Iraq: Four Comments

Another debacle with Pres. Obama snoozing at the helm.

Four comments about the debacle in Iraq:

  1. What the US built there did not pass any test except that the the Kurdish north is still peaceful and prosperous. Why this costly state- building endeavor failed is worth thinking about.
  2. There is no reason to treat the borders of Iraq as sacred. Iraq, the state, was cobbled together distractedly by the Brits on the ruins of the Turkish empire. Its dismemberment is long overdue even if it’s on sectarian lines.
  3. The existence of a jihadist, Islamist state in the center of the Mideast is not the worse possible outcome from an American standpoint. After all, in Afghanistan, our armed forces aided by the Brits toppled an Islamist government in 2001 in three months flat. A country, a nation-state makes a good target for conventional forces.
  4. If the US does not intervene militarily on the side of the more or less legitimate government of Maliki, Iran will (and the US will have again looked like a paper tiger inviting attack).

33 thoughts on “Iraq: Four Comments

  1. “1.What the US built there did not pass any test except that the the Kurdish north is still peaceful and prosperous. Why this costly state- building endeavor failed is worth thinking about.”

    I agree. Why do you think it failed?

    • Because freedom can’t be brought with the barrel of a foreign gun. Ron Paul pointed this out in the 2008 presidential primaries and in the 2003 run-up to the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.

      Can you believe Dr Delacroix is trying to pin the bloodshed in Iraq on President Obama, by the way? I don’t like Obama either, but Dr J’s fairy tale world is too much for me sometimes.

      Borders are not sacred, but citizens of Western governments should hold politicians responsible when they break agreements with foreign states (such as recognizing where arbitrary lines called borders are drawn). If governments can break agreements with foreign states and get away with it, what’s to stop from doing the same with domestic agreements?

      It’s not a coincidence that the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq came before the massive push for surveillance state.

      Iran can have Iraq. It’ll do them about as much good as it did us, and conventional warfare has been useless in the Middle East since Ottoman times.

      In my mind, Dr J’s notes on foreign policy are outdated and hence worthless. https://notesonliberty.com/2013/11/01/american-foreign-policy-predictions-assumptions-and-falsehoods/

  2. Terry: I note that the times when US state-building worked was when the country where it was taking place had been reduced to near-nothing: Japan, an extraordinary success, Germany, South Korea. In Iraq, what was defeated was the head of a dictatorship only.

    I don’t think the US should get involved in such efforts because the domestic political commitment for the long run will always be lacking. The simple punitive expedition in Afghanistan should have never been allowed to morph into a state-building endeavor. (On G. W. Bush’s watch.)

    Brandon: 100% predictability does not make for good reading. It’s not useful.

    PS: I thought you had told us you had voted for Obama. Please, correct me right away if my recollection is erroneous.

    • Dr Delacroix writes:

      Terry: I note that the times when US state-building worked was when the country where it was taking place had been reduced to near-nothing: Japan, an extraordinary success, Germany, South Korea. In Iraq, what was defeated was the head of a dictatorship only.

      This is why the US should only go to war when Congress declares it (see my pieces “Would a libertarian military be more lethal?” and “A cheaper, stronger army?“). It’s worth noting that hawks, including Jacques if I’m not mistaken, argued and continue to argue that going to war in the name of democracy (i.e. to remove a dictatorship) is nearly always a worthy undertaking of the American republic.

      South Korea is different than Germany and Japan, and I think it’s safe to say that the presence of the American military there has helped immensely with the flourishing of the population. This doesn’t mean the status quo is “great” or even “okay”. See my piece “Imperialism or Federalism: The Occupation of South Korea” for more.

      On Afghanistan, what you, Jacques, are admitting aloud is the same thing that Ron Paul predicted would happen in the halls of Congress on September 12, 2001. He called for Congress to issue a letter of marque and reprisal (a bounty) to get al-Qaeda. He was ignored in most quarters and mocked in some (including by Jacques).

