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Thread: Fractured Lands

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    Fractured Lands

    a very well-researched, indepth article about the chaos that is the Middle East, and how it's affected the lives of select people over the years.

    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2...red-lands.html
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Great article, thank you.

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    Still working my way through this one, it's is practically a short novel!

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    it's also a profoundly depressing read. i think this is especially true for the upper-middle class types-- Laila Soueif, the Egyptian female mathematics professor, and the Iraqi NGO lady, Khulood al-Zaidi.

    these two had, and to some extent have, very much pro-Western ideals that were sorely tested in the last decade and a half. the short period of hope after 2011 for the first, and 2003 for the second, only to watch it come crashing down.

    the realization that despite all their efforts, things were going to hell, and black despair setting in.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Lets face it, the middle east is no place for good people currently.

    That's why it pains me to see the west take a strong anti-immigration stance at the moment. The situation may be complex, and the article has obviously cherry-picked the individuals, but you can't help but want to help these people.

    Speaking of middle-upper class, that accounts for a lot of the Syrian exodus.

    Also disappointing to read of the errors made by the Bush admin in regard their immediate post invasion plans for Iraq, would be interesting to get insight to the decision making processes and consulting done at that critical juncture, very easy to be critical with hindsight.

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    tantalus,

    "Lets face it, the middle east is no place for good people currently..."

    I can't remember a time when it wouldn't have been dead last or, minimally, competing for last as a place for "...good people...". Any culture embracing twin pillars of religion and tribal fealty is doomed to perpetual misery.

    "...Also disappointing to read of the errors made by the Bush admin in regard their immediate post invasion plans for Iraq..."

    Completely incoherent execution of a poorly-premised occupation plan. Nothing today in Iraq would suggest that Iraqis were prepared to self-govern fairly and just. Nothing before the invasion would have suggested the potential for such. Nonetheless, we freed a collection of peoples from one tyrant and surrendered them to a collection of equally vicious petty tyrants under the guise of democracy.

    Fact was, none of them were (and remain) remotely ready to lead and manage a nation as westerners take for granted and largely expect. Gained their freedom and turned their knives on their neighbors...as they'd always done.

    I like the notion of "...transforming the middle-east...". Seem to recall that was the imperative following 9-11. We couldn't tolerate a continuation of the misery emanating from the region thus...

    If that was the overarching moral objective lying behind our twin invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, then somewhere it was decided that we could do so "on the cheap". It reminds me of the old engineering adage-

    "I can build it well. I can build it cheaply. I can build it quickly. Choose any two at the expense of the third".

    Finally, for every heartrending example of those who'd, minimally, benefit by refuge in the west, how many wolves in sheep's clothing have passed? Seems the evidence is mounting within Europe suggesting far too many.
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    Quote Originally Posted by S2 View Post
    tantalus,

    "Lets face it, the middle east is no place for good people currently..."

    I can't remember a time when it wouldn't have been dead last or, minimally, competing for last as a place for "...good people...". Any culture embracing twin pillars of religion and tribal fealty is doomed to perpetual misery.
    Savvy.


    Quote Originally Posted by S2 View Post
    tantalus,

    Finally, for every heartrending example of those who'd, minimally, benefit by refuge in the west, how many wolves in sheep's clothing have passed? Seems the evidence is mounting within Europe suggesting far too many.
    Lets just say there was some easy calculus that could be applied to this. Good people and bad people. How many bad people can we accept? Whats an acceptable number? Obviously the questions are rhetorical in a quantitative sense, but I am sure you can see the intrinsic issue. Given the expectation of trouble, the nature of news topics, a clear observational bias emerges.

    Either way, people would come to different conclusions to what is "acceptable", even if they made a very good effort at the calculus, I think we Europeans have to risk a certain number of body bags in the overarching objective of the good.

    "Minimal benefit" is an interesting concept. Relatively safe in Jordan and Turkey and fed, housed through western aid should be part of any calculus.

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    During Dubya's reelection campaign, Gen. Tommy Franks went out on stage and said "we either fight them there, or we fight them here".

    The War in Iraq started out as an effort to transform the Middle East, but it ended up being about fighting them there when we realized just how costly and challenging transformation was going to be.

    Fighting them there cost us less (but still a heck of a lot), but, for us, it's still better than fighting them here.

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    citanon,

    During Dubya's reelection campaign, Gen. Tommy Franks went out on stage and said "we either fight them there, or we fight them here".

    The War in Iraq started out as an effort to transform the Middle East, but it ended up being about fighting them there when we realized just how costly and challenging transformation was going to be.

