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Thread: Inauguration Day, Inauguration Hooooooraaay!

  1. #14521
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    I think the immediate concern would be whether the Republicans believe they can repeat their 2004 win by starting another stupid war, because like I was trying to hint above:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    Know what's more fun than trying to guess what flimsy excuse will eventually be used to justify inevitable US misadventures in Iran? Trying to guess what geopolitical interests the United States would actually be protecting there.

    Because I'm having a hard time thinking of them. The US doesn't need Middle Eastern oil and they don't have anything else of value.
    warfare for the US seems to have an awful lot more to do with electoral politics than geopolitics. There doesn't seem to be much of value in the region for the US anymore, and regional allies are frankly a lot more trouble than they're worth. If I were an unelected tyrant over the US I think I'd rationally rather want Iran to Saudi Arabia's problem than mine. If you have to turn out the conservative vote, though, total war against Iran seems like a good start.

  2. #14522
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    Well, actually, I think itís entirely possible that a Dem is elected in 2020 and we do have a reversion to Obama-era politics, which I think was primarily defined by, at least in civil society and not in the government, by liberal complacency, despite the fact we were ďsleeping on top of a volcanoĒ, to quote (relevantly) Tocqueville.
    Technically, Yellowstone is a volcano.

  3. #14523
    I agree that the USí alliances in the region are in many respects more trouble than theyíre worth. At least in 2019. But that could really change in the near future, as China becomes more powerful and the Middle East becomes a venue for great powers conflict. A significant advantage that the US has geopolitically now is that is simply has more allies than China does, which means it can mobilize more military and economic power to constrain China, despite the dwindling gap between the two countries. Thatís really useful, in some regions (the South China Sea, for example, where the Chinese navy is beginning to outpace the US). The US might squander that by completely extricating itself from the Middle East.

  4. #14524
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    I think the immediate concern would be whether the Republicans believe they can repeat their 2004 win by starting another stupid war, because like I was trying to hint above:

    warfare for the US seems to have an awful lot more to do with electoral politics than geopolitics. There doesn't seem to be much of value in the region for the US anymore, and regional allies are frankly a lot more trouble than they're worth. If I were an unelected tyrant over the US I think I'd rationally rather want Iran to Saudi Arabia's problem than mine. If you have to turn out the conservative vote, though, total war against Iran seems like a good start.
    But yeah I donít think a war with Iran is actually very popular among conservatives, and I donít think thatís really what Trumpís impulses are. Electoral politics doesnít really reward bellicosity. Weíve now had two anti-war presidents in a row, and itís hard to imagine that the next president will run on intensifying our efforts in Afghanistan and throwing out weight around in additional countries Trump came to power largely as an anti-interventionist and despite engaging in brinksmanship heís been hesitant to start wars, and has actually tried to reduce the USí military footprint in the Middle East.

    I mean, come on. Remember how in 2017 and early 2018 we were all freaking out about an imminent war with North Korea?
    Last edited by Eversor; 06-15-2019 at 03:13 AM.

  5. #14525
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    I agree that the US’ alliances in the region are in many respects more trouble than they’re worth. At least in 2019. But that could really change in the near future, as China becomes more powerful and the Middle East becomes a venue for great powers conflict. A significant advantage that the US has geopolitically now is that is simply has more allies than China does, which means it can mobilize more military and economic power to constrain China, despite the dwindling gap between the two countries. That’s really useful, in some regions (the South China Sea, for example, where the Chinese navy is beginning to outpace the US). The US might squander that by completely extricating itself from the Middle East.
    I agree that Middle Eastern allies might be useful in direct warfare against China, but the part that's not obvious to me is what the US would have to gain in that scenario. China expending resources on the Middle East (whether by invasion or belt and road) seems like a costly misadventure, as much as it would be if the United States did it instead. It seems like something the United States should cheer rather than act to prevent.

  6. #14526
    There are 22 Arab states. Thereís one Iran. Many of those Arab states have been our allies for decades. Before Trump was elected, there was talk about HRC tacking towards a Sunni-Israel-US alliance to push back against Iran. It was only widely described as a ridiculous and morally bankrupt idea when Trump adopted it. It may have drawbacks, but it also makes some sense, because thatís already where weíve been hanging out hat. We canít really change that on a dime, as many liberals/leftists are saying when they imagine a new ďprogressive foreign policy.Ē

    It may actually be fair to say that the US role in the Yemen war is actually testament to that. Thereís evidence Obama signed on to supporting the Saudis to keep them in line after the JCPOA, which was, in large part, designed to help the US extricate itself from the region. Turns out that was hard to do, because we canít just terminate our obligations and cut our ties without unfortunate consequences ensuing.
    Last edited by Eversor; 06-15-2019 at 03:43 AM.