      On the predictable appearance of an Islamist state, see my piece “Imperialisms Old and New: Sykes-Picot and the United Nations“.

      Your crackpot musings are, despite my mocking, very useful for conducting thought exercises.

      I don’t vote, but given the choice between Obama and the people elected by the GOP faithful, the answer is a no-brainer. I hope others made note of the fact that Dr Delacroix continues to be adamant about his opinions, even though they have been proven to be factually incorrect over and over again. Such is the nature of the ideological slave.

  3. It appears that the Obama administration had no idea what was brewing in Iraq six years after the end of the Bush presidency. It’s just another show of massive incompetence . That’s in addition to its total loss of nerve. Yes, that’s Mr Obama’s doing and undoing.

  4. Great absract! I’m pretty sure that if US doesn’t intervene in the recent problems in iraq, Iran’s Qods branch of revolutionary guard will go there and fight with them. There’s nothing more dangerous than jihadist wahhabi fundamentalists in Iraq for Iran and I’m pretty sure that none the government and shia officials wont tolerate that.
    I dunno where this mess is going. I’m really worried about the innocent Iraqi people! 😦
    Also ggrazzie for the website’s new look

  5. I agree with Siyamak, the Quds Force Commander, Ghasem Soleimani is in iraq now and I saw the iraqi parliament member’s photo with him with this comment: Haj Ghasem is here, we don’t need anyone else… and as you know Sistani (iraqi cleric)has issued a call to arms so as result of these efforts, Shia world would become more united and Iran would be called as a savior and probably Obama would call his national security team again to discuss which conflict is the U.S priority and I’m positive these decision circumstances inside White House wont be before Baghdad’s Fall!

  6. Brandon: It’s wonderful the way you read my mind better than I do and, in the same sweep, make me stand for hawks in general.

    Did you say once that you had voted fro Mr Obama or am I confused (again)?

    Siamak: I am not sure I know what you are saying: “none the government and shia officials wont tolerate that.” Rephrase, please.

    Payam: It would be useful to indicate that Sistani is an Iranian by birth but that he has been one of the highest-ranking Shiite clerics in Iraq for about thirty years. He is usually considered a thoughtful moderate, I believe.

    I doubt Baghdad will “fall.” What we are witnessing is the partition of Iraq with Baghdad landing in the Shiite third.

  7. Jacques:
    1: So do I but the conflict could be resolved before getting shaped up to be the biggest fundamentalists victory.
    2: I’m not gonna consider Mr Sistani as a Iranian and I know he refuses to talk Farsi in public.
    3: When the U.S government is not sure to take an action, Revolutionary guard has already began to help Iraqi Army so under these circumstances Iran is going to be called as a savior.
    4:I think McCain is right and Obama’s entire national security team should resign over Iraq, it seems they are kind of unconscious about what is happening around.

  8. “I don’t think the US should get involved in such efforts because the domestic political commitment for the long run will always be lacking. The simple punitive expedition in Afghanistan should have never been allowed to morph into a state-building endeavor. (On G. W. Bush’s watch.)”

    Does that mean that the bulk of the problem in Iraq was that it was turned into a state-rebuilding endeavor instead of a much more modest regime change?

    Like Brandon [and many many others] I think the entire Iraq disaster was…a disaster. It was total bs from start to end. However I suspect the reason it has turned out to be such a cluster-fvck was the complete dissolution of Iraqi institutions in the name of purging Ba’athists.

    “I hope others made note of the fact that Dr Delacroix continues to be adamant about his opinions, even though they have been proven to be factually incorrect over and over again.”

    Tsk tsk, let’s be clear and accurate in our language. Opinions cannot be proven to be factually incorrect. If I say that, in my opinion, brunettes are more attractive than blondes you cannot prove it to be factually incorrect. Jacques problem is that what he claims to be facts have been proven to be factually incorrect over and over again. And, like they say, everyone is entitled to their own opinions but they are not entitled to their own facts.

