Wednesday, January 17, 2007

What's The Answer To Iraq?

I got to hear our president being interviewed by Jim Lehrer last evening, and he was relatively well-spoken. I was partly impressed.

...I find his inability to "lose face" over a dreadful mistake he's made, is turning out to be worse than the mistake to begin with.

Here's how I see the situation.

First off, we had no business going into Iraq, other than to try and finish a vendetta the Bush administrations seem to have had with Hussein. It think it's pretty clear that no one really believed that there were weapons of mass destruction. It's been made even clearer, that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. And if this country was intent on spreading democracy, there were seemingly many other places that could have used the U.S. version of democracy more than Iraq.

But, that's all water under the bridge. What should be done now?

Solution 1 - Stay the course
Hasn't worked so far. Insurgency grows, Iraq government doesn't step up and try to take the reins, many troops get killed and maimed, as do Iraqi citizens. Democracy doesn't seem to get anywhere, and Iraqi's seem to get more and more resentful of our presence there.

Solution 2 - Withdraw all troops
Likely the current civil war in Iraq will erupt. The Iraqi's that have stepped up will be at significant risk of retribution. Most likely, it will take a cold-blooded killer like Hussein to bring any order back to the country, and the Iraqi's will be in a lot worse shape than when we got there, and our relations with them completely ruined.

Solution 3 - Surge and steady withdrawal
Focusing on stabilizing Baghdad with a surge of troops, and make it safe. Set up a city where there is some order, some work and internal resources and logistics. Slowly begin to withdraw our troops, hoping that Iraqi forces will take up the slack. Call it a day and hightail it out of Iraq. Eventually, the same thing as Solution 2 will happen, and Saddam II will be back in power. At best, Iraq is left with strength in Baghdad only, and terrorism taking over the remainder of the country.

Solution 4 - Troops, Diplomacy and Negotiation
I know we don't negotiate with terrorists, but most folks say that the only viable solution, or minimally, the least damaging solution, is some combination of politics and combat. I'm sure it's a more difficult option, that requires skill and finesse, and there's a distinct possibility this solution could end as badly as any of the other three. But, it still seems like it's worth looking at more closely.

Current Knitting
I got some more work done on the Dark Tweed Pullover, and I also made a little bit of progress on the Colorblock sweater in Araucania.

I'm thinking this might make a nice oversized cardigan, but I'm not sure yet which direction I'll head.

Readers' Comments/Questions
First of all, thanks for all the good wishes with the new kitty. After his initial intimidation of being in a new place, Thaddeus tells me he's turning into a "holy terror" with boundless energy. I couldn't be happier.

Kathy (the Al Gore maligning one), writes, "I will gather my concerns about the presentation in an organized way and post here very soon..."

If it's going to be a lot of text, just e-mail it to me, and I'll post it to the blog. I was glad that Meira posted the article. The only other thing I had heard that made it sound like Mr. Gore was overstating the issue, was a conservative pundit, who basically said that all urgent, environmental issues to-date, have been solved much more quickly than originally estimated (he mentioned issues such as the hole in the ozone layer), and that would lead him to believe that global warming would be similar once remedies were put into action.


Typesetter said...

Disclaimer: I personally do not agree neither with the ideology that is widespread amongst the Iraqi resistants nor with their way of using force, on the opposite I firmly beleive that the budidng civil war and the religious extremism is one of the wort things that can happen to any society and country. Also, my comment would not describe any parallel between the US, which despite all is still a civil and democratic country with a good level of respect for the human rights, despite some black holes ehre and there (but then my Italy is in the same boat) with nazist Germany, which was a horrible dictatorship voted at destroying whole cathegories of people.

Yet I would not use the word "terrorism" referring to the Iraqi insurgents, not anymore than I would use it to describe the partisans that fought, suported by the allied forces, to liberate Italy from fascism and from the Nazi occupation. Not that I support their (Iraqi insurgents') version of the resistance, but still I see more of a horrible civil war being fought with the state of the art tactical devices, which are mainly aimed at destroyng the enemy's social structures and economy rathern than at the enemy troops. It is sad, but it's the way war is nowadays. And even before this war was still horrible and disgusting.

