Poll: Was Bush right not to articulate the Real Reason for the Iraqi War?
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Justification for the Iraq war
The following Stratfor Report has been marked with Please feel free to send the Stratfor Weekly to a friend or colleague. In complience with their permission I'm sending it to my best friend and collegue, AI-Jane.

I see this as a must-read piece for anyone concerned about the WoT and the Domestic policy.

My own brief comments are in the next post.

15 April 2004

Bush's Crisis: Articulating a Strategy in Iraq and the Wider War


President George W. Bush's press conference on Tuesday evening
was fascinating in its generation of a new core justification for
the Iraq campaign: building a democratic Iraq. It is unclear why
Bush would find this a compelling justification for the invasion,
but it is more unclear why the administration continues to
generate unconvincing arguments for its Iraq policy, rather than
putting forward a crisp, strategic and -- above all -- real


It is clear that the current crisis in Iraq was not expected by
the Bush administration. That in itself ought not to be a
problem. Even the most successful war is filled with unexpected
and unpleasant surprises. D-Day in Normandy was completely fouled
up; the German Ardennes offensive caught the Allies by surprise.
No war goes as expected. However, in order to recover from the
unexpected, it is necessary to have a clear strategic framework
from which you are operating. This means a clearly understood
concept of how the pieces of the war fit together -- a concept
that can be clearly articulated to both the military and the
public. Without a framework that defines where you are going, you
can never figure out where you are. It becomes impossible to
place the unexpected in an understandable context, and it becomes
impossible to build trust among the political leadership, the
military and the nation. This is why the 1968 Tet offensive in
Vietnam was unmanageable -- yet the Ardennes offensive of 1944-
1945 was readily managed.

In a piece entitled "Smoke and Mirrors: The United States, Iraq
and Deception" which Stratfor published Jan. 21, 2003, we
commented on the core of the coming Iraq campaign, which was that
the public justification for the war (weapons of mass
destruction) and the strategic purpose of the war (a step in
redefining regional geopolitics) were at odds. We argued that:
"In a war that will last for years, maintaining one's conceptual
footing is critical. If that footing cannot be maintained -- if
the requirements of the war and the requirements of strategic
clarity are incompatible -- there are more serious issues
involved than the future of Iraq."

During President George W. Bush's press conference this week,
that passage came to mind again. The press conference focused on
what has become the new justification for the war -- bringing
Western-style democracy to Iraq. A subsidiary theme was that Iraq
had been a potential threat to the United States because it
"coddled" terrorists. Mounting a multidivisional assault on a
fairly large nation for these reasons might be superficially
convincing, but they could not be the main reasons for invasion -
- and they weren't. We will not repeat what we regard as the main
line of reasoning behind the invasion, because our readers are
fully familiar with our read of the situation. We will merely
reassert that the real reason -- the capture of the most
strategic country in the region in order to exert pressure on
regimes that were in some way enablers of al Qaeda -- was more
plausible, persuasive and defensible than the various public
explanations, from links to al Qaeda to WMD to bringing democracy
to the Iraqi masses. Such logic might work when it comes to
sending a few Marines on a temporary mission to Haiti, but not
for sending more than 130,000 troops to Iraq for an open-ended

Answers and Platitudes

Bush's inability and/or unwillingness to articulate a coherent
strategic justification for the Iraq campaign -- one that
integrates the campaign with the general war on Islamists that
began Sept. 11 -- is at the root of his political crisis right
now. If the primary purpose of the U.S. invasion of Iraq was to
bring democracy to Iraq, then enduring the pain of the current
crisis will make little sense to the American public. Taken in
isolation, bringing democracy to Iraq may be a worthy goal, but
not one taking moral precedence over bringing democracy to
several dozen other countries -- and certainly not a project
worth the sacrifices now being made necessary.

If, on the other hand, the invasion was an integral part of the
war that began Sept. 11, then Bush will generate public support
for it. The problem that Bush has -- and it showed itself vividly
in his press conference -- is that he and the rest of his
administration are simply unable to embed Iraq in the general
strategy of the broader war. Bush asserts that it is part of that
war, but then uses the specific justification of bringing
democracy to Iraq as his rationale. Unless you want to argue that
democratizing Iraq -- assuming that is possible -- has strategic
implications more significant than democratizing other countries,
the explanation doesn't work. The explanation that does work --
that the invasion of Iraq was a stepping-stone toward changes in
behavior in other countries of the region -- is never given.

