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17 August 2010


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R Whitman

50-100 years from now when we are all dead and buried, American historians will call Iraq a "misadventure". Foreign historians who are anti-American will label George W Bush "the first mass-murderer of th 21st century. Foreign historians that like the US will remember us in the same vein as we do the British of the 19th century.


COIN is too expensive, takes too long and is VERY problematic.
So, why are we doing it?
It seems pretty obvious that unless you want to take over a country, doing COIN is really stupid.
And why would ANYONE want to take over Afghanistan?


While the analogy isn't perfect, this is Lebanon circa 1985. Very violent but 5 years later the civil war ended. The matter wad settled by locals and their Muslim neighbors (Syria.) Israelis and extraregional powers (US, France) could not affect the outcome. They could only delay it.

Eventually, after much anguish, misery and bloodshed, Iraqis will be exhausted and reconcile.

Patrick Lang


We were sold a bill of goods by the neocons and the cultists in the COIN bidness(Nagl. etc.) pl


But there's money in those hills! Gold, platinum, oil, even Mithril. A photo of the mines of Moria might be appropriate. Or a Balraq - that demon of the ancient world. Dwarves delving too deeply in an effort to get richer.

Lee B

R. Whitman

Don't think we'll have to wait either for us to be dead and buried or for the foreign historians. Many of us already think George W. Bush is a mass-murderer!


pl, do the SOI feel betrayed and abandon by the USA?

Any chance of another "group" being created that will actively target American interests as a result?

For Example, First Israeli of Lebanon produced Hezbollah, Soviet withdraw of Afghanistan created The Taliban and al-Qaeda, etc.

IMHO, we are going from Orcks to Uraki...


We're leaving, the jihadis won't take over, some sort of shiite government will eventually be formed, there will be some measure of "chronic" instability and violence in Iraq for some years to go, then they'll sort it out. The periods during the US occupation where attacks like this were rare were far shorter when they've been common. This won't effect our timeline, nor should it, sad as the event is.


Will we support a military dictator in Iraq should one arise after the forthcoming troubles?

Oh, wait...

frank durkee

There are very few "Laws of History" that actually work. One that seems to prevail is : All actions have unintended consquences, some of which will be malign."


I don't think I can leep up with the Hobbits here but I heard an NPR interview with Tom Ricks the other day. This is probably a too coarse paraphrase from memory but he basically said that we will have a lot more dangerous problems down the road in Iraq than in Afghanastan. The Iraqis do not want to fight us face to face now so are just waiting for our presence to dwindle to the point where we cannot stop the inevetible civil war. When that point is reached the civil war which is now in the preliminary (bombing) stages will get under way in earnest. We will then face a very dangerous final withdrawal. He thinks our prospects are better in Afghanastan because many Afghans although afraid of and sometimes dominated by the Taleban do not like them. I hope my memory has not distorted his views too badly. My computer download speed is too slow to search archived audio for a link.



Juan Cole pointed out a little bit of background on the General who made the remarks, for what it's worth.


Jose: In "The Silmarillion", The Orcs were the descendants of elves who were captured by Morgoth and twisted in the fortress dungeon of Angband to become mockeries of their former selves. There are other versions of the origin for the orcs, but ultimately they contradicted the rule Tolkien had that Morgoth could not create anything on his own, he could only corrupt and mock the creations of Eru Ilúvatar.

The Uruk-Hai("The fighting Uruk-Hai!") were created in the third age by Sauron and further developed by Saruman. The Uruks were larger, stronger and smarter than the average orc. It's speculated that they are the result of crossbreeding Orcs and Men to create an army that lacked the weakness of the orcs, who were generally pretty useless against elves or men unless they had a vast numerical advantage.

That's the trouble with Tolkien analogies, they tend to require torturing the source material or torturing the history of the conflict in order to make them work.

Medicine Man


Agreed. Other than maybe the languages and script, I don't think Tolkien intended much of the LOTR series to be analogous to the real world.

Mind you, my wife swears quitting smoking is like bearing the ring to Mt. Doom.



I think you need to read Tolkien symbolicly. Plenty of real world in it, especially the love, hate and greed. The eleves are the angels returning to the promised heaven. The wizards can only give inspiration and point you in the right direction; and the biggest, baddest evil of all is really pretty vulnerable. All you have to do is get do is get the regular people to work together and save thier own society.

And when they've done all that hard, heroic work, with the loss of many a brave comrade in arms, they return home to the Shire to find - the old laddies will still look at you like you are up to no good and the rest of the folks, they've been living and loving and generally getting by with no idea where you went, why or what you did there.

Mark Logan


There is a bit of film of Tolkien from a documentary. He is shown describing how it all started. One day, he was trying to write a bit of poetry. He wrote "Upon a hill there lived a Hobbit".

Sat back and congradulated himself. Had the right feel, a nice bounce, this would do. One problem: What's a Hobbit?

Patrick Lang

Mark Logan

Not surprisingly I tend to accept the idea that TLOTR is a sublimated retelling of JRRT's experience in WW1. pl


Grimgrin, I was being ironic:

When we abandoned the Mujahideen, our efforts yielded the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

So what is coming next?


Jose: Sorry, I'm not so good at irony. It's a deficiency that I'm working to correct.

If I had to bet? Nothing at all. Maybe some more mad bastards setting fire to themselves in airports or airplanes, at worst something on the order of the London bus bombings.


Can we talk about Dune next? I hear there's a mahdi in that one!

The next year in Iraq will be instructive, but unfortunately it is likely to be in a very grim fashion. Iraqis will almost certainly prove all too human and the situation will deteriorate into cycles of violence. With the overwhelming model of political power prior to 2003 being what it was, I can not see how any Iraqi would choose to trust a representative of another political alliance. Trust and cooperation must be very difficult for any actor to imagine. It is a dark road forward.

It seems that there must be some hope that moderate Shiite factions and Sunni tribal leaders can forge a coalition government, but will it be able to withstand the incidents of violence that are sure to occur? It would be a triumph of wisdom and virtue if it happens, but it seems a slim hope.

Far beyond the question of COIN, we should remember that there was no call for us to invade in the first place.

Medicine Man


I guess I should elaborate. I'm not looking at LOTR literally—I just don't regard JRRT's creations as stand-ins for real life actors. I think Tolkien wanted to write an English fantasy epic that wasn't rooted in Arthurian mythos and did just that.

Mind you, I'm not disagreeing with you. There are plenty of real life themes in LOTR. I just look at those books more as parable than analogy.

Medicine Man

I will say this though, if his writing was Tolkien's way of processing his experiences in WW1, I am in awe of his coping mechanisms.

I find WW1 especially horrifying, as wars go.



Super Mujahideen, obviously.

William R. Cumming

It is pretty well documented that over $9B in Iraqi oil revenues has disappeared and never will be accounted for by either US or Iraqi government. So my question is this? Can and will Iraq be competent to police its own borders after US leaves or even before? Can if they are as porous now as I believe then I believe that Iraq, like a US that cannot police its own borders, will be in play for many years and a problem for the world. I start with the principal and perhaps wrong that you cannot be a natio-state unless you can police your own borders?

Patrick Lang

So, your position is that the USofA is not a nation-state?


With the greatest respect to Col. Lang and WRC, I wonder if the apparent success of a conglomeration of Fifty states is an artifact of cheap energy, magnificent invention and geographic accident.

Is the civil war over? Are there "liberal" states? Our states always lose in fights with the Federal Government. What about in America? Will the South rise again?

How do you govern the American continent efficiently and profitably?

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