Carol said...

Interesting post, Joe. I agree with you about Iraq, and what I find especially reprehensible is the complete arrogance the Bush administration displayed ("they'll welcome us as liberators!"); their dishonesty in making a case for invasion that was completely unsupported by any reliable evidence ("if you knew what we know...."); the lack of planning and follow-up to invasion (if the main criterion for being sent to administer Iraq is loyalty to the republican party, it's no wonder it's fucked up over there); and now the complete hubris in refusing to acknowledge how serious the situation is or how badly we need some kind of international, rather than unilateral, solution.

Today I read that the generals in Afghanistan are saying we badly need more troops there. Afghanistan, the country that spawned the people who actually WERE responsible for 9/11.

Heavy sigh.

P.S. love and chin scratches to the new kitty. He is extremely cute! I bet he looks gorgeous lolling about on that brown sweater you just finished.

Kristin said...

Hi - I FINALLY recently watched "An Inconvenient Truth," and I watched it as though I was watching someone lecture (easy to do, of course). Some notes:

--the only flaw I found with it was that in one or two instances of presenting data and then putting it together into a graph/conclusion, Gore and the producers leave out some intermediate steps. In other words, in a few cases there seemed to be "leaps" from data to conclusion. I don't think the conclusions are wrong; I have no doubt that those intermediate steps are there, but I would have preferred to have them talked through during the lecture, for credibility's sake.

--The wonderful thing about this documentary was how he draws the lines between the processes of nature and our own actions and reactions. It's not just data, and by the same token, it's not about anger and accusations of greed and affluence. He draws in all Americans and citizens of the world and asks everyone to do something "even if it is difficult," It is as though he is saying, "I know you're good people, and if you knew how dire the situation is, you WOULD want to do something." What a previous commenter said about the book is also true of the movie. He appeals to Americans as being busy people with full lives, and he doesn't lose sight of that audience. He is talking to the American people in the right way, IMO. I believe he would find a way to rally and organize all of us, if given the chance.

Elizabeth Kolbert released articles last year in the New Yorker and a book this past year about climate change. ... ah yes, "Field Notes from a Catastrophe". Very science heavy, and supports most of what Gore says.

RE: Iraq. I still get spitting, frothing mad when I think of why and how we went into Iraq. All of it wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong, and it doesn't take a policy analyst to see it. Anybody who has traveled abroad AT ALL could have told you the same thing. BUT WE'RE THERE NOW. I think #4 on steroids is the only hope we have. And I think it needs to be done by the NEXT president. Let him/her disown going into Iraq and Bush's policy decisions. Let him/her gain credibility with the Iraqi government and people and factions, saying "I'm different, and I'm going to work with you. I don't think you are 'evildoers'. Let's find a unique solution that fits the people of Iraq, not one that fits America." The whole "WAR" on terrorism is completely the wrong viewpoint to take. THAT is a failure of imagination.

Teresa said...

In regard to #4 I think if they negotiate it would not be with "terrorists". It started off as people defending their country and now it is a civil war with a couple of outside nations meddling. Yes they use unconventional methods, but I don't consider the Iraqis fighting terrorists.

Angie said...

We watched an Inconvenient Truth and Who Killed the Electric Car back to back, and came out of it severely pissed off. I also knew at the end of it that we can do all of our personal changes (ride a bike, take reusable bags, etc.) but it's not going to have much of an impact on this HUGE problem. The only way to make any sort of headway must be through government intervention. Manufacturers need to be forced to cut down on packaging (plastic = petroleum) for example. The renewable energy technology is there, it just needs brought out on a large scale. We, as a society, need to be forced to make some serious changes. Which will suck, but the alternative is much worse.