  7. #14527
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    I agree that Middle Eastern allies might be useful in direct warfare against China, but the part that's not obvious to me is what the US would have to gain in that scenario. China expending resources on the Middle East (whether by invasion or belt and road) seems like a costly misadventure, as much as it would be if the United States did it instead. It seems like something the United States should cheer rather than act to prevent.
    I donít think itís as much about direct military conflict as much as Cold War competition based on an ideological conflict and models of government defined in large part by how they use technology. Itíll be a zero-sum competition, with the world divided into different zones whose boundaries are closed networks of technology and perhaps capital too.

    I mean, maybe the US can just hand off the region to China and it can be their problem. After the invasion of Afghanistan and through the collapse of the USSR anti-soviet sentiment was prevalent in the region (at least amongst terrorists, who pose a security threat) in much the same way that anti-American sentiment was since the first Gulf War. It could be that the security problems that keep the US in the region just dissipate as China becomes more prominent and, inevitably, repressive.

  8. #14528
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    But yeah I don’t think a war with Iran is actually very popular among conservatives,
    Most people vote on brand and don't actually care about policy at all. Frame it as defending Israel and you've for sure nailed protestants and (bizarrely) white supremacists (yes, really). Getting those groups to turn out would probably swing an election, assuming that people continued to be normal about how they vote.

    and I don’t think that’s really what Trump’s impulses are. Electoral politics doesn’t really reward bellicosity. We’ve now had two anti-war presidents in a row, and it’s hard to imagine that the next president will run on intensifying our efforts in Afghanistan and throwing out weight around in additional countries Trump came to power largely as an anti-interventionist and despite engaging in brinksmanship he’s been hesitant to start wars, and has actually tried to reduce the US’ military footprint in the Middle East.

    I mean, come on. Remember how in 2017 and early 2018 we were all freaking out about an imminent war with North Korea?
    Er... are you sure this is Trump's doing? According to the Mueller report, Mattis had to talk Trump down from ordering Bashir al-Assad's assassination, and had to just ignore orders to conduct some air strikes. That goes way beyond brinksmanship, that's straight up adult supervision required. Whether Trump decides to start a war seems more contingent upon whether he remembers 10 minutes later or not.

  9. #14529
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    Er... are you sure this is Trump's doing? According to the Mueller report, Mattis had to talk Trump down from ordering Bashir al-Assad's assassination, and had to just ignore orders to conduct some air strikes. That goes way beyond brinksmanship, that's straight up adult supervision required. Whether Trump decides to start a war seems more contingent upon whether he remembers 10 minutes later or not.
    Oh no, Iím not at all sure that itís Trumpís doing and itís undoubtedly the case that heís intensely flighty and likely doesnít have a sustained thought in his mind ó never mind anything resembling a strategy. But whether itís his decision-making or not that led to brinksmanship followed by no war with NK doesnít matter functionally. The inner machinations of the admin donít matter. Itís the same result.

  10. #14530
    Yeah, I do think the outcome of the NK conflict should assuage the most extreme concerns about a potential war between the US and Iran.

    Believe it or not, the admin actually has a definite goal short-term goal with its maximum pressure campaign . Theyíre trying to put so much pressure on Iran so that the regime canít uphold its obligations to the JCPOA, so the agreement explodes and Democrats canít reenter the deal if theyíre elected in 2020. Theyíre trying to make Trumpís policy shift permanent, at least in the short term. So yes: domestic US politics is playing a role, but not in quite the same way youíre suggesting. Achieving that goal doesnít require a war.
    Last edited by Eversor; 06-15-2019 at 04:03 AM.

  11. #14531
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    I don’t think it’s as much about direct military conflict as much as Cold War competition based on an ideological conflict and models of government defined in large part by how they use technology. It’ll be a zero-sum competition, with the world divided into different zones whose boundaries are closed networks of technology and perhaps capital too.
    What is the ideological conflict? The US-Soviet conflict was rooted in the revolutionary politics of global communism. i.e. rich Americans didn't like the Soviets telling the workers what's up. China doesn't seem interested in doing that. All that seems to interest them is lebensraum for the Han ethnostate, which is a big problem for its neighbors, but ostensibly not America.

