Monday, January 29, 2007
I continue to be astounded by Dick Cheney's bizarre public behavior. He did an interview with Richard Wolffe at Newsweek last week and it was just as weird as the one he did with Wolf Blitzer.
The whole thing is delusional, but there are a couple of points that really must be highlighted for their sheer incoherence and wrongheadedness. (Questions are in bold):
The president—and I think you also—have spoken about the possibility of regional war in case of American withdrawal, a chaos in Iraq, and I think the president referred to it as an epic battle between extremists. What's the basis for thinking that it would be a broader war? What lies behind that kind of analysis in your mind?
Well, I think it's a concern that the current level of sectarian violence—Shia on Sunni and Sunni on Shia violence would increase, and perhaps break out in other parts of the country. It's pretty well concentrated right now in the Baghdad area.
There are a lot of other concerns, as well, with what would happen if we were to withdraw from Iraq and do what many in the Democratic Party want us to do. It clearly would have, I think, consequences on a regional basis in terms of the efforts that we've mounted not only in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. This is a conflict that we're involved in on a wide variety of fronts in that part of the world. And hundreds of thousands of people literally have signed on in that battle to take on the Al Qaeda or the Al Qaeda types, in part because the United States is there, because we're committed, because we provide the leadership, and because we're working closely with people like President [Pervez] Musharraf in Pakistan, and [Hamid] Karzai in Afghanistan and so forth.
And a decision by the United States to withdraw from Iraq I think would have a direct negative impact on the efforts of all of those other folks who would say wait a minute, if the United States isn't willing to complete the task in Iraq that they may have to reconsider whether or not they're willing to put their lives on the line serving in the security forces in Afghanistan, for example, or taking important political positions in Afghanistan, or the work that the Saudis have done against the Al Qaeda inside the kingdom.
All of a sudden, the United States which is the bulwark of security in that part of world would I think no longer—could no longer be counted on by our friends and allies that have put so much into this struggle.
But would that encourage them to take a role in an Iraqi civil war? There's this idea that regional powers would step in.
No, I think—I think when you look at Iraq, you have to look at Iraq in the broader context. And you cannot evaluate the consequences of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq only in terms of Iraq. You've got to look at it in terms of what it means in other parts of the globe, really.
Remember what the strategy is here for Al Qaeda. Their strategy is that they can break our will. They can't beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have—but they believe firmly because they talk about it all the time—that they can, in fact, break the will of the American people and change our policies if they just kill enough Americans, or kill enough innocent civilians. And they cite Beirut in 1983, and Mogadishu in 1993 as evidence of that, and then they see the debate here in the United States over whether or not we've got the right policy in Iraq, whether or not we ought to stay committed there as evidence reinforcing their view that, in fact, the United States can be forced to withdraw if they simply stay the course that they're on, that is to say the Al Qaeda and the terrorist extremists stay the course that they're on.
So Iraq to some extent is a test of that basic fundamental proposition. Is their strategic view that we won't complete the job correct? Or is our strategic view correct, that we can, in fact, organize people in that part of the world, as well as use our forces in order to achieve a significant victory and defeat those elements that, among other things launched an attack on the United States on 9/11 and killed 3,000 Americans.
You've made the case that a collapsed Iraq would become a terrorist haven. The president has also said that. Al Qaeda is essentially … Look at what happened to Afghanistan.
But Al Qaeda is essentially a new organization in Iraq, a Sunni organization and it has this element of foreign fighters. Isn't there a reason to think that if there was full-blown civil war, the Shia would essentially beat them and neutralize that as being a hostile force as they take control of the country?
What's the basis for that?
There are more Shia.
Well, let's look at Afghanistan. In 1996, there were no Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. That's when [Osama] bin Laden moved in and found refuge there. A handful of Arabs, foreign fighters, if you will, subsequently opened up training camps, trained somewhere—estimates range from 10,000 to 20,000 terrorists in the late '90s, developed a safe haven and a base of operations from which they blew up American embassies in East Africa, attacked the USS Cole, launched the planning and training for 9/11. That all took place in Afghanistan under circumstances that are similar to what you've just hypothesized about for Iraq.
That's just a small sample of the non sequitors and muddled thinking throughout this interview. When asked about Iraq's civil war he talks about al Qaeda. When the sectarian devision in Iraq are the subject he switches to Afghanistan in the 1980's It's all over the place, bizarre and disjointed.
