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Author Topic: Some Questions on Iraq
Wayward Son
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I was reading David Brin's blog, and he quoted some interesting questions from Russ Daggatt. I'm curious to see how some at Ornery would answer them.

quote:
1/ Who is "the enemy" in Iraq?
2/ How do we "win" another country's civil war?
3/ What end game to we hope to achieve by arming both the local Sunni militia and the majority Shiite "government"?
4/ The result of arming both (all?) sides in the Iraqi civil war is likely to be: a) pretty b) not pretty
5/ Is this “fighting for a clearcut goal”? Is it even nation building?

These appear to be based on this Washington Post article, which shifts the focus of the Iraq war away from terrorists and insurgents and right smack back to a civil war.

I don't have any good answers to these questions. Does anybody?

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OpsanusTau
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I would be pretty content if someone could answer this question:

What are we really trying to accomplish?

and the followup:

In what way will our actions further that goal?

without resorting to either "bad guys in hidey-holes" dumbing down or absurdly complicated military jargon.

I don't think that there is a point over there anymore (and we all have to admit that in the beginning, there at least was a point, even if some of us didn't like it much). I think that by now, it's all just a self-perpetuating mess where we're over there because we are already over there, and we can't stop because that would be "losing".

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kenmeer livermaile
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We're there to replace Saudi Arabia and Egypt as our main means of projecting force in the region besides cruising big-ass aircraft carriers along the Persian Gulf (sitting ducks if anything major commenced).
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DaveS
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I assume that qll questions imply from our point of view, rather than from an Iraqi perspective.

1/ Who is "the enemy" in Iraq?
-- There is no defined discrete "enemy". We are fighting anybody who cares to fight each other or us. As such, we are intruding into a war among citizen groups of the control for their ultimate sovereignty and self-governance. AQ is a foreign fighter group, but much of the violence is also caused by religious fighters from several other countries in the region. In other words, although we are a convenient target and a hated symbol for groups that attack us, we have no specific "enemy" against which we are fighting and which we can defeat. Therefore...

2/ How do we "win" another country's civil war?
... we can't win. We are, if anything, an obstacle to the ultimate resolution of the civil war and internal reorganization of the country. We are prolonging the war and preventing the country from achieving a clear resolution of the conflicts among its ethnic and religious populations.

3/ What end game to we hope to achieve by arming both the local Sunni militia and the majority Shiite "government"?
-- Given that we don't have an ally within the country whose side we represent and support, we are encouraging all sides to continue to fight. Further, since we don't want to exclusively ally with any side, we also don't want any side to prevail in the conflict.

4/ The result of arming both (all?) sides in the Iraqi civil war is likely to be: a) pretty b) not pretty
-- Take a guess...

5/ Is this “fighting for a clearcut goal”? Is it even nation building?
-- No, it is neither. We have no identifiable goal that represents the "cause" that led us to invade the country. We destroyed the country, so we can hardly claim that that we went there to build it. Our best goal is get out as soon as possible so whatever comes will come more quickly.

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WeAreAllJust LooseChange
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What are we really trying to accomplish?
A: Building up permanent "legitimate" presence in the middle east.

Quote from Democracy Now :

U.S.-Iraqi Agreement Lays Ground for Long-Term Occupation
The Bush administration has signed a new agreement with Iraq that could cement a long-term U.S. occupation. The new ‘declaration of principles’ will steer future talks on U.S.-Iraqi ties. Officials plan to extend the UN mandate authorizing the U.S.-led occupation for another year. A long-term bilateral agreement on U.S. troop levels would follow. Iraqi officials told the Associated Press they foresee an enduring presence of around fifty-thousand U.S. troops. Under the proposed plan, U.S. forces would operate in permanent bases outside Iraqi cities. The Bush administration is no longer distancing itself from talk of a permanent occupation of Iraq. Deputy national security adviser Lieutenant-General Douglas Lute said: “The size and shape of any long-term ...presence in Iraq, will be a key matter for negotiation between ... Iraq and the United States.” Monday’s agreement also calls for escalating U.S. influence in Iraq’s economy. It calls for “facilitating and encouraging the flow of foreign investments to Iraq, especially American investments, to contribute to reconstruction and rebuilding.”