    Like, China's major imperialism in Africa is buying up farmland and forcing local governments to build ports with Chinese debt. Do Americans want to own that African farmland, instead? I mean, maybe, I guess. Unless you view the world like a game of Risk, it seems like a pretty lame payoff after the level of militarization necessary to protect those investments and the shipping lanes to get that food back to the US. It's a much better deal for China, which gets to feed its population.

  12. #14532
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    Most people vote on brand and don't actually care about policy at all. Frame it as defending Israel and you've for sure nailed protestants and (bizarrely) white supremacists (yes, really). Getting those groups to turn out would probably swing an election, assuming that people continued to be normal about how they vote.
    FWIW Israelís keeping its distance from the current US-Iran crisis. That could change, sure. Bibi owes Trump some personal favors after Trump intervened in the recent elections in Israel in various ways. So who knows what Bibi could do. But as it stands, Israelís staying away and the US is sparring with Iran alone.

  13. #14533
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    What is the ideological conflict? The US-Soviet conflict was rooted in the revolutionary politics of global communism. i.e. rich Americans didn't like the Soviets telling the workers what's up. China doesn't seem interested in doing that. All that seems to interest them is lebensraum for the Han ethnostate, which is a big problem for its neighbors, but ostensibly not America.

    Like, China's major imperialism in Africa is buying up farmland and forcing local governments to build ports with Chinese debt. Do Americans want to own that African farmland, instead? I mean, maybe, I guess. Unless you view the world like a game of Risk, it seems like a pretty lame payoff after the level of militarization necessary to protect those investments and the shipping lanes to get that food back to the US. It's a much better deal for China, which gets to feed its population.
    I think the ideology will follow the material factors. Basically, Chinaís going to start exporting its tech for domestic authoritarian social control to authoritarian rulers. Thatís going to have natural appeal to authoritarian regimes who need to deal with restive populations. Once China starts doing that, the US model will have to present itself as an alternative, so itíll invent a suitable ideology.

  14. #14534
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    I think the ideology will follow the material factors. Basically, China’s going to start exporting its tech for domestic authoritarian social control to authoritarian rulers. That’s going to have natural appeal to authoritarian regimes who need to deal with restive populations. Once China starts doing that, the US model will have to present itself as an alternative, so it’ll invent a suitable ideology.
    American companies have already been providing authoritarian dictatorships with social control technologies, including China.

  15. #14535
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    American companies have already been providing authoritarian dictatorships with social control technologies, including China.
    Yup, and during the Cold War the US advocated freedom and liberty despite Jim Crow and imposed dictators despite advocating liberal democracy.

  16. #14536
    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    FWIW Israelís keeping its distance from the current US-Iran crisis. That could change, sure. Bibi owes Trump some personal favors after Trump intervened in the recent elections in Israel in various ways. So who knows what Bibi could do. But as it stands, Israelís staying away and the US is sparring with Iran alone.
    Little more about the white supremacists and Israel thing. Some white supremacists support Israel because they see it as a model ethnonationalist state. Sure, thatís true enough. But thereís also an anti-interventionist streak in white supremacist ideology, which, coinciding with conspiracies about the ďblight of international JewryĒ and Zionists, makes them resistant to spilling American blood for the sake of a foreign power ó and especially if that foreign power is a Jewish state. Theres no shortage of white supremacist antisemites (in addition to some left-wing voices) who think, conspiratorially, that Israel is behind the current US-Iran crisis. These people think that Jews are clannish and powerful and are selfishly trying to order global affairs to serve their interests, at the expense of whites and American sovereignty ó and Israel is a large part of that project, in their minds, despite their fondness for it.

    So in short: thereís a difference between white supremacists liking their imaginary image of Israel and white supremacists getting behind US military support for Israel.
    Last edited by Eversor; 06-15-2019 at 08:09 PM.

  17. #14537
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    I think the immediate concern would be whether the Republicans believe they can repeat their 2004 win by starting another stupid war, because like I was trying to hint above:
    It isn't. Hardly anyone cares about Iran, and you'd need a hell of a lot more than a damaged cargo ship to get anyone at all excited about that. The most extreme possible result you might see would be the US secretly letting Israel do an air strike, but even that is super doubtful.