We therefore wind up with an explanation that is only
superficially plausible, and a price that appears to be
excessive, given the stated goal. The president and his
administration do not seem willing to provide a coherent
explanation of the strategy behind the Iraq campaign. What was
the United States hoping to achieve when it invaded Iraq, and
what is it defending now? There are good answers to these
questions, but Bush stays with platitudes.

This is not only odd, but also it has substantial political
implications for Bush and the United States. First, by providing
no coherent answer, he leaves himself open to critics who are
ascribing motives to his policy -- everything from controlling
the world's oil supply, to the familial passion to destroy Saddam
Hussein, to a Jewish world conspiracy. The Bush administration,
having created an intellectual vacuum, can't complain when
others, trying to understand what the administration is doing,
gin up these theories. The administration has asked for it.

There is an even more important dimension to this. The single
most important thing that happened during the recent offensive in
Iraq was that the United States entered into negotiations for the
first time with the Sunni guerrillas in Al Fallujah. The United
States has now traveled a path that began with Donald Rumsfeld's
dismissing the guerrillas as a disorganized band of dead-enders
and led to the belief (shared by us) that they had been fairly
defeated in December 2003 -- and now to negotiations that were
initiated by the United States. The negotiations began with a
simple, limited cease-fire and have extended to a longer, more
open-ended truce.

The United States is facing the fact that the Sunni guerrillas
have not only not been defeated, but that they are sufficiently
well organized and supported by the broader Sunni population that
negotiations are possible with them. There is an organized Sunni
command authority that planned and executed this operation and is
now weighing U.S. offers on a truce. That is a huge change in the
U.S. perception of the Sunni guerrillas. Negotiations are also
something that the administration would never have contemplated
two weeks ago, regardless of how limited the topic might be. The
idea that the United States needed to negotiate anything was

This is not the only negotiation going on at the moment. There
are negotiations with the Muqtada al-Sadr group. Negotiations
with the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani group. Discussions with the
Iranians. Iraq is swirling with negotiations, offers, bluffs,
double crosses and lies. It is quite a circus at the moment, with
at least three major players (the Sunnis, the Shia, the United
States) who are in turn fragmented in all sorts of fascinating
ways -- and this doesn't even begin to include the Kurds and
other minorities.

Making Alliances

The United States is going to have to make alliances. Its core
alliance with the majority Shia has to be redefined in the wake
of al-Sadr's uprising. Even if al-Sadr is destroyed with his
militia, the United States and the Shia will have much to talk
about. Far more important, the United States is now talking to
the Sunni guerrillas. That might or might not lead anywhere, but
it is vitally important to all sides, no matter what comes of it.
The United States has recognized that the Sunni enemy is a
competent authority in some sense -- and that changes everything.

The United States will combine military action with political
maneuvering. That is logical and inevitable in this sort of war.
But as deals are cut with a variety of players, how will Bush's
argument that the United States is building democracy in Iraq
fly? The United States will be building coalitions. Whether it is
a democracy is another matter. Indeed, it was al-Sistani
demanding elections (which he knew the Shia would win) and the
president putting off elections -- declaring at the press
conference that he would not bend to Shiite demands on a

The problem that Bush has created is that there is no conceptual
framework in which to understand these maneuvers. Building
democracy in Iraq is not really compatible with the deals that
are going to have to be cut. It is not that cutting deals is a
bad idea. It is not that the current crisis cannot be overcome
with a combination of political and military action. The problem
is that no one will know how the United States is doing, because
it has not defined a conceptual framework for what it is trying
to accomplish in Iraq -- or how Iraq fits into the war on the

Bush Political Crisis

This is creating a massive political crisis for Bush
domestically. The public knows there is a crisis in Iraq, but
there is little understanding of how to judge whether the crisis
is being managed. If the only criterion is the creation of
democracy, that is not only a distant goal, but also one that
will be undermined by necessary U.S. deal-making. Democracy -- by
any definition that the American public can recognize -- is not
coming to Iraq anytime soon. If that is the mark of success,
Bush's only hope is that he won't be kept to a tight timetable.
What is worse for Bush is that, in his news conference, he framed
the coming presidential election as basically a referendum on his
policy in Iraq. The less that policy is understood, and the more
Iraq appears uncontrollable, the more vulnerable Bush will be to
charges that the Iraq war was unjustified, and that it is a
distraction from the wider war -- which the American electorate
better understands and widely supports.