    Fighting them there cost us less (but still a heck of a lot), but, for us, it's still better than fighting them here.
    frankly, i always thought that quote was a demonstration of GEN Frank's lack of strategic insight, especially in the context of 2004. we dicked around from 2004-2007, with no overarching strategy. some commanders tried to fight it out and attrite, some like Petraeus went with counterinsurgency, and others just tried to hold on, like the sadly under-resourced Brits in the south.

    and thus we -created- a lot of the "fighting them there"...and for those who survived the hard school of US armed forces counterinsurgency, that gave them the ability to "fight us here". hell, the role of Camp Bucca as an easy, centralized recruiting source for AQI/ISIS is well-known.

    in the end, when we DID get an overarching strategy during the surge, it was to give time and space for the natives to practice responsible self-governance (which in turn would clamp down on the enemy better than we would). unfortunately around the very same timeframe, from 2006-2014, both the Iraqis AND the Afghanis had leaders that actively encouraged sectarian and anti-American policies.

    to put it in another way, i doubt anyone thinks that putting in 150K US troops back into the region to fight them there would be a good idea..and ISIS is more aggressive than AQ of old. considering the ISIS offensive in 2014 pretty much wiped out most of the Iraqi Army we had trained up, i'm really hard put to argue that our presence from 2008-2011, or even the 2007 Surge, had any strategic benefit.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    citanon,

    frankly, i always thought that quote was a demonstration of GEN Frank's lack of strategic insight, especially in the context of 2004. we dicked around from 2004-2007, with no overarching strategy. some commanders tried to fight it out and attrite, some like Petraeus went with counterinsurgency, and others just tried to hold on, like the sadly under-resourced Brits in the south.
    Asty, that's what I thought back then too. Over the years, I've realized that Gen Franks' words reflected a strategic vision that was both deeper and more ruthless than my own.

    My mind was still in transformation of the Middle East, pacification of the insurgency, etc. Franks had already accepted that transformation would be nearly impossible. He aimed to bring the costs of terrorism home to the Arabs.

    Had we not fought in Iraq, the Arab world could have sat on the sidelines as Al Qaeda recruited an ever lasting stream of terrorists to conduct operations in the West as "big man" dictators stirred the pot for their gain at our expense. Every operation, even despicable and savage, would find apologists in the Arab world and inspire more attacks. We would have had the ISIS effect, except 10 years early.

    Fighting in Iraq changed all that, fundamentally. The Arab "big man" was brought low. They could no longer stir the pot without imperiling themselves. It brought the terrorism home to the Arab world. Every bombing, every fire fight, every attack, even successful, hurt the Iraqis more than it hurt us. The ensuing destruction and savagery of Al Qaeda brought on their own people forced Arabs to choose between the abyss of terrorism, and standing against. Of course, most chose to oppose terror. You have no choice when the terror is in your own land instead of distant lands of America and Europe. The result is, even if they hated us for it, they had to act in our favor.

    George W Bush said "you are either with us or against us". For a long time, I thought it was a threat, a rallying cry, a slogan. What I realize now, reflecting on the past 10 years, was that it was actually a calculated strategic aim that the Bush administration achieved by fighting in Iraq. They said it, then they made it a reality.

    Is it any coincidence that the majority of the fighting against Islamic terrorism today is actually being done by other Muslims? They are now front and center, we are now in the rear areas of the struggle.

    and thus we -created- a lot of the "fighting them there"...
    Yes we did. That is true.

    and for those who survived the hard school of US armed forces counterinsurgency, that gave them the ability to "fight us here".
    Few of the recent attacks, with the notable exception of the attacks in France, have been carried out by veteran fighters.

    hell, the role of Camp Bucca as an easy, centralized recruiting source for AQI/ISIS is well-known.
    But without the war, other efficient recruiting sources would probably have been created.

    in the end, when we DID get an overarching strategy during the surge, it was to give time and space for the natives to practice responsible self-governance (which in turn would clamp down on the enemy better than we would). unfortunately around the very same timeframe, from 2006-2014, both the Iraqis AND the Afghanis had leaders that actively encouraged sectarian and anti-American policies.
    Unfortunately, the ugly side of human nature always gets its vote.

    to put it in another way, i doubt anyone thinks that putting in 150K US troops back into the region to fight them there would be a good idea..and ISIS is more aggressive than AQ of old. considering the ISIS offensive in 2014 pretty much wiped out most of the Iraqi Army we had trained up, i'm really hard put to argue that our presence from 2008-2011, or even the 2007 Surge, had any strategic benefit.
    We don't need to. The gun is now pointed at the Arabs. They can do it.

    And this is the central wisdom of the whole thing. Stuff happens. We screw up. They screw up. Murphy screws up. Everybody will screw up. Bad stuff will happen no matter what you do. Failures will happen no matter which path you take. But this bit never fails: When you fight over there, every failure, every screw up, every bad thing will hurt over there more than it hurts over here. And when that is the case, people over there are the ones who have the greatest impetus to change things around.

    Team Dubya's deep move was to see that bad things were being pointed over here, and take ruthless steps to move the worst of the bad things over there, to the source. It was hell of a ruthless move. It was costly as all hell for us and even more for the Arab world, but where our interests are concerned, it was the right move at the time.