    Even Trump understands this. My guess is that the administration decided to exaggerate their case against Iran in an ill-judged attempt to get some international support in the Persian Gulf pissing contest.

    For all we know, Iran actually did it. Who knows what weird internal political games are going on over there. It doesn't really matter.
    Last edited by Obi_Kwiet; 06-17-2019 at 09:50 PM.

  18. #14538
    Quote Originally Posted by Obi_Kwiet View Post
    It isn't. Hardly anyone cares about Iran, and you'd need a hell of a lot more than a damaged cargo ship to get anyone at all excited about that. The most extreme possible result you might see would be the US secretly letting Israel do an air strike, but even that is super doubtful.
    That seems right. There isn't really an objective that could be served by an Iraq-style land invasion of Iran. If Iran makes good on its threat to refine uranium to levels that suggest its building a bomb, that could provide select targets that the US or its allies may try to bomb: nuclear facilities, and so on. That wouldn't require a land invasion, and it likely wouldn't lead to a war (there are the examples of Israel bombing Syria's reactor in 2007 and Iraq's in.... 1981? Neither incident started a war.) It could involve retaliations, though. Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria might engage US troops, and so on and so on. But we're not there yet, and hopefully we won't get there.

    Iran and the US don't really have clashing interests where neither can afford to back down, and so the choice of going to war is better than avoiding going to war. Unfortunately the same is not true of Israel and Iran. Neither can tolerate what the other is doing in Syria, and neither can afford to back down. That may lead to a war.

  19. #14539
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    What was the objective served by an Iraq-style land invasion of Iraq?

  20. #14540
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    What was the objective served by an Iraq-style land invasion of Iraq?
    The ostensible justifications for the war were:

    1. Saddam Hussein is bad and a threat to the US homeland
    2. Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and an illegitimate authoritarian ruler, and a danger to the people of Iraq
    3. Saddam Hussein has WMDs
    4. Saddam Hussein is harboring Al-Qaida terrorists
    5. The Iraqi people are entitled to live in a democracy
    6. Making Iraq a democracy will have positive ramifications that will reverberate throughout the Middle East and help the US in the war on terror (the assumption here was that people become terrorists when they live under authoritarian regimes, so if you make those regimes democratic you'll remove the conditions that make people terrorists the first place)

  21. #14541
    Most of those points can only be understood against the background of the the mid-2000s.

    1. 9/11 and the war on terror, which provided a frame through which the US understand the entire region
    2. The recent precedent of the Gulf War, which made US officials believe it would be easy to win the war
    3. The recent precedent of the collapse of the USSR, which made US officials believe that the US was invincible and that the model of American-style liberal democracy was universal
    4. The rapid rise of democratic state in former Soviet republics, which made US officials believe that, in short, it would be easy for Iraq to become democratic

  22. #14542
    The historical context that we live in -- democracy as a form of government is in decline internationally, the US specifically is in decline as a global power rather than recently ascendent, the obvious failure of the Iraq War to produce democratization, 18 years of war in a region without sight of the end -- doesn't impart to US leaders or to the American public any of the (completely delusional) exuberance about American power and democratization that were a prerequisite for establishing "regime change" and "nation-building" as objectives, or using "boots on the ground." In fact, as you know, there's (rightfully) extreme resistance to do anything that even slightly resembles those things.

  23. #14543
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    The historical context that we live in -- democracy as a form of government is in decline internationally, the US specifically is in decline as a global power rather than recently ascendent, the obvious failure of the Iraq War to produce democratization, 18 years of war in a region without sight of the end -- doesn't impart to US leaders or to the American public any of the (completely delusional) exuberance about American power and democratization that were a prerequisite for establishing "regime change" and "nation-building" as objectives, or using "boots on the ground." In fact, as you know, there's (rightfully) extreme resistance to do anything that even slightly resembles those things.
    That was already established in the Vietnam War. America has been failing at these things since WWII.

  24. #14544
    haha, typical liberal: "all interventions are isomorphic to Vietnam".

    (Sadly, the truth is that Iraq has lasted longer than Vietnam.)

  25. #14545
    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    That was already established in the Vietnam War. America has been failing at these things since WWII.
    That's what critics of the Gulf War said in the lead up to that war, when about half the public opposed it. And then when it was clear that the war as a success, it won widespread support, and many saw it as finally removing the blemish of the legacy of Vietnam. Then there were the interventions of the 90s in Bosnia, Kosovo, etc., that also made Americans believe that military force could be used with minimal cost of blood and treasure and could be attached to a moral and beneficent purpose. Those were the military engagements that immediately preceded the Iraq War, and were at the fore of most Americans minds on the eve of the war.