In what way will our actions further that goal?
A: We need to buy off more time as there are still several bases we want to finish. Furthermore, the more time passes without many American soldiers killed getting reported, the better our chances for forgetting why did we go there in the first place.
We will transform our mandate into "peacemaking mission" and employ more Private Contractors as soon as they nail down and clean up their business plans regarding this initiative.

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kenmeer livermaile
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Incidentally, Iraq looks better than ever since our invasion. Now that Petraeus has implemented ideas that the likes of General Shineski (sp?) got their butt chewed for daring to suggest as being better plans by far than the arrogant dreck Rummy promoted.

Oh, we'll occupy Iraq a long time coming, but I am willing to hope now for some kind of peaceful stability if we continue following their lead rather than shoving ours down their throats.

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flydye45
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I'll give it a shot.

1/ Who is "the enemy" in Iraq?

Very nice loaded question. Did Saddam Hussein fit the bill (anybody remember Saddam Hussein)? Even the term "enemy" is misleading. Aims of the war

1) Remove an avowed enemy of the United States. Done

2) Remove a major financier and arms supplier of groups opposed to democracies and proto democracies in the region. Done

3) Remove a cultural insult to the Muslim people by relocating our forces off the Saudi Penninsula. Mostly done.

4) Demonstrate that removing a dictatorship which harbors terrorists isn't particularly difficult (this as opposed to creating a new nation), thus making overt support of AQ and other terror groups injudicious. Strongly supported, though not as clear cut as I'd like.

5) Attempt to foster more democracies in the Middle East...Pending


2/ How do we "win" another country's civil war?

Ask Milošević

3/ What end game to we hope to achieve by arming both the local Sunni militia and the majority Shiite "government"?

A Sunni polity too costly to eliminate, as well as a "government" too strong for gangs to challenge? Just a random musing.

4/ The result of arming both (all?) sides in the Iraqi civil war is likely to be: a) pretty b) not pretty

The results of allowing Iran to arm ONE side in an Iraqi civil war: pretty? not pretty?

Or my favorite. What if they had an Iraqi Civil War and nobody came? Sadr is sitting this one out ("Gathering his strength" Ricky says. Perhaps. But is he gathering his strength the way Chiang Kai-sheck was, or the way McArthur was?) The Sunnis finally have admitted the Baathists are done. AQ is pretty much gone.

5/ Is this “fighting for a clearcut goal”? Is it even nation building?

Hmm, yes. The fact that some have sprung up to oppose the nation building does not remove the intent. They, btw, seem to be losing right now.

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Jesse
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quote:
Perhaps. But is he gathering his strength the way Chiang Kai-sheck was, or the way McArthur was?
More the way Hezbollah did for a few months in the mid-eighties, I'd say
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DaveS
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quote:
3) Remove a cultural insult to the Muslim people by relocating our forces off the Saudi Penninsula. Mostly done.
[LOL]
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kenmeer livermaile
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"1/ Who is "the enemy" in Iraq?

Very nice loaded question. Did Saddam Hussein fit the bill (anybody remember Saddam Hussein)? Even the term "enemy" is misleading. Aims of the war"

We killed him awreddy. Aims of the war? OK: who we be aiming at? I's a simple man.

Stop side-stepping like that, fly. It's hard on my aim.

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RickyB
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"2) Remove a major financier and arms supplier of groups opposed to democracies and proto democracies in the region. Done"

financier can be debated. arms supplier? As in the 21st century? Please.

"4) Demonstrate that removing a dictatorship which harbors terrorists isn't particularly difficult (this as opposed to creating a new nation), thus making overt support of AQ and other terror groups injudicious. Strongly supported, though not as clear cut as I'd like."

What's this "supported" thing? And who exactly "harbored terrorists"? The guy under whom these terrorists could only dream of the presence they have even now, after the "surge"?

"5) Attempt to foster more democracies in the Middle East...Pending"

Uh huh... pending as in a code word for "not much luck but maybe if we keep rubbing the lamp the damn djin will pop out already? We can't "foster" a democracy in the country we're in. This war has done more damage to the notion of democracy than decades of authoritarian propaganda.

"2/ How do we "win" another country's civil war?

Ask Milošević"

Nice one. The question was flawed, and your answer exposed the flaw.

The gathering strength quote, I believe, wasn't mine, but it's true.