    • Brandon: There was a huge bounty on the submariner leader of Al Queda. It never produced anything. When something you like, favor, does not work it’s a good practice to make a mental note of it.

    • Brandon, Terry: I feel that I am so lucky to be instructed in the art of right thinking by the likes of you. I am glad you can take the time.

      Afghanistan was an obligatory punitive expedition that morphed midway: the American temptation to fix everything in sight.

      Iraq was a war of choice that turned bad. The fact remains that it destroyed the butcher Saddam Hussein. His regime has, so far , not been replaced by anything worse. It might change quickly.

      I am just re-stating my positions to try to slow down the society game of imputing this and that to me. I have no real interest in a re-hashing discussion of these things. Brandon’s promotion of “letters of marque” is one of those markers that indicate that no good would come out of a debate . (Does anyone except this extraordinarily cultured writer even know what the words mean?)

      Of course, war is horrible and it’s no solution to anything except perhaps slavery, fascism, Nazism, Japanese mass cruelty, and, largely by tacit implication, communism.

  9. As far as I can tell your thinking about #1 is that state-building/re-building will work only after total destruction such as Japan & Germany after world war 2. If you have any other thoughts to share please continue.

    4.If the US does not intervene militarily on the side of the more or less legitimate government of Maliki, Iran will (and the US will have again looked like a paper tiger inviting attack).

    If Iran gets mired in the Iraqi civil war as it has in Syria would that be good for US interests or bad for US interests?

  10. “2.There is no reason to treat the borders of Iraq as sacred. Iraq, the state, was cobbled together distractedly by the Brits on the ruins of the Turkish empire. Its dismemberment is long overdue even if it’s on sectarian lines.”

    I’m glad that you now support the 3-state solution proposed by Joe Biden. Two factors still worry me. The first is the large population of Kurds outside of Iraq. Big chunks of Turkey, Iran, a smaller chunk in Syria and even a small piece of Armenia. Are they going to willingly slice off pieces to recreate a Kurdistan? Are the Kurds going to settle for less?

    The second is the distribution of oil fields. Unless I’m mistaken the bulk is in Shi’a areas and most of the rest in Kurdish areas. If 2 of the 3 states get oil and the other gets sand is that a stable solution?

    “Brandon’s promotion of “letters of marque” is one of those markers that indicate that no good would come out of a debate . (Does anyone except this extraordinarily cultured writer even know what the words mean?)”

    Yes. Do you know what the words ‘private military contractor’ mean?

  11. 1 Yes, (I speculate.) I wish others would write other than to say, “I told you so,” and “It never ends well,” which is not true.

    2 Iran is not “mired” in the Syrian civil war. It’s playing a leading role there at little little cost to itself. It has plenty of manpower ready and willing to to become involved and even to die there as well as in Iraq. The costs of participating are probably insignificant for Iran. It might even be considered a cheap training exercise. Its old American jetfighters are probably not good for muchof anything except attacking terrorist on the ground.

    Americans from all sides are so tired of inconclusive wars that they are avoiding the obvious: One more time, Mr Obama shows his spinelessness. (And the IRS emails are lost! And the lost sergeant has still not said “Hi ” to his mom, two weeks later. I fantasize that Mr Obama will soon take another one of his vacations and forget to come back.)

  12. I don’t see why anybody continues to take Jacques seriously. When it comes to international relations he is just another internet crank with an unhealthy obsession for Barack Obama.

    Jacques is like a beggar on the streets: If you ignore him he can’t do any harm, but if you try to engage with the guy you’re going to be insulted no matter what you do.