    But look: I'm not trying to justify the prevalent attitudes that existed that enabled the mainstream consensus of Americans to believe that the Iraq war was a good idea. I'm just trying to explain them. The end of history narrative combined with the other factors I mentioned (including, paradoxically, the humiliation, confusion and irrationality of the post-9/11 years) created an air of triumphalism that made Vietnam seem less salient than it does today, when the mainstream consensus is more inclined to look at our past failures and see them as saying more about who we are than our successes (such as, for example, the Marshall Plan).
    Last edited by Eversor; 06-18-2019 at 11:03 AM.

  26. #14546
    Quote Originally Posted by Reverend Jones View Post
    haha, typical liberal: "all interventions are isomorphic to Vietnam".

    (Sadly, the truth is that Iraq has lasted longer than Vietnam.)
    I wonder when Iraq will replace Vietnam in serving that function.

    Oh... wait.

  27. #14547
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    The ostensible justifications for the war were:

    1. Saddam Hussein is bad and a threat to the US homeland
    2. Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and an illegitimate authoritarian ruler, and a danger to the people of Iraq
    3. Saddam Hussein has WMDs
    4. Saddam Hussein is harboring Al-Qaida terrorists
    5. The Iraqi people are entitled to live in a democracy
    6. Making Iraq a democracy will have positive ramifications that will reverberate throughout the Middle East and help the US in the war on terror (the assumption here was that people become terrorists when they live under authoritarian regimes, so if you make those regimes democratic you'll remove the conditions that make people terrorists the first place)
    Iím aware of the official justifications for the war at the time, but now itís known that none of these were actually believed by or were of no real concern to the US government or its allies. So what was the real goal?
    Last edited by Jon`C; 06-18-2019 at 11:22 AM.

  28. #14548
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    The ostensible justifications for the war were:

    1. Ali Khamenei is bad and a threat to the US homeland
    2. Ali Khamenei is a tyrant and an illegitimate authoritarian ruler, and a danger to the people of Iran
    3. Iran has WMDs
    4. Iran is harboring Hamas terrorists
    5. The Iranian people are entitled to live in a democracy
    6. Making Iran a democracy will have positive ramifications that will reverberate throughout the Middle East and help the US in the war on terror (the assumption here was that people become terrorists when they live under authoritarian regimes, so if you make those regimes democratic you'll remove the conditions that make people terrorists the first place)
    Am I missing something?

    edit: except, of course, all of those things are true, and arenít made up by US/British intelligence to justify a pointless war that they wanted for electoral politics.
    Last edited by Jon`C; 06-18-2019 at 11:33 AM.

  29. #14549
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    I’m aware of the official justifications for the war at the time, but now it’s known that none of these were actually believed by or were of no real concern to the US government or its allies. So what was the real goal?
    I don’t think it’s true that none of those things were of real concern to the USG. For example, we do know that the intelligence that the US had didn’t support the government’s claims about WMDs. We know that when Colin Powell went to the UN and talked about al-Zarqawi in al-Qaida, it actually had the result of legitimating him, with the result that AQI eventually became more important than Al-Qaida Central, and Iraq became a haven for Al-Qaida operatives when it hadn’t been in any significant way before.

    So the WMD argument and the terrorism arguments ended up being totally bunk, and accusations that the admin spoke in bad faith are likely justified.

    But even if they were speaking in bad faith, it wouldn’t be incompatible with another explanation. From what I gather, what happened was that they were so convinced that they’re instincts were right and that they would be vindicated by the time the war was over, that they were willing to make the decisions that contradicted the intelligence, in addition to having some incorrect intelligence that supported their views. I think the official reasons for going to war were actually closer to the actual reasons, even if they required some cognitive dissonance.

    We know that when US military advisors told the White House a war would require X many soldiers and Y many dollars, the admin said “just watch, we can do it for less.” That the cause of the war was fundamentally a consequence of overestimating American military power and an overly optimistic view about democratization seems to be supported by the facts.
    Last edited by Eversor; 06-18-2019 at 12:58 PM.

  30. #14550
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    Am I missing something?
    Yeah, the other posts I wrote. The fact that we live in 2019 rather than 2003 changes everything when it comes to invading another country/regime change.