He is facing John Kerry, who has shrewdly chosen to call neither
for a withdrawal from Iraq nor for an end to the war on the
Islamist world. Kerry's enormous advantage is that he can
articulate a strategy without having to take responsibility for
anything in the past. He can therefore argue that Bush's impulses
were correct, but that he lacked a systematic strategy. Stratfor
said in its annual forecast that the election was Bush's to lose.
We now have to say that he is making an outstanding attempt to
lose it.
Obviously, the administration has a strategy in Iraq and the
Islamic world. It is a strategy that is discussed inside the
administration and is clearly visible outside. Obviously, there
will be military and political reversals. The strategy and the
reversals are far more understandable than the decisions the Bush
administration has made in presenting them. It has adopted a two-
tier policy: a complex and nearly hidden strategic plan and a
superficial public presentation.

It could be argued that in a democratic society like the United
States, it is impossible to lay bare the cold-blooded reasoning
behind a war, and that the war needs to be presented in a
palatable fashion. This might be true -- and there are examples
of both approaches in American history -- but we tend to think
that in the face of Sept. 11, only a cold-blooded plan, whose
outlines are publicly presented and accepted, can work. We could
be wrong, but on this we have no doubt. Even if the
administration is correct in its assumption that there must be a
two-tier approach to the public presentation of the war, it has
done a terrible job in articulating its public justification.

The administration has held only three press conferences. Some
explain this by saying that the president is too inarticulate to
withstand public grilling. We don't buy that. He is not the
greatest orator by any means, but he doesn't do that badly. His
problem is that he will not engage on the core strategic
question. Franklin Roosevelt, our best wartime president bar none
-- who should be the model for any wartime president -- spoke on
and off the record with reporters, continually and with shocking
frankness when we look back on it. He did not hesitate to discuss
strategy -- from Germany First to relations with Joseph Stalin.
He filled the public space with detail and managed public
expectations brilliantly, even during the terrible first six
months of the war.

We are convinced that the Bush administration has a defensible
strategy. It is not a simple one and not one that can be made
completely public, but it is a defensible strategy. If President
Bush decides not to articulate it, it will be interesting to see
whether President Kerry does, because we are convinced that if
Bush keeps going in the direction he is going, he will lose the
election. The president's public presentation of the war is
designed to exploit success, not to withstand reversals and
hardships. What is fascinating is that political operatives like
Karl Rove, the president's political adviser, can't seem to get
their arms around this simple fact: The current communications
strategy is not working. They seem frozen in place, seemingly
hoping that something will turn up. We doubt strongly that
building democracy in Iraq is the cry that will rally the
American nation.
Government is necessary because people left unchecked will do evil.

The government is composed of people left unchecked

My comments.

One essential component that is missing in the above piece is an analysis of possible implications of a disclosure by Bush of the real goals (which I see as Establishing a base and a pressure point in ths strategic location of Iraq and, yes, securing the oil supplies)

A recognition of the oil rationale is plainly unthinkable; but what about the Strategic Rationale?

This would have been synonymous with announcing that we are really at war with at least Iran, Syria, and Saudis, and even if the war with them does not involve shooting at this time, our long-term intentions are hostile. Artuculating this might have had immediate impact on oil prices (Saudis), and relations with the Arabs, Europe, and worst of all, China.

Understanding this makes Bush' decision excusable; but in my mind it is still a gross error. Inability to explain why we are at war (and whom we are at war with) precludes sufficient support for the war.
Government is necessary because people left unchecked will do evil.