  13. Dear readers: Brandon, the editor of this blog, chooses and picks freely any one of my postings (from factsmatter.wordpress.com) he puts up on Notes on Liberty. He is under no obligation of any kind to put up what he does not like. He puts up what he thinks is of interest and ignores the rest of my production. Perhaps, he would like a new agreement whereas he would re-post on “Notes” any of my postings he likes for whatever reason, including because it illustrates some horror, and I would be forbidden from responding to his comments or to anyone else’s.

    I do not insult him or anyone else. I find the orthodox Libertarian line on defense that he keeps pulling out of the drawer both insane (what with its recourse to “letters of marque”*) and immoral (Rwanda not on the agenda), also tiresome. Rather than repeat myself endlessly, whenever I encounter that line I treat it with sarcasm, not a bad choice considering the options.

    On this blog, I also receive a lot of lessons on how to think (not only from Brandon). Here too, sarcasm is the humane response. It sure beats preaching back.

    * Dr Terry demonstrates conclusively above that he does not know what “letters of marque” are. I don’t blame him. No one else does. I blame him for not looking it up, typical! (Yes, the words are in the US Constitution.)

    • Dr J writes:

      I do not insult him or anyone else.

      He then writes, two or three sentences later, that anybody who does not agree with him is “insane” and “immoral.” This is not logical, nor is it honest (honesty in dialogue is an important component, I think, of not only enlightening readers but also furthering understanding). I keep him around because his crank musings are like an intellectual punching bag.

      Notice, for example, that Payam and Siamak, two Iranian nationals, advocate that the US re-invade Iraq (for the third time in as many decades) so as to spare the Iranian state from the inevitable pain that comes from invading and occupying another state. Dr J chooses to ignore this. Instead, he changes the subject by calling libertarians “insane” and “immoral” and Obama an incompetent beneficiary of Affirmative Action and the supreme achievement of the Left-wing American intelligentsia.

      I steer clear of debating with Jacques anymore because he has trouble answering honestly hard questions.

    • Addendum: I cannot take Dr Delacroix’s arguments on foreign policy seriously anymore, but I’m going to make an honest attempt to grapple with his arguments. I’d like to start off with a quote by Dr Delacroix himself. Here he is writing on the intransigence of people when their most sacred ideals are challenged:

      I blame the schools for […] not instilling in people the idea that beliefs not backed by facts are worthless or dangerous because they lead to bad policies;

      I agree with this sentiment completely, so when I see people like Dr Delacroix who should know better, I become impatient with their sophistry. Below I’ll go through Dr J’s four points concisely and as honestly as possible.

      1. The US was not engaged in testing when it failed in Iraq. There was no grade afterwards, Professor. It was simply a failure, and one that happened under the auspices of lies and deceit. Does anybody dispute this? Kurdistan was a product of British and French imperialism. It was largely autonomous under Saddam Hussein until the West began paying Kurds to attack Hussein’s regime. This led to ethnic conflict, as the Kurds would occasionally murder Arabs and Turks not allied with the Ba’athists in Iraq. Sometimes Kurds would even kill enemies outside of Iraq. If hawks truly cared about the people of Kurdistan, and I don’t think they do, then they could’ve recognized Kurdish sovereignty through the many IGOs that the West has created to further its conception of an international order. This would have been a much more effective and a much less bloody option than what the second Bush administration undertook (see Crimea for details).
      2. Libertarians have been making this argument for a long time now. It does not follow that illegally invading and occupying foreign states is a just policy. It does not follow that illegally invading and occupying foreign states is a smart policy. And it does not follow that governments should be given a green light to do what they please.
      3. The West did indeed take down the Taliban in a span of three months. This was after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and of course the Taliban was not the organization responsible for those attacks. Jacques is confused, and I believe his ignorance is purposeful. He accuses me of not being able to read his mind, but if you only put forth your imagination for criticism what do you expect to happen? In general, here is how I grapple with a hawk’s argument: Pay attention to the ambiguity of his or her argument.
      4. The al-Maliki regime is not a legitimate government. If it were we wouldn’t be witnessing the carnage that we currently are witnessing. He was elected under the watch of foreign soldiers patrolling the streets of Iraq. He has murdered political opponents and re-written Iraqi laws to protect his status as strong man. This is the logical outcome of post-colonial states. (Does Jacques think the world would be better off under a new colonial regime? He doesn’t say. He forces readers to grapple with his imagination.) The US is not a “paper tiger” in any sense of the word. Nationalists in Iran and Saudi Arabia are begging the US to re-invade Iraq. It would save their societies lots of trouble. Jacques is simply appealing to the fears of vulgar nationalists here in the US with a phrase like “paper tiger.” As I have already pointed out, if Tehran wants to try and pacify Iraq, let it. It would lead to the end of the theocratic regime there in no time. Think of what the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq did to the Republican Party in the US. Now imagine a regime operating under a much less legitimate and longstanding set of compacts.