  31. #14551
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    edit: except, of course, all of those things are true, and aren’t made up by US/British intelligence to justify a pointless war that they wanted for electoral politics.
    Yeah, I haven't heard that one before. You mean it wasn't the oil? It wasn't Bush's daddy issues? It's a little suspicious that I'm suddenly seeing people argue that the Bush admin started the Iraq War so Bush could win reelection, when it's suddenly become trendy to claim Trump's reason for starting an imminent war with Iran is that it'll help him win in 2020. Seems... revisionist?

  32. #14552
    I just want to be clear about something. I really don't want you to think I don't see that there are totally reasonable reasons to think we're headed towards war with Iran, because there totally are. In addition, there are totally reasonable reasons not to trust anything Trump says, and to believe that he's immensely cynical, and will go to extreme lengths to stay in power. I'm looking at Trump and I'm seeing the same confusing mix of anti-interventionist instincts and militant and aggressive instincts as you are. I happen not to think a war is coming, and I think the outcome of the NK escalation is evidence that Trump ultimately would prefer to avoid a war with Iran if he can. But that's largely based on a hunch, and I'll admit that. I was right about NK when I thought there wouldn't be a war, but maybe I'll be wrong about this. I'm not going to pretend I have certainty about this that I don't have.

  33. #14553
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    Yeah, the other posts I wrote. The fact that we live in 2019 rather than 2003 changes everything when it comes to invading another country/regime change.
    It changes whether the US public will accept the war, not whether the war satisfies the goals of the US government. Unless youíre conceding that the real purpose of the Iraq war was to be popular? I donít think you are, but Iím not sure how else to interpret this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    Yeah, I haven't heard that one before. You mean it wasn't the oil? It wasn't Bush's daddy issues? It's a little suspicious that I'm suddenly seeing people argue that the Bush admin started the Iraq War so Bush could win reelection, when it's suddenly become trendy to claim Trump's reason for starting an imminent war with Iran is that it'll help him win in 2020. Seems... revisionist?
    Among other things:

    1.) Not actually an unpopular opinion even at the time. Bush had lost all of his 9/11 boost prior to the Iraq war, historical polling showed war presidents always got a major boost and this was vindicated by opinion polling after the Iraq invasion. Whether it was intentional or not, all evidence suggests it worked.

    2.) It was forcefully implied by Vice (2018 movie) so it is fresh in many minds.

    Edit:

    3.) Popular opinion changing in retrospect isnít ďhistorical revisionismĒ. Motivations arenít always immediately obvious.
    Last edited by Jon`C; 06-18-2019 at 01:25 PM.

  34. #14554
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    It changes whether the US public will accept the war, not whether the war satisfies the goals of the US government. Unless youíre conceding that the real purpose of the Iraq war was to be popular? I donít think you are, but Iím not sure how else to interpret this.
    Yeah I didnít mean that at all. There are reasons why both US officials and the public didnít resist the Iraq war (and even thought it was a good idea), and there are reasons why they would resist a war with Iran now (not least of all, the legacy of the Iraq war). Just because the government was able to convince the public to go to war in 2003 doesnít mean that the purpose of the war was to be popular.

    And that marks a key difference between then and now. An Iraq-style war would meet intense public resistance. At this point, after Iraq, the US wonít formulate goals for a war that require invading and occupying an entire country, overthrowing its government, and establishing a new one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    1.) Not actually an unpopular opinion even at the time. Bush had lost all of his 9/11 boost prior to the Iraq war, historical polling showed war presidents always got a major boost and this was vindicated by opinion polling after the Iraq invasion. Whether it was intentional or not, all evidence suggests it worked.
    Eh, yeah, it is true that he got a boost in popularity after the invasion. But it seems like an auxiliary benefit at most. I mean, Rumsfeld and Cheney were reportedly talking and writing memos about invading Iraq within weeks of 9/11. Things like that point towards doubting the official reasons for the war too, but they point in a much more ominous reason direction than re-election.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    2.) It was forcefully implied by Vice (2018 movie) so it is fresh in many minds.
    Oh, well that movie took quite a few liberties.
    Last edited by Eversor; 06-18-2019 at 02:08 PM.