As for nation building... I'd laugh if it weren't so sad. Ditto for "civil war and nobody came". The problem with sitting heavily on something is that, while it prevents the something from moving, it also prevents you from getting up.

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flydye45
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kenmeer,

You and Brin are attempting to define the conflict only as it exists today, without any of the history. However, you are honest enough to admit the possibility of success.

The way the question was defined makes it appear as we just fecklessly wandered into a "Civil War" for S&G's, as well as ignoring the strategic reasons for going there. It is bogus.

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RickyB
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As for fecklessly wandering into a "Civil War" - the dumbasses who did the wandering refused to even entertain the possibility of one. Hell, the dumbass in chief didn't know, 4 months before the war, of the very existence of the two main parties of the civil war, nor how they differ.
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kenmeer livermaile
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"we just fecklessly wandered into a "Civil War" for S&G'"

The word "feckless" is the best descriptor I've yet seen for how we entered and conducted the first 3-4 years of this war.

I'm quite aware of the history, fly. Your presumptions of my analytical model of evaluation are yours. As they pass around the table, I'll simply pass.

And yes, I believe we currently have a modest window to make some good out of the mess we've made by fecklessing around. How we remove our buttocks from the dilemma RickyB described above without the toilet running all over the place, remains to be seen, but I am willing to hope for good things. We are at least no longer so openly going out of our way to piss of locals and invite hostilities in response to our presence.

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flydye45
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quote:
"financier can be debated. arms supplier? As in the 21st century? Please."
You are correct, my statement was a bit hazy. What I meant to say was "a consistant supplier of arms to specific terrorists groups which worked against our interests in the region."

This has since ceased, at least as far as he's concerned.

quote:
What's this "supported" thing? And who exactly "harbored terrorists"? The guy under whom these terrorists could only dream of the presence they have even now, after the "surge"?

Saddam, while not up to pre 91 levels, was still a reasonably strong indigionous military power. Three weeks. If he could go, how long would Syria last? How long Saudi? Again, we aren't talking "occupy and remake the nation." Just "take out the head honchos in sufficient numbers to make them irrelevant." Even Iran is possible, despite Jesse's assertions that they are ten feet tall and farting fire. Saddam was not just a specific geopolitical goal, he was also an object lesson.

quote:

Uh huh... pending as in a code word for "not much luck but maybe if we keep rubbing the lamp the damn djin will pop out already? We can't "foster" a democracy in the country we're in. This war has done more damage to the notion of democracy than decades of authoritarian propaganda.

I'd actually give pride of place to that distinction to the Palestinians, though I have 60 million Iraqis giving you the finger as a rebuttal. Instead, the Iraqi lesson is "some chump with a few cases of AK's will want to take your vote away." But that depends on POV.

These last two points deal with flawed models in your thinking. Any time a terrorist lies low, he isn't always necessarily "gathering strength" (though I'll grant that it's possible in this case). There is a certain momentum in group dynamics which need to be maintained; otherwise the leader faces the prospect of losing power. This might be the case with Sadr.

The second is your "pressure cooker" analogy of the surge. This is premised on a static model; i.e. there will always be a constant high "heat" applied from group anomosities. Coming from Israel, it's pretty easy to see why you use this analogy. However, this denies the fact that circumstances and attitudes on the ground might change. Less a "sealed pot" then a "swollen limb, which may or may not recover.

Now, granted, just because your analogies are flawed in theory doesn't mean they aren't correct, but they give a jaundiced view which denies any prospect of change.

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kenmeer livermaile
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"Saddam, while not up to pre 91 levels, was still a reasonably strong indigionous military power. Three weeks. If he could go, how long would Syria last? How long Saudi? Again, we aren't talking "occupy and remake the nation." Just "take out the head honchos in sufficient numbers to make them irrelevant." Even Iran is possible, despite Jesse's assertions that they are ten feet tall and farting fire. Saddam was not just a specific geopolitical goal, he was also an object lesson."

Iran appears to be shaking in its boots... (edited to make sure the previous sentence's facetiousness registers)... Of course we can take them out. We can also unleash WWIII in the process.

Saudi Arabia has never been even a ghost of a threat to us or anyone over there militarily, although recently we did make some hefty sales to their military profile. Just to, you know, show we're friends. (And don't forget we can trash your nation in under a month.)