      Again, I don’t mind if Dr Delacroix and others offer their vulgar opinions on foreign affairs. What I do mind is the reliance upon their imaginations to put forth policies that lead to death and destruction on a massive scale. This is unconscionable.

  14. Substantive comment: I have no obsession with Mr Obama other than that he is president and thus in a position to do much harm. He is easily the worst president in my memory. One must continue pointing out his errors of judgment and his character flaws to minimize the possibility that another president, one possibly even worse than he, will be elected after him, from the same base.

    There is a real possibility this new disaster will take place given the Republican current systemic incompetence

    This is merely common sense if you are not infatuated with Mr Obama. I wish him good luck in his future new life on Cape Cod. I am sure he will become the “first black” member of some club or other there.

  15. “I don’t see why anybody continues to take Jacques seriously. When it comes to international relations he is just another internet crank with an unhealthy obsession for Barack Obama.”

    Although Jacques is just another internet crank with an unhealthy obsession for Barack Obama, he is one of MANY. All of those angry old white men out there? He can channel them for you. If you want to know what is reverberating in the teapublican echo chamber he can fill you in. He provides a finger on the pulse of racism, misogyny, and scientific denialism. The reason to take Jacques seriously is that he provides insight into the beliefs of myriad other crackpots without having to watching Fox News ourselves.

  16. “He is easily the worst president in my memory.”

    I’m sorry to hear that. The good news is that there are medications you can try. The bad news is that, given my mother’s battle with senile dementia as a guide, they sometimes don’t work very well. My best wishes on your struggle with memory loss.

  17. The soup is too rich and also too insipid for me. Just two comments.

    1 Of course, if an approach to the complexities of the world appears to me, after much thinking, to be insane and immoral, I will call it insane and immoral. What else can one do? I used to call the Soviet Union totalitarian, terrorist and stupid. Some communists were offended, including some I knew well, including some I liked personally. So, what? I never forced anyone to be a communist. I never influenced anyone to be dogmatic and authoritarian.

    2 Prof. Amburgey’s total argumentation is well expressed in his last witty sally against me:

    JD: “He is easily the worst president in my memory.” ( I meant, Pres, Obama, of course.)

    Prof. Amburgey: “I’m sorry to hear that. The good news is that there are medications you can try.The bad news is that, given my mother’s battle with senile dementia as a guide, they sometimes don’t work very well.”

    I rest!

  18. Brandon: I don’t know why you assert that I changed the subject. I left the table after trying to respond to your serious accusation that I “insult” those who disagree with me. I pointed out that there was no way to avoid such alleged insults if one speaks the truth as one sees it.

    The rest of your development evoked zero response from me. That usually does not qualify as “changing the subject.” Why not think of it as my abandoning the field without honor? What you said in response to my 4 short initial comments on Iraq may be interesting to many. To me, at this time in my life, with limited time resources and diminished physical capabilities they are not worth much attention.