  35. #14555
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    3.) Popular opinion changing in retrospect isn’t “historical revisionism”. Motivations aren’t always immediately obvious.
    Perhaps not, but attributing motives to people in the past just because it lets you make a better argument about what's happening in the present certainly counts as revisionism. But let's put a pin in whether or not that's what's happening.
    Last edited by Eversor; 06-18-2019 at 01:46 PM.

  36. #14556
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    1.) Not actually an unpopular opinion even at the time. Bush had lost all of his 9/11 boost prior to the Iraq war, historical polling showed war presidents always got a major boost and this was vindicated by opinion polling after the Iraq invasion. Whether it was intentional or not, all evidence suggests it worked.
    It's also worth noting that he was already a war time president in 2003.

  37. #14557
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    17,987
    Quote Originally Posted by Eversor View Post
    Yeah I didnít mean that at all. There are reasons why both US officials and the public didnít resist the Iraq war (and even thought it was a good idea), and there are reasons why they would resist a war with Iran now (not least of all, the legacy of the Iraq war). At this point, after Iraq, the US wonít formulate goals for a war that require invading and occupying an entire country, overthrowing its government, and establishing a new one.
    Which brings us back to electoral politics, right? All of the arguments about US national security and regional interests apply to Iran (even more so, because Iran isnít even hiding its nuclear ambitions, while Iraq was cagey - as we now know, because they werenít working on nuclear weapons at all). If the US was acting in its rational self interest in 2003, then it invaded Iraq for good (possibly unknown) reasons. If the same applies in 2019, then an Iran invasion is imminent.

    I mean, I happen to agree with you. A war with Iran is unpopular so if it does happen, it wonít be with consent of congress. So it wouldnít play out the same as Iraq either way. But that all also implies the popularity of the Iraq war was a key factor in it happening. Politicians wonít support an unpopular war because they will lose their seats - i.e. the concern is principally electoral, rather than US national interest.

    Eh, yeah, it is true that he got a boost in popularity after the invasion. But it seems like an auxiliary benefit at most. I mean, Rumsfeld and Cheney were reportedly talking and writing memos about invading Iraq within weeks of 9/11. Things like that point towards doubting the official reasons for the war too, but they point in a much more ominous reason direction than re-election.
    Definitely, but a decision was still made about when and why it happened, and that was really up to Bush. Why not wait until after the next election? Why not invade it instead of Afghanistan, since the US government was willing to blame Iraq for 9/11 anyway?



    Oh, well that movie took quite a few liberties.
    yeah, Iím not a fan of how they anthropomorphized Cheney and rumsfeld.

  38. #14558
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    I mean, I happen to agree with you. A war with Iran is unpopular so if it does happen, it won’t be with consent of congress. So it wouldn’t play out the same as Iraq either way. But that all also implies the popularity of the Iraq war was a key factor in it happening. Politicians won’t support an unpopular war because they will lose their seats - i.e. the concern is principally electoral, rather than US national interest.
    Yes, I mean, I never said that there was no connection between electoral politics and war (which is kind of an obvious and banal observation -- there's little in politics that has no connection to elections). What I did argue was that Trump isn't currently motivated to provoke a war with Iran because he thinks it will help with his reelection.

    There's a significant difference between on the one hand (1) trying to win consent of the public in order to go to war, and on the other hand (2) going to war in order to win the consent of the public. You're saying 2 is going to happen with Trump and Iran and that it's what happened with Bush and Iraq. I'm saying 1 happened with Bush and Iraq and that Trump's anti-interventionism, ultimately, are going to prevent us from going to war with Iran.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    Definitely, but a decision was still made about when and why it happened, and that was really up to Bush. Why not wait until after the next election? Why not invade it instead of Afghanistan, since the US government was willing to blame Iraq for 9/11 anyway?
    Well with the first question: because there was no guarantee that'd he be president in 2005. I mean, that's how presidents often think about these things. If you're president, you and your team have opportunity to accomplish something that virtually gets the chance to do. But you only have a narrow window to do it, and you don't know how long you'll have, so you do it while you can. (And, evidently, the admin really wanted to go to war with Iraq.)

    And with the second question: Osama bin Laden was the architect of 9/11. However much the administration obfuscated and lied their way to establish in the public's mind a false link between Hussein and bin Laden, everyone knew that bin Laden was behind it, and not Saddam Hussein (okay, maybe some Fox News viewers genuinely did think Hussein attacked us, but lets just roll our eyes at that). Going after bin Laden in Afghanistan was a perfectly logical thing to do, and what the administration had a clear mandate to do, not only from the American public, but also from the international community.
    Last edited by Eversor; 06-18-2019 at 03:18 PM.