The government is composed of people left unchecked

This is an interesting but highly biased report - all based on the conclusion that Bush did not explain why the U.S. attacked Iraq and took out Suddam. I thought that 1441 did all the 'splainin' to Lucy necessary. There were myriads of coubtable reasons to go in - and many liabilities to count against going. I think the main reason was that the going reasons overwhelmed the going out ones.
WmLambert Wrote:This is an interesting but highly biased report

Stratfor is one of the least biased places on the Net. They actually are not attacking Bush above (they don't attack anyone), what they do here is analyzing how Bush's decision not to articulate the causes may hurt his plans (and his administration).

Quote: I think the main reason was that the going reasons overwhelmed the going out ones.

So do I; but the majority of people (voters) don't bother to look at the entire situation. They would only look at one reason: the one that is offered. Then, they will either accept it or reject it.

The "Democracy in Iraq" reason is incredibly weak, since many voters can think of at least one other country that needs Democracy just as well. Some may be able to think of two...
Government is necessary because people left unchecked will do evil.

The government is composed of people left unchecked

I believe President Bush did articulate all the real reasons for going to war in Iraq, but everyone focused on the WMDs as if that were the one and only reason. Of course, since everyone on earth (apparently including Saddam Hussein himself) did believe that Iraq had WMDs, that made it a sufficient reason in itself, regardless of the fact that we have so far been unable to find any. It's like if a bankrobber points a gun at a policeman, the policeman is justified in shooting, even it it is later discovered that the gun was empty.

THIS IS A TEST. This concludes the test.
Ron Lambert Wrote:I believe President Bush did articulate all the real reasons for going to war in Iraq, but everyone focused on the WMDs as if that were the one and only reason.

Yeap, and Bush was only too happy to allow them.

Actually, I do not see a big problem with the WMD reason: it was necessary to get the UN vote, it paid off nicely in Libya, and, just may be, we'll find them yet.

The big problem is the Democracy reason: if has no side advantages, and by the time Bush (or, perhaps, Rove) realizes that it does not work, it would be too late to offer any third reason.
Government is necessary because people left unchecked will do evil.

The government is composed of people left unchecked

My first impression here is that the writer must either be a Russian/American, a chess player, a combination of both, or should be anyway. This leads me to wonder if Dimitri Simes may have an evening job other than running the Nixon Center. The work Nixon has real implications, as foreign policy was his true forte.

As an aside, the pole at the top is perhaps too simplistic, because I can find reasons to support each position, even though I am heavily swayed in the negative.

That being said, I will agree with the writer that Bush is doing a wonderful job of helping the opposition here: by failing to be forthcoming about the most important strategic reasons for invading Iraq. Granted, the old regime by it's own actions, allowed the US to have a perfectly good excuse for current actions. And too, the latest out of Jordan only adds to the WMD-Baaka Valley connection.

However, Iraqi's strategic placement within the Islamic would is something that GW must hammer home on a daily basis. This he has failed to do, both personally or with his surrogates. Granted, the elite press is, by and large, against him. His last press conference proves this. But like FDR, should he put aside his distrustful paranoia, he would certainly accomplish more in his favour than against him. I think that the current direction is a huge mistake on his part. And the writer is correct, M. Rove should be hammering this home.

Most, who are against this approach, would say that telegraphing our feelings and intentions toward the enemy(Iran, S A, and others) will be self defeating, by giving them the excuse to dig in their heels. I say that they already are. Perhaps a the figurative 'stick of dynamite' placed in the right hole, may get them to move in the desired direction. And it would go a long way in disarming the opposition's artillery. Pakistan and Libya are two success stories.

This war on terror is the single most important strategic obsticle that we have faced within this generation; and by Not be as forthcoming as he should, he is opening the door to defeat in November, thus allowing a turn in the completely wrong direction.