Wolff asks why Cheney thinks there would be a broader war if the US withdrew. Cheney says that the civil war will expand to the rest of the country. That is a false issue, since it already exists in other parts of the country. This myth that everything is peaceful except for Baghdad is one of their favorite lies. (Doh.)His strange response to Wolff's observation that the Shi'a would likely prevail over the Sunni due to the fact that they greatly outnumber them was frightening.
But it's the next part, the childlike psycho-babble blather about how we will have let down all our friends and allies and shown Al Qaeda that we can be intimidated if we withdraw, that's noteworthy. He has never wavered from day one from that idea and it's clear that it is the sum total of his strategic view of dealing with Islamic extremism: prove that we aren't cowards.
The only thing he seems to know about strategy is that if you "back down" your enemy will think you are soft and if you don't "back down," no matter what the circumstances, you will convince the enemy that they can't defeat you. Basically, he really believes the trash talk that bin Laden's been spewing all these years, --- trash talk that would not sound odd coming from the mouth of a world wide wrestling star or a seventh grade bully.
He says, "Is their strategic view that we won't complete the job correct?" Except it's not a strategic view. He doesn't seem to realize that bin Laden (and others) are practicing PR, not strategy. It's sophomoric taunting that's beneath any powerful nation to consider when making decisions about how to proceed. Militant Islamic extremism will not disappear because they finally have to admit that we are too tough to tangle with because we have not retreated from Iraq. They love having us in Iraq. They couldn't be happier.
Indeed, if one were to actually look at what bin Laden and other Islamic militants' real strategy is, I would have to think that bogging the US down in Iraq, empowering Iran and destabilizing the entire mid-east might have been a long term objective --- only they likely never dreamed we would actually fulfill it in such short shrift and with so much enthusiasm.
Cheney goes on to say that our strategic view is that we can build a western democracy and that once it flourishes we will achieve our strategic pobjective as everyone holds hands and sings "This Land is Your land." He is either lying about that or he has comoletely lost touch with what is actually happening. I suspect the former. The fact that they never listened to even one person with nation building expertise tells the tale. Indeed, until this war, they disdained the very concept.
No, I do not believe it. Their "strategy" is just what Bush and Cheney have always said it was --- prove to the world that nobody can push the US of A around. Invade Iraq and show that we're mad as hell and we won't take it anymore. Then the terrorists will run for cover. That's it. Strategery 101, just like on Saturday night Live and Junior's college "Risk" days.
It's stupid, it's puerile it's completely absurd. But that is all there is to the Bush administration's War On Terror strategy. Nothing that happens on the ground matters. All that matters is that we are there and we aren't leaving until Al Qaeda cries "Uncle."
For those who are interested in knowing what Wolff was talking about when he said, "There's this idea that regional powers would step in," read this very interesting transcript of General William Odom's prepared testimony last week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Here's the conclusion:
Several critics of the administration show an appreciation of the requirement to regain our allies and others' support, but they do not recognize that withdrawal of US forces from Iraq is the sine qua non for achieving their cooperation. It will be forthcoming once that withdrawal begins and looks irreversible. They will then realize that they can no longer sit on the sidelines. The aftermath will be worse for them than for the United States, and they know that without US participation and leadership, they alone cannot restore regional stability. Until we understand this critical point, we cannot design a strategy that can achieve what we can legitimately call a victory.
Any new strategy that does realistically promise to achieve regional stability at a cost we can prudently bear, and does not regain the confidence and support of our allies, is doomed to failure. To date, I have seen no awareness that any political leader in this country has gone beyond tactical proposals to offer a different strategic approach to limiting the damage in a war that is turning out to be the greatest strategic disaster in our history
I would suggest that it is the greatest strategic disaster in our history because it wasn't really a strategy at all. It was a simple-minded reading of a complicated problem based upon some psychological need among a handful of powerful men. And vice president Cheney is clearly still very powerful. He is out there making a spectacle of himself with this talk and nobody can stop him even though it's terribly counter-productive to the current legislative and foreign policy challenges and the president's standing with the nation at large. He is a dangerous and somewhat deranged man. But the problem is that the man at whose pleasure he serves is just as deluded as he is.
It is this kind of thing that makes me believe that they will provoke a war with Iran. It is their strategy to prove that the US is the biggest toughest bastard on the planet. Iraq isn't getting that job done. Maybe doubling down will.
Fixed gibberish. Apologies.
digby 1/29/2007 11:30:00 AM