  39. #14559
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    Which brings us back to electoral politics, right? All of the arguments about US national security and regional interests apply to Iran (even more so, because Iran isn’t even hiding its nuclear ambitions, while Iraq was cagey - as we now know, because they weren’t working on nuclear weapons at all). If the US was acting in its rational self interest in 2003, then it invaded Iraq for good (possibly unknown) reasons. If the same applies in 2019, then an Iran invasion is imminent.
    Yeah, I don't think so. I don't want to start repeating myself over and over again here, but US interests and our goals with Iran are much more limited than our goals with Iraq. When the US invaded Iraq, we formulated our goals in Iraq as democratization of the country. That required invading it, occupying it, dismantling the government, and installing a new one. We simply wouldn't make that a goal for a war with Iran. So how would we formulate our goals if we fought Iran?

    What we don't like about Iran is (incomplete list):
    1) that its destabilizing the state system in the Middle East, taking advantage of weak states to extend itself across the region and threaten US allies and our military assets
    2) its nuclear program
    3) its theocratic anti-democratic and anti-American authoritarian regime and its expansionist and fundamentalist ideology
    4) the way that 1 and 3 together undermine US military objectives in the region

    The reason why Trump left the JCPOA is because, while it kicked the can down the road on 2 (and who knows whether things would be better when the sunset provisions expire -- it was possible, but probably not), he thought that the agreement, which constrained us on sanctions, didn't give him enough latitude to address 1 and 4. One way to think about the admin's so-called "maximum pressure" sanctions campaign with Iran is that it's making 2 a lower priority, so that it can directly address 1 and 4. There's actually evidence that it's working, by the way, and that Iran's proxies are hurting, because Iran has to decrease its funding for them. (WashPo article about that) Still, a problem is that it puts the question of 2 back on the table and makes it potentially a problem that requires a short-term response, rather than a long-term one, as was the case under the nuclear deal.

    Now here's the thing. After Iraq, we don't really want to do anything about 3 directly, so we're not going to go into the country and install a new regime. Avoiding that kind of war is itself a US interest at this point. In its rhetoric on the issue, the admin largely seems to recognize that it can't do anything about the regime but accept that it isn't going away.

    But there is still a danger of war. It stems from the fact that Iran and its proxies already thinks they're at war with us. Look at that article from WashPo. They see the sanctions as economic war on behalf of the US on them.

    For that reason, the way to understand the recent oil tanker attack is as a form of asymmetric warfare: we hit them by hurting their economy, and they're hurting us by attacking oil tankers. It's a form of retaliation. Which takes us to the danger of war. It's very possible, given the current situation, that there will be a cycle of escalation that could spiral out of control. The problem then would be that we wouldn't really have any objectives, or any strategy. We'd just have a back and forth of exchanging increasingly destructive retaliatory measures.

    And that's one reason why I think we're not going to see a war with Iran. Trust me, there's no shortage of hawkish experts from FDD or whatever other right-wing/Neocon adjacent think-tank complaining about the Trump administration not using its military to retaliate, claiming it will weaken our deterrent, will encourage Iran to attack again, and everything you'd expect them to say. (Maybe you don't have to trust me. Maybe you've observed it yourself.) The fact that the administration is completely ignoring them is heartening to me. I think it points to the admin seeing the maximum pressure campaign as the most effective instrument for achieving its goals.
    Last edited by Eversor; 06-18-2019 at 03:19 PM.

  40. #14560
    Which is largely to say, thinking about this all in terms of 2003 is a problem, because it misses what's really at stake in this Iran crisis.

    The Trump administration isn't trying to provoke Iran into a war for some sort of domestic purpose. It's actually trying to accomplish certain goals, some of which are actually reasonable. The concern is that the strategy its using to accomplish those goals involve a significant amount of risk. It's possible that there will eventually be an attack that the US must respond to. When that happens, the admin may feel compelled to retaliate. When it does, the target probably won't be in Iran. It'll probably be Iranian proxies that pose some kind of obstacle to US interests. But as Iran's nuclear capacities build up, assuming that they do, that's going to add a lot more pressure to all of this, and increase the possibility of more escalation.

    So the risk is that we could sleep walk into more regular confrontations and engagements with Iran and its proxies. It'll be unclear whether it's accurate to call whatever that is a war.

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