About Iraq: At this point I throw up my hands and say "What a mess, I have NO IDEA how it can be fixed". We aren't going to be able to make it a stable place, just look at its history. It's pretty egotistical to believe we can undo thousands of years of resentments and cultural/religious differences with our tanks and guns. It's at best a band-aid "behave because I say so!" approach. It won't work, and it was extreme folly to believe it would.

Anyway, there's my rant. It's time for some MAJOR power shifts in this country.

ellen said...

I keep remembering Bush saying that how to get out of Iraq would be the business of the next president. I think his whole plan is to "stay the course" no matter what it costs rather than make any changes that would reveal that he already knows it was wrong to go there in the first place. By the way, we had been drawing down troops a bit last year, so adding more troops now just brings us back up to our previous inefficiency levels.

Liz said...

Ellen is quite correct - adding troops brings us back to the late summer "Operation Forward Together" level, and that went so well.

The chair of the Dept. of Intl. Studies at Virginia Military Institute says it's gone way past civil war; what we have now in Iraq is a collapsed state. He believes adding troops will only make it worse. link to the letter in this morning's Financial Times

The colorblock sweater looks absolutely beautiful. It's a pleasure to see it again!

lucia said...

Inconvenient truth problems? I can think of two off hand.

1) The NAS warms of sea level rises of 4-35". Gore? 20 feet. (Not that that would be *impossible* mind you, but it doesn't fall in the range of the most probable estimate of scientists.)

2) The graph CO2 vs tempeerature from the Vostok ice cores? Showing that atmospheric levels of CO2 and Temperature move in lockstep? Therefor suggesting CO2 causes global average temperature to rise? Well, Gore doesn't mention that in the past, temperature always increased first; CO2 rose after. In case you think: Why didn't I notice he was sort of vague on this? Remember: Gore got on that manlift contraption and began to talk about how hard it was to use, thus distracting from any further thought about the relationship.

For the record, a case can be made for why CO2 does cause temperature to rise-- but it's much more complicated than "see this figure? Wow!"

A decent case can be made for the scientific basis of Global Climate Change. Unfortunately, some (like Gore) seem driven to oversell, resorting to half-truths or exaggeration. This will only increase doubts held by skeptics.

Geraldine said...

So the hole in the ozone layer has been remedied, has it? Actually we are being told to stay indoors and so on because according to the powers that be in New Zealand it is actually at its worst ever. It just doesn't happen to be over the northern hemisphere, for some reason it prefers to centre itself over us and Antarctica and I guess it is easy to deny its existence if you are not actually being burned to a frizzle.

It is fairly easy to see why CO2 levels might increase in the wake of rising temperatures I guess, many plants grow faster in warmer climes, but that does not mean that a rise in CO2 before warming starts is not something to worry about. Certainly we don't know exactly what will happen, it is something very new, all this burning of fossil fuels, and like the situation on Iraq it seems like commonsense to try to do no harm rather than create a mess that may well break the bank to clear up.

I do find it ironic though that several comments suggesting that climate change is not real or serious have surfaced at a time when most of North America and Europe are being pounded by terrible and pretty much unprecedented storms. Do these people not read the news?

As for Iraq, #4 is surely the only possible solution, but it will not be a quick one, and none of it needed to happen.

I am sure compulsory knitting would be a step toward both world peace (via the zen factor) and cutting greenhouse gases (by producing sweaters to keep people warm and cut the central heating...)

Dawn said...

With regard to the climate change debate, I agree that Governments are going to have to take action and I say that as someone who cycles (no car), wears a sweater rather than turning on the heating etc etc. Here is an quote from the BBC Science news:

"It has been estimated that if every household in the US replaced just three of its incandescent light bulbs (inserted)used for 5 hours a day(end insert), with energy-saving designs, it would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 23 million tonnes, reduce electricity demand by the equivalent of 11 coal-fired power stations and save $1.8bn."

So why don't Governments ban incandescents, gas-guzzlers, plasma TVs etc? It would be easier and cheaper than trying to educate people into change.

Kristin said...

