipartisan–the understandable fear and suspicion after 9-11 led to a situation in which people could not tolerate living with the chance that very serious weapons might fall into the hands of terrorists. But Saddam also misunderstood the US. His view that he would never be invaded before 911 was very likely correct. After 911, though, Saddam’s advisers recommended that he change his behavior, express condolences for what happened in 911, etc. Saddam did not listen to this advice, a fatal error in judgment.

  26. westslope

    Rick Stryker,

    Just about every bad American policy I can think of enjoys broad bi-partisan support. In particular, the biggest strategic blunders since WW II.

    Too much righteousness and not enough cool, detached risk management.

  27. Rick Stryker

    Jeffrey,

    That Obama made similar arguments to Brent Scowcroft in 2002 illustrates nothing more than his ability to read the newspaper. In 2002, Obama was a state senator speaking at an anti-war rally. He had no special knowledge of foreign policy and its not surprising that he’d pull anti-Iraq arguments from true experts such as Scowcroft.

    I think it’s important to look at the whole record. In 2004, when asked about Kerry and Edwards voting for the war in Iraq, he hedged, saying that he wasn’t privy to the intelligence they had but based on what he knew the case was not made. So, he acknowledged that it might have been reasonable to vote the way they did given the extra information they had.

    Moreover, once he became a senator and had real responsibility and much better access to information, he demonstrably made the wrong decisions. In keeping with the same reflexive attitudes of 2002, he declared that the surge would not work and offered a bill to withdraw troops at a time when Iraq was not secured. Obama was not able to convince even his fellow Democrats on this and we now know that he was completely wrong about the surge. Later on he praised the surge.

    1. baffling

      rick stryker,
      obama was left to clean up the huge mess left behind by gw bush and the rest of the neocons. they created a mess that needed to be dealt with. of course obama needs to adapt to the situation at hand, irregardless of what his position was from a decade ago. this is different from bush et al, who wanted to impose a preconceived solution to a real problem that does not fit that solution-ideology at work.

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