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    citanon,

    Team Dubya's deep move was to see that bad things were being pointed over here, and take ruthless steps to move the worst of the bad things over there, to the source. It was hell of a ruthless move. It was costly as all hell for us and even more for the Arab world, but where our interests are concerned, it was the right move at the time.
    honestly, this sounds more like after-the-fact "deep thinking" to me. like how the Vietnamese saying "you might have won every battle but we won the war", and how losing 10 of theirs for every 1 of ours was part of a devious master plan all along.

    if the lesson was to impart the fact that Arabs can't commit terrorism without it hurting themselves, that probably could have been done in a rather more effective way than what we ended up doing.

    it's more of a plan...C, with the collapse of the plans to create a "new iraq" by 2004-2005 (plan A), and the 2014 collapse of the Iraqi Army (plan B).

    finally, for all the "ruthlessness" and "deep thought", do you feel the US and Europe is safer now than they were in 2000?
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    citanon,



    honestly, this sounds more like after-the-fact "deep thinking" to me. like how the Vietnamese saying "you might have won every battle but we won the war", and how losing 10 of theirs for every 1 of ours was part of a devious master plan all along.

    if the lesson was to impart the fact that Arabs can't commit terrorism without it hurting themselves, that probably could have been done in a rather more effective way than what we ended up doing.

    it's more of a plan...C, with the collapse of the plans to create a "new iraq" by 2004-2005 (plan A), and the 2014 collapse of the Iraqi Army (plan B).

    finally, for all the "ruthlessness" and "deep thought", do you feel the US and Europe is safer now than they were in 2000?
    Asty:

    it's more like they said: we need to go on offense in a big way on the center of gravity. So they went on offense. then shit hits the fan and they sit around asking each other: should we stick this out?

    And the answer is yeah, fighting them there sure as heck beats fighting them here.

    And it's not about teaching lessons, they remade reality in the Arab world.

    Simple, brutal, effective strategy ingrained in instinct. Works better than the alternative for lots of deep reasons.

    The other goals were all nice to haves, but moving the fight was the must have. I suspect Bush and co knew that from day 1.

    Frank's realized this back in 04, which is heck of a lot earlier than when I realized it.

    As for the second part: false premise to your question. On Sept 12, 2001, things looked a heck of a lot worse.

    We've had 15 years of relative security, 8 of those with the JV team in charge and strategy set to cruise. You really think one could expect more?

    In air combat you don't expect to make one turn and win the fight. In business you don't expect your win this year to carry you for the next 10 quarters. It's similarly unrealistic to expect one strategic move to carry you forever.

    The strategy of one era only sets the stage for what comes next. 15 years on its done everything we can expect it to do. It's up to our current leaders to make the next move.

    Fighting terrorists is not a one time fight. It's more like pest control. You don't expect to have a win against the cockroaches in your house to remove the need for pest control next year, we similarly shouldn't expect to be able to have a big permanent win against the cockroaches of humanity.
    Last edited by citanon; 15 Aug 16, at 23:09.

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    the question is if US actions create more cockroaches than we kill.

    we've spent $1.7 trillion and have taken 36,000 casualties over the last fifteen years. the end result are two weak governments, both of which have had a real genius in getting us involved in sectarian and tribal disputes.

    and the most we can say is "well at least they're now fighting over there instead of over here"?

    remember, the stated main goal of the Bush Administration in the GWOT was to drain the swamp. that was why we engaged in nation-building and "democratic transformation" in the first place, to create pluralistic societies that would turn its back on the sectarian wars and would crush terrorism. i think you'll find it hard to argue that the swamp has gotten smaller. the most that can be said is that we've put bait into the swamp.

    that's not exactly what i call a success. hell, if that's the reasoning, then allowing ISIS to establish itself in Iraq and Syria was a stroke of genius on our part, on account that it attracted jihadis from all over the world to fight there.

    and if that's the case we shoulda just left Iraq in 2003 after removing Saddam, let the Shia and the Sunnis just duke it out, and then if anyone there threatened Western concerns, proceed to bomb the crap out of it from regional airbases with the help of the Kurds. that's effectively what we're doing now!
    Last edited by astralis; 15 Aug 16, at 23:44.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    As I understand the initial neo-con concept as evoked by folks at CNAS and elsewhere, we intended on creating a "shining beacon of democracy" alternative to both feudal kingdoms and jihadi radicalism. It would be a foothold initially, but one with the full backing of the world, foremost America. And we began seeing almost immediately that our vision of transformation was considered far more radical in concept and ruthless in implementation than our erstwhile allies contemplated.

    Further, there was real money to be made out of American zealotry. Whether Pakistan, Turkey or others, one hand extended for cash as the other prominently wielded their leverage as clubs. Visionary, revolutionary transformation was essentially still-born and left writhing the death of a thousand cuts. To that end, America was an early victim of it's initial success in Afghanistan. Clearly Rumsfeld believed that Afghanistan was a done deal and Iraq wouldn't prove much more difficult.

    Afterall, whack your enemies, slam a Karzai on the throne and call it macaroni. Voila, peace in our time.

    And then there was L. Paul Bremer.

    'Nuff said.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
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