In response to Lucia, above, about the sea levels:

This sea-level issue was also brought up in the Slate articles. I guess what I have to say is that the larger scale you are talking about (sea levels all over earth), the less precise you can be. Yes there is a big difference between 4-35 inches and 20 feet, but I can almost guarantee you that the disagreeing numbers were arrived at by different models. Maybe the 4-35-inch outcome is the MOST LIKELY SCENARIO, from a particular model with x, y, and z factors. Gore was very specific about which ice sources he was considering, some of which is on a land mass. Now, I don't know if he got his numbers via a scientific model, but it could be that he merely calculated the volume of ice existing on the land mass and then added that to the existing water volume, not taking into account groundwater seepage, aquifers, pooling, channelization, etc. I wouldn't say his data is WRONG. But it IS misleading to suggest that something WILL HAPPEN as a direct result. He probably should have said "these other widely accepted models say 4-35 inches ..." but that would have bogged down the "movie" :)

lucia said...

I basically agree with you. Sort of. And, the fact is, I think, on the balance, the evidence suggests we have likely affected the climate. (BTW. My husband actually works in the area of global climate change, taking measurements to improve cloud models used in Global Circulation Models. That's why I knit the global climate change dog sweater. :) )

What I'm saying about Gore's movie is this:

A) Gore tended to chose ultra worst case scenarios-- often picking some outside the range scientists suggest could plausibly happen based on the amount of CO2 we are adding to the atmosphere and the planets response to that CO2. (For the record, I think -- but I'm not sure-- that not one single GCM predicts that enough ice will melt over the next century to raise the sea levels the amount Gore suggest. )

B) Gore showed some figures that seem to have high impact, and then glossed the explanation that made the argument for CO2 raising global temperatures seem deceptively simple and strong.

These are problems with his presentation.

That Gore did this doesn't mean that the case for global warming is weak. Gore could have made a very nice case there is a problem if water levels rise 4". (Or discussing problems with disease. Or droughts. Or other things.)

But, he didn't decide to base his argument on the more realistic scenarios.

His decision may turn out to sow doubt because:

a) Skeptics are bound to notice and point out these exaggerations or glosses.

b) Showing people these are exaggerations and glosses will often lead to people thinking: Well, if a good case could have been made, why based a case on exaggerations or gloss?

My husband and I both had the same reaction to the movie, which was "These tactics aren't required to make a decent case! Why in the world did Gore resort to these sorts of tactics?"

Of course, the most charitable answer may be: Gore is not a scientist and doesn't really understand the full arguments.

(Oh. BTW. If you have a chance to listen again. Listen for the explanation of why Global Climate Change may plunge Europe into an Ice Age. That's actually linked to the idea of raising the sea levels a huge amount really quickly, which could happen if all the ice on Greenland melted in the course of something like one summer. It is one of the ultra-worst-case scenarios almost zero scientists believe remotely likely. Of course, if it does happen this summer, we'll be up a creek without a paddle! :)

lucia said...

I just read this:
who basically said that all urgent, environmental issues to-date, have been solved much more quickly than originally estimated
Ha ha ha ha!!!!

I bet he thinks Hanford has been cleaned up! (Or it's not urgent?)

Some problems have been fixed faster than expected. Others have not. Here's a graph showing the area of the S. Hemisphere Ozone Hole

Annamarie said...

I also saw Al Gore's movie. My take on the movie is that Al Gore was targeting a mixed audience but geared the movie so that even a high school student could understand its meanings. It was not geared to a scientific audience who may had a bit more backgrd on the subject.

We all can debate the severity and use it as a reason not to change. But then we continue to fall prey to the very profit mongers who depend on us keeping up our consuming ways. Any small changes we can make and cont. to mantain will have an impact if all Americans commit to no suv's, walking when you can, recycling, etc. Think of the Titanic...if the crew had made a small adjutment in their direction sooner....they would have missed the ice berg.

For me the fact that there is any kind of change is the disturbing part. Not how big change will be.