But it is totally up to him. Only he can take the bull by the horns, get over his fear of speaking publically about the things that matter, and go against the enemies' strengths (ie, taking them head on). If he wishes to do more than limp to victory in November, he must display the proper leadership here.
All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
H. L. Mencken
Quote:I believe President Bush did articulate all the real reasons for going to war in Iraq, but everyone focused on the WMDs as if that were the one and only reason.-RonL[quote]

This may be correct Ron, but nonetheless, it is for him to continue to hammer home this theme. Since most citizens hardly pay attention to politics and world affairs, he must take the lead and do so in his sleep, if need be. The implications of a November loss are enormous here. :!:
All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
H. L. Mencken
John Wrote:My first impression here is that the writer must either be a Russian/American, a chess player, a combination of both, or should be anyway

Geopolitcal analysis is very similar to chess analysis. You don't take sides, you only discuss good and bad moves, and try to predict how the game will play out. In a proper analysis it is not relevant if your sympathies lie with Bush or Kerry, or with the US or the AQ....


Yes, the poll is simplistic; I only was trying to show that we can have polls.
Government is necessary because people left unchecked will do evil.

The government is composed of people left unchecked

When do we dare speak the truth? I'm not even particularly sure that even Stratfor understands the magnitude of what's going on. There's a very fascinating fellow at the US Naval War College called Thomas Barnett. He's one of those broad minded vision guys, very horizontal thinker and a true visionary, not just somebody who has the label. He's got a book coming out at the end of April called The Pentagon's New Map. Essentially, this is the missing, broad based post-Cold War strategy that everybody's whining about the US not having.

I was privileged to get a review copy and was blown away. The truth is that, to a remarkable extent, this seems to be US strategy. From the '300 year plan' to reintegrate Russia to the AIDS initiative in Africa, to the invasion of Iraq, a lot of stuff that doesn't make sense about the Bush administration when viewed conventionally fits right into the paradigm where connectivity mitigates, then eliminates threat and disconnectedness is the warning sign of trouble ahead.

Once you wrap your mind around the implications of this theory, it becomes clear why Bush daren't explicitly advocate this. It would upset so many applecarts that it would create what any plurality leader dreads most, the grand coalition of every other power uniting just long enough to bring down the plurality leader. It happens time after time historically.

If Iraq can be made to work, if connectivity can be brought to the Middle East, we're over the hump and we can explicitly talk about it when going after the deep Gap in Africa. But that'll be a different decade than this one.

btw: the link above is an amazon link where you can preorder the book. I highly recommend getting a copy.
The Pentagon's New Map... Thanks.

This does sound familiar... is that the guy who wrote about the Blight States a while back?

As for
Quote:When do we dare speak the truth?

Not recently, granted. But FDR was able to articulate that the road to Japan (which attacked us) runs through Germany (which did not attack us). Stratfor's (and mine) issue with Bush is not about telling the truth; it is more about inability to articulate anything but truth.
Government is necessary because people left unchecked will do evil.

The government is composed of people left unchecked

When did our participation in WWII turn from victory to rebuilding and did that change the original articulation of the war? Would the US have entered WWII if Roosevelt had stated "if the Russians beat them we lose Europe". Granted Roosevelt did not know what would happen (which would explain the poor deal at Yalta). But could he have articulated the end results? I doubt the US would have gone for it. Wars change plans, they always have. Check out the Morgantheau plan for Germany and see how different it was from the Marshall plan which eventually replaced it.

Oh, and hello everyone.
Baldar Wrote:But could he have articulated the end results?

I think he both could and did.

The most direct end result was "Destruction of Japan"

Roosevelt changed it to "Destruction of Germany and Japan", which was close enough and he was able to articulate that this was a better war plan.

Yalta and Cold War were unfortunate side-effects. While FDR deserves full blame for these, they were not directly connected to the agenda.

Similarly, one scenario of WoT would be the rise of new powers, perhaps India.

Oh, and hello & welcome here!
Government is necessary because people left unchecked will do evil.

The government is composed of people left unchecked

Welcome aboard! Glad to see that you got my invite. I'm sure that I will not be the first. S2
All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
H. L. Mencken
mv Wrote:Yeap, and Bush was only too happy to allow them.