And Syria is *so* poised to take over the region, y'know?


As if anyone around the globe has forgotten that we were the major player in winning the biggest war humanity has ever seen. (What old-timers call 'The Big One'.)

As if we didn't decimate Viet Nam via B-52s. (But lost that 'hearts & minds' thing.) As if the globe has had any reason to doubt we have a big stick. As if we didn't thoroughly flatten Saddam's military capacity in the first Gulf War.

As if taking out leaders and regimes we don't like is somehow new to us.

[ November 28, 2007, 03:18 PM: Message edited by: kenmeer livermaile ]

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RickyB
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"What I meant to say was "a consistant supplier of arms to specific terrorists groups which worked against our interests in the region."

Again, what time frame are you talking about? Not one relevant to the actual invasion. I can invade Bohemia for grievances dating to the 30 year war, but they're not relevant to any current problems.

" quote: What's this "supported" thing? And who exactly "harbored terrorists"? The guy under whom these terrorists could only dream of the presence they have even now, after the "surge"?

Saddam, while not up to pre 91 levels, was still a reasonably strong indigionous military power. Three weeks. If he could go, how long would Syria last? How long Saudi? Again, we aren't talking "occupy and remake the nation." Just "take out the head honchos in sufficient numbers to make them irrelevant." Even Iran is possible, despite Jesse's assertions that they are ten feet tall and farting fire. Saddam was not just a specific geopolitical goal, he was also an object lesson."

This seems to be a non-sequitur. I asked about your assertion that Saddam was harboring terrorists* and you answer with why whacking him was a good warning move to others.

"'d actually give pride of place to that distinction to the Palestinians, though I have 60 million Iraqis giving you the finger as a rebuttal."

Oy. Haven't you learned yet? Elections are not the cake. They are the cherry. cherry and frosting. Necessary for the recipe, but far from the be all and end all. There is no democracy in Iraq. The "government" elected by those purple fingers doesn't control jack and isn't doing jack. As for the Palestinians - again, elections mean jack without institutions and an acceptance in the hearts of the people. That these elections resulted in a split of the "country" into two rival governments renders your pride of place worse than irrelevant.

"Any time a terrorist lies low, he isn't always necessarily "gathering strength" (though I'll grant that it's possible in this case). There is a certain momentum in group dynamics which need to be maintained; otherwise the leader faces the prospect of losing power. This might be the case with Sadr."

Sadr is not the point. If it won't be Sadr it'll be someone else. Sadr is not that big a deal, personally. All he has going for him is genealogy and a motor mouth. He didn't make tens of thousands of shi'ites mad enough and desperate enough to fight us. He just exploited their existence.

Like Ken says, now we're at least not beating ourselves, so good things may happen after all. But I doubt it. It was a very iffy proposition to begin with, and I strongly doubt this jack can be put back in the box.

* I mean more than one or two living in refuge...

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kenmeer livermaile
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" jack can be put back in the box."

Yea! Great Trope Award! Yea!

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Jesse
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quote:
Even Iran is possible, despite Jesse's assertions that they are ten feet tall and farting fire.
Sure, I'll take that characterization of my arguments (based on actually reading Janes), provided it's assumed that Israel is roughly 50 feet tall and farting molten lead, and the US is 90 feet tall and crapping mushroom clouds.

I know, I know, the "quick, easy, and painless" selling panned out so well last time that I shouldn't have doubts.

Let's see - I've called Iran a hyena in tigers clothers, said that Iran does have the ability to likely sink a warship or two, damage the Emerald City, Bahgram, and off a few thousand Israeli civlians..

Ten feet tall and farting fire? All a matter of the scale, I guess.

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kenmeer livermaile
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"Ten feet tall and farting fire? All a matter of the scale, I guess."

Can we have that rewritten in classical Old Testament style? Like the prophetic dream about the idol with feet of clay? Or maybe in Revelations format?

To a full-size hound dog, any human's asshole is perfectly positioned for giving a cold nose.

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flydye45
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"This seems to be a non-sequitur. I asked about your assertion that Saddam was harboring terrorists* and you answer with why whacking him was a good warning move to others."