    I find it especially difficult to spend time arguing with someone who insists on treating “letters of marque” as a realistic and desirable instrument of American foreign policy. This is enough to make you lose much of your credibility in my mind. (Of course, hardly anyone knows what letters of marque are and you have not bothered to explain, cribbing instead from the constitution. I know you tried but you failed.)

    The letters of marque advocacy stand to me as marker, pretty much the same way as ” 97% of climate scientists believe that ….”

    I think our differences are always around the same topic: Libertarian theory contains a big inconsistency: The use and even the simple maintenance of armed forces undermine any program for decreasing the importance of government. Yet, such a program is only conceivable in a well protected polity. This, in turn, and regrettably, usually requires foreign involvements, including military ones.

    There are millions like me -with libertarian desires – who recognize the contradiction and act accordingly within the existing political system. There are 1273, or maybe only 1271 who, like you, bury their heads in the sand with their rumps fully exposed and who have little real effect on policy.

    To bring some of the millions over to swell the ranks of your hundreds requires much patience, of course. It also requires this most difficult of exercise: the critical examination of one’s own words.

    I wish you well but not well enough to espouse the absurd.

    • *YAWN*

      More fallacies? Surprise, surprise.

      Your physical capabilities aren’t the only thing diminishing. You’re losing your mind, too. How many millions of people are on your side? How much does my argument remind you of the 97% conspiracy?

      I hope you know that people don’t stop arguing with you (and reading you) because they secretly know you’re right. People stop arguing with you (and reading you) because you often invoke your imagination to do battle. As somebody who likes to root for you, it’s an embarrassing sight to behold.

      For readers who have not yet lost interest in Dr Delacroix’s fallacies I’d like to ask the following question: How well have his moral and theoretical foundations served him in his prediction of Obama’s disastrous Libyan bombing campaign?

      I think this is an important question because, as Jacques has noted in the past, ideas not backed up by facts have disastrous consequences when put into practice. Can anyone imagine an American foreign policy led by Jacques? If his falsehoods and fallacies were ever taken seriously, the republic itself would collapse in half a decade!

      We coulda put a bounty on bin Ladin’s head and admitted to ourselves that we had an imperial problem. Instead, the Delacroix’ of the world were taken seriously again (first time since the 1930s). The results speak for themselves.

  19. Looks like Turkey would go along with splitting Iraq into 3 pieces. I’m pleasantly surprised; I didn’t think they would go for it.

  20. Fact check: I must not have expressed myself clearly about my skepticism toward conventional, orthodox Libertarians (cap L). What I meant and I thought I had said is this:

    Millions of registered Republicans (like me) and independents (like younger people close to me) are unable to buy the Libertarian line because they see or sense that it contains a central inconsistency: I want less or much less government, government is crushing me, it’s inimical to freedom, but what I want can only be had within a strongly defended polity. Such a polity usually requires a powerful defense establishment. Such an establishment, in turn undermines the possibility of smaller government.

    This is a big dilemma that committed libertarians and Libertarians avoid like the plague. That’s to my knowledge. I hope some one will show me that this assertion is wrong. (I don’t need to be right.) Instead, they hide in fantasy corners like little children frightened of the monster under their cute pink and sky-blue beds. Brandon is not the only major libertarian figure to promote the romantic-sounding “letters of marque.” Incidentally, hardly anyone knows what those are which is an advantage when you are proposing an alternative to the familiar horrors of foreign war.

    My idea on foreign policy deserve to be ignored but look at the flood of comments my four tiny observations about the events in Iraq have provoked. An impressive amount of time and energy has been put to work to combat that which deserves to be ignored and also to refute a number of statements I have not even made.

    What is my (MY) position on the current Iraq disaster? Only Brandon the mind reader knows. No worry, he will let me know soon.

    • “What is my (MY) position on the current Iraq disaster? Only Brandon the mind reader knows.”

      Baloney. Everyone knows. It’s all Obama’s fault. It doesn’t take a mind reader; it’s deja vu all over again.

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