Mike, what you seem to suggest is that Bush knowingly and cynically used false information to gain popular support for waging war on Iraq. Please remember, virtually everyone, including democrats, including our allies, including apparently Saddam Hussein himself, believed that Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction. He had used such weapons in the past, and he refused to provide the documentation to the UN certifying that all his WMDs were destroyed, and refused to allow inspectors complete freedom to look for WMDs. He stubbornly refused to comply with UN resolutions. Why would he do all that if he did not have WMDs? The most reasonable thing for anyone to conclude prior to the actual invastion, was that the WMDs did still exist.

Also note that for the first weeks of the war, U.S. troops all wore biochemical warfare protection garments, despite the great discomfort in the heat. Obviously the U.S. administration seriously expected that biochemical WMDs would be used on our troops.

This does not suggest to me that Bush was anything other than totally sincere in his conviction that Iraq did have WMDs. There was nothing calculated or cynical about it.
I think the "main" goal changes with time. In the beginning the reasons were to free Iraq and get rid of the threat of WMDs. Now that these goals are achieved (WMDs are not found yet but they are not in the hands of Sadaam either), the "main" goal is to achieve a democratic Iraq.

The first two reasons explain why we went to war. The last explains why we are still there.
With that said, I don't think I can answer the poll question because I believe he did articulate why we went to war with Iraq. Since that phase is over (or being completed), there is a new goal: A Democratic Iraq.
Quote:Mike, what you seem to suggest is that Bush knowingly and cynically used false information to gain popular support for waging war on Iraq.-RonL

No Ron, that is not what Michael is trying to get across with the article. The point is that the Bush Admisistration failed to do a proper job of articulating the Other reasons for getting rid of our favorite dictator. Sure, they listed a good line up, but they did not market them properly. And he still isn't.

If he went out and took on the press 'head on' the Republicans would not have had to spend $50 Million lately in order to keep himself ahead in the polls. I am beginning to believe that his 'hunker down' policy is out of some sort of latent fear. He HAS to get over this, or it will be a long, costly, and close election.
All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
H. L. Mencken
Ron Wrote:Mike, what you seem to suggest is that Bush knowingly and cynically used false information to gain popular support for waging war on Iraq

Not really. I'm pro-Bush and pro-war. But I never took WMD's as a the reason, only as an excuse.

Here is why: in terms of WMD's, Iraq rated at most as #4 danger, after Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan. And you just don't commit all the resources of the country (US) to fight #4 threat.

However, the WMD issue was good enough to go for a UN vote, so Bush staked everything on WMD's. I do think that the admin believed as WMD's existed, but it still was an excuse.

This does not make Bush any more cynical than any other pres; I in fact think that he is more sincere than most.

BJC Wrote:Since that phase is over (or being completed), there is a new goal: A Democratic Iraq.

It is a new phase all right; and I'd even agree that setting up some democratic institutions is a goal in this phase. But given the size of the investment (not just $ and lives, but also the entire strategic standing of the US), "Democratic Iraq" just does not measure as The Goal.
Government is necessary because people left unchecked will do evil.

The government is composed of people left unchecked

Incidently, Stratfor defines the True Goals as follows:

Quote:....the primary reason for fighting the 2003 Iraq war was not to oust Saddam Hussein, to secure oil supplies or as a prelude to attacking Iran -- although all of these were not insignificant side benefits. The real rationale was twofold.
The first goal was to crush the Islamist spirit and instill a sense of hopelessness. The "hatred" that Mubarak refers to is only a few steps shy of that hopelessness; Baghdad is one of the great capitals of the Arab world, and its capture -- falling with barely a fight -- struck desperation and despair into the heart of Arab culture. A people bound in hopelessness is a despondent people, and despondent peoples tend not to produce individuals who are motivated to fly jetliners into buildings.
The second goal was about location. Iraq is the most geopolitically strategic piece of territory in the Middle East. It borders Syria, Iran, Jordan, the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia. From long-term bases in Iraq, the United States will be able to heavily and consistently pressure countries that house al Qaeda or other sympathetic elements.

So, Goal 1 is Psychology, Goal 2 is Strategic Location.

I, myself, would list Oil control as a valid Goal, and order them differently:

Strategic Location / Oil Control / Psychological Impact.
Government is necessary because people left unchecked will do evil.

The government is composed of people left unchecked


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