Yep, I wasn't clear enough...twice. My statement was not that Saddam was harboring terrorists; but that his removal (his being one of the larger and more powerful military) would be a a lesson to those who DID who lacked a military as large as his (as is the case of most of the states in that region).

ken, reputations need bolstering every so often. Ask any Hollywood actress. After the foreign policy abortion that was the Clinton administration, ours needed a bit of polish. Just as Halle Berry is trying to recover from Catwoman, we are trying to recover from the Cole, Khobar towers, the Embassy bombings et al ad nauseum.

Jesse: It was a bit of hyperbole. Lighten up dude.

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kenmeer livermaile
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"Jesse: It was a bit of hyperbole. Lighten up dude."

He was being enlightening. Isn't that light enough?

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kenmeer livermaile
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"ken, reputations need bolstering every so often. Ask any Hollywood actress. After the foreign policy abortion that was the Clinton administration, ours needed a bit of polish. Just as Halle Berry is trying to recover from Catwoman, we are trying to recover from the Cole, Khobar towers, the Embassy bombings et al ad nauseum."

Vid bolsterings like dott, who needs fading?

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Jesse
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quote:
Jesse: It was a bit of hyperbole. Lighten up dude.
Here I thought I was playing along with the premise...
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RickyB
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fly, I see you subscribe to the Ledeen doctrine? Seems to me that for the same amount of trouble we could have attacked those ACTUALLY harboring terrorists. Especially since the warning shot doesn't seem to have impressed much? Unless of course Syria and Iran have changed their evil ways while I wasn't paying attention...
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kenmeer livermaile
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No. Those people might put up a real fight.

It's all about a SHOW of force, not effective geopolitical martial artistry.

It's what male gorillas do to take over some other bull male gorilla's harem:

first you successfully defeat/run off the former bull.

THEN, you grab some she-gorilla's baby and smash it's head on a rock. Dead.

WWII was the former. Ledeen doctrine is the latter.

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flydye45
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Jesse,

You know what, I misread it. I read more outrage then was actually there. I apologize.

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Jesse
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It's cool.

I shoulda tossed in a wink or two.

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martel
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I'd rather not descend into the usual Iraq back-and-forth with y'all, so let me just score one point not really related to the current conversation (sorry).

2) You win the way Germany won the Spanish Civil War--pick one side, and fight like hell for it. Unfortunately, that requires us to pick a side--do we kill off sunnis or shi'a? If you want peace...you're gonna be a long time searching. See Somalia, Yugoslavia, Kosovo, et al. And in those we were just peacekeepers, not trying to do anything fancy like we are in Iraq.

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D.W.
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quote:
1/ Who is "the enemy" in Iraq?
2/ How do we "win" another country's civil war?
3/ What end game to we hope to achieve by arming both the local Sunni militia and the majority Shiite "government"?
4/ The result of arming both (all?) sides in the Iraqi civil war is likely to be: a) pretty b) not pretty
5/ Is this “fighting for a clearcut goal”? Is it even nation building?

1: I'm not sure we have any true allies. The enemies would be anyone who would impede or oppose our interests in the region.
2: By seeing to it the side which is most acceptable to us wins. If neither side is acceptable then you prolong the fighting to weaken both sides until a third option can be implemented.
3: First we may be undecided which (if any) side we want in power. Second if we have decided we do not want to be seen as the one crowning the victor. Third, perhaps some believe that instigating instability in the region will give us the opening to take actions which would otherwise be impossible to justify.
4. c) horrific in the short term. Unforeseeable in the long.
5. Prolonged fighting and general hopelessness, specifically if the hostility seems to stem not from our presence but from internal or other sources, will make any solution more likely to be accepted when it is presented. I'd call it nation restructuring not building. Unless partitioning is the end result, in that case yes, it is nation building.

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RickyB
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"No. Those people might put up a real fight."

Taking out Syria would not have been significantly harder than Iraq, I don't think. Problem was getting the nation to accept - Assad just didn't have the brand name villain image in America that Saddam did. (btw, Syria really does have some serious chemical capabilities.)

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kenmeer livermaile
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I was thinking of Iran. I, like most Americans, didn't know Syria from Syrio.
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flydye45
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Seeing your ignorance of Syrio, I'll define casus belli. It's a cause of war. We had one for Iraq. Not